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.
HollywoodChicago.com DVD Reviews
CHICAGO – Will “Mad TV” get a cultural comeback? Once positioned as the first show that could really compete with “Saturday Night Live,” it never quite fulfilled its potential but I think it’s the kind of thing that audiences could find and respect in the future. It’s too bad that none of the “Mad” players became huge stars — movie fame helped propel the respect for those early days of “SNL” — but there were some undeniably talented players here and the show holds up better than you might expect. There’s a part of me that wishes it was still on, especially during this truly horrendous season of “SNL.” Lorne Michaels could use some competition.
CHICAGO – With Mother’s Day around the corner, Warner Bros. has released another one of their stellar DVD box sets built around their 100th anniversary — “Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Romance.” It may not be the best gift set for everyone but it does offer a strong package for those who like a little emotional manipulation with their popcorn. There are some undeniable classics in this set (along with some questionable choices) but it’s the sheer “something for everyone” quality of the release that makes it memorable.
CHICAGO – At one point in awards season, right after it won five Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, including Best Picture, Actress, Screenplay, and Director, it really looked like Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” was going to be the most award-winning film of 2012. When all was said and done, it only won a single Oscar for Sound Editing and Bigelow wasn’t even nominated.
CHICAGO – I’m upset I didn’t see “Smashed” in time to produce my year-end lists for 2012 (Sony Pictures Classics inexplicably never sent a screener and I missed it in theaters). Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s stellar lead performance and Aaron Paul’s pitch-perfect support would have been included in both of my performance pieces. They’re so good here, balancing the truth of youthful addiction in ways that we rarely see in film.
CHICAGO – I may never know how “In Their Skin” came into being, but I have a pretty good theory. Screenwriter/star Josh Close was so appalled by the unapologetic bleakness of Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games” that he took it upon himself to make the exact same movie, more or less, but with a much happier ending. It’s a noble effort but every bit as pointless as Rod Lurie’s proudly non-misogynistic remake of “Straw Dogs.”
CHICAGO – “The Loneliest Planet,” recently released on DVD, will try even the most patient and adoring of art movie lovers as its deliberate, plodding pace pushes out all possibilities of character involvement. To be blunt, by the time I felt like I was asked to care, it was too late. There’s some stunning cinematography and Gael Garcia Bernal is simply one of the most interesting actors of his generation but this effort is dull to the nth degree.
CHICAGO – Few films have more notably put viewers in the middle of a health crisis than David France’s Oscar-nominated “How to Survive a Plague,” recently released on DVD. With a ton of archival footage of the battle to increase the speed and severity of the drug trials that would help battle AIDS, France’s film captures something important about the war against one of the deadliest diseases of the last century. How do you survive? You fight.
CHICAGO – John Cusack is in a very bad mood. Not even a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner can melt his icily grim disposition, as he speeds through traffic, shouts expletives at random extras and takes part in several terse phone conversations (hopefully with his agent). Of course, if I was an A-grade actor trapped in Z-grade dreck, I’d be peeved too.
CHICAGO – It’s taken quite a few movies for me to warm up to Chris Messina. Perhaps it wasn’t his fault that he kept getting typecast as oafish, self-absorbed jerks. In my review of Dana Adam Shapiro’s flawed Oscilloscope release, “Monogamy,” I confessed that every time Messina’s face showed up onscreen, I was “suddenly filled with the intense desire to punch it.”
CHICAGO – There are good movies, there are bad movies, and then there are the movies that are just strangely non-existent. The Kevin James comedy “Here Comes the Boom,” recently released on DVD and Blu-ray, falls into that gap in-between. The movie has a good heart but it’s so predictable that its complete lack of real humor leaves it just bland. There’s nothing horribly wrong with “Boom” but there’s nothing to praise either. It is mediocre in every way and will appeal to only hardcore fans of James or MMA.