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Octavia Spencer

‘The Shack’ is About Spirituality, Not Filmmaking

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

CHICAGO – To create spirituality from tragedy is like shooting the proverbial fish – a prominent symbol for Christianity – in a barrel. “The Shack” is based on a popular novel, and doesn’t try to do anything different or cinematic with a man encountering the Holy Trinity after a horrific incident.

Brainiac Fulfillment is the Key to ‘Hidden Figures’

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

CHICAGO – In America, there is the history we have, and the history that we want to have happened. “Hidden Figures” falls into the second category, but it’s presented in such a way that it fulfills the goal – tell an amazing story about a group of African American women who helped launch men into space.

‘Zootopia’ is an Odd But Endearing Disney Animated Film

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

CHICAGO – Walt Disney Studio’s latest animated extravaganza is best viewed as a child’s introduction to the buddy cop movie, since you can’t exactly start a toddler on “Midnight Run” or “Lethal Weapon 2.” But in this case it’s a bunny cop movie.

Shortage of Spark Makes ‘The Divergent Series: Insurgent’ a Second-String Effort

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

CHICAGO – “The Divergent Series: Insurgent” does nothing to change the “Divergent” series status as an off brand Young Adult epic. As we’ve seen with “The Hunger Games,” these Young Adult franchises can be lots of fun and be faithful to their source material. But “Insurgent” has the same problem as the first two “Harry Potter” films – it’s too faithful, coupled with a dearth of inspiration behind the camera.

Story Choices Aside, Heart Matters in ‘Black or White’

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

CHICAGO – As race issues continue in the news, in the wake of Ferguson and “I Can’t Breathe,” the movies exhibit an extraordinary piece of timing with the new film “Black or White.” Oscar winners Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer participate in a story of family and healing.

James Brown Bio ‘Get On Up’ Stuck in a Funk

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

CHICAGO – “Get On Up” contains one dynamite performance trapped in a frustratingly mediocre movie. James Brown’s life and music offer a wealth of material to work with, but that doesn’t necessarily adhere to the conventions of a formulaic musical biopic.

‘Snowpiercer’ is a Wild Ride, One-of-a-Kind Dystopia

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

CHICAGO – Travelers. We are travelers in this life, and metaphorically we’re mostly in coach, but sometimes manage to get some first class treatment. What if all this traveling were confined to one vehicle? Imagine a future world contained in a constantly traveling train, and the premise for “Snowpiercer” realizes a one-of-a-kind dystopia.

Diablo Cody Loses Tone in Awful ‘Paradise’

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

CHICAGO – Diablo Cody’s directorial debut, “Paradise,” now available everywhere On Demand and released this Friday in some markets theatrically, is an unmitigated disaster. It’s the most tonally inconsistent film of 2013, a flick that fluctuates wildly from broad satire to manipulative drama to something altogether indescribably bad.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is Emotionally Wrecked in ‘Smashed’

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

CHICAGO – “Young Drunks in Love” could be the subtitle of the new film “Smashed,’ or maybe “Recovery Can’t Recover All.” Regardless, Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a career-defining performance as a young adult facing up to that adulthood, and leaving behind everything she has known for a life that’s healthier, but less familiar.

Emma Stone, Viola Davis Lend a Hand to ‘The Help’

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

CHICAGO – Using fiction to express the importance of real historical events is seductive and sometimes disingenuous. The new film “The Help” manages to counteract that notion through high level, emotional performances.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • 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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