Nashville New Releases – September 30

There are a few films that will be released in the Nashville area this Friday, September 30. 
50/50 is the next bro-drama-comedy film starring Seth Rogen, but this time Joseph Gordon-Levitt is his right hand man.  Directed by Jonathan Levine, 50/50 is based on the true story of Seth Rogen and his fellow writing buddy Will Reseir who found out that he had cancer.  It’s a story of two best friends who find different challenging and humorous ways to deal with the fact that one of them has just been diagnosed with cancer.  The film sports an impressive supporting cast that includes: Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard and Anjelica Huston.  It’s currently sitting at a hot 93% on Rottentomatoes.
COURAGEOUS is the newest from faith-focused film from director Alex Kendrick.  COURAGEOUS is about 4 police officers who risk their lives at work and try to be good fathers at home.  There’s no doubt that if you were a fan of FACING THE GIANTS and FIREPROOF, then COURAGEOUS is right up your alley.
DREAM HOUSE is a mystery/thriller that stars Daniel Craig and Naomi Watts as the parents of a family that move into a new home.  They soon find out that the house was the location of a vicious murder of the previous family who lived their.  Daniel Craig and Naomi Watts are great actors, but this plot seems very familiar.  What’s not such a great sign is the fact that there are zero reviews of the film out on the day before its release.  Something tells me that this film won’t do so well with the critics or the box office.  We’ll have to wait and see.
WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER is the latest pass for a “sex comedy” starring Anna Faris.  She goes back down the list of all her ex-boyfriends to see if they can make it work.  If you’re up to the task of watching Anna Faris retrace her steps to what I’m sure will be token character ex-boyfriend after token character ex-boyfriend delivering unfunny lines until she finds the right one, then go to town.  My prediction is that the lessons learned are in the journey itself; for the guy she ends up with won’t have been an ex-boyfriend.  WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER currently stands at a 24% on Rottentomatoes.  My number will have to be higher than that to so see this movie.

Nashville New Releases – September 23, 2011

It’s that time of year again!  Fall is in the air, college football is on TV and almost every weekend another Oscar hopeful film comes out.  There are several new releases to the Nashville Area this week and one in particular that has some pretty serious Oscar implications. 
MONEYBALL is the one to watch this week; both in actually seeing the film as well as its progress throughout the 2011 awards season.  MONEYBALL stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Phillip Seymour Hoffman and is based on the true story of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, and his avant-garde approach to building a successful baseball team.  The film is directed by Bennett Miller, who also directed the Best Picture nominee, CAPOTE.  Aaron Sorkin, Adapted Screenplay Oscar winner for THE SOCIAL NETWORK, had a hand in writing the screenplay for this film as well.  MONEYBALL premiered recently at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival to great reviews, including 3 ½ stars by Peter Travers.  Despite its early release, MONEYBALL has major Oscar potential and could very well be in the best picture race.  It’s also one of my most anticipated films of the year.

ABDUCTION stars the non-sparkly, but hairy TWILIGHT boy, Taylor Lautner, who plays Nathan, this guy who finds out he was abducted when he was little.  ABDUCTION at the moment has 29 reviews with a 7% on Rottentomatoes.  It’s directed by John Singleton and stars: Jason Isaacs, Maria Bello and Sigourney Weaver, though if you’re like me you’d rather be stuck in space with an alien than in a theatre watching this film.  With a poster that straight ganks the vibe from the BOURNE IDENTITY, ABDUCTION’s early reviews all site a niche in the teenage girl department.  Knock yourselves out, girls!
If ABDUCTION isn’t intense enough for you, there’s always the yearly film in which Robert De Niro chops away at his once stellar career with a throw-away action/comedy flick.  This time it’s action, but the throw-away remains.  KILLER ELITE is directed by Gary McKendry stars Jason Statham, the go-to guy for action films and Clive Owen, another actor who we should keep an eye on lest he go off the deep end.
If you’re looking for something tame (or lame) this weekend, DOLPHIN TALE is actually getting remarkably positive reviews this early; being hailed as one of the best family films released so far this year.  The film is inspired by the true story of a dolphin that lost its tale, yet with the help of some token characters in the film, learns to swim with a fake tail.  Dolphin Tale is directed by Charles Martin Smith and has an all-star cast including: Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson and Morgan Freeman.  DOLPHIN TALE will also be screened in 3D if only for the water to splash you when he jumps into the air.

Wizard of Oscar – 1964

Main Events
First Ford Mustang made
Martin Luther King, Jr. receives Nobel Peace Prize
U.S. Surgeon General reports smoking may lead to 
lung cancer
Beatles first appearance on Ed Sullivan show
Winner: My Fair Lady
 – Mary Poppins
 – Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
 – Becket
 – Zorba the Greek

My Fair Lady ***1/2 out of ****
Director: George Cukor
Starring: Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn, Stanley Holloway, Gladys Cooper
Wins (12): Picture, Director, Actor (Harrison), Adapted Score, Sound Mixing, Art Direction (Color), Cinematography (Color), Costume Design (Color)
Nominations (8): Supporting Actor (Holloway), Supporting Actress (Cooper), Adapted SP, Film Editing
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Audrey Hepburn plays Eliza Doolittle, a poor Cockney girl who is the subject of a bet between to two linguistic experts, Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) and Colonel Pickering (Wilfrid Hyde-White). The challenge is to uproot her from her upbringing in the poverty-stricken streets of London and to transform her appearance, behavior and dialect so that she is unrecognizable.  Higgins and Pickering have lots of fun together with the wager and care very little for the feelings of Eliza.  The acting is superb, (Rex Harrison won for Lead Actor) and the musical numbers are entertaining.  This is an epic film that has a running time close to 3 hours.  That doesn’t bother me much this time since the film is entertaining and well done.  The costumes are incredible.  My Fair Lady has some of the most extravagant movie sets I’ve ever seen.  The sets in night-time London are larger than life and intricately designed.  My Fair Lady is based on the Broadway musical, which is based on the Broadway play by George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion.  The film really gives off that “play” feel, but it’s not necessarily stagey because the sets are so humungous.  Still, one gets the feeling that one is watching a live production.  The exchanges between Pickering and Higgins are well played and humorous.  I can’t help but notice the close relationship between these two gentlemen.  They fawn over Eliza’s for the sake of the bet, but take no interest in her emotionally.  On the contrary, they are more impressed with each other.  Moreover, Higgins takes great delight in the opinion of his mother.  Coupled with the lack of chemistry between Henry & Eliza, I can’t help but come to the conclusion that Higgins and Pickering are in love; a subtle point very much alive in the film, I think.  Such a close relationship between two male characters in a non-obvious way is a common theme through the Best Pictures of 1964. 

Mary Poppins  **** out of ****
Director: Robert Stevenson
Starring: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke
Wins (5): Actress (Andrews), Original Song, Original Score, Film Editing, Visual Effects
Nominations (13): Picture, Director, Adapted SP, Adapted Score, Sound Mixing, Art Direction (Color), Cinematography (Color) Costume Design (Color)
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Watching Mary Poppins takes me back to my childhood.  It’s great re-watching a film that I had seen so many times so long ago.  Little segments that mean little to the overall production are the very things that I had tucked away in my memory and which soared to the surface on this viewing.  Mary Poppins is based on a series of books from the early 30’s by P.L. Travers.  It’s impressive that a film which appeals so much to children can also appeal to the Academy in such a way that they would choose to nominate it as one of the best of the year.  Like My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins is set in London, but the tone and color palette have a more imaginative and creative element in comparison to the former.  From the canons on the roof to jumping into chalk pictures, Mary Poppins takes pleasure in its creativity.  The musical numbers are brilliant and the choreography is incredible (i.e. chimney sweeps).  Dick Van Dyke was left out in the cold without the nomination for supporting actor.  Julie Andrews won Best Actress for her portrayal as Mary Poppins and she is a pure delight on screen.  The film showcases one of the first and best uses of live action combined with animation.  I can’t help but compare Mary Poppins to the other film starring Julie Andrews, The Sound of Music, where here too she arrives on the scene to remedy the attitudes of unruly children.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb **** out of ****
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott
Wins (0):
 Nominations (4): Picture, Director, Actor (Sellers), Adapted SP
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
It may take a few viewings, but once Dr. Strangelove really sinks in it clicks.  Dr. Strangelove is cold war, nuclear war-fare satire with some of the best acting I’ve ever seen.  Stanley Kubrick was not just a stylistic director.  You can tell with Strangelove that he got the most out of his actors.  Kubrick’s trademarks are apparent, but they take a backseat to the performances of the actors.  The cinematography is a stark black and white (mostly black) and is conducive to its bleak and minimal art direction.  Dr. Strangelove is the perfect combination of humor and truth.  It’s a humorous, yet real commentary on the cold war and the state of the world at that time.  Everything from              political mumbo jumbo in the war room discussions to the double-checks of the double-checks of the pilots in the bomber are funny because it’s real.  George C. Scott was completely snubbed out of a supporting nomination.  He gives one of the best comedic performances in movie history.  Not only should he have won, but he should have edged out Van Dyke (not nominated) for the win.  Peter Sellers earned his Lead Actor nomination by playing three separate characters.  The War Room scenes are solid gold.  The absurdity of the laws, bi-laws, policies and procedures combined with the absurdity of the politician’s and the general’s conversations are hilarious, yet eerily real.  The finale, of course, is Sellers part as Dr. Strangelove, himself.  Bravo to the Academy to nominate this for Best Picture.
Becket **1/2 out of ****

Director: Peter Glenville
Starring: Richard Burton, Peter O’TooleJohn Gieglund
Wins (1): Adapted SP
Nominations (12): Picture, Director, Actor (Burton), Actor (O’Toole), S. Actor (Gieglund), Original Score, Sound Mixing, Art Direction (Color), Cinematography (Color), Costume Design (Color), Film Editing
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Becket is another one of those long, adapted, medieval films based on real characters.  It’s adapted from a Broadway play and T.S. Elliot book, Murder in the Cathedral.  Becket is about the complicated relationship of Thomas Becket (Richard Burton) and his good, close friend King Henry II (Peter O’Toole).  Henry is increasingly constricted by the power that the clergy holds and makes Becket, his chancellor, Archbishop of Canterbury in an effort to gain some of that power.  Of course, his plan backfires and the 2 good friends are split apart. The film is sort of serious at times, but most of the scenes between Henry and Becket are light-hearted, humorous and a little gay.  Henry’s womanizing verges on silliness and provides a lot of the “fluff” of the film.  His wing man, Becket, looks on as a mother who takes pure delight in her unruly child.  However, I wouldn’t say that this film is quite as long-winded as those other period pieces that tend to last forever.  Perhaps it is the light nature of the film that helps it move along, but light-heartedness becomes a problem when the tone turns dark.  It becomes difficult for the audience to go from light to heavy.  However, I can see how this got the Best Picture.  It’s got the cast, the sets, the costumes, decent writing and acting.  After all, this is Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole we’re talking about.  Becket conforms to the gay theme of the year as Henry and Becket are two peas in a pod.  Henry as good as says several times how he loves Becket and weeps over his absence.  It’s an undertone that shows its true colors perhaps a little more blatantly than was intended.
Zorba the Greek  *1/2 out of ****
Director: Mihalis Kakogiannis
Starring: Anthony Quinn, Lila Kedrova
Wins (3): S. Actress (Kedrova)
Nominations (7): Picture, Director, Actor (Quinn), Adapted SP, Art Direction (B&W), Cinematography (B&W)
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
I may be in the minority here, but that in no way hinders me from disliking this film.  Anthony Quinn is Zorba and he follows a young man, Basil, who is moving to Crete to reopen his family’s coal mine.  Zorba and Basil have quite the relationship not at all unlike those of Higgins and Pickering or King Henry II and Becket.  They live in a small house together.  They tinker around in a small town where nothing seems to have anything to do with the story.  There are a couple of scenes where Zorba dances.  I can only assume this is important or acts as some kind of plot point or bond between the two men since the film ends with Basil asking Zorba to teach him to dance.  Verily, the film returns to the rebuilding and repairing of the mine, but it never really devotes itself to this.  Like the dancing, the mine subplot is throw-away.  Now and then subplots with secondary characters occur, but this only makes the clock tick ever longer.  Zorba the Greek can’t seem to focus on what it’s about.  It never stays on any concept long enough to mean anything.  It’s not about the dancing, the coal mine, or the relationship between the two men.  It’s a bad film.
Should Have Won:     Mary Poppins
 Mary Poppins is the more engaging, whimsical, creative and entertaining film nominated in 1964.  It’s the best film and should’ve won.  My Fair Lady was just too big of a film to not win.  1964 is an improvement upon the milquetoast year that was 1963.  We still have those huge, epic, long films, but they are at least mildly entertaining and engaging in this year.  As is not uncommon, all 5 Best Picture nominees were also nominated for Best Director.  4 of the 5 films take place in Europe and the 5th film was directed by and starred 2 Brits.  Something interesting to note, all of the Best Picture nominees were adapted from a different source (Becket won for Adapted Screenplay).  It feels like the Academy was on an adaptation fix; something that dies out over the next few years.  Best enjoy the epics while they last because the film industry undergoes an epic transformation in the late 1960’s.  Goodbye the epic dominance and hello indies!  

The Belcourt Theatre Classic Film – September 9th & 10th

In the Nashville area, signs of fall are becoming more and more apparent.  With the beginning of a new season comes the ending of another.  The Belcourt Theatre’s fantastic summer program, Second Saturday Outdoor Cinema, comes to an end this Saturday, September 10th at sunset when it will screen the 1960 classic Hitchcock thriller, Psycho.  As usual, this screening is free, open to the public and will be projected onto the wall of the Belcourt.  Be sure to grab a good seat in the parking lot and bring snacks!  There’s nothing quite like the programming of the Belcourt Theatre and I can’t think of a better way to say hello to the fall than watching this classic film outdoors.
Also playing at the Belcourt this Saturday and Sunday is 1940 classic film, The Grapes of Wrath directed by the legendary John Ford and stars Henry Fonda.  This is an epic, beautiful film based on the John Steinbeck timeless novel written just one year previously.  The Grapes of Wrath is one of the greatest films ever made and it’s always exciting to have an opportunity to see such a film on the big screen.  The Grapes of Wrath sits at #23 of the AFI Top 100 and currently resides in my own personal Top 100 as well.  It was nominated for Best Picture in 1939 and John Ford won the Oscar for Best Director.  Henry Fonda was nominated for Best Actor and Jane Darwell won for Supporting Actress.  There are only 2 screenings for this film and following the 7:00 screening on Sunday, join the crowd at Fido’s across the street for Cinematic Conversations.  My gut tells me the discussion is about John Ford/Henry Fonda collaborations.  See below for The Grapes of Wrath Screenings
Saturday 10th – 1:55

Sunday 11th – 7:00       – Cinematic Conversations at Fido’s following the screening

The Belcourt Theatre – September 9-15

It’s that time of year where the Nashville Area becomes more acquainted with the upper echelon of the 2011 films.  Thanks in large part to the Belcourt Theatre, we Nashvillians have exposure to some of the greater films out there.  This year is no different.

September 9-12, the Belcourt Theatre will screen a 4-day run of Project Nim, the critically acclaimed documentary about the chimpanzee, Nim, who was raised like a human child by a real family and subjected to lengthy, sketchy studies in the 1970’s.  Project Nim is sitting on a strong 97% on and an 83 on Metacritic.  The film’s reputation precedes it; performing well at many film festivals including Los Angeles, Edinburgh, Full Frame and Sidewalk Film Festival.  It’s directed by James Marsh, the Oscar winning director of Man On Wire.  Project Nim is one of the most talked about documentaries of 2011 and is sure to rack up some accolades come awards season.  We have only 4 days to catch this film at the Belcourt so mark your calendars for this one.  See below for Project Nim’s schedule at the Belcourt.

Friday  9          4:30, 8:25
Saturday 10      12:00, 4:30, 8:25
Sunday 11        12:00, 3:00, 5:00
Monday 12      3:00, 7:00

Also beginning Friday, September 9th at the Belcourt Theatre is the British action/sci-fi/comedy, Attack the Block, about a gang of Londoners who come across a crash-landed alien.  As more of these creatures invade, the gang finds itself in an all-out street war with this group of misguided extra-terrestrials.  Attack the Block is directed by Joe Cornish (also screenwriter of the upcoming Spielberg film, The Adventures of Tintin) and is produced by the same guys who brought us Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  Attack the Block does not yet have an end date at the Belcourt, but don’t procrastinate.  You very well may want to see it twice.  Attack the block is set to play this Friday, September 9 through next Thursday, September 15 at 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, 8:00 & 10:00.

Franklin Theatre – September 9th – 11th

The Franklin Theatre is jam packed this weekend with movies for your viewing pleasure.  Busting right out of the gates, the Franklin Theatre wastes no time in providing continuous options for film lovers following a complete overhaul earlier this summer.  The Franklin Theatre is one of very independent arthouse theatres in the Nashville area.

SUPER 8 – Friday, September 9th – 1:20 PM
J.J. Abram’s science fiction thriller centers around a group of teenagers sneaking out I in the middle of the night to make a film.  What they witness turns their attention to more important matters and puts them right in the middle of a real-life monster movie?  If you’re looking for a fun time at the movies, then this is it.  Super 8 is one of the more exciting and nostalgic films of the year.

WINNIE THE POOH – Saturday, September 10th – 10:00 AM
Bring the whole family this Saturday morning at 10:00 AM where there will be a screening of the new Winnie the Pooh.  The film has received great reviews and currently sits at 91% on  This is a perfect opportunity to make a memorable moment with the family.  Get the kids up early, grab some breakfast Merridee’s or the Franklin Mercantile Deli and catch this screening of Winnie the Pooh.  You’ll be home just in time for a long nap and the Alabaama/Penn State game.

 ANNIE HALL – Sunday, September 11th – 4:00 PM
It’s “supposed” to rain this Sunday.  Would you like to know what Alvy Singer would do?  He would probably spend the day in a movie theatre.  To me, nothing sounds better than spending a rainy day indoors and watching one of the greatest films ever made.  What’s more, you get to see it on the big screen.  Woody Allen directs and stars opposite Diane Keaton in the ultimate romantic comedy.  Annie Hall won the 1978 Oscar for Best Picture and it sits at #35 on the AFI Top 100.  What better way to wind down the weekend?