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Ben Mendelsohn

For Better or Worse, ‘Ready Player One’ is Nostalgia at its Purest

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Just in time for Easter, there’s a film filled with enough Easter eggs to drown a small country. “Ready Player One” is a “Where’s Waldo” of mostly 80’s pop culture references that are meant to trigger our (and especially filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s) sentimental, nostalgic cores by bombarding us with reminders of our childhood. These trips down memory lane are fun until they’re not.

Jude Law Submarines a Passable But Unspectacular ‘Black Sea’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.5/5.0
Rating: 2.5/5.0

CHICAGO – I’m on board with Jude Law leading a film and neutral about submarine movies as a genre. My primary pre-screening interest in the quietly marketed thriller “Black Sea” was what Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald would do with this material following his hit with the hard-hitting drama “The Last King of Scotland”.

Efficient Submarine Adventure ‘Black Sea’ Offers Classic Thrills

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Having explored the farthest fields of space in films like “Gravity” and “Interstellar,” we may have forgotten the danger that awaits down below. “Black Sea” is a lean, often thrilling submarine tale that takes viewers on a journey of timeless terror and sacrificial pursuits.

No Faith in the Spectacle of ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – The world certainly didn’t need another “Ten Commandments,” but director Ridley Scott tries to remake the 50’s Biblical epic anyway – led by Christian Bale as a scowling and shouting Moses. Yet Bale can’t hold a staff to Charlton Heston and Scott is no Cecil B. DeMille. Ostensibly this is a movie about the power of faith, but Scott’s film has no soul within.

Brutal Coming-of-Rage Prison Drama ‘Starred Up’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.0/5.0
Rating: 3.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Opening this weekend at Chicago’s Facets Cinematheque after a week on VOD is “Starred Up,” a bloody-knuckles British prison drama that was also a favorite at the most recent Chicago Critics Film Festival. This is an at-times beastly movie that follows in the line of previous character-driven jail films like “Chopper” (starring Eric Bana), or Tom Hardy’s raging breakout movie “Bronson”.

Naomi Watts, Robin Wright Fake It in ‘Adore’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – For a movie that should be about passion, sex, and scandal, “Adore” is surprisingly and depressingly tame. Two great lead actresses are left floating on a dock by a script that doesn’t treat them like real characters and a team that cast two inferior actors opposite them. For “Adore” to work, this tale of forbidden love needs to have an equal playing field.

Crime, Fatherhood Intersect in ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.5/5.0
Rating: 4.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Derek Cianfrance’s masterful “The Place Beyond the Pines” is a complex, epic piece of storytelling about the ripple effect of crime through families and across generations. Drastic action does not exist in a vacuum. It influences generations below and those impacted by their parent’s decisions.

Metaphor is Message in Violent ‘Killing Them Softly’

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

CHICAGO – If there ever was an industry that deserved a good metaphor bashing, it would be the financial sector. “Killing Them Softly” does a hit-over-the-head with the symbolism, but at the same time delivers a gritty and literate parable, featuring Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta.

Horrendous ‘Trespass’ With Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 1.0/5.0
Rating: 1.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Joel Schumacher’s “Trespass” represents a new low for the often divisive and (lately) horrendous director of such gems as “The Number 23,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Bad Company,” “8MM,” “Batman & Robin,” and “Batman Forever.” The film is getting a very-brief theatrical release before essentially going straight-to-DVD, leading a few industry watchers to question if perhaps one of the stars had it in his or her contract that the film had to run in movie houses. Unless you have a similar contract requiring you see it, avoid at all costs.

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