Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Tuesday, October 27

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Joffrey Ballet kicks off 20th Chicago season Five Must-Sees at the Reeling LGBT Film Festival »

Column Fri Sep 19 2014

The Maze Runner, A Walk Among the Tombstones, The Guest, This Is Where I Leave You, Tusk, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them & The Zero Theorem


The Maze Runner

Unlike many of the other science fiction films we've been getting in recent year featuring younger people as central characters, The Maze Runner (based on the successful novel series by James Dashner) isn't about an established future that everyone accepts, and often into which a "chosen one" is introduced to set the world right. The Hunger Games, The Giver, Divergent, Ender's Game. Christ, it seems like there's a new one every two or three months. But The Maze Runner dares to drop its characters into a place they know nothing about, with every memory of where they came from erased. That place is The Glade, and surrounding them is a giant, ever-changing maze whose door opens up for a few hours every day, and if you are unlucky enough to get caught inside when they close, well, that's the end of you, thanks to some unpleasant creatures call Grievers.

The Glade is occupied by only boys and young men. Some have been there for years and some are new arrivals, each assigned a job when they arrive, and this makeshift society seems to function, until the arrival of Thomas ("Teen Wolf" star Dylan O'Brien), who seems just a little more curious and ambitious than the rest, and finds it difficult to accept things just because he's told he has to. His primary rival (and chief rule keeper) is Gally (Will Poulter from We're the Millers), whose motivations are solid but his methods are dictatorial. The group is loosely ruled by its most senior member, Alby (Aml Ameen), who seems to have a level head about most things that stray from the norm, but when he gets ill, the group falls into chaos.

And while Thomas isn't especially gifted in any way, he is special in that he has flashes of memory (usually while sleeping) in which he sees fragments of his previous life that are rather disturbing and seem to involve an organization called W.C.K.D., whose logo just happens to be on some of the walls and other machinations in the maze. And although he has not been formally designated as a "runner" (more athletic boys who venture into the maze when the doors are open to explore and map it), he decides to jump in and try his luck and do a little exploring.

It's no secret that author Dasher borrowed a great deal from the atmosphere of Lord of the Flies, with boys who want to adhere to rules, weak and strong members of this micro-society, and leaders driven slightly mad with power. And while that's an intriguing backdrop for this story, that's really all it is. The Maze Runner is an adventure story about breaking free from the role society gives you at birth, rising above and proving to the world that you are more than a job title or socioeconomic strata.

Things shift slightly with the arrival of The Glade's first girl, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), who seems to know Thomas, although she does not know how. Blessedly, no attempt is made by the writers or first-time feature director Wes Ball to push Teresa and Thomas together in a romantic way; that would have absolutely destroyed this film's sense of keeping things grounded and sensible (to a degree). Not surprisingly, Thomas' journeys into the maze triggers whoever is controlling it to set loose the nasty forces inside against the kids, and forcing many of them to enter the maze in an attempt to find an exit. And at that point, The Maze Runner has earned the right to transition from a more thoughtful contemplation on societal roles into a full-out action adventure, and it does so quite enthusiastically.

The Maze Runner is certainly far above average as a youth-centric science-fiction tale, but it succeeds as much for what it doesn't do as for what it does. Nixing a romance, not having the fat kid be some idiotic comic-relief character, not having some god-awful choosing ceremony, and not having Thomas be something super human or the fulfillment of some dopey prophecy are all good things that define this film. Instead, the movie wants to be about unlocking a mystery — several mysteries actually — and as we get closer to the answers, the film does a solid job building a level of fear that makes us realize the truth may be far worse than anything roaming The Glade or the maze.

The film actually bothers to let us into the heads of its characters (since it can't let us into their pasts), and all things benefit from that. The friendships and rivalries makes sense in this context, and don't feel like simply plot devices to push the story forward. It's incredible, actually, how much The Maze Runner gets right by simply not allowing itself to be pieced together from cookie-cutter elements from other young adult sci-fi stories and films. With its relatively unknown cast and its rough-around-the-edges effects, it almost feels like a thoughtful indie version of the films I mentioned at the top of this review, some of which I actually enjoyed. The Maze Runner just does a lot it better — not overwhelmingly better, but the improvement is noticeable and appreciated.

To read my exclusive interview with The Maze Runner stars Dylan O'Brien, Will Poulter and Kaya Scodelario, go to Ain't It Cool News.

A Walk Among the Tombstones

The second feature in this week's Dan Stevens Film Festival (along with The Guest) actually brings to the big screen the wildly popular Matt Scudder character from more than a dozen books by Lawrence Block. Stevens doesn't play Scudder; that honor goes to Liam Neeson, who actually digs his teeth into the role in a way he really hasn't in many of his recent action fare (with The Grey maybe being the exception). The film opens with then-New York detective Scudder involved in the foot chase/shootout that lead to him deciding to leave the force to eventually become the unlicensed private detective solving the grisly crimes that so many readers know and love and fear.

Most of the film takes place many years after the opening incident. In fact, it's nearing the end of the year 1999, when the world was a slightly nuttier place. There is a prevailing dread of Y2K, with some believing planes will fall out of the sky, and maybe the world might end too. The universe was considerably more paranoid — either about specific things shutting down or a more non-specific, free-floating anxiety. Scudder is many years sober, and one of his many AA pals, Howie (Eric Nelsen) comes to him on behalf of his rich brother Kenny (Stevens), whose wife was kidnapped the night before. Although he didn't call the cops and paid the ransom, she was viciously butchered, left in pieces in an abandoned car for the husband to find. Naturally, Kenny wants revenge, and Scudder quickly deduces that Kenny isn't just some Joe whose wife was randomly selected, but he's a fairly successful drug trafficker, whose wife was carefully chosen because the kidnappers knew he had money. Scudder reluctantly takes the assignment of finder the killers and delivering them to Kenny.

A Walk Among the Tombstones features some truly brutal crime (most is thankfully kept off camera, but we know what's happening), as well as a great deal of great specifics about Scudder's investigation that are ten times more interesting than anything you'll catch on a televised police procedural. Scudder takes on something of an assistant in the form of a young, smart homeless kid named TJ (Brian "Astro" Bradley), who asks all the right questions and has a mind for deductive reasoning. I also really liked Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (the drunken helicopter pilot of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) as James, a cemetery caretaker who found body parts of another victim of these killers and inadvertently becomes a suspect. He's the perfect level of creepy in a film dripping with deviant behavior.

One of the elements I liked from director Scott (The Lookout) Frank's screenplay is that the identity of the killers (David Harbour and Adam David Thompson) isn't a mystery. We see them throughout the film, lining up their next victim and eventually executing the kidnapping. So this isn't a film trying to solve a mystery; it's about Scudder arranging a scenario that puts him face to face with these maniacs. As much as Neeson's character has been trained as a police officer many years earlier, he is not the same kind of man with "a very particular set of skills" that he is in the Taken films or Non-Stop. He's a flawed man, whose best laid plans don't always go as plotted, and sometimes people die.

A Walk Among the Tombstones moves at a brisk pace and packs a lot of information and details into its under two-hour running time. Scudder is not troubled (much) by breaking the law to do his job. Truth be told, that's pretty much why people hire him. He still flashes his police badge like he's police, but in reality the badge carries about as much actual weight as a stick of butter. The film is also a terrific examination of the underworld of New York City in a period of transition.

Scudder is one of the most flawed heroes that Neeson has played, but he's also a man who's aware of most of his defects and is slowly working to correct them or at least keep them in check. The level of self examination that he and a few of the other people in his life are allowed to have is a testament to how powerful character development can be in a drama like this one, and Frank's screenplay has some great touches and flourishes to keep things interesting. The film certainly has its shortcomings — the overlong ending stands out — but for the most part, it's a taut, nasty bit of storytelling that I'm hoping will lead to Neeson playing this character again in the future.

The Guest

The more I think about this film, the more impressed I am with it. And the more fun I have thinking about it. There are few films made today whose sole purpose it to give people a twisted, amped-up sense of joy, but The Guest is one of those movies. I know you think those multi-million-budgeted films are trying to entertain you — and they are to a degree — but they also are answering to a committee of people who want to appeal to a certain large demographic (or as many demographics as humanly possible). But the latest work from director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett (whose last feature was the long-delayed You're Next) is another wonderful, inventive genre mash-up that wears its '80s genre references quite blatantly and joyfully on its sleeve with winking at the audience and pointing at them in a "Look see!" manner.

The filmmaker's first perfect decision was to cast former "Downton Abbey" star Dan Stevens (also seen in this week's release A Walk Among the Tombstones) as returning military vet "David." The reason the casting is so perfect is threefold: first, those who don't watch "Downton Abbey" won't have any baggage associated with Stevens, so he's the perfect blank slate; two, those who do know his TV work will be stunned at the type of character he plays here; and three, Stevens is a flat-out fucking great actor, who goes from charming to menacing at snake-strike speed.

David shows up on the doorstep of the Peterson family, whose son Caleb died in the war and whom David served along side; there's even a photo of the two men on a shelf in the family's home. Mother Laura (Sheila Kelley) invites David for dinner and to stay overnight (initially) after his long journey. Stevens has turned himself into a lean, mean, tanned strip of man to play David, and he uses a sideways smile and a slight southern accent to charm the women of the household, which also includes of-age daughter Anna (Maika Monroe), clearly the smartest one in the house (which also includes Leland Orser as the dad and Brendan Meyer as younger brother Luke), since she's the only one who suspects something isn't quite kosher with David.

As the film goes on, the family start to form bonds with David and tell them their collective and individual troubles, and over the course of his stay, these problems — ranging from school bullies to promotion issues at dad's workplace — seem to take care of themselves, often in the form of suspicious deaths or not-so-suspicious beatdowns. David apparently promised Caleb that he would look after the Peterson family, and as a man in need of a mission after his time in the war is cut short due to an injury (so he says), he has seemingly taken it upon himself to deal with any hinderances in the Petersons' lives. That's the first half of the movie, roughly. Then, as they did in You're Next, Wingard and Barrett open an unseen door into an entirely different storyline that changes your perception of everything that you've just seen, and it makes the entire film much more fulfilling and thrilling.

But the smartest trick in the Wingard-Barrettt playbook is to establish a fairly realistic, grounded set of characters and situations before amping up the more outlandish elements of their beautifully crafted story. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention composer Steve Moore's dangerously synthy score, which sounds like a long-lost John Carpenter-written arrangement, but serves as the perfect companion to a soundtrack that includes Love and Rockets' "Haunted When The Minutes Drag" as its recurring theme song, as well as Sisters of Mercy and several songs by Clan Of Xymox.

Likely seeking to avoid being labeled as strictly horror filmmakers (they also has a major hand in the first two V/H/S films), Wingard and Barrett have shifted effortlessly into thriller mode and been handed a gift in Dan Stevens, who is so critical to the success of The Guest. This is one of those films that I don't just want to recommend to you all, but I want to come to your house and drag you to the earliest possible screening. It really is that much of a fun, sneaky, trippy and often quite tense ride.

Go to Ain't It Cool News to read my exclusive interview with The Guest star Dan Stevens, director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett.

This Is Where I Leave You

If any part of director Shawn Levy's (the Night at the Museum films, Date Night, The Internship, Real Steel) latest work This Is Where I Leave You appeals to you, you can thank the exceedingly likable and talented cast, because it sure as hell won't be because there's anything appealing about this whine-fest. Written by Jonathan Tropper (based on his novel), the film concerns the reunion of four adult siblings on the occasion of their father's passing and dying wish that the family sit shiva (the Jewish mourning practice where the family gathers in the house for a week and receive visitors to talk about and celebrate the life of the deceased. Hardly anyone in the family even questions this for some reason, even though dad wasn't Jewish and mom (Jane Fonda) is a non-practicing Jew.

Still, the Altman family agrees to be in each others' company for seven days, and because they all seen to have issues with some or all of the others, it doesn't go well. Brother Judd (Jason Bateman) recently found out his wife (Abigail Spencer) has been sleeping with his boss (Dax Shepard) for a year, so his life is hell, but he's happy to get away. Older brother Paul (Corey Stoll) stayed home to run the family sporting goods store, and is currently attempting with no success to impregnate his wife (Kathryn Hahn), who dated Judd in high school and still has feelings for him. Youngest brother Phillip (Adam Driver) is a reckless, aimless simpleton who is dating his considerably older ex-therapist (Connie Britton). Finally, only sister Wendy (Tina Fey) hates her workaholic husband and still pines for her high school beau (Timothy Olyphant), who just happens to live across the street with his mother (Debra Monk), and has since a high school car crash caused brain damage that make his short-term memory a bit of an issue. Got it?

The overall problem with This Is Where I Leave You is that none of the issues this family is facing is anything we haven't seen in other, better films that don't treat their characters like archetypes. There are no people in this film behaving like actual human beings, and they certainly don't act like family members. People just blurt out the most personal information about each other and then literally giggle about it a second later. The only character who is even remotely tolerable isn't even a family member. Judd has a little revenge fling with Penny (Rose Byrne), who had a crush on him in high school and for whatever reason still finds him intriguing. There's nothing inherently exciting and unique about Penny, but her lack of shrieking and complaining makes her a standout in this film.

I will give the movie credit for not soft-pedaling the language in the screenplay. This is a hard R-rated film for a whole lot of dirty talk, including a great deal having to do with babymaking. But so much of the crying and bitching and moaning seem to stem from problems that feel absolutely manufactured from a Screenwriting 101 text book. And the only thing dumber than their problems are the resolutions, which are all over the place in terms of logic or me giving a shit.

This Is Where I Leave You saves one of its biggest "shockers" (about mom) for the film's final minutes for no particular reason, and guess what this big revelation adds to the whole affair: absolutely nothing. And that's pretty much the place this film holds in my heart. As I said, if any part of this uninspired piece appeals to you, it's likely because you've seen members of this cast in something better and that residual feeling is carrying over. Levy has it in him to make funny and interesting films, but this isn't one of them. Too often, his impulse is to go big, broad and bawdy, and it so rarely works with this material. I'm not saying quiet and sensible would have worked any better, but perhaps a happy middle-ground would have been a nice companion tone for so much on-screen distress. As it stands, the films is a painful mess.


To say that writer-director Kevin Smith's film Tusk is going to be "divisive" might require rewriting the definition of the word. It will likely divide Smith's fans who enjoyed the "earlier, funnier movies" from those who thought Red State was something wonderful because it strayed so far from the Smith status quo. It will likely divide horror fans too, only because the film's second half strays so far into comedy that the horror elements are almost lost, which is a shame because up until that point, they were working in spades. But I'm guessing those who maybe don't definitively fall into the categories of Smith or horror fans, people who just wandered into this film unexpectedly with no real agenda will be split as well, likely based on their tolerance to tonal shift and stomach for the grotesque.

I'm on the record as being a huge fan of films that don't feel the need to stay boxed into a particular tone. They tend to be more successful at surprising us, and considering how infrequently I'm ever surprised by film plots any more, it's a welcome feeling. That being said, Tusk essentially stops being a really solid, fear-inducing work with the introduction of a new character at about the halfway point, and never really goes back. In the process, momentum and good will are thrown to the wind in a defiant act of betrayal that is both bold and stupid (if one can be both at the same time, and I think one can).

In truth, Tusk begins with Smith at his funniest and in familiar territory. Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) is recording an episode of his highly successful podcast (called the Not-See Party; get it?) with his sidekick Teddy (a fully adult Haley Joel Osment, the kid from The Sixth Sense). Wallace's spin on the world is finding unusual people with equally odd stories to tell and making fun of them, and he's found one such individual up in Canada. So he plots a trip and heads up to Manitoba, leaving behind Ally (Genesis Rodriguez), his long-suffering girlfriend who is not happy with the somewhat cruel person he has become because of the show. She also hates his walrus-like mustache. But when Wallace goes to meet his latest subject, he's shocked to find out the guy committed suicide out of embarrassment caused by the very things that brought Wallace to him in the first place.

Desperate not to waste the trip, Wallace finds a room-for-rernt notice posted in a bar from someone promising great stories from an old former sailor who has been around the world on adventures. Spotting an opportunity to salvage the day, Wallace visits Howard Howe (Michael Parks of Red State, the Kill Bill films, Django Unchained, We Are What We Are), an eccentric man with many promised great stories and a great affection for the walrus species. The extended sequence in which the two men meet, get to know each other, while Wallace drinks tea is one of the great, slow-burn creepy moments of the year. The stories get gradually weirder, and it becomes clear that Mr. Howe's penchant for walruses is the result of being stranded on an island with one he named Mr. Tusk, who became his close friend. It is then that we realize Wallace's tea has been drugged, and before long he's passed out on the floor.

What happens to Wallace next is quite awful, but the film evolves (or devolves, depending on your feelings on the subject) into an exercise in body horror the likes of which it's safe to say the movie world has rarely seen. In an attempt to re-create his memorable time on that island, Howe makes a few body modifications to Wallace (with the help of practical makeup great Robert Kurtzman) that can't be unseen. In a moment of sheer fortune, Wallace is able to get ahold of a phone briefly enough to call both Teddy and Ally, and together the two begin the search for their mutual friend and head up to Canada.

What happens next takes the film from bat-shit crazy to silly (which is not the same as funny). Consider this spoiler material, only in terms of uncredited casting, but the investigator that Teddy and Alley find to locate Wallace is one Guy Lapointe (credited as being played by Guy Lapointe, but really it's Johnny Depp in heavy makeup with a ridiculous French-Canadian accent), who spins a tale of a serial killer he's been tracking for years who does to his victims pretty much what is being done to Wallace. As these two worlds collide, the film effectively comes to a screeching halt in terms of any remaining dramatic tension.

I strongly recommend you stay through the end credits, during which you get to hear the Smith "SModcast" that birthed the story of Tusk, with Smith and producing partner Scott Mosier yucking it up as they make up an outrageous story that is, in many cases, word for word what happens in this film. It's an incredible origin story. And whether he meant it to be or not, Smith has made the first half of Tusk wonderfully gripping with both his writing and visual style. It's also absolutely gross, but that only adds to the power of the work. And then he throws it all away — or more specifically, Depp throws it away on his behalf — with barely realized acting. It truly feels like Smith didn't think he was worthy to give Depp direction and just let the actor run roughshod through his movie.

I can't think of a film in recent memory that started so strong and collapsed so completely by the end. Nevertheless, I'm still moderately recommending Tusk because its strengths just barely defeat its weaknesses. Long is actually is surprisingly good, being challenged as an actor in ways I don't think he ever has been, showing us a range that takes him from unapologetic asshole to sympathetic victim quite convincingly. And Park is, as always, hypnotic in his delivery. He stares right into your soul and makes your heart feel cold with his voice. When he moves from soothing storyteller to outright tormentor, it's terrifying and impressive.

There's just enough here to recommend the film to most; you probably know if this sounds interesting to you. If it does, I think you'll leave the theater marginally unscathed. I'll give it up to Smith, however. The guy pulls inspiration from the strangest places and turns it into something unforgettable. Believe me when I say that even if you hate Tusk, you'll have a tough time forgetting it.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

It's difficult to discuss the experimental ambition of first-time writer-director Ned Benson without it sounding like a gimmick. But the truth is, his gimmick is meant to reveal on film, in the way it rarely has been visualized, the idea of memory during an emotional crisis. In other words, how do we remember particular, highly volatile moments in our lives differently than the other person or people in the room with us? The way Benson shot the story of Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain) and her husband Conor (James McAvoy) was as two full-length films, both titled The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (sub-titled Her and Him), each one following its character in the wake of the couple breaking up after a terrible tragedy in their marriage. And anytime the characters' lives intersect, we see two somewhat different versions of those encounters, one in each film.

When the film was picked up by The Weinstein Company, not surprisingly, Benson was asked to create a more commercial, single, two-hour film (sub-titled Them) for release this month, while the two separate films will be released in October in select market art house films (I'll review them separately once I've seen them). It feels strange seeing and reviewing first the version of this story that is the compromise, but at the same time, I relish the idea of examining the differences and to see if Benson reveals anything about the way memory works in the heat of the moment, and how it relates to the truth.

There's not much more to know about Eleanor Rigby in terms of plot. The film goes back and forth between past and present, and we see the way the couple got together, fell in love and lived their lives happy until they weren't. I don't want to reveal exactly what event set them down such a bad road, but only because the films seems to treat the event like it's a big secret, and I'm not sure the story benefits from that approach. Once they are separated, Eleanor cuts all ties with Conor, and he spends all of his time stalking her, trying to talk to her and win her back. That's essentially the story. All that surrounds that tale is window dressing in the form of supporting characters who are hit and miss.

In the early parts of the film, I thought Chastain may have been going too far down a melodramatic path in terms of her performance, but then we meet Eleanor's mother (played by the French queen of pain, Isabelle Huppert), and then we realize that Chastain is just trying to emulate and keep up with dear old mom. Then if I told you that William Hurt plays her loving but clueless professor father, everything comes into focus in terms of Chastain's measured and fractured portrayal. McAvoy takes a more straight-forward approach to Conor's pain and suffering by drinking himself into a stupor in the restaurant he runs with his buddy Stuart (Bill Hader) and moving in with his completely disconnected father (Ciarán Hinds).

Of the two stories, hers is the more curious and interesting. Eleanor befriends Prof. Friedman (Viola Davis), a friend of her father, whose class she wants to take just to get out of her parents' house. She also bonds with her younger sister Katy (Jess Weixler), who has her own issues to contend with that are far less severe than Eleanor's, but don't tell her that. Conor never comes across as dangerous, but his borderline creepy stalker ways would look a lot less cute if it were anyone other than McAvoy doing it. He's convinced that just getting Eleanor to talk with him will be the first step toward putting their lives back together, but she's not so sure.

Since I'm guessing director Benson had to pick one version of the scenes the leads have together for his blended cut, I wondered a great deal whose take on these conversations we were getting (we won't know for sure until we see the separate films). But The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is a fascinating work even in this version. Perhaps too cerebral for its own good, the film is nevertheless counter-balanced by the two main performances that are as convincing as two new lovers as they are an estranged couple on the verge of imploding.

Some of the personality flaws the characters have may be a bit too cliche and precious, but the actors burn through those veneers with pure passion, rage and guts that you hardly notice. I'm a sucker for this brand of unorthodox filmmaking, and am more than intrigued to carry out the filmmaker's full vision before too long. The film opens today in Chicago at the Landmark Century Center Cinema.

The Zero Theorem

I'm not sure I could pass a test on director Terry Gilliam's latest dystopian opus The Zero Theorem, something of a companion piece (in spirit, at least) to his previous films Brazil and 12 Monkeys, but I know I enjoyed the hell out of its free-wheeling, steam-punk-lite take on the future of technology, industry and government, and the way all three work to crush the spirit of humanity with sensory overload and impossible tasks meant to keep ordinary citizens in line by making them fearful and powerless. And Gilliam (working, in this case, from a screenplay by Pay Rushin) captures most of the oppressive joys with a great deal of human and personality — sometimes too much, but he always seems to do it better than most.

Head shaven to make him look even more like a drone, Christoph Waltz plays Oohen Leth, a computer wizard whose production output for his company is exemplary, and therefore his bosses (represented by a character known as "Management," played with a sort of Zen menace by Matt Damon) select him for a special project: to discover the reason for the very existence of humanity using mathematics. Or perhaps his real purpose is to discover that humanity has no purpose, thus fully crushing the spirit and will of all people.

The project is appealing to Oohen because he's not much of a people person, and has been begging his manager (David Thewlis) to let him work from home, which this project requires. And what an appropriate home it is — an abandoned, burned-out church that feels more like a vacuous prison that somehow fits right into the Gilliam universe. Oohen has also spent a great deal of his life waiting for a phone call that most understand will never come. It's a call that he got into his head when he was much younger was going to tell him his own purpose in life, and because this notion is bordering on insane, he is being forced to receive online visits from a useless therapist, Dr. Shrink-Rom (Tilda Swinton).

As he is carrying out his seemingly impossible assignment, he receives visitors that seem to be designed to distract him from his work, including the beautiful, flirty Bainsley (French actress Melanie Thierry), who runs a virtual reality escort site where she and Oohen spend many an extended period sitting on a beach that doesn't exist. Also on hand is Management's computer whiz son Bob (Lucas Hedges), who arrives to fix Oohen's computers after he smashes them to bits in a fit of frustration.

As with all of Gilliam's films, a great deal of the joy of watching them is seeing how he makes very little money look like something epic. While most of the action takes place in Oohen's home, when he does stray out into the world, the sci-fi elements leap off the screen and make you realize that even a sane person would have a difficult time living under these conditions of talking advertisements, constant visual stimulation, not to mention the more conventional pressures of work and family, which seem heightened in this version of the future.

The Zero Theorem may be too much Gilliam for some, but I tend to enjoy his brand of controlled crazy in heavy doses. For better or worse, his vision of the future hasn't changed that much over the years since Brazil. If anything, it's gotten more desperate while still offering a ray of hope for our hero. Sadly that ray may take the form of complete insanity, but as one wise man once said, "Well, nobody's perfect." That being said, I think as long as Gilliam is making movies, some small pocket of the world is pretty close. The film opens today in Chicago at the Music Box Theatre.

GB store
GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


An Angry White Guy
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Devening Projects
DIY Film
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Mess Hall
Neoteric Art
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
The Seen
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

GB store



A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.

About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Nancy Bishop,
A/C staff inbox:



A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15