The Reel Breakdown
  • Critic’s Pick: ‘Short Term 12′

    Short Term 12

    Must-See Movies Beyond the Blockbusters

    "Short Term 12" is as close to a Mumblecore afterschool special as you're going to get – and, surprisingly, that's no diss. Honest and earnest, the winner of the Grand Jury Award for best narrative feature at South By Southwest has modest ambitions: what is it like in a group home for distressed teens and their caregivers? Not unexpectedly, it’s an emotional rollercoaster, an unmarked battleground of small victories and razor-etched defeats.

    The movie's fulcrum is Grace (Brie Larson), the empathetic young house-mama at a foster care facility for teens in relatively short-term care, hence the title. Larson (TV’s “United States of Tara”) stares with doe eyes into the headlights of a major career, the first big chick looking to break out of Mumblecore since Greta Gerwig. Larson owns the movie without makeup, her hair limp, crawling inside the skin of this young woman trying to be fearless for others despite the weight of her own fears.


    Read More »from Critic’s Pick: ‘Short Term 12′
  • Critic’s Pick: ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’

    Must-See Movies Beyond the Blockbusters

    Like a bastard love child of Terrence Malick and Robert Altman, David Lowery’s crime drama shuffles to its own drummer. Either you dance to it or you can skip away, but the latter would be a mistake in an era of cookie cutter genre pics.

    The story could easily be framed in a Country ballad or a Bruce Springsteen song: Ruth (Rooney Mara) and Bob (Casey Affleck) have known each other since their youth, and loved each other for nearly ever. When their armed robbery gets messy, Bob takes the rap, goes to prison and misses their first child's birth. Now he’ll do anything to reunite – even break out of prison – but there’s a soft-spoken sheriff, Patrick (Ben Foster), sitting lovelorn at Ruth’s front door to keep that from happening.

    RELATED: Ben Foster, David Lowery Balltle Mustaches for 'Ain't Them Bodies Saints'

    A love triangle wrapped in a backwoods thriller set in 1970's Texas, "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" is beautiful to look at in every frame

    Read More »from Critic’s Pick: ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’
  • Rarely in Hollywood has a cast appeared more connected, or familial, than the team behind "Lee Daniels’ The Butler."

    Director Daniels and stars Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker, Lenny Kravitz, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and David Oyelowo recently joined Yahoo! Movies to discuss their searing biopic. The fact-inspired drama testifies to the tumultuous history of America’s Civil Rights Movement by focusing on White House butler Cecil Gaines (Whitaker), who served sitting presidents for 34 years, and his radical son Louis (Oyelowo).

    "When I did this movie," said Daniels, who steered "Precious" to Oscar glory, "it was not a movie that I did for the Civil Rights Movement ... It was a father-son love story. It wasn't until we started with some of those horrific scenes that I had to shoot that I realized it was a bigger film than the father-son story and the usage of the N-word."

    As the director and actors talk, the interaction captured on our video speaks volumes. Oprah, who plays the butler's wife,

    Read More »from Yahoo! Video Exclusive: Oprah, Cuba Gooding Jr. & Forest Whitaker Crack ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler’
  • Critic’s Pick: ‘Lovelace’


    Must-See Movies Beyond the Blockbusters

    Call it "A Star is Porn!" Amanda Seyfried ("Les Miserables") stars as the 70's adult film performer who made her name in "Deep Throat," widely credited as the first (and possibly the last) blue movie to cross over into the mainstream (meaning Johnny Carson cracked jokes about it). Also headlining the cast, Peter Sarsgaard straps Linda down appearing as her Svengali, Chuck Traynor.

    It's not quite Judy Garland and James Mason, or Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, or even Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, but it's a period hustle with a great soundtrack. And the formula – the talented but modest girl meets a man who makes it happen for her, and then must climb over his broken body to independence – rarely gets old.

    Co-directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman corralled a stellar cast that piles on great performances, from Seyfried's freckle-faced femme fatale with the hot body and the doe eyes to Sarsgaard's menacing lady-killer with the 70's

    Read More »from Critic’s Pick: ‘Lovelace’
  • Q&A: Cate Blanchett Sniffs ‘Blue Jasmine’ – and Oscar

    Blue Jasmine

    Between performing in "The Maids," and dining with her three sons, Cate Blanchett, 44, could be mistaken for another multi-tasking mother, struggling to juggle career and family. But in Blanchett's case, the load also includes the burdens of being an early Oscar frontrunner - again - this time for playing the title character of Woody Allen's latest, "Blue Jasmine."

    In this film, Blanchett plays a New York socialite forced to move in with sister in San Francisco after her shyster husband's financial empire collapses. Blanchett's character is a tragicomic cross between Blanche Dubois from "A Streetcar Named Desire," a character she played at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2009; the wife of Bernie Madoff; and yet another fluttery, neurotic chip off the Allen mold.

    How much of Jasmine really is Blanche? I sat there waiting for Bobby Cannavale’s character to rip off this T-Shirt and ravage her. (He never does.)

    "Streetcar" was a while ago, there was never any discussion with Woody about

    Read More »from Q&A: Cate Blanchett Sniffs ‘Blue Jasmine’ – and Oscar
  • Mariah CareyMariah Carey at the Waldorf Astoria on Monday in New York (Photo: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)Mariah Carey wasn't about to close her eyes to the past when discussing racism and the making of "Lee Daniels' The Butler" during a press conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Monday. She recalled she was riding on a Long Island school bus when a student spit on her when she was a child because of the color of her skin. And the foul memory came flooding back while she was making "The Butler."

    In the movie, Carey plays the mother of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), a character based on the White House Butler Eugene Allen, who served presidents for 34 years and retired in 1986. In the early scene of the sweeping period drama about America's tumultuous racial past as seen through the butler's eyes, a dissolute plantation owner's son rapes Mariah's Georgia sharecropper. Immediately afterwards, the rapist shoots her husband dead in front of their son, Cecil, who has goaded his father to protest the violence against his mother.

    Read More »from Mariah Carey Recalls Scarring Spit Attack Evoked by ‘Butler’ Scene
  • Critic’s Pick: ‘Cockneys vs Zombies’

    Must-See Movies Beyond the Blockbusters

    "Cockneys vs. Zombies" is the blue-stripe generic indie zombie movie – and that’s actually welcome now that it’s the end of a movie summer that began back in May. Helmed by Award-winning commercial director Matthias Hoene, the comedy’s modest aspirations reflect its main characters: gawky brothers Terry and Andy --Rasmus Hardiker ("Your Highness") and Harry Treadaway ("The Lone Ranger"). They're orphans who couldn’t shoot straight enough to blow the brains out of a walking corpse.

    Wouldn’t you know that this loser pair decides to rob a bank to save the nursing home where their granddad (Alan Ford) lives with his aging mates the very day that London sprouts zombies? Sucks to be them!

    RELATED: Where to Go to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? 'World War Z' Knows'

    These inept armed robbers manage to score the cash only to find themselves in a London where they can’t spend it – and the posh and Cockney are linked by a curse that leaves them equally

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  • 7 Reasons to Be Excited that Ellen Degeneres Is Hosting the Oscars

    1. She actually knows how to host a show and she's had plenty of practice.

    2. She won’t insult the talent – no awkward nasty moments bullying child actors.

    3. She will lighten the mood.

    4. She’s a woman who likes women – she’s out and proud and why not celebrate that in this year of legalizing same-sex marriages.

    5. She’ll keep her hair and make-up costs low with sponsor tie-ins.

    6. She’s not Seth MacFarlane – something that probably makes MacFarlane even happier than Ellen.

    7. After last year, she doesn’t have to worry about being called the “worst Oscar host” ever.

  • Spectacular Now

    Shailene Woodley, the star of "The Spectacular Now," opening Friday, and Alexander Payne’s Oscar-winning "The Descsendants," turned twenty-one last November and became a card-carrying adult. But on screen, she continues to come of age - and come-of-age again -- playing teens troubled one way or another, and plagued with never ending identity issues.

    Now, Woodley perches on the verge of entering Jennifer Lawrence-Kristen Stewart mega-stardom as the lead in the upcoming next big YA dystopian thing, "Divergent." But before that hits the screens, she comes to the theaters this week as in James Ponsoldt’s small-budget coming-of-ager, "Spectacular Now." In this festival circuit hit, Woodley appears as Aimee, an honor student with college prospects and a fractured family who finds romance, and a new self-confidence, with a hard-drinking charmer (Miles Teller, her "Divergent" co-star).

    Talking by phone, the sloe-eyed star reveals that, though her current life is spectacular, amazing is the

    Read More »from Q&A: Shailene Woodley Returns to Troubled Teen Land for ‘The Spectacular Now’
  • Austenland

    Writer turned producer Stephenie Meyer learned the fundamentals of film producing on the fly with her megahit 'The Twilight Saga.' When the series' billion dollar grosses made a star out of Kristen Stewart, Meyer demonstrated that she knew what women wanted. Now Meyer is expanding beyond her fan-driven books with her production of "Austenland," a sweet-natured comedy written and directed by Jerusha Hess ("Napoleon Dynamite"). The film stars Keri Russell as an American singleton who travels to a fictional Jane Austen theme park in search of her own Mr. Darcy.

    With the help of the marketing executives at Sony Pictures Classics, Meyer and the team behind "Austenland" - which opens in New York and Los Angeles on August 16th - are pioneering a strategy to reach the women’s market; even if that means largely ignoring men.

    To date, with hits like "Bridesmaids," "The Help," and "The Blind Side," the main mystery is why, if there if there’s big money in marketing films to women, has Hollywood

    Read More »from ‘Twilight’ author Stephenie Meyer on pursuing a women only strategy for ‘Austenland’


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