CHICAGO – “Drinking Buddies” director Joe Swanberg’s latest release of the same star wattage is “Happy Christmas,” an even lower-fi story than the Olivia Wilde beer comedy, steered even more by the casting that it was able to assemble. However, with this movie Swanberg doesn’t so much worry about having a story that could be confused with a more mainstream romantic comedy if it were to have a bigger budget.
CHICAGO – The master animator and film legend Hayao Miyazaki (“Howl’s Moving Castle,” “Spirited Away,” “Princess Mononoke”) announced his retirement after his latest film, “The Wind Rises.” He is often called “Japan’s Walt Disney,” but there is more to him then that, a soul and a mystery that is revealed in the stages of his animated art, and his contribution to artistic culture will continue to influence for generations to come. “The Wind Rises” is nominated for Best Animated Film at the 2014 Academy Awards.
CHICAGO – When a film promises to tackle a timely topic like fracking, it has raised the bar of expectations considerably. Sure, the filmmakers don’t need to take a stand on the issues they raise, but they have an obligation to explore them with some level of depth or insight. Otherwise, they risk getting charged with committing a “bait and switch,” and that’s precisely what Gus Van Sant’s “Promised Land” does.
CHICAGO – As I learned on my inaugural trip to Sundance (check out all the coverage here) this year, there is common discussion as to how things will play outside of the thin mountain air of Park City. People wonder what will be the next “Beasts of the Southern Wild” or “Winter’s Bone” and what will never get the hype it gets at Sundance. Two films that peaked at Sundance 2012, “Hello I Must Be Going” and “Nobody Walks” were recently released on DVD. One is worth your time while the other never should have come off the snowy mountain.
CHICAGO – When a Gus Van Sant picture works well, it can be as rousing as “Milk” or as thrillingly experimental as “Elephant.”
CHICAGO – In the latest HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: Film with our unique social giveaway technology, we have 40 pairs of movie passes up for grabs to the advance screening of “Promised Land” with Matt Damon from “Good Will Hunting” director Gus Van Sant!
CHICAGO – From the very beginning of her screen career, Olivia Thirlby has specialized in playing youthful seductresses intent on jump-starting their male partners’ sexual coming-of-age. She exuded megawatt allure in everything from David Gordon Green’s “George Washington” to Brett Ratner’s memorable segment in “New York, I Love You.”
CHICAGO – At a time when even the US Congress can’t work together to solve a problem, Ken Kwapis’ ham-fisted cinematic “Kumbaya” session, “Big Miracle,” feels especially cheap. It’s the latest stinker to solidify the theory that a stamp of approval from Heartland Truly Moving Pictures is the equivalent of a scarlet letter for any viewers desiring to be truly moved.
CHICAGO – Whale of a tale (chuckle), no other headline writer has thought of that. “Big Miracle” is a family movie with Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Kristen Bell, Ted Danson and the voice of Ronald Reagan, that will not have adults seeking the emergency exits. It’s about whales.
CHICAGO – Very few 2011 programs were as hit-and-miss as NBC’s “The Office.” I don’t think anyone involved with the program would argue that it was this sometimes-great comedy’s best year but there were still great moments throughout and Steve Carell’s departure from the program that turned him into a superstar was handled with incredible humor and grace. The season may not have been the show’s best, but it was still one of the better comedies on TV. See for yourself with the seventh season, recently released on Blu-ray and DVD.
CHICAGO – “Something Borrowed” is just a stupid, stupid movie. It’s not painful nor as horrendous as many recent romantic comedies largely through the overall likeability of star Ginnifer Goodwin, but it’s just stupid. It features stupid people doing stupid things and serves as more of a cautionary tale about picking the right people to support you than it does as any sort of modern romance. With too-little chemistry as friends or lovers, “Something Borrowed” never clicks. It should disappear soon from Blu-ray and DVD shelves and all but the most diehard fans of the romantic genre or the stars involved should give it back.