IN THEATERS – JANUARY 7TH, 2011

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Slim choices in movie theaters this weekend – there is just one new wide release hitting theaters.

Season of the Witch stars Oscar winner Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman (Hellboy), as a heroic Crusader and his fellow soldier who must take a suspected witch to a monastery.

The journey is rough and it tests their strength and courage. Eventually, they do discover the girls secret and end up battling a frighteningly powerful force that could determine the fate of the world.

IN THEATERS – DECEMBER 31ST, 2010

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Another Year stars Jim Broadbent and Leslie Manville as Tom and Mary, a married couple who have managed to remain happy, despite the collection of unhappy friends, relatives and colleagues. The film is the product of Director Mike Leigh, who has a great track record with relationship movies (Secrets & Lies, Vera Drake).


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Blue Valentine centers on married couple Dean and Cindy (Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams), whose life is charted through the years, looking both forward and back at their relationship in different time periods as their marriage hits the rocks.

RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN SAYS GAY ACTORS SHOULD STAY CLOSETED

Richard Chamberlain

Richard Chamberlain

TV and film star Richard Chamberlain tells other gay actors not to announce their sexual orientation as he did in 2003.

“Please, don’t pretend that we’re suddenly all wonderfully, blissfully accepted,” Chamberlain told The Advocate.

Today Chamberlain is 76 and still works regularly in TV in both gay and straight roles.  In the early ’60s he was a household name as the star of the Dr Kildare TV series.

“It’s complicated. There’s still a tremendous amount of homophobia in our culture. It’s regrettable, it’s stupid, it’s heartless, and it’s immoral, but there it is.  For an actor to be working is a kind of miracle, because most actors aren’t, so it’s just silly for a working actor to say, ‘Oh, I don’t care if anybody knows I’m gay’ — especially if you’re a leading man.”

“TRUE GRIT” REIMAGINED BY THE COEN BROTHERS

Jeff Bridges (left) and Hailee Steinfeld (right) star in the 2010 version of "True Grit."

Jeff Bridges (left) and Hailee Steinfeld (right) star in the 2010 version of the classic western, "True Grit."

I am a huge fan of the original 1969 version of True Grit starring John Wayne. His portrayal of the gravel-voiced, grumpy-mannered Rooster Cogburn is the type of performance awards are made of. In fact, Wayne won the Best Actor Oscar for his work in that classic western.

I am also a huge fan of the Coen Brothers (No Country for Old Men), so I was eager to see what sort of spin they would put on the remake starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld.

Like the original, Rooster Cogburn (Bridges) is hired by Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) to find Tom Chaney (James Brolin), the man who murdered her father. Matt Damon plays LaBeouf, the U.S. Marshall also searching for Chaney for the killing of a Texas senator.

I did like the flick, though I did have problems with a few of the situations. There was a lack of clarity for me where the evil Tom Chaney (Brolin) was concerned. He was clearly a killer, but a bit of a child, too, when it came to his dealings with Lucky Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper) and his ruthless gang of outlaws. He sort of wimped out when dressed down by the gang. And, despite the film’s leisure pace, we never really get an understanding of why the gang is considered to be so brutal.

The performances, however, were near perfect, especially Steinfeld, who gives Mattie Ross the weight and determination she needs. Steinfeld, who was just 13 years old when she shot the pic, created a wisdom in Mattie that translates well beyond her teen years. And, she’ll be the one to watch during awards season, which is now looming large. Don’t be surprised if Steinfeld not only receives an Academy Award nomination, but also the win for her powerful acting performance.

Bridges had big shoes to fill as Rooster Cogburn, and he does it well. Bridges brings the same intense concentration he’s demonstrated in his past roles to the character of Cogburn, the hard-drinking, tough-living lawman. And Matt Damon is equally impressive as the U.S. Marshall hell-bent on bring Chaney to justice in Texas.

I admire the fact that Joel and Ethan Coen didn’t set out to copy the classic scenes from the first True Grit. Still, there are exhilarating moments from the ’69 version that would have served the story well, especially the ending.

OK, I can let go of the lasting impression of Rooster Cogburn jumping that fence on horseback, but I wasn’t able to reconcile the finish of the remake, which was a downer by anyone’s standards.

Posted by Mari Cartel

“THE FIGHTER” AND “RABBIT HOLE” – THE MOST UNHAPPY PEOPLE ALIVE

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Mark Wahlberg (left) and Christian Bale (right) star in "The Fighter."

What the heck am I missing?

Both The Fighter and Rabbit Hole have received oodles of praise from critics and neither film came close to cracking my top 10 list for the year.

The Fighter stars Mark Wahlberg as Irish boxer, Mickey Ward, who came from a boxing family. His drug-addled half-brother, Dicky Ecklund (Christian Bale), is living off of the glory that he went the distance in the ring opposite Sugar Ray Leonard, though he still lost the fight by a unanimous decision.

The mother of the two brothers, Alice Ward (Melissa Leo) has dedicated her life to managing her boys’ boxing careers, but it’s completely obvious that Alice favors her firstborn, Dicky.

Miles Teller (left) and Nicole Kidman (right) star in "Rabbit Hole."

Miles Teller (left) and Nicole Kidman (right) star in "Rabbit Hole."

In Rabbit Hole, Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart take on the heavy roles of Becca and Howie, grieving parents of their young son, who has been killed in a tragic accident.

They begin group therapy where they meet other parents who have suffered the same loss, but Becca seems to have trouble connecting to the people there, but also to the therapy itself.

Her difficulties coping become even more distressful after her sister, Izzy (Tammy Blanchard) becomes pregnant with her first child.

I get why these two films, on the surface, would be considered Oscar bait, but for my money, these pics remind us of true feelings, but lack real emotion.

More importantly, their stories failed to connect with me because the characters were so unlikable. I couldn’t have cared less about each family’s personal tragedies – whether it was the pain of Becca losing her child or the rejection Mickey endured from his insensitive mother.

Though I will add that Wahlberg delivers a powerfully understated performance

There are Oscar-winning films I’d watch again and again (upbeat or not). Movies like Midnight Cowboy, Gentlemen’s Agreement, On the Waterfront or Schindler’s List, to name a handful. They are the type of movies that stand up against the test of time with characters that draw you into their journey. The Fighter and Rabbit Hole are two movies that clearly don’t fall into that category – at least not in my world.

Did you see either pic? If so, what did you like or dislike about the stories? Let us know.

Posted by Mari Cartel

IN THEATERS – CHRISTMAS 2010

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The Little Fockers reunites the cast from the previous two movies, Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, for another romp with the family. This time their mischievous son makes their lives Hell. The pic stars, of course, Robert DeNiro, Blythe Danner, Ben Stiller, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson, Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman.

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Gulliver’s Travels get a do-over in 3D with Jack Black as Gulliver, a travel writer, who takes on an assignment in Bermuda and winds up in Liliput, where he’s a giant to Liliput’s tiny citizens. Needless to say, this isn’t the Gulliver’s Travels of your childhood.

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True Grit, is the remake of the 1969 classic western that earn John Wayne his Academy Award. The Coen brothers have taken the story and cast Jeff Bridges in the Wayne role of Rooster Cogburn and Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney, the rotten killer who Cogburn and his young employer Maddie Ross (Hallee Steinfeld) are chasing down to avenge her father’s murder.