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HollywoodChicago.com Movie Reviews

‘Happy Christmas’ is Au Naturale for Good or for Bland

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

CHICAGO – One thing that struck me about writer/director Joe Swanberg’s previous “Drinking Buddies,” and made it one of my more celebrated from 2013 despite not really loving it as a film, was its importance to those good ol’ independent movies. Here were big flashy stars like Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick, not just acting in a movie of a lower budget, but creating a wider appeal out of a previously very niche aspect, without the film form itself changing much.

‘A’ for Effort, ‘C’ for Execution in Dwayne Johnson’s Unmemorable ‘Hercules’

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

CHICAGO – I empathize with Dwayne Johnson and simultaneously don’t. Most people never get rich and famous once let alone twice. Sure, it’s hard to rebrand people from the wrestling superstar you once were into the dramatic action star you’re trying to become, but your past is forever immortal.

‘Magic in the Moonlight’ is Woody Allen By the Book

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

CHICAGO – After last year’s powerful “Blue Jasmine,” writer/director Woody Allen’s trajectory seemed destined toward another film masterpiece, but “Magic in the Moonlight” isn’t it. Colin Firth and Emma Stone are an unlikely pairing in this seen-it-before-Woody film trifle.

Emotional Destiny Versus Science Debate in ‘I Origins’

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

CHICAGO – In the current debate between metaphysical spirituality or intelligent design versus scientific and provable fact, there are demands regarding the religious or metaphysics that do not relate to those facts. What the new film “I Origins” hopes to provide for, is that there is room for both forms of mysticism in our lives, if only the eyes remain open.

Script Weakens Cast, Director in ‘And So it Goes’

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

CHICAGO – “And So it Goes” can be summed up in its incredibly weak title, as just lazy hackery. In attempting to tell a story of redemption for a old white rich man, the film falls back on clichés, predictability, improbability, overdone physical comedy and stereotypes. The first-time pairing of Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton, and the direction of old pro Rob Reiner, can’t overcome the stench of the hackneyed screenplay.

Scarlett Johansson Packs a Blockbuster Punch in ‘Lucy’

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

CHICAGO – “Lucy” is a piece of high-minded cinematic junk food that manages to be outlandishly weird while still satisfying the lizard brain desires of its audience. It’s a film that knows what’ll get the behinds in the seats, and that appeal can effectively be summed up in one shot. It shows Scarlett Johansson in a tight-fitting white t-shirt walking in slow motion with her bosoms bouncing in unison, carrying two guns and ready to kick some serious ass.

Circumstances of Life, Truth Exist in ‘Boyhood’

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

CHICAGO – Life is made up of moments, as the philosophy of the new Richard Linklater film wants to convey. What formulates a person’s ideals and soul, born in a certain place and time? Over 12 years, the writer and director created a fictional family using the same actors in “Boyhood.”

‘Wish I Was Here’ Will Make You Wish You Weren’t There

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

CHICAGO – Writer, director and lead actor Zach Braff has put it on the line for his latest feature, “Wish I Was Here.” He infamously used a crowd funding Kickstarter campaign to maintain creative control of the film, but he needn’t have bothered. The movie result is a sappy, high concept emotional manipulator with no basis in authenticity, and that might be the best thing that can be said about it.

‘Sex Tape’ a Comedy Sorely Lacking in Laughs

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

CHICAGO – Jason Segel is usually fun to watch in just about anything, but he sure isn’t fun in “Sex Tape,” a big studio summer comedy with a fatal flaw - it doesn’t seem to know what’s funny. So like a stand-up comedian on a bad night, it feverishly and desperately throws anything it can think of at the screen in the vague hope that it might be funny even incidentally.

‘The Purge: Anarchy’ Can’t Decide What it Wants to Be

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

CHICAGO – “The Purge: Anarchy” is a cake-and-eat-it film. On one hand there is a monotonous display of firepower, courtesy of a suspension of laws for one night a year, but it also wants to temper this lawlessness with indictments of government, the rich and the law itself.

Nothing But Fear, Anger in Dinesh D’Souza’s ‘America’

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

CHICAGO – Dear Dinesh D’Souza: Why are you afraid of alternate narratives in American History? History, as we know, is written by the winners, and you seem all sad and angry that one man, Howard Zinn, wrote a History of the United States by defining the desperation of the people left behind in the American dream. Why is that so awful? You define it as “progressive left wing” narrative, but what is your propaganda film – blithely called “America” – but a distillation of your view of history?

Dull Soap Opera in ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’

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

CHICAGO – “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” just goes to show that you can have the most expensive and best looking visual effects money can buy, but it doesn’t mean a damn thing if you haven’t got a good tale to tell.

Roger Ebert Doc a Titanic Love Story About Movies, Chaz & ‘Life Itself’

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

CHICAGO – We’d all be so lucky to live a full life of love, success and dignity. But earning it and then dying with it is the ultimate accomplishment.

The film festival hit “Life Itself” honestly portrays the life and death of a great man that any man or woman can strive to emulate.

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  • Bad Words

    Looming over “Bad Words” is the potential it could have had, as is, were it released ten years ago. With its focus of R-rated behavior poking at the projected innocence of children, along with the couple of chromosomes that keep Bateman’s Trilby from being a Vince Vaughn character, this movie is certainly a product of the comedies that have sculpted out the manchild story in the past decade.

  • Winter's Tale

    The theatrical poster for “Winter’s Tale,” after promising that “It’s not a true story, it’s a love story,” made a large demand from its viewers at the bottom: “This Valentine’s Day, Believe In Miracles.” While there is indeed a difference between filmmaking and marketing, it is hard to not imagine writer/director Akiva Goldsman whispering “believe in miracles” into the ear of every executive who helped “Winter’s Tale” come to life, immediately after throwing glitter on them.

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