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 – Take this with a giant grain of salt but FX’s “American Horror Story: Coven” shows incredible promise in its premiere episode tonight, setting a number of creative plates spinning in directions that could be fascinating. Why the salt? Well, “American Horror Story: Asylum” started with similar promise and quickly became cluttered and unfocused.
CHICAGO – Rob Hedden’s “You May Not Kiss the Bride” with Dave Annable, Katharine McPhee, and Rob Schneider is the kind of modest romantic comedy with wacky hijinks and likable central characters that one typically stumbles upon in a video store or when cycling through new On Demand options. Before that happens, the mediocre honeymoon from hell pic is getting a minor theatrical release in some markets, including Chicago, starting this weekend. The charisma and comic timing of the film’s female leads make up for some of the screenwriting rough patches but not enough to justify a trip to the theater.
CHICAGO – Some snobby film fans like to use “Titanic” as a punchline almost as if it’s un-cool to love one of the biggest movies of all time. It’s not a “serious” movie, just a popular one. It’s total nonsense. There are awful popular films you can point to but “Titanic” is not one of them. It’s a damn good movie, the definitive modern romantic epic. And people still adore this movie with good reason. It taps into something classic in filmmaking. Last week, Paramount released a beautiful set for the film’s debut on Blu-ray and fans who have been clamoring to own this movie in HD for years will admit that it was worth the wait.
CHICAGO – Kate Hudson portrays a dying woman in “A Little Bit of Heaven,” and the film is so annoying that her extinguishment can’t come fast enough. The film insults both living and dying, and virtually everything in between, and brings along Lucy Punch, Kathy Bates, Gael Garciá Bernal, Peter Dinklage and Whoopi Goldberg for the funeral.
CHICAGO – At times, Woody Allen’s new film releases stink like an old glove, and thankfully there are times when they fit like an old glove. His latest is “Midnight in Paris,” just released on Blu-ray and DVD. This is classic romantic Woody, set in the City of Lights, and featuring Owen Wilson taking on the Allen persona. It’s also featured in my Top 10 Films of 2011.
CHICAGO – I had serious issues with the series premiere of NBC’s “Harry’s Law” earlier this year and some of those problems remain with the second-season premiere but there’s a reason that the first line of tonight’s episode is “Good morning, Harry — Our new beginning.” With a pair of mega-talented guest stars plus two great new permanent additions, “Harry’s Law” is significantly improved in season two. Everyone is going to be watching “The X Factor” tonight but those that stray to NBC should be pleasantly surprised by the first episode of this clever multi-part storyline.
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 – David E. Kelley (“The Practice,” “Boston Legal”) is a fantastic TV writer. Kathy Bates (“Misery,” “About Schmidt”) is a versatile actress.
CHICAGO – Clearly conceived as something like an American version of “Love Actually,” Garry Marshall’s “Valentine’s Day” is an unqualified disaster, a film that’s only interesting in that it may hold the record for the most household names sucked into one horrible film.
CHICAGO – Most critics and industry types expected “The Blind Side” with Sandra Bullock to be a modest holiday season hit but if a single one of them, including the people who made the film, told you that they knew this would be an Oscar-winning Best Picture nominee that grossed over $250 million, they are straight-up lying. “The Blind Side” shattered all expectations and Warner Brothers has quickly and somewhat lazily shuffled it off to Blu-ray and DVD.