January 2014

Film Review: ‘At Middleton’ Never Reaches Its Star Power Potential

At Middleton II

CHICAGO – Since the world has been clamoring for a film about high school seniors touring a liberal arts college, “At Middleton” fills the bill, and throws in a symbolic midlife liaison between characters portrayed by Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga, tripping across their own “life campus.”

‘At Middleton’ Never Reaches Its Star Power Potential

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

CHICAGO – Since the world has been clamoring for a film about high school seniors touring a liberal arts college, “At Middleton” fills the bill, and throws in a symbolic midlife liaison between characters portrayed by Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga, tripping across their own “life campus.”

Film Review: ‘That Awkward Moment’ Another Dishonest Rom-Com

CHICAGO – “That Awkward Moment” posits its cheeky hashtag of a title concept as one relating to when Friday night flings yield from becoming Saturday daytime couplings (to paraphrase Woody Harrelson’s wisdom in “Friends with Benefits”).

‘That Awkward Moment’ Another Dishonest Rom-Com

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

CHICAGO – “That Awkward Moment” posits its cheeky hashtag of a title concept as one relating to when Friday night flings yield from becoming Saturday daytime couplings (to paraphrase Woody Harrelson’s wisdom in “Friends with Benefits”).

Film Review: ‘Labor Day’ Provides Meaning to Romantic Tension

CHICAGO – There is a real power when the right filmmaker connects with the right performers. What appears on the surface to be a slight and well-worn story, gains a decided psychological edge. ‘Labor Day’ features Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, and writer/director Jason Reitman.

‘Labor Day’ Provides Meaning to Romantic Tension

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

CHICAGO – There is a real power when the right filmmaker connects with the right performers. What appears on the surface to be a slight and well-worn story, gains a decided psychological edge. “Labor Day” features Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, and writer/director Jason Reitman.

Blu-ray Review: Memory of Adolescence Captured in Mesmerizing ‘The Long Day Closes’

The Long Day Closes

What do you remember of your childhood? Other than major events, the majority of your memories are probably vaguely defined and few films have more deftly captured that hazy recollection of youth than Terence Davies’ riveting “The Long Day Closes.” More of an art piece than a traditional narrative, the film, recently added to The Criterion Collection, may first seem slow but becomes transfixing in the deliberate way that its creator doesn’t seek to replicate history but his memory of it.

HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: 20 Family 4-Packs to ‘The LEGO Movie’ with Chris Pratt

CHICAGOFamily 4-packs! In the latest HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: Film with our unique social giveaway technology, we have 20 family 4-packs (80 seats in total) up for grabs to the highly anticipated animated comedy “The LEGO Movie” starring Chris Pratt!

Interview: Andy Garcia Finds His Character ‘At Middleton’

CHICAGO – The actor Andy Garcia has been known throughout the years as a tough-guy leading man, with memorable roles in “The Godfather: Part III” and the “Ocean’s Eleven” series. He latest role is a gentle and comic turn, as a father doing a college tour with his son, and discovering more than expected in “At Middleton.”

HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: 75 Pairs of Passes to ‘Draft Day’ with Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner

CHICAGOSee it free more than 2 months early! In the latest HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: Film with our unique social giveaway technology, we have 75 pairs of advance-screening passes up for grabs to the new sports drama “Draft Day” starring Kevin Costner!

What to Watch: Jan. 28-Feb. 3, 2014

Rush

We’re back! After a week off in Park City, What to Watch is back with 8 movies for you to check out at your local Blu-ray shop or download on your favorite streaming service. Some great variety this week, including a fantastic On Demand debut starring Elijah Wood & John Cusack, a few classics, and a couple of current Oscar nominees.

Interview: Author Joyce Maynard for New Film ‘Labor Day’

CHICAGO – She has had two of her books adapted by top modern directors – Gus Van Sant directed “To Die For” (1995), and Jason Reitman is just about to release “Labor Day,” starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. But the journey of author Joyce Maynard extends even beyond these accomplishments, affecting literary history.

Blu-ray Review: Teen Movies Don’t Get Better Than ‘The Spectacular Now’

The Spectacular Now

We are surrounded by fiction about teenagers that treats both its subjects and its target audience like idiots. So few filmmakers understand the problems and emotions of young people that when a film as great as “The Spectacular Now” comes along (my #13 of 2013), it’s a small miracle. Reminiscent of the best of Cameron Crowe, James Ponsoldt’s adaptation of Tim Tharp’s novel (from a script robbed of an Oscar nod by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber) is a fantastic drama about a kid realizing that he may be peaking in high school. The Blu-ray is well-accompanied by a fantastic commentary from Ponsoldt, 20 minutes of deleted scenes, and featurettes.

Film Feature: The 10 Best Films of Sundance 2014

The instant-response nature of our media has forced a bizarre question on nearly every minute of the Sundance Film Festival — “Is it a GOOD year?” Journalists and festival goers talk in hushed tones about the first time they saw beloved Sundance films like “Clerks,” “Bottle Rocket,” “Winter’s Bone,” or “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and wonder if there’s anything this year to compare. Personally, I had a spectacular year.

Theatre Review: Marriott’s Too-Clean ‘Cabaret’ Conservatively Mutes Much-Needed Vulgarity

CHICAGO – It’s “Cabaret” for god’s sake. It’s not “Bambi”. You’re supposed to need to leave the kids at home watching their own Disney flick. You don’t go to McDonald’s to eat healthy just like you don’t go to “Cabaret” for good clean fun.

Slideshow: Women in Film Chicago 2014 Kick-Off Party

| Image 1 of 9 |
Women in Film Chicago 2014 Kick-Off Party at Leviathan.

CHICAGO – For over 30 years, Women in Film has been building a global community of film, television, advertising, digital and on-screen media professionals. The Chicago chapter is a vibrant part of that community, and on January 23rd Women in Film Chicago began the new year with their 2014 Kick-Off Party.

Theatre Review: ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ Returns With Ingénue Julia Udine, Enigmatic Cooper Grodin

The Phantom of the Opera at the Cadillac Palace

CHICAGO – The Phantom in one word? An enigma. But he’s so much more. He’s lonely, desperately in love, a musical genius, misunderstood, vengeful, afraid and angry at a world that was so cruel to him. His shining beacon out of the darkness is his music – and falling for Christine. But The Phantom has to try to force her to feel the same way. He doesn’t want your pity. He just wants to be musical, loved and understood.

Film Review: Mediated Performances Highlight Alternative Story of Charles Dickens’ Personal Life

The Invisible Woman
HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

After years of enlivening adapted work in front of the camera and on the stage, only recently has the prolific actor Ralph Fiennes taken to directing films; in 2011 he gave the world a version of Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus,” which included the odd treat of watching Gerard Butler espouse the Bard’s words from his mouth, and a sporadically-lauded performance from Vanessa Redgrave.

Mediated Performances Highlight Alternative Story of Charles Dickens’ Personal Life

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

After years of enlivening adapted work in front of the camera and on the stage, only recently has the prolific actor Ralph Fiennes taken to directing films; in 2011 he gave the world a version of Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus,” which included the odd treat of watching Gerard Butler espouse the Bard’s words from his mouth, and a sporadically-lauded performance from Vanessa Redgrave.

Film Feature: 10 Biggest Snubs of the 2014 Oscar Nominations

As there are upwards of 6,000 members in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, I simply do not have the time or wherewithal to graffiti on everyone’s house “Robert Redford?” However, I can at least make a post on the internet calling out those they have snubbed; exposing where their collective categorizing as a majority of old white males went wrong.

Interview: Hanson Brothers to Introduce ‘Slap Shot’ in Chicagoland

Hanson Brothers

CHICAGO – The legendary Hanson Brothers, those child-like ice hockey enforcers from the classic sports film, “Slap Shot” (1977), will be in the Chicago area January 24th-26th, introducing the movie, signing autographs and greeting admirers at the Hollywood Palms Cinema in Naperville, Ill., and the Hollywood Blvd Cinema in Woodridge.

Film Review: Earnest ‘Gimme Shelter’ Needs More Truth

CHICAGO – The balancing act between reality and drama in based-on-truth narratives is as delicate as walking the high wire. Pour in too much drama, and a story can feel like a soap opera. “Gimme Shelter,” although earnestly and achingly performed, has that sudsy protocol.

Earnest ‘Gimme Shelter’ Needs More Truth

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

CHICAGO – The balancing act between reality and drama in based-on-truth narratives is as delicate as walking the high wire. Pour in too much drama, and a story can feel like a soap opera. “Gimme Shelter,” although earnestly and achingly performed, has that sudsy protocol.

HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: 50 Pairs of Passes to ‘Labor Day’ with Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin

CHICAGO – In the latest HollywoodChicago.com Hookup: Film with our unique social giveaway technology, we have 50 pairs of advance-screening passes up for grabs to the highly anticipated new drama “Labor Day” starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin!

2014 Sundance Diary, Day 6: Wrapping it Up with a Twisted Double Feature

Park City was abuzz on the final day with guesses as to what the secret screening known as “Film X” would be on Tuesday night. Could it be Wes Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel”? Maybe “Foxcatcher,” which was almost done in time for awards season and so may be now? “Snowpiercer”? The new Kevin Smith? “Star Wars, Episode VII”?

Interview: Director Ron Krauss, Kathy DiFiore for ‘Gimme Shelter’

Gimme Shelter 2013, Ron Krauss

CHICAGO – The opportunity for a new film to also take up a cause is one of the advantages of the movies as mass art. “Gimme Shelter” is the based-on-truth story of a runaway pregnant teen named Apple (Vanessa Hudgens) who needs the titular sanctuary to give birth. Director Ron Krauss leads an all-star cast, including Ann Dowd (“Compliance”), who portrayed the real-life facilitator of the shelter for single mothers, Kathy DiFiore.

2014 Sundance Diary, Day 5: Memorable Characters Descend on Park City

Exhaustion is settling in but the movies have been consistently good to great. Four movies in a row that variably thrilled or entertained me but definitely left with strong impressions of unforgettable characters. And one of them may be a masterpiece.

Interview: New Role for Vanessa Hudgens in ‘Gimme Shelter’

CHICAGO – Vanessa Hudgens, the former teen actor from the “High School Musical” franchise, has a brand new bag. Besides shocking movie audiences with her memorable performance in last year’s “Spring Breakers,” Hudgens deconstructs her glam image in the new film, “Gimme Shelter.”

2014 Sundance Diary, Day 4: Emotions Flow Over Busy Festival

It’s funny how things start to pair up over festivals. You’ll notice themes across at least two films, maybe more. Could just be the exhaustion. The six films I’ve seen since I last filed a diary definitely partner nicely and yet one can also trace through lines through them, despite their completely different genres. Let’s get going…

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  • Yellowstone, Season 5

    CHICAGO – Patrick McDonald of HollywoodChicago.com audio streaming series review for “Yellowstone,” the popular Western series set in modern Montana … in Season 5. Available to stream on the Paramount Network and through Video On Demand beginning November 13th.

  • Paranormal Activity: The Ultimate Chills Collection

    CHICAGO – Patrick McDonald of HollywoodChicago.com appears on Eddie Volkman Show with Hannah B on Star 96.7 WSSR-FM (Joliet, IL) reviewing the new Paramount Pictures Blu-Ray Collection of “Paranormal Activity: The Ultimate Chills Collection,” containing all seven films in the series plus a documentary.

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