Kingsman: The Secret Service

(USA 2015)

Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of the comic book The Secret Service by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar is, in a word, “eh.” Sadly, not even a big budget and above-average performances by big-name talent (Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Caine to name just a few) salvaged this silly, boring imitation of a James Bond flick.

(AMC River East) D+

What We Do in the Shadows

(USA/New Zealand 2014)

Ever wonder what This Is Spinal Tap might look like mixed with Big Brother and, oh, say True Blood? Me, either, but the result, evidenced by this little gem, is pretty damned funny.

A group of vampires of varying ages– Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), and Peytr (Ben Fransham)– share a house in a New Zealand city. They have the typical housemate drama: one mate fails to clean up the blood from victims and another gets his roomies into tiffs with rival werewolves. The usual stuff. The storyline here involves the cute but annoying Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), a newbie in need of adapting to the ropes of vampire life, and his best bud, Stu (Stuart Rutherford), on whom the housemates develop a little man crush. Wicked fun!

(Music Box) B


Cool Hand Luke

(USA 1967)

Who cuts the heads off parking meters in a drunken haze? Who sidesteps prison kingpin Dragline (George Kennedy) and bluffs his way through poker? Who paves a road in one day, and comes out of solitary confinement whistling? Who eats 50 hard boiled eggs, but manages to inspire his cellmates to eat rice for him? Fucking Cool Hand Luke (Paul Newman), that’s who. This classic prison drama is based on the 1965 novel of the same name by Donn Pearce.

The last time I saw Cool Hand Luke, I was in high school. I don’t remember it moving so slowly. Despite its many charms, a great story certainly not being the least of them, I got bored. What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate. “Plastic Jesus,” however, is awesome.

In 2005, the United States Library of Congress deemed Cool Hand Luke “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry (

(Home via iTunes) B

Red Army

(USA 2014)

Never dull or sentimental, this engrossing documentary about the Soviet national ice hockey team focuses on four stars– Viacheslav Fetisov, Anatoli Karpov, Alexei Kasatonov, and Felix Nechepore– who played together from the 70s until the late 80s. The interviews are great, and the former players are fun to listen to as they tell their stories. Paralleling the rigorous approach to the game (it should be “played like chess” and choreographed “like the Bolshoy”) with Communism and maybe human nature in general, Red Army shows, intentionally or not, why Communism ultimately failed. Fun fact: I learned after I saw this that director Gabe Polsky’s parents live one block up from me. Who knew?

(Music Box) B

Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine

(USA 2015)

Matthew Shepard’s legacy needs no introduction. This tender but powerful little documentary, however, sets out to show us who Matt Shepard was, as a person. Directed by Michele Josuehe, a friend from his teenage years at a Swiss boarding school, the film is packed with intimate details of his life that have not been shared—at least not on a mass level. Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine shows Matt as an imperfect kid who was searching to find himself, like we all were at his age.

The film bravely confronts topics like Matt’s final hours, how his killers have fared, his parents’ decision to request (successfully) that the death penalty not be imposed, and a painfully uncomfortable interview with a priest about forgiveness. Although it takes a little while to get going and occasionally dips into nostalgia, Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine is a worthy effort.

Screening followed by a live Q and A with director Michele Josuehe.

(AMC River East) B-

Funny Girl

(USA 1968)

Barbra Streisand classic: ugly duckling Fanny Brice (Streisand) makes her way to the top via the stage. In the process, she meets a hot mystery man (Omar Sharif) who is not what he seems. A lengthy Technicolor melodrama in some ways was ahead of its time.

Despite its merits, I got bored: Funny Girl is long, winding, and corny. Plus, Babs gets on my nerves after about an hour and a half. I’ll stick with Madge—her movies suck, but she’s more fun and has more bite.

In 2016, the United States Library of Congress deemed Funny Girl “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry (

(Evanston Century) C+

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