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Witherspoon’s ‘Wild’ hike heads toward Oscars

Their phone conversation was as short as it was awkward.

  • Christmas day film releases bring options for everyone

    Christmas day is upon us, and with it, a goodie bag full of memorable holiday traditions. It is a time of love, family, gifts, and popcorn? That’s right. Many of us movie fans find the holiday as the perfect time to cozy up in a theater full of our fellow men and women, and digest our Christmas feasts over a new Hollywood classic.  Here is what to expect from the films set to release on Christmas day.In case you haven’t noticed, Benedict Cumberbatch has been nearly flawless in his film and television roles in recent years, and his newest release promises to continue the trend. “The Imitation Game” follows the true story of Alan Turning, an English mathematician and logician who spearheaded a successful effort to crack Nazi Germany’s Enigma Code during World War II. The film is rated PG-13, making it an appropriate family feature, but the plot will surely be highly cerebral and dramatic rather than packed with action sequences or funny one-liners. Don’t expect the kids to get through “The Imitation Game” without squirming and checking their smart phones, but adults should love the captivating performances and plot.Following the WWII trend this Christmas is “Unbroken”. The film tells the true story of Olympian Louis Zamperini, who lived at sea aboard a raft for 47 days after a plane crash, only to become a prisoner of war after being captured by the Japanese Navy. The film is directed by Angelina Jolie, and though it was written by the Coen brothers, the critics have been scrooges when it comes to reviewing “Unbroken”. That’s because the film does not necessarily show us anything we have never seen before, falling into tiredly stereotypical genres of survival in the face of shipwreck and war. Do not expect anything ground breaking from “Unbroken”, but it may still be worth the watch if you are in the mood for a story of triumph in the face of adversity. Though not bringing us anything excitingly new this holiday season, last year Angelina Jolie did successfully pave the way for bringing classic fairy tales to live action with “Maleficent”. This year, “Into the Woods” rides that wave in a film that has many interesting selling points: action, romance, music, and Meryl Streep without any makeup. The film fuses together plot-points from several classic Grimm fairy tales including Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood to tell a story about a childless baker and his wife, who are determined to break a curse placed on them by an evil witch. “Into the Woods” will likely be the box office giant this Christmas as it appeals to the entire family and has a star filled cast. What would the holiday season be without another biopic and a Tim Burton flick? The final film on the list this Christmas is “Big Eyes”, which tells the story of 1950’s painter Margaret Keane, and her struggle to obtain credit for her art. The film stars talented actress Amy Adams and co-stars Christoph Waltz. “Big Eyes” is fairing well with critics, and should be an off-beat treat for those who want something a little less traditional in their movie choice.

  • The Loft to show controversial movie "The Interview" in the name of freedom

    While many theaters backed away from showing "The Interview" on the planned Dec. 25 opening after terrorists threats that have reportedly been linked to North Korea, some other theaters have expressed an interest in showing the controversial picture.Tucson's The Loft Cinema is one of those willing to stand up to the threats, offering to release the movie as planned on Christmas Day.After what is being called one of the worst hacks ever, Sony Pictures called over the Dec. 25 premier. With that decision, came plenty of critics, including heavyweights such as George Clooney and President Obama.According to the movie details:In the action-comedy The Interview, Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show “Skylark Tonight.”When they discover that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. As Dave and Aaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them, perhaps the two least-qualified men imaginable, to assassinate Kim Jong-un. (Dir. by Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen, 2014, USA, 112 mins., Rated R)

  • Movie new releases 10/19

    New movie releases for 1/19The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies - PG-13| 2 hr. 24 min. “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” brings to an epic conclusion the adventures of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and the Company of Dwarves. Having reclaimed their homeland from the Dragon Smaug, the Company has unwittingly unleashed a deadly force into the world.Cast: Ian McKellen , Martin Freeman , Richard Armitage , Evangeline Lilly , Lee Pace , Luke Evans , Benedict Cumberbatch , Ken StottDirector: Peter JacksonGenres: Fantasy, Adventure

  • Chris Rock brings laughter, reality to ‘Top Five’

    Written, directed and starring Chris Rock, this romantic comedy delivers this holiday season’s funniest movie—albeit with shocking language and lewd behavior at times.  In only his third time sitting in the director’s chair, the famous comedian potently combines an unsettling, crude style of humor with a milder storyline centered on relationships.  The former cast member of Saturday Night Live takes moviegoers on a wild adventure involving strong sexual content and profanity-laced outbursts as we see his fallible character attempt to remain viable in the comedy business.In “Top Five”, Rock plays a comedian turned movie star about to marry the next Kim Kardashian in front of Bravo television cameras and the world. The media frenzy over his upcoming wedding overshadows Rock’s latest movie release and leaves him with serious trust issues as he’s about to begin a scheduled interview with a New York Times reporter—portrayed perfectly by Rosario Dawson.  This movie’s hilarious, yet always edgy, ride through New York City lambasts the stark differences between the media’s sensationalism of Hollywood stars and the deeply rooted insecurities often held by those in show business.  That’s why this film works so well—it breaks down all the walls surrounding a person’s alcoholism, fame, and mistrust issues and replaces them with honest feedback and self-reflection.  The movie’s realistic look at one’s personal difficulties despite stardom and wealth, gives the plot plenty of room to work in laughs.  The catalyst for Rock’s character is Dawson’s hard-nosed interview, where she very shrewdly returns targeted verbal fire in his direction after every personal attack and joke he attempts at her expense.  Chris Rock, as the director, makes very effective use of flashbacks in the film to vividly describe his character’s destructive behavior in the past.  Likewise, we see a rising comedy star currently surrounded by friends and family--all wanting to hear his ‘Top Five’ picks on hip hop artists, rappers and comics of all-time.  Lastly, we feel for this comedian who isn’t sure he’ll get another laugh if he remains sober.  It’s each of these situations that make this film so entertaining, real and watchable.  “Top Five” offers audiences nearly non-stop laughs with a flawless blend of nightclub comedy, mind-numbing sexual exploits and classic romance plot twists.  Chris Rock is magnificent in a role he was born to write, direct and star in.  Rosario Dawson’s strong performance both compliments and keeps pace with Rock’s genius work.  Together, they bring an eye-opening, funny, and romantic stand-up routine to the big-screen.Grade: B+

  • DVD Releases 12/16

    DVD releases for 12/16At the Devil’s Door - Not Yet Rated| 1 hr. 33 min.Leigh, an ambitious young real estate agent, is asked to sell a house with a dubious past. When she finds the runaway daughter of the couple trying to sell the home, Leigh becomes entangled with a supernatural force with sinister plans.Cast: Catalina Sandino Moreno , Naya Rivera , Ashley Rickards , Wyatt Russell , Ava Acres , Colin Egglesfield , Assaf Cohen , Tara BuckDirector: Nicholas McCarthyGenres: Horror

  • DVD Releases 12/9

    New DVDs released on Tuesday, December 9.Dolphin Tale 2 - PG| 1 hr. 47 min. “Dolphin Tale 2” continues the story of the brave dolphin Winter, whose miraculous rescue and recovery—thanks to a groundbreaking prosthetic tail—made her a symbol of hope and perseverance to people around the world and inspired the 2011 family hit movie “Dolphin Tale.”Cast: Harry Connick Jr. , Ashley Judd , Kris Kristofferson , Morgan Freeman , Nathan Gamble , Cozi Zuehlsdorff , Austin Stowell , Betsy LandinDirector: Charles Martin SmithGenres: Docudrama, Adventure

  • New movies 12/11

    A list of movies being released this week. All movies coming out on Friday, December 12 unless otherwise noted.Exodus Gods and Kings - PG-13| 2 hr. 30 min.From acclaimed director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Prometheus) comes the epic adventure “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” the story of one man’s daring courage to take on the might of an empire.  Using state of the art visual effects and 3D immersion, Scott brings new life to the story of the defiant leader Moses (Christian Bale) as he rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.Cast: Christian Bale , Joel Edgerton , John Turturro , Aaron Paul , Ben Kingsley , Sigourney Weaver , Golshifteh Farahani , María ValverdeDirector: Ridley ScottGenres: Action, Historical drama, Adventure

  • S.H.I.E.L.D half season finale delivers

    On Tuesday we got the fall finale of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and we got more questions than answers. Some characters are dead, others “dead” and a few more transformed.I have to admit, my initial viewing left me thinking “that was cool, but…” I like the episode, but felt we lacked the answers we were waiting for. Then I did a little research.Confession time, I grew up a comic book geek. I can recite trivia and continuity from about 1975-1996, but after graduating from college the hobby priced me out. I would keep tabs, mostly by picking up occasional graphic novels or flipping through magazines, but I was no longer a diehard. That is why I missed a few of the big reveals in the finale.We knew Sky (Chloe Bennett) had a secret and we were pretty sure it involved the blue alien from last season, but now it appears we know a lot more. Her father Cal (Kyle MacLachlan) referred to her as “Daisy” and a quick google search reveled that she is a character named Daisy Johnson who is a superhero called Quake, who happens to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. in the comics. Didn’t know that? Don’t worry, neither did I and I have about 30 boxes of comics taking up closet space in my guest bedroom and my father’s house. Over the past 10-15 years  S.H.I.E.L.D. has become more important in the Marvel Universe (duh, just look at the Avengers and the latest Captain America movie), and apparently Quake is important.The one thing I did get, and got a few episodes ago, is that MacLachlan is essentially the comic character Mr. Hyde, though I doubt he will ever be called that.We also know, (thanks google) that the mist that emits from the crystals is something called “Terrigen Mist” and that is what gives the Inhumans their powers? Who are the Inhumans? Humans that were genetically altered by the alien race the Kree (blue aliens) thousands of years ago. The Inhumans are slated for a Marvel movie in 2018.

  • Hilary Swank is lone bright spot in ‘The Homesman’

    Hollywood studios deserve major credit for increasing the public’s awareness of mental illness and the silent suffering often faced by those afflicted. Leading actors from several successful 2014 films have masterfully morphed into character to showcase their delusional tendencies or other psychotic episodes. Michael Keaton’s powerful performance in “Birdman” provided audiences with a riveting illustration of bouts from auditory and visual hallucinations. In “Nightcrawler”, Jake Gyllenhaal’s emotionally troubled and socially awkward freelance cameraman role gave us a look into the off-kilter, dangerous menace to Los Angeles residents. Director David Fincher provided audiences with a brilliant depiction of a psychopath in the twisted thriller “Gone Girl”. And now comes a western movie, directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones, which chronicles the suffering and plight of women on the American frontier during the 1850s.“The Homesman” offers a sobering account of the difficulties faced by settlers along the sparsely populated U.S. territories. Based on the 1988 novel by Glendon Swarthout, the movie depicts how bitter cold weather, infectious diseases and isolation from society created unbearable hardships and, ultimately, death to many on the Plains. But this story takes the dark, depressing conditions even one step further--shocking audiences with the sexual abuse and inhumane treatment leveled by husbands upon their wives. The mental and physical assaults so severe that it prompts three women to completely shut down on their families and own lives.The lone bright spot in this movie is the presence of two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank. Standing between a depressing storyline and multiple horrid scenes of harsh treatment towards women lurks the unmistakable generosity of Swank’s character, Mary Bee Cuddy. Determined to find help for those suffering, Swank adds another stellar piece of work to an already remarkable motion picture resume. Unfortunately, Swank’s exceptional performance and the film’s strong start can’t overcome setbacks from a disjointed storyline with too many loose ends at its conclusion. Swank--and to a much lesser degree Jones--heroically carries this movie as far as its weak plot allows…and then some. But in the end, Swank’s effort and the cruel reality check on life’s demands isn’t enough to save this film.This film highlights mental illness and the stigma associated with social exclusion. Anyone different from the norm was discriminated against and suffered for it. In the brutal and heartless conditions of the American frontier, women also fell victim to the harsh treatment from their husbands. “The Homesman” gallantly sheds light on the medical condition by which women suffered as a result of diminished coping abilities. The stressful demands of life became too much for many to overcome. But just as a diagnosis may be easier to find than its cure, “The Homesman” charts a steady course towards hope only to leave viewers stranded in ambivalence. It’s a shame that a film with such a promising start and superb acting squanders both with a depressing, inconclusive end result.Grade: C(Editor’s Note: Patrick King is a resident of Oro Valley and writer for the REEL BRIEF movie blog at www.reelbrief.com.  You may email him at reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com)

  • New movie releases Dec. 5

    New Movies the week of December 5Dying of the Light - R| 1 hr. 35 min.Forced into retirement and terminally ill, a CIA agent (Nicolas Cage) gets word that his longtime nemesis (Alexander Karim) has resurfaced, and sets out on a personal mission to kill him.Cast: Nicolas Cage , Anton Yelchin , Alexander Karim , Irène Jacob , Adetomiwa Edun , Aymen Hamdouchi , Claudius Peters , Robert G. SladeDirector: Paul SchraderGenres: Action, Thriller

  • The Loft Insider: First Fridays & Films of 1939

    As the weather continues to drop this month, The Loft Cinema has graciously given Tucson residents an opportunity to spend Sunday afternoons in the warm company of Hollywood’s brightest stars. December’s Monthly Series proudly presents the Films of 1939 with the showing of five silver screen classics for fans of all ages; proudly commemorating the 75th Anniversary of Hollywood’s greatest year. Fully remastered and shown on pristine 35mm film, these screen masterpieces are truly a treat for even the most casual of movie fans looking for a fun day at the theater. Showing this Sunday is John Ford's legendary western "Stagecoach", but before that be sure to check out First Friday Shorts and support the new wave of cinematic talent in the area.First Friday Shorts (Dec. 5)Responsible for some of the most interesting and entertaining stuff being shown anywhere in Arizona, First Fridays are amazing events exclusive to The Loft Cinema that give fledgling filmmakers an opportunity to play their work in front of a willing (and very honest) crowd. These exciting events occur the first Friday of every month at 9:00 P.M. and are open to anyone and everyone wanting to participate. Participants must submit their project the day of the event (only the first 15 are accepted) on DVD, thumb drive, or Blu-Ray, and video lengths should be under 15 minutes. The catch to all of this comes at the 3 minute mark of each video; as the audience is given the choice to either continue watching or gong it and move on to the next film!This electric environment is always a blast for aspiring filmmakers and those who simply go to watch and support; as videos of all stories and sizes get a showing on Southern Arizona’s largest movie screen. An added plus that definitely doesn't hurt is the $200 monthly grand prize and the whopping $1,000 yearly grand prize awarded to the area's best short films. First Fridays represents one of the most distinct and impressive features that The Loft provides, enabling the entire community to present their work on a large scale. So bring your DVD or come to support Arizona's unknown talent this coming Friday, you won't regret it!Disclaimer: Also be aware that the fact that films are not screened or previewed before the event starts means that some content may not be appropriate for audiences of all ages.Stagecoach (Dec. 7)

  • ‘The Theory of Everything’ stars quietly earn Oscar buzz

    This true life story, about one of the world’s most brilliant minds, takes moviegoers on an emotional journey so meaningful that it can’t be captured on a chalkboard with a science formula. It’s a trip even more personal than just physicist Stephen Hawking’s many-worlds theory of quantum mechanics. Yes, ‘The Theory of Everything” covers Hawking’s dazzling, expansive mathematical mind as his frail body recoils from a deadly disease. However, it effortlessly illustrates how Hawking’s mind and body grew in opposite directions over time, affecting his relationships with friends, family and peers. No rapport is more compelling or influential to viewers than the one between Professor Hawking and his wife, Jane Wilde.“The Theory of Everything” is based upon the memoir by Hawking’s spouse, Jane, titled “Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen”. Eddie Redmayne (“Les Miserables”) portrays the brainiac Hawking and gives the strongest lead acting performance I’ve seen in years. Diagnosed with a form of ALS in the early 1960s at the age of 21, Hawking struggled with his debilitating disease as he pursued his Ph.D. and future wife, Jane, at the University of Cambridge. Redmayne convincingly showcases Hawking’s physical limitations as the film ventures into theories on space-time continuums and relativity. Redmayne’s physical transformation and slowed speech easily dwarfs Dustin Hoffman’s autistic, Academy Award-winning gem in 1988’s “Rain Man”.While the movie chronicles Hawking’s math and science achievements on the world stage, it never spirals audiences into complex equations to solve. Rather, it painstakingly embodies Stephen Hawking’s budding marriage to Jane and the shifting dynamics in their partnership.Academy Award-winning director James Marsh (“Man on Wire”) phenomenally manages to turn this movie into a love story. In her brightest role to date, Felicity Jones plays Hawking’s wife, Jane. Jones’ endearing and heartfelt performance should land her an Oscar nomination come January. Few actresses can invoke emotion from others with only a look…the eyes and face more effective than needless words on camera. But Jones brings her own form of physical acting to this film, sometimes with a tear in her eye. At other times, she just provides a fleeting glance to steal a scene. Jones’ sterling role compliments Redmayne’s extraordinary job as Hawking, leaving both better off for the other’s work.“The Theory of Everything” is an emotional story told by two exceptional and Oscar-worthy performances. Although it would be easy to sum up Stephen Hawking’s life as one of scientific gains or physical setbacks, it’s actually really about neither. Hawking’s perseverance and determination, as a result of Jane’s love and prodding, gave the physicist more than worldwide accolades and successful math formulas. It gave them both children and a new chance at life. Today, at the age of 72, Hawking continues to inspire others to dream, think and ponder the theory of pushing back time. This true love story will also spark viewers to fathom how they’d react to the diagnosis that faced Stephen and to which Jane agreed to help him fight. To that end, audiences should see this movie about love, strength and commitment. Hawking may have lost his voice, but he didn’t lose his will to survive…or his humor; “Quiet people have the loudest minds” - Stephen Hawking.Grade: A-

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