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Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

Fifty Alternatives to Fifty Shade of Grey

posted by jtotey
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Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in “Fifty Shades of Grey” (Focus Features)

The wait will soon be over for those panting in desperation to see the new Fifty Shades of Grey movie based on the best-selling book of the same name by E. L. James. It comes to theaters on Valentines Day with the attitude that this is what today’s woman wants in a romantic movie – a twisted tale of fantasy and domination. Even many Christian women have read the series while men everywhere are scratching their heads in confusion.

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If Fifty Shades isn’t your thing, you’ll be glad to know that you do have some alternatives. One is actually going head to head with Fifty Shades on Valentines Day, but appears to have a theme that is polar opposite. In fact, the latest preview for Old Fashioned actually pokes fun of the darker film.

“This Valentine’s Day,” says the trailer, “leave the door open to two souls who take the time to discover not manipulation but healing.” “Sexy corporate mogul” appears onscreen and a red line strikes through the words. Scenes then contrast the opposing stories: fantasy wealth and a contract to inflict pain  . . . or two down-to-earth, relatable people with failed romances, now finding their way to real love.

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Jonathan Patrick Moore and Lacey Chabert in "Christian Mingle: The Movie" (Home Theater Films)

Jonathan Patrick Moore and Lacey Chabert in “Christian Mingle: The Movie” (Home Theater Films)

The indie film, which has already won a few awards, focuses on a former frat boy who now runs an antique shop in a small midwestern town. A young woman rents the apartment above his shop. He is ultra conservative; she is much more of a free spirit. Both have been hurt from past relationships but somewhere they meet in the middle. It stars Elizabeth Ann Roberts, Rik Swartzwelder and Dorothy Silver.

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The odd thing about this promotion is that it is doubtful that the same audience attracted would be attracted to both films. Somewhere between these two films lies another indie film that is now available on DVD. Despite the film’s terrible name, the premise of Christian Mingle: the Movie sounds appealing. A 30-something marketing professional has it all – except a man. She wants a “good guy,” so she posts a profile on the dating website touting the virtues of her faith-filled life, which is basically a sham. Christian Mingle is by Corbin Bernsen and stars Lacey Chalbert and Johnathan Patrick Moore.

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Rik Swartzwelder and Elizabeth Roberts in “Old Fashioned” (Skoche Films)

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A in the Clouds  –  A Walk to Remember  –  Beastly  –  Beauty and the Beast  –  Bed of Roses  –  Better Off Dead  –  Big Business  –  Casablanca  –  Cinderella  –  Clueless  –  Emma  –  Enchanted  –  Ever After: A Cinderella Story  –  Family Man  –  Fireproof  –  Forever Young  –  Groundhog Day  –  It Could Happen to You  –  Lady and the Tramp  –  Ladyhawke  –  Leap Year  –  Maid in Manhattan
Marriage Retreat  –  My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding  –  New in Town  –  No Reservations  –  Notting Hill  –  Ratatouille  –  Return to Me  –  Roxanne  –  Sabrina  –  Sleeping Beauty  –  Sleepless in Seattle
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs  –  Tangled  –  Tarzan  –  The African Queen  –  The Apartment
The Hundred Food Journey  –  The Little Mermaid  –  The Love Bug  –  The Princess and the Frog
The Princess Bride  –  The Proposal  –  The Shop Around the Corner  –  The Wedding Singer  –  What’s Up Doc  –  While You Were Sleeping  –  You’ve Got Mail

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Paddington Will Win Over Your Heart

posted by jtotey
Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) arrives in London.

Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) arrives in London. (Photos: StudioCanal)

The TV commercials for the new Paddington movie do not do the movie any justice. The images of the little bear riding a bathtub down the stairs and the bewildered Mr. Brown look like the film Beethoven that replaces a bear for a St. Bernard. It’s not. In fact, most of the scenes in the TV trailer take place in the first few minutes of the film and there is so much more to see.

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What director Paul King does with the story is pretty magical. Yes, there is some slapstick that the kids will love, but those scenes are a lot more elaborate than someone slipping on a banana peel. Each is caused by a real mishap in the story – not something that was just tacked on to be cute. What makes this film shine, above and beyond many other children’s fair, is that it is well rounded for all audiences. There is plenty of dry humor for adults too. In addition, King chooses some truly unique ways to move the story along that gives the film its charming tone. There is no bathroom humor – except for the funny scenes that actually takes place in the bathroom!

Mrs Brown (Sally Hawkins), Paddington and Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent).

Mrs Brown (Sally Hawkins), Paddington and Mr. Gruber (Jim Broadbent).

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The movie has strong messages about family, marriage and taking care of people – or bears – less fortunate than you. In this case, the Brown family unit is broken. Not terribly broken – they are similar to many of our own families – but still broken. Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) is a worrywart who is constantly spewing random and off-based statistics of injuries that can happen to a person doing the most menial things. His son, Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) wants adventure in his life so bad, but it’s never going to happen while dad is around. Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) is a children’s book writer and illustrator. She is very “artsy” which annoys her daughter, Judy (Madeleine Harris). Living with the family is Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters) who might be a grandmother, but it isn’t clear.

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Paddington and Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville).

Paddington and Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville).

The story begins with old news real showing an explorer traveling to darkest Peru who runs into a small group of bears who would rather communicate with the man rather than eat him. We soon learn that two of the bears are the aunt and uncle of Paddington (his English name) and the story is set in modern times (though the film as a timeless look to hit). After a unfortunate event, the little bear is stowed away on a cargo ship and makes his way to a London train station with a tag around his neck that states, “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” Paddington is disappointed to find that England is not as friendly and as welcoming as he imagines. However, he meets the Browns in Paddington Station (where the bear get’s his English name) and goes home with them, but only for one night. Mrs. Brown is sure that they can find the explorer who had visited the bear’s home so many years earlier.

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Millicent (Nicole Kidman) and some sleepy guards.

Millicent (Nicole Kidman) and some sleepy guards.

Meanwhile, an evil taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) fancies having a little talking bear herself and sets out to trap him. As to be expected, the Brown family rallies together to save their new furry friend causing each to understand and appreciate each other better.

If you have never read a Paddington book, like I hadn’t, you might be surprised by how much you like this movie. The screening that I attended had adults that seemingly liked the film better than the children. There is nothing too scary for the little ones to be afraid of. Kidman makes a good villain similar to Cruela DeVil – a nasty woman but not too scary. The film is a hit in England and now we know why.

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The 87th Oscar Nominations are in

posted by jtotey
BestPicture

Copyrights (L-R): Working Title Films, New Regency Pictures, Warner Bros., Black Bear Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Cloud 8 Films and Bold Films

If you are an early riser, you may have caught the announcement of all the Oscar nominations for 2015. They were presented this morning at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Directors Alfonso Cuaron and J.J. Abrams joined actor Chris Pine and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs in delivering all 24 categories. The Academy Awards will be presented live on February 22 on ABC and will be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. Here is the list of all of the nominees in the order that they were presented.

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And the Nominees are:

  • Animated Feature Film: Big Hero 6, Song of the Sea, The Boxtrolls, The Tale of Princess Kaguya and How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • Documentary Feature: CitizenFour, Finding Vivian Maier, Last Days in Vietnam, The Salt of the Earth and Virunga
    Documentary Short Subject: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, Joanna, Our Curse, The Reaper (La Parka) and White Earth
    Film Editing: American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game and Boyhood
    Original Song: “Everything is Awesome” (The Lego Movie), “Glory” (Selma), “Grateful” (Beyond the Lights), “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me) and “Lost Stars” (Begin Again)
    Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Interstellar, Into the Woods and Mr. Turner
    Animated Short Film: The Bigger Picture, The Dam Keeper, Feast, Me and My Moulton and A Single Life
    Live Action Short Film: Aya, Boogaloo and Graham, Butter Lamp, Parvaneh and The Phone Call
    Sound Editing: American Sniper, Birdman, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Interstellar and Unbroken
    Sound Mixing: American Sniper, Birdman, Interstellar, Unbroken and Whiplash
    Visual Effects: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar and X-Men: Days of Future Past
    Best Actor: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Michael Keaton (Birdman) and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
    Best Actress: Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Reese Witherspoon (Wild), Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
    Best Supporting Actor: Robert Duvall (The Judge), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) J.K Simmons (Whiplash) and Edward Norton (Birdman)
    Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), Emma Stone (Birdman), Laura Dern (Wild), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods) and Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
    Cinematography: Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ida, Mr. Turner and Unbroken
    Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Inherent Vice, Into the Woods, Maleficent and Mr. Turner
    Directing: Alejandro Gonzalez (Birdman), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)
    Foreign Language Film: Ida Leviathan, Tangerines, Timbuktu and Wild Tales
    Makeup and Hairstyling: Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Guardians of the Galaxy
    Original Score: The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Interstellar, Mr. Turner and The Theory of Everything
    Adapted Screenplay: American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, The Theory of Everything and Whiplash
    Original Screenplay: Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Nightcrawler
    Best Picture: American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Birdman, Selma, The Theory of Everything, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash

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Octavia Spencer and Kevin Costner Take Sides in “Black or White”

posted by jtotey
Jillian Estell and Kevin Costner star in "Black or White." (Relativity)

Jillian Estell and Kevin Costner star in “Black or White.” (Relativity)

Racial tensions run high both on screen and off for the film Black or White. Though the movie won’t be released until January 30th, the film did premier at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Reviews of Kevin Costner’s performance of a widowed grandfather have been generally favorable but early reviews of the film have been mixed.

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Like other racially charged movies like The Help and The Blind Side, the movie has been criticized of white-washing. “This is a tiresome interracial custody dramedy in which white non-guilt righteously dukes it out with black melodrama,” says Wesley Morris of Grantland. Kevin Jagernauth of The Playlist had this to say: “The film’s sentiments are so hollow they wind up doing an injustice to the very real problems that exist in a world where racial inequality and the myriad of concerns the spring from it, are far more complex than simply black and white.”

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Still other critics are more forgiving:

“The filmmaker and his on-screen proxies boldly go places our national discourse desperately needs to go, yet rarely does.” (Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times)

“A broad but touching dramedy about the racial barriers that divide us and the family ties that bind.” (Jordan Mintzer, Hollywood Reporter)

All that chatter makes me look forward to the film all the more.

In case you are unaware of the film, the story centers on the recently widowed Elliott Anderson (Kevin Costner) who has raised his granddaughter, Eloise since his own daughter died in childbirth. While trying to adjust to the new normal, he gets notice from Eloise’s grandmother, Rowena (Octavia Spencer), that she is demanding that Eloise be handed over to Reggie, the biological father, who is also a drug addict.

The film is written and directed by Mike Binder and also stars Gillian Jacobs, Jennifer Ehle, Anthony Mackie and Bill Burr.

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