Posts by Billy Ray Brewton

REVIEW: THE DINNER

The name of this film could just as easily have been “Wealthy White People Problems,” because that is really all it is about – four people who have the wealth, education, and privilege to debate whether or not they even have to consider doing the right thing. That doesn’t mean The Dinner isn’t engaging and worthwhile – it is. But it does mean that a large portion of the audience is going to check out at a certain point because they simply cannot understand the central conflict between the couples. The Dinner embraces a limited audience, for sure. Paul (Steve
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REVIEW: BURDEN

The name Chris Burden was familiar to me. I remember hearing about him having someone shoot him (like, with a rifle) for an exhibit, and I also remember hearing about his Chicago installation where he stayed under a piece of glass for three days until someone brought him water, and then he stormed out and came back with a hammer (Hint: that was the point). But, that was about it. He was wildly respected in the art world (in his later years), but I don’t really follow the art world, so when I realized he was also the man who
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REVIEW: RISK

This film is difficult for me. It’s directed by a filmmaker for whom I have great respect: the daring, important, and brilliant Laura Poitras. But its subject is a man I loathe: the cowardly, dangerous, and unreliable Julian Assange. So how am I to take Risk, the new documentary that follows Assange over the course of six years? This film actually started shooting before her Academy Award winning Citizenfour, and it kept going on and on because – every time it seemed like the story was over – Assange or WikiLeaks would pop back in the headlines. Poitras admits the
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REVIEW: THE WALL

Man, I wanted to like The Wall more than I did. Maybe that’s not fair. I was all-in for 95% of this film, and then all-out for the final 5%. And, in most cases, I can forgive a film a lackluster ending if the material that came before is worthwhile. But not here. Here, the finale of this film is so unsatisfying that it basically made me rethink the rest. There is a pessimism in this ending that isn’t present in the rest of the picture. Sure, bad things happen – even bad things we know are going to happen
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REVIEW: A DARK SONG

There is so much about A Dark Song that works…until it doesn’t. And I’m a sucker for British horror flicks, so I am most certainly the target audience for a film like this. I don’t necessarily think anyone is to blame; the filmmaker is doing exactly what he wants to do. I just thought the first two-thirds of this film wrote a check that the final third couldn’t cash. And don’t be fooled – just because IFC Midnight is releasing the film, that doesn’t mean it’s a horror film. A Dark Song is a supernatural drama. Sure, it has mood
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REVIEW: UNCLE HOWARD

Most people don’t know the name Howard Brookner. But, some do. And Uncle Howard is about Howard and the people who knew and loved him. It’s a love letter to a man whose light was extinguished, like so many, by AIDS. And it’s an introduction, for many, to a filmmaker whose short life produced some truly remarkable works of art. This journey is led by Aaron Brookner, Howard’s nephew and, himself, a documentary filmmaker. Aaron loved his uncle, and discovered that an enormous amount of footage from Howard’s first film – a documentary about beat poet William S. Burroughs – resides in
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REVIEW: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

Let’s get it out of the way – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is very much like The Empire Strikes Back. It is ripe with daddy issues, separates our heroes for a large chunk of the film, and (unlike most sequels) stands alone outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Just like the original film, it’s big and goofy and pure-hearted and devoted to its characters in a way no other Marvel has been. Sure, The Avengers are fleshed out – but these characters have a chemistry and a connection that Tony Stark and Thor just don’t, and never will.
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REVIEW: PRINCESS CYD

A mysterious and foreboding 911 call sets the stage for Princess Cyd, the latest drama from Chicago writer/director Stephen Cone, whose Black Box remains one of my favorite indie films ever, and whose Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party isn’t far behind. That phone call lets us know that someone, somewhere has experienced tragedy. We know neither the ins or the outs of that tragedy – but we continue along under the assumption that, at some point, we will. But that isn’t what Princess Cyd is about. Not at all. This is a rich, emotionally resilient picture that feels just like the
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REVIEW: BOMB CITY

Any time I see the “Based on true events” heading in front of a film, I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and pray for the best, knowing that there is a strong likelihood that what I am about to see will be less than satisfying. So, when that title emerged at the beginning of Bomb City, I was consistent. But I was also optimistic – the poster alone had my attention. Then again, you can’t judge a book by its cover. So maybe I was moments away from a major disappointment? Maybe I was moments away from being
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REVIEW: A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE

On the surface, A Closer Walk With Thee might seem like an inspirational Christian flick from the fine folks over at PureFlix – something akin to God’s Not Dead or The Case for Christ. That’s only if you base your opinion of the film on its whimsical title. Anyone who goes in to this film with those expectations might fling themselves off the balcony. Because – while A Closer Walk With Thee is very much about religion (particularly how fundamentalism in any religion is a bad thing) – it says and does things that would make a preacher blush and Baby Jesus himself
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