More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Latest Reviews

Jessica Forever by Jay Seaver

Charlie's Angels (2019) by Jay Seaver

Harriet by Jay Seaver

Greener Grass by Jay Seaver

Two Tigers by Jay Seaver

Dare to Stop Us by Jay Seaver

White Snake by Jay Seaver

Knives Out by Peter Sobczynski

21 Bridges by Jay Seaver

Frozen 2 by Peter Sobczynski

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, A by Peter Sobczynski

Waves (2019) by Peter Sobczynski

Kingmaker, The by Jay Seaver

Doctor Sleep by Jay Seaver

Ford v Ferrari by Peter Sobczynski

Marriage Story by Peter Sobczynski

Better Days by Jay Seaver

Scandalous: The True Story of the National Enquirer by Rob Gonsalves

Paradise Hills by Rob Gonsalves

3 from Hell by Rob Gonsalves

subscribe to this feed

The 47th Chicago International Film Festival Spotlight (Part Two - Oct. 11-20)
by Erik Childress & Peter Sobczynski

The 47th International Film Festival continues until Oct. 20 and we are here to also continue bringing you some of the high and low lights. Stay tuned for additional reviews right here and in a final feature covering the final days. Plus, a special shout-out to Jay Seaver for a number of films covered at other festivals this year now making their way into the Windy City.


In the latest effort from Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To, a winsome young lass who is recovering from a recent heartbreak finds herself in the impossible situation of having to decide between which one of two wildly disparate suitors--the architect-turned-derelict who helped her turn the corner from her previous relationship or the flashy businessman who woos her with his charm and expensive gifts--she will be with and one whose heart she will ironically break. ALthough fans of To's previous action extravaganzas like "The Heroic Trio" and "Exiled" may be put off by his shift into straightforward romantic comedy at first, most will quickly find themselves won over by its charms, especially those supplied by Gao Yuen-yuen as the woman at the heart of this particular triangle. (Peter Sobczynski) And you can read Jay Seaver's full review right HERE (6:00 PM)

In this debut film from Chicago-born director Prashant Bjargava, a prosperous businessman and his daughter travel from their home in Dehli to make a surprise visit to his family in his hometown of Ahmedabad, a move that shifts away from celebration to resentment as his grand ways eventually begin to chafe on his hosts. Set amidst the backdrop of India's biggest kite festival, this is a very entertaining film that is filled to bursting with color, humor, excitement, romance and drama without ever devolving into the melodramatic excesses of the Bollywood genre. (Peter Sobczynski) (6:10 PM)

If ever a movie gave you a hankering for jam and a vasectomy in one sitting, it would certainly be Lynne Ramsay's latest. In this sometimes overly-fractured narrative, Tilda Swinton plays a writer and former "adventurer" not exactly adjusting to the role of motherhood. Her little boy, Kevin, is rather slow developmentally (including wearing diapers to an extended age) but it may be intentional on his part. At least towards mom. Dad (John C. Reilly) naturally doesn't see the problems cause the sweet boy responds to him. As life goes on, we know that mom is dealing with a tragedy - an obvious one that is hinted at repeatedly - and the audience is left to play an uneasy guessing game onto how all of these little hinted at tragedies evolve into a big one. Looking upon the film as an examination of parenthood that does little to ever make us think this is anything but a definitive reality, there are a majority of flaws. Society's reaction to Swinton in the aftermath's present never rings true, particularly once all of the facts are revealed, since they are never privy to what kind of mother she is. And the symbolism is cranked to a level that takes us out of reality and into the world of a filmmaker clearly signaling she is working on an artist's canvass rather than an emotional one. The vandalism of Swinton's home and her constant struggle to get the red out is about half as subtle as Lady Macbeth imagining she still has blood on her hands. On the other hand though, if you watch the film through the eyes of a horror fan that enjoys creepy kid movies (i.e. The Bad Seed, The Good Son, Joshua, Orphan) the film works rather exceedingly well. Unsettling without the therapeutic comeuppance, Ramsay never shakes us from the helplessness of a parent who can do nothing to please a child and prevent them from developing into the monster role they seem to have been born into. This is if you look past the reality of it, of course, which is hard to do considering how vulnerable and pulsating Tilda Swinton is in every scene. This is certainly the most unpleasant experience I have had in a theater all year, but in kind of a good way. (Erik Childress) (7:30 PM)

There was no small amount of tooth-gnashing earlier this year when Universal backed out of a big-name, big-money production of H.P. Lovecraft's "In the Mountains of Madness", and I certainly hope that all those saying that the studio was leaving money on the table are seeking out "The Whisper in Darkness". It doesn't have nearly as much money behind it but it has a lot of love for the material and makes that work for it. MORE (Jay Seaver) (10:15 PM)


After seeing "Klovn: The Movie", I find myself both curious about and wary of the TV series it's spun off from. Curious because the movie is damn funny, and if its style of humor is typical of the series, they can get away with some stuff on Danish TV (or it's running on the Danish equivalent of HBO). Wary because I don't know if this sort of crudity would work on a regular basis, and this is potentially a generic sitcom if toned down. MORE (Jay Seaver) (3:20 PM)

In this noir-influenced drama shot in downstate Illinois by Alton native Brian Jun, a recently paroled criminal (Mark Pellegrno) and a mysterious stripper (Alicia Witt) unexpectedly cross paths and the violent result of that meeting forces the two of them to go on the lam together even as their mutual sense of paranoia grows exponentially. Neither egregiously awful nor especially good, this middling work is the kind of film that seems to have been produced solely to play in the mid-week slots at less discriminating festivals and then disappear from view. This is a bit of a shame as I remain a fan of Witt and just seeing her in even a negligible work like this makes me wish that someone out there would give her the chance to work with better material. (Peter Sobczynski) (3:40 PM)

Detailing the account from Colin Clark’s diary from the set of The Prince and the Showgirl, Simon Curtis’ film is a showcase for two of the best performances of the year. While told through the point of view of Clark played by Eddie Redmayne (finally getting a chance to speak in his native tongue), this is really a story of Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) and her travails on the set with director and star Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). The nervousness of her film methodology versus the veterans of the stage make for great theater in its own right but it is the little lost girl behind the star that becomes the focus of this production. And the star of it all is Williams, who from second one on screen IS Marilyn Monroe in a performance for the ages that is going to make her a certain Oscar nominee this year and a deserved frontrunner to take home the gold. Equaling her is Branagh (also a deserved nominee) as we watch two actors honor these icons of cinema by not doing mere imitations but capturing the drive and insecurities that made them want to be great. Beautiful and funny without launching into the darker truths of addiction, but understanding the sadness of one of the great moviestars of all time. Unlike Me and Orson Welles from a few years ago, this is more than just an interesting footnote in history wrapped around a larger-than-life performance. Its narrator is merely an entry point without having any delusions that the story is really about him. (Erik Childress) (7:00 PM)

If you see only one film at this year's festival haunted by the memories of the late, great Marilyn Monroe, make it "My Week with Marilyn," a wonderful behind-the-scenes look at the tumultuous production of the Monroe-Laurence Olivier film"The Prince and the Showgirl" that features a performance by Michelle Williams as Monroe that makes her an automatic front-runner for the Best Actress Oscar. If you can see only two, and you don't have any other pressing engagements to speak of, you could check out this French mystery about a crime novelist who ventures to a remote town on the French-Swiss border for personal reasons and becomes consumed with investigating the suspicious suicide of a local celebrity with a pronounced fascination with Monroe's life. Otherwise, there is no burning reason to catch this extremely silly potboiler that tries to combine the twisty plotting of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" with Monroe's well-documented history and winds up coming up with something that veers too often between being tacky and silly before eventually lodging itself firmly in the camp of the latter. (Peter Sobczynski) (8:30 PM)


The films of Hungarian director Bela Tarr, best known in certain circles for his 1994 epic "Satantango," have always been an acquired taste at best and this one, which he has indicated will be his last, is definitely that and then some. In a series of long, unbroken shots (I have heard that there are no more than 40 different camera setup in the whole thing and that count would not surprise me at all) totaling a running time of 146 minutes (practically a short subject by his standards), a farmer and his daughter in the middle of nowhere struggle to survive in the face of brutal weather conditions, a dwindling food supply, a horse that stubbornly refuses to go much of anywhere and the occasional appearances of gypsies who jovial spirits are a slap in the face to their generally bleak existence. Make no mistake about it, this is a beautifully made work of art and there are some shots that will haunt you long after the film ends but in many ways, this is almost like the art-house equivalent of "The Human Centipede II" in a weird way--it takes its aesthetic so far in one direction that most viewers will look upon the mere act of making it all the way through to the bitter end to be some kind of achievement in and of itself. I guess what I am saying is that while it is a stunning piece of cinema, it is not one that I would easily recommend to most viewers unless they know exactly what it is that they are in for. (Peter Sobczynski) (7:15 PM)

Ralph Fiennes takes on one of Shakespeare's lesser known works both in front of the camera and behind. His directorial debut joins the approach of the modern-day setting with the original text (a la Romeo + Juliet) that some might find akin to Ian McKellen's Richard III or Julie Taymor's Titus. Fiennes plays the titular Roman General controlling the masses and fighting off rebel forces during a food shortage. His enemies are led by Gerard Butler (in slightly restrained King Leonidas mode) and after a temporary victory, Coriolanus' mother (a very good Vanessa Redgrave in what some believe is an Oscar nomination in the making) encourages him to step up to the political pulpit. When things don't go as planned, he is banished from Rome and forced into an all-too-quick-and-easy alliance with Butler's rebel leader. Forging Shakespeare's tale into modern-day politics where soldiers are too often the scapegoat for the wars of their government opens up all sorts of possibilities. But its own alliance to the Bard's words cranked up at times to 11 makes for a lot of yelling and banging on the soundtrack, yet never makes for a cohesive dramatic flow that starts out like First Blood in reverse for the first hour and then becomes a composite of Shakespeare beats and cliches that amount to very little worth remembering. (Erik Childress) (8:00 PM)

Although the title makes it sound like an adaptation of a lesser Jackie Collins novel--okay, a Jackie Collins novel--this is actually a somber Israeli drama about a young single woman running a remote chicken farm with her two young daughters who whiles away the time and curbs her considerable erotic appetites by having sex with most of the less-than-desirable men in her village--of course, everything begins to change with the arrival of a studly-but-sweet veterinarian. It sounds shocking and scandalous as all get out but with the exception of the lead performance by Hagar Ben-Asher (who also directed), the film as a whole is a bit of a drag that seems to go on for far longer than its relatively brief running time. PS: Although I have to assume that it was faked somehow, animal lovers should be warned that they aren't going to like the opening scene at all. (Peter Sobczynski) (8:20 PM)

Proving that torture porn knows no boundaries, this charming little entry from Argentina follows a couple of aging right-wing revolutionaries who have decided to update their rage against what they perceive to be the decay of decent society by luring young women to their improbably spacious residence under the ruse of answering an online dating ad, only to chain them up and brutalize them with their long-held supplies of dangerously unstable nitroglycerin and dynamite. As a horror film, it is tasteless and sadistic without ever coming close to generating anything resembling suspense and its ham-fisted attempts to inject politics into the proceedings at certain point in a desperate attempt to give them a patina of self-importance are downright tacky. Only go if you are the type of person who is genuinely ruing the absence of a new "Saw" film this season. (Peter Sobczynski) (10:00 PM)

A quartet of dopey friends (with "Alias" refugee Melissa George being the most familiar face of the bunch) have their weekend mountaineering in a remote area of the Scottish highlands interrupted and find themselves plunged into wholly unexpected levels of danger when they stumble across a young girl who has been mysteriously buried alive and try to bring her along to safety. For a while, director Julian Gibney blatantly tries to evoke a "Wicker Man" feel to the proceedings in an attempt to create an air of menace and dread but to whatever degree he succeeds at that (which is to say, not very much), he pretty much flushes the rest of it away with a second half that just grows stupider and stupider until its blood-soaked and unintentionally hilarious conclusion. (Peter Sobczynski) (10:40 PM)

Cuba dips its feet into the zombie genre with this horror-comedy item that has become all the rage among the fanboy elite. In this one, what initially appears to be a people's uprising on the streets of Havana turns out to be an attack of the living dead and only socialist slacker Juan and his gang of goofballs can save the day. Not to inject the ugly shadow of politics into the proceedings but it should be noted that this sort of thing never happened under Fidel. (Peter Sobczynski) (10:40 PM)


For those of you who have yearned to see a cinematic depiction of contemporary burlesque but couldn't quite bring yourself to see any movie top lining Christina Aguilera, perhaps this documentary by Frederick Wiseman following the dancers of the famed Parisian club as they go about their punishing regime of rehearsing a brand-new revue and then performing it no fewer than 15 times a week for tourists from around the world. Unfortunately, I have not been able to see thing one yet but coming from Wiseman, who has long been regarded as one of America's finest documentary filmmakers thanks to landmark works like "High School," "Titicut Follies" and "Domestic Violence," I can only presume and hope that it will offer a fascinating and penetrating look at a milieu that is rarely examined in a non-salacious manner. (Peter Sobczynski) (6:00 PM)

Though I suspect many of those who clamored for an "Unbreakable" sequel over the past decade have suddenly "realized" the first wasn't as great as they thought now that M. Night Shyamalan is treated more as a punchline than a standout, that group especially should give "Haunters" a look. It's got the same hook of superpowers in a spandex-free real-world environment, but has a sense of fun to it, giving the audience the action it craves. MORE (Jay Seaver) (10:00 PM)

For a species most commonly associated with video games and porno actors, can you think of a better character to follow in their footsteps then a horny, animated pseudo celebrity? In one of the more bizarrely conceived animated features you may ever see, that is exactly what you get. George is a walking, talking hedgehog who loves to drink and loves the women. Human women. And if you think bestiality is the only thing on display here, just you wait. A nutty scientist has been working on a formula for cloning. His computer tells him his best match for success involves hedgehog DNA. With the help of his skinhead henchmen, he must track down George, get some of his material and dispose of him. This will help complete the master plan of creating a YouTube celebrity out a swearing, vomiting hedgehog and use him to launch a campaign of political and monetary success. Hopefully you are still not trying to ask questions. George the Hedgehog is just about the most knowingly offensive film (animated or otherwise) that you will see at this year's SXSW. It may not have the same satiric know-how or big laugh quotient of 'South Park,' 'Family Guy,' or 'Archer,' but as it tries to offend it still has to bones to be throwing jabs at the instant fame of morons from the 'Jersey Shore' or wherever real housewives and the Kardashians set up their dumb twat shops. Hey, we're just following George's lead here, which contains everything inappropriate from racial stereotypes to the paranoid dreams of pederasts. It is most certainly not for everyone, but if you are adventurous and can appreciate the theorized metaphor of its inception, there are some entertaining fight sequences to boot and an overall uniqueness to this oddity to appreciate. (Erik Childress, reprinted from SXSW) (10:45 PM)


After a non-stop barrage of movies where even the relatively sedate family picture featured a time-traveling samurai, this picture from China about a group of struggling Chinese friends would have been a fine palate cleanser even if it wasn't genuinely good on its own. MORE (Jay Seaver) (3:30 PM)

This oddball indie comedy stars Rachael Harris as a nice and childless Christian woman who discovers that her seemingly devout husband has secretly been a regular sperm donor for more than two decades. Now at death’s door, he asks her to seek out his son (Matt O’Leary), a drug-addled goofball, and when she finds him, the two set off on a road trip filled with unexpected twists and revelations. I wouldn't dream of what revealing what happens next but I will point out that this was a favorite with audiences at this year's editions of South By Southwest, where it won numerous awards including the Grand Jury Prize and citations for the screenplay and the performances by Harris and O'Leary), and Ebertfest and I can't imagine it not going over like gangbusters with Chicago viewers as well. (Peter Sobczynski) (8:40 PM)


Before it officially debuts in theaters a few days later, the festival presents the umpteenth retelling of the Alexander Dumas classic, this time under the direction of Paul W.S. Anderson (the guy behind the "Resident Evil" films and the "Death Race" remake, not the Paul Anderson behind "Magnolia" and "There Will Be Blood") and featuring both the miracle of 3D and a cast including a bunch of nobodies as the musketeers, Christoph Waltz as Cardinal Richelieu, Orlando Bloom as the Duke of Buckingham and the one and only Milla Jovovich, co-star of last year's fest opener "Stone," as the ass-kicking M'Lady De Winter. Okay, it hasn't screened for the press around here yet and the commercials look cheesy as hell but Anderson, whatever his other limitations as a filmmaker (and they are indeed legion) has shown a knack for handling multi-dimensional mayhem in an entertaining manner and if anyone out there is worth watching as they go through the paces of kissing and jumping and drinking and humping that are part and parcel for the genre, I can't readily think of someone I'd rather see doing it than Jovovich. (Peter Sobczynski) (5:00 PM)

Anyone daring to make a serious-minded erotic drama runs the risk that the end result will be either achingly pretentious or downright ridiculous but with this weird effort (co-produced by Jane Campion), director Julia Leigh somehow manages to inspire both reactions. Emily Browning, a long way from "Lemony Snicket" (though not as far from "Sucker Punch" as one might otherwise imagine), stars as a perpetually broke college student who, in dire need of extra funds, takes a job in a strange sex club in which she is drugged and placed naked in a luxurious bedroom so that paying customer can do what they like with her with few restrictions other than the rigorously enforced "No penetration." Alas, "no penetration" seems to have been the mantra for Leigh's screenplay as well as what could have potentially been a provocative examination on the nature of sexual fantasies in the hands of the right filmmaker instead turns out to be little more than an excruciatingly slow-paced version of the nonsense that you can usually catch on Cinemax in the wee hours of any given night. Only recommended for people who like to claim to be feminist without having an especially sure grasp on the concept, horndogs with an unhealthy interest in Browining's anatomy and people who think that "Belle du Jour" is actually some kind of perfume. (Peter Sobczynski) (8:10 PM)


One of the most celebrated non-competitive film festivals in the world today is the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, an annual celebration of the form held in Italy each October featuring silent films of all kinds, in many cases accompanied by live performances of scores by world-renowned composers and musicians, that is curated by critic/scholar David Robinson. Of course, not many of us can get out to Pordenone for the festivities and so this year, our festival is lucky to have Robinson himself drop by with a selection of favorites culled from past editions so that we can both celebrate the beauty of the format and get a taste of what we have been missing. (Peter Sobczynski) (6:00 PM)

Although his stature as one of the great filmmakers of our time has dimmed somewhat in recent years, Wim Wenders, one of the leaders of the 1970's German New Wave alongside Werner Herzog and the late Rainer Werner Fassbender, is still capable of presenting beautiful and eye-opening work and this latest effort of his is proof positive of this. the film is a documentary/performance film centered on the late modern dance choreographer Pina Bausch (who passed away during its production) that examines her life and art via interviews with members of her Tanztheater Wuppertal dance company and performances of four of her most famous routines which she brought to life utilizing a mixture of indoor and outdoor locations and which Wenders captures through the genuine magic of intelligently conceived and executed 3D photography. Granted, if your sum knowledge of modern dance and ballet consists solely of the stuff you sat through while waiting to get to the Good Parts in "Black Sawn," this might be a bit of heavy lifting but anyone with even a minor interest in the subject is advised to seek this one out. Wenders himself is currently scheduled to appear at this screening. (Peter Sobczynski) (6:15 PM)


Having already released one of this year's best documentaries with last spring's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," the prolific and always-fascinating Werner Herzog takes his cameras to a Texas prison to explore the case of two young men--one on death row and the other facing a life sentence--whose initial plan to steal a car from an acquaintance led to them murdering three people. Although Herzog makes no bones about the fact that he is against the death penalty in any form, this is not some cinematic mea culpa designed to convince viewers that his subjects are innocent angels. Instead, by talking to all the people involved--including the investigators and the loved ones of the victims and perpetrators alike--Herzog paints an indelible portrait of lives shattered forever while quietly demonstrating the horror of one person taking the life of another, whether as the bloody result of a stupid and poorly planned criminal act over a car or as the bloodless and calmly execution of an act performed in the name of justice. No matter where you stand on the issue of the death penalty, Herzog presents you with something to think about and while some of his questions may seem bizarre at first (as when he interrupts a pastor's homilies to ask him a question about squirrels), they more often than not yield memorable and often moving results. (Peter Sobczynski) (6:15 PM)

For his first film since 2004's "Sideways," Alexander Payne goes to Hawaii with another compelling mixture of comedy and drama, this time featuring George Clooney as an admittedly distant father and inadvertent land baron who struggles to reconnect with his daughters (Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller) after his wife goes into a terminal coma following a boating accident. He is further stunned to discover that his wife was having an affair and takes the girls along with him on a search to track down the lover. Although the premise may sound a little implausible, Payne pulls it off beautifully thanks to intelligent and empathic screenwriting and directing that deftly juggles the tricky shifts in tone and an array of great performances across the board--Clooney has never been better, Woodley is a standout in her breakthrough role and even the usually cartoonish Matthew Lillard scores in a key dramatic scene--and the result is sure to go down as one of the best films of the year. (Peter Sobczynski) (8:45 PM)


This may be the first and only film you see about professional butter carving that needed to be greased up as a political satire for good measure. To wit, the film takes place around the annual Midwest competition where the reigning champion (Ty Burrell) is forced to retire leaving his class-climbing wife (Jennifer Garner) to take his place. Her chief challenger turns out to be a foster child (Yara Shahidi) with a knack for the artistry, leading one to all sorts of Obama vs. Whitey comparisons. Garner’s character is more of a faux Michelle Bachmann stand-in than anything else. Add into the mix a stripper (Olivia Wilde, actually doing some fine comedic work here) who had an affair with her husband and a doofus ex-lover (Hugh Jackman) who would do anything to help his former flame and the potential for topical farce is laid down. Though laid to rest is more like it since this is a pretty limp satire from writer Jason Micallef and director Jim Field Smith. What did we really expect from the director of the limp rom-com, She’s Out Of My League? This is a much bigger disappointment though considering the potential for real bite is scaled down to merely some vulgarity and the occasional racial comment. The political angle is not as prominent as advertised as Garner’s Bachmann-ish character really only bookends the film with a turn into campaigning for office. The cast which also includes Alicia Silverstone, Kristen Schaal and a welcomely-restrained Rod Corrdry (until a poorly written freakout towards the end) are all game to the task, especially Garner, but they are let down by a script that believes it is more clever than it actually is and a director unsure of how to wield the knife. (Erik Childress) (8:00 PM)

For the last few years, the festival has had a free screening of a film whose title is not revealed until the moment the lights go down--the only catch is that to gain admittance, viewers have to be wearing a festival T-shirt or sweatshirt (which the festival will be happy to sell you, of course). When this program started four years ago, the surprise title was the inept Guy Ritchie crime drama "Rocknrolla," a revelation that reportedly did not go down too well with the assembled crowd. The next year, things improved considerably with the local premiere of Terry Gilliam's delightful "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" but that was followed up last year with the already forgotten Paul Haggis melodrama "The Next Three Days." THerefore, if the established patten continues to hold, this year's selection should be a good one and while it is perhaps unlikely that it will be one of the upcoming big-ticket items like "Hugo," "J Edgar" or "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," there are enough promising films on tap for the next few months to indicate that it won't turn out to be the restored director's cut of "Rocknrolla" after all. (Peter Sobczynski) (8:00 PM)

link directly to this feature at
originally posted: 10/11/11 23:43:05
last updated: 10/20/11 10:13:39
[printer] printer-friendly format

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast