News Column

Film notes

November 8, 2013


Film notes

* Barrington's beloved Catlow Theater has two Chicago-made movies coming up for a mere $3 admission. "Home Alone" will run at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 9. "Return to Me" (directed by Chicago's own Bonnie Hunt) will be shown at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13. Go to for tickets.

* The digitally restored "The Wizard of Oz" in both 2-D and 3-D versions returns this weekend to Ted Bulthaup's Hollywood Palms in Naperville and Hollywood Blvd. in Woodridge. The 1939 classic musical will be double-billed with James Franco's "Oz the Great and Powerful" at the Blvd. on Saturday, Nov. 9, and at the Palms on Sunday, Nov. 10. Go to.

* Dann & Raymond's Movie Club presents "Licensed to Thrill! The 007 Explosion," examining the impact of the James Bond phenomenon 51 years after "Dr. No" debuted. Join me and film historian Raymond Benson (author of six James Bond novels and three 007 novelizations) as we look at the movie knock-offs attempting to cash in on the 1960s spy craze.

Clips from such films as "Our Man Flint," Matt Helm's "The Silencers," "Help!," "Austin Powers International Man of Mystery," "OSS-117 Cairo: Nest of Spies" and nine other Bondian homages will be shown.

It starts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, 500 N. Dunton Ave., Arlington Heights. Free admission. Go to for details.

* Join me (without Raymond) for an evening celebrating the greatest holiday films with "Ho-Ho-Holiday Movies" at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, at the St. Charles Library, 1 S. 6th Ave., St. Charles. Free admission! .

* Veterans and active military personnel are invited to see the documentary "Honor Flight: One Last Mission" for free at 2:35 and 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, at Marcus

theaters in Addison, Gurnee, Orland Park and Elgin. ID required. A $5 admission applies to other shows. .

* Reeling 31: The Chicago LGBT International Film Festival (the second longest-running LGBT film fest on the planet) continues through Nov. 14 at Chicago's Music Box, Logan Theatre and Chicago Filmmakers with satellite screenings scheduled for the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University in Evanston, Chicago's DuSable Museum, Sidetrack (3349 N. Halsted St., Chicago) and the Edgewater branch of the Chicago Public Library. Go to .

Mini-review: 'How I Live Now'

"There's going to be World War III!" pipes up a little girl named Piper in Kevin Macdonald's cinematic adaptation of Meg Rosoff's novel about teen angst and yearning amid a world gone seriously haywire.

Up to this point in "How I Live Now" (not one of the catchiest titles to grace a marquee), the story has followed Daisy, a transplanted bratty American teen played by the electrifying Irish actress Saoirse Ronan.

She has come to live with her distant relatives in the rural countryside of Great Britain for a summer. Filled with attitude and punky spunk, Daisy disdains life with little Piper (Harley Bird), 14- year-old Issac (Tom Holland), older Edmund (George MacKay) and their mom (Anna Chancellor).

Mom heads off to Geneva to work on some kind of peace talks, leaving the kids behind to bond in an idyllic rustic retreat where Daisy blossoms and begins to have feelings for the redheaded Eddie, an "animal-whisperer" who apparently can talk to hawks, cattle and girls.

Then comes the distant rumble. The hurricane-force winds. The eerie snow flakes in summer. London has been nuked, throwing the country into martial law. The kids get rounded up and shipped off to separate labor camps.

We don't know who the enemy are and what goes on outside of Daisy's world view. In a way, this becomes a major asset to "How I Live Now," simply because the not-knowing becomes a constant source of disequilibrium for us.

Still, that plus Ronan's piercing, intelligent blue eyes don't make up for Macdonald's mostly inert post-apocalyptic drama that puts Daisy and Piper on a "Lassie Come Home" mission to return to their homestead, because Daisy dreams that her beloved Eddie will be there.

Eddie's touch of supernatural ability ultimately proves pointless, leaving Ronan's highly watchable, empathetic performance to carry us through a sloggy nightmare fraught with a mixture of mild suspense and plodding inanition.

"How I Live Now" opens at the South Barrington 30 and the River East 21 in Chicago. Rated R for language, sexual situations and violence. 100 minutes. . . 1/2

Mini-review: 'Great Expectations'

When Mike Newell set out to direct yet another movie based on Charles Dickens' classic novel "Great Expectations," he did something very clever to insure market appeal for his project: He reassembled the troops from the Harry Potter films to head the cast.

Not all of them of course. Just Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham, Ralph Fiennes as the convict Magwitch and Robbie Coltrane as Jaggers the attorney. Newell, who directed "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," added two appealing young actors: Jeremy Irvine of "War Horse" as Pip, and fiery redhead Holliday Grainger as his emotionally unreceptive heartthrob Estella.

Newell's "Great Expectations" won't pose any threats to David Lean's definitive 1946 adaptation, but it marks an improvement over the 1998 Ethan Hawke/Gwyneth Paltrow remake directed by Alfonso Cuaron, coincidentally another "Harry Potter" director (of the excellent "Prisoner of Azkaban").

Screenwriter David Nicholls wisely dumps Pip's personal perspective from the book and, with John Mathieson's superb widescreen cinematography, opens up the narrative as we trace how a poor, working-class lad named Pip, trained to be a blacksmith, evolves into a high-society gentleman, thanks to a mystery sponsor.

Irvine brings appealing apprehension and hope to the struggling Pip. Grainger does not need key lighting to make her presence pop on the silver screen. Fiennes infuses Magwitch with villainy first, empathy later.

Then comes Carter with the movie's showcase performance as a mentally disturbed lady, now slogging around her mansion in her wedding gown, looking as if it hasn't been cleaned since the day her would-be groom dumped her at the altar years earlier.

Hers is a wonderful rendering of Miss Havisham, equal parts melancholy, good-hearted and downright creepy.

"Great Expectations" opens at the River East 21 in Chicago, the Renaissance in Highland Park and the Evanston CineArts 6. Rated PG- 13 for violence. 128 minutes. . . .

* Daily Herald Film Critic Dann Gire's column runs Fridays in Time out!

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