Chicago Helps PAC-MAN Level-Up for His 35th Birthday!

On May 22, 2015, PAC-MAN™ – one of the most iconic videogame characters in history – will celebrate his 35th birthday.  With the character coming to the big screen this summer in Sony Pictures’ Pixels, the studio is joining in to celebrate with a global birthday party of epic proportions.  In cities around the world and online, film talent will join with moviegoers and special guests to celebrate with birthday cakes, free play of the PAC-MAN arcade game, and special events localized to each city.

Pixels is set for release in theaters nationwide on July 24, 2015.  As kids in the 1980s, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler), Will Cooper (Kevin James), Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad), and Eddie “The Fire Blaster” Plant (Peter Dinklage) saved the world thousands of times – at 25 cents a game in the video arcades.  Now, they’re going to have to do it for real.  In Pixels, when intergalactic aliens discover video feeds of classic arcade games and misinterpret them as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth, using the video games as the models for their assaults – and now-U.S. President Cooper must call on his old-school arcade friends to save the world from being destroyed by PAC-MAN, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede, and Space Invaders.  Joining them is Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), a specialist supplying the arcaders with unique weapons to fight the aliens.

Pixels is directed by Chris Columbus. The screenplay is by Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling with a screen story by Tim Herlihy, based on the short film by Patrick Jean. The film is produced by Adam Sandler, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe, and Allen Covert.

Moviegoers around the world can join in PAC-MAN’s birthday fun at to watch and share the latest Pixels trailer and to receive updates on the launch of the Pixels Defense mobile game from BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment America Inc. that will feature PAC-MAN and other video game characters from the movie. 

In Tokyo – the city of PAC-MAN’s birth – audiences will join in the fun by attempting to break the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for the Largest Human Image of PAC-MAN on May 21, 2015.  At the event at Tokyo Tower, actor Shingo Yanagisawa and popular comedian and social media sensation Naomi Watanabe will join hundreds of moviegoers to create the largest PAC-MAN ever created by human beings.

In Chicago, Professor Toru Iwatani, the creator of PAC-MAN, and BANDAI NAMCO ENTERTAINMENT INC. will be at Level 257™, a brand new dining and entertainment facility created by NAMCO USA INC. inspired by PAC-MAN.

A special 1980s-style event on Friday evening from 7pm-midnight will include gaming industry VIPs, free game play including a chance to play the fabled 255th and 256thlevels of PAC-MAN, PAC-MAN’s official 35th birthday cake, live performances of the 1982 hit song “PAC-MAN Fever” by the original artist, Jerry Buckner of Buckner & Garcia and a personal appearance by PAC-MAN himself!  The celebration continues the next day with celebrity discussion panels, photo opportunities, prizes and game play contests including opportunities to play against the legendary gamer Billy Mitchell, the first person to ever achieve a “perfect score” on PAC-MAN.

You can purchase tickets for the event here.

In partnership with Dave & Buster’s, all 75 locations across North America will celebrate the big man’s birthday by offering a free play on the over-sized, multi-player PAC-MAN BATTLE ROYALE arcade game to all guests with a Power Card. In addition, fans nationwide will have the chance to enter to win thousands of D&B Dollars to celebrate all summer long.

In the UK, PAC-MAN will celebrate his birthday with a special thrill – he’ll be launched into space.  PAC-MAN’s journey will be captured by a special GoPro camera unit and shared on his birthday.

And in Spain, four of that country’s biggest YouTube stars will face off on the game for the ultimate bragging rights.  As they engage their followers to look on, both online and in person, there could be as many as 21 million watching the videogame competition.

Finally, from Paris at the French Open, Serena Williams, who has a cameo role in Pixels, is planning a special greeting for her co-star.

Commenting on the announcement, Josh Greenstein, president, Worldwide Marketing and Distribution for Sony Pictures, said, “PAC-MAN is one of the most recognizable videogame characters in history, so we wanted to be there for him as he bites into the big 35.  Before he makes his big-screen appearance in Pixels, we’re celebrating with birthday parties all around the world.  We’re excited that PAC-MAN is a part of the movie and can’t wait to share his performance with the world this summer.”

Professor Toru Iwatani, the creator of PAC-MAN, added, “It is hard to believe that 35 years has passed since we created PAC-MAN. It has been very exciting to see the world accept him as their own. Like any creator, I wanted to make something lasting, but this has surpassed everything I hoped for. I also feel very proud that PAC-MAN is playing an important role in Pixels – the visual effects of the giant PAC-MAN in New York will be extraordinary, and something that you’ve never seen on film before.  My birthday wish is that PAC-MAN can continue to make people happy.”

About Sony Pictures Entertainment

 Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation.  SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production, acquisition and distribution; television production, acquisition and distribution; television networks; digital content creation and distribution; operation of studio facilities; and development of new entertainment products, services and technologies. For additional information, go to


Kickstarter Campaign: INNSMOUTH!

"This was to be my realm, too - I could not escape it. I would never die, but would live with those who had lived since before man ever walked the earth.”

--H.P. LovecraftThe Shadow Over Innsmouth

Hey, Everyone! I want to tell you about an unspeakably cool new Kickstarter campaign! Acclaimed horror photographer Joshua Hoffine and makeup-effects artist J. Anthony Kosar (SyFy's Face Off champion) have joined forces to commemorate H.P. Lovecraft's 125th birthday with Innsmouth, a photographic interpretation of The Shadow Over Innsmouth's climactic confrontation!

Yeah, we're talking grotesque gill-men closing in on a hapless-narrator-type, brought to life with creatures from Kosar's team of weirdness wizards and Hoffine's eye for the off-kilter. Best yet, the doomed hero of the piece will be portrayed by lovable, huggable genre icon, Doug Jones (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy, Arrow)! 

The collaboration will result in a stunning, frame-worthy photo-print (and a decade's worth of nightmares for young'uns everywhere!). Though production is well under way, the guys could really use your help to fully realize Innsmouth's dark vision--and they're offering an otherworldly treasure trove of perks for adventurous backers! From the postcard pictured above; to hand-crafted, limited-edition Kosart collectibles; to signed Innsmouth prints; to shot-used monster-head props; to a set visit and lunch with the whole gang--all this and more are yours for the investing!

Whether it's five dollars or five-thousand dollars, every contribution will shepherd Innsmouth closer into our dimension. Won't you join us, dear reader?

Can't get enough Doug Jones? Check out this 2010 KtS interview where the actor talks projects, process, and prosthetics!

Special thanks to project producer Chad Hawks for turning us on to the campaign. Chad played London's legendary serial killer in Hoffine's Jack the Ripper diptych a few years ago. Check out this blog for some of that shoot's behind-the-scenes magic--and perhaps insight into Innsmouth!


Lionsgate Unveils New INSURGENT Sneak Peak!

The courageous Tris is ready to get in on the action in this year’s must-see film, THE DIVERGENT SERIES: INSURGENT. We now have an inside look at her major transformation in a BRAND NEW FEATURETTE.The story of Tris and Four continues as they race against time in order to protect the future of their world from the Erudite elite. Go behind-the-scenes now to get a deeper look at the new Amity, Factionless, and Candor settings, and explore some of the mind-bending visual effects for the first time. Now’s your chance to hear what your favorite stars and writer Veronica Roth have to say about the exciting scenes and amazing stunts in INSURGENT, including one-on-one time with stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Academy Award® Winner Octavia Spencer, Zoë Kravitz, Ansel Elgort, Mekhi Phifer, Naomi Watts, and Academy Award® Winner Kate Winslet.

Be sure to catch this action-packed sequel when it hits the silver screen nationwide in 2D, RealD, and Digital 3D on MARCH 20, 2015! 


KICKING THE SEAT's Top 14 Films of 2014!

If you've read Kicking the Seat for any length of time, you know that my tastes often don't align with majority critical consensus. My contarianism is a consequence of coincidence, and not a master plan to gain popularity through outrageous opinions. That's particularly true in my list of 2014's top films (presented here in semi-particular order).

As a critic with a family and a day-job, there are tons of movies I didn't get to see,* and some that I saw but didn't get a chance to review. This explains why A) some of the films have hyperlinks to lengthier write-ups, while others do not, and B) why a picture you might have loved is absent from the list (it's also possible that we simply don't agree--which is fine, too, and I welcome your feedback in the Comments section).

Below are the movies that moved me--through laughter, through tears, and/or through the delightfully unexpected expansion of consciousness that only this amazing art form can deliver.

14. Noah Yes, it's Russell Crowe as Noah, palling around with tree-monster angels. It's also Darren Aronofsky taking an agnostic look at the Biblical story of Earth's destruction and rebirth. Whether it tests your faith or your patience, this epic fantasy is a visual marvel with a lot on its mind.

13. The Raid 2: Berandal If nothing else, The Raid 2 gave me a solid argument against those who accuse critics of not being able to see films objectively through their own biases. I hated The Raid, and couldn't imagine sitting through a longer version of the same thing without digging my brains out through my eyes. Fortunately, Gareth Evans built upon his original's paper-thin premise to deliver the most viscerally satisfying and imaginative action film I saw this year.**

12. Wish I Was Here I would love to visit the parallel dimension in which Zach Braff's follow-up to Garden State hadn't been funded by Kickstarter donations. Not because I have a problem with Kickstarter, but because that became the lens through which nearly everyone viewed the movie. Accusations that the film is saccharine, calculated, and soft make for great copy--but there's simply no evidence that Braff's goofy yet moving story of a struggling actor dealing with one family crisis after another was anything but sincere.

11. The Theory of Everything By now, you're probably sick of hearing about Eddie Redmayne's incredible transformation into Stephen Hawking. The hype is more than warranted, but The Theory of Everything isn't a one-trick pony. James Marsh's biopic isn't really about who you think it is, and Felicity Jones sneaks in one of 2014's great understated performances.

10. They Came Together I've taken more heat this year for my recommendation of David Wain's rom-com spoof than for just about any picture I can recall (and that includes the fucking Ninja Turtles remake). No matter. Wain and co-writer Michael Showalter's loving yet viciously acute dissection of chick flicks brought the house down at the Chicago Critics Film Festival, and I literally hurt from laughing so hard.

9. Begin Again It's a damned shame that John Carney's follow-up to Once got lost in the shuffle this year. Mark Ruffalo shines as the alcoholic music producer who loses his faith, marriage, and career in one fell swoop. Keira Knightley helps him get his groove back. No, it doesn't end like you think it will. And I challenge you to shake "Lost Stars" from your head afterwards.

8. Calvary Brendan Gleeson is a widowed priest with an estranged daughter and seven days to live. Sold. That writer/director John Michael McDonagh uses a small Irish village as a microcosm for a fallen planet (indeed, the playground for an absentee God) is icing on the cake for one of the year's darkest, smartest, and most heartfelt films of the year.

7. Whiplash Damien Chazelle's mad jazz pic brings us the year's greatest clash of personalities in J.K. Simmons' perfectionist-asshole music teacher and Miles Teller's ambitious, not-quite-driven-enough student. Despite some minor story problems, Whiplash effectively conveys the lunatic power of creative obsession and doesn't let the audience go without getting its blood on the cymbals.

6. Under the Skin Scarlett Johansson's turn as an alien studying what makes us tick is one of the headiest, creepiest, and most seductive things I saw all year. Jonathan Glazer's surreal, sexy, and unflinching look at what makes us tick will unnerve you and change the way you look at Black Widow forever. A note to parents: nothing can prepare you for the beach scene. Nothing.

5. Only Lovers Left Alive It's an existentialism double-whammy on the Top 14 list. Only Lovers Left Alive looks at mortal love through the eyes of bored, ageless vampires living on the outskirts of Detroit. Leave it to Jim Jarmusch to turn a mopey undead duo into the catalyst for a life-affirming sensory overload of music, production design, and mesmerizing performances by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston.

4. Chef Jon Favreau's movie about a gourmet chef reinventing his career with a food truck works as an honest look at the imperfect balance between creative drive and, well, everything else. The fact that it's also a metaphor for the writer/director's soul-crushing-yet-ultimately-redemptive journey through Hollywood makes it more delicious and layered than one the main character's signature Cubanos. Watch it a second time to get past the seemingly rushed, Disney ending (note, I said "seemingly").

3. Life Itself Steve James' exquisitely honest, all-access documentary follows late film critic Roger Ebert and his powerhouse wife, Chaz, through the final stages of cancer. There is sadness here, but Life Itself isn't a sad movie. It's the capper to a rich life of art appreciation, political activism, and personal demon-slaying that may change not only the way you look at movies but also life itself.

2. Boyhood To create Boyhood, writer/director Richard Linklater followed the same actors for twelve years as they navigated a fictional story about a kid growing up in Texas. Ambition in filmmaking is nice, but history tends to favor outcomes instead of notions. Fortunately, Boyhood delivers on every conceivable level. We watch a family fall apart and re-assemble in various, unexpected configurations; we see a boy become a man; we wonder at an insightful auteur whose ability to wrangle, shape, and distill makes conventional filmmaking look downright primitive.

1. Birdman It's easy to dismiss Birdman as this year's awards-season "gimmick movie": Alejandro Iñárritu and Emmanuel Lubezki want us to believe that their story of Broadway dysfunction and midlife crisis was all shot in a continuous, two-hour take. They succeed spectacularly, in service of a story that cuts to the heart of every artist's journey--with detours into the nature of criticism and man's quest of relevance in a cosmos that has no idea what Twitter is. Michael Keaton leads a top-notch cast of performers who give it their all in a film bursting with ideas, insight, and visual and aural splendor. Even after seeing the film three times in two months, I still can't forgive Iñárritu for that final shot. But I suppose so thoroughly committed to examining life is allowed a smidgen of imperfection.

*Perhaps if I hadn't watched Birdman so many times, I could have made room for more worthy contenders. Sloppy, sloppy.

**In fairness, I still haven't seen John Wick, but I hear great things. 


CFCA Announce 2014's Top Films and Filmmakers

"Boyhood," Richard Linklater's intimate epic charting the growth and maturation of a boy from the age of 7 to 18 that was filmed over a period of 12 years was the winner of the Chicago Film Critics Association award for the Best Picture of 2014 in a ceremony held Monday, December 15th. In addition to the top prize, the film won two other key awards with Linklater being named Best Director and Patricia Arquette voted Best Supporting Actress for her performance as the boy's mother, who undergoes her own set of changes over that time.

Two other films tied "Boyhood" for the number of awards received. "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Wes Anderson's whimsical comedy-drama about a concierge in a posh European hotel who becomes involved in intrigue while the world teeters on the brink of war earned Anderson the Original Screenplay prize and also won for Art Direction and tied for Best Cinematography. "Whiplash," the acclaimed indie drama charting the battle of wills between a highly ambitious musical prodigy and his teacher, both obsessed with perfection at all costs, saw its writer-director, Damien Chazelle, named Most Promising Filmmaker, co-star J.K. Simmons named Best Supporting Actor for his terrifying turn as the teacher and Tom Cross cited for Editing. The other title with multiple wins, the hallucinatory black comedy "Birdman," earned Michael Keaton the Best Actor award and also shared in the tie for the Cinematography prize.

Among the other winners from the group, now in its 25th year, Julianne Moore was named Best Actress for her heartbreaking performance as a woman stricken with early-onset Alzheimer's in "Still Alice," author Gillian Flynn won the Adapted Screenplay award for the adaptation of her best-seller "Gone Girl," rising star Jack O'Connell was named Most Promising Performer for his performances in the dramas "Starred Up" and "Unbroken" and Mica Levi won Best Original Score for the trippy soundscapes of "Under the Skin." The Foreign-Language Film award went to the dark comedy "Force Majeure" and "The Lego Movie" took the prize for Animated Feature. Finally, "Life Itself," Steve James's celebration of the life and work of the late Roger Ebert, was named Best Documentary.

All winners are listed below, and all films nominated in 2014 can be found here.

Follow @ChicagoCritics on Twitter for organization and member news, as well as updates on the 2015 Chicago Critics Film Festival.

The third annual Chicago Critics Film Festival will run May 1-7, 2015, at the Music Box Theatre. Screening information and special guest appearances will be announced as they are confirmed on both Twitter and

For further information on the awards or the Chicago Film Critics Association in general, please contact either CFCA president Dann Gire or board member Erik Childress at the following:

Dann Gire
Phone #: (847) 650-4229

Erik Childress
Phone #: (847) 439-5750


(For all films nominated for 2014 awards consideration, click here.)


BEST DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater -- Boyhood

BEST ACTOR: Michael Keaton -- Birdman

BEST ACTRESS: Julianne Moore -- Still Alice

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: J.K. Simmons -- Whiplash

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Patricia Arquette -- Boyhood

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Wes Anderson -- The Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Gillian Flynn -- Gone Girl

BEST ART DIRECTION: The Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY (TIE): Birdman -- Emmanuel Lubezki and The Grand Budapest Hotel -- Robert Yeoman

BEST EDITING: Whiplash -- Tom Cross

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Under the Skin -- Mica Levi




MOST PROMISING PERFORMER: Jack O'Connell -- Starred Up/Unbroken

MOST PROMISING FILMMAKER: Damien Chazelle -- Whiplash