Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: The Counselor

Action, Adventure, Film Books No Comments »

Counselor poster

But for a pitched altercation on a CTA bus between two elderly, raucously disagreeable men in wheelchairs—a not uncommon occurrence on the 66 bus, in my daily experience—I would have made it to the early morning screening of Ridley Scott’s filming of Cormac McCarthy’s script, the drug-deal-gone-oh-so-terribly-wrong tale “The Counselor” with minutes to spare. The studio showed the film to reviewers only this once, on Tuesday before a Friday opening, keeping it largely under wraps except for the visual sizzle of a few commercials shown on sports channels. Wonder why! While fate kept me from that screening, Vintage published the paperback ($14.95) a week earlier, and I continued to read it as I realized I would be a half an hour or more late. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre. On the page, this version is, I don’t know, bonkers? What’s a bigger pile-up of descriptors than brazenly bonkers batshit? Extended monologues alternately wound and caress the eye and, by some reports, what’s on screen deletes some of these scalding siroccos of language in favor of other sandy windstorms. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Escape From Tomorrow

Adventure, Experimental, Horror, Reviews No Comments »


Partially shot guerrilla-style at Disney theme parks but largely on soundstages or enhanced by green-screen work, Randy Moore’s amateurish labor-of-weird-love, “Escape From Tomorrow,” follows a single day in a middle-aged father’s life after he’s lost his job via phone call on a balcony overlooking the Magic Kingdom while his wife and two kids just want to see the park. Semi-surreal science fiction complications, botched horror and bad, flat acting erupt, as well as dad’s perverse and lecherous desire for two underaged French girls. Male middle-aged crisis writ large on a washed-out post-David Lynch palette, Moore’s subversive ambition is submerged by his project’s mere ickiness. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Lone Ranger

Adventure, Comedy, Reviews No Comments »


“The Lone Ranger” lifts lots of “Pirates” play, and Johnny Depp’s Tonto draws many a tic from his four turns in that franchise: now he’s Jack Sparrow wearing a dead crow as headgear. Director Gore Verbinski says he revised the saga of the lawman known as The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) and the Comanche called Tonto, to be just like Cervantes’ tale of the wandering of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. And this Ranger is indeed a delusional idealist. Instead of romance novels, upholding John Locke’s “Two Treatises on Civil Government” is his “bible.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Leviathan

Action, Adventure, Documentary, Recommended No Comments »


A fierce fish tale from POV of fish and sea. Plus: Clank. Groannn. Caw-caw-cawwwwww. RrrraPop. Shreeeeeee! Splurp. Ammmg. R r r rrrr— “Sweetgrass” filmmakers Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel of the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard University further their immersive excursions with the singular nonfiction artifact, “Leviathan,” aka “Heavy Metal Fishing Ship.” Off New Bedford, Massachusetts, once whaling capital of the world, they seek the secrets of the sea within and without the confines of one trawler among hundreds of weeks-long travails to harvest the riches of the ocean. There’s terror within the fishbelly of the beast, clamoring at work, and beneath the waves and in gull-serrated sky. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III

Adventure, Comedy, Drama No Comments »


An ancient Hollywood putdown was that a certain brood of directors didn’t grow old, they just became interior decorators. (Since the figures in question often made women’s pictures, it may have been a slur against gay filmmakers.) Roman Coppola seems to have been born a production designer, and there are moments in his video work and his scripts with Wes Anderson (“The Darjeeling Limited,” the Oscar-nominated “Moonrise Kingdom”) and second-unit director for Anderson and his sister, Sofia Coppola (“Somewhere,” “Marie Antoinette”), that elevate potential kitsch and tchotchke to a shiny, polished goodness, moments and moods that bring the glassiest fantasy to life. Read the rest of this entry »

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty: Circling Ang Lee and “Life Of Pi”

3-D, Adventure, Drama, Family, Recommended No Comments »

By Ray Pride

The great nineteenth-century Romantic painter of sky, water and tempest J. M. W. Turner wanted to lash himself to a mast  to get a full faceful of sea. There’s some of that giddy danger in the splendid surfaces and 3D depths of Ang Lee’s “Life Of Pi.”

The ferocious swells and intent visual beauty Lee has brought to Yann Martel’s best-selling seeking-of-the-spiritual yarn quickly evokes a second thought: “Kitty, kitty, kitty, nice kitty, here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty,” in response to a gorgeously rendered digital Bengal tiger named “Richard Parker.” From a shipwreck-and-survival story with lots of God bits studded within—the ship that sinks, Tsimtsum is named for a Kabbalistic concept that God must withdraw from a world he creates—Lee conjures something richer than Martel’s magical somnambulism. And David Magee’s script adaptation mocks overreach. A novelist who met his uncle back in India visits an older Pi: “He said you had a story that will make you believe in God.” And Pi says, smiling, “He would say that about a good meal.”

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Review: Red Dawn

Action, Adventure, Political No Comments »

An alarmist montage of actual news clips and made-up headlines opens “Red Dawn,” the long-on-the-shelf remake of John Milius’ 1984 original. His opened with “Soviet Union Suffers Worst Wheat Harvest in 55 Years” and “NATO Dissolves. United States Stands Alone.” Director Dan Bradley and writers Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore update the bad news with Obama warning of “cyber-threats” and fiscal crises in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. The juvenile action film relocates from Colorado to Washington State, and North Koreans replace the Cubans and Nicaraguans who parachute into Spokane and take over. Again, high school kids pile into a pick-up truck and race to the hills. Insurgency ensues. (See what C4 on a skateboard can do).

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Review: John Carter

Adventure, Animated, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, The State of Cinema No Comments »

Johnny Reb finds he belongs on Planet Red. Andrew Stanton’s most peculiar “John Carter,” which was produced as “John Carter of Mars,” and appears as the film’s end title, is a boy’s dream story come true, if you’re Andrew Stanton grown tall. Adapted from a novel in an Edgar Rice Burroughs’ series about a Confederate soldier transported to Mars, “John Carter” makes a mix of live action and animation into something deluxe but dinky, neither “Cowboys & Aliens” nor the original “Star Wars.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Captain America: First Avenger

3-D, Action, Adventure, Drama No Comments »

First unfurled in March 1941 by Timely Comics, Captain America goes from that ten-cent comic to the big screen in a summer action adventure built for ten-year-old boys. In 1943, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) lies five times to recruiters before Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), an Austrian scientist in exile in Brooklyn, reclassifies the asthmatic “4F” runt as “IA,” and recruits him into the Strategic Scientific Reserve for a “super-soldier” experiment. Steve is the sort of Brooklynite who gets beat up for chastising a jerk in a movie theater who heckles a patriotic newsreel. A massive injection of blue serum, followed by a blinding zap of Vita-Ray that taps half of Brooklyn’s electricity, “amplifies” Steve’s muscles, stature and righteousness. His homefront handlers brand him Captain America and put him on the road with show girls to hype war bonds. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Tabloid

Adventure, Documentary, Recommended, Romance No Comments »


There was a Sunday night back in mid-2010 when intermittent aphorist Errol Morris took to his Twitter account and sounded surprised, saying something like, Wow, I think I just finished a new movie, as if it had dropped fully formed in his lab. "Tabloid" was the result and it's a quirky quickie, as he turns a single-day interview with the bizarre, emphatic Joyce McKinney, into another meditation on storytelling and truth, with 1960s-tabloid style storytelling, alleged sex kidnappings, obsession, alleged Mormon conspiracies and Korean dog-cloning thrown into the mix. More recently, Morris' appearances with the film have been shadowed by McKinney, who doesn't love the giddy romp that her life's become on screen, and Morris marvels that these Q&As, with McKinney joining him on stage, are often longer than the film's taut eighty-eight-minute running time.  Read the rest of this entry »