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HollywoodChicago.com Movie Reviews

‘The Best of Me’ is the Worst of Formulaic Romance Novelist Nicholas Sparks

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 1.0/5.0
Rating: 1.0/5.0

CHICAGO – What do you see in the compilation image below?

Yes, it’s nine films based on books by romance novelist Nicholas Sparks. But look more closely. “Message in a Bottle” opened his can of worms in 1999 and 2002’s “A Walk to Remember” could only say it was based on a best-selling novel.

‘Whiplash’ Finds a Big Rhythm, Gives it a Backbeat

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

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).

World War II Drama ‘Fury’ Fires on All Cylinders

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.5/5.0
Rating: 4.5/5.0

CHICAGO – “Fury” just might be Brad Pitt’s “Saving Private Ryan.” At its heart it’s a crowd pleaser, but it never shies away from the sheer brutality of war. While it doesn’t have anything quite so devastating as “Saving Private Ryan’s” D-Day sequence, it depicts the everyday horrors of killing the enemy and the men who must force themselves to make their peace with the casualties that pile up in the muck.

Phony ‘St. Vincent’ is Bill Murray’s Worst Choice Since ‘Garfield’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 1.5/5.0
Rating: 1.5/5.0

CHICAGO – “Garfield, maybe” was the sole utterance of regret that iconic actor/prolific movie-golfer Bill Murray expressed in 2009’s “Zombieland” before he died. Should the adoration for this cameo resurrect him for that film’s announced sequel, Murray will hopefully denounce “St. Vincent,” his most needless and perverse career choice since vocally birthing “Garfield” (and yes, that includes getting a handjob as Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 2012’s also terrible “Hyde Park on Hudson”).

‘The Book of Life’ Has Uninspired Tale to Tell

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

CHICAGO – Unfortunately you can’t judge “The Book Of Life” by its cover. The movie draws on the fertile imagery of the Mexican “Day Of The Dead” to create its own animated world. The animation is excellent and the wooden characters seem to spring to life – but those performances are as wooden as a board. Which also describes my feelings for most of this uninspired journey…bored.

Back to Haiti, Finding Identity in Emotional ‘Lakay’

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

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.”

Meet the Press in Illuminating ‘Kill the Messenger’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.5/5.0
Rating: 4.5/5.0

CHICAGO – When journalists were heroes and exposed those in power for their sins, movies were made like “All the President’s Men.” Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury News was one of those journalist heroes during the 1990s, but he wasn’t celebrated in his time. The indictments, induced paranoia and outright lies against him are distinctly chronicled in the luminary “Kill the Messenger.”

Inauthentic ‘The Judge’ Guilty of a Stale Confrontation

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

CHICAGO – Here comes “The Judge,” here comes “The Judge.” That 1960s catchphrase gets new meaning in the film featuring Robert Downey Jr. and veteran Robert Duvall, in a angry generational face-off that makes little sense and provides a stiff courtroom drama that felt like bad TV.

Artificially Glorified ‘Dracula Untold’ Lacks Reason for Being Retold

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

CHICAGO – For moviegoers, each new film is a chance to escape, feel, fear, cry, be thrilled or laugh. Filmmakers and actors want you to experience this range of emotions, but producers and investors care most about the film making money. That’s why Hollywood is scared of truly original stories. Originality is an unknown without a built-in fan base.

Bigger Not Better ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 1.5/5.0
Rating: 1.5/5.0

CHICAGO – This is what happens when a beloved book gets sucked into the big Hollywood studio machine and gets all the endearing qualities – plus its heart and soul – sucked right out of it. “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad movie. It goes from Alexander getting gum stuck in his hair and his mom buying him the wrong kind of sneakers to Steve Carell doing sake bombs in a Japanese steak house on a job interview and catching a pirate shirt he’s wearing on fire.

Lifeless Doll Horror ‘Annabelle’ Just Taking Up Shelf Space

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 1.5/5.0
Rating: 1.5/5.0

CHICAGO – The opening text to “Annabelle” comically clues its audience into the significance of dolls - beloved child play things, and/or vessels for evil spirits, whatever floats your boat. This spin-off of the mute toy from “The Conjuring” (as later made love to intensely by Marlon Wayans in “A Haunted House 2”) presents a different usage as well, that of taking up shelf space.

‘Left Behind’ Has No Hope of Deliverance

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 1.0/5.0
Rating: 1.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Onscreen, Nicolas Cage is more sinner than saint these days. And he’ll need a whole month’s worth of Hail Marys to atone for this latest cinematic scourge upon the multiplex. While the promise of late career Cage in an apocalyptic Christian rapture thriller has hope, “Left Behind” has something to leave both bad movie aficionados and the Christian faithful sorely disappointed.

Searing ‘Last Days in Vietnam’ Documents Vital History

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

CHICAGO – It has been nearly 40 years since the Vietnam War truly ended, with the desperate events during the Fall of Saigon. “Last Days in Vietnam” is a brilliant new documentary that puts it all in perspective, the final surreal folly of America’s nightmarish involvement in the Vietnam War. Director Rory Kennedy – the youngest daughter of Robert F. Kennedy – generates a precise and gripping document that lingers long after it has been experienced.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Star Trek Into Darkness

    CHICAGO – With J.J. Abrams not involved with the creation of a third “Star Trek” movie, a compendium of his work within the franchise only seems fitting. Loaded with special features but only a few new ones, this disc set is a strong choice for those who don’t already have both entertaining blockbusters in their collection.

  • References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot

    CHICAGO – In “References to Salvador Dali Makes Me Hot,” now at the Den Theatre in Chicago through September 7th, the intersect of author José Rivera and the strong cast of actors make for a formidable partnership. Committed and passionate interpreters take both the soft and edgy parts of the narrative to task.

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