Biography

Nina Metz covers film, TV and theater for the Chicago Tribune. She hails from upstate New York. At Tulane University, she fell hard for the city of New Orleans, where she lived and worked for nearly a decade as a news and talk radio producer. Nina has been in Chicago since 1998, and has written for the Tribune since 2002.

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Nina Metz

Nina Metz

Chicago Closeup

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Historic Patio Theater to close in April

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.

  • Chicago writer gets 'Girls' gig

    January 26, 2014

    More TV work is in the future for Chicago playwright Tanya Saracho, a co-founder of Teatro Luna who only last year landed her first TV gig writing for Lifetime's “Devious Maids.” Over the weekend Saracho said she learned that she will next be working alongside Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner, writing for the fourth season of HBO's “Girls.” Saracho, who has been back in Chicago since November, leaves for LA by the end of the week.

  • '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.

  • Movie makes secret writing public, for fun

    January 16, 2014

    Chicago's live-lit scene is a robust one, with storytelling events filling up the calendar every month. They're cheap to produce, and I suspect they tap into a desire among audiences to experience something without a screen of one sort or another getting in the way. You don't even need a mic. Just a person with a story — and an audience willing to listen.

  • 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.

  • Our naked 2013: On screen, clothes came off in a hurry

    December 31, 2013

    We lost our clothing this past year, it seems.

  • Chicago's the secret for Steve Conrad writer

    December 26, 2013

    First published as a 1939 short story in the New Yorker, James Thurber's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" crawls inside the mind of an unassuming man: Walter Mitty, serious daydreamer.

  • Chicago Filmmakers to move its home base

    December 12, 2013

    One of the city's hubs for independent film is poised to move. Chicago Filmmakers is in the process of buying an unoccupied firehouse from the city located in Edgewater at 5720 N. Ridge Ave. — roughly a block north of Hollywood (Avenue).

  • The mind of DeRay Davis - unfiltered and never fake

    December 12, 2013

    The Game Show Network hopes to wring some laughs from the old standby: Men think like this; women think like that. "Mind of a Man" debuts January 8 and is hosted by stand-up comedian DeRay Davis, who told me he had to adapt his R-rated instincts for basic cable.

  • Gene Kelly plays way against type in the 1944 noir 'Christmas Holiday'

    December 5, 2013

    Looking over the Siskel Film Center schedule recently, a little-known film from 1944 called "Christmas Holiday" starring Gene Kelly caught my eye. Hang on. Hang on! Gene Kelly made a Christmas movie? How have I missed this?

  • Chicago's Robert Townsend talks Cosby, Second City and a 1-man show

    November 27, 2013

    Here's something you may not know about Bill Cosby.

  • Comedic actor Jay Leggett dies

    November 24, 2013

    Comedic actor and one-time Chicago improviser Jay Leggett collapsed and died of natural causes Saturday after a day of deer hunting in Lincoln County, Wis., according to the sheriff's office there. He was 50.

  • The real Masters & Johnson-- and their TV counterparts

    November 21, 2013

    It's one thing to study human sexuality in the Midwest in the 1950s. It is yet quite another to find willing participants. But William Masters and Virginia Johnson — the St. Louis-based researchers who would become famous as America's foremost sex experts of the 20th century — apparently had few problems in that regard.

  • Gordon Parks' short films spotlight the overlooked

    November 14, 2013

    "This is the story of a black man," director Gordon Parks says, staring into the camera. "Look at him and know that to destroy him is to destroy yourself."

  • Reeling, Chicago's gay and lesbian film festival, is back

    November 7, 2013

    The timing feels serendipitous. After a hiatus in 2012 to regroup, Reeling, Chicago's long-running gay and lesbian film festival, is back — kicking off just days after Illinois lawmakers voted in favor of marriage equality. You can't plan that kind of synchronicity.

  • 'Crisis' production in suburbs suspended by NBC

    November 4, 2013

    After two months of shooting in Chicago, the NBC midseason drama "Crisis" has "gone on an unplanned hiatus" as of Friday reports Deadline.com.  Rich Moskal, of the Chicago Film Office, confirms the show has suspended production through next week.  

  • A restaurant film about the people, not the food

    October 24, 2013

    The renowned chef Thomas Keller talks about nouvelle cuisine as "personality cuisine" in the new documentary "Spinning Plates," which goes into the kitchens of three distinct American eateries to reveal the personalities behind the menus.

  • Non-fiction filmmakers to tap Chicagoans with money and pull

    October 17, 2013

    Of the five films nominated for the best documentary Oscar this year, two of them — "How to Survive a Plague" and "The Invisible War" — got funding and support from Good Pitch. Two out of five. Talk about validation. Launched in the UK about six years ago, Good Pitch invites a select number of doc filmmakers to make their pitch to group of funders, TV networks and other potential partners.

  • Faux testosterone, real comedy

    October 3, 2013

    A parody of DIY home improvement shows, the new web series "Rick and Len Fix Sh** in Your House" brings to mind an unholy mix of "This Old House" and "Duck Dynasty."

  • Protests draw Haskell Wexler back to Chicago

    September 26, 2013

    A version of "Chicago (That Toddlin' Town)" sung by Judy Garland plays over the opening moments of "Four Days in Chicago," Haskell Wexler's documentary about the protesters who came town last year during the NATO summit. As Garland sings of State Street, that great street, Wexler intercuts footage of helmeted police stationed downtown, dressed in quasi-military gear, their batons at the ready, a clutch of plastic tie handcuffs dangling suggestively from their uniforms.

  • 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.

  • Shagging flies and talking film

    September 5, 2013

    Richard Linklater works out of an office at the Austin Studios lot in Texas, a vast expanse of concrete and converted airplane hangars that was once, some 25 years back, the main airport in town, where experimental filmmaker James Benning flew at the invitation of Linklater.

  • A drive-in horror show, but for a good cause

    August 29, 2013

    The past few years have been tough on drive-in movie theater owners, who have been forced to chuck their 35 mm projectors in favor of newer digital models if they want to continue to feature the latest releases. The switch-over costs money — money that mom and pop venues open for business just four months of the year rarely have on hand.

  • Improv + beer = 'Drinking Buddies'

    August 22, 2013

    Actor Ron Livingston tells a great story about landing in Chicago last summer to film the relationship comedy "Drinking Buddies." In the car from the airport he's informed that director Joe Swanberg is ahead of schedule and wants to shoot Livingston's breakup scene that afternoon.

  • The ubiquitous Gary Cole

    August 14, 2013

    "Didn't he play a serial killer?" an editor asked when I brought up Gary Cole's name not long ago. Not a serial killer, but the 1984 TV miniseries "Fatal Vision" was Cole's first major role. Playing Jeffrey MacDonald, the real-life Army doctor who was convicted in 1979 of killing his wife and children, Cole — a mainstay of Chicago's then-burgeoning Off-Loop theater scene — stepped into the role with barely any on-camera experience.

  • How to make a whodunit spoof: Hire a murderers' row of acting talent

    August 8, 2013

    It was one of the top 10 grossing films of 1976, but "Murder By Death" has the feel of something Neil Simon and his brother Danny might have cooked up for Sid Caesar during their days writing for "Your Show of Shows" in the '50s: Assemble a group of well-known literary sleuths (winking versions of everyone from Sam Spade to Hercule Poirot to Nick and Nora Charles), throw them in a rambling gothic mansion for the weekend and let the whodunit spoofing commence.

  • A Moms Mabley doc, a sci-fi parody and more at the Black Harvest Film Fest

    August 1, 2013

    A highlight of this year's Black Harvest Film Festival (which begins this weekend and continues throughout the month) will likely be an early look at one of the most anticipated documentaries of the year: "Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley."

  • James Cromwell: a bundle of contradictions

    July 25, 2013

    The tinkling sounds of a piano ring tone go off just as James Cromwell and I sit down in the lobby of his Streeterville high-rise. He has recently relocated to Chicago, where he is filming the new ABC drama "Betrayal," set to debut this fall. On the line is his assistant. "She was making sure I wasn't still upstairs watching the Tour de France," he says.

  • A new doc explores Internet privacy...or the lack thereof

    July 18, 2013

    For the past year or so since Walgreens began pushing its Balance Rewards card, I have steadfastly refused to sign on. Every time I go to the check-out it becomes a conversation. "Do you have a Balance Rewards card?" No. "Would you like to sign up for one?" No, thanks. "Are you sure?" Yes, actually. Quite sure.

  • Chicago Closeup: Jeff Garlin, improvised outlaw

    July 12, 2013

    The Second City alum talks about his new all-improvised film and his recent brush with the law

  • Realism outweighs budget in indie genre

    July 4, 2013

    You can draw a straight line connecting Andrew Bujalski, director of the low-key 2002 indie "Funny Ha Ha," to Lena Dunham, premium cable provocateur.

  • Cinematic mind games against a late-60s background

    June 27, 2013

    A peculiar anniversary party kicks things off in 1967’s “Games,” the little-known but awesomely bonkers psychological thriller starring James Caan and Katharine Ross as young Manhattanites. A pair of dabbling eccentrics with far too much time and money on their hands, they have filled their multi-story townhouse with pop art, kitsch and antique carnival games.

  • 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."

  • 'Sirens': Another Chicago TV pilot picked up

    May 16, 2013

    Yet another scripted series will be shooting in Chicago. On Thursday USA Network announced it has picked up the Denis Leary-produced half-hour comedy “Sirens,” about Chicago EMTs who have their act together at work but are a mess in their personal lives.

  • 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.

  • 'Chicago Fire' creator talks about renewal, spinoff possibilities

    May 2, 2013

    Last week NBC announced it is renewing its Wednesday night drama "Chicago Fire" for a second season. The cast and crew are still in town but not for long; they're scheduled to wrap the Season 1 finale on Saturday. They'll be back in mid-July to begin work on the new season.

  • Chicago improv team behind Comedy Central pilot 'Schlub Life'

    April 28, 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.”

  • '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.

  • Northwestern students write for 'All My Children'

    April 22, 2013

    Two decades after she honed her writing skills at Northwestern University, Chicago native and soap opera pioneer Agnes Nixon created “All My Children.” It ran on ABC from 1970 until it was cancelled in 2011, but it relaunches online next Monday thanks to the efforts of longtime Hollywood talent manager and TV producer Jeff Kwatinetz, yet another of the school’s alums.

  • '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).

  • Latin cinema comes to AMC 600 North

    April 12, 2013

    Watch enough new foreign films in a row, and certain things start to stand out. Like the incredible variety of cellphone ring tones used in other countries. They're familiar but just different enough to break your concentration for a moment, like a surreal hiccup. That's not necessarily a bad thing. We are forever comparing our lives with those we see on screen.

  • Film revenues up, state claims

    April 12, 2013

    A robust $184 million was spent by TV and film projects in Illinois last year, a rebound from 2011’s dip to $154 million and beating out 2010’s record high of $161 million, according to numbers released Friday by Gov. Pat Quinn’s office.

  • 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.”

  • Toss up a bottle for the author of 'Cocktail'

    March 21, 2013

    Before it became a lucrative if critically drubbed exemplar of '80s cinematic cheese, the Tom Cruise vehicle "Cocktail" first sprang to life as a novel by Heywood Gould, who based the book on his experiences bartending throughout New York in the 1970s.

  • 'Bitter Buddha': Spotlight's a bit brighter on pair's return

    March 14, 2013

    The last time I spoke with comedian Eddie Pepitone was June, just prior to the world premiere of his movie "The Bitter Buddha" in Chicago, where it screened during the Just For Laughs festival. Nine months and several tour stops later, he and director Steven Feinartz (a Buffalo Grove native) return to town this weekend on a triumphant wave of social media fervor. Both will be at the Music Box Theatre on Friday, with Pepitone performing a set Saturday at the Lincoln Lodge.

  • 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.

  • Second City vets making it behind scenes

    February 21, 2013

    Second City has been smart enough over the years to let its impressive roster of alumni speak for itself. Old photos of recognizable faces may line the lobby, but you'll never see one of the theater's shows advertised under a banner touting, "From the producers who brought you Bill Murray and Tina Fey before they were famous."

  • 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.

  • From Afghanistan to Montana: War vets find solace fly-fishing in a new documentary

    February 7, 2013

    In the affecting new documentary "Not Yet Begun to Fight," a sound engineer is caught on film asking for a cigarette from one of the film's subjects, a Marine corporal from Evansville, Ind., named Erik Goodge, who lost an eye when he was wounded in Afghanistan. "You're bumming cigarettes off a one-eyed guy? What the hell's wrong with you?" Goodge jokes. And then, noticing the camera: "Is that gonna be in the movie?"

  • 'Divergent' to hold casting call for extras

    February 4, 2013

    Atmosphere Casting is looking for extras and background players for the upcoming film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s sci-fi novel “Divergent,” which will film in Chicago from April through July and star Shailene Woodley ("The Descendants").

  • 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.

  • A woman and her 'Ax Men'

    January 25, 2013

    The world of lumber-jacking joined the ranks of reality TV in 2008 with the History Channel series "Ax Men." The logging companies featured on the show (currently midway through its sixth season) tend to come from two regions: the Great Northwest and the Southern Bayou. On Sunday, that will change when a crew based in the Midwest joins the cast.

  • 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.

  • Movie version of sci-fi hit `Divergent' to film in Chicago

    January 14, 2013

    Just two weeks into the new year, Chicago has landed its first major movie project of 2013. Rumored for weeks, the Illinois Film Office has confirmed that “Divergent” will start shooting here in April.

  • 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?"

  • Faces, some masked, of Anonymous

    December 6, 2012

    Two years ago in December, Visa, MasterCard and PayPal cut off all financial services to WikiLeaks. This left the controversial website blocked off from accepting online donations — a state of affairs that did not sit well with members of the sprawling Internet activist group known as Anonymous, which let its collective displeasure be known when it launched brief (but attention-getting) disruptions affecting each company's website. They called it Operation Payback.

  • 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."

  • 'SNL's' Strong returns to improv team for show

    November 26, 2012

    Of the three new “Saturday Night Live” cast members hired from Chicago for this season, Cecily Strong (a.k.a. “The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party,” featured on “Weekend Update”) has made the biggest impact so far. (Amusingly, she also worked both sides of the Petraeus scandal recently, pulling double duty as Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley in a single episode.)

  • Northwestern tackles the career (and controversies) of Tyler Perry

    November 22, 2012

    There are no sacred cows on the NBC sitcom "30 Rock." The show happily skewers its own network along with any number of pop-culture phenomena, and last week's episode was no different, with a running joke aimed squarely in the direction of Tyler Perry, featuring scenes from a movie (must I say it? fictitious!) called "Tracy Jordan's Aunt Phatso Goes to the Hospital Goes to Jail."

  • According to doc, sushi's a victim of its own appeal

    November 15, 2012

    The first several minutes of "Sushi: The Global Catch" (at the Siskel Film Center through Wednesday) lure you in with a quiet but detailed look at the extensive training required of sushi chefs in Japan.

  • Spertus to screen tale of two cultures

    November 8, 2012

    College football is played on Saturday. And in the Jewish religion, Saturday is the Sabbath.

  • Is city short of space to shoot?

    November 2, 2012

    According to Andy and Lana Wachowski, most of their films are set in Chicago — although none have actually shot here.

  • Local filmmakers getting another look

    October 25, 2012

    The one art house cinema in town to regularly spotlight the work of local filmmakers, the Siskel Film Center, brings back a handful of its more popular Chicago-made films of the last year, including "Band of Sisters," the documentary about nuns' views on Vatican II that I wrote about in this space last month (screening Nov. 16-21). This week marks the return of "The Wise Kids," Stephen Cone's wry coming-of-ager about religion and sexual identity (through Nov. 1). A recent transplant to Los Angeles, Cone is finishing work on his latest film (co-starring Steppenwolf ensemble member Austin Pendleton), but will be in town for post-show discussions this weekend.

  • 'Saving Hubble' shows off the stars

    October 18, 2012

    As the avuncular host of "NOVA ScienceNOW" on PBS, Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the few astrophysicists who is recognized outside of scientific circles. It's no accident that he has made so many appearances on "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report." He is witty and smart — but most importantly, he eschews jargon for regular talk. (His Twitter feed is pretty droll as well.)

  • MTV's 'Underemployed': Underwhelmingly vague

    October 16, 2012

    “Underemployed” is a show in search of an identity. So much so that even creator Craig Wright doesn't know how to peg the new MTV series, describing it in the press notes as simply a “one-hour ensemble.” Ensemble what you ask? Well, exactly.

  • 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.

  • 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' a luxe example of '50s cinema

    September 27, 2012

    The teaming of Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" was a combination so potent it can only be described with an inappropriately long wolf whistle, so much so that even a fussbudget such as New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther couldn't resist devoting a few lines in his 1953 review to the pair's physical attributes. He actually backdoors his way into the observation, couching it in a line of dialogue from the film ("Those girls couldn't drown!") before arriving at the conclusion that "there is not much class in this picture." It seems you can't have your cheesecake and eat it too.

  • 'Trouble With the Curve' director keeps focus on film

    September 20, 2012

    Clint Eastwood's appearance last month at the Republican National Convention will undoubtedly go down as one of the more amusing moments in the 2012 presidential campaign. His performance-art speech with an empty chair also qualifies as one of the most unusual methods employed by a film star to get himself in front of millions of viewers just weeks before his new movie is set to open in theaters.

  • 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."

  • Short, sometimes sweet, often interesting

    September 6, 2012

    In the dark animated short "The Watchmaker's Apprentice" (from Chicago filmmaker Julian Grant), the title character narrates his tale in song to an oompah beat. "I once was an apprentice in the clock making trade/and the miser made me work for every penny of my wage/'Till he found he could replace me with a clockwork machine/And he threw me right out on the street."

  • Portage Theater has a new owner, movie future remains uncertain

    September 6, 2012

    After months of uncertainty, the Portage Theater is under new ownership. The current tenants who run and manage the cinema received a letter Wednesday night from an attorney representing the new owner informing them of the change, effective Sept. 1.

  • 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."

  • Chicago sitcom TV pilots square off this weekend

    July 19, 2012

    The 2012 Chicago Comedy TV Pilot Competition, now in its sixth year, gets under way this weekend. Of the finalists to be screened Friday, the strongest entry may also have the toughest time gaining traction with the jury panel, which includes talent agents as well as directors of development at CBS, Fox and Comedy Central.

  • 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.”

  • It came from Ray Bradbury

    July 12, 2012

    Though known primarily as an author, Ray Bradbury had a fixation with Hollywood. It was inevitable that his skills as a science fiction writer would eventually land him work in the movies.

  • Grindhouse gets its due at Facets

    June 21, 2012

    The sound of the wah-wah guitar on the soundtrack to 1973's "Wonder Women" can signify only one thing: This movie means funky business.

  • 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."

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