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Bob Balaban

Film Review: ‘The Monuments Men’ Has Been Drained of Personality

George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men” is processed cheese. It is a film that has been rewritten, edited, and refined until it has lost all sense of purpose or identity. There’s no flavor left. It is a film that defies genre; not quirky enough to have a comedic personality despite a cast that almost always supplies edge and not engaging enough to work as drama or thriller.

Blu-ray Review: Wes Anderson’s Brilliant ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ Given Average Release

Moonrise Kingdom

CHICAGO – Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” was a surprising delight in theaters this past Summer but it seems even more effective at home where one can approach this excellent comedy on an intimate, personal level. Perhaps it’s because so much of “Moonrise” plays like old home movies or long-lost memories of youth that the film holds up so well on repeat viewing. Sadly, the Blu-ray release is woefully underwhelming with a great Bill Murray commercial but little else in terms of special features.

Film Review: Wes Anderson’s ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ Delights with Clever Tale of Young Love

CHICAGO – Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” is a true delight — a fun, clever, and, of course, whimsical tale about the days when love seemed worth running away from home over and getting a scout badge meant the world.

Film Review: Troubled ‘Thin Ice’ With Greg Kinnear Barely Works

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

CHICAGO – Over a decade ago, Jill & Karen Sprecher made waves on the indie scene with “Clockwatchers” and “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing” but then virtually disappeared. They’re back with another arthouse piece, a “Fargo”-esque black comedy called “Thin Ice,” starring Greg Kinnear, Billy Crudup, Alan Arkin, and more. The strong ensemble makes the relatively weak script (as presented…more on that later) easier to take as the film skates over some treacherous rough patches but never falls through.

TV Review: Lisa Kudrow Stars in Disappointing ‘Web Therapy’

CHICAGO – Showtime’s new comedy series “Web Therapy” with Lisa Kudrow suffers from two notable problems. One, what works in brief installments online rarely translates to longer ones on the small screen.

Blu-Ray Review: James Franco Rocks in Intriguing if Flawed ‘Howl’

Howl

CHICAGO – James Franco gave a riveting performance in Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours” that is likely to earn one of the best actors of his generation an Academy Award nomination in a few weeks, but it wasn’t his only stellar turn in 2010. He also thoroughly delivered as the legendary poet Allen Ginsberg in the hybrid “Howl,” a film that’s part poem, part courtroom drama, and part history lesson. It doesn’t always come together but it’s worth seeing just for Franco’s work and the strength of the source material alone.

Film Review: James Franco as Allen Ginsberg Unleashes a Primal Scream in ‘Howl’

Howl, James Franco

CHICAGO – “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked…” So began the reading of Allen Ginsberg’s poem that rattled society, the very title of which is the inspiration for the new film, “Howl,” featuring James Franco, Jon Hamm and Mary Louise-Parker.

Interviews: Directors Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman of ‘Howl’

CHICAGO – The seismic shift that took place with the publication of Allen Ginsberg’s epic poem, “Howl” – which is also the title of the new movie about the verse – reverberates and inspires to this very day. The brilliantly rendered film, starring James Franco as Ginsberg, is written and directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.

DVD Review: ‘Georgia O’Keeffe’ Showcases Two Great Actors

Georgia O'Keeffe

CHICAGO – A TV movie that’s slightly light on substance and presented in a downright ugly standard DVD presentation, “Georgia O’Keeffe” is still well worth seeking out for it features one of the best actors and one of the best actresses currently alive in Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen, both nominated for multiple awards for their work in this film and both at the top of their game.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • The King of Comedy

    Something always felt a bit out of place for me in Martin Scorsese’s brilliant “The King of Comedy”, just released on Blu-ray for the first time. I couldn’t put my finger on it but chalked it up to it being thematically ahead of its time in its investigation of the cult of personality that defines modern entertainment.

  • 47 Ronin with Keanu Reeves

    CHICAGO – If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a director and a producer, let “47 Ronin” explain how the hierarchy of creativity hinders the evolution of even the most straightforward-sounding pitches. “47 Ronin” is the type of samurai movie set in Japan that features native actors speaking only English, while Keanu Reeves stars as an outsider clearly plunked into the picture for stateside star power.

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