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It’s Time for the World to Shine Again

Chris J. Patiño, Contributor 

Nov. 11, 2019


So, you want to make a sequel to “The Shining,” huh? 


Good luck. 

 

These days, it seems like you can’t get a project off the ground unless it’s tied to some big franchise or IP. So, is “Doctor Sleep” just a cynical cash-grab trying to mooch off the good name of Stanley Kubrick’s classic?  

 

Not even a little. 

 

Thirty-some years after the horror at The Overlook Hotel, Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is all grown up and sighting shortly on a happy ending. Following in his old man’s footsteps, Danny has become an addict, drinking himself into oblivion in an attempt to close off his “shine,” the psychic ability that allows him to see spirits and communicate telepathically. While attempting to get a grip on his past, Danny encounters a young girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curran) with similar powers whom he must protect from a ravenous cult led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), who prey on children with special abilities. 

 

If “The Shining” is the story of a father descending into madness, “Doctor Sleep” is a story of a son trying to live with that trauma. Danny and his mother may have escaped The Overlook, but he isn’t safe. The ghosts that crept the halls of the hotel have followed him out into the world, and Danny is left to cope. He’s fallen into alcoholism to dull his “shine” and is no better than a vagabond. 

 

If there was any doubt as to whether or not “Doctor Sleep” would work, look no further than director Mike Flanagan (“The Haunting of Hill House”). Flanagan has shown the ability to concoct a potent blend of supernatural dread mixed with human terror and emotional catharsis within the confine of his spooky features. His style relies on atmosphere and tone rather than shock and awe. 

 

He understands the trick behind delivering a real scare. The fear doesn’t come from the ghosts haunting Danny and his friends; it’s what those ghosts represent wherein lies the horror. Danny is a man facing literal ghosts of his past, and coming to grips with being truly haunted. 


Flanagan performs a miracle juggling act of writing a sequel to “The Shining” movie, adapting the “Doctor Sleep” novel, which itself is not related to the original film in any way, while also incorporating elements of Stephen King’s “Shining” novel. How he manages to keep it all together is nothing short of masterful. It’s a perfect synthesis of Kubrick homage, King ambiance and Flanagan filmmaking. 

 

“Doctor Sleep” is not a smash-and-grab, jump-scare-a-minute scary movie. This film is subtle with its frights and subdued in its sense of fear. Flanagan comes at the story, not with a desire to disgust you, but to petrify you. To blend profound sentiment with existential fright to make you realize that sometimes the best way to light the darkness is to shine.  

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South Korean Director with Another Showstopping Feature

Chris J. Patiño, Contributor 

Nov. 4, 2019


Holy. Crap. 

 

And no, “crap” is not the exact word I would use in this scenario. 

 

Have you ever walked out of a movie that’s just so good it leaves you feeling totally and wholly revitalized in mind, body and spirit? That’s precisely the kind of movie “Parasite” is. In this modern age of digital television and billion-dollar blockbusters, just when you think you’ve seen everything, this bizarre flick comes swinging out the gate with a thunderous cinematic left hook that will floor you. 

 

With only seven features to his name, Bong Joon-ho has quickly become a global sensation, planting himself firmly in the hearts of cinephiles all over the world. Hot on the heels of winning the Palme d’Or, the top prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, and riding a tidal wave of intense critical acclaim, the hype over this film was through the stratosphere. So, it’s with a happy heart that I can report “Parasite” not only delivers, but it’s hands down one of the best films I’ve seen this year. Watching it made me feel like I was discovering film again for the first time. It’s original, thought-out and profoundly unique.  

 

“Parasite” is the story of the Kim family, a group of four who are all unemployed and doing whatever it takes to get paid. After the son, Ki-woo (Woo-sik Choi) gets a job tutoring the young daughter of a wealthy family, the Kims slowly start to infiltrate their personal lives.   

 

And that’s all I’m going to tell you about the plot. Seriously, it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible. It may sound straightforward, but there is so much more to unpack in this warped romp.  

 

Joon-ho is on a whole other level. This is a master-class director who has absolute control over his medium. He’s a gourmet chef whipping up an exquisite film dish spiced with a perfect blend of dark humor, suspense and surprise. One minute you’re laughing out loud at the absurdity of the situation, the next you’re clasping onto your armrest with a white-knuckle grip and holding your breath as scenes twist and turn. Joon-ho’s mixture of tones is seamless. He handles comedy and tension better than most genre directors.  

 

The film’s cinematography is gorgeous. Each shot depicts a still photo quality. You can snapshot any individual frame and put it up on your wall for display.  

 

Like most Joon-ho films, there’s more happening here than meets the eye. The juxtaposition between the impoverished Kims and affluent Parks is clear, but it’s the subtle touches that paint a bigger picture. It’s the little things that characters do or say that emphasize the immense gulf between their social statuses. 


At its core, “Parasite” is class drama with each player adding to mounting pressure building beneath the surface. These curiously laid out elements come crashing together in a spectacular finish. The result is contemplative, disturbing, and perhaps not something you may readily agree with. 

Celebrating Cider and Ale at the Morton Arboretum

Jake Volk, Editor-in-Chief  

Oct. 21, 2019


Oktoberfest arrived a bit late to the Midwest. Hosted on Oct. 19, 2019, the Morton Arboretum's annual Fall Color Fest: Cider and Ale invited community members in celebrating the shift in seasons from summer to fall with a few beverages. 


Over 500 people attended the annual event, which coupled as an opportunity for Morton Arboretum to raise funds for their conservation efforts in maintaining more than 80 species of oak trees. Some of the funds from the general ticket admission fee went toward the conservation efforts, while other portions of the fee went toward supplying all guests a personal glass embroidered with the Arboretum’s logo and a lanyard with a series of cards listing the drink selections. 


Among three tables, 60 breweries offered over 120 different selections of ciders, meads, ales, IPAs and a few porters and stouts. With so many selections, guests spent time reviewing their cards and reading descriptions of each drink before jumping in line to get a taste. 


Each guest received a punch card on their lanyard, which provided 20 free samplings from any of the 60 vendors. While guests enjoyed their beverages, they swayed to music from a live band that featured artists from the ‘80s through 2010. 


Additionally, the Arboretum opened its doors to three food trucks: Gnarly Knots, Grumpy Gaucho and Roaming Hog. Thanks to the great weather, most of the trucks ran out of food after just two hours into the five-hour event; however, guests were invited to grab a bite in the Ginkgo Grill, Morton Arboretum’s very own restaurant. 


The Fall Color Festival is just one of the many festivals offered throughout the year at the Morton Arboretum. 

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There’s Plenty of Bite Left in the Zom-Com Franchise

Chris J. Patiño, Contributor 

Oct. 21, 2019


Welcome to Zombieland! Again! 


That’s right, folks. We’re back in the irreverent, zombie plagued world of the surprise 2009 hit comedy that served as a breakout vehicle for its director, writers and cast that has amassed some seriously ridiculous prestige over the years.  


It’s been 10 years since our last trip to Zombieland, and admittedly, I was worried going in. The original holds a very dear place in my heart. I can practically quote it beginning to end, word-for-word. So, while I’ve been chomping at the bit for a sequel, my anticipation hasn’t been very high. Most comedy sequels this far out from the original usually don’t turn out very good. (*cough* “Zoolander 2” *cough*) 


So, it’s a bit of a minor miracle that not only is “Zombieland: Double Tap” not a flaming hot mess but a legit funny, no-frills, action-comedy that stands toe-to-toe with the original. 


Columbus (Jessie Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) are back, facing off against the hordes of the undead and managing the growing pains that come with being a family. Along the way, they encounter fellow survivors and stronger, more evolved zombies in a series of hilarious gags and gory violence that reminds you of why you fell in love with this delightful group in the first place. 


The trick with comedy sequels is keeping the humor fresh. Most of the time the filmmakers just redress the best jokes from the original and hope no one notices. But we do. We always do. And considering director Ruben Fleischer’s work since the first “Zombieland,” (Gangster Squad, anyone?) you can’t be blamed for imagining the worst. Thankfully, Fleischer has tapped back into his rhythm here.   


Re-uniting with writing duo Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (“Deadpool”, “Deadpool 2”), the team has crafted another sharp comedy that rips at the zombie genre again without feeling tired or stale. The meta-humor is able to stay on point without veering too far into schtick. There are of course callbacks to jokes and moments from the original, but the movie does so with a soft hand instead of hitting you over the head with a nostalgia hammer. 


The production value has taken a huge step up. The movie is more polished and technically proficient than the first. The action scenes are also a lot stronger. They’re bigger and bolder with some fantastic practical/visual effects work to back it up. 


And although this version of the zombie apocalypse still feels light and fluffy, the film is carried through on the shoulders of its incredible cast. This crew hasn’t lost a step. The energy and excitement from the original is still there, but more importantly, the heart and charm that made us fall in love with these characters 10 years ago is still intact. 


So, whether you’re a hardcore fan of the original or just looking for some good, bloody fun in time for the Halloween season, “Zombieland: Double Tap” is the hot, fluffy, viscera-filled funnel cake treat for you.  


Check out Chris's Corner Cinema blog for more reviews!

Juuling/Vaping could be causing MAJOR health problems

Matt Vogrin, Andrew Munoz and Derek Swanson discuss the juuling epidemic and the health problems that have these products may have caused.

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Have a Laugh and Be Glad, Joker’s Here to Drive You Mad

Chris J. Patiño, Contributor 

Oct. 9, 2019


This is no Batman movie. 


Yes, it takes place in Gotham City. And yes, there’s a character in it called Joker, but that’s where all comparisons end. This Joker doesn’t play around with hand buzzers or pencils. This Joker shoots you point-blank in the face and smashes your head against the wall. This is not a tale of a criminal mastermind, but a character study of a broken man’s descent into madness and murder. 


“Joker” follows Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a troubled man living in 1980s Gotham City who is dealt one bad hand after another. Beaten and belittled at every turn, he’s a quivering, wounded man whose only solace is his mother (Frances Conroy) and their favorite late-night talk show host, Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro). 


Happiness is a rarity for Fleck. Suffering from a neurological condition that makes him laugh uncontrollably, he often finds himself at the mercy of apprehensive and aggressive Gothamites. After a particularly vicious encounter, Fleck finally snaps. And what follows is perhaps the most frightening depiction of The Joker yet. 


This is a beast of a movie. Unflinching and troubling, “Joker” is a disturbing portrait of a man on the fringes of society who decides to give the world the punchline he feels it deserves. 


This film marks a sharp left turn for director Todd Phillips, mostly known for helming “The Hangover” films. Taking a sidestep from comedy, Phillips jumps into the superhero genre and turns it on its head. He pulls no punches here, showcasing an ugly culture that labels its mentally ill as “crazies” and responds to problems with a fist. 


In some ways, it's a mirror of our own society. “Joker” pointedly comments on how we deal with mental illness and react to violence. The bloodshed isn’t constant, but when it pops, it hits like a freight train. It’s brutal and unapologetic. 


It should surprise no one to hear that Phoenix is outstanding. His Joker is feral. Like a beaten dog who’s taken his last thrashing, Fleck cuts loose in flashes of hyper-violent ferocity that will shock and nauseate you. His physical appearance is borderline sickening. He’s a gangly, starved scarecrow of a man. 


From his laughing fits to his gyrations, every movement feels thoughtfully unpredictable. It’s a festering boil of a performance, ready to burst at any moment and spill out its stinking, spoiled juices. 


Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir’s musical score helps cement the film’s tone. It’s an operatic, eerie composition that puts you right into Fleck’s headspace. Equal parts despair, rage, and power, Guðnadóttir’s gritty soundtrack will make it feel as if you’re free-falling down a well of infinite sadness. 


Cinematographer Lawrence Sher’s gorgeous photography also can’t be understated. His rich lenses depict a Gotham City more akin to a cityscape from a Martin Scorsese movie than a comic book. 


Controversial and provocative, “Joker” isn’t your typical comic book movie. It’s a film that will challenge audiences with its depictions while raising questions concerning our own social landscape. 


Check out Chris's Corner Cinema blog for more reviews!

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The Gang is Back in Town…and IT is Waiting

Chris J. Patiño, Contributor 

Sept. 9, 2019


A story is only as good as its ending, right? That’s what we’re about to find out with director Andy Muschietti’s second and final chapter of Stephen King’s horror saga, “IT.” With an all-star ensemble cast including Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader and James McAvoy, the Losers Club reunites after 27 years to once again face off against Pennywise, the child-eating clown terrorizing the town of Derry. 


To say that the filmmakers had a high bar to clear is an understatement. The first “IT” was a critically acclaimed crowd pleaser that shattered box office records. With Muschietti returning as director and a crazy talented cast, expectations were high. The result is…a bit of a mixed bag.  


Now, the things that work in this movie work really well. The opening scene is pitch perfect, getting us right back into the fold while also establishing the film’s brutal tone. The film’s scares come hard and fast and don’t shy away one bit from the story’s twisted nature.  


This installment not only has the difficult task of juggling seven leads, but also has to reestablish them now as grown-ups. It manages to do so in near seamless fashion, providing reintroductions that are quick, but not rushed, clearly establishing the Losers’ adult lives. This cast absolutely shines. Each actor seems so natural in her part that it’s hard to imagine anyone else filling her shoes. But it’s Bill Hader who steals the show as trash-mouth Richie Tozier. The SNL alumnus assuredly delivers on the comedy, but it’s the heart and empathy he brings to the character that makes his performance stand-out and sets up Hader as a powerhouse dramatic performer to keep your eye on.  


But the undeniable MVP here is Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise. Skarsgård’s performance oozes with ghoulish delight; you’ll relish every second this maniacal clown is on-screen serenading his victims with laughs and a balloon. 


However, not all is well in Derry. Certain elements either fall short or don’t come together neatly. With a two hour and 49-minute runtime, there is a lot of story to pack in and the movie isn’t entirely able to shoulder the weight of its ambition. While it’s never boring, the film does feel unfocused at times. And although I felt the filmmakers did a fine job condensing King’s thousand-plus page odyssey, there are some rich elements from the novel that are either brushed over quickly or are dropped entirely.   


While not as refined as the original, “IT Chapter 2” still works as a solid work of horror filmmaking, serving up a creepy atmosphere layered with disturbing visuals and some great creature effects, all anchored by a terrific cast, resonant themes and a poignant ending. 


Check out Chris's Corner Cinema blog for more reviews!