50th Chicago International Film Festival Report: Reviews 6-10

Chicago Film Festival Screening #06 Review:srockholm
“Stockholm” (Spain) directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen

An enjoyable little two-character chamber piece. Imagine “Before Sunset” as written by a 60’s-era Edward Albee. The performances are earnest (and you will fall in love with the girl) and the first half hour entails strolling the streets of Madrid, so there’s that to recommend it as well. Not a great film, by any stretch (especially the second half – which stretches the old suspension of disbelief a bit), but a very worthwhile ninety minutes that will, at the very least, make you miss the moment you fell for a stranger.
Trailer here.

Chicago Film Festival Screening #07 Review:redarmy
“Red Army” (USA) directed by Gabriel Polsky

Maybe the best non-sports sports documentary I have ever seen. Using the Red Army National Hockey Team of the Soviet regime as a jumping off point, Polsky has managed to craft an insightful, HILARIOUS, and human documentary about the nature of being a “Soviet”. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU SHOULD SEE THIS. The footage he has found is fascinating (most mot even seen by Russians), the individuals involved are intriguing and the craftsmanship is exquisite. Matthew Hoffman of blacksheepreviews. com summed it up best: “RED ARMY is perhaps one of the greatest hockey documentaries ever made, and one even the least sports inclined viewer must see.” It has a wide release beginning on January 30th. I’ll remind you again. It will be nominated and don’t let the hockey aspect keep you away if you are not a sports fan because this should not be missed by anyone.
Trailer here.

Chicago Film Festival Screening #08 Review:19720198
“Still” (UK) starring Aidan Gillen and directed by Simon Blake

Forgetting for the moment that my car was towed while in the theater, “Still” is almost a good film. But, alas, the excellent final act in no way makes up for the tedium of the first two. Gillen, while excellent as Councilman Carcetti in “The Wire” and occasionally strong as Littlefinger in “GoT”, seems really lost here in the incredibly challenging role of a broken and lost artistic soul, Tom Carver. And the score is so overbearing and “cool”, I wanted a pair of earplugs and an aspirin. BUT, Jonathon Slinger, as his best friend, Ed, shines throughout (having Madness’ “Saturday Night Sunday Morning” playing in his car was a nice touch) – and there is that last act. Overall…meh.
Trailer here.

Chicago Film Festival Screening #09 Review:president-001
“The President” (Georgia, France, UK, Germany) directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf

A dark but comic satire about the leader of a non-specific Eastern-European/Western Asian dictatorship and his nine-year-old grandson, “The President” manages to never lose its tension, humanity or humor throughout most of its nearly two-hour length. This is mostly thanks to the performance of the film’s two leads and the sweeping vistas of Georgia. A little heavy on message at the film’s end, this is still an easy movie to recommend.
Trailer here.

Chicago Film Festival Screening #10 Review:black coal
“Black Coal, Thin Ice” (China, Hong Kong) directed by Diao Yinan

Noir! From China! A real noir thriller from China. Utilizing the bleakness of a China we don’t normally see in film, Yinan gives us a pretty tight murder mystery, with enough twists to keep it from feeling derivative, and strong enough performances to keep it from feeling amateurish. I really liked it, although (and I have no idea why) many in the audience had trouble following the plot at times. It’s also a bit long, but I was certainly never bored. It won the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival. Not sure it’s that good, but well worth seeing, I think.
Trailer here.

Originally written 10/10-10/14/2015

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