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James Gandolfini

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.

Romantic Comedy ‘Enough Said’ is a Sweet, Gentle Gem

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

CHICAGO – The plot description which this review will eventually get to is going to make Nicole Holofcener’s “Enough Said” sound sitcomish. It’s a conceit straight out of Must-See TV. And so I want to say up front that you need to dismiss the overly slapstick-y preview and your hesitation about the plot and embrace this gem of a comedy, the rare laugher made by adults for adults that understands dynamics of human relationships beyond meet-cutes and slapstick humor.

Stylish ‘Violet & Daisy’ Wastes Talented Cast

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

CHICAGO – The premise of “Violet & Daisy” and the three actors at its center leave so much room for hope. That room slowly dissipates over the course of the film like air leaking out of a tire. Really? You’ve got this cast with this concept and this is the best you can do? Overly stylized to the point of suffocation, “Violet & Daisy” is the kind of tragic misfire that you just know must have been apparent while it was being made.

Nothing Magical About ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’

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

CHICAGO – It’s this simple – “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” just isn’t funny. Sure, there are a few laughs here and there and some of the supporting cast works but the leads are woefully miscast and most of the jokes hit with all the awkward silence of a Bennigan’s tableside magician who guesses the wrong card.

Jingoistic ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Highlights the Mission

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

CHICAGO – Despite an obsession for killing a single man to represent a foggy revenge, “Zero Dark Thirty” is an effective thriller in the actual re-creation of that Navy Seal operation. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”), the all-star cast is led by a miscast Jessica Chastain.

‘Not Fade Away’ is a Slice of Rock ‘n Roll Heaven

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

CHICAGO – It seems impossible today to get a sense of what it was like around 1964, when rock music changed forever with the “British Invasion” of The Beatles. But writer/director David Chase (“The Sopranos”) brings that distinct energy back with the nostalgic and incendiary “Not Fade Away.”

‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Turns CIA Procedural Into Riveting Thriller

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

CHICAGO – Kathryn Bigelow opens her stunning “Zero Dark Thirty” with a date and a series of voice mail recordings. The date is, of course, September 11, 2001 and the recordings are the ghosts of the people who died that day, perfectly setting the stakes for the story to come – the hunt for and capture of Osama Bin Laden.

Metaphor is Message in Violent ‘Killing Them Softly’

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

CHICAGO – If there ever was an industry that deserved a good metaphor bashing, it would be the financial sector. “Killing Them Softly” does a hit-over-the-head with the symbolism, but at the same time delivers a gritty and literate parable, featuring Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta.

Denzel Washington, John Travolta in Average ‘The Taking of Pelham 123’

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

CHICAGO – Tony Scott’s remake of “The Taking of Pelham 123,” starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta, is likely to meet sun-drained audience expectations for a straight-forward, adult-driven action film this season but the overly stylized and not-so-thrilling train ride is ultimately merely average at best and will disappoint fans looking for anything more.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Kingpin Blu-ray

    CHICAGO – Before 1998’s “The Big Lebowski” there was 1996’s “Kingpin”, the Farrelly brothers bowling comedy that didn’t have the narrative intricacies of the Coen brothers’ classic, but had plenty of jokes about middle-aged men playing the sport. Today finds the release of “Kingpin” to Blu-ray for the first time, coming with only one new special feature.

  • 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.

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