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 – “The Girl On The Train” is a decent enough “Book Club” movie potboiler – it passes the time away, but never quite rises above the pulpiness of its source material. It desperately wants to recreate the suburban upper-class ennui and tone from last year’s “Gone Girl.” But while that film had David Fincher behind the camera, this one has Tate Taylor, the director of “The Help.”
CHICAGO – Showtime’s new comedy series “Web Therapy” with Lisa Kudrow suffers from two notable problems. One, what works in brief installments online rarely translates to longer ones on the small screen.
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 - “Easy A” is simply a hard film to swallow. Set in a high school on another planet, it wants everything and ends up giving very little. The cast is game - Emma Stone, Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci, Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow - but with few exceptions the players cannot handle the lead balloon banter that passes for jokey dialogue. It wants also to be a grand statement on gossip and those who get hurt by it, but perky Stone doesn’t seem that affected.
CHICAGO – Movies with teenagers that don’t talk down to them and presents them in lovable, realistic ways are so few and far between that seeing one can almost send chills up a cynical critic’s spine. I don’t mean to over-praise what is ultimately a light film but with all the junk aimed at kids nowadays, the incredibly smart “Bandslam” practically feels like a revelation. Those of you buying “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” should be forced to pick this one up too. You won’t regret it.
CHICAGO – Following Lisa Kudrow’s wildly successful, 10-year run as Phoebe Buffay on 238 episodes of “Friends,” the 46-year-old Encino, Calif. native is hardly the spacey blonde from 1997’s “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion”.
CHICAGO – “Twilight” and “New Moon” fans will have a reason to flock to the theaters on Aug. 14, 2009 for the release of the new film “Bandslam” with Vanessa Hudgens, Alyson Michalka, Gaelan Connell, Lisa Kudrow (from “Friends”) and Tim Jo.
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0
CHICAGO – This serious dog lover was swayed by the family-friendly charms of “Hotel For Dogs,” now available on Blu-Ray and DVD. I’ll admit that the film has some pretty serious flaws and we’ll get to those, but if you’re a kid movie aficionado with a soft spot for man’s best friend, you could do a lot worse than the Blu-Ray of “Hotel For Dogs”. It’s a shaggy one, but a lovable movie pooch.