July 2011

Film Review: ‘Sarah’s Key’ Unlocks the Ever-Present Past

Sarah's Key

CHICAGO – The old saying, “those who cannot remember the past is doomed to repeat it” applies succinctly in “Sarah’s Key,” a Holocaust film with a French twist. Kristin Scott Thomas plays an American journalist who uncovers the facts in a less-remembered incident that reverberates to now.

‘Sarah’s Key’ Unlocks the Ever-Present Past

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

CHICAGO – The old saying, “those who cannot remember the past is doomed to repeat it” applies succinctly in “Sarah’s Key,” a Holocaust film with a French twist. Kristin Scott Thomas plays an American journalist who uncovers the facts in a less-remembered incident that reverberates to now.

Film Review: ‘Another Earth’ Reflects on Nature of Existence

Another Earth, Earth in Sky

CHICAGO – “Another Earth” is a delicate movie. The emotions, atmosphere and philosophy feels like the whole thing could shatter at any moment, that’s how balanced it is on the edge of tomorrow. Through Brit Marling’s screenplay and performance, the very nature of who we are is questioned.

‘Another Earth’ Reflects on Nature of Existence

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

CHICAGO – “Another Earth” is a delicate movie. The emotions, atmosphere and philosophy feels like the whole thing could shatter at any moment, that’s how balanced it is on the edge of tomorrow. Through Brit Marling’s screenplay and performance, the very nature of who we are is questioned.

Film Review: Only the Kiddies Will Connect to ‘The Smurfs’

The Smurfs

CHICAGO – There is nothing wrong with “The Smurfs” that a thousand volts of electricity couldn’t cure. It is well made, looks good in the optional 3-D and has a competent cast trying their hardest. What it lacks is a spark, either of nostalgia or a fresh update, as it meanders with the seen-it-all-before template.

Only the Kiddies Will Connect to ‘The Smurfs’

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

CHICAGO – There is nothing wrong with “The Smurfs” that a thousand volts of electricity couldn’t cure. It is well made, looks good in the optional 3-D and has a competent cast trying their hardest. What it lacks is a spark, either of nostalgia or a fresh update, as it meanders with the seen-it-all-before template.

Film Review: Future Cult Hit in Fun B-Movie ‘Attack the Block’

CHICAGO – Jon Favreau’s “Cowboys & Aliens” opens today and is guaranteed to make millions more at the international box office than Joe Cornish’s “Attack the Block.” That’s the bad news. The good news is that I can also guarantee you that history will regard the smaller film as the significantly better one. The line for this future cult hit starts here. Get in it before your friends tell you to.

Future Cult Hit in Fun B-Movie ‘Attack the Block’

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

CHICAGO – Jon Favreau’s “Cowboys & Aliens” opens today and is guaranteed to make millions more at the international box office than Joe Cornish’s “Attack the Block.” That’s the bad news. The good news is that I can also guarantee you that history will regard the smaller film as the significantly better one. The line for this future cult hit starts here. Get in it before your friends tell you to.

HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: 25 Pairs of Chicago Passes to ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ With James Franco

Rise of the Planet of the Apes with James Franco

CHICAGO – In our latest action/drama/sci-fi edition of HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: Film, we have 25 admit-two advance-screening passes up for grabs to the early Chicago screening of the new film “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” starring James Franco!

Film Review: Jenna Fischer Falls Victim to Weak Screenwriting in ‘A Little Help’

A Little Help
HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Despite the best efforts by Jenna Fischer (“The Office”) playing against type as a smoking, drinking newly-single mother, “A Little Help” is a mess. This dramedy consists of the kind of characters one only sees in a movie theater and usually only in an indie flick that thinks it’s much smarter and has much more to say about the human condition than it actually does.

Jenna Fischer Falls Victim to Weak Screenwriting in ‘A Little Help’

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

CHICAGO – Despite the best efforts by Jenna Fischer (“The Office”) playing against type as a smoking, drinking newly-single mother, “A Little Help” is a mess. This dramedy consists of the kind of characters one only sees in a movie theater and usually only in an indie flick that thinks it’s much smarter and has much more to say about the human condition than it actually does.

TV News: HBO Announces Fall Premiere Dates Including ‘Boardwalk Empire’

Boardwalk Empire

CHICAGO – In the heat of HBO summer broadcasting, currently in seasons of “True Blood” “Entourage” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the network has announced some important dates coming this fall. Most importantly, the hit crime drama “Boardwalk Empire” is set to make its season two debut on Sunday September 25.

DVD Review: ‘Park Benches’ Features Dazzling French Ensemble

Park Benches DVD

CHICAGO – Episodic ensemble pieces in America often follow a contrived pattern typified by Paul Haggis’s “Crash.” Various diverse lives are juxtaposed and intersect while illustrating an overarching theme. What’s so refreshing about Bruno Podalydès’s 2009 French gem, “Park Benches,” is its utter lack of dramatic significance. It’s more interested in exploring the idiosyncrasies of humanity rather than preaching a self-important message.

Film Review: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford in Dull ‘Cowboys & Aliens’

CHICAGO – Jon Favreau’s “Cowboys & Aliens” with Daniel Craig & Harrison Ford is a depressing snooze, a film with so many of the right elements but none of the personality to connect them into something memorable. With so many revisions from a number of writers, it feels like everyone added their own color to the piece until it all faded to gray.

Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford in Dull ‘Cowboys & Aliens’

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

CHICAGO – Jon Favreau’s “Cowboys & Aliens” with Daniel Craig & Harrison Ford is a depressing snooze, a film with so many of the right elements but none of the personality to connect them into something memorable. With so many revisions from a number of writers, it feels like everyone added their own color to the piece until it all faded to gray.

TV News: Frank Darabont Steps Down From ‘The Walking Dead;’ Premiere Date Announced

The Walking Dead (right size)

CHICAGO – While the entire story has not been fully revealed, the fact still remains that AMC’s hottest series has lost its showrunner. Frank Darabont, head writer and producer of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” as well as director of films such as “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile,” has walked away from the hit zombie series after only one completed season.

Film Review: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling in Great ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love.’

CHICAGO – “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” is undeniably clichéd, broad in its humor, and a bit manipulative in its sentimentality, but it should be. This is a movie about grand statements, soulmates, and true passion, a film that unabashedly believes in the craziness and the stupidity of what we call love. It’s also one of the most purely entertaining films of the year.

Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling in Great ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love.’

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

CHICAGO – “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” is undeniably clichéd, broad in its humor, and a bit manipulative in its sentimentality, but it should be. This is a movie about grand statements, soulmates, and true passion, a film that unabashedly believes in the craziness and the stupidity of what we call love. It’s also one of the most purely entertaining films of the year.

DVD Review: ‘Jersey Shore Uncensored: Season Three’ Continues Reality Phenomenon

Jersey Shore S3

CHICAGO – When most people hear that I’m a TV critic, they usually make a snarky comment about the disaster of reality TV. While I agree that a vast majority of it is nearly unbearable, I don’t think it’s fair to lump the entire genre into one negative bundle. It’s not surprising that I love the critical darlings like “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race,” and “Top Chef” but jaws drop when I try to defend MTV’s massive hit “Jersey Shore,” the third season of which was just released in an uncensored, 4-disc set.

Interview: Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner Opens the Door With ‘Sarah’s Key’

Sarah's Key

CHICAGO – For every instance of “monumental” history, there are a series of events surrounding it that gets swept under the rug, but have the same bearing as the bigger occurrence. Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner tells one of those background stories in “Sarah’s Key,” a sorrowful piece of French history during World War II.

Interview: Brit Marling Looks Inside ‘Another Earth’

CHICAGO – One of the true powers of the new film “Another Earth,” is the essential performance of Brit Marling as Rhoda, the lead character who seeks redemption in the midst of an interplanetary event that shakes up the universe. Her deep portrayal is enhanced by her role as co-writer of the screenplay.

Film Feature: 10 Most Controversial Moments in ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’

Deathly Hollows Feature

CHICAGO – Taken as one complete film, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” is easily the best installment of the series. By splitting J.K. Rowling’s spellbinding final book into two parts, director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves had much more time to pace each sequence and develop each character to the best of their ability. The added minutes have enabled them to deliver a rousing finale to one of the greatest franchises in history.

Trailer Tracking: ‘Drive,’ ‘Contagion,’ ‘Paranormal Activity 3,’ ‘Haywire’

CHICAGO – However, unexpectedly, the past few weeks have seen the release of some major trailers for movies that are targeted for typically off-season release months (September, October, January), and most of them look fairly awesome. While a few underwhelm (looking at you, “Paranormal Activity 3”), the rest feature some of the coolest, most exciting movie trailers that we’ve seen all year.

Blu-Ray Review: ‘Take Me Home Tonight’ Features String of Bad Decisions

Take Me Home Tonight, Topher Grace and Matt Folger

CHICAGO – Most comedies feature a few key decisions or even just a few moments where you, the viewer, know someone made the wrong choice. Whether it’s something as small as thinking that a punchline works when it doesn’t or something major like the wrong casting decision, modern movie goers are smart enough to tell when they’re watching something dumb. “Take Me Home Tonight,” recently released on Blu-ray and DVD is very, VERY dumb.

Blu-Ray Review: Satyajit Ray’s ‘The Music Room’ Gains New Life on Criterion

The Music Room Blu-Ray

CHICAGO – In between the second and third installments of his infamous “Apu Trilogy,” Bengali master of cinema Satyajit Ray made two films that were striking departures from his signature portrait of poverty-stricken youth. The first was 1958’s failed comedy “The Philosopher’s Stone” (sorry, Potterheads, no relation) and the second was 1959’s masterpiece, “The Music Room.”

Interview: Actor Brendan Wayne on His Legacy in ‘Cowboys & Aliens’

CHICAGO – Brendan Wayne is certainly no stranger to cowboys. As the grandson of one of the greatest western stars ever, John Wayne, Brendan carries on the family tradition in the upcoming Jon Favreau film “Cowboys & Aliens,” featuring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford.

On CinemaJaw’s Podcast: HollywoodChicago.com’s Adam Fendelman on the Best Video Game Movies

CinemaJaw

CHICAGO – HollywoodChicago.com founder and publisher Adam Fendelman joins the 80th episode of the CinemaJaw podcast to discuss the best video game movies (if there are any). Listen now below to find out which make the top five!

Video Game Review: ‘Call of Juarez: The Cartel’ Blows Itself Up

CHICAGO – Rarely have I played a game more frustrating than “Call of Juarez: The Cartel.” It’s far from the worst game of the year. It’s not even the worst game of the season. But it’s underdeveloped, disappointing, and sometimes plain broken when it could have been something truly great. This is a game that should have worked and there are elements that do but the overall title never quite comes together.

Blu-Ray Review: Akira Kurosawa’s Riveting Thriller ‘High and Low’

High and Low

CHICAGO – Very few films from 1963 have the timelessness of Akira Kurosawa’s perfect thriller “High and Low,” a daring piece of tension-building work that takes place almost entirely in one room and in real-time. With people like Martin Scorsese, Mike Nichols, and David Mamet circling a potential remake for years, it’s no wonder the film was chosen for the Blu-ray upgrade this month by Criterion. It’s a classic from one of the form’s best directors.

HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: 30 Pairs of Chicago Passes to Saddam Hussein Film ‘The Devil’s Double’ With Dominic Cooper

The Devil's Double with Dominic Cooper

CHICAGO – In our latest dramatic biography edition of HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: Film, we have 30 admit-two passes up for grabs to the advance Chicago screening of the new film “The Devil’s Double” starring Dominic Cooper as the man who was forced to become the double of Saddam Hussein’s sadistic son!

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  • Space Force

    CHICAGO – Seemingly ripped from the headlines, by way of “Dr. Strangelove,” the new Netflix TV series “Space Force” debuted on May 29th, 2020. Patrick McDonald of HollywoodChicago.com reviewed the series during the Eddie Volkman Show (Star 96.7 FM in Joliet, Illinois) on June 5th, 2020.

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