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Bob Balaban

‘The Monuments Men’ Has Been Drained of Personality

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

George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men” is processed cheese. It is a film that has been rewritten, edited, and refined until it has lost all sense of purpose or identity. There’s no flavor left. It is a film that defies genre; not quirky enough to have a comedic personality despite a cast that almost always supplies edge and not engaging enough to work as drama or thriller.

Wes Anderson’s ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ Delights with Clever Tale of Young Love

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

CHICAGO – Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” is a true delight — a fun, clever, and, of course, whimsical tale about the days when love seemed worth running away from home over and getting a scout badge meant the world. Easily Anderson’s best film since “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Moonrise” is arguably the most tonally consistent film he’s made to date, a thoroughly enjoyable endeavor that one would have to be pretty cynical to dismiss entirely.

Troubled ‘Thin Ice’ With Greg Kinnear Barely Works

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

CHICAGO – Over a decade ago, Jill & Karen Sprecher made waves on the indie scene with “Clockwatchers” and “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing” but then virtually disappeared. They’re back with another arthouse piece, a “Fargo”-esque black comedy called “Thin Ice,” starring Greg Kinnear, Billy Crudup, Alan Arkin, and more. The strong ensemble makes the relatively weak script (as presented…more on that later) easier to take as the film skates over some treacherous rough patches but never falls through.

James Franco as Allen Ginsberg Unleashes a Primal Scream in ‘Howl’

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

CHICAGO – “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked…” So began the reading of Allen Ginsberg’s poem that rattled society, the very title of which is the inspiration for the new film, “Howl,” featuring James Franco, Jon Hamm and Mary Louise-Parker.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • 47 Ronin with Keanu Reeves

    CHICAGO – If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a director and a producer, let “47 Ronin” explain how the hierarchy of creativity hinders the evolution of even the most straightforward-sounding pitches. “47 Ronin” is the type of samurai movie set in Japan that features native actors speaking only English, while Keanu Reeves stars as an outsider clearly plunked into the picture for stateside star power.

  • A Field in England (teaser)

    CHICAGO – I can’t recommend this more. “A Field in England” is a flashback and a flash forward all at once. It’s impossible to watch without thinking of great counter culture cinema. In fact when I saw it at Fantastic Fest 2013 it played as part of a double bill with Ken Russell’s “The Devils” (1971). They made perfect cinematic companion pieces. Russell’s film concerned a wayward priest desperate to protect his 17th century city from corruption in the Church only to fall victim to group hysteria when he is, ironically, accused of witchcraft by a jealous nun.

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