Saturday, January 03, 2015

My Favorite Films of 2014

Will wonders never cease? For the first time ever, three musicals made it to my list of Top Ten movies of the year.  As an avid movie musical fan, I feel quite happy about that. My list also includes a couple of fantasies, a drama, a sci-fi flick, a romance, a comedy and a biopic. As usual, these films have been selected mostly for their entertainment quality. They are the 2014 films I want to see over and over again.

MALEFICENT. Angelina Jolie commands the screen as the wicked fairy from “Sleeping Beautyin a new version of the fairy-tale fantasy. This unusual adaptation deals with such serious themes as betrayal, revenge, love, and redemption. But the most impressive thing about Maleficent involves its creative presentation. Practically every scene comes across like an intriguing work of art. The film is truly a rare cinematic masterpiece.

NIGHT CRAWLER. This practically perfect movie follows one of the most mesmerizing creeps ever seen on screen, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the main character (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) for one second because I was afraid to miss ANYTHING he said or did. The film’s outrageous dialogue and its important theme about the emphasis of violent stories on TV news also contributes to  a fascinating story being told -- one that held my intense interest from beginning to end.
MAKE YOUR MOVE.  Derek Hough (be still my heart) tap dances up a storm in this VERY entertaining musical co-starring the multi-talented South Korean star BoA. Believe it or not, our favorite “Dancing with the Stars” pro can really act! Plus, the dance numbers are first rate here. How often do we get to see dynamic tap routines on the big screen lately? And SURPRISE!!!  the story is riveting -- just like the PR claims. Too bad the movie received such a limited release. Fortunately, the film is out now on DVD, and I highly recommend it.
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. This was the most emotional film of the year for me. Shailene Woodley’s portrayal of a teen suffering from cancer who falls in love with a fellow student tugs at your heartstrings. I admire how the romance is treated so tastefully in this movie. Yes, it’s a sentimental tear-jerker. But there are charming and humorous moments throughout plus, all the cast members are excellent in their roles, especially Laura Dern as the compassionate, caring mother.       

MUPPETS MOST WANTED. Have you ever thought a movie was made just for you? That happened to me while watching Muppets Most Wanted. This hilarious romp includes most of my favorite things: singing, tap dancing, comedy, and The Muppets, who always make me smile. This eighth Muppet movie is one of their best. Happily, that special Muppet magic is still going strong.

WINTER’S TALE. This strange but wonderful film -- which represents magical realism at its best -- took my breath away with its compelling performances, tender love story, thrilling background music, and suspenseful sequences involving a magical white horse. Colin Farrell and Jessica Findlay make a superb romantic couple on screen. They look soulfully at each other in a way that melts your heart. I would be remiss not to mention the splendid look of the film. Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel makes the most of wintry landscapes, moonlit nights, starry skies and period settings. Winter’s Tale may not be the easiest film to follow, but it’s one of the most visually stunning.  

SNOWPIERCER. Snow scenes and action in a fast train, oh my! This sci-fi movie takes place after Earth has suddenly become uninhabitable because of a disastrous global warming cure-all. Those who’ve survived are living aboard a train that keeps circling the same track at super-sonic speeds. The survivors are divided into a caste system, which a daring group finally rebels against. Great special effects enhance this exciting offering starring Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris. I was glued to my seat while watching the captivating journey unfold.  

ANNIE. In a refreshing update of the popular musical, our spunky heroine sports an Afro and the Daddy Warbucks character is now a wealthy candidate for mayor of New York City. Because these key roles are played by Quevenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx, they are in excellent hands. Most of the musical numbers still make me want to join in -- especially “It’s a Hard Knock Life” -- and I felt in such a good mood after seeing this amusing, uplifting movie!    

LIFE’S A BREEZE. In this delightful Irish comedy, a grandmother (Fionnula Flanagan) and the youngest member (Kelly Thornton) of her extended family work together to save their other relatives who can’t seem to do anything right. This is a very funny -- yet touching - movie with the most amazing and hilarious twists and turns I’ve seen on screen in a long time.    

THE LAST OF ROBIN HOOD. This fascinating true-life tale about the desire for fame and the price it demands stars Kevin Kline as Errol Flynn in his later years after the booze and legendary philandering have taken their toll. Kline talks like Flynn, swaggers like Flynn and simply BECOMES Flynn in this movie about the famous actor’s scandalous affair with star-struck teenager Beverly Aadland, portrayed oh-so convincingly by Dakota Fanning. Kline and Fanning are disturbingly spellbinding together here. But there’s more! As Beverly’s fame-obsessed mom Florence, Susan Sarandon almost runs away with the movie. And I loved every minute of it.

HONORABLE MENTION: Life Itself, Gone Girl, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, 13 Sins, My Old Lady, X-Men Days of Future Past, Godzilla, The Face of Love, Hateship Loveship, The Calling, We Are the Best!

DISHONORABLE MENTION: Into the Woods, Under the Skin, Cheap Thrills, Authors Anonymous, Inherent Vice, The Zero Theorem, A Fantastic Fear of Everything

MOST MEMORABLE SCENE: Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader lip-synching “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” in The Skeleton Twins 



Thursday, January 01, 2015

Going for the Gold

Happy 2015, everyone! I look forward to starting out the new year by talking with film historian James Colt Harrison and Classic Movie Guide founder Diana Saenger, who will be dropping by Movie Addict Headquarters on January 6 for a preview of the upcoming 72nd Golden Globe Awards, which will take place on January 11 with funny ladies Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as co-hosts again this year. James and Diana plan to focus on the awards for Best Picture as well as Best Actor and Best Actress in the drama and comedy/musical categories. This should be a fun and enlightening episode for movie fans!
Films in contention include Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, Selma, Into the Woods, Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, St. Vincent and Pride. Nominees in the acting categories are: Eddie Redmayne, Steve Carell, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Oyelowo, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Keaton, Bill Murray, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz, Joaquin Phoenix, Julianne Moore, Rosamund Pike, Reese Witherspoon, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Aniston, Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Helen Mirren and Quevenzshane Wallis.

James Colt Harrison has contributed film commentary to such outlets as the La Jolla Village News, Rage Monthly, No Cover Music Magazine and San Diego Metro Weekly. Diana Saenger not only heads up Classic Movie Guide, she's also entertainment editor for the San Diego East County Gazette and operates her own site called Review Express. 

Time: 4 p.m. Eastern Time (1 p.m. Pacific Time) on BlogTalkRadio.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Nightcrawler Wins Seven Awards from SDFCS

As a founding member of the San Diego Film Critics Society, I am happy to report that Nightcrawler came away the big winner in the 2014 awards, which were voted on this Monday. Below is the complete list.  

Jake Gyllenhaal, NIGHTCRAWLER
Marion Cotillard, TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT
Mark Ruffalo, FOXCATCHER
Gillian Flynn, GONE GIRL
ames Herbert, Laura Jennings, EDGE OF TOMORROW
Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pincock, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
James Newton Howard, NIGHTCRAWLER

The 18-member San Diego Film Critics Society composes print and online journalists and was started in 2000.

Way to go, SDFCS!

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Thursday, December 04, 2014

Here Comes Annie Again

Movie musical fans, cheer up! I know the past few months have been bleak as far as our favorite genre is concerned, but Annie is on the way. This modernized version of the popular Broadway play dances into theaters nationwide on December 19. 

I love the songs, especially "It's a Hard Knock Life," which was one of my favorite routines to perform with the Mesa College Musical Comedy group during days of yore.

This new motion picture stars Jamie Foxx as a kind of Daddy Warbucks type character, Quevenzhane Wallis as the optimistic Annie, and Cameron Diaz as the mean Miss Hannigan (the role Carol Burnett played so hilariously in the previous Annie film). 

I, for one, can hardly wait to see this version. It should be a wonderful movie for the entire family.

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thanksgiving, Uncle Miltie and Me

While attending Barnard College in New York during the fall of 1949, I began to suffer a bit of depression, especially as Thanksgiving approached. This would be the first holiday I spent away from family and friends. Homesick and lonely, I looked forward to a trip to Brooklyn to visit some distant relatives I had never met.

With visions of sparkling conversation and a delicious turkey dinner dancing in my head, I took my first ride on the subway from New York to Brooklyn – which turned out to be my second favorite trip of all time. My first involved going to the doctor’s office for a tonsillectomy. Still, I felt optimistic about meeting new relatives.   

Standing at the doorway with snow swirling around me, I eagerly rang the bell. No one answered, but I could hear voices inside. I rang the bell three or four more times. Then I knocked rather loudly on the door. Finally a smiling cousin who was three, four or five times removed opened the door and apologized matter-of-factly for the delay by explaining, “We were watching Uncle Miltie.”

Thinking Miltie might be an ailing relative, I replied, “I hope he’s feeling better now.” How was I to know he was referring to the Milton Berle Show? After all, television remained untapped then as family entertainment back in Pueblo, Colorado. We were still “movie people.”

Walking into the cozy living room, I made my way through a group of individuals huddled around a small box with a screen showing figures moving around in what looked like the same kind of snow falling outside. “Hi!” I called out in my most cheerful voice. They all nodded and kept watching their new toy.

Needless to say, I didn’t get well acquainted with my distant relatives on that Thanksgiving Day. But what an introduction to television! We watched every program scheduled that afternoon and on into the evening. Much later, a cold turkey dinner was served – on TV trays, of course. I am now a vegetarian.

(Excerpt from CONFESSIONS OF A MOVIE ADDICT, published by Wheatmark)


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Sunday, November 02, 2014

Something Is Afoot!

When I was a teenager back in days of yore, it was such a treat to watch all those wonderful Sherlock Holmes movies starring Basil Rathbone. I am still an avid Sherlock fan, so I feel excited about the opportunity to talk with Ed Fitzelle concerning Sherlock Holmes movies and the actors who have portrayed this fictional master detective.  Ed, a Sherlock expert, will be dropping by Movie Addict HQ to discuss this fun topic. 

Did you know that more than 70 actors have appeared in upwards of 200 cinema projects featuring this popular character? The latest actor signing on as Sherlock is Sir Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes, a film scheduled for release in 2015. McKellen adds his name to an impressive list including such diverse actors as Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Charlton Heston, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, Nicol Williamson, John Cleese, Douglas Fairbanks, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Downey, Jr.

Ed Fitzelle’s company,, is a portal designed to help viewers enjoy Sherlock Holmes. The site contains 40 hours of moving image content (movies and TV series) plus a news section with reports relating to Sherlock as well as an international events calendar focused on Sherlock-related events around the world.

This interview airs on BlogTalkRadio at 4 p.m. Eastern Time (1 p.m. Pacific Time) on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. During the live show, listeners are invited to call in and to participate in a chat. An archived segment is also available.

CALL-IN NUMBER: 646-478-5668
HOST:  Betty Jo Tucker
PRODUCER: Nikki Starr


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Friday, October 17, 2014

Tippi Hedren and The Birds

Actress Tippi Hedren talks about her scary experiences while filming The Birds, one of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thrillers, in a candid interview to be revisited on the October 21st Movie Addict HQ show. This talented actress, who won a Golden Globe for her work in The Birds, also reminisces about playing opposite Sean Connery in Hitchcock’s disturbing Marnie as well as about working with the great Charlie Chaplin.

Among Hedren’s non-Hitchcock films are such offerings as Chaplin’s The Countess from Hong Kong plus Citizen Ruth, I Heart Huckabees, Pacific Heights, Jayne Mansfield’s Car, Free Samples, Return to Babylon and Roar, a movie Hedren produced and starred in with her daughter, Melanie Griffith. Her upcoming film credits include roles in The Ghost and the Whale and Lizzie’s World: The Secret of the Magic Truth. Hedren has appeared in numerous TV shows including Cougar, Raising Hope, The 4400, Hart to Hart and Murder, She Wrote.

Several charitable and humanitarian causes have benefited from Hedren’s support. She has served as a volunteer International Relief Coordinator for “Food for Hungry” and traveled worldwide to set up “relief programs following earthquakes, hurricanes, famine and war.” She is an avid supporter of the ROAR Foundation and the Shambala Preserve.

Hedren’s many awards for her acting and humanitarian efforts include a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a Life Achievement Award from Cinemalia (French Film Festival), the Bahai Faith Humanitarian Award, and a “Woman of Vision” Honor from Women in Film and Video.

“Actress Tippi Hedren and The Birds” airs on BlogTalkRadio at 4 p.m. Eastern Time (1 p.m. Pacific Time) on Tuesday, October 21, 2014. During the live show, listeners are invited to participate in a Chat. An archived segment will also be available.

HOST: Betty Jo Tucker
PRODUCER: Nikki Starr



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