Don Shanahan posts four new reviews for and “Every Movie Has a Lesson”


The award-winning Juliette Binoche is one of those actresses who can captivate an audience in complete silence.  Binoche has long been a reflective master of inflection and nuance.  She doesn’t have to say a word to convey the waterfall of thoughts and emotions going on within her characters.   She is a true artist for performance and the latest proof of that is her staggering dramatic role in “The Wait,” the directorial debut of Italian filmmaker Piero Messina.  The film opens this week for a Chicago run at the Gene Siskel Film Center downtown.


Since Hollywood has become a hit-generating factory more than a garden of artistry and truth, a historical drama film like “Free State of Jones” only has to raise its barometer to a midpoint of “good enough.”  That is because there is nearly unwinnable tug-of-war of disservice between history lessons and entertainment value, especially when your poster reads “based on a true story.”  Veer away from the facts too far with dramatic license and the film becomes disingenuous.  Veer too close to history without cinematic flashiness and no one will pay to see it.  “Free State of Jones” falls somewhere in the middle of that mud pit.


The advent of computer-generated visual effects in the 1990s raised the scope of what and how much disaster movies could destroy on screen.  No better film encapsulated that new era than the raucous and wildly successful “Independence Day” from 1996 with aliens laying waste to world monuments and making a star out of Will Smith.  In the twenty years since, the evolution of CGI filmmaking of bigger and more opulent destruction has elevated the craft to the moniker of “disaster porn.”  Returning with the grand ambitious sequel “Independence Day: Resurgence,” the former standard-bearer enters a present day where audiences have been desensitized by asteroids, comets, natural disasters, monsters, Transformers, and superheroes dozens of times over.  What was awesome the first time isn’t jaw-dropping anymore.


“The Shallows” gives Blake Lively the chance to not only prove she’s more than a Hollywood hot body, but also one-up her husband Ryan Reynolds in survival film department next to his little 2010 gem “Buried.”  Prominent click bait out there will have you believe that “The Shallows” is the best shark movie since “Jaws.”  That bold statement is a bit of overrated hyperbole.  “Open Water” and “Deep Blue Sea” might have something to say about that.  However, there more than enough impressive rush and originality from “The Shallows” to stand out in a crowded summer marketplace of retreads and sequels.

Click on the titles for links to Don’s full reviews!

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