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Viola Davis

‘Ender’s Game’ Loses Personality in Journey From Book to Film

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

CHICAGO – Gavin Hood’s “Ender’s Game” may be the best example of a current problem with science fiction: From “Oblivion” to “After Earth” to most of “Star Trek Into Darkness” and now this adaptation of the Orson Scott Card book, modern science fiction has become so depressingly sterile as to drain the genre of most of its joy.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman Enter Darkness of ‘Prisoners’

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

CHICAGO – What would you do if your child was in jeopardy? We all love to answer quickly and instinctually that we would do absolutely anything but the fact is that we’re incredibly lucky to never be put in that situation. Would you torture someone else? What if you weren’t sure they were responsible?

Uneven ‘Beautiful Creatures’ Still Casts Spells

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

CHICAGO – The young adult horror/romance genre is running out of themes, could somebody please come up with a hunky Frankenstein monster? “Beautiful Creatures” uses witches as it’s premise, and features newcomers Alice Englert and Aiden Ehrenreich as the spell-crossed lovers.

‘Won’t Back Down’ is an Agenda Disguised as a Film

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

CHICAGO – There is an interesting trend in the financing of films, actual partisan organizations are fostering their points-of-view through the movies. This is nothing new in documentaries, but now it appears in a fictional film called “Won’t Back Down,” featuring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis.

All Intention, No Delivery in ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’

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

CHICAGO – The September 11th tragedy is still percolating through the cinematic filter, and there is a well intentioned thread throughout the various interpretations. But the latest attempt, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” stretches this intention too far, despite a cast featuring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock.

Emma Stone, Viola Davis Lend a Hand to ‘The Help’

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

CHICAGO – Using fiction to express the importance of real historical events is seductive and sometimes disingenuous. The new film “The Help” manages to counteract that notion through high level, emotional performances.

Searing Performances Elevate David Schwimmer’s ‘Trust’

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

CHICAGO – There’s an unsettling potency to relationships that are born online. They take place entirely within the mind, which is capable of producing idealized images never to be equaled by reality. With the right stroke of keys, a savvy writer could potentially seduce a susceptible victim into emotional entrapment. That’s why the Internet is a predator’s playground.

‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ Coasts on the Charm of its Cast

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

CHICAGO – Though “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is the third feature film from Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, it’s the duo’s first picture that feels like it was made by first-time filmmakers. While their previous two features, “Half Nelson” and “Sugar,’ were entrenched in documentary realism and exuded the assurance and nuance of master filmmakers, this latest effort feels oddly programmed for mainstream consumption.

Julia Roberts Learns How to ‘Eat Pray Love’

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

CHICAGO – Despite its flaws, the often-beautiful “Eat Pray Love,” starring Julia Roberts, works because it refuses to talk down to its audience. This is the rare “chick flick” that treats its demographic with respect, never becoming the sentimental or manipulative dreck that so many other filmmakers would have delivered from Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoirs.

Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz Meet Cute in High-Octane ‘Knight and Day’

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

CHICAGO – Whenever there is a audacious and entertaining action thriller like “Knight and Day,” how do the characters stay so calm? Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise are shot at, nearly blown up, asked to drive and leap around like lunatics, yet remain perfectly white-toothed calm. A normal human reaction would be ‘Oh my gaaaaaaaaaawd!”

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  • The King of Comedy

    Something always felt a bit out of place for me in Martin Scorsese’s brilliant “The King of Comedy”, just released on Blu-ray for the first time. I couldn’t put my finger on it but chalked it up to it being thematically ahead of its time in its investigation of the cult of personality that defines modern entertainment.

  • 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.

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