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Heaven Is for Real (2014) Movie Review

heaven_is_for_realGreg Kinnear stars in the adaptation of the Christian book.

A boy’s journey to heaven will entice Christian audiences without driving other viewers up the wall.

Opens: Wednesday, April 16 (TriStar Pictures).

Cast: Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Connor Corum, Thomas Haden Church, Margo Martindale, Lane Styles, Jacob Vargas, Thanya Romero, Nancy Sorel.

Director: Randall Wallace.
Christian moviegoers already turned God’s Not Dead into a surprise hit this year, and even more should flock to Heaven Is For Real, a movie made on a bigger budget and drawn from a best-selling book about a young boy’s near-death experiences of the afterlife. This picture from Braveheart screenwriter and Secretariat director Randall Wallace is unlikely to convert any skeptics, but if they wander into the multiplex, they’ll find that that the prettily photographed sermon goes down easily.

The low-pressure approach of the filmmakers is very much the same tactic taken by small-town pastor Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear) in his orations to his congregation. He dresses casually and addresses his flock without any hectoring or fire-and-brimstone declaiming. (The ethnic diversity of the small Midwestern congregation, however, seems more politically correct than geographically credible.)  But when Todd’s four-year-old son Colton (Connor Corum) is rushed to the hospital with a ruptured appendix, the family’s world threatens to collapse. Colton survives emergency surgery, but he returns to the land of the living with tales of the visions of heaven he experienced, including an encounter with Jesus himself. Todd is initially skeptical, but when Colton recounts details about dead family members whom he never knew, Todd begins to accept the boy’s visions. Yet other inhabitants of the town as well as members of the church executive board are more skeptical, fearing that the boy’s tales from the other side are turning their congregation into something of a circus sideshow.

That’s about the extent of the drama in this rather attenuated film.  True believers will find the film’s evocations of heaven quite enough to sustain their interest, but other viewers — even those who might be curious about the film’s thesis — will search in vain for a more compelling narrative. Margo Martindale plays one of the church leaders who is concerned about the notoriety the boy’s tales attract, but this story strand isn’t well-developed and is resolved far too easily. The overwrought melodrama that marred God’s Not Dead is luckily absent, but Heaven desperately needs a greater sense of urgency.

Some of this is provided by Todd’s financial hardships, which add intriguing and unexpected dimension to the life of a contemporary country pastor. Todd can’t make a living as a preacher, so he works in construction and also as a volunteer fireman. A scene in which he has to tell a hospital administrator that he can’t afford to pay his whopping medical bill gives an unexpectedly sharp edge to the movie.

The grittier realities of life in small-town America are obviously not what this film wants to highlight, yet those glimpses add some valued texture to the film. The images of heaven are too antiseptic to prove very persuasive to nonbelievers, but the film does achieve moments of spiritual grandeur in its more realistic scenes. Oscar-winning cinematographer Dean Semler (Dances With Wolves) brings a breathtaking sense of widescreen wonder to the Nebraska prairie vistas (actually shot in Canada), and these images convey a more subtle sense of transcendent possibilities than the heavenly interludes with gossamer angels.

Working with Semler, Wallace achieves some visual epiphanies, and he also draws effectively natural performances from the actors. Kinnear is always believably human, and as his wife, British actress Kelly Reilly (who made a strong impression as Denzel Washington‘s love interest in Flight) has an appealing earthiness. Martindale has a couple of moving moments, though Oscar nominee Thomas Haden Church has a disappointingly thin role as the town banker. One of the reasons the film works as well as it does is because of the casting of Corum as young Colton. Unlike many child actors his age, Corum never milks the audience. He is appealingly understated, which shows the tact of director Wallace. But aside from any acting ability, his angelic face cannot help but strengthen the movie’s thesis. Wallace made a lot of shrewd decisions to sock this movie home, but he can’t entirely overcome the dramatic thinness of the original material. The faithful may well be weeping by the film’s conclusion, while others will remain more detached, feeling little except gratitude that they haven’t been bludgeoned into believing.

Opens:  Wednesday, April 16 (TriStar Pictures).

Cast:  Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Connor Corum, Thomas Haden Church, Margo Martindale, Lane Styles, Jacob Vargas, Thanya Romero, Nancy Sorel.

Director:  Randall Wallace.

Screenwriters:  Randall Wallace, Christopher Parker.

Based on the book by: Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent.

Producers:  Joe Roth, T.D. Jakes.

Executive producers:  Sue Baden-Powell, Sam Mercer, Derrick Williams.

Director of photography:  Dean Semler.

Production designer:  Arv Greywal.

Music:  Nick Glennie-Smith.

Costume designer:  Michael T. Boyd.

Editor:  John Wright.

Rated PG, 100 minutes.

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Cold in July (2014) Movie Trailer

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\How can a split-second decision change your life? While investigating noises in his house one balmy Texas night in 1989, Richard Dane (Michael C. Hal) puts a bullet in the brain of low-life burglar Freddy Russell. Although he’s hailed as a small-town hero, Dane soon finds himself fearing for his family’s safety when Freddy’s ex-con father, Ben (Sam Shepard), rolls into town, hell-bent on revenge.

Michael C. Hall brings a shell-shocked vulnerability to his portrayal of Dane that contrasts perfectly with the grizzled badasses portrayed by Sam Shepard and Don Johnson. Directed with an excellent eye for the visual poetry of noir by Jim Mickle (“We Are What We Are”), this pulpy, southern-fried mystery is a throwback to an older breed of action film, one where every punch and shotgun blast opens up both physical and spiritual wounds. Twists and turns accelerate as the film reaches its inevitable destination: a gore-soaked dead end. “Cold in July” is as muggy, oppressive, and hard to shake as an east Texas summer.

Release Date: May 23, 2014 (limited)
Studio: IFC Films
Director: Jim Mickle
Screenwriter: Jim Mickle, Nick Damici
Starring: Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson, Sam Shepard, Vinessa Shaw, Nick Damici, Wyatt Russell
Genre: Crime, Thriller
MPAA Rating: Not Available
Official Website: Not Available

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Third Person (2014) Movie Trailer

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Third Person opens in theaters on June 20th, 2014.

Cast: Liam Neeson, Kim Basinger, Olivia Wilde, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, Maria Bello, Moran Atias, Loan Chabanol

Michael (Liam Neeson) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction author who has holed himself up in a hotel suite in Paris to finish his latest book. He recently left his wife, Elaine (Kim Basinger), and is having a tempestuous affair with Anna (Olivia Wilde), an ambitious young journalist who wants to write and publish fiction.

At the same time, Scott (Adrien Brody), a shady American businessman, is in Italy to steal designs from fashion houses. Hating everything Italian, Scott wanders into the “Cafe Americano” in search of something familiar to eat. There, he meets Monika (Moran Atias), a beautiful Roma woman, who is about to be reunited with her young daughter. When the money she has saved to pay her daughter’s smuggler is stolen, Scott feels compelled to help. They take off together for a dangerous town in Southern Italy, where Scott starts to suspect that he is the patsy in an elaborate con game.

Julia (Mila Kunis), an ex-soap opera actress, is caught in a custody battle for her 6 year-old son with her ex-husband Rick (James Franco), a famous New York artist. With her support cut off and her legal costs ruinous, Julia is reduced to working as a maid in the same upscale boutique hotel where she was once a frequent guest. Julia’s lawyer Theresa (Maria Bello) has secured Julia one final chance to change the court’s mind and be reunited with the child she loves. Rick’s current girlfriend Sam (Loan Chabanol) is a compassionate onlooker.

“Third Person” tells three stories of love, passion, trust and betrayal, in a multi-strand story line reminiscent of Paul Haggis’s earlier Oscar-winning film Crash. The tales play out in New York, Paris and Rome: three couples who appear to have nothing related but share deep commonalities: lovers and estranged spouses, children lost and found.

Third Person trailer courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

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The LIGHT side of the force! Carrie Fisher shows off trim figure on shopping trip, as she prepares for Princess Leia return in new Star Wars

Carrie Fisher 1In shape: Carrie Fisher left a Los Angeles grocery store on Tuesday after reports suggest she has been working out and getting in shape to reprise her role as Princess Leia in the new Star Wars film

She has reportedly been getting back in shape as she prepares to reprise her iconic role of Princess Leia in Episode VII of the Star Wars franchise.

And Carrie Fisher was looking noticeably slim and trim as she left a Los Angeles grocery store on Tuesday.

The 57-year-old actress and author sported a bright blue cardigan over a black top and leggings with practical flat sandals for the trip.

Her brown hair was tied back in a half ponytail while she also wore glasses and pink lipstick, while pushing her grocery card and holding her dogs’ leashes.

Although Fisher hasn’t officially been confirmed to reprise the role of Leia in the J.J. Abrams-helmed movie, she told TV Guide in January that she would be back filming this spring.

‘I’d like to wear my old [cinnamon buns] hairstyle again – but with white hair,’ she said. ‘I think that would be funny.’

Carrie Fisher 2May the pooches be with you: Carrie took her pet dogs out for the trip before popping into the store

Previous reports have even suggested that producers have employed top nutritionists and fitness trainers to help whip she and co-star Mark Hamill into shape.

A source told The Sun: ‘Mark and Carrie need to be as close to their appearance in the earlier movies as possible. Producers are keen to help out and have offered support.

‘The budget is huge so there will be no expense spared.’

Carrie has famously suffered from yo-yo weight over the years – she became the face of weight loss programme Jenny Craig back in 2011 after shedding an impressive 50lbs. But a year later, the weight was back on.

Last year, the star even joked about hoping to star in the new Star Wars for a free personal workout.

‘I’m glad they are doing a new movie because they are sending a trainer to my house so I can get in really good shape,’ she laughed.

‘So I’m really eating a lot of sugar in advance, as you can see. By the time I really get down to it I will have eaten everything.’

Princess Leia famously became every male teen’s fantasy figure when she donned a gold bikini in 1983 film Return Of The Jedi.

Meanwhile, her co-star Mark Hamill recently refused to be drawn on rumours he will be reprising the role of Luke Skywalker in the new film.

In a Q&A session on Reddit, he wrote: “The only character I know for sure is returning is my friend R2-D2. He hasn’t stopped beeping about it.

‘I’m not being coy, really,’ he added. ‘When I find something out, I’ll let everybody know. But nothing has been decided yet.’

Carrie Fisher 3Iconic image: Carrie in Princess Leia’s famous gold bikini for Return Of The Jedi

Carrie Fisher 4Slimline: Fisher looks fit and thin in comparison to her bloated appearance back in 2009

Carrie Fisher 5Will they be back? Peter Mayhew’s Chewbacca, pictured with Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), C3P0 (Anthony Daniels), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in Return Of The Jedi

Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed the news about R2D2, who was played by Kenny Baker in the original films.

‘Rumour has it that almost every actor in the world has been cast in this movie [Star Wars: Episode VII], but so far, the official cast member that we’ve confirmed – the only one – is R2D2,’ he said. ‘There will be some very familiar faces along with a trio of new young leads.’

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Peter Mayhew, 69, is also in line to reprise his role of loveable Wookiee Chewbacca in the new movies.

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Candice Swanepoel – Victoria’s Secret Lingerie Photoshoot

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Vanessa Golub – “138 Water” Bikini Photoshoot Candids in Malibu

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Miley Cyrus – “Bangerz” Tour in Michigan

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Sofia Vergara – Women’s Health Magazine Photoshoot (May 2014)

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