Roger Ebert is the best-known film critic of our time. He has been reviewing films for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, and was the first film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. He has appeared on television for four decades, including twenty-three years as co-host of Siskel & Ebert at the Movies. In 2006, complications from thyroid cancer treatment resulted in the loss of his ability to eat, drink, or speak. But with the loss of his voice, Ebert has only become a more prolific and influential writer. And now, for the first time, he tells the full, dramatic story of his life and career in Life Itself.

Roger Ebert’s journalism carried him on a path far from his nearly idyllic childhood in Urbana, Illinois. It is a journey that began as a reporter for his local daily, and took him to Chicago, where he was unexpectedly given the job of film critic for the Sun-Times, launching a lifetime’s adventures. In this candid, personal history, Ebert chronicles it all: his loves, losses, and obsessions; his struggle and recovery from alcoholism; his marriage; his politics; and his spiritual beliefs. He writes about his years at the Sun-Times, his colorful newspaper friends, and his life-changing collaboration with Gene Siskel. He remembers his friendships with Studs Terkel, Mike Royko, Oprah Winfrey, and Russ Meyer (for whom he wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and an ill-fated Sex Pistols movie). He shares his insights into movie stars and directors like John Wayne, Werner Herzog, and Martin Scorsese. This is a story that only Roger Ebert could tell. Filled with the same deep insight, dry wit, and sharp observations that his readers have long cherished, this is more than a memoir – it is a singular, warm-hearted, inspiring look at life itself. (description from publisher)

March 6

Footloose – Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid

Ren MacCormack moves from Boston to the small town of Bomont, where loud music and dancing are prohibited. Not one to bow to the status quo, Ren challenges the ban, revitalizes the town, and falls in love with the minister’s troubled daughter, Ariel. Rated PG-13

March 13

Melancholia – Kirsten Dunst, Alexander Skarsgard

In this beautifully filmed movie about the end of the world, Justine and Michael are celebrating their marriage. A planet called Melancholia is heading directly toward Earth and threatening to collide. Meanwhile, tensions are mounting and relationships are fraying as the family deals with their fears. Rated R

My Week with Marilyn – Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne

In the summer of 1956, Colin Clark worked as a lowly assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl, the film that famously united Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. When his diary account was published, one week was missing. This is the story of that week: an idyll in which he escorted a Monroe desperate to get away from Hollywood hangers-on and the pressures of work. Rated R

March 20

The Muppets – Jason Siegel, Kermit-the-Frog, Miss Piggy, Amy Adams

On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary and Mary, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets’ former stomping grounds. To stage the Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater, Walter, Mary, and Gary help Kermit reunite the Muppets. Rated PG

J Edgar – Leonardo DiCaprio

J. Edgar Hoover was head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nearly 50 years. Hoover was feared, admired, reviled, and revered, a man who could distort the truth as easily as he upheld it. His methods were at once ruthless and heroic, with the admiration of the world his most coveted prize. But behind closed doors, he held secrets that would have destroyed his image, his career, and his life. Rated R

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo– Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig

Hoping to distance himself from the fallout of a libel conviction, journalist Mikael Blomkvist retreats to a remote island where the unsolved murder of a young girl still haunts her industrialist uncle forty years later.  Blomkvist’s investigation draws him into the secrets and lies of the rich and powerful, and throws him together with one unlikely ally: tattooed, punk hacker, Lisbeth Salander. Rated R.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Gary Oldman, Colin Firth

At the height of the Cold War, a precarious operation goes deadly wrong, and the head of British Intelligence wonders if a double agent is leaking vital secrets. Brought out of retirement to expose the potential mole, master spy George Smiley is the only one who can be trusted to expose one of their own. Or can he? Rated R

 

 

February 29th will be here before we know it! Yay, we need more February, right?

The Proposal  doesn’t actually take place in a leap year as far as I know, but Sandra Bullock’s character, Maggie, does follow that holiday’s tradition of a woman proposing to a man.

The ruthless Maggie, in order to avoid deportation, forces her subordinate, (Ryan Reynolds), to marry her. Hilarity ensues when they visit the groom’s  family in Alaska. As is mandatory, Betty White plays a grandmother prone to mildly offensive insults and truth telling.

Alaska, Bullock and Reynolds are enjoyable to behold. You could do worse than pop this into the dvd player on your extra day of 2012.

January 3rd

Hangover Part II – Bradley Cooper,   Zach Galifianakis,

Two years after the bachelor party in Las Vegas, Phil, Stu, Alan, and Doug jet to Thailand for Stu’s wedding. Stu’s plan for a subdued pre-wedding brunch, however, goes seriously awry. (R)

 

 

The Guard – Don Cheadle, Brendon Gleeson

An unorthodox Irish policeman with a confrontational personality is teamed up with an uptight FBI agent to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring. (R)

January 10

Moneyball – Brad Pitt,  Johan Hill

The story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players. (PG-13)

 

 

January 13

Ides of March – George Clooney,  Ryan Gosling

During the frantic last days before a heavily contested Ohio presidential primary, an up-and-coming campaign press secretary finds himself involved in a political scandal that threatens to upend his candidate’s shot at the presidency. (R)

January 24

Real Steel– Hugh Jackman,  Evangeline Lilly

Charlie Kenton is a washed-up fighter who lost his chance at a title when 2000-pound, 8-foot-tall steel robots took over the ring. Now nothing but a small-time promoter, Charlie earns just enough money piecing together low-end bots from scrap metal to get from one underground boxing venue to the next. When Charlie hits rock bottom, he reluctantly teams up with his estranged son Max to build and train a championship contender. (PG-13)

  

January 31

Drive–  Ryan Gosling,  Carey Mulligan

Driver is a Hollywood stunt driver by day, and moonlights as a top-notch getaway driver for hire in the criminal underworld. He finds himself a target for some of LA’s most dangerous men after agreeing to aid the husband of his beautiful neighbor, Irene. When the job goes dangerously awry, the only way he can keep Irene and her son alive is to do what he does best, Drive! (R)

 

As a pretty big fan of sci-fi TV and movies, I am embarrassed that it took me this long to watch Joss Whedon’s critically-acclaimed and short-lived TV series Firefly.  For those who are unfamiliar with it, Firefly is a 14-episode sci-fi series documenting the travels and missions of the spaceship Serenity.  It is set about 500 years in the future when humans have relocated to a new star system controlled by a group of central planets called The Alliance.  Though a band of rebels try to overthrow the corrupt Alliance, they are defeated and The Alliance remains in power.  In the pilot episode we meet Serenity’s captain Mal Reynolds and his second-in-command Zoe, who were on the losing side of the war with The Alliance and now take odd jobs (mostly smuggling) to get by.  The rest of the crew is a compelling cast of characters including adorable mechanic Kaylee, professional companion Inara, and pilot Wash.  To make some extra money the crew picks up some folks willing to pay for transport, including a preacher and a doctor with very mysterious cargo.

Being a unique hybrid of sci-fi and western, Firefly is like nothing else I’ve watched before, and that’s one thing I really love about it.  Despite the futuristic technology, the planets on the outer rim of the new star system (where the outlaw crew of Serenity spend most of their time) aren’t as well-off as the core Alliance planets, so they have a very rustic Old West look and feel.  But my favorite thing about this show is probably the characters.  There are nine very different members of the Serenity crew, and I can’t possibly pick a favorite or a least favorite because they’re all compelling and interesting in their own way.  Firefly was unfortunately cancelled before fans could get answers to a lot of the biggest questions of the series, including the full backstory of the show’s most mysterious character: crazy genius River Tam, who was experimented on at the hands of The Alliance.  But luckily for us, fans of the show rallied and a follow-up movie was made called Serenity, which serves as a very satisfying conclusion to an incredible series.

October 4

Buck -Documentary

A richly textured and visually stunning film, follows Buck Brannaman from his abusive childhood to his phenomenally successful approach to horses. A real-life ‘horse whisperer,’ he eschews the violence of his upbringing and teaches people to communicate with their horses through leadership and sensitivity, not punishment. Buck possesses near magical abilities as he dramatically transforms horses, and people, with his understanding, compassion, and respect.

Fast Five – starring Dwayne Johnson, Van Diesel, Jordanna Brewster, Paul Walker

After Brian and Mia break Dom out of jail, they find themselves trapped in Rio de Janeiro and on the run from the law. Now one last job stands between them and freedom, but will they make it before the corrupt businessmen, or the feds, catch up to them?

Scream 4 – starring Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Emma Roberts

The newest installment in the acclaimed franchise that ushered in a new wave of horror in the 1990s. In Scream 4, Sidney Prescott, now the author of a self-help book, returns home to Woodsboro on the last stop of her book tour. There she reconnects with Sheriff Dewey and Gale, who are now married, as well as her cousin Jill. Unfortunately, Sidney’s appearance also brings about the return of Ghost Face, putting her friends and the whole town of Woodsboro in danger.

October 11

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer – starring Jordana Beatty, Heather Graham

Feisty, fearless Judy Moody is looking forward to the most super-duper, double-rare summer vacation ever. The trouble is, her parents are called out of town and her BFFs are going away with their own families. That leaves Judy trapped at home with her pesky brother Stink under the watchful eye of Aunt Opal. But with a little playful planning, and a lot of imagination, Judy turns a snoresville summer into the way-not-boring adventure of a lifetime!

October 14

The Green Lantern – starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins

In a universe as vast as it is mysterious, a small but powerful force has existed for centuries. Protectors of peace and justice, they are called the Green Lantern Corps. A brotherhood of warriors sworn to keep intergalactic order, each Green Lantern wears a ring that grants him superpowers. When a new enemy called Parallax threatens to destroy the balance of power in the universe, their fate and the fate of Earth lie in the hands of their newest recruit, the first human ever selected.

October 18

A Better Life – starring Demian Bichir

Carlos Galindo always dreamed of a better life for his wife and newborn son when he crossed the border into the U.S. But when his wife left him, Carlos’s only goal became to make sure his son Luis was given the opportunities he never had. A story that follows father and son as they embark on a physical and spiritual journey where they discover that family is the most important part of the American dream.

July 15

Rango – Johnny Depp

Rango, a kooky pet chameleon, accidentally winds up in the gritty, gun-slinging town of Dirt, a lawless outpost populated by the desert’s most wily and whimsical creatures. Welcomed as the last hope the town has been waiting for, new Sheriff Rango is forced to play his new role to the hilt, until he starts to become the hero he once only pretended to be.

 Arthur – Russell Brand, Helen Mirren

Lovable billionaire Arthur Bach has always relied on his limitless fortune and nanny Hobson to keep him out of trouble. Now he faces his biggest challenge. He must choose between an arranged marriage that will ensure his lavish lifestyle or an uncertain future with the one thing money can’t buy: Naomi, the only woman he has ever loved. With Naomi’s inspiration and some unconventional help from Hobson, Arthur will finally learn what it means to become a man

 July 19

Limitless – Bradly Cooper, Robert De Niro

Eddie Morra, a burnt-out writer, discovers a top-secret pill that unlocks 100% of his brain’s capacity. He instantly acquires mind-bending talents and mesmerizing visions that bring him big money, beautiful women, and limitless success. But his dream life soon becomes a waking nightmare, as the drug’s brutal side effects take their toll and Eddie finds himself entangled with a cunning Wall Street power broker who wants everything Eddie has and more.

July 26

Source Code – Jake Gyllenhaal,  Michelle Monaghan

When Captain Colter Stevens wakes up in the body of an unknown man, he discovers he’s part of an experimental government program that enables him to cross over into another man’s identity in the last eight minutes of his life. In order to identify the bomber of a Chicago commuter train, he must relive the incident over and over again, gathering clues to prevent an even deadlier second terrorist attack.

 

Looking for a different way to honor Dad this coming Father’s Day?  How about checking out a movie featuring a fabulous father?  There’s a lot to choose from — it all depends upon your interests, or perhaps, more importantly, upon the ages of your kids.

For the younger crowd, The Incredibles is a fun choice, and all the people in that family are pretty amazing!

One of my favorites is Mrs. Doubtfire with Robin Williams.  This is a good choice for slightly older kids;  it’s hilarious, but also quite touching.

If your kids are older — maybe even adults — you may want to check out Father of the Bride. You can chose the popular newer version with Steve Martin, but it might be refreshing to go way back and view the original movie starring Spencer Tracy.  See how things have changed, or possibly, how much has stayed the same!

For those of you who’d rather have a real book connection, why not look into To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch has to be one of the most understanding fathers in the world.

And if you prefer TV shows, you might like watching some true oldies, like My Three Sons or Father Knows Best. Have a Happy Father’s Day!

June 7

True Grit – Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld

Mattie Ross is determined to avenge her father’s blood by capturing Tom Chaney, the man who shot and killed him for two pieces of gold. Just fourteen, she enlists the help of Rooster Cogburn, a one-eyed, trigger-happy U.S. Marshal with an affinity for drinking, and hardened Texas Ranger LaBoeuf to track the fleeing Chaney. Despite their differences, their ruthless determination leads them on a perilous adventure that can only have one outcome: retribution.

Just Go With It – Adam Sadler, Jennifer Aniston

A plastic surgeon who is romancing a much younger schoolteacher enlists his loyal assistant to pretend to be his soon-to-be ex-wife in order to cover up a careless lie. When more lies backfire, the assistant’s kids become involved, and everyone heads off for a weekend in Hawaii that will change all their lives.

June 14

Battle Los Angeles – Aaron Eckhart, Bridget Moynahan

For years, there have been documented cases of UFO sightings around the world. But in 2011, what were once just sightings will become a terrifying reality when Earth is attacked by unknown forces. As people everywhere watch the world’s great cities fall, Los Angeles becomes the last stand for mankind in a battle no one expected. It’s up to a Marine staff sergeant and his new platoon to draw a line in the sand as they take on an enemy unlike any they’ve ever encountered before.

Hall Pass – Owen Wilson,  Jason Sudeikis

Rick and Fred are best friends who have a lot in common, including the fact that they have each been married for many years. But when the two men begin to show signs of restlessness at home, their wives take a bold approach to revitalizing their individual marriages: granting them a ‘hallpass,’ one week of freedom to do whatever they want, no questions asked

June 21

Cedar Rapids – Ed Helms, John C. Reilly

A small-town, naive, Midwestern insurance agent must represent his company at a regional insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where his mind is blown by the big-city experience.

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Rodrick Rules ! Zachary Gordon, Steve Bostick

Back in middle school after summer vacation, Greg Heffley and his older brother Rodrick must deal with their parents’ misguided attempts to have them bond.

 

Iconic movies  about Los Angeles are:

L.A. Confidential, based on the book by James Ellroy. 1950’s Southern California in all it’s noir glory. Three cops are drawn into a complicated web of crime involving prostitutes and plastic surgery. Heavy hitters like Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe are fun to watch, even as the plot gets more and more challenging to follow.

The Playerbased on the book  by Michael Tolkin. In typical Robert Altman fashion, the film is jam-packed with movie actors playing themselves (over 65 of them). Part of the fun is spotting them as they pop up in the background. Tim Robbins is “the player”  – a movie executive who is in constant negotiations with screenwriters and actors.

L.A. Story, screenplay by Steve Martin. One of Sarah Jessica Parker’s breakthrough performances; she plays a bouncy, free-spirit named SanDeE*, who has a life-altering effect on weatherman Steve Martin. Like The Player, this is a satirical look at the L.A./Hollywood lifestyle, though more affectionate and celebratory.