CHICAGO – “Drinking Buddies” director Joe Swanberg’s latest release of the same star wattage is “Happy Christmas,” an even lower-fi story than the Olivia Wilde beer comedy, steered even more by the casting that it was able to assemble. However, with this movie Swanberg doesn’t so much worry about having a story that could be confused with a more mainstream romantic comedy if it were to have a bigger budget.
Philip Baker Hall
CHICAGO – There hasn’t been a new episode of Larry David’s brilliant comedy, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” in almost two years and the creator of the HBO program has yet to commit to ever doing a ninth season, saying recently to TV Guide to ask him again in six months.
CHICAGO – There are still a stunning number of films from the ’90s and ’00s not on Blu-ray but BVHE recently corrected one of those oversights by releasing the stellar “The Insider,” one of the best films of arguably the best year for cinema in the last two decades — 1999.
CHICAGO – “People Like Us” is an old-fashioned tearjerker with everything that phrase implies. It’s undeniably manipulative and sentimental but it’s also somewhat refreshing to see a drama that isn’t laced with irony, cynicism, or some form of postmodern commentary on the genre. “People Like Us” is a film that wants you to be moved; it wants you to cry; it wants you to feel something. Some audiences will be turned off by the blatant melodrama but the honest approach works for me and the strong performances from the cast clearly enlivened by the material elevates it beyond processed cheese.
CHICAGO – There’s some wonderful alternate universe where the excellent “50/50” received the Oscar recognition it deserved last week and it at LEAST notched a Best Original Screenplay nomination while the performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anna Kendrick, and Anjelica Huston were considered for their categories. Then again, in that universe at least half the Oscar nominations were different and at least one of the Best Picture nominees was never made. The point is that Jonathan Levine’s daring cancer comedy got screwed. Catch up with it on Blu-ray or DVD and see if you agree.
CHICAGO – Jonathan Levine’s “50/50” is a daring blend of buddy comedy, light romance, family drama, and, oh yeah, cancer movie. The tightrope act of a script by Will Reiser is elevated in remarkable ways by one of the best ensembles of the year, led ably by the great Joseph Gordon-Levitt, doing career-best, Oscar nomination-worthy work.
CHICAGO – Pity the poor penguin making pictures. Their wings cannot fly, they have no script approval or agents, just a trainer bribing them with food to hit the mark. Their presence, their cuteness, even their flightlessness are exploited for a dreadful Jim Carrey film called “Mr Popper’s Penguins.” Somebody call PETA.
CHICAGO – Having loved Andrew Jarecki’s “Capturing the Friedmans” and having recently named Ryan Gosling the best actor of his generation for his year-best work in “Blue Valentine,” I was psyched to fall for their collaboration on the true-crime thriller “All Good Things.” Sadly, my anticipation quickly turned to disappointment as this muddled work lurched toward a bizarre conclusion. Gosling and co-stars Kirsten Dunst and Frank Langella don’t do anything wrong here but the movie is such a mash-up of tones, fiction, and reality that it never comes together into anything coherent.
CHICAGO – Family secrets seems to be a specialty of Director Andrew Jarecki. He made a big splash with his 2003 Oscar nominated documentary, “Capturing the Friedmans,” which explored the real life matters of the title family, and in his debut feature film narrative he uncovers a prominent New York City family in “All Good Things.”
CHICAGO – How desperate are you for laughs? If you rent all the straight-to-video comedies that come down the line, then “Fired Up” may have enough lines that hit the funny bone to warrant a rental. It’s certainly not as unbearable as some theatrical junk like “Disaster Movie” or “White Chicks,” but that’s doesn’t mean it’s worth your time.