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PCR #504 (Vol. 10, No. 47). This edition is for the week of November 16--22, 2009.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
Holiday Movie Preview

Commentary by:
Michael A. Smith

theater seats

Holiday Movie Preview  by Mike Smith
"The Blind Side " by Mike Smith
Texas Terrors: The Late Night Films of Larry Buchanan Part Two  by ED Tucker
USA Network’s Black Belt Theater  by Jason Fetters
The Top 30 Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror Actresses, #16-13  by Lisa Scherer
Lebron James Changes Number .... No More ‘captain’ In It For The Nfl? .... Guess There Still Is Some Left In The Tank! .... Chris Simms .... Belichick The Bonehead? .... .... ....  by Chris Munger
Do You Think We'll Make The Sullivan Show? .... Zack Attack! .... And The Oscar Goes To .... Passing On .... Last Week In "my Favorite Films" .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2  by Mike Smith
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To many people, myself included, there are two things that say "holiday season:" lying on the living room floor with your pants unbuttoned waiting to slip into that sweet tryptophan coma and new movies. Well, I really can't give you any advice on cooking your bird (though I am available to come help you eat it) but once again I can give you a look at what to look for at your local theatre. As you may have heard, this year the race for Best Picture will include 10 films, not 5, so look for more drama and less explosions. Let me begin, as usual, with my annual disclaimer: 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: Nicolas Cage
Directed by: Werner Herzog

A reimagining of the bad cop thriller starring Harvey Keitel, this time finding good man/bad cop Cage investigating the killing of five Senegalese immigrants in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Starring: Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw
Directed by: John Lee Hancock

This past April Michael Oher, a black student raised in the south by a loving white family, became the 23rd player selected in the NFL draft. How he gets there is a powerful and moving story.
OSCAR CHANCES: After scoring a hit with her summer comedy "The Proposal," Bullock finds herself in Oscar territory with her performance here.

Starring: the voices of Dwayne Johnson, Jessica Biehl and Gary Oldman
Directed by: Jorge Blanco and Javier Abad

An American astronaut (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) finds himself being considered an alien in the animated comedy. OSCAR CHANCES: Nothing

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner
Directed by: Chris Weitz

Last year, when it wasn't a saga, the film "Twilight" introduced rabid readers to the flesh and blood versions of their favorite Stephanie Meyers' characters. This time it's more of the same, with sweet and gentle Jacob (Lautner) now a buff werewolf.
OSCAR CHANCES: Maybe effects. Maybe not.


Starring: Zac Efron and Claire Danes
Directed by: Richard Linklater

An aspiring actor (Efron) talks his way into a role in the Mercury Theatre production of "Julius Caesar" directed by a young Orson Welles in 1937.
OSCAR CHANCES: None I can see, though it will be nice to see young actors bring to life the stars of yesterday, including Welles, John Houseman and Joseph Cotton.

Starring: Rain
Directed by: James McTiegue

A young ninja turns his back on orphanage that raised him, leading to a confrontation with a fellow ninja from the clan. Expect plenty of action. Director McTiegue learned his craft at the side of the Wachowski brothers ("The Matrix"). Star Rain is a rags to riches hero in his native Korea and he has developed quite a following here in the states.

Starring: Robin Williams and John Travolta
Directed by: Walt Becker

Two friends and business partners find their lives turned upside down when strange circumstances lead to them being placed in the care of 7-year-old twins. The film is a Travolta-family affair as it co-stars his wife, Kelly Preston, and their daughter, Ella Bleu. The film was completed before the tragic death of the Travolta's son, Jett. This is also Bernie Mac's last film.
OSCAR CHANCES: Not a dog's chance.

Starring: the voices of Anika Noni, Keith David and Terrence Howard
Directed by: Ron Clements and John Musker

A fairy tale centered on a young girl named Princess Tiana who lives in New Orleans' French Quarter during the Jazz Age. When Tiana kisses a frog the story takes a spin when she herself becomes one. This is the first time a Disney princess has been African-American and the studio has entrusted the story to the writer/director of such classics as "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin" and "Hercules."
OSCAR CHANCES: Look for a nod in the Animated Film category, though I think that award is a lock for "UP."

Starring: Viggo Mortensen and Robert Duvall
Directed by: John Hillcoat

With the world in ruins after an apocalyptic event that is never described, a father and his son are begin walking south in an attempt to escape the increasingly cold, endless winter. Along the way they have to avoid gangs of lawless killers. Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, whose "No Country For Old Men" won four Academy Awards.
OSCAR CHANCES: Never count Mortensen out, nor an adapted screenplay nod.


Starring: Columbus Short, Matt Dillon and Laurence Fishburne
Directed by: Nimrod Antal

A newly-hired guard for an armored truck company is distressed to learn that his veteran coworkers plan to steal a truck containing $42 million.
OSCAR CHANCES: Forty two million to one.

Starring: Natalie Portman, Tobey Maquire and Jake Gyllenhaal
Directed by: Jim Sheridan

A young man comforts his older brother's wife and children after he goes missing in Afghanistan.
OSCAR CHANCES: Director Sheridan has amassed six previous nominations in his career, and both Portman and Gyllenhaal have been nominated in the past. Possibly an acting nod or two.

Starring: Robert DeNiro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell
Directed by: Kirk Jones

A widower (DeNiro) realizes his only connection to his family was through his wife. When his adult children all cancel a trip home for a visit he sets off on an impromptu road trip to reunite with each of them.
OSCAR CHANCES: If the film is not too smaltzy maybe one for Bobby D.

Starring: Meg Ryan, Kristen Bell and Timothy Hutton
Directed by: Cheryl Hines

A high-powered attorney duct tapes her adulterous husband to the toilet ... right before their home is invaded by burglars. The film was written by Adrienne Shelly, who was murdered right before her 2006 film "Waitress" was released. Director Hines had appeared in "Waitress" and is probably best known for playing Larry David's wife on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." You'd think after "French Kiss" that Meg Ryan would know Tim Hutton was no good!
OSCAR CHANCES: Good word of mouth bodes well for a screenplay nod.

Starring: Patrick Cavanaugh and David Steinberg
Directed by: David and Scott Hillenbrand

Horror spoof about a group of college kids who spend a semester abroad in Romania and discover a curriculum of partying and vampires. I'm happy to say that if you go into your neighborhood Blockbuster you will find two movies that feature my positive reviews on their boxes. Coincidentally both of them were directed by the Hillenbrand brothers. Here's hoping I like number three.
OSCAR CHANCES: About as well as a vampire walking in sunlight.

Starring: George Clooney and Vera Farmiga
Directed by: Jason Reitman

With a job that has him traveling around the country firing people, Ryan Bingham (Clooney) leads an empty life out of a suitcase, until his company does the unexpected: ground him. This is Reitman's follow up to his Oscar nominated "Juno," and buzz here makes it a must to watch come award time.
OSCAR CHANCES: Early screenings have Clooney giving the performance of his career. Look for nods in all the major categories.


Starring: Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon
Directed by: Clint Eastwood

A look at the life of Nelson Mandela after the fall of apartheid in South Africa. During his first term as president he openly campaigned to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup event as an opportunity to unite his countrymen. The last time Freeman worked for Clint he went home with an Oscar for "Million Dollar Baby." As he approaches the age of 80 Eastwood continues to grow, as does his legend as one of the greatest filmmakers of his time.
OSCAR CHANCES: Across the board.

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci
Directed by: Peter Jackson

"The Lovely Bones" centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family - and her killer - from heaven. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal. After tackling The Lord of the Rings trilogy and "King Kong," Peter Jackson returns to what he did best....horror with a twist.
OSCAR CHANCES: Lovely. The underrated Tucci, already so good this year in "Julie and Julia," is pretty much a sure thing for his portrayal of the murderer.


Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver
Directed by: James Cameron

In the future a paraplegic war veteran (Worthington) is brought to the planet Pandora, which is inhabited by the Na'vi, a humanoid race with their own language and culture. In 1997 James Cameron gave the world a little movie about a boat that sinks. That movie was "Titanic." It's been a dozen years since Cameron has been behind a camera but "Avatar" promises to be a jaw-dropping adventure.
OSCAR CHANCES: Anything technical.

Starring: Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker
Directed by: Marc Lawrence

An estranged couple who witness a murder in New York City are relocated to small-town Wyoming as part of the witness-protection program. This appears to be the season's silly romantic comedy. Director Lawrence has worked with Grant before on "Two Weeks Notice" and "Music and Lyrics." Can't decide if that's a good thing or not.
OSCAR CHANCES: Did you hear the Morgans got none?

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz and Judi Dench
Directed by: Rob Marshall

A famous film director struggles to find harmony in his professional and personal lives as he engages in dramatic relationships with his wife, his mistress, his muse, his agent, and his mother. Adapted from the Broadway musical which itself was an adaptation of the Fellini film "8 1/2." The director of "Chicago" and four Oscar winners in the cast bode well for a great experience.
OSCAR CHANCES: After the academy pretty much snubbed "Dreamgirls" I don't know what to think. Here's hoping that was just a mistake.


Starring: Jason Lee, David Cross, Alvin, Simon and Theodore
Directed by: Betty Thomas

The world-famous singing pre-teen chipmunk trio return to contend with the pressures of school, celebrity, and a rival female music group known as The Chipettes. Director Thomas (fans of "Hill Street Blues" will remember her as officer Lucy Bates) has made a few good movies ("The Late Shift," "The Brady Bunch Movie," "Private Parts") but has hit a tough spell recently. Here's hoping she gets back on track.
OSCAR CHANCES: Better off asking for a hula hoop!

Starring: Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law
Directed by: Terry Gilliam

A fantastical morality tale set in the present day, the film tells the story of Dr Parnassus and his extraordinary 'Imaginarium', a traveling show where members of the audience get an irresistible opportunity to choose between light and joy or darkness and gloom. This was the film Heath Ledger was working on when he died in January 2008. With a few crucial scenes left to shoot, director Gilliam reworked the script and Depp, Farrell and Law completed Ledger's role. The actors refused to be paid and instead asked that their salaries be donated to Ledger's daughter, Matilda.
OSCAR CHANCES: Gilliam is a true outlaw in the Academy's eye, but that is what endears him to his actors. Look for a possible screenplay nod.

Starring: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin
Directed by: Nancy Meyers

After her divorce is final a woman is torn between her new suitor or her ex-husband. Writer/director Meyers has excelled in the past with romantic comedies ("Something's Got To Give") and here she has a top notch cast to support her.
OSCAR CHANCES: You can never go wrong betting on Streep, though she's already pretty much a lock for "Julie and Julia."

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law
Directed by: Guy Ritchie

Detective Sherlock Holmes (Downey, Jr.) and his stalwart partner Watson (Law) engage in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis (Mark Strong) whose plot is a threat to all of England. If there is an actor who has achieved a remarkable second chance in his career it is Downey, though John Travolta would be a close second. Here he stars as England's greatest detective in a film directed by the former Mr. Madonna. This is Ritchie's first big budget feature so maybe he was smart to dump Madge before the accolades begin pouring in.
OSCAR CHANCES: For costumes and art direction, it's elementary.

This week's commentary, "Holiday Movie Preview," is ©2009 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2009, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.