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The third and last (?) in the Richard Linklater directed and Julie Delpy/Ethan Hawke starring series, Before Midnight again features more dialogue and banter between characters than plot. But, after three movies, we are used to that and we know these characters so well, we pretty much know what they are going to say and do. Not that this is a good or bad thing…but it’s comfortable. Like an old pair of slippers, these films have charmed us, endeared us, and romanced us. A little refresher on the series: Before Sunrise (1995) is set in Vienna and has Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) meeting on a train and taking a risk by spending the whole day with each other. They talked and walked and laughed and talked and walked and laughed some more. As they fell in love, so did we with them.

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captain-phillips

I have issue with movies based on real stories where I know the ending…mostly because it kills the suspense. Titanic: No matter how much Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet love each other, the boat will still sink. Marie Antoinette: She tells the French people to eat cake and then she loses her head. Joan of Arc: She inspires France and gets burnt at the sake for her troubles. Now, I know Hollywood takes a lot of liberties with endings (adaptations rarely end exactly as they do in the book or on the stage, etc.) But, even the fickle movie industry would never be so brazen enough to change the ending of a real life tale, right? Titanic 2: It’s Didn’t Sink will never be produced, right? (Well, hopefully!)

So, in Hollywood’s latest string of based-on-real-life movies (Dallas Buyers Club, The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave), one stands out for me, EVEN THOUGH I was pretty sure I knew how the movie was going to end. Captain Phillips is based on a book by, that’s right, Captain Richard Phillips. Chances are (and I’m just GUESSING here) if he was able to write about his death-defying experience, he most likely survived. Again, I’m JUST guessing. So, what does this tell us…that we know the ending. Darn, another Titanic. But, wait. Not this movie. Captain Phillips is a wild ride, a fast-paced, highly enjoyable thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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BlueJasmine

I have made no secret that one of a handful of my favorite movies of the 21st Century is Woody Allen’s Match Point. I liked Midnight in Paris (2011) a lot. I enjoyed Cassandra’s Dream (2007), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) and To Rome with Love (2012). But, for me, 2005’s Match Point is Allen’s 21st century masterpiece.  Why?  Well, it’s not Allen’s usual depressed, anxious and, at times, tedious schtick.  That worked fine in his early films, ala Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979) but over time, it just got overdone and overused.  Also, Match Point is far from Allen’s usual comfort zone…it’s NOT set in New York and it’s not a comedy —in any way.  Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) also can be seen as an Allen drama, as could Interiors (1978) and September (1987), but those still have some of Allen’s trademark nervousness (Crimes and Misdemeanors even features Allen in a role where he acts in his usual Allenesque way).  Match Point does not feature any characters with serious neuroses. Yes, they are troubled but they are troubled in a calm, passionate way…not in a psychological, overly-emotional manner.

So, what do we have in Blue Jasmine, Allen’s latest film?

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Well, they are finally here…the 2014 Oscar nominations.

Announced EARLY in the morning (7:30am CST) on Jan. 16, the Academy Awards nominations capped what has been a very competitive and very active film year, as they do every year.

We’ve already had the Golden Globes. Most critics from around the country (and the world) have given their “Best of” film lists. All major awards have already posted their nominations…the Screen Actors Guild, the British Academy of Film and Television, the Directors Guild of America, the Independent Film Spirit Awards. All we were waiting for was the Oscars. And now, they are here.

Who or what film was overlooked? Who or what film was a surprise pick? Did you want Tom Hanks to be nominated for Captain Phillips, not to mention for Saving Mr. Banks? Well, he was not…for either film. Did you want James Gandolfini to get nominated for Enough Said? Well, sorry, the late actor was also overlooked. But, if you are a fan of Sally Hawkins or Christian Bale, you are in luck since they both snagged nominations this morning, relatively unexpectedly. 

Who do you think will win on Oscar Night, Mar. 2?

Enter our “Pick the Winners” Oscar contest (starting on Feb. 1), where you will vote in eight of the major Oscar categories for your chance to win “A Night Out in Niles” with gift cards to Portillos and to the theaters in Golf Mill.

Stay tuned to this blog for more Oscar news over the next coming weeks!

Here is the complete list of nominations:

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In the first big awards show of the season, the Golden Globes showed off Hollywood’s best assets of 2013 in both film and television.

Without a single film sweeping all of the big awards, the show spread the love among a whole range of films, from 12 Years a Slave to American Hustle to The Wolf of Wall Street to Dallas Buyers Club to Blue Jasmine to Gravity.

Though American Hustle won two acting awards, as well as Best Musical/Comedy, Dallas Buyers Club also won two acting awards and has new-found momentum leading into Oscar season.  12 Years a Slave‘s acting shut-out did not stop that movie from taking home the Best Drama statuette.

Will these winners (and losers) help gauge the Oscar nominations out this Thursday, January 16?  Or will the Academy, as it usually does, walk to the beat of its own drummer?

Here’s a list of winners and nominees in all the categories. Tip: Click on the links to place a hold on the film before it comes out on DVD!

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lord-of-the-rings-trilogy

When the weather is frightful, such as the New Year’s holiday snowstorm and last week’s frigid arctic cold, there are certain movies that will do the trick when you’re stuck at home.

And that’s where franchise series movies sweeps in to save the day.

For those who prefer to cozy up on the couch, sipping a hot beverage (hot coffee for me) in front of the TV, these types of films have the power to save the day and definitely suits your entertaining needs. You’re not just watching a single movie with a singular narrative, but rather a string of movies that share a common world, some with an overarching storyline such as the blockbuster Lord of the Rings and Back to the Future trilogies.

These types of movies will certainly keep you occupied when you’ve got nothing else you’d rather do but relax. Rather than fingering through a vast array of movies to watch, these shared movies have the power to pull you in like a good cliffhanger; they rope you into coming back for more.

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Christmas is finally here, which means that another month of listening to Christmas music is finally over.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate Christmas music — I  loved listening to my dad’s Alfred Burt vinyl every December while growing up. I’m also pretty sure I could whistle the entire Nutcracker Suite from beginning to end. But now I can go back to listening to my favorites, the music that has stuck with me all through the year whether waking up in the morning, driving, working, working out, relaxing on the couch or getting ready for bed at night.

One of the things I look forward to most at the end of each year is sifting through all the “best of” music lists; it’s a chance to discover all the great music that I’ve missed, and also to wonder about other people’s musical tastes. I also like to compile my own list each year. It’s based entirely on the number of plays that each song gets on my iPod, so I make no claims about it being “the best.” This is the music that I love, the music that has gotten me through an entire year of living; the music that I’ve shared with my friends to help them pull through, too. So here are some of my favorite albums and songs of 2013. Maybe there’s something here that’s new for you, something you’ll love or something that you’ll really hate. Either way, we’d love to hear about it, and about your favorites of 2013, too.

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