Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Frances Ha - DVD Review

Starring Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver and Grace Gummer.
Directed by Noah Baumbach.


This precious little study of a young woman's arrested development is another example of 20-something girls who can be just as flighty and irresponsible as all those guy movies about the same thing. Hollywood is trying to tell us that the Gen-Y/Millenial crowd just doesn't know how to be adults.

She's 27, a dancing intern who's not a great dancer, bouncing from apartment to apartment, trying to "find herself," an Annie Hall-in-training, or someone who could wander in for a guest spot on HBO's Girls.  It's quirky, cute and tiresome, and I'm amazed so many critics liked it.  I think Baumbach's on his way to be the next Woody Allen, when critics seem to like all his movies, even the ones that aren't good.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street - Movie Review

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, Jon Bernthal, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, Joanna Lumley, Cristin Milioti, PJ Byrne, Shea Whigham and Ethan Suplee.
Directed by Martin Scorsese.


The true story of Jordan Belfort, a Wall Street wizard who stole millions of dollars from thousands of people, and he is one of hundreds of others doing the same.  Sure, there are honest people in the financial industry, but there are a lot of dishonest ones too, and those are the ones who make life worse for the 99%.

There's been some criticism of this film that it glorifies Jordan. That's like saying Goodfellas glorifies Henry Hill.  It's a fun ride to watch, but you don't deep down actually want his life. If you do, you're a bad person.

One thing Wolf of Wall Street makes clear - it takes talent to be evil. Jordan may be a raging narcissist, but he's also excellent at selling, and lying, and leading others.  We don't see his victims because he never thinks about them. If he does, it's flippant. At one point he narrates that the way he sees it, it's better that he has the money rather than those middle-class people he's ripping off, because he knows how to spend it. Says the guy who does enough cocaine to power a small city.

It's a three-hour biopic that takes us on the decadent ride of an amoral man and his band of merry swindlers who get rich quick with no conscience. He grew up with one goal - to be rich. Didn't care how, and didn't really have a noble goal of what to do with his wealth either.

Leonardo DiCaprio gives a ferocious performance, maybe a career best for him.  It's his fifth collaboration with Scorsese (Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, and Shutter Island being the other four), and they really seem to have each other's rhythms down.

Did it need to be three hours? I don't think so. The parade of immorality goes on pretty long.  I don't think we really need that many scenes of drugs and hookers, but my understanding is his first cut could have been four hours.  It is darkly funny, like one scene where he's near paralyzed from Quaaludes but tries to drive home anyway.

So yeah, this movie ended and I felt like I'd seen a very well-made ride of a shallow, empty man who had the potential to do some good with his talents, but with no ethics or principles, he just ruined lives to feed his need for greed instead. But I do have that McConaughey chest-thumping song still stuck in my head.

Weekend Box Office Dec 27-29, 2013

For all the new Christmas Day offerings out there, it was the leftovers that sold the most tickets. The Hobbit: Part Smaug is behind the first one but still proving to be a profitable venture.  Frozen is now Disney's second-highest non-Pixar animated movie to date, behind only The Lion King.

Of the newbies, The Wolf of Wall Street is faring best. Hard to say how word of mouth will be. We had about six people walk out of our screening. It's insane to me how much money Universal dumped into 47 Ronin. The last time Keanu Reeves was in a movie that grossed over $100 million was 2003 (the Matrix sequels and Something's Gotta Give), and they dumped $200 million into 47 Ronin?

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty had a disappointing beginning for Ben Stiller, and Grudge Match is just a bomb to be quickly forgotten.  Justin Bieber's Believe showed that there's not much interest left in his concert movies.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

What Maisie Knew - DVD Review

Starring Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgard, Steve Coogan, Onata Aprile and Joanna Vanderham. Directed by Scott McGehee & David Siegel.


This involving, infuriating film is about a six-year-old girl named Maisie who gets bounced back and forth by her two selfish parents.  Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan play Mom and Dad, she a fading rock star, he an art dealer. Neither seem particularly interested in her except as a weapon to use against each other in divorce proceedings. Each get new lovers, and Maisie's new stepmom and stepdad have more compassion for her than her parents, but no one really wants to make the time to actually raise her.

Anyone with kids will want to throttle the parents well before it's over.  The acting's great all over, with sensitive portrayals by Skarsgard and Vanderham as the stepparents, Moore and Coogan as the parents, and Aprile is very natural as Maisie. She's resilient and patient, and she makes you want to adopt her away from these self-absorbed people.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Blackfish - DVD Review

Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite.


This documentary has one goal, and it succeeds. It makes the case that orcas are friendly, social, emotional, non-violent creatures in the wild, but by capturing them and showing them off at waterparks, some of them are turning into killers.

The main focus is on Tilikum, a killer whale who's killed three people, and yet he still performs at Sea World.  It chronicles his capture, and the three different deaths, and show how SeaWorld keeps downplaying the danger. In the end, it shows that orcas just don't belong in captivity.

Red 2 - DVD Review

Starring Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Byung Hung-Lee, David Thewlis, Neal McDonough and Brian Cox.  Directed by Dean Parisot.


There's a certain breezy silliness to the whole affair, aging hitmen brought out of retirement.  Morgan Freeman's presence is missed, but Malkovich and Mirren still seem to be having a grand old time, and the script is clever enough that we don't feel bogged down by overdoing what made the first one work. Bruce Willis phones it in, to the point that I'm trying to remember the last time he didn't phone it in.

Snitch - DVD Review

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Susan Sarandon, Barry Pepper, Jon Bernthal, Michael K. Williams, Melina Kanakaredes, Nadine Velasquez and Benjamin Bratt.  Directed by Ric Roman Waugh.


Good acting by Johnson, maybe his best yet. I know the joke is that's not saying much, but this movie has more on its mind than mindless action. It's primarily a critique against mandatory minimum sentencing laws in the screwed-up drug war. When a teenage son gets arrested after his "friend" mails him some drugs, his father (Johnson) makes a deal with the DA (Susan Sarandon), that she'll reduce his sentence if the father helps bring down some bigger fish. The stakes get raised and the climax winds up straining credulity, but overall it was a decent rental.

The Last Stand - DVD Review

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Peter Stormare, Jaimie Alxeander, Luis Guzman and Genesis Rodriguez.  Directed by Kim Jee-Woon.


Ever wanted to see Rio Bravo remade for Arnold? Well, you're in luck.

Arnie's looking old and stiff these days, at least he does here. Now I didn't think this'd be a modern classic; this movie aspires to be an average 1980's action movie. If that's the mission, it's accomplished.  Goofy sidekick characters played by Johnny Knoxville and Luis Guzman help Arnie rig the town as they wait for an escaped criminal to zoom through their town on the way to Mexico.

Safe Haven - DVD Review

Starring Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough, Colbie Smulders and David Lyons.
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom.


Slow, generic love story about a woman fleeing her past and hiding out in a small town.  Julianne Hough, poor thing, just isn't a good actress.  Then comes the crazy twist ending that wouldn't be more out of place had the final scene been Josh Duhamel sprouting fangs and turning into a bat.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

American Hustle - Movie Review

Starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Shea Whigham, Alessandro Nivola and Elisabeth Rohm.
Directed by David O. Russell.


The true story would have been meaner and more black and white. I like that Russell took the basic elements and made it a lot more ambiguous and gray.

Russell's now directing three great films in a row - The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and now this. This might be his best yet.

It comes down to the actors, and under a director who clearly gives them a lot of freedom, they all step up. Bruce Wayne and Lois Lane make a great team. If Christian Bale didn't already have an Oscar, he might be getting front-runner chatter for his work here. And Amy Adams hasn't won one yet but I'll be rooting for her.

Bale plays Irving, a con man caught by the FBI, who then work a deal with him to use his con skills to help him catch some bigger frauds. It eventually leads to a web of corruption that may land some US congressmen.

The movie has those gloriously scuzzy details of the 1970's, and Bale's belly and combover are characters in themselves. Every scene crackles. It's lively and vibrant and a lot of fun.

Hobbit still #1, Anchorman 2 #2

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ultimately won the weekend over all newcomers. Anchorman 2 put up the biggest fight, with endless marketing in multiple venues. American Hustle had about the same per-screen success, and it's been getting positive award buzz. Saving Mr. Banks was counting on the same sort of buzz, but as far as family movies go, Hobbit still seems to be winning. Still, I expect Banks to have strong legs through January.

The one outright flop was Walking with Dinosaurs, which decided to not make a nature-style film about dinosaurs but instead went the same route as Disney's forgettable 2000 movie Dinosaur, and give the dinosaurs human voices.

The studio Yash Raj continues to have limited-run success with its niche market films. I never see any box-office sites talk about their films, but hey, look, Dhoom 3 cracked the top ten on just 236 screens.

The competition gets stiffer this week when The Wolf of Wall Street, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Grudge Match and 47 Ronin open on Christmas Day.

The Call - DVD Review

Starring Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, David Otunga, Roma Maffia and Michael Imperioli.
Directed by Brad Anderson.


Halle Berry slums it with a genre pic that is actually pretty good for what it is, for the first hour or so. It falls apart in the final act.  Berry plays a 911 operator who's on the phone when a girl is killed by a home invader. Months later, she gets another 911 call, and it's from a kidnapped girl, this one in the trunk of a car, and she eventually figures out it's the same guy.  While the movie focuses on that, it's decent.  The last half-hour though just gets ridiculous, devolving into Death By Studio Rewrites.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Out of the Furnace - Movie Review

Starring Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Sam Shepard and Tom Bower.  Directed by Scott Cooper.


This is a movie that takes a basic story - a very, very basic story - and shows that it can be a quality product if done right.  The plot sounds like one of those Patrick Swayze revenge movies, but this has more on its mind. Director Scott Cooper gives each scene time to breathe, and good actors come through for him.

Bale and Affleck play brothers from a small town hurt by the bad economy.  Bale's the older brother who works in the mill, Affleck the younger Iraq War vet who wants to break out of their poverty-stricken life, and he earns money quickly by bare-knuckle brawling.  When he starts to get mixed up with some dangerous people, Bale goes a quest for answers/revenge.

Story-wise it didn't go anywhere surprising, but by taking action-movie tropes and applying them to a somber drama style, it made for a richer experience.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Anchorman 2 - Movie Review

Starring Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Kristen Wiig, Meagan Good, Dylan Baker, James Marsden, Greg Kinnear, Judah Nelson, Fred Willard and Chris Parnell.
Directed by Adam McKay.


Nine years. Nine years since the legend has graced the big screen.  So when the stars align and he finally re-emerges, we get a cuddly reunion that I just wish had been funnier.

Call it the Austin Powers effect. I though the second movie was the weakest because it felt like it was retreading jokes from the first one.  This one too offers a retread. Some of it is funny, make no mistake, but this also suffers from our ability to see the punchlines coming from farther away, and shouting the punchline does not make it funnier.

We begin with Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone happily married, parents to a cute little moppet, and co-anchoring the weekend edition on a national news network (WBC).  When the main anchor of the network decides to retire, he names Veronica his successor, and he fires Ron, "the worst anchorman I've ever seen."  Ron's fragile pride is wounded, and he tells Veronica that if she loved him, she'd refuse the promotion. So naturally we cut to a few months later where a newly single Ron Burgundy has hit rock-bottom.

But then comes along the opportunity to be a part of GNN, the first 24-hour news network.

The movie has fun with the trope of "getting the band back together."  Steve Carell is a bigger star now so Brick has more to do this time around. But Brick was so dumb in the first one that he's impossible to invest in this time around. Comedy is best when there's a grain of truth to it, but Brick is incomprehensibly stupid. He's dumber than an adult Ralph Wiggum.

There's some inspired humor with the way it skewers cable news. There are also some gags that go on too long and just aren't funny, like Ron's awkward racism trying to relate to black people.

The third act gets so ridiculous that it almost saves it. (Did I mention it has a lot of good surprise cameos?)

Maybe if there'd been more people in my theater, there would have been more laughs, and I would have enjoyed it more.  As is, it's fine, you know. What can I say. It's alright. You could do worse. (Shrugs). I was disappointed.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Best of TV 2013

Honorable Mentions:
The Amazing Race - for being a beautiful reality show the whole family can watch
Boardwalk Empire - for production design, Michael Shannon and Jack Huston
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - for still being worth watching
Hell on Wheels - for Christopher Heyerdahl's creepy Swede
The Killing - for Joel Kinnaman and Peter Saarsgard
The Office - for a fitting series finale
Project Runway - for Heidi & Tim, who know how to keep this franchise afloat
The Simpsons - for being funny again after a decade or so of not
Survivor - new twists are keeping it fresh
True Blood - for its continuous wild weirdness

==The Second Best Ten==

AMERICAN HORROR STORY (FX) - Each season takes the actors and gives them new characters in a new setting. It means each year no one is safe, but we still know we'll get most of them back anyway. Coven has seen the addition of Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates, and hopefully they'll stick around for future installments.

THE BIG BANG THEORY (CBS) - Still funny, especially the girls.

THE BRIDGE (FX) - Diane Kruger gave a very interesting performance as an El Paso detective with Asperger's. It felt too mannered at first but it grew on me. Meanwhile Damian Bechir gave a heart-breaking performance as a Juarez cop who's just tired of how corrupt the system is. I liked the supporting turns by Annabeth Gish (Brotherhood) as a widow who can't get away from her late husband's illegal activities so she decides to make them work for her, and Matthew Lillard (Scooby-Doo) as a scuzzy reporter.

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE (FOX) - Andy Samberg's found the perfect vehicle for his talents, and the show is already a fully-realized ensemble of seven.

GETTING ON (HBO) - Remember how biting the humor was on BBC's The Office?  The Americanization of this import hasn't lost any of its sting, as basically good-hearted nurses have to deal with insecure managers and egotistical doctors. I like that it doesn't feature a star, but just an ensemble of really good vets (Laurie Metcalf, Alex Borstein, Niecy Nash). Ten times funnier than Girls.

MAD MEN (AMC) - Last season was kind of slow, which in a way makes me glad they're winding down.  The final season will be two eight-episode chunks that'll play a year apart, which is AMC's way of admitting they don't have a lot of quality series on the docket right now. I keep rooting for Sal to pop up, and for Joanie to find happiness.

MODERN FAMILY (ABC) - It hasn't been the most even show of late, but when it's inspired it's good. I love the episode when Phil pulls a Godfather and helps Luke get revenge on his enemies.

KEY & PEELE (COM) - Every once in a while I'll watch it and there's usually at least one good sketch.

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (Netflix) - This dramedy about lost souls stuck in prison is quite moving. It's also one that makes me anxious, since I'm rooting for Piper to just finish her time and get out, but the only way for the series to keep going is to slow down the time it covers, or have her get framed for things to have time added to her sentence.

PARKS & RECREATION (NBC) - It's never been a ratings hit but this live-action Simpsons is still as good as it's ever been. Someone give Amy Poehler an Emmy already!

And now my

==Top Ten==

10.  BATES MOTEL (A&E) - Surprisingly good prequel to Psycho, about when teenage Norman Bates and his mother first moved into the motel. Turns out their town is full of Twin Peaksian secrets, and Norman's already showing signs of insanity. But he's still a good boy; he wouldn't hurt anyone, would he?

9.  VEEP (HBO) - Terrific DC satire with Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the vain vice-president with higher aspirations who keeps getting stuck with meaningless diplomatic missions, all while undermined by her ambitious or incompetant staff.

8.  THE AMERICANS (FX) - It's 1981, and Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are "the good guys", undercover Russian agents who've assimilated into the US for several years and are in a position to provide intelligence during the Cold War.  But the longer they've lived in America, the more fondness they have for the people, and the more worried they are about their children, who think their parents are normal American travel agents.

7.  DOWNTON ABBEY (PBS) - The upstairs/downstairs drama remains in good form, as fortunes crumble, favorite characters die, and the family finds a way to carry on.

6.  JUSTIFIED (FX) - It comes out early in the year; maybe that's why it keep getting overlooked come award-time, but it's just as good now as ever. The dialogue just dances off the tongues of Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Nick Searcy, etc.

5. HOUSE OF CARDS (Netflix) - Netflix used their own research with numbers to figure a remake of the British miniseries starring Kevin Spacey and produced by David Fincher would be successful in attracting viewers.  Yes, but it still has to be good.  Well, it was.

4.  THE GOOD WIFE (CBS) - Best season yet, as Alicia and Cary have broken from Lockhart/Gardner, and now former allies are bitter enemies, yet it's done in a way where we want both sides to win. Will Gardner hasn't really changed his ways but when he's throwing his arsenal against Alicia, we see just how few scruples he actually has left.

3.  THE WALKING DEAD (AMC) - This year we got the second half of season 3 and the first half of season 4.  Woodbury vs. The Prison culminated in ultimate tragedy as several regulars were killed, and then the midseason finale saw The Governor return to reap some final devastation. Now the prison's gone, and the survivors are separated into several different groups. Can't wait for more.

2.  GAME OF THRONES (HBO) - Nice day for a Red Wedding. Dany continues to build her army across the ocean while the houses of Westeros thin each other's ranks. The previously unredeemably evil Jamie revealed he actually does have a soul, and the show continues to be a study of politics and power, with some magic stuff sprinkled around the edges. Fantastic jobs by the usual (Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke) but also Charles Dance as Tywin, Jack Gleeson as Joffrey, and Michelle Fairlay as Catelyn, who made the RW particularly heart-breaking.

1.  BREAKING BAD (AMC) - The empire that Walt built collapsed in devastating fashion in the Ozymandias episode, and in the end, karma paid back everyone. This will go down as one of the greatest shows in the history of television. Put it right next to The Sopranos or anything else. A masterpiece.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Worst of TV 2013

Dishonorable Mentions:

- 2 Broke Girls (CBS) - More like 2 Unfunny Girls, am I right?
- Betrayal (ABC) - Unlikable soap about two married people who have an affair. Meh.
- Community (NBC) - Sharp drop in quality without Dan Harmon at the helm.
- Sean Saves the World (NBC) - Sean's overacting feels so 2003.
- Super Fun Night (ABC) - Felt like an Ally McBeal ripoff, but with a plump star instead of an anorexic one.
- Under the Dome (CBS) - It started out really good, and it got a little worst with each episode. It also strayed farther from the book with each episode, and so by the season finale, it was exhibiting the worst of series like Heroes where you got the feeling the writers didn't know what their end-game was either.
- "We Saw Your Boobs" gets a full song-and-dance at the Oscars, but if anyone's speech goes more than 15 seconds, they start playing them off.

10. JFK COVERAGE - Sheesh, Baby Boomer Media, get over yourselves.

9. DOES SOMEONE NEED TO GO? (Fox) - Tone-deaf reality show that pits employees at companies against each other.  Our economy is still one where most people feel lucky to have a job, and yet here's one encouraging co-workers to get each other fired.

8. DISNEY CHANNEL TRAINING-WHEEL SITCOMS - The laugh-tracks, the posing, the relentless synergistic product placement... is it a wonder that creativity in our youth has dropped?

7. SAVE ME (NBC) - Anne Heche at her ever-mugging worst.

6. SHARKNADO (SyFy) - It was awesome! I mean, it was terrible, but it was so cool to have Twitter unite to celebrate the so-bad-they're-good creature-features SyFy cranks out.  Acting giants Tara Reid and Ian Ziering have their new careers solidified.

5. WHODUNNIT (ABC) - Cheesy reality game-show where contestants gather in a house and they start getting "killed" one by one, including contestants reacting like they're finding real dead bodies.

4. BRICKLEBERRY (COM) - Cartoon swill about a national park; it's Yogi Bear with dirty jokes.

3. DADS (FOX) - Offensive, wrong-headed, unfunny waste of everyone's time and talents. Can't believe this hasn't been cancelled yet.

2. MSNBC - A Pew study has shown that only 15% of the channel is news and 85% of it is opinion.  Compare that to Fox News (45%/55%) and CNN (54%/46%).  It's become an astonishingly extreme echo chamber, embarrassing to the NBC brand and anyone not far to the left.  From Bashir advocating that someone should defecate into Palin's mouth to Schultz insisting we're headed for a second Confederacy to their hosts finding everything racist, they have turned into something much worse than just being the anti-Fox.

1. SHOWTIME - I became a Showtime subscriber but because I have Dish, they won't let me watch their shows online or On Demand. So the only way I can legally watch Ray Donovan is to pay hundreds of dollars to early terminate and switch providers. Way to go, Showtime! I hear Dexter and Homeland had bad seasons anyway.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Smaug wins box-office weekend

The second Hobbit movie didn't open quite as large as the first, but it shows that audience member still have a taste for Middle Earth, and it's good for them, because competition is about to get really stiff.  Anchorman 2 and Walking with Dinosaurs both open this Friday, and Saving Mr. Banks and American Hustle will expand wide.  Then Christmas Day, we'll get The Wolf of Wall Street, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Grudge Match, Believe, 47 Ronin, and expansions for Inside Llewyn Davis and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

Random Movie Stuff - 12/16/13

- Three film icons (for different reasons) died over the weekend:

Peter O'Toole (Lawrence of Arabia)
Joan Fontaine (Rebecca)
Tom Laughlin (Billy Jack)

- Sony is looking at expanding its corner of the Marvel universe, i.e., the Spider-Man piece.  In addition to Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) and 3 (2016), they're developing spinoff films for Venom and The Sinister Six. The original Six consisted of Doctor Octopus, Electro, Sandman, Mysterio, Vulture and Kraven the Hunter.  Later incarnations would include Hobgoblin, Gog, Chameleon, Rhino, Shocker and Scorpion.

- With the Vacation sequel/reboot mothballed, Ed Helms has set his sights on starring in a Naked Gun reboot. Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant (Night at the Museum, Reno 911) will write it.

- Gerard Butler (Set), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Horus) and Geoffrey Rush (Ra) will star in Gods of Egypt, literally playing Egyptian Gods. Newcomers Brenton Thwaites (upcoming Maleficent) and Courtney Eaton (upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road) will also star.

- Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cate Blanchett, Casey Affleck, Michael B. Jordan and Christoph Waltz will star in Triple Nine for director John Hillcoat (The Road).  It's about a group of criminals who conspire to kill an LAPD officer as a distraction for a heist they plan to pull in a different part of town.

- Filming has begun on Men Women & Children, an ensemble film from Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) about how the internet has changed lives, relationships and how we communicate, particularly between parents and children. Emma Thompson will narrate it, and it stars Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Rosemary DeWitt, Judy Greer, Dean Norris and Travis Tope.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Frozen - Movie Review

Starring the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Alan Tudyk and Ciaran Hinds. Directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee.


"The Snow Queen", aka what this movie should have been called, is another hit for Disney, which went through a little slump there for a while but has been in fine form lately with Tangled and Wreck-It-Ralph.  Now comes Frozen.

It also returns to its full-fledged musical roots.  Tangled had, what, five songs? This one has seven, and the voice-cast is populated largely with Broadway vets.  The movie ends about how I thought it would, but it takes some unexpected twists on the way there that make it exciting.

The first 20 minutes speed through plot that most movies would take an hour to unfold, as we see two sisters, Elsa and Anna, grow, and Elsa has the power to create instant snow.  They grow distant as they get older, which is Elsa's way of keeping Anna safe, as she's finding it harder to control it.

There's no demonic villain this time around, and it takes some feminist turns without being patronizing about it. They've broken the mold and are taking the "princess" formula in new directions. Good for them.

2013 Golden Globe Nominations

Best Motion Picture — Drama
12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips

Best Motion Picture — Comedy Or Musical
American Hustle
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Director — Motion Picture
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
David O. Russell, American Hustle

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford, All Is Lost

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Comedy Or Musical
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Joaquin Phoenix, Her

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
Kate Winslet, Labor Day

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Comedy Or Musical
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Best Performance by an Actor In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Daniel Brühl, Rush
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Best Performance by an Actress In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska

Best Screenplay — Motion Picture
12 Years a Slave, John Ridley
American Hustle, Eric Singer, David O. Russell
Her, Spike Jonze
Nebraska, Bob Nelson
Philomena, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope

Best Foreign Language Film
Blue is the Warmest Color
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Past
The Wind Rises

Best Animated Film
The Croods
Despicable Me 2

Best Original Song — Motion Picture
“Atlas,” Catching Fire
“Let It Go,” Frozen
“Ordinary Love,” Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
“Please, Mr. Kennedy,” Inside Llewyn Davis
“Sweeter Than Fiction,” One Chance

Best Original Score — Motion Picture
All is Lost
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
12 Years a Slave
The Book Thief

Best Television Series — Drama
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
The Good Wife
House of Cards
Masters of Sex

Best Television Series — Comedy Or Musical
The Big Bang Theory
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Modern Family
Parks and Recreation

Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series — Drama
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Michael Sheen, Masters of Sex
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
James Spader, The Blacklist

Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series — Comedy Or Musical
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Michael J. Fox, The Michael J. Fox Show
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series — Drama
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Taylor Schilling, Orange is the New Black
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series — Comedy Or Musical
Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks And Recreation

Best Mini-Series Or TV-Movie
American Horror Story: Coven
Behind The Candelabra
Dancing on the Edge
Top of the Lake
The White Queen

Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or TV-Movie
Matt Damon, Behind The Candelabra
Michael Douglas, Behind The Candelabra
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the Edge
Idris Elba, Luther
Al Pacino, Phil Spector

Best Performance by an Actress In A Mini-series or TV-Movie
Helena Bonham Carter, Burton and Taylor
Rebecca Ferguson, The White Queen
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Coven
Helen Mirren, Phil Spector
Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or TV-Movie
Jacqueline Bisset, Dancing on the Edge
Janet McTeer, The White Queen
Hayden Panettiere, Nashville
Monica Potter, Parenthood
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or TV-Movie
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Rob Lowe, Behind the Candelabra
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Corey Stoll, House of Cards
Jon Voight, Ray Donovan

Cecil B. DeMille Award
Woody Allen

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dead Man Down - DVD Review

Starring Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard, Dominic Cooper, Isabelle Huppert and Armand Assante.  Directed by Niels Oplev.


Niels Oplev, director of the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, brings some Eurotrash sensibilities to this revenge thriller about a gangster (Colin Farrell) trying to help his boss (Terrence Howard) figure out who wants to kill him.  Meanwhile his neighbor (Noomi Rapace) blackmails him into killing the man who permanently scarred from a hit-and-run.  The pacing isn't exactly smooth, but something about the really dysfunctional love that develops between the two leads make it enjoyable enough for a rental.

SAG Award Nominees 2013

Ensemble Cast
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
August: Osage County
Dallas Buyers Club
The Butler

Lead Actor
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Forest Whitaker, The Butler

Lead Actress
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Daniel Brühl, Rush
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey, The Butler

Ensemble – Drama
Boardwalk Empire
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones

Ensemble – Comedy
30 Rock
Arrested Development
The Big Bang Theory
Modern Family

Actor – Drama Series
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Jeff Daniels, The Newswroom
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

Actress – Drama Series
Claire Danes, Homeland
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Coven
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Kerry Washington, Scandal

Actor – Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Actress – Comedy Series
Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

Actor — TV Movie or Miniseries
Matt Damon, Behind the Candelabra
Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra
Jeremy Irons, The Hollow Crown
Rob Lowe, Killing Kennedy
Al Pacino, Phil Spector

Actress – TV movie or Miniseries
Angela Bassett, Betty & Coretta
Helena Bonham Carter, Burton and Taylor
Holly Hunter, Top of the Lake
Helen Mirren, Phil Spector
Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake

Television Stunt Ensemble:
Boardwalk Empire
Breaking Bad
Game of Thrones
The Walking Dead

Film Stunt Ensemble:
All Is Lost
Fast and Furious 6
Lone Survivor
The Wolverine

Rita Moreno

Monday, December 9, 2013

AFI's Top Ten of 2013

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Fruitvale Station
Inside Llewyn Davis
Saving Mr. Banks
The Wolf of Wall Street

The Americans
Breaking Bad
Game of Thrones
The Good Wife
House of Cards
Mad Men
Masters of Sex
Orange Is The New Black

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Identity Thief - DVD Review

Starring Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet, Robert Patrick, Jon Favreau, Morris Chestnut and John Cho. Directed by Seth Gordon.


The star and director of Horrible Bosses reunite for a movie that's no where near as funny, talented as though the cast may be. I don't know what they were thinking with this one.

It spends the first half establishing that Julia (McCarthy) is one of the least likable characters ever, an identity thief who destroys people's credit without conscience, overindulging on everything.  When normal guy Sandy Patterson (Bateman, doing his usual stressed-out straight-man routine) becomes her latest victim, he drives down to Florida to retrieve her and bring her back to Colorado, where she can get his credit restored instantly instead of him having to wait several months.

Between the contrived situations they find themselves in, the movie tries to have a heart and make this more of a Planes Trains & Automobiles type movie. It's too jarring a shift and too wimpy an ending.

Only God Forgives - DVD Review

Starring Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm, Rhatha Phongham, Gordon Brown and Tom Burke.
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.

I get the feeling this is a movie that Refn and Gosling just had to get out of their system. I had higher hopes for their second collaboration, after they'd made the excellent Drive, but my guess is that Drive was more of the exception than the rule for the rest of Refn's career.

This movie is all macho posing while dark lights put actors in music-video scenes. Ryan Gosling is Julian, a gangster who runs a boxing ring in Thailand. When Julian's scumbag brother Billy is killed, Crystal, the matriarch of this crime family (Kristin Scott Thomas), flies in and demand some heads roll.  There's no reason to root for Julian, since Billy pretty much deserved what he got, but in a film where almost everyone's evil, well, people are going to suffer.

The antagonist here is Chang, head of the local police force, and the man who condoned Billy's murder. He likes to dispense justice with a sword. So while a showdown with Julian seems inevitable, the showdown with Crystal was more intriguing to me (even though it stank). After all, Julian looks like he's barely awake through most of the movie. That look on his face in the poster? he has that expression the entire movie.

People walk slowly in this movie, and it usually feels like Refn is trying to pad the runtime, which is a mercifully short 89 minutes.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Iceman - DVD Review

Starring Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans, David Schwimmer, James Franco, Robert Davi, John Ventimiglia and Stephen Dorff. Directed by Ariel Vroman.


Michael Shannon is a terrific presence, and he needs it here in this undercooked biopic about one of America's most notorious killers - Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski.  It starts out interesting enough, almost a Donnie Brasco vibe to the proceedings, as low-man on the totem pole works his way up because he's so good at killing.  Ray Liotta plays Ray DeMeo, the boss that gave him a chance for higher profile hits for the Gambino family.

As the story goes, it gets repetitive after a while. We see Kuklinski kill someone, and then we see him kill someone, and then we see him kill someone, and then we see him kill someone, and then we get a scene where he enjoys his wife and two daughters, oblivious to how he really earns his money, and then we see him kill someone...

I liked Winona Ryder and Chris Evans in their roles. No complaints as far as acting goes; I just wish the film had more purpose behind what story it's trying to tell.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Captain Phillips - Movie Review

Starring Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi and Catherine Keener.
Directed by Paul Greengrass.


I saw this a while back but noticed I never wrote a review. It'll probably be at the $2 theaters soon if it isn't already.  We'll probably see some sort of re-release when award-season ramps up, which'll be any day now.

Tom Hanks does his best work since Saving Private Ryan as Captain Phillips, an ordinary man thrust into an extraordinary situation. His money shot comes in the final few minutes, just raw, true emotion.  The journey that gets us there has a docu-drama feel that only director Paul Greengrass (United 93) can deliver.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Catching Fire #1, Frozen #2

Frozen would have the new record for the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, except that Hunger Games: Catching Fire beat it.  They were a 1-2 punch, and nothing else in the marketplace could find oxygen.  The other new releases were relatively ignored and should disappear quickly.

The only new wide release next week is Out of the Furnace, where Batman and Haymitch face off.

From BoxOfficeMojo.com