REVIEW: Chi-Raq [2015]

“Land of pain, misery and strife” I can comfortably forget Da Sweet Blood of Jesus happened—Spike Lee‘s ambitious yet disappointing Kickstarted vampire flick—now that it appears the director’s back on track with Chi-Raq‘s musical satire. I don’t get around to every Lee “joint” but it’s probably not far-fetched to say this is his best since 25th Hour. Unsurprisingly the two share a common political bent, speaking on a shift in perception as chaos reigns in America. That 2002 film was a post-9/11 comment while this 2015 release puts the “Black…

Read More

REVIEW: Spotlight [2015]

“What arraignment?” If Thomas McCarthy’s maligned fairy tale The Cobbler provided any help in securing money to put his script Spotlight in front of cameras, it was worth every disparaging word thrown its way. Co-written with Josh Singer, this 2013 Blacklist alum proves an informative and accurate look at the investigative journalism process as well as an engrossing exposé that refuses to let go despite our knowing the story it exposed. Much like famed predecessor All the President’s Men, audiences arrive keenly aware of the Catholic Church scandal at its…

Read More

TIFF15 REVIEW: Black [2015]

“Be very careful. It’s not a game.” The buzz on Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah‘s film Black is that it’s a contemporary take on a Shakespearean classic. Saying as much is an apt description and Romero and Juliet is most certainly an inspiration, but what’s neglected to be mentioned are the two novels by Dirk Bracke on which it’s actually based upon. The author’s Black and Back depict the violence occurring in Brussels as a result of a gang culture raised from youth unemployment rates that are through the…

Read More

SXSW15 REVIEW: Deep Web [2015]

“We are the darkness” Alex Winter‘s new documentary Deep Web provides many unanswered questions the future will certainly shed light on soon. This is its point. While also giving a layman’s education on its subject matter—the Dark Net within, Tor as a means to access it, Silk Road and other illegal marketplaces utilizing it, etc.—the driving thesis is to expose how crucial the trial of SR founder Ross Ulbricht is to understanding our basic human rights within a digital world. What happened in that courtroom at the beginning of 2015…

Read More

BNFF14 PREVIEW: The 8th Annual Buffalo Niagara Film Festival

It’s eight years later and The Buffalo Niagara International Film Festival is still going strong April 24th through May 3rd. I personally missed organizer and filmmaker Bill Cowell‘s inaugural season, but have been attending off and on as both a ticket holder and member of the press since. My first experience was in 2008 at the Riviera Theatre in Tonawanda. I drove over mostly because that night’s feature had a cast consisting of Bruce Dern and Kristen Stewart (pre-Twilight). While director Mary Stewart Masterson‘s The Cake Eaters proved worthy of…

Read More

REVIEW: Fruitvale Station [2013]

“Undefeated! 100-0.” If even half of what first time writer/director Ryan Coogler depicts happened on Oscar Grant III’s (Michael B. Jordan) last day is true, you better not be leaving the theatre without red eyes and dried tears. We love to depict fate and destiny as the things which bring us towards true love and happiness, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes we’re destined for tragedy no matter what we do; sometimes a series of coincidences and events simply occur with no rhyme or reason besides putting us into…

Read More

David Simon speaks on the failure of the War on Drugs

While the first time visiting the Chautauqua Institution—a non-for-profit, 750-acre educational center set up as an experimental, out-of-school educational spot for vacation learning—David Simon was very much aware of its existence and mission towards the “American spirit”. Bolstered by an anecdote to prove as much, the former Baltimore Sun beat reporter turned TV icon shared how his father once told him to promise never to use profanity if he was ever invited to speak at the venerated, historical site. It stemmed from him taking a red pen to his son’s…

Read More

REVIEW: It’s a Disaster [2013]

“The conversation is real Glenn. The problem is hypothetical.” Even though the Mayans and 2012 have passed, filmmakers still appear utterly fascinated by the end of the world and our reaction to it. I’m not talking post-apocalyptic tales occurring years later—Oblivion or After Earth—I mean true “end is nigh” stuff like Rapture-palooza, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, or This is the End. This is where true, unadulterated introspection is possible, when our feelings lay bare without threat of consequence since in a few short hours nothing…

Read More

REVIEW: The House I Live In [2012]

“We become victims of the sound bite” The Grand Jury Prize winner for documentary at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, Eugene Jarecki‘s look an American drug policy—The House I Live In—began with a desire to reacquaint himself with his family’s old housekeeper Nannie Jeter. A black woman who was a part of the great migration north to escape Jim Crow Laws in the sixties, her taking the job with the Jareckis changed her life. She was able to provide for a growing family of her own in New Haven now…

Read More

REVIEW: Dredd [2012]

“All we do is turn the handle” Whether Gareth Evans admitted Dredd 3D went into production while he was still filming The Raid or not, the similarities can’t be dismissed. I’m not saying this to imply theft—just that comparison is unavoidable. Liking one will probably mean the other disappoints, but the one you see first won’t necessarily be your favorite. No, I stand by the fact that this futuristic, crime-riddled world is objectively less effective than its Indonesian rival. It drags in multiple places, finds unintentional laughs through coldly stern…

Read More

VIFF11 INTERVIEW: Prashant Bhargava, writer/director of Patang

While at the Vancouver International Film Festival this year, I had the pleasure of speaking to the writer/director of Patang [The Kite], Prashant Bhargava. A Chicago-born filmmaker of Indian descent, his first feature length work has hit screens in Berlin and Tribeca before making its way to Canada, picking up praise at every screening. A very human tale of a family in Ahmedabad rekindling during the city’s famous kite festival, Bhargava’s film will enchant and intrigue through its exotic locale and very familiar emotions. Speaking about his process, the casts’…

Read More