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 tradition of the holiday party gets a workout in “The Night Before,” as three friends take a Christmas Eve walk through the environs of New York City, and make their merry journey an unforgettable night of libation enhancement, magic moments and yes, the Holiday Spirit.
CHICAGO – It starts with the imagination, and the story that comes from that lightning inner creativity. Nobody, it seems, does it better than Pixar Animation, and they are taking it all to a new level. For your consideration, and in a perfect world a candidate for Best Picture, “Inside Out.”
CHICAGO – The nostalgia of the old video game arcade comes to life in a charming and fun way in the new Disney film, “Wreck-It Ralph.” One of the strengths is the precise selection of celebrity voices used to animate the rollicking characters. John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch are part of the familiar voice cast.
CHICAGO – NBC has long owned Thursday nights for comedy (although ratings have eroded every year), CBS dominates Monday nights, and Wednesday nights were recently claimed by ABC and the “Modern Family” juggernaut. This leaves Tuesdays for FOX.
CHICAGO – There are some major laughs in “The Five-Year Engagement,” good old fashion you-can’t-breathe laughs. But is it also dark and serious at times, and makes some surprising contemporary statements regarding coupling. Jason Segel and Emily Blunt portray the engaged couple.
CHICAGO – Very few 2011 programs were as hit-and-miss as NBC’s “The Office.” I don’t think anyone involved with the program would argue that it was this sometimes-great comedy’s best year but there were still great moments throughout and Steve Carell’s departure from the program that turned him into a superstar was handled with incredible humor and grace. The season may not have been the show’s best, but it was still one of the better comedies on TV. See for yourself with the seventh season, recently released on Blu-ray and DVD.
CHICAGO – I have become nearly exhausted by writing reviews about the modern decline of the romantic comedy, the genre most in need of a complete overhaul. Most of them nowadays are horrendous. So, no one is more surprised than this critic to say that “No Strings Attached” with Ashton Kutcher & Natalie Portman, now available on Blu-ray and DVD, isn’t bad. It’s no genre classic, but it’s an enjoyable comedy on a Saturday night.
CHICAGO – When a handsome studmuffin meets a fetching, fabulously hot doctor, what’s the outcome? That’s right, sex without a relationship, AKA Friends with Benefits. And a movie featuring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman called “No Strings Attached.”
CHICAGO – The Blu-Ray release of the fifth season of “The Office” is a thing of beauty. It is one of the best comedy on Blu-Ray releases to date, not only because the show has arguably never been better but because everything about the season set has been crafted with the fan’s best interests in mind. After you watch the very funny season premiere tonight, go back and pick up a must-own Blu-Ray set.