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February 2015

Film Review: Fascinating, Infuriating Injustice in ‘Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem’

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, 2015

CHICAGO – The title event of “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” is a prison sentence with no predictable day of release. The prisoner is Viviane (a fascinating Ronit Elkabetz), a soft-spoken middle-aged woman well beyond the point of a content unhappiness. She is trapped to a farce, as the divorce laws of Israel demand that a husband agree to the divorce before it can be finalized, with three rabbis and a lawyer each to discuss the event.

Fascinating, Infuriating Injustice in ‘Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem’

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

CHICAGO – The title event of “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” is a prison sentence with no predictable day of release. The prisoner is Viviane (a fascinating Ronit Elkabetz), a soft-spoken middle-aged woman well beyond the point of a content unhappiness. She is trapped to a farce, as the divorce laws of Israel demand that a husband agree to the divorce before it can be finalized, with three rabbis and a lawyer each to discuss the event.

Entertainment News: Leonard Nimoy, Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 83

LOS ANGELES – The actor who created one of the greatest pop-culture characters in TV and film history has passed away. Leonard Nimoy will always be known for the role of Mr. Spock, science officer for the USS Enterprise of the “Star Trek” TV and film series. He died of pulmonary disease on Feb. 27, 2015, according to his wife Susan. He was 83.

Film Review: Olivia Wilde Resurrects Horror in ‘The Lazarus Effect’

CHICAGO – Psychological horror films are the best tweaks, because they remind us of our fears, and where are fears are rooted. The strange combination of science, religion and a blockbuster performance by Olivia Wilde creates an atmosphere of dread and weirdness in “The Lazarus Effect.”

Olivia Wilde Resurrects Horror in ‘The Lazarus Effect’

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

CHICAGO – Psychological horror films are the best tweaks, because they remind us of our fears, and where are fears are rooted. The strange combination of science, religion and a blockbuster performance by Olivia Wilde creates an atmosphere of dread and weirdness in “The Lazarus Effect.”

Video Game Review: ‘Evolve’ Earns its Name

CHICAGO – When I first opened Turtle Rock Studios’ “Evolve,” I was fully prepared to rage quit matches and yell at the screen. My gaming skill lies more in the realm of platformers and adventure games than strategic shooters. My first few matches following the short tutorial were exactly as I expected. I fumbled around the arena doing little to help my teammates.

Interview: Actor Colm Feore on Portraying ‘King Lear’

CHICAGO – “Mend your speech a little, Lest it mar your fortunes…” is a fine piece of advice from the William Shakespeare play, “King Lear,” often cited as one of the greatest English language plays. Actor Colm Feore is the latest to portray the title role, which begins a film series by the Stratford Festival of Canada, to capture all of the Shakespeare plays.

Film Review: New Twist to Inspiring Sports Story in ‘McFarland, USA’

McFarland, USA

CHICAGO – Sports stories are made for the underdog, and it is the conduit for many immigrants and minorities to break through to the American Dream. “McFarland, USA” takes that idea and runs with it, as a high school cross country team of Mexican immigrants head towards the finish line.

New Twist to Inspiring Sports Story in ‘McFarland, USA’

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

CHICAGO – Sports stories are made for the underdog, and it is the conduit for many immigrants and minorities to break through to the American Dream. “McFarland, USA” takes that idea and runs with it, as a high school cross country team of Mexican immigrants head towards the finish line.

Film News: ‘Birdman’ is Best Picture at 2015 Academy Awards

CHICAGO – The Bird was the word at the 87th Academy Awards, as the film “Birdman” won Best Picture and Alejandro González Iñárrittu won Best Director for the same film. The stellar broadcast was hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, and was highlighted by some passionate speeches and song performances.

Hidden Gem ‘The Last Five Years’ Launches Anna Kendrick as a Serious Singer

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

CHICAGO – Perhaps you’ve heard Anna Kendrick dabble in that thing called “singing” with her cutesy “Cups” on the radio, her runaway princess role in “Into the Woods” or “Pitch Perfect”. But apparently it takes an under-the-radar indie film that adapts a commercially failed off-Broadway play for her to shine as a dramatic actress and especially carry the tune as a powerful, spine-chilling singer.

Film Feature: HollywoodChicago.com’s 2015 Oscar Predictions

CHICAGO – Oscar! Oscar! Oscar! Say it three times to win it, and you’ll win every Academy Award pool you enter – at least for the nine categories covered here – if you follow the advice of the HollywoodChicago.com “experts.” We have the Oscar magic, so if you believe in it, then we deliver.

Film Review: Breathless Beauty Within Animated Wonder ‘Song of the Sea’

Song of the Sea, 2015

CHICAGO – Just in time for its potential win of the “Best Animated Feature” Oscar this Sunday, the Irish animated film “Song of the Sea” opens this weekend at Chicago’s Music Box Theater. A grab-bag myth come to storytelling life, this film is vitalized by its gorgeous animation as much as the heart within its narrative.

Breathless Beauty Within Animated Wonder ‘Song of the Sea’

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

CHICAGO – Just in time for its potential win of the “Best Animated Feature” Oscar this Sunday, the Irish animated film “Song of the Sea” opens this weekend at Chicago’s Music Box Theater. A grab-bag myth come to storytelling life, this film is vitalized by its gorgeous animation as much as the heart within its narrative.

Film Review: Back to the Funny in ‘Hot Tub Time Machine 2’

CHICAGO – The concept is a hot tub, that also acts as a time machine. It practically writes itself! The too-meticulous plot of “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” still delivers a decent amount of laughs, although most of them fall under the crude and rude category. Better a cheap laugh than no laugh.

Back to the Funny in ‘Hot Tub Time Machine 2’

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

CHICAGO – The concept is a hot tub, that also acts as a time machine. It practically writes itself! The too-meticulous plot of “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” still delivers a decent amount of laughs, although most of them fall under the crude and rude category. Better a cheap laugh than no laugh.

Interview: ‘The Last Five Years’ Director Richard LaGravenese

CHICAGO – The movie musical seems to revive every year, and writer/director Richard LaGravenese puts his spin on the genre with a modern touch. A couple, portrayed by Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick, goes through the ups and downs of a relationship while belting out appropriate tunes in “The Last Five Years.”

Interview: Husbands of the Stage Musical ‘The First Wives Club’

CHICAGO – Like the recent movie-to-stage-musical adaptations, “The Producers” and “Young Frankenstein,” Chicago has become the proving ground before a Broadway premiere. The latest is almost a no-brainer, “The First Wives Club,” adapted from the 1996 film that starred Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton.

Video Game Review: ‘Dying Light’ Does Just Fine

Dying Light

CHICAGO – Playing “Dying Light” in co-op mode began a tale of two different gamers with two different lives and two different tastes. My co-op partner, Matt, is an Internet networking guru with a brand new Xbox One and not much to play on it beyond “#IDARB” (which is fantastic and free). He sunk his teeth into it like like an Asgardian at an all-you-can-eat buffet. He loved the open world, the graphics and the gruesomeness.

HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: 40 Pairs of Passes to ‘The DUFF’ With Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne

CHICAGO – In the latest HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: Film, we have 40 pairs of advance-screening movie passes up for grabs to the new “Mean Girls”- and “Easy A”-like comedyThe DUFF” (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) starring Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne and Ken Jeong!

Film Review: The Man Behind an Event in Heart-Rending ‘Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine’

Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine

CHICAGO – In 1998, the murder of Matthew Shepard led to an overview of the hate crimes in America, especially the type of assault crimes perpetuated against the gay community. In essence, Shepard became a martyr and a symbol for something much larger. An old high school classmate remembers his legacy for this, and for just being a soul buddy, in “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine.”

The Man Behind an Event in Heart-Rending ‘Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine’

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

CHICAGO – In 1998, the murder of Matthew Shepard led to an overview of the hate crimes in America, especially the type of assault crimes perpetuated against the gay community. In essence, Shepard became a martyr and a symbol for something much larger. An old high school classmate remembers his legacy for this, and for just being a soul buddy, in “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine.”

Film Review: Beneath its Curious Surface, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ a Dangerous Menace to Society

CHICAGO – Strike one of far too many: “Fifty Shades of Grey” author Erika Leonard (better known as E.L. James) has never lived the BDSM lifestyle. And therefore, nor should she be writing about, romanticizing and profiteering on it. On a $40 million budget, the film earned $30.2 million on its opening Friday and is on track for a record-breaking international weekend grab of $158 million.

Beneath its Curious Surface, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ a Dangerous Menace to Society

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

CHICAGO – Strike one of far too many: “Fifty Shades of Grey” author Erika Leonard (better known as E.L. James) has never lived the BDSM lifestyle. And therefore, nor should she be writing about, romanticizing and profiteering on it. On a $40 million budget, the film earned $30.2 million on its opening Friday and is on track for a record-breaking international weekend grab of $158 million.

Film Review: ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ is Fun, Very Odd

CHICAGO – Part James Bond, part absurdist adventure, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is nonetheless a romp, with Colin Firth handling the Brit spy role with a natural aplomb. If the notion of a super secret rogue spy agency under a London tailor shop is something that sounds intriguing, that doesn’t even begin to tell the tale.

‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ is Fun, Very Odd

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

CHICAGO – Part James Bond, part absurdist adventure, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is nonetheless a romp, with Colin Firth handling the Brit spy role with a natural aplomb. If the notion of a super secret rogue spy agency under a London tailor shop is something that sounds intriguing, that doesn’t even begin to tell the tale.

Exclusive Portrait: B.J. Novak Authors ‘The Book With No Pictures’

CHICAGO – It’s easy to recognize the author, producer and actor B.J. Novak from his many years on the TV series “The Office.” His latest project is his children’s title, “The Book with No Pictures,” and he came to Chicago last fall, for an appearance sponsored by Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville, Ill.) at North Central College.

Interview: Filmmaker Anna Jung on ‘Women in Film Chicago’ 2015 Kick-Off

Women in Film Logo 2015

CHICAGO – While the new year is still fresh, the Women in Film Chicago (WIFC) will have their Kick-Off Party on February 12, 2015. The networking event will take place at the Sarofsky Corporation in the Fulton Market District in Chicago – which is run by the 2014 WIFC Focus Award Honoree, Erin Sarofsky. Filmmaker Anna Jung is the Creative Director for the WIFC, and spoke to HollywoodChicago.com about the event.

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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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