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 – In the annals of bad parenting portrayed on film, the heroine of Bryan Wizemann’s 2011 indie drama is a special case indeed. Though we watch helplessly as she makes countless bad decisions guaranteed to send her young daughter to intensive therapy, we don’t regard her a sinister figure on the order of Monique’s monstrous matriarch in “Precious.” Our gaze is one of empathy.
CHICAGO – The comedian with the tough-to-pronounce name, Mike Birbiglia, hits the next stage with a new film based on his one man show, “Sleepwalk with Me.” Produced and co-written by Ira Glass of “This American Life,” the story of the serious subject of a sleepwalking disorder creates both mordant laughs and poignant moments.
CHICAGO – When I heard that A&E was airing a remake of Michael Crichton’s wonderful slice of ’70s health care paranoia “Coma” (based on the book by Robin Cook), I thought, “That makes perfect sense.” With our current national focus on what’s going to happen to us when we get sick along with the continued health issues of the aging Baby Boomer generation, a “Coma” remake was a great idea.
CHICAGO – It’s exciting to witness a breakthrough with a new film artist. The comedian Mike Birbiglia has adapted his one-man show, “Sleepwalk with Me,” into a movie, and the result is a naturalistic performance piece that plays both like a documentary and Woody Allen’s during the “Annie Hall” period. Birbiglia gets a little help from some friends like Lauren Ambrose, Kirsten Schaal, Wyatt Cenac and Amy Schumer.
CHICAGO – David Wain’s “Wanderlust” got screwed by Universal. There’s no reason that a movie this generally funny, smart, and enjoyable should only make just over $20 million worldwide. It’s the kind of solid comedy that is guaranteed a wider audience on Blu-ray and DVD. And the Universal Blu-ray is a strong enough one to help deserved word-of-mouth grow.
CHICAGO – When “Torchwood: Miracle Day” premiered on Starz, I was completely up for the ride. My 4/5 review displayed a little bit of concern given that the show was often 5/5 in its original BBC America airings (and in the brilliant “Children of Earth”) but I held out hope that the show would iron out its wrinkles and deliver on the potential of its clever set-up. In fact, the opposite happened. Stretched to meet a running time that the writers couldn’t deliver on and ultimately cheesy where the original “Torchwood” had been edgy, “Miracle Day” is a disappointment. The Blu-ray release is still strong and there are some things to like here, but only diehard fans should apply (see every episode and “Children” before this…twice) and they’ll likely be the most disappointed.
CHICAGO – David Wain’s “Wanderlust” is a deeply flawed movie. The female lead is woefully underwritten and the script pretty much falls apart at the end as characters do things they wouldn’t do and it rushes to its credits to wrap everything up in an awkward montage. But here’s the thing – it’s also DAMN funny.
CHICAGO – We didn’t get the screener in time to give you a heads up about the series premiere of Starz’s “Torchwood: Miracle Day” but we have seen episodes two and three and have some good news to end this long week — if you liked the first episode, don’t worry. It definitely doesn’t drop in quality. And if you worried a bit after that premiere that this wasn’t the same “Torchwood” you knew and loved, fret not, the program starts to really get into gear by the end of the third chapter and there’s little reason to be concerned.
CHICAGO – Natalie Portman gets betrayed by a seriously flawed screenplay in the melodrama “The Other Woman,” formerly called and based on a book called “Love and Other Impossible Pursuits.” After playing film festivals in 2009, the Don Roos’ film is finally getting a Blu-ray and DVD release to capitalize on Portman’s fame from winning the Oscar for “Black Swan.” Despite typically-strong work by the multi-talented star, the movie’s a tonal mess with an inconsistent screenplay that the strong central performance cannot save.
CHICAGO – “A Dog Year” flew under everyone’s radar when it debuted on HBO in September 2009, mere months before its lead actor went on to win the Oscar for Best Actor. Now headlining two of the most anticipated films of the 2010 winter movie season, Jeff Bridges is bigger than ever. But will that make audiences any more interested in checking out this forgotten “Dog”?