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Film News: ‘Spotlight’ Wins Best Picture at 2016 Academy Awards

CHICAGO – “Spotlight” held off all challengers at the 88th Academy Awards, as the film won Best Picture, after Alejandro González Iñárrittu had won Best Director for the second year in a row for “The Revenant.” Chris Rock held steady as the host, acknowledging Oscar’s diversity problems with a series of comedy bits.

Entertainment News: Best Picture ‘The Revenant,’ TV’s ‘Mr. Robot’ Are 2016 Golden Globe Winners

CHICAGO – The best of 2015 in film and TV was celebrated at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards on January 10th, 2016. Hosted with the usual sass by Ricky Gervais, the Globes honored “The Revenant” (Drama) and “The Martian” (Comedy) as Best Pictures, and surprised in TV Best categories with “Mr Robot” (Drama) on the USA Network and “Mozart in the Jungle” (Comedy) on Amazon Video.

Film News: Chicago Film Critics Association Names ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ as 2015 Best Picture

CHICAGO – “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the hyper-driven artistic achievement by director George Miller, was designated Best Picture of 2015 by the Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA), at a ceremony on December 16th. George Miller was also honored as Best Director, and “Mad Max” received five total honors.

Interview: Actor Jake Johnson on Evolving in ‘Digging for Fire’

CHICAGO – Actor Jake Johnson is expanding his presence in movies, and much of that has to do with his collaboration with director – and Chicago native – Joe Swanberg. Johnson and Swanberg have teamed up for their second film, after the success of 2013’s “Drinking Buddies, and are listed as co-writers in “Digging for Fire.”

Blu-ray Review: ‘The Gambler’ Still Wins on Blu-ray

Gambler, The 2

CHICAGO – Browsing Dostoyevsky titles with consideration for proper roles for Mark Wahlberg, one might expect the Beantown hero to take on an adaptation of “The Idiot” before anything like “The Gambler.” After all, while Wahlberg has proven to be a diverse screen force - one who has well-grown past his Funky Bunch days - he often leans towards goofy men, or at least goofy men in goofy movies.

2015 Sundance Diary: ‘Digging for Fire,’ ‘Entertainment’ & ‘Results’

PARK CITY, Utah – There are still some films to be discussed in my Sundance coverage. Here’s write-ups of “Digging for Fire,” “Entertainment,” and “Results,” which featured the return of festival-approved directors, albeit heading in different directions.

Film Review: ‘The Gambler’ is a Sure Bet for the Holiday Weekend

CHICAGO – Gritty, funky and quote-worthy, this re-imagining of “The Gambler” – from a 1970s source film – is one of Mark Wahlberg’s best performances. His addicted-to-gaming soul has roots in other frustrations, and the actor is willing to communicate the whole range of emotions.

Blu-ray Review: Teen Movies Don’t Get Better Than ‘The Spectacular Now’

The Spectacular Now

We are surrounded by fiction about teenagers that treats both its subjects and its target audience like idiots. So few filmmakers understand the problems and emotions of young people that when a film as great as “The Spectacular Now” comes along (my #13 of 2013), it’s a small miracle. Reminiscent of the best of Cameron Crowe, James Ponsoldt’s adaptation of Tim Tharp’s novel (from a script robbed of an Oscar nod by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber) is a fantastic drama about a kid realizing that he may be peaking in high school. The Blu-ray is well-accompanied by a fantastic commentary from Ponsoldt, 20 minutes of deleted scenes, and featurettes.

Blu-ray Review: Don’t Miss Remarkable Honesty of ‘Short Term 12’

Short Term 12

Short Term 12” is a special film. If through some true miracle, Brie Larson’s name is announced on Oscar nominations morning, that sound you hear is me screaming in childish glee. She certainly deserves it for this daring, honest piece of work, one that dares to suggest that there are numerous ways to stop the emotional bleeding. It could be rap, it could be art, it could be taking a bat to a car, or it could be love. Destin Cretton won the Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Most Promising Filmmaker and it was one of this year’s winners of which I was most proud we were recognizing. This is a special movie.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Harry Lennix, photo by Joe Arce

    CHICAGO – The stage play that Harry Lennix is in town to direct – “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red” – is in its last weekend, and is giving the actor/director the best notices of the theater part in his long and successful career. For more information about the play, and ticket availability, click here.

  • Harry Lennix, photo by Joe Arce

    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.’

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