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Last Build Date: Sat, 16 Dec 2017 05:08:16 +0000


Movie review: ‘Downsizing’ makes for a great tall tale about getting small

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 17:22:36 +0000

Movies are the most popular form of mass entertainment in the world, but they’re constantly being accused of sidestepping originality, of telling the same stories over and over. That won’t be the case with “Downsizing” which, though it would fit comfortably in the category of science fiction, also gets into areas of social justice, the economy, the environment, and a bit of romance ... and it’s both thought-provoking and funny.

Get Jedi Ready!

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 19:34:39 +0000

It's finally here! Star Wars: The Last Jedi releases on December 15. We all need to get the latest Star Wars swag and gifts for more than a few reasons including holiday gifting.

Director Alexander Payne talks up ‘Downsizing’

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 22:37:04 +0000

In the 20-plus years that writer-director Alexander Payne has been putting out decidedly offbeat films, many of them starring A-list actors, he’s often shown a tendency to lean toward the comic side of things, even when dealing with serious subjects. “About Schmidt,” with Jack Nicholson, was as funny as it was sobering; “Sideways” featured Paul Giamatti as a man overflowing with self-doubt, yet had plentiful comic relief from Thomas Haden Church; [...]

Movie review: ‘Last Jedi’ is a ‘Star Wars’ for a new generation

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 17:07:49 +0000

If you didn’t already have the incentive to see “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” the return of Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker, as well as Carrie Fisher’s final performance as Leia, are more than enough of an enticement. But beware. Your overall enjoyment depends on your level of fandom, along with a tolerance for plot contrivances, unanswered questions and thin character development. That’s not to say this eighth installment in George Lucas’ epic sci-fi [...]

Matt Damon talks big about getting small in ‘Downsizing’

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 16:42:29 +0000

Matt Damon may be a well-known, high-paid movie star, but he’s just a regular guy. He’s normal looking, he’s of average height (average height for an American male is 5-foot-10, Damon’s exact height).But in the new science fiction comedy-drama “Downsizing,” Damon plays regular, normal, average, happily married Paul Safranek, an occupational therapist who recognizes that he and his wife are having financial difficulties, and looks into a method of [...]

Movie review: The excellent ‘Star Wars, Episode VIII’ gives ‘Star Wars’ fans a new hope

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 18:24:11 +0000

As I was leaving the press screening of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” I overheard a loudmouthed fellow critic, probably in his late 20’s, say, “What garbage! All they did was remake ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’”What I think he meant to say was, “This is one of the best, most exciting, well written, finely acted, terrifically directed ‘Star Wars’ movies since ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’”Put into the [...]

Stay Tuned: ‘89 Blocks’ offers a too familiar football story

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 16:05:14 +0000

The idea that football is a pathway to realizing the American dream drives the action in “89 Blocks,” a documentary that focuses on a season of the Flyers, an East St. Louis high school football team. For many of the young men on the team, football is a ticket out of poverty and it represents hope that their future will be better than their present. It’s a naturally compelling theme and not an uncommon one so “89 Blocks” needs to set itself apart from similar [...]

Movie review: Oldman at his finest in ‘Darkest Hour’

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 20:26:33 +0000

He plays Winston Churchill, but if you didn’t already know the actor behind the mask was Gary Oldman, you’d never guess it was him storming his way through the World War II drama “Darkest Hour.” Oldman — no stranger to real-life portrayals (Lee Harvey Oswald in “JFK,” and Sid Vicious in “Sid and Nancy”) — plays the iconic British Bulldog with gusto, glee and oodles of pathos. Outfitted with prosthetics and extra-padding, [...]

Book review: Leeke chronicles Major Leaguers during WWI in ‘From Dugouts to the Trenches’

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 17:18:33 +0000

Johnny Evers of “Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance” fame, was visiting an army chaplain at the front during World War I. The chaplain told Evers about finding a tattered baseball inside the pocket of a dead American soldier’s overcoat while searching him for personal effects.“I’d like to have that ball,” the future Hall of Fame second baseman said.“Not for a million dollars,” the chaplain replied. “I’m too big a fan, and this [...]

Movie review: Woody’s ‘Wonder Wheel’ falls just short of being wonderful

Tue, 05 Dec 2017 17:42:39 +0000

Woody Allen has been here before. Not just with certain plot ideas and themes, like the ups and downs of love and marriage. He had a previous film set in the same location. The title here refers to the big Ferris wheel on Coney Island, which can be seen slowly turning outside the windows of the home where Humpty (Jim Belushi), a ride operator, and his wife Ginny (Kate Winslet), a waitress, live. During a flashback in “Annie Hall,” Alvy Singer’s family is living under the [...]

Movie review: Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Shape of Water’ captivates

Tue, 05 Dec 2017 16:35:02 +0000

Who says fairy tales are just for kids? Oscar-winning producer, director and screenwriter Guillermo del Toro proves they are anything but with “The Shape of Water.” The plot — a “princess without voice” falling for an amphibious man held captive in a Cold War-era government lab — admittedly sounds a bit cuckoo. But as del Toro proved with “Pan’s Labyrinth,” he is a master at making heartfelt gothic tales involving monsters and [...]

Stay Tuned: Reviewing Amazon pilot season

Tue, 05 Dec 2017 16:19:56 +0000

It’s pilot season on Amazon, which means the streaming service is once again letting the viewers vote for the shows they would like to see made into full series. For fall 2017, the pilots are: “Sea Oak,” “Love You More,” and “The Climb.” All feature women in main roles and all are very different in tone. Here are some thoughts on each and my top pick.“Sea Oak” is the story of Aunt Bernie (Glenn Close), a timid woman who is [...]

Movie review: ‘Darkest Hour’ lets Gary Oldman shine as Winston Churchill

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 17:12:19 +0000

What do moviegoers look for in their favorite actors? One thing is the recognizability factor, the idea that there’ll be some comfort in kind of knowing, being familiar with, the person up on the screen, even though said actor is playing someone else. But what happens when that doesn’t happen, like when Charlize Theron played serial killer Aileen Wuernos in “Monster,” or Tom Cruise played fictional Hollywood producer Les Grossman in “Tropic Thunder?” [...]

Movie review: ‘The Shape of Water’ takes the form of a near-perfect movie

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 17:00:59 +0000

Almost three decades ago, the wizards at Disney created a shift in the fabric of entertainment. Starting with “The Little Mermaid,” in 1989, their kids’ movies found an additional audience: Adults. The Disney writers took to including bits and pieces of dialogue and storyline that went right over the heads of young viewers, but would make their parents (and other adults) nod, smile, maybe laugh out loud. When Pixar joined the fray in 1995, with the funny, sweet, and wistful [...]

Yes, that’s really Gary Oldman playing Winston Churchill under all that makeup

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 23:59:00 +0000

Gary Oldman had been in a couple of movies and had done some British TV work before he landed his first starring role in the 1986 biopic “Sid and Nancy.” But it was that ferocious portrayal of Sex Pistols bass player Sid Vicious that really got him noticed, that set him on the road of landing, then nailing, the parts of bad guys in countless films. He was Lee Harvey Oswald in “JFK,” Dracula in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” Dr. Smith in “Lost in [...]

Michael Shannon once again provides some villainous vibes in ‘The Shape of Water’

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 17:20:25 +0000

Standing at 6-foot-3, with a head that’s so big it’s a little too large for that body, and added to it, a deep voice that can get very loud, Michael Shannon has, for the past couple of decades, been a go-to actor for casting directors looking for someone with a menacing presence. Sure, he had a brief, goofy cameo early in his career in “Groundhog Day,” and he was a good guy in “Midnight Special,” but it’s those darker roles that people remember. [...]

Guillermo del Toro’s ‘The Shape of Water’ shows his love for movies

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 22:54:13 +0000

Give Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro 20 minutes to talk about movies, and he’ll give you an hour’s worth of stories. The jovial writer-director, who has a résumé including “Hellboy,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and “Pacific Rim,” and just added the adult fable “The Shape of Water” to that list, can easily start answering a question about what movies he saw as a kid, then shift the same answer into the technical [...]

Stay Tuned: 3-2-1! ‘MythBusters’ is back

Tue, 28 Nov 2017 15:53:47 +0000

I had a high school chemistry teacher who would occasionally toss candy from his desk to reward class participation. A room full of post-lunch 16-year-olds needing an afternoon sugar fix and any novel reason to become interested in chemistry usually meant that his unorthodox strategy was well-received. The premise behind “MythBusters” is sort of like my chemistry teacher’s approach but instead of a sugar rush making science fun it offers explosions — lots of [...]

Book review: Memoir captures Wanda Jackson’s rise as rockabilly’s first female star

Mon, 27 Nov 2017 15:49:11 +0000

“As a little girl people would ask me, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I’d always tell them, ‘I want to be a girl singer,’” Wanda Jackson recalls in her new memoir written with Scott B. Bomar, “Every Night is Saturday Night.” “I don’t suppose I really could have been any other type of singer, but that’s what I told them.”And a girl singer she became, in pretty short order: By age 17 she was [...]

Movie review: James Franco loses himself in the best of ways in ‘The Disaster Artist’

Mon, 27 Nov 2017 15:29:04 +0000

I am not a midnight movie guy. Though, many years ago, I somehow made it through one of those interactive screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” I would much rather just watch a movie, rather than throw toast and toilet paper at it. Nor am I fan of badly made movies, such as the inane “Rocky Horror” or the embarrassingly awful “Plan 9 from Outer Space.”So, the 2003 film “The Room,” which failed fantastically, but eventually [...]