New SHERLOCK BBC Special Coming to Movie Theaters

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First the return of Star Wars, and now this?!

The BBC’s upcoming Victorian-era special, Sherlock: The Abominable Bride – the latest entry in the beloved Benedict Cumberbatch series – will receive a limited roll-out in U.S. and U.K. movie theaters when it premieres next January.

Bonus: The theatrical version of the episode will include 20 minutes of additional footage, including a guided set tour of 221B Baker Street with executive producer Steven Moffat, plus a short “making-of” with stars Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

For more info, including dates, click here to read the report from Entertainment Weekly.

Cinemark Classic Series – November 2015

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Cinemark Theaters has announced their lineup of movie classics for November 2015 (plus two days of early December). Each film will screen at 2pm on Sunday and 2 & 7pm on Wednesday of its given week – except for the final film in the slate, which will have an additional Tuesday screening day at 2 & 7 as well.

Of the six, two are 60th Anniversary digitally restored presentations, another is a 75th Annivesary, and yet another is the 25th of a beloved Christmas classic.

Here are the films, their dates and times, and participating theaters nationwide. Click on each image for a bigger view, or click here for their web site.

Cinemark Classics Nov 2015     Cinemark Classics Participating Theaters

Plus, a video promoting the slate:

And as an additional option for Tulsans, the Circle Cinema will be showing two of these films on different days/weeks than the Cinemark schedule. The Circle will screen Oklahoma! this Sunday November 1 at 2pm, with a special extended pre-show featurette of Okie native Kristin Chenoweth singing songs from the classic musical. Then a week later on November 8 at 2pm, the Circle will screen the 75th Anniversary Presentation of Walt Disney’s masterpiece Fantasia.

OUR BRAND IS CRISIS (Movie Review)

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***1/2 out of ****
Rated R
for strong language

, some sexual references, and brief partial nudity
Released: October 30, 2015
Runtime: 107 minutes
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Joaquim de Almeida, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy, Zoe Kazan

Political satire is at its best, not when it’s broadly mocking the dysfunction and corruption of politics but, rather, when it depicts the absurdity of politics with an eerie authenticity. The line between the two approaches can be a thin one. Our Brand Is Crisis deftly lands on the better side of it.

Loosely based on the 2005 documentary of the same title that followed former Clinton operatives as they consulted a South American Presidential candidate, this fictionalized adaptation doesn’t lose any of its sharp, damning bite despite being intentionally, and highly, entertaining. It displays a deep, piercing insight into how campaigns are run, in the details of how (justifiably) cynical and paranoid they can get, how creatively cunning the best strategists are, how they can turn a candidate’s worst trait into an asset, and how they work to get inside – and mess with – the heads of their opponents.  Sandra Bullock continues her career’s peak phase with another impressive lead performance (one originally written for producer George Clooney, actually) that allows her to display as much of her range as any role ever has.

Jane Bodine (Bullock), dubbed “Calamity” for her effectively reckless style, is a former campaign guru and recovering alcoholic now living a reclusive rural life. Her carefully protected Zen state is disrupted when former colleagues pull out all the stops to lure her into saving the languishing election campaign of a Bolivian Presidential hopeful. Their efforts fail until they drop some irresistible bait: their candidate’s leading opponent is being advised by Jane’s professional nemesis Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton, continuing his own career rebirth – following TV’s Fargo – in sensational fashion), the sly slimeball who handed Jane the losing streak that drove her into retirement. It’s an offer she can’t refuse.

Director David Gordon Green (whose work has evolved from meditative indie films like All The Real Girls to studio comedies like Pineapple Express and back again) takes us on a near-breakneck pace through the machinations of campaign strategizing, advertising, and maneuvering. Information often flies by at a faster pace than we can fully process, but its enough to give us the gist while keeping things moving forward at a propulsive clip.

Green never allows the film to get bogged down in noble, self-important speechifying. Instead, he chooses to either pop the bubble of that trope in hilarious ways, or plays moments of strategic brilliance as ruthless (rather than principled) bursts of inspiration. A movie like this takes something like The West Wing, chews it up, and then spits it out. These cold, calculating operatives aren’t in it to change the world. They’re in it to win it.

While hilariously indicting, Our Brand Is Crisis is played almost entirely straight, rarely as a comedy. And even when it is (like during a race between campaign buses, or a late night hotel room party that goes playfully off the rails) they’re forgivable, entertaining interludes that still emerge from the characters rather than forced, contrived plot-beats. But on the whole, what makes Our Brand Is Crisis so funny is how realistic it is. It’s also what makes it compelling.

The truth is that the best campaigns – and candidates – have to be calculating, even merciless. It’s not about communicating the truth; it’s about crafting narratives. People say they hate negative ads, but these strategists know that negative ads are the only things that ever move the needle or shift public perception. This film examines those pesky realities.

But then it also goes a step further to show that, for all the cutthroat “win at all costs” machinations that tear people down, at the end of it all things rarely ever change – regardless of which candidate wins or loses. In its final stretch, Our Brand Is Crisis creates a crisis for Jane, one of purpose and identity, giving this jaundiced sendup some philosophical – even spiritual – reflection to go with it.

Our Brand Is Crisis challenges the conventional sentiment that government can change things. It suggests instead that perhaps fighting for your political ideals is best done outside the realm of politics. The victories won may be marginal at best, but at least they don’t cost you your soul.

THE AGE OF ADALINE (Movie Review) Harrison Ford’s Acting Force Awakens

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Star Wars Original Trilogy viewing is obvious prep work for The Force Awakens, but less obvious – and yet possibly more vital – is renting The Age Of Adaline, a star-crossed romance from earlier this year.

One of the most anticipated aspects of The Force Awakens is not only seeing Han Solo in action again but, by extension, seeing if Harrison Ford’s still got it at age 73 – because other than a brief return to Indy’s fedora and bullwhip, Ford’s career has been a shadow of its former self for the better part of this millennium.

That is, until, this past spring, when Ford came out of nowhere to give a performance that still stands as one of the best of the year (and arguably the most under-appreciated).

The Age Of Adaline, an April release now available for rent through Amazon streaming and iTunes, stars Blake Lively as a young woman who – by virtue of a metaphysical act of nature – never ages for the bulk of the 20th Century.

The first hour matched my skeptical expectations: a very classy but very contrived fantasy romance. Sort of a quintessential “chick flick” with high-brow production values. Indeed, it was only that high level of craftsmanship (and the presence of Ellen Burstyn, in a small role) that kept me from rolling my eyes more than I otherwise might have. It’s far from the worst thing you’ll ever see, but unless you’re inclined to its soapy sensibility then it’s likely to try your patience, and quickly.

But enduring that first hour is worth it because, when Ford appears in the second, The Age Of Adaline becomes an emotionally engrossing rumination on age and regret,  simply by virtue of how great Ford’s performance is.

I can’t remember the last time my feeling about or engagement with a movie changed so dramatically, especially that late into the story. As odd as it is to say, Ford’s performance feels like a revelation. I honestly didn’t think he had it in him anymore. Yet even without trying to upstage his co-stars, Ford steals the movie and makes it his own by the sheer force of his authenticity. (Burstyn could’ve stolen it along with him had she been given more than she was.)

Not only is it riveting to see the degree of Ford’s depth, vulnerability, and nuance here, but I found myself instantly captivated by the film itself, one that, until that point, hadn’t earned its contrivance. But it finally did – when Ford hit the screen.

And not only that, but Blake Lively (glamorous though she is) had been giving a performance so artificial that every posture and line-delivery felt like a pose…until her character was contrasted against Ford’s, and then suddenly the whole nature and quality of her performance was elevated considerably. In essence, Ford takes a film that is little more than an elegant trifle and, single-handedly, brings out the full thematic potential at the story’s core.

Bottom line: the film is a mixed bag at best, but Ford’s turn is one of the unexpected highlights of 2015. It left me thinking, “Now where has that actor been? Where has that career been?!” If you’ve ever been a fan of Ford as an actor – and I don’t mean just as Han Solo or Indiana Jones, but in films like Witness, The Mosquito Coast, and The Fugitive – then The Age Of Adeline is a must-see. It’s not only one of the best screen performances of the year; it’s easily Ford’s best in over twenty.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD…for Best Picture? (AWARDS SEASON 2015)

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The third sequel to a 30-years-after-the-fact trilogy from the 1980s…with a legitimate shot for a Best Picture nomination? A lot of pundits think it’s possible – including Kristopher Tapley, the “In Contention” Awards Coverage editor for Variety.

You can read Tapley’s analysis here.

And my review here.

As far as Fury Road‘s Oscar prospects: despite its worthiness as being a Best Picture nominee, its best chances are in the Best Actress (Charlize Theron) and Visual Effects categories. Picture is a longshot, even in a possible field of 10, although George Miller is a not-so-dark horse in the Best Director category.

Somebody Made a Real-Life Version of Andy’s Room from TOY STORY 3

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This is so detailed, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a snake in Woody’s boot.

The editor of “The Pixarist”, a blog on Tumblr, has made a real-life version of Andy’s room from Toy Story 3 (click here). This isn’t the first time he’s made recreations of the beloved Pixar franchise. Recently, he also duplicated the poster of Toy Story 3 in the real world.

Now he just needs to make the Control Room from Inside Out.

TRUTH (Movie Review)

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*1/2 out of ****

Rated R
for strong language

 and a brief nude photo
Released: October 16, 2015
 limited; expands October 23 and 30
Runtime: 121 minutes
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss, Bruce Greenwood, Stacey Keach

You know something’s wrong when the movie that wants to lionize a TV network’s news reporters is condemned by the network itself.

That’s the case with Truth, an ironic title for a shamelessly skewed movie. It’s based on the 2004 CBS 60 Minutes II election year exposé about President George W. Bush’s military service, a report that went horribly, ethically wrong. It led to the disgraced exit of legendary anchor Dan Rather (Robert Redford) from CBS, and the firing of the segment’s producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett).

But in the hands of “Aaron Sorkin wannabe” writer/director James Vanderbilt (of the recent Amazing Spider-Man films), Truth looks to rant through every complexity with a snarky self-righteous swagger. Its intent isn’t to examine the case impartially; it’s to finish what Mapes started, but with no more evidence than she had to work with and only compounded bitterness. This unabashedly biased take (based on Mapes’ own book) doesn’t play like truth, but myth.

The 2004 CBS report claimed to prove that Bush went AWOL from his stateside Vietnam service in the Air National Guard, and that the military covered it up. This scandalous piece of news was a potential bombshell, a boon to the Kerry Campaign, and could’ve sabotaged a Bush second term – until the very documents on which the whole report was based were proven to be forgeries.

Truth doesn’t look so much to set the record straight. It wants to smear every person and institution who dared to hold Mapes and Rather accountable – including CBS News itself which, in an official statement, best sums up the whole movie, saying it “tries to turn gross errors of journalism and judgment into acts of heroism and martyrdom.” Oh boy, does it ever.

It’s not that there wasn’t enough smoke to start asking if there was a fire somewhere, but Mapes, Rather, and their team seemed so sure that they were about to be the next Woodward and Bernstein that they allowed provocative hearsay to guide their analysis of what was – and wasn’t – documented. But the film, which should’ve been (at least in part) about this team’s overzealous hubris is, instead, singularly and adamantly about how everyone was (and is) so totally unfair to them.

As a filmmaker, Vanderbilt overplays his hand so much at every turn that even the cheesiest episode of The West Wing would start shaking its head, aghast. It presents this band of news reporters as heirs to fervent 60’s radicals – as if that’s a journalistic virtue. Their only character flaw is that they obsess too much (making the hint of any other flaw forgivable). Sure, they can be raucous and rude, but that’s just a charming side effect to their dogged tenacity, articulate sass, and superpower to cite detailed facts of any relevant historical precedent at a moment’s notice. Or, at the very least, have the perfect comeback.

They’re not just heroes of the press but of America itself, yet it’s their tragic misfortune to live in a cutthroat world that’s not willing to rise up to their own level of courage. At best, their adversaries (which is nearly everyone) are portrayed as weak; at worst they’re wolves. In other words, it’s a melodramatic mess that can’t see its own sanctimonious forest for its arrogant trees.

There is some truth in the weeds of all of this, but it’s the liberal fantasy version of how it went down – complete with a final Rather speech that lectures us, the audience, about how we’ve broken our sacred trust with idealistic news institutions, along with a final grandstanding monologue for Mapes in which she’s allowed to tear the Board of Special Investigators a new one. If Aaron Sorkin ever sees this, you’d hope he’d look at it and ask, “My TV stuff wasn’t that bad, was it?” (Sorry Aaron, a lot of it was.)

Truth was produced by a film company called, yes, Mythology Entertainment. When the movie opens, seeing that company’s logo be directly followed by the title “Truth” is almost as clueless (or galling) as everything that follows, including the firings that come near the end. They’re filmed in slow-motion, as if each martyred reporter is dying on the field of battle. And to be clear, if a movie about the “John Kerry swiftboaters” was made with this degree of bald-faced mythologizing it’d be as equally eye-rolling.

Truth isn’t looking to live up to its title; it simply has an ax to grind. That much is confirmed when the film also makes the case that if Mapes hadn’t suffered a family tragedy during the 2000 campaign, Al Gore would’ve been President. I’m not even kidding. Truth grinds its ax with schmaltzy sentimentality, too, as it portrays the bond between Rather and Mapes not just as trusted colleagues but surrogate father and daughter. These bastions of noble purity are railroaded by a rigged system and left for dead by the network they’ve been loyal to (except for that time, you know, when they betrayed the network with their ideologically-compromised sloppiness).

That official CBS statement gave an accurate conclusion as well: “It’s astounding how little truth there is in Truth. There are, in fact, too many distortions, evasions, and baseless conspiracy theories to enumerate them.” Not that you have to take their word for it. The complete and total lack of objectivity is all up there on the screen to see, in all of its elitist pretense.

Truth is red meat for Bush haters while failing to challenge skeptics in any credible way, and is too openly desperate at rewriting the history it longs to revise. It takes what Stephen Colbert mocked for seven years on his “Report” – not needing pesky facts to know that something’s true; just your gut – and portrays it as valor.