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Theater Review: Ease on Down to Kokandy’s Sensational ‘The Wiz’

CHICAGO – When stage theater can cause outbreaks of elation, celebration and joy, then it must be due to Kokandy Productions’ revival of “The Wiz.” The urban reinterpretation of “The Wizard of Oz” story – told through tuneful euphoria and jubilant dance – is ecstatically produced, in every morsel of its stagecraft.

Film Review: Emotionally Animated ‘My Life as a Zucchini’

My Life as a Zucchini

CHICAGO – Leave it to the Europeans to inject some realistic drama into the art of animation. The recently Oscar nominated “My Life as a Zucchini” is opening in Chicago this weekend, and tells the story of parental abandonment, orphanages and finding family. Co-produced by France and Switzerland, it uses a familiar claymation stop-motion style for more emotional resonance.

Film Review: Rousing Adventure Awaits in ‘Kong: Skull Island’

CHICAGO – King Kong is a wholly generated creature of the movies. Ever since the gorilla legend came to life on screen way back in 1933, he has appeared in countless official remakes, cheap exploitation flicks and now as a symbol of American overreach. He still rules in “Kong: Skull Island.”

Interview: Producer George Avraam on ‘Beloved Days’ at Chicago European Union Film Fest

CHICAGO – How can the innocence of an entire nation be looked upon with nostalgia and tribute? When in 1970, a small village on the island country of Cyprus was the setting for a film company and a major movie star (Raquel Welch).

Film News: TCM Host & Film Historian Robert Osborne Dies at 84

NEW YORK CITY – Robert Osborne, one of the great film advocates and historians of our era, who hosted on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) with passionate skill from 1994 until recently, has passed away on March 6th, 2017, in New York City. The way that Mr. Osborne inspired film lovers everywhere was deep and influential. He was 84.

Theater Review: John Michael is Really Cooking in ‘Meatball Seance’

Meatball Seance

CHICAGO – Currently, one of the best monologists in Chicago – and certainly one of the nuttiest – is John Michael. After notorious and successful runs of his last two one-man shows, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Penix” and “Dementia Me,’ Michael is taking on his dating life once again in the fun and hilarious “Meatball Seance.” The show has a Thursday night slot at Mary’s Attic in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood through April 6th, 2017. Click here for more details, including ticket information.

Interview: Benjamin May on ‘The Legend of Swee’ Pea’ at the Midwest Independent Film Festival

Legend of Swee' Pea, The

CHICAGO – The road to athletic success is littered with the clichés of “might have been” and “never was,” but rarely does it contain a success story that is despite the person who achieved that success. In the early 1990s, a journeyman broke into the National Basketball Association, the first time in its history that a player that never graduated from high school made it to the big show. That man is Lloyd Daniels, and his story is in the documentary “The Legend of Swee’ Pea,” by filmmaker Benjamin May. The director will appear – with his cinematographer Daniel Levin – on behalf of his film at its Chicago premiere, presented by the Midwest Independent Film Festival on Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 (details below).

Interview: Actor David Oyelowo Presides Over ‘A United Kingdom’

CHICAGO – Actor David Oyelowo is very familiar with portraying a man of consequence put into a difficult leadership role. In 2014, he took on the role of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma.” Currently, he is in theaters with “A United Kingdom,” which tells the story of an African prince who led his country to a new mindset in the 1950s.

Theater Review: Collaboraction Exposes the ‘Gender Breakdown’

Gender Breakdown

CHICAGO – In a spectacular original work, the power of the theater comments upon the inequity of “types” for women performers in the theater and other media. Collaboration’s “Gender Breakdown” is a performance piece on how women are subject to many cattle calls just based on how they look, and how certain women – especially those of color and ethnicity – will not even be considered for roles that involve romance or portraying a lead protagonist, for example…even when doing scene training in college. The stories are direct and authentic, and burst from the hearts of the storytellers. It runs in Chicago through March 19th, 2017 (see link below).

Film Review: As Comedy, ‘Table 19’ Only Serves Hor d’Oeuvres

CHICAGO – “Table 19” is an example of a movie that doesn’t try to do too much. It simply takes its little idea and lets it play out, without the forced subplots and desperate stabs of fake urgency so many studio comedies resort to – it’s one part aimless hang out comedy, one part rom-com.

Film News: 20th Chicago European Union Film Festival Opens at Gene Siskel Center on Mar. 3, 2017

20th Chicago European Union Film Festival

CHICAGO – From March 3rd to the 30th, the 20th Chicago European Union Film Festival (CEUFF) of 2017 will unfurl at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago. The Opening Night Film is from Malta – and their emerging film industry – and it’s entitled “20,000 Reasons,” directed by Jameson Cucciardi. For more information, including a complete schedule of films, click here.

Interview: Layne Marie Williams on Chicago ‘Women of the Now’ Event, Mar. 4, 2017

Women of the Now

CHICAGO – When we last talked to filmmaker and activist Layne Marie Williams, she was premiering her short work, “Dollface,” to universal acclaim. Besides her many upcoming film projects, Ms. Williams is also striking a blow for countering the negative aspects of the Donald Trump fear-mongering, with an event called “Women of the Now Presents: The Rise of the Femme Pyre.” This activist party and fundraiser will be at Camera Ambassador (Embassy Studios) within the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago on March 4th, 2017. For details and ticket information, click here.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Kid Thing, The

    CHICAGO – Like the awesome Engine Who Could, the mighty Nothing Without a Company stage crafters have constructed another triumph at their new home in Berger Mansion on Chicago’s north side. “The Kid Thing” – written by Sarah Gubbins – is a terse, convincing and emotional play about fear, identity and breeding, and it is performed by its cast of five with utter authenticity. The show has a Thursday-Sunday run at the Berger North Mansion through April 15th, 2017. Click here for more details, including ticket information.

  • Wiz, The

    CHICAGO – When stage theater can cause outbreaks of elation, celebration and joy, then it must be due to Kokandy Productions’ revival of “The Wiz.” The urban reinterpretation of “The Wizard of Oz” story – told through tuneful euphoria and jubilant dance – is ecstatically produced, in every morsel of its stagecraft.

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