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Film Review: Keep Your Eye on Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Red Sparrow’

CHICAGO – It is movie star time for JLaw (Jennifer Lawrence) in ‘Red Sparrow,’ because her performance transcends the muddy plot, and her charisma – even with the lowest of low key characters – creates an interest in her thought process, even as she muddles through the story.

Film Review: ‘The Sense of an Ending’ Ponders a Vague Mystery

Sense of an Ending, The

CHICAGO – “The Sense of an Ending” is a highfalutin title, automatically putting most folks into book club mode. It is adapted from a novel, and the narrative has the same page turning-type rhythm. An old man, portrayed by Jim Broadbent, is encountering his past, while his current situation remains untenable.

Film Review: ‘Assassin’s Creed’ Has Odd Breeding for a Movie

Assassin's Creed

CHICAGO – I’m not a gamer, but of course I’ve heard about “Assassin’s Creed.” The film based on the video game is a wild and undisciplined attempt to expand that particular universe, but does succeed in creating an oddball science fiction that has implications in geo-religious power and control.

Film Review: ‘45 Years’ is Emotional Art From a Long Relationship

CHICAGO – There is something incredibly special when two old pros – in this case actors Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay – interpret an amazing exploration of a long relationship with a preciseness that creates life affirmation, despite the sorrows. There is truth in this film.

Film Review: Vacant, Sad Sexual Journey in ‘Young & Beautiful’

Young & Beautiful

CHICAGO – “Young & Beautiful” may have people rethinking the phrase, “Oh, to be young and beautiful again.” Well, maybe the “young” part, since we seldom don’t hear lamentations of the loss of beauty. Here’s a film that reminds us that wisdom not only comes with age, but also with mistakes.

TV Review: Final Season of ‘Dexter’ Starts on Confident Note

Dexter S8 (cropped)

CHICAGO – The start of the eighth and final season of “Dexter” feels like a comeback album from a band that you used to love. There’s a blend of true happiness that this show looks, after four episodes, that it will end on a strong note, but also a bit of anger at the weak storytelling and stupid decisions that led us here.

Blu-ray Review: Gorgeous Transfer For Lars Von Trier’s Incredible ‘Melancholia’

Melancholia

CHICAGO – Lars Von Trier’s incredible “Melancholia” gets better both in memory and on repeat viewing, especially with a pristine, jaw-dropping transfer like the one granted it by Magnolia on their recently-released Blu-ray. It may have been left out of all Academy Award categories but this was easily one of the best movies of last year. And the few before that as well. Most people missed it in theaters. Catch up on Blu-ray.

DVD Review: ‘The Mill and the Cross’ Deconstructs Imagery of Audacious Painting

The Mill and the Cross Blu-ray

CHICAGO – As an aesthetically exquisite experiment, Lech Majewski’s “The Mill & the Cross” is a nearly unparalleled achievement. Though other pictures, such as Peter Greenaway’s highly entertaining “Rembrandt’s J’Accuse,” have deconstructed paintings through cinematic essays built primarily on re-enactments, none have had the hypnotic tone and majesty of this picture.

Film Review: Lars Von Trier’s Mesmerizing ‘Melancholia’ Turns Depression Into Art

CHICAGO – Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia” is a mesmerizing, haunting portrayal of the world-shattering force of depression from a filmmaker who has first-hand knowledge of the debilitating disease. With career-best work by Kirsten Dunst and some of the most confident filmmaking from its controversial director, this is one of the best films of 2011, a stunningly original examination of that which is completely out of our control.

Blu-Ray Review: Criterion Tackles Todd Solondz’s ‘Life During Wartime’

Life During Wartime

CHICAGO – The Criterion deal with IFC Films has led to some very interesting additions to their collection including some controversial choices. The universally-acclaimed and upcoming “Carlos” may be understandable but do “Everlasting Moments” and “Revanche” deserve the standing that comes with the Criterion label? I’m torn and no more so than with the release of “Life During Wartime,” a decent and interesting flick that nonetheless would be FAR down the list of movies I would choose for induction into the most important club in DVD history.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Orange is the New Black

    CHICAGO – Orange Day is Friday (July 27, 2018)… as in “Orange is the New Black.” That’s when Season Six will be available for download from Netflix, as the online series continues to showcase the women inmates at Litchfield Penitentiary, three of whom are played by Taylor Schilling (Piper), Kate Mulgrew (Red) and Dascha Polanco (Daya).

  • Everybody, Brown Paper Box Co

    CHICAGO – When is the last time a stage play, based in an intimate setting, made you think about your life, death, and the destiny inherent in both? “Everybody,” staged by Brown Paper Box Co. (BPBCo), is such a play, and the energetic aura and sense of surprise that the show contains is soul soothing wonder. The show has various evening/matinee performances at the Pride Arts Center in Chicago run through August 12, 2018. Click here for more details, including ticket information.

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