Friday, December 31, 2004


For many years I have resisted the Broadway show Phantom of the Opera. I could not understand the allure of the story of a disgruntled, disfigured guy hanging out back stage reeking havoc .... how does that require 3 hours of story telling?? So today I decided to check it out on film, oh dear !! The performances were OK, but for me, this is the most boring story on the planet. Joel Schumacher put out a great visual, the actors tried hard, but this is a damn dull story. I was impressed with Emmy Rosum in Passionada, and I understand it is her voice singing ... well done at her young age. Other than that, a good time for a ten dollar nap.

Beyond the Sea

On New Year's Eve I try to see a movie of note. In the past it has been Lord of the Rings installment and last year, In America. Today a worthy film joined the ranks, I saw Beyond the Sea. I had read a lot about this Kevin Spacey project. I'm a little too young to be a Bobby Darin fan, but Spacey brought the man alive for me. I am a huge fan of dance, and film usually falls short in this genre. The production numbers were brilliant and the filming no less. The story telling was enthralling and the actors were amazing! Bravo to Spacey, and his production company, it was awesome from script, to technical, to acting, to heart .... fabo!!!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Jersey Shore

Out in DVD today are a couple of films I really enjoyed.

Open Water is a story of a couple's vacation that goes bad when they are left behind after a scuba trip. The fact that they are in tropical waters inhabited by sharks,was played up in the trailers, but the film is really about human emotions that take over when people are in a desperate situation. The film is about the people, not the sharks. Well worth seeing, but not a happy film.

Zach Braff's Garden State is one of the best films released this year. A dark comedy about a guy who comes home after his mother's death, and deals with himself and his life, and falls in love. Braff wrote, directed and stars in this film ... quite a debut!! Natalie Portman plays his love interest and leaves Star Wars far behind!

Another nice love story is Wimbeldon. Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany play a pair of love-struck tennis players, in a forbidden affair. The dialogue is clever and the story well written. This film was a pleasant surprise.

On the New Jersey theme, another movie I liked from this summer, was Jersey Girl. I know, I know, Ben and Jen..... silly light comedy, but it has its moments. Raquel Castro, who plays Afflek's daughter, steals every scene she's in, it's a cute story. Will Smith has a great cameo appearance and Lopez has a meltdown scene that is the only acting I have ever seen her do (she's crying about looking fat at 8 months pregnant). A silly movie, but not bad if you are in the mood for something light.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Holiday Viewing

The Christmas weekend did not leave much time for movies, but I did see a few.

We Don't Live Here Anymore is a story of matrimonial betrayal. Not a pleasant topic, but the acting and writing are topshelf. I had the pleasure of meeting the director, John Curran, at the Newport Film Festival this summer .... very nice guy (good looking too)!

The Aviator is the latest biopic in theaters this week. Leonardo DiCaprio gives an awesome performance as Howard Hughes. The emotional energy consumes the viewer. The dinner scene with Katherine Hepburne's family, and a plane crash scene are true art, Scorsese should be proud. Some scenes are drawn out, I think the film could afford about 20 minutes, but it's worth it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Out in DVD today is the film De-Lovely. In this year of the biopic avalanche, this story of Cole Porter's life and loves is one of the good ones. Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd portray Cole and Linda Porter in this love story, which does address his attraction to men. I liked the way the story was told, the music is wonderful and the makeup and costumes are great.

Last week I forgot to mention the latest Harry Potter release. It is the first film on my Oscar list for art direction. This is a beautiful film, and contains all the normal Harry Potter hijinx. The kids are starting to act like teenagers, which is fun to watch.

Over the weekend I saw The Door in the Floor, a good example of don't see the film if you enjoyed the book, though Jeff Bridges gave a nice performance. I also saw Badasssss, another biopic. This one is about Melvin Van Peebles' experience making a film in the early 70s. Anyone interested in this very volatile time in film history (late 60s through the 70s) should check out the documentary Easy Rider to Raging Bull, the book is interesting too.

One of the funniest films I've seen this year is out in DVD. Shaun of the Dead is a spoof of the zombie movie genre. This movie is gory and funny, and is also about love and friendship. I know this sounds weird, but this is a fabulous film!!!1

Monday, December 20, 2004

Snicket is for Kids

Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events is a great romp for the kids. This is a film version of the popular children's books. Count Olaf pursues his orphaned nieces and nephew for their family fortune, after the death of their parents. The sets and costumes create a grim background to a fanciful story that has both adventure and humor (actors and realtors are the butt of several jokes). The acting is rock solid, right down to the baby! Fans of animation should sit through the credits, they are almost as entertaining as the movie!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Holiday Squeeze

If I can squeeze one film in between all the holiday activities this weekend, my choice would be Lemony Snicket. The reviews are good, and it sounds like a fun film. Spanglish and Being Julia are on my list too, but I probably won't have time till the New Year's weekend. My recommendations for anyone looking to hide in the theater this weekend would be, Finding Neverland, Oceans Twelve, Sideways or The Incredibles. Enjoy!!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Quality vs Boxoffice

What is the measure of success? To some it is praise, to others the almighty dollar. When it comes to film, there are all kinds of measures of success. Every week we see the boxoffice numbers, and this time of year we see the daily parade of awards for the year's work. In many cases boxoffice hits will be big award winners, but this year we see two films with very modest boxoffice takes walking away with all kinds of praise. After the rampage that was Return of the King last year, I am refreshed by this.

Finding Neverland is a quiet, well acted, well written, well filmed piece that is a pleasure to experience. The film and it's cast are being showered with awards, yet this film has only grossed 14.2M.

Sideways is another gem that, interestingly, has grossed the same amount, and is probably neck-in-neck with Finding Neverland in the awards department. The magic? A good story, strong acting, clever writing and brilliant filming. You have to hunt this one down in the more obscure theaters, but it is worth the effort. (Did I mention that it's damn funny!?!?)

I think these two films show that quality film does not necessarily equal big bucks, but those who experience it are better for it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

My Friend Meryl

In light of the opening of Lemony Snicket this week, I thought I would tell you about my friend Meryl. Yes, Meryl Streep.

In the summer of 2000 my daughter was visiting colleges. We were sent outside to join another young lady and her mother for a tour. Before we set out, the guide asked us to introduce ourselves. The mother turned to me, extended her hand and said "Hi, I'm Meryl", I was shaking the hand of Meryl Streep!! It was all I could do to maintain a straight face and reply, "I'm Linda".... My brain was going a million miles an hour, I was meeting my all time favorite actress, and I've got to stay cool and act like she's just another mom, with me on a college campus tour with our daughters. Yeesh!!! Believe it or not, I maintained my composure for the afternoon, mostly because I didn't want to embarrass my daughter, and also because my friend Meryl is so charming and easy going. We chatted kids, computers, dorms and (my favorite) she explained black box theater to me. As we parted ways, she was digging in her purse for her keys (drove the Subaru wagon herself), she looked up at me and said "It was a pleasure to meet you." I hope I run into Meryl again some day ..... you never know!!!

Films worth seeing my friend Meryl in ... Kramer vs. Kramer, Silkwood, The Hours, Adaptation, The River Wild, Sophie's Choice, Marvin's Room, Death Becomes Her, Postcards from the Edge (she sings!) and Angels in America. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A Little Old, A Little New

DVD releases today have a little bit of old and a little bit of new!

An anniversary edition of Mary Poppins brings us one of the true technical film masterpieces from 40 years ago.. I remember my Grandfather taking me to see this in the theater, when I was a little girl, at the Majestic Theater in downtown Providence! I thought it was genius on film then as I do now, and for a long time I thought Julie Andrews was the most beautiful woman in the world, even had a little crush on Dick Van Dyke!

Also released today is Top Gun, good action-love story with fantastic flight sequences. There is a special, expanded version on The Return of the King. DVD is probably the best way to see the Lord of the Rings films. It was my New Years Eve movie for three years, and after falling asleep in the first one, I was sure to always go early in the day!! These are brilliant films, but the DVD allows you to fast forward through the boring stuff, and the behind the scenes footage can be more interesting than the actual film. Lord of the Ring fanatics will be in their element!

New out today is I Robot, a clever sci-fi action vehicle for Will Smith. It's a pretty good story, and the action is good ... just fun to watch. Other fun film out today is The Princess Diaries 2. I took my niece H to see this in the summer, and was pleasantly surprised. It's your standard love story, told with humor and physical comedy.. it also throws in a gentle dose of feminism. Worth a look.

I know 2 of these films are already out in DVD, but in light of yesterday's Golden Globe nominations, I feel compelled to recommend 3 films featuring the wonderful Jamie Foxx. In Collateral he plays all range of emotion and becomes the unwilling hero in this crime drama. In Redemption he plays Tookie Williams, an LA gang member in jail for murder. I have trouble sympathizing with convicted criminals, but it is an interesting true story, and Foxx is brilliant. And then there's Ray. Still in theaters, this telling of the early life of Ray Charles is beautifully shot, well written, and Foxx gives an incredible performance (the whole cast is very strong but Foxx really shines). I'd be surprised if the Hollywood Foreign Prees would give him 3 awards, but the nominations are very deserving.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Weekend viewing

The weekend started on Friday, with an early matinee of A Very Long Engagement at the Landmark Sunshine Theater in NYC. It is an excellent French film set in World War I. A young girl pines for her fiance and searches for him after the war. Beautiful cinematography, and awesome acting. The details of war are pretty graphic, but it ends up being a classic love story, I really enjoyed it. By the way, the Sunshine Theater is great!! The day was cold and wet, so I headed to Rocco for a bowl of their minestrone soup, hearty bread and , of course, a strawberry dessert. Then I headed uptown for a later matinee so I'd be near the train station when it was time to meet M, but the theatre was having trouble with the sound on the film so they weren't showing it .... Thwarted, I tried to do a little Christmas shopping.

That night J, M and I watched The Wedding Singer, which is a very cute romantic comedy about the ironies of love and marriage. Adam Sandler was excellent in this movie.

Saturday I was treated to an early Christmas present from M&J, a Broadway musical, Pacific Overtures. The show was very good, and the real treat was meeting J's cousin H who was in the show. It was a great night of theater and spending time with J's family.

On Sunday we saw Oceans Twelve!!!! I was not disappointed. The heist in the film was minor, compared to the characters, the jokes and the twists. A very fun movie with the best male eye candy I've seen in a while. Brad Pitt and Scott Caan were looking good!!

A successful weekend of theater, film and family .... Bring on Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Film Paradise

Well I'm off to NYC tomorrow to spend a day in the big city!!! I know I should do some Christmas shopping (I'll try), but I am most looking forward to the films I can see.

I have a soft spot for the independent films that either don't make it to RI, or just take forever to get here. In NYC, the theaters are everywhere, and so many of these great films are playing. It is truly Film Paradise.

I promised M&J that I would wait to see Oceans Twelve with them, so that's off the list for Friday (believe me, I'll see it before the weekend is over). I think I'll haunt lower Manhattan, where I can find films like Born into Brothels, Kinsey, Bad Education, House of Flying Daggers, Vera Drake and more!!! It makes my head spin!! I have all day, so I'm going to try to see a couple. A couple of years ago Landmark Theaters renovated the old Sunshine Theater on Houston St., I'd like to check it out.

Of course, when in NYC one must eat well. I see an afternoon break at Rocco in my future, and maybe a corned beef sandwich at Katz deli(famous location of the orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally). I think there's a Belgian french fry stand down on Houston too ... yum!!!!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

R U Star Struck?

I thought I might look at celebrities on Wednesdays. I like to read and hear interviews that offer the insight of the people who make the films I love so much! From prospective projects, to old secrets, I like the inside scoop. I try to get my info from reliable sources, but in this age of sophisticated PR and the "sound bite" that ain't easy. I read a lot of magazines and web-sites, and I like the interviews on the TV entertainment mags and a local morning radio show.

Another interesting source is the first-hand conversation. I have had my share of celebrity encounters, and I'm working on forming intelligent conversation without looking like a prying idiot. I've had the opportunity to talk to filmmakers at film festivals and chance encounters, and it is an effort for a fan like me to be coherent. I tend to get a little star struck and tongue tied, but I'm working on it. More on these encounters later.....

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Movie Dollar

There is nothing worse than thinking halfway through a movie, "I paid money to see this?" Sure takes the fun out of it. There are a few things I do to try and maximize my movie dollar. First of all, thank goodness for the bargain matinee. The multiplex I go to most weekends has discount admission to all movies before 6 PM, an awesome value. The other great value is video/DVD viewing. The best value can be found at your local library, where you can find great home viewing selections for FREE, yes, I said FREE! My library has a great selection, and you can keep them for a week. This is where I'll grab films I don't know about or have a casual interest, it's low risk and you can find some real gems. You can also find obscure stuff video stores don't have. My favorites, old classics like Metropolis (first sci-fi film ever made... 1927) and King Kong!!! The other value is online DVD services. For a monthly fee, I can get DVD's in the mail for less than $2 per viewing. Any film I'm not sure is worth the theater dollar comes to me in DVD. They have incredible inventory and I'm not wandering aimlessly in the video store!

Out in DVD today is the Bourne Supremacy. This was a good action thriller, with Matt Damon returning to the role of Jason Bourne. Not as good as Bourne Identity, but still a good flick!

Monday, December 06, 2004

Deserved Hype

There are three movies set to be released in the next few weeks that are getting a lot of hype, and interestingly, it looks like it's deserved.

Oceans Twelve is one of my most anticipated movies this year. Oceans Eleven was so entertaining, and oh those gorgeous guys!!!! Ahem ... Oceans Twelve looks like a great heist romp and they've added more hunks, what more could we want!?!?

I thought the Aviator would be another overblown biopic, but it looks like it might actually be worth a watch. Though it does drive me crazy when the entertainmet TV mags ask the actors about Oscar buzz. That has to be embarassing (though flattering) when the film hasn't even come out yet.

In the tradition of Meet the Parents, please let Meet the Fockers be as funny as it looks. I always worry that we've seen the funniest stuff in the clips (hope not). Though my favorite moment of all the publicity for this movie was James Brolin saying that now he could call his wife Mother Focker!!!!! If nothing else, we find out that Babs has a sense of humor!!

Sunday, December 05, 2004

From the Couch

Ever find yourself wandering around the video store for half an hour and leaving with nothing?!!? I used to, and it drove me crazy!! Then I started to link films. Take a film you have enjoyed, research the actors, director, producers and use those links to find other films you might like. is an awesome resource for this information.

This weekend was linking heaven for me. With the opening of Closer, I picked up another Mike Nichols film at the library, Wit. Emma Thompson as a cancer patient, in an incredible portrayal of the humility of being a patient. Only she could make it uplifting. Seeing The Incredibles a few weeks ago, inspired me to see the only Pixar film I had not seen, A Bug's Life. Didn't rock my world, but it was cute, and Kevin Spacey as the voice of the evil grasshopper feeds right into a link to Beyond the Sea (in theaters soon). Seeing Ethan Hawke in Before Sunset recently linked me to The Newton Boys, directed by Richard Linklater, who also directed The School of Rock (whew .... long way to go to get to Jack Black!!!!) And further, if you look up the Newton Boys, imdb recommends Bonnie and Clyde, which they also had at the library ..... woo hoo!!!!! Tonight on TV is Five People You Meet in Heaven, which links me to the best thing I've seen Jeff Daniels do, Blood Work.

After being charmed by Clive Owen's smile in Closer, I'll rent Croupier, just for the eye candy!!! Hey, links don't have to be deep!!! hehe

Getting Closer

The latest work from Mike Nichols is not your traditional love story. Closer is the story of 4 people's emotional interaction over 4 years. These are self-centered, impulse driven people, who use love and sex as weapons in betrayal and revenge. Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, Jude Law and Julia Roberts give outstanding performances. In this dialogue driven drama, the language is vulgar, the reference to sex explicit. This is one of the best films I've seen this year. It is funny, sexy and intense, but as I said it is vulgar in parts, and sometimes uncomfortable to watch.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Weekend Watch

When my paper comes Friday morning, the first thing I do is grab the movie section and strategize my movie attendance for the weekend. A lot of independant film only comes to RI for a week or two so if you snooze you lose. Some weeks there is a lot to circle, others not so much. This week Closer, Primer and Eduring Love made the cut. I still need to see The Polar Express too.

What I'd recommend that I've already seen?
After the Sunset, Finding Neverland, The Incredibles, Ray and Sideways

On DVD I'm trying to catch up on past Pixar brilliance with A Bug's Life!!!!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Tis the Season

At the beginning of December most people turn their attention to jingle bells, shopping and parties. To my mind there's plenty of time for that in a few weeks, more important is the start of the film award season. I like to look at all the nominees from the various oganizations that bestow their laurels, and look for patterns and repeat nominees. I especially like to keep tabs of how many nominees I've seen, and then try to catch up!

The independent films will be the most interesting group this year, since the major studios appear to have taken the year off. Viva la indi!!! IFC has announced its nominees for the Independent Spirit Awards, it's a great group of films, I've seen about half. Keep an eye on Garden State, Maria Full of Grace, Motorcycle Diaries and Sideways.

The National Board of Review spread it's awards around, Finding Neverland receiving Best Film and Michael Mann and Zach Braff got directorial nods .... well deserved!! British Independent Film Awards gave Vera Drake a huge nod and the Gotham Awards loved Sidways.

The beauty of this season is that it runs through till the end of February woo hoo!!!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

All Kinds of Heroes

The theme of DVD releases this week seems to be heroes.

The film titled Hero has been released. This martial arts film from 2002 is a beautiful visual and the story evolves nicely. Some of the fight scenes are mesmerizing, and there is a very creative use of color. Well worth a look. Then there is one of my favorite heroes, Spiderman, in Spiderman 2. This was my "must see" film of the summer. Great action, a good story and nice setup for "3" .... fun film. After the long winning streak of Ken Jennings on Jeopardy, he has become a bit of a TV hero. This prompts me to recommend the film Quiz Show. This is a great portrayal of the scandal that surrounded quiz shows in the 50's. Solid acting is the strength of this film.

And there is an article in the NY Times today about heroes .... the kind you eat ... yum!!