Archive for July, 2009

Apatow’s latest a slower, more mature comic tale of second chances

Friday, July 31st, 2009
Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Eric Bana in "Funny People" Comedian George Simmons (Adam Sandler), left, and comic Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) watch Clarke (Eric Bana) go sports nutty in Judd Apatow’s third comedy feature “Funny People.”

“Funny People” is a frequently hilarious and more frequently poignant story of three people foolish enough to need a second chance in life, and smart enough to seize it when it comes around.

This marks the third movie directed by the talented Judd Apatow, and it bears the signature elements of his earlier works “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” – gross humor, funny and foul language, empathy for its flawed characters, and a refusal to employ a traditional Hollywood villain.

But there’s something else in “Funny People.” It’s a more sophisticated, mature, assured and reflective work that suggests Apatow is evolving as a storyteller.

This is a long movie, 146 minutes, and it’s not as crisp and peppy as it could be.

Nonetheless, it provides plenty of raucous, off-color jokes and character-driven humor, and it gives Adam Sandler a dare-to-be-great role that boldly satirizes his own career as a stand-up-comic-turned-movie-star. (Read more…)

A book-reporty look at the inventor of the sitcom

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Aviva Kempner’s documentary “Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg” is a journalistically sound, but conventional, book-reporty look at the amazing accomplishments of Gertrude Berg, whose long-running radio and TV show “The Goldbergs” invented the modern-day sitcom and gave Berg (writer, producer and star) the very first Emmy for best actress. Not rated. 92 minutes. (Read more…)

Now playing at the River East 21 in Chicago and Renaissance Place in Highland Park.


Friday, July 31st, 2009

Dramas about psychiatrists tend to bore and annoy me, and Jonas Pate’s “Shrink” reminds me why. Kevin Spacey expends a lot of charisma as Dr. Carter, a burnout shrink who chain-smokes weed and drinks his way through a parade of Hollywood types (Robin Williams, Robert Loggia, Saffron Burrows and others), unsympathetic characters. Rated R for drug use, language, sexual references. 104 minutes. (Read more…)

Now playing at the Century Centre in Chicago.

Film Noir Festival includes special guest Harry Belafonte

Friday, July 31st, 2009

The Music Box Theater and the Film Noir Foundation proudly present a week-long festival of film noirs. Musician and actor Harry Belafonte comes to Chicago for a Q & A after the screening of his 1959 film noir classic “Odds Against Tomorrow” on Saturday (August 1, 2009). It’s part of a weeklong festival of the best film noir, including “Double Indemnity,” “Framed,” “The Lady from Shanghai,” and the Chicago-set “Call Northside 777.” For details see

Guinea pig action flick ‘G-force’ deserves an F

Friday, July 24th, 2009
Jon Favreau from "G-force" Hurley (voiced by Jon Favreau) is the guinea pig who takes the cake in the animated adventure “G-force.”

The hits just keep getting dumber.

Walt Disney’s partially computer-animated “G-Force,” created by action-film mogul Jerry Bruckheimer’s production company, barely qualifies as a dumbed-down Saturday morning cartoon show on cinematic, 3-D steroids.

No thought of any character goes unvoiced.

No action occurs without a character explaining it.

Every idea gets cut up into little passive chunks and served to children – presumably the target audience for this noisy collection of surprisingly dingy, 3-D action sequences – so they’re spoon-fed every detail and never required to use their brains.

The plot is literally a plot to take over the world. (Read more…)

‘Soul Power’ goes behind scenes of Foreman, Ali fight

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Director-editor-producer Jeffrey Levy-Hinte took 30-year-old rolls of 16 mm film out of mothballs and created a toe-tapping piece of music history in this revealing documentary about the three-day concert preceding the 1974 fight between George Foreman and Muhammed Ali. (PG-13) 93 minutes. (Read more…)

Now playing at Pipers Alley in Chicago and Renaissance Place in Highland Park.


Friday, July 24th, 2009

It’s “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” without Carol & Alice. Two college buddies (Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard) get together and decide to have sex with each other in a homemade porn film. How can one break this to his wife (Alycia Delmore)? (Read more…)

Now playing at the Century Centre in Chicago.

‘In the Loop’

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Armed with clever, snappy lines and at least two Harry Potter references, “In the Loop” is a droll and dry political satire directed by Armando Iannucci with pseudo-documentary devices. (Think “Wag the Dog,” only not as crisp and quick.) (Read more…)

Now playing at the Century Centre in Chicago.

Attractive cast can’t save romantic ‘Ugly Truth’

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl in "The Ugly Truth" TV producer Abby (Katherine Heigl) resorts to accepting romantic advice from chauvinist Mike (Gerard Butler) in “The Ugly Truth.”

The ugly truth about “The Ugly Truth” is that this romantic comedy takes two popular actors and a clever, gimmicky idea – a chauvinistic TV commentator and a control-freak producer butt heads until they fall in love – and instantly dives into a shallow, contrived, battle-of-the-sexes tale brimming with obvious, recycled gags bordering on embarrassment.

Katherine Heigl stars as the TV producer, Abby Richter, who nearly freaks out one day when her boss informs her that their ratings-disaster of a Sacramento morning TV show will feature a new, edgy commentator: Mike Chadway.

Mike is played by Scottish superhunk and “300” star Gerard Butler. He’s like a cross between Howard Stern and Dr. Phil. He hosts “The Ugly Truth,” an in-your-face love program where he gives out relationship advice in crude, blunt language.

Mike is laid-back, crass and absolutely convinced that true love doesn’t exist for men. Just lust.

Abby is appalled. She believes in Mr. Right, especially if he can meet all the exacting criteria she has written down for the perfect guy. (Read more…)

Botched ‘Orphan’ adopts shoddy scare tactics

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
Isabelle Fuhrman in "Orphan" Adopted daughter Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) turns out to be less innocent than anyone imagines in the thriller “Orphan.”

“Orphan” wastes no time in letting us know that we’re in the hands of filmmakers who lack the skills and imagination to mount a well-constructed horror tale.

Near the beginning, Kate Coleman (Vera Farmiga) stands in the bathroom with the mirrored medicine cabinet door open. When she closes the door, her husband John (Peter Sarsgaard) suddenly appears in the mirror while the soundtrack plays a jolting noise!

Why? Why try to scare us in a scene where there’s nothing scary going on?

Later, as John works at his desk, the camera races up behind him as if someone is attacking him and we’re taking the attacker’s point of view.

But when John turns around, oops! There’s nobody there!

Ha, ha! ¬≠Those “Orphan” filmmakers sure fooled us, didn’t they? (Read more…)