CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
CHICAGO – Before earning Oscar nom validation for his “Philomena” screenplay last year, British comedian Steve Coogan led a separate life as Alan Partridge, a dopey media personality who symbolized the danger of empowering clowns like him with a microphone, whether on a news program, a late night show, or in a radio booth.
CHICAGO – Do you know what separates AMC from a majority of networks? The art of the ensemble. The multi-Emmy-winning casts of “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” are the bars against which most current dramas are measured. There were issues with some of the writing behind “The Killing” but no one ever complained about the performances. And it’s the people of “The Walking Dead” that keep it interesting.
CHICAGO – Robert Pattinson is such a divisive actor. While he’s clearly one of the most popular young stars in the world thanks to his work in the “Twilight” films, he has yet to prove to most people that he can really act. While some who have seen David Cronenberg’s upcoming “Cosmopolis” claim that this will be the film that finally allows Pattinson to break out of the franchise that has defined him, we’re stuck with something far lesser for now, the misguided and depressing “Bel Ami,” a film that does nothing to help the critical reputation of the man otherwise known as Edward Cullen.
CHICAGO – AMC’s watchable western series “Hell on Wheels” is just good enough to sustain audience interest despite its meandering plot. As soon as Gustavo Santaolalla’s catchy theme music kicks in over the brooding title sequence, it’s effortless to become absorbed within Joe and Tony Gayton’s handsomely photographed dramatization of the first transcontinental railroad’s epic construction in 1865.
CHICAGO – AMC has had quite the up and down year for itself. While the basic cable network has had some behind the scenes struggles with some of its hit shows (including contract struggles for “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead” showrunner Frank Darabont stepping down this past summer), the network has still had good enough ratings to renew all four of its series that ran during 2011.
CHICAGO – AMC has been on such a creative streak lately that it’s tempting to think (or at least hope) that every new offering will be of the caliber of “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Killing,” or “The Walking Dead.”
CHICAGO – As a character in Syfy’s version of “Alice” says, “Does this look like a kid’s story to you?” Excepting, of course, the beloved Disney version, there have actually been a number of takes on “Alice in Wonderland” arguably made more for adults than children. Two such versions from very different eras have been released on Blu-ray and DVD to coincide with the theatrical dominance of Johnny Depp & Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”. Can’t get enough of Alice and The Mad Hatter? Pick up one or both of these.
CHICAGO – Justice is the theme of “Law Abiding Citizen,” a new film starring Jamie Foxx as a district attorney in Philadelphia who is targeted for revenge by a former client (Gerald Butler). Directing the film is veteran F. Gary Gray (”Friday,” “The Italian Job”).
HOLLYWOOD – Silver Screen Indie Queen here with some post-St. Patty’s Day film buzz. What better way to start a column than with the Irish?