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‘The Fate of the Furious’ is a Vehicle Running on Fumes

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

CHICAGO – Bigger, Dumber, and Duller…that’s the name of the game this time in this ongoing franchise which is now so ludicrous it makes Bond films seem like the epitome of realism. While it’s true this is the first time Oscar winners and a “Fast and the Furious” film have ever been associated together, there’s a dearth of inspiration in this eighth go around, as this series is now operating almost completely on autopilot.

Flawless ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a New Classic

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

CHICAGO – Do not doubt the power of live action to create a new atmosphere of joy and…dare I say it…beauty. The re-imagining of the animated classic “Beauty and the Beast” is everything that the previous was and much more. It packs a true and emotional wallop that follows through to the end.

‘The Girl on the Train’ is a Book Club ‘B’ Movie

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

CHICAGO – “The Girl On The Train” is a decent enough “Book Club” movie potboiler – it passes the time away, but never quite rises above the pulpiness of its source material. It desperately wants to recreate the suburban upper-class ennui and tone from last year’s “Gone Girl.” But while that film had David Fincher behind the camera, this one has Tate Taylor, the director of “The Help.”

Relentlessly Action-Packed ‘Furious 7’ Actually Has a Story, Too

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

CHICAGO – I’ve never classified myself as a “Fast & Furious” franchise fan. Nor have I been a hater. I’ve fallen somewhere in between – willingly watching the popcorn flicks but then quickly going about my life as fast as the furious action ended. Until “Furious 7”…

Too-Long ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ Delivers on Intimate, Hand-to-Hand Combat

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

CHICAGO – Though he’s never been called it before in scientific speak, I’m saying it now: Peter Jackson is a master of mitosis. He’s one of Hollywood’s best in splitting up the cinematic cellular DNA of one story into three because, apparently, he can’t do epics unless they’re in groups of three.

Artificially Glorified ‘Dracula Untold’ Lacks Reason for Being Retold

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

CHICAGO – For moviegoers, each new film is a chance to escape, feel, fear, cry, be thrilled or laugh. Filmmakers and actors want you to experience this range of emotions, but producers and investors care most about the film making money. That’s why Hollywood is scared of truly original stories. Originality is an unknown without a built-in fan base.

‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ Solidifies Franchise

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

Peter Jackson and Bilbo Baggins find their groove in the entertaining “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” an improvement over “An Unexpected Journey” in every single department. Whereas the first one suffered from a tumultuous pre-production process and the fact that it was all prologue, “Smaug” expands this universe in ways that are narratively engaging, while also providing enough of that gorgeously shot and perfectly choreographed fantasy action that made “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy such a phenomenon.

Formula Takes Another Lap in ‘Fast & Furious 6’

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

CHICAGO – “How did you know the car would be there to break my fall?” Everything you need to know about the current tone of the “Fast & Furious” franchise exists in that line. Not only are these people superhero enough to leap through the air from one vehicle to another but this is a world in which automobiles are designed to BREAK falls. It’s ridiculous, insane escapist entertainment, and while the bloated running time and less-exciting setting makes “Fast & Furious 6” a slight step down from the more well-paced “Fast Five,” it’s still a damn fun ride that’s sure to please the audience out to see a sixth installment of vehicular man-sanity.

‘No One Lives’ Hits Cinematic Ground with Bloody Thud

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 1.5/5.0
Rating: 1.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Ryuhei Kitamura’s “No One Lives” starts off with enough grit and style that a good horror fan is likely to get their hopes up at the potential fun to come. And so the crash is even greater when that same horror fan realizes that “No One Lives” is going absolutely nowhere interesting and that the first act is its best. Kitamura has style (although it is MUCH better utilized in the underrated “Midnight Meat Train” and cult hit “Versus”) and the cast isn’t bad but the script is simply awful and the movie exists for no other reason than to highlight some nifty makeup horror effects. You can do much better.

Edgar Allan Poe Deserves Better Than ‘The Raven’

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

CHICAGO – “The Raven” is such a snooze fest that it could have the disastrous effect of turning young viewers off from actually reading Edgar Allan Poe. Trust me, young readers – nothing by Poe is this generic, dull, boring, or plain stupid. Taking the two hours of your life that it would take to see “The Raven” and reading anything by the man who inspired it would be a smarter use of your time. And you’d be less likely to fall asleep.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

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