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DVD Review: ‘Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Comedy’

20 Film Collection Comedy

CHICAGO – The “Best of Warner Bros.” series of DVD box sets increased by one last week with the 4th edition (following Best Pictures, Musicals, and Romance) of the 20 Film Collection versions of this series (one can also buy a massive 100 Film Collection set on DVD and a 50 Film Collection on Blu-ray). The new release centers on comedies released by the legendary studio from 1935 (“A Night at the Opera”) to 2009 (“The Hangover”).

DVD Review: ‘Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness’ Won’t Annoy Parents

Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness

CHICAGO – That headline may seem like ridiculously faint praise. As a parent of two boys who love TV, trust me when I tell you that it’s not. There is some incredibly smart TV aimed at kids — “Adventure Time,” “Phineas & Ferb” — but a lot of it fails to pass the test that you won’t want to jump out a window when your rugrat wants to watch it on repeat. “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomess,” not unlike another DreamWorks movie-turned-show in “The Penguins of Madagascar,” isn’t as ambitious or clever as the best children’s TV but it’s also far from the bottom of the barrel. It’s reasonably entertaining and if your kid liked “Kung Fu Panda” or “Kung Fu Panda 2,” this first DVD release of the show will more than satisfy.

DVD Review: First Season of Sundance Channel’s Riveting ‘Rectify’

Rectify

CHICAGO – As excellent as the current state of writing is in television, even our best programs often fit neatly into genres. It’s a three-party system — drama, comedy, and reality. And some of our most critically-acclaimed shows are so because of how they play within audience expectations (“Homeland,” “Parks & Recreation”) and not how they push them.

DVD Review: Capture Comedy Genius with ‘No Pryor Restraint: Life in Concert’

No Pryor Restraint

CHICAGO – One of the most remarkable and influential elements of Richard Pryor’s groundbreaking stand-up comedy was how completely bare he laid himself on stage through his art. He held nothing back. He shared not only jokes but personal stories, including the dark stuff. And so when Shout Factory named their massive tribute to the comedian “Life in Concert,” they got something absolutely right.

DVD Review: ‘It’s a Disaster’ Sadly Lives Up to Its Name

It's a Disaster DVD

CHICAGO – The summer movie season has barely begun, and I’m already sick to death of the apocalypse. It seems to have pervaded every mainstream genre, from action-packed thrillers to raunchy comedies. I’ll take a hilarious mess like “This Is the End” over grim sci-fi junk like “Oblivion” and “After Earth” any day, simply because it delivers its cautionary message with tongue-in-cheek exuberance.

DVD Review: Fifth Season of ‘Breaking Bad’ Stuffed with Extras

Breaking Bad S5

CHICAGO – Sony knows that AMC’s “Breaking Bad” has one of the most loyal fan bases in television and so have released increasingly impressive Blu-ray and DVD season sets of the Emmy Award-winning program. The latest, the first half of the fifth season that aired in Summer 2012, comes with EIGHT HOURS of special features, including an exclusive scene, deleted scenes, and star-filled commentaries on every single episode. It’s one of the most impressive TV releases of the season for arguably the best show on TV.

DVD Review: Audacious ‘Swimming to Cambodia’ Gets Long-Awaited Release

Swimming to Cambodia DVD

CHICAGO – Moviegoers allergic to copious amounts of talk will be hacking and wheezing minutes into “Swimming to Cambodia.” It’s a cinematically lensed 1987 recording of a show that consists entirely of actor/writer Spalding Gray sitting in a chair telling stories. He’s a vibrant presence and a brilliant wordsmith, but his mouth could literally talk one’s ear into a coma.

DVD Review: ‘Only the Young’ and ‘Tchoupitoulas’ Form Nostalgic Double Bill

Only the Young DVD

CHICAGO – With an intelligence typical of its brand, Oscilloscope Laboratories has released two cinema vérité gems on an impeccably matched double bill. One wishes more microbudget features barely clocking in at the feature length mark would receive similar releases. Here’s hoping Joe Swanberg’s “Marriage Material” and Todd Looby’s “Be Good” will one day be available on their own two-disc set.

DVD Review: Andrea Arnold’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ Puts ‘The Great Gatsby’ to Shame

Wuthering Heights DVD

CHICAGO – First Joe Wright sucked the life out of “Anna Karenina” with his meticulously choreographed, self-conscious pageantry. Then Baz Luhrmann proved that while heavy-handed spectacle may have appealed to Jay Gatsby himself, it was a recipe for disaster when applied to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s prose. Nothing kills off the power of a metaphor more than a large neon sign erected to underline its significance.

DVD Review: ‘Gate of Hell’ Gets Extra-Free Criterion Release

Gate of Hell DVD

CHICAGO – Beneath every honorable warrior is a cold-hearted opportunist hell-bent on dominating his victimized prey at all costs. That’s a theory indelibly illustrated by Teinosuke Kinugasa’s revered 1953 classic, “Gate of Hell,” a melodrama populated by such frustrating characters that it nearly loses the viewer’s interest before its admittedly splendid finale, when the tale takes on grand dimensions of Greek tragedy.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • They're Playing Our Song

    CHICAGO – During the late disco era of the 1970s, an unusual musical opened on Broadway. Essentially a two person stage play, “They’re Playing Our Song” involved a songwriter and a lyricist who develop a stronger connection than just writing partners. The always passionate Brown Paper Box. Co. of Chicago has unearthed this chestnut with a bright and fun revival at the Rivendell Theatre through August 20th, 2017.

  • I'm Dying Up Here

    CHICAGO – One of the great new premium channel TV series, which piggybacked on the “Twin Peaks” return on the Showtime Network, is “I’m Dying Up Here.” Set in the 1970s, it tells the stories of fictional stand up comedians in Los Angeles, and one of the Consulting Producers and series writers is Cindy Caponera.

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