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January 2013

TV Review: NBC Stumbles on Thursdays Again with ‘Do No Harm’

CHICAGO – What do “Prime Suspect,” “Awake,” and “Rock Center” have in common? They’ve all aired in what was once the most beloved timeslots on network TV — Thursday nights on NBC.

Blu-ray Review: Minor Woody Allen Comedy ‘To Rome with Love’ Still Delights

To Rome with Love Blu-ray

CHICAGO – After acknowledging that the rewards of reality are infinitely preferable to the shallow pleasures of a nostalgic dreamworld in his Oscar-winning crowd-pleaser, “Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen’s tirelessly neurotic psyche appears to be more calm and serene than ever before. Perhaps his compulsion to make one picture a year has finally brought him some sort of therapeutic catharsis.

TV Review: Great Concept, Strong Ensemble Carry FX’s ‘The Americans’

CHICAGOFX has carved an impressive critical and commercial niche with hits like “Sons of Anarchy,” “The Americans,” “American Horror Story,” and “Louie” and they’re trying to add another success to their arsenal with tonight’s premiere of the highly-anticipated “The Americans,” starring Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, and Noah Emmerich.

Blu-ray Review: Creepy Jolts Compensate for Weak Drama in ‘The Possession’

The Possession Blu-ray

CHICAGO – In the last days of August 2012, three generically titled ghost pictures had the misfortune of opening at more or less the exact same time. None of them were particularly memorable, yet only one managed to produce any semblance of genuine chills. There are enough eerie moments in “The Possession,” the demonic thriller from gifted Danish director Ole Bornedal, that one wishes that it pushed past the boundaries of its tame PG-13 rating.

Blu-ray Review: Volker Schlondorff’s ‘The Tin Drum’ Continues to Challenge

The Tin Drum

CHICAGO – Volker Schlondorff’s “The Tin Drum” was a sensation when it was released in 1979, even tying Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” for the Palme D’Or at Cannes that year and winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. History hasn’t been quite as kind to “Tin Drum” as some of its late-’70s contemporaries and it is a bit surprising that it was as much of a phenomenon as it was on the arthouse scene now that one can watch it over three decades later and see the film’s notable flaws but Criterion has put together another stellar edition, highlighted by notable bonus material with the film’s director.

Blu-ray Review: ‘Searching For Sugar Man’ Driven By Great Music

Searching for Sugar Man

CHICAGO – Malik Bendjelloul’s “Searching For Sugar Man” is a beloved documentary that not only made a nice dent at the box office ($3 million, a solid figure for a doc and 5th place on the year for the genre) but earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary. Now on Blu-ray and DVD, it’s the kind of film that I expect to find a huge audience on the home market, pushed along by solid word-of-mouth and, most importantly, killer tunes.

Slideshow: Highlights of ‘Short in Chicago Film Fiesta’

| Image 1 of 10 |

CHICAGO – Three short films, all produced and shot in Chicago, made their debut on Thursday, January 24th, at the Muvico 18 in Rosemont, Ill. The “Short in Chicago Film Fiesta” featured “Fate Accompli,” “Dear Dad” and “Crtl + Life + Delete,” and the production teams and actors in the films were in attendance, as well as a large audience.

Video Game Review: ‘Super Meat Boy’ (In Case You Missed It)

CHICAGO – My relationship with “Super Meat Boy” isn’t unlike an early 90’s romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan. Despite spending years in my peripheral vision, and being told over and over and over again how great of a guy “Super Meat Boy” was (Yes, I’m Meg Ryan in this scenario), I didn’t have the special kind of feelings a lass needs to warrant a commitment.

DVD Review: Léa Seydoux Mesmerizes in Entrancing ‘Farewell, My Queen’

Farewell My Queen DVD

CHICAGO – Benoît Jacquot is a director clearly enraptured by the beauty of young women. This was eminently clear in his early ’90s-era vehicles for Virginie Ledoyen (“A Single Girl,” “Marianne”), an actress who turned up in his latest picture, “Farewell, My Queen,” still looking startlingly youthful. Yet she is no longer the center of Jacquot’s universe.

Interview: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer Rev Up ‘Warm Bodies’

CHICAGO – With the popularity of TV’s “The Walking Dead,” and just the whole trend of faux zombie gatherings in social culture, the undead have never been more popular. A distinct twist on the concept is found in “Warm Bodies,” starring Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer, portraying two very unlikely lovers, alive or undead.

DVD Review: Criterion Edition of Original ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’

The Man Who Knew Too Much 1934

CHICAGO – Did everyone know that the great Guillermo Del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) is an expert on Alfred Hitchcock? So much so that he wrote a book on the legendary director and was asked by The Criterion Collection to do a wonderful interview on Hitch’s 1934 version of “The Man Who Knew Too Much”? Del Toro wonderfully expounds on the film, offering his insight as to how the work that would be remade into a more popular Jimmy Stewart film in later years actually represents the perfect transitional piece from Hitch’s British period to his American one. It’s just one of several great special features on another stellar Criterion release.

Blu-ray Review: Tim Burton’s Return to Playful Form with ‘Frankenweenie’

Frankenweenie (cropped)

CHICAGO – Tim Burton used to be one of my favorite filmmakers. His first eight films, from 1985 to 1999 — “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” “Beetlejuice,” “Batman,” “Edward Scissorhands,” “Batman Returns,” “Ed Wood,” “Mars Attacks!,” and “Sleepy Hollow” — made him one of my favorite filmmakers alive. And then he fell from the pedestal on which I put him, with over a decade of disappointment. I heard he had returned to form by expanding on one of his first visions in “Frankenweenie,” now available on Blu-ray and DVD. Almost.

DVD Review: Smart, Funny Comedy of Showtime’s ‘Episodes’

Episodes S2

CHICAGO – Outside of a surprising Golden Globe win by its hysterically funny star, Matt LeBlanc, Showtime’s “Episodes” doesn’t seem to be getting too much attention from critics or viewers. It’s not one of the modern cable shows that everyone seems to be talking about like “Breaking Bad,” “Homeland,” “The Walking Dead,” “Justified,” etc. I’m not saying it’s in the caliber of those programs but it would be a shame if this program was ignored entirely. It’s damn funny.

Film Review: Inventive, Complex World of ‘The Institute’

CHICAGO – “To those dark horses with the spirit to look up and see, a recondite family awaits.” While the Sundance Film Festival goes on all through Park City, a select group of truly independent films is unspooling up on Main Street under the banner of Slamdance.

Inventive, Complex World of ‘The Institute’

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

CHICAGO – “To those dark horses with the spirit to look up and see, a recondite family awaits.” While the Sundance Film Festival goes on all through Park City, a select group of truly independent films is unspooling up on Main Street under the banner of Slamdance. One of the more interesting Slamdance selections this year was the great “The Institute,” a quasi-documentary about an “Alternate Reality Game” that took place in San Francisco from 2008 to 2011.

Video Game Review: Story of ‘FTL: Faster Than Light’ is Stuck in Neutral

CHICAGO – Since the advent of fancy 3D gaming graphics, it seems most space simulations believe gamers want action pew-pew. “Freespace 2”, “Wing Commander”, “X-Wing vs. Tie Figher”, and a litany of other games essentially presented classic combat flight sim gameplay *in spaaceee*. Now, all those games are excellent in their own ways. “Descent: Freespace” in particular is a *must* play if you’ve ever enjoyed anything related to Sci-Fi.

Interviews: Backstage with ‘Chicago Fire’ at 2012 Best of the Midwest Awards

Chicago Fire Christian Stolte

CHICAGO – When putting on an awards show in Chicago, getting local talent to hand out awards was as easy as calling the production of “Chicago Fire,” currently filming here. The 2012 Best of the Midwest Awards in December had “CF” cast members David Eigenberg and Christian Stolte to present accolades, and comedy improvisor Susan Messing won Best Actress at the event.

Exclusive Portrait: Michael Berryman of Original ‘The Hills Have Eyes’

Michael Berryman, Portrait by Joe Arce.

CHICAGO – It is a horror movie image that is immediately recognizable. Michael Berryman portrayed “Pluto” in Wes Craven’s renown 1977 film, “The Hills Have Eyes,” and even the poster image evokes a memory of his distinctive look. Berryman made an appearance last November at the Days of the Dead Horror Convention in Chicagoland.

Film News: ‘Fruitvale’ Wins 2013 Sundance Grand Jury Prize

CHICAGO – Joseph Gordon-Levitt presented the winners on Saturday evening, January 26, 2013 for the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Past winners of the Grand Jury Prize for Drama include “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Winter’s Bone,” “Precious,” and “American Splendor.” This year’s winners are listed below.

Film Review: Jason Statham Steers Convoluted Tale as ‘Parker’

CHICAGO – The Jason Statham “character” has served the actor well through a substantial action movie career. But as situations to fit his stoic British kick-ass persona start to drift away, Statham is left with messy narratives like in his new film “Parker,” co-starring Jennifer Lopez.

Jason Statham Steers Convoluted Tale as ‘Parker’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.0/5.0
Rating: 3.0/5.0

CHICAGO – The Jason Statham “character” has served the actor well through a substantial action movie career. But as situations to fit his stoic British kick-ass persona start to drift away, Statham is left with messy narratives like in his new film “Parker,” co-starring Jennifer Lopez.

Blu-ray Review: Glorious Package For ‘The Jazz Singer’

The Jazz Singer

CHICAGO – “The Jazz Singer” has become something of a hot-button drama over the years due to its use of black face. The new, three-disc Warner Bros. Blu-ray release for the historic film doesn’t shy away from this aspect of the movie but does an amazing service to film fans by placing the work in the context of when it was released. With a stellar documentary about how sound came into the medium (“The Jazz Singer” was the first talky) along with 4 hours of shorts from the day, it’s much easier to appreciate this film for the important chapter it represents in the history of the form.

Blu-ray Review: Craig Zobel’s Disturbing, True ‘Compliance’

Compliance

CHICAGO – It’s been over a year since Craig Zobel’s “Compliance” took Park City by storm when this disturbing drama premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Rattling viewers before sending them out into the cold Utah streets, “Compliance” was not just one of that fest’s most memorable films but one of the entire year’s. Now on Blu-ray, you can see what all the controversial buzz is about.

Film Review: Great Cast Receives Winning Showcase in Dustin Hoffman’s ‘Quartet’

CHICAGO – There are few things more fragile than an actor’s ego. It must be treated with the utmost care in order to prevent a split-second meltdown. The enormous pressure of audience expectations coupled with the piercing eye of an ever-present media is enough to send sensitive folk to a sanitarium. Thick skin is a necessity in show business, but what happens when that skin begins to age?

Great Cast Receives Winning Showcase in Dustin Hoffman’s ‘Quartet’

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

CHICAGO – There are few things more fragile than an actor’s ego. It must be treated with the utmost care in order to prevent a split-second meltdown. The enormous pressure of audience expectations coupled with the piercing eye of an ever-present media is enough to send sensitive folk to a sanitarium. Thick skin is a necessity in show business, but what happens when that skin begins to age?

HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: 50 Pairs of Passes to ‘Bullet to the Head’ With Sylvester Stallone

CHICAGO – In the latest HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: Film with our unique social giveaway technology, we have 50 pairs of movie passes up for grabs to the advance screening of the highly anticipated “Bullet to the Head” with Sylvester Stallone!

Film Feature: The 10 Best Films of Sundance 2013

CHICAGO – The general consensus in Park City this year was that the overall quality of films presented to critics, industry, and paying audiences was near the highest it’s ever been. There seemed to be a lack of true stand-outs — I heard people say “There’s no Beasts of the Southern Wild” repeatedly — but the overall picture was a pretty one.

Film News: Ry Russo-Young, Frank V. Ross Chat with Indie Outlook

Tiger Tail in Blue at Siskel

CHICAGO – New York filmmaker Ry Russo-Young gave an exclusive interview to Indie Outlook, the independent film blog and podcast created by HollywoodChicago.com writer Matt Fagerholm. The conversation, published this week, details Russo-Young’s fascinating work, from her experimental shorts to her star-studded feature, “Nobody Walks,” which she co-wrote with “Girls” creator Lena Dunham.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Kingpin Blu-ray

    CHICAGO – Before 1998’s “The Big Lebowski” there was 1996’s “Kingpin”, the Farrelly brothers bowling comedy that didn’t have the narrative intricacies of the Coen brothers’ classic, but had plenty of jokes about middle-aged men playing the sport. Today finds the release of “Kingpin” to Blu-ray for the first time, coming with only one new special feature.

  • Star Trek Into Darkness

    CHICAGO – With J.J. Abrams not involved with the creation of a third “Star Trek” movie, a compendium of his work within the franchise only seems fitting. Loaded with special features but only a few new ones, this disc set is a strong choice for those who don’t already have both entertaining blockbusters in their collection.

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