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Theater, TV, DVD & Blu-Ray

Theater Review: ‘Carrie: The Musical’ is Surprisingly Serious

CHICAGO – Some people spend the rest of their lives trying to compensate for slights felt in high school – that social jungle is staged in “Carrie: The Musical.” Based on Stephen King’s novel, the story of Carrie White is presented as an adversarial tale by Bailiwick Chicago at Victory Gardens Theater.

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.

DVD Review: Celebrate Father’s Day with The Duke

The John Wayne Epic Collection

There is no studio that times their releases more perfectly than Warner Bros. Around the end-of-year holidays there will be gift sets for films like “Elf” and “Willy Wonka.” Near Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, you can expect gift-appropriate releases.

Theater Review: ‘Hair’ Still Shines at American Theater Company

CHICAGO – At intermission, I remarked to a fellow theater patron that the musical “Hair,” presented by the American Theater Company (ATC) of Chicago, still has a solid impact. His logical reply, “it’s hard to mess this one up.” The ATC does the classic hippie musical proud, with a raucous rendition.

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.

Theater Review: A Star Blazes in ‘Marilyn Monroe, Whoever You Are’

CHICAGO – The many sides of the mega film legend Marilyn Monroe was like a prism in an ever-changing kaleidoscope. Yet somehow actor and playwright Amber Hargroder was able to capture Monroe’s essence in a one woman show.

DVD Review: Criterion Release of 1960s Italian Road Trip Film ‘Il Sorpasso’

Il Sorpasso, Criterion Collection

CHICAGO – With the recent popularity of road trip movies in both mainstream films and the art house, it is a fitting pleasure that the Criterion Collection has released Dino Risi’s “Il Sorpasso,” a jazzy road trip movie that takes the story structure to its basics. Two opposing types meet unexpectedly, travel to random exotic locations, and interact with people who are rest stops in themselves.

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: Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’ Only Gets Better with Repeat Viewing

Her

As a full-time film/TV/game critic and father of three, I very rarely have time to watch something more than once, even if it’s my favorite of the year. And yet I’ve revisited Spike Jonze’s “Her” twice now (for a total of three viewings) and it’s that very rare film that gets richer and more emotionally engaging with each subsequent viewing. I think by the end of the year, it might be my favorite film of 2013.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Wonder Woman

    CHICAGO – There are few films in 2017 that are as historically important as they are cinematically well-crafted. Of those, there is only one I saw three times in theaters. That honor comes in the form of the revolutionary “Wonder Woman,” which not only shows huge promise for the future of DC Comics films but for comic book-based films as a whole.

  • Monica Raymund on set for 'Tanya'

    CHICAGOTV fans know Monica Raymund as paramedic Gabby Dawson on the long-running “Chicago Fire.” But the talented actor is expanding her range, debuting her first film as director, “Tanya,” at the Midwest Independent Film Festival on Tuesday, August 1st, 2017. The short film – written by Sam Forman – will be part of “Female Filmmakers Night” at the Midwest Indie, and is part of Raymund’s involvement with Hidden Tears Project, an organization dedicated to raising consciousness by creating media on gender inequality, sexual abuse and human trafficking.

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