Here are my reviews of Belushi, The Road Up, and There Is No Evil from the 2020 Chicago International Film Festival.
Directed by R.J. Cutler
John Belushi is one of the most tragic stories Hollywood has ever had. A comedic genius who became a star in his mid-twenties by being one of the standouts in the early days of Saturday Night Live and starring in movies like National Lampoons Animal House and The Blues Brothers. By the time Belushi was 30, he was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Sadly, though, Belushi had demons and an addiction problem, which led to a serious drug addiction and ultimately his untimely death at the young age of 33 of a heroine overdose. He was an immense talent that we lost far too soon.
Thanks to some outstanding interviews, Belushi is really an in-depth look at not only the genius that was Belushi, but also an insight to his tortured soul. We hear from some of Belushi’s closest colleagues like actor Dan Aykroyd, actor/director Harold Ramis, and director Ivan Reitman, as they talk about the ups and the downs of working with him and what it was like on-set and away from it. But the most telling interviews were from Belushi’s family members, like his brother, Jim, and his wife, Judy. These interviews were the best and most insightful. They painted more of a picture of who Belushi was a person and dove deeper into his obsession and love with art, comedy, and creating. Director R.J. Cutler does a great job of showing us numerous clips of Belushi as star, from his time at Second City in Chicago, to Saturday Night Live, to his movies, while splicing in some nicely animated sequences about moments in Belushi’s life.
Though a lot of the information in this documentary is already pretty well-known, Belushi serves as an emotional and interesting tribute to a truly great comedic mind that we lost too soon.
THE ROAD UP
Directed by Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel
“I am worthy of the best that life has to offer.”
The Road Up is one of the most inspiring films I have seen in a long time. The film follows four people who are part of Cara, a Chicago job-training program for people who are trying to re-establish themselves after they’ve hit rock-bottom. They are led by their impassioned mentor, Mr. Jesse, whose own complicated past drives him to help others find hope in the face of poverty, addiction, homelessness, and trauma. Throughout the film, we watch the struggles and triumphs of our four subjects, while also dive deep into the issues that millions of Americans face everyday while also looking at people who the world has given up on.
Out subjects vary in terms of their “rock-bottom” and who they are. We have Kristen, a smart, educated young woman who got addicted heroine after working in the music scene after college. We have Clarence, a nice soul who used to be a family man until he started selling drugs in the streets and ended up in jail. The Cara program has people with different issues and different backgrounds, yet Mr. Jesse gives each one the attention they need and deserve. Not every story ends happy, however, yet Mr. Jesse does everything he can to steer everyone on the right path. He is a powerful figure that symbolizes the power of this movie.
I was floored with The Road Up. It’s inspiring, heart-breaking, and triumphant. It is one of the best documentaries of 2020.
THERE IS NO EVIL
Directed by Mohammad Rasoulof
There is No Evil was the best movie that I saw at this year’s Chicago International Film Festival and it wasn’t really close. Mohammad Rasoulof’s brilliant Altman-esque saga of death and morality in Iran is a movie is a
There Is No Evil is four different stories centered around the same themes and ideas. The first story, titled There Is No Evil, follows Heshmat, a mild-mannered devoted family man who cares for his aging mother, wife, and daughter. But where does Heshmat go every morning at dawn? The second tale, titled, She said, “you can do it”, looks at a young soldier who has been assigned to the prison death penalty unit and is having a moral dilemma about executing a prisoner. In the third story, Birthday, Javad gets a short leave from military duty to surprise his beloved Nana on her birthday, only to receive a bigger shock when he arrives. And finally, there’s Kiss Me, in which a man must explain to his niece why he has abandoned his medical career to live as a beekeeper.
Usually in movies where there are multiple stories with different narratives, there is usually a story or two that falls flat compared to the others. Not here. Each story is great and offers up something different to the overall theme of death and how it affects a person, particularly for Iran military men. For some, it might haunt and affect their entire life. For others, it’s a duty that they have to live with forever. Though each film looks at different aspects of this, they are all expertly shot, well-written, perfectly acted, smart, thrilling, gripping, full of emotion, and offer up a twisted, shocking finale. If I had to choose, I think my favorite might be There Is No Evil, but honestly, they’re all great.
There Is No Evil is an expertly crafted film. A movie that will rattle your brain and make you think about the action of its characters. Rasoulof masterfully connects these stories together, even though they don’t share a single character. There Is No Evil is one of the best movies of 2020.
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