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Only 0 days until the next Oscars are awarded on February 22, 2015.

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Movies To Look Forward To in 2015

photo Despite the fact that 2015 has started out so forgettably, there is much still to come that could make this year quite memorable. Here are the movies I’m most looking forward to and why—in no particular order (release date in parentheses):

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (August 14): I don’t know why, but I’ve always rooted for director Guy Ritchie to have a hit movie. This one could be fun. At the very least, we’ll get to see if Henry Cavill can act without the cape. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. trailer

CHILD 44 (April 17): The bad: an untested director (Daniel Espinosa) and an April release date. The good: Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace. I’ll give this Stalin-era Soviet Union thriller a chance, just to see these two work together. Child 44 Trailer

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (November 25): After the amazingly brilliant Take Shelter, I said whenever and wherever director Jeff Nichols and star Michael Shannon reunited, I would be there.

SISTERS (December 18): Amy Poehler and Tina Fey movies have so far been a miserable failure (except for Mean Girls, which, really, doesn’t count), so I don’t have high hopes, but a December 18 release date looks promising…albeit a bit confusing.

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY, PART 2 (November 20): The big finish.

CAROL (TBD): A Todd Haynes movie about a romance between two women, who happen to be played by Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett? Yes, please.

EVEREST (Sept. 18): An incredible cast, led by Jake Gyllenhaal and Robin Wright, star in a thriller set during a massive snowstorm on the world’s tallest peak. As an Everest, Gyllenhaal and Wright junkie, consider me hooked.

INSIDE OUT (June 19): A Pixar original (from the director of Up and Monsters, Inc) is always something to look forward to. Inside Out Trailer

BRIDGE OF SPIES (Oct. 16): Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks bring us a Cold War spy movie…..um, ok, I’ll give it a try.

THE REVENANT (Dec. 25): Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu follows up his Oscar-winning Birdman with this 1820s adventure drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Not bad.

JURASSIC WORLD (June 12): I loved the original so much, I’ll give this one a shot, although I do have concerns it will be too much of a re-tread of what made Spielberg’s movie so original. Still, what’s a summer without dinosaurs? Jurassic World Trailer

BLACK MASS (Sept. 18): Is Johnny Depp’s career too late to save? We’ll see as he plays Whitey Bulger in this true story of South Boston’s most famous criminal.

HATEFUL EIGHT (Nov. 13): Tarantino. ‘Nuff said.

SPECTRE (Nov. 6): Bond…James Bond.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (May 15): If the movie is even a third as good as this most-incredible trailer I’ve ever seen, then blow it all up, I’m there. Mad Max: Fury Road Trailer

STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS (December 18): Rebooting a franchise, rebooting my childhood. You could say I’m excited, along with a billion other people.
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens Teaser trailer

THE PEANUTS MOVIE (Nov. 6): Probably the only thing I have fonder feelings for from my childhood than Star Wars is Peanuts. How could Snoopy and Woodstock let you down? The Peanuts Movie Trailer

MINIONS (July 10): On the opposite side of the animated spectrum, we have the Minions, those lovable scamps from the Despicable Me movies, who now have their own feature film all to themselves. We’ll see if their whimsy can sustain a full-length movie. Minions Trailer

SNOWDEN (Dec. 25): Director/writer Oliver Stone takes on Edward Snowden, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing the infamous CIA document leaker. No matter what, this one will be interesting.

SOUTHPAW (July 31): The director of Training Day, the writer/creator of Sons of Anarchy, and a totally ripped Jake Gyllenhaal come together to give us a working-class boxing movie. If ever we needed a Rocky for our time, it’s from these artists and it’s now. I can’t wait.

JANE GOT A GUN (Sept. 4): Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor in a revenge-themed Western. Sign me up.

STEVE JOBS (Oct. 9): So many have tried to make the ultimate Apple founder bio-pic, but, finally, I think we’ve got the one: Danny Boyle directing, Aaron Sorkin writing and Michael Fassbender starring. iTrifecta.

TOMORROWLAND (May 22): This one is still too mysterious for me to really figure out what it’s about (which is good or bad), but I’ll still chalk it up as something to look forward to due to the fact that it’s got director Brad Bird, star George Clooney and writer Damon Lindelof behind it. And its late-May release and huge marketing push means Disney is going ALL IN. It’ll be worth checking out just for that. Tomorrowland Trailer

SPY (June 5): Director Paul Feig’s last two movies were The Heat and Bridesmaids, so a re-teaming of Feig and star Melissa McCarthy will, hopefully, continue the magic in this undercover CIA comedy. The funny is hard to find this year, so if this one hits, it could really go far at the box office. But, as we’ve seen, if it bombs, it could reverberate badly for McCarthy’s career. I root for success. Spy Trailer

Harrison Ford

photo Harrison Ford’s recent plane crash reminded me of what a giant presence in my cinematic life experience this star has been. He is so much more than three of the most iconic characters in movie history (yes, one actor has played Han Solo, Indiana Jones and the true Jack Ryan)—he is arguably the ultimate movie star of my generation, and the slight panic I felt at losing him (which was eerily similar to the heartache I felt when we lost Robin Williams last year) has made me want to go back and look at his catalog and appreciate again all that he has given us over the years—-and will continue to give us for many years to come, I hope (including this December’s highly-anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the planned Indiana Jones 5 and Blade Runner sequel).
First of all, let’s run down the titles of Ford’s movies, and I guarantee you’ll be astonished—you may have forgotten how prolific he actually is. He is so much more than Han Solo.

American Graffiti (1973)
The Conversation (1974)
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
Heroes (1977)
Force 10 from Navarone (1978)
Apocalypse Now (1978)
Hanover Street (1979)
The Frisco Kid (1979)
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1979)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1980)
Blade Runner (1981)
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1982)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1983)
Witness (1984)
The Mosquito Coast (1985)
Frantic (1986)
Working Girl (1988)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1988)
Presumed Innocent (1989)
Regarding Henry (1990)
Patriot Games (1991)
The Fugitive (1993)
Clear and Present Danger (1993)
Sabrina (1995)
The Devil’s Own (1995)
Air Force One (1997)
Six Days Seven Nights (1997)
Random Hearts (1998)
What Lies Beneath (1999)
K-19: The Widowmaker (2000)
Hollywood Homicide (2002)
Firewall (2004)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2006)
Crossing Over (2008)
Extraordinary Measures (2009)
Morning Glory (2010)
Cowboys & Aliens (2010)
42 (2013)
Paranoia (2013)
Ender’s Game (2013)
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)
The Expendables 3 (2013)

To choose my favorite Harrison Ford movie would be like trying to choose my favorite song: it depends on my mood. Off the top of my head, the basic cable Hall of Famers Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games and Air Force One always feed my need for the popcorn action flick—Ford is at his tough-but-vulnerable best, getting the suit dirty only when he has to, kicking butt to protect family and country. Then, of course, when I want the action (and my hero) not as clean-cut, but much cooler (and snarkier), the sure and obvious bets are Raiders of Lost Ark and any of the original Star Wars movies, which are not just in the basic cable Hall of Fame, but in the All-Time Cinema Hall of Fame. And as for the characters of Indiana Jones and Han Solo, I mean, come on. There was a time—long before anyone heard of James Cameron—that, between Star Wars and the Raiders movies, Harrison Ford starred in five of the top 10 grossing movies of all time. Now THAT’S a movie star.

But then, when I am in the mood for something a bit darker, a little less movie-starry, I love to watch Frantic, Presumed Innocent or The Fugitive—three movies that add the genre of thriller to Ford’s resume. Frantic, made in 1986, came right on the heels of Witness (1984) and The Mosquito Coast (1985)—a dramatic and serious trilogy of films which certainly proved that Ford was out to prove that he wanted more of a career than summer sequels or blockbusters. Witness is probably remembered as his most dramatic and best role, playing Detective John Book, opposite Kelly McGillis, directed by Peter Weir, for which Ford earned his only Oscar nomination, for Best Actor, losing to William Hurt in Kiss of the Spider Woman. It is a delicate and layered performance, and rightfully deserved all the accolades.

It’s easy to think of Harrison Ford for his action, thriller and dramatic roles, but he’s often forgotten for his light-hearted, romantic and comedic roles. One of my favorite Harrison Ford movies is Working Girl. Yes, Harrison Ford can be charming, endearing, cute, funny and even a bit dorky, as he proves in this wonderfully-cast role against type in the classic Mike Nichols ‘80s workplace comedy co-starring Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver. He gets into romantic comedy in the 1995 remake of Sabrina, co-starring Julia Ormond, directed by Sydney Pollack, which may have been a bit off, but he was still totally endearing. He even made the unbearably sappy Regarding Henry tolerable.

In recent years, he’s continued to work, and I loved seeing him in Anchorman 2 and Cowboys & Aliens and he came very close to getting an Oscar nomination for his role as Branch Rickey in the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 two years ago. And, of course, he’s rumored to have a significant role in the upcoming, highly anticipated seventh Star Wars movie, due in December, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, directed by J.J. Abrams, where his career will be coming full circle as he will be playing Han Solo yet again.

Harrison Ford has never been one to jump on couches or revel in the tabloid life, it’s been easy to forget how much of a superstar he really is and all that he has given to those of us who love movies. Let’s be grateful for that eighth green, for his skills as a pilot and, well, for the movies. And here’s to many more to come.

Into the Woods

photo So, yes, I did see Into the Woods. And I did actually want to see it, despite what some of you might think. I love Sondheim, I love musicals, and I wanted to give this one every chance. Sadly, though, no matter how I tried, I still couldn’t find a way to love it. (And not just for the reason you think.)

Let’s just take care of this up front: I don’t like Meryl Streep. For those of you who don’t know, I think she’s overrated and certainly not worthy of the hype and pedestal she’s been placed on for the past thirty years. That said, I knew that this movie would be built around her casting as the witch, since this is a movie mash-up of classic Grimm fairy tales and her part is the central figure in the plot as well as the one that gets the most dramatic screen time. I steeled myself for it, as I’ve been able to endure Streep movies in the past—I loved Devil Wears Prada, Silkwood and Defending Your Life, for example—but I also put my faith in the fact that Stephen Sondheim’s music would be the real star here and director Rob Marshall wouldn’t let one performer pull too much focus from a brilliant ensemble in a classic ensemble piece.

I’ve always been such an optimist.
click here to keep reading Into the Woods »

My Top 10 of 2014

1. Birdman
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
4. Wild
5. Locke
6. Nightcrawler
7. Boyhood
8. The Skeleton Twins
9. Selma
10. Foxcatcher

MY CURRENT SMART PICKS

Top 5 List:

My Five Favorite (non Star Wars) Harrison Ford Movies:

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1980)
2. Patriot Games (1991)
3. Working Girl (1988)
4. Frantic (1986)
5. Clear and Present Danger (1993)

Rental Pick:

The Elephant Man (1980)

Favorite Trailer of the Moment:

Awesome Movie Montages and Lists: