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December 2012

Film Review: Gus Van Sant’s ‘Promised Land’ Breaks Promise to Audiences

CHICAGO – When a Gus Van Sant picture works well, it can be as rousing as “Milk” or as thrillingly experimental as “Elephant.”

Gus Van Sant’s ‘Promised Land’ Breaks Promise to Audiences

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

CHICAGO – When a Gus Van Sant picture works well, it can be as rousing as “Milk” or as thrillingly experimental as “Elephant.” Few filmmakers have straddled the mainstream and independent realms with such success (Steven Soderbergh would be another). But when a Van Sant film fails, it often fails spectacularly, as proven by “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” and that notoriously pointless “Psycho” remake.

Blu-ray Review: Smash Hit ‘Ted’ Gets Release Stuffed with Extras

Ted

CHICAGO – Even the most confident people behind the scenes of Seth MacFarlane’s “Ted” must have been blown away by its success, arguably the most surprising hit of 2012. $100 million domestic would have made the movie a success but it made double that and half-a-billion worldwide, ranking as the 7th highest grossing R-rated film of all time domestically. It’s a phenomenon and Universal treats it thusly with a nicely-packed Blu-ray release with deleted scenes, featurettes, and more.

Film Review: ‘Not Fade Away’ is a Slice of Rock ‘n Roll Heaven

Not Fade Away 2

CHICAGO – It seems impossible today to get a sense of what it was like around 1964, when rock music changed forever with the “British Invasion” of The Beatles. But writer/director David Chase (“The Sopranos”) brings that distinct energy back with the nostalgic and incendiary “Not Fade Away.”

Blu-ray Review: Found Footage Anthology ‘V/H/S’ Falls Frighteningly Flat

V/H/S Blu-ray

CHICAGO – There are a great many talented people involved in the over-hyped, underdeveloped horror anthology, “V/H/S.” It’s a sad sight to see so many gifted filmmakers assembled for a project so misguided. What could’ve been a launching pad for several exciting careers ends up being a mildly diverting curiosity well worth taping over.

‘Not Fade Away’ is a Slice of Rock ‘n Roll Heaven

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

CHICAGO – It seems impossible today to get a sense of what it was like around 1964, when rock music changed forever with the “British Invasion” of The Beatles. But writer/director David Chase (“The Sopranos”) brings that distinct energy back with the nostalgic and incendiary “Not Fade Away.”

Film Feature: The 10 Worst Films of 2012

CHICAGO – Sitting in the dark, watching 2012 unspool through the reels of the year’s films, often creates a situation in which time can actually be felt going by. That happens when viewing “The 10 Worst Films of 2012.” Brian Tallerico and Patrick McDonald join forces to analyze these time wasters.

Film Feature: The 10 Best Films of 2012, Part Two

CHICAGO – Hot on the heels of the wondrous 10 Most Overlooked Films of 2012 and the illustrious first look at The 10 Best Films of 2012 comes “The 10 Best Films of 2012, Part Two,” as rendered by Patrick McDonald of HollywoodChicago.com.

Film Feature: The 10 Best Documentaries of 2012

CHICAGO – Call me a critical cheater but I separated out documentary films from my traditional Best of 2012 but I don’t want to let the strong year for non-fiction film go un-recapped. The broad variety of documentary work in 2012 was incredibly notable from true crime stories to historical documents to stories of cities in crisis. Let’s hope 2013 is just as strong for the form.

Film News: Popular Character Actor Charles Durning Dies at 89

Charles Durning

NEW YORK – In a movie world of cops, mugs, southern governors, priests and Irish pals who had your back, there was none better than Charles Durning, a man that defined character in the term “character actor.” Durning died December 24th in New York City. He was 89 years old.

Blu-ray Review: Great Set For HBO’s ‘Girls,’ Best New Show of 2012

Girls

CHICAGOHBO’s “Girls” was the best new show of 2012 and one of the best shows, period, new or old. Knowing they have a growing cultural phenomenon on their hands (more people seem to be talking about January’s upcoming season two premiere than any sophomore season that I can ever remember), HBO has given fans of the show a gift, a season set with multiple ways to watch the program along with stellar special features. It’s a great way to use the gift card money you may have acquired from Santa this week.

Film Feature: The 10 Most Overlooked Films of 2012

CHICAGO – The wider range of films critics see during a single year, the less susceptible they are to the inevitable onslaught of expensive awards campaigns. Just because a studio can bark the loudest doesn’t mean its product has any bite.

Interview: ‘The Sopranos’ Creator David Chase on ‘Not Fade Away’

CHICAGO – It was one of the most famous endings in TV history. Tony Soprano, the patriarch of “The Sopranos,” waiting at a restaurant for his family while “Don’t Stop Believin’” was blaring on the soundtrack. It is that rock sensibility that permeates “Not Fade Away,” the new film by the creator of “The Sopranos,” David Chase.

TV News: ‘The Odd Couple,’ ‘Quincy’ Star Jack Klugman Dies at 90

Jack Klugman

LOS ANGELES – He was a consummate television character, with a unforgettable reputation as a lovable slob and a nosy medical examiner. Jack Klugman, who portrayed Oscar Madison on the sitcom version of “The Odd Couple” and the title character on the TV drama “Quincy M.E.,” died on December 24th at his home in Woodland Hills, California. He was 90 years old.

Film Review: No Scrooge in Billy Crystal with ‘Parental Guidance’

CHICAGO – As the bells toll this Christmas morn, the critical knots are untied and the new comedy, “Parental Guidance,” is deemed to be not bad – even though the marketing might have indicated otherwise. Billy Crystal and Bette Midler make merry and bright as two grandparents taking care of modern kids.

No Scrooge in Billy Crystal with ‘Parental Guidance’

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

CHICAGO – As the bells toll this Christmas morn, the critical knots are untied and the new comedy, “Parental Guidance,” is deemed to be not bad – even though the marketing might have indicated otherwise. Billy Crystal and Bette Midler make merry and bright as two grandparents taking care of modern kids.

Interview: Marilu Henner Talks of Home for the Holidays

CHICAGO – One of Chicago’s favorite native daughters is Ms. Marilu Henner, who has had a tremendous show business career on stage (the original cast of “Grease”), TV (the unforgettable “Taxi”) and film (“The Man Who Loved Women”).

Film Review: ‘Cirque du Soleil: World’s Away’ is Visually Arresting Infomercial

Cirque du Soleil: World's Away

CHICAGO – Cirque du Soleil, which began with two street performers in Quebec in 1984, has grown into a multi-million dollar enterprise with shows on every continent and seven simultaneous extravaganzas in Las Vegas. The Vegas shows make up the storyline for “Cirque du Soleil: World’s Away.”

‘Cirque du Soleil: World’s Away’ is Visually Arresting Infomercial

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

CHICAGO – Cirque du Soleil, which began with two street performers in Quebec in 1984, has grown into a multi-million dollar enterprise with shows on every continent and seven simultaneous extravaganzas in Las Vegas. The Vegas shows make up the storyline for “Cirque du Soleil: World’s Away.”

Film Review: Jamie Foxx Rides in Quentin Tarantino’s Incredibly Fun ‘Django Unchained’

CHICAGO – Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” has some undeniable pleasures, the kind that erupt from the screenwriting abilities of one of the best movie scribes alive.

Jamie Foxx Rides in Quentin Tarantino’s Incredibly Fun ‘Django Unchained’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.5/5.0
Rating: 4.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” has some undeniable pleasures, the kind that erupt from the screenwriting abilities of one of the best movie scribes alive. Tarantino’s way with words and plotting are as honed as ever and he directs his super-talented cast to enjoyable performances all around.

Film Review: Shattering Power of True Story of ‘The Impossible’

CHICAGO – Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible” captures what its title implies. It transports us to an unimaginable situation, into an absolute nightmare in which air is replaced by rushing water, families are ripped apart, and people’s lives hang in the balance. It is a remarkable achievement in filmmaking, a film that is at times devastating, at times emotional, at times inspirational, and always riveting. It’s one of the best films of 2012.

Shattering Power of True Story of ‘The Impossible’

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

CHICAGO – Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible” captures what its title implies. It transports us to an unimaginable situation, into an absolute nightmare in which air is replaced by rushing water, families are ripped apart, and people’s lives hang in the balance. It is a remarkable achievement in filmmaking, a film that is at times devastating, at times emotional, at times inspirational, and always riveting. It’s one of the best films of 2012.

Film Review: Werner Herzog Towers Over Miscast ‘Jack Reacher’ Star Tom Cruise in Five Mere Scenes

CHICAGO – While normally I’d never think the date I screened a film was newsworthy, being subjected to “Jack Reacher” on Dec. 13, 2012 turned out to put even a therapist into therapy. The very next day, well, just two words: Sandy Hook.

Werner Herzog Towers Over Miscast ‘Jack Reacher’ Star Tom Cruise in Five Mere Scenes

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

CHICAGO – While normally I’d never think the date I screened a film was newsworthy, being subjected to “Jack Reacher” on Dec. 13, 2012 turned out to put even a therapist into therapy. The very next day, well, just two words: Sandy Hook.

Video Game Review: ‘Lord of the Rings: Guardians of Middle-Earth’ is Subpar

Lord of the Rings: Guardians of Middle-Earth

CHICAGO – Orcs, wizards, and dwarves, oh my. Between “Lord of the Rings: Guardians of Middle-Earth”, “WoW”, “Kingdoms of Amalur”, and about sixty thousand other games, movies, and TV shows featuring medieval fantasy, it’s pretty obvious this setting appeals to millions of people across the world. To these fans, the “Lord of The Rings” franchise is like the Holy Bible. So it pains me to say that the acronym-o-riffic XBLA MOBALOTR:GOME” is practically sacrilege.

Film Review: Judd Apatow’s ‘This is 40’ Clutters Truth with Cliché

CHICAGO – Judd Apatow’s “This is 40” is a true disappointment, a comedy that purports to say something honest and insightful about approaching middle age in the ‘10s but blurs truth by smothering it in contrivance and cliché.

Judd Apatow’s ‘This is 40’ Clutters Truth with Cliché

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

CHICAGO – Judd Apatow’s “This is 40” is a true disappointment, a comedy that purports to say something honest and insightful about approaching middle age in the ‘10s but blurs truth by smothering it in contrivance and cliché. Strong work from Leslie Mann and Albert Brooks rescue the project from complete disaster but the largely-unfunny and almost entirely disingenuous script mark this as the talented Apatow’s most notable misfire.

Blu-ray Review: Timeless Style of Rene Clement’s ‘Purple Noon’

Purple Noon

CHICAGO – When I think of Rene Clement’s “Purple Noon,” an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” which was also made into a hit film a few decades later with Matt Damon & Jude Law, I think of beautiful style. It is a tale of beautiful people in beautiful places doing very non-beautiful things. The movie made Alain Delon an international star and has now been inducted in the Criterion Collection, one of the last entries for 2012.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Emmy Awards, Bryan Cranston

    LOS ANGELES – It was one more lap around the victory track for the AMC-TV show ‘Breakling Bad,’ as the gritty drama about a teacher turned meth dealer took home six Primetime Emmy Awards at the 66th ceremony on August 25th. ‘Modern Family’ took home the statue for Outstanding Comedy Series for a a fifth straight year.

  • Knick, The

    CHICAGO – Cinemax’s ominous new series “The Knick” is a hospital drama that’s very much in the voice of its director, Steven Soderbergh. Set in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, the series presents the medical world as it inches closer and closer to modernity, while making contemporary parallels to the desperate hustle by surgery room clients and their doctors alike regarding treatment of the human body. What has changed in the politics of medicine? What hasn’t?

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