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HollywoodChicago.com Movie Reviews

‘The Maze Runner’ a Cut Above Teenage Dystopia Genre

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

CHICAGO – Yes, the future world of teenage bleakness, so popular in “The Hunger Games’ and “Divergent,” now has its own genre. “The Maze Runner” is an excellent entry, and gets over its stilted dialogue and scary monsters by adding in surprises and atmospheric mystery..

Superlative ‘The Guest’ Returns a Soldier to Our Times

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

CHICAGO – The essential killing machine to protect the Homeland hasn’t been invented yet. Or has it? Filmmakers Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett combine “The Terminator” with a perfect metaphor for perpetual war in a new release, “The Guest.”

Parts Are Better Than the Whole in ‘The Skeleton Twins’

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

CHICAGO – Live from the movies, it’s Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig! The two “Saturday Night Live” veterans are “The Skeleton Twins,” and both have more to do than just be funny. There are moments that sink or swim, depending on the “Twins,” and those parts are greater than the narrative sum.

Animal Psychology Charges Rugged Thug Tale ‘The Drop’

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

CHICAGO – For a film adapted from “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone” author Dennis Lehane, there are no children in danger in “The Drop,” but there is a pit bull puppy named Rocco. The dog’s involvement in the story, an animal who gets as many closeups this side of a Charles Martin Smith film, invites the uncharacteristically blunt metaphor of how creatures fight for power, or even just the impression of power.

‘Dolphin Tale 2’ is Fantastic Family Entertainment

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

CHICAGO – They don’t come along often, the rare fun-for-the-whole-family film. But “Dolphin Tale 2” fits that description perfectly, throws in some idealistic symbolism, and more importantly follows those symbols through to the end.

Kevin Kline in Like Flynn For ‘The Last of Robin Hood’

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

CHICAGO – The term “in like Flynn” still gets used, when delusional dudes think they have the score. The saying is a product of former matinee idol Errol Flynn, whose tastes in young girls inspired the saying. Kevin Kline portrays him, and his tastes, in “The Last of Robin Hood.”

Brutal Coming-of-Rage Prison Drama ‘Starred Up’

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

CHICAGO – Opening this weekend at Chicago’s Facets Cinematheque after a week on VOD is “Starred Up,” a bloody-knuckles British prison drama that was also a favorite at the most recent Chicago Critics Film Festival. This is an at-times beastly movie that follows in the line of previous character-driven jail films like “Chopper” (starring Eric Bana), or Tom Hardy’s raging breakout movie “Bronson”.

A Fashionable Man is Captured in ‘Yves Saint Laurent’

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

CHICAGO – Fashion is art, and the canvas is provided by the wearer of that fashion. The designer biography depicted in “Yves Saint Laurent” is one of tortured genius, as Saint Laurent influenced and commodified the world of clothing and accessory creation for over 50 years.

‘As Above/So Below’ Scrapes Bottom of Barrel

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 0.0/5.0
Rating: 0.0/5.0

CHICAGO – “As Above/So Below” is strictly the pits. It’s a found footage horror film set in the Paris catacombs that defies logic, and relentlessly keeps digging itself into a hole until it’s dragged everyone in the audience down with it. It’s a movie that starts at stupid and then somehow proceeds to get progressively dumber and dumber, until it’s completely nonsensical and insane – and not in a good way. It’s quite simply the longest 90 minutes I’ve spent in a theater all year.

Celebrating the Ordinary Couple in ‘Love is Strange’

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

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 longtime 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.”

‘The November Man’ a Stealthy Late-Summer Spy Thriller

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

CHICAGO – “The November Man” is better than its bland title and late August release date would suggest. It’s no gem, but it gets as far as it does almost solely on the strength of Pierce Brosnan’s breezy performance as an ex-CIA agent called back into duty for one last job.

‘Are You Here’ Feels Like Mashup of Two Different Films

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

CHICAGO – You would think that a film written and directed by Matthew Weiner – the creator of “Mad Men” – would be worthwhile company, especially when the cast includes Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson and Amy Poehler. It is disappointing to note that not only was this cliché-ridden mess unpalatable, but it also switched gears two-thirds of the way through to evoke a different mood, and that schizophrenia didn’t help the overall product.

More Risqué ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ Doesn’t Dare to Trailblaze Again

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

CHICAGO – Sex sells, sure, but the film-noir sequel “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” makes you feel dirty if you’re left thinking that’s enough.

Nine years since the visually groundbreaking, avant-garde hit “Sin City,” Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s biggest mistake with their next incarnation is replacing the first film’s bloodthirsty impact with too much nudity.

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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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