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HollywoodChicago.com Movie Reviews

‘Cake’ Serves Emotionally Honest, Career-Growing Dramatic Role for Jennifer Aniston

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

CHICAGO – It’s been a while since I walked out of a screening so affected and feeling that I just experienced a truly honest, important film.

Sure, other ones have since, but back in 2007, “Once” especially made me feel that way long before the Oscars.

Supremely Silly ‘Mortdecai’ is a Pleasant Surprise

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

CHICAGO – I have to say while watching Johnny Depp in “Mortdecai,” I found myself amused. I rarely elicited anything more than a slight chuckle, but its indomitable spirit of silliness made it a not entirely unpleasant evening out. This feather-weight trifle of a caper is only slightly more than the funny mustache movie its posters and trailer make it out to be.

Story Won’t Go All the Way in ‘The Boy Next Door’

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

CHICAGO – There was a different kind of vibe coming from the thriller “The Boy Next Door,” different than what is expected when hearing “Jennifer Lopez as teacher caught in a scandal with a student.” But for every piece of original thinking, there was a fear of making it too different.

Bradley Cooper’s ‘American Sniper’ is Entertaining, One-Sided American Propaganda

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

CHICAGO – I understand why they did it. But that doesn’t make it right to do.

In order to earn sign-off from Chris Kyle’s family and the U.S. Navy – and to appease the patriotic American public – “American Sniper” needed to make the U.S. military’s most lethal sniper nicer than he actually was and generalize a people as people you should hate.

Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac Endure ‘A Most Violent Year’

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

CHICAGO – The effect of violence, centering on the roughest statistical year for it (1981) in New York City history, becomes a flashpoint for the way business has always been done. If someone isn’t intimidating their competitor with lawyers or shady marketing practices, a few hired goons can do the trick. Oscar Isaac takes the beating, both real and metaphorical, in writer/director J.C. Chandor’s “A Most Violent Year.”

Hacker Thriller ‘Blackhat’ Has a Finger on the Enter Key

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

CHICAGO – A speedy film project can take about a year from conception to final cut; director Michael Mann’s wired-in thriller “Blackhat” might as well have been written, shot, and cut last month. Not just because of its epilogue to the rise and defeat of the Guardians of Peace, but for its modernity. This is a tale of headline action specifically for January 16, 2015 and onward, in our new period of cyber terror.

Kevin Hart Takes a Plunge in ‘The Wedding Ringer’

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

CHICAGO – “The Wedding Ringer” is a Wedding Stinker. It’s a misogynistic trip through a barren land of hackneyed premises, stock characters, female stereotypes and strained physical gags that exemplifies everything that is wrong with big studio comedies today. The sheer fact that it even lunges out of the starting gate is a credit to the whirlwind of activity from star Kevin Hart. But the little man’s riffing can’t shock this film to life.

Julianne Moore Delivers Shattering Portrayal in ‘Still Alice’

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

CHICAGO – In one of the best film acting performances from 2014, Julianne Moore devastatingly portrays a woman in her fifties who is a victim of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. As the effects of dementia physically deteriorates her life, it is a wonder if she is “Still Alice.”

Sprightly Bear Tale ‘Paddington’ is Good Fun

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

CHICAGO – It may prove hard to recall an era of talking creatures in live-action movies before the napalm hellfire of “Alvin and the Chipmunks” or “The Smurfs.” But, lest we forget, “Babe” has more Academy Awards than “The Master.” Arriving at the coy and wise time of the film year where expectations are either golden or underneath the barrel, talking bear Paddington arrives stateside as a well-behaved throwback to brighter days for a simple genre, with an efficient sense of humor and a few globs of vision, too.

Lack of Full Disclosure Trips Up ‘American Sniper’

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

CHICAGO – A straightforward story about the military marksman Chris Kyle is pretty much told in “American Sniper,” by director Clint Eastwood. But what is left out of the movie – Kyle’s right wing politics and a depiction of his fate – is more curious than what is actually presented.

Ramshackle, Rickety ‘Taken 3’ is Far Too Predictable

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

CHICAGO – “Taken 3” is more a brand extension than a movie. Seven years after “Taken” turned Liam Neeson into an unlikely action star, “Taken 3” shows this series has completely run out of gas. The novelty of the hulking Oscar-nominee beating bad guys to a pulp wore off a long time ago, and “Taken 3” puts Neeson through the most pedestrian set of paces yet. It says something when the operative word of his first scene is “predictable.” Neeson only says it a half dozen times.

Limiting Twists in Time Travel Drama ‘Predestination’

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

CHICAGO – “Predestination” is a time travel game of limited pieces, in which two beings are not who they seem. Twists abound in a story that gets credit for jarring narrative directions, but this adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s “All You Zombies” remains limited in its potential, especially as it fails to evolve past its spiritual predecessors “Source Code” and “Looper.”

Beyond Being Trippy, ‘Inherent Vice’ is a Difficult Trip

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

CHICAGO – Interpreting the ambling and sonic prose of author Thomas Pynchon has eluded filmmakers until now. Director Paul Thomas Anderson takes a whack at “Inherent Vice,” and although much of the film has his usual eminent vision, as a whole it makes for difficult sledding.

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  • Book of Merman, The

    CHICAGO – One potential theater-goer loves the “The Book of Mormon.” The other would rather stay home and watch old Ethel Merman YouTube videos. Pride Films & Theater offers the ultimate solution by combining both in a campy musical, “The Book of Merman.” Yep, two Elder characters from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints meets foghorn singer Ethel Merman.

  • Men, Women & Children with Kaitlyn Dever

    CHICAGO – In “Men, Women & Children,” director Jason Reitman not-so-audaciously reflects onto viewers their world of silent screens and awkward impersonal interactions. As many stories (“Don Jon,” “Disconnect”) have taken on the torch of showing how we are, gasp! — connected to the world yet disconnected from those close to us — Reitman’s tale is just another one for the batch.

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