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Film Review: Suspenseful ‘Life’ is Tense, Compelling Science Fiction

CHICAGO – Combining the invasion elements of “Alien” with the life-raft-in-space morbidity of “Gravity,” the new film “Life” maintains a grip from the enlightened beginning to the twisted end. Mars is the origin, so the film joins “The Martian” and “The Space Between Us” in sourcing the red planet.

Film Review: ‘Inferno’ Was Damned From The Start

CHICAGO – You can’t keep a good conspiracy down. Tom Hanks returns to a role we thought had joined the pages of history his character was so eager to uncover. Like the previous films in the franchise, “Inferno” promises to deliver a new problem to solve even though they never attempt to fix any of the cinematic and narrative flaws from its past.

Film Review: ‘Ghostbusters’ Entertains, But Lacks the Paul Feig Edge

CHICAGO –Throughout the reboot of “Ghostbusters,” it becomes obvious that co-writer/director Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids,” “The Heat”) is just going to do a straight re-do of the 1984 film, because the film lacks his sardonic touch, even though it does entertain and has the requisite big special effects.

Film Review: Reverent, Joyful & Inspirational Jesus in ‘Risen’

CHICAGO – I am a recovering Catholic, which I’ll tell you a million times – or maybe shortly after I meet you – and I have to say I had a well of nostalgia while experiencing “Risen,” the story of Jesus’s Resurrection and aftermath. It is enjoyable, in a strange way, for Christians and film fans alike.

Film Review: ‘Concussion’ Can’t Quite Tackle its Difficult Subject

Concussion

CHICAGO – “Concussion” suffers from what I call the “Moneyball” problem – it’s got an interesting subject matter, but it doesn’t seem to know what to do with it. It doesn’t have enough faith in its own material or its audience, so it stocks up on a lot of off-the-shelf melodrama in effort to avoid digging into what makes the story interesting in the first place. It’s also a movie that chickens out at the end and seems afraid to pick a fight.

Film Review: Spirit Starts Early in Fun, Raunchy ‘The Night Before’

CHICAGO – The tradition of the holiday party gets a workout in “The Night Before,” as three friends take a Christmas Eve walk through the environs of New York City, and make their merry journey an unforgettable night of libation enhancement, magic moments and yes, the Holiday Spirit.

HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: 50 Pairs of Passes to ‘The Night Before’ With Seth Rogen

CHICAGO – In the latest HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: Film, we have 50 pairs of advance-screening movie passes up for grabs to the highly anticipated comedyThe Night Before” starring Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie!

Film Review: Drac Pack Still a Drag in ‘Hotel Transylvania 2’

CHICAGO – For the younger set unable to experience the mystique of Dracula, Wolfman and Frankenstein in their original creations, “Hotel Transylvania 2” may prove to be an introduction to the legendary bloodsucker and his band of movie monsters – and for that Adam Sandler deserves a stake through his heart.

Film Review: Uneven ‘Annie’ Makes Some Very Bad Decisions

CHICAGO – The diabetes-inducing Broadway musical “Annie” does not deserve two film versions – including the newest release – especially since both are tortuous and somewhat dark. The “modern” version even eliminates most of the strength that “Annie” possessed on stage, its chipper songs.

Film Review: World War II Drama ‘Fury’ Fires on All Cylinders

Fury

CHICAGO – “Fury” just might be Brad Pitt’s “Saving Private Ryan.” At its heart it’s a crowd pleaser, but it never shies away from the sheer brutality of war. While it doesn’t have anything quite so devastating as “Saving Private Ryan’s” D-day sequence, it depicts the everyday horrors of killing the enemy and the men who must force themselves to make their peace with the casualties that pile up in the muck. “Fury” is equally successful in its battle sequences and in its smaller moments among its crew inside the tank. Most surprisingly of all it coaxes a decent, dare I say good, performance out of none other than Shia LaBeouf – wonders never cease.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • 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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