Archive for October, 2015

Reel Talk Episode 27.00_01_42_18.Still009

Terrance Alexander guest reviews the film STEVE JOBS with me on The Daily Journal’s web series Reel Talk.  To watch this, click here


“Our Brand Is Crisis” is a comedic drama focusing on the realities of marketing and advertising in a political campaign.  Sandra Bullock leads the cast as an eccentric genius with a grudge.  Set in Bolivia, she and her team must take an unlikeable leader and get him elected.

How much is the general population subject to marketing and advertising, especially when we are talking about a political candidate?  Jane aka “Calamity Jane” (Bullock) comes out of her reclusive environment to take on her nemisis, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton) during the Bolivian presidential election.  Her quirkiness and rather manic personality endears you to her goal of electing this pompous and contemptible candidate.  If nothing else, we want her to beat her arch rival and his candidate.  The antics that go on behind the scenes are frighteningly possible, and while this is entertaining, it is also a reminder of our own upcoming presidential election.

Although this is a drama, make no mistake about the fact that there is plenty of comedy as well.  Bullock reminds us that she can do it all.  Her character is all over the board with emotions, but we never lose track of who this woman is.  Thornton is just one of those actors that you can despise from the moment his smug face slowly turns to make eye contact and that condescending smirk engulfs him.  His misogynistic comments and actions create a truly despicable character and Thornton creates this character perfectly.  There’s balance in the cast wtih Anthony Mackie and Ann Dowd as the rationale strategists, but Scoot McNairy and his unusual voice and off-topic comments find a way to make our emotional pendulum swing as quickly as the poles in this campaign.

“Our Brand Is Crisis” is a truly amusing film; nothing like my initial impression based on the trailers.  Beautifully shot in parts of Bolivia and Puerto Rico, the film captures the sense of political desperation while maintaining a sense of humor and reality.  For you high action car chase fans, this film even has that.  It’s with dilapidated busses racing down single lane mountain roads, but it’s still a chase scene.

While “Our Brand Is Crisis” purports to be based on the true events of the 2002 Bolivian presidential election, it is a fictionalized account of it.  However, it will make you think about how much fiction we are fed as a society, especially during an election.  Could we see the candidates for real if we didn’t have these strategists and would that change who wins?  How easily are you duped by the deception of advertising and marketing?  You decide after seeing this film.

“Our Brand Is Crisis” is a unique film as it finds a way to balance  humor, drama, and reality.  Bullock and Thornton create interesting characters played well off the solid performances of the entire cast.  You’ll see not only politics in a different light, but all marketing and advertising in a different way.  And that’s a good thing.


3  stars



So you think we’ve come a long way, eh? Think again.

Women earn 71 percent of their male counterparts in the workplace, according to Claudia Goldin, Harvard labor economist. And if you’re black or Hispanic, that percentage decreases significantly. The suffrage movement in England in the early 1900s began to pave the road toward equality, but we still aren’t there.

The new film “Suffragette” reminds and educates us of the war to give women basic human rights and voting rights. After screening it in Chicago, I had the pleasure to sit down and discuss this film with director Sarah Gavron.

Through six years of research, Sarah’s team discovered the “unpublished diaries, memoirs and accounts of working women who had fought for the vote, tirelessly.” These were the diaries of women who “turned to civil disobedience and risked so much and sacrificed so much.”

Read the entire review and interview with Sarah Gavron as it appeared in the Friday, October 30th edition of The Daily Journal right HERE

To listen to the interview with Sarah Gavron as it appeared on WKCC’s The Reel Focus on Thursday, October 29, click HERE


“Burnt” has all the makings of a deliciously wonderful film:  Bradley Cooper, gourmet food, and Stephen Knight, the writer of many entertaining films such as “Locke” and “The Hundred Foot Journey.”  But alas, not even these three ingredients could spice up a bland story.
Adam Jones (Cooper) has a sordid past for which he is paying penance by shucking one million oysters…his own sentence.  Upon his completion, he goes back to those he has wronged, only to show them he’s changed and wants nothing more than to regain his crown and earn his third and coveted Michelin Star.  Having gone straight—no booze, drugs, or women—Jones attempts to compete against his rival area chefs in London to do this.  That’s it.  I’m guessing you can guess what happens along the way and maybe even predict the end correctly.
The story is truly lacking any flavor at all.  There is a glimmer of interest as Jones is in trouble with some drug thugs and there is also a minuscule spark between him and his lead chef, but this all fizzles out as quickly as a flambé.  It seems that there is no part of this story that is fully developed leaving you completely unsated.  And the constant temper tantrums that both Jones and his competition have is hopefully not typical behavior of grown men in the restaurant business.  These outbursts are the only climactic expressions in the film.
Where the film actually shines is with its palatable preparations and culinary creations.  The teamwork and precision that it takes to present a perfect meal at a high-end restaurant is stressful, yet when it succeeds, the outcome is simply mouth-watering.  As a home cook, I must note that using a metal utensil on a non-stick skillet in the film is completely distasteful.  What’s next?  Putting a cast iron skillet in the dishwasher?
Cooper has talent, but none is required to perform this role.  He is exactly what he is in so many other films—a cocky, good-looking character with an engaging smile.  In fact, there are a couple of scenes that he appears to be reading cue cards for his lines!   SIenna Miller appears to sleepwalk her way through this role as a head chef and struggling mother.  Daniel Bruhl’s character is squashed, having little to no personality, but you can see him struggling as if a lid has been placed on him to keep him hushed.  Omar Sy is truly the most interesting character as a formerly disgruntled co-worker of Jones.  He’s commanding and thoughtful, allowing you to care about him.
The director capitalizes on Cooper’s blue eyes and familiar smirk conveying that he knows he can get everything he wants, even if he’s rejected initially.  But even Cooper’s blue eyes and confidence can’t save this film.  It lacks a substantive story, creating a hollow shell with no filling.  With watered down performances and underdeveloped storylines, “Burnt” needs a bit more seasoning, more time to rise, and better ingredients to give us the melt-in-your-mouth film we had hoped for.
1 1/2 stars as this motivated me to go home and cook.











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The Chicago International Film Festival is coming to a close, but there are still many wonderful films to see this weekend!  Watch the video to see the recommendations right Here


“Jem and the Holograms” may not be a true work of art, but it does have its merits.  Check out the review as it appears in the October 22nd edition of The Daily Journal right HERE


Before you spend your hard-earned money to see ROCK THE KASBAH, check out the review as it appears in the Friday, October 23rd edition of The Daily Journal right HERE

An Interview with Kimberly Motley


Kimberly Motley from MOTLEY’S LAW which recently screened at the Chicago International Film Festival, joins Pamela Powell on WKCC’s The Reel Focus to talk about her work and future ambitions to bring the law to the people.

Listen to the interview  HERE





The Chicago International Film Festival is now well underway.  Saturday, today,  presents several RHR recommended films.  Check out the synopsis of these films and their trailers and enjoy a day at the Fest!

WE MONSTERS:  To what length will parents go to protect their children from suffering the consequences of their actions?  “We Monsters” delves deeply into this subject as we watch lives spiral out of control.  It’s a riveting film touching upon the psychology of adolescence and the morals and values of family, community, and humanity.  It’s shockingly entertaining. (Screened at the Toronto International Film Festival)  WE MONSTERS TRAILER

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JAMES WHITE:  A young and seemingly directionless New Yorker must process the death of his absentee father while caring for his mother who is struggling with cancer.  Starring Christopher Abbott and Cynthia Nixon.  JAMES WHITE TRAILER


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THE DARK HORSE:  An inspirational and true story about speed chess champion Genesis Potini (Cliff Curtis) who struggles with bipolar disorder while teaching the game to underprivileged youth.  Can you bet on “The Dark Horse?”  THE DARK HORSE TRAILER


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FULL CONTACT:  Psychological trauma or PTSD as experienced by drone warfare soldiers is carefully dissected to reveal the coping mechanisms of one man.  As an error occurs, resulting in innocent deaths, the film takes a surreal turn in exploring the human mind.  Jarring, beautifully shot, and deeply emotional, this film makes you think and ask questions.  It’s a unique and creative film that will open a myriad number of conversations about war, psychology, and our current relations with other countries.  (Screened at the Toronto International Film Festival) FULL CONTACT TRAILER


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45 YEARS and THREE DAYS IN SEPTEMBER look quite promising as well.  Check out these trailers.

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For more information on tickets, showtimes, and availability go to

All movies are screened at the AMC RIVER EAST, 322 E. Illinois St. Chicago.  Parking is $14 with validation.

Reel Talk Episode 25.00_07_24_22.Still009

Bill Yohnka guest reviews the Peter Pan classic film “Pan” on The Daily Journal’s web series Reel Talk.  Listen to Bill’s unique perspective on this film HERE