Archive for November, 2009

‘Blind Side’ a winning combination of grit, idealism

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009
Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner in " Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) gives Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) a pep talk in “The Blind Side.”

I dreaded the press screening of “The Blind Side,” because all the TV commercials and theatrical trailers made it look like just another fact-based white savior movie like “Glory,” “Men of Honor” and “Glory Road.”

You know the genre, where noble white characters help and protect downtrodden minority characters who can only develop self-esteem, dignity and a sense of purpose thanks to their generous, selfless white benefactors?

No surprise, John Lee Hancock’s “The Blind Side” is exactly that kind of movie.

It’s about a white, well-off Memphis family who take in a homeless black teenager, feed him, clothe him, buy him a nice set of wheels and maneuver him into becoming a high-school football star with excellent college prospects.

The teenager, “Big Mike” Oher, is played by Quinton Aaron as a gentle giant with a profound sense of sadness in his eyes. He is taken in by the Tuohy family, ruled by steel magnolia Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock), a successful interior decorator married to the extremely patient Sean (Tim McGraw), a fast-food restaurant magnate. (Read more…)

A sold-out ‘Life’

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

For three months, Chicago’s Kamelya Alexan worked on the set of “The Dark Knight” in the Windy City. She funneled all of her earnings into making a 21-minute film called “One Simple Life,” a drama about a man afflicted with schizophrenia. Her movie’s premiere at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Skokie Theater, 7924 Lincoln Ave., is sold out. Her movie will be shown again Feb. 22. Mark your calendars! For details go to

Monday, February 22, 2010 at 7:00pm
Skokie Theater
7924 Lincoln Ave.

Reel Life review: ‘The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans’

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Werner Herzog’s loose and loony remake of Abel Ferrara’s NC-17-rated, 1992 crime drama “Bad Lieutenant” doesn’t just star Nicolas Cage. It unleashes him in the kind of over-the-top, no-holds-barred performance that has become his hallmark.

His lieutenant, Terence McDonagh, is so bad, he constantly shoves drugs in his nose, racks up humongous gambling debts, claims a high-end prostitute as his girlfriend (Eva Mendes) and misuses the justice system to his own benefit with unabashed arrogance.

Set in a post-Katrina New Orleans, “Bad Lieutenant” depicts not just the city’s physical rot, but the moral decay in which McDonagh, his amoral partner (Val Kilmer) and underworld thugs (led by Xzibit’s drug lord) operate. (Read more…) Rated: R (drug use, language, sexual situations, violence). 121 minutes.

Opens Thursday, November 19 at the River East 21 and the Century Centre in Chicago and the CineArts 6 in Evanston.

Nail-biting November?

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Three horror tales – “The Evil of Frankenstein,” “The House That Dripped Blood” and “Dr. Cyclops” – will be shown for one $10.00 admission, starting at 6:00 p.m. Saturday at the Portage Theater. Call (773) 875-7582 for details.

Cost: $10.00

Saturday, November 21, 6:00pm
Portage Theater
4050 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Reel Life review: ‘Turning Green’

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

The dark Irish comedy “Turning Green” never quite finds its proper comic tone as it gleefully immerses us in a raucously nasty, noirish tale of a sexually self-abusing teenager who becomes a successful pornography distributor and eventual killer.

“Turning Green,” originally one of the runners-up in the “Project Greenlight” contest from a few years back, stars newcomer Donal Gallery as James, an Irish lad raised in the U.S. who returns to the Emerald Island with his kid brother Pete (Killian Morgan). James needs money, and when he meets a porno supplier, he rakes in the green (hence the double-meaning of the title).

Local gangsters Bill the Bookie (Alessandro Nivola) and Bill the Breaker (Timothy Hutton) don’t like this, and try to set the upstart kid straight about making money on their turf. (Read more…) Rated: NR (mature audiences only). 85 minutes.

Opens Thursday, November 19 at the Pipers Alley Theater in Chicago.

‘Beaches of Agnes’

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

The After Hours Film Society presents “The Beaches of Agnes,” by 81-year-old French filmmaker Agnes Varda. It’s an autobiographical portrait of a self-described forager, searching the world for images that capture her fancy. See After Hours Film Society for more details.

Cost: $9.00 (Members $5.00)

Monday, November 23, 7:30pm
Tivoli Theater
5021 Highland Ave.
Downers Grove

Reel Life review: “The Messenger”

Thursday, November 19th, 2009
Ben Foster in &quotThe Messenger" Casualty-notification officer Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) delivers devastating news to families of fallen soldiers in “The Messenger.”

They’re called casualty-notification officers.

Their mission is to go to the homes of fallen soldiers to notify their NOK (next-of-kin) of their deaths in the line of duty. It’s a terrible job, and in Oren Moverman’s painfully intimate, exquisitely detailed “The Messenger,” Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster bring strength, pain, loneliness, honor and a rainbow of other conflicting qualities to their roles as military messengers of doom.

Captain Tony Stone (Harrelson) has been married three times, twice to the same woman. Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Foster) has no family or personal commitments.

They don’t really like each other at first. But they begrudgingly find common ground as they carry out their mission in a series of masterfully executed vignettes that tell us everything we need to know about the families of the fallen within 30 seconds of meeting them. (Read more…)Rated: R (language, sexual situations, nudity). 105 minutes.

Opens Thursday, November 19 at the Music Box in Chicago.

Elk Grove rates a ’10’

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

The Elk Grove Theatres, part of the Classic Cinemas dynasty in the Chicago area, Wednesday will officially open four new auditoriums, bringing its theater count to 10. The new rooms will feature stadium seating, and the seats in all 10 auditoriums have already been upgraded to Carrera leather. (Read more…)

A turkey of a season? Dann sees a lot of films to be thankful for

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Hollywood’s trade publication Variety has already dismissed the upcoming holiday movie season as “playing it safe” with “almost the same number of major releases, the usual number of Christmas Day launches, the same mix of prestige items and popcorn fare” as last year.

To a bean-counter maybe.

If box office receipts are all that matter, then this year’s movie crop probably doesn’t look that promising, outside of James Cameron’s loudly tub-thumped $225 million, 3-D science-fiction thriller “Avatar,” going filmo-a-filmo against “2012” for the special effects audience.

But I think the season offers a very exciting mix of movies, and it has nothing to do with marketing. (Read more…)

‘New Moon’ waxes romantic, wanes in humor

Thursday, November 19th, 2009
Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner in " Bella (Kristen Stewart) is torn – metaphorically speaking – between a vampire (Robert Pattinson) and an American Indian werewolf (Taylor Lautner) in “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.”

You gotta feel sorry for Bella Swan.

First, her vampire boyfriend disses her. (“You don’t belong in my world, Bella!” he says.)

Then, her werewolf boyfriend pushes her away. (“I’m not good!” he cries, “I used to be a good kid. Not anymore!”)

Many times Bella tries to kiss them, individually, of course. But every time, they’re either interrupted, or the guy wimps out. There haven’t been this many lips quivering in anticipation since the opening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

“The Twilight Saga: New Moon” takes up where 2008’s “Twilight” left off after Bella (Kristen Stewart) fell for a mysterious teen named Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) with sideburns and luminous skin.

Edward the vampire falls so hard for the human Bella that he announces in “New Moon” he must leave her to save her, especially after a fellow vampire tries to kill and eat her during her 18th birthday party at the Cullen house.

Ed departs, and Bella falls into a deep depression for the remainder of the year, devolving into a basket case of repetitious ticks and sighs with stringy hair and perfectly shaped stiletto eyebrows.

She befriends a 16-year-old local Native American boy named Jake Black (Taylor Lautner), whose physique resembles a young Lou Ferrigno, only not green. “You’re buff!” Bella blurts with feminine appreciation.

She falls for the younger Jake. Then he gets a tattoo and hangs out in the rain with hunky young Native American guys who hate shirts and long pants. They turn out to be unconvincing, poorly computer-animated werewolves, and they really hate bloodsuckers. (Read more…)