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James Earl Jones

Film Review: ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ is a Worthy Addition

CHICAGO – I guess from now on, it will never be the holidays without a Star Wars movie, and why not? Every year, we’ll have a celebration with the ardent fans and characters that are one in that universe, “a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away.” For 2016, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

Film Review: Earnest ‘Gimme Shelter’ Needs More Truth

CHICAGO – The balancing act between reality and drama in based-on-truth narratives is as delicate as walking the high wire. Pour in too much drama, and a story can feel like a soap opera. “Gimme Shelter,” although earnestly and achingly performed, has that sudsy protocol.

Interview: Director Ron Krauss, Kathy DiFiore for ‘Gimme Shelter’

Gimme Shelter 2013, Ron Krauss

CHICAGO – The opportunity for a new film to also take up a cause is one of the advantages of the movies as mass art. “Gimme Shelter” is the based-on-truth story of a runaway pregnant teen named Apple (Vanessa Hudgens) who needs the titular sanctuary to give birth. Director Ron Krauss leads an all-star cast, including Ann Dowd (“Compliance”), who portrayed the real-life facilitator of the shelter for single mothers, Kathy DiFiore.

Interview: New Role for Vanessa Hudgens in ‘Gimme Shelter’

CHICAGO – Vanessa Hudgens, the former teen actor from the “High School Musical” franchise, has a brand new bag. Besides shocking movie audiences with her memorable performance in last year’s “Spring Breakers,” Hudgens deconstructs her glam image in the new film, “Gimme Shelter.”

Blu-ray Review: ‘The Sandlot’ Still Charms, But Rerelease Disappoints

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CHICAGO – 1993 will be nostalgically remembered by many members of my generation as the summer of “Jurassic Park” and the spring of “The Sandlot.” If you were a movie-loving kid during this year, it’s highly likely both of these films occupied a corner of your imagination. I clearly remember how the junkyard dog, dubbed by neighborhood pals in “The Sandlot” as “the Beast,” seemed as terrifying as any T-Rex.

Film News: Jason Segel, James Earl Jones Among Guests at CFCA Awards

CHICAGO – Life was a happy song at the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards night, which celebrated the best cinematic achievements of 2011, while presenting honorary awards to some very special guests. The event was held January 7 at the Broadway Playhouse, and was highlighted by appearances from some of the brightest talents in show business.

Blu-Ray Review: Lovely Diamond Edition of Timeless ‘The Lion King’

CHICAGO – “The Lion King” is one of the most important and influential films ever made. It is more than a box office hit, more than a Broadway phenomenon, more than a cultural icon. The film is one of those rare instances in which a cinema classic can be recognized in its own time as such. People don’t just love “The Lion King” like they love the new multiplex flavor of the week.

Blu-Ray Review: ‘Conan the Barbarian,’ ‘Conan the Destroyer’

Conan the Barbarian

CHICAGO – I’m going to withhold judgment until I see it but, on paper, it makes no sense to remake John Milius’ 1982 fantasy/action classic “Conan the Barbarian” for one simple reason — there’s only one Ah-nuld. The movie weighed heavily on the charisma of its unique star, someone who was essentially catapulted to the A-list by this film and lightning only strikes once. Does anyone think that Jason Momoa, star of the August 19th remake from Marcus Nispel (remake “King” after desecrating “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Friday the 13th”) will find the same magic? Check out the originals, now on Blu-ray, and see the standard he has to live up to.

Blu-Ray Review: ‘When It Was a Game,’ ‘61*’ Make Great Dad’s Day Gifts

61*

CHICAGO – Baseball is a game made for the romantic hyperbole of otherwise stoic men. The appreciation of the game is often passed from Dad to son, so just in time for Father’s Day along comes two great baseball films, the Billy Crystal directed “61*” and the “When it Was a Game” collection.

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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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