Archive for October, 2009

Reeling ’09 for real

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Thirty-three features, lots of docs, shorts and discussions will highlight Reeling: The 28th annual Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival, running from Thursday, November 5 through Sunday, November 15 at four Chicago locations.

Go to for details.

All M*A*S*H-ed up

Saturday, October 31st, 2009
Faye Dunaway and Amy Acker in "21 and a Wake-Up" Major Thorn (Faye Dunaway), left, lectures Captain Murphy (Amy Acker) about discipline in the indie “21 and a Wake-Up.”

“21 and a Wake-Up,” the first American-made Vietnam War movie shot where the conflict happened, could pass as an ambitious, rookie student film with its amateurish performances, cornball dialogue and possibly the worst editing job outside of an old Albert Pyun action movie.

Fittingly released on Halloween weekend, “21” offers a truly scary performance by 68-year-old Faye Dunaway as Major Thorn, a by-the-book commander who locks horns with Captain Murphy (Amy Acker), an “undisciplined” female Hawkeye Pierce at the U.S. 24th Evac Hospital during the final days of the war.

“21” was written and directed by Chris McIntyre, who served as a Marine stationed in Vietnam during the war. He based his film on real events, which, ironically, come off here as Hollywood creations, especially when Murphy travels into Cambodia on a secret mission to retrieve a Vietnamese-American girl, the daughter of an Army surgeon killed during a blatantly telegraphed “surprise” explosion. (Read more…) Rated: R (language, nudity and violence). 120 minutes.

Now playing at local theaters.

No-commercial Catlow

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

I couldn’t believe my eyeballs, but there it was in the Daily Herald movie ads buried in fine print: “No commercial ads shown before feature.”

What? The Catlow Theater in Barrington doesn’t show commercials before movies as other suburban movie houses do?

This I had to check out.

I got on the phone and asked for a quote from Catlow co-owner Roberta Rapata about why her theater doesn’t show commercials. Her response was blunt:

“If you want to see commercials, stay at home.”

Gee, that pretty much covers it. (Read more…)

‘Omen’ overload? Had it up to here with ‘Halloween’? Try these nine

Friday, October 30th, 2009
Scene from "The Mist" A mysterious fog leads to horror in “The Mist,” a tense thriller worth checking out this weekend.

Right about now, you probably want to scream when someone suggests another scary movie you can rent, buy or watch for the impending Halloween weekend.

We all know the standard horror classics don’t we? Let’s see: “The Exorcist,” “The Haunting” (1963 original), “Halloween” (1978 original), “Night of the Living Dead” (1968 original), “Psycho” (1960 original), “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1975 original), “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956 original), “Alien,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Evil Dead,” “The Omen,” and on and on.

What about those not-so-classic scary movies? The ones that hover just below the mainstream popular radar?

They may not be regarded as on the same level as Tim Burton’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” but the following alternative scary movies might just fit the bill for something different this weekend. (Read more…)

Willem Dafoe embraces controversial role in ‘Antichrist’

Saturday, October 24th, 2009
Willem Dafoe in "Antichrist" A grieving father (Willem Dafoe) takes his wife to a cabin in the woods with disastrous results in the controversial “Antichrist.”

Most people probably know Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin from the first blockbuster “Spider-Man” movie.

But the two-time Oscar nominee is also a star of what will certainly be the most controversial, polarizing motion picture of 2009: Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist,” opening today at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago.

He and Charlotte Gainsbourg play a husband and wife who lose a child, then go to an isolated cabin in the woods to work out guilt and grief, with shocking, catastrophic results.

I sat down with Dafoe at Chicago’s Wit Hotel in the Loop and asked him the burning question: When shooting the two hard-core sex scenes in “Antichrist,” did he use a “stunt double”?

“I did on those two porn shots,” Dafoe said.

“We did a lot of stuff nude,” he added, “but he (Lars) cut it out because he said it was too distracting.”

“Antichrist” has the ability to really upset some viewers, especially if they’re not prepared for what they’re about to experience.

“I can understand why,” Dafoe said, “if you’re not interested in unfamiliar things. If you’re not interested in some rough, visceral moments, seeing things you’re not usually seeing in films. I understand that. And it’s not so much those rough moments as those unrelenting meditations on guilt, and depression. (Read more…)

8th Annual Flashback Weekend

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

The eighth annal “Flashback Weekend” starts Friday, October 23 and runs through Sunday, October 25 at the Wyndham O’Hare, 6810 N. Mannheim Road in Rosemont. Horror file celebrities scheduled to appear include Robert Englund (“Freddy Krueger”), Lance Henriksen (“Near Dark”, “Aliens”), Jenette Goldstein (“Near Dark”, “Aliens”), Tim Thomerson (“Near Dark”) and many more.

The event will be hosted by Daily Herald Film Critic Dann Gire, WGN radio superstar Nick Digilio and Ain’t It Cool News critic Steve Prokopy. Also scheduled to appear is Chicago’s own Rich Koz as Svengoolie.

Go to for details.

Cost: Friday Single day – $20.00
Saturday Single day – $25.00
Sunday Single day – $20.00
Weekend Pass – $50.00

Wyndham O’Hare
6810 N. Mannheim Road

Movie lover scares up annual Flashback convention

Saturday, October 24th, 2009
Lance Henriksen from "Aliens" and "Near Dark" Actor Lance Henriksen, star of “Aliens,” is part of a “Near Dark” vampire reunion at this year’s Flashback Weekend.

I know all about the sacrifices that Mike Kerz made to turn his dream of a horror convention into a reality.

I met Mike when he was a manager at One Schaumburg Place Cinemas, and he had this crazy idea that if a celebrity came to visit, more people would know about the theater and come to see movies at it.

So he invited Karolyn Grimes, who played little Zuzu Bailey, Jimmy Stewart’s daughter in the Frank Capra classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” to visit the Schaumburg theater. More than 2,000 fans streamed into the place to meet her.

And the Loews employees grumbled.

“These people aren’t buying tickets!” they complained.

Then, Mike brought in cult idol Bruce Campbell, star of the infamous “Evil Dead” horror films, to promote his book “If Chins Could Kill.”

An estimated 3,000 people lined up around the theater to see Campbell.

And the Loews employees grumbled even more. (Read more…)

Animated ‘Astro Boy’ fueled by fun — but has a conscience, as well

Saturday, October 24th, 2009
Toby (voiced by Freddie Highmore) in "Astro Boy" A cute robot with a punked ‘do saves a planet from corrupt politicians and android slavery in the animated “Astro Boy.”

This movie had me at “What? I’ve got machine guns in my butt?”

The slick, computer-animated action film “Astro Boy” will probably not please fans of Tezuka Osamu’s original 1952 Japanese “manga” comic book about the adventures of a superpowered boy robot on a vaguely distant futuristic world.

David Bowers’ big-screen adaptation has been westernized out the ying-yang. Then, Saturday-morning-cartoonized on top of that.

But its thoughtfully selected voice cast, lean and quick pace, plus zillions of zany pop culture references make it joyously fun, even if originality isn’t its strong suit.

I practically filled my notebook with these nifty, throwaway allusions to other works.

“Frankenstein” is in this movie. So is Steven Spielberg’s “A.I.” (via “Pinocchio”). And “Oliver Twist.” And the gold-glowing briefcase from Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.” And arcanely enough, the old “Magnus: Robot Fighter” comic books.

The story takes place, as Charlize Theron’s voice-over narration lectures us, on a world that has separated the haves from have-nots. (Read more…)

‘Vampire’s Assistant’ loses its bite in latest incarnation

Saturday, October 24th, 2009
Chris Massoglia, Josh Hutcherson and Michael Cerveris in "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" Darren (Chris Massoglia), left, takes on his pal Steve (Josh Hutcherson) as puppet master Mr. Tiny (Michael Cerveris) watches in “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant.”

When you come out of Paul Weitz’s comic horror film “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant,” you don’t feel like you’ve watched a real movie.

It’s more like the pilot episode of a new teen-centric TV show where the main characters get introduced and all the ground work gets laid for the plots of future episodes.

Actually, I really liked the first half of “Vampire’s Assistant,” back when it was called Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” about two best pals – complete opposites – who sneak off to see a mysterious traveling circus and wind up in the clutches of evil.

The opposite best pals in “Vampire’s Assistant” are high school students Darren (a blandly benign Chris Massoglia), a goodie-two-shoes kid who earns top grades, and Steve (an edgy Josh Hutcherson), a disgruntled, troublemaking rebel from a broken home.

Steve, who’s such a fervid vampire fan that he wants to become one, goes nuts when he sees a flier promoting a freak show in town. He drags Darren to it, and in the middle of the program – a special-effects enhanced parade of shocking physical deformities – swears that the flame-haired emcee is a vampire from one of his books.

Indeed he is. (Read more…)

Reel Life review: ‘Motherhood’

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Already this year, I’ve seen two movies about whiny, inferiority-complexed women who seek personal validation by writing blogs about their put-upon lives.

First came “Julie & Julia” featuring Amy Adams as a blogger out to cook up all of Julia Child’s French recipes. She was cute, despite being shallow and irritating.

Now comes Katherine Dieckmann’s “Motherhood” starring Uma Thurman as an unemployed Manhattanite mommy who struggles to get by on a limited budget, struggles to deal with her eccentric hubby (Anthony Edwards) who won’t answer his cell phone, struggles to walk up the steps of her elevatorless high-rise, struggles to raise two cute kids and struggles to keep viewers awake. (Read more…) Rated: PG-13 (sexual and drug references, plus language). 90 minutes.

Opens Friday, October 23 at local theaters.