It would be pointless for me to cover the Chicago Critics Film Festival every year and tell you how great it is. I mean, come one! Is it always that good? In a word: yes. I mean, I can see how it looks that way, but over the last 6 years, the city of Chicago has been blessed with this festival, which continues to draw some of the biggest names in Hollywood and movies that earned high praise from critics all over. This year is an especially unique collection of films. There’s not a single film on the schedule that feels like conforming to what audiences want. This team of critics have a courageous optimism that I would not always have. Let’s be honest, putting together a film festival is a massive leap of faith, and as the CFCA did last year with David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, you can be sure that there will be plenty of surprises, challenges, and entertaining movies for audiences to enjoy at The Music Box Theatre. It all kicks off on Friday May 4th with Julia Hart’s post-apocalyptic film Fast Color and closes with Bo Burham’s Sundance hit Eigth Grade. In between are plenty of movies to enjoy, including a 25th anniversary screening of Jurassic Park, and other movies that AMovieGuy.com thinks you should see:
DIRECTED BY: CORALIE FARGEAT
The one movie that you will want to see with a big audience is Revenge. The French film is in-your-face and all about what the title says. It involves a beautiful young woman, who escapes to a remote desert home with a married man. It’s a fun sex romp getaway until she is ruthlessly raped by one of his friends and left for dead. Her survival wakes her up and conjures a fire inside. Revenge feels like Thelma & Louise to the max, with the perfect tone for the current #MeToo climate, and the right mixture of bloodshed with style. It’s playing late at the Music Box, so gather some friends, have some drinks, and enjoy this one.
DIRECTED BY: ARRON KOPP; AMANDA KOPP
Liyana is a beautiful, unique cinematic combination. It is both a documentary and an animated narrative. What I gathered from this painfully honest film is that director Arron and Amanda Kopp are interested in the way stories are told. The documentary side are interviews with a group of 5 orphans in Swaziland, all of which lost their families in painful manners. The orphans piece together their story of Liyana, a fictional character who grows based on the children’s hopes and dreams. The animation visually looks like a crisp watercolor painting and grasps the emotional power of children sharing their feelings through a story.
DIRECTED BY: JOSEPH KAHN
What if I told you that one of the coolest movies at CCFF was about rap battles? Does that interest you? Because it should. Joseph Kahn’s Bodied is a jolt of energy to our senses. It’s about a college kid named Adam (Calum Worthy), who is currently working on his poetry thesis about rap battles, and studying the underground, competitive world. The closer he gets to the game, the more he becomes a part of it, as he faces off against a local rapper and proves he has what it takes. So think competition movies like Drumline or Bring it On, but with much more sick burns. Director Joseph Kahn will be there in person to talk about his sharp, witty, and free-styling film.
DIRECTED BY: DAVID ZELLNER; NATHAN ZELLNER
The writing/directing team of David & Nathan Zellner made an impact on me with their specific style of films. The work tends to include, lonely, odd characters, adorable pets, and a journey that leaves you feeling glad all over. Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter was one of the best independent films in 2014 and the brothers follow up that film with Damsel- an anti-romance western. Robert Pattinson stars as Samuel, a man on a mission to rescue his love Penelope (Mia Wasikowska) from being abducted, only to find out that she wasn’t kidnapped and wants nothing to do with him. It makes for an awkward and hilarious comedy, transcending the roles of what it means to be the dashing leading man and the woman who needs saving. The final result is a movie that fans will find adorable and laugh a bunch along the way.
MOVIE: ABDUCTED IN PLAIN SIGHT
DIRECTED BY: SKYE BORGMAN
Typically, I am not a fan of talking head documentaries, a style that can’t be avoided in the genre, but too much can make a viewing experience boring. That is not the case for Abducted in Plain Sight, a documentary that will shock fans at CCFF. Those who were glued to the HBO series The Jinx will want to see this one. Director Skye Borgman has become well acquainted with the story of the Broberg’s, a family from Idaho that befriended their neighbor, only to painfully discover that the neighbor would kidnap their daughter Jan. And if that”s not painful enough, it happens twice! This is the one documentary of the fest you won’t want to miss. It has a story that is so crazy you just have to see it.