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 – Motivated by financial necessity, sequels often mitigate business risk and satisfy studio executives by riding on the coattails of a previous fan base with brand equity. But business aside, to moviegoers the follow-up product so often feels like it “wasn’t nearly as good as the first” or didn’t need to return at all.
CHICAGO – There are few things more fragile than an actor’s ego. It must be treated with the utmost care in order to prevent a split-second meltdown. The enormous pressure of audience expectations coupled with the piercing eye of an ever-present media is enough to send sensitive folk to a sanitarium. Thick skin is a necessity in show business, but what happens when that skin begins to age?
CHICAGO – Seven desperate souls are taking risks to save some part of their world, which describes both “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “The Avengers.” Which will win the box office war? The “heroes” of the Marigold residence include Judi Dench, Tom Wilkerson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Dev Patel.
CHICAGO – “Downton Abbey” became one of the most notable TV phenomenons of the last several years this season as the second installment of the multiple award-winning show became such a part of pop culture that it was even spoofed on “Saturday Night Live.”
CHICAGO – The animated adventure “Gnomeo & Juliet,” recently released on Blu-ray and DVD, features an A-list voice cast and some beloved hits by Sir Elton John, but just getting talent in the recording booth either musically or merely vocally does not a movie make and the script for this thing is so uninspired and accompanied by lackluster visuals that it’s just dull to anyone over ten.
CHICAGO – As movie animation domination continues, “Gnomeo and Juliet” throws its stone cap into the ring, and has a lively story that tweaks it source, while respecting its power. James McAvoy and Emily Blunt are the voices of the star-crossed lovers, with the addition of familiar vocals from Michael Caine and Ozzy Osbourne, among others.
CHICAGO – The Winter Olympics coverage on NBC made it impossible for viewers to ignore the fact that there is indeed a “Clash of the Titans” remake coming out in April. This may seem redundant, since the vast majority of modern fantasy has in some way ripped off Greek mythology. Both “Harry Potter” and “Percy Jackson” include a variation on Medusa, the reptilian villain with snake hair and a stoney stare.
CHICAGO – “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is one of the most visually striking films of a year filled with achievements in great cinematography. I love Deakins’ work on “A Serious Man,” Richardson’s on “Inglourious Basterds,” and Christian Berger’s on “The White Ribbon,” but Bruno Delbonnel (who also lensed “Amelie”) has helped produce one of the most aesthetically remarkable films of the year, easily the most interesting interplay of shadow and light yet seen in a “Potter” film. Naturally, it makes for a great fit with the 1080p of Blu-Ray.