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 – Capturing one of the most familiar woman of the last fifty years would seem impossible, except when focusing on one of the defining moments of her life. “Jackie” reveals Jacqueline Kennedy during the time of her husband John’s assassination, and when the nation lost a president.
CHICAGO – Dwayne Johnson slams and jams in the bland “Hercules,” the “Space Jam” he never made when known as a brow-raised wrestler under his birth name “The Rock.” This ferociously generic take on the mythological hero focuses on Hercules with a group of mercenaries (played by Rufus Sewell among others) as they train a group of gee-shucks farmers to become warriors, while they project legends of immortality onto Johnson’s secretly mortal hero.
CHICAGO – I empathize with Dwayne Johnson and simultaneously don’t. Most people never get rich and famous once, let alone twice. Sure, it’s hard to re-brand people from the wrestling superstar you once were into the dramatic action star you’re trying to become, but your past is forever immortal.
CHICAGO – In the latest HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: Film, we have 75 pairs of advance-screening IMAX movie passes up for grabs to the highly anticipated “Hercules” starring Dwayne Johnson!
CHICAGO – Travelers. We are travelers in this life, and metaphorically we’re mostly in coach, but sometimes manage to get some first class treatment. What if all this traveling were confined to one vehicle? Imagine a future world contained in a constantly traveling train, and the premise for “Snowpiercer” realizes a one-of-a-kind dystopia.
CHICAGO – What happens when you give people two months in Romania to make a movie about a lost soul dealing with grief, love, drug use, and general excess? You get a spoiled, bizarre, annoying piece of work like “Charlie Countryman,” starring talented people given absolutely nothing to do that proves that talent. It’s a film more in love with slow-motion shots of its abrasive lead running to electronic dance music than anything approaching character or plot. It’s like watching the travel video of the most annoying guy you know.
CHICAGO – There was a time when it looked like not only would Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton be one of our great actors but possibly a threat behind the camera as well. Everyone knows the impression of his character from “Sling Blade” but many forget that he directed it as well. He followed that up with the flawed but ambitious and interesting “All the Pretty Horses.”
CHICAGO – Michael Cimino’s “Heaven’s Gate” remains one of the most controversial films of the modern age. Some would go as far as to say that the film’s financial failure in 1980 ushered in an era of studio control in that decade that killed the American auteur movement of the ’60s and ’70s that so redefined the form. It’s not much of a stretch given the historical reputation of a movie that got out of control in the hands of a director who couldn’t manage his own vision. Or is history wrong? Is it an underappreciated classic? Check out the gorgeous new Criterion Blu-ray and decide for yourself.
CHICAGO – Gary Oldman scored his first Oscar nomination for his incredible, subtle work in Tomas Alfredson’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” recently released on Blu-ray and DVD. The film is ultimately a bit too cold and clinical for this viewer but it features enough amazing parts, including Oldman’s performance and incredible production design, that the lack of a more-impressive sum shouldn’t hold you back.
CHICAGO – Lars Von Trier’s incredible “Melancholia” gets better both in memory and on repeat viewing, especially with a pristine, jaw-dropping transfer like the one granted it by Magnolia on their recently-released Blu-ray. It may have been left out of all Academy Award categories but this was easily one of the best movies of last year. And the few before that as well. Most people missed it in theaters. Catch up on Blu-ray.