Media Mikes’ 2014 Holiday Film Preview

As you just spent the last few days fighting those “Black Friday” crowds, making sure that for years to come your children will know that you paid $10.00 less than anyone else for their JAWS Lego set, why not set aside some family time and take in a movie?

This time of year not only brings jolly Saint Nick around but also a lot of what the studios deem their “prestige” films – the ones to remember come award time.  Of course, they occasionally sneak in a couple of stinkers as well.  Here is a list of both for you to plan your next cinema visit.  As usual, thanks to our friends at the Internet Movie Database for some synopsis information and, as always, remember that this list is not all-inclusive and that the opening dates are subject to change depending on the whims of the studios and where you live.  Enjoy!

 

DECEMBER 

ESCOBAR:  PARADISE LOST

Starring:  Benicio Del Toro, Josh Hutcherson

Directed by:  Andrea Di Stefano

While vacationing in Columbia, a young man meets the woman of his dreams and soon finds himself introduced to her uncle, the infamous drug dealer Pablo Escobar.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Not a lot of buzz on this film but Del Toro did win an Oscar for his Supporting work in “Traffic.”

 

STILL ALICE

Starring:  Julianne Moore, Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart

Directed by:  Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland

When Alice Howland (Moore), a noted linguistics professor, begins forgetting words she learns she is in the early stages of Alzheimer.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Moore, a four time nominee, is generating great word of mouth for a fifth nod.

 

TOP FIVE

Starring:  Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson

Directed by:  Chris Rock

A comedian tries to make it as a serious actor when his reality-TV star fiancé talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her TV show.  Rock, who also wrote the film, promises this film to carry the edge of his stand up.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Adam Sandler also appears but who am I to dream?

 

WILD

Starring:  Reese Witherspoon and Gaby Hoffman

Directed by:  Jean-Marc Vallee

A chronicle of one woman’s 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent catastrophe.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Like Julianne Moore, Witherspoon, who already has a Best Actress Oscar for her work in “Walk the Line,” is getting great word of mouth.  Director Vallee guided both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto to Oscars last year in “Dallas Buyers Club” and earned a nomination himself for his editing of the film.

 

DECEMBER 12

DEMONIC

Starring:  Maria Bello and Frank Grillo

Directed by:  Will Canon

A police officer and a psychologist investigate the deaths of five people who were killed while trying to summon ghosts.  The story comes from James Wan (“Saw,” “Insidious,” “The Conjuring”) so hopefully this will be on the plus side of horror.

OSCAR CHANCES:  “Horror,” asks the Academy, “what is that?”

 

EXODUS:  GODS AND KINGS

Starring:  Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton

Directed by:  Ridley Scott

The defiant leader Moses (Bale) rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Edgerton), setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Bale has one Oscar (Best Supporting Actor for “The Fighter”) and a second nomination while director Scott has been nominated three times, including for “Gladiator.”  Look for a lot of technical nods.

 

INHERENT VICE

Starring:  Joaquin Phoenix and Josh Brolin

Directed by:  Paul Thomas Anderson

In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry “Doc” Sportello (Phoenix) investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.  Here’s a little trivia for you:  writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s production company is named Ghoulardi after the late night horror host his father, Ernie Anderson, used to portray on Cleveland television.  As a boy I loved Ghoulardi!

OSCAR CHANCES:  If Paul Thomas Anderson has made a bad film I’ve never seen it.  He and his casts are nomination magnets so look for plenty.

 

DECEMBER 17

THE HOBBIT:  THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES

Starring:  Martin Freeman and Cate Blanchett

Directed by:  Peter Jackson

The final episode of director Jackson’s “Hobbit” trilogy.  As he proved with the “Lord of the Rings” films, Jackson is a master storyteller and this last chapter should be amazing!

OSCAR CHANCES:  Technical across the board.

 

DECEMBER 19

ANNIE

Starring:  Quvenzhane Wallis and Jamie Foxx

Directed by:  Will Gluck

OK, the synopsis really has nothing to do with the Broadway musical except that Annie (Wallis) is an orphan and eventually she will sing “Tomorrow.”  This is the one film that I’m torn on.  I loved the original show – at one time it was so popular that when you went to audition for a musical you were told that you COULDN’T perform “Tomorrow” – so I’m trying to go in with blinders.  That fact that director Gluck only has a few PG-13 teen comedies on his resume, and that he helped produce the still horrible memory “About Last Night” remake makes me sad.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Young Miss Wallis remains the youngest Best Actress nominee EVER for her work in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” while Foxx not only has an Oscar for “Ray” but kicked ass in “Dreamgirls.”  I’m not looking for any here but hopefully I’ll be surprised.

 

THE GAMBLER

Starring:  Mark Walberg and Brie Larson

Directed by:  Rupert Wyatt

A literature college professor and high stakes gambler runs afoul of a loan shark and his bodyguard-like gangsters while he has an affair with one of his students.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Can’t see any.

 

TURNER

Starring:  Timothy Spall and Paul Jesson

Directed by:  Mike Leigh

An exploration of the last quarter century of the great, if eccentric, British painter J.M.W. Turner’s life.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Spall (probably best known as the band manager in “Rock Star” and Peter Pettigrew in the “Harry Potter” series, is getting huge word of mouth for his work here.  Writer/director Mike Leigh has seven previous nominations.

 

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM:  SECRET OF THE TOMB

Starring:  Ben Stiller and Rebel Wilson

Directed by:  Shawn Levy

Larry (Stiller) spans the globe, uniting favorite and new characters while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it is gone forever.  The final film in the series sadly features the final performance of the great Mickey Rooney and one of the final performances of the beloved Robin Williams.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Technical?

 

DECEMBER 24

TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT

Starring:  Marion Cotillard

Directed by:  Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenn

Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.

 

OSCAR CHANCES:  Cotillard is a past winner for “La Vie en Rose” and is always a threat to earn a nomination.

 

DECEMBER 25

AMERICAN SNIPER

Starring:  Bradley Cooper

Directed by:  Clint Eastwood

A Navy S.E.A.L. recounts his military career, which includes more than 150 confirmed kills.  Based on the life of the late Chris Kyle.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Everyone I’ve spoken to who has seen this predicts nods for Cooper, which would be his third year in a row, and Eastwood, who already has two directing Oscars on the shelf (“Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby”).

 

BIG EYES

Starring:  Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz

Directed by:  Tim Burton

A drama centered on the awakening of the painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.  A true change of pace film for director Burton.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Waltz has two Supporting Actor awards (“Inglorious Basterds” and “Django Unchained”) while Adams has been nominated five times previously.

 

THE INTERVIEW

Starring:  Seth Rogen and James Franco

Directed by:  Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen

Dave Skylark (Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Rogen) run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show “Skylark Tonight.” When they discover that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists.  This is the second film co-directed by Rogen and his writing partner Goldberg, after the very funny “This is the End.”

OSCAR CHANCES:  “Comedy,” asks the Academy, “what is that?”

 

INTO THE WOODS

Starring:  Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and Johnny Depp

Directed by:  Rob Marshall

A witch (Streep) conspires to teach important lessons to various characters of popular children’s stories including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel.  Based on the Tony Award winning musical by the legendary Stephen Sondheim.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Did I mention Meryl Streep is in it?  Director Marshall helmed “Chicago” to the Best Picture Oscar in 2003.

 

SELMA

Starring:  David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo

Directed by:  Ava DuVernay

The film looks at the lives of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and President Lyndon B. Johnson as well as the turbulent civil rights marches of the 1960s.

OSCAR CHANCES:  A supporting cast of previous nominees (Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey and Tom Wilkinson) and winner (Cuba Gooding, Jr) bode well for a possible nod.  Oyelowo was brilliant last year in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

 

UNBROKEN

Starring:  Jack O’Connell and Jai Courtney

Directed by:  Angelina Jolie

A chronicle of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II.  As a long time follower of Lou Zamperini’s story this is one of my most anticipated films of the year.

OSCAR CHANCES:  The academy loves a good bio-film!

 

 

DECEMBER 31

A MOST VIOLENT YEAR

Starring:  Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain

Directed by:  J.C. Chandor

In New York City 1981, an ambitious immigrant fights to protect his business and family during the most dangerous year in the city’s history.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Both Isaac and Chastain are bright new stars in Hollywood.

Blu-ray Review “The Best Man Holiday”

Actors: Monica Calhoun, Morris Chestnut, Melissa De Sousa, Taye Diggs, Regina Hall
Directors: Malcolm D. Lee
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Universal Studios
DVD Release Date: February 11, 2014
Running Time: 123 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

In 1999, I was working at a video store and I remember that the ensemble comedy “The Best Man” was almost impossible to keep on the shelves. This all-new sequel reunites the cast together again for a reunion packed with plenty of laughter, love, and surprises. The returning ensemble cast includes Morris Chestnut (“Identity Thief”), Terrence Howard (“Hustle & Flow”), Taye Diggs (“Baggage Claim”), Nia Long (“Soul Food”), Sanaa Lathan (“Contagion”), Regina Hall (“Scary Movie franchise”), Harold Perrineau (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Monica Calhoun (“Love & Basketball”) and Melissa De Sousa (“Miss Congeniality”). If you enjoyed the first film, you are going to love this film. I do know why they waited so long to come out with this but I am sure that they are not going to make that mistake again. I am sure that “The Best Man 3” is right around the corner.

Official Premise: Share the laughter, love and surprises as Harper (Taye Diggs), Lance (Morris Chestnut), Quentin (Terrence Howard), Jordan (Nia Long), Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), Mia (Monica Calhoun), Murch (Harold Perrineau), Candy (Regina Hall) and Shelby (Melissa De Sousa) all reunite for the first time in years. As they share their triumphs and tragedies, these college friends soon discover how easy it is to reignite long-forgotten rivalries and romances—all while new discoveries are made and secrets are revealed.

Universal delivers “The Best Man Holiday” as a Blu-ray Combo Pack including a Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD with UltraViolet. The 1080p transfer is very polished and really captures the holiday spirit…even in February. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 works well with the films music, which sounds great. In terms of special features, there is an Alternate Ending, Gag Reel as well as some Deleted and Extended Scenes with Commentary by Writer/Director/Producer Malcolm D. Lee. There is also a audio commentary track with Malcolm D. Lee. “Smack Talk” looks at the filming of the girl fight scene. Lastly we have “Holiday Reunion: The Making of The Best Man Holiday” which goes behind-the-scenes with cast and crew.

2013 Holiday Movie Preview

As the holiday season approaches you can smell it on the air.  No, not turkey and pumpkin pie!  I’m talking popcorn and Junior Mints.  Because with the holidays comes an opportunity to sample the best (sometimes) of what Hollywood has to offer.  From sure Oscar contenders to “might as well get it off the shelf” films, here is a list of some goodies that are on the menu between now and the end of the year.

As always, thanks to our friends at the Internet Movie Data Base for some synopsis information.  And remember, opening dates published are subject to change at the whim of the studios.  Enjoy!

 

NOVEMBER 27

BLACK NATIVITY

Starring:  Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and Jennifer Hudson  

Directed by:  Kasi Lemmons

Based on an early 1961 stage musical by Langston Hughes, the film tells the story of a single mother in Harlem sending her teenage son to visit her parents in Baltimore for the holidays.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Whitaker and Hudson already have one and Bassett earned a nomination for her incredible portrayal of Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”  Writer/director Lemmons, probably best known for her work as an actress (she was Jodie Foster’s roommate/partner in “Silence of the Lambs”) previously helmed “Eve’s Bayou” and “Talk to Me.”  That all being said, the possibilities are there!

 

FROZEN

Starring the voices of:  Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell     

Directed by:  Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

When Princess Elsa accidentally uses her magic to cover her kingdom in ice it is up to her younger sister, Anne, to warm things up.

OSCAR CHANCES:  A possible nomination for Best Animated Feature but I think “Despicable Me 2” has that award sewn up.

 

HOMEFRONT

Starring:  Jason Statham and James Franco 

Directed by:  Gary Fleder

A former DEA agent moves his family to a quiet town, where he soon tangles with a local meth drug lord.  Based on the novel by Chuck Logan, the film’s script writer is none other than Sylvester Stallone.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Sly did nab a Best Original Screenplay nod back in 1976 for “Rocky” but I’m not to optimistic.

 

OLD BOY

Starring:  Josh Brolin
Directed by:  Spike Lee

A remake of the 2003 South Korean action film, Brolin stars as a man placed in solitary confinement for 20 years with no idea why or by who.  When he’s finally released he makes it his mission to answer those questions in a most bloody manner.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Could tie with “Machete’ Kills” for most blood used in a single film. (oh if only that was a category).

 

NOVEMBER 29

MANDELA:  LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Moved to December 25th)

Starring:  Idris Elba and Naomie Harris

Directed by:  Justin Chadwick

Based on the autobiography of the great South African leader Nelson Mandela, the film follows his life from his early days as a student to his imprisonment through his rise as President of his country.

OSCAR CHANCES:  The Academy loves biographical stories and Elba is said to deliver a brilliant performance.

 

DECEMBER 6

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

Starring:  Oscar Issac, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake        

Directed by:  Joel and Ethan Coen

The brothers Coen take a look at the early days of the folk music scene in New York City.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Three words:  “the Coen brothers.”  Academy Award nominations stick to their films like Mary Lou Retton sticking a dismount!  (please tell me you know who Mary Lou Retton is)

 

THE LAST DAYS ON MARS

Starring:  Liev Schreiber and Elias Koteas   

Directed by:  Ruairi Robinson

The title says it all.  Schreiber leads a manned mission to the Red Planet where things don’t go as planned.

OSCAR CHANCES:  No.

 

OUT OF THE FURNACE

Starring:  Christian Bale, Casey Affleck and Woody Harrelson 

Directed by:  Scott Cooper

When his younger brother disappears, Russell Baze takes it upon himself to find out why and becomes entangled in the world of underground bare-knuckle fighting.  Wow, it looked so cool when Clint Eastwood and Clyde were doing it.

OSCAR CHANCES:  This is Cooper’s second film, his first being the Oscar winning “Crazy Heart.”  Bale has an Oscar and little Affleck and Woody have nominations so nothing is ruled out here.

 

DECEMBER 13 (limited opening – Opens wide December 18th)

AMERICAN HUSTLE

Starring:  Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams    

Directed by:  David O. Russell

A look back at the 1970s and the famous ABSCAM sting in New Jersey and Philadelphia.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Director Russell has assembled the cast members of his previous two films (“The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook”) for a very ambitious project.  The main cast members either have Oscars or been nominated for one as has Russell so I’m giving this film a definite “yes.”

 

THE HOBBIT:  THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

Starring:  Martin Freeman, Orlando Bloom and the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch

Directed by:  Peter Jackson

The second film in director Jackson’s planned HOBBIT trilogy follows Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf friends as they attempt to reclaim what’s rightly theirs from the dreaded dragon Smaug.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Of course.  Many fans of the books are upset that Bloom’s Legolas shows up but come on, “Pirates 5” has been postponed and Orlando Bloom has to eat.  Thankfully I’m guessing most members of the academy ever read Tolkien so look for this to earn many technical nods.

 

SAVING MR. BANKS

Starring:  Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson

Directed by:  John Lee Hancock

The behind the scenes tale of the struggles Walt Disney had to undertake to turn P.L. Travers novel, “Mary Poppins,” into a film.  I’ve known for years that she didn’t like Dick Van Dyke being cast so how incredibly insane must she have been?

OSCAR CHANCES:  Several, starting with previous two-time winners Hanks and Thompson.

 

TYLER PERRY’S A MEDEA CHRISTMAS

Starring: Tyler Perry 

Directed by:  Tyler Perry

If you haven’t jumped down to the next film, you’re a better person than I.  The title says it all.

OSCAR CHANCES:  I actually stopped typing and slapped myself for including the words “Oscar Chances” within two sentences – top or bottom – of the name Tyler Perry.

 

DECEMBER 18

HER (limited opening – Opens wide January 10th)

Starring:  Joaquin  Phoenix and the voice of Scarlett Johansson

Directed by:  Spike Jonze

As the world grows more reliant on technology a man begins to fall in love with the female voice of his computer operating system.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Jonze’s “Being John Malkovich” scored a few nods so I’m not ruling anything out.

 

ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES

Starring:  Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell

Directed by:  Adam McKay

Ron Burgandy and the rest of his channel 4 news team are picked to help launch a 24-hour news channel.

OSCAR CHANCES:  A great mustache and salon quality hair could equal Best Makeup.

 

DECEMBER 20
WALKING WITH DINOSAURS

Starring the voices of:  John Leguizamo and Justin Long                                                                                                                

Directed by:  Barry Cook and Neil Nightingale

Three young Pachyrhinosauruses discover the ups and downs of the prehistoric world.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Again, like “Frozen,”  maybe an animated nod.

 

DECEMBER 25

47 RONIN

Starring:  Keanu Reeves

Directed by:  Carl Rinsch

A band of samurai set out to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun.

OSCAR CHANCES:  This is the kind of film that pulls the costume award nomination.

 

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

Starring:  Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor                                                                                                        

Directed by:  John Wells

A screen adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Tony-award winning play about a family that gathers for the funeral of a relative and the internal battles that resurrect themselves.

OSCAR CHANCES:  I had the good fortune of seeing this film a couple of months ago and I’m going to say there will be no less than three nominations here.

 

BELIEVE

Starring:  Justin Bieber

Directed by:  John M. Chu

When a deadly virus strikes Canada, it is discovered that it’s evil host is…….Damn, I’d like to BELIEVE that was the plot.  Another concert film for those fans who apparently spent enough money on the first one to rate another.

OSCAR CHANCES:  As much as Tyler Perry.

 

GRUDGE MATCH

Starring:  Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro

Directed by:  Peter Segal

30 years since their last fight, boxers Henry “Razor” Sharp and Billy “the Kid” McDonnen, participate in a television special that rekindles old fires.  Or as I like to think of it, Rocky Balboa vs Jake Lamotta!

OSCAR CHANCES:  Probably not but this promises to be fun.

 

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN

Starring:  Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones

Directed by:  Ralph Fiennes

No, nothing spooky going on here.  The film tells the story of famed English author Charles Dickens and his secret affair with a younger woman.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Remember, it’s a bio-pic, so I’ll say maybe.

 

LABOR DAY

Starring:   Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin 

Directed by:  Jason Reitman

A woman and her young son are made to shelter an escaped convict.  The story gets interesting when she begins to fall for him.  I was so worried this was going to be the third film in Garry Marshall’s “holiday” trilogy!

OSCAR CHANCES:  Always a “yes” when director Reitman is in the mix.

 

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY

Starring:  Ben Stiller and Sean Penn 

Directed by:  Ben Stiller

Director/star Stiller attempts to update the classic 1947 film that featured the great Danny Kaye.  Bored with his life, Walter Mitty imagines himself in various exciting situations.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Maybe something technical.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Starring:  Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Ethan Suplee                                              

Directed by:  Martin Scorsese

Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort; from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.  This film was originally scheduled to open on November 15 and was pushed back at almost the last minute to finish post production.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Marty and Leo equal yes!

 

LONE SURVIVOR (limited opening – Opens wide January 10th)

Starring:  Mark Wahlberg and Ben Foster                                                                                                                                          

Directed by:  Peter Berg

The telling of a June 2005 military mission to capture a Talibad leader that went wrong.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Oh yeah.

 

Related Content

 

Orlando Shakespeare Theater Turns up the Holiday Cheer with “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play”


Theater captures the spirit of Frank Capra’s cinematic classic

Orlando, FL – Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Partnership with UCF warms Central Florida audiences with the holiday cheer of Joe Landry’s It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Performed as a 1940s live radio broadcast and directed by Florida Rep’s founding Producing Artistic Director, Robert Cacioppo, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play begins December 4 and runs through December 29, 2013 at the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Loch Haven Park. Tickets ($17-$40) may be purchased by calling the Box Office at (407) 447-1700 or online at http://orlandoshakes.org.

Inspired by Frank Capra’s beloved American film, Orlando Shakes’ It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play includes a five-member ensemble that brings to life a dozen familiar characters performed in the style of a 1940s live radio broadcast. Complete with commercial jingles and man-made sound effects, audiences will fall in love all over again with the selfless George Bailey and the gentle angel who saves his life on Christmas Eve. A holiday classic suitable for the entire family!

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is a joy for audiences young and old,” said Director Robert Cacioppo. “I am thrilled that Orlando Shakes’ Artistic Director Jim Helsinger offered me the opportunity to revisit this play with a truly wonderful cast.”

Cacioppo, who previously directed the production at Florida Rep in 2011, will be recreating his elaborate pre-show prologue in Orlando. Prior to the performance, theatergoers will take part in a holiday sing-along amongst busy telegram boys, popcorn girls, and 1940’s paparazzi. ”I urge Orlando audiences to show up early, because that’s when the fun begins!”Cacioppo said.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play features actors Brad DePlanche, David Edwards, Duke Lafoon, Suzanne O’Donnell, and Piper Rae Patterson. Secondary performers include Anachebe Asomugha, Sophie Bell, Bridgette Hoover, Chris Metz, Alexander Ross Neal, Jeffrey Todd Parrott, and Seth Wallen. The creative team includes Scenic Designer Richard Crowell, Costume Designer Mel Barger, Lighting Designer Mary Heffernan, and Sound Designer Britt Sandusky.

PERFORMANCE INFORMATION AND RELATED EVENTS

PRE-SHOW CHAT
Join us in the Patron’s Room on December 6 at 6:45 p.m. for a brief, informative discussion with the director and members of the artistic team about the creative process.

OPENING NIGHT PARTY
Directly following the show on December 6, audience members are invited to celebrate with the cast, crew, designers, and Orlando Shakes staff at the Opening Night Party. The party begins after the show (approx. 10 p.m.) and everyone is invited. No RSVP necessary.

PLAYSHOP
School-age children can participate in a fun and creative camp during select Orlando Shakespeare Theater performances. Led by Orlando Shakes Actor/Educators, theatergoers’ children ages 5 to 12 will enjoy supervised arts and crafts, play educational games, and maybe even learn a song or dance. For It’s a Wonderful Life, the service is available to all ticket buyers on Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 2 p.m. for just $15 per child. Advance registration is required. Call the Box Office at (407) 447-1700 for tickets and information.

THURSDAY TALK BACK
Stay after the performance on Thursday, December 19 for an informal Q & A with the cast and members of the design team.

ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCE INFORMATION
Preview Dates: December 4 & 5 at 7:30 p.m. ($18)
Opening Date: December 6 at 7:30 p.m.
Senior Matinees: December 11 & 18 at 2 p.m. ($17)
$20 Under 30: December 13 at 7:30 p.m. ($20)

TICKET INFORMATION

DATES AND PRICES
Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m. – all seats $35, $30, $20
Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. – all seats $40, $35, $30

DISCOUNTS
Group Sales: 20% off groups of 10+
Student Rush: $12 – 30 minutes prior to show w/ valid student ID
Military/Student Price: $10 off single ticket prices
Single and Season Tickets are available by calling (407) 447-1700, online at http://www.orlandoshakes.org, or in person at the Box Office located inside the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 East Rollins Street in Orlando’s Loch Haven Cultural Park.

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is made possible through the generous support of Holland & Knight, LLP, Raymond James Financial, and Florida Hospital. Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Partnership with UCF is supported by United Arts of Central Florida with funds from the United Arts collaborative campaign and by State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Florida Arts Council.

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PHOTOGRAPHY CREDIT

Publicity photos feature actors Brad DePlanche, Suzanne O’Donnell, and Piper Rae Patterson. Photos by Landon St. Gordon.

ABOUT ORLANDO SHAKESPEARE THEATER

Now celebrating its 25th Anniversary Season, Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Partnership with UCF has grown into one of the region’s most acclaimed Equity theaters producing classic, contemporary, and children’s plays. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Jim Helsinger and Managing Director PJ Albert, Orlando Shakespeare Theater continues to provide an innovative world-class theatrical experience to its patrons, while showcasing William Shakespeare’s legacy as the cornerstone of the company. Through PlayFest and Harriett’s New Play Series, Orlando Shakespeare Theater has garnered national recognition for the development of over 100 new works within the past 10 years. Orlando Shakes also provides immersive educational programming serving Central Florida schools and the local community at large.

Twitter: @orlandoshakes or http://www.twitter.com/orlandoshakes
Instagram: @orlandoshakes or http://www.instagram.com/orlandoshakes
Facebook: “Orlando Shakes” or http://www.facebook.com/orlandoshakes

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Just in time for Halloween, Media Mikes and ARC Entertainment are giving two lucky readers the chance to win a DVD of the new animated Halloween tale, “A Monsterous Holiday.” Featuring the voices of Brooke Shields, Jon Heder, Sean Astin, Matthew Lillard and Kyle Chandler the film follows the adventures of a young inventor named Andy who hopes to ask his neighbor to help him win an upcoming science fair. The neighbor is one Dr. Frankenstein. Finding the good doctor not at home Andy finds the next best thing: Frankenstein’s monster who, as luck would have it, is actually a teenager.

For a chance to win a copy of this new comedy just tell us below what your favorite costume was as a kid when you went trick or treating. Two random comments will be chosen on Sunday, November 3rd.

Good luck!

2013 Disney Blu-ray Holiday Gift Guide

Are you looking for great holiday gifts, as we enter the shopping season? Well don’t worry since Media Mikes is providing you the best choices in terms of Blu-ray and DVD released by Walt Disney Home Entertainment! Be sure not to miss any of these great releases this Fall! Your friends and family will be thanking you later!

Iron Man 3 – September 24
Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 3 pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. Available on 3D Super Set, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, Digital Copy & On Demand September 24, 2013.

Bonus features include: Deconstructing The Scene – Jump into action with the stunt-team skydivers in this close-up look at creating one of the movie’s most memorable scenes; Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes Look at Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World; Marvel’s Iron Man 3 Unmasked—Join cast and crew for a crash course in epic movie-making, Marvel style; Gag Reel; Deleted & Extended Scenes and Audio Commentary with Drew Pearce & Shane Black.

The Little Mermaid: Diamond Edition 3D – October 1
The timeless story of the Little Mermaid is making its Diamond Edition debut this October. The Blu-ray contains oceans full of bubbly bonus features including an All-New Music Video by Carly Rae Jepsen singing “Part Of Your World,” featurettes including @ Disney Animation which speaks with current Disney animators who were inspired by the film, a Deleted Character, The Real Little Mermaid: Live Action Reference Model, Part of Her World: Jodi Benson’s Voyage To New Fantasyland, Howard’s Lecture, Crab-e-okee along to your favorite songs and all the classic DVD bonus features. Availbale on 3-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + Music Download) for $49.99 SRP and 2-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack with Digital Copy (Blu-ray + DVD/ Digital Copy) for $44.99 SRP.

Monsters University – October 29
This Fall, Disney Pixar celebrates homecoming with the release of “Monsters University” on Digital HD and Digital HD 3D on October 8, 2013, followed by the 4-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, 3-Disc Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack, 3-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and On-Demand on October 29, 2013. Lots of bonus features, go behind the scenes on Pixar’s real life campus with multiple featurettes, view “Deleted Scenes” and featured is the animated short “The Blue Umbrella”.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol 30th Anniversary – November 5
Ring in the holidays with a new 30th Anniversary Special Edition of Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Disney’s timeless tale sparkles like never before on Blu-ray and Digital Copy, with fully-restored classic holiday shorts, plus all-new bonus features!

Make the season merry as Mickey, Goofy, Donald and all their pals star in a heartwarming retelling of Dickens’ unforgettable holiday tale. Ebenezer Scrooge (Scrooge McDuck) is far too greedy to understand that Christmas is a time for kindness and generosity. But with the guidance of some wise ghosts (Goofy and Jiminy Cricket) and a bunch of newfound friends, Scrooge learns to embrace the spirit of the season. Share this wonderful holiday treat with the whole family! Bonus features include: Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Yodelberg, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, Art of Skiing, Corn Chips, & The Hockey Champ. Available on Blu-ray Combo Pack (BD+DVD+eCopy), DVD (+ eCopy), or Digitally.

Winnie The Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year – November 5
Get ready to ring in the season with a full-length adventure straight from the heart of the Hundred Acre Wood. Join Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Roo and the whole gang in Winnie The Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year – now on Blu-ray™ and Digital Copy for the very first time. Newly re-mastered in digital high definition, this sparkling holiday classic is an inspiring celebration of friendship. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but Rabbit will only discover the true spirit of the season after his pals make misguided New Year’s resolutions to change – with hilarious and heartfelt results! Featuring beloved characters, delightful songs and fun-filled bonus goodies, this special Gift of Friendship Edition is sure to become a shared family tradition for generations to come! Bonus features include Disney Intermission: press “pause” and see the characters break into song and dance. Available on Blu-ray Combo Pack (BD+DVD+eCopy), DVD (+ eCopy), or Digitally.

Planes – November 19
Disney’s heartwarming family comedy, PLANES, revved up with high-flying action and adventure, lands in homes and mass retailers nationwide on November 19th. This endearing underdog story about a crop dusting plane named Dusty with sky-high dreams touches down on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD and On-Demand featuring a cargo hold full of exciting bonus features. Guaranteeing hours of fun, PLANES is the perfect gift for “ladies and gentle-planes” of all ages this holiday season.

Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United – December 3
Marvel makes history again with one of the greatest Heroic team ups in the universe. Hulk’s brute strength and Tony Stark’s high-tech intellect come together to create a powerful duo necessary to face off against one of the most dangerous enemies.

When “Zzzax,” a seemingly invincible, energy devouring monster threatens to destroy the planet, these two Avengers are mankind’s only hope. Alone, neither can defeat the awesome power of Zzzax. As a team, they just might have a chance – if they can find a way to work together without smashing heads before time runs out! This Marvel

Mary Poppins 50th Anniversary – December 10
Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke bring this timeless classic to life for the first time on Blu-ray. Bonus highlights include: “Mary-oke” an interactive segment that allows viewers to sing-along with famous songs from the film, “Becoming Mr. Sherman,” Saving Mr. Banks’ Jason Schwarzman reveals what it was like to take on the shoes of famed Disney musician Richard Sherman and the making of the Broadway musical.

The Lone Ranger – December 17
Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer star in The Lone Ranger, from Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Director Gore Verbinski. It’s a wild ride of high velocity action, explosions and gunfights that brings the famed masked legend to life through brand-new eyes. The Lone Ranger (Hammer), the last of his kind, teams with Tonto (Depp), a dark and mysterious vigilante, to seek vengeance after justice has failed them. It’s a runaway train of epic surprises, as these two unlikely heroes must learn to work together before the ultimate showdown between good and evil explodes.

DVD Review “The Cabbage Patch Kids’ First Christmas/The Little Troll Prince Holiday – Double Feature”

Starring: Danny Cooksey, Vincent Price, Jonathan Winters, Cloris Leachman, Don Knotts
Directed by: Ray Patterson
Distributed by: Warner Archive
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 71 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

I may be a boy but I did grown up in the 80’s with a little sister. I remember watching “The Cabbage Patch Kids’ First Christmas”, which originally aired in 1984. It has been many years since then but now with a daughter of my own. I was excited to introduce her to the classic 1980’s Christmas special. Along with that special also included is the 1987 special “The Little Troll Prince Holiday”. This one I am not too familiar with but I certainly know the all-star voice cast including Vincent Price, Jonathan Winters, Don Knotts and Cloris Leachman. My daughter really seemed to enjoy both films quite a bit and wouldn’t take her eyes off the TV for “Cabbage Patch Kids”. This films aren’t overly Christmas themed but it was nice to start getting into mood even though it isn’t even Halloween yet, but that won’t stop me. I am sure we will be revisiting these too titles quite a bit over the next few months.

Official Premise: Fire up your Yule log and get set for an early Xmas, courtesy of Xavier Roberts and a wannabe gnome! The Cabbage Patch Kids First Christmas (1986) finds the magical brood leaving the safety of their Georgia hidden patch in search of the Christmas spirit in the big city courtesy of  Ruby Spears. Beyond the protection of their human guardian Xavier Roberts and Colonel Casey the stork, the kids find that the big city has its own brand of menace, one very similar to their own… Can they find the Christmas Spirit in time to help a very special orphan? The second feature, The Little Troll Prince (1984), finds Hanna-Barbera mixings Scandinavian folklore with traditional holiday spirit for a charming concoction about a royal monster that trades in menace for a simple life of domestic gnome-dom.

These films have never before been released on DVD and thanks to Warner Archive for making this DVD possible. I swear, a month doesn’t go by that this company doesn’t give live to some rare and unique film that was collecting dust. I did notice though that the transfers of the films were not the greatest. On Warner’s website, it says that they have been manufactured from the best-quality video master currently available, but they also haven’t been remastered or restored. Nonetheless, they still were completely watchable presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The Dolby Digital audio track included works well with the music, especially the songs in “The Little Troll Prince Holiday”. There were no additional special features included.

Book Review “Sofia the First: Holiday in Enchancia”

Author: Catherine Hapka
Illustrator: Disney Storybook Art Team
Age Range: 3 – 5 years
Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
Series: Sofia the First
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Disney Press
Release Date: October 29, 2013

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

“Sofia the First” is easily my favorite children’s television show on TV and Christmas is my favorite time of the time. Put the two together and we have a match made in heaven here with “Sofia the First: Holiday in Enchancia”, which is the latest book in the series from Disney Press. I really hope that Disney Junior is also planning on turning this story into a TV special like “Sofia the First: The Floating Palace”. This book is a perfect way to get in the mood for the holiday season. It blends the wonderful feeling of the holidays with the charm of “Sofia the First”.

The story focuses around a snowstorm that prevents King Roland from returning home in time for the holidays. Sofia leads her family on a brave expedition to find him, and shows Amber that spending the holiday with loved ones is better than any present. Containing the tradition with the last book, this one includes a very special appearance by Princess Aurora from “Sleeping Beauty”. Like the past books as well, this is wonderfully illustrated and really captures the holiday spirit.

Once thing that I realized is that this book is actually quite smaller than the first two installments in this series. I am not sure why Disney Press decided to take that route but to be honest, I like the smaller format much more. This book comes out in late October and will give parents plenty of time to pick up and spread some holiday joy to the family. I think I enjoyed this book as much as my daughter did (but I am also an old softie when it comes to the holidays). Keep them coming Disney Press, I can’t wait to see what you have planned next for this series!

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To celebrate to holiday seasons and the recent release of AWOLNATION’s “Megalithic Symphony”, Media Mikes would like to giveaway the holiday prize pack (show above). If you would like to win one of this great prize, please leave us a comment below or send us an email and let us know your favorite song from AWOLNATION. This giveaway will be open until January 7th at Noon and is only open to residents of the United States. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Once the giveaway ends, Media Mikes will randomly pick out a winner and alert the winner via email.

Click here to purchase the latest album “Megalithic Symphony”:
http://awolnationmusic.com/category/music/

Official Sites:
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https://twitter.com/#!/AWOLNATION

DVD Review “Rankin/Bass TV Holiday Favorites Collection”

Created by: Rankin/Bass
Studio: Warner Archive
DVD Release Date: August 31, 2012
Run Time: 148 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When it comes to Rankin/Bass, they are the Christmas special gods! I always think about their specials when the holiday season comes around. This TV Holiday Favorite Collections includes some of the lesser popular titles like “The Little Drummer Boy: Book II”, “Pinocchio’s Christmas”, “The Leprechaun’s Christmas Gold” and “The Stingiest Man in Town” (which is the only one not using stop-motion “animagic”). I watch these specials every year on ABC Family. They are not the best of the best but they are still Rankin/Bass and they are classics.

Official Premise: Four family classics from the studio that helped make the holidays magic!: The Little Drummer Boy Book II: Starting where the original left off, Book II sends Aaron, the little drummer boy, off on a quest to aid Simeon, crafter of the silver bells. With Greer Garson and Zero Mostel. The Stingiest Man in Town: Rankin/Bass departs from its usual stop-motion “Animagic” process for this line animation adaptation of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. With Walter Matthau, and Tom Bosley. Pinocchio’s Christmas: After Fox tricks him out of a gift for Geppetto, Pinocchio sets out on an adventure to reclaim Christmas. Along the way he meets up with a beautiful marionette and a jolly old man in a flying sleigh. With Alan King. The Leprechaun’s Christmas Gold: A sailor and a leprechaun join forces to reclaim the Christmas gold after a wailing banshee makes off with it, thanks to the sailor’s blunder. With Art Carney and Peggy Cass.

If I am not mistaken, this release is the first time that “The Little Drummer Boy: Book II” has been released on DVD, so that is the main draw here. The other specials have been previously released before on DVD, but it is nice to have them in the spotlight for once. The specials look nice on DVD but like some Warner Archive releases have not been remastered but taken from the best quality master that is currently available. So they could use a little touching up but for me that has always been the charm of these films, which is their imperfections. I look forward to sharing these episodes with my daughter and revisiting these each year.

 

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2012 Holiday Movie Preview

Now that the turkey has been put away and the last piece of pie has been eaten it’s time to turn our attention to the upcoming Holiday Movie Season.  In the next five weeks the best (and sometimes the worse) of Hollywood will be coming to a theatre near you.  With early shots like “Argo,” “Lincoln” and “Skyfall” opening earlier this month, not to mention this summer’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” the race to the Oscars has begun in earnest.  Here is a list of films opening between now and the end of the year.  Some synopsis information courtesy of our friends at the Internet Movie Database.  As always, dates shown are subject to change at the whim of the studio.

 

NOVEMBER 30

 

CALIFORNIA SOLO

Starring:  Robert Carlye,  Kathleen Wilhoite and Savannah Lathem.

Directed by:  Marshall Lewy

A former British rock star, now living in the states, is arrested for drunk driving and faces deportation.  Writer/director Lewy also wrote/helmed the entertaining “Blue State.”

OSCAR CHANCES:  No

 

THE COLLECTION

Starring:  Christopher McDonald, Randall Archer and Emma Fitzpatrick

Directed by:  Marcus Dunstan

After escaping from the grips of a serial killer known as “The Collector,” a father is forced to attempt to rescue his daughter from the Collector’s warehouse.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Won’t scare up any.

 

DRAGON

Starring:  Kara Hui, Wu Jiang and Takeshi Kanashiro

Directed by:  Peter Chan

Hoping to retire to a quiet and more peaceful life a former martial arts master finds himself pursued by his former master and a skilled detective.  After premiering at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival “Dragon” finally makes it to theatres.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Unless it’s another “Departed” I’m going to say “no.”

 

KILLING THEM SOFTLY

Starring:  Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini

Directed by:  Andrew Dominik

A professional “enforcer” is called in to investigate a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Gandolfini chewing the scenery should be epic.

 

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER:  DAY OF RECKONING

Starring:  Jean Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren and Scott

Directed by:   John Hyams

After a home invasion claims his wife and daughter a man vows to take down Luc Deveraux (JCVD, baby!). If the WGA is to be believed it took no less than EIGHT people to write this thing.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Only if they give an award for most writers on a film heading straight to video by Valentine’s Day.

 

DECEMBER 7

DEADFALL

Starring:  Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde

Directed by:  Stefan Ruzowitzky

After a disastrous attempt to rob a casino a man and his sister accidentally end up at the same Thanksgiving celebration.  Nothing says “family” like Turkey and larceny.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Bana has a better chance playing the Hulk again.

 

THE FITZGERALD FAMILY CHRISTMAS

Starring:  Ed Lauter and Edward Burns

Directed by:  Edward Burns

If there’s an Irish surname in the title (“The Brothers McMullen,” “The Fighting Fitzgeralds”) you can bet it’s an Ed Burns film!  This one features Lauter as a father having Thanksgiving Dinner with his family 20 years after he walked out on them.  I sense a “Thanksgiving” theme coming on Pearl Harbor Day.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Actually Burns is a pretty good storyteller so….maybe?

 

HYDE PARK ON HUDSON

Starring:  Bill Murray and Laura Linney

Directed by:  Roger Michell

Remember the look on Bill Murray’s face when Sean Penn won the Oscar over him?  If early word is to be believed he may have a second chance this year with his portrayal of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Here, FDR hosts the King and Queen of England with the help of his distant cousin (and lover) Margaret Suckley.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Come on Billy Boy!

 

LAY THE FAVORITE

Starring:  Bruce Willis and Rebecca Hall

Directed by:  Stephen Frears

A sports gambler falls for a casino waitress who also has a way with laying a bet or two.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Frears has been nominated twice for Best Director but not sure if this is going to make three.

 

PLAYING FOR KEEPS

Starring:  Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel and Dennis Quaid

Directed by:  Gabrielle Muccino

A down on his luck former soccer player starts coaching his son’s team and meets attractive single moms, which I’m sure just makes him sexier in his ex-wife’s eyes.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Best Abs?

 

DECEMBER 14

 

THE HOBBIT:  AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

Starring:  Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and Ian McKellen

Directed by:  Peter Jackson

Bilbo Baggins journeys to the Lonely Mountain accompanied by a group of Dwarves to reclaim a treasure stolen from them by the dragon Smaug.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy earned 30 Oscar nominations and took home 17 awards.  I don’t see the well running dry any time soon.

 

STAND UP GUYS

Starring:  Christopher Walken and Al Pacino

Directed by:  Fisher Stevens

An impressionist’s dream as two of the most imitated actors EVER team up as a couple of old gangsters who decide to “get the band back together.”  Directed by the scientist who created Johnny 5 in “Short Circuit.”

OSCAR CHANCES:  Probably not but watching Walken and Pacino on screen together is award enough!

 

DECEMBER 19

 

MONSTERS INC. 3D

Starring the voices of:  Billy Crystal and John Goodman

Directed by:  Pete Docter, David Silverman and Lee Unkrich

Mike, Sully and little Boo return in the 2001 PIXAR classic with the added touch of the third dimension.

OSCAR CHANCES:  The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and won the Oscar for Best Original Song.  For you trivia buffs, it lost the Best Animated Feature award to “Shrek.”

 

ZERO DARK THIRTY

Starring:  Jessica Chastain and Chris Pratt

Directed by:  Kathryn Bigelow

Isn’t life funny?  You’re all set to make a film detailing the decade long search for Osama bin Laden when a team of Navy Seals raid his compound and pop a new asshole in his forehead.  Rewrite!  Bigelow and writer Mark Boal, who both won Oscars for “The Hurt Locker,” reunite for what is sure to be one of the most controversial films of the season.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Depending on the political climate in Hollywood, either a bunch or nothing.

 

DECEMBER 21

 

THE IMPOSSIBLE

Starring:  Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor

Directed by:  Juan Antonio Bayona

After being swept up in a terrible tsunami a family of five find themselves separated.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Friends who have seen it tell me the performances are wrenching.  Perhaps a nod for Watts?

 

JACK REACHER

Starring:  Tom Cruise and Rosamund Pike

Directed by:  Christopher McQuarrie

Based on Lee Child’s best-selling novel series, homicide investigator goes on a hunt for a sniper who has shot five seemingly random victims.  Writer/director McQuarrie won an Oscar for his screenplay for “The Usual Suspects.”  He also wrote “Valkrie” for Cruise and is the star’s choice to write and direct “Mission: Impossible 5.”

OSCAR CHANCES:   In real life Cruise is ten inches shorter than the title character…maybe best visual effects?

 

NOT FADE AWAY

Starring:  James Gandolfini and Christopher McDonald

Directed by:  David Chase

A group of New Jersey friends in the 60s form a band and aspire for the big time!  This is the feature film debut of “The Sopranos” creator Chase.

OSCAR CHANCES:  The 2nd time I’ve mentioned Gandolfini….could be an omen!

 

ON THE ROAD

Starring:  Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart

Directed by:  Walter Salles

Three friends travel across the country in a 1949 Hudson.  Based on Jack Kerouac’s classic novel, which despite being over five decades old, has never been adapted for a film.

OSCAR CHANCES:  When your source material is one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century an adapted screenplay nomination isn’t out of the question.

 

THIS IS 40

Starring:  Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann

Directed by:  Judd Apatow

If you really liked “Knocked Up” and left the theatre wondering what happened to the married couple with the cute kids you’re in luck!  This movie is all about them.  Nobody does funny/raunchy/sweet better than Judd Apatow.

OSCAR CHANCES:  The last comedy to win an Oscar for Best Picture was “Annie Hall.”  IN 1978!!

 

DECEMBER 25

 
DJANGO UNCHAINED

Starring:  Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson

Directed by:  Quentin Tarantino

Can it really be just 20 years since QT burst onto the scene with “Reservoir Dogs?”  Yes it can.  For his seventh feature (I count “Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2” as one film) Tarantino tells the story of a former slave turned bounty hunter who is searching for his wife, still being held in captivity by an evil master.

OSCAR CHANCES:  NEVER bet against the former Video Archives clerk!

 

LES MISERABLES

Starring:  Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway

Directed by:  Tom Hooper

March 1987.  I’m walking through Times Square at about midnight when I find myself face to face with Colm Wilkinson and Terrence Mann (the actor, not the character played by James Earl Jones in “Field of Dreams”) who were both starring in the new musical “Les Miserables.”  “Someday,” I told them, they’re going to make a movie out of that show you’re in!”  OK, the second part I made up.  One of the greatest musicals of all time finally makes it to the big screen.

OSCAR CHANCES:  If Jackman can pull of “Bring Him Home” then a noms in the bag.  Hathaway already seems like a lock.  Hooper took home the directing Oscar for “The King’s Speech.”

 

PARENTAL GUIDANCE

Starring:  Billy Crystal and Bette Midler

Directed by:  Andy Fickman

Old school grandparents  clash with their grandchildren when they are asked to watch them by their daughter.

OSCAR CHANCES:  If Bette ain’t singing it ain’t happening!

 

WEST OF MEMPHIS

Documentary

Directed by:  Amy Berg

In 1993 three young boys were brutally murdered.  Three teenagers were tried for the crimes and sent to prison.  But the evidence never added up.  Peter Jackson produced this story of the West Memphis Three, who were finally released from prison last year.  If you’ve seen the HBO “Paradise Lost” trilogy then you’re familiar with the story.

OSCAR CHANCES:  With the celebrity clout of such stars like Johnny Depp in their corner should be a lock for a Best Documentary Feature nod.

 

DECEMBER 28

 

PROMISED LAND

Starring:  Matt Damon and John Krasinski

Directed by:  Gus Van Sant

In this topical drama, a natural-gas company big shot takes on an environmentalist to debate the issue of fracking.  Damon and Krasinski wrote the script.

OSCAR CHANCES:   The last time Damon shared a screenwriting credit it was on a little movie called “Good Wil Hunting,” which earned him and Ben Affleck an Oscar.

 

QUARTET

Starring:  Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon

Directed by:  Dustin Hoffman

Forty-five years after “The Graduate,” Dustin Hoffman makes his directing debut with a film based on the acclaimed play by Ronald Harwood.  At a home for retired opera singers, the annual concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday is disrupted by the arrival of an eternal diva…the former wife of one of the residents.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Possibly.  This is the kind of movie the old guard at the Academy loves!

 

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Blu-ray Review “Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special”

Directed by: Tim Johnson
Starring: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Lucy Liu, James Hong
Jack McBrayer, Dan Fogler
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Dreamworks Animated
Release Date: November 6, 2012
Run Time: 25 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

Firstly, I am stumped that this short was not included on “Dreamworks Holiday Classics” release. As a stand-alone release, I really think that it is a toss-up to purchase unless you are a really hardcore “Kung Fu Panda” fan. What is good about this short though is that it brings back ALL of the original voice cast. It also doesn’t specifically focus on Christmas, it keeps it on a generic holiday angle so it is available to a more wide-audience. When it comes down to it though, this is a fun short for the whole family that will make you smile and get in the mood for the holiday season!

Official Premise: In this hilarious action adventure, Master Shifu calls on Po to host the year’s biggest event – the Winter Feast, a special time of the year to celebrate family, tradition and the awesomeness of Kung Fu! Po and the Furious Five must team up to throw the best celebration the Valley of Peace has ever seen. Can Po pull off the perfect party, impress his heroes, and discover the true meaning of the Winter Feast?

“Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special” looks stunning on Blu-ray in its super sharp 1080p transfer. It also packs a really impressive Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround track. Dreamworks did not cheap out on this at all. The special features are aimed at kids and are decent. There are various interactive features including “Learn to Draw Wo Hop”, “Kung Fu Panda Holiday Shuffle”, “Mr. Ping’s Noodle House” and “How to Use Chopticks”. I was hoping for a little more since this release just includes the 25 minute short but like I said decent overall.

Blu-ray Review “DreamWorks Holiday Classics”

Starring: Mike Myers, Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Dreamworks Animated
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Run Time: 85 minutes

Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 1 out of 5 stars

Christmas is right around the corner and “DreamWorks Holiday Classics” is the second compilation release after last months “DreamWorks Spooky Stories”. This release includes five Christmas-themed shorts, including “Shrek the Halls”, “The Madagascar Penguins in a Christmas Caper”, “Merry Madagascar”, “Donkey’s Christmas Shrektacular” and “Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury”. Though missing from this release is the previously released “Madagascar” short “Party With The Penguins”.  Also Dreamworks also released “Kung Fu Panda Holiday”, which could have been included in this release easily. Nonetheless, these Dreamworks shorts really bring the Christmas spirit and are just downright right.   If you own these shorts previously though, I wouldn’t say that they are worth the purchase but if you don’t the HD upgrade is worth it.

Official Premise: “Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury”: The Dragons are back in the exciting next chapter to the Academy Award-nominated film, “How to Train Your Dragon”. The epic story of Hiccup and Toothless continues as they take flight in a thrilling adventure to discover an island of ever-before-seen dragons. “Merry Madagascar”: When Santa and his reindeer crash onto the island of Madagascar, it’s up to Alex, Marty, Gloria, Melman and those wacky Penguins to save Christmas. Get ready for a sleigh full of laughs in this hilarious holiday classic. Also includes “The Penguins of Madagascar in a Christmas Caper”. “Shrek the Halls”: After promising Fiona and the kids a Christmas they’ll remember, Shrek is forced to take a crash course in the holiday. But just when he thinks he has everything for a quiet family Christmas just right, Donkey, Puss in Boots, Gingy and the rest of the gang decide to crash the party. “Shrek the Halls” is the greatest holiday tale that’s never been told until now. Also includes “Donkey’s Caroling Christmas-tacular”.

This release is delivered as a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack. The 1080p transfers looks amazing on each short. The colors are perfect and super crisp. The star of the release though is the Dolby True HD 7.1 track for “Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury” and “Donkey’s Caroling Christmas-tacular”. I was very impressed with these. The rest of the films include Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks, which are also stunning. The downfall though is that there is only one special feature included on this release, which is a sing-along version for “Donkey’s Caroling Christmas-tacular”. Lastly there is also some previews for additional DreamWorks titles.

DVD Review “The Garfield Show: Holiday Extravaganza”

Series Creators: Philippe Vidal, Robert Rea & Steve Balissat
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Distributed by: Vivendi Entertainment
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Episodes: 6
Running Time: 75 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When it comes to “The Garfield Show”, I have always been a fan. Of course it doesn’t compare to the classic Jim Davis cartoon but it is all we have right now. This release in particular is great since it focuses on my favorite time of the year, the Fall holidays. Well I guess I am not the only one since this release includes a hilarious collection Garfield’s favorite holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas! If you are looking for a fun pack of episodes that will surely get you and your family in the holiday mood, look no further.

The episodes included are “The Haunted House”, “Which Witch”, “Turkey Trouble”, “Caroling Capers” and “Home For The Holidays Part 1 & 2″. Oh course I am partial to the Christmas episodes but all of them are very entertaining. There is also a bonus episode included called “Heir Apparent”. Each episode is about 10 minutes and in that time it delivers a good dose of our feline friend and his clueless mutt….oh and Odie also 😉 Vivendi Entertainment has been releasing a bunch of these collections for this show and let’s hope that they continue in the future.

Concert Review “94.1 The Zone’s Presents: Rover’s Holiday Hangover”

“94.1 The Zone’s Presents: Rover’s Holiday Hangover”
Everlast, New Found Glory, Four Year Strong, Young Bloods, Velvet Elvis, Falling Forward
Date: Saturday, January 21st 2012
Venue: Main St. Armory, Rochester, NY

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

January 21st saw the arrival of Rover’s Holiday Hangover featuring Everlast and New Found Glory. The concert was put on by 94.1 The Zone which is one of Rochester NY’s most listened to stations. Like most radio sponsored events the musical line up was somewhat diverse and at times questionable in my opinion however each band put on solid performances for the near capacity crowd.

The Webster, NY based band Falling Forward kicked off the show playing their own blend of melodic infused metal which received a favorable welcome from those who showed up early for the show. Velvet Elvis followed and performed a drawn out set of what I would describe as sludge rock. The band had a couple moments where I questioned if they were at the level to play on such a bill. Clearly stopping their drummer to restart songs is not a plus in my book. The crowd responded to the band with a somewhat lack luster applaud as the band left the stage almost 40 minutes later. Home town favorites Young Bloods took to the stage next and worked the packed hall back into a frenzy that was complete with dozens of flying glowing sticks which were given out by the band prior to the start of their set.

Next to take the stage was thought to be Four Year Strong however due to an illness in the band only two members were able to perform. Prior to the start of their set it was announced that this would be the first time ever that people were going to hear some of their songs performed acoustically. The crowd seemed very thankful that even though the entire band was not present they still cared enough to come out and put on a stellar performance that sounded amazing.

Pop Punk heavy weights New Found Glory followed after a brief intermission and preceded to ignite the crowd into one mosh pit fueled, crowd surfing hodgepodge that had security working overtime. The band played hit after hit along with treating the crowd to a couple classic covers songs by Green Day and The Ramones. Everlast would close out the show playing his own blend of blues infused hip-hop. A quick survey of the crowd made me question the playing order of the night as I noticed quite a few people myself included heading for the doors after only three songs.

Overall Rover’s Holiday Hangover was a decent show. It would have been nice to have a more cohesive line up as I felt it may have held listeners attention better and not made them want to leave early. For a presale price of $10.00 and a door price of $20.00 you really could not complain especially in this day and age. 94.1 The Zone did a great job giving back to their listeners and I am looking forward to attending more of their shows.

New Found Glory Set List:
1.)    All Downhill From Here
2.)    Something I Call Personality
3.)    Radiosurgery
4.)    Understatement
5.)    Don’t Let Her Pull You Down
6.)    Hot or Miss
7.)    Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones Cover)
8.)    Memories and Battle Scars
9.)    Failure’s Not Flattering
10.)  Kiss Me (Sixpence Non the Richer Cover)
11.)  Dressed to Kill
12.)  Anthem for the Unwanted
13.)  Truth of my Youth
14.)  Head on Collision
15.)  Basket Case (Green Day Cover)
16.)  It’s Not Your fault
17.)  Intro
18.)  My Friends Over You