THRS Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Oz — the “not so great” and powerful

March 11th, 2013 at 1:36 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for Oz the Great and Powerful.

Oz the Great and PowerfulI have been so excited and highly anticipating the moment in time where I could don my 3D glasses, lean back in my seat and fall into this film in IMAX wonder to be transported back to the magical land of Oz.  And then it happened.  Nothing is what it seems both in Oz and in my dream of what this film would be.

Oz the Great and Powerful is the Disney version of the prequel to one of the most iconic MGM (now under Warner Bros.) films of all time (important distinction I will get to later).  As the film opens Director Sam Raimi uses the original Academy ratio and the black and white/sepia treatment to tell the story of Oscar (James Franco)… A con man with a traveling circus with a penchant for the ladies (including Annie who comes along to tell him she’s going to marry a man named Gale in the hopes he will tell her not to, but he doesn’t.)

Soon on the run from the strongman, Oscar jumps aboard a tethered hot air balloon to get away despite the looming storm and twister in view.  This leads to the landing in Oz foretold in the original film.  As the Land of Oz is revealed we are treated to a Great and Powerful spectacle of color and imagination… Of course meant to mirror the iconic film’s story.

Oscar soon encounters Theodora (Mila Kunis) who tells of the prophecy of a wizard who will save the land of Oz and its people from the evil witch.  Tempted by all the gold in Oz, Oscar begins to play along… Theodora’s sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) is a little ticked off about this… And we soon learn who is wicked and who is not.

The crux of the story is that Oz must kill the witch to claim the throne.   He saves the life of a flying monkey who then dedicates his life to Oz.  The monkey (Zach Braff) soon learns what he’s in for with Oz’s lies.  Oz encounters a china doll and of course Glinda (Michelle Williams) and the munchkins along the yellow brick road.  Glinda has his number, but agrees to help him because that is what Oz needs – someone to believe in.

A royal battle of wicked proportions and man-behind-the-curtain type stuff later… And we (lovers of the original) find ourselves connecting dots and seeing where this is going.  But fear not, if you are one of the few people on earth who hasn’t see The Wizard of Oz nothing will be ruined here.

As I said I was so excited to see this film.  The only place I wasn’t let down was in the production design and the use of 3D.  Most of the land of Oz was spectacular even if overwhelming in color and scope.  But alas,  From the story itself (which had to be changed here and there for trademark reasons and only certain things alluded to), to the weak and uninspired acting (especially of Williams and Franko), to some of the weakest dialogue, and that just not good CG monkey Finley, I was utterly disappointed.

I should mention that Rachel Weisz was exceptional, but I wonder if she was merely so in comparison to the others.  I think the biggest thing missing from Oz the Great and Powerful is the magic.  It just didn’t own the sense of wonder that one would expect and fell far below expectations.  Those pesky trademark issues came into play again — even the  wicked witch’s green makeup  had to be a different shade of green due to trademarks!

I could see how some might be entertained by the smoke and mirrors, but I saw the man behind the curtain throughout.  So much of the film was shot in green screen and it was obvious.

Instead of “I laughed, I cried, I cheered”, it was more like “I yawned, I stretched, I almost nodded off”.  I was bored during much of this film.  I should have known!  Not counting The Godfather… What spectacular film has ever come out in March right after the Oscars.  In fact… According to… for more than 20 years, the months February, March and April had no nominees at all.

Please, please, please let the film version of WICKED be redeeming…


Rated PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language. 

Movie Review: Jack Slays ‘em

March 4th, 2013 at 5:34 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

Click here to watch the trailer for Jack the Giant Slayer.

Now in theaters across Hampton Roads….

Jack the Giant Slayer movie poster (Jack not seen here, because I like the poster with Ewan McGregor more.)

We’ve all heard the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, but this time it gets a fairy tale face lift with this screenplay that has a heart and a fierce taste of vengeance and humor.

As the story opens we get the tale of giants leaving above earth making thunder and lightening from two different childhood bedrooms.  A poor farmer father telling the story for the zillionth time to young Jack; and the Queen retelling the tale to the very young Princess Isabella.  Both youngsters are a bit obsessed with the story.

Fast forward about ten years and we see that Jack (Nicholas Hoult) and the Princess (Isabella Tomlinson) were destined to meet and live the story into a new chapter.  One thing leads to another and the Princess finds herself in the farmhouse stuck in the beanstalk on the edge of High-up Giantland with Jack and many of the King’s men in tow up the beanstalk to rescue her… Men including Roderick (Stanley Tucci) to whom the Princess is betrothed (much to her dismay).

The Giants can smell the humans and that poses a bit of a problem.  After lots of bad habits on display, disgusting type Giant stuff, peppered with the battling of giants, and pigs-in-a-blanket making (I’m sure you saw that in the trailer), we learn that Roderick was keeping a little secret.

He has a crown in hand that causes the Giants to bow down to him… The crown of a one-time Giant Slayer.  He is now King of the Giants. And no one knows his plan to lead them on earth to rule the land… (Because marrying the princess and living the sweet life weren’t enough.)

Isabelle is rescued and safely down the beanstalk thanks largely to Jack… It seems like a happy ending as Isabella (resigned to marry Rodick) rides with him and her father the King back to the castle…. But, there is a battle yet to be had!  The crown rolls away, and it is game on at the castle.  Lead by the King (Ian McShane) and his right hand knight (Ewan McGregor — whom I love) there are flaming trees thrown and an epic tug of war on the castle door.  It’s some really serious battling.

Jack the Giant Slayer is a Warner Bros. film directed by Bryan Singer of Xmen fame and Written by Darren Lemke (Shrek Ever After), Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and Dan Studney (TV credits only).   The story is fairly well-crafted and entertaining and the directing has its moments.

The film is packed with action and for those taking the 3D plunge into your wallets, plenty of opportunities to duck in the theater.  For me, it’s a little disappointing that the Princess gets herself into trouble and waits for rescue.  It’s 2013 people… Let her pick a lock, shoot a giant, do something!

And then the giants.  Some are believable, others don’t make the mark.  The films release date was pushed back reportedly for the CG artists.  I kinda felt at times they could have pushed it back even more for some fine tuning.   I just suspended belief, and I was okay.

Stanley Tucci is just so spot on.  His moments of humor are excellent – he has the best lines in the film, far and away.  Hoult does a great job of propelling the story.  Nice to see him alive again after his recent turn as a zombie in Warm Bodies.  Oh, and Ewan McGregor is still handsome!

For parents – Jack the Giant Slayer is rated PG-13 for a reason.  The giants are a little scary and some frightening images.  There are also some intense fighting scenes as well as some language to be aware of… Use your judgement.  My nearly 9-year old really liked it but did have some lingering scary moments at night for a few days.

Three out of Five Cookies.


The Oscars are coming! My 2013 Predictions are here!

February 21st, 2013 at 12:36 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

Alright — I’ve thought and thought, analyzed and meditated.  Here are the list of 2013 Academy Awards nominations — with my predictions for winners in BOLD RED.  Comment below and let me know how you feel!  Join the conversation during the Oscars this Sunday night on @HR_Show on twitter (with the hash tag #hrsoscars), or find us on facebook!



Argo — It’s a rising tide!  I think the best thing that happened to Ben Affleck was being snubbed by the Academy in the Directing category.  The film has gone on to win so many awards.  I picked it to be in the thick of it by now when I first saw it, and I’m standing by it.  Best Picture Oscar for Affleck and Clooney.




Beasts of the Southern Wild

Django Unchained

Les Misérables

Life of Pi


Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty

Actor in a Leading Role


Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln — Since the moment they released promotional photos of his portrayal of Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis has been the talk of Hollywood.  After seeing the performance, there was little doubt left that he would go home with the statuette.  Day-Lewis wins Oscar’s Best Actor award.




Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables

Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Denzel Washington, Flight

Actor in a Supporting Role

Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln — Three major movies in 2012 featured Tommy Lee Jones.  We saw his blockbuster side as Agent K in Men in Black 3, the frustrated and confused husband opposite Meryl Streep in Hope Springs, and as the historic Congressman Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln.  Academy voters love to see an actor show his range and Jones certainly did that in 2012.  He will go home with Oscar!

Alan Arkin, Argo

Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Actress in a Leading Role

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook — Jennifer Lawrence was also on the big screen multiple times this year, most notably for the launch of The Hunger Games franchise followed by her critical turn in Silver linings Playbook.  Second year in a role nominated for Best Actress (2011 for Winter’s Bone) and this year she will win!




Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Actress in a Supporting Role

Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables — I can’t imagine there’s any way on Earth Anne Hathaway doesn’t win.  It’s the biggest safe bet since… ever.  In the event she doesn’t I’d hope for Helen Hunt to take it.





Amy Adams, The Master

Sally Field, Lincoln

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Animated Feature Film

Frankenweenie — I loved this film and it’s homage to fun Hollywood horror films of old.  Even though Brave has won Best Animated Film from the BAFTA Awards and the Golden Globes, and despite the fact that many critics and prognosticators are calling Wreck-It Ralph the winner, I’m going Frankenweenie for the win!






The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Wreck-It Ralph


Skyfall, Roger Deakins

Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey

Django Unchained, Robert Richardson

Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda

Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski


Lincoln, Joanna Johnston

Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran

Les Misérables, Paco Delgado

Mirror Mirror, Eiko Ishioka

Snow White and the Huntsman, Colleen Atwood


Official poster for the film Life of Pi


Life of Pi, Ang Lee — There is an argument for almost everyone in this category.  It really was a stellar year for directing… despite the fact that Ben Affleck isn’t nominated.  Many feel it will go to Spielberg.  I have a special place in my heart for Amour’s Haneke — beautifully directed.  And how in the world did Zeitlin pull that big performance out of a four-year-old girl!?  And Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook just did practically everything right.  But I have to go with Ang Lee.  When you stop and think about the directing and how much of it was directing actors to play off of NOTHING.  So much of this film is CG and yet, the heart of the film remains.  Bravo to Ang Lee.


Amour, Michael Haneke

Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin

Lincoln, Steven Spielberg

Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell


5 Broken Cameras, Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi

The Gatekeepers, Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky and Estelle Fialon

How to Survive a Plague, David France and Howard Gertler

The Invisible War, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering

Searching for Sugar Man, Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn

Documentary Short Subject

Open Heart, Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern

Inocente, Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

Kings Point, Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider

Mondays at Racine, Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan

Redemption, Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill


Zero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

Argo, William Goldenberg

Life of Pi, Tim Squyres

Lincoln, Michael Kahn

Silver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers

Foreign Language Film

Amour, Austria — I loved this film.  It has won Best Foreign Film at the BAFTAs, Critics’ Choice, the Golden Globes, and the NY Film Critics Circle plus the Palme d’Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.  So deserved.  If it doesn’t win Best Picture (second for me only to Argo) it must win Foreign Language Film.




Kon-Tiki, Norway

No, Chile

A Royal Affair, Denmark

War Witch, Canada

MAKEUP and hairstyling

Les Misérables, Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell — The attention to detail was exceptional.

Hitchcock, Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane

Music (Original Score)

Lincoln, John Williams

Anna Karenina, Dario Marianelli

Argo, Alexandre Desplat

Life of Pi, Mychael Danna

Skyfall, Thomas Newman

Music (Original Song)

Skyfall, Skyfall, Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth

Before My Time, Chasing Ice, Music and Lyric by J. Ralph

Everybody Needs A Best Friend, Ted, Music by Walter Murphy, Lyric by Seth MacFarlane

Pi’s Lullaby, Life of Pi, Music by Mychael Danna, Lyric by Bombay Jayashri

Suddenly, Les Misérables, Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

Production Design

Lincoln, Production Design: Rick Carter, Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Anna Karenina, Production Design: Sarah Greenwood, Set Decoration: Katie Spencer

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Production Design: Dan Hennah, Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright

Les Misérables, Production Design: Eve Stewart, Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson

Life of Pi, Production Design: David Gropman, Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

Short Film (Animated)

Paperman, John Kahrs

Adam and Dog, Minkyu Lee

Fresh Guacamole, PES

Head over Heels, Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly

Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”, David Silverman

Short Film (Live Action)

Curfew, Shawn Christensen

Asad, Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura

Buzkashi Boys, Sam French and Ariel Nasr

Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw), Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele

Henry, Yan England


Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson

Argo, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn

Django Unchained, Wylie Stateman

Life of Pi, Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton

Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers


Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes

Argo, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia

Life of Pi, Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin

Lincoln, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins

Skyfall, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson


Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White

Marvel’s The Avengers, Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick

Prometheus, Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill

Snow White and the Huntsman, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Lincoln, Screenplay by Tony Kushner — Another hard category to call, with each of them having their own merits!  I honestly would be happy for any of these to win.  But I have to pick one and that one will be Lincoln.  With a screenplay adapted from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” Lincoln brought the battle of equal rights to life and the dialogue was the freshest and most natural I’ve seen on film from that period.

Argo, Screenplay by Chris Terrio

Beasts of the Southern Wild, Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin

Life of Pi, Screenplay by David Magee

Silver Linings Playbook, Screenplay by David O. Russell

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Django Unchained, Written by Quentin Tarantino — This screenplay is just brilliant and thought-provoking. 





Amour, Written by Michael Haneke

Flight, Written by John Gatins

Moonrise Kingdom, Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola

Zero Dark Thirty, Written by Mark Boal


I love watching people win, and give speeches that move me to think that dreams come true for those who pursue them.  And frankly, every film that moves you is a winner in my book.  Good luck to all the nominees.

Follow the Oscars along with me on twitter and facebook! Find The Hampton Roads Show on facebook and @HR_Show on twitter with the hash tag #hrsoscars.  I will be commenting along the way and would love to have you join the conversation!

GUEST COLUMN: THRS Intern Brian Bolt talks William & Mary Global Film Festival

February 18th, 2013 at 8:03 am by under THRS Movie Reviews

Special to The Hampton Roads Show

By Brian Bolt

For a town known more for tricorner hats than directing caps, Williamsburg, Virginia recently enjoyed its fair share of moviemaking glitz and glamour.  This past weekend, the red carpet was rolled out for the sixth annual William and Mary Global Film Festival, an event surprisingly not lacking in celebrity.  The pint-sized star of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, Jared Gilman stopped by the historic Kimball Theater, as well as Helene Bergsholm, star of the 2011 Norwegian film Turn Me On, Dammit!  Pro skaters Tony Hawk and Mike McGill Skyped in a Q and A session about their film Bones Brigade, and Oscar-nominated director Behn Zeitlin Skyped an introduction for his widely acclaimed debut, Beasts of the Southern Wild.

However, it must be known that film festivals, like the giant, prehistoric swine Hushpuppy must contend with, are curious beasts, especially in a town like Williamsburg.  They attract local retirees who have a passion for film as well as college students with a passion for free booze (kidding, they’re cinephiles too).  This peculiar blend of generations is at first startling but somehow manages to result in glorious conversations about classic rock and obscure filmmakers from the 1940s.

Personally, though, I had the pleasure of working as an intern for the festival, performing such essential tasks as tearing tickets and dispensing wine to the festival big wigs.  Yet the most important lesson I learned was not that it is unhygienic to rip something with your teeth or impractical to use your hands to unscrew a wine cork.  No, the most important thing I learned was that kids are kids, no matter how many silver screens they’ve graced.

It took about a day and a half, but I finally mustered up the courage to stride up to Jared Gilman and say hello.  Actually, it was more like an awkward hover as other people spoke to him for a few minutes.  However, in those key seconds, I had the opportunity to plan out my greeting to the syllable.  It first struck me to use a Moonrise quote as a lead-in, but I quickly abandoned that as hackneyed, clichéd, and definitely something he’d see from a mile away.  Then I decided for a more formal approach.  Maybe something like “Prithee, good sir, have you enjoyed the marvelous films thus far?”  This idea melted away with a swift shake of the head, but, before I knew it, the conversation in front of me had ceased and the fifteen-year-old eyes behind the hipster glasses locked gazes with mine.

“How are you enjoying our fair city?” I spat out.

My world was crumbling around me.  This was far worse than my disastrous Newt Gingrich run-in where I chatted exclusively about meteorology.  This was someone from film, a medium I absolutely adore.  I had to fix it.

“I mean…there have been some cool movies, right?” I managed to sputter.

“Yeah,” he said with a nod.  “Some real cool ones.”

Despite my clumsy verbiage, Jared turned out to be a very down-to-earth guy with a friendly demeanor.  He and Helene were pros at taking a seemingly endless amount of pictures with fans (including me!) and they even took the time to talk to me about a movie I had submitted for the 24 Speed film-making contest.  It was absolutely the highlight of my adrenaline-packed weekend when Jared told me he enjoyed my hastily cobbled-together movie.  Even if it was just for a moment on Kimball’s silver screen, I had managed to capture the attention of a person who had captured the attention of millions of other people.

Movie Review: In love with Amour

February 18th, 2013 at 8:02 am by under THRS Movie Reviews

Click Here to watch the trailer for AMOUR.

Even though Amour has been out for awhile and is nominated for more than one Oscar at this Sunday’s Academy Awards, it only just opened in Hampton Roads this weekend… and of course I couldn’t wait to see it!

The story itself is simple. An elderly couple of, at one time, some distinction are living out the remainder of their lives in an apartment in France… alone.

((If you don’t know already, I should mention this is a French film — with subtitles.But pay it no mind… The acting is so deliberate that so much of this film doesn’t even depend on what they are saying… the subtitles become second nature to the love story.))  But this is not a love story for wimps.

In the beginning, something is going on with Anne (played bravely by Emmanuelle Riva)… George (played heroically by Jean-Louis Trintignant) can’t get a response from her.  He rushes to get dressed to get help, and then… She is amazingly fine.

They slowly come to grips with her health challenges — stroke after stroke, paralyzed right side of her body.  She refuses hospital care.  He refuses to give up caring for her, even when it comes to the point when he knows he can’t.   She wants to die….

I won’t give away the ending… but it’s brave, heroic, heartbreaking, and triumphant.  The acting is first rate, and Riva so deserves the Best Actress nomination for her portrayal of Anne.

But let me talk about the direction.  I found it just stunning.  The choices for shots, the choices in the lengths of the shots, the camera angles — all of it plays so well.  I never would have imagined a simple camera shot could make me — the viewer,  sitting in the audience half a world away from where this was filmed or supposed to have taken place – feel more like I was part of the story… I could feel the emptiness of the characters and their lives as it developed.

Amour is utterly wrenching and for a Valentine’s weekend, there wasn’t a better choice of a heart-breaking love-story to be viewed in Hampton Roads.


Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including a disturbing act, and for brief language.

Now playing at Naro Expanded Cinema - 1507 Colley Avenue, Norfolk, VA.

Movie Review: Identity Thief

February 11th, 2013 at 3:59 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for IDENTITY THIEF!

Official poster for the film.

So the premise of Identity Thief goes like this: Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) is an account exec for a financial firm in Colorado. His boss could care less about him, so he and some co-workers decide to launch their own firm. The catch is that Sandy fails his financial background check and soon finds himself arrested for not appearing in court in Florida.That’s how he realizes his identity has been stolen by Sandy Patterson (Melissa McCarthy). The detective (Morris Chestnut) informs him that the only say to speed up justice so he can have his name cleared and keep his new job is to bring the criminal to the police. So Sandy goes to Florida to bring Sandy in to Colorado (with assassins and bounty hunters on their tales no less!).Looks like it’s time for a ROAD TRIP!  We soon learn her real name is Diane and we see just how good of a liar she really is. At every turn, she makes up a new name and identity. Sandy is in awe every time it happens.

Of course we see the entire outcome of the film coming from a mile away, and we are hardly moved when it happens. Some of the slapstick comedy along the way is down right funny. Some of it is just unbelievable. The screenplay itself is weak at best. It requires quite a bit of fairy dust for us to buy it.  Please, please, please.I would love to ask Director Seth Gordon why are we, the audience, expected to suspend so much belief in order to buy in to the film?

For example:

***When people get shot, it hurts. It will hurt more than an “Ow!” And it will hurt longer than the one sentence the three people who got shot said before running off to their next scenes.

***When a van containing humans with no seat belts flips multiple times, people don’t walk out with barely a scratch. In fact people don’t usually walk out.

***When you want the audience to buy into the entire premise of identity theft, don’t make the main character — who gives all of his financial information out over the phone without a single thought that it could be a bad idea… Have a job as the financial officer at a company!

There are so many more I’m not even going to go into them all!  But!  I laughed a lot.  I was entertained through much of it.  Melissa McCarthy is comedy gold. She nails the character developing, real-acting scene – sharing her life story through tears, just as she does the scenes filled with slapstick comedy — knocking them out of the park.

Jason Bateman plays the straight man dead on. His comedic timing is so good. I wish he could land a role in a really good movie; he so deserves one.  Identity Thief isn’t it.


Rated R for sexual content and language.

Oscars are on the way… have you seen the Best Picture?

January 28th, 2013 at 6:44 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

So, there are nine films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture this year… have you seen the winner?

I have seen five of the nine films, and I can’t wait to see the other four when I take on all nine nominees over the two Saturdays before the Academy Awards airs on Sunday, February 24th.   Luckily for me, this year the four I haven’t seen are equally spread.  A different one starts and ends both days!

What?  You don’t know about the Showcase? The AMC Best Picture Showcase is one of my favorite times of the year.  I love seeing all of the Best Picture nominees in the context of each other — even seeing some I have already seen is great.  It almost makes it easier to pick the best, if that is really even possible.

I have been going to the BPS forever!  Well, it feels like it anyway.  I spend 10am -11pm (times approximate) in my seat in the theater — my slice of heaven.  I bring a bag with a little pillow, my snuggie, a notebook, and, of course, my smartphone.  People all over the country are watching the showcase, and they are tweeting after every film hits credits.  I’m with film lovers in the theater, and we talk about the film right after it airs.  And you can also chime in on the twitter discussion using the hashtag #amcbps

If you have never been, if you love movies, and you haven’t thought about going, you should!  It’s a great deal!  You can find all the details at this link:  AMC BEST PICTURE SHOWCASE.  If you decide to go, let me know!  I’ll look for you there!

Now that you know about #amcbps, what do you think is going to win Best Picture?  Argo is building steam!  I remember seeing it the first time and was blown away.  Can’t wait to see it again.  I loved Silver Linings Playbook.  The dialogue was amazing and seamless.  Welcome to major acting roles, Bradley Cooper.  Life of Pi was visually stunning.  I am amazed at what Director Ang Lee was able to do with green screen technology!  Les Miserables was just a spectacle on the grandest scale.  If you love musicals, you just have to like it — in spite of some of the flaws.  The acting in Lincoln was mind blowing!  Daniel Day-Lewis is unstoppable.  Those are the ones I have seen so far.  Can’t wait for Beasts of the Southern Wild, Amour, Django: Unchained, and Zero Dark Thirty.

It was all I could do to keep myself out of the the last two during the holiday season, but I had a feeling they would be a part of the showcase.  And I’m glad I will get to see them soon.

I have four others to see before I can fairly say I’ve seen the Best Picture.  But!  I really, really, really, loved Argo.

Have you seen the Best Picture yet?


Movie Review: Broken City. Exactly.

January 28th, 2013 at 7:45 am by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the Broken City trailer.

Official movie poster for “Broken City”.

So you look at a film like Broken City and you think — look at that cast!  At least I did when I was deciding whether or not to see it…

You’ve got Oscar winners Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta Jones and Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg… and you have to think that they knew what they were doing when they took the parts, right?

Having seen it now, I have to think, no. No they didn’t.

Let’s start with the plot:  As the story begins — Mayor Hostetter (Crowe) washes away some very incriminating evidence for police officer Billy Taggert (Wahlberg) guaranteeing that Taggert is now forever in his debt.

Immediately fast forward seven years to the bulk of the movie.  The Mayor hires Taggert — now a Private Investigator and recovering alcoholic — to track his wife (Zeta Jones) who he claims to believe is having an affair.

It’s all an elaborate scheme to cover up a bunch of stuff during an election year, but we see it coming.  Political speeches, car chases, shootings, shredding of important documents, a fall off the wagon, a relationship break up and oh the revelation of righteousness.  By the time Taggert is figuring it all out I’ve planned tomorrow’s grocery list and come back to see what happens when he decided to confront the Mayor.

Broken City has some really broken parts.  The storyline is predictable, and for the most part, the acting is sub-par — which means the directing left much to be desired.  How is a character drunk as heck at one point in a bar and then sober as all get out seconds later at a crime scene?  Taggert has a girlfriend for about one fifth of the film.  She’s an actress working on an indy film — who breaks up with him.  Who knows why?  It’s irrelevant and never contributes anything to the film.

Crowe tries to turn a powerful performance but the dialogue is weak and so is his attempt at an accent.  It went in and out of New Yorker, throwing in a dash of almost Irish, and then non-descript American, with a hint here and there of his native tongue.

Zeta-Jones film choices of late have left a lot to be desired… and Broken City is no different.  A lot of melodramatic overacting.

Wahlberg has his standard look for most of the film — that almost confused, grimacing forehead, but handsome look.  He did what he could with what he had to work with… but that unfortunately wasn’t much.

I checked the time multiple times during the movie, a sure sign that it’s slow and the viewer got bored!   To say Broken City is “broken” would be cliche.  But then so is most of the film.


Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content, and violence.


Gangster Squad is schizophrenic

January 22nd, 2013 at 5:01 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the Gangster Squad trailer.

Official movie poster of the Warner Bros. film Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad -a very very violent film- is “inspired by true events”.  Set in late 1949 LA mob leader (and former boxer) Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) is taking over organized crime and owning Los Angeles. Cops and judges are in his pocket, and people die gruesome deaths for the slightest let down.  The Police Chief (Nick Nolte) convinces Officer John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) to organize a group of off-the-record-crime-fighter types to take Cohen out at any cost. Each of them is almost stereotypical to this type of film and the characters are so fluff they hardly add to the film, yet without them, there’s no Gangster Squad.  Honorable mention goes to Ryan Gosling for the twinkle in his eye…but for the acting, especially in scenes with Emma Stone as Cohen’s girlfriend: I got nothing.

The set design and attention to detail of the vintage 40′s look were fun to watch, and the cinematography was well done, cast in shadows much of the time.  But, this combined with the occasion moment of acting brilliance from Sean Penn (that disappeared as quickly as it appeared), could not save a flailing screenplay adapted by Will Beall.

The violence was over the top.  The blaze of Tommy guns and the physical torture scenes were enough to turn your stomach.  And this, apparently is Gangster Squad Lite. Scenes involving a mass shooting in a theater were dropped after last year’s theater massacre in Colorado (some scenes needed rewrites and reshooting).

I can’t imagine it could have been more violent. Exhibit A: Cohen orders a rival mob boss’s man chained to two cars, ankles to one, wrists to another and then proceeds to have them drive away– ripping him to shreds. Shown on screen.  All of it.  It made me cringe.

Gangster Squad “coulda been a contender.” But, Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) couldn’t quite decide, despite the violence, if this was serious drama or not. It frequently felt like we were on the verge of spoofing gangster movies.


 Rated R for strong violence and language.

2013 Golden Globe Predictions: There, I said it.

January 8th, 2013 at 12:58 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

Me in my office with my piece of the OSCARS 2000 red carpet. A story for another day. :-)

For as long as I can remember, I have loved Hollywood’s awards season.  I have slept on the street to be a “bleacher creature” and sit along the sideline of the Oscar red carpet waiting for my favorite actor to walk by — knowing he was going to win that year, and he did! (For the record: Kevin Spacey, American Beauty.)Not long after that, I became a Red Carpet Producer while working at CNN and was fortunate to work the carpet for Oscars, Emmys, American Music Awards and more.  I love movies!  I love reviewing movies!  And I love awards shows!  So, now with the Golden Globes approaching, I’m happy to run through the nominees and my choice for winners!

SIDE NOTE: I will be tweeting (find us on twitter: HR_Show) during the awards and the pre-show on WAVY-TV this Sunday night using #HRSHOWglobes.  Join the conversation!

2013 Golden Globes Motion Picture Nominees and my choices to win in RED (UPDATE, actual winners when different in BLUE):


a.    ARGO Warner Bros. Pictures, GK Films, Smokehouse Pictures; Warner Bros. Pictures  (I am thrilled that this won!  I didn’t think it had the momentum, given the snub by Academy voters days before!)

b.    DJANGO UNCHAINED The Weinstein Company, Columbia Pictures; The Weinstein Company/Sony Pictures Releasing

c.    LIFE OF PI Fox 2000 Pictures; Twentieth Century Fox

d.    LINCOLN DreamWorks Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox; Touchstone Pictures – The script, direction, and acting along with setting, costume, relavance seem to be the perfect formula. sc

e.    ZERO DARK THIRTY Columbia Pictures and Annapurna Pictures; Sony Pictures Releasing


a.    Jessica Chastain  –   ZERO DARK THIRTY — She absolutely has the momentum going into the awards ceremony.  She will be nominated for an Oscar on Thursday, and this performance is so polar opposite from the role that earned her an Oscar nomination last year, The Help. sc

b.    Marion Cotillard – RUST AND BONE

c.    Helen Mirren – HITCHCOCK

d.    Naomi Watts  – THE IMPOSSIBLE

e.    Rachel Weisz – THE DEEP BLUE SEA


a.    Daniel Day-Lewis  – LINCOLN – Such a TOUGH choice for actors this year, but Daniel Day-Lewis has to be the frontrunner when you break out drama and comedy or musical categories like the Globes do.  There was never a moment in that three-hour film that I wasn’t completely believing I was watching Lincoln. sc

b.    Richard Gere – ARBITRAGE

c.    John Hawkes  – THE SESSIONS

d.    Joaquin Phoenix – THE MASTER

e.    Denzel Washington – FLIGHT


 Blueprint Pictures/Participant Media; Fox Searchlight Pictures

b.    LES MISERABLES Universal Pictures, A Working Title Films/Cameron Mackintosh Productions; Universal Pictures

c.    MOONRISE KINGDOM Indian Paintbrush; Focus Features


e.    SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK The Weinstein Company; The Weinstein Company – I LOVE LOVE LOVE Marigold Hotel and Les Mis, but this film and the dialogue and the range of actors in these performaces.  Stunning.  Particularly telling that none of my three faves here earned nominations for Director. sc




c.    Jennifer Lawrence  – SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – From The Hunger Games to this stellar performance (comedy, drama, physical), Lawrence has shown acting chops and box office draw.  It’s her year.  sc

d.    Maggie Smith – QUARTET

e.    Meryl Streep  – HOPE SPRINGS


a.    Jack Black  – BERNIE

b.    Bradley Cooper  – SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

c.    Hugh Jackman  – LES MISERABLES – I adore Ewan McGregor and he was really good in The Impossible, but Jackman will take this far and away.  His portrayal of Jean Valjean was impressive — physically and emoptionally.  Plus he’s hosted.  They love him. sc


e.    Bill Murray  – HYDE PARK ON HUDSON


a.    BRAVE Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios; Walt Disney Pictures

b.    FRANKENWEENIE Walt Disney Pictures; Walt Disney Pictures – Brave and Guardians were both visually im[pressive and entertaining, but Tim Burton succeeded in memorializing a loved and reverred Hollywood genre (scary movies!) in an animated masterpiece.  The animation is amazing. sc

c.    HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures Animation; Sony Pictures Releasing

d.    RISE OF THE GUARDIANS DreamWorks Animation LLC; Paramount Pictures

e.    WRECK-IT RALPH Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios; Walt Disney Pictures


a.    AMOUR (AUSTRIA) Les Films Du Losange, X Filme Creative Pool, Wega Film; Sony Pictures Classics

b.    A ROYAL AFFAIR (DENMARK) (En kongelig affære) 
Zentropa Entertainment; Magnolia Pictures

c.    THE INTOUCHABLES (FRANCE) (Les Intouchables) 
The WeinstenCompany, Quad Productions, Gaumont, TF1 Films Production, Ten Films, Chaocorp; The Weinstein Company

d.    KON-TIKI (NORWAY/UK/DENMARK) Nordisk Film Production, Recorded Picture Company; The Weinstein Company

e.    RUST AND BONE (FRANCE) (De rouille et d’os) 
Page 114, Why Not Productions; Sony Pictures Classics – I have to admit that I haven’t seen any of these films!  They haven’t played here in Hampton Roads to be able to see them and that is unfortunate.  Of these, Amour and Rust and Bone are two that I have been dying to see, and the buzz around Cottiliard’s performance has me leaning to Rust and Bone. sc


a.    Amy Adams – THE MASTER

b.    Sally Field – LINCOLN

c.    Anne Hathaway – LES MISERABLES – Need I say more?  She was breathtaking in this role and I’m sad that Helen Hunt is against her, of all years.  Helen Hunt deserves to win for The Sessions, but Hathaway has the momentum. sc

d.    Helen Hunt – THE SESSIONS

e.    Nicole Kidman – THE PAPERBOY


a.    Alan Arkin – ARGO

b.    Leonardo DiCaprio – DJANGO UNCHAINED

c.    Philip Seymour Hoffman – THE MASTER

d.    Tommy Lee Jones – LINCOLN – Arkin in Argo was fantastic, but Tommy Lee Jones’s pivotal performance in Lincoln elevated the film even higher.  Jones for the win.  sc

e.    Christoph Waltz  – DJANGO UNCHAINED


a.    Ben Affleck – ARGO (I am EXTASTIC that he won!  I didn’t think they would vote for him!)

b.    Kathryn Bigelow – ZERO DARK THIRTY

c.    Ang Lee – LIFE OF PI – This isn’t going to be the popular choice, but first, I think the Hollywood Foreign Press loves Ang Lee, and second, you have got to give it to Lee for having the most visually stunning film of the year.  The first film that I say is the most important use of 3D in a film ever and the only way to see it.  The direction of the graphics and the cohesiveness to make it fluid is second to none, and probably the most challenging film of the year to direct, let alone direct well.  There are arguments for all of the other four (BTW where is Tom Hooper?), but Lee is a standout.  sc

d.    Steven Spielberg – LINCOLN

e.    Quentin Tarantino – DJANGO UNCHAINED


a.    Mark Boal – ZERO DARK THIRTY

b.    Tony Kushner – LINCOLN

c.    David O. Russell – SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – Amazing dialogue and pacing.  Can’t argue with the realism of this screenplay. sc

d.    Quentin Tarantino – DJANGO UNCHAINED

e.    Chris Terrio – ARGO


a.    Mychael Danna – LIFE OF PI

b.    Alexandre Desplat – ARGO — The score was moving and really upped all of the feelings you had during the film.  This score more than the others helped to propel the story.  sc

c.    Dario Marianelli  – ANNA KARENINA

d.    Tom Tykwer, – CLOUD ATLAS Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil

e.    John Williams – LINCOLN


a.    “FOR YOU” — ACT OF VALOR Music by: Monty Powell, Keith Urban Lyrics by: Monty Powell, Keith Urban

b.    “NOT RUNNING ANYMORE”—STAND UP GUYS Music by: Jon Bon Jovi Lyrics by: Jon Bon Jovi

c.    “SAFE & SOUND” — THE HUNGER GAMES Music by: Taylor Swift, John Paul White, Joy Williams, T Bone Burnett Lyrics by: Taylor Swift, John Paul White, Joy Williams, T Bone Burnett

d.    “SKYFALL”—SKYFALL Music by: Adele, Paul Epworth Lyrics by: Adele, Paul Epworth — I LOVE JON BON JOVI!!!!  But this song is a magnificent addition to this film.  It’s haunting and perfect for the tone.  It may be my new favorite Bond theme of all time.  Sorry McCartney. sc

e.    “SUDDENLY” — LES MISERABLES Music by: Claude-Michel Schonberg Lyrics by: Herbert Kretzmer, Alain Boublil

So, what do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know!  I love talking about movies!