Rating: About Ratings
Opens: 12/19/2014
Running Time: 134
Rated: R
Cast: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Vanessa Redgrave and Mark Ruffalo.
Crew: Director: Bennett Miller. Producer: Bennett Miller, Hank Bedford, Anthony Bregman, Megan Ellison, Kristin Gore, Jon Kilik, Scott Robinson and Mark Schultz. Executive Producers: Mark Bakshi, Chelsea Barnard, Michael Coleman, John P. Giura, Tom Heller and Ron Schmidt. Screenwriters: E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman. Cinematographer: Greig Fraser.
REVIEW: By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

With all the hype surrounding Steve Carell’s transformative role of paranoid-schizophrenic billionaire John E. du Pont, in “Foxcatcher,” you’d think this movie would blow you away.

That’s hardly the case. “Foxcatcher” is one of biggest disappointments of 2014 despite the star power of Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo.

Directed by Bennett Miller (“Moneyball” and “Capote”), “Foxcatcher” attempts to give a glimpse into the eccentric world of du Pont (Carell), the heir to the du Pont chemical and weapons empire.

John DuPont is shown as a philanthropist, Ornithologist (birdwatcher), avid sports/wrestling fan and a “patriot.”

But there are so many odd characteristics that shaped his life which Miller could have added to this narrative but he doesn’t. Consequently, the movie suffers from it.

“Foxcatcher” is a haphazard story that plods along for 134 minutes with very little happening. And yes, Carell looks completely different, but after five minutes or so of watching him with a big, prosthetic nose, jagged, yellow teeth and listening to his whiny voice, he becomes more annoying than anything else.

John is so fascinated with wrestling that he has his own team (the Foxcatchers) that he trains on his palatial estate. The truth is he’s not much of a coach. He’s certainly not good enough to get his guys in top form so they can compete in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

So he gets the bright idea to contact 1984 Olympic Gold medal winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Tatum, “22 Jump Street”) to help with his team. Seeing that Mark is living in a shoebox sized apartment in Michigan, nearly broke and eating Ramen noodles every night for dinner, he doesn’t need much coaxing.

John flies Mark out first class to his Pennsylvania manor, lets him stay in his guest house, pays him and basically gives him every amenity you can imagine. But John has really made the offer to Mark with hopes he can lure his older brother Dave (Ruffalo, “Begin Again.”) who is also a gold medal winner. However, Dave has obligations like a wife (Sienna Miller, “American Sniper”), two kids and a good job as a wrestling coach. So packing up and moving to work with du Pont isn’t likely.

Most everything about “Foxcatcher” feels off-kilter. For starters, Carell isn’t convincing as du Pont. Although it’s unintentional, he comes across almost comical. At times it’s like watching an extended SNL parody skit of du Pont.

With the exception of Vanessa Redgrave—who makes a brief cameo as John’s mother and hates her son’s interest in “lowlife wrestling--it’s hard to invest in any of the characters because they seem so blasé. More scenes of Redgrave admonishing John and his creepy, excessive lifestyle would have added a much needed spark to “Foxcatcher.”

We aren’t even given a hint as to what drives John and eventually makes him such a nut case. He’s introduced Mark to cocaine, alcohol and even has a brief sexual encounter with him.

When Mark hits rock bottom, Dave tries to intervene to help his brother, but he gets caught up in du Pont’s sordid world and it doesn’t end well for him.

“Foxcatcher” is based on Mark Schultz and David Thomas’ book, “Foxcatcher: The True Story of My Brother’s Murder, John du Pont’s Madness, and the Quest for Olympic Gold.”

And while I haven’t read the book, I’m told by colleagues who have that there’s a lot more to this bizarre and compelling story. Unfortunately in the hands of the film’s screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, they barely scratch the surface and much of the story gets lost in translation to the big screen.

Editor's Note: Be sure to catch my movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays at 6:40 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM....

Rated: PG-13
Opens: 12/17/2014
The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies

Rated: PG-13
Opens: 12/19/2014

Rated: PG-13
Opens: 12/19/2014
Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb

Rated: R
Opens: 12/19/2014

Rated: PG-13
Opens: 12/12/2014
Exodus: Gods And  Kings

Rated: R
Opens: 12/12/2014
Top Five


Brian's Song Title: Brian's Song
Year Released: 1971
Running Time: 90
Production Company: Sony (Screen Gems)
Director: Buzz Kulik
Director of Photography: Joseph F. Biroc
Screenwriter: William Blinn
Author: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

REVIEW: Now with summer behind us, the arrival of fall means weekends attending and watching plenty of football games. Whether they’re college, pro or high school, I’m all over them. I’m looking forward to attending a few games at the San Francisco 49ers new Levi’s Stadium.

On the college front, my husband Rickey is a former UC Davis player/alum and...

This Is Where I Leave You <b>(Dec. 16)</b> Title: This Is Where I Leave You (Dec. 16)
Year Released: 2014
Running Time: 103
Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Shawn Levy
Review By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs


“This is Where I leave You” was one of the most surprisingly funny family dysfunction comedies this year.

Directed by Shawn Levy (“The Internship” and “Real Steel”) and based on Jonathan Tropper’s 2009/book of the same name, the romantic comedy featured a ensemble cast that clicked as well.

Jason Bateman (“Horrible Bosses 2”) plays Judd Altman, a successful radio producer whose wife Quinn (Abigail Spencer, TV’s “Suits”) used to be his pride and joy until he walked in on her and his boss (Dax Shepard, “The Judge”) having sex at HIS house.

Shortly after that visual, Judd gets a call from his sister Wendy (Tina Fey, TV’s “30 Rock”) who informs him their father has died and that his dying wish was for the entire family to gather in their house to take part in the Jewish tradition of sitting Shiva for seven days of mourning/reflection.

Since the majority of the family have gone their separate ways and are happy they have, getting together is not something anyone other than their child psychologist mother, Hillary (a fabulous Jane Fonda) is looking forward too. They still haven’t forgiven her for writing a best-selling parenting book detailing all of their childhood exploits.

The oldest brother Paul (Corey Stoll, “Non-Stop” and “The Bourne Legacy”) is the most mature of the crew and the only one who stuck around to run the family’s sporting goods store. Paul is married to Annie (Kathryn Hahn) and they are freaking out because she can’t get pregnant.

Phillip (Adam Driver, TV’s “Girls”) means well, but just hasn’t matured. He even arrives at the funeral late and eventually introduces the family to his newest conquest, a tall, young, pretty red-head named Tracy (Connie Britton, TV’s “Nashville”). She’s slowly learning that Phillip isn’t going to be the one for her, but she bought him a spanking new Porsche anyway.

Every old and new secret rears its ugly head as the Altman’s try and make it through this gathering in one piece.
Old flames like Tina Fey and her brain-damaged ex-boyfriend Horry (Timothy Olyphant, TV’s “Justified”)—he was injured in a car accident-- wonder what might have been as does Judd who has some tender moments with his high school sweetheart Penny (Rose Byrne, “Neighbors”) until a major development cools off their romance.

Fonda, is the perfect choice as the matriarch of the family. She’s funny, classy and looks amazing. And while Tina Fey dials back her shtick a bit—she’s still brings the laughs—it’s her dramatic moments in the film that really bring it all together.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles <b>(Dec. 16)</b> Title: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Dec. 16)
Year Released: 2014
Running Time: 101
Production Company: Paramount Pictures
Director: Jonathan Liebeman
Review By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs


I was really shell-shocked by how much I enjoyed the reincarnated movie, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

Although it was directed by Jonathan Liebesman (“Wrath of the Titans” and “Battle Los Angeles”) and produced by Michael Bay, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” still has Bay’s signature, style stamped all over it which may be why it’s a dark, cheeky and nostalgic ride.

This movie is a complete retelling of the turtle’s origin story. It centers around April O’Neil (Megan Fox, “This is 40”), a New York television reporter who wants to be taken seriously as a hard news journalist. April is tired of covering all the little fluff piece stories and wishes that she and her cameraman Vern (Will Arnett, “The Lego Movie” and TV’s “The Millers”) could really get to the bottom of who is behind the recent crime wave that has gripped the city.

April gets her lucky break one night when she stumbles on a vigilante giving a natural beat down to members of The Foot Clan, a notorious crime syndicate led by a powerful, silver, robotic monstrosity known as The Shredder.

If only April's cell phone had been fully charged, she could have taken a better picture to show everyone back at the newsroom.

Of course when April tries to convince her very unforgiving boss Bernadette Thompson (Whoopi Goldberg, TV’s “The View”) that she needs to pursue this story, she nearly laughs her out of the room.

But the more April digs, she’s stunned when she realizes it’s her childhood pet turtles: Leonardo (voiced by Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Donatello (Jeremy Howard) who have been trying to keep the peace.

April released the turtles into a sewer years ago and now they have grown into giant, strong, lethal ninja fighters thanks to their martial arts expert teacher, Splinter the rat (Tony Shalhoub, voice and Danny Woodburn).

So naturally she feels responsible for them. After all, her father—who was killed in a mysterious fire-- helped to create the turtles with his lab partner Dr. Eric Sacks (William Fichtner, TV’s “Crossing Lines”).

But whatever respect April once had for Dr. Sacks quickly disappears when she learns that he’s been experimenting and injecting the turtles with a powerful serum for his own personal and greedy means.

Now, not only does April have the news story of a lifetime, but a chance to become a hero of sorts as well providing she doesn’t spill the beans to authorities about her shelled friends.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” offers up plenty of high flying action including a true Michael Bay style sequence that features an 18-wheeler skidding down a steep, snowy mountain as the turtles mightily try and get a hand on things.

Calvary <b>(Dec. 9)</b> Title: Calvary (Dec. 9)
Year Released: 2014
Running Time: 100
Production Company: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director: John McDonagh
Review By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs


It would be most unfortunate if Brendan Gleeson gets overlooked during this upcoming Awards season because he gives such a commanding performance in “Calvary.”
Gleeson plays Father James, a priest who lives in a remote Irish village filled with residents that have plenty of crosses to bear. Some are much heavier than others. But Father James’ openness and warm-heartedness is what brings many troubled souls to him regularly.

However, he never expects to hear a member confess to him about being physically abused as a child by a former priest. And Father James is further rocked when that same man tells him he is going to kill him in one week.

Father James takes the threat seriously and tries to find out who wants him dead. “Calvary” becomes a dark thriller as everyone who talks with Father James is now a suspect.

It could be the crazy butcher Jack Brennan (Chris O’Dowd, “Bridesmaids”) or Leo, the male prostitute (Owen Sharpe, “The Guard”), Simon (Isaach de Bankole), an angry mechanic from the Ivory Coast who is having an affair with Jack’s wife, Veronica (Orla O’Rourke) or the wealthy and arrogant financier, Michael Fitzgerald (Dylan Moran). It could also be known atheist Dr. Harte (Aidan Gillen). There are just too many people to name.

Father James starts assessing his own life. He reflects on his past and before he became a priest particularly when his wife died and he started drinking. He also realizes he needs to spend time with his daughter Fiona Lavelle (Kelly Reilly, “Flight”) after she tells him that she missed him being around for her when she was a kid. Fortunately, they have grown closer over the years.

During his one week countdown, Father James takes time to visit a serial killer-cannibal (played by Gleeson’s own son, Domhnall Gleeson) with hopes he can get more information from him so that the families can have some closure. Father James even reaches out his author friend (M. Emmet Walsh), who is dying and wants him to give him a gun so he can decide when the pain is too much and when he can end it all.

With “Calvary,” director and screenwriter John Michael McDonagh-- who also worked with Gleeson in the 2011 movie, “The Guard”-- has crafted a stirring and thought provoking movie.
(Highly Recommended).

Guardians Of The Galaxy <b>(Dec. 9)</b> Title: Guardians Of The Galaxy (Dec. 9)
Year Released: 2014
Running Time: 121
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures
Director: James Gunn
Review By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs


Disney execs were a bit nervous about releasing Guardians of the Galaxy” since it featured lesser known superheroes like a fast talking raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”) and a gigantic, walking tree known as Groot (Vin Diesel, “Fast & Furious 7”).

There’s also the menacing Drax the Destroyer (WWE wrestler Dave Bautista, “Riddick”), Gamora, a green skinned, vicious warrior (Zoe Saldana, “Out of the Furnace” and “TV’s “Rosemary’s Baby”) and the music loving, fearless leader, Peter Quill/Star-Lord, (Chris Pratt, “Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Lego Movie” and TV’s “Parks and Recreation”).

But director/screenwriter James Gunn’s dazzling, high-flying adventure proved to be the biggest blockbuster of the summer. And for good eason. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is clever and loads of fun.

When Peter/Star-Lord is thrown in jail for stealing a mysterious, coveted orb he soon becomes the most wanted man in the entire galaxy. Everyone wants to get their hands on this powerful orb.

A terrorist named Ronan (Lee Pace, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”) wants it to control his enemies, the warlord Thanos (Josh Brolin, “Labor Day”) plans to rule the world with it and an arrow wielding hunter named Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker, TV’ “The Walking Dead”) is salivating over it too. There’s a wealthy collector (Benicio Del Torro, “Thor: The Dark World”) who is eager to profit from the orb as well.
The Guardians of the Galaxy can’t possibly allow any of these power hungry, tyrants to obtain the orb and use it against the cosmos because that would spell disaster for the peaceful people on Planet Xander. So they concoct somewhat of a plan and break out of jail to get it back.

Along the way to save the world, these misfits must contend with several villains notably, Korath The Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou, upcoming “Fast & Furious 7”) and Nebula (Karen Gillan, “Dr. Who”).

However, it’s Star-Lord’s unorthodox and funny methods that include dancing and singing to some classic 1970s pop and rock tunes from an “Awesome Mix Tape” his dying mother (Laura Haddick, TV’s “Da Vinci’s Demons”) gives him that contributes to their game plan and ultimately makes them full-fledged superheroes in the process.

That “Guardians of the Galaxy” doesn’t take itself so seriously is a welcome change of pace from the other Marvel adventures.

Plus, like I said before, any movie that rocks such an eclectic mix of music from Redbone's "Come And Get Your Love," the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back," Blue Swede’s “Hooked on A Feeling” to Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," The Five Stairsteps' "O-o-h Child" and Rupert Holmes' "Escape (The Pina Colada Song"), totally works for me.


The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA)--which yours truly is a member of--announced the nominees for The 20th Annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards.

The winners will be revealed at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, which will broadcast live on A&E from the Hollywood Palladium on Jan. 15 at 9 pm ET/ 6 pm PT, the day the Academy Award nominations are announced. This is the first year that the BFCA will partner with A&E to broadcast the show.

Legendary Super Bowl Champion Michael Strahan will serve as the show’s host. Strahan is the co-host of the popular morning talk show “LIVE with Kelly and Michael,” and an Emmy-nominated “Fox NFL Sunday” analyst. He also serves as special co-host for ABC’s top-rated morning program, “Good Morning America.”

“I am excited to host a night honoring some of the most talented people in the industry,” said Strahan. “‘The Critics’ Choice Movie Awards’ show paves the way for the upcoming awards season, and the best part is that the winners are selected by the very people who make a living watching and reviewing films. It doesn’t get much more competitive than that.”

“Birdman” leads this year with 13 nominations including “Best Picture,” Michael Keaton for “Best Actor” and “Best Actor in a Comedy,” Edward Norton for “Best Supporting Actor,” Emma Stone for “Best Supporting Actress,” “Best Acting Ensemble,” Alejandro G. Inarritu for “Best Director,” “Best Original Screenplay,” “Best Cinematography,” “Best Art Direction,” “Best Editing,” “Best Comedy” and “Best Score.”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” also impressed with 11 nominations, which include: “Best Picture,” Ralph Fiennes for “Best Actor” and “Best Actor in a Comedy,” Tony Revolori for “Best Young Actor/Actress,” “Best Acting Ensemble,” Wes Anderson for “Best Director,” “Best Original Screenplay,” “Best Cinematography,” “Best Art Direction,” “Best Costume Design” and “Best Comedy.”

“Boyhood” was nominated for eight awards including: “Best Picture,” Ethan Hawke for “Best Supporting Actor,” Patricia Arquette for “Best Supporting Actress,” Ellar Coltrane for “Best Young Actor/Actress,” “Best Acting Ensemble,” Richard Linklater for “Best Director” and “Best Original Screenplay,” and “Best Editing.”

“Interstellar” earned seven nominations, followed by “Gone Girl” and “The Imitation Game” each with six. “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Into The Woods,” “Selma,” and “The Theory of Everything” were each nominated for five awards, while “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Inherent Vice,” “St. Vincent,” “Unbroken” and “Whiplash” are each in the running for four.

“It’s been a great year for movies,” said BFCA President Joey Berlin. “Filmmakers have demonstrated that riveting, magical and provocative stories can be told in an incredible range of styles and techniques. The members of the BFCA and our new partners at A&E are proud to salute wonderful films and performances in the traditional categories and a wide variety of popular genres including Comedy, Action and Sci-Fi/Horror. Audiences love all kinds of movies – and so do we.”

“The Critics’ Choice Movie Awards” are bestowed annually by the BFCA to honor the finest in cinematic achievement. The BFCA is the largest film critics’ organization in the United States and Canada, representing almost 300 television, radio and online critics. BFCA members are the primary source of information for today’s film-going public. Historically, the “Critics’ Choice Movie Awards” are the most accurate predictor of the Academy Award nominations.

The “The 20th Annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards” are produced by Bob Bain Productions and Berlin Entertainment.


BEST PICTURE: “Birdman” “Boyhood” “Gone Girl” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” The Imitation Game “Nightcrawler” “Selma” “The Theory of Everything” “Unbroken” “Whiplash”

BEST ACTOR: Benedict Cumberbatch--“The Imitation Game” Ralph Fiennes–“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Jake Gyllenhaal–“Nightcrawler” Michael Keaton–“Birdman” David Oyelowo–“Selma” Eddie Redmayne–“The Theory of Everything”

BEST ACTRESS: Jennifer Aniston–“Cake” Marion Cotillard–“Two Days, One Night” Felicity Jones–“The Theory of Everything” Julianne Moore–“Still Alice” Rosamund Pike–“Gone Girl” Reese Witherspoon– “Wild”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Josh Brolin– “Inherent Vice” Robert Duvall– “The Judge” Ethan Hawke– “Boyhood” Edward Norton– “Birdman” Mark Ruffalo– “Foxcatcher” J.K. Simmons– “Whiplash”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Patricia Arquette– “Boyhood” Jessica Chastain– “A Most Violent Year” Keira Knightley– “The Imitation Game” Emma Stone– “Birdman” Meryl Streep– “Into the Woods” Tilda Swinton– “Snowpiercer”

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS: Ellar Coltrane– “Boyhood” Ansel Elgort– “The Fault in Our Stars” Mackenzie Foy– “Interstellar” Jaeden Lieberher– “St. Vincent” Tony Revolori– “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Quvenzhane Wallis– “Annie” Noah Wiseman– “The Babadook”

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE: “Birdman” “Boyhood” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” “The Imitation Game” “Into the Woods” “Selma”

BEST DIRECTOR: Wes Anderson–“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Ava DuVernay–“Selma” David Fincher–“Gone Girl” Alejandro G. Inarritu–“Birdman” Angelina Jolie–“Unbroken” Richard Linklater–“Boyhood”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: “Birdman”– Alejandro G. Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo “Boyhood”– Richard Linklater “The Grand Budapest Hotel”– Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness “Nightcrawler”– Dan Gilroy “Whiplash”– Damien Chazelle

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: “Gone Girl”– Gillian Flynn “The Imitation Game”– Graham Moore “Inherent Vice”– Paul Thomas Anderson “The Theory of Everything”– Anthony McCarten “Unbroken”– Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, William Nicholson “Wild”– Nick Hornby

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: “Birdman” – Emmanuel Lubezki “The Grand Budapest Hotel” – Robert Yeoman “Interstellar”– Hoyte Van Hoytema “Mr. Turner”– Dick Pope “Unbroken”– Roger Deakins

BEST ART DIRECTION: “Birdman”– Kevin Thompson/Production Designer, George DeTitta Jr./Set Decorator “The Grand Budapest Hotel” – Adam Stockhausen/Production Designer, Anna Pinnock/Set Decorator “Inherent Vice”– David Crank/Production Designer, Amy Wells/Set Decorator “Interstellar”– Nathan Crowley/Production Designer, Gary Fettis/Set Decorator “Into the Woods”– Dennis Gassner/Production Designer, Anna Pinnock/Set Decorator “Snowpiercer”–Ondrej Nekvasil/Production Designer, Beatrice Brentnerova/Set Decorator

BEST EDITING: “Birdman”–Douglas Crise, Stephen Mirrione “Boyhood”–Sandra Adair “Gone Girl”–Kirk Baxter “Interstellar”–Lee Smith “Whiplash”–Tom Cross

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”– Milena Canonero “Inherent Vice”– Mark Bridges “Into the Woods”– Colleen Atwood “Maleficent”– Anna B. Sheppard “Mr. Turner”– Jacqueline Durran

BEST HAIR & MAKEUP: “Foxcatcher” “Guardians of the Galaxy” “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” “Into the Woods” “Maleficent”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” “Edge of Tomorrow” “Guardians of the Galaxy” “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” “Interstellar”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: “Big Hero 6” “The Book of Life” “The Boxtrolls” “How to Train Your Dragon 2” “The Lego Movie”

BEST ACTION MOVIE: “American Sniper” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” “Edge of Tomorrow” “Fury” “Guardians of the Galaxy”

BEST ACTOR IN AN ACTION MOVIE: Bradley Cooper– “American Sniper” Tom Cruise– “Edge of Tomorrow” Chris Evans–“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” Brad Pitt–“Fury” Chris Pratt–“Guardians of the Galaxy”

BEST ACTRESS IN AN ACTION MOVIE: Emily Blunt– “Edge of Tomorrow” Scarlett Johansson– “Lucy” Jennifer Lawrence– “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” Zoe Saldana–“Guardians of the Galaxy” Shailene Woodley–“Divergent”

BEST COMEDY: “Birdman” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” “St. Vincent” “Top Five” “22 Jump Street”

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY: Jon Favreau–“Chef” Ralph Fiennes–“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Michael Keaton–“Birdman” Bill Murray–“St. Vincent” Chris Rock– “Top Five” Channing Tatum– “22 Jump Street”

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY: Rose Byrne–“Neighbors” Rosario Dawson–“Top Five” Melissa McCarthy–“St. Vincent” Jenny Slate–“Obvious Child” Kristen Wiig–“The Skeleton Twins”

BEST SCI-FI/HORROR MOVIE: “The Babadook” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” “Interstellar” “Snowpiercer” “Under the Skin”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “Force Majeure” “Ida” “Leviathan” “Two Days, One Night” “Wild Tales”

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: “Citizenfour” “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me” “Jodorowsky’s Dune” “Last Days in Vietnam” “Life Itself” “The Overnighters”

BEST SONG: “Big Eyes”– Lana Del Rey–“Big Eyes” “Everything Is Awesome”–Jo Li and the Lonely Island– “The Lego Movie” “Glory”–Common/John Legend–“Selma” “Lost Stars”–Keira Knightley–“Begin Again” “Yellow Flicker Beat”– Lorde– “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1”

BEST SCORE: Alexandre Desplat–“The Imitation Game” Johann Johannsson–“The Theory of Everything” Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross–“Gone Girl” Antonio Sanchez–“Birdman”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Be sure to check out the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, Jan 15 on the A&E Network at 9 pm ET/ 6 pm PT. Some information used in this report obtained from publicity department press releases.

MICHAEL STRAHAN BFCA A&E By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs:


The Broadcast Film Critics’ Association, (BFCA) which yours truly is a member of, will present “The 20th Annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards,” live from the Hollywood Palladium on Jan. 15 and airing on the A&E Network at 9 pm ET/ 6 pm PT.

The Critics' Choice Movie Awards will be broadcast the same day the Academy Award nominations are announced.

Michael Strahan has been tapped to host this year’s star-studded BFCA affair. Strahan is an excellent choice. His infectious personality and gap-toothed smile has made him a popular co-host on the highly rated “LIVE with Kelly and Michael” show and the Emmy-nominated “Fox NFL Sunday.” He also serves as special co-host for ABC’s top-rated morning program, “Good Morning America.”

Prior to joining the ranks of the top sports broadcasters in the country, Strahan’s 15-year football career was highlighted by seven Pro Bowl selections, leading the New York Giants to a dramatic victory in Super Bowl XLII. In 2014, Strahan was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the sport’s highest honor.

“I am excited to host a night honoring some of the most talented people in the industry,” said Strahan. “The Critics’ Choice Movie Awards show paves the way for the upcoming awards season, and the best part is that the winners are selected by the very people who make a living watching and reviewing films. It doesn’t get much more competitive than that.”

“We are thrilled to have Michael on board as the host of this special night,” said David McKillop, Executive Vice President and General Manager of A&E Network. “His distinctive charisma, sense of humor and ease in front of a live audience makes him the perfect choice for what is sure to be an unforgettable evening.”

A&E Network has partnered with the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) to become the exclusive home to the 2015 and 2016 “The Critics’ Choice Movie Awards” and “The Critics’ Choice Television Awards.”

“The Critics’ Choice Awards” are bestowed annually by the BFCA and BTJA to honor the finest in cinematic and television achievement,” said Joey Berlin, President of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. “Historically, the “Critics’ Choice Movie Awards” are the most accurate predictor of the Academy Award nominations.”

The BFCA is the largest film critics’ organization in the United States and Canada, representing almost 300 television, radio and online critics. BFCA members are the primary source of information for today’s film-going public. BTJA is the collective voice of almost 100 journalists who regularly cover television for TV viewers, radio listeners and online audiences.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “The 20th Annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards” are produced by Bob Bain Productions and Berlin Entertainment. This report originally from Sean O'Connell, BFCA.



Writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood lit up the big screen with her debut, feature movie, “Love & Basketball” (2000). The romantic drama starred Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps and was a critical and commercial success.

Bythewood followed that with “Disappearing Acts” which was based on Terry McMillan’s best-selling novel. It was a box office hit too thanks to Bythewood’s deft directing and the film’s stars Wesley Snipes and Sanaa Lathan.

Now, Bythewood has returned with “Beyond the Lights.” The movie made quite a splash at the Toronto Film Festival and New York’s Urbanworld Film Festival.

“Beyond the Lights” features Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who starred in this year’s critically acclaimed period drama, “Belle” and Nate Parker whose work includes “Non-Stop” with Liam Neeson and Denzel Washington’s “The Great Debaters.”

In “Beyond the Lights,” Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays a famous, yet troubled pop star. Her demanding mother/manager (Minnie Driver) and the pressures of show business soon overwhelm her until she meets and falls in love with an L.A. cop (Nate Parker). spoke with Gina Prince-Bythewood during a recent telephone interview. The accomplished filmmaker talked about overcoming the numerous obstacles to get “Beyond the Lights” made, working with the film’s dynamic, leading stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, and Minnie Driver and why as a filmmaker she believes it’s important to make movies that enlighten as well as entertain audiences.

Read on to find out what else Prince-Bythewood had to share with us.

Q. First off congratulations on “Beyond the Lights.” It’s a fantastic movie. Your last romantic drama “Love & Basketball” was released 14 years ago and now we have “Beyond the Lights.” What took so long to make this film?

A. Thanks very much. It has been a minute for me to get “Beyond the Lights” off the ground. I had actually started writing it in 2007 around the same time as I was doing “The Secret Life of Bees.” Then I put it down. In terms of writing, I take a long time. I write and rewrite. So that was part of it too. But the biggest obstacle was shopping the film around to studios and convincing them that a black love story and music drama would be marketable.

Q. Did you get a lot of rejections from studios?

A. Did I ever. I never heard the word no used in so many ways and as often as I did while shopping “Beyond the Lights” around. I was really shocked that everybody turned us down. We fought and fought to get this movie made.

Q. What were the objections and reservations that some of the studios had about the movie?

A. Well, there were two major issues. They were uncomfortable with the suicide issue that’s in the movie. They felt it made the movie feel too dark.

Q. And was the other issue that the actors were maybe too dark as well?

A. Lots of laughter. That’s funny. There was concern that Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker weren’t big enough stars to carry the movie. Relativity Media was the only studio who embraced where I was going with the movie. They also said that having Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the lead in the movie was a great choice on my part and they felt she was a star and absolutely loved her. Plus, to hear them tell me that they respected my work and trusted what I was doing was music to my ears especially after getting all those rejections from everyone else. From that moment on, it was full steam ahead.

Q.Speaking of Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker, they have a palpable chemistry on screen. I mean these two exude sensuality throughout the movie. When did Nate become so sexy and how did you decide on them and what was it that they brought that clicked for you?

A. Gugu and Nate are just dynamic together. They even exceeded my expectations. Nate is a phenomenal person and actor. I had worked with him before in my movie “The Secret Life of Bees.” He was pretty sexy then too. (Lots of laughter). I think for this role he got all buffed and everything. But he’s electric on set and in rehearsal. I knew early on when I was writing “Beyond the Lights” that Nate was going to be on my short list. I needed a man for this role and he’s not soft at all. And because there’s a lack of leading male roles, I wanted his character to be multi-layered and be something special. And Nate loved his character Kaz. He completely embraced it and I think he nails it. I met Gugu Mbatha-Raw two years before “Belle.” Audiences have yet to see what she’s capable of doing as an actress. She’s just scratching the surface and getting warmed up. Gugu and Nate auditioned for me together. It was an immediate magnetism. I couldn’t stop watching them. You mentioned sensuality and you’re right. I saw it and I wanted to build on that crackle and make it explode on screen.

Q. Was making a romantic drama set against the backdrop of the hip-hop music industry something you wanted to do?

A. It definitely was. “Beyond the Lights” was a passion project. Writing is therapeutic for me and I also love music. I knew that I wanted to make another romantic drama, but I wanted it to stand apart from others. I felt that combining this rags-to-riches story about a young girl trying to become a big singer and her mother who is also a former musician was just a perfect base to build from.

Q. Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s mother in the movie is played by Minnie Driver. There are so many terrific performances in “Beyond the Lights” and you definitely can’t overlook Driver in the film. Can you talk about what she brought to the movie?

A. Minnie (Driver) is phenomenal. She is a true gift to this film. She is actually a former singer and so this movie has meaning for her too. Plus, she grew up in Barbados and has a connection to black culture. I wanted to bring a complexity to her role as a woman trying to find herself through her daughter.

Q. The beauty of your romantic dramas goes beyond the predictable boy-meets-girl-loses-girl storyline. There are also poignant messages for women about self-respect and empowerment. Is that intentional?

A. Absolutely. I have something to say. While I wanted to be entertaining, I also wanted to shine a spotlight on the dark side of the music industry and how pop music promotes a hypersexual image of young girls to sell records. Through this movie, I wanted to show that maybe there’s another way. Gugu’s character Noni goes through a real transformative period. She learns to love and respect herself on her terms and soon understands her worth and power. I think that’s an important message for all young girls.

Q. Are you a big fan of Nina Simone and was that the reason you had Gugu’s character (Noni) sing “Blackbird” in the film?

A. Yes I am. I came to Nina Simone late though. I really got into her after college. Her work is raw, peaceful and truthful. When I was writing “Beyond the Lights” I knew that Noni was going to sing a Nina Simone song.

Q. What’s next for you and will we have to wait 14 years for it?

A. (Lots of laughter). I’m just starting on another personal drama. I can assure everyone it won’t be 14 years before it’s released.

Editor’s Note: Don’t miss “Beyond the Lights” starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver and Danny Glover. “Beyond the Lights” opens nationwide Nov. 14.