“Saving Mr. Banks” Director John Lee Hancock Interview 


Director John Lee Hancock helped give Sandra Bullock her first Best Actress Oscar award for “The Blind Side,” and now, the filmmaker is back with “Saving Mr. Banks,” a behind-the-scenes look at the making of “Mary Poppins” with Emma Thompson as the author P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as Mr. Walt Disney himself!

I sat down with the director at Walt Disney Studios to talk about the movie:

*** What got him interested in making the movie?
*** What research did he do to make the movie?
*** What made him choose Emma Thompson?
*** What does he want viewers to feel after watching “Saving Mr. Banks?”



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“Out of the Furnace” Movie Review -- Is it Oscar Worthy? 


Christian Bale returns to the big screen for Scott Cooper’s (“Crazy Heart”) “Out of the Furnace.” He plays Russell Blaze, a mill man in the economically-depressed Rust Belt. Casey Affleck plays his brother Rodney, a soldier damaged by the Iraq War.

The film features an impressive cast that includes Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana, and Sam Shepard.

Is “Out of the Furnace” worth your time and money, and is it a worthy Oscar contender this awards season? Check out my movie review.



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Oscar Shortlist: Best Visual Effects 


We all know that Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" will win this award, but let's pretend we don't know that. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has released the 10 movies shortlisted for Visual Effects Oscar. Besides "Gravity," it's also fitting that Peter Jackson's sequel "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" was included.

But "The Lone Reanger" really? Okay, there are two eye-popping train sequences there, and perhaps, Johnny Depp's hairpiece is considered a visual effect! HA!

The Visual Effects branch will whittle down the list on January 9, and we'll find out the final nominees on January 16th when the Oscar noms are revealed.

Here's the complete list:

"Elysium"

"Gravity"

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"

"Iron Man 3"

"The Lone Ranger"

"Oblivion"

"Star Trek Into Darkness"

"Thor: The Dark World"

"Pacific Rim"

"World War Z"

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"Her" Wins Big at National Board of Review Awards 


The awards season just got more unpredictable. The last three award-giving bodies have chosen different movies for their top honors. The Gotham Awards picked the Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis" as their top choice while the New York Film Critics Circle awarded David O. Russell's "American Hustle" with the Best Picture of the Year nod.

Now comes the National Board of Review. They chose the equally fantastic movie "Her' from Spike Jonze as the Best Film of the year. Even in acting categories, the three award-giving organizations vary. For Best Actor, Gotham chose Matthew McConaughey for "Dallas Buyers Club," while New York Film Critics crowned Robert Redford for "All is Lost." The NBR chose Bruce Dern from "Nebraska" as the actor to beat.

Same can be said with the Best Actress category. Gotham chose Brie Larson for "Short Term 12," while NYFCC picked Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jasmine."

Emma Thompson for her wonderful portrayal of P.L. Travers in "Saving Mr. Banks" won Best Actress at the NBR.

In a year where there are just so many great movies, this unpredictability is bound to happen. Gone were the years of "No Country for Old Men" or "The Artist" dominating the award season.

Here are the complete list of winners of the 2013 National Board of Review awards:

Best Film: HER

Best Director: Spike Jonze, HER

Best Actor: Bruce Dern, NEBRASKA

Best Actress: Emma Thompson, SAVING MR. BANKS

Best Supporting Actor: Will Forte, NEBRASKA

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, FRUITVALE STATION

Best Original Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

Best Adapted Screenplay: Terence Winter, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Best Animated Feature: THE WIND RISES

Breakthrough Performance: Michael B. Jordan, FRUITVALE STATION

Breakthrough Performance: Adele Exarchopoulos, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR

Best Directorial Debut: Ryan Coogler, FRUITVALE STATION

Best Foreign Language Film: THE PAST

Best Documentary: STORIES WE TELL

William K. Everson Film History Award: George Stevens, Jr.

Best Ensemble: PRISONERS

Spotlight Award: Career Collaboration of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio

NBR Freedom of Expression Award: WADJDA

Creative Innovation in Filmmaking Award: GRAVITY

Top Films (in alphabetical order)

"12 Years a Slave," "Fruitvale Station," "Gravity," Inside Llewyn Davis," "Lone Survivor," "Nebraska," "Prisoners," "Saving Mr. Banks," "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Top 5 Foreign Language Films (In Alphabetical Order)

"Beyond the Hills," "Gloria," "The Grandmaster," "A Hijacking," "The Hunt"

Top 5 Documentaries (In Alphabetical Order)

"20 Feet from Stardom," "The Act of Killing," "After Tiller," "Casting By," "The Square"

Top 10 Independent Films (In Alphabetical Order)

"Ain’t Them Bodies Saints," "Dallas Buyers Club," "In a World…," "Mother of George," "Much Ado About Nothing," "Mud," "The Place Beyond the Pines," "Short Term 12," "Sightseers," "The Spectacular Now"

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Steve Coogan Talks About "Philomena!" 


Steve Coogan co-wrote, co-produced, and co-starred in one of the year’s best films, “Philomena.” Starring Dame Judi Dench, the film is based on the investigative book by Martin Sixsmith called “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee.” Coogan is Sixsmith and Dench is Philomena in this thought-provoking film from director Stephen Frears.

I interviewed Coogan via satellite and we talked about:

*** At the heart of the film is faith and devotion – is that what attracted Coogan to making “Philomena?”
*** How this film is a passion project for him.
*** When I interviewed Coogan for “Hamlet 2,” I observed his penchant for turning human frailties into comedies
*** Coogan and Dench – the buddy pairing we all want to see!
*** He loved when I said – “Philomena” still makes you feel good but you won’t be hating yourself for doing so!



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