“It’s good to be alive!” declared a tearful Michael Douglas, the guest of honor at our Movies for Grownups Gala Countdown luncheon in New York on Thursday. Douglas — who told us he’s still cancer-free five years after being diagnosed with tongue cancer — attended with his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones.
She applauded loudly when it was announced that Michael will receive our Career Achievement Award at the Movies for Grownups Awards Gala in Beverly Hills February 8. In a moving toast, old friend (and Fatal Attraction costar) Glenn Close said, “Michael, you hold my heart in your hands, and you have made a difference in millions of people’s lives.”
“Someone once called The Carpenters’ sound ‘vanilla,’ ” Oscar-winning songwriter Paul Williams tells us. “But what an exquisite flavor vanilla is!” Williams, whose 1970s TV jingle for a California bank became the duo's hit single “We’ve Only Just Begun,” figures heavily in the PBS special Close to You: Remembering The Carpenters, airing December 5. Not only does the film include The Carpenters singing some of Williams’s greatest songs, but he provides commentary along with Herb Alpert and Petula Clark.
This Weekend at the Movies
Designates a Movies for Grownups Editors’ Choice
New in Theaters
The Lady in the Van
Everyone benefits from the company of elders. But what happens when one of them parks her van in your driveway and lives there for 15 years? In this fact-based dramedy, Maggie Smith stars as Mary Shepherd, the lady in the film’s title; Alex Jennings is her gobsmacked host, playwright Alan Bennett.
The performances are excellent. The location scenes in India are eye-popping. But this heartfelt tribute to Mother Teresa, played by British actress Juliet Stevenson, suffers from blind devotion to its subject. Is it possible the future Saint was a bit less, well, saintly?
As crumbling old friends who meet up at a crumbling Swiss spa for their annual get-together, Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel are pitch-perfect in this dreamlike meditation on age, friendship and memory.
New at Home
Some Kind of Beautiful
Not many 60+ stars can pull off the college-professor-irresistible-to-his-students bit. Then again, few have the gifts of Pierce Brosnan, who plays a randy academic torn between sisters Salma Hayek and Jessica Alba. #WeAreTornToo
The central characters (a dance troupe defying the Iranian government’s ban on their art) are plenty young and pretty. But their true story — of ordinary people who consider artistic expression essential to their being — is timeless. The by-the-numbers storytelling is redeemed by some exquisite dance interludes.
Still Out There
Bridge of Spies
In this true-life Cold War-era story, Steven Spielberg directs Tom Hanks as a modest lawyer thrown into negotiating the swap of a Soviet agent for captured U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers. FULL REVIEW
And the seventh ( Rocky film, that is) shall be the best: Creator Sylvester Stallone turned the writing and directing duties over to Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), who cast the wonderful Michael B. Jordan as a young boxer who asks Rocky to mentor him. The upstart happens to be the son of Rocky’s old pal/nemesis, Apollo Creed.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
If those crazy killer kids had kept at it much longer, they could have all headed down to the Capitol to apply for Social Security. But this is the end of the series. If you know the characters, you know the drill.
By the Sea
Screenwriter Angelina Jolie-Pitt directs herself and husband Brad Pitt as a couple trying to unkink their problems in a hotel on the coast of “France” (Malta, really). Lots of gazing at the horizon, but the truth about what’s eating The Gorgeous Ones proves anticlimactic.
The Good Dinosaur
On the heels of the splendid Inside Out comes this captivating story of a boy and his apatosaurus. We’ve never had two Disney/Pixar films in one year before, but we wish it would happen all the time.
The Night Before
The Hangover meets Bad Santa in Seth Rogen’s latest dirty-mouthed-druggie-discovers-his-sensitive-side comedy.
Bring a hanky. Better yet, a box of ’em. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are extraordinary as a mother and her five-year-old son who escape after being held captive in a single small room for the youngster’s entire life. With Joan Allen and William H. Macy. FULL REVIEW
Secret in Their Eyes
Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Chiwetel Ejiofor: what a fantastic cast! And oh, how they go to waste in this lame American remake! Skip it in favor of the Argentine original, a compelling mystery/thriller set in the years after the Perón dynasty.
In his fourth turn as James Bond, Daniel Craig comes face-to-face with old nemesis SPECTRE. The opening scene — a 10-minute mini-masterpiece shot in Mexico City — may be the most pulse-pounding of the entire 007 franchise. FULL REVIEW
In one of the year’s best films, Michael Keaton stars as the Boston Globe editor who coached his ace reporters ( Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams among them) through their outing of pedophile priests. FULL REVIEW
Bryan Cranston is compelling as Dalton Trumbo, a screenwriter jailed and blacklisted during the Red Scare of the 1940s. Instead of demonizing Hollywood commie-hunters, the film shows how demagoguery can force good people to make devastating choices. A tale for our times? FULL REVIEW
Truth to tell, Robert Redford (as toppled CBS newsman Dan Rather) is the best thing to see here. Redford channels the anchor with the subtlest of mannerisms, right down to Rather’s vestigial Texas twang. Cate Blanchett shines as his embattled producer. FULL REVIEW
Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images for AARP
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