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 – Around a year ago, I named Shawn Ryan’s excellent “Last Resort” the most-promising new show of the Fall season. I think I need to relabel that this year to “creatively promising,” for while I knew Ryan and his crew here had a chance to produce something special, I also worried that ABC was dooming it on Thursday nights.
CHICAGO – It may not look as post-apocalyptic as “Revolution” or “The Walking Dead,” but Shawn Ryan’s excellent “Last Resort,” debuting tonight, is just as much about the end of the world as those programs. It’s about what happens when training fails, structure collapses, and human emotion betrays.
CHICAGO – I feel like a bit of a confession is necessary to frame my opinion of the truly awful “The Vow.” Lest you think this is just some cynical male critic, I like “The Notebook” and “The Lake House.” I even kind of like “Dear John” and didn’t hate “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” Yes, I’m a cheeseball when the cheese is well-done. I wanted to like “The Vow.” There’s nothing to like here unless you find taking talented, charming actors and making them deadly dull likeable.
CHICAGO – Mary Harron’s “The Moth Diaries” is a perfect teaching tool for potential filmmakers. It is proof of two oft-forgotten rules of cinema: 1. Not every successful piece of work in one medium should be adapted to another (or not all good books make good films). 2. Even talented directors can be the wrong fit for the material.
CHICAGO – “The Vow” was “inspired by true events.” The end credits even showed the real couple of those events. Given the actual film, it’s likely that inspiration came in the form of “making stuff up,” as Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum were opposite to any reality in this illogical, strangely cold romance.
CHICAGO – Part satire, part black comedy, and part Hitchcockian thriller, the Canadian flick “Good Neighbors” just barely misses it mark by failing to deliver on its set-up. The problem with reviewing it is that I can’t really go into details on my issues with it without some serious spoilers, so I’ll just leave it as a simple criticism — I didn’t find the ending satisfying. There’s nearly enough that works about the first two acts of the film to warrant a rental for thriller fans, but don’t be surprised if the final act lets you down.
CHICAGO – Working with high level actors such as Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman didn’t faze director Richard J. Lewis. He had pursued the film version of the Mordecai Richler’s novel “Barney’s Version” for several years, and it was his direction that recently got Giamatti (as Barney) the Golden Globe Award.
CHICAGO – Poor Liv Tyler. She’s stuck in a remote vacation home with nothing but the blank-stare acting of Scott Speedman to “save” her. What’s a rock daughter who becomes an actress to do? First, she shouldn’t sign onto yet another version of the couple-in-terror cliché.