CHICAGO – Mention the name Harry Lennix, and images of his many character roles are bound to emerge – Harold Cooper in the TV series “The Blacklist,” General Swanwick from “Batman v Superman” and Commissioner Blades from Spike Lee’s recent “Chi-Raq.” The deeply knowledgeable Lennix brings his years of dramatic expertise, as he directs the Congo Square Theatre Company’s world premiere stage play “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red.’
Peter Weir’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock” is a mesmerizing film. Most who go into it know that it tells a tragic (possibly true) story with no resolution. And so it becomes a slow burn, in which the atmosphere and dread of unseen danger hangs thick in every frame.
CHICAGO—The word “melodrama” has become a lazy one for too many critics who use it as a way to dismiss films that deal with extreme emotions. For a film to be melodramatic, it must be flawed. Any fan of Douglas Sirk will tell you that this is a fallacy. Melodrama can be a heartbreaking, genuine form of artistic expression, arguably never more so than in Sirk’s most beloved film, “All That Heaven Allows,” recently released on Criterion Blu-ray.
CHICAGO – “Game of Thrones” is over and you’ve already binged “Orange is the New Black,” what are you supposed to do now? There are a few interesting new programs this season – FX’s “Tyrant” & “The Strain,” HBO’s “The Leftovers,” CBS’s “Extant,” and a few more – but it’s also a great time to catch up what you may have missed with new Blu-ray and DVD releases. There are five TV-to-Blu-ray releases this month that might warrant a look.
Remember when we were growing up? We were LUCKY if we got a decent animated film once a year in the ’80s and we spent most of our Saturday mornings watching total junk that now passes as nostalgia. We can say that music, film, or even literature was better when we younger. Animation? No way. Just take a look at four recent releases of the animated form that perfectly show the breadth and remarkable quality of the medium (and, yes, animation is a “form,” not a “genre.”)
There is no studio that times their releases more perfectly than Warner Bros. Around the end-of-year holidays there will be gift sets for films like “Elf” and “Willy Wonka.” Near Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, you can expect gift-appropriate releases.
As a full-time film/TV/game critic and father of three, I very rarely have time to watch something more than once, even if it’s my favorite of the year. And yet I’ve revisited Spike Jonze’s “Her” twice now (for a total of three viewings) and it’s that very rare film that gets richer and more emotionally engaging with each subsequent viewing. I think by the end of the year, it might be my favorite film of 2013.
I’m sometimes in the mood for a bad movie. In the middle of the Chicago Critics Film Festival, weighed down with stress related to producing it and the serious subject matter of our films this year, I felt a need for a bit of movie fast food and popped in “I, Frankenstein,” recently released on Blu-ray and DVD. This movie cheeseburger will give you food poisoning.
Did you think we’d ever live in a time when you could watch a guilty pleasure like “Weekend at Bernie’s” in pristine HD? Every few weeks here at HC, we bring to light classicc films coming to Blu-ray for the first time like “Sorcerer” or “Breaking the Waves” or “Bachelor Party.” Wait. What?
The Chicago Critics Film Festival is currently underway at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago (“I Origins,” “Willow Creek,” “Starred Up,” “Obvious Child,” “Animals,” and more have yet to play) but last year’s event still holds a fond place in the memory of Chicago’s film scene.
It’s hard to overstate the shock waves that Lars Von Trier’s “Breaking the Waves” made when it was released in 1996. It’s not as if LVT was a completely unknown commodity but this was a new level for the filmmaker in the way he both played with his form and embraced larger-than-life imagery. “Breaking the Waves” was both grounded in classic themes and felt like the coming-out party for Dogme, the movement founded by LVT that embraced natural filmmaking techniques like handheld cameras and sunlight.