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PCR #453 (Vol. 9, No. 48) This edition is for the week of November 24--30, 2008.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
Winter Movie Preview

Commentary by:
Michael A. Smith

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"Bolt"  by Mike Smith
Winter Movie Preview by Mike Smith
DVD Review: “The Starlost: The Complete Series”  by ED Tucker
Sports Talk Returns .... Rays Lost The Series .... Melrose Evicted From Place .... Nfc South: Best In League? .... What’s Wrong With The Pack? .... TNA Taking Off .... Thanksgiving Football .... NFL Picks Next Week!!!  by Chris Munger
Gobble, Gobble  by Matt Drinnenberg
Passing On .... Trek Fans Be Warned .... So That's Where He Went .... So How Is Elvis Doing? .... And The Oscar For 1951 Should Have Gone To...  by Mike Smith
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As you head to the fridge for another turkey sandwich, you may decide to take the time to check out some of the snacks Hollywood has in store for us this holiday season. Action. Adventure. And, of course, the majority of the Oscar bait the studios seem to love to cram into the last six weeks of the year. As in past years, I’ll state up front that opening dates are subject to change at the whim of the film company (some films will open earlier in New York and Los Angeles) and that some synopsis information was provided by the ever valuable Internet Movie Data Base.


Starring: Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann

Described by director Luhrmann as “the Australian ‘Gone With the Wind,’” this epic (almost three hour) film teams up two of Australia’s biggest star with one of it’s most successful directors. Set in northern Australia before World War II, an English aristocrat (Kidman) inherits a sprawling ranch and reluctantly pacts with a stock-man (Jackman) in order to protect her new property from a takeover plot. As the pair drive 2,000 head of cattle over unforgiving landscape, they experience the bombing of Darwin, Australia, by Japanese forces firsthand. OSCAR CHANCES: Hollywood loves epics and, to some extent, former Oscar-winner Kidman. Jackman gets to show he’s much more then Wolverine, which isn’t a bad thing.

Starring: Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn
Directed by: Seth Gordon

When their holiday vacation flight is canceled, a couple is forced to share the holidays with their divorced parents. Director Gordon makes his feature film debut following his acclaimed documentary “The King of Kong.” OSCAR CHANCES: Ironically, no. I say this because not only does Witherspoon have an Oscar for her role as June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line” but so do all four actors playing the parents (Robert Duvall, Jon Voight, Sissy Spacek and Mary Steenburgen.) Certainly the most Oscar winners for your buck this season.

Starring: Sean Penn, James Franco and Josh Brolin
Directed by: Gus Van Sant

In 1977, Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. 11 months later he and San Francisco Mayor George Mascone were murdered by Dan White, a former city councilman. This movie has been “in production” for years, with Robin Williams slated to star at one time. OSCAR CHANCES: Penn is always award worthy and Brolin, who plays Dan White, just gets better and better. With the recent Proposition 8 vote in California, this film could split academy voters, though nominations for Best Picture and director Van Sant are pretty certain.

Starring: Jason Statham
Directed by: Olivier Megaton

Once again, Frank Martin (Statham) drives recklessly and kicks major butt in order to deliver his new “package.” OSCAR CHANCES: Nope.


Starring: Ray Stevenson
Directed by: Lexi Alexander

The Punisher is back. Why? I don’t know. The best part of the first movie was the infighting between star Tom (Don’t Call Me Thomas) Jane (and about 10 minutes of Roy Scheider on screen). Unless Lionsgate insists on calling Stevenson “Raymond” I don’t see the interest. OSCAR CHANCES: Zip!

Starring: Adrien Brody, Beyonce Knowles and Jeffrey Wright
Directed by: Darnell Martin

The story of Chess Records founder Leonard Chess (Brody) and some of the talents he discovered. Knowles is the incomparable Etta James; Wright is Muddy Waters. Also look for Mos Def as Chuck Berry. OSCAR CHANCES: Biographies do well at Oscar time and Knowles is said to be sensational.

Starring: Frank Langella and Michael Sheen
Directed by: Ron Howard

In 1977, Richard M. Nixon, still living in disgrace after Watergate, needed money so he agreed to a series of televised interviews with British journalist David Frost. OSCAR CHANCES: Langella won the Tony Award for the Broadway show and director Howard is always Oscar bait. Look for nods for the film and Sheen as well.


Starring: John Leguizamo and Debra Messing
Directed by: Alfredo de Villa

A Latino family gathers for the holidays….comedy ensues. OSCAR CHANCES: Nada.

Starring: Benecio Del Toro
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

If you’ve been waiting for a four hour biography of Argentinean revolutionary Che Guevara then have I got the movie for you. By the time it hits most cities it will have been split into two films (“The Argentine” and “The Guerrilla”), to be released on the same day. OSCAR CHANCES: Both Del Toro and Soderbergh already have them but Del Toro is an Academy favorite. Four hours on screen might deserve some kind of award.

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly and Jaden Smith
Directed by: Scott Derrickson

I have to admit that when I heard about this film I just assumed that Reeves would play the robotic Gort but he actually assumes the Michael Rennie role in this remake of one of the most beloved sci-fi films of all time. Connelly and Smith play mom and step-son. And yes, someone will utter “Klaatu Barada Nikto!” OSCAR CHANCES: Special effects and technical ones only.

Starring: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams
Directed by: John Patrick Shanley

In 1954 a nun (Streep) suspects a young priest (Hoffman) of possibly molesting a young boy. OSCAR CHANCES: Many, starting with the cast. Writer/director Shanley won the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for “Doubt” and has an Oscar for his screenplay for “Moonstruck.”


Starring: Clint Eastwood and Bee Vang
Directed by: Clint Eastwood In what he says may be his final appearance on screen, 78-year-old Eastwood stars as a racist Korean War veteran whose neighborhood is being overrun with Asian immigrants. When one of them (Vang) tries to steal his prize car, his parents force him to work for the old man. OSCAR CHANCES: Eastwood has never won an acting Oscar (though he has four others for producing and directing) and this may be the last chance for the Academy to honor one of their icons. He will be competing against himself in the director’s category with this past fall's “Changeling,” so hope he doesn’t split the vote.

Starring: Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

In what film festival audiences have raved as the performance of the year, Mickey Rourke stars as a Hulk Hogan-type wrestler who, in ailing health and for financial reasons, takes one more match. OSCAR CHANCES: Rourke seems to be a sure thing here, though I can think of at least three other past Rourke performances I would have thought were sure things as well that never materialized. Coming off the dreadful “The Fountain,” Aronofsky can only go up.


Starring the voices of: Matthew Broderick and Emma Watson
Directed by: Sam Fell and Rob Stevenhagen

This computer generated animated film is based on the popular 2003 childrens story about an over-achieving mouse who is banished from Mouseworld and is befriended by a human princess. OSCAR CHANCES: Only the animated kind, though I don’t see ANYTHING beating “Wall-E” in that category.

Starring: Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel
Directed by: Peyton Reed

After a lifetime of never taking chances Carrey’s character vows to say “yes” to every challenge for one year. Comedy ensues. OSCAR CHANCES: None to speak of, but no one does physical comedy like Jim Carrey.

Starring: Kate Beckinsale and Alan Alda
Directed by: Rod Lurie

Loosely based on the true story of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who spent 12 weeks in jail for refusing to reveal her source in a government investigation. OSCAR CHANCES: Will probably get lost among the more prestigious pictures but I’d like to see Alda get some academy love.

Starring: Will Smith and Rosario Dawson
Directed by: Gabriele Muccino

No one is saying what the title means, but the film stars Smith as an IRS agent who must redeem an unforgivable mistake from his past by helping seven strangers. OSCAR CHANCES: After I dismissed Big Willie’s work in “Pursuit of Happyness” I had to eat some Oscar crow so I won’t make that mistake again. Incidentally, an academy award statuette weights 8.5 pounds.


Starring: Adam Sandler
Directed by: Adam Shankman

Goofy uncle Sandler tells his nephew bizarre bedtime stories which, thanks to the magic of CGI, become real. Lot’s of gladiators and gumball storms. OSCAR CHANCES: Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!

Starring: Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston
Directed by: David Frankel

The best selling book about a family and their Labrador comes to the big screen. Wilson leaves the sarcasm behind as a hard working family man. OSCAR CHANCES: To date, no animal has won an Oscar, though I still think “Babe” gave an underrated performance.

Starring: Gabriel Macht
Directed by: Frank Miller

The 1940s comic by Will Eisner gets the big screen treatment under the skilled eye of comics legend Frank Miller. OSCAR CHANCES: Hello art direction.

Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton
Directed by: David Fincher

Talk about a troubled romance. Pitt stars in this adaptation of an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story about a man who ages backwards only to fall in love with a woman who gets older as he gets younger. OSCAR CHANCES: If the film’s any good they’re across the board.


Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet
Directed by: Sam Mendes

The last time we saw Leo and Kate on screen together he was sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic while she made it to New York in “Titanic.” Here they star as a young married couple in the 1950s whose happy outward appearance is a disguise for their failed dreams. OSCAR CHANCES: Winslet is the youngest actor ever to have five nominations to her credit and DiCaprio has a couple as well. Director Mendes, Winslet’s husband, won the best director award for “American Beauty.”

Starring: Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh and Bill Nighy
Directed by: Bryan Singer

Nothing says Christmas like Tom Cruise in an eye patch. Cruise stars in this true story as Claus von Stauffenberg, a German WWII officer who led an attempt to assassinate Adolph Hitler in 1944. OSCAR CHANCES: Slated originally for a 2009 release, “Valkyrie” has previewed well enough to release if for awards consideration this year. Say what you want about his private beliefs but Tom Cruise is revered in Hollywood and a strong performance here may finally get your mind off his fondness for couch jumping.


Starring: Daniel Craig and Live Schreiber
Directed by: Edward Zwick

You can never get enough Nazi films at the holidays I always say. Here Craig, Schreiber and Jamie Bell star in the true story of three Jewish brothers who evaded the Nazi’s while helping fellow Jews. OSCAR CHANCES: Craig proved he could act long before he became James Bond and the academy still owes Zwick for “Glory.”

Starring: Viggo Mortensen and Jason Issacs
Directed by: Vicente Amorim

In this WWII drama (I’m sensing a pattern here) Mortensen stars as a man whose novel dealing with compassionate euthanasia is adopted by the Nazi (see what I mean) government. As his success grows he must decide whether to stay “good” or join his supporters.

The Winter Movies Preview 2008 movie guide is ©2008 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2008, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.