Gangster Squad: Covert Cops, the Mob, and the Battle for Los Angeles by Paul Lieberman

A chronicle of the LAPD’s fight to keep East Coast Mafia types out of Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s.

Starring:  Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
Release date: 11 January 2013 (USA)
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks


A young woman with a mysterious past lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her.

Starring:  Cobie SmuldersJulianne Hough and Josh Duhamel 
Release date: 14 February 2013
Carrie by Stephen King

A sheltered high school girl unleashes her newly developed telekinetic powers after she is pushed too far by her peers.

Release date: 15th March 2013
The Host: A Novel by Stephanie Meyer


A parasitic alien soul is injected into the body of Melanie Stryder. Instead of carrying out her race’s mission of taking over the Earth, “Wanda” (as she comes to be called) forms a bond with her host and sets out to aid other free humans.

Starring:  Saoirse RonanDiane Kruger and William Hurt 
Release date: 29th March 2013
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald


Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner now living on Long Island, finds himself fascinated by the mysterious past and lavish lifestyle of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. He is drawn into Gatsby’s circle, becoming a witness to obsession and tragedy.

Release date: 10th May 2013
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks


A U.N. employee is racing against time and fate, as he travels the world trying to stop the outbreak of a deadly Zombie pandemic.

Starring:  Brad PittMireille Enos and David Morse
Release date: 21st June 2013
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones; City of Ashes; City of Glass by Cassandra Clare


When her mom is attacked and taken from their home in New York City by a demon, a seemingly ordinary teenage girl, Clary Fray, finds out truths about her past and bloodline on her quest to get her back, that changes her entire life.

Starring:  Aidan TurnerLena Headey and Lily Collins
Release date: 23rd August 2013
The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort


A New York stockbroker refuses to cooperate in a large securities fraud case involving corruption on Wall Street, corporate banking world and mob infiltration.

Release date: September 2013

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Recently, I flew to London to attend several days of the two-month-long The Genius of Hitchcock festival held at the British Film Institute’s Southbank campus.
Starting in June and ending after London’s yearly October film festival, the BFI pulled out all of the stops to honor one of their own…a British director who became an international sensation by helming such movies as Rear WindowVertigoNotorious and Psycho

The Genius of Hitchcock celebration caps off the year-long fund-raising push entitled Rescue the Hitchcock 9, a campaign to save nine of Hitchcock’s early British silent films.  These nine films are in dire need of restoration…without it, there is the chance they might be gone forever.
Being a BIT of a Hitchcock fan (OK…a little understatement —I’m obsessed), I would have loved to hunker down in London all four months, savoring classic after classic.  But, there is this little thing called WORK, not to mention MONEY, of which staying in London requires a lot.  So, alas, I settled on cramming in as many movies as I could in my limited time (five films, to be exact).
Have I seen all five before?  You betcha.  Do I own all five on DVD?  Yes, I do.  But, somehow, traveling over 3,700 miles to see movies I know by heart doesn’t seem all that silly to me.   Obsessed, I tell you!
Like I said, I saw five of Hitchcock’s masterpieces (sadly none of the restored “Hitchcock 9” were playing when I was there).  I watched a double feature of Shadow of a Doubt and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) on one night, followed by a double feature of Mr. and Mrs. Smith (no, not THAT one…the 1941 film with Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard…the only romantic comedy Hitchcock ever made) and Strangers on a Train on the next.

But, the crème de la crème, the pièce de résistance was the 3D showing of Dial M for Murder.  No, this is NOT NEW 3D…this is old, classic 3D.  This is when 3D was done for effect and not financial gain.  This is when 3D was not a marketing ploy.
I have a strong distain for the new wave of 3D films sweeping through Hollywood, though I am much more against 2D films being re-released in 3D, such as Titanic (1997) and Beauty and the Beast (1991).  When I saw Scorsese’s Hugo (which I heard nothing but great things about in 3D), I specifically sought out the 2D version.
Maybe I’m equating my lack of interest in modern 3D with my lack of interest in most contemporary animation.  Look at Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs —imagine how tedious and superior the animation process was back in 1937 and compare that with today’s inferior “computer” animating.  So OK, modern 3D is not that bad…but, RE-RELEASING already-shot films just to capitalize on the 3D bandwagon is the last straw.  Where will it end?
Dial M for Murder is different.  Hitchcock filmed it in 3D but it was released in 1954 in mostly 2D.  Aside from a limited 3D re-release in the early 1980s, most people have not seen Dial M for Murder in the original 3D Hitchcock intended it to be shown.  And, among filmies, it is supposed to be one of the best, if not THE best, example of 3D filmmaking.  And, after seeing it, not only does it not disappoint but I would have to agree that the use of 3D was amazing.
Unlike much of 1950s’ Hollywood 3D, nothing here is done just for the 3D effect (such as no paddleballs bouncing at the screen, a la The House of Wax (1953)).  Everything here is done for a reason…the use of foregrounds and backgrounds become more of a 3D element than in-your-face effects.  In one scene, the infamous purse that becomes a key item in the plot stands boldly in the foreground, with character action going on behind it.  The purse, a simple inanimate object, looks as if it is right in the audience’s lap.  And that is how Hitchcock uses 3D throughout the entire movie…subtly but OH SO effectively.  But then again, would we expect anything less from the Master himself?
Keep in mind that as long as Hollywood keeps making money off of 3D, they will keep making these so-so 3D movies and…even worse, keep re-releasing existing 2D movies in 3D.  If The Bridge on the River Kwai in 3D comes out in cinemas, I’m moving to Mongolia and living in among the yak herders in a nice yurt!
Madness, Madness.  Soapbox over.


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So, what did we think of the show?  Well, even though Billy (Crystal) was back, the show still lacked some of its verve and vibrance from previous years.  True, it was better than last year –but 2011 wasn’t exactly a good year to compare things with, right?  I mean at least Billy Crystal wasn’t stoned (or at least didn’t appear stoned) and he genuinely seemed like he was excited about hosting and being there.  One good thing I can say for sure — it was SHORT.  I cannot remember a year when the Oscars doesn’t hit the 3.5 hour mark.  VERY GOOD in the length dept.  In my own opinion, I could have done without the Cirque du Soleil and the overly self-serving montages of actors sharing why they love the movies.  We get it…they are IN movies, so naturally they will LOVE movies.  Move on!  
Aside from all of that, I thought Billy Crystal did a good job of keeping the show moving forward at a good pace.  Of course, there are always going to be draggy speeches and long, drawn-out parts (it is the Oscars after-all — this is the pinnacle for Hollywood’s ego).  Over-all, though, I thought the show was pretty entertaining. 
Now, for the winners (and losers).  I am still a little sore that I was deprived of another George Clooney acceptance speech.  And though Jean Dujardin was good in The Artist, Clooney was uncharacteristicly excellent in The Descendants…which is saying a lot considering that he’s usually gives strong performances (Solaris, anyone???).  And I though I love Meryl Streep like most other movie fans, I really, really wanted to see the double hit of Octavia Spencer (who won) and Viola Davis (who lost to Streep) from The Help.  Davis got a lot of flack from being in a movie where she plays a Southern maid and I thought she really knocked it out of the park, regardless of controversy.  Streep acted the heck out of Maggie Thatcher in The Iron Lady (just as Helen Mirren did several years ago with Queen Elizabeth II in her Oscar-winning performance in The Queen) but Meryl has won twice before and doesn’t need another Oscar to prove her worth.  An Oscar for Viola would have confirmed what moviegoers have known for a while: she’s a powerhouse actress who’s finally getting the acclaim she deserves. 
Just my two cents from someone who loves the Oscars, loves the movies and loves talking about both!


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Best Picture
War Horse
The Artist
The Descendants
The Tree of Life
Midnight in Paris
The Help
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Best Actress
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Viola Davis, The Help
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady *WINNER
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Best Actor
Demian Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist *WINNER
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Best Director
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist *WINNER
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

Short Film (Animated)
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore *
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

Documentary Short Subject
The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
God Is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Short Film (Live Action)
The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantic

Best Original Screenplay
Michel Hazanivicius, The Artist
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris *WINNER
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Asghar Farhadi, A Separation

Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Descendants *WINNER
John Logan, Hugo
George Clooney, Beau Willimon and Grant Heslov, The Ides of March
Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin, Moneyball
Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Music (Original Song)
“Man or Muppet” from The Muppets, Bret McKenzie *WINNER
“Real in Rio” from Rio, Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett

Music (Original Score)
John Williams, The Adventures of Tintin
Ludovic Bource, The Artist *WINNER
Howard Shore, Hugo
Alberto Iglesias, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
John Williams, War Horse

Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners *WINNER
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Visual Effects
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon

Best Animated Feature
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

Documentary Feature
Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

Sound Mixing
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon
War Horse

Sound Editing
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon
War Horse

Film Editing
Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Kevin Tent, The Descendants
Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo *WINNER
Thelma Schoonmaker, Hugo
Christopher Tellefsen, Moneyball

Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help *WINNER

Best Foreign Feature
In Darkness
Monsieur Lazhar
A Separation

Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle, Albert Nobbs
Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland, The Iron Lady *WINNER

Costume Design
The Artist
Jane Eyre

Art Direction
The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo *
Midnight in Paris
War Horse

The Artist
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Tree of Life
War Horse


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While I was on vacation recently, I attended the first days of the Bradford International Film Festival (BIFF) in Bradford, UK in the Yorkshire region of England.  The festival is sponsored by and held at the National Media Museum…which is one of the most visited museums in England outside of London.  Bradford itself has always been known for film…causing UNESCO to give Bradford the firstUNESCO City of Film” designation.  How did I find out about this relatively small festival?  Well, one of my favorite travelogue books is Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson, where Bryson tours his adopted homeland of Great Britain one more time before he moves back to America.  In Notes, Bryson talks of stopping in Bradford and checking out the only Cinerama screen in all of Europe.  Being both an Anglophile and a film lover, I just had to do more research on this place!  Cinerama, for all of those who are not film obsessed, was the three-camera mega-widescreen process developed in the 1950s to compete with the television market.  In the early 1950s, movie producers were losing millions and millions to television…meaning why should people go to the movies anymore since they had this great new medium of TV right in their homes?  So, Hollywood answered by giving the public something TV could never provide (today’s widescreen TVs try but are still not even close)… MAMMOTH SCREENS and the widest pictures ever imaginable.  Now, I know we have IMAX and even Omnimax now but still, Cinerama was superior.  Wikipedia describes this MUCH better than I ever could.
Ok, I digress…basically what all of that means is that I HAD to check Bradford out.  When I found out they had an annual film festival, I knew one year I would have to go.  So, I did.
Held in March since 1994, the BIFF is not “international” in the same sense as Cannes or Venice or Toronto.  I mean they show foreign films like the big festivals do, but there is little media coverage, very few people from abroad (I felt like the token American…not counting the few American filmmakers and dignitaries that were there), and the big celebrity names are limited to the award recipients, instead of the attendees (this year, Claire Bloom and Terry Gilliam were honored).  But, regardless of that, it was still an excellent festival.  I saw foreign films, documentaries, Canadian films, and many British films.  Most of the films were independents that might not make it to the Chicagoland area.
I would estimate that about only 20% of the new releases I saw will have a snowball’s chance of making it to the Chicagoland area…even on DVD.  The others are VERY, very small films with limited budgets and limited releases.  And this is why film festivals are key: at festivals, small films have a chance to been seen and noticed and even to thrive.
Would I go again?  YES…in a heartbeat.  Mostly because during my five days in Bradford, I never did get a chance to see a Cinerama film, which was my initial reason for wanting to come here.  Oh well, I will just have to go back!


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Now, this is not one of my favorite films ever, but, for a Quentin Tarantino film, it’s very strong…mostly because of its performance by Christoph Waltz as Nazi officer Colonel Landa. It’s a long film, and like Tarantino’s other works, it’s very stylized and very violent. But, it features performances that make it worth seeing and Waltz’s performance, in particular, propels this film from standard-violent-war-movie to an excellent work of cinema. Waltz steals every moment he is on screen…unlike most Nazi characters portrayed in movies (I’m especially thinking of Ralph Fiennes’ cold-blooded killing machine in Schindler’s List), Waltz plays Landa with a sincerity and seeming likeability. We think “what is he after,” since we never know what to expect with this quietly deranged character; his light demeanor constantly keeps us off guard. And Tarantino really does capitalize off of this stellar performance. Landa’s scenes are visually elegant and the cast in scenes with Waltz seem to be pulling out all of the stops to give their best performance to match Landa’s maniacal, yet pleasant chill. As for the movie on a whole, it is a new twist on the WWII years in Europe…told with a strong film and filmmaking element. For movie buffs (like myself), I did enjoy the dialogue between the characters about the movie industry and 1930s directors and actors, etc. And, whether you like that “Hollywood” angle or not, it is something that really has not been touched on in a major way before. The style is unique, as usual for Tarantino, and his brash, bold techniques add to the power and intensity of the film. If you can tolerate the violence, check this one out! It’s a far cry from Pulp Fiction, but it’s a strong film on its own…highlighted by exceptional performances.


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Interviews with Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand and Clint Eastwood, done with moderator James Lipton’s trademark blue question cards, do not get any better. Anyone who likes film, has an interest in the film business, or even just likes any one of these actors needs to see this. Lipton starts, as usual, with childhood question, but quickly moves into the acting process and breaking into the business. All four actors are candid and forthright…especially Streisand, who I expected to be more buttoned-up. Newman was Lipton’s first guest so you will also see the evolution of the show as well. Lipton focuses mostly on the acting process and getting to the core of how their individual method works. A great study on acting, actors and film in general!


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In the world of show business, there is a lot of material for comedy. And The Office (the British television show) creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant use every last one of the opportunities for humor until the well is dry and until the audience is laughing so hard they cannot get off the couch to put the next disc in. Again, Gervais acts in the series also, as he did in The Office and his comic timing is just brilliant. He plays a struggling actor who makes a living as an extra in movies and TV. Unlike most extras, his character sees all of his “extra” roles as small, bit parts which will lead to larger and better roles. Naturally, this is not always the case, which adds to much of the humor. A series of “real” famous actors as guest stars helps make this comedy series a real winner.


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Being as big of a film fan as I am, you would think I’d seen this one long ago. But, I never did. It was not intentional…just an oversight. Recently, I made up for that by finally watching the extended edition on DVD. This is a fabulous movie that will be around forever as a testament to filmmaking and movies in general. Destined to be a timeless classic, Cinema Paradiso tells the story of a man, Salvatore, who finds out his childhood hero has passed away. We are taken into his memory and back in time to his childhood when he first meets his hero Alfredo, a movie projectionist in a small-town cinema. Then, we move into Salvatore’s adolescence where, though Alfredo is still part of his life, his romance with a lady becomes Salvatore’s consuming passion. The movie comes full circle, back where it started with Salvatore as an adult and returning home to the town he grew up in. Cinema Paradiso is a masterpiece about filmmaking, love, regret, and loss. Just when you think it’s as good as it’s going to get, it gets better. Put off seeing this one and you’ll be sorry (like I was).


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