Film Review “Woman in Gold”

Starring: Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds
Directed by: Simon Curtis
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hour 49 mins
The Weinstein Company

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

It’s amazing the things you never know, even when you know some things. As someone with a vague interest in art, I was familiar with the famous painting referred to as “Woman in Gold” (actual title – “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer 1”) painted by Gustav Klimt. What I found amazing about the painting is that the artist not only used oil paints, but actually used thin pieces of actual gold. But it’s the story that takes place after the painting is completed that makes up the well-crafted “Woman in Gold.”

The film, through flashbacks and the periods’ modern day, tells the story of Maria Altman, an Austrian girl who is forced to leave her home country as the Nazi’s come to power. Maria has a favorite aunt, Adele (Antje Traue), who dotes on her constantly. Maria loves her and loves admiring the painting of her, which hangs in their home. We also meet modern-day Maria (Mirren, in a performance that should be remembered come Oscar time). Maria is hoping to have the painting returned to her. It currently hangs in the Austrian State Gallery, having resided there since it was stolen by the Nazi’s in the 1940’s. When the country’s Minister of Arts refuses to return it, Maria asks the attorney son of a friend of hers (Reynolds) to help her. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sharply directed by Simon Curtis, the film is an intriguing mystery as, little by little, more and more information comes across the viewer’s desk. As we watch Maria (both of them) we learn what events made them the woman they are. We learn of the injustices felt not only by Maria but by the family she left behind. We also learn of her plight in the United States. With her attorney’s help, Maria finds a way to sue the Austrian government in the hopes of righting a 60 year wrong. Mirren is at the top of her game here, making you understand with only a few words or gestures the horrors Maria felt about those times and still feels today. The only drawback of the film is Reynolds, who is almost TOO subdued in his portrayal. But don’t let that opinion detract you from seeing it. The story the film tells is too important to miss.

Film Review “The Hundred-Foot Journey”

Starring: Manish Dayal, Helen Mirren, Om Puri and Charlotte Le Bon
Directed By: Lasse Hallstrom
Rated: PG
Running Time: 122 minutes
Walt Disney Studios

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

In a summer that’s already been delighted by Jon Favreau’s “Chef”, it’s hard to be charmed once again by the same feel good concept featuring an abundance of food porn imagery. “Hundred-Foot Journey” is definitely treading in paths already traveled, but as we begin to exhaust what’s left of new summer movies, it’s hard to dislike something that tries to be so uplifting.

While the advertising for this movie has gladly slapped Helen Mirren’s face on every single promotional inch of poster, the real main dish to this movie is Manish Dayal. He plays the shy, yet astute Hassan who seems to have a natural curiosity for food from a very young age. He learns quickly from his mother that food is more art than science, although much later in the movie he’s somewhat forced to believe the opposite. Her spiritual connection to food is some of the best writing in the film, but sadly it’s short lived. An unexplained, violent revolution leads to the death of his mother. Escaping what I can only assume is persecution or certain death, he and his family trek towards colder and more northwestern territories.

Britain’s a bit too cold for their liking so they quickly relocate to one the lushest parts of France. They must have found the one town in France where residents aren’t buried into their smartphone screens since everyone chats over tea and coffee and take in Mother Nature’s surroundings. I legitimately had no idea what time period it was until someone pulled out a cell phone. While in town, his father (Puri), through some odd non-visible premonition, decides that their family will open a restaurant across the street (100 feet) from a much celebrated French restaurant. Something about that dust covered building enchants him, much to the dismay of the French restaurants proprietor, Madame Mallory (Mirren). So begins a choppy and misguided rest of the movie that never replicates the exquisite flare that we see in different spicy dishes throughout the film.

The main problem with “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is it’s glaring predictability that knows how to throw out a hook, but forgets to attach any bait. A simple mislead here or there would have added a level of uncertainty to everything that transpires. Even once we meet Marguerite (Le Bon), one of the lovely young cooks in Mallory’s restaurant, we know she’s the obligatory love interest. After two hours, this movie outstays its welcome like an uninvited dinner guest.

Obvious dramedy clichés aside, it’s still very heartfelt with its material and I have to admire a passionate group of actors and actresses who are willing to add a little zest to a dry story. While I wasn’t quite wooed by some of its more comedic moments, I did enjoy some of the cultural clashes, no matter how false they were. Despite my negatives I have to reassure myself that not everything has to break new ground and it’s always beneficial to have some optimistic escapism in your life.

While I may not have the acquired taste to sit in an air conditioned theater and enjoy this movie to its fullest, I can see why others would need this much needed break. If you’re tired of superheroes, raunchy comedies and looking for a peaceful way to wind down in front a movie screen, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is your best bet…unless “Chef” is still playing near you.

Blu-ray Review “Red 2”

Actors: Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins, Mary-Louise Parker
Directors: Dean Parisot
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Summit Inc/Lionsgate
Release Date: November 26, 2013
Run Time: 116 minutes

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Extras” 2 out of 5 stars

When “Red” came out, I thought that it was cool that they were adapting a comic book for the older folks. The cast is superb including Bruce Willis (“Die Hard”), John Malkovich (“Burn After Reading”), Mary-Louise Parker (Showtime’s “Weeds”), with Anthony Hopkins (“Thor”) and Helen Mirren (“The Queen”) but too bad, the film cannot capture that same thrill as the first. In fact “Red 2” just feels like a re-do of the first one, the fun aspect feels too old…no pun. The action/comedy is still present but lacks the sharpness of the first film. This is a sequel that no one was asking for, so unless you are a die-hard of the first film I would pass this one and just remember how cool the first film was.

Official Premise: Retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses (Willis) and his team set out on a global quest to track down a missing, next-generation lethal device that can change the balance of world power. To succeed, they’ll need to survive an army of relentless assassins, ruthless terrorists and power-crazed government officials, all eager to get their hands on the technologically advanced super weapon. Outgunned and outmanned, they have only their cunning wits, old-school skills and each other to rely on as they try to save the world – and stay alive in the process.

Despite the film itself, “Red 2” packs an amazing punch in terms of audio video. The 1080p transfer with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 delivers the action and also showcases the very beautiful shooting locations including Paris and London. Same goes for the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, which is wall-shaking good and works perfect with each action sequence. In terms of special features though we are back to disappointing. “The Red 2 Experience” is a decent collection of featurettes looking behind-the-scenes. Lastly there are a few short deleted scenes and a gag reel included.

Tony Lee Moral talks about his book “Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie”

A filmmaker himself, author Tony Lee Moral is best known for his books about the legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock. In 2002 he released “Hitchcock and the Making of ‘Marnie'” and followed it up a decade later with “The Making of Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds'” His next book is also about the master of suspense, “Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Making Masterclass.”

With the growing popularity of Alfred Hitchcock, 33 years after his death, Mr. Moral has released a revised edition of his first book. He recently took the time to answer some questions about the influence and genius of Alfred Hitchcock.

Mike Smith: You’ve written three books on Alfred Hitchcock. What is it about him as a filmmaker that makes him your favorite subject?
Tony Lee Moral: Hitchcock for me is the definitive film maker, and his career and films span the history of cinema. His films have been a huge part of my life, ever since I saw my first Hitchcock film (I Confess) at the age of 10. I took part in the 1999 Alfred Hitchcock Centennial celebrations and have interviewed many scriptwriters, producers, actors who worked with Hitch. The more I watch his films, the more I become fascinated by the man behind the camera, as there is so much to learn from his life.

MS: Why do you think that, more than three decades after his passing, people are still interested in his films?
TLM: I think Hitchcock was a great storyteller and that will never go out of fashion. He was a master entertainer who put the audience first and always wanted to take them on a roller coaster ride. “Psycho” is probably the best example of that, as watching it is like a trip to the Horror-Fun House.

MS: Do you have a favorite Hitchcock film?
TLM: That is very difficult to choose, I’d say “Marnie” because of the characters and psychology. “Vertigo” is a very close second. And after that I’d choose “North by Northwest” or “The Birds.”

MS: As a filmmaker yourself, have you ever caught yourself intentionally cribbing a shot from Hitchcock’s work?
TLM: Absolutely, I’m very influenced by Hitchcock’s film grammar, from Long Shots to Big Close Ups for emotional impact. For my “Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Making Masterclass” book, I really studied his use of film and my respect for him as a master film maker deepens. He was a true director who understood the medium of cinema and was a great teacher who influenced many other directors.

MS: What did you think of the film “Hitchcock?” Did you think Anthony Hopkins captured Mr. Hitchcock’s aura?
TLM: I liked it, but have only seen it once in the cinema, which isn’t a good sign. I thought it was light hearted and not mean spirited. I admire Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren as actors, but there were dramatic licenses taken in the film which I didn’t agree with. Overall, if it brought Hitchcock to a new, fresh young audience then that’s a good thing.

MS: What is your next project (either written or film)?
TLM: My next project, which I’m currently writing, is a book about Alfred Hitchcock’s reputation, especially since his death and the recent biographies that have followed it. It’s going to be very revealing and I’m really digging deep for this one, though it won’t be published for several years. I’m speaking to people who haven’t spoken out before about Hitchcock, and I’m hoping that this book will change the way we view Hitchcock and his movies in years to come.


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3D Blu-ray Review “Monsters University”

Actors: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Charlie Day, Sean P. Hayes, Dave Foley, Nathan Fillion,Aubrey Plaza.
Directors: Dan Scanlon
Number of discs: 4
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: October 29, 2013
Run Time: 104 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
3D: 3 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

If you have asked me back in May 2011, I would have said that Pixar could do no wrong. Since then they have released “Cars 2” (which isn’t as bad as people say), “Brave” and now “Monsters University”. “Monsters Inc.” is one of Pixar’s greatest films and introduced us to our favorite characters Mike and Sully. So when I heard that they were making a sequel, I am sure everyone was excited to get to see the boys back in action again with “Monsters University”. I enjoyed the film since I love these characters but it feels like it is missing the charm of the first one and doesn’t deliver anything special. Pixar is taking 2014 off for the first time and not releasing a new film till 2015. Hopefully they are looking to amp it up with “Inside Out” and “The Good Dinosaur”.

Returning for the prequel includes the voices of Billy Crystal (voice of Mike), John Goodman (voice of Sulley) and Steve Buscemi (voice of Randy Boggs). Joining the cast includes great talent including Helen Mirren (voice of Dean Hardscrabble), Nathan Fillion (voice of Johnny Worthington), Alfred Molina (voice of Professor Knight), Joel Murray (voice of Don Carlton), Charlie Day (voice of Art), Sean P. Hayes (voice of Terri Perry), Dave Foley (voice of Terry Perry), John Krasinski (voice of Frank McCay) and Aubrey Plaza (voice of Claire Wheeler). Overall the voice cast is impressive and easily the best part of the film.

Official Premise: Disney Pixar proudly presents the hilarious story of how two mismatched monsters met and became lifelong friends in a movie screaming with laughter and oozing with heart. Ever since college-bound Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) was a little monster, he’s dreamed of becoming a Scarer—and he knows better than anyone that the best Scarers come from Monsters University (MU). But during his first semester at MU, Mike’s plans are derailed when he crosses paths with hotshot James P. Sullivan, “Sulley” (John Goodman), a natural-born Scarer. The pair’s out-of-control competitive spirit gets them both kicked out of the University’s elite Scare Program. With their dreams temporarily dashed, they realize they will have to work together, along with an odd bunch of misfit monsters, if they ever hope to make things right.

Monsters University will be available for purchase as a 4-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack including Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy. I am happy that Disney has gotten on board now with Ultraviolet digital copies. In terms of deliver Disney delivered a fantastic 1080p transfer presentation. The colors are crisp and overall look really great. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track also sounds quite stunning and really sounds great. I am a huge fan of 3D usually and I even enjoyed “Monsters Inc.” in the third dimension, but I wasn’t overly thrilled with the 3D on “Monsters University”. There was some added depth but nothing that really scream “Damn this film should be in 3D”. I have a feeling that if my daughter ever wants to watch this film again, it will definitely be in 2D.

In terms of special features, they are very impressive for sure despite my feelings on the film. “Campus Life” is a chat with the production crew at Pixar. “Story School” is a documentary takes us through the production and the new story of Mike and Sulley. “Scare Games” talks about the creation of the film’s competitions. “Welcome to MU” talks us into the world that was created for the film. “Music Appreciation” takes us through Randy Newman’s score (which I really was’t thrilled with). “Scare Tactics” talks about bringing the characters to life. “Color and Light” focuses on setting the tone for the film. “Paths to Pixar – MU Edition” features the crew sharing their own back stories. There are four deleted scenes with an introduction from director Dan Scanlon.

Since I didn’t see this film in theaters, I was very curious about seeing Pixar’s latest show “The Blue Umbrella”. When it comes to shorts, they always deliver but my favorite short from Disney has to be “Paperman”, which debuted in front of “Wreck-It Ralph”. “The Blue Umbrella” follows two umbrellas—one blue, one not—fall that fall eternally in love. It is cute and clever but not one of my favorites. Some additional bonus features include an audio commentary track, some promo materials from the college and theatrical campaigns, a “Flythrough” for the sets and an art gallery.

Film Review “Monsters University”

Starring the voices of: Billy Crystal, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi
Directed by: Dan Scanlon
Rated: G
Running time: 1 hr 50 mins
Walt Disney Pictures

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

If you’re a kid over ten you’re certainly familiar with the story of “Monster’s Inc.” Best friends Mike Wazowski (Crystal) and James “Sulley” Sullivan (Goodman) work together to scare human children while they sleep, harvesting their screams to power their home city of Monstropolis. But did you know that, though they are cousins, Mike and Sulley were anything but friends when they were younger. This secret, and others, are revealed when the boys become college men at Monster’s University.

Directed by Dan Scanlon, whose PIXAR association includes stints working on “Cars,” “Brave” and the short film “Mater and the Ghostlights,” “Monster’s University” is a worthy prequel to what is arguably one of PIXAR’s greatest achievements. The story follows Mike and Sulley as they take different paths to what they hope is the same ending. Both want to be “scarers” and Sulley has a leg up because his father was renowned in the field. Big and hairy, Sulley seems to have his future set for him. Smooth and round, not to mention short, Mike knows he has his work cut out for him. While Sulley is recruited by the school’s top fraternities Mike finds himself in the freshmen dorm, rooming with another potential student, one Randy Boggs (Buscemi). After some preliminary scare classes Randy finds himself in a popular fraternity while Mike is left to join the only house that will have him: Oozema Kappa. Here he learns that not every dream has to come true in order to reach your goals.

What made “Monster’s Inc” such a success was the true and genuine bond between Mike and Sulley. As voiced by Crystal and Goodman they were best friends that you know would remain that way forever. Knowing what the future holds for both of them does not distract from the story here. The film lovingly parodies such popular college comedies as “Animal House” and “Revenge of the Nerds.” Crystal and Goodman lead a great vocal cast which includes returning “Monster’s Inc” alum Steve Buscemi. They are joined by Helen Mirren, Sean Hayes, Alfred Molina and Joel Murray. The script, co-written by Scanlon, Daniel Gerson and Robert Baird, is clever without being cute, which is an incredible achievement for a G rated film. And, as always, the visuals are outstanding.

And while I’m speaking of visuals, make sure you get to the theatre early so you can catch an amazing short film called “The Blue Umbrella.”

2013 Summer Movie Preview

It’s becoming a Media Mikes tradition. Ever since the start of this site our Summer Movie Preview has started off with a Marvel Comic-based film; “Iron Man 2,” “Thor” and “The Avengers” have been previewed. This year, with “Iron Man 3” already in theatres, we’re changing it up. But not to worry – “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is only a year away! Here is a look at many of the films heading to a multiplex near you between now and Labor Day. An (*) after the title denotes a film that the Mike’s are most anticipating.

Thanks again to the Internet Movie Data Base for certain synopsis information and remember, as always, the opening date noted is subject to change at the whims of the studios.

MAY 10


Starring: Eli Roth and Selena Gomez Directed by: Nicolas Lopez

While vacationing in Chile a group of travelers decide to party at an underground nightclub. After a massive earthquake hits they must tunnel their way out unaware of what waits for them.


Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire Directed by: Baz Luhrmann

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel is brought to the screen for the third time, this time in 3D. Leo is Jay Gatsby, Mulligan is his beloved Daisy and Maguire is neighbor Nick. In the hands of Lurhmann it should be incredible in 3D.


Starring: Luke Evans and Derek Magyar Directed by: Ruyhei Kitamura

A gang of ruthless highway killers kidnap a wealthy couple traveling cross country only to shockingly discover that things are not what they seem.


Starring: Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington Directed by: Tina Gordon Chism

Commoner (Robinson) crashes his girlfriends family’s swanky reunion in the Hamptons to ask for her hand in marriage.

MAY 17


Starring: Kate Bosworth and Lake Bell

Directed by: Katie Aselton

Three childhood friends reunite for a girls weekend on an island off the coast of Maine where a mistake leaves all three fighting for their lives. Written by Mark Duplass.


Starring: Berenice Bejo Directed by: Regis Roinsard

Working girl Rose is a terrible secretary but an incredible typist. Her boss sets out to establish her as the fastest in the world. Bejo co-starred in the Oscar winning “The Artist.”


Starring: Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto Directed by: J.J. Abrams

The crew of the Enterprise are called into battle when a member of Star Fleet becomes a one man weapon of mass destruction. Can anyone say “KHAN!!!!!!” (Maybe)


MAY 24


Starring: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy Directed by: Richard Linklater

The third film in the almost two decades old “Before” series finds Jessie and Celine in Greece nine years after we last saw them. Hawke, Delpy and Linklater wrote the script.


Starring the voices of: Jason Sudeikis, Christoph Waltz and Chris O’Dowd Directed by: Chris Wedge

A teenager finds herself transported to a deep forest setting where a battle between the forces of good and evil is taking place. She bands together with a rag-tag group of characters in order to save their world — and ours. Director Wedge created the first “Ice Age” film and is the voice of Scrat!


Starring: Vin Diesel and Paul Walker Directed by: Justin Lin

I’m not even going to look this one up: Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner team up with others, including Dwayne Johnson, to drive really cool cars really fast. The fact that I know Diesel and Walker’s characters names actually scares me.


Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis Directed by: Todd Phillips

After Alan’s father passes away the Wolfpack take him to Vegas. But things go wrong when Doug actually IS kidnapped by a gangster looking to settle a score with Mr. Chow.

MAY 31


Starring: Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgard Directed by: Zal Batmanglij

An operative for an elite private intelligence firm finds her priorities irrevocably changed after she is tasked with infiltrating an anarchist group known for executing covert attacks upon major corporations. How cool to actually have a last name that begins with “Batman”


Starring: Nick Robinson and Nick Offerman Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Three friends decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land.


Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher and Mark Ruffalo Directed by: Louis Leterrier

An FBI agent and an Interpol detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money.


Starring: Ethan Hawke and Lena Heady Directed by: James DeMonaco

If on one night every year, you could commit any crime without facing consequences, what would you do? Over the course of a single night, a family will be tested to see how far they will go to protect themselves when the vicious outside world breaks into their home. Summer movie number two for Hawke!




Starring: Will Smith and Jaden Smith Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan

A boy and his injured father crash land on Earth 1,000 years after events forced the evacuation of the planet.


Starring: Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson Directed by: Shawn Levy

Two former salesmen find their way into a coveted internship at Google, where they must compete with a group of young, tech-savvy geniuses for a shot at employment. Vaughn co-wrote the screenplay.


Starring: Nathan Fillion and Clark Gregg Directed by: Joss Whedon

How else do you follow up “The Avengers?” A modern take on Shakespeare’s classic tale.


Starring: Joel Edgerton and Felicity Price Directed by: Kieran Darcy-Smith

Four friends decide to take an exciting South-East Asian vacation. Only three come back.



Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco and Danny McBride Directed by: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg

A party at James Franco’s house turns crazy when the apocalypse hits. The stars (and others, including Michael Cera and Jonah Hill) play over the top versions of themselves. If the “R” rated trailer is any indication this could be this years “TED.”



Starring: Emma Watson and Leslie Mann Directed by: Sofia Coppola

Inspired by actual events, a group of fame-obsessed teenagers use the internet to track celebrities’ whereabouts in order to rob their homes.


Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon Directed by: Zack Snyder

Seven years after Superman returned he does again, this time in a retelling of the tale by fanboy favorite Zack Snyder. The addition of “Dark Knight” writer/director Christopher Nolan as producer makes “Man of Steel” this summer’s “Avengers” in way of anticipation.


Starring: Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connely Directed by: Josh Boone

An acclaimed writer, his ex-wife, and their teen-aged children come to terms with the complexities of love in all its forms over the course of one tumultuous year.



Starring: Elijah Wood Directed by: Franck Khalfoun

Just when the streets seemed safe, a serial killer with a fetish for scalps is back and on the hunt.


Starring the voices of: Billy Crystal, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi Directed by: Dan Scanlon

In this prequel to “Monsters Inc,” Mike Wazowski (Crystal) and James Sullivan (Goodman) meet in college where they learn they have nothing in common.


Starring: Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave Directed by: Paul Andrew Williams

Grumpy pensioner Arthur honors his recently deceased wife’s passion for performing by joining the unconventional local choir to which she used to belong.


Starring: Brad Pitt and Matthew Fox Directed by: Marc Forster

A United Nations employee traverses the globe in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments; threatening to decimate humanity itself.



Starring: Peter Fonda and Billy Campbell Directed by: Ronald F. Maxwell

A family is torn apart during the American Civil War. This is director Maxwell’s third film covering the Civil War after 1993’s “Gettysburg” and 2003’s “Gods and Generals.”


Starring: Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy Directed by: Paul Feig

An uptight FBI special agent is paired with a testy Boston cop in order to take down a ruthless drug lord. The hitch: neither woman has ever had a partner – or a friend for that matter.


Starring: Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum Directed by: Roland Emmerich

Emmerich had so much fun destroying the White House in “Independence Day” that he’s back to do it again. In this original story terrorists attempt to take over the presidential mansion and it’s up to a wanna be Secret Service agent to save the day, which sounds nothing like this past springs “Olympus Has Fallen.”



Starring the voices of: Steve Carell, Benjamin Bratt and Kristen Wigg Directed by: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud

Gru is asked to join an Anti-Villains League to help combat a new bad guy named Eduardo, formerly voiced by Al Pacino but now played by Bratt.


Starring: Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer Directed by: Gore Verbinski

Native American warrior Tonto recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid, a man of the law, into a legend of justice. Things go well until Reid discovers what the word “Kimosabe” really means!



Starring: Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette and Steve Carrell Directed by: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash

Over the course of his summer break a young man gets a job at a local amusement park, where he comes into his own thanks in part to the friendship he strikes up with one of the park’s managers. Two Steve Carrell films in (2) days – his fans will have an overdose.



Starring: Michael Cera and Gaby Hoffman Directed by: Sebastian Silva

A boorish, insensitive American twenty-something travels to Chile, managing to create chaos at every turn.


Starring: Adam Sandler and Kevin James Directed by: Dennis Dugan

Lenny (Sandler) moves his family back to his old hometown to rekindle the hijinx with his childhood buddies. Remarkably Rob Schneider is NOT in this film, which means whatever debt Sandler owed God has now been repaid. Sadly he now apparently owes another because Nick Swardson is in it.


Starring: Charlie Hunnam and Idris Elba Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

When an alien attack threatens the Earth’s existence, giant robots piloted by humans are deployed to fight off the menace.



Starring the voices of: Ryan Reynolds and Paul Giamatti Directed by: David Soren

A freak accident might just help an everyday garden snail achieve his biggest dream: winning the Indy 500. I’m assuming it makes him 6 feet tall and gives him feet so he can drive a car?



Starring: Patrick Wilson and Lili Taylor Directed by: James Wan

A husband and wife team of Paranormal investigators work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful entity, the couple find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives. Director Wan helmed the original “Saw.”


Starring: Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening Directed by: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini

A failed New York playwright awkwardly navigates the transition from Next Big Thing to Last Year’s News. “Glee” fans who hate Darren Criss and/or his character, Blaine (guilty), will be sad to see that he’s also in this.


Starring: Ryan Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn

A drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok’s criminal underworld sees his life get even more complicated when his mother compels him to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother’s recent death.


Starring: Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren Directed by: Dean Parisot

Retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses (Willis) reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device. Anthony Hopkins joins the cast of oldsters.


Starring: Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds Directed by: Robert Schwentke

Based on a popular graphic novel, a recently slain cop joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department and tries to find the man who murdered him.



Starring: Alec Baldwin and Cate Blanchett Directed by: Woody Allen

All I know about this film is what was sent to me in a press release by Sony Classic Pictures: “the film tells the story of the final stages of an acute crisis and a life of a fashionable New York housewife” It also co-stars Louis C.K., Sally Hawkins and Andrew Dice Clay.


Starring: Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer Directed by: Ryan Coogler

The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008. If my memory serves me, Oscar is the young man who was arrested at a local Oakland-area transit station and then, as horrified onlookers watched, was shot in the back by a policeman who later claimed he thought he was tasing him.


Starring: Hugh Jackman and Will Yun Lee Directed by: James Mangold

Wolverine makes a voyage to modern-day Japan, where he encounters an enemy from his past that will impact on his future. Mangold is the director of films like “Walk the Line” and “CopLand.” I’m anxious to see his take on an action-based film.



Starring: Neil Patrick Harris and Hank Azaria Directed by: Raja Gosnell

The Smurfs team up with their human friends to rescue Smurfette, who has been kidnapped by Gargamel, since she knows a secret spell that can turn the evil sorcerer’s newest creation – creatures called the Naughties – into real Smurfs.



Starring: Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg Directed by: Baltasar Kormakur

A DEA agent and an undercover Naval Intelligence officer who have been tasked with investigating one another find they have been set up by the mob — the very organization the two men believe they have been stealing money from.


Starring: Eva Green and Sullivan Stapleton Directed by: Noam Murro

The Greek general Themistocles battles an invading army of Persians under the mortal-turned-god, Xerxes.


Starring: Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley Directed by: James Ponsoldt

A hard-partying high school senior’s philosophy on life changes when he meets the not-so-typical “nice girl.”



Starring: Logan Lerman and Sean Bean Directed by: Thor Freudenthal

In order to restore their dying safe haven, the son of Poseidon and his friends embark on a quest to the Sea of Monsters to find the mythical Golden Fleece and to stop an ancient evil from rising.



Starring: Matt Damon and Jodie Foster Directed by: Neill Blomkamp

In the year 2154 the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth.


Starring: Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard Directed by: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman

The story of Linda Lovelace and her controlling husband/manager Chuck Traynor. Also featuring James Franco as Hugh Hefner.


Starring the voices of: Dane Cook and Val Kilmer Directed by: Klay Hall

Like “Cars” but with airplanes. Dusty is a cropdusting plane who dreams of competing in a famous aerial race. The problem? He is hopelessly afraid of heights. With the support of his mentor Skipper and a host of new friends, Dusty sets off to make his dreams come true. Wow! I should have said “Exactly like ‘Cars’.”


Starring: Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Anniston Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber

A veteran pot dealer creates a fake family as part of his plan to move a huge shipment of weed into the U.S. from Mexico.



Starring: Keri Russell and JJ Field Directed by: Jerusha Hess

Obsessed with the BBC production of “Pride and Prejudice”, a woman travels to a Jane Austen theme park in search for her perfect gentleman.


Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz and Jim Carrey Directed by: Jeff Wadlow

Costumed high-school hero Kick-Ass joins with a group of normal citizens who have been inspired to fight crime in costume. Meanwhile, the Red Mist plots an act of revenge that will affect everyone Kick-Ass knows.



Starring: Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck Directed by: David Lowery

An outlaw escapes from prison and sets off to find his wife and introduce himself to the daughter he’s never met.


Starring: Lily Colins and Jamie Campbell Bower Directed by: Harald Zwart

Based on a popular novel, when a woman is attacked and taken from her home in New York City by a demon, a seemingly ordinary teenage girl finds out truths about her past and bloodline on her quest to get her back.


Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Martin Freeman Directed by: Edgar Wright

Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind’s only hope for survival. From the same team that brought you “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.”



Starring: Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall Directed by: John Crowley

Bana and Hall are lawyers — and ex-lovers — who find themselves put at risk after they join the defense team for an international terrorist’s trial.



Starring: Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez Directed by: Courtney Solomon and Yaron Levy

Hawke stars as Brent Magna, a man who must get behind the wheel and follow the orders of a mysterious man to save his kidnapped wife. Movie number three this summer for Hawke.


Starring: One Direction Directed by: Morgan Spurlock

A documentary featuring the goings on of One Direction in concert. Documentarian Spurlock is an odd choice as director, unless the band plans to eat at McDonalds a lot.


Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson Directed by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

JGL plays a man who is addicted to online pornography and must work to find intimacy with his potential true love. Gordon-Levitt also wrote the screenplay.


Starring: Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch Directed by: David Gordon Green

In the summer of 1988 two highway road workers decide to leave their city lives behind. The isolated landscape becomes a place of misadventure as the men find themselves at odds with each other and the women they left behind.

Blu-ray Review "Hitchcock"

Actors: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette, Danny Huston
Directors: Sacha Gervasi
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Run Time: 98 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

When I first saw Anthony Hopkins in make-up for the role of Alfred Hitchcock, I was blown away.  Kudos to my buddy Greg Nicotero and his team at KNB EFX on that wonderful make-up job (snubbed for the Oscars BTW).  I have always been a fan of the mysteriousness of Alfred Hitchcock.  “Psycho” is one of my favorite films of all-time.  I was thrilled to see the story behind the making of it. I know this film may not be 100% correct with the facts but it is very entertaining and packs some very impressive cast performances. The film is well-paced running just over 90 minutes but I was literally enjoying every second of it.  I loved Helen Mirren in it and in fact, Media Mikes awarded her with our Best Actress of 2012 award.  All around witty, interesting and just fun to be had here. Recommend to check this out.

Official Premise: Oscar® winners Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren* are spellbinding in this provocative story about the making of one of cinema’s most iconic films. Plagued by both a reckless ego and nagging self-doubt, Hollywood legend Alfred Hitchcock (Hopkins) becomes obsessed with a grisly murder story that the studios won’t back. Determined, he risks his reputation, his home and even the love of his wife Alma (Mirren), as he sets out to make the film. Ultimately, Hitch wins Alma over, and the two collaborate to create an enduring masterpiece – Psycho.

Fox is delivering this released as a combo pack with the Blu-ray disc, a DVD disc and also a digital copy of the film. The 1080p transfer for the Blu-ray looks great.  There are no noticeable flaws or issues that I was able to pick out. The colors are sharp and the picture quality is super clear. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track is also fantastic.  It works perfectly with the dialogue, which this film is quite driven by. It also works great with Danny Elfman’s score for the film.  Danny delivers a fun and very unique score, which is much different that we are used to for him.

The special features are very impressive for this release and come jam-packed.  First, there is a feature “Becoming the Master: From Hopkins to Hitchcock”, which showcased the transforming of Hopkins into character. “Obsessed with Hitchcock” and “Remembering Hitchcock” look into the phenomon behind the man. “Sacha Gervasi’s Behind the Scenes Cell Phone Footage” is fun to watch but remember it was shot on a cell phone. Speaking of cellphones’ “Hitchcock Cell Phone PSA” is included which aired in theaters prior to the films release. Next, there are three featurettes focusing on the the film’s story, the cast and the score with “Danny Elfman Maestro”, all three are great.  There is also a piece of “Hitch and Alma” from the film, as well as a deleted scene included.  Almost forgot that there is a decent audio commentary track with director Sacha Gervasi and Stephen Rebello, author of “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho”, which is information packed.  Wrapping up these extras is a theatrical trailer.

Media Mikes Names The Best of 2012

“Cloud Atlas” and “Lincoln” each took home two awards when the staff and readers of Meda held their end of the year voting. “Cloud Atlas” was named Best Film of 2012 while composers Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer shared the award for Best Original Score for the same film. Tykwer also served as a co-writer and co-director of the film.

Steven Spielberg earned Best Director honors for his work on “Lincoln,” as did Daniel Day Lewis, who was named Best Actor for his portrayal of the title role. The winners are:

BEST FILM – “Cloud Atlas”

BEST DIRECTOR – Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”

BEST ACTOR – Daniel Day Lewis, “Lincoln”

BEST ACTRESS – Helen Mirren, “Hitchcock”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Leonardo DiCaprio, “Django Unchained”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables”



Film Review “Hitchcock”

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Sacha Gervasi
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hour 38 mins
Fox Searchlight

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

More than three decades after his death, director Alfred Hitchcock is still referred to as “The Master of Suspense.” And rightfully so. Films like “Rebecca,” “Vertigo” and “North by Northwest” were wildly successful. Yet, even with that track record, it took every resource he could find to make his most famous film, “Psycho.” But he turned the production into a labor of love, both on screen and behind it.

Any film that includes conversations between one of films greatest directors and killer Ed Gein can best be described as tongue in cheek. And that is the tone director Gervasi sets in “Hitchcock.” Gein, whose horrible crimes were not only the basis for Robert Bloch’s novel “Psycho” but the characters of Leatherface in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and Buffalo Bill in “Silence of the Lambs.” Incidentally, I didn’t call Gein a serial killer because, even though he killed several people, to save money he was only tried for one murder. And apparently you have to be convicted of at least three murders to be called a “serial” killer. Who knew?

“Hitchcock” finds the great director gaining a new generation of fans through his weekly television program. However, he feels “cheapened” by television and looks for his next great film. Coming across Bloch’s book he becomes fascinated with the subject matter and, despite the protests of the big shots at Paramount, decides to make a movie. Behind the scenes is his long time adoring wife, Alma (Mirren), who was in fact a fine filmmaker before she and “Hitch” met.

Hopkins does a good job imitating the voice and cadence of the great director, however sometimes his makeup makes him look more like Bob Newhart then Hitchcock. As Alma Mirren is strong and decisive. “Psycho” is as much her film as it is Hitchcock’s and the film stresses that point. Johansson and James D’Arcy are well cast as “Psycho” stars Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins while in a quick cameo Ralph Macchio plays screenwriter Joseph Stefano, hired by Hitchcock because he had issues dealing with sex, rage and his mother!

Production values are fine, giving the film a nice period feel. The film is also a nice look back at the early days of Hollywood, when the fact that Hitchcock wanted to show a toilet on screen was deemed shocking.

Complimentary Passes to the Orlando, FL Screening for “Hitchcock” [ENDED]

All passes have been taken for this RSVP Code

For your chance to receive event passes, log on to
Thursday, December 6th at 7:30pm.
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Directed by: Sacha Gervasi
Screenplay by: John J. McLaughlin
Based on the book: Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello
Produced by: Ivan Reitman, Tom Pollock, Joe Medjuck, Tom Thayer, Alan Barnette
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Danny Huston, Toni Collette, Jessica Biel, Michael Stuhlbarg, James D’Arcy, Michael Wincott, Richard Portnow, Kurtwood Smith

HITCHCOCK is a love story about one of the most influential filmmakers of the last century, Alfred Hitchcock and his wife and partner Alma Reville. The film takes place during the making of Hitchcock’s seminal movie Psycho.


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James Tolkan reflects work in “Top Gun” and the “Back to the Future” trilogy

In a career spanning six decades, James Tolkan has conquered every medium he’s ever attempted. While pursuing a career in music at college he auditioned for a school play on the advice of a friend who suggested performing in front of an audience would help him with his stage fright. Tolkan was cast in the lead and he hasn’t looked back. Though best known for his work in “Top Gun” and the “Back to the Future” trilogy, I knew him best for his theatre work. In 1984 Mr. Tolkan originated the role of quick-tempered real estate salesman Dave Moss in the Pulitzer Prize winning drama “Glengarry Glen Ross,” a role I myself played many years later. While preparing for his appearance at this weekend’s Con X Kansas City Convention Mr. Tolkan spoke to Media Mikes about Broadway, “Back to the Future” and his memories of directors Tony Scott and Sidney Lumet.

Mike Smith: I guess I’ll start with the standard first question: what led you to become an actor?
James Tolkan: Oh my gosh! It’s a really complicated answer. When I got out of the Navy I was totally lost. I went back to college where I majored in art and minored in music. I was studying singing. I was very nervous getting up in front of an audience so a friend of mine suggested I try out for a play so I could get used to being in front of an audience. So I tried out for a play and was cast in the lead. I was like, “hey, this is interesting.” So I did another play at the community theater and suddenly I became very interested in acting. I then went to the University of Iowa, which had a large theater department and it was there that I was “encouraged” to go to New York and study the Method with some of the great teachers. So in 1956 I got on a Greyhound bus in Iowa City with $75 in my pocket and I went to New York to become an actor. I didn’t know what I was getting into…I was a total hick. I got off the bus and I was scared to death. I went through all kinds of various jobs while I studied with Stella Adler. After the first year she gave me a full scholarship to study with her. And then I started working. The first play I auditioned for off-Broadway I was cast. A lot of casting people saw me and I started going from one play to another. I also wanted to study with Lee Strasberg, which I did for three years. Both teachers were very valuable…but very different. It’s been a great experience. I’m really just a New York actor. I’m a stage actor. And I said I was never going to Hollywood until Hollywood sends for me. And in 1984, while doing the David Mamet play, “Glengarry Glen Ross,” on Broadway, Robert Zemeckis called me and asked me to be in “Back to the Future.” Of course nob ody knew who Robert Zemeckis was back then but I said “ok” because this was my chance to go to Hollywood. So after a year on Broadway I went to Hollywood and did the movie. I stayed in California and did some television series. Then I did “Top Gun” and all of a sudden I’m a Hollywood actor! It’s been a wonderful odyssey and I’ve survived it all!

MS: You started your career in what is now referred to as the “golden age” of television. In your opinion, what’s the biggest difference in the way television shows are produced today versus then?
JT: Well, at that time, a lot of television was done live. It was live television. You go on and you do it and that’s it! Today everything is much more safe. The three camera comedies. You have a live audience and a controlled condition. And the writing is very different. The writers today are very bright and very…demanding. They don’t always know how to use actors.

MS: You understudied Robert Duvall in a couple of Broadway shows, including “Wait Until Dark.” Did you ever get to play “Wait Until Dark” villain Harry Roat on stage?
JT: I took over the role of the Longshoreman in Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge” from Robert Duvall on Broadway and played that part for many months. Then “Wait Until Dark” opened with Lee Remick. Two weeks into the run I get to the theater and there’s no Robert Duvall. The director tells me Duvall broke his hip riding horseback and I was on. I was ready and I went on and I played that part for two years. I played it for a year on Broadway with Lee Remick then I played it with Shirley Jones on a tour and then later with Barbara Bel Geddes. And the character was so dark. Believe me it was hard on one’s psyche to do that.

MS: I’m so glad you mentioned “Glengarry Glen Ross.” You originated the role of Moss on Broadway and I’ve actually played Moss in a production here in Kansas City.
JT: Really? Good for you. Isn’t that just a fantastic play? It was a great experience in my life. To work with David Mamet. We previewed in Chicago and it was a big hit there. Then we took it to New York where it was a huge hit. It was one of those shows where you know you held the audience the whole night in the palm of your hands. It’s getting ready to go back to Broadway this year with Al Pacino playing Shelly “The Machine” Levine.

MS: Really? Pacino was a great Ricky Roma in the movie. Of course he’s older now.
JT: Before the movie was made Sidney Lumet had the rights to the show and he called all of us to come in and have a reading up at his office. At the time Sidney wanted Pacino to play Shelly but Al insisted on playing Roma. The project fell through and the production ended up in someone else’s hands and Al got to play Roma.

MS: Which leads me to my next question. You were obviously a favorite of Sidney Lumet, having worked with him several times. As a director yourself did you pick up any tips from watching him work?
JT: If you want to learn about how to approach actors and acting on a film, work with Sidney Lumet! Of course it’s a little late now but he was so special…so wonderful. He made you feel like THIS is why you want to be an actor. He was just amazing. With most movies in Hollywood you get together just before you start shooting and sometimes it’s 20 takes…50 takes…whatever until everyone is comfortable with the scene. With Sidney it was three weeks of rehearsal. The first week you just sat around the table. He’d say, “OK, no acting…just talk.” It’s very simple. We’re just trying to relate and connect with each other. The second week we’d start getting up on our seats and playing the various scenes. The third week we’d run through the script in sequence like it’s a play and he’d would go off with the cinematographer setting up all of the shots. So when we got on the set everybody knew their job. You’d start shooting and he’d get everything in one or two takes. You were going home every day at four o’clock. It was like working with a master. He was just a wonderful, warm and brilliant person.

MS: Tony Scott, who directed you in “Top Gun,” recently passed away. Do you have any memories of him to share?
JT: He was such a regular guy…rough and ready. He was always smoking a cigar. He was a mountain climber and he rode motorcycles. He was quite different from Sidney Lumet but a very good man to work with. Sometimes he’d want to do a scene that wasn’t scheduled and I’d tell him I wasn’t ready and he’d just smile and say, “you can do it, James” and we’d get it done. He was very off the cuff and non-chalant. But at the same time intense, if that makes sense. I’m still stunned about how he passed. Why he would make that kind of choice is totally a mystery.

MS: Originally “Back to the Future” ended with the words THE END. Only when it was released on home video did the words TO BE CONTINUED appear. Were you aware while you were filming that there were three films planned?
JT: Oh no. The first film was a very small movie. Steven Spielberg at the time was more interested in another movie he was producing called “Goonies.” This was something that was really on the back burner. Nobody knew who Robert Zemeckis was. We were working for not a lot of money and had really tiny dressing rooms. Then that movie opened and it was an amazing success! Like they say, all of the planets had to have been aligned for that movie to be so successful. And right after that they said they were going to do a part two and part three. But when we finished filming part one there was no talk whatsoever of the sequels.

MS: Were you able to do any scenes with Eric Stoltz?
JT: I did. When I got to the set Eric was playing Marty. But after seven weeks of shooting they shut down the production. During the dailies the filmmakers discovered they were more interested in the characters AROUND Marty rather than Marty himself. And that’s when they decided they would wait for Michael J. Fox to wind up his television series and then start up production again. And believe me that was a very brave decision. If that didn’t work out you would never have heard of Robert Zemeckis or Bob Gale. I was told that when they shut down the production after seven weeks Eric Stoltz was in his dressing room and he commented, “well, they can’t fire me now.” And that very day he was fired. But that’s how it goes. It’s a crazy business. (NOTE: Michael J. Fox was the producer’s original choice to play Marty McFly but, due to his commitment to the television series “Family Ties” the studio went with Eric Stoltz. Due to many reasons, including those Mr. Tolkan mentioned, Stoltz was let go and Fox brought on, often fulfilling his television duties during the day and filming “BTTF” at night.)

MS: Are you working on anything now?
JT: No, I’m pretty much retired. I did do an HBO movie over the summer with Al Pacino and Helen Mirren about the trial of record producer Phil Spector. I play the judge. Again, it’s a David Mamet script which he also directed. He called me up and cast me. If someone calls me, I’ll do it. But right now I’m enjoying my life.

Production Commences on “Anna Karenina”


LONDON, October 3rd, 2011 – Working Title Films has commenced production on Joe Wright’s epic love story Anna Karenina, adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel by Academy Award winner Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love). The film will shoot in the U.K. and Russia. Focus Features will distribute the movie domestically, and Universal Pictures International (UPI) will distribute the movie internationally.

Anna Karenina marks Mr. Wright’s fourth film with Working Title, following the award-winning box office successes Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, and The Soloist. The film is produced by Working Title co-chairs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner and reunites them with Paul Webster, all three of whom produced Mr. Wright’s first two films Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, released domestically by Focus and internationally by UPI. Also for Focus, Mr. Wright recently directed the hit adventure thriller Hanna.

Keira Knightley, Academy Award-nominated for Pride & Prejudice, will star as Anna Karenina in her third collaboration with Mr. Wright. Ms. Knightley stars opposite two-time Academy Award nominee Jude Law, as Anna’s husband Aleksei Karenin; and Aaron Johnson (Nowhere Boy), as Count Vronsky. Rounding out the cast are Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire), Matthew Macfadyen (Pride & Prejudice), Domhnall Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), Alicia Vikander (The Seventh Son), two-time Academy Award nominee Emily Watson, Olivia Williams (Hanna), and Ruth Wilson (Luther).

Also reteaming with Mr. Wright on Anna Karenina are Academy Award-winning composer Dario Marianelli, twice-Academy Award-nominated costume designer Jacqueline Durran, three-time Academy Award-nominated production designer Sarah Greenwood, and Academy Award-nominated director of photography Seamus McGarvey.  Melanie Ann Oliver (Focus’ Jane Eyre) is the editor. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui is the choreographer on the movie.

The story unfolds in its original late-19th-century Russia high-society setting and powerfully explores the capacity for love that surges through the human heart, from the passion between adulterers to the bond between a mother and her children. As Anna (Ms. Knightley) questions her happiness, change comes to her family, friends, and community.

Working Title Films, co-chaired by Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner since 1992, is one of the world’s leading film production companies. Founded in 1983, Working Title has made nearly 100 films that have grossed over $4.5 billion worldwide. Its films have won 6 Academy Awards, 26 BAFTA Awards, and prestigious prizes at the Cannes and Berlin International Film Festivals. In addition to Anna Karenina, the current release slat includes Tomas Alfredson’s thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, and Tom Hardy; Baltasar Kormákur’s Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale; Rowan Atkinson in Johnny English Reborn, directed by Oliver Parker; and Ken Kwapis’ Big Miracle, starring Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski.

Universal Pictures markets and distributes films internationally through Universal Pictures International (UPI), which officially began doing business on January 1, 2007. In the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, German-speaking Switzerland, Benelux, Russia, Australia, Mexico and France, UPI directly markets and distributes movies through our local offices, creating campaigns and release strategies that respond to the culture and market behavior of those territories. In other parts of the world, Universal distributes through Paramount’s local offices as it transitions out of the formerly shared UIP model. In some smaller territories we continue to work through UIP on theatrical distribution.

Focus Features and Focus Features International ( comprise a singular global company. This worldwide studio makes original and daring films that challenge the mainstream to embrace and enjoy voices and visions from around the world that deliver global commercial success. The company operates as Focus Features in North America, and as Focus Features International (FFI) in the rest of the world.

In addition to Anna Karenina, and Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy, current and upcoming Focus releases include John Madden’s hit espionage thriller The Debt, starring Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, and Jessica Chastain; writer/director Dee Rees’ contemporary drama Pariah, which world-premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival; Being Flynn, written and directed by Paul Weitz and starring two-time Academy Award winner Robert De Niro and Paul Dano; Lorene Scafaria’s pre-apocalyptic comedic romance Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley; Moonrise Kingdom, the new feature from Wes Anderson, starring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schwartzman; Sam Fell and Chris Butler’s ParaNorman, the new 3D stop-motion comedy thriller from animation company LAIKA; and the historical tale Hyde Park on Hudson, directed by Roger Michell and starring Academy Award nominees Bill Murray and Laura Linney.

Focus Features and Universal Pictures International are part of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. Comcast Corporation owns a controlling 51% interest in NBCUniversal, with GE holding a 49% stake.

Film Review “The Debt”

Starring: Marton Csokas, Jessica Chastain and Sam Worthington
Directed by: John Madden
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour 54 mins

Our Score: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The year is 1997. The place is Tel Aviv, Israel. The occasion is a book launching party for Sarah Gold (Romi Aboulafia). Her book is the story of how three young MOSSAD agents infiltrated East Berlin in 1966 and captured and killed Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), better known as “The Surgeon of Berkenau,” a place more commonly known as Auschwitz. Two of the agents involved attend the party, mostly because they are Sarah’s parents. But as the tale unfolds, we learn that what we believe to be true often isn’t.

Based on the 2007 Israeli film “Ha-Hov,” the majority of the film deals with the operation to kidnap and return Vogel, who is working in East Berlin as a fertility doctor, to Israel to stand trial. The three agents given the assignment are Stephan (Csokas), Rachel (Chastain) and David (Worthington). Rachel and David are pretending to be a young married couple who cannot conceive, causing them to visit Vogel (now referred to as Doctor Bernhardt). Though there seems to be some chemistry between the two, it is Stephan and Rachel who make beautiful music (both physically and literally in a bit of piano-playing foreplay). As the plan proceeds we think we know the outcome but, as I said, don’t believe everything you see (or read).

Skillfully directed by John Madden, who earned an Academy Award nomination for the Oscar-winning Best Picture “Shakespeare in Love,” “The Debt” is a thriller that keeps you guessing up to the end. It also boasts two talented groups of actors. While Csokas, Chastain and Worthington give life to their characters in the flashbacks, the characters are played in later years by Tom Wilkinson, Helen Mirren and Ciaran Hinds, all veterans at the top of their game here. All six give strong performances and it’s a relief to see Worthington not standing in front of a green screen and doing some actual emoting. The story flows nicely for the first ninety minutes or so. It’s only at the end, when 66 year old Mirren goes into her “RED” mode, that the film feels forced. It’s as if the filmmakers felt they needed to take the story PAST the logical ending just to prove they weren’t making a conventional film.

The set decoration by Jim Clay is outstanding, capturing the look of Cold War Berlin perfectly. Thomas Newman’s score helps drive the action as well.

Production Begins on Hyde Park on Hudson, Starring Bill Murray and Laura Linney

Production Begins on Hyde Park on Hudson, Starring Bill Murray and Laura Linney


NEW YORK and LONDON, July 28, 2011 – Academy Award nominees Bill Murray and Laura Linney star in the historical tale Hyde Park on Hudson, which began filming this week in the U.K. for co-producers and co-financiers Focus Features and Film4. BAFTA Award winner Roger Michell (Film4’s Venus) is directing from a screenplay by Richard Nelson. Focus CEO James Schamus made the announcement today.

Focus will release Hyde Park on Hudson in the second half of 2012. Focus holds worldwide rights – excluding U.K. free-TV rights, which are held by Film4 – to the movie. Filming is taking place in the U.K. on the Free Range Films/Daybreak Pictures production. Kevin Loader (In the Loop) and David Aukin (Endgame) are producing the feature with Mr. Michell. Focus executive vice president, European production Teresa Moneo is supervising Hyde Park on Hudson.

In June 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (played by Mr. Murray) and his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams of Focus’ Hanna) host the King and Queen of England (Samuel West of Mr. Michell’s Persuasion and Olivia Colman of Film4’s The Iron Lady) for a weekend at the Roosevelt home at Hyde Park on Hudson, in upstate New York – the first-ever visit of a reigning English monarch to America. With Britain facing imminent war with Germany, the Royals are desperately looking to FDR for support. But international affairs must be juggled with the complexities of FDR’s domestic establishment, as wife, mother, and mistresses all conspire to make the royal weekend an unforgettable one. Seen through the eyes of Daisy (Ms. Linney), Franklin’s distant cousin, neighbor, and intimate, the weekend will produce not only a special relationship between two great nations, but, for Daisy – and through her, for us all – a deeper understanding of the mysteries of love and friendship.

The cast of Hyde Park on Hudson also includes Elizabeth Wilson (The Birds), Elizabeth Marvel (True Grit), and Eleanor Bron (Help!). Simon Bowles (Centurion) is the film’s production designer; Dinah Collin (The Ghost Writer) is the costume designer. The cinematographer is Lol Crawley (Film4’s Four Lions).

Mr. Schamus said, “Filmgoers will be intrigued by this unique exploration of the all-too-human side of one of history’s great men. Roger is an actor’s director who will guide Bill and Laura through their playing of Richard’s script, which beautifully encompasses satire and drama.”

Film4’s Tessa Ross said, “This promises to be an extraordinary film; we have our dream cast and a great crew on board, we’re partnering anew with our friends at Focus, and we’re working once again with the exceptional Roger Michell. What a privilege for Film4 to be on this journey with them all.”

Film4, headed by Ms. Ross, is Channel 4 Television’s feature film division. The Company develops and co-finances film productions and is known for working with the most innovative talent in the U.K., whether new or established. Film4 developed and co-financed Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, which won 8 Academy Awards. Film4 has partnered with Focus Features on such films as Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, for which star Colin Farrell won a Golden Globe Award; Kevin Macdonald’s The Eagle; and Lone Scherfig’s soon-to-be-released romance One Day, based on the bestselling novel, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. Film4’s recent and forthcoming releases also include Joe Cornish’s directorial debut Attack the Block; Richard Ayoade’s Submarine; Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights; The Iron Lady, directed by Phyllida Lloyd and starring Meryl Streep; and Steve McQueen’s SHAME, with Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan.

Focus Features and Focus Features International ( comprise a singular global company. This worldwide studio makes original and daring films that challenge the mainstream to embrace and enjoy voices and visions from around the world that deliver global commercial success. The company operates as Focus Features in North America, and as Focus Features International (FFI) in the rest of the world.

In addition to Hyde Park on Hudson and One Day, both with Film4, current and upcoming Focus releases include Mike Mills’ Beginners, starring Ewan McGregor and Academy Award nominee Christopher Plummer; John Madden’s espionage thriller The Debt, starring Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, and Jessica Chastain; writer/director Dee Rees’ contemporary drama Pariah, which world-premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival; Welcome to Suck City, written and directed by Paul Weitz and starring two-time Academy Award winner Robert De Niro and Paul Dano; Lorene Scafaria’s pre-apocalyptic comedic romance Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley; Moonrise Kingdom, the new feature from Wes Anderson, starring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schwartzman; Sam Fell and Chris Butler’s ParaNorman, the new 3D stop-motion comedy thriller from animation company LAIKA; and Tomas Alfredson’s thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, and Tom Hardy.