CHICAGO – Critics and viewers fell in rapturous adoration of the legend of The Dark Knight when Christopher Nolan and his team took the risk of making character-driven superhero movies. To kick off the second phase of the Marvel Universe of films with this weekend’s “Iron Man 3,” Shane Black and the team behind this guaranteed blockbuster have done the same – presenting us with the most human Marvel flick since “Spider-Man 2.”
CHICAGO – Every once in a Hollywood while, a true head-scratcher comes along. How on Earth did this movie, with this many talented people involved, end up so boring? If you told me that Stephen Frears (“The Grifters,” “The Queen”) was re-teaming with his “High Fidelity” scribe D.V. DeVincentis on a dramedy with the great Rebecca Hall and Bruce Willis, I would probably put that flick on a highly-anticipated list.
CHICAGO – HBO brings BBC2’s “Parade’s End,” based on the highly-acclaimed novels by Ford Madox Ford, stateside and the star-studded mini-series with a breathtakingly good script from the legendary Sir Tom Stoppard is a must-see for anyone interested in historical drama, quality acting, or the kind of stunning production values usually reserved for big-screen adaptations with Oscar aspirations.
CHICAGO – In contrast with the other subpar supernatural blockbusters released last August, Nick Murphy’s “The Awakening” lacks the cheesy thrills of “The Possession” and the hilarious ineptitude of “The Apparition.” Instead, it’s a humorless and ponderous bore buoyed only slightly by its vivid lead performance from Rebecca Hall, a supremely gifted character actress who has yet to receive the cinematic showcase she deserves.
CHICAGO – There a lot of sighs and longing looks in the new horror film “The Awakening” (and good luck trying to distinguish between the generically-titled “The Apparition,” “The Possession,” and this one — all in theaters). This disappointing attempt at an atmospheric ghost story tries to tell a tale that first feels like a haunting from within.
CHICAGO – It’s only been a couple of years but Ben Affleck’s “The Town” already feels like more of a modern classic than it did upon its release. There are some elements of the film that still falter for this critic (most of them related to the Affleck-Hall relationship and lack of chemistry within it) although they’ve become nearly overwhelmed by what DOES work about this engaging, tight thriller. He’s only made two films (“Gone Baby Gone” before this and this fall’s “Argo” will be his third) but I honestly feel like Ben Affleck will be a better director than an actor (and I’ve always thought him an underrated actor).
CHICAGO – Alcohol mixed with the American Dream sometimes becomes a destructive chemistry. With every individual’s reaction to ethyl alcohol like a fingerprint, the general image of the party animal can easily morph into what John Cheever called ‘The Sorrows of Gin.” These sorrows are explored through Will Ferrell in “Everything Must Go.”
CHICAGO – For filmmaker Ben Affleck, “The Town” marks a return to his roots in more ways than one. It’s a fresh and assured sophomore effort by the promising director, whose cinematic perspective on Boston is becoming as distinctive and exciting Scorsese’s take on New York City. Yet the picture also finds Affleck returning to the themes that have obsessed him ever since “Good Will Hunting.”
CHICAGO – I’ve seen over a hundred films since seeing Nicole Holofcener’s “Please Give” and the movie has somehow lingered in the back of my mind. It’s what happens when characters are this well-drawn and believable. If a movie feels genuine, it has a much longer staying power and writer/director Holofcener (“Lovely and Amazing,” “Friends With Money”) makes dramedies about people that almost instantly feel completely genuine. “Please Give,” recently released on Blu-ray and DVD, is one of the best dramedies of the year.
CHICAGO – Only three years since the Chicago Film Critics Association awarded Ben Affleck as our most promising filmmaker, he’s back in the director’s seat a second time with “The Town”.