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Blu-ray Review: ‘The Gambler’ Still Wins on Blu-ray

Gambler, The 2

CHICAGO – Browsing Dostoyevsky titles with consideration for proper roles for Mark Wahlberg, one might expect the Beantown hero to take on an adaptation of “The Idiot” before anything like “The Gambler.” After all, while Wahlberg has proven to be a diverse screen force - one who has well-grown past his Funky Bunch days - he often leans towards goofy men, or at least goofy men in goofy movies.

Film Review: ‘The Gambler’ is a Sure Bet for the Holiday Weekend

CHICAGO – Gritty, funky and quote-worthy, this re-imagining of “The Gambler” – from a 1970s source film – is one of Mark Wahlberg’s best performances. His addicted-to-gaming soul has roots in other frustrations, and the actor is willing to communicate the whole range of emotions.

Film Review: ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ Most Tolerable of Series

CHICAGO – I’ll say this for “Transformers: Age Of Extinction,” it’s the most tolerable Transformers movie Michael Bay has ever made. The substitution of Mark Wahlberg for Shia LaBeouf is a big part of that – and for its first two hours at least, Bay realizes less is more.

DVD Review: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ Sings Again on DVD

Inside Llewyn Davis

CHICAGO – “Inside Llewyn Davis” shows the strength of the Coen brothers’ authorship, and the vitality their vision gives to different time periods, locations, and life experiences. This freewheelin’ bildungsroman of destiny? coincidence? trails a scraggly singer/songwriter (Oscar Isaac as the title character), daring to spread olden tunes in a period of American artistry that is pre-Dylan.

Film Review: ‘The Monuments Men’ Has Been Drained of Personality

George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men” is processed cheese. It is a film that has been rewritten, edited, and refined until it has lost all sense of purpose or identity. There’s no flavor left. It is a film that defies genre; not quirky enough to have a comedic personality despite a cast that almost always supplies edge and not engaging enough to work as drama or thriller.

Film Review: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ Resonates Like Long-Lost Folk Masterpiece

Films about musicians are remarkably common. Artists from one medium have always loved to put themselves in the well-worn shoes of craftsmen from another. Most of them are stories of an underrated talent rising to the top of his profession, designed for both audience and filmmaker to live vicariously through the protagonist’s success.

Interview: Actor Oscar Isaac Goes Deep ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

CHICAGO – One of more memorable performances of 2013 is from an actor who has been a bit under the radar – Oscar Isaac. After character parts in several familiar films, like “The Nativity Story,” “Sucker Punch” and “The Bourne Legacy,” Isaac steps out as the lead in the new Coen Brothers film, “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

Blu-ray Review: ‘Monsters University’ Offers Clever Family Fun

Monsters University

CHICAGO – In an incredibly weak time for feature animation (since the glory of 2010, it’s been pretty dark out there), Pixar’s “Monsters University” has enough personality and genuine humor to stand out from its generic competition. It also helps the film’s quest for another Pixar Oscar for Best Animated Film that the recently-released Blu-ray is a gem, loaded with special features and including a spectacula HD transfer. It falls between the amazing “Toy Story 3” and the awful “Cars 2” on the Pixar spectrum but it’s still a good time and will make a lovely holiday season gift.

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  • Punk Punk

    CHICAGO – For theater that is audaciously in-the-now and generates a sparkle of life, there are few better storefront (garage, gothic gathering place) groups than “Nothing Without a Company.” Their latest, eclectic kick-in-the-head production is the intensely diverting and weirdly fun “Punk Punk.”

  • Assassination Theater

    CHICAGO – There are two dates in modern American History that ring in the heads of certain generations. Of course, there is September 11th, 2001, but the granddaddy of that date is November 22nd, 1963. That is when an American president, John F. Kennedy, was shot point blank in the head and killed on the street of an American city. The official proclamation from the government is that a lone assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, fired those shots. In a new Chicago play, “Assassination Theater,” subtitled “Chicago’s Role in the Crime of the Century,” the jury is still decidedly out.


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