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Blu-ray Review: Gorgeous Journey of Oscar-Winning ‘The Great Beauty’

The Great Beauty

We love to go on and on when the Academy gets it wrong, especially in the notoriously flawed Documentary and Foreign Language categories. And so we should give them a pat on the back when they get it right. Yes, “Blue is the Warmest Color” deserved more attention but my vote still would have gone to Paolo Sorrentino’s masterful “The Great Beauty,” released today on Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection. It’s one of the best films of the last several years; a mesmerizing ode to the diversionary quality of excess. Don’t miss it.

What to Watch: Mar. 11-24, 2014

American Hustle

An Oscar winner, a major Oscar nominee, two more pieces of Oscar bait, and a few movies that never got anywhere near Oscar. Welcome to What to Watch. We don’t play favorites. Oh, wait, yes we do. You should definitely rent or buy the titles on this first page. The second page is more optional.

Blu-ray Review: ‘George Washington’ Re-Release Recalls Introduction of Great Director

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CHICAGO – Before “Snow Angels”, “Prince Avalanche”, or even “The Sitter”, director David Gordon Green flexed his film school muscles in his unabashed inauguration, “George Washington”. Eying its body, the 2000 film shares qualities other first-timers huff when trying to be taken seriously by the arthouse crowd. Especially with the films that were assuredly motivated by Green’s work like 2012’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, “George Washington” celebrates storytelling instruments like whimsical young voiceover, shots that are equally distinct & questionable, and the raw potential of non-actors.

Blu-ray Review: Even Villainous James Franco Can’t Save Dull ‘Homefront’

Homefront

CHICAGO – Jason Statham has become an amorphous blob in the action genre, but an amorphous blob who is his own archetype, nonetheless. With the “Expendables” movies he began to take the genre torch from Sylvester Stallone, and now working from a script by Stallone in “Homefront”, his Americanization is nearly certified. That being said, watching Jason Statham tattoo a bald eagle on himself might be more enjoyable than his latest addition to a bloated filmography, “Homefront”. That, or staging a debate with Stallone and Statham about gun control.

What to Watch: Feb. 25-Mar. 10, 2014

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

We’re back! Did you survive the Oscars? Are you looking for something to watch on Blu-ray, DVD, or streaming service? We have a few options for you released right at the end of February or the beginning of March, including a couple great animated shows, a Best Picture nominee, an FX sitcom, and a mega-blockbuster. Pick your favorites. All five are worth a look.

Blu-ray Review: Insightful, Candid Steven Soderbergh on New Criterion Release

King of the Hill

Steven Soderbergh’s film “King of the Hill” is an essential one to understanding his career simply for the way it displayed the range we would come to admire in one of our best filmmakers. Soderbergh is one of the most important directors of the last quarter-century, in no small part due to the incredible range he has displayed throughout his career. His current-century work has been defined by an incredible attention to detail but his 3rd and 4th films, “King of the Hill” and “The Underneath,” which is included on this Blu-ray in its entirety, bear the mark of a man still honing his craft. And he’ll be the first to tell you that.

Blu-ray Review: ‘Gravity’ is Elegant, Nail Biting at the Same Time

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CHICAGO – Some films fundamentally change what you expect from cinema. “Star Wars” (1977), “Jurassic Park” (1996), “Avatar” (2007) all pushed those boundaries. In my first of a whopping eight theatrical viewings of “Jurassic Park” for instance I never once felt the illusion of watching real dinosaurs was interrupted by suddenly realizing how ‘they did it’ I was simply watching real dinosaurs.

What to Watch: Feb. 18-24, 2014

The Americans

What an amazing week for TV fans. As if you didn’t have enough stacking to do with the new, brilliant season of “House of Cards” on Netflix, there are four other full seasons in this week’s What to Watch that you really should watch front to back. And then there’s the still-amazing “Darkman,” a cult classic that perfectly captures Sam Raimi’s skill at controlled chaos. Finally, we have two ’80s horror flicks in one set in “Bad Dreams” and “Visiting Hours.” Check ‘em all out (OK, you can skip the genre stinkers).

Blu-ray Review: Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Foreign Correspondent’ Joins Criterion Club

Foreign Correspondent

Cinema history has a few great double-up years: 12-month periods in which a classic filmmaker had not one but two great films. Mel Brooks may be the most notorious, releasing two of the best comedies of all time in 1974 (“Blazing Saddles” & “Young Frankenstein”) and Steven Spielberg has arguably done it a few times, inarguably in 1993 (“Jurassic Park” & “Schindler’s List”) and he would double-up again in 2002 (“Minority Report” & “Catch Me If You Can”) and 2011 (“Tintin” & “War Horse”).

Blu-ray Review: ‘Haunter’ Does More Than Simply Haunt

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CHICAGO – Director Vincenzo Natali’s name always gets my attention. You always get the sense tha the’s trying to do something new. He first came to prominence with “Cube” (1997), which is a gorily stylistic bit of cheap psychological horror masquerading as science fiction. “Nothing” (2003) put two men in a literal void reminiscent in some ways of the classic and surreal Chuck Jones Looney Tune “Duck Amuck”. “Splice” (2009) offered an updated Frankenstein myth mixed with sexual politics and a critique of profit-driven genetic engineering.

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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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