Is it time to remake this one again? With a totally different spin, I guess maybe it is. Now we have Will Gluck ("Easy A") directing from a screen- play he adapted with Aline Brosh McKenna ("The Devil Wears Prada"). The updates actually work quite well and I was pleasantly surprised, as I had my defense shields up.

I'll try to hit the adaptation high points so you don't get seasick when you go!

Here is a sample of the changes:
  • Quvenzhané Wallis (nominated for an Oscar for "Beasts of the Southern Wild") is our dauntless little heroine. This time she's in a foster home, not an orphanage, and she is pretty street smart!
  • Jamie Foxx (won an Oscar for "Ray") Nope, he isn't Daddy Warbucks, this time his character is Will Stacks, a candidate for Mayor of New York. His campaign manager thinks having a cute little girl as an accessory will improve his numbers at the poll.
  • Cameron Diaz ("The Other Woman") is her drunken foster mom, Miss Hannigan, the money-hungry villain of the piece.
  • Rose Byrne ("This is Where I Leave You") Grace works for Mr. Stacks, so she also ends up helping him with the little girl. He knows NOTHING about children and thinks the whole idea is lame.
  • Bobby Cannavale ("Chef") Guy's only goal is for Mr. Stacks to win the election. Nothing else matters.
This PG-13 outing has no profanity, no gunshots, no vehicular mayhem (or just a tiny bit), no blowie uppie stuff and no sweaty bodies. Of course it's always fun to watch a child encounter phenomenal wealth and all its trappings for the first time (we are every bit as curious as Annie). And we see how she got Sandy and his reaction to some of the characters.

I didn't recognize some of the songs, but I saw "Annie" many years ago, so maybe I've forgotten or maybe they are new. I felt that Diaz was too over-the-top; this can be attributed to either the director or the actor... In addition, I did NOT buy into some of the characters' abrupt changes of heart, but that's probably just me. I liked this more than I expected but was glad I used a closed-caption device.
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See the new Freedom Tower in the New York City skyline:
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Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

This final edition of the series is dedicated to both Mickey Rooney (who plays an elderly museum guard) and Robin Williams (Teddy Roosevelt), both of whom are no longer with us. It's a nice way to remember them.

Director Shawn Levy (the two previous chapters of "Night at the Museum") works from a script by Michael Handelman and David Guion who have collaborated before on "Dinner for Schmucks." The main issue in this plot is a potential loss of power from a magical tablet that causes everything in the museum to come alive at night. Our hero has to find an Egyptian pharaoh at the British Museum who knows the secret.

Here is a small part of a HUGE cast:
  • Ben Stiller ("Night at the Museum") is Larry, the museum guard who has cobbled together some semblance of order when the creatures in the museum awaken each night.
  • Ricky Gervais ("The Invention of Lying") Dr. McPhee is fired because he trusted Larry. Now Larry needs a favor....
  • Skyler Gisondo ("The Amazing Spider-Man") Dad wants Nick to go to college. He points out that Nick hasn't even finished his Thank-You notes for his Bar Mitzvah, how can he possibly become a DJ in Ibiza?
  • Owen Wilson ("Night at the Museum") Jedediah is as corn-pone and down-home as ever, but wait until he finds himself in Pompeii!
  • Rebel Wilson ("Pitch Perfect") this British Museum guard is armed with only a claw hammer, but she really MEANS it!
  • Dan Stevens ("Downton Abbey") Dashing Lancelot is upset and confused until he sees "Camelot" on a London theatre marquee. Then he is REALLY confused! (Wait until you see who plays King Arthur.)
  • Ben Kingsley ("Ender's Game") Pharaoh Merenkahre loved the Jews. Larry has to explain that the Jews didn't love him back: They left Egypt.
  • Crystal the Monkey ("Night at the Museum") Unfortunately, Dexter is back; I just don't like this character... His is the only tasteless behavior in this PG movie (see the preview).
  • Dick Van Dyke ("Night at the Museum") Cecil becomes vitally important as the magic begins to wane. Seems he had a past....
This is a CGI lover's paradise. The effects are better and more complex with each chapter. As a rule, I'm not a big fan, but I am impressed! Watch a fist fight tumble into an Escher painting; shades of "Inception!" I also was impressed by Dan Stevens' comedy chops. The guy can be really funny!

There are many subplots for diversion and humor and I enjoyed the familiar cityscapes of London. We saw Trafalgar Square (watch how they divert those lions when they come to life!), the Thames, Parliament, the London Eye, Big Ben, the Gherkin, and the Tower of London, for starters. I want movies to entertain me; I was entertained. I had a good time!
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Here is a preview:
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Big Eyes

Artist Margaret Keene has lived quite the life! First she was an unhappily married mother of one. Next she left her husband and chose to struggle as a single mom, while trying to sell her unusual paintings of big-eyed waifs (it's an acquired taste, if you ask me, but you will recognize them instantly...). Then she met a fellow who began taking credit for her work and developed a HUGE market for it. After that... well. You kinda have to see it, because it unfolds so logically, it just SEEMS outrageous. AND you have to know what society's rules were in the 50s and 60s to understand why things were the way they were.

Director Tim Burton ("Dark Shadows") working from a screenplay by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (jointly won a Golden Globe for "The People vs. Larry Flint") gives us a PG-13 movie that has already garnered many award nominations.

Part of the cast:
  • Amy Adams ("American Hustle") Best Actress nomination from the Golden Globes for her portrayal of Margaret Keene, a 50s woman inching her way toward independence. We get to meet the "real" Margaret during the final credits.
  • Christoph Waltz ("Django Unchained") This two-time Oscar winner has been nominated for Best Actor by Golden Globes for his spooky interpretation of the con man Walter Keene. This guy is so charming it's easy to see how he became Margaret's second husband, plus we can understand how he segued into the art of deception.
  • Danny Huston ("The Congress") is Dick Nolan, the newspaper man who collaborates with Walter to create a phenomenal fad for those ubiquitous Big-Eyed Waifs.
  • Terence Stamp ("The Art of the Steal") is John Canaday, the art critic who lambastes the fad with all the professional clout he can muster.
  • Krysten Ritter (Lots of TV) is DeeAnn, the friend who tells Margaret some unwelcome truths.
I don't remember any profanity, and certainly no violence or sweaty bodies;  there is no vehicular mayhem or blowie uppie stuff, so I'm not sure why it's PG-13 except for the need to understand the 60s. This is a satisfying, true-life depiction of the evolution of an artist... Oh, and some smoking. Adams and Waltz do most of the heavy lifting and they are both excellent!
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See a sample:
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Into the Woods

"I wish..."

Remember that one? It's the first song that launches this perennial stage musical. I have seen it numerous times, most recently a spectacular version in Ashland, Oregon, staged at the Shakespearean Festival.

Now it passes into the capable hands of Rob Marshall ("Chicago") who is someone we can trust with a well-loved musical. He did it right! The first act evokes familiar childhood stories, "Little Red Riding Hood," "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Cinderella," and "Rapunzel," with The Baker and His Wife woven in for continuity. It's constructed as a sort of scavenger hunt. Of course that's the part where they all live "happily ever after." The next section is what happens AFTER the "happily ever after." (Composer Stephen Sondheim MUST be in therapy!)

A stage musical this well known draws out musical theater fans. It was fun to hear the screening audience applaud after a song, much like we would do in "live" theater. The actors not only articulated like stage actors, the sound engineering is terrific! No murmuring, no whispers and no missed dialogue. Whew! This is important because much of the music contains witty lyrics.

Here is part of this huge, capable cast:
  • Lilla Crawford (TV Host) Red Riding Hood skips happily into the woods to Grandmother's house but she's a little bit scared.
  • Johnny Depp ("Lucky Them") The Wolf teaches Red Riding Hood a valuable lesson when he finds her in the woods. "Hello, little girl!"
  • Anna Kendrick ("Pitch Perfect") Cinderella will be just fine, if the birds keep helping her.
  • Christine Baranski ("The Good Wife") Cinderella's Stepmother will go to any lengths to find the perfect husband...for her less- than-perfect daughters.
  • Chris Pine ("Star Trek") Cinderella's Prince is a charming fellow.... He has my favorite punch line.
  • Meryl Streep ("August: Osage County") The Witch is packing a lot of malice and in her mind it's justified. It's not HER fault!
  • Mackenzie Mauzy (Lots of TV) Lonely Rapunzel knows that she wants... something ...and it isn't just visits from her mother, the Witch, so she sings a haunting melody.
  • Billy Magnussen ("Boardwalk Empire") Rapunzel's Prince is in agony when the one thing he wants is the thing he can't have.
  • James Corden ("Begin Again") The Baker wants a son...period! But he's not sure how to be a father. He's not good; he's not bad; he's just nice.
  • Emily Blunt ("Edge of Tomorrow") The Baker's Wife can't understand why she has never had a baby, so she believes The Witch's story. It takes two....
  • Daniel Huttlestone (Gavroche in "Les Miserables") is Jack, who traded his beloved Milky White for a handful of beans.
  • Tracey Ullman ("How I Met Your Mother") Jack's Mother is at her wit's end trying to raise such a simple boy.
This two-hour, PG-rated collaboration between Disney, Lucamar and Marc Platt Productions depicts fairy tales, so expect some computer generated imaging but no sweaty bodies or profanity. Each actor has his or her moment in the spotlight and each one shines! It would be impossible to pick a favorite actor, scene, song or situation, although Chris Pine and Emily Blunt are perfectly cast! ...and that waterfall bit is delicious.... ...and Wyatt Smith's editing for "It's Your Fault" is lickety-split... and... Stop me or I'll go on and on and on...

I like the message, "Be careful what you wish for..."
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I know you'll enjoy this trailer:
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The Imitation Game

This is a modern-day tragedy in which we see a brilliant mathematician turned cryptanalyst pitted against "Enigma," wartime Germany's secret code. To further complicate matters, he is a closeted homosexual. In the 40s when this PG-13 drama takes place, society is not as inclusive as it is today (it was a criminal offence) so the pressures on him are devastating.

Most of Graham Moore's PG-13 screenplay (based on Andrew Hodges' book) focuses on the beginnings of the task force that was assembled when Britain's Military Intelligence ascertained how impossible it would be to break the code (it changed daily). Ultimately, the deed was done by half-a-dozen crossword enthusiasts. (I know this sounds facetious but it is a quote.)

Here is part of the brilliant cast:
  • Benedict Cumberbatch ("Sherlock") is astonishing as Alan Turing, the adroit but socially awkward cryptanalyst (a bit of Asperger's perhaps?) who creates this Rube Goldberg device authorized by Churchill himself...to the dismay of the Army officer who debunks it.
  • Keira Knightley ("Laggies") is Joan Clarke, a mathematician whose parents feel working with an all-male crew would be indecorous. She, on the other hand, says a woman in a man's job doesn't have the luxury of being an ass, so she's always charming and kind. She counsels Turing to try making friends with his crew; watch his artless attempt to tell a joke.
  • Mark Strong ("The Guard") Stewart Menzies warns Turing and Clarke that if they divulge anything about their highly secret work, they will be executed for high treason.
  • Matthew Goode ("A Single Man") Hugh Alexander feels Turing needs some social pointers from an expert...and that would be him.
  • Allen Leech ("Downton Abbey") John Cairncross wants to trade secrets because he knows Turing is gay and Turing knows HIS big secret.
The most wrenching time comes after they break the code but can't use their newfound information for fear the Nazis will suspect them and change it. The war continues with the War Offices of Britain and the United States using statistical analysis to ascertain who will live and who will die. They have to limit their counterattacks until they are ready for D-Day and ultimate victory.

comforts a despondent Turing near the end of the film, itemizing the amazing contributions he has made to the free world. It is an impressive list. In the tragic postscripts during the final scroll, we are reminded that the Turing Machines that he created are now known as computers!

BTW, any movie that uses three of the best chameleons working in film today (Strong, Cumberbatch and Goode) will be impressive! This film is garnering awards in numerous film festivals and the acting alone is worth the price of admission. Our screening audience applauded.
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This is the official trailer:
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With a Golden Globes nomination for this role already under her belt, Reese Witherspoon has been doing things right lately. Many other awards are pending from film festivals, etc., for Ms. Witherspoon, Laura Dern and their director, Canadian Jean-Marc Vallée ("Dallas Buyers Club"). The script by Nick Hornby ("About a Boy") is based on Cheryl Strayed's memoir: "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail."

Our distraught heroine sets out on a one-woman 1,100 mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail, through California to Oregon. Her beloved mother has just died and we can see she clearly is overloaded with both camping and emotional baggage. Flashbacks teach us just how wild she has been, AND we learn how she came by that last name. Over the course of the movie she meets people along the way, some generous and kind; others ...not so much. We also see the elements in her life that shaped her and hurt her.

The cast:
  • Reese Witherspoon ("The Good Lie") There's very little Cheryl hasn't done and her psychiatrist can't get her to admit she's sorry.
  • Laura Dern ("The Fault in Our Stars") Bobbi is determined that her children will not have their lives scarred by their drunken, abusive father. She is incorrigibly upbeat...to her daughter's dismay!
  • Keene McRae ("CBGB") Leif refuses to believe his mother might die, as though thinking might make it so.
  • Gaby Hoffman ("Veronica Mars") is Cheryl's best friend, Aimee. Hers is the voice of reason as she watches her friend come undone.
  • There is a wide assortment of men who appear and disappear, both along the trail and in flashbacks. Suffice it to say, Cheryl is seldom alone for very long....
The first I encountered anything like this was when I watched "The Way," with Martin Sheen. If I watch enough of these movies, eventually I will come to understand these "trails." Evidently they are marked out, with rest stations along the way and guest books for hikers to sign (Cheryl's comments generate interest among other hikers). Packages can be sent ahead from friends and family to intercept the trekker with replacement items, such as new boots (from REI), fuel, and/or money. She also receives letters from her ex, for which she is deeply grateful.

This is R-rated and rightly so! Expect drinking, drug use, sex, nudity and a heavy barrage of "F" bombs. I had to remind myself I was really watching Reese Witherspoon pull off that bloody toenail! And take off all those clothes! And topple over with that enormous back pack!

I was glad I had the option of closed captions, as much of the dialogue consists of interior thoughts as she hikes. Eventually she decides she'd rather be a hammer than a nail and the music on the soundtrack echoes her thoughts.
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Here is a preview:
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Top Five

Here we have a show biz movie about show biz. A comedian...actually a stand-up comedian, tries to make it as a serious actor to please his fiancée who stars in a Reality series. Problem is, she wants to broadcast their wedding on her show!

Written and directed by Chris Rock, who won a Hollywood Film Award for Best Comedy Film with this one, this R-rated comedy doesn't cut us any slack when it comes to language or sexual hijinks, but with two such appealing and capable stars, we were with them all the way.

The cast:
  • Chris Rock ("Grown Ups") plays Andre, the (recently) clean and sober star of a serious movie that is tanking at the box office. He begins to doubt if he can be funny when he's sober.
  • Rosario Dawson ("Cesar Chavez") Chelsea Brown is a top-rated reporter for the New Yorker magazine. She wants an interview but Andre has his doubts because her colleague has been trashing his work for years.
  • Gabrielle Union ("Think Like a Man Too") This Reality star is famous for being famous. She is painfully aware that she has nothing else to recommend her. (Sound familiar?)
  • Kevin Hart ("Ride Along") has a great monologue in an opening scene. He says if Andre's new movie doesn't do well, Dancing With the Stars is next!
  • Jerry Seinfeld ("Seinfeld") plays Jerry Seinfeld at Andre's bachelor party.
  • Adam Sandler ("Men, Women and Children") plays Adam Sandler, also at that bachelor party.
  • Whoopi Goldberg (Lots of TV) plays Whoopi Goldberg who brings her stand-up comedy chops to that bachelor party.
There are more familiar faces than we can count, but I was impressed by Rock and Dawson with their skillful "walk and talk" scenes on the streets of New York. They made everything look easy...except double-dutch jump rope. Dawson got in there and did the job; Rock just teased.

In my opinion, the AA recovery program and their commitment to it is done with no snide undertones. It's clear that both characters understand the long-term importance of their behavior. Kudos!
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Here is a preview:
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