Ebertfest: Five for 2016

After covering Roger Ebert's Film Festival for the past 17 years, Melissa Merli knows what to expect. Not to say it's getting old. Never. So what does she look forward to most this year? Here are five things:

PBS Ebertfest doc premiers Monday

URBANA — To celebrate the 18th annual Roger Ebert's Film Festival, Illinois Public Media and University of Illinois College of Media have created a new documentary, "Ebertfest 2016: Center of the Universe."

Ferry godmother

CHAMPAIGN — As an Ebertfest hostess, Amani Ayad ferried around a festival guest in 2014 whom she had never heard of before.

Of course, before heading to Willard Airport to pick her up, Ayad did some research — and washed her Nissan Rogue.

Two years later Ayad would see the actress, Brie Larson, pick up the Academy Award for best actress for portraying a captive mother in "Room."

Today's Special: Thumbs-up cookies a hit for Pekara

CHAMPAIGN — Three years ago, in an effort to connect to the visitors who descend upon downtown for Ebertfest, Pekara Bakery came up with the idea to make cookies featuring a lasting symbol of Roger Ebert, the late film critic and Urbana native.

When the film festival hits town April 12, sugar cookies in the shape of a thumbs-up — Ebert's go-to gesture — will be on the menu.

Who lives here? April 2, 2016

Each week, The News-Gazette will show a screen shot of a home from a movie or TV show and ask readers, "Who lives here?"

Go figure: April 1, 2016

A numerical look at local headlines


Percentage of folks flying out of Willard Airport between Jan. 31 and Feb. 27 who used the TSA's PreCheck program to breeze through security.

Chuck Koplinski: 'Wedding' sequel is a big fat bunch of the same

Why some movies are successful at the box office and others aren't has always fascinated me, particularly those that have very low budgets yet go on to gross ridiculous sums of money. A prime example of this occurred in 2002 with Nia Vardalos' "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," a film that plays like an extended episode of a generic sitcom.

Entertainment listings, March 31-April 7, 2016

A listing of events, provided by the venues. Here are 

Frank's Faves: Before and after

Digging deep into the Faves mailbag ... hey, wait, there's a letter in here!

Before heading off on vacation last week, I received a wonderful pre-Easter treat via snail mail — a hand-written letter from reader Angela Proctor of Farmer City, who had nothing but nice things to say about this column (thank you, Angela!).

Chuck's Classics: "42nd Street" (1933)

Yes, there's singing and dancing in Lloyd Bacon's seminal American musical, but there's also a dark undercurrent. Producer/director Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) is hired to put on a lavish Broadway musical, which may not go on when its star suffers a serious injury. Then chorus girl Peggy Sawyer, chosen to fill in, dazzles everyone and becomes an overnight sensation.