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 – I guess from now on, it will never be the holidays without a Star Wars movie, and why not? Every year, we’ll have a celebration with the ardent fans and characters that are one in that universe, “a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away.” For 2016, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”
CHICAGO – We’ve reached a point where comic book films are no longer a scarcity, but an eventuality. With several coming out every year, each one competes for our attention even though the originality behind their approach has the opposite effect. A great cinematic fatigue is almost upon us, but “Doctor Strange” shows a promising deviation that could possibly alter the franchise’s fate.
CHICAGO – What happens when you give people two months in Romania to make a movie about a lost soul dealing with grief, love, drug use, and general excess? You get a spoiled, bizarre, annoying piece of work like “Charlie Countryman,” starring talented people given absolutely nothing to do that proves that talent. It’s a film more in love with slow-motion shots of its abrasive lead running to electronic dance music than anything approaching character or plot. It’s like watching the travel video of the most annoying guy you know.
CHICAGO – Has there ever been a network TV show more cinematic than “Hannibal”? Especially when one watches it commercial-free in “binge” format on the newly-released Blu-ray, one can even more distinctly appreciate the fact that the first season of Bryan Fuller’s incredible show, the best on network TV, plays like long film. Scratch that.
CHICAGO – A bit exhausted from the general air of seriousness that permeates awards season while also just tired of mediocre period dramas in general, I approached my screener of “A Royal Affair” with a serious degree of doubt. Nikolaj Arcel’s film is a pleasant surprise, a passionate piece about a love triangle that helped start a revolution. With spectacular production values and a trio of strong performances, Arcel’s film was recently released on Blu-ray and DVD and I’d advise you to be more optimistic than I was upon its arrival.
CHICAGO – NBC’s “Hannibal” is the best new network drama of the 2012-13 season. It’s a smart, creepy, atmospheric piece of work that perfectly gets the Thomas Harris universe that gave us one of the most memorable villains of all time.
CHICAGO – European history is – in a sense – our history, especially as it relates to the “Age of Enlightenment,” the intellectual movement in the 1700s that anticipated the Declaration of Independence. One of the quirks in that timeline is passionately explored in the new Danish/French film, “A Royal Affair.”
CHICAGO – One of the fascinating expressions of fallibility is when human beings are trapped in the emotions and physicality of adultery. Despite all efforts to the contrary, the house of cards such relationships are built upon, tend to tumble at the most inopportune moments. Director Nikolaj Arcel explores these complications in the epic ‘A Royal Affair.’
CHICAGO – After receiving eight previous prizes at the Cannes Film Festival, German filmmaker Michael Haneke became the first person in history to win the Palme d’Or twice within a mere three-year period. Haneke snagged the top prize at Cannes for “Amour,” a widely praised drama about an elderly couple whose love is challenged by the physical frailties of age.
CHICAGO – The unjustified remake of the ’80s camp-fest “Clash of the Titans” may have been re-purposed for the trend of 3-D but its performances are still tragically 2-D and its plot practically see-through.