still-alice

This film’s heartfelt and frightening look at the early onset of Alzheimer’s leaves viewers to ponder and question their own mortality. It offers the unpleasant and unfair ending to a brilliant life, the result of a ruthless disease that attacks, degrades and then destroys one’s mind over time. The movie feels like a punch to the stomach for audiences, as it calculates the disease’s heaviest toll; the loss of one’s ability to reflect back on their most precious moments accumulated over a lifetime.  It focuses on one family’s response to Alzheimer’s, underscoring the need for acceptance and understanding of this terrible life sentence. The movie saddens and shocks in a world where one’s Bucket List of all the must-do sights, sounds and tastes to remember before death, are replaced by the disoriented, forgotten and mistaken lists of an Alzheimer’s sufferer.

Academy Award winner Julianne Moore is phenomenal as Dr. Alice Howland, a married mother of three, who is diagnosed at the age of 50 with Alzheimer’s. Ironically, Howland is a renowned linguistics professor at Columbia University and understands, better than most, the difficult and unpleasant journey ahead for her and the Howland family.

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Moore’s chilling transformation in physical demeanor and mental acuity, as her condition worsens, leaves the audience in the uncomfortable position of bystander--wanting to help, but unable to do so. Whether it’s answering the simple questions Howland has placed in her phone or seeing a family member go unrecognized, viewers can’t help but feel unnerved and disheartened seeing Moore’s sad story unfold before their eyes.

Based upon first-time author Dr. Lisa Genova’s 2007 best-selling novel by the same name, “Still Alice” superbly illustrates the struggles and coping mechanisms used by Moore as she attempts to slow down the disease. The film, though, doesn’t go nearly far enough in describing the vastly different relationships Howland develops with her children. As a result, the supporting cast equates to average overall, leaving the Oscar-winning Moore to cope and carry the film herself, alone—just as Alice must do.

This story is Moore’s to live and tell, in the moment. Her courageous fight reminds us to cherish our memories and live today. We are a society of etched memories stored on Go-Pro videos and selfie-sticks for later reflection. But what if there were no later, only a now? It's that question which "Still Alice" answers unabashedly, triumphantly raising awareness to Alzheimer’s and its frightening aftermath following diagnosis.

Grade: B

"Still Alice" is rated PG-13 with a running time of 1 hour and 39 minutes.

Do you watch all the Oscar nominated film's in the Best Picture category? Ever wish your Academy Award vote and voice was counted and heard? Well, here's your chance...

REEL BRIEF is seeking volunteers who would like to be part of a 100-person Oscar voting block for next year's 2016 nominated films. You'd agree to watch as many of the nominated film's as possible and cast your vote for the deserved winners to REEL BRIEF via email 1-week prior to the ABC telecast.

81st Academy Awards¨ Press Kit Images

Results would be posted on this website as well as on the REEL BRIEF Facebook page. Your votes and identify would, of course, remain anonymous. However, those wanting to discuss their votes casts may as do so if they wish--your call.

Interested voters please email Patrick at reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com by March 1st to get placed on the REEL BRIEF 100-person voting committee. Selected voters will be notified by email.

Thank you.

REEL BRIEF.com

And the Oscar Goes To....

For the first time in several years, this Sunday night’s 87th Academy Awards show on ABC has some much-needed suspense. No less than a handful of films are considered “frontrunners” to dominate the 8.5-pound golden statuette collection.

OSCAR¨ STATUEAfter two years of hosting, Ellen DeGeneres has stepped aside and been replaced by first-time Academy Award host Neil Patrick Harris. Last year’s Academy Award-winning songwriting team from “Frozen”, provide the night’s opening number to be performed by Harris.

Oscar Night performers will include Anna Kendrick, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Hudson, Tim McGraw, Adam Levine and Jack Black. Presenters will be Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey.

These are a few of the names I’m writing inside the white envelope to honor the highest achievements in filmmaking for 2014:

Actress in a Supporting Role

We all know "Boyhood" is going to do very well on Oscar Night.  But how many categories will this childhood story actually win?  Hard to tell. Patricia Arquette has a slightly better chance than her "Boyhood" costar, Ethan Hawke (Best Supporting Actor), to take home the Oscar.

  • Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
  • Laura Dern – Wild
  • Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game
  • Emma Stone – Birdman
  • Meryl Streep – Into the Woods

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Cinematography

“Birdman” Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu gallantly captures the long, maze-like hallways containing the brisk-paced walk of Michael Keaton and others in single, continuous shots.  Viewers became transfixed on the theater set itself; both the happenings in front of the stage and behind it--never missing a step with the characters.  The film holds a shot an extra few seconds for effect and audience reflection. It's that unique showcase of the film's storyline on camera, combined with brilliant leading and supporting acting, which makes "Birdman" one of the best films in 2014.

  • Birdman
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Ida
  • Mr. Turner
  • Unbroken

Visual Effects

Christopher Nolan knows visual effects like Brian Williams knows combat action. Wait, disregard. Chris Nolan, the most successful director in the past 10 years, sold the notion of loneliness in outer space to grounded theater ticket buyers—and that’s one of the most difficult challenges to accomplish. And it’s only possible with fabulous visual effects.

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Interstellar
  • X-Men: Days of the Future Past

Interstellar

Costume Design

Not an easy call by any means. However, I’m predicting a good night for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and it all starts right here.

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Inherent Vice
  • Into the Woods
  • Maleficent
  • Mr. Turner

Makeup and Hairstyling

The selling point in “Foxcatcher” is the creeper performance by Steve Carell. That’s not possible without these two capes. I’d love to see “Guardians of the Galaxy” earn an Oscar on Sunday night—if that’s the case, this will be the upset where it does it with the help of a talking raccoon.

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  • Foxcatcher
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Guardians of the Galaxy

 

Sound Mixing

“Birdman” and “Interstellar” will be fighting for the win in these next two categories. The retired superhero story should soar to victory.

  • American Sniper
  • Birdman
  • Interstellar
  • Unbroken
  • Whiplash

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Sound Editing

Despite “Interstellar” receiving complaints from audiences as the loudest movie on record, the Christopher Nolan film later earned other film industry awards for its sound (among other achievements). Closing in the space adventure is “Birdman”—which will be gearing up for a big night.MSC1302

  • American Sniper
  • Birdman
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  • Interstellar
  • Unbroken

Actor in a Supporting Role

J.K. Simmons’ performance as an over-the-top jazz instructor to a school ensemble, preying on his students using his....how should I put this...hmmm.  OK, got it.  Using his poor people skills, makes Simmons a sure-bet to win Oscar gold.

  • Robert Duvall – The Judge
  • Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
  • Edward Norton – Birdman
  • Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
  • J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

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Film Editing

Director Richard Linklater and his team should win here, hands down. Since “American Sniper” came into the Oscar race later than others, it’s difficult to judge how much excitement Academy voters had for Clint Eastwood’s best film of his acting/directing career without them seeing its magical performance at the box office—which could end up as the highest grossing movie of 2014. My guess is that Hollywood didn’t expect, or foresee, America’s overwhelmingly positive reaction to the Chris Kyle story coming.

  • American Sniper
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Whiplash

Production Design

A great night for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” could continue in this category, as it builds up more steam rolling into the bigger prizes.

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Interstellar
  • Into the Woods
  • Mr. Turner

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If “The Grand Budapest Hotel” has the sort of night some predict, they’ll clean house here too. Outliers remain “Interstellar” and “The Theory of Everything”, which either could snatch victory.

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Interstellar
  • Mr. Turner
  • The Theory of Everything

Original Song

Despite getting stiffed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for nominations in the Best Animation and Best Picture categories, look for the plastic playset to win here. Everything is awesome right? If not, expect a complete meltdown by all LEGO figurines watching on TV.

  • Everything is Awesome (The LEGO Movie)
  • Glory (Selma)
  • Grateful (Beyond the Lights)
  • I’m Not Gonna Miss You (Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me)
  • Lost Stars (Begin Again)

Other Woman Kate

Snubbed: Kate Upton in "The Other Woman".  No Oscar nominations.

Adapted Screenplay

Clint Eastwood’s ability to take the late U.S. Navy SEAL’s autobiography and turn it, and his life, into a film that celebrates, honors and shocks audiences deserves an Oscar. It’s one of the best military tributes ever on the big screen, portraying Chris Kyle--the husband, father, son, teammate and patriotic American. With Academy Award votes cast well before the country stood up, took notice of “American Sniper” and broke nearly all January and military movie records, this film’s win (for writer Jason Hall) is not guaranteed.

  • American Sniper
  • The Imitation Game
  • Inherent Vice
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

americansniper1Original Screenplay

The story of a young boy, an apprentice really, learning from the master concierge at a ritzy hotel nestled in the picturesque mountains of Europe in 1932 has been the topic of Oscar buzz since last spring.  The strong ensemble and audience reception gives it an edge over all other contenders.

  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Foxcatcher
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Nightcrawler

Directing

The unique and unusual filming of “Boyhood” over a 12-year time period sets it apart from other big-screen motion pictures. "Boyhood" and director Linklater were the benefactors of splendid, Oscar-nominated work from both Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke. Those performances, combined with the demanding 12-year filming and production, move Linklater ahead of Inarritu and “Birdman” by a feather. The dark horse remains Wes Anderson, who could still emerge on top with a fantastic Oscar Night for “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.

  • Anlejandro G. Inarritu - Birdman
  • Richard Linklater – Boyhood
  • Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher
  • Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game

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Actress in a Leading Role

This category is my surprise winner of the night. 5-time Academy Award nominee Julianne Moore is the heavy favorite to finally take home the Oscar for her exceptional performance as true-life Dr. Alice Howland in "Still Alice". However, Pike's character Amy Dunne carried “Gone Girl”, and to this day, still haunts audience members who watched this roller coaster ride. Pike's brilliant portrayal spun this remarkable tale into a believable narrative yarn.

Pike

  • Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night
  • Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything
  • Julianne Moore – Still Alice
  • Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
  • Reese Witherspoon - Wild

Actor in a Leading Role

Although, my vote would go to Eddie Redmayne for his superb job as Stephen Hawking in the “Theory of Everything”, Keaton's enthralling performance completely dominates “Birdman” from start to finish.  As the character Riggan Thomson, Keaton's return to Hollywood's A-list makes him and this performance an Oscar feel-good story that can’t be denied.  Keaton is as close to a lock for a Best Actor Oscar win as it gets.

  • Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
  • Bradley Cooper – American Sniper
  • Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
  • Michael Keaton – Birdman
  • Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Birdman

Best Picture

The exceptional ensemble of Oscar nominees Michael Keaton, Edward Norton and Emma Stone put this film in my Top 3. Add in the wonderful cinematography, and “Birdman” takes the big prize on Sunday night.

birdman poster

  • American Sniper
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

ABC's LIVE OSCAR SUNDAY begins on February 22 at 7 Eastern/4 Pacific.

(Patrick King is a resident of Oro Valley and writer for the REEL BRIEF movie blog at www.reelbrief.com. You may email him at reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com).

A special contribution in honor of President's Day

I've received a handful of these high-level presidential advance calls in my tour of duty during President George W. Bush’s first term in office. The calls normally came from Air Force One, as it was airborne and flying towards me--standing on an airport’s tarmac denoting the parking spot reserved for the world's most important airplane.  That’s the life of an Air Force One presidential advance agent...

 ***

June 5, 2004.

A warm, sunny Saturday afternoon in Palmdale, California, found me going through mail and paying bills at home. In the background, my ears tuned in to the sad and shocking announcement from the 24/7 television talking heads - former President Ronald Wilson Reagan had died at the age of 93.

I glanced up every few seconds to see canned video of the 40th President of the United States, highlighting his 8-year tenure occupying our nation’s highest elected office. File footage of ‘The Gipper’, as he crisply saluted his HMX-1 Marine One presidential detail on the South Lawn of the White House, flooded my TV screen on a constant loop. Sound bites from classic Reagan speeches in the past were sandwiched between personal stories told by former aides and friends of the former First Family. Many of the Hollywood actor-turned Commander-in-Chief quotes chimed on for the next hour as historians and media members attempted to place Reagan’s two-terms as president into proper perspective.

No contemporary president was better, or more eloquent, at describing a scene with a deft and cocksure delivery than Ronald Reagan. He also possessed the personal traits that always separate the great leaders from the just ordinary or good ones. Reagan could inspire others to think like a best-selling author with words alone--as he did along the beaches of Normandy in 1984, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Allies’ D-Day invasion. Or heal a nation, as evidenced by Reagan’s sorrowful remembrance following the Challenger space shuttle disaster.   But perhaps the Great Communicator’s most compelling trait involved motivating others into action.

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SAM 28000 prepares to land at Andrews AFB, MD, carrying the body of former President Reagan. (Photo by U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Richard D. Stephens, June 9, 2004)

Flipping channels, nearly all the television broadcasts keyed in on President Reagan’s 1987 watershed moment near the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin; the exact location where the Cold War begin to thaw and our forceful, pragmatic and, yet, always positive U.S. president shouted “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” But now, President Reagan was dead. And my world was about to turn upside down—and very quickly.

**

An hour after I learned of President Reagan’s death, my cell phone rang with a call from the White House—or more specifically, the White House Military Office inside the West Wing. On the other end of the call was a familiar voice.

I've received a handful of these high-level presidential advance calls in my tour of duty during President George W. Bush’s first term in office. The priority calls normally came from Air Force One, as it was airborne and flying towards me--standing on an airport’s tarmac denoting the parking spot reserved for the world's most important airplane.  That’s the life of an Air Force One presidential advance agent...always out in front of the President of the United States (POTUS) and “the jet” (the nickname for Air Force One).

As Air Force One advance, our two-person team of presidential agents would head out to some small corner in the world, marveling at different look each location would take as the days neared for the president’s arrival. We wore civilian business suits, alongside the advance team sent by the White House’s West Wing and Communications agency, as well as the U.S. Secret Service. The entire advance team would arrive almost unnoticed someplace, all working side-by-side for one vital, common goal: to make sure every trip by President George W. Bush was safe and secure.

I answered my cell immediately. “Are you at home?” my friend in Washington DC asked. Yes, I answered suspiciously.  Then my world turned upside down: “How soon can you be at the Point Mugu Navy base?”  Using some quick mental math and dividing that number by 2 (because of adrenaline I sensed overcoming me), I answered about 3 hours. “OK”, he noted before continuing…”We (and by “we” he meant the President of the United States) need you to be there in 3 hours”. I nodded to only myself and repeated the order. By now, I was already in my master bedroom closet. Thankfully, I always had my ‘go-bag’ ready with 2 weeks of business suits, papers, pens and checklists.

Once he had me on the hook, he gave me the bigger news; “You're going to handle Air Force One and (long pause)...everything else for President Reagan’s funeral events there for a couple of days”. Holy s***, I thought. “We'll get folks there as soon as possible from the White House and State to assist. But, in the meantime, President Reagan's funeral events in California are your responsibility”.  Gulp. Roger, I replied with a dry mouth and hung up.

Just as this news started to sink in, I realized my 3 kids needed to be placed with friends.  And right now!  I urgently made 3 phone calls to 3 different families--each with children that were best friends with my kids. All agreed without hesitation and said the kids could stay as long as required.  This was the first of many instances coming over the next 24-48 hours, in which I sensed the enormity of the situation and everyone's willingness to do whatever they could to help me--and our nation in mourning.  I left each of the families with the White House switchboard phone number to get ahold of me in case of an emergency. I then scribbled a note and handed it to the families authorizing them to OK medical attention to my children in the event of hospitalization. Then I was off, exactly one hour after the call from Washington DC.

As I drove west towards Naval Air Station Point Mugu and the coast of California I went through all my mental notes and checklists. First, don't **** up. Second, don't **** up on TV in front of 32 million viewers. My cell phone immediately began to ring and that continued for the next 6 hours, or until 2 a.m. struck our nation’s capital. Between the Pentagon and others I was constantly talking to someone on my razor flip phone.  A presidential historian called wanting to make sure certain protocols would take place for our 40th President.

My government cell was lighting up as quickly as the sun was setting on the Pacific coast. Mrs. Reagan's personal military aide/escort--an Army 2-star General--repeatedly called me over the next few days to relay her personal wishes and desires.  Every one of them I treated as though they were coming from President Reagan himself...and would be honored and fulfilled down to the letter.

When I arrived at the Navy base lodging facility the receptionist handed me the phone over the counter, advising me there was an urgent call to take. It was the base's second-in-command (the commanding officer was away off post).  The gentleman was very nervous about the worldwide attention coming into his base, his workspace. I had to tell him that I’ve done this many times before (not entirely correct…it was my first and only presidential funeral) and more help was on the way soon. I needed him to remain calm or else my job would get more difficult. He finished the conversation by telling me “My base is yours.  Whatever you need, you get.”  Period. The best course of action I could have hoped for.  Thanks, Sir, I replied. Then it was back to my ringing cell phone and writing down meticulous notes.

My partner and others arrived within the next 48 hours--along with a floodgate of other White House and military personnel.   My AF-1 advance partner and I determined what runway Air Force One (call sign “Special Air Mission (SAM) 28000”) would land on and the taxiways it would follow until reached its final parking spot...a “T” placed on the tarmac in duct tape for the VC-25‘s B747 nose gear to stop on. This was all to mark Air Force One’s final mission to pick-up our 40th President of the United States.

Former US First Lady Nancy Reagan (C), e

Photo by Getty Images.

The honor I had to be a part of this historic journey and help pay tribute to President Reagan remains etched in my memory for two reasons. First, this Air Force One trip from California to Washington DC and back again to California, was distinct from every other “normal” presidential trip I’d ever been a part of—by a magnitude of about tenfold. Secondly, traveling with the President of the United States you fly into cities and towns populated by some Democrats, Republicans and Independents, regardless of its location or state. That's just the price of a democratic government and free world.  But on this historic mission for a fallen president, a gentleman more well-liked with each passing year, there were only Americans to be seen. No politics or demonstrations.  Only cheers, waving flags and patriotic Americans. Every minute I was doing my advance job and coordinating events, people wanted to know how they could help or do more—all without being asked. That’s never happened before on a previous trip. The country was saying goodbye to a true American and wanted to be a part of it.

Reagan mourners

Photo by Lawrence Journal-World.

I’m honored to have played a part in the funeral of President Ronald Reagan, still the largest in United States history since President John F. Kennedy’s in 1963.

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President Ronald Reagan.

Patrick King is a movie reviewer and freelance writer.  You can read more from him at his REEL BRIEF - Movie Reviews for Busy People website at www.reelbrief.com. You may email him at reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com).

Movie reviewing isn't for the weak.  Or the faint-hearted.   This NFL superstar quarterback found that out even before Christian Grey turned the light out in the Red Room of Pain...

Russell Wilson Tweet

When reviewing movies, one must type with caution.  Movie reviewers always maintain constant vigilance for World War III to break out from loyal readers should the unthinkable occur; a reader's favorite, most awesome flick ever doesn't get the dignified treatment and letter-grade that the theater arm-chair viewer thinks it deserves.

The only fate worse than low-balling a film, and bringing hate down from readers, is if said "critic" gives props to a movie someone else deems dreadfulSmutty.  Shocking.  And it doesn't matter if the upset reader actually saw the film or not.  Haters will hate and they often have varsity skills to back up their vile comments.

Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Movie critic Russell Wilson was called out for his religious faith and for giving "Fifty Shades of Grey" high marks.

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Tread lightly theater scribes, particularly if your opinion goes against the mainstream media tide waters and its group think mentality....especially if it involves one of the most-hyped, sexual bondage films in recent memory.

For the record, I gave "Fifty Shades of Grey" a B+.

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Fifty Shades of Gray

As this erotic fantasy story began, it was immediately apparent that this movie journey would take a path much different from most. Within seconds of the movie’s start, applause was heard from the excited and overwhelmingly female audience, who realized that their long wait to see the film was finally over. That roar of approval was quickly followed by giggles and laughter, as a man yelled words of caution from the theater’s back row; “Do not try this at home!” And by “this” he meant kinky sex, powerful seduction techniques and total dominance in the bedroom. Yes, “Fifty Shades of Grey” has all of those sexual qualities, however, it also offers more.

This widely anticipated adaption of E.L. James’ international best-selling fictional novel finds a 27-year old Seattle billionaire named Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) pursuing the younger Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), an English Literature major about to graduate from college. The wealthy Grey, who we learn had a "rough start to life", refuses to do affection, girlfriends or romance.

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“Fifty Shades of Grey” offers an escapism for viewers wanting to look inside other’s bedrooms, toy boxes and sexual adventurism. It’s kinky without being raunchy or sordid. It’s seductive with tangibles that include hand & leg restraints, blindfolds, neckties...and ice cubes. The strong sexual content and language that created this film’s massive hype, only appear in appropriate scenes that are relevant to the overall storyline. No gratuitous sex, just dominant-submissive foreplay and intimacy.

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What makes this film so interesting isn’t the power and influence imparted by Dornan’s Christian Grey character upon the physically weaker Ana Steele. This movie’s main catalyst is Miss Steele’s ability to go toe-to-toe with Mr. Grey, pushing back on his misguided mannerisms, re-negotiating his non-disclosure agreements, all the while attempting to come to terms with her own emotional and physical limits.  The banter between the costars throughout the film is abundant, easy and feels natural. Lastly, both Dornan and Johnson deserve credit for better-than-expected acting performances in this bondage story.

No film can ever compete with a reader’s vast imagination created from reading a book. However, most moviegoers who have read “Fifty Shades of Grey” should be very satisfied with this sexual fantasy unfurled upon the big screen. While it may not have been possible for the film to live up to all of its pre-release hype, “Fifty Shades of Grey” does give viewers what they've come to expect: explicit, dominant-submissive sex.  And lots of it.

Grade: B+

"Fifty Shades of Grey" is rated R for strong sexual content, including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity.  The running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes.

This next James Bond chapter doesn't hit theaters until November 6th, however, Sony Pictures has released some behind the scenes footage from filming in Austria.  Fans of last year's hit smash "Guardians of the Galaxy" will also recognize Dave Bautista discussing his thoughts on "SPECTRE".

"SPECTRE" stars Daniel Craig reprising his role as 007.  Academy Award winner Sam Mendes ("American Beauty" in 1999) directs his second (2012's "Skyfall") Bond saga--which is being filmed in London, Rome, Mexico City, Morocco, and Austria.

You can read more about "SPECTRE" here and here.

This goodness is better than 90% of the films being screened in theaters tonight.  No real set-up is required except that you'll find out what life-long friendship really means.  These are guys that know you better than anyone else on this planet.  And that includes your favorite movie hero, John Rambo.  The production value and cinematography are rich and powerful.  A brilliant short film that will go viral.  Thus, clear your schedule for the next 23-minutes so that you'll be able to speak knowledgeably about what is about to take place.  Best. Bro-gift.  Ever.

Grade: A

Roll 'em....

Nightcrawler1'Nightcrawler' 2014

The one point that director Dan Gilroy's latest film hammers home to moviegoers is that we've emerged as a society with an inherent morbid curiosity. We seek out and are drawn to this fascination with other's death or unpleasant circumstances. Feeding this obsession with over-the-top gruesomeness is a news media hell-bent on higher ratings at any cost. "Nightcrawler" unapologetically illustrates the high price television stations are willing to pay to get that grisly, leading story even if truth and fairness must be discarded to the side as collateral damage. Gilroy's vision for the movie is either a tongue-and-cheek play upon our grim desires as consumers of news or a gallant effort on his part to bring awareness to society's lack of respect and dignity for one another. Regardless, "Nightcrawler" is a dark and disturbing thriller about the sick, reciprocal relationship between television viewers and the media.

Jake Gyllenhaal is superb as the emotionally troubled and socially awkward freelance cameraman capturing overnight violence for Los Angeles' TV audiences. Intellectually brilliant yet residing firmly within the autism spectrum, Gyllenhaal's character skillfully manipulates others to achieve his primary goal of notoriety through violent videos.

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Nominated for an Academy Award in 2005's "Brokeback Mountain", this unhinged role brings us a much darker and more unusual Gyllenhaal than we've seen in other films. His demeanor is believably off-kilter with a dangerous, menacing angle that taps into the fears of his bright supporting cast--especially his sidekick and videographer Rick (exceptionally played by Riz Ahmed).

Any discomfort viewers have watching this film is easily overmatched by one's inability to turn away from the action, underscoring the strength of "Nightcrawler" and Gilroy's salacious direction. The message of the movie is clear; as we become more immune to violence in our lives and build up a tolerance, the media must work harder to induce fear in their TV viewers. Not any crime story, however, will do. It must make the untouchable now feel touchable. Spinning this vicious cycle of violence through fear creates a slippery slope of media reporting that fuels higher ratings, burying any feel-good stories to later in a news cycle. Although we hate our penchant for this type of reporting, there's no denying it exists or our uneasiness with it. It's this unmistakable draw and one's level of discomfort that "Nightcrawler" is counting on from filmgoers to make it a success.

"Nightcrawler" has been nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Screenplay category.  Available now on DVD and Blu-ray at Netflix and Redbox.  "Nightcrawler" is rated R with a running time of 1 hour and 57 minutes.

Normally, I give a bit of background as a set-up to the trailer you're about to watch.  However, in this case, I think it's better to provide that to you afterwards.  So, without further delay....enjoy!

"The Walk" stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as real-life high-wire artist Philippe Petit as he attempts to cross a tightrope between the World Trade Centers in 1974 New York City.  The movie is based upon Petit's personal memoirs called To Reach the Clouds, which were the basis for the 2008 Academy Award-winning documentary "Man on Wire".

Academy Award winner Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump") co-wrote and directs this film, which also stars Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (1982's "Gandhi").

This suspense thriller hits theaters on October 2nd.