written by: Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio
produced by: Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski
directed by: Gore Verbinski
rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material)
runtime: 149 min.
U.S. release date: July 3, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray release date: December 17, 2013
I love The Lone Ranger.
When I say that, I mean the character. I’ve always been attracted to characters who are “superheroes” without super powers, and who work with a close partner. Batman, Captain America, even The Green Hornet (who’s actually the Ranger’s great-nephew, for the trivia-obsessed).
The big winner on December 16th at the Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA) awards dinner was “12 Years a Slave”. The powerful film by director Steve McQueen earned five awards, which made it the evening’s big winner. Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity” received three wins in technical categories, while Spike Jonze’s “Her” was voted Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Score, which was provided by Arcade Fire. I voted for 9 of the 17 categories, which made for somewhat of a surprising evening.
written by: Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith
produced by: Alison Owen, Ian Collie and Phillip Steuer
directed by: John Lee Hancock
rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements including some unsettling images)
runtime: 125 min.
U.S. release date: December 13, 2013
Just as every movie has a story to tell, there’s also a story behind every movie. “Saving Mr. Banks” sets out to tell the story of how the 1964 classic Disney movie, “Mary Poppins” was made. You’d never know that based on the title, which makes it either more intriguing or a little confusing. There has to be a reason though why such a story warrants a movie and, in this case, learning about Mr. Banks and his relationship to Mary Poppins creator P. L. Travers, tells a behind-the-scenes story that is appropriately sentimental and whimsical, with two lead characters who are both kind of unlikeable.
written by: Danny Strong
produced by: Pamela Oas Williams, Laura Zisken, Lee Daniels, Buddy Patrick & Casian Ewes
directed by: Lee Daniels
rating: PG-13 (for some violent and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking)
runtime: 132 min.
U.S. release date: August 16, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray release: January 14, 2014
After the incendiary “Django Unchained” dropped at the end of last year, 2013 has been touted as the year of black filmmaking, with films such as “Fruitvale Station”, “12 Years a Slave“, “42” and “The Best Man Holiday“ all featuring African-Americans both in front of and behind the camera. Added to this list, and attempting to make a late season Oscar grab, is “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”, a film inspired by the true story of Cecil Gaines, a White House servant who worked for several Presidents over the decades.
Well, this is it. 2013′s cinematic last stand. The final chance for studios to offer their best (ahem, “The Wolf of Wall Street”) and their worst (“Tyler Perry’s A Medea Christmas”, of course) to you, dear moviegoer. There are end-of-year, buzzworthy films like “Inside Illewyn Davis” and then there’s Stallone vs. DeNiro in “Grudge Match”. There are movies with a fervent fan base, like “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and then there’s also “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”, a sequel which some fans are awaiting with just as much (if not more) anticipation – cough, me. As usual, this time of the year, there are several films that are getting limited December releases in NY & LA, with wider releases moving into next month. Studios do that so their film can qualify for Oscar consideration and in the past these release dates have changed, sometimes down to the wire. I’ll only list the December wide releases below. So, vote for the movie or movies that you’ve been looking forward to seeing this month and feel free to vote as often as you’d like.
This is the first year I participated as a voter in the CFCA (Chicago Film Critics Association) year-end nominations, leading up to an award ceremony on Monday, December 16th, where the winners will be announced. To say I’m honored to vote is an understatement. The nominees (listed below) are impressive, with “12 Years a Slave”, “Gravity”, “Her” and “Inside Illewyn Davis” in the lead with the most nominations (a by-the-numbers list is also listed below). The categories here are similar to other cities, with the exception of Most Promising Filmmaker and Most Promising Performance, two needed categories, if you ask me. So, without further ado – here are the nominees….
written by: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa, Boyens and Guillermo del Toro
produced by: Peter Jackson, Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Wiener and Fran Walsh
directed by: Peter Jackson
rated: PG-13 (for extended sequences of fantasy action violence and frightening images)
runtime: 161 min.
U.S. release date: December 13, 2013
Those who were letdown by last year’s bloated “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” from Middle Earth maestro Peter Jackson (I’m in that camp), can breathe a sigh of relief – this sequel is better. It’s more streamlined and less meandering and has some dazzling action. But it still doesn’t tell us too much about its titular character. Maybe that’ll come next year, when the third and final film comes out. It’s possible though, that like “The Two Towers” from Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, this thrilling and enjoyable installment could be the best of “The Hobbit” films.