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 – Understanding identity is a lifelong pursuit. When two U.S. immigrant brothers – and filmmakers – go back to to their native Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, they find much more than expected. Tirf Alexius and Remoh Romeo documented their journey in the new film “Lakay.”
CHICAGO – In America, we all came from somewhere, and there is always that other “home.” Brothers/filmmakers Tirf Alexius and Remoh Romeo – twenty-plus years removed from their native Haiti after moving to Chicago – go back to their homeland after the 2010 earthquake, and captured that journey in the new film, “Lakay.”
I so want to love Ben Stiller’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Stiller’s directorial work on films like “The Cable Guy” and “Tropic Thunder” was underrated, the source material is great, the message of living in the moment has more value in an increasingly cluttered world, and the time seems right for an imaginative journey into the mind of a likable protagonist like Mr. Mitty.
CHICAGO – Ruben Fleischer’s “Gangster Squad” is a steak devoid of juice. It has all the trappings of an effortlessly enjoyable genre exercise, but it doesn’t bring a single fresh idea to the table. It goes through the usual motions of a standard gangster picture while giving each overqualified member of its ensemble exactly one note to play. And they’re all exceedingly familiar notes, conveying a tune so familiar even Sam would refuse to play it again.
CHICAGO – I know it’s only January but Ruben Fleischer’s “Gangster Squad” is sure to be one of the most disappointing films of 2013. Look at that cast! Look at them playing caricatures and doing absolutely nothing of interest! “Gangster Squad” is a total mess and absolutely none of it has to do with notorious reshoots after the shooting in Aurora that pushed the flick back four months.
CHICAGO – Sean Penn picks his roles carefully, and famously said he didn’t know what the story meant in “Tree of Life.” His attachment to “This Must Be the Place” continues the vague journey through movieland, as he plays a bizarre and aging rock star whose life is about to get interesting.
CHICAGO – In many ways, it’s easier to draw a direct line from 1997’s “The Game” to the work that David Fincher is doing today than it would be from “bigger hits” like “Fight Club” and “Seven.” Not only does “The Game” look strikingly similar to “Social Network” and “Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” in terms of the way Fincher and his amazing d.p. Harris Savides shoot board rooms and bad behavior but the film shares themes that still interest Fincher like obsession, ego, and deception. The Criterion edition of Fincher’s film makes the argument crystal clear that is one of the most underrated thrillers of the ’90s.
CHICAGO – Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” has stirred up a bit of controversy since its debut early in the Summer of 2011. You almost certainly saw the stories (or Facebook posts or tweets) about the audience walk-outs and signs at theaters that warned ticket buyers that they were about to see something unique.
CHICAGO – Is there something special about 8/9/11 like 4:20? The notorious smoke-down time is well-known but I ask about August 9th because it’s a date with a massive influx of pot-themed movies, including new hits like “Paul” and “Your Highness” (which we’ll cover with full reviews soon) and re-releases of classics like “Dazed and Confused” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” both hitting the HD format tomorrow. It’s a stoner free-for-all!
CHICAGO – The wonderful bonus of the Hollywood Celebrities & Memorabilia Show is the opportunity to meet the real stars of past film eras. Ernest Borgnine and Bruce Dern were there during the show in March of this year.