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December 20, 2014



written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro
produced by: Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner, Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson
directed by: Peter Jackson
rating: PG-13 (for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence and frightening images)
runtime: 144 min.
U.S. release date: December 17, 2014


It saddens me to admit that I hope this will be my final trip to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It’s supposed to be, but you never know with director co-writer/co-producer/director, Peter Jackson, my long-winded and enthusiastic tour guide. Oh, I thoroughly enjoyed his three “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but now, having seen “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies”, the end of an overlong and bloated trilogy, I’m just tired and wondering how it is I increasingly lost interest with each cinematic chapter of this epic adaptation. I have some ideas though.

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December 16, 2014



written by: Anthony McCarten
produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce & AnthonyMcCarten
directed by: James Marsh
rating: PG-13 (for some thematic elements and suggestive material)
runtime: 123 min.
U.S. release date: November 07, 2014 (limited release)


It’s not a compliment that James Marsh’s new film works best with built-in knowledge of its amazing subject. Before watching “The Theory of Everything”, catch Stephen Hawking on YouTube. Unlike his many contemporaries, Hawking has the extraordinary talent of making you feel smarter the longer you hear him speak. He speaks with you rather than above you, and his personality is one of endearing humility.

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2014 Chicago Film Critics Awards

December 16, 2014



It was definitely a night of surprises and disappointments tonight at this year’s awards dinner where the Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA) announced their picks for the best of the year in film. Yours truly and fortysomething other critics chose winners in 17 categories, a handful of them won by one or two votes – it was that tight. Alas, many of the nominees that I voted for were not chosen, especially the winners in all the acting categories. All four certainly gave worthy performances, but there was a sense of predictability to these winners though. On the flipside, it was surprising that we had a tie in cinematography and to also see Mika Levi’s atmospheric score for “Under the Skin” win. One particular upset for me though was the Swedish drama “Force Majeure” winning for Best Foreign Language over “Ida” the excellent Polish film which should’ve won. I thought both films were great, but “Ida” was the major discovery of the year for me.

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ANNOUNCEMENT: The Nominees for the 2014 Chicago Film Critics Awards

December 12, 2014



Voting is over and the time has come to peruse the list of the 2014 nominees for the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards! Needless to say there the inevitable surprises on this list, but very few disappointments. Winners will be chosen on Monday, December 15th at the Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA) awards dinner. Below, you’ll find the list and then comments about the nominees by fellow critic and CFCA chairperson, Peter Sobczynski. Without further ado….

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SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1949) blu-ray review

December 11, 2014



written by: Harry Brown and James Edward Grant
produced by: Edmund Grainger
directed by: Allan Dwan
rating: not rated
runtime: 100 min.
U.S. release date: December 14, 1949
Blu-ray release date: November 11, 2014



You know what’s crazy? In a career that spanned five decades with almost 200 roles to his name, John Wayne only picked up two Oscar nominations for acting. Yeah, a lot of his movies weren’t going to win an Oscar to begin with. Yeah, many were 1930s serials barely clocking in at an hour. Others were more fan-friendly, not meant to create Oscar buzz. But in one of his best extended spans of pure acting power, the late 1940s, Wayne picked up his first nomination for 1949’s “Sands of Iwo Jima”.

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MOONTRAP (1989) blu-ray review

December 7, 2014



written by: Tex Ragsdale
produced by: Robert Dyke, John Cameron and James R. Courtney
directed by: Robert Dyke
rating: R
runtime: 96 min.
U.S. release date: April 28, 1989
Blu-ray release date: November 18, 2014


If you’ve heard of “Moontrap”, that’s probably because you’re a science fiction and/or horror fan, maybe even a completist. The sci-fi B-movie stars two actors known for those genres, Walter Koenig (Star Trek’s Chekov) and The Man with the Chin, Bruce Campbell (best known for the “Evil Dead” movies). Although I consider myself a fan, I guess I’m not a completist of those genres, since I never got around to seeing this low-budget movie from 1989. For its 25th anniversary, Olive Films has released it for the first time on blu-ray with a remastered transfer, which is how I came to finally watch it. I may have missed its late night cable run back in the day and I never owned a worn VHS copy, but I can still acknowledge the cheese factor of “Moontrap” as something of a cult classic, in the so-bad-its-good category, that is.

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November 30, 2014



written by: Michael Colton, John Aboud and Brandon Sawyer
produced by: Mark Swift, Lara Breay and Tripp Hudson
directed by: Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith
rating: PG (for mild action and some rude humor)
runtime: 92 min.
U.S. release date: November 26, 2014


Because there absolutely must be a family-friendly, crowd-pleasing movie released during Thanksgiving, Dreamworks Animation (DWA) is releasing “The Penguins of Madagascar”. You know these penguins from the three “Madagascar” animated features (hence the title), where they were often the best part of each movie. But they’re not actually from Madagascar. They have their own past and their own tales to tell. The result is a vibrant, crazy and hilarious romp.

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