Matt Fagerholm

Blu-ray Review: ‘Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away’ Renders Spectacle Incoherent

Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away Blu-ray

CHICAGO – Contrary to what James Cameron may have you believe, a 3D movie theater is not the best venue to showcase the super-human physical feats of Cirque du Soleil. In fact, it’s a pretty awful substitute for the visceral thrill of a live performance. The audience experiences it like an English-speaking agnostic attending a Latin mass—there’s plenty of loud pageantry on display, but none of it makes any sense.

Film Review: ‘Beyond the Hills’ Entraps Audience in Claustrophobic Nightmare

CHICAGO – There is an excellent 90-minute film hidden somewhere within the two-and-a-half-hour ordeal that is Cristian Mungiu’s “Beyond the Hills.” It’s far from a bad film, and offers many sequences of entrancing power, but simply doesn’t have enough material to justify its sprawling running time. Instead of probing deeper, the picture merely becomes repetitive.

Interview: Cristian Mungiu Stages Last Exorcism in ‘Beyond the Hills’

CHICAGO – Five years after revitalizing the Romanian film industry with his 2007 Palme d’Or winner, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” filmmaker Cristian Mungiu returned to the Cannes Film Festival with his eagerly awaited follow-up, “Beyond the Hills.” Mungiu won the screenplay prize while his leading ladies, newcomers Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur, each received acting accolades.

Blu-ray Review: Howlingly Funny ‘Best in Show’ is a Comic Masterpiece

Best in Show Blu-ray

CHICAGO – The more one is familiar with the art of improv, the more one is bound to fall head over heels in love with the mockumentaries of Christopher Guest. Working from a mere scene outline, Guest and his ensemble of top-drawer comedians bring a colorful assortment of richly eccentric oddballs to life. Their ad-libbed dialogue is infinitely funnier than scripted punchlines since it emerges organically from their character’s own warped worldview.

Film Review: Taut, Witty ‘No’ Celebrates Unorthodox Marketing of Freedom

No Film Review

CHICAGO – The controversy swirling around Pablo Larraín’s Oscar-nominee “No” is typical of the outrage garnered by many a historical drama. Since the film focuses solely on one crucial segment of the activism that ousted Chilean dictator Pinochet during the 1988 plebiscite, some viewers will complain that not every hero in the tale is represented. Of course, that’s what encyclopedias are for.

DVD Review: John Cusack Fans Should Steer Clear of ‘The Factory’

The Factory DVD

CHICAGO – John Cusack is in a very bad mood. Not even a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner can melt his icily grim disposition, as he speeds through traffic, shouts expletives at random extras and takes part in several terse phone conversations (hopefully with his agent). Of course, if I was an A-grade actor trapped in Z-grade dreck, I’d be peeved too.

Blu-ray Review: ‘Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome’ Fails to Launch

Battlestar Galactica Blood and Chrome Blu-ray Review

CHICAGO – There are so many lens flares in the hazy, visually drab “Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome” that it looks like J.J. Abrams sneezed on the lens. And that’s not all “Galactica” creators Michael Taylor and David Eick took as inspiration from Abrams’ slickly generic yet crowd-pleasing “Star Trek” installments. Yet this latest attempt at rebooting the beloved sci-fi franchise is a complete misfire.

Blu-ray Review: Awe-Inspiring ‘The Thief of Bagdad’ Gets Superior Release

The Thief of Bagdad Blu-ray

CHICAGO – Audiences cry for many reasons other than sadness. They cry tears of joy, of amusement, of recognition…and of awe. When an artist manages to pull off a groundbreaking technical achievement never before brought to the big screen (or the stage, for that matter), it can elicit a response of overwhelming astonishment. Of course, in the age of digital overkill, such reactions are as rare as original scripts.

Blu-ray Review: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt Amaze in ‘The Sessions’

The Sessions Blu-ray

CHICAGO – It’s a shame how box office numbers play such a large factor in Oscar votes. Just imagine if “The Blind Side” was a flop. Sandra Bullock wouldn’t have been allowed within a billion miles of the Oscar podium. If Ben Lewin’s “The Sessions” was given a fair shot with audiences, it would’ve easily brought its star, John Hawkes, an Oscar nomination.

Blu-ray Review: ‘The Man with the Iron Fists’ Scrapes Bottom of Kung Fu Barrel

The Man with the Iron Fists Blu-ray

CHICAGO – “The Man with the Iron Fists” is the most tedious picture in many a moon. How, you may ask, can wall-to-wall action possibly by tedious? Two reasons: 1.) The action is nonstop, and 2.) The characters are impossible to care about. The single take of Uma Thurman’s devastated outburst upon awakening from her coma is the emotional hook that keeps the audience engaged as she wreaks her path of vengeance through both volumes of “Kill Bill.”

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