Category Archives: On My DVR

On My DVR: HBO Movies

HBO has long been at the forefront of quality TV movies. Among this year’s offerings are three based on real people, two of which are based on Tony-winning plays. Each is primed for Emmy consideration.

All the Way

Following up his Oscar-nominated performance in Trumbo and four Emmy wins for portraying Walter White on Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston reprises his Tony-winning role of LBJ in this TV adaptation of the 2014 Tony-winning Best Play. I caught this Robert Schenkkan-penned play on Broadway—liked it, but didn’t love it. Schenkkan adapted his own work for HBO, so I’m curious to see how he interpreted this story for a different medium.

Logline (courtesy of IMDb)Lyndon B. Johnson becomes the President of the United States in the chaotic aftermath of JFK’s assassination and spends his first year in office fighting to pass the Civil Rights Act.

Director: Jay Roach
Screenwriter: Robert Schenkkan
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Anthony Mackie, Melissa Leo, Bradley Whitford, Frank Langella
Runtime: 132 min.

Continue reading On My DVR: HBO Movies

On My DVR: “Maps to the Stars” (2014)

Julianne Moore in MAPS TO THE STARS

Julianne Moore’s performance in Still Alice earned her an Oscar, but that wasn’t the only movie she starred in last year that got critics talking. Her “other” movie, Maps to the Stars, earned her the Best Actress award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and a Golden Globe nomination for her lead performance in the comedy/musical category (she was double nominated in both leading categories and won in the drama race for Alice). Maps to the Stars is currently on Cinemax.

Synopsis (courtesy of IMDb):
A tour into the heart of a Hollywood family chasing celebrity, one another, and the relentless ghosts of their pasts.

Director: David Cronenberg
Screenwriter: Bruce Wagner
Cast: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack
Distributor: Focus World
Runtime: 111 min.


On My DVR: “Prisoners” (2013)

Hugh Jackman in PRISONERS

Six years ago, I interviewed upstart screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski, soon after selling his debut script to Alcon Entertainment for a cool million dollars. Guzikowski wrote Prisoners on spec while working in the ad industry in New York. His story resonated with me because at the time I was also a screenwriting hopeful working at a rival NYC ad agency. (If he could do it, why couldn’t I?) Despite Alcon’s fast-tracking of the film, it was eventually delayed and didn’t bow in theatres until four years later. In the meantime, Guzikowski saw success with what would become his first feature to hit the big screen, Contraband (2012), starring Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale. I still haven’t seen Prisoners, but it’s resting comfortably on my DVR, thanks to HBO, on which it can currently be seen.

Read my full interview with Guzikowski here.

Synopsis (courtesy of IMDb):
When Keller Dover’s daughter and her friend go missing, he takes matters into his own hands as the police pursue multiple leads and the pressure mounts. But just how far will this desperate father go to protect his family?

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Screenwriter: Aaron Guzikowski
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Runtime: 153 min.

On My DVR: “Night Will Fall” (2014)

When I heard that a lost Hitchcock film was found, I knew I had to learn more, even if it were a doc, perhaps unlike anything he had previously made. As a huge Hitch fan, I’m looking forward to learning more about the film that researchers only recently uncovered.

Synopsis (courtesy of IMDb):
Researchers discover film footage from World War II that turns out to be a lost documentary shot by Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein in 1945 about German concentration camps.

Director: André Singer
Screenwriter: Lynette Singer
Cast: Helena Bonham Carter (narrator), Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Bernstein
Distributor: HBO Documentary Films
Runtime: 75 min.

On My DVR: HBO Movies & Miniseries

I’m a huge fan of HBO and much of its original programming. In addition to the network’s terrific series that I frequently watch, I also watch as many of its miniseries and original movies—most of the newest offerings are sitting on my DVR. Here’s what I have to look forward to …

Parade’s End


While most of the US is discovering Benedict Cumberbatch for the first time thanks to his role in Star Trek into Darkness, I’ve long been a fan and am excited to see him opposite Rebecca Hall (another of my favorites) in this five-part miniseries.

Logline (courtesy of IMDb)Revolves around a love triangle between a conservative English aristocrat, his mean socialite wife, and a young suffragette.

Director: Susanna White
Screenwriter: Tom Stoppard
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, Adelaide Clemens
Runtime: ~ 300 min.

Continue reading On My DVR: HBO Movies & Miniseries

On My DVR: My Dinner with Andre (1981)

Synopsis (courtesy of IMDb):
Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, apparently playing themselves, share their lives over the course of an evening meal at a restaurant. Gregory, a theater director from New York, is the more talkative of the pair. He relates to Shawn his tales of dropping out, traveling around the world, and experiencing the variety of ways people live, such as a monk who could balance his entire weight on his fingertips. Shawn listens avidly, but questions the value of Gregory’s seeming abandonment of the pragmatic aspects of life.

I first heard of this film, which takes place entirely at a dinner table, while watching a parody of it on the brilliant NBC sitcom Community, a scripted TV show that honors cinema unlike any other I’ve seen. The film’s Criterion trailer and a clip from that episode of Community follow the jump.

Director: Louis Malle
Screenwriters: Andre Gregory, Wallace Shawn
Cast: Andre Gregory, Wallace Shawn
Distributor: New Yorker Films
Runtime: 110 min.

Continue reading On My DVR: My Dinner with Andre (1981)

On My DVR: Hemingway & Gellhorn (2012)

Synopsis (courtesy of IMDb):
A drama centered on the romance between Ernest Hemingway and WWII correspondent Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway’s inspiration for For Whom the Bell Tolls and the only woman who ever asked for a divorce from the writer.

Premiering at this year’s Cannes Film Festival out of competition, Hemingway & Gellhorn began its run on HBO this past May. Following Rabbit Hole (2010), this appears to be another film in the newest string of good Nicole Kidman movies. Since her series of great movies and performances in the early 2000s (culminating in an Oscar win for her performance in The Hours, 2002), I’ve long held that Kidman is one of the best actresses around today. Unfortunately, a slew of bad movies took her out of favor with some people, but she seems to be back and stronger than ever.

Director: Philip Kaufman
Screenwriters: Jerry Stahl, Barbara Turner
Cast: Robert Duvall, Nicole Kidman, Clive Owen, Parker Posey, Tony Shalhoub, David Strathairn
Genres: Drama, Romance
Distributor: HBO
Runtime: 155 min.

On My DVR: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Synopsis (courtesy of IMDb):
A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette.

This film is on my 170 list, and I did watch it some years ago, but even then I told myself I’d have to re-watch it someday. I must not have been in the proper mindset the first time because I recall not following the story very well. Any film with the notoriety of The Maltese Falcon and with names like John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, and Peter Lorre attached deserves a second watch. This film came out the same year as Citizen Kane and is the iconic Huston’s directorial debut. It earned three Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Screenplay (Huston), and Best Supporting Actor (Sydney Greenstreet).

Director: John Huston
Screenwriter: John Huston
Producer: Hal B. Wallis
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Gladys George, Sydney Greenstreet
Genres: Crime, Noir
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Runtime: 100 min.


On My DVR: Spartacus (1960)

One slave leads an uprising in 73 BCE Italy against the Roman Empire. And that’s all we really need to know.

Those who follow this blog know that I put quite a bit of stock in AFI’s “100 Years … 100 Movies” list, which was released in 1997. Those movies (and then some) are all featured on my 170 list. Ten years later, in 2007, AFI decided it was time to revisit its list and reconsider it with a fresh perspective. (View the 10th Anniversary Edition here.) Though Spartacus did not make its way onto the original list, it did find itself placed nicely at #81 on the 2007 list. In fact, several movies off the original list dropped off, making way for several new additions (including Toy Story, Titanic, and The Last Picture Show, among many others). Many of the new additions are on my 170 list, but some are not. I consider those that aren’t as my “170 alternates”: movies that I will watch, but will not include among the others that I intend to watch before my 30th birthday. Spartacus is one of my alternates. (That said, I’ve seen all of my alternates except for Spartacus and Titanic, and I’ve always vowed that Titanic would be the last Best Picture winner that I’d watch.) Titanic aside, by the time of my 30th birthday I would have successfully completed my 170 list and my alternates. Feels good.

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenwriter: Dalton Trumbo
Producer: Edward Lewis
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, John Gavin, Tony Curtis
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Epic
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Runtime: 184 min.


On My DVR: Smash His Camera (2010)

Oscar-winning documentarian Leon Gast (When We Were Kings, 1996) brings us Smash His Camera, a look into the life and career of paparazzo Ron Galella, who was in hot pursuit of candid images of Jackie O., Marlon Brando, and other celebrities—risking his safety (and dignity) in doing so. This film dives into the world of the paparazzi and what they go through to provide the general public with the shots they crave, all at the expense of some famous names and the privacy they begrudgingly sacrifice. For once, the camera is turned on the photographers. They’re people too, right?

This film won Gast the Best Director—Documentary prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. It’s currently airing on HBO.

Director: Leon Gast
Producers: Linda Saffire, Adam Schlesinger
Cast: Floyd Abrams, Gilbert M. Anderson, Joseph Basile, Ron Galella
Genre: Documentary
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Runtime: 87 min.