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Film Review: ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ Neuters Promising Cast

CHICAGO – A promising voice cast of comedy greats is effectively neutered in the blasé animated family film “The Secret Life Of Pets.” It doesn’t have the multi-layered story of the best Pixar movies – or even the “Despicable Me” films – to satisfy both kids and grownups. The bigger it tries to be, the more exhausted it seems.

Interview: Director Jay Roach Channels His Inner ‘Trumbo’

CHICAGO – Director Jay Roach loves his work, heading into another phase of his successful career. The man who directed the first two “Austin Powers” films is now taking on movie and American history with “Trumbo,” featuring Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) as the 1950s blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.

Film Review: Great Performances Drive Entertaining ‘American Hustle’

As career con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) introduces newly-undercover FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) to his world of criminal enterprise, he shows him a Rembrandt painting in a museum, revealing that it’s a fake. Millions of people have seen and admired it, not realizing that it’s not the original. Does it matter if they get the same artistic enjoyment out of it?

Film Review: ‘Blue Jasmine’ Puts Woody Allen Back on Top

CHICAGO – The auteur Woody Allen is one of the most prolific post-studio-system directors, averaging one film a year for close to 40 years. His meditations on life have become part of the culture, and he brilliantly expresses himself once again – with help from Cate Blachett – in the emotional “Blue Jasmine.”

TV Review: FX’s ‘Louie’ Continues to Stun with Its Brilliance

CHICAGO – I’ve seen a lot of TV in the decade-plus I’ve been covering the medium (much less the decades before that when I was purely a fan) and I can very rarely say something like this — you’ve never seen anything like “Louie.” The FX hit returns tonight on the network and reclaims its title as the best comedy on TV.

TV Review: FX Comedies ‘Wilfred,’ ‘Louie’ Start New Seasons

CHICAGOFX has developed a nice comedy niche, taking greater risks than most other networks and seeing them pay off with hits like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “The League,” and “Archer.”

Blu-Ray Review: ‘The Invention of Lying’ Has Killer Concept

The Invention of Lying

CHICAGO – There are so many concepts and clever ideas in “The Invention of Lying,” now available on Blu-ray and DVD, thanks to Ricky Gervais’ skills as a writer that his abilities as an actor and director don’t really know what to do with them. The script for this witty comedy is interesting enough to make it worth a rental but it sometimes moves at an awkward pace and never builds like it might have with a more experienced director.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • [Trans]formation

    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.

  • Life Sucks

    CHICAGO – Let’s face it, life does suck. But what can we do about that? How do we survive? Lookingglass Theatre Company’s latest stage presentation tries to answer those thorny questions through a group of fellow travelers, flung together at a cabin retreat, trying to figure out why (indeed) “Life Sucks.”

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