Friday, February 5, 2016

The Choice - A conversation with Nicholas Sparks

Fans of novelist Nicholas Sparks are lining up for this weekend’s release of “The Choice”, a movie based on Sparks 2007 novel of the same name.  The Choice tells the story of Travis and Gabby, neighbors in a small North Carolina coastal town in a relationship that is tested by life's most defining events.  

I sat down with Nicholas to ask him about this movie, how he feels when his movies are changed from the original story, how involved he is in casting his films, and if he would share HIS favorite Nicholas Sparks movie with me. Here is what he had to say:

The choice is a sweet movie, landing just in time for Valentines Day.  It is the perfect movie for a first date, or great for couples just looking to bring back a little romance into their life.  

I enjoyed it!

The Choice is Rated PG13.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Critics Choice Awards 2016

It's hard to believe our trip to California was already two weeks ago.  Time is going by way too quickly.   If you remember last year, I took my oldest daughter, Jessica, as my "plus one".  This year, I took my middle daughter, Jennifer.  We stayed at Hotel Erwin on Venice Beach and had the time of our lives.

Sunday we ordered a fantastic breakfast from room service,  relaxed & got glam for the Critics Choice Awards.  We weren't very happy with the salon we booked, but looking back I think they did a pretty good job.  Isn't Jennifer stunning?!?!

The 2016 Critics Choice Awards were held at the Barker Hangar - a beautiful venue in Santa Monica. The evening started off a little scary when our Lyft driver was directed into a line with several black Escalades, etc.  (We were in a red Jetta).  Before we knew what was happening, doors were being opened and we were directed into a line right along with Mayim Bailik.  We knew we were in the wrong line, but there was nothing we could do!  Thankfully I made eye contact with a handler who could see we were in distress just in time to get us OFF the red carpet.  Jennifer wanted to die.

Once we were safely tucked into the cocktail reception with a glass of wine, we took a few selfies and started to relax.

This was the first year the Critics Choice Awards combined the TV and film ceremonies, so there were hundreds more people than in years past.  There were pros and cons to having that many people, but once we ran into some of our favorite TV actors, we quickly decided we were happy with the decision.

This is my favorite picture of the night for several reasons.  I am a big fan of all three of these amazing actresses.  (Sarah Paulson - American Horror Story, Margo Martindale - Critics Choice Award winner for her Guest Role on The Good Wife, & Holland Taylor - Two & A Half Men)  But the really exciting part of meeting this group and getting Sarah to take our selfie was that it was Sarah & Hollands first red carpet event as a couple.  They are the cutest - just look at the way Holland is looking at Sarah in this picture.  I felt super blessed to spend a few minutes in their bubble.

Another highlight was bumping into Saoirse Ronan (Best Actress nominee - Brooklyn) & Finola Dwyer (Producer - Brooklyn)  They were both lovely.

The awards ceremony was wonderful, & most of my favorites won.  For a full list of winners, click here:

We met so many wonderful people at the Afterparty I don't even know where to start.  The highlight of the night for Jennifer was spending time talking with Gina Rodriquez (Critics Choice Nominee - Jane the Virgin)  I was so proud to watch her engage with such talent and see how much they enjoyed her as well. 

We also met Hayden Panettiere who was just adorable.

One of my favorite television shows is Transparent, so I was thrilled to have a few minutes with Jeffrey Tambor, who picked up a Critics Choice Award for Best Actor.  Such a gentleman.  I really, really liked him.

As a movie critic, I adore Grae Drake, the Senior Editor of Rotten Tomatoes.  Any chance I have to talk with her, I take it.  She is AMAZING.

Towards the end of the night, Neil Brown Jr. (Straight Outta Compton) walked by, and Jen "highfived" him, saying what a great job he was doing hosting snapchat that night for EW.  He asked for a selfie and away he went.  The night could not have ended any better when Jennifer checked EW's snapchat and saw this.  #NightMade.


The next day we had a lovely lunch on the patio of Don Cuco in Burbank.  I took this beautiful picture of Jennifer (on the right) because I have a similar picture of Jessica from last year (on the left).  I am super blessed.  

Jennifer and I had VIP tickets to the Ellen Show Monday afternoon - we had a great time!

Until next year....

2016 Critics Choice Movie Awards Complete List of Winners

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
WINNER: Spotlight
Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
Matt Damon – The Martian
Johnny Depp – Black Mass
WINNER: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl
Cate Blanchett – Carol
WINNER: Brie Larson – Room
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road
Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
Tom Hardy – The Revenant 
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
WINNER: Sylvester Stallone – Creed
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara – Carol
Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
Helen Mirren – Trumbo
WINNER: Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs
Abraham Attah – Beasts of No Nation
RJ Cyler – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Shameik Moore – Dope
Milo Parker – Mr. Holmes
WINNER: Jacob Tremblay – Room
The Big Short
The Hateful Eight

WINNER: Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton
Todd Haynes – Carol 
Alejandro González Iñárritu – The Revenant 
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
WINNER: George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott – The Martian
Steven Spielberg – Bridge of Spies
Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen – Bridge of Spies
Alex Garland – Ex Machina
Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley – Inside Out
WINNER: Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
WINNER: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay – The Big Short
Nick Hornby – Brooklyn
Drew Goddard – The Martian
Emma Donoghue – Room
Aaron Sorkin – Steve Jobs
Carol – Ed Lachman
The Hateful Eight – Robert Richardson
Mad Max: Fury Road – John Seale
The Martian – Dariusz Wolski
WINNER: The Revenant – Emmanuel Lubezki
Sicario – Roger Deakins
Bridge of Spies – Adam Stockhausen, Rena DeAngelo
Brooklyn – François Séguin, Jennifer Oman and Louise Tremblay
Carol – Judy Becker, Heather Loeffler
The Danish Girl – Eve Stewart, Michael Standish
WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road – Colin Gibson
The Martian – Arthur Max, Celia Bobak
The Big Short – Hank Corwin
WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road – Margaret Sixel
The Martian – Pietro Scalia
The Revenant – Stephen Mirrione
Spotlight – Tom McArdle
Brooklyn – Odile Dicks-Mireaux
Carol – Sandy Powell
Cinderella – Sandy Powell
The Danish Girl – Paco Delgado
WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road – Jenny Beavan
Black Mass
The Danish Girl
The Hateful Eight

WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Ex Machina
Jurassic World

WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
The Walk
The Good Dinosaur

WINNER: Inside Out
The Peanuts Movie
Shaun the Sheep Movie
Furious 7
Jurassic World

WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Daniel Craig – Spectre
Tom Cruise – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
WINNER: Tom Hardy – Mad Max: Fury Road
Chris Pratt – Jurassic World
Paul Rudd – Ant-Man
Emily Blunt – Sicario
Rebecca Ferguson – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Bryce Dallas Howard – Jurassic World
Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2
WINNER: Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road
WINNER: The Big Short
Inside Out
WINNER: Christian Bale – The Big Short
Steve Carell – The Big Short
Robert De Niro – The Intern
Bill Hader – Trainwreck
Jason Statham – Spy
Tina Fey – Sisters
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
Melissa McCarthy – Spy
WINNER: Amy Schumer – Trainwreck
Lily Tomlin – Grandma
WINNER: Ex Machina
It Follows
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Assassin
Goodnight Mommy
The Second Mother

WINNER: Son of Saul 
Cartel Land
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
He Named Me Malala
The Look of Silence
Where to Invade Next
Fifty Shades of Grey – “Love Me Like You Do”
WINNER: Furious 7 – “See You Again”
The Hunting Ground – “Til It Happens To You”
Love & Mercy – “One Kind of Love”
Spectre – “Writing’s on the Wall”
Youth – “Simple Song #3”
Carol – Carter Burwell
WINNER: The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone
The Revenant – Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto
Sicario – Johann Johannsson
Spotlight – Howard Shore

Friday, January 29, 2016

Straight Outta Compton

There aren’t many great movies opening this weekend, so I am recommending you pick up the movie Straight Outta Compton, now available on DVD.   The film chronicles the rise to international fame of three rappers, Dr. Dre, Easy E and Ice Cube, all part of the legendary rap group NWA.

Even if you aren’t familiar with rap music, I recommend you check out this movie.  There are very solid performances – Paul Giamiatti as their shady business manager to name one,  and O’Shea Jackson Jr – Ice Cubes real life son, does an amazing job playing his father.

Some of the best scenes in the movie– while the most difficult to watch – are the confrontations between the rap artists and the LA police.  The script doesn’t hold back, forcing us to recognize the abuse these artists had to endure to get their voices heard.

You’ll be hearing a lot about Straight Outta Compton in the next few weeks leading up to the Oscars, many believe it deserved more nominations that the one it received.   I’d love to hear from our readers – do you think this film was overlooked?  I’m just not sure.

Rated R for language, strong sexuality/nudity, violence & drug use.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Kansas City is the backdrop for the beautifully shot "Trust Fund"

Trust Fund, starring Ana Ortiz (of Ugly Betty fame) and Kevin Kilner (you know him from House of Cards) is now playing in the KC Metro area, and I loved it.

The film tells the story of Reese Donahue, an independent young woman struggling to make her own way in the world as a writer.  When she discovers her mother left her a substantial amount of money after her death, her whole world takes a dramatic turn.

This is the first feature film of husband and wife team Sandra L. Martin & Isaac Alongi, both Kansas City natives who filmed almost the entire movie in their beloved home town.  You would never guess that to be the case – it was so exciting to see the backdrops of Kansas City passed off as Italy.  This film was beautifully shot!

It isn’t often I find a PG rated movie that still has enough drama and romance to keep me interested, but Trust Fund did just that.

Be sure and catch Trust Fund while it is playing in Kansas City!

Monday, January 11, 2016

IndieWire Project of the Year - Vote for Delinquent

Levi Smock a native of ‪#‎StJoeMo‬ is making his mark in the film industry, is about to have a very big month. He first feature film ‪#‎Delinquent‬ has quietly and steadily climbed the ropes in indieWIREs esteemed “Project” contest, having been chosen by the Editors as the‪#‎IndieWireProjectoftheWeek‬, winning ‪#‎IndieWireProjectoftheMonth‬ in August, and now finds itself one of the film projects being considered for‪#‎IndieWireProjectoftheYear‬! This recognition would be an incredible boost for the team behind #Delinquent & open the remaining doors needed to see this great film come to life on screens all across the nation.  If there has ever been a time to be ‪#‎StJoeProud‬, the time is now. Please vote for #Delinquent using this link: (scroll to the bottom - it's easy!) 

Here is the link to their website: so you can watch the trailer and learn all about the movie.  

IndieWire’s Project of the Year is all about the votes. We are the village that can make this happen. Let’s do this!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Revenant - The Most Beautifully Gruesome Movie Ever Made

Inspired by true events, THE REVENANT captures one man's epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption. Written by 20th Century Fox

It is Alejandro Inarritu’s brilliant vision that brings us the Revenant - at times so beautiful it will take your breath away....

and other times so gruesome it’s all you can do to keep watching....

Tom Hardy is pure evil in his role as Fitzgerald, the frontiersman who volunteers to stay back with a gravely injured Glass (Dicaprio) & care for him until his expected death.  He is very convincing.

But it is Leo Dicaprio who takes The Revenant to a whole new level. How far he goes to exact his revenge wouldn’t even be believable, except this movie is based on true events.  Leo is unrecognizable in this role – and gives the performance of a lifetime. 

This is one of my two favorite movies of 2015, and Leonard Dicaprio has my vote for best actor this year, hands down.

I highly, highly recommend!!