• Cinephilia

    Review: Woman at War

    Woman at War

    What can one person do to combat the forces of climate change and globalized industry? Quite a bit, as Benedikt Erlingsson would have us believe in Woman at War, the story of a brazen and bold activist who destroys power lines and takes down factories as a battalion of one against forces far, far greater than her. Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir is Halla (and her twin sister, Ása), a mild-mannered choir director most days. Other days, she’s the perpetrator of industrial sabotage that’s so perfectly executed it would be impressive if it weren’t so destructive. Only a few close friends know her true identity, and as the media and government employ ever more intense measures…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Gloria Bell

    As filmmaking challenges go, a movie with the resplendent Julianne Moore at its center, where the camera is as enamored with her as we are, is not exactly a difficult hurdle to clear (see: Still Alice). When that film is a highly-anticipated English adaptation of a widely praised Chilean original, the stakes are understandably a bit higher, particularly when the adaptation is helmed by the same filmmaker who made the original. Such is the case with Gloria Bell, the English-language update to Sebastian Lelio’s original Gloria of 2014, a film that starred Paulina Garcia as a middle-aged woman determined to get her groove back, or at least survive the journey to doing so.…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Captain Marvel

    Captain Marvel

    Of the twenty-odd Marvel Studios movies out there, I’ve seen maaaaaaybe five or six of them. I’m all-in for the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, and like the rest of the world, I loved Black Panther. I watched Avengers: Infinity War in time for this year’s Oscars, and I guess it was fine. It all means that I don’t know much about the universe of superheroes and intergalactic battles; at least, not as much as die-hard fans who can connect every film in a timeline or find every easter egg hidden throughout. And you know, I’m OK with that. My head is already packed with way too much minutia about Hamilton and…

  • Just This

    Review: “An Inspector Calls” at Chicago Shakes

    This is a repost from Third Coast Review; no films this week for me to review, so I’m sharing a theater review I’m particularly proud of. Without ever brandishing so much as a pistol or pocketknife, upheaval and conflict are at the center of J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, a play that lays out in no uncertain terms the dangers of unchecked privilege, entitlement and hypocrisy. Set in 1912 England, the play was first produced in 1945 for audiences, one can safely assume, still very raw with war wounds both literal and figurative. A drawing room drama in three acts, the play centers around the upper-crust Birling family and the police…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Everybody Knows

    Everybody Knows

    What’s most striking about writer/director Asghar Farhadi’s (A Separation, The Salesman) new film, Everybody Knows, even with strong performances and its setting in lush Spanish wine country taken into account, is the language of the thing. And that’s not a euphemism, some reference to a universal cinematic language. I mean actual, spoken language. Farhadi, an Oscar-winner for both A Separation and The Salesman, is an Iranian filmmaker, and his previous works are, not surprisingly, set mainly in that country and delivered in Persian. Everybody Knows, on the other hand, transports the action to a village northeast of Madrid, for a film that’s entirely in Spanish. According to the production notes, Farhadi was inspired to…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Never Look Away

    Never Look Away

    For those of us who pay attention to this sort of thing, this year’s contenders for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film are collectively the strongest group of nominees in recent memory. From the masterpiece that is Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma to Nadine Labaki’s devastatingly impressive Capernaum, they are films of achievement in every sense of the word. After his feature-length film debut The Lives of Others won the award in 2007, writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck returns to the category with Never Look Away, a sweeping if inconsistent drama about creating art, life and a better world in the face of oppression and evil. With a bar set very high indeed, Never…