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December 2014

Film Feature: The 10 Best Films of 2014, By Nick Allen

CHICAGO – Just like every year before it, there were no perfect films in 2014. I do not see this as a negative thing - reaching for greatness is far more electrifying than the plateau of achieving it, as presented in a hustler’s opus like ‘Whiplash,” which specifically eschews applause after a drum solo that just may have been perfection.

Interview: Director Rupert Wyatt Bets on Mark Wahlberg in ‘The Gambler’

CHICAGO – One could say that “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” director Rupert Wyatt has been pretty lucky. But even he’ll tell you that with his followup feature, “The Gambler,” he could be back to zero.

Exclusive Portraits: New Book ‘So, Anyway’ From ‘Monty Python’ Member John Cleese

CHICAGO – John Cleese, the tallest member of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” has written a new book, and came to the Chicago suburbs to promote it. Anderson’s Bookshop sponsored Cleese’s appearance at the Tivoli Theater in Downer’s Grove for his memoir “So, Anyway.”

Film Feature: The 10 Worst Films of 2014, By Spike Walters

CHICAGO – As HollywoodChicago.com’s resident connoisseur of crappy movies, my cup runneth over with choices for my annual worst of the year list. Looking back on the year it seems like I spent many of my nights in a darkened theater aghast at the unspeakable cinematic atrocities.

Film Review: Eccentric Story of ‘Mr. Turner’ Still Visually Arresting

Mr. Turner

CHICAGO – The thing that can be said for British writer/director Mike Leigh is that it’s never known what story may capture his fancy. The auteur of “Happy-Go-Lucky,” “Topsy-Turvy,” “Secrets and Lies” and “Life is Sweet” now tackles the last quarter century of a notable British painter’s life, through his strange maneuverings and unconventionality, in “Mr. Turner.”

Eccentric Story of ‘Mr. Turner’ Still Visually Arresting

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

CHICAGO – The thing that can be said for British writer/director Mike Leigh is that it’s never known what story may capture his fancy. The auteur of “Happy-Go-Lucky,” “Topsy-Turvy,” “Secrets and Lies” and “Life is Sweet” now tackles the last quarter century of a notable British painter’s life, through his strange maneuverings and unconventionality, in “Mr. Turner.”

Film Review: ‘Big Eyes’ Too Conventional to Generate Any Interest

Big Eyes

CHICAGO – What’s up with Tim Burton? His style is hardly present in the straightforward story of artists Margaret and Walter Keane, locked in a battle of creation over “Big Eyes” child paintings. There is nothing revelatory or even interesting in the process of their struggle of who-painted-what, maybe perhaps Burton – a collector of the art – wants to increase their value?

‘Big Eyes’ Too Conventional to Generate Any Interest

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

CHICAGO – What’s up with Tim Burton? His style is hardly present in the straightforward story of artists Margaret and Walter Keane, locked in a battle of creation over “Big Eyes” child paintings. There is nothing revelatory or even interesting in the process of their struggle of who-painted-what, maybe perhaps Burton – a collector of the art – wants to increase their value?

Film Review: ‘The Gambler’ is a Sure Bet for the Holiday Weekend

CHICAGO – Gritty, funky and quote-worthy, this re-imagining of “The Gambler” – from a 1970s source film – is one of Mark Wahlberg’s best performances. His addicted-to-gaming soul has roots in other frustrations, and the actor is willing to communicate the whole range of emotions.

‘The Gambler’ is a Sure Bet for the Holiday Weekend

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

CHICAGO – Gritty, funky and quote-worthy, this re-imagining of “The Gambler” – from a 1970s source film – is one of Mark Wahlberg’s best performances. His addicted-to-gaming soul has roots in other frustrations, and the actor is willing to communicate the whole range of emotions.

Four Fairy Tales Charmingly Unite in Hollywood, Broadway Merger of ‘Into the Woods’

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

CHICAGO – Neither Hollywood nor purely Broadway, Disney’s big-screen adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical “Into the Woods” finds a charming home on Hollyway. Even if you’re not a “musical kind of person,” I challenge you not to want to sing along to the catchy tunes or laugh at the intentionally overdramatic comedy.

Film Review: Dull Story of Extraordinary Survival in ‘Unbroken’

CHICAGO – Olympic runner, plane crash survivor, and WWII POW Louis Zamperini had an extraordinary life of defeating even more profound conditions from cruel nature and fellow man. His is a tale of grandiose cinematic potential, especially considering our desire for beat-down underdogs and their gauntlets of adversity, but such gets a surface-level treatment from director Angelina Jolie’s underwhelming tribute “Unbroken.”

Dull Story of Extraordinary Survival in ‘Unbroken’

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

CHICAGO – Olympic runner, plane crash survivor, and WWII POW Louis Zamperini had an extraordinary life of defeating even more profound conditions from cruel nature and fellow man. His is a tale of grandiose cinematic potential, especially considering our desire for beat-down underdogs and their gauntlets of adversity, but such gets a surface-level treatment from director Angelina Jolie’s underwhelming tribute “Unbroken.”

Film Feature: The 10 Best Films of 2014, By Patrick McDonald

CHICAGO – It’s that time of year to figure it out, as 2014 leaks away, and the film year follows suit. Whittling down a list to ten films, after hours of entertainment and provoking of thought, is a fool’s challenge at best. Then who better to do it than Patrick McDonald of HollywoodChicago.com.

Film Review: Uneven ‘Annie’ Makes Some Very Bad Decisions

CHICAGO – The diabetes-inducing Broadway musical “Annie” does not deserve two film versions – including the newest release – especially since both are tortuous and somewhat dark. The “modern” version even eliminates most of the strength that “Annie” possessed on stage, its chipper songs.

Uneven ‘Annie’ Makes Some Very Bad Decisions

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

CHICAGO – The diabetes-inducing Broadway musical “Annie” does not deserve two film versions – including the newest release – especially since both are tortuous and somewhat dark. The “modern” version even eliminates most of the strength that “Annie” possessed on stage, its chipper songs.

Interview: Anson ‘Potsie’ Williams on His Book ‘Singing to a Bulldog’

CHICAGO – When is comes to appreciating life, one great practitioner is Anson Williams, better known as the character “Potsie” from the 1970s TV series “Happy Days.” Williams wants to remind everybody to “pay it forward,” as he does in highlighting his unlikely mentor in his new book, “Singing to a Bulldog.”

Film Review: Too-Long ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ Delivers on Intimate, Hand-to-Hand Combat

CHICAGO – Though he’s never been called it before in scientific speak, I’m saying it now: Peter Jackson is a master of mitosis. He’s one of Hollywood’s best in splitting up the cinematic cellular DNA of one story into three because, apparently, he can’t do epics unless they’re in groups of three.

Too-Long ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ Delivers on Intimate, Hand-to-Hand Combat

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

CHICAGO – Though he’s never been called it before in scientific speak, I’m saying it now: Peter Jackson is a master of mitosis. He’s one of Hollywood’s best in splitting up the cinematic cellular DNA of one story into three because, apparently, he can’t do epics unless they’re in groups of three.

Blu-ray Review: Slices of Solid Action in Surprising ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Megan Fox

CHICAGO - Look past the cheesy carbs and b-boy poses, this shiny mo-cap reboot of cartoon juggernaut “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” offers slick entertainment that makes for a welcome surprise for middle school fare. Proving that executive producer Michael Bay has both grown up but it still frightfully in tune with what jazzes teens, this surprise box office hit is indeed a nice slice of a blockbuster spectacle, whether or not a viewer cares about the turtles or not.

Film News: Chicago Film Critics Association Names ‘Boyhood’ as 2014’s Best Picture

CHICAGO – ‘Boyhood,’ director Richard Linklater’s story of a boy maturing from age 6 to age 18 – using the same actor over 12 years – was designated Best Picture by the Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA) at a ceremony on December 15th, 2014.

Film Review: A Lost WWII Hero Remembered in Slick Thriller ‘The Imitation Game’

CHICAGO – The heroism of World War II codebreaker Alan Turing has been lost in time. Partly due to the secrecy of his mission within the British military in World War II, but also because of the intolerance that erased him soon after his incredible accomplishments.

A Lost WWII Hero Remembered in Slick Thriller ‘The Imitation Game’

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

CHICAGO – The heroism of World War II codebreaker Alan Turing has been lost in time. Partly due to the secrecy of his mission within the British military in World War II, but also because of the intolerance that erased him soon after his incredible accomplishments. The story of Turing, a man who helped the Allies win the war but was then persecuted for his closeted homosexuality, is given a long-overdue major feature treatment.

Film News: ‘Birdman’ Tops Chicago Film Critics Association 2014 Best Film Nominees

CFCA logo

CHICAGO – The best movies of 2014 were on display as the Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA) announced their nominees in several categories of film excellence. Leading the pack was director Alejandro G. Inarritu’s “Birdman,” Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and newcomer Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash.” The best in each category will be announced on Monday, December 15th.

Film Review: No Faith in the Spectacle of ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’

CHICAGO – The world certainly didn’t need another “Ten Commandments,” but director Ridley Scott tries to remake the 50’s Biblical epic anyway – led by Christian Bale as a scowling and shouting Moses. Yet Bale can’t hold a staff to Charlton Heston and Scott is no Cecil B. DeMille.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Bobby Pin Girls

    CHICAGO – The “breeder years” are difficult on everyone, as the biological imperative becomes overwhelming and the couplings that result yield both discovery and misadventure. Nothing Without a Company’s new play “Bobby Pin Girls” highlight two such Millennial women, roommates who are having man trouble, although the argument can be made that it’s eternally “boy trouble.” The show has a Thursday-Sunday run at the Chicago Mosaic School through December 3rd, 2017. Click here for more details, including ticket information.

  • Transformers 5 front

    CHICAGO – Knock me over with a feather kids, but I enjoyed “Transformers: The Last Knight.” Maybe it was in comparison to the others or maybe director Michael Bay has beaten me into submission, but this one had the right story elements and casting to make it work, with exceptions of course. It’s goofiness is its charm, and it was released on Blu-Ray/DVD on September 26th, 2017 (Digital HD already available).

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