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  • HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.0/5.0
    Rating: 4.0/5.0

    CHICAGO – The only thing rarer than a spinoff that soars over its inspiration is a DreamWorks Animation production without “Dragon” in the title, and that’s actually worth watching. Improbably, “Penguins Of Madagascar” is both.

  • HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.0/5.0
    Rating: 2.5/5.0

    CHICAGO – My issue with the “one movie split into two parts” debate isn’t even about money, which is clearly the main reason why we’ve seen blockbuster films do it like the two-part “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and now the two-part “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay”.

  • HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
    Rating: 3.5/5.0

    CHICAGO – In Tommy Lee Jones’ passion project “The Homesman,” the wild west provides a vivid setting for a battle in man’s endless war against women, as the film firmly occupying a genre strictly known for cowboys and pioneer machismo. It’s a sorrowful western from actor/writer/director Jones that often shines in its twilight, hoping to slightly reconcile the maltreatment unleashed on half of the world’s most powerful species.

  • HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
    Rating: 3.5/5.0

    CHICAGO – In the memorable film “Barton Fink,” the title character is asked to write a wrestling movie for Wallace Beery. If Fink had isolated himself long enough, he might have come up with “Foxcatcher,” demonstrating once again that a true story is much stranger than fiction.

  • HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
    Rating: 3.5/5.0

    CHICAGO – The über popular “The Hunger Games” series is back, splitting the final novel into two movie parts, Harry Potter style. Subtitled “Mockingjay - Part 1,” this is the beginning of the end of the story, setting up rather than knocking down.

  • HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
    Rating: 3.5/5.0

    CHICAGO – It’s late August in the year of 1944, and Paris is about to be destroyed by a vacating Nazi party. “Diplomacy” is a chamber film that imagines the crucial conversation between a Nazi general and a Swedish diplomat that is said to have saved Paris, a riveting story of personal actions influencing the course of world history.

  • HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
    Rating: 3.5/5.0

    CHICAGO – Writer/Director Gina Prince-Bythewood, the creator of the cult favorite “Love & Basketball,” is back with another original story that she created, an intimate and romantic perspective on a singer on the path to nowhere, despite superstar-level fame. Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as that singer in “Beyond the Lights.”

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  • Drunk History Seasons 1 & 2, 2014

    CHICAGO – The awesomeness of history loses any of its stuffiness with the incredibly fun, indeed educational show “Drunk History” from Comedy Central, its two seasons now released on DVD. Hosted by its creator Derek Waters, the show is a celebration of various historic figures and their under-appreciated true tales, as expressed by funny people narrating in the universal language of inebriation; their recounts are then reenacted by famous actors working with their given dialogue, dressed with the comic cheapness of a bloated biopic.

  • Happy Christmas

    CHICAGO – “Drinking Buddies” director Joe Swanberg’s latest release of the same star wattage is “Happy Christmas,” an even lower-fi story than the Olivia Wilde beer comedy, steered even more by the casting that it was able to assemble. However, with this movie Swanberg doesn’t so much worry about having a story that could be confused with a more mainstream romantic comedy if it were to have a bigger budget.

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