All posts by Tarek Fayoumi amateur film critic in Chicago!

I am someone who strives to become a professional critic. I watch and review many movies. I view the eyes of movies as something as an art form. I have followed many critics over the years, but once I was thirteen I knew writing film reviews was going to be my passion. I learned from watching multiple episodes of Ebert And Roeper in my teen years, and then in middle school I began writing film reviews for a newspaper club. I am also an avid fan of the arts of Chicago including Theatre, Comedy, and music. Films, however, are my primary focus.

Critics Classics: Casablanca 80th Anniversary Review

The 1942 Michael Curtiz classic Casablanca is one of the most influential and compelling classics in the history of cinema. I have watched Casablanca in various formats over the years. The first was VHS, the second was DVD, the third was laser disc, the fourth was Blu-ray, and my fifth time was on the big screen. Although I enjoyed all the different formats, seeing this amazing filmon the big screen is simply the best. Casablanca immerses its audience in cinema appreciation mode to the fullest.

To recap the plot of Casablanca, the film takes place in Casablanca, Morocco in the WWII era. Humphrey Bogart is Rick Blaine, a café owner, an ex-patriot with drinking problems and emotional issues. Rick’s Café starts to receive letters regarding refugees with instructions for how to escape during the uncharted times depicted in the film. The other struggle in Rick’s life is his former lover, Ilsa, played by Ingrid Bergman. Her husband is Victor Laszlo, and he is played by Paul Henreid. In the film, Rick finds himself in a position where he needs to make hard choices involving his café and Ilsa that may have damaging consequences. Casablanca is all about connection, and what one man will do for those he truly loves. Rick loves Ilsa, but does he want to take risks for her?

With the relationship between Ilsa and Rick revisited in the movie, Casablanca’s directing, and writing are still inspiring. Some would label the film “noir.” The story, however, is a drama. The plot involves Rick finally coming to a decision about his café and Ilsa with the politics of WWII playing out around him. There are difficult choices for Rick, but it is hard to make the correct ones.

Bogart’s performance is exceptional, and it continues with Ilsa throughout the film’s journey of love and danger. Powerful elements are captured in the cinematography and the lighting. The dialogue is also enticing as thoughts, connection, and confusion are expressed. As one of the most famous quotes from Bogart goes, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” that moment continues to be invigorating and heartfelt. Bogart’s performance is the hero of Casablanca’s many years of brilliance and appreciation.

The nostalgia of Casablanca still lives on. Many decades later, it is still a masterpiece. The love between Rick and Ilsa is a gem.  Many aspects of this classic will continue to be appreciated through the years which is why I plan to revisit it in the future and savor even more nuances as I view this unforgettable film. Four stars.

She Said Review

People now know that Harvey Weinstein is an incredibly terrible and lecherous person. She Said is the story of how this rat was cornered, launching the #MeToo movement.

She Said focuses on two New York Times reporters, Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor (played by Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan). In 2017 they are investigating a case of sexual harassment by Weinstein that was being dismissed. They dig deep through the trail of celebrities that Weinstein worked with, many of whom said that Weinstein would punish them if they spoke up, or get them awards for complying with his sexual advances. Sadly, because they knew Weinstein was protected, many of them threw away their careers,. This motivates Twohey and Kantor to put together the pieces. Why was Weinstein allowed to keep his criminal behavior hidden? Why did his employers cover for him when they knew he was doing what was wrong? Why did no one take the chance to speak up for their own safety? The questions, accusations, and the paper trail are monstrous. But Twohey and Kantor are heroic for helping the victims find a voice.

I remember the harrowing news of the many allegations of sexual harassment cases starting in 2017. I remember friends, colleagues, and acquaintances resigning from their jobs because they or their superiors were facing charges for sexual harassment. I remember male celebrities getting scorched in the press, one by one, for their terrible behavior. She Said helps us understand why so many made the tough choice to resign or keep quiet, instead of fighting back.

The details of Twohey and Kantor’s interviews are disturbing. I could feel the stress rising in me as the graphic details were exposed. She Said digs deep into why there were so many barriers helping Weinstein avoid the inevitable. As more victims are interviewed, the heavier the true story gets. I found myself praying that the victims would speak up, and being provoked to anxiety hoping that the press would take a stand against Weinstein. With Weinstein’s schemes and dangerous activities, She Saidpaints an extreme picture of how much people suffer when they are taken advantage of.

Although we thought we knew how bad Harvey Weinstein was, She Said will change the way the world views him. Its deep investigation boils the plot. The film’s message is to not be afraid to take a stand, and that no one should receive the kind of treatment that Weinstein’s victims endure. She Said is disturbing because it’s based on a true story, it’s recent, and much of the terrible behavior that Twohey and Kantor unveil still happens today. She Said will have its audience, as I was, praying for redemption for the women who suffer from the unforgivable behavior of these men. Three and a half stars for She Said.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery Review

Director Rian Johnson invites his audience along for a new adventure. After the extravagant fun of Knives Out (2019), his new film Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery takes the adventure to a more enticing and dangerous level. The COVID-19 pandemic plays a small role in the entertainment and the setting of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. The cast line-up is spectacular. Daniel Craig is Benoit Blanc (the continuing detective), Edward Norton is Miles Bron (the host of the grand party), Kathryn Hahn is Claire Debella, Leslie Odom Jr. is Lionel Touissant, Jessica Henwick is Peg, Madelyn Cline is Whiskey, Kate Hudson is Birdie Jay, Dave Bautista is Duke Cody, and Janelle Monae is Andi Brand. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is a detective story full of wild realizations and unforgettable twists.

The detective work in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is showcased in scenes focused on the personalities of the characters. With Craig playing the detective, his characterizations prove he can narrow down the personalities of those who are trustworthy and those who are shady. His personality adds layers to the twisted suspense as do the behaviors of all the characters involved. Everyone has a side that appears to be questionable, but who is most dangerous to everyone at the party?

In Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, the adventure takes place in Greece. That is where Blanc is invited to investigate a suspicious case. The problem, however, is that the location is filled with people on a weekend getaway, most of whom have had to pass through strange Customs due to the pandemic. Everyone involved is technically breaking the rules of lockdown. Bron is the host of all the guests at the party. They’re all wealthy to some degree due to success in business. The house owned by Bron is equipped with sensors and high-end artifacts. A variety of factors make the audience aware that Bron is a victim of crimes. The twist involves whether he really is.  A murder happens and heads start to role. This is when Blanc’s clever, opinionated tone kicks in and when Bron’s wealthy attitude mode also kicks in. When one person is killed, everyone loses their minds and pointing fingers as they wonder how much of the fancy home of Bron is truly safe. From that point on, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery only gets more fun, complex, and invigorating.

Craig’s performance as Blanc portrays a vibrant, intelligent man with attitude. He can put together pieces easily and read victims’ minds, while also being a self-absorbed man. Norton as Bron displays wealth as well as many suspicious personality traits. The characterizations and suspicions are calculated. The self-centered traits of the characters played by Craig and Norton are at the center of the film’s many questions which makes the film inevitably captivating. I found myself repeatedly asking who, why where, and how, and then having to re-think those questions during catastrophic, yet humorous, situations in the movie.

With random deaths and serious incidents happening, Blanc can put all the pieces of the puzzle together. His tactics are precise, but with many of the guests being considered high-profile, his calculations tend to have both accuracy and errors. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is a joyful ride in a pandemic era. Many of the situations have answers that have shock value, but also many filled with witty joy.

Is Blanc a genius? Can Blanc solve the case? Is Bron more smart than Blanc thinks? What else is dangerous in Bron’s home? Do any of the other victims have issues to share? Join the mystery and put together the puzzle in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. The many technological advancements in the movie’s high-end mansion truly step up the game of cat and mouse, not just for Blanc’s investigation, but for everyone who involved. Four stars.