Miss Christina (orig. Domnisoara Christina)  (UR would be R - 4 Stars) - The other of two truly excellent Romanian films that I saw recently at a cultural event organized by the Romanian community here in Chicago — An authentic and very, very _elegant_ ROMANIAN HORROR MOVIE about a “moroi” (a kind of Romanian vampire / undead person), Christina, young, beautiful, who died tragically at 20. Apparently remaining “ever around” (the house / family) after her death, she becomes rather upset when her now 20 year old niece comes home with a dashing young man who she wants to present to her family as her fiance. Well, poor Christiana NEVER got to “bring home a dashing young man” to present to the family WHEN SHE WAS ALIVE … so … much ensues . This NOT a comedy, but it becomes funny/sad as one feels for this beautiful young woman who … “died young.”
I’m an Old Communist Hag (orig. Sunt o babă comunistă)  (UR would be PG-13 / 4 Stars) - One of two truly excellent ROMANIAN films that played recently at a film festival organized by here locally by Chicago’s Romanian community, this one a comedy: 60-something, recently retired Emilia, formerly a Communist (though mostly a practical/pragmatic one) has to deal with her 30-something daughter, coming back pregnant and unemployed with her boyish / somewhat clueless looking American boyfriend when they fear they’re going to lose their house back in the States. Much ensues
The Maze Runner (PG-13 / A-III - 3 Stars) - Perhaps the most “spartan” in setup of the wave of teen-oriented “dystopic” films made in recent years: A group of 30 or so teenage boys find themselves placed (by whom?) in a “Garden of sorts” (why?) that is surrounded by a very, very complicated “Maze” of enormous and shifting (by whose action?) concrete blocks. The presence of the Maze rather than a simple yet impenetrable Wall suggests that they have been placed in this “Garden of sorts” as a “Test” of some sort rather than as a Punshment. But, again, why? Since the cost of failure to get through the Maze appears to be Death, needless to say, the 30 or so teenagers are rather discouraged.
Enter a newcomer to the group named Thomas and soon afterwards the first (also a teenager) girl to the mix named Theresa. Much then ensues as the group decides whether to stay-put inside the reasonably comfortable (if limiting) “Garden of sorts” or try its luck (again) with penetrating the “Maze.”
Yes, the story’s awash in Biblical imagery and IMHO it’s pretty clear that this is not an accident … Note, of course, that this film (like the others like it) is only the first installment of a series … All in all, the story has at least a quite thoughtful premise
A Walk Among the Tombstones (R/L - 3 Stars) - A rather bloody “hard boiled” crime story starring Liam Neeson as an AA attending fromer NYPD cop turned “not so licensed” Private Eye, who gets sucked into a case involving two psychopaths who abduct the women of drug dealers to extort them for their money and then brutally murder (and chop up …) the wives, girlfriends and/or daughters of the drug dealers anyway. Yes, parents, this is a very hard-R story, that’s far far more graphic than it needed to be. (On the other hand, the terrorist group I.S.I.S. “proudly” posted the videotapes of their beheading three Western hostages (two American) on YouTube in the past month … So unfortunately, “This is the world we live in today …”) Anyway, the film becomes a _sobering_ story of a thoughtful _recovering_ former detective reflecting on the _just course_ that he should take to respond to such _provocative_ Evil. After all, the “drug dealers” had not been “boy scouts” either, BUT they (and their loved ones) certainly didn’t deserve this either … A very interesting (if quite blood-soaked) film.
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  (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  (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  (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 ;-)
The Trip to Italy  (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.