Nina Metz writes about TV, film and theater and has a Friday column called "Chicago Close-Up." Before joining the Tribune, she was a ...

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Nina Metz

Nina Metz

Chicago Closeup

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1978 classic 'Jubilee' brings punk to Chicago Filmmakers

1978 classic 'Jubilee' brings punk to Chicago Filmmakers

March 26, 2015

The biggest selling album of 1977 was Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours." In the words of Spin magazine, it was music made by "rich, luxuriating hippie sophisticates who cavorted like sprites and nymphs and sipped chardonnay."

  • Chicago theater actors land TV pilots

    March 25, 2015

    Longtime Chicago theater actor Kelly O’Sullivan, who just finished a run in the controversial production of “This is Modern Art” at the Steppenwolf, has been cast as the lead in an untitled CBS sitcom pilot from former “Modern Family” executive producer Dan O’Shannon, whose TV credits also include “Newhart,” “Cheers” and “Frasier.” 

  • Doc provides look at real-life North Korea

    March 19, 2015

    "The reason 'The Interview' is not very good," my colleague Michael Phillips wrote last year about the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy, "has nothing to do with its decision, which Sony surely regrets, to name names and kill off the North Korean leader on camera. Rather, the movie is simply lazy."

  • Ex-NU professor a 'Survivor' expert in the classroom, but is he in the field?

    March 18, 2015

    Note: The following contains spoilers for this week's already aired episode of "Survivor"

  • Rehner and Nixon need to dig deeper for 'Ladies Night!'

    March 18, 2015

    "I was wondering why I'm so hooked on sugar, and I remembered an incident that occurred when I was about 5 years old," Katie Nixon says in her new sketch show. At Bible school, they were served coconut cake, a flavor Nixon refused to eat. When her teacher came around to clear the plates, "She looked at me, looked at the cake, and then pointed her finger at me and spat, 'Shame on you for not eating the Lord's cake!'"

  • 'Today We Escape' doesn't deliver on its Radiohead promise

    March 18, 2015

    Much as I like the ambitions behind Tympanic Theatre Company's project, I'm not sure any of it works. A collection of short plays by 12 writers, each tackling a track from Radiohead's 1997 album "OK Computer," the production feels like a writing exercise gone flat.

  • Filmmaker Spike Lee will be in Chicago for CIMMfest

    March 16, 2015

    Filmmaker Spike Lee is one of the boldface names coming to town for this year's Chicago International Movies & Music Festival, better known as CIMMfest.

  • No plans for Scorsese to film Grateful Dead documentary in Chicago

    March 16, 2015

    Reports that Martin Scorsese will film the Grateful Dead during their sold-out concerts at Soldier Field have been denied.

  • Chicago variety show 'Star Makers' lands TV syndication

    March 16, 2015

    Intentionally cheap, intentionally cheesy and sure to be the object of fascination for insomniacs and pot smokers across the country, the locally made comedy variety series "Steve Gadlin's Star Makers" has been picked up for national TV syndication.

  • Former Chicago actor joins Melissa McCarthy comedy

    March 12, 2015

    Timothy Simons, who has made his name playing the lanky political hack and creepo supreme Jonah on HBO's "Veep," has been cast in the new Melissa McCarthy comedy "Michelle Darnell."

  • 'SNL' alum Julia Sweeney tackling marriage in new film script

    March 12, 2015

    Last week Julia Sweeney tweeted out a photo of 20-some odd people gathered around a table: "All these wonderful Chicago actors who are reading aloud my screenplay for 'Fork' tonight," she wrote.

  • Filmmaker Noah Baumbach brings new film to Music Box

    March 10, 2015

    Filmmaker Noah Baumbach, whose latest feature “While We’re Young” opens this month, comes to Chicago for a career retrospective at the Music Box Theatre starting this weekend.

  • A Hard Day's Night' comes to Park Ridge with Beatles expert

    March 10, 2015

    Capturing Beatlemania at its height, 1964’s “A Hard Day’s Night” comes to the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge next Thursday (March 19), with an introduction by Chicago-based writer Robert Rodriquez, author of “Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock ‘N’ Roll.”

  • Hannibal Buress show picked up by Comedy Central

    March 10, 2015

    Comedy Central has picked up an 8-episode TV series called "Why? With Hannibal Buress" from the Chicago-bred comic.

  • Netflix picks up series from Chicago native Brit Marling

    March 5, 2015

    Netflix has greenlit a TV series called "OA" from Chicago native Brit Marling and her writing partner Zal Batmanglij.

  • The art of combining facts and filmmaking

    March 5, 2015

    There's a terrific moment that comes about a half hour into the documentary "The Hand That Feeds" (screening Tuesday at the Music Box Theatre) that reveals a sly ingenuity from a group of underpaid immigrant workers employed at a New York City bakery cafe called Hot & Crusty.

  • Neo-Futurists 'Redletter' strays all over the media landscape

    March 5, 2015

    It took only a few short years for the Internet to upend our definition of the media. Traditional publications like this very newspaper jostle for attention alongside hundreds of tweets and Facebook posts, as well as online ventures like BuzzFeed that have perfected the art of pandering non-newsy items, published alongside the site's legitimate works of journalism, with no real distinction between the two.

  • Uneasy coupling in 'Four' by Jackalope Theatre Co.

    March 4, 2015

    Christopher Shinn's drama isn't a cohesive story so much as a series of conversations and negotiations. Sex is on the table for two different couples, but no one in either scenario walks away fully satisfied.

  • Minnie Minoso documentary airs tonight on WTTW

    March 2, 2015

    documentary about White Sox great Minnie Minoso, whose death was reported Sunday, will air Monday night on the local PBS affiliate, WTTW-Ch. 11.

  • Kris Swanberg steps into her own spotlight

    February 26, 2015

    In Kris Swanberg's quiet and absorbing "Empire Builder," a young mother stares out the window of her Lake Shore Drive high-rise, the sound of traffic and street noise from below gradually becoming louder and overwhelming, as though mimicking the restless emotions hiding behind the placid look on her face.

  • Rauner's new head of Illinois Film Office looks to spur film and TV jobs

    February 24, 2015

    The Illinois Film Office has a new director. Gov. Bruce Rauner has appointed GOP political consultant Christine Dudley, who steps into a job that primarily focuses on luring TV and film projects to Illinois.

  • Ex-NU prof goes from teaching 'Survivor' to playing it

    February 23, 2015

    Examine a group publicity shot for the upcoming season of "Survivor" (starting Wednesday), and your eye is immediately drawn to Max Dawson.

  • Why Chicago's flickering film industry faded fast

    February 19, 2015

    In the silent film "His New Job," Charlie Chaplin's iconic tramp marches into the offices of a movie studio looking to secure an acting gig. There he sits in the lobby. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Flirting. Fighting. Waiting. Smoking. Slapsticking. More waiting.

  • REVIEW: 'Really Really' by Interrobang Theatre Project

    February 18, 2015

    Though it starts out as a wry comedy about college keggers and hookups, this spiky drama from Paul Downs Calaizzo turns into something quite different by the end. Who did what — and why — is at the center of this story of drunken sex and woozy mornings after.

  • REVIEW: '#Trending' at Under the Gun Theater

    February 18, 2015

    "There's a lot of weird stuff online and we're here to make fun of all of it," reads the description for this show on Under the Gun Theater's website. "Each week a panel of distinguished guests talk about all the weird and wonderful things that your friends shared with you this week. And then that discussion inspires the improv which follows."

  • Tello Films incubates web series

    February 12, 2015

    Midway through its second season, Comedy Central's "Broad City" has made its mark not only for being funny and audacious, but also because the show's central dynamic is one that rarely anchors a sitcom anymore — that of a deep and abiding friendship between two women who are equal parts charming and alarming.

  • Swanberg movies bought post-Sundance

    February 10, 2015

    After married filmmakers Joe and Kris Swanberg each debuted their movies at Sundance last month, both have seen their work picked up for theatrical release.

  • 2 TV pilots will shoot in Chicago next month

    February 7, 2015

    As TV pilot season gears up, at least two projects will be filming in town next month, according to Rich Moskal of the Chicago Film Office.

  • Theodore Bikel and his muse to share a moment at Spertus

    February 5, 2015

    If you caught one of the many national tours of "Fiddler on the Roof" that have come through town over the last 30 years or so, chances are you saw Theodore Bikel as Tevye, the barrel-chested father of five daughters who schleps his milk cart through the Russian village of Anatevka, stopping every so often to deeply exhale and offer a sardonic observation on the changes occurring around him.

  • REVIEW: 'Push Button Murder' at The Side Project

    February 5, 2015

    The movie of the moment "American Sniper" is, above all else, sober in tone and intent — and don't you forget it, the film all but implores. Steve J. Spencer's "Push Button Murder," in a world premiere at The Side Project, is just as concerned about the effects of wartime service on a person's psyche.

  • REVIEW: 'Live! Tonight! With Kevin and Nick' at iO Theater

    February 4, 2015

    Both a lampoon of late-night talk shows and a sincere (if twisted) homage to form, the show devised by Kevin Knickerbocker and Nick Mestad for their Tuesday night slot at iO feels like they're picking up where David Letterman has mostly left off these past few years.

  • CBS pulls 'McCarthys' from the schedule, created by Second City alum

    February 3, 2015

    CBS has pulled freshman sitcom "The McCarthys" from its schedule.

  • Doc about Chicago chef Curtis Duffy 'For Grace' headed to SXSW

    February 3, 2015

    The documentary "For Grace," which captures renowed chef Curtis Duffy's two-year journey to open a fine dining restaurant in Chicago, will debut at South by Southwest in Austin in March.

  • 'Fair use guru' comes to Chicago with some tips

    February 3, 2015

    Nothing can stop a documentary filmmaker faster than a letter from team of lawyers citing copyright infringement, making it all but impossible for a director to include necessary material and footage in the film.  Inevitably someone doesn’t want their story told.  Or they want a fat payment.

  • Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Dan Aykroyd slated for 'SNL' 40th Anniversary Special

    February 2, 2015

    A mix of celebrities and former "Saturday Night Live" cast members are slated to appear on the 40th Anniversary Special for the storied sketch comedy series scheduled to air Feb. 15.

  • Life forms ingredients for filmmaker's indie

    January 29, 2015

    In the Chicago-shot indie "Warren," filmmaker Alex Beh plays a barista by day, occasional improv performer by night. Put another way: He's a guy in his 20s struggling to get his act together.

  • Gary Sinise pushes back after Howard Dean calls 'American Sniper' audiences 'angry'

    January 28, 2015

    Less than a week after Howard Dean described "American Sniper" audiences as "angry," actor Gary Sinise is politely but firmly pushing back.

  • Joe Swanberg's 'Digging for Fire' at Sundance: 'May reach his widest audience yet'

    January 27, 2015

    Joe Swanberg's newest film debuted at Sundance this week, and the cast is getting considerable praise.

  • ABC considering a comedy series about writer Dan Savage

    January 27, 2015

    ABC is making a sitcom pilot based on the life of "Savage Love" columnist Dan Savage.

  • Early reviews for Chicago filmmaker at Sundance

    January 26, 2015

    Early reviews are in for Kris Swanberg's indie "Unexpected," which debuted at Sundance on Sunday.

  • Chicago represents at Sundance Film Festival

    January 22, 2015

    The Sundance Film Festival kicks off today in Park City, Utah, with a pair of films from Chicago directors who also happened to be married to one another.

  • Mt. Everest epic restored and screening at Block Cinema

    January 22, 2015

    A member of England's Royal Geographical Society, Captain John Noel was on hand with his movie camera when British climbers George Mallory (who was 37) and Andrew "Sandy" Irvine (just 22) attempted their 1924 summit of Mount Everest.

  • REVIEW: 'Spinning Into Butter' at the Athenaeum Theatre

    January 21, 2015

    I'm a sucker for plays that plunge into the world of academic infighting, teeing up on the exploits of the overeducated when they are reduced to turf wars, ego-baiting and petty grievances.

  • REVIEW: 'A Map of Virtue' by Cor Theatre

    January 21, 2015

    The press materials peg playwright Erin Courtney's drama as a "hauntingly romantic play with a mystery at its center," a mischaracterization as baffling as it is just plain wrong.

  • Home alone (in Romania) at Facets

    January 20, 2015

    A 15-year-old Romanian girl becomes a de facto parent to her six brothers and sisters when Mom temporarily relocates to Italy for several months for work in the foreign language documentary “Waiting for August,” which comes to Facets starting Friday.

  • Analysis: How did 'Life Itself' not get an Oscar nomination?

    January 18, 2015

    When this year's Academy Award nominations were announced last week, there were a few notable omissions. On the documentary side, that distinction goes to "Life Itself."

  • Comedy Central eying Second City alums

    January 16, 2015

    A pair of Second City alums might have a shot at scoring a show on Comedy Central.

  • Fuller on Fuller and how a garrulous filmmaker got his start

    January 15, 2015

    "Every word spoken in this film was written by Sam Fuller," his daughter says in the prologue to her documentary "A Fuller Life" (playing at the Siskel Film Center Saturday and Monday).

  • Illinois Film Office shakeup: director leaving Friday

    January 14, 2015

    Betsy Steinberg, who has headed up the Illinois Film Office since 2007, was notified this week that her services are no longer needed, she confirmed Wednesday. Her last day in the office will be Friday.

  • Jennifer Aniston's 'Cake' gets Chicago screening

    January 14, 2015

    Last Fall, Jennifer Aniston hired a top Oscar consultant to help juice her chances of being nominated for her performance in the film "Cake" — which has yet to receive more than a handful of qualifying public screenings in LA.

  • Sex ed films through history

    January 8, 2015

    More than 100,000 sex education films have been made over the last century or so, according to Brenda Goodman's documentary "Sex(ed)," a fun if somewhat brisk historical overview of the genre that screens Saturday at Chicago Filmmakers.

  • 14th annual SketchFest: Founder Brian Posen offers his picks

    December 31, 2014

    The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival returns Thursday for its 14th year, spotlighting a mammoth selection of scripted comedy from groups from the Chicago area and parts elsewhere. The fest is usually not focused on boldfaced names, although well-known Chicago comedy alumni have been known to drop in on this scrappy, high-energy event that spans two weekends at Stage 773 in Lakeview each January.

  • What's coming to local art houses in 2015

    December 31, 2014

    Heading into the new year, the local art house scene is as wide-ranging as ever. Offering an alternative to massive studio pictures, the lineup features small indies, old-school classics, documentaries and foreign films. Here's a quick look at some offerings that caught my eye.

  • How improv audiences envisioned 2014

    December 29, 2014

    If improv shows reveal what's in a performer's subconscious, the audience suggestions that kick everything off can be just as revealing about what's in the zeitgeist at any given moment.

  • The Art Institute video collection is on YouTube

    December 26, 2014

    The artist William Wegman is probably best known for his photographs of Weimaraners. For decades now he has been able to coax his pet dogs to pose stoically before his lens, offering a steady, curious, tolerant gaze to the camera despite the oddball scenarios in which they are placed.

  • 'Jingle Bell Rocks' documentary uncovers Christmas musical oddities

    December 18, 2014

    A charming documentary about obscure Christmas music, "Jingle Bell Rocks" (at The Vic this week) opens with footage of a very tall, somewhat ungainly man wandering into that rarest of retailers — the music store — and riffling through a bin of CDs.

  • REVIEW: 'HoliDaze' from Step Up Productions at Chicago Dramatists

    December 17, 2014

    I was fully charmed by this small-scale collection of original short plays from Step Up Productions. The stories at hand are not necessarily Christmas-focused, but they all share the holiday setting and capture that strange love-hate sensation this time of year tends to evoke.

  • REVIEW: 'Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Goose'

    December 17, 2014

    The mystery at hand is a thin one, but maybe that's the point. Sherlock Holmes never seemed like a man particularly swayed by the holiday season; surely he would look for any excuse or busywork — a tepid mystery will do just fine — to avoid anything remotely sentimental foisted upon him at Christmas.

  • Lance Barber on his long-awaited 'Comeback'

    December 11, 2014

    It is almost unheard of for a TV series to get a second season nearly 10 years after the first. But with so many recent changes in the viewing landscape, nothing about television is business as usual anymore.

  • Screenwriter Graham Moore on 'The Imitation Game' and Sherlock Holmes

    December 11, 2014

    In 2010, Chicago native Graham Moore published "The Sherlockian," a witty novel both inspired by, and very much about, Sherlock Holmes.

  • Venezuelan film examines tresses and stresses

    December 4, 2014

    A few weeks ago the actress Halle Berry took her ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry to court for straightening and lightening the hair of their 6-year-old daughter "in a bid to make her look less African American," as the UK paper The Independent explained in the headline.

  • REVIEW: 'Red, White & Blaine' at iO Theater

    December 1, 2014

    Beloved as it is, "Waiting for Guffman" didn't even crack $3 million at the box office when it came out in 1997. The comedy is probably best watched on the small screen anyway, where you can rewind the funniest moments into oblivion. Among Christopher Guest's mockumentaries, his wholesome-snarky parody of self-serious, small town community theater is one of my favorites.

  • REVIEW: 'Desperate Dolls' at Strawdog Theatre

    December 1, 2014

    The tropes of old-school grindhouse flicks are transferred to the stage with enthusiastic fidelity at Strawdog Theater, and when actor Joe Mack makes his first entrance — wearing mirrored sunglasses, a mustache and a suit with a turtleneck — you know you're in good hands, at least style-wise. I am a little less convinced of the production's raison d'être, but more on that in a moment.

  • Documentary examines Penn State in wake of Sandusky scandal

    November 26, 2014

    "College football is something special. It really is. Hopefully we won't lose sight of that. Or mess it up." Prescient words, spoken by Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno in an old TV interview.

  • 'Control' a sad wrong place, wrong time story

    November 20, 2014

    "Luther, 16, was arrested outside his home in the Bronx, NY. He was charged with second degree assault, a felony."

  • Funny because it's true: John Cleese talks comedy in Chicago

    November 13, 2014

    Prior to his appearance at the Mission Theater (at iO) Wednesday afternoon in front of sold-out crowd of improv students and performers, John Cleese turned to me and said, "Don't be alarmed!" and then engulfed me in a bear hug and planted several kisses on my neck. Well. Hello.

  • Schlocky horror flicks lovingly satirized in 1993's 'Matinee'

    November 12, 2014

    The first thing you see in 1993's "Matinee," filmmaker Joe Dante's affectionate satire of B-movie madness, is a coming attraction starring John Goodman (playing a producer/carnival barker type whose stock-in-trade is schlocky horror flicks) hawking his latest picture.

  • REVIEW: 'Women at War' by Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

    November 11, 2014

    Outside of "Private Benjamin" and "G.I. Jane," pop culture hasn't really given much thought to women who serve in the military. The more prosaic reality — the day-to-day of what it means to serve in what is still a predominantly male environment — is explored in this new work from Rivendell Theatre.

  • REVIEW: 'Comedy Against Humanity' by Under the Gun Theater

    November 11, 2014

    Created by a group of friends from Highland Park High School, the party game Cards Against Humanity incorporates the non-sequitur silliness of Mad Libs with a blazingly simple premise wherein even drunk people — who are we kidding, especially drunk people — can excel.

  • What Indiana Jones gets wrong (and right) about archaeology

    November 5, 2014

    A few years back, the transcript of an early story meeting between the creators of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" surfaced on the Internet. In it, screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and director Steven Spielberg sit down with executive producer George Lucas, who originally conceived the story about a swaggering adventurer called, initially, Indiana Smith.

  • REVIEW: 'Social Creatures' by Tympanic Theatre

    November 4, 2014

    In a zombie story that never actually uses the word "zombie" — one of the more realistic decisions made here — playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury sticks a handful of survivors in an abandoned building and watches them squirm.

  • REVIEW: 'The Lieutenant of Inishmore' by AstonRep

    November 4, 2014

    Once, when I was a young teenager and my parents were out of town, the baby sitter staying at our home looking after me — and, by extension, looking after Missy, our sweet if somewhat daffy rescue dog — made the careless mistake of leaving the gate open to our backyard. Missy got out and took off. I got home from school that afternoon to the news that she had been hit by a UPS truck and was dead. I don't want to say I was feeling murderous toward said baby sitter, but it was pretty close.

  • Backup singer Darlene Love gets her spotlight

    October 31, 2014

    Backup singers are never meant to overshadow the lead performer. And because of that, Darlene Love spent much of her career in the 1960s and '70s tamping down her sizable charisma.

  • When a (faux) audition process becomes the movie itself

    October 29, 2014

    Over the years, Chicago-based filmmaker Stephen Cone has occasionally done freelance work running casting sessions for the local agency Paskal Rudnicke, which is frequently hired to find actors for commercials and TV guest spots.

  • Frankenstein's little friend coming to the Pickwick

    October 23, 2014

    Somewhere in rural Switzerland, a town council convenes. They are all men of advanced age and they are grumbling about the state of their village: "Forsaken, desolate and shunned by every traveler, and why? Because of these Frankensteins!"

  • REVIEW: 'The Submission' by Pride Films & Plays ★★★

    October 21, 2014

    A young, gay playwright — a self-described "white dude" — writes a script about an "alcoholic black mother and her cardsharp son trying to get out of the projects" and submits it to the storied Humana Festival of New American Plays, subbing out his real name, Danny Larson, with a more genre-friendly (in his mind) nom de plume: Shaleeha G'ntamobi.

  • REVIEW: 'Devil's Day Off' at Signal Ensemble ★½

    October 21, 2014

    My experience with the plays of Chicago writer Jon Steinhagen has been mixed. He can be such a funny writer, and he has a real instinct for throwing groups of lousy-but-endearing idiots together and letting them mix it up a bit (his "Aces" and "Successors" being the strongest in this vein).

  • From little films, big laughs grow

    October 16, 2014

    It's taken a few years for the Chicago Comedy Film Festival to find its footing. Back for its fourth year this weekend, the lineup is noticeably stronger. As always, the focus is on small indie comedies. I got a look at three.

  • Behind-the-scenes look at TV opening credit creation

    October 10, 2014

    Think back about your favorite television shows over the decades. What do you remember first? For me, it is almost always the opening credits. It is the equivalent of a book jacket or an album cover. Even in this age of DVR and streaming and ever-present fast-forward buttons, the opening credits sequence — called, technically, the main titles — is still how a show brands itself.

  • REVIEW: 'Owners' by Interrobang ★½

    October 9, 2014

    Ugly people doing ugly things to one another isn't a bad premise for a black comedy. In her rarely produced first play from 1972, Caryl Churchill juices that premise with a kind of manic, larger-than-life odiousness of a sketch show shoved violently through a David Mamet-like meat grinder and set in London. Blow it up to such extremes, and maybe there's something funny in there. Maybe.

  • REVIEW: 'Watch on the Rhine' by Artistic Home ★★½

    October 9, 2014

    Lillian Hellman's call to arms, cloaked in a light drawing-room comedy that morphs into something far more serious, debuted on Broadway in 1941. It was about eight months before the U.S. entered World War II, and you can practically feel Hellman imploring her audience: The jackboot of fascism is marching through Europe, and we are coldhearted dolts if we look the other way.

  • Doc brings a local literary icon back to the fore

    October 8, 2014

    A few times throughout "Algren," filmmaker Michael Caplan's documentary about Nelson Algren which debuts next week at the Chicago International Film Festival, we see footage from a 1980 interview at the writer's home in Sag Harbor, N.Y. A young German woman sits with him on the beach, holding a microphone and asking Algren about his affair with the French intellectual and feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir.

  • 'Weekend' a home movie of sorts for Thomas Dolby

    October 2, 2014

    The world of moneyed Northern California liberals — a specific genus of the 1 percent all its own — is satirized from within in the seriocomic indie "Last Weekend" (at the Siskel Film Center through Oct. 9).

  • Mark Bolan, a founding member of ComedySportz, dies

    October 1, 2014

    Mark Bolan, one of the founding ensemble members the Chicago outpost of ComedySportz, was killed in a car accident early Monday morning, the improv theater has confirmed.

  • Blumhouse model keeps scaring up profits

    September 24, 2014

    When the Ethan Hawke horror flick "Sinister" hit theaters in 2012, it earned $48 million at the domestic box office, $77 million worldwide. The budget was just $3 million. That kind of ratio — cheap budget, fat profit — is not the norm in Hollywood. Intriguingly, though, it has become typical of producer Jason Blum, who was in town this month on the set "Sinister 2," his latest movie, shooting in and around the Chicago area since August.

  • REVIEW: 'Fail/Safe' at Strawdog Theatre ★★

    September 23, 2014

    A formidable cast including Henry Fonda and Walter Matthau fills out 1964 Cold War thriller "Fail-Safe," adapted from the 1962 novel of the same name, about a technical glitch that mistakenly sends a group of U.S. bombers armed with nuclear warheads to lay waste to Moscow. For various screwy reasons, at a certain point the jets cannot be called back. No matter what. And the story then concerns how the assembled parties in charge — the president, leading military officers and their equivalents down the phone line in the Soviet Union — plan to resolve or mitigate this enormous problem that could set off full-scale nuclear war. The option they finally choose, proposed by the president (a terrific Tom Hickey) is one of those crazy ideas that is impossible to imagine a political animal actually going through with — which is what makes it so interesting.

  • REVIEW: 'Another Bone' at Redtwist Theatre ★★

    September 23, 2014

    Grief, in all its complexity and shifting emotional topography, is a difficult thing to dramatize. In the world premiere of "Another Bone" at Redtwist Theatre, playwright Cathy Earnest relies on exposition to do much of the work, which creates all sorts of challenges for actress Jacqueline Grandt as the widow of a firefighter killed Sept. 11.

  • 'Downton Abbey' star filming indie in Chicago

    September 18, 2014

    "Downton Abbey" star (and Evanston native) Elizabeth McGovern is in town along with "How I Met Your Mother's" Cobie Smulders shooting an independent feature, confirms Betsy Steinberg, who heads up the Illinois Film Office.

  • 'Alex & Ali': Love, revolution and the cost of a reunion

    September 18, 2014

    In an old snapshot from the 1970s, a man with blond hair and a goatee stands squinting into the sun, wearing a denim jacket over a T-shirt. There is an irrepressible smile on his face. This is Alex, an American Peace Corps volunteer who lived in Iran from 1967 until 1977, when political tensions that led up to the revolution forced him to return to the U.S.

  • Films worth seeking on the indie circuit

    September 15, 2014

    We're heading into Oscar-bait season for Hollywood, when the biggest movies tend to suck up all the oxygen. Just as worthy are the offerings from the local art house scene, which reliably features smaller films — indie features, classic films and documentaries — that may lack studio marketing muscle but can be just as worth your time. A quick sampling of what's on offer.

  • Christian Stolte throws himself into 'Chicago Fire'

    September 11, 2014

    For two decades Christian Stolte has been a mainstay of Chicago's theater scene. If you've seen enough plays over the years at the Goodman, Steppenwolf or Profiles, you've likely seen Stolte, who has a pugilist's mug one does not easily forget.

  • 'Homestretch' looks in on lost teens of Chicago's streets

    September 11, 2014

    "Loneliness is one of my worst enemies." That deeply unsettling admission comes from a teenager in the new documentary "The Homestretch." Roque (pronounced Rocky) is solidly built but quiet, with soft features that can't fully mask the anxieties churning below the surface. This makes him a terribly compelling figure on screen. He doesn't reveal much about his innermost thoughts, but when he does it is a moment that hits you in the gut.

  • REVIEW: 'Mnemonic' by Red Tape Theatre ★½

    September 9, 2014

    A number of favorable reviews followed the debut of "Mnemonic," devised by Complicite, a British physical theater company that first performed it in 1999 before bringing it to New York in 2001. Much of the appeal back then, I suspect, lay in that of director Simon McBurney and his collaborators. Experimental works tend to be specific to their creators and don't always transfer well when others attempt to reignite the spark. Whatever it was that swept audiences into its grasp some 15 years ago, it is clearly missing in this remount from Red Tape and director Brandon Ray at the Storefront Theater.

  • REVIEW: 'The Coward' by Stage Left ★½

    September 9, 2014

    Your reaction may vary, but recent news of a firing range instructor who was shot and killed when his 9-year-old charge, clutching an Uzi, was unable to keep proper hold of her weapon was fresh in my mind as I watched two actors in Stage Left's production of "The Coward" engage in a bit of pistol humor, one heedlessly pointing his gun this way and that, blind to the other's concern that the damn thing might go off and do some real damage.

  • Filmmaker crafts an homage to crafty brew newbies

    September 3, 2014

    Filmmaker Shannon Mortimer is a wine drinker. Her significant other is a craft beer guy and in her words: "He was dragging me around to all these industrial parks" — where many small breweries are based — "and trying different craft beers. And what you'll see are a lot of interesting people from a wide range of ages going to all these places.

  • REVIEW: 'Out of Your Mind' at ComedySportz ★★★

    August 26, 2014

    The show is touted as "improvised mentalism," and having seen it, I'm still not sure what that means exactly. Eric Lindberg (a ComedySportz ensemble member) is loose, unpretentious and quick with a halfway decent one-liner. So it's amusing and sometimes legitimately funny. But it's not clear what distinguishes improvised mentalism from regular old mentalism. Aren't all acts of mentalism at once improvised (in terms of audience interaction) and painstakingly preplanned?

  • REVIEW: 'Do You Want a Sandwich: The Romantic Missteps of Josh Lanzet' ★★

    August 26, 2014

    "Let's not be that couple!" Josh Lanzet remembers a girlfriend saying as she got in her car and he was shouting "I love yous" out of the window of his house. Relationships and their strange idiosyncrasies were on tap in Lanzet's previous show earlier this year (the charming "Dating: Adults Embracing Failure"), and he returns to the theme again in this autobiographical one-man endeavor that scrolls through his various romantic mishaps.

  • 'Fargo' star Allison Tolman is having quite a year

    August 21, 2014

    August 2013: Chicago actress Allison Tolman, unemployed and doing temp work in the mornings, stops by her agent's office to tape an audition for the new FX series "Fargo."

  • Rosario Dawson in town for 'Sin City' opening

    August 20, 2014

    Rosario Dawson and two of her "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" co-stars are coming to the Chicago area for the film's opening weekend.

  • Director of the cult movie 'The Room' comes to the Music Box

    August 19, 2014

    Has any filmmaker mined the sardonic enthusiasm for a gloriously bad film more than Tommy Wiseau?

  • 3 Chicago actors cast in 'Wire' creator's newest project for HBO

    August 18, 2014

    A trio of actors with deep Chicago ties have been added to the cast of the HBO mini-series "Show Me a Hero," the latest project from David Simon.

  • 1991's 'A Rage in Harlem' and other films at the Black Harvest Film Fest

    August 13, 2014

    Hitting its 20th anniversary milestone this year, the Black Harvest Film Festival runs through the month of August at the Gene Siskel Film Center, spotlighting black cinema. The fest hasn't always been especially discerning about quality. I'm not sure that does anybody any favors. Quantity seems to be its primary goal, and my top pick of the remaining fest is a screening of "A Rage in Harlem," the 1991 heist comedy starring Robin Givens and Forest Whitaker. More on the film below.

  • REVIEW: 'Miles Away' at the Side Project ★★

    August 12, 2014

    Dysfunction and desolation in a rundown motel room — sounds like something by Sam Shepard. But the best this play can muster is Sam Shepard-light, with its story of a comely pool hustler (Isabel Ellison), barely of the age of consent, and the not-so-bright control freak (Josh Odor) who is in charge of their business, such as it is. If only even half of it felt credible in director Scott Weinstein's production. It is a problem of performances that push too hard, and a script by Christine Whitley that pushes even harder.

  • REVIEW: 'Mike and Seth' at the Side Project ★★½

    August 12, 2014

    A quarter-life crisis has descended upon an upscale Dallas hotel room where Mike (Derek Garza) and Seth (Michael Manocchio), friends since childhood, find themselves facing down their 30s and pondering the awful sensation that they're stuck on "the conveyor belt of life."

  • Robin Williams: A personality that jumped off stage and screen

    August 11, 2014

    Rare is the comedian who can compete with an oversize live video feed of himself, projected across the back of the stage as he performs his act. And yet when it came to Robin Williams, those pixels never stood a chance.

  • 'Breakfast with Curtis,' an indie about toking, joking and communal living

    August 7, 2014

    Picture an aging hippie who drinks red wine all day long, walks around barefoot, peppers every third sentence with "man" for emphasis and usually has a deep cut of some '70s-era album playing on the stereo. This is Syd. Every college town, I'm convinced, has a guy like this.

  • 'Better Off Dead' and 'The Crow' actresses come to Chicago for screenings

    August 6, 2014

    There is an informal video interview of Diane Franklin online where she begins with the self-deprecating introduction: “I was an actress in the '80s.”   For those of us who got at least some of our sex education watching R-rated movies on cable TV during that era, she is instantly recognizable as the star of 1982’s “The Last American Virgin.”

  • Chicago-area native Keke Palmer will be Cinderella on Broadway

    August 4, 2014

    Chicago-area native Keke Palmer will make history next month as the first black actress to play Cinderella on Broadway, beginning in September.

  • WTTW and Chicago International Film Fest spotlight foreign films

    August 4, 2014

    The Soviet Union in the 1950s wasn't a place where rock 'n' roll hepcats seemed likely to thrive, and who knows how much of the underground subculture depicted in the 2008 movie musical "Hipsters" actually existed.

  • Inside the new iO,where Fey, Poehler got their start

    August 1, 2014

    Thirty-two years ago Charna Halpern approached Del Close with an offer. He was already a renowned director in the world of comedy, and working at Second City. She had just launched the ImprovOlympic and wanted him to teach a class.

  • Chicago French Film Festival 2014 lineup

    July 31, 2014

    The Fourth Annual Chicago French Film Festival is at the Music Box Theatre through Tuesday, featuring 10 selections in all. I got a look at three — each different in tone and genre, but remarkably sharp and well-made.

  • REVIEW: 'Invisible World' at the Annoyance Theatre ★★½

    July 30, 2014

    The current mainstage revue at Second City is titled “Depraved New World,” but if you're really looking for the transgressive stuff, it's happening a few miles to the north on Belmont Avenue, where the Annoyance Theatre's new sketch show, which opened in June and runs Saturday nights, is offering a decidedly R-rated spin on the genre.

  • 'This Is Spinal Tap' turns 30

    July 23, 2014

    It’s been a few years since I last saw 1984’s “This Is Spinal Tap” and what struck me upon watching it again is just how grounded the comedy is. The heavy metal rock band at the story’s center may be ridiculous, but the actual style of satire the movie works in never pushes the joke too hard. That’s actually pretty rare in a parody, but it’s one of the reasons I think “Spinal Tap” holds up so well 30 years after it was released in theaters.

  • Cat film fest, featuring video you won't find online

    July 21, 2014

    In 2012, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis launched the International Cat Video Festival, an event both sincere and tongue-in-cheek and featuring — that’s right — cat videos from the Internet.  The fest was a hit and returns this year Aug. 21.

  • iO performs its final show in Wrigleyville space

    July 20, 2014

    When I talked with iO Theater proprietor Charna Halpern late Saturday night, she didn't seem particularly nostalgic about the Wrigleyville location she was leaving after nearly 20 years. "I'm not sad," she said. Not even a little bittersweet. Next week she moves to a much larger, gut-rehabbed space in the Clybourn Corridor. She was ready to go, and I could understand the sentiment. The old building was falling apart as we spoke. The air conditioning in the downstairs theater had already conked out earlier that evening.

  • The lighter side of Alec Guinness

    July 16, 2014

    One cold night last year with too much time on my hands, I found myself tumbling down an Alec Guinness rabbit hole, streaming first the 1979 BBC miniseries adaptation of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" and then, the late hour be damned, continuing on with the 1982 follow-up, "Smiley's People."

  • Historic Patio Theater in Portage Park is for sale

    July 15, 2014

    The Patio Theater in Portage Park is for sale, according to Demetri Kouvalis, who rehabbed the venue three years ago.  Built in 1927, the movie theater has been in Kouvalis’ family since 1987.

  • The numerous Chicago ties of 2014's Emmy nominees

    July 10, 2014

    If you attend enough theater and live comedy in town over the years, watching TV can sometimes feel like a game of spot-the-onetime-Chicagoan. That's never more true than when Emmy nominations roll around.

  • Long-lost Bill Murray film surfaces on YouTube

    July 9, 2014

    A long-lost Bill Murray film appearance from 1984 has surfaced on YouTube. This bit of cinematic archaeology was unearthed by the website Dangerous Minds.

  • Two independent films set to begin shooting in Chicago

    July 9, 2014

    Ten years after making it to the finals of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's "Project Greenlight," Chicago filmmaker Duane Edwards has lined up his first feature film project, slated to begin shooting locally this fall.

  • Chicago filmmaker Stephen Cone to start shooting film in Lake Forest

    July 9, 2014

    Chicago filmmaker Stephen Cone begins filming his latest indie “Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party” this month. The movie takes place over the course of a 17-year-old’s birthday party — a suburban pool party, no less — and tackles all those great coming-of-age signposts.

  • What Shia LaBeouf means when he says 'Do you know who I am?'

    July 3, 2014

    "Do you know who I am?"

  • 'Mr. Magoo's' creator gets an overdue spotlight

    July 2, 2014

    I remember first stumbling upon one of John Hubley's animated films when his Oscar-winning 1959 short "Moonbird" screened here last year. It returns this weekend in a retrospective featuring seven other Hubley shorts at the Siskel Film Center, which is celebrating the animator's centennial.

  • Chicago actor cast in Marvel's 'Ant-Man'

    July 2, 2014

    The upcoming Marvel adaptation of “Ant-Man” starring Paul Rudd will also feature Chicago theater actor-turned-filmmaker David Dastmalchian, whose semi-autobiographical indie “Animals” (which examined addiction with a sly and unexpected dose of low-key comedy) screened in town earlier this spring.  

  • Aaron Swartz doc tracks successes, struggles of Highland Park native

    June 26, 2014

    Pop culture right now likes to portray techie innovators as entrepreneurs. Think Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network" or the amiable malcontents of the HBO comedy series "Silicon Valley." All their efforts — all that substantial brain power — is geared toward building a business. And scoring a major payday. Becoming captains of industry.

  • 'Transformers: The Premake' makes Chicago critic a filmmaker

    June 18, 2014

    Before "Transformers 4" pounds into cinemas next week (sorry, "Transformers: Age of Extinction"), let us take a moment to step back and consider a much smaller, 25-minute film from Chicago-based critic Kevin B. Lee called "Transformers: The Premake," which went live on YouTube earlier this week and will screen at the Nightingale Friday.

  • 'Sirens' will film season 2 in Chicago

    June 16, 2014

    USA Network has announced that “Sirens” will return for a 13-episode second season.  The comedy, which is filmed in Chicago, centers on a trio of quippy EMTs, one of whom is the naïve new guy played by DePaul University grad Kevin Bigley.

  • Doc to capture life and work of Art Shay

    June 12, 2014

    Art Shay, who has spent his career documenting the lives of others, is now the subject of a documentary himself.

  • Jenny Slate delivers rom-com formula jolt in 'Obvious Child'

    June 11, 2014

    In the movie "Obvious Child," Jenny Slate stars as a struggling Brooklyn comedian who gets dumped, loses her comfy job at a neighborhood bookstore and meets a new guy with potential. Also: She gets pregnant and has an abortion.

  • Ike Barinholtz cast in Tina Fey-Amy Poehler movie "The Nest."

    June 5, 2014

    Ike Barinholtz, a writer and co-star on the Fox sitcom “The Mindy Project,” has been cast as the male lead in the Tina Fey-Amy Poehler movie “The Nest.”

  • Documentary discovers the unexpected guy on the Burt's Bees logo

    June 5, 2014

    Picture for a moment the iconic Burt's Bees logo. Staring out from the brand's various salves and ointments is the face of a heavily bearded man, his wild tufts of hair barely contained under a pinstriped train engineer's hat.

  • iO alum has big shoes (and ties) to fill on his "Daily Show" gig

    May 29, 2014

    Jordan Klepper, the newest addition to "The Daily Show," doesn't mind risking a little poison ingestion if it is in the name of comedy. And if that doesn't bode well for his future as a correspondent on the show, I don't know what does. More on that mildly unsafe incident in the Q&A below.

  • TV shows and the quick hook

    May 22, 2014

    Last week as TV networks announced their lineup for the upcoming season, I noticed more grumbling than usual about the short life span that befalls shows that aren't an instant ratings hit.

  • Sam Greenlee, author of 'Spook Who Sat By the Door,' dead at 83

    May 19, 2014

    Even into his so-called golden years, the writer Sam Greenlee was outspoken about the curious fate of his 1973 film "The Spook Who Sat by the Door." A Chicago native, Greenlee, 83, died from natural causes early Monday morning at his home.

  • Tasty film returns to the Siskel Film Center

    May 15, 2014

    "One bite of that, and he'll build you a Taj Mahal," a woman is heard hollering approvingly through an open window to her neighbor, a pretty young housewife named Ila who is in her kitchen, preparing her husband's lunch. "The Taj Mahal is a tomb, auntie," Ila responds.

  • Actor, screenwriter David Dastmalchian on his new film 'Animals'

    May 8, 2014

    Films about drug addiction tend to have a punishing quality. Even the good ones. I'm thinking of "Drugstore Cowboy" and "Requiem For a Dream," "Trainspotting" and "The Man with the Golden Arm." Full-blown drug addiction is bleak. Why would an honest movie reflect anything else?

  • Timothy Simons, the guy everyone loves to hate on 'Veep'

    May 1, 2014

    "Jonah, you're not even a man," begins one of many epic insults hurled in the face of Jonah Ryan, the needling, socially maladjusted pisher of a human on HBO's "Veep," embodied with no-holds-barred gusto by one-time Chicago actor Timothy Simons. "You're like a an early draft of a man," he's told, "where they just sketched out a giant mangled skeleton but they didn't have time to add details — like pigment. Or self-respect."

  • Allison Tolman gets big break on 'Fargo'

    April 28, 2014

    Though set within the same frigid landscape as the 1996 Coen Brothers movie, the new FX series "Fargo" is not so much an adaptation as it is a close cousin. Two episodes in, it has revealed itself to be a show larded with sight gags, stubborn Midwestern manners, character quirks, black humor and oftentimes a serious and observant look at mangled humanity.

  • Chicago was on fire, but the star was really hot

    April 24, 2014

    Is it really possible that just one major motion picture has ever been made about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871?

  • Elaine Lui dissects the Celebrity Industrial Complex

    April 17, 2014

    Two weeks ago when Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced they were divorcing, many focused on the labored "conscious uncoupling" argot used in their announcement, which was posted on Paltrow's lifestyle website

  • Historic Patio Theater to close in April

    April 10, 2014

    The historic Patio Theater in Portage Park has been in Demetri Kouvalis' family since 1987. His father ran the movie theater until 2001, when the air conditioning broke.

  • Underground films see the light through fest

    April 3, 2014

    The gradual narrative unspooling of "Who Took Johnny," the true-crime documentary about a 12-year-old Iowa boy who has been missing since 1982, is extremely canny. The film doesn't deviate from the standard format — a collage of archival footage and talking heads — but it does refine it.

  • 'Taking Off' is bonkers, but what a debut for Milos Forman

    March 27, 2014

    "Taking Off" is barely a footnote in the renowned career of Czech filmmaker Milos Forman, who won the Oscar for 1975's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" as well as 1984's "Amadeus."

  • 'Love & Air Sex,' a 21st century romance

    March 20, 2014

    When you encounter a movie titled "Love & Air Sex" (this week at Facets) the obvious question is what is air sex?

  • Chicago Film Archives returns to blue-collar Lincoln Park

    March 13, 2014

    Midway through the 1974 documentary "Now We Live on Clifton," which captures the early gentrification of Lincoln Park, a group of boys fling themselves off the roof of a house onto a flimsy mattress down below. The diversion has "broken ankle" written all over it, but no one seems worse for wear.

  • Let's get flashy with film fest names

    March 6, 2014

    A few days ago I mentioned the Peace on Earth Film Festival to someone whose eyes glazed over so fast I might as well have said I was planning to stare at the wall for the next hour.

  • 'Sirens': Chicago-made humor

    February 27, 2014

    Of the six Chicago-filmed TV series airing this season, only one is a comedy.

  • Chicago playwright Tanya Saracho lands 'Girls' writing gig

    February 20, 2014

    Years ago, when I first interviewed Chicago playwright Tanya Saracho, she told me about visiting her senora here in town whenever she was in need of counsel. It took me a few minutes before I realized she was talking about a specific type of Latina fortuneteller.

  • About 'About Last Night...,' the Chicago version

    February 13, 2014

    The weekend of '80s remakes is upon us, with both 1981's "Endless Love" and 1987's "RoboCop" opening in theaters, plus one more that taps into a strange sentimental teenage memory for me: 1986's "About Last Night…"

  • 'Hallelujah the Hills,' the funniest comedy you've never seen

    February 6, 2014

    The funniest comedy you've likely never seen, let alone heard of, comes to the Siskel Film Center this week for two screenings. "Hallelujah the Hills," from 1963, is so rare, you won't find it on DVD or any streaming site.

  • Cinespace plans backlot expansion for filming possibilities

    January 30, 2014

    Cinespace, the soundstage complex on the West Side that is home to TV shows such as NBC’s “Chicago Fire” and ABC’s upcoming midseason drama “Mind Games,” plans to expand its filmmaking options by building a backlot on its existing 58-acre campus.

  • 2014 Oscars: Good films, in small packages

    January 30, 2014

    For too long moviegoers have had little exposure to the short films nominated each year for an Oscar, certainly not in the weeks prior to the ceremony. The awards for shorts — defined as shorter than 40 minutes and divided into three categories: live action, documentary and animation — have been little more than a black hole of random guesses for viewers filling out their ballots at home.

  • 'Maidentrip': Thrilling doc about a Dutch teen sailing the world solo

    January 23, 2014

    I was 15 the first time I flew to a non-English-speaking country by myself, an experience at once terrifying, thrillingly adult and exceedingly small potatoes compared to that of Laura Dekker, the Dutch teenager who sailed around the world alone from 2010 to 2012 on a 40-foot boat called Guppy.

  • Bo knew jerseys, and so does Danny Pudi

    January 10, 2014

    I wasn't the only "Community" obsessive to breathe a sigh of relief when the NBC comedy returned for its fifth season last week, with creator Dan Harmon reinstalled at the helm after being discharged from his duties last year. The show suffered for it, morphing into a tepid facsimile. Now it's back to its old self: wonderfully bizarre and deeply funny.

  • Review: 'Chicago PD' a by-the-book procedural

    January 8, 2014

    There's an old Rudyard Kipling quote about Chicago I haven't heard for a while that shows up in the new NBC drama "Chicago PD," a show that looks to portray police work the old school way: tough, dirty and not without personal costs. Will you see expansive recaps on this show every week? No. It's not that kind of series. Is it a touch overheated at times? Yes. But it hits the spot.

  • Art house cinema winter preview

    January 2, 2014

    We're coming off a year that saw numerous venue disruptions for the Northwest Chicago Film Society, which found itself moving from the Portage Theater to the Patio Theater to the Siskel Film Center in a matter of months.

  • From network to network, it's Chicago all over

    September 19, 2013

    With the new TV season upon us, let's step back and look at the new shows based out of Chicago (an unprecedented six TV series are here this fall), plus shows filming elsewhere that feature Chicago actors.

  • A face you won't forget, in movies big and small

    September 12, 2013

    Very little casting is done in Chicago when big studio movies shoot here. Not significant roles, where the camera lingers on a person for more than a moment. It's a strange phenomenon considering the deep bench of acting talent in town, but every so often there are exceptions. I remember watching 2008's "The Dark Knight" and realizing that weaselly guy who Aaron Eckhart was threatening over the ledge of a skyscraper was a Chicago actor. I knew the face. It's a distinctive face, one that belongs to David Dastmalchian. Haven't seen much of it on local stages since.

  • Nothing devious about 'Devious Maids' writer Tanya Saracho

    June 20, 2013

    For all the Chicago acting talent that turns up on TV each season, a steady number of local playwrights are landing TV work as well. Particularly women. Laura Jacqmin recently joined the staff of the new ABC series "Lucky 7" (which co-stars fellow Chicagoan Stephen Louis Grush).

  • When celebrity interviews go bad

    June 13, 2013

    Let us consider for a moment the Hollywood performance that never gets nominated for awards but can be just as indelible as any Oscar-winning role. I'm referring to the celebrity interview that goes viral.

  • Ricky Jay keeps his magic tricks, and thoughts, close to the vest

    June 6, 2013

    About midway through the documentary "Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay" (opening Friday at the Music Box Theatre), Jay emerges backstage after a performance and is greeted by a roomful of people. As he acknowledges his well-wishers, he catches sight of a person filming him and says, only half joking: "Cameras. They should be avoided at all costs."

  • Judy Blume comes to a theater near you with 'Tiger Eyes'

    June 2, 2013

    "Someone came to us and said, 'Hey kids, do you want to make a movie?'" Judy Blume said with a laugh when I spoke to her by phone last month about the upcoming release of the film adaptation of "Tiger Eyes," based on her 1981 novel. "No, that's not what they said. But they had funding to adapt a couple of books into movies, and they asked us (Blume and her son, Lawrence Blume, a film director) which one we would like to do, and we didn't hesitate for a second. Because we always knew which one."

  • 'Breakfast Club': How a talky teen film became a classic

    May 31, 2013

    I was in 7th grade when "The Breakfast Club" opened in theaters, and I distinctly remember thinking the movie was totally right about everything. I wasn't in high school yet (and that was surely one of movie's allures; a peek in a world I would soon enter), but at 13, I had suddenly become aware of all those weird anxieties, indignities and nuances that define the lives of adolescents, and they were all right there on the screen. Perceived slights as far as the eye can see. Rigid-seeming social circles. Parents who just don't understand. If only people knew the real me.

  • 'Portrait of Jason': A raconteur gets his moment

    May 23, 2013

    "Portrait of Jason" begins with a test tone and a blurry image. And then, as the screen slowly comes into focus, the tone stops and you hear a crew member say: "This is Shirley Clarke, 'Portrait of Jason.' Roll one, sound one. Sound rolling, camera rolling."

  • A magnetic actress tackles a taboo subject in 'Unspeakable Act'

    May 17, 2013

    "In the spring of 2011, at the age of 18, my brother Matthew got his first real girlfriend," says the 17-year-old protagonist of "The Unspeakable Act" in voiceover as we see her riding her bike down leafy, idyllic streets in Brooklyn. "I had somehow thought that he and I had an unspoken agreement that we belonged to each other. Which was really pretty stupid of me."

  • NBC picks up 'Chicago Fire' spinoff 'Chicago PD'

    May 10, 2013

    NBC, which renewed “Chicago Fire” last month for a second season, has announced that it is also picking up the show’s police-themed spinoff.

  • 'Peeples' star Craig Robinson's full plate may get even fuller

    May 9, 2013

    For the last nine seasons Craig Robinson has played Darryl, one of the most understated characters on TV. "The Office" may be closing out its ninth and final season next week, but Robinson's profile is about to increase exponentially. He has three movies coming out, including the idiots-at-the-apocalypse comedy "This Is the End" (with Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jonah Hill) and "Rapture-Palooza" (playing no less than the Antichrist himself, seducing Anna Kendrick).

  • What are the best movies based on books?

    May 8, 2013

    Less than a year after “The Great Gatsby” was published in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald was paid $16,666 for the film rights. “Come and see it all!” beckons the trailer for the silent film. “And enjoy the entertainment thrill of your life!”

  • TV pitches: So I've got this idea for a show ...

    May 7, 2013

    Two weeks from now, TV networks will announce their new slate of shows for next season. The majority of these series will be variations on a formula. Procedurals. High-concept sci-fi and fantasy dramas. Nighttime soaps. Comedies starring familiar faces. This is how it works. Out-of-the-ordinary shows tend to be too risky when the goal is big ratings.

  • 'Schlub Life': Comedy Central pilot coming from locals

    April 26, 2013

    A group of Chicago sketch and improv performers are making a sitcom pilot for Comedy Central called “Schlub Life,” about “two out-of-work and out-of-shape husbands and their exasperated wives who begrudgingly provide the good life for them.” It is premise with legs, landing somewhere between “Workaholics” and “The League.”

  • Kam Kardashian: Long-lost, totally made-up sister found in Chicago

    April 25, 2013

    Anyone with a cellphone and a laptop can make a Web series. But it's tough to pull off something that looks professionally made. Not when there's barely any money involved. There is a huge opportunity here for indie filmmakers, especially those inventive enough to shoot great-looking videos on nonexistent budgets, to step in and make a name for themselves.

  • 'Big Fish' writer chats with the minnows

    April 19, 2013

    A group of influential screenwriters will converge on Chicago this weekend, including Lucy Alibar (whose script for "Beasts of the Southern Wild" was nominated for an Oscar this year) and Bob Gale (who wrote all three "Back to the Future" films).

  • Human Rights fest docs convey hard truths

    April 4, 2013

    Sometimes a number is shocking enough to stop you cold.

  • 'Mr. Selfridge': The man who invented retail therapy

    March 28, 2013

    Until recently, the Vera Wang bridal shop in Singapore imposed a non-refundable $482 fee to try on dresses. And last month a health food retailer in Australia posted this notice on its door: “As of the first of February, this store will be charging people a $5 fee per person for ’just looking.’ The $5 fee will be deducted when goods are purchased.”

  • An indie brings Nick Offerman back to the Chicago area

    March 7, 2013

    Whenever I find myself in a bleak mood, a quick glance at the Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness usually does the trick. A near-perfect melding of minds between the "Parks and Recreation" writing staff and actor Nick Offerman, this visual guide on how to live life ("Crying: Acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon") is one of the NBC show's lasting legacies.

  • Chicago Underground Film Fest finds a fitting home

    February 28, 2013

    Nearly 20 years after it was founded, the Chicago Underground Film Fest remains (perhaps appropriately) a relatively underground event. Two decades is a milestone, though, especially if you're talking about a fest that brands itself as the home of "defiantly independent" filmmakers. I give a lot of credit to artistic director Bryan Wendorf, who hasn't really had to compromise his initial vision. A quick glance at this year's lineup (starting Wednesday and running through March 10) shows that CUFF once again brings the perplexing, the wonderfully offbeat and strange to our city's movie screens.

  • TNT's 'Southland': A show worth seeking out

    February 27, 2013

    In a TV season boasting at least half a dozen underappreciated comedies (“The Middle,” “Raising Hope” and “Enlightened” among them), it is far rarer to see a quality drama fall through the cracks. But if ever a series deserved the kind of intense viewer attention normally reserved for a Sunday night on HBO, it would be “Southland” (9 p.m. Central Wednesdays) which began its fifth season this month on TNT.

  • Oscars: Seth MacFarlane is an Academy guy

    February 23, 2013

    When Seth MacFarlane takes the stage Sunday as host of the 85thAcademy Awards, chances are a large portion of the viewing audience will look at their TV screens and wonder: Who is this guy? He might just be the least famous Oscar host ever , with a resume unlike that of any previous host except for the author and humorist Irvin S. Cobb, who hosted in 1935 — but even Cobb had a career in front of the camera.

  • What's your take: Comedians working for free at iO

    February 21, 2013

    There has been debate brewing the past few weeks among comedy performers in New York concerning the issue of pay. Often, stand-up comedians with a certain level of experience can score paying gigs at New York clubs. Recently, more and more stand-ups have started performing at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, a sketch and improv house where no one is paid to perform. Hence, the recent tensions.

  • It took a trio to come up with Wonder Woman

    February 15, 2013

    If comic book characters are a driving force in Hollywood, it's worth noting that Wonder Woman, one of the most iconic characters of the last 70 years, has yet to star in her own live-action movie.

  • 'Bye Bye Liver's' Pub Theater finds new home near Wrigley Field

    February 11, 2013

    Seven years after launching the profitable and long-running “Bye Bye Liver: The Chicago Drinking Play,” Pub Theater has acquired its own theater space just a few blocks north of Wrigley Field at 3914 N. Clark St.

  • Logan Theatre reviving some forgotten -- or never known -- trashy movies

    January 31, 2013

    There are raunchy, trashy, terrible movies. And then there is "Intrepidos Punks," in a class all its own. An exploitation artifact from early 1980s Mexico (there is some dispute about the film's exact date), it pits the berserk against the berserker: Punk biker gang versus corrupt law enforcement.

  • This side of 'Paradise,' with Echols, Davis

    January 17, 2013

    "I really do believe these people would have gotten away with murdering me if it would not have been for what you guys did — for being there in the beginning and getting this whole thing on tape so the rest of the world sees what's happening." That's Damien Echols, talking to filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky a couple of years ago when they visited him in prison for the most recent installment of "Paradise Lost," their HBO documentary series about the West Memphis Three that aired last year.

  • Midwest native looks east in 'Somewhere Between'

    January 11, 2013

    "I am a child stuck between two countries," says 15-year-old Fang "Jenni" Lee in the insightful new documentary "Somewhere Between." Adopted at age 5 and raised in Berkeley, Calif., she is one of roughly 80,000 girls who have come to the U.S. since China first began allowing foreign adoptions in 1992.

  • 'Price Check': Consumer-themed indie is one to check out

    January 3, 2013

    There is a science to the way products are placed on supermarket shelves, and it is one that can stealthily influences our choices.

  • Taking stock of Chicago TV, film

    December 20, 2012

    It was a notable year for Chicago's film and TV industry, both for projects that came — and those that didn't. First, the good news. The city was home to four television series in 2012. That is an unprecedented number.

  • Edward Burns returns to his roots

    December 13, 2012

    About halfway through writing the script for "The Fitzgerald Family Christmas" (which opens at the Wilmette Theatre next week), Edward Burns says he found himself at a crossroad. "Do I want to make the big, crazy, funny, holly-jolly Christmas Irish family movie?" he recalled when we spoke last week, "or do I want to go for something a little more grounded in the real world and a little more serious?"

  • Richard Wagner: Separating the man from the music

    November 29, 2012

    "Just because he may have been a nasty little man and a nasty anti-Semite doesn't mean that his music is not as supreme as it is."

  • Ethel Kennedy isn't one to share, in spite of film about her

    October 11, 2012

    “There are so many times in my life,” filmmaker Rory Kennedy tells her sister Courtney in the movie “Ethel,” “where people have said, ‘I want to introduce Robert Kennedy's daughter. ...” To which her sibling replies: “Oh, it makes me so mad! What about the one who delivered us and carried us for nine months and then has been with us the last 40 years?”

  • They're 'Mortified,' we're entertained

    October 4, 2012

    As a genre, the celebrity interview hasn't changed much over the years. The standard talk show appearance is home to the carefully sculpted anecdote. In-depth magazine profiles tend to pivot around a contrived field trip or two, or leave you with the lingering sense that most of the spontaneous ponderings have been shaped ahead of time by the unseen hands of a publicist and manager. The press junket doesn't even pretend to be anything more than the sales tool that it is.

  • Chicago filmmaker spent 8 years on new documentary 'Band of Sisters'

    September 13, 2012

    "You didn't really have (to) think much for yourself," a nun says of her early years, in the new documentary "Band of Sisters," which has its world premiere at the Siskel Film Center this week. "All that went unchanged for years and years and years — until Vatican II."

  • Ira Glass and WBEZ Chicago venture into the movie biz

    August 31, 2012

    One of the first things you notice during the opening credits of "Sleepwalk with Me" is a producing acknowledgment that reads simply: "In association with WBEZ Chicago's This American Life."

  • Emmy nominations reinforce Chicago's rep as comedy training ground

    July 19, 2012

    Nominees for the 64th Primetime Emmys include several former Chicagoans, continuing a trend from years past. The 2011 winner for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, Plainfield native and “Mike & Molly” star Melissa McCarthy, was again nominated in that category as well as outstanding guest actress for her much-lauded performance as host on “Saturday Night Live.”

  • Film festivals for many tastes this weekend

    April 13, 2012

    We're heading into a crowded weekend for film fests in Chicago, with no fewer than three major events competing for attention. This kind of overlap is far from ideal, but then again filmgoers are a self-selecting bunch, and the three festivals on tap speak to distinct interests. I'll take a closer look at two of them, while my colleague Michael Phillips tackles the 28th Annual Chicago Latino Film Festival this week in Specialty Screenings.

  • How 'Wizard of Oz' struggled on road to fame

    March 2, 2012

    Nostalgia and navel-gazing dominated the Academy Awards broadcast Sunday, including a spoof featuring Christopher Guest, Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge and others as a disgruntled focus group attending a "Wizard of Oz" test screening circa 1939. The joke? They tore the movie to shreds, culminating with the ultimate kiss-off from Eugene Levy: "I didn't particularly care for the 'Rainbow' song."

  • Tribune archive: 'Comeback' jerk getting noticed

    April 7, 2005

    This article was originally published on April 7, 2005.

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