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Blu-ray Review: Remarkable Breadth of Modern Animation in New Releases

The LEGO Movie with Will Ferrell

Remember when we were growing up? We were LUCKY if we got a decent animated film once a year in the ’80s and we spent most of our Saturday mornings watching total junk that now passes as nostalgia. We can say that music, film, or even literature was better when we younger. Animation? No way. Just take a look at four recent releases of the animated form that perfectly show the breadth and remarkable quality of the medium (and, yes, animation is a “form,” not a “genre.”)

Blu-ray Review: ‘Non-Stop’ Has Formulaic Script But Fresh Thrills

Non-Stop

CHICAGO – “Non-Stop” gave audiences more than just “‘Taken’ on a plane” when it opened last February, and showed that the inflight experience is efficiently vulnerable action thriller territory. With audiences having taken a break from commercial airline chaos after 9/11, “Non-Stop” brought viewers back into the peril of an unsafe flight, but with a leading hero by Liam Neeson at the helm. Nevertheless, even when knowing how the flight ends, “Non-Stop” is a refined thriller that still has a grip on one’s attention in a second viewing as well.

Blu-ray Review: Kevin Costner Actioner ‘3 Days to Kill’ is Slick, Forgettable

3 Days to Kill

CHICAGO – “3 Days to Kill” is a bit like “Taken,” in that it was co-created by French action maestro Luc Besson, but directed by somebody else. However, it is indeed not like “Taken” in that this movie never roars out of the gate, which is also about a multi-tasking American dad abroad looking for answers as a clock ticks.

Blu-ray Review: New Criterion Releases For May 2014

Like Someone in Love

The Criterion Collection continues to impress through the remarkable range of what it offers cineastes on a monthly basis. Look at the highlights of their May 2014 Blu-ray offerings, all currently available in stores and for online order. What on Earth do “Overlord,” “Like Someone in Love,” and “Red River” have in common?

Blu-ray Review: John Wayne’s ‘McLintock!’ is Dated But Fun

McLintock!

CHICAGO – There is not quite any entertainment like a great John Wayne picture, and “McLintock!” certainly fulfills that expectation. But in adapting Shakepeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” they forgot that the womenfolk had progressed a bit since the spankings that were liberally doled out against the wives and daughters.

Blu-ray Review: Visceral Soldier Story ‘Lone Survivor’

Lone Survivor with Mark Wahlberg

CHICAGO – The story goes that when deciding on the project, director Peter Berg read a copy of Marcus Luttrell’s book “Lone Survivor” in one sitting. Whether this tale includes a bathroom break, or even a few days in-between but with usage of the same chair, for a director like Berg this story will always ring possible.

Blu-ray Review: Steven Spielberg’s Progressive Slave Drama ‘Amistad’

Amistad

CHICAGO – Before Hollywood grappled with the unforgiving intensity of “12 Years a Slave,” they championed Steven Spielberg’s powerful film “Amistad,” years earlier, now available for the first time on Blu-ray. Densely comparing the movies is a difficult task considering their different perspectives, but they do stand as interesting bookends with how Hollywood has dealt with the American atrocity of slavery in their films.

Blu-ray Review: Dated ‘Riot in Cell Block 11’ is Beautifully Filmed

Riot in Cell Block 11

CHICAGO – The Criterion Collection has added “Riot in Cell Block 11” (1954) to their stellar Blu-ray family, and the transfer is absolutely gorgeous, especially if you’re an admirer of the stark cinematography of the late black & white film era. Although dated, it still packs a gritty wallop.

Blu-ray Review: Found Footage Fails to Save 'Devil’s Due,' 'Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones'

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

CHICAGO – Flooding the market with the shaky cam, the growing use of found footage has had more impact on horror than any other genre. Sometimes it’s used to great effect. But more often than not, such films lack the craft needed to propel viewers into the nightmares. “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” and “Devil’s Due” are cases in point.

Blu-ray Review: Teen Horror Comedy ‘Vampire Academy’ Fine for Fans

Vampire Academy from Mean Girls director

CHICAGO – Mark Waters’ “Vampire Academy” is one of the more toothless attempts to make a “fetch” bloodsucker movie for the middle-high school crowd, to use a phrase from his revered teen comedy “Mean Girls”. Based on the six book series written by Rachelle Mead (which has sold 8 million copies worldwide) “Vampire Academy” the movie tackles teenage friendship in the chaos of high school with the same type of Waters’ “I’m not like a regular mom, I’m a cool mom” distance, but with even softer gloves.

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  • Downward Dog

    CHICAGO – From “Mr. Ed” to “Dog with a Blog,” talking animals have had their place on TV. The latest has origins as a web series, with the clever title “Downward Dog.” The show premieres on Wednesday, May 17th, 2017 (9:30pEST/8:30pCST), on ABC TV, and features Ned the Dog as Martin, and human companions portrayed by Allison Tolman and Lucas Neff.

  • Positively Present: An Uplifting Cabaret

    CHICAGO – When faced with adversity, the best way around it is to somehow break into song. That is the feeling behind the Brown Paper Box Co.’s “Positively Present: An Uplifting Cabaret,” running April 7th and 8th at Mary’s Attic in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. The event features company member Kristi Szczepanek as host, and presents song stylings by other company members, including Anna Schutz, plus some special guests. For details and ticket information, click here.

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