CHICAGO – If you can remember the 1990s outside of childhood, you are in the glow of middle age, so congratulations. The Brown Paper Box Co. theater ensemble takes us back to those thrilling days of yesteryear with “Spike Heels,” a relationship comedy centering on the co-mingling antics of two couples, with a slight nod toward George Bernard Shaw and the play “Pygmalion” (or its musical counterpart, “My Fair Lady”).
CHICAGO – Monty Python, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Peter Sellers, Mr. Bean, Alan Partridge – all are examples of British comedy, that off-kilter “are you in on the joke?” point of view. That comic tone has arrived in an animated film, within the stop motion world of “The Boxtrolls.”
CHICAGO – How do you interpret an odd British storybook called “Here Be Monsters!” into a mainstream animated film? By taking the main characters – called ‘The Boxtrolls’ – and putting them up front. Animation veterans and co-directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi got the assignment, and deliver the goods.
CHICAGO – With regards to its production, Paul W.S. Anderson’s “Pompeii” is a period film based on current trends, honoring both the apocalypse fascination spurred by the Mayans’ recent miscalculation, and the ascent of Harrington’s star power via the popular TV series “Game of Thrones.” With neither guaranteeing a strong future for themselves through Pompeii, there is at least some bankability in Harrington’s abs.
CHICAGO – For a film in which everyone knows the ending walking in, “Pompeii” creates a decent good-versus-evil precursor to the volcanic big bang, and enough sword and sandals style fight sequences to provide some action. It all comes down to an active volcano, in modern digital design and 3D.
CHICAGO – The last time I checked, I am not a swoony teenage girl, looking to be romanced by a hunky-but-shadowy demon hunter. Thus the margin for enjoying “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” falls off like a leaf on an autumn tree. Even Kristen Stewart, I mean Lily Collins, can’t save it.
CHICAGO – Fantasy young adult films, popularized by the Harry Potter series and exploding with other hot literary offerings, is about to go to the Shadowhunters and demons. “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” opens August 21st, and features Lily Collins (Clary), Jamie Campbell Bower (Jace) and Kevin Zegers (Alec) in the lead roles.
CHICAGO – There is an argument that Steven Spielberg is the most “American” of directors, at least in his generation. He deftly and brilliantly teams up with playwright Tony Kushner and actor Daniel Day-Lewis to humanize and realize our 16th president in “Lincoln.”
CHICAGO – It may feel like the bloom is off the rose a little bit for “Mad Men” as the AMC hit has seen some of its acclaim stolen by other cable hits like “Breaking Bad,” “Homeland,” and “The Walking Dead.” And yet this is still a great show with yet another stellar Blu-ray season release from Lionsgate. Complete with commentaries and interesting special features, this release is in keeping with the stellar first four season releases for this multi-Emmy-Award winner.
CHICAGO – Now that BBC’s acclaimed “Sherlock” has offered the definitive version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved detective, Guy Ritchie’s routine “Holmes” franchise looks all the more elementary in comparison. No amount of trademark mugging from leading man Robert Downey Jr. can compensate for the overwhelming hollowness of this slickly edited series.
CHICAGO – The long-awaited return of AMC’s four-time Emmy Best Drama winner “Mad Men” is finally here and there seems to be more doubt than ever before. Will the 17 months since a new episode hurt the show creatively? Can “Mad Men” stay as culturally important and creatively consistent this far into its run or will it start to struggle?