CHICAGO – I’m upset I didn’t see “Smashed” in time to produce my year-end lists for 2012 (Sony Pictures Classics inexplicably never sent a screener and I missed it in theaters). Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s stellar lead performance and Aaron Paul’s pitch-perfect support would have been included in both of my performance pieces. They’re so good here, balancing the truth of youthful addiction in ways that we rarely see in film.
CHICAGO – At the start, I’ll admit to kind of hating Bob Byington’s truly unusual “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” playing this weekend at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago with local actor and “Parks and Recreation” scene-stealer Nick Offerman in attendance. It’s such a mannered, unique piece that it verges on grating.
CHICAGO – “Young Drunks in Love” could be the subtitle of the new film “Smashed,’ or maybe “Recovery Can’t Recover All.” Regardless, Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a career-defining performance as a young adult facing up to that adulthood, and leaving behind everything she has known for a life that’s healthier, but less familiar.
CHICAGO – The recovery of an alcoholic is rarely told honestly in film, and by making it about the relationships, writer/director James Ponsoldt has achieved that truth. It helps that his lead actor is the illustrious Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”).
CHICAGO – You have to admire the commitment to a goofy concept that allowed “Casa de mi Padre” to exist in the first place. The idea that Will Ferrell would star in a Spanish-language film about drug dealers and land control in Mexico and that the result would not only be subtitled but often remarkably straight-faced in its melodrama is conceptually hilarious. The actual product? Not quite as funny.
CHICAGO – Will Ferrell can never be accused of sitting on his comic laurels, nor repeating himself. “Casa de mi Padre” is a complete set-in-Mexico Spanish language film, including Ferrell’s dialogue. Although uneven, it delivers such a peculiar vibe that it can’t help but be admired, at least for the effort.
CHICAGO – There are various opinions about TV-to-movie remakes, mostly negative. That is why “21 Jump Street,” based on a 1980s TV show, manages some grudging respect. Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Rob Riggle, Nick Offerman and Ellie Kemper create some goofy laughs in this farce.
CHICAGO – “Modern Family” may have just won the Emmy and “Louie” & “Curb Your Enthusiasm” both had very strong summer outings, but the fourth-season premiere of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” (and the equally-hysterical episode that follows it) makes the case that the Amy Poehler vehicle is the best comedy on television right now. With incredibly smart writing and increasingly impressive performances from the entire ensemble, “Parks and Rec” just keeps getting funnier.
CHICAGO – There’s quite a race for the best comedy of the year and I suspect that “Modern Family” will take the Emmy at Sunday’s awards (which we’ll get into more in-depth with a predictions feature later in the week), but the winner by a nose for this critic is NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” a show that just got better episode by episode as its brilliant third season progressed. See for yourself with the recently-released DVD from Universal.
CHICAGO – The midseason premiere of season three of “Parks & Recreation” starts by catching us up on what we’ve missed. It details the arrivals of auditors, the “black hats,” played by the non-descript Adam Scott and a goofily-exuberant Rob Lowe, and features a tongue-and-cheek detailing of the budget crisis facing the parks department.