CHICAGO – If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a director and a producer, let “47 Ronin” explain how the hierarchy of creativity hinders the evolution of even the most straightforward-sounding pitches. “47 Ronin” is the type of samurai movie set in Japan that features native actors speaking only English, while Keanu Reeves stars as an outsider clearly plunked into the picture for stateside star power.
CHICAGO – If you were watching Fox Soccer Channel this weekend, you may have been startled to see it switch to repeats of hit comedy shows instead of sports commentary. The network is no more, replaced by FXX, a new brand of the hit FX network designed to appeal to a younger, comedy-driven audience. FX will keep shows like “The Bridge,” “Justified,” and next week’s premiere of “Sons of Anarchy.”
CHICAGO – I really admire the girl power approach to the thriller genre in Katie Aselton’s surprising genre effort, “Black Rock,” but the admirable effort doesn’t change the fact that the movie just doesn’t feel fully fleshed out nor does it play to the strengths of its filmmaker. The what-if scenario that incites the action of “Black Rock” is captivating but Aselton and co-writer/husband Mark Duplass don’t build on that scenario enough to make the venture successful overall.
CHICAGO – Despite an obsession for killing a single man to represent a foggy revenge, “Zero Dark Thirty” is an effective thriller in the actual re-creation of that Navy Seal operation. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”), the all-star cast is led by a miscast Jessica Chastain.
CHICAGO – Kathryn Bigelow opens her stunning “Zero Dark Thirty” with a date and a series of voice mail recordings. The date is, of course, September 11, 2001 and the recordings are the ghosts of the people who died that day, perfectly setting the stakes for the story to come – the hunt for and capture of Osama Bin Laden.
CHICAGO – Colin Treverrow’s “Safety Not Guaranteed” is one of the most consistently enjoyable and clever films of 2012. With a script that walks a tonal tightrope and a spectacular ensemble, this is the kind of smart, quirky, unexpected comedy that one hopes for when they stray from the beaten path of the Hollywood movie. It was a wonderful Summer movie alternative that should have an even-bigger life on Blu-ray.
CHICAGO – Give Lynn Shelton a few days, a dozen crew members, a picturesque cabin and three terrific actors, and just look at what she’s capable of making. “Your Sister’s Sister” is clearly the work of a filmmaker in full command of her craft. With limited resources and very little time, writer/director Shelton somehow managed to capture a fully realized human drama brimming with richly etched characters and marvelously insightful comedy.
CHICAGO – Some of the most likable morons in the history of television are back tonight as the eighth season of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and the fourth season of “The League” return to FX for more remarkable stupidity.
CHICAGO – Jay & Mark Duplass clearly know a thing or two about sibling rivalry. They capture that unique blend of affection and competition in their clever and sweet “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon,” a comedy that didn’t get nearly the attention of recent efforts like “Cyrus” and “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” because of a lack of star power but makes a satisfying rental now that it’s on Blu-ray.
CHICAGO – “Darling Companion” may be the first film consisting entirely of footage resembling the background action in an erectile dysfunction commercial. It has the score of a Campbell’s ad, the premise of a Hallmark card and the script of a self-parodying Lifetime dud. Side effects may include headaches, irritability and a guaranteed loss of interest.
CHICAGO – While the man-child archetype has been cheerfully skewered and celebrated by Apatowian comedies ranging from “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” to “Step Brothers,” this year has so far produced two intriguing indie comedies that take a somewhat more serious look at a developmentally arrested psyche. Neither film is flawless, but they sure would make a superb double feature.