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HollywoodChicago.com Movie Reviews

Too-Long ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ Delivers on Intimate, Hand-to-Hand Combat

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Though he’s never been called it before in scientific speak, I’m saying it now: Peter Jackson is a master of mitosis. He’s one of Hollywood’s best in splitting up the cinematic cellular DNA of one story into three because, apparently, he can’t do epics unless they’re in groups of three.

A Lost WWII Hero Remembered in Slick Thriller ‘The Imitation Game’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – The heroism of World War II codebreaker Alan Turing has been lost in time. Partly due to the secrecy of his mission within the British military in World War II, but also because of the intolerance that erased him soon after his incredible accomplishments. The story of Turing, a man who helped the Allies win the war but was then persecuted for his closeted homosexuality, is given a long-overdue major feature treatment.

No Faith in the Spectacle of ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – The world certainly didn’t need another “Ten Commandments,” but director Ridley Scott tries to remake the 50’s Biblical epic anyway – led by Christian Bale as a scowling and shouting Moses. Yet Bale can’t hold a staff to Charlton Heston and Scott is no Cecil B. DeMille. Ostensibly this is a movie about the power of faith, but Scott’s film has no soul within.

Schizophrenic ‘Top Five’ is Evolution for Chris Rock

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.0/5.0
Rating: 3.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Chris Rock wants you to take him seriously, so he has made a comedy with inconsistent laughs, and a nod towards the weird fishbowl lives that today’s celebrities endure. It’s a rare film where the last part is stronger than the first few acts, a mishmash that is “Top Five.”

Incredible Personal Tour in ‘Antarctica: A Year on Ice’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Along with your local library’s DVD section and equality, Antarctica remains one of the general world’s greatest oversights, even though it’s the size of a continent (because it is one). Around this time of year, the North Pole gets a huge shoutout for its mass production of brand items, but it’s the South Pole that forever remains in the shadow of everything else in the world, only mentioned in films like Werner Herzog’s 2007 documentary “Encounters at the End of the World,” or that 2009 Kate Beckinsale snow thriller “Whiteout.”

Reese Witherspoon Takes a Tedious Trip Into the ‘Wild’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – At times “Wild” resembles the hallucinatory fever dream of a dehydrated and delirious hiker (played by Reese Witherspoon), alone in the world. I only wish her fever dreams were more interesting for the rest of us.

‘Penguins of Madagascar’ is Definitely No Turkey

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

CHICAGO – The only thing rarer than a spinoff that soars over its inspiration is a DreamWorks Animation production without “Dragon” in the title, and one that’s actually worth watching. Improbably, “Penguins Of Madagascar” is both.

‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’ Shouldn’t Have Been Split in Two

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.5/5.0
Rating: 2.5/5.0

CHICAGO – My issue with the “one movie split into two parts” debate isn’t even about money, which is clearly the main reason why we’ve seen blockbuster films do it like the two-part “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and now the two-part “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay”.

Feminism Humbles Tommy Lee Jones in Heartfelt Western ‘The Homesman’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – In Tommy Lee Jones’ passion project “The Homesman,” the wild west provides a vivid setting for a battle in man’s endless war against women, as the film firmly occupying a genre strictly known for cowboys and pioneer machismo. It’s a sorrowful western from actor/writer/director Jones that often shines in its twilight, hoping to slightly reconcile the maltreatment unleashed on half of the world’s most powerful species.

Human Emotions Transcend Wealth in ‘Foxcatcher’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

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.

Moving On in ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – The über popular “The Hunger Games” series is back, splitting the final novel into two movie parts, Harry Potter style. Subtitled “Mockingjay - Part 1,” this is the beginning of the end of the story, setting up rather than knocking down.

A Pivotal Debate in World War II Drama ‘Diplomacy’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – It’s late August in the year of 1944, and Paris is about to be destroyed by a vacating Nazi party. “Diplomacy” is a chamber film that imagines the crucial conversation between a Nazi general and a Swedish diplomat that is said to have saved Paris, a riveting story of personal actions influencing the course of world history.

‘Beyond the Lights’ Has a Respect for Storytelling

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Writer/Director Gina Prince-Bythewood, the creator of the cult favorite “Love & Basketball,” is back with another original story that she created, an intimate and romantic perspective on a singer on the path to nowhere, despite superstar-level fame. Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as that singer in “Beyond the Lights.”

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  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Megan Fox

    CHICAGO - Look past the cheesy carbs and b-boy poses, this shiny mo-cap reboot of cartoon juggernaut “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” offers slick entertainment that makes for a welcome surprise for middle school fare. Proving that executive producer Michael Bay has both grown up but it still frightfully in tune with what jazzes teens, this surprise box office hit is indeed a nice slice of a blockbuster spectacle, whether or not a viewer cares about the turtles or not.

  • HoliDaze Front

    CHICAGO – Need a break from the noise of the holidays? Step Up Productions, – in residence at Chicago Dramatists Theater – present “HoliDaze,” a collection of six one-act plays, all dealing with the nature and nurture of the season. The showcase runs through December 21st, 2014.

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