Harry Potter's final bow

Posted by Sean Stangland on Fri, 07/15/2011 - 19:23

Spoilers throughout.

When J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" hit bookstores, I had only read the first three of the series -- but I just couldn't help myself.

A few hours after the book went on sale at midnight on July 21, 2007, someone had already posted a detailed synopsis of the novel online. I was fairly certain it would have a happy ending, and that our trio of heroes would all survive, but I needed to know. I skimmed the post and would eventually forget most of it, but one passage struck me and stayed with me.

"First Class" shows potential

Posted by Sean Stangland on Fri, 06/03/2011 - 17:55

"X-Men: First Class" earns high marks indeed, but leaves plenty of room for improvement.

The X-Men have long been my favorite comic book heroes, because their essential story is inherently fascinating. Their mutated bodies have given them superhuman abilities, but humankind chooses to shun them, not celebrate them. Their struggle isn't just against the human world, but against each other: Should they strive for the world's acceptance, or take what is rightfully theirs by any means necessary?

Why I hated "Thor"

Posted by Sean Stangland on Thu, 05/12/2011 - 23:04

Under different circumstances, I can imagine sort of enjoying "Thor," the latest feature-length commercial from Marvel Studios. But coming, as it does, on the heels of the disappointing "Iron Man 2" -- and functioning as one of many set-up films for next year's "The Avengers" -- "Thor" bored me at best and infuriated me at worst.

My laundry list:

CGI overkill
Yes, of course, a summer superhero movie is going to have wall-to-wall visual effects. But a $150 million budget should be able to buy better work than what's on display here.

Move with the action at Muvico

Posted by Sean Stangland on Tue, 04/26/2011 - 15:44

More and more movies are virtual thrill rides, and the Muvico 18 in Rosemont is taking that idea to the next level.

Beginning Friday, guests at Muvico can see "Fast Five" in a theater equipped with D-BOX motion seats, which buck, pitch, tilt and vibrate in concert with the on-screen action and soundtrack. When Vin Diesel swerves through traffic, your seat will swerve with him. When a car flies off a cliff, the movements will simulate the sensation of floating through the air.

New Randhurst theater is worth the trip

Posted by Sean Stangland on Mon, 04/25/2011 - 01:41

Update: I have just learned that, yes, alcoholic drinks purchased at the theater bar can be brought into the auditoriums. Also, tickets for ETX shows will cost you an extra $3 to $4 on top of the standard ticket price.

If the new AMC Randhurst 12 is an indicator of things to come, then the Randhurst Village development will be very special indeed.

A marked upgrade over the 16-auditorium facility that still stands across the street, the new Randhurst theater makes up for its smaller size with big-time amenities. It made a great first impression -- I'd put it in a virtual tie with Rosemont's Muvico 18 for the title of the Suburbs' Best Multiplex.

Free movies in Mt. Prospect

Posted by Sean Stangland on Wed, 04/20/2011 - 16:12

The now-defunct Randhurst mall in Mount Prospect was practically my second home when I was a teenager. I worked at Suncoast Motion Picture Company, my friends would often congregate at the Coffee Depot, and I saw dozens of movies at the Randhurst 16, which began its life as a General Cinemas location on Nov. 22, 1996. (Yes, I really knew that off the top of my head. I was there on opening day with my mom, and we saw "Star Trek: First Contact." And no, there's nothing weird about a 17-year-old going to see "Star Trek" with his mother.)

That theater eventually became the AMC Randhurst 16, and will soon be no more. But the Randhurst Village revitalization project is bringing with it a revitalized movie theater.

The new AMC Randhurst 12, near the Carson Pirie Scott store, is hosting free screenings of some recent favorites this weekend in advance of its April 29 grand opening.

Her final "House" call?

Posted by Sean Stangland on Tue, 04/19/2011 - 01:22

Hello, Dr. Hadley. Goodbye, Dr. Masters.

Monday night's 151st installment of "House, M.D." was the rare episode that turned the focus away from the patient and its titular doctor and toward a member of the diagnostic team. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) were awarded underwhelming hours of their own last season, but an apparently peripheral character got an hour all her own this season, and the result was one of the year's best offerings.

Martha Masters (Amber Tamblyn) has given "House" a much-needed dose of sanity in a season that has seen its main character enter a doomed romantic relationship, marry a Russian national, drive a monster truck, dive off a hotel balcony and, in what was possibly the worst episode in the show's history, do a dance number after killing zombies.

"Judas" hits the web

Posted by Sean Stangland on Fri, 04/15/2011 - 15:23

Judas by gagadaily

The second single from Lady Gaga's third album has appeared online. It's more interesting sonically -- if not lyrically -- than "Born This Way," but it falls a little short. Perhaps it's silly to expect Miss Germanotta's new material to be as immediately iconic as "Poker Face" or "Bad Romance," but I'd say it's a fair expectation given the size and volume of her persona.

Blais of glory

Posted by Sean Stangland on Thu, 03/31/2011 - 03:03

Before Richard Blais was crowned the winner of Bravo's excellent "Top Chef: All Stars," he uttered four words that may haunt my culinary dreams forever: Cap'n Crunch Ice Cream.

Alas, this magical creation wasn't meant to be. Though Blais ditched the Cap'n in favor of the riskier -- but considerably more disgusting -- foie gras ice cream, I must believe in my heart that I will one day be able to buy a pint of crunchy goodness at my local grocer.

But until then, I will continue to enjoy Bravo's best reality franchise for the vicarious meals. In a television landscape where food porn is as prevalent as "Law & Order" reruns, "Top Chef" consistently delivers the goods. And the all-star season was its best in a while, since Chicago's own Stephanie Izard won on her home turf. (These days she's the proprieter and chef at the city's hottest restaurant, Girl and the Goat.)


Posted by Sean Stangland on Fri, 03/25/2011 - 21:14

Does the world need a dumbed-down 3D version of "The Three Musketeers" starring Milla Jovovich and directed by the dude who gave us "Mortal Kombat," "Resident Evil" and "Death Race"?