Thursday, October 31, 2013


Starring: Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, and Abigail Breslin
Rated: PG-13

ENDER’S GAME opens today starring Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld,  and Abigail Breslin.  This science fiction tale is based closely on the best selling novel by Orson Scott Card, written in 1985.  The film depicts Earth in the future which had battled and won an alien invasion.  Children with gaming skills were then recruited to train in order to combat the aliens in a final battle to end all future battles.  

“Ender’s Game” is geared toward the young adolescent population.  In this film, the commanding officers are looking for that one shining star of a soldier that will lead the country forward in successful battle.  Commander Graff thinks he has found his savior in Ender.  To prove that Ender is the right choice, he is put through many tests.  In order to live up to these expectations, Ender must manipulate and outsmart the current group leaders and win tactical games.  This winner then obtains the honor and privilege of possibly leading Earth to victory over the aliens in an upcoming war.  Ender, the scrawny, but extremely intelligent teen proceeds in the training program and is tested in many ways with the commander always supervising like a shepherd over his flock.  Ender has many issues to deal with such as bullying, family pressures, his relationships with his siblings and how they affect his training, as well as making friends.  As Ender struggles in various situations, his need for family support never waivers. Being away at this military type of boarding school where he is initially a loner, pushes Ender to look within himself for strength and courage to compete and complete his training.  
“Ender’s Game” is a typical science fiction film. There are plenty of space training fights at zero gravity and more than enough video game practice battles at command central in outer space.  Explanations of equipment and the alien enemy information is expressed in excruciating detail.  Special effects of floating in space and high tech equipment is the main focal point for visual entertainment, but it goes overboard to the point of boredom due to repetition.  And the dizzying camera work could come close to making any viewer carsick.  

Asa Butterfield plays Ender with adequate skills.  Harrison Ford’s role of the commanding officer is adequate.  Viola Davis’ character is nothing shy of dull, but this has nothing to do with her acting abilities.  It is solely due to the writing and the overall character in the film.  All of the actors do an acceptable job in portraying their characters, but the roles are just rather flat in nature.  

“Ender’s Game” is a futuristic film geared toward young teens who enjoy science fiction and gaming.  With many gaming scenes, space fights, and technical jargon, the film loses momentum and becomes rather boring.  Although the movie is rather predictable, “Ender’s Game” has redeeming qualities as it addresses typical growing pains from the underdog’s point of view.  Bullying, lack of confidence, making friends, and making right choices are all things any young child experiences.  If you’re a fan of the book or if you’re wanting to take your 4th - 8th grader to see a movie, this will be an entertaining choice.  If you’re over 15 and not into gaming and science fiction, check your local listings for another film.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


What?  You live in or around the Chicago area and you haven't seen one film at the Chicago International Film Festival?  What are you waiting for?  With a variety of films, there are movies that will appeal to everyone.  The list can be overwhelming and I have had the pleasure of seeing many of them so let me do the work for you.  Here are my recommendations at this year's festival.  To find out more or see the schedule, go to


As I see films, I will update this list.  Have fun and take in some films you might not otherwise get a chance to see.



"Enough Said," starring Julia Louis- Dreyfus, Catherine Keener and James Gandolfini, opens in wide release today.  This unique independent movie is Gandolfini's final film performance and is truly a wonderful representation of his skills as an actor.  Pairing him with Louis-Dreyfus and Keener along with providing the cast with smart, creatively complex dialogue that keeps you not just interested, but emotionally connected with the characters makes this film a film to see.
Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) is a divorced mother making her way in the world as a massage therapist.  At a party, she is introduced to Albert (Gandolfini), who both acknowledge they are not attracted to anyone there.  Naturally (?), they begin to date.  Eva also meets and begins to see a woman named Marianne as a new client.  Their friendship develops out of this working relationship and the successful poet finds comfort with Eva as Marianne complains about her ex who coincidentally happens to be Albert.  Uncomfortable with owning up to this sudden revelation, Eva begins to see Albert through different eyes-- specifically, Marianne's eyes.  Inside knowledge, as Eva puts it, is like having a "human Trip Advisor."  Wouldn't you use it?  The awkward situations begin to snowball, creating an avalanche of problems.  The premise of the story isn't anything out of the ordinary, but the understated comedic value in everyday situations and misunderstandings makes this film stand out among all the other romantic comedies. 

"Enough Said" is a clever and unique story about a very common situation:  divorce, dating, and kids.  What makes this story different is the realistic dialogue in believable situations while still maintaining a sense of humor.  Although the story-line revolves around Eva and Albert, it still conveys so many peripheral stories about mothers and their daughters as well as outside relationships.   Eva's daughter is about to go off to college on the other side of the world; at least that's how Eva feels.  Heading out from California to the East Coast, Eva is struggling with her daughter leaving.  From a mom's point of view that just went through this situation, it couldn't have been any more real.  The preparation in sending her off and the emotions that accompany this are complex and revealed perfectly.  Be prepared to shed a few tears.  Eva's friends, Sarah and Will, played by Toni Collette and Ben Falcone, support Eva with such humor in their perfect portrayal of typical married life that you might suspect someone was eavesdropping in your own home.  

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a natural in her role as Eva.  In fact, I even questioned whether or not the mother-daughter pair was truly just that in real life.  They are not, but the naturalness in their movements and body language is convincing.  Gandolfini's performance is exceptional.  This role allows him to show yet another aspect of who he can be.  From the mob boss in the Sopranos to a sensitive caring father in this film, Gandolfini's abilities give you the sense that there is significant complexity not yet revealed.  Tracey Fairaway plays Eva's daughter to a "t."  The emotions of a daughter going off to college can be a roller coaster of a ride and Fairaway found profound momentum in this character.  The supporting cast is amazing, always finding the right beat and the right delivery to give complete life to the characters and situation at hand.

"Enough Said" is not your typical romantic comedy.  It's funny in relatable ways.   It's deep in emotion and heart.  It's thoughtful and realistic, but still finds a way to entertain.  The unique dialogue just emphasizes the creative writing.  And then the acting pulled it all together to give you, the viewer, an even  higher level of entertainment. 

3 1/2 st

Sent from my iPad

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Today's the day.  It's officially the opening day of the Chicago International Film Festival.  Chicago is set to feel a bit more star-studded in the upcoming two weeks as the movie industry invades the Streeterville and Loop areas of the city.  In its 49th year, the festival has grown to become a prominent festival wrapping up the circuit before the Oscar season begins.  This year promises to be one of the best with the line-up of
both known and unknown films entertaining the area.

The evening begins at the historic Chicago Theater with the premiere of THE IMMIGRANT starring Jeremy Renner, Joaquin Phoenix, and Marion Cotillard.  Set in the 1920's, two sisters arriving at Ellis Island are separated.  Trying to reunite, one of the sisters meets a charismatic, but sinister man who manipulates her into unsavory deeds.  This all-star cast is directed by James Gray and will hopefully be a part of the red carpet event before the curtain rises.  There are still seats available so don't miss out!

If you can't make it to opening night, not to worry.  There are so many wonderful films to see from around the world.  From Austria to Zimbabwe and everything in between, you are sure to find a film or two that appeals to your taste.  It can be a bit overwhelming to look at the schedule so I have taken it upon myself to help guide you.  Here are my recommendations.  Some of these films I have had the pleasure to screen ahead of the festival and some of them just look wonderfully promising.

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
Le Week-end
Breathe In

A Thousand Times Goodnight
Stockholm Stories
A Pact
Blue Ruin
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete
Monsoon Shootout
The Major
Memories They Told Me
The Fifth Estate
12 Years a Slave
Life Feels Good

August: Osage County
The Don Juans
Of Good Report
The Motel Life
The Verdict
The German Doctor
Sable Fable
The Harvest
Alan Partridge
The Book Thief
Labor Day
Inside Llewyn Davis

If you're in the Chicago area, take advantage of this wonderful film festival right in your own back yard.  Park City has Sundance, New York has Tribeca, and we have CIFF!