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Don Draper withdrawal? Ease it with these Jon Hamm movies

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .

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Going through Don Draper withdrawal? What will we do this Sunday at 10 p.m.?
 
Short of rewatching every episode of “Mad Men,” which probably isn’t a bad idea, I cannot help you there but I can recommend a couple of movies starring actor Jon Hamm. 
 
20140516milliondollararm6“Million Dollar Arm” (2014) — Hamm plays real-life sports agent J.B. Bernstein, who goes to India to find pitching prospects and brings two young men to California. 
 
This is an inspirational, enjoyable, old-fashioned family film that’s rated PG and even has a Pittsburgh connection. Plus, it seems to be the rare movie deserving its “based on a true story” label. 
 
And darned if what Bernstein says in his book couldn’t have been uttered by Don Draper in that final episode. “Looking in unexpected places for the extraordinary expanded my field of vision and changed how I see the world.” 
 
I’ll raise a vintage bottle of Coke to that, especially since this movie brought Hamm to Pittsburgh’s PNC Park a year ago. 
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“The Town” (2010)  — Ben Affleck directed and stars in this adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s novel, “Prince of Thieves” alongside Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively and Chris Cooper.
 
This is a terrific, muscular movie about robbers and cops with heists that are big, bigger and biggest. It’s set in the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown, then-reported home of more bank and armored car robberies than anywhere in the United States. 
 
Hamm plays a dogged FBI agent who is on the trail of the gang. He consulted with law enforcement officials at the federal, state and local level in Boston, he said during the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival where the movie premiered.  
 
“There are a lot of robberies in Boston, and a lot of them get solved because of these guys’ hard work, so it was nice to see from the inside how clear their objective is, their job is to stop bad people from doing bad things. They were very clear on that,” said the actor who radiated none of the ad man’s darkness. 
 
“Bridesmaids” (2011) — In a bit of typecasting, Hamm plays a hunky bachelor in this comedy starring Kristen Wiig. He doesn’t have a very big role, however. 
 
She plays Annie, a Milwaukeean whose cake shop went belly up in the recession. About to be jettisoned by her weird British roomies (Rebel Wilson plays one), she finds her fortunes plummeting as best pal Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged. Annie agrees to be maid of honor but a wealthy bridesmaid (Rose Byrne) tries to upstage her at every turn. 
 
The bridesmaids are a motley bunch, including “Mike & Molly” star Melissa McCarthy as the bride’s future sister-in-law who steals the movie.
 
“Friends Wifriendswithkidspicth Kids” (2012) — This ensemble comedy is about a close-knit circle of friends at that moment in life when children arrive and everything changes. 
 
The last two singles in the group observe the effect that kids have had on their friends’ relationships and wonder if there’s a better way. They decide to have a kid together – and date other people. 
 
Jennifer Westfeldt, who happens to be Hamm’s longtime girlfriend, directed, wrote, produced and starred in this movie that called “an odd combination of sitcom and romcom that ends up as a kind of backhanded endorsement of marriage.”
 
It reunites Hamm with some of his “Bridesmaids” co-stars, Wiig, Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd. 
 
“The Day the Earth Stood Still” (2008)  — Hamm plays a scientist in this remake of the landmark 1951 science-fiction thriller about an alien visitor who comes to Earth, setting off a global panic and bearing a timely message for the planet’s inhabitants. 
 
An extraterrestrial, also named Klaatu, arrives in a shimmery sphere and declares, “I’m a friend to the Earth.” Played by Keanu Reeves, he is shot, hospitalized and escapes, as the nature of his friendship is revealed. He has little patience for the inhabitants of the planet and how they have treated it. 
 
The cast also includes Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith and Kathy Bates.
 
Photos by Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Disney, Warner Bros. and Roadside Attractions

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Pitch Perfect 2 soars to first place, leaves Mad Max in the desert dust

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .

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“Pitch Perfect 2” struck a major chord with moviegoers this weekend, pulling in an estimated $70 million in North America. It far outstripped “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which had the advantage of 3-D but also an R rating.  
 
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With Hailee Steinfeld in place as a freshman in “PP2” and newest member of the Barden Bellas, that could signal a sequel. Here are the early numbers, courtesy of Rentrak: 
 
1. “Pitch Perfect 2” — $70,328,250.
2. “Mad Max: Fury Road — $44,400,000.
3. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” — $38,837,000, for $372,007,808 to date. 
4. “Hot Pursuit” — $5,780,000, or $23,504,293 since release. 
5. “Furious 7” — $3,647,940, bringing its North American gross to $343,781,435.
6. “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” — $3,600,000, for $62,929,010 so far. 
7. “The Age Of Adaline” — $3,200,000, or $37,072,169.
8. “Home” — $2,700,000, for $165,646,942.
9. “Ex Machina” — $2,103,404, or $19,565,866 to date. 
10. “Far From the Madding Crowd” — $1,300,000, in very limited release, for 
$2,630,647.
 
When will “Far From the Madding Crowd” open in Pitsburgh? On Friday, so far just at the Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill and the Galleria in Mt. Lebanon. It will be worth the drive if you don't live nearby. We will have a review in Friday's paper.
 

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The former Showcase North turned Rave is now closed

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .

 Updated:  The former Showcase North is closed, as these pictures I took Saturday show.

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startrekThe Showcase North opened with “Star Trek” in December 1979 on just one of its eight screens and will close after the 7:45 p.m. showing of “Seventh Son” tonight.
 
I’m sorry to see any theater go dark but this probably was inevitable, given the new Cinemark a couple of lights away on McKnight Road. The Showcase Cinemas North had a good run and anyone who lives or lived in the North Hills likely saw a movie or a hundred there. 
 
I think I caught “The Jerk” there, which would have been in the theater’s earliest days. I remember watching “E.T.” and trying not to cry when he seemed doomed, delighting in “Moonstruck,” taking a young relative to see “The Little Mermaid” (and realizing we were too close to the screen and scary sea witch Ursula) and attending previews of “Beethoven,” “The Help” and countless others there for work. 
 
Restaurants and theaters are intertwined with memories which is why we’re so sad when they close. Many of the theaters where I saw movies as a kid or young adult are gone. The Bellevue, North Hills Theatre with its magnificently big screen, McKnight Cinemas, Jerry Lewis Cinema and Wexford Starlight Drive-In.
 
ravecinemasignIMG 1512The Showcase theater initially was met with resistance, especially by a McCandless councilman who said in October 1978:  “I don’t know what social impact an eight-theater complex will make on this community. Movies are putting a sick product on the market. Movies have an influence on young people and I can’t support this. I just don’t like what you’re selling.”
 
At the time, one community official said if a Steelers-Oilers football game hadn’t been played at the same time as the meeting, there would have been a crowd protesting. So thank you, NFL. 
 
But the debut wasn’t without further off-screen drama. 
 
As it was about to open, the theater failed to meet the municipality’s standards for a temporary occupancy permit. It opened with just one auditorium showing “Star Trek” Dec. 7, 1979, but by Christmas, it was joined by “The Jerk,” “Kramer vs. Kramer,” “1941,” “The Black Hole,” “Roller Boogie” and “Going in Style.” 
 
At the time, the Showcase Cinemas North was the largest of the Showcase theaters in the area, bigger than the ones in Wilkins near Monroeville and in Robinson.  They all either subdivided some auditoriums or added new ones to expand their spaces. 
 
It had a good run, eventually changing hands from National Amusements (the parent company of Showcase) to Rave Motion Pictures. It most recently was operated by Cinemark, which opened the Cinemark North Hills and XD at McCandless Crossing in September. It has 12 screens and almost all the amenities a moviegoer could want, including a bar in the lobby. 
 
In July 2000, when then PG movie editor Ron Weiskind and I did a survey of all the theaters in the area, the Showcase North was the only centrally located first-run movie theater in the North Hills. Showcase Cinemas West closed in April 2010, and Showcase Cinemas East in September 2004. 
 
For the record, when the Rave Pittsburgh 11 goes dark it will be playing: “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Hot Pursuit,” “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” “Furious 7,” “Get Hard,” “Cinderella,” “The Divergent Series: Insurgent,” “Focus,” “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” “Seventh Son” and “American Sniper.” 
 
Thanks for the memories. And the popcorn.  

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May 8 movie podcast: Hot Pursuit, D Train, Welcome to Me

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .

 

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New trailer for "Magic Mike XXL"

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .

 

New trailer for "Magic Mike XXL" starring Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Amber Heard and Jada Pinkett Smith, among others.  

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