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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

  • Drunk History Seasons 1 & 2, 2014

    CHICAGO – The awesomeness of history loses any of its stuffiness with the incredibly fun, indeed educational show “Drunk History” from Comedy Central, its two seasons now released on DVD. Hosted by its creator Derek Waters, the show is a celebration of various historic figures and their under-appreciated true tales, as expressed by funny people narrating in the universal language of inebriation; their recounts are then reenacted by famous actors working with their given dialogue, dressed with the comic cheapness of a bloated biopic.

  • Happy Christmas

    CHICAGO – “Drinking Buddies” director Joe Swanberg’s latest release of the same star wattage is “Happy Christmas,” an even lower-fi story than the Olivia Wilde beer comedy, steered even more by the casting that it was able to assemble. However, with this movie Swanberg doesn’t so much worry about having a story that could be confused with a more mainstream romantic comedy if it were to have a bigger budget.

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