CHICAGO – If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a director and a producer, let “47 Ronin” explain how the hierarchy of creativity hinders the evolution of even the most straightforward-sounding pitches. “47 Ronin” is the type of samurai movie set in Japan that features native actors speaking only English, while Keanu Reeves stars as an outsider clearly plunked into the picture for stateside star power.
CHICAGO – “That Awkward Moment” posits its cheeky hashtag of a title concept as one relating to when Friday night flings yield from becoming Saturday daytime couplings (to paraphrase Woody Harrelson’s wisdom in “Friends with Benefits”).
CHICAGO – It’s been close to 50 years since 11/22/1963, the day when a certain American innocence was lost with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In time for that anniversary, is the excellent film overview entitled “Parkland.”
CHICAGO – Writer/director Ramin Bahrani is interested not in agendas, special effects, or broad statements. He makes films about characters, including the widely acclaimed “Chop Shop,” “Man Push Cart,” and “Goodbye Solo.”
CHICAGO – Writer/director Ramin Bahrani delivers his most mainstream film this weekend with the Chicago release of “At Any Price,” an old-fashioned melodrama starring Dennis Quaid as a grain farmer caught in some awful situations in order to protect his family.
CHICAGO – Some have embraced Lee Daniels’ super-weird “The Paperboy,” recently released on Blu-ray and DVD, as pure pulp entertainment, the kind of sexy, sweaty, ridiculous B-movie that they don’t make enough of any more. Others have called it absolute trash with The Onion A.V. Club going as far as to name it the worst movie of the year. I’m much closer to The Onion in this case. As hard as I tried to get on the wavelength of this film’s growing cult movie reputation, I couldn’t shake the fact that it’s just a piece of junk.
CHICAGO – With all the steamy heat, and the thick, gluey southern accents from mostly non-southern actors, the audience for “The Paperboy” might need to wear lawyer-like suspenders and flap a funeral home fan to take it all in. The sweaty new film features Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey and John Cusack, all chewing the scenery.
CHICAGO – Josh Radnor may be one of the most good natured humanists in modern American film. His perspective contrasts sharply with that of comedic auteurs intent on depicting a cynical view of the modern world clouded with nostalgia. Radnor may not yet be up to par with the filmmakers that have inspired him, namely Woody Allen, but his sophomore directorial effort, “Liberal Arts,” is practically bursting with promise.
CHICAGO – The Blu-ray of Scott Hicks’ horrendous “The Lucky One” includes special features called “Zac Efron Becomes a Marine,” “Watch the Sparks Fly - The Romantic World of The Lucky One,” and “Zac and Taylor’s Amazing Chemistry.” This is false advertising. Because it implies that Mr. Efron believably becomes a Marine, the film is even slightly romantic, or that its two stars have an ounce of chemistry. This is the bottom of the Nicholas Sparks barrel, an inert romantic drama that fails on every level.
CHICAGO – After it made a relative fortune at the box office (its number six on the year in terms of domestic gross and has made more than $300 million worldwide), I was eager to revisit “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” on Blu-ray to se if I missed anything in my initial 2.5-star review. Maybe I was just in a bad mood that day. Nope. The movie just doesn’t hold up on a storytelling level and it’s even more deeply flawed on repeat viewing. It’s only entertaining to littlest ones in your family and even they would be better served by a reading of the great source material. A trio of mini-movies on the Blu-ray help make the package more enticing but can’t dismiss the film’s flaws.
CHICAGO – I’m of two minds about the work of Nicholas Sparks. On one hand, I admire his sensitive portrayals of good-hearted people, particularly young lovers, which serve as comfort food for teenagers overwhelmed by peer pressure.