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Film Review: Life, Geopolitics & Hockey in Excellent ‘Red Army’

CHICAGO – How often can we learn life lessons from the most unlikely of sources? The documentary “Red Army” is one such source, as director Gabe Polsky tells the story of the Soviet Union hockey team, which expands to the the very parameters of human nature and competition.

Interview: Director Gabe Polsky on Superb Documentary ‘Red Army’

CHICAGO – Every red-blooded American has been told the story of the “Miracle on Ice,” the 1980 Winter Olympic upset of the mighty Soviet Union hockey team by Team USA. But who were the Soviet players? Why were they the best in the world? Director Gabe Polsky explores these questions in the documentary “Red Army.”

Film Review: Julianne Moore Delivers Shattering Portrayal in ‘Still Alice’

Still Alice

CHICAGO – In one of the best film acting performances from 2014, Julianne Moore devastatingly portrays a woman in her fifties who is a victim of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. As the effects of dementia physically deteriorates her life, it is a wonder if she is “Still Alice.”

Film Review: Eccentric Story of ‘Mr. Turner’ Still Visually Arresting

Mr. Turner

CHICAGO – The thing that can be said for British writer/director Mike Leigh is that it’s never known what story may capture his fancy. The auteur of “Happy-Go-Lucky,” “Topsy-Turvy,” “Secrets and Lies” and “Life is Sweet” now tackles the last quarter century of a notable British painter’s life, through his strange maneuverings and unconventionality, in “Mr. Turner.”

Film Review: Human Emotions Transcend Wealth in ‘Foxcatcher’

CHICAGO – In the memorable film “Barton Fink,” the title character is asked to write a wrestling movie for Wallace Beery. If Fink had isolated himself long enough, he might have come up with “Foxcatcher,” demonstrating once again that a true story is much stranger than fiction.

Interview: Director Bennett Miller is the Hound in ‘Foxcatcher’

CHICAGO – There are many categories of film director types – facilitators, tacticians, framers, to name a few – but there are few real artists. Bennett Miller has guided three films in his career, “Capote,” “Moneyball” and his latest “Foxcatcher.” All three have a purposeful artistry, and explore the soul within the humanity it portrays.

Film Review: ‘Whiplash’ Finds a Big Rhythm, Gives it a Backbeat

CHICAGO – When is the last time you had a bit of sweat after coming out of a movie? “Whiplash” will do that, and it contains not one action sequence or superhero, unless you consider J.K. Simmons as a sociopathic music guru a hero (he is in a way), and drumming as action (it is).

Interview: Director Damien Chazelle Cracks the ‘Whiplash’

CHICAGO – Simply one of the best movies of 2014, “Whiplash” has a tone, energy and sensibility all its own. Damien Chazelle wrote and directed the story of a jazz drummer prodigy at a prestigious New York City music college, tortured by his tyrannical instructor. The drama is scintillating, in rhythm with the natural story flow.

Film Review: Celebrating the Ordinary Couple in ‘Love is Strange’

CHICAGO – It is a time, and the time is now. Leave it to filmmaker Ira Sachs to break a barrier simply by having the right timing. Exploring a long time gay couple, right at the cusp of their now-legal marriage, opens the door to an odd series of ordinary circumstances in “Love is Strange.”

Interview: Director Ira Sachs Reminds Us ‘Love is Strange’

CHICAGO – One of the notable films to kick off the autumn film season is writer/director Ira Sach’s “Love is Strange.” The story of two men in a longtime gay relationship, who finally can marry – but whose lives go off track unexpectedly – features brilliant performances from veterans John LIthgow and Alfred Molina.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Spike Heels Stage Play

    CHICAGO – If you can remember the 1990s outside of childhood, you are in the glow of middle age, so congratulations. The Brown Paper Box Co. theater ensemble takes us back to those thrilling days of yesteryear with “Spike Heels,” a relationship comedy centering on the co-mingling antics of two couples, with a slight nod toward George Bernard Shaw and the play “Pygmalion” (or its musical counterpart, “My Fair Lady”).

  • Book of Merman, The

    CHICAGO – One potential theater-goer loves the “The Book of Mormon.” The other would rather stay home and watch old Ethel Merman YouTube videos. Pride Films & Theater offers the ultimate solution by combining both in a campy musical, “The Book of Merman.” Yep, two Elder characters from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints meets foghorn singer Ethel Merman.

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