CHICAGO – If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a director and a producer, let “47 Ronin” explain how the hierarchy of creativity hinders the evolution of even the most straightforward-sounding pitches. “47 Ronin” is the type of samurai movie set in Japan that features native actors speaking only English, while Keanu Reeves stars as an outsider clearly plunked into the picture for stateside star power.
CHICAGO – There hasn’t been a new episode of Larry David’s brilliant comedy, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” in almost two years and the creator of the HBO program has yet to commit to ever doing a ninth season, saying recently to TV Guide to ask him again in six months.
CHICAGO – Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is no longer the most popular person in the room. Time, depression, alcoholism, and the changing politics have altered this character, once such a vital force of human nature. Remember the days when everything Don said hit with the client? When he could juggle secret pasts and multiple mistresses? One of the most prominent arcs of “Mad Men” overall has been how that Don is fading away as the ’60s head toward the next decade.
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 – The cover of “Friends with Kids” sells it as a fun ensemble comedy with three cast members from “Bridesmaids,” one of the stars of “Parks and Recreation,” and the super-talented Jon Hamm looking particularly cheery. It’s false advertising. In truth, the movie belongs to Adam Scott and co-star/writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt and even the small roles by the rest of the cast are often more dramatic than comedic. Even without the false bill of goods, “Friends with Kids” is a disappointing. It’s a strong vehicle for Scott and Hamm has a few good scenes but it’s ultimately less than the sum of its talented parts.
CHICAGO – Joel Murray, as most people know, comes from the Murray clan of Wilmette, Illinois, which includes his fellow actor brothers Brian Doyle and Bill. He has established himself as a memorable TV and movie character actor, and portrays a man gone wild in the Bobcat Goldthwait-directed “God Bless America.”
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?
CHICAGO – It’s only been a couple of years but Ben Affleck’s “The Town” already feels like more of a modern classic than it did upon its release. There are some elements of the film that still falter for this critic (most of them related to the Affleck-Hall relationship and lack of chemistry within it) although they’ve become nearly overwhelmed by what DOES work about this engaging, tight thriller. He’s only made two films (“Gone Baby Gone” before this and this fall’s “Argo” will be his third) but I honestly feel like Ben Affleck will be a better director than an actor (and I’ve always thought him an underrated actor).
CHICAGO – Jennifer Westfeldt created a distinct movie persona in her debut in 2001 in “Kissing Jessica Stein,” but she has been generally off the radar since then. Her choice for a major film re-emergence is as a nebbish career woman with less memorable character traits. She also directs Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox and Maya Rudolph in “Friends with Kids.”
CHICAGO – Jennifer Westfeldt created a distinct movie character with her first film in 2001, writing and starring in “Kissing Jessica Stein.” She now makes her directorial debut, guiding an ensemble cast that includes Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Jon Hamm, Adam Scott and herself in “Friends with Kids.”
CHICAGO – With the Emmy Awards very nearly upon us (Sunday, September 18th, 2011), it seems the right time to take one last look at the Academy’s 2011 nominees before they turn into winners and runner-ups. Who will win? Who should win? And who should have been invited to the party?