Home  |  Message Board  |  Creature Feature  |  Paranormal  |  Multimedia  |  Email Us  |  PCR Archives  |  Spotlight  |  Classics From The Vault
Now in our eleventh calendar year!
PCR #558 (Vol. 11, No. 49). This edition is for the week of November 30--December 5, 2010.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
Holiday Movie Preview

Commentary by:
Michael A. Smith

theater seats

Holiday Movie Preview  by Mike Smith
DVD Review: Gamera vs. Everybody  by ED Tucker
Rock n'Roll Cop (1994)  by Jason Fetters
Ronnie .... Class Of 2011 .... Passing On .... Him Too .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf  by Mike Smith

It’s the Thanksgiving/Christmas Season and you can smell the excitement in the air. No, not the turkey and all the trimmings on the dining room table. I’m talking about the virtual smorgasbord of goodies that Hollywood has in store for us in the next six weeks. From slight, tasty snacks in search of Oscar glory to full course blow-outs, there’s a little bit of something for everyone being dished up at the local multiplex. Here are the ones to look out for. Some synopsis information courtesy of our friends at the Internet Movie Data Base. All dates subject to change at the whim of the studios. Let’s dig in!

OUT NOW...(November 24)

Starring: Cher, Christina Aguilera and Stanley Tucci
Directed by: Steven Antin

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Ali (Aguilera) leaves small town Iowa behind, hoping to reinvent herself in Los Angeles. Taking a waitress job at The Burlesque Lounge, a fading club run by Tess (Cher), a former dancer, Ali quickly falls in love with the burlesque scene -- but does she have what it takes to become a star?

I don’t know what to think about this film. Yes, I like musicals. And, yes, I like Cher. And, yes, I AM married! But from what I’ve seen I’m not impressed. And why does Aguilera make her movie debut in a big budgeted musical directed by a former actor making his feature film debut? If you remember director Antin as one of the guys who raped Jodie Foster in “The Accused” you’ve got a better memory than I do. OSCAR CHANCES: If any, they ’d be in the technical categories.

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton and Maggie Grace
Directed by: George Tillman Jr.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: An ex-con (Johnson) sets out to avenge his brother's death after they were double-crossed during a heist years ago. During his exploits, however, he learns he’s being tracked by a veteran cop and an egocentric hit man.

So nice to see Johnson back in kick-ass mode. The trailer is action packed and it’s nice to have a little testosterone mixed in with the romantic comedies you’re going to be seeing this season. OSCAR CHANCES: To paraphrase the Rock in his heyday: “It doesn’t matter what I think!” But, um… no.

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway and Oliver Platt
Directed by: Edward Zwick

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A romantic comedy centered on relentlessly charming salesman Jamie Reidy (Gyllenhaal), who wants to make a mint from selling the newly released drug, Viagra. However, when he meets Maggie Murdock (Hathaway), a free-spirited woman with an undisclosed health matter, he reconsiders his path in life.

Apparently Gyllenhaal and Hathaway made such an impression as a couple in “ Brokeback Mountain” that they decided to do it again. The fact that Ed Zwick, who has directed some of my all time favorite films (“Glory,” “About Last Night”) is behind the camera on this one puts it in the must see category. OSCAR CHANCES: Look for a possible nod for Hathaway.

Starring the voices of: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi and Donna Murphy
Directed by: Nathan Greno and Byron Howard

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: In this new take on the story of Rapunzel, the princess (voiced by Moore) with a 70 foot-long mane convinces a bandit named Flynn Rider (Levi) to help her escape the tower in which she's been sequestered for her entire life by her captor, Mother Gothel (Murphy).

The 50th Animated Feature from the Walt Disney Company is sure to be an instant classic. Look for my review here. OSCAR CHANCES: With only three films allowed to be nominated for the Best Animated Feature Award, look for “Tangled” to take at least one Best Song nomination.

Starring: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush
Directed by: Tom Hooper

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The story of King George VI of Britain (Firth), his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist (Rush) who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it.

This film is already playing in some areas in limited release and the raves for Firth’s performance are unanimous. OSCAR CHANCES: Look for a Best Actor nod for Firth, Supporting Actor for Rush.


Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst and Frank Langella
Directed by: Andrew Jarecki

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Clues from a missing-persons case lead to the heir of a New York real estate dynasty (Gosling), who falls for a young woman from the wrong side of the tracks (Dunst).

A strong cast should help this first time feature from director Jarecki, who earned an Oscar nomination for his 2003 documentary “Capturing the Friedmans.” OSCAR CHANCES: None I can see.

Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Barbara Hershey
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky WHAT IT’S ABOUT: While vying for the coveted lead roles in a production of Swan Lake, a veteran ballerina (Portman) enters into a twisted friendship with a promising new dancer (Kunis) that threatens to consume her.

Those who have seen the film on the festival circuit have already given Portman the Best Actress Oscar. Director Aronofsky, whose “Requiem for a Dream” still gives me nightmares a decade later, is coming off the triumph of last years’ “The Wrestler.” OSCAR CHANCES: If the word on the street is to be believed, possibly across the board.

Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor and Leslie Mann
Directed by: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Incarcerated at the state penitentiary, con artist Steven Russell (Carrey) meets the love of his life: Phillip Morris (McGregor). As a free man, his passion results in a series of improbable cons to bust Phillip from jail and build the perfect life together.

Based on a true story (always important to note). As someone that appreciates Jim Carrey when he gets serious – that he was ignored for his work in “The Truman Show” and “Man on the Moon” is a travesty – I was excited when I first heard about this film. However, that was in 2009 and the film has had a bumpy ride to finally see the light of day. OSCAR CHANCES: None.

Starring: Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington
Directed by: Tanya Hamilton

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: In 1976, complex political and emotional forces are set in motion when a young man (Mackie) returns to the race-torn Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age during the Black Power movement.

This is one of the little films I mentioned. First time director Hamilton directs her own script but has given herself two great actors to tell her story. Mackie was on my short list of Oscar nominees last year for “The Hurt Locker” and Russell has excelled with roles in films like “Ray.” OSCAR CHANCES: Again, under the radar.

Starring: Jang Dong-gun, Kate Bosworth and Geoffrey Rush
Directed by: Sngmoo Lee

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A warrior-assassin (Dong-gun) is forced to hide in a small town in the American Badlands after refusing a mission. From the trailer this looks like the old television series “Kung Fu,” only here the star likes to kick ass! And nothing says Christmas then Cowboys and Ninja. Special mention to Rush, who appears to be channeling the late Warren Oates vocally. OSCAR CHANCES: Nada.


Starring: Ben Barnes, Skander Keynes and Simon Pegg
Directed by: Michael Apted

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: With Peter and Susan unable to return to Narnia, it's up to the younger Pevensies, Lucy and Edmund, to assist Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) in his quest to find the Lone Islands and, ultimately, Aslan's Country.

I have to admit right up front that I have never understood or enjoyed the “Narnia” films. Maybe I’ve got a bit of the Grinch in me. OSCAR CHANCES: A certain nod for Make-Up, an award the first film in the series won in 2006.

Starring: Ben Afleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper
Directed by: John Wells

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The story centers on a year in the lives of three men trying to survive a round of corporate downsizing at a major company - and how that affects them, their families, and their communities.

A trio of Oscar-winners (yes, I know Afleck’s was for writing but an Oscar is an Oscar) tackle a script by one of the main voices on both “ER” and “ The West Wing,” John Wells, who is also making his feature directing debut here. OSCAR CHANCES: Dare I say screenplay?

Starring: Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina and Djimon Hounsou
Directed by: Julie Taymor

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: In this unique take on William Shakespeare's final play, director Julie Taymor has transformed the work's central character, Prospero, into the Duchess of Milan, Prospera (Mirren).

Taymor, who made a name for herself when she brought “The Lion King” to Broadway, has assembled an all star cast, including Russell Brand, Alan Cumming, Chris Cooper and Tom Conti. She has proved herself admirably with such films as “Titus,” “Frida” and “Across the Universe.” OSCAR CHANCES: A nod for Taymor. Now that Katherine Bigelow finally broke through the glass ceiling last year, hopefully more women will be recognized for their work. Four nominations in eighty two years? Shame on you, Oscar.

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and Timothy Dalton
Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: When Frank Taylor (Depp) travels to Venice to recover from a recent break-up he soon finds himself engaged by the beautiful and mysterious Elise (Jolie) -- who happens to have a dangerous connection to a fugitive criminal.

I don’t know what took Hollywood so long but they finally put two of their biggest stars in the same film. As much fun as he seems to have when he’s wearing Captain Jack’s eyeliner, nobody plays the “everyman” like Johnny Depp. And “SALT” proved that when it comes to looking cool and kicking butt, nobody does it like Jolie. OSCAR CHANCES: None, but who cares?


Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams
Directed by: David O. Russell

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A look at the early years of boxer "Irish" Micky Ward (Wahlberg) and his brother, Dick Eklund (Bale), who helped train Micky to become a pro fighter.

It’s been six years since Russell directed a feature film. Not sure if it’ s because he’s picky or because he’s pretty much alienated everyone in Hollywood. He and George Clooney almost came to blows on the set of “Three Kings” and a childish rant against Lily Tomlin while making “I Heart Huckabees” is still getting hits on YouTube. Apparently he and Wahlberg got along on “Three Kings” because he stars here. Speaking of on set rants, how awesome would it be to listen in on one between Russell and Christian Bale? Lots of shots of Wahlberg shirtless here so keep an eye out for that third nipple. OSCAR CHANCES: Strong cast and a director with some talent… possible.

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd
Directed by: James L. Brooks

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A former athlete (Witherspoon) finds herself in the middle of a love triangle as a corporate guy in crisis (Rudd) competes with Lisa's current, baseball-playing beau (Owen Wilson).

I grew up on James L. Brooks. From “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” to “Taxi” to “The Simpsons” on television and such Oscar winning films as “Terms of Endearment” and “As Good As It Gets,” he has never failed to impress me with his work. The man has made five movies that have earned twenty five Oscar nominations…not a bad record. OSCAR CHANCES: As with any Brooks film, across the board. Nicholson has three acting awards and won two of them for performances in Brooks’ films.

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart and Dianne Wiest
Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A young couple (Kidman, Eckhart) find their lives spinning out of control after their son is killed in an auto accident

It’s so weird to see John Cameron Mitchell’s name attached to this project, he of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Shortbus.” The man is clearly talented and his choice of subject matter here is intriguing. OSCAR CHANCES: Kidman and Wiest have been there before so I wouldn’t be surprised if they get a nod.

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner and Michael Sheen
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: After defeating Master Control and restoring freedom to the digital realm, gaming software genius Kevin Flynn (Bridges) suddenly disappears, leaving his young son Sam to grown up alone in the real world. But everything changes when Sam turns 27, and his father's friend Alan Bradley (Boxleitner) receives a message on his old pager from the long-abandoned Flynn's Arcade.

In my opinion, the original “TRON” was a much better arcade game then a film. That being said, the film did scream for a sequel, even if it’s 28 years later. Another major release by a first time director - - I need to send a resume’ in. Talk about pressure, after “TRON: LEGACY” Kosinski is slated to tackle a remake of “The Black Hole.” OSCAR CHANCES: Technical only. The first film earned nods for Costume Design and Sound.

Starring the voices of: Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake
Directed by: Eric Brevig

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A documentary filmmaker (Anna Faris) travels to Jellystone Park to shoot a project and soon crosses paths with Yogi Bear (Aykroyd) and his sidekick Boo-Boo (Timberlake).

Another popular '60s cartoon character gets the big screen treatment whether he needs it or not. The trailer looks cute though, after about three lines Aykroyd starts to sound less like Yogi and more like Dan Aykroyd “doing” Yogi. Timberlake does pull off a great Boo Boo, though. Watch out for your pic-a-nic baskets. And your money, as once again Warner Brothers is stamping the 3D tag on a film that certainly doesn’t need one. OSCAR CHANCES: As slim as Ranger Smith not blowing his top. YOGI!!!!


Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim McGraw
Directed by: Shana Feste

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: When a rising country-music songwriter (Garrett Hedlund) sparks with a fallen star (Paltrow), it leads to romantic complications involving her husband/manager (McGraw) and a beauty queen-turned-singer.

If you were shocked to see Gwyneth Paltrow throw down vocally on “GLEE” then you have a short memory. The Oscar winning actress actually scored a #1 hit with her duet with Huey Lewis on the song Cruisin’, which they sang in the film “Duets.” Paltrow recently held her own during an appearance at the CMA Awards show so I guess, to quote Loretta Lynn, “If you’re looking at her, you’re looking at country.” OSCAR CHANCES: Possible nod to Gwynny as well as the title song.

Starring: Jack Black, Emily Blunt and Jason Segel
Directed by: Rob Letterman

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: While chasing down a story about the secret of the Bermuda Triangle, travel writer Lemuel Gulliver (Black) becomes shipwrecked on an island where he's a giant among the natives, the Lilliputians. Initially taken prisoner, Gulliver weaves a tall tale that makes him a favorite of the court and leads them to believe he is their best hope to defeat their rivals, the Blefuscudians.

Remember when Jack Black was funny? I’ll give you a few minutes. I know, it has been awhile. Thankfully Jonathan Swift’s tale is perfect for a guy who likes to ad lib and make faces. If it doesn’t work get ready for “Kung Fu Panda II.” OSCAR CHANCES: Maybe visual effects but don’t bet on it.

Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand
Directed by: Paul Weitz

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Greg Focker (Stiller) has bent over backwards to endear himself to his wife Pam's (Teri Polo) parents, Dina (Blythe Danner) and Jack Byrnes (De Niro). It took a decade, in fact, and the addition of twins, for Greg's ex-CIA operative father-in-law has finally let him into his "circle of trust." But a final test remains.

Ten years ago who would have thought Robert DeNiro could be funny? His on screen banter with Stiller has always been classic and DeNiro does the best “slow burn” since Jackie Gleason. And I have to think it’s worth the price of admission just to hear Harvey Keitel say “Focker!” OSCAR CHANCES: Bob, Dusty and Babs already have two each. Why be greedy?

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld
Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A renegade U.S. Marshal (Bridges) and a Texas Ranger (Damon) help a stubborn young woman (Steinfeld) track down her father's murderer.

This is probably the film I’m most excited to see this season. The original film holds so many memories for me, mostly because I saw it at a drive in with my father, a man who worshipped the ground John Wayne ambled on. It also contains one of the greatest lines in movie history. Facing down a band of outlaws whose leader has just insulted him, Wayne puts the reigns of his horse in his mouth and exclaims, “Fill your hands, you son of a bitch!” The trailer seems a little dark, more in tune with the novel. And not to quibble, but Jeff Bridges wears his patch over his right eye…the Duke wore his over the left. Of course, since Rooster Cogburn didn’t have an eye patch in the novel I’m not going to worry about it. OSCAR CHANCES: John Wayne won his only Oscar for “True Grit.” The combination of this cast and the Coen brothers seems to bode well for the remake.


Starring: Jim Broadbent, Leslie Manville and Imelda Stanton
Directed by: Mike Leigh

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A married couple who have managed to remain blissfully happy into their autumn years are surrounded over the course of the four by friends, colleagues, and family who all seem to suffer some degree of unhappiness.

Mike Leigh is to family relationship films what Woody Allen is to neurotic New Yorker movies. The film is being given a limited release to gain some positive word of mouth. OSCAR CHANCES: A screenplay nod is almost a certainty.

Starring: Javier Bardem and Guillermo Estrella
Directed by: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Connected with the afterlife, Uxbal (Bardem) is a tragic hero and father of two who's sensing the danger of death. He struggles with a tainted reality and a fate that works against him in order to eke out a living in Barcelona.

The talented director of “Babel” and the Oscar-winning Bardem team up for a film that got rave notices at this years’ Cannes Film Festival. OSCAR CHANCES: Bardem was named Best Actor at Cannes so a nod in that category here shouldn’t be unexpected.

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Kelly Preston and Barry Pepper
Directed by: George Hickenlooper

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A hot shot Washington DC lobbyist and his protege go down hard as their schemes to peddle influence lead to corruption and murder.

Based on the adventures of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the film is getting noticed for Spacey’s performance, said to be among his best ever. Considering the man already has two Oscars that’s saying a lot. Star and director visited Abramoff in prison and incorporated some of his tales into the film. Sadly, Hickenlooper passed away suddenly three weeks ago at the age of 47. Among his films is the acclaimed documentary “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse,” which explored the making of “Apocalypse Now.” OSCAR CHANCES: Spacey seems to be a lock.


Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams and Mike Vogel
Directed by: Derek Cianfrance

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A look at the idyllic past and troubled present of working-class couple Dean (Gosling) and Cindy (Williams).

This film had great word of mouth when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year but now it’s uncertain if it will receive a strong release due to the fact that it has been given an NC 17 rating for one intense sensual scene. Director Cianfrance has refused to edit the offending footage and the rating is currently being appealed. Because of the inability to run television advertising, as well as limited newspaper advertising, an NC 17 rating is often a death sentence for a film, especially a small one like this. Just another example of the hypocrisy of the rating system… blood is good – sex is bad. OSCAR CHANCES: Both leads are a possibility.

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. This week's commentary, "Holiday Movie Preview," is ©2010 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2010, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.