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.
CHICAGO – Sam Raimi’s “Oz the Great and Powerful” starts so promisingly. The full-frame black-and-white scenes that open the film have a clever charm as they introduce us to the title character (James Franco) and whisk him off to the legendary land of witches and talking scarecrows. And that scene where the film expands as he reaches his fantasy land is a beauty.
CHICAGO – “Oz the Great and Powerful” is a great and powerful visual and 3D experience. It expands the landscape of what cinema can produce in a visceral and evolutionary way. But a great film also needs a great story, and this Land of Oz tale is not equivalent to the awe-inspiring imagery.
CHICAGO – I was surprised by some of the animosity that greeted the August release of Tony Gilroy’s “The Bourne Legacy,” recently released in a nicely-packed Blu-ray with interesting special features and a very strong HD video and audio transfer. Action films have always done well on Blu-ray and DVD and I hope audiences catch up with this solid genre pic, a movie that may not hold up to the best of Matt Damon’s installments as the Jason Bourne character but is a fun action adventure with a strong cast and a talented writer behind it.
CHICAGO – I worked my way through the best supporting performances of 2012 earlier today and I’m back with the much-stronger array of actors and actresses who challenged themselves with great leading performances in film this year.
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CHICAGO – Tony Gilroy’s world of double crosses, super spies, and covert government programs returns in the writer/director’s clever expansion of the world he created as the writer of “The Bourne Identity,” “The Bourne Supremacy,” and “The Bourne Ultimatum.”
CHICAGO – “The Deep Blue Sea” is a beautiful film. It is a master class in visual storytelling combined with deep, emotional performances of the kind that we too rarely see in cinema. A couple of times a year, a film critic will admit to an error. I was simply wrong in my first review of “The Deep Blue Sea,” when it was in theaters. I liked the film then but had reservations about its tone. On second viewing, this excellent drama is much better than I first believed.
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CHICAGO – Terence Davies’ “The Deep Blue Sea” has been earning raves around the world for its dramatic portrayal of doomed love. Personally, I found the film more inert than engaging but the two lead performances are so consistently powerful that the talent of their performers ultimately drew me into this depressing whirlpool. It’s not the film it could have been but the sheer skill of the great Rachel Weisz and the great Tom Hiddleston make it a film worth seeing.
CHICAGO – I have a sneaking suspicion that if The Weinstein Company had acquired this film and released it during the 2011 awards season, Rachel Weisz would currently be an Oscar nominee. After playing an assortment of vulnerable, photogenic damsels throughout her career, Weisz delivers her most potent and compelling work to date in Larysa Kondracki’s fact-based thriller.