Preview: Chicago Critics Film Festival

Though the heyday of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel has passed, Chicago boasts a strong showing in film criticism these days. The guys (because it’s mainly guys) who make up the Chicago Film Critics Association work hard across outlets to cover film releases and happenings around the city.

On Friday, their fifth annual Chicago Critics Film Festival kicks off a week of screenings at Chicago’s classic Music Box Theater. A small festival by any measure – no galas, no panels, no frills – it’s big where it matters: the movies. More than twenty features will screen over the course of a week, and for those of us keeping track of these kinds of things, they’re two dozen great films.

With such a fantastic line-up heading to a theater within walking distance (a long walk, but still), my plans include at least one film a day (and one day with three!). Here’s what I’ll be seeing: Continue reading “Preview: Chicago Critics Film Festival”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I never planned on getting into Guardians of the Galaxy. I know essentially nothing about this thing called the “Marvel Universe.” (Are there stars in it? Planets?) I’m not sure I’m really into any of it now, honestly, even after seeing the second film in James Gunn’s blockbuster franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. But I sure am enjoying the hell out of dipping my toe in the comic waters.

I saw the first installation in the middle of the day in July, 2014. I’d stayed home from work (it was a Wednesday, I believe) because I’d just received news that my grandfather had passed away early that morning, and I was in no shape to go into the office. Far from home and far from family, after the initial shock wore off, I didn’t really know what to do with myself.

So I took myself to the movies. I took myself to see the only thing I knew I couldn’t care less about: a big, blustery summer superhero flick. It was one in the afternoon and there were maybe three other people in the theater. And it did exactly what I needed it to do: it completely transported me away from the world outside that cinema.

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Free Fire cast photo

Review: Free Fire

For all the obscure festival releases and challenging documentaries I see, all the high-brow foreign dramas and such, you’d be forgiven for thinking that most of what I watch is, well, not that fun. Or at least, not the kind of fun one is usually looking for on a night out at the cinema.

Friends, I’m here to tell you that not only do I see those other films, the ones made for the spectacle and popcorn, but you know what? I enjoy the hell out of them. I took myself to see Guardians of the Galaxy a couple years ago. I voluntarily made my way through seven Star Wars films, and now I get what the fuss is all about. What I’m saying is, sometimes you just need a fun time at the movies.

Free Fire is that fun. Ben Wheatley’s latest (High Rise), set in the 1970s, is an arms deal that quickly goes bad and the resulting 90-minute shoot-out, as both sides try to make it out alive. Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy and Sam Riley lead an ensemble cast of smart-asses and dip-shits who infuse a brutal gunfight with humor and, believe it or not, a bit of sympathy.

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