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1. Frozen (Disney)

2. 47 Ronin* (Universal)

3. The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount)

4. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Paramount)

5. Delivery Man (Disney)

6. Gravity (Warner Bros.)

7. Homefront (Universal)

8. Walking With Dinosaurs* (20th Century Fox)

9. Saving Mr. Banks (Disney)

10. 12 Years a Slave (20th Century Fox)

* Available for rental before Redbox and Netflix

Published in Video Top 10

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are charming as Walt Disney and Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers in this obviously whitewashed look at Disney’s attempt to get the movie rights to her book.

We all know that Disney succeeded, but many don’t know that Travers was quite the holdout. The movie splits time between the Disney/Travers business and Travers’ childhood, where we find out that much of Mary Poppins was based on her troubled father (Colin Farrell) and actual nanny.

B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman are wonderful as the Sherman brothers, who made Mary a musical, much to the chagrin of Travers. The movie takes a lot of artistic license with the situation; even though Travers is depicted as difficult, she was far more adversarial in real life, and never approved of the movie. (Those animated penguins!)

Still, the film is much fun to watch, with Hanks and Thompson making it all very worthwhile and heartwarming. Shockingly, Thompson was super-snubbed when it came time to hand out Oscar nominations, as was Hanks. In fact, only Thomas Newman’s score received an Oscar nom from this film.

Special Features: Some deleted scenes are of interest, especially one between Hanks and Thompson when Travers has decided to leave without giving approval of the film adaptation. There’s also a cute scene of the real Richard Sherman leading the cast in a round of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.” Still, this package is a bit lacking. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

1. Frozen (Disney)

2. Homefront* (Universal)

3. American Hustle (Sony)

4. Gravity* (Warner Bros.)

5. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate)

6. 12 Years a Slave* (20th Century Fox)

7. Hours (Lionsgate)

8. Thor: The Dark World (Disney)

9. Out of the Furnace* (20th Century Fox)

10. Saving Mr. Banks (Disney)

* Available for rental before Redbox and Netflix

Published in Video Top 10

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are charming as Walt Disney and Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers in this obviously whitewashed look at Disney’s effort to get Travers’ approval to make a movie out of her book. Of course, most of us know he succeeded, but many don’t know that Travers was quite the holdout.

The movie splits time between the Disney/Travers business and Travers’ childhood, where we find out that much of Mary Poppins was based on her troubled father (Colin Farrell) and actual nanny. B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman are wonderful as the Sherman brothers, who made Mary into a musical, much to the chagrin of Travers.

The movie takes a lot of artistic license with the situation. Even though Travers is depicted as difficult here, she was far more adversarial in real life—and never approved of the movie. (Those animated penguins!) Still, the film is fun to watch, with Hanks and Thompson making it all very worthwhile and heartwarming.

Saving Mr. Banks is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

This coming fall/holiday movie season is loaded, so here is a mere sampling of the rest of this movie year—and, man, does it look promising. The summer was a bit of a slog, but we’re looking at a major cinematic rally for 2013.

Movies are listed in order of their announced release dates (which are always subject to change). There’s a lot cover, so here we go …

Gravity

(Oct. 4): Sandra Bullock and George Clooney get lost in space for director Alfonso Cuarón. I feel like I’ve seen the whole damned thing already, because the marketing for this film has involved numerous clips in different previews. Stop! I want to be surprised! Early reviews are crazily enthusiastic, so here’s to it kicking some ass.

Runner Runner

(Oct. 4): Ben Affleck plays big a criminal asshole to Justin Timberlake’s just-sort-of-misguided asshole. The film involves online gambling and crocodiles, with the future Batman eventually squaring off against the guy who sings that absolutely adorable “Mirrors” song.

Captain Phillips

(Oct. 11): Director Paul Greengrass, master of the shaky cam, pairs with Tom Hanks, master of making us love him because he’s so freaking endearing, in this true story about Somali pirate peril on the high seas. The film promises many, many minutes of Hanks looking very anxious.

Machete Kills

(Oct. 11): I’m surprised Machete got a sequel, and I’m even more surprised that sequel got a theatrical release. Groovy.

Romeo and Juliet

(Oct. 11): Seventeen years after Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Daines, we are getting yet another adaptation of this tragic lubby-dubby story, with this one being of more traditional. Hailee Steinfeld from True Grit is in it, so I am intrigued. Trivia: Steinfeld was actually born in ’96, the year the DiCaprio version was released. You just learned something stupid and useless!

All Is Lost

(Oct. 18): Robert Redford, just like Tom Hanks, will experience peril on the high seas—sans pirates and, of course, sans Tom Hanks. If you like Redford, this is for you, because the film is all him.

Escape Plan

(Oct. 18): Sylvester Stallone stars as a guy who breaks out of prisons, and Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a dude sitting in prison. Thirty years ago, this would’ve been HUGE!

12 Years a Slave

(Oct. 18): Chiwetel Ejiofor—an actor whose face you know, although you probably can’t pronounce his name correctly—stars as a pre-Civil War free man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. This is already getting Oscar buzz.

Carrie

(Oct. 18): Chloe Grace Moretz, she of Kick-Ass fame, stars in this retelling of the Stephen King high school nightmare. Something tells me they have no chance of re-creating anything close to the deranged John Travolta pig-slaughter scene from Brian De Palma’s original. Actually, they could probably get Travolta to do a cameo and re-create that scene himself. It seems he’ll do anything these days.

The Counselor

(Oct. 25): Ridley Scott directs Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender in a film written by Cormac McCarthy. That’s a solid pedigree.

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

(Oct. 25): Johnny Knoxville does a whole film as his old-guy character. If the rest of the movie is half as funny as the scene in which the kid does a stripper dance to “Cherry Pie,” this will be a blast.

Diana and Grace of Monaco

(Nov. 1 and Nov. 27, respectively): I’m lumping these two together, because they both feature Aussie actresses playing princesses. Naomi Watts (pictured here) plays Diana, while Nicole Kidman is Princess Grace, aka former Hollywood starlet Grace Kelly. Watts should have at least two Oscars by now, so I’m hoping this will finally get her the recognition she deserves (although anybody will be hard-pressed to beat Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine this year).

Ender’s Game

(Nov. 1): People have been telling me to read this book for years. I never did. Now it’s a movie with Harrison Ford in it. I’m still pretty sure I will never read this book.

Dallas Buyers Club

(Nov. 1): This is the year of the McConaughey, isn’t it? He participated in MudThe Wolf of Wall Street (more on that film shortly), and this promising-looking drama. As Ron Woodroof, a real-life man diagnosed with HIV, McConaughey lost near 40 pounds for the part.

Thor: The Dark World

(Nov. 8): Kenneth Branagh brought a Shakespearean goofiness to the first Thor movie. He has left the building, so now somebody else has to make an amusing movie with Chris Hemsworth in that getup—and without the aid of Iron Man or The Hulk.

The Wolf of Wall Street

(Nov. 15): Scorsese and DiCaprio team yet again for a raucous-looking take on financial misbehaving. Matthew McConaughey and Jonah Hill co-star. I have a feeling Hill would lose out in a supporting-actor Oscar campaign due to his demon-rape scene inThis Is the End.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

(Nov. 22): There’s another Hunger Games movie on the way. Joy.

Delivery Man

(Nov. 22): Vince Vaughn stars as a man who has fathered many children with donated sperm—and now they want to meet him. After the horror that was The Internship, I will throw soda at the screen if he says “Google” even once in this movie.

Oldboy

(Nov. 27): Spike Lee remakes one of the more twisted movies ever made. A remake of Oldboy seems like a preposterous notion to me, but it’s Spike Lee, so I’m curious.

Inside Llewyn Davis

(Dec. 6): If you aren’t impressed by the upcoming movie list thus far, this Coen Brothers movie about a folk singer should get you back on track. This also co-stars the guy who sings that adorable “Mirrors” song.

American Hustle

(Dec. 13): Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper all reunite with director David O. Russell for a ’70s period piece about con artists. This movie is essentially why Louis C.K., who also stars, canceled his show at the MGM Grand this year—a show for which I had tickets. It had better be good.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

(Dec. 13): I didn’t like the first Hobbit movie—not one bit. This one promises more dragon and less dwarves stuffing their faces and hitting themselves.

The Monuments Men

(Dec. 18): George Clooney directs and stars in this film about historians trying to recover works of art during World War II. It also stars Matt Damon and Bill “I Will Never Do Ghostbusters 3” Murray.

Her

(Dec. 18): Spike Jonze is back with Joaquin Phoenix playing a dude who falls in love with a computer voice (Scarlett Johansson).

Saving Mr. Banks

(Dec. 20): More Tom Hanks! He plays Walt Disney this time. Brother is going to cancel himself out at the Oscars.

Foxcatcher

(Dec. 20): Steve Carell stars as murderer John du Pont. It doesn’t look like there is much to laugh at in this movie. It co-stars Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo.

Anchorman 2

(Dec. 20): Will Ferrell needs a hit, and he’s going to get one with this long-delayed sequel. Steve Carell is here as Brick, going for laughs on the very same day his murder-guy film is being released. That’s crazy!

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

(Dec. 25): I’ve always championed Ben Stiller as being much more than the klutz in the Museum movies. As a director, he’s responsible for The Cable Guy and Tropic Thunder, two of the more-adventurous and better-looking comedies of the last 20 years. This one looks like he might be treading in Oscar territory.

Grudge Match

(Dec. 25): Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro play retired boxers getting back in the ring for one last fight. It’s kind of like Rocky vs. Jake LaMotta—and it can’t happen soon enough for me.

Published in Previews and Features