CHICAGO – “The Way, Way Back” made a solid $21 million domestically but I kind of expected it to be an even bigger hit when I saw it back in January at the Sundance Film Festival. I saw several dozen films at this year’s fest and nothing produced a response like Nat Faxon & Jim Rash’s sweet, sentimental comedy. The audience I saw it with LOVED it. And now that it’s on Blu-ray and DVD, I expect it to reach an even bigger audience through word-of-mouth recommendations. It’s a fun, clever movie with some great performances, including a supporting turn by Sam Rockwell that stands with the best of the year.
CHICAGO – CBS must have a whole wing of their headquarters dedicated to Chuck Lorre. Why not? He paid for it. He has been such a key part of their success over the last decade that it’s hard to think of any network-creator relationship that’s been more financially notable. “Two and a Half Men,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Mike & Molly” — all winners of acting Emmys and at least the first two stand among the most popular comedies of their era. Can he do it again with “Mom,” premiering tonight, September 23, 2013? Don’t bet against him.
CHICAGO – Nothing evokes the time, sights and smells of summer like the getaway resort. The long days, the mystery of night, the first crush and the summer job are all brought back in the soapy yet fun “The Way, Way Back,” featuring Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney.
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CHICAGO – “The Oranges” suffers from a common problem in these suburban comedies of error in that it assumes we care about these characters who are essentially less interesting than your actual neighbors. Infidelity, bad parenting, friendships collapsing – they’re happening every day on your street. Films like “The Oranges” may think they’re tapping a vein of picket fence peculiarity like “American Beauty” but the result actually plays more like a Showtime sitcom pilot that never got picked up because it was too boring to maintain week to week.
CHICAGO – Josh Radnor may be one of the most good natured humanists in modern American film. His perspective contrasts sharply with that of comedic auteurs intent on depicting a cynical view of the modern world clouded with nostalgia. Radnor may not yet be up to par with the filmmakers that have inspired him, namely Woody Allen, but his sophomore directorial effort, “Liberal Arts,” is practically bursting with promise.
CHICAGO – The movie business is a funny thing in that EVERYONE involved with “A Thousand Words” has moved on and yet there are studio executives who still want you to care enough to open your wallet.
CHICAGO – “The Help” has been one of the most divisive movies of 2011. I know some critics who absolutely loathe it, finding the easy-to-digest version of something as important as civil rights to be offensive. I get that. I know some critics who love it, finding the performances strong enough to carry the movie over any sentimental rough patches. I get that too. The movie is too much of a phenomenon for any self-respecting cinema buff to miss it entirely. So, as much as I’d love to offer a solid thumbs up or down, I’m falling pretty squarely in the middle, edging just barely to a recommendation, but you need to see it for yourself just to see on which side of the controversial fence you fall.
CHICAGO – Using fiction to express the importance of real historical events is seductive and sometimes disingenuous. The new film “The Help” manages to counteract that notion through high level, emotional performances.
CHICAGO – The search for the right actress to portray the pivotal role of Minny in the new film “The Help” ended with Octavia Spencer. The veteran performer was key in expressing the particulars of the character, which was enhanced by director Tate Taylor.