Chicago Critics Film Festival: Cha Cha Real Smooth Review


A new up and coming actor and director, Cooper Raiff, has created a masterpiece which is both charming inspirational. Cha Cha Real Smooth is upbeat and marvelous on many levels. Raiff plays the lead role and presents his character in the most faithful and honest way depicting how life today has its challenges. Cha Cha Real Smooth received much positive press at the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, and was the opening premiere of the Chicago Critics Film Festival. I attended the Chicago premiere and was touched by its meaningful message. As an individual on the spectrum, and an advocate for an Autism foundation, Cha Cha Real Smooth touched my heart and I know it will touch others too.

The subject of autism today is a growing trend and is still evolving. The aspect of Cha Cha Real Smooth which spoke most to me most involved being a role model. Raiff plays that role model for someone on the spectrum along with others in his life. Despite his own errors, he finds meaning in what he can do to inspire others with his attitude. Cha Cha Real Smooth is invigorating as it inspires people to find what they are passionate about. Throughout the film, there are moments illustratingsadness, feeling lost, or just needing a friend. I found the most important scenario in Cha Cha Real Smooth was when Raiff’s character realizes that he is not alone with his struggles. Not only can he relate to others who are also struggling, but he can help them grow and develop better self-esteem.

In Cha Cha Real Smooth, Raiff is Andrew, a young man still trying to find his footsteps while living back at his family’shome and trying to get back on his feet. He is someone that displays a freeloader attitude and has little to no motivation. That all changes at a Bar Mitzvah party. He meets Domino (played by Dakota Johnson), an introverted mother devoted to her autistic daughter. Lola (played by Vanessa Burghardt.) They build a friendship, and he becomes close with Domino and Lola. Lola starts to come out of her shell and Andrew starts to find himself to being open to serving as a role model to Lola and his own brother David (played by Evan Assante.) Andrew begins to experience more positive changes around him because he is encouraging David, Lola, and Domino. For once in David’s life, he feels he can be the guy that others go to for encouragement. He also tries to build a better relationship with his mother(played by Leslie Mann) and his stepdad (played by Brad Garrett.). Cha Cha Real Smooth is filled with many wonderful scenes and realizations that are both triumphant and mesmerizing. I have not felt more touched by a film in quite a long while.

Burghardt plays her role faithfully as someone on the autism spectrum. She has the shy mindset, the habits of routine, and mixed attitudes that some may find difficult to interpret. She presents them in a polite and concise way. When she is frustrated or socially overwhelmed, she says, “I do not mean to be brutal.” This reminded me of how many people on the spectrum struggle in social situations. Burghardt delivers a stellar performance starring as an individual on the spectrum. The film’s relationships between Andrew, Lola, Domino, and David involve transformational moments for everyone involved.Every single person has their own unique struggles. Andrewappears stuck-up at first, but then comes to realize that the people around him matter most. Cha Cha Real Smooth reminded me that even when I am angry or annoyed at issues with my life, that it is not the end of the world. We all need reassurance sometimes. And when that reassurance comes from those who love us the most, it is especially valuable.

Cha Cha Real Smooth is a film that will make viewers laugh, cry, and feel touched. After watching it, I felt somewhat emotional because of how much Raiff’s performance reminded me of myself. I sometimes get impatient when the things I hope for don’t happen overnight which is perfectly normal. The film also provided a strong reminder that we can always find ways to help others who are struggling. I believe in being an advocate, and Raiff’s performance is a strong example of advocating for those who need some help getting back on their feet. Cha ChaReal Smooth inspired me to keep pursuing my craft as well as to be there for others. Four stars for Cha Cha Real Smooth.

Chicago Critics Film Festival: Watcher Review


There are many real-life scenarios in the world we live in that make people feel unsafe and insecure. Watcher is one of those thrillers that lures its audience in with creepy fragments. Thehorror as seen through the eyes of actress Maika Monroe feels real. Watcher is directed by Chole Okuno, and this may be one of her most stylish directing projects yet. Okuno has a keen eye for what disturbs her viewers, and she carries that disturbance throughout Watcher. The film is set in a world of misbelief and terror for one individual who fears for her safety day in and day out. Fans will struggle to grasp the potential outcomes of what is to come of Watcher. The struggling, however, is what makes Watcher destined to be a masterpiece horror flick.

The film takes place in Bucharest Romania. Monroe plays Julie, a young actress living with her boyfriend and starting a new life. Her boyfriend is Francis, and he is played by Karl Gusman. Francis has a successful career, and Julie stays home. She enjoys her happy life with little to no financial responsibility in their luxurious apartment. All that changes when she realizes a man is watching her apartment from his window and looking right at hers. As she begins to question her safety many more realizations arise which lead to confusion for herself and Francis. Julie feels she is stalked, and Francis does not believe it is that serious. The stalking grows even more pervasive, and Francis struggles to be on the same page as Julie. As the days and weeks go on, Julie feels her safety is more at risk which takes her to a breaking point. Watcher kept me curious about when the man who is watching Julie would carry out his evil duty.

The image of the happy couple in the beginning of the film becomes quickly tainted. The situation becomes more dangerous when Julie puts herself at increased risk by getting authorities involved. However, the man who is watching her has some added motives which only lead to more trust issues for Francis. At that point, what Francis thinks or feels does not matter, it is whether Julie will be safe or not. The growing tensions as thestalker gets closer creates an atmosphere of uncertainty in Watcher.

My head was spinning during Watcher due to the plot combined with the in-depth psychological horror. Psychological scenarios in films can go in many directions. Watcher stays on asuspenseful track and makes the audience feel like they are taking an evil journey during the film. Audience members are left to ask them questions like: Is Francis at fault in any way? Is Julie crazy? Is her stalker that dangerous? The film has answers to all those questions, but many of the outcomes are mesmerizing and unexpected.

Another notable element in this movie is the realism of the terror. I felt the stalking seemed real, and the violence did too.Watcher depicts many details of what creepy and scary can look like in today’s world. It is a thrill ride of suspense with little to no time to find the answers.

I was hooked on this movie and the innocence Monroe’s acting. She is brilliant in films where she is the one facing various dangers ahead of her. She displays the same level of terror as she did in It Follows (2014). Only this time around, she is the one trying to stop what is possibly going to kill her. Three and a half stars for Watcher.

Downton Abbey: A New Era review


The Downton Abbey franchise continues with Downton Abbey: A New Era. The family we love is back, the music of John Lunn returns, starting with a breathtaking introduction, and there is a new world of excitement. 

In Downton Abbey: A New Era, the characters we love return, including: Robert Crawley, played by Hugh Bonneville; Lady Mary, played by Michelle Dockery; Violet Crawley, played by Maggie Smith; Lucy Smith, played by Tuppence Middleton; Jack Barber, played by Hugh Dancy; Cora Crawley, played by Elizabeth McGovern; Imelda Staunton, played by Maud Bigshaw; and many more wonderful characters.

The year is 1929, when films are transitioning from silent movies to the “talkies”. For obvious reasons, this was a seismic innovation in film technology. And since I am a movie fanatic on many level, the focus on this era is one of the big reasons I loved this film so much.

The plot of Downton Abbey: A New Erainvolves the Crawley family journeying to the South of France to investigate the dowager’s countess’s newly inherited villa. The film has many revelations, new adventures, and new feelings for many of the characters we love. Lady Mary, whose husband is always away, feels she is falling in love with the director of a film being shot there. Maggie Smith delivers a lovely and fashionable performance as she did in the first film and the series.

Although much of Downton Abbey: A New Era will feel familiar, the Crawley family does, again, face new challenges and they cross new boundaries, bringing some unexpected excitement. So fans should be ready for some changes. But on balance it is a film of joyous adventures and heartfelt moments, and it is wonderfully moving. I loved its pace and how it enlightened a crucial era in cinema development, and I just loved the film overall. Three and a half stars for Downton Abbey: A New Era.

Treating cinema in many forms of art!

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