Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

1. Homefront* (Universal)

2. Frozen (Disney)

3. The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount)

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

5. Delivery Man (Disney)

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

7. American Hustle (Sony)

8. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate)

9. Hours (Lionsgate)

10. Gravity (Warner Bros.)

* Available for rental before Redbox and Netflix

Published in Video Top 10

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

1. Gravity* (Warner Bros.)

2. Homefront* (Universal)

3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate)

4. 12 Years a Slave* (20th Century Fox)

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

6. Thor: The Dark World (Disney)

7. Hours (Lionsgate)

8. Pulling Strings (Lionsgate)

9. Escape Plan (Summit/Lionsgate)

10. The Counselor (20th Century Fox)

* Available for rental before Redbox and Netflix

Published in Video Top 10

1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate)

2. Gravity* (Warner Bros.)

3. Thor: The Dark World (Disney)

4. 12 Years a Slave* (20th Century Fox)

5. Hours (Lionsgate)

6. Escape Plan (Summit/Lionsgate)

7. Oldboy (Sony)

8. Dallas Buyers Club (Universal)

9. The Counselor (20th Century Fox)

10. Pulling Strings (Lionsgate)

* Available for rental before Redbox and Netflix

Published in Video Top 10

Sirens (Thursday, March 6, USA), series debut: The network is touting Sirens—based on a British series of the same name—as an “edgy” and “unrestrained” comedy produced by Denis Leary, now moving from New York firefighters (Rescue Me) to Chicago EMTs. “Edgy” and “unrestrained” on USA is nowhere near what Leary got away with at FX, but Sirens still has its funny/raunchy moments; it’s just closer to Brooklyn Nine-Nine than the dark, eff’d-up recesses of Rescue Me. As USA’s first half-hour original comedy since, oh, forever, Sirens is a strong play to get back in the game—and, at the very least, it’s one less Modern Family rerun on the schedule. (Seriously, USA—dial it back.)

Saint George (Thursday, March 6, FX), series debut: Why any network outside of CBS is making sitcoms with laugh tracks in 2014 is beyond The Only TV Column That Matters™. But … FX? Sure, they accommodated Charlie Sheen for his Anger Management (which tonight hits the halfway point in its 100-episode contractual death march), but the network that brought you Louie should not be stooping to using any more canned yuks. Especially not for George Lopez, who, like Sheen, is a veteran of the old sitcom model who won’t/can’t adapt to modern comedy. Saint George is another tired family ’com, albeit it one with the odd co-casting choices of David Zayas (Dexter, Oz) and Danny Trejo (everything), two actors not exactly known for bringing the funny. However, I’d watch the hell out of a Machete sitcom—get on that, FX.

Resurrection (Sunday, March 9, ABC), series debut: Did you find The Returned on Sundance too French and creepy? ABC’s far-more-’Merican Resurrection is (maybe) for you. The residents of small Missouri town Arcadia are shocked when dead loved ones from decades ago suddenly reappear, un-aged and unaware of what’s happened; an unsure mashup of warm-fuzzy weepiness, X-Files sci-fi and subtle religious undertones ensue. Resurrection may be attempting too many directions at once, but the cast (which includes Omar Epps, Kurtwood Smith and Frances Fisher) is strong enough to see it through the limited series’ planned eight episodes—if ABC doesn’t pull the plug or, worse, try to extend the show if it’s a hit. Learn a lesson from Under the Dome, already.

Believe (Monday, March 10, NBC), series debut: In other high-concept, You Will Feel All the Feels news, here’s Believe, from J.J. Abrams and Alfonso Cuarón (who just won an Oscar for directing Gravity). The story centers on Bo (Johnny Sequoyah—yes, Johnny Sequoyah), a 10-year-old girl with X-Men-level superpowers being pursued by evil forces (mainly, Kyle MacLachlan). But wait, there’s more: Her entourage, the True Believers, think they’ve found the one man capable of being Bo’s protector/mentor, a longhair (Jake McLaughlin) wrongfully imprisoned on death row; once they break him out, the gang travels from town to town helping folks while staying one step ahead of the bad guys. Believe is even more directionally confused than Resurrection, but, thanks to the influence of Abrams and Cuarón, it looks fantastic.

Chrisley Knows Best (Tuesday, March 11, USA), series debut: I was predisposed to hate new reality series Chrisley Knows Best from the promos alone. After seeing the pilot, I asked the True TV design team to come up with a stronger ratings bug then the red “stop” button, something that signified taking one’s television to the backyard, spraying it with gunfire, setting it ablaze, burying it, salting the earth and rounding up every dog in the zip code to urinate on the shallow grave. They were stumped, so red button it is.


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Victors Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) spark rebellion in the Districts, so President Snow (Donald Sutherland) devises a surprise, brutal Hunger Games All Stars to shut ’em up. So, kids watch this? (Lionsgate; March 7)

Lloyd the Conqueror

A community-college slacker (Evan Williams) enlists the help of a self-defense instructor (Tegan Moss) and a retired gaming wizard (Brian Posehn) to defeat his medieval-lit professor in a LARPing showdown. So, adults watch this? (Freestyle)

Rogue: Season 1

A troubled Oakland undercover cop (Thandie Newton) reluctantly works with a crime boss (Marton Csokas) to find her son’s killer, even though she believes it was her own fault—hence, she’s troubled, but really, really good-looking. (E1)

Siberia: Season 1

When 16 Survivor-style TV contestants on are dumped in Siberia, bizarre events and bloody deaths begin to happen—finally, a reality show with a body count! Sadly, it’s not real, but Siberia is surprisingly engaging. And canceled. (Lionsgate)

Sorority Horror House

During pledge week, a Kappa (Alessandra Torresani) suspects that her head mistress (Morgan Fairchild) is behind a series of gruesome murders around campus. The perfect Halloween movie for spring break … or something? (MTI)

More New DVD Releases (March 11)

Armistice, Beyond Outrage, The Book Thief, The Broken Circle Breakdown, Contract Killers, Dark House, Easy Money: Hard to Kill, End of the World, Enemies Closer, Homefront, The Hungover Games, Inside Llewyn Davis, Out of the Furnace, Puncture Wounds, Time Warrior.

Published in TV

A new director, some well-placed cast additions, a brand-new cinematographer and a strong central performance from Jennifer Lawrence make The Hunger Games: Catching Fire a vast improvement over the franchise’s first chapter.

Director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) and cinematographer Jo Willems (Limitless) get rid of most of the goofy, baroque sheen that made The Hunger Games so annoying. They also have a much better technique for filming action scenes—and as a result, they have made a film that feels quite brutal at times. A film about kids being forced to kill each other should be brutal, and not feel as if it is pulling punches, as the first movie did.

Watching this new film, I was reminded of how the Harry Potter series switched into high gear with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, when Alfonso Cuarón washed out the color palette and added a new element of darkness to the proceedings. In many ways, Francis Lawrence steals Cuarón’s game—and that’s to the viewer’s benefit. This is an efficient, well-oiled movie machine now.

The sequel picks up soon after the events of the first film, with Katniss and Peeta (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson) enjoying a relatively calm, reluctant celebrity life after their rule-bending victory in The Hunger Games. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is not happy with the rising popularity of Katniss, and he lets her know that, in person. Soon thereafter, Katniss and Peeta find themselves fighting for their lives again in a rarely invoked tradition of former Hunger Games victors competing against each other.

Gone is that quick-cut, shaky-cam, messed-up way of filming action to mask the violence in what is essentially supposed to be a violent movie. (The movies thus far have been rated PG-13; an R rating would keep many young fans away.) The action is not only easy to follow, but quite exciting. A sequence in which Katniss and friends flee some sort of creeping gas cloud stands as one of the better action scenes this year.

Lawrence takes Katniss to a new, far-more-interesting level this time out. In front of Willems’ lens, she’s looking a little more worn and embittered; I found her believable as a war-torn survivor. She also seems a little more engaged in this movie, as if the new director simply pulled a better performance out of her. Her performance in the first film was fine, but the environment she was put in felt staged. Catching Fire feels more organic.

Sutherland’s Snow gets a chance to be more involved and far more sinister; he is establishing himself as a true villain. Philip Seymour Hoffman climbs onboard as the shady new game master; he’s a far more menacing presence than Wes Bentley and his lame facial hair.

Hoffman is good, but Sam Claflin wins my pick for best new addition to the cast as the preening Finnick Odair. He’s a great, mysterious Hunger Games competitor whose motivations are complicated. He also provides some decent comic relief. Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer also join the cast as competitors, making the group of people in the game far, far more interesting than those in the first film.

In the great tradition of mega-franchises like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire leaves you with a big cliffhanger. Don’t worry; The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (two films will cover one book) is merely a year away. Even better news: Francis Lawrence will direct the two Mockingjay films, so they have a solid chance of being good.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is now 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 …


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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