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 – In doing “comic book” movies right, Marvel Entertainment has established a formula of decent back stories, complex villainy and probable scenarios. In continuing to tell a history of the second half of the 20th Century in “X-Men Apocalypse,” they also add a historical parallel universe that works.
CHICAGO – There was something blank within “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them,” although it dealt with the issues of loss, family and reconciliation. The all star cast, including Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and William Hurt, add their performing spins to the story.
CHICAGO – After a string of superhero movie disappointments in recent memory, last month “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” renewed our faith in Hollywood blockbusters once again. Just 7 weeks later, can “X-Men: Days of Future Fast” impress us again?
CHICAGO – Although a post graduate degree in space/time continuum studies may be necessary for maximum enjoyment, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” still delivers a comic book wham-bam, and the series continues its exploration of recent history through the prism of a mutant universe.
CHICAGO – It may sound harsh but “Trance” will be a mere footnote in the career of Danny Boyle. It’s neither one of his best but also far from his worst film. The mega-talented director of “Shallow Grave,” “Trainspotting,” and “127 Hours” brings his confident style to the film but the convoluted script turns in on itself so many times that I think even Boyle got a little bored with it. Rosario Dawson overplays but Vincent Cassel once again intrigues and James McAvoy delivers. It will be a footnote for them all.
CHICAGO – Danny Boyle’s “Trance” is an undeniably well-made thriller that works back in on itself a few too many times for disbelief to stay suspended but delivers enough escapist entertainment to be considered a success. It’s totally ridiculous and yet never boring, propelled by the quick-cut style of the man who brought similar momentum to “Shallow Grave,” “Trainspotting,” and “28 Days Later.”
CHICAGO – Aardman Animation has been such a vital, creative force in the history of family entertainment that I worry that the relatively lackluster reception stateside for films like “Arthur Christmas” could derail the company a bit. Most U.S. audiences ignored this solid holiday offering and the Spring’s “The Pirates! A Band of Misfits” (although both were much bigger hits overseas). Do yourself a favor and take a trip off the beaten holiday movie path to check out “Arthur Christmas,” a smart, fun comedy for the entire family.
CHICAGO – Writer/Director Matthew Vaughn has signed on to direct the sequel to “X-Men: First Class,” according to a report about Fox. Vaughn, who directed “First Class” (which did not gross a major profit, but received high critical and fan praise), is said to be onboard to direct a sequel that does not yet have a setting, synopsis, or definite writers.
CHICAGO – Aardman Studios, the creators of the irrepressible “Wallace & Gromit” and the witty “Flushed Away” is back with another animated holiday treat, “Arthur Christmas.” Santa Claus and the gang are taken into the modern era, but the cheeky lads/lasses at Aardman can’t help but throw in a bit of whimsy and heart.
CHICAGO – In many ways, “X-Men: First Class” is the most loyal film yet to the Marvel aesthetic in the way director Matthew Vaughn and the film’s multiple screenwriters capture the tone, spirit, and themes of one of the most legendary comic books of all time. It is a spectacular mix of great performances, well-choreographed action, and cleverly-revised history. It is crowd-pleasing to action fans and yet intellectually complex at the same time. It is what more producers of superhero movies should strive to accomplish and it deserves mention with the best of the genre (“Spider-Man 2,” “X-Men,” and even “The Dark Knight”).