Potential 2014 Best Picture Nominees

With the full Academy Award nominations due January 16, 2014, the time has come to start sizing up favorites for the Best Picture Oscar. Voters’ tabulations will determine between five and ten films up for the top prize. From familiar directors and stars to surprising breakout performances, this year’s crop features these films and any of a number of other dark horses. On March 2nd, the Oscars will be broadcast on DirecTV Chicago and through many other U.S. cable providers.

12 Years a Slave

The epic narrative about slavery stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as a free African American man from the north who is kidnapped and sold as a slave, while Benedict Cumberbatch plays the plantation master in Louisiana who purchases him. Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, and Paul Dano also star in this gripping true story, directed by Steve McQueen (director of Shame).

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Movie Review: “American Hustle”

Starring
Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K, Michael Peña
Director
David O. Russell

David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” opens with a title card that playfully states: “Some of this actually happened.” But considering that the movie was originally titled “American Bullshit” and is populated with characters who are bullshit specialists, it’s meant to be taken with a fairly large grain of salt. Loosely based on the ABSCAM scandal of the late ’70s and early ’80s, Russell has adapted what was an already outlandish story into a ’70s-styled farce filled with a flying circus of conmen, feds, politicians and casino mobsters. Immensely entertaining, impeccably structured and featuring excellent performances from its entire cast, “American Hustle” is one of the year’s absolute best films and a serious contender for every major award.

When we first meet Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), he’s seen carefully assembling his elaborate comb over with a combination of a toupee, glue and lots of hairspray. But what the paunchy conman lacks in good looks, he makes up for with confidence and intellect, which is what’s made him so successful at ripping people off. Everything changes when he meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a former stripper who partners with Irving under the guise of a British businesswoman with royal connections named Lady Edith. Their business practically triples overnight, drawing the attention of ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who catches the pair red-handed and forces them to work undercover for the bureau. Richie wants to make a name for himself by taking down some white-collar criminals, and his first target is Camden mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), a family man so desperate to revitalize the New Jersey economy that he’s willing to get his hands a little dirty in the process. It quickly turns into a game of who’s conning who, and yet the one thing that threatens to bring the whole thing crashing down isn’t their mistrust in each other, but Irving’s unpredictable wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence).

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Movie Review: “Out of the Furnace”

Starring
Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Sam Shepard, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker
Director
Scott Cooper

Christian Bale hands out his own brand of justice in the revenge drama “Out of the Furnace,” but don’t expect Alfred or Commissioner Gordon to help out the former Dark Knight. Instead, the film features an all-star cast under the direction of Scott Cooper in a story about retribution, loss and broken spirits in the Rust Belt of America.

With the rapid intensity of a horse race, the film opens with Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson) pulling into a country drive-in theater. He asks his date (Dendrie Taylor) to remove her hot dog from the bun and shoves it down her throat. When an onlooker sees DeGroat’s boorish behavior, he sets out to remind him of what a gentleman is. Unfortunately, that act causes him to be beaten to a pulp, to the point where other men are scared to help the would-be hero.

However, the furnace in the title refers to the Carrie Furnace located in Braddock, Pennsylvania, where the Rust Belt serves more as a lead blanket, suffocating those who live there to the point where escape is rarely an option. It’s here that steel worker Russell Baze (Bale) solemnly toils away at the mill, while having a constant reminder that the place that pays his bills also left his father slowly and painfully dying of cancer. Russell’s girlfriend Lena (Zoe Saldana) is cooking up another kind of heat for Russell in the hopes that he’ll make an honest woman out of her complete with bouncing baby Bazes.

Russell already has kid problems in the form of his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck), a soldier always looking for a quick score, but always ending up in debt to the local bookie and tavern owner John Petty (Willem Dafoe). When Russell tries to bail out Rodney from his latest loan, the night ends with him serving a stretch in prison. Upon his release, he learns that the world has moved on without him. Rodney is even deeper in debt and suffering from PTSD, finding his solace in bare knuckle fights, which often require him to take a dive. Lena has moved on with the local sheriff (Forest Whitaker), and both Rodney and John Petty are going to realize that clearing your debts is easier said than done, especially when those debts are to DeGroat.

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5 Questions with Hollywood Stuntman/Dove Men + Care Spokesman Bobby Holland Hanton‏

Bobby Holland Hanton is the Michael Jordan of his profession. Hollywood’s top stunt double, Holland Hanton has doubled as Christian Bale (in “The Dark Knight Rises”), Daniel Craig (in “Skyfall”), Ryan Reynolds (in “Green Lantern”), and he recently filmed “Thor: The Dark World” with Chris Hemsworth. Bullz-Eye got to ask the latest spokesman for Dove’s Men + Care line of products for men five questions about his career.

Bullz-Eye: Of all the Hollywood studs you’ve served as a stuntman/body double for, who is the one you would most like to be for an entire week and why?

Bobby Holland Hanton: Between Batman, James Bond and Thor, this is an extremely difficult question. I would have to say Batman and Bond are equally as intriguing, with Thor being a close second. Batman is a superhero, who fights crime behind a mask and no one knows who he is – that is pretty cool. Whereas Bond is more realistic, he’s a slick and suave hero that everyone can see and root for. On Thor, Chris Hemsworth looked great and is a character that carries a heavy hammer — he is always particularly well-groomed and keeps his face fresh.

BE: What did you want to be when you were 10 years old? And how did you become a stunt double?

BHH: When I was 10 I wanted to be Batman, Thor and James Bond. No, I’m only kidding. I wanted to be a professional soccer player. Growing up, I followed in my older sister’s footsteps and took on gymnastics. I loved the physicality of the sport and I loved to train. However, soccer was always my passion, and then I found myself just enjoying the regimented training and working out.

BE: What’s the most gruesome injury you’ve suffered as a result of being in your profession?

BHH: I suffered a bad back injury while filming “Green Lantern.” I performed four back-focused stunts in a short period of time, which took a lot of hits to my back over and over. It took its toll after a while, and I found out ultimately that I had sciatic nerve damage. I needed to have two operations on my back, one of which was an emergency surgery, and it took about 9 months to regain full strength. I hope I can say that will always be the worst injury I’ve ever suffered.

BE: What do you do to stay in shape? What type of training do you do, what do you eat and how frequently?

BHH: It is all dependent on who I am doubling. With Chris Hemsworth in “Thor,” I was on a very strict workout plan to gain the strength and muscle. Whereas for Daniel Craig, who is slimmer, I did not work out as often, and focused on my diet and nutrition plan. I have found that between movies it has been best to maintain a middle ground, and I have been blessed to have the ability to change body types rather easily; I thank genetics, I guess. I believe in a strict regimen all day, every day in order to keep workouts and nutrition intact. I wake up every morning and take a shower before I start my day. I am a huge fan of products like the Dove Men+Care Aqua Impact body wash, because it prevents me from smelling bad on set after performing stunts all day, which would be embarrassing in the company of so many movie stars. I also make sure I eat regular portions throughout the day, every two hours, balancing high protein, high carbohydrates and high fats.

BE: Was there a movie star you’ve met who left you completely start struck? Who is the hottest female celebrity you’ve ever seen in person?

BHH: I have been fortunate to work with some of the greatest stars of all time. I would say Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman struck me the most. Chris Nolan is a spectacular director, and I loved working with him on “Batman”. In terms of the hottest female celebrity I have seen, I would go with Emily Blunt or Rachael McAdams — they are gorgeous!

Check out the full line of Dove Men + Care products at www.dovemencare.com.

  

Blu-ray Review: Cosmopolis

On paper, the marriage of cult film director David Cronenberg and cult novelist Don DeLillo is no doubt an ideal one, but movies require bringing dozens or even hundreds of other random factors into the mix, and it’s the director’s job to bring all of it together into one cohesive vision. “Cosmopolis” should have been a masterpiece, and bubbling away beneath its immensely flawed surface, one can see that masterpiece lurking. Unfortunately, the film is painted wall to wall with an uninspired, thoughtless and flat performance from Robert Pattinson that drags the entire affair down to nearly unwatchable. He is in every scene and the entire picture revolves around him. Understand, I’ve nothing against Pattinson. Being largely unfamiliar with his work, I went into “Cosmopolis” assuming that Cronenberg would work cinematic legerdemain with the actor, as he has done countless times before with dozens of players. He did not.

People will argue that Pattinson’s billionaire Eric Packer is supposed to be dreary and lifeless, jaded about life as he is, and desperately keen to feel something – anything – as he takes his epic limo ride from one side of the city to the other just to get a haircut. I would argue back that it takes an actor with far greater chops and insight into his craft to achieve the performance necessary to make this movie work. It needed a young James Spader perhaps, or a Christian Bale, who already played a version of Packer in “American Psycho.” Allegedly, Colin Farrell was cast as Packer, but had to drop out due to conflicts with “Total Recall,” which is a big shame for film as an art form. It’s too bad, too, because “Cosmopolis” surrounds Pattinson with people like Juliette Binoche, Samantha Morton and Paul Giamatti, all of whom attempt brave, inspired work that’s ultimately all for naught, since Pattinson’s like a giant pillow suffocating everyone and everything he comes into contact with. Sadly, there is no movie for this writer to review or discuss beyond this massive, fatal flaw. Perhaps you will be able to see it differently than I, and with all due reverence to both Cronenberg and DeLillo, I urge you to at least give it a shot.

The Blu-ray includes a commentary track from Cronenberg, a featurette on the film, and interviews with the cast and crew.

  

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