2017 Holiday Film Preview

If you’re reading this, then Thanksgiving is mere days away (or has past, considering WHEN you’re reading this). Turkey. Stuffing. Popcorn. Raisinets.

Yes, the holidays do mean goodies on the dining room table. But they also mean goodies at the local multiplex. Here is a list of some of the films we’re looking forward to. Please note that release dates are subject to change at the whim of the studios. Some synopsis information courtesy of our friends at IMDB.

I hope this year we get more presents then lumps of coal.

November 22

“Coco”
Starring the voices of: Anthony Gonzalez and Benjamin Bratt
Directed by: Lee Unkrich

The latest from the folks at Pixar. Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to work out the mystery.

Oscar Chances: With over 20 Academy Awards to its name, including six for Best Animated Feature, the chances are good.

“Darkest Hour”
Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas
Directed by: Joe Wright

During the early days of World War II, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds.

Oscar Chances: Look for Oldman to earn his 2nd nomination.

“The Man Who Invented Christmas”
Starring: Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce
Directed by: Bharat Nalluri

The backstory to how author Charles Dickens came to write “A Christmas Carol.”

Oscar Chances: Maybe Plummer but I’m thinking this film will get Scrooged.

“Chappaquiddick”
Starring: Kate Mara and Clancy Brown
Directed by: John Curran

The film recounts the tragic events of the 1969 car accident involving U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy and a young, female campaign worker who died at the scene. Kennedy left the scene of the accident and didn’t alert authorities for ten hours. I’ve actually driven across that bridge and it wasn’t easy to traverse in the middle of a bright, sunny day. Just saying.

Oscar Chances: Would love to see Clancy Brown get a nod.   PLEASE NOTE THIS FILM HAS BEEN MOVED TO APRIL 2018

November 24

“Call Me by Your Name”
Starring: Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet
Directed by: Luca Guadagino

In Northern Italy in 1983, 17-year-old Elio begins a relationship with visiting Oliver, his father’s research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape.

Oscar Chances: Hammer has been getting good festival buzz.

December 1

“24 Hours to Live”
Starring: Ethan Hawke and Rutger Hauer
Directed by: Brian Smrz

An assassin seeks redemption after being given a second chance at life.

Oscar Chances: No.

“The Disaster Artist”
Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco and Seth Rogen
Directed by: James Franco

The behind-the-scenes story of the making of the cult film “The Room,” with James Franco playing the film’s star/writer/director/jack-of-all-trades Tommy Wiseau.

Oscar Chances: I personally find James Franco to be a fine filmmaker. If you haven’t seen “In Dubious Battle,” a film from earlier this year, I highly recommend it. It’s easily on my Top 10 List of 2017.

“Wonder Wheel”
Starring: Jim Belushi, Juno Temple and Kate Winslet
Directed by: Woody Allen

On Coney Island in the 1950s, a lifeguard tells the story of a middle-aged carousel operator and his beleaguered wife.

Oscar Chances: With 24 Academy Award nominations, and four Oscars, you can never count the Woodman out.

December 8

“Arthur Miller: Writer”
Directed by: Rebecca Miller.

A profile of the great playwright Arthur Miller, directed by his daughter.

Oscar Chances: A possible Best Documentary nod.

“Bullet Head”
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Adrien Brody and John Malkovich
Directed by: Paul Solet

The three leads play criminals holed up in a warehouse. Or at least that is what I assume from what I can find. There is no synopsis on IMDB!

Oscar Chances: Like the synopsis, non-existent.

“I, Tonya”
Starring: Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan
Directed by: Craig Gillespie

Surely I’m not the only man in America who had a crush on Tonya Harding? When I woke up one day to find she had married a man named Michael Smith and it WASN’T me I was devastated. Apparently here Tonya wants to win the Olympics and her husband gives her a little help.

Oscar Chances: Worth one just to see Tonya Harding at the Oscars. It would be as memorable as the year Woody Harrelson brought Larry Flynt.

“Just Getting Started”
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones and Renee Russo
Directed by: Ron Shelton

A two-hander action comedy in the vein of “Midnight Run” about an ex-FBI agent (Jones) and an ex-mob lawyer in the witness protection program (Freeman) having to put aside their petty rivalry on the golf course to fend off a mob hit.

Oscar Chances: Lots of talent here but the word “comedy” usually scares the Academy.

“The Shape of Water”
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon and Doug Jones
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

An other-worldly fairy tale, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and a co-worker discover a secret classified experiment.

Oscar Chances: del Toro is one of the great visionaries of our time.

December 15

“Ferdinand”
Starring the voices of: John Cena and Kate McKinnon
Directed by: Carlos Saldanha

After Ferdinand, a bull with a big heart, is mistaken for a dangerous beast, he is captured and torn from his home. Determined to return to his family, he rallies a misfit team on the ultimate adventure.

OSCAR CHANCES: Possible Best Animated Feature nod.

“Gotti”
Starring: John Travolta and Kelly Preston
Directed by: Kevin Connolly

The story of renowned mob boss John Gotti and his son.

Oscar Chances: 40 years after “Saturday Night Fever” Travolta is still a star.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
Starring: Mark Hamill, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley
Directed by: Rian Johnson

Episode VIII begins where VII ended, with Rey finally tracking down the elusive Luke Skywalker. Bring your Kleenex as we say goodbye to the great Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia.

Oscar Chances: Lots of technical nods.

December 20

“The Greatest Showman”
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams and Zac Efron
Directed by: Michael Gracey

Inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum, “The Greatest Showman” is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

Oscar Chances: Hollywood loves Jackman, who got an Oscar nod the last time he sang on screen.

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black
Directed by: Jake Kasdan

Four teenagers discover an old video game console and are literally drawn into the game’s jungle setting becoming the adult avatars they chose.

Oscar Chances: Technical maybe.

December 22

“All the Money in the World”
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer
Directed by: Ridley Scott

The story of the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother to convince his billionaire grandfather Jean Paul Getty to pay the ransom. This film was already completed with Kevin Spacey playing grandpa Getty. In an unprecedented move, after Spacey’s recent scandals came to light, director Scott re-cast the role with Christopher Plummer and re-shot all of Spacey’s scenes. In six weeks.

Oscar Chances: Ridley Scott should get TWO Oscars if he pulls this off.

“Bright”
Starring: Will Smith, Noomi Rapace and Joel Edgerton
Directed by: David Ayer

Set in a world where mystical creatures live side by side with humans. A human cop is forced to work with an Orc to find a weapon everyone is prepared to kill for.

Oscar Chances: Nope. Sounds too much like “Alien Nation” to me.

“Downsizing”
Starring: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz and Kristen Wiig
Directed by: Alexander Payne

A social satire in which a guy realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself.

Oscar Chances: Payne is an Academy favorite.

“Hangman”
Starring: Karl Urban and Al Pacino
Directed by: Johnny Martin

A homicide detective teams up with a criminal profiler to catch a serial killer whose crimes are inspired by the children’s game Hangman.

Oscar Chances: Don’t see it happening.

“Happy End”
Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant and Isabelle Huppert
Directed by: Michael Haneke

A drama about a family set in Calais with the European refugee crisis as the backdrop.

Oscar Chances: Very good. Writer/director Haneke gave us “Amour”

“Hostiles”
Starring: Christian Bale, Wes Studi and Rosamund Pike
Directed by: Scott Cooper

In 1892, a legendary Army captain reluctantly agrees to escort a Cheyenne chief and his family through dangerous territory.

Oscar Chances: Some acting nods possible.

“Pitch Perfect 3”
Starring: Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson
Directed by: Trish Sie

Following their win at the world championship, the now separated Bellas reunite for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but face a group who uses both instruments and voices.

Oscar Chances: Nothing I can imagine.

“The Post”
Starring: Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep
Directed by: Steven Spielberg

A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government. Inspired by true events.

Oscar Chances: Duh!!! You think? Hanks, Streep and Spielberg share over 40 nominations, with Streep leading the way with 20 of her own.

December 25

“Molly’s Game”
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Kevin Costner and Idris Elba
Directed by: Aaron Sorkin

The true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target. This is the Oscar-winning writer Sorkin’s directorial debut.

Oscar Chances: Many.

“Phantom Thread”
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson

Set in 1950’s London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover.

Oscar Chances: Again, many. Day-Lewis won one of his three Oscars for Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood.”

December 27

“In the Fade”
Starring: Diane Kruger
Directed by: Faith Akin

Katja’s life collapses after the death of her husband and son in a bomb attack. After a time of mourning and injustice, Katja seeks revenge.

Oscar Chances: Kruger won the best-actress prize at Cannes.

December 29

“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”
Starring: Annette Bening and Jamie Bell
Directed by: Paul McGuigan

A romance sparks between a young actor and a Hollywood leading lady.

Oscar Chances: Bening is SO overdue. Wake up Academy!

Stefan White talks about the upcoming Battle4KC LifeSaver “Star Wars” battle

If you’re a fan of “Star Wars” I don’t need to tell you that this May fans all over the world will celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the original film’s release. In Kansas City, fans will be attempting to set a Guinness World Record for the largest light saber battle while raising money for a great cause, the battle against cystic fibrosis.

On May 6th, fans can join with Friends of the River for the epic Battle4KC LifeSaver “Star Wars” Battle to benefit Children’s Mercy Hospital’s Cystic Fibrosis Center. The event will begin at 5:00 p.m. at Berkley Riverfront Park 1298 E. Riverfront Drive in Kansas City. Recently we spoke with Friends of the River President Stefan White about the upcoming event and the goals set.

Mike Smith: Tell me a little about the event.

Stefan White: Battle4KC is an attempt to set the Guinness Book of World Records mark for the largest l ightsaber battle. The event will benefit Children’s Mercy Hospital and their Cystic Fibrosis wing. May is additionally cystic fibrosis awareness month.

MS: How did you come up with this idea?

SW: Years ago Friends of the River Kansas City started “Movies on the Riverfront” where once a month we held an outdoor movie night in the park on a giant 36′ screen. Over the past half-decade we see more and more and more organizations offering that, and so I decided that the time had come to create a new “thing” and another idea that would be ours. Each board member was tasked with brainstorming an idea to replace Movie Night. It could be a weekly thing, monthly, annually, whatever they wanted to pitch – they could walk in the door and pitch the idea.

There were amazing ideas floated, we actually have the next four years planned out because of that one meeting. However, Steven Fuller, one of our board members, came in and told us about the work that Children’s Mercy is doing, and that the Cystic Fibrosis wing does not currently have any fundraising outside of the hospital’s general fund. For instance, Big Slick goes towards Cancer specifically. (NOTE: Big Slick is an annual Poker-themed event put on annually by local celebs Paul Rudd, Rob Riggle, Jason Sudeikis and David Koechner)

He then pitched the idea of tracking down enough Storm Troopers and leaning on community businesses, partners, and resources to take over KC. Specifically, on May the 4th we plan on taking over the hospital, and fully expect all of those kiddos to beat up each and every one of those Storm Troopers. Across the 4th, 5th, and the morning of the 6th there will be additional corporate and landmark takeovers across our city from partners. All this being an opportunity for us to speak about the work Children’s Mercy is doing as well as the cystic fibrosis community which resides here in KC.

I figured there was no way this idea passes the board. No way. At all. Never going to happen. And it did – unanimously. Our next step was taking it to Port KC, whom we are an arm of working within their property at Berkley Park, and again I thought there is no way and no how this passes and we are granted permission. They came back with a resounding YES – and a request of how they could help. They actually were our very first sponsor organization to get the ball rolling.

So here we are, 10 months later preparing for the Guinness World Record team to arrive in our city, filling the park with 10,000 of your closest friends and engaging in an incredible day of activities for kids of all ages, featuring an outstanding concert from the Phantistics, a local KC band, and setting a new world record.

MS: Is there an age limit or can anyone interested participate?

SW: Not at all! Come young and come old. You do not need to be a “Star Wars” fan to play a role and be a part of this awesome evening either. Each ticket comes with a lightsaber built just for this event. Also, I want to make it clear that this is a family friendly event, families of all shapes and sizes, and also needs. We have partnered with the “Child Life” team from Children’s Mercy, who are a Godsend, and they are working hand in hand with us to make certain that no matter the child, the adult, and whatever needs there may be – you absolutely can participate. Nobody is excluded in the setting of this World Record. All we ask is that they shoot us a private message – don’t post publicly on our social pages because of HIPPA laws – and we will get you all setup, squared away, and ready for the event.

MS: Is there a current Guinness record for greatest light saber battle?

SW: There are many who have claimed to have set the record. If you hop onto the interwebs, so, so many have claimed it before. However, in speaking with our Guinness representatives, and our judges who are coming to KC – nobody has ever taken the proper and appropriate steps to do so. Therefore, if only one of you shows up…because we have the correct paperwork on file, we get the record. That being said, I have 10,041 lightsabers currently in my garage and would like to use each and every one of them in this attempt and the setting of the record.

MS: Can fans bring their own light sabers?

SW: You can bring your own. We do realize there are collectors and hardcore fans out there. HOWEVER, during the official battle, everyone must use the same light saber for the participants to count. It is a strange rule, I know, but it is the official rule of Guinness and we want to respect their wishes.

MS: Why is this such an important event?

SW: Sadly, a cystic fibrosis patient’s outcome 100% of the time is death…this is why we are fighting. This is why we are staging the event. Children’s Mercy Hospital is the #1 ranked hospital in the world for cystic fibrosis research – that is something to be darn proud of, and as Kansas Citians we need to stand behind them. The cure for cystic fibrosis is going to come from right here in our own backyard, from one of your neighbors. We would rather have the story light, while still taking a nod to the fact that we are fighting with a purpose.

For 14 years, Friends of the River has thrown amazing parties for the city, and on behalf of the city such as Riverfest. We raise funds and support other charities and organizations. Educational activities, park building, river cleanups, tree planting. This is the first time ever we have put the full weight of our machine, organization, and community ties into a cause such as this.

That is the vibe and story line I would prefer. As Kansas Citians we have the opportunity to find a cure for an entire people. Nothing is more important than that.

Website: www.Battle4KC.com
Social Media Handles: @Battle4KC

“Star Wars: Episode VIII” Gets a Name

The next chapter in the “Star Wars” saga finally has a title. Say hello to “Star Wars – Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.”

What does the title mean? Is Rey the last Jedi? Or is it Luke Skywalker? Or someone else we haven’t met yet. Come December 15th we will find out.

THE LAST JEDI is written and directed by Rian Johnson and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman and executive produced by J.J. Abrams, Jason McGatlin, and Tom Karnowski.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is scheduled for release December 15, 2017.

Remembering Carrie Fisher

There’s a line in the Queen song “Bicycle Race” where Freddie Mercury sings, “Hey man, JAWS was never my scene and I don’t like STAR WARS!” As a teenager in the 1970s, “JAWS” was certainly my scene. And I loved “Star Wars.”

On Sunday evening, February 10, 2008, I was watching the evening news when a photo of Roy Scheider appeared on-screen. “Oh Jesus, no” I whispered to my wife. The JAWS star had died that day at the age of 75. I had known for some time that Roy was ill and battling cancer so even though I mourned his loss, it wasn’t unexpected. On December 27, 2016, I was hit over the head with a large mallet when I heard the news that Carrie Fisher had died from the heart attack she had suffered a few days earlier. She was 60, only four years older then me. Taken way too young.

I first saw Carrie Fisher on film as the sexually precocious teenager Lorna in 1975’s “Shampoo.” Casually asking Warren Beatty “you wanna f**k?”, she made for quite an auspicious film debut. But it was her next film, “Star Wars,” for which she was, and forever will be, best remembered for. As the strong but beautiful Princess Leia Organa, she more than held her own with a blaster. I’m pretty sure that if there had been no Princess Leia there never would have been an Ellen Ripley (“Alien”) or Sarah Connor (“Terminator 2: Judgement Day”).

In between reprising her role as Leia in both “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” Fisher popped up in several film comedies. In “The Blues Brothers” she appears as the Mystery Woman that Jake (John Belushi) obviously left standing at the altar. In “Hannah and Her Sisters” she was Diane Weist’s catering partner and romantic rival. And in “When Harry Met Sally” she co-starred as Meg Ryan’s best friend, Marie. In the almost four decades since the release of “Star Wars” she appeared in countless films and television shows, sometimes spoofing her “Star Wars” roots. She even returned to the role that made her famous last year when “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” opened.

But to another generation of fans she was an outstanding writer. Her first novel, “Postcards From the Edge,” was made into a very successful film starring Meryl Streep. Fisher wrote the screenplay. She was also one of the most sought after “script doctors” in Hollywood. Films in which she had a behind-the-scenes hand in include “Hook,” “Milk Money,” “The River Wild,” “Outbreak” and, at George Lucas’ request, she worked on the three “Star Wars” prequels.

As for her personal life, she battled many demons. She was married for less than a year to musician Paul Simon and dealt with addictions to prescription drugs. She also dealt with depression and her bi-polar disorder. She was a very vocal advocate for mental health and addiction support.

Ms. Fisher is survived by her daughter, Billie Lourd, whose father is talent agent Bryan Lourd.

Ms. Fisher’s last appearance will be next year when “Star Wars: Episode VIII” opens. She recently finished filming her scenes for the film.

Film Review: “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Starring: Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker and Diego Luna
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 2 hrs 13 mins
Disney

Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” So begins “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” But that is all the film’s opening has in common with episodes I – VII. There is no wordy crawl, giving you a hint at what’s been going on before you sat down in the theater. No, this is Episode III.V – 3.5 – and if you’re even vaguely familiar with the previous seven films, you pretty much know what’s about to take place.

Set 18 years (my guess) after the events of “Episode III,” “Rogue One” is the tale of the band of rebels who risked everything attempting to steal the plans for the original Death Star. The film begins when Galen Orso (the always great Mads Mikkelsen) is taken by the Empire to help complete the Death Star. His young daughter, Jyn (Beau Gadson) is left behind and forced to fend for herself for many years. We meet up with Jyn again as an adult. As portrayed by Felicity Jones, she is a young woman of resolve, one who has continually searched the galaxy for her father. She teams up with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a member of the rebellion. When word comes that one of the Empire’s pilots has defected and is telling stories about the Death Star, the duo put together a small group of like-minded people to assist in stealing the battle station’s plans.

As much as I would love to go into more plot details, I fear the good folks at Disney would have me torn apart by a Gundark. And so would you, dear readers. Let’s just say that the film is a well-made addition to the saga. The cast is surely up to the task, with Jones and Luna giving strong performances. The supporting players do just as well but I’ll single out Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe, a blind warrior whose devotion to the Force knows no limit. A shout out also to Alan Tudyk as K-2S0, a droid with more than a little attitude.

Written by Oscar nominees Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”) and Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton”), the screenplay is a fine combination of dark and funny. Director Edwards, who helmed 2014’s “Godzilla,” keeps the film moving quickly. The special effects, as expected, are beautifully presented. The X- and Y-wings jump off the screen as they zoom by. Another visual triumph concerns the return of a familiar character who is rendered by the same process that was used to feature the 1980’s version of Jeff Bridges in “Tron Legacy.” However, while I found the effects in “Tron” to be quite disconcerting, the effect here is breathtaking.

This is the first “Star Wars” film not to be scored by John Williams and it suffers for it. Though some of Williams’ original music is included, the main composer here is Oscar winner Michael Giacchino (“UP”). The score is not unpleasant, but when it’s followed by Williams’ music, it sadly pales. But if you were going for the music you’d just buy the CD. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is a fine stand-alone film and one that will have you anticipating “Episode VIII,” which is just a short 367 days away!

Media Mikes 2016 Fall/Holiday Movie Preview

Labor Day has come and gone, and unless you’re dressing up as a ghost, you better not be wearing anything white! With the end of summer comes the beginning of fall and the start of Hollywood’s “Prestige Movie Push!”

We’ll take a look at what the studios hope are their best bets to fill the multiplexes and bring home the Oscars. Once again, a big thank you to our friends at Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) for some synopsis information. Opening dates noted are subject to change at the whim of the studios. Enjoy!

OCTOBER 7

THE 13th

Documentary
Directed by: Ava DuVernay

The director of “Selma” gives us an in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequality.

OSCAR CHANCES: Will surely make the short list.

THE BIRTH OF A NATION

Starring: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer
Directed by: Nate Parker

Set against the antebellum South, the film follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities – against himself and his fellow slaves – Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.

OSCAR CHANCES: After last year’s #OSCARSOWHITE controversy, the early buzz on this film almost guaranteed a bounty of nominations. However, it was recently revealed that writer/director/star Nate Parker and his co-writer, Jean McGianni Celestin, were accused of raping a fellow college student in 1999. Though Parker was not found guilty and Celestin had his conviction overturned, their alleged victim committed suicide. Not sure how this news will affect the Academy voters.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

Starring: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett and Justin Theroux
Directed by: Tate Taylor

In the film, being compared to “Gone Girl,” a recently divorced woman
takes the train to work every day and imagines the lives of a young couple she
sees every day. Things get weird when the young wife disappears.

OSCAR CHANCES: Blunt is already getting raves for her performance.


OCTOBER 13

MASCOTS

Starring: Christopher Guest, Parker Posey and Jane Lynch
Directed by: Christopher Guest

Simply described as “a look into the world of competitive mascots,” this is the latest opus from the great Christopher Guest. Sadly, unless I missed it, this is the first of Guest’s films that does not include Eugene Levy.

OSCAR CHANCES: Possible screenplay nod.

 

OCTOBER 14

THE ACCOUNTANT

Starring: Ben Affleck, J.K. Simmons and Anna Kendrick
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor

A forensic accountant un-cooks the books for illicit clients. What I like about the trailer is that Affleck seems to be a young genius. Maybe this is his chance to play Will Hunting?

OSCAR CHANCES: Maybe.


KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW?

Starring: Kevin Hart
Directed by: Leslie Small and Tim Story

Kevin Hart performs his comedy in front of 50,000 fans.

OSCAR CHANCES: No.


OCTOBER 21

AMERICAN PASTORAL

Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning and Ewan McGregor
Directed by: Ewan McGregor

In 1968, a hardworking man, who’s been a staple in his quaint community for years, watches his seemingly perfect middle class life fall apart as his daughter’s new radical political affiliation threatens to destroy their family. Based on the novel by Philip Roth.

OSCAR CHANCES: Adapted screenplay?

IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE

Starring: John Travolta, Ethan Hawke and Karen Gillan
Directed by: Ti West

A mysterious stranger and a random act of violence drag a town of misfits and nitwits into the bloody cross-hairs of revenge. Ethan Hawke’s second western this season and John Travolta in a cowboy hat for the first time since “Urban Cowboy.” Yee-hah!

OSCAR CHANCES: Sadly Western’s very rarely get recognized.

JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK

Starring: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders
Directed by: Edward Zwick

Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.

OSCAR CHANCES: Director Zwick has helmed three of my favorite films (“About Last Night,” “Glory” and “Legends of the Fall” but only has an Oscar for co-producing “Shakespeare in Love.” It’s about time this man was recognized, though I don’t think it’s going to be for a Jack Reacher film.

A MONSTER CALLS

Starring: Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver
Directed by: J.A. Bayona

A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom’s terminal illness.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects.

TYLER PERRY’S BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN

Starring: Tyler Perry
Directed by: Tyler Perry

Madea winds up in the middle of mayhem when she spends a haunted Halloween fending off killers, paranormal poltergeists, ghosts, ghouls and zombies while keeping a watchful eye on a group of misbehaving teens. I’m scared.

OSCAR CHANCES: I’m going to go out on a limb and say “no”

OCTOBER 28

INFERNO

Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones
Directed by: Ron Howard

When Robert Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Dr. Sienna Brooks, and together they must race across Europe against the clock to foil a deadly global plot. The second Felicity Jones film in as many weeks.

OSCAR CHANCES: Sorry, Tom, but your nomination this year is coming from “Sully”

 

NOVEMBER 4

BLEED FOR THIS

Starring: Miles Teller and Aaron Eckhart
Directed by: Ben Younger

The inspirational story of World Champion Boxer Vinny Pazienza who, after a near fatal car crash, which left him not knowing if he’d ever walk again, made one of sport’s most incredible comebacks.

OSCAR CHANCES: Both Robert DeNiro and Hillary Swank won Oscars for portraying boxers so never say never. Hell, Stallone got nominated…TWICE!

DOCTOR STRANGE

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams and Mads Mikkelsen
Directed by: Scott Derrickson

A neurosurgeon with a destroyed career sets out to repair his hands only to find himself protecting the world from inter-dimensional threats.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects.

HACKSAW RIDGE

Starring: Andrew Garfield and Sam Worthington
Directed by: Mel Gibson

WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people and becomes the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Mel doesn’t appear in this one but his dead-ringer son, Milo, does.

OSCAR CHANCES: Gibson (Mel, not Milo) already has an Oscar for directing so you never know. I’m sure people have forgotten what all of the hub-bub was about concerning him a few years ago.

LOVING

Starring: Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton
Directed by: Jeff Nichols

Back in the dark ages, Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married. Apparently they had nothing better to do in Virginia at the time.

OSCAR CHANCES: Acting, picture.

TROLLS

Starring the voices of: Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake
Directed by: Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn

Remember those little plastic things with long hair that you used to put on the end of your pencil? When I was a kid we called them Kewpies but apparently they are Trolls and they have their own movie. Good for them!

OSCAR CHANCES: Maybe best hairstyling?

NOVEMBER 11

ARRIVAL

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

OSCAR CHANCES: Picture, director, acting.

SHUT IN

Starring: Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay
Directed by: Farren Blackburn

A heart-pounding thriller about a widowed child psychologist who lives in an isolated existence in rural New England. Caught in a deadly winter storm, she must find a way to rescue a young boy before he disappears forever.

OSCAR CHANCES: Unsure, but young Mr. Tremblay should have been nominated last year for “Room.”

USS INDIANAPOLIS: MEN OF COURAGE

Starring: Nicolas Cage and Tom Sizemore
Directed by: Mario Van Peebles

The harrowing true story of the crew of the USS Indianapolis, who were stranded in the Philippine Sea for five days after delivering the atomic weapons that would eventually end WWII. If you saw “Jaws,” this is the tale that Quint tells. Other “Jaws” related facts: this was the original idea for “Jaws 2.” Also: Mario Van Peebles starred in “Jaws the Revenge.”

OSCAR CHANCES: To me it looks like a “made for TV” movie. How about Emmy chances?


NOVEMBER 18

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

Starring: Hailiee Steinfeld, Blake Jenner and Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Kelly Fremon Craig

High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother. Is that weird? When I was in high-school I wanted to date my best friend’s older sister. Hopefully Stevie Nicks got some money from this.

OSCAR CHANCES: Nada

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Jon Voight and Ezra Miller
Directed by: David Yates

The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards 70 years before Harry Potter reads his book in school. Even though Harry Potter and his pals are less than 20 years old it seems like they’ve been around forever.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects, music (the great James Newton Howard)

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Starring: Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams
Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan

An uncle is forced to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.

OSCAR CHANCES: Both Affleck and Williams have been nominated in the past so I’m not ruling anything out.

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

Starring: Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal
Directed by: Tom Ford

An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale. November is Amy Adams month.

OSCAR CHANCES: Across the board


NOVEMBER 23

ALLIED

Starring: Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

In 1942, an intelligence officer in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war. Cotillard isn’t married so maybe we can look forward to reading about “Bradarion” soon.

OSCAR CHANCES: Pitt, Cotilliard and Zemeckis have been there before.

BAD SANTA 2

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates and Tony Cox
Directed by: Mark Waters

Fueled by cheap whiskey, greed and hatred, Willie teams up once again with his angry little sidekick, Marcus, to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve.

OSCAR CHANCES: I thought Billy Bob deserved a nod for the first film but I’m going to say no.

MOANA

Starring the voices of: Dwayne Johnson, Alan Tudyk and Nicole Scherzinger
Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall and Chris Williams

A young woman uses her navigational talents to set sail for a fabled island. Joining her on the adventure is her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui.

OSCAR CHANCES: Animated feature, original song

RULES DON’T APPLY

Starring: Warren Beatty, Lily Collins and Ed Harris
Directed by: Warren Beatty

An unconventional love story of an aspiring actress, her determined driver, and the eccentric billionaire who they work for. Beatty has been wanting to do a Howard Hughes-based film since the 1970s. Not sure if this is what he had in mind back then but, after a 15-year absence, it’s great to see him both in front of and behind the camera.

OSCAR CHANCES: Only two people have been nominated in the same year for acting, directing, writing and producing the best picture: Orson Welles and Warren Beatty. And Beatty did it TWICE!


NOVEMBER 25

LION

Starring: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman
Directed by: Garth Davis

A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.

OSCAR CHANCES: Many


DECEMBER 2

LA LA LAND

Starring: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
Directed by: Damien Chazelle

From the creator of “Whiplash” comes a film about a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. And it’s a musical!

OSCAR CHANCES: Early film festival buzz say’s this may be the film to watch (both on screen and at awards time!)


DECEMBER 9

MISS SLOANE

Starring: Jessica Chastain
Directed by: John Madden

An ambitious lobbyist faces off against the powerful gun lobby in an attempt to pass gun control legislation.

OSCAR CHANCES: Actress. Madden directed the Oscar-winning “Shakespeare in Love.”

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY

Starring: Jason Bateman and Jennifer Anniston
Directed by: Josh Gordon and Will Speck

When his uptight CEO sister threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager throws an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand.

OSCAR CHANCES: Zip

DECEMBER 16

COLLATERAL BEAUTY

Starring: Will Smith and Keira Knightley
Directed by: David Frankel

A tragic event sends a New York ad man on a downward spiral.

OSCAR CHANCES: I’ve already had to apologize to Will Smith twice for doubting he’d get nominated for “Ali” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.” There won’t be a third. Good luck Will.

FENCES

Starring: Denzel Washington and Viola Davis
Directed by: Denzel Washington

An African American father struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life. Based on the August Wilson play.

OSCAR CHANCES: YES!

THE FOUNDER

Starring: Michael Keaton and Patrick Wilson
Directed by: John Lee Hancock

The story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. You may look at your next hamburger differently. Keaton is said to be so good that they pulled the film from it’s original release date.

OSCAR CHANCES: Keaton

A KIND OF MURDER

Starring: Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel
Directed by: Andy Goddard

In 1960s New York, Walter Stackhouse is a successful architect married to the beautiful Clara who leads a seemingly perfect life. But his fascination with an unsolved murder leads him into a spiral of chaos as he is forced to play cat-and-mouse with a clever killer and an overambitious detective, while at the same time lusting after another woman. This will be a day of decisions for Patrick Wilson fans.

OSCAR CHANCES: Don’t see any

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

Starring: Felicity Jones, Jimmy Smits and Warwick Davis
Directed by: Gareth Edwards

Or, as I like to call it, “Episode 6.5” The Rebellion makes a risky move to steal the plans to the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow. Holy crap! The Death Star, Leia’s family, Darth Vader AND Wicket the Ewok? I’m already in line!

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects, make up.

DECEMBER 21

20th CENTURY WOMEN

Starring: Annette Bening, Elle Fanning and Laura Wiggins
Directed by: Mike Mills

The story of three women who explore love and freedom in Southern California during the late 1970s.

OSCAR CHANCES: Can anyone tell me why Annette Bening hasn’t won an Oscar yet? Didn’t think so. Keep your fingers crossed.

ASSASSINS CREED

Starring: Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard
Directed by: Justin Kurzel

When Callum Lynch explores the memories of his ancestor Aguilar and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, he discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassins society. This synopsis seems so crazy considering the cast. I wonder if the two leads made the same mistake Bill Murray did when he thought “Garfield” had been written by one of the Coen brothers!

OSCAR CHANCES: Fassbender elevates everything he’s in so I’m not saying no!

PASSENGERS

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt
Directed by: Morten Tyldum

A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early. It’s so weird to see Lawrence in a movie at the end of the year NOT directed by David O. Russell. Oh well, there’s always next year.

OSCAR CHANCES: Visual effects, technical stuff

PATRIOTS DAY

Starring: Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Monaghan
Directed by: Peter Berg

An account of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’s actions in the events leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists behind it. Sounds better than what I thought it was – knowing Wahlberg is a huge New England Patriot fan I thought it was about a day with Tom Brady. The third film by Wahlberg and director Berg and second this year.

OSCAR CHANCES: Oh yes.

SING

Starring the voices of: Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Garth Jennings

A koala named Buster Moon has one final chance to restore his theater to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.

OSCAR CHANCES: Animated film….maybe.

DECEMBER 25

GOLD

Starring: Matthew McConaughey and Bryce Dallas Howard
Directed by: Stephen Gaghan

An unlikely pair venture to the Indonesian jungle in search of gold. When he was outrageously thin in “Dallas Buyer’s Club” McConaughey still looked good. In this one he’s bald and….dammit!

OSCAR CHANCES: No sir.

WHY HIM?

Starring: James Franco and Bryan Cranston
Directed by: John Hamburg.

A dad forms a bitter rivalry with his daughter’s young rich boyfriend. Based on a story by Jonah Hill. Somebody needed money.

OSCAR CHANCES: I’m ashamed that I have to include those words with this film.

DECEMBER 28

PATERSON

Starring: Adam Driver
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch

Set in the present in Paterson, New Jersey, this is a tale about a bus driver and poet.

OSCAR CHANCES: Love Jarmusch. Maybe a witting nod.

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” – ‘Mercy Mission’ Episode Preview

Clone Commander Wolffe and his battalion of troopers assist the disaster-stricken world of Aleen in an all-new episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars!

After groundquakes have devastated the planet Aleen, a Republic relief effort arrives, including the 104th battalion of clone troopers along with droids R2-D2 and C-3PO. When the native Aleena’s pleas go unheard, it becomes the duty of the droids to embark on a surreal journey through Aleena’s subterranean world to save the planet, in “Mercy Mission” a new episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, airing at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT Friday, October 7th on Cartoon Network.