Violette (UR would be R - 3 1/2 Stars) - This year’s “brooding” existentialist film that played at Chicago’s French Film Festival, a bio-pic about the often excruciatingly sad and lonely life of French mid-20th century feminist (and bisexual…) writer Violette Laduc. But as one follows the awful circumstances and betrayals in her life, one does come to understand. Beyond a terrible childhood (neither of her parents wanted her) and repeated disappointments in her largely friendless personal life, she was convinced that it ALL CAME DOWN TO HER BEING “UGLY.” And at one point she declared: “The one truly mortal sin for a woman is to be ugly, everything else can be forgiven.” By the end of the film, one just wants to give her a hug.

Violette (UR would be R - 3 1/2 Stars) - This year’s “brooding” existentialist film that played at Chicago’s French Film Festival, a bio-pic about the often excruciatingly sad and lonely life of French mid-20th century feminist (and bisexual…) writer Violette Laduc. But as one follows the awful circumstances and betrayals in her life, one does come to understand. Beyond a terrible childhood (neither of her parents wanted her) and repeated disappointments in her largely friendless personal life, she was convinced that it ALL CAME DOWN TO HER BEING “UGLY.” And at one point she declared: “The one truly mortal sin for a woman is to be ugly, everything else can be forgiven.” By the end of the film, one just wants to give her a hug.

Cantinflas [2014] (PG - 4 Stars) - Lovely Hispanic oriented family movie about comic genius, Cantinflas, “Mexico’s Charlie Chaplin,” and how he played in (and received a Golden Globe for) at least one Hollywood film, the 1956 Best Picture Oscar winning film “Around the World in Eighty Days.” (Back home in Mexico he was already a legend having made some 39 films there). Beyond that, he was a good guy. He married only once and remained with his wife ‘till death did they part’ and they married when they were still both dirt poor working in a Mexico City circus. Later in life he became a big supporter of various Catholic charities in Mexico. Anyway, a very nice film about a basically very good guy.

Cantinflas [2014] (PG - 4 Stars) - Lovely Hispanic oriented family movie about comic genius, Cantinflas, “Mexico’s Charlie Chaplin,” and how he played in (and received a Golden Globe for) at least one Hollywood film, the 1956 Best Picture Oscar winning film “Around the World in Eighty Days.” (Back home in Mexico he was already a legend having made some 39 films there). Beyond that, he was a good guy. He married only once and remained with his wife ‘till death did they part’ and they married when they were still both dirt poor working in a Mexico City circus. Later in life he became a big supporter of various Catholic charities in Mexico. Anyway, a very nice film about a basically very good guy.

The Drop [2014] (R - 3 1/2 Stars) - A very well-written and well-acted slow-burning “neighborhood thriller” set around a very, very average little tavern in Brooklyn that _occasionally_ gets used by the local mob as a “drop bar” where the night’s dirty money gets collected and stored for pickup by the mob’s reps the next day.

The Drop [2014] (R - 3 1/2 Stars) - A very well-written and well-acted slow-burning “neighborhood thriller” set around a very, very average little tavern in Brooklyn that _occasionally_ gets used by the local mob as a “drop bar” where the night’s dirty money gets collected and stored for pickup by the mob’s reps the next day.

Life After Beth [2014] (R - 3 Stars) - "Small, indie film" about 20-something Zach who’s mourning the loss (er death) of his girlfriend Beth (to a snake bite while she was hiking, alone, because he didn’t like hiking …). Well suddenly, he finds that she’s "come back." Jewish, he asks "How? Like Jesus?" No, not really … much ensues ;-)

Life After Beth [2014] (R - 3 Stars) - "Small, indie film" about 20-something Zach who’s mourning the loss (er death) of his girlfriend Beth (to a snake bite while she was hiking, alone, because he didn’t like hiking …). Well suddenly, he finds that she’s "come back." Jewish, he asks "How? Like Jesus?" No, not really … much ensues ;-)

Belle and Sebastian (orig. Belle et Sébastien) [2013] (UR would be PG - 3 1/2 Stars) - A film for dog lovers and … francophones ;-0. 6-10 year old Sebastian and his new pet / formerly stray sheepdog named Belle team up in the prettiest French alpine village ever to … take on the Nazis ;-). Honestly, propaganda / war films have RARELY been … cuter ;-)

Belle and Sebastian (orig. Belle et S√©bastien) [2013] (UR would be PG - 3 1/2 Stars) - A film for dog lovers and … francophones ;-0. 6-10 year old Sebastian and his new pet / formerly stray sheepdog named Belle team up in the prettiest French alpine village ever to … take on the Nazis ;-). Honestly, propaganda / war films have RARELY been … cuter ;-)

The Trip to Italy [2013] (UR would be PG-13 - 3 1/2 Stars) - Actually a very fun “road movie” about two fairly well known 40-something British actors taking a “working vacation’ while driving down the (west) coast of Italy. One’s married, the other recently divorced, the dialogue is often just hilarious. The film’s already available for streaming on iTunes.

The Trip to Italy [2013] (UR would be PG-13 - 3 1/2 Stars) - Actually a very fun “road movie” about two fairly well known 40-something British actors taking a “working vacation’ while driving down the (west) coast of Italy. One’s married, the other recently divorced, the dialogue is often just hilarious. The film’s already available for streaming on iTunes.

Frank [2014] (R - 3 Stars) - Oddly amusing yet poignant film about an “alternative rock band” led by a simultaneously shy yet quite certain of his awesomeness singer named Frank who spends most of his life, both onstage and off, wearing a giant yet certainly non-threatening papier-mache mask. Is this where our society’s ever-increasing narcissism is leading us?

Frank [2014] (R - 3 Stars) - Oddly amusing yet poignant film about an “alternative rock band” led by a simultaneously shy yet quite certain of his awesomeness singer named Frank who spends most of his life, both onstage and off, wearing a giant yet certainly non-threatening papier-mache mask. Is this where our society’s ever-increasing narcissism is leading us?

Innocence [2014] (PG-13 - 1 1/2 Stars) - PARENTS this film is definitely NOT about “Innocence” as one would normally think of it, but it is, in a sense, kind of a hoot. After the sudden (and quite strange) death of her mother, a quiet 15 year-old girl is enrolled by her father in a very upscale, trendy “prep school” run entirely by women her mother’s age (and apparently her mom was an alumni of the school as well). Well the women running the school are both very refined and sophisticated but oddly puritanical as well (absolutely obsessed by both blood and protecting the virginity of their students). There’s of course “an explanation” to this, and it offers probably the most amusing excuse (_unconvincing_, but certainly amusing…) that a teenager could give to his/her parents about NEEDING to QUICKLY lose one’s virginity. So … it’s not exactly something to take the “teen group” to ;-)  … but “from a distance” the film _is_ kinda funny ;-)

Innocence [2014] (PG-13 - 1 1/2 Stars) - PARENTS this film is definitely NOT about “Innocence” as one would normally think of it, but it is, in a sense, kind of a hoot. After the sudden (and quite strange) death of her mother, a quiet 15 year-old girl is enrolled by her father in a very upscale, trendy “prep school” run entirely by women her mother’s age (and apparently her mom was an alumni of the school as well). Well the women running the school are both very refined and sophisticated but oddly puritanical as well (absolutely obsessed by both blood and protecting the virginity of their students). There’s of course “an explanation” to this, and it offers probably the most amusing excuse (_unconvincing_, but certainly amusing…) that a teenager could give to his/her parents about NEEDING to QUICKLY lose one’s virginity. So … it’s not exactly something to take the “teen group” to ;-)¬† … but “from a distance” the film _is_ kinda funny ;-)

The Remaining (PG-13 - 3 1/2 Stars) - While perhaps “not for everybody,” an IMHO surprisingly thought-provoking portrayal of the SUDDEN END OF THE WORLD (along the sequence of that outlined in the Book of Revelation) at the end of an otherwise nice, mild-mannered “garden” (if not “Church…”) wedding of a “nice” if somewhat “sassy” “Carrie Underwood”-like of couple. It’s not being billed as a “Faith-based horror film” for nothing . And IMHO it _can_ “make one think.”

The Remaining (PG-13 - 3 1/2 Stars) - While perhaps “not for everybody,” an IMHO surprisingly thought-provoking portrayal of the SUDDEN END OF THE WORLD (along the sequence of that outlined in the Book of Revelation) at the end of an otherwise nice, mild-mannered “garden” (if not “Church…”) wedding of a “nice” if somewhat “sassy” “Carrie Underwood”-like of couple. It’s not being billed as a “Faith-based horror film” for nothing . And IMHO it _can_ “make one think.”

The Forgotten Kingdom [2013] (UR would be R - 3 1/2 Stars) - Lovely film that closed the recent 20th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago. The film tells the story of an initially directionless 20-something year old youth living in Johannesburg, South Africa who then has to go back to Lesotho to bury his father. Scenery is stunning and very much reminiscent of the scenery to be found in neighboring KwaZulu-Natal where my Order (the Servites) has our Province’s mission since 1948.

The Forgotten Kingdom [2013] (UR would be R - 3 1/2 Stars) - Lovely film that closed the recent 20th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago. The film tells the story of an initially directionless 20-something year old youth living in Johannesburg, South Africa who then has to go back to Lesotho to bury his father. Scenery is stunning and very much reminiscent of the scenery to be found in neighboring KwaZulu-Natal where my Order (the Servites) has our Province’s mission since 1948.