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Keira Knightley is Ahead of Her Times as ‘Colette’

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

CHICAGO – The maturation of Keira Knightley… from ‘Bend it Like Beckham” to “Pride and Prejudice” to the current “Colette,” has had the actor delivering an evolving depth and purpose to her roles. The latest is a fantastic overview of an ahead-of-her-time French novelist, as the rest of society tried to catch up.

‘Papillon” Still Packs a Classic & Compelling Story

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

CHICAGO – The remarkable true-ish story of “Papillon” is difficult to mess up. Henrí Charriére published the “autobiographical novel” in 1969, and the first film version dropped in 1973, with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman as the two leads no less. The latest film has Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek in those leads, as two French prisoners constantly trying to escape.

‘Leave No Trace’ is Emblematic of Our Times

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

CHICAGO – The temptation to “drop out” must weigh heavily on the minds of many Americans on a daily basis. “Leave No Trace” views this phenomenon through a prism of many factors, including materialism and mental illness. Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie are a father/daughter duo who drop out, then tune in.

Awkward Human Nature Explored in ‘On Chesil Beach’

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

CHICAGO – If you hook up with people for that inevitable physical connection, you’ve experienced the odd emotional wrestling match of the “first time” – whether it’s the first “first time” or any other new partner first time. “On Chesil Beach” focuses on a young British couple in 1962, as they first time their virginal wedding night.

Strange Story of ‘Disobedience’ is Constant Distraction

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

CHICAGO – The director Sebastían Lelio is no stranger to oddball human stories. His 2017 film, “A Fantastic Woman” – the Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film – was a one-of-a-kind but amazingly poignant story of identity. His latest, “Disobedience,” mines the same human territory with lesser results.

‘Beirut’ is a Superbly Tense Geopolitical Thriller

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

CHICAGO – The psychological desperation of life-or-death decisions are in play within “Beirut,” the new geopolitical thriller featuring Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”). The various mazes within the story, set during the Lebanon civil war of the 1980s, is comparative to “Casablanca,” especially through the world-weary expression of Hamm’s character.

Charles Dickens is ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’

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

CHICAGO – The story of Ebenezer Scrooge, as told in Charles Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol,” seems to be the one constant that survives the commercialization of the holiday season. The story of Scrooge’s creation is told with expressive sentimentality in “The Man Who Invented Christmas.”

Discerning the Heroes is Tough in ‘Megan Leavey’

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

CHICAGO – The poster is what gives away “Megan Leavey” the most. The titular soldier, and her bomb-sniffing dog, below a billowing American flag. So which war is it? Why, it’s the Iraq invasion, where the U.S. military and the politicians at home “freed” the Iraqi citizens from a peaceful life. Making a dog story out of that boondoggle doesn’t make it any more palatable, except to “support the troops.”

Gravity of Poetic Dreams Carry Weight in ‘Paterson’

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

CHICAGO – What is more ordinary than a man alone with his thoughts, and then applying those thoughts to paper in the form of poetry? “Paterson” is a celebration of such ritual, and other dreams in the working class. It never panders, it never makes the “hero” that heroic, but it does challenge him in an ordinary sense, to work it out as meaningful poetics.

‘Elvis & Nixon’ is a True Story That’s Fit for a King

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

CHICAGO – “When two great saints meet, it’s a humbling experience,” said Paul McCartney of John and Yoko. Well that also applies to “Elvis & Nixon.” Their meeting, albeit brief, has layers of meaning for our times – and their time – and the movie with the “E&N” title exposes that meaning with humor and grace.

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  • Stephanie Buxbaum

    CHICAGO – In the history of “Reality TV” there has been periods of up-and-down popularity, shows that have been around seemingly forever (“Big Brother,” “Amazing Race”) and spinoffs to new styles like “documentary series” as networks like the National Geographic Channel emerged. In all those permutations, producer Stephanie Buxbaum has experienced it all, and has the career and stories to prove it.

  • Deadbeat2

    CHICAGO – Not many web series start out as music videos, but the new online (YouTube) drama “Deadbeat 2” was just that. Created, written and directed by Danny Froze, the made-in-Chicago story recently premiered episodes five and six in the series, which features actor Kiwaun Stoutmire in the lead role of Ronnie.

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