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.

Lightyear Review


As a kid I always loved Toy Story, and my fascination has continued and evolved over the years. The Toy Story franchise has consistently delivered astounding entertainment that is family friendly and brilliant. Lightyear is no exception.

The timeline between the original four Toy Story films was appropriate, and they had the right transitions and continuity of the storyline. The franchise also seemed to follow my childhood—and beyond. I was born in 1993 and Toy Story opened in 1995; Toy Story 2 opened in 1999 when I was entering school; Toy Story 3 opened in 2010 when I was in high school; and Toy Story 4opened in 2019, as I entered full adulthood and my movie reviewer career was taking off. Lightyear is a new beginning for the franchise, and it totally wowed me.

Lightyear almost feels like a virtual reality video game taken to new heights. The space setting in the animated format, especially when seen in a large format like IMAX or Dolby Digital, is brisk and clear with amazing direction and animation. I felt like I was in a whole new world of Disney fun, like I was actually in space and part of the new story. And the Buzz Lightyear suit, the dialogue, the fun catch phrases, and the creative nostalgia are all still there.

For the first time Tim Allen is not playing the voice of Buzz. This is of course a big change, since Allen delivered Disney fun that will always be cherished. Chris Evans is now the voice of Buzz Lightyear. Evans also has a great voice for the character, and he continues the classic Toy Storycharacterization of Buzz on his quest to go “to infinity and beyond.”

The setup of the film is that Buzz’s space ranger days have seen some errors and mishaps, and Buzz goes into space with the goal to save the planet from the many evils around it. Those evils including, of course, Emperor Zurg, whose voice is played by James Brolin. This time though, Buzz has a sidekick—an electronic cat named Sox, whose voice is played by Peter Sohn. Their relationship is similar to the relationship between Buzz and Woody, which is one of the reasons that Lightyear still has the Toy Story brilliance and the positive vibe.

Some may argue that the film doesn’t feel the same without Andy, Sid, or some of the other earlier characters. But the story going forward with Lightyear is still pure Disney adrenaline and, after all, Buzz is now in his true environment. The film almost seems at times like Toy Story meets Gravity (2013), but with animated characters, and it sets the perfect foundation for Disney to bring us new adventures and to evolve the Toy Storyfranchise. Though it’s early, Lightyear is one of the best films I have seen this summer. Four stars for Lightyear.

Jurassic World Dominion Review


The dinosaurs are back in action, the excitement is high, and the title Jurassic World: Dominion speaks for itself. The film melding the stories of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World has finally arrived. And while it can be an exhilarating adventure at times, Jurassic World: Dominion is not quite the level of exhilaration that I anticipated.

Again, while there is a generous level of excitement, I had to ask myself a few questions. Are the dinosaur visuals still invigorating? Is the storyline grasping my full attention? Or is the reunion of many of the original Jurassic actors the main source of excitement?

Where I found the exhilarating and monumental moments in the film was the reunion with Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattier (Laura Dern), and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). Bringing these icons back is what kicks the action into gear. Neill and Dern bring back that classic love for dinosaurs and the whole dinosaur culture in this continuation of the Jurassic World franchise

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In Jurassic World: Dominion, the film picks up from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom(2018). The characters Owen Grady and Claire Dearing (Chriss Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) find themselves in a new world where dinosaurs have become the norm. They are everywhere—in cities, zoos, etc. On top of that, there are new experiments on the horizon, and Grant, Sattier, and Malcolm know the keys to the experiments. Unfortunately, the film focuses too much on the reunion of classic characters, versus the plot itself. Jurassic World: Dominion also struggles with its pacing and continuity.

I love films with dinosaurs and monsters, but the originality of the dinosaurs in the Jurassic franchise have decreased over time. And the script is just so predictable, with its good guy/bad guy formula—save the good people from the dinosaurs and the destruction, and the bad guys are not so lucky.

Don’t get me wrong, Jurassic World: Dominion is not a bad movie. It just felt rushed, the classic characters were not integrated into the film very well, and the visuals were not quite up to my expectations. Some fun memories, and it was impressive how Neill, Dern, and Goldblum can still portray their roles. In fact, they provided a bigger rollercoaster for the film than the dinosaurs. Two and a half stars for Jurassic World: Dominion.

Chicago Critics Film Festival: Benediction Review


Films that present challenges faced in the 20th century speak to me. This is especially true when it comes to issues of power and authority. In these movies, one or more of the characters are typically on a quest to seek some accomplishment. In Benediction, however, it is about acceptance. Benediction is a tale that evokes many emotions, and its introduction is like the opening of a program on The History Channel. By showing war archives, the audience feels they are in the period in which the film is set. For Poet Siegfried Sassoon, the story of Benediction tells a melancholy tale that is one of most beautiful and heavy themes I have seen presented recently in dramatic filmmaking.

Director Terence Davies is known to direct films where emotions run deep. Benediction presents fragments of different emotions in various time frames in the eyes of Sassoon. I experienced mixed emotions throughout the film because I kept wondering what my gut was telling me during the melancholy scenes. The film is audacious with negativity, happiness, and withdrawals. The film portrays a positive outlook, and then heartbreak. That goes on repeatedly, and there is no clear answer for whether Benediction is designed to make its viewers feel upbeat or down. My mind is still boggling from the roller-coaster of mixed feelings in Benediction. Davies is amazingly effective at giving a kick in the head of extreme sadness with this one.

Benediction focuses on Siegfried Sassoon. Jack Lowden plays the young Siegfried and Peter Capaldi plays the old Siegfried. Sassoon is a survivor of the First World War and finds himself in awe in the years after his survival. He grows to be someone critical and vocal regarding the war after his service. He also finds himself frustrated with his relationships. As he navigates relationships with different men in his life, he struggles to come to terms with himself. His emotions can be felt through his poetry in the film. The primary struggle for Sassoon is self-acceptance. With many dark fragments scattered throughout the movie, Benediction is bursting with emotion.

Davies’ portrayal of self-acceptance is the heartbreaker for Sassoon and the film’s viewers. There are moments which show him dealing with anger as he reconnects with people in his life and realizes some have moved on or question him. In a time where sexuality and identity were controversial subjects, Sassoon finds himself enduring the process of self-awareness. By sharing his challenges with those he feels connected to throughout his painful journey, he eventually moves towards self-acceptance.

The era of the first World War plays into the movie’s turmoil. Sassoon, in the old and the young version, finds himself exploring past relationships and discovering where things went wrong. Benediction is about having a voice, however, there is ultimately no light for Benediction. The poetic story of Sassoon will grow on the audience. It is not a pleasant film, but it is authentic in the way is showcases self-awareness and acceptance. Lowden and Capaldi both have the emotional acting chops to play Sassoon, and no one directs this film better than Davies. Benediction weaves history, relationships, and politics into an interesting tale of discovery set in a bygone era. Three stars.