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 – For a film adapted from “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone” author Dennis Lehane, there are no children in danger in “The Drop,” but there is a pit bull puppy named Rocco. The dog’s involvement in the story, an animal who gets as many closeups this side of a Charles Martin Smith film, invites the uncharacteristically blunt metaphor of how creatures fight for power, or even just the impression of power.
A divorced father looking for new love, a woman dealing with a relationship that turned from romance to routine years ago, a charismatic drug dealer who spies something new in his web, half of the most fascinating cinematic relationship of the year, and a slave & her brutal owner — 2013 featured numerous memorable performances but these are just a few of the ones that will stand the test of time.
CHICAGO – The plot description which this review will eventually get to is going to make Nicole Holofcener’s “Enough Said” sound sitcomish. It’s a conceit straight out of Must-See TV.
CHICAGO – James Gandolfini, who gave us one of the most influential and timeless characters of all time as Tony Soprano on “The Sopranos,” has passed away at the age of 51 after suffering a heart attack on vacation in Italy, where he was to receive an award at a film festival this week, according to Variety.
CHICAGO – The premise of “Violet & Daisy” and the three actors at its center leave so much room for hope. That room slowly dissipates over the course of the film like air leaking out of a tire. Really? You’ve got this cast with this concept and this is the best you can do? Overly stylized to the point of suffocation, “Violet & Daisy” is the kind of tragic misfire that you just know must have been apparent while it was being made.
CHICAGO – David Chase, the man who seduced audiences with HBO’s “The Sopranos” before leaving them hanging in one of the most brilliantly audacious finales in TV history, is certainly not a fan of tidy endings. He understands that suggestion and implication can be infinitely more powerful than closure, and he beautifully applies this principle to his feature directorial debut, “Not Fade Away.”
CHICAGO – Andrew Dominik delivered one of the best movies of the ’00s the last time he worked with Brad Pitt when the two made “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” And so there was intense anticipation for their follow-up collaboration, “Killing Them Softly,” recently released on Blu-ray and DVD. Call it a sophomore slump but “KTS” is a film with tons of style and some interesting ideas that nonetheless feels like a dirge and plays like a film twice as long as its running time.
CHICAGO – At one point in awards season, right after it won five Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, including Best Picture, Actress, Screenplay, and Director, it really looked like Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” was going to be the most award-winning film of 2012. When all was said and done, it only won a single Oscar for Sound Editing and Bigelow wasn’t even nominated.
CHICAGO – It’s this simple – “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” just isn’t funny. Sure, there are a few laughs here and there and some of the supporting cast works but the leads are woefully miscast and most of the jokes hit with all the awkward silence of a Bennigan’s tableside magician who guesses the wrong card.
CHICAGO – Despite an obsession for killing a single man to represent a foggy revenge, “Zero Dark Thirty” is an effective thriller in the actual re-creation of that Navy Seal operation. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”), the all-star cast is led by a miscast Jessica Chastain.