Monday, December 31, 2007

Shooters in DVD

This week, the only release to DVD that I've seen is Shoot 'em Up. A literal blast-fest, chase film with Clive Owen as the gun slingin' hero. Ultra violent, irreverent and inappropriate. A crazy flick!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Great Debaters

I'm a sucker for young adult success stories. When it prevails under adversity, I basically melt. The film The Great Debaters is about the The Wiley College debate team, in the mid-thirties. They were so successful, they were invited to debate at Harvard. Racism is an ugly aspect of human nature that is addressed with intelligence and dignity in this film. This was an emotional film that gave me chills at many moments (yes, there were tissue moments too). I don't really understand the art of debate, but I understand the heart of human dignity, the sense of self and the ability to stand up for what you are and what you believe in. I think that is what this film is about. Worth a look.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


I left my house this morning with an ambitious schedule of films. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Savages and Atonement. A theater near Boston was showing all three on a schedule that had me in by 11 AM, out by 5:30 PM. I was worried it was too ambitious, these are not frivolous films. I left the theater exhilarated after 6 hours of quality entertainment. This film fan is pretty happy tonight.

In the film Atonement my pals at Focus Features bring another intense drama to the screen. This time there is love, misunderstanding, wrongful accusation and punishment, war and regret. Is there a final atonement? See the film, read the book, I was surprised at the end. This film has an interesting structure, outstanding performances, beautiful sets, costumes, lighting and camera work. It's even a bit risque. For me, one of the best films of 2007.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

A story of a man paralyzed by a massive stroke uplifting? You bet! In the French film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly a man in his mid forties has a stroke and is paralysed, except for the use of one eyelid. He is sent to a hospital on the coast, and a dedicated staff of therapists come up with a system of blinking so he can communicate. This story is true, this story is fascinating, this film is beautiful. The diving bell is his body, the butterfly is his imagination and memory. Most of the visual perspective is that of the paralyzed Jean-Dom, and it pulls the viewer into his world. The technique is mesmerizing. A beautiful tribute to a man who was a writer and an editor at Elle magazine. I smiled when I got home and realized this month's issue was on the top of my magazine stack!

The Savages

For the second time this year, the issue of aging and what to do with a failing elder is addressed in film. In The Savages, Wendy and John Savage are called upon to deal with their estranged father who is succumbing to dementia. They are all flawed, they are all quirky, they are all doing the best they can. This film is sensitive, realistic and poignant. The performances from Laura Linney (Wendy), Philip Seymour Hoffman (John) and Philip Bosco (Dad) are outstanding. An excellent film on a delicate subject. Well worth seeing.

Friday, December 28, 2007


The most recent version of the film Interview, is a remake of the Dutch film, Interview. It is the first of a three part tribute to the slain filmmaker, Theo van Gogh. Steve Buscemi was chosen to direct and act, with Sienna Miller, in this story of a failing political journalist, who is relegated to the ranks of celebrity features. He's not happy and the actress he is trying to interview likes to mess with him. A compelling drama. The documentaries in the Special Features section of the DVD are worth watching.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I Am Reed Fish

Clever story structure and solid performances make I Am Reed Fish a good film. Reed Fish inherits a radio program and persona from his father, in a very small town. He is young, he is getting married, the future is mapped out, everyone is happy .... except Reed Fish .... but he won't admit it. Then Jill comes back to town *duh*duh*duh*. Drama ensues with a sense of humor and a splash of reality. There's a great twist ending. So well done, so entertaining.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Screen Scenes:Landmark Embassy, Waltham, MA

My love of independent film, and my Oscar project often has me scouring out of state theaters for films that have not yet, or may not come to RI or DVD by February. Several years ago I discovered the Landmark Embassy Theater in Waltham, MA. An easy find off the highway, cheap (free on Sunday) parking behind the theater, amazing films all the time and a great brew pub for lunch a block away. Great combination for a good day with quality film.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Juno Comes to RI Theaters, Merry Christmas!

It can take a while for limited release films to make their way to RI theaters. Juno arrives in local theaters in our small state today, what a nice Christmas present for RI film fans! I had the pleasure of seeing this film a few weeks ago at a Fox Searchlight screening, and felt lucky to be there. I'll be seeing it again soon. This is easily my #1 film for 2007. Meanwhile, since it's Christmas Day, we'll begin with church, then move on to family, food and fun! Have a very, Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Middle East and the Mob in DVD

Out in DVD this week is a film set in the Middle East, where terrorist attacks are the centerpiece. In The Kingdom an elite FBI team tries to uncover the terrorists. Scary stuff. In Eastern Promises we see the inner workings of the Russian mob in London. The story sort of lies there, this is a violent film with excellent performances.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sweeney Todd:The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

If you can get beyond the blood and the gore, Sweeney Todd:The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is brilliant. From gorgeous set design, to amazing casting and performances, this film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Broadway hit, is dazzling. Dark and gory,the story of revenge unfolds in the streets of London. Many times I cringed at the bloody massacre on screen, but the story and performances overpowered my squeamishness. It may be a while before I order a Bloody Mary, but this musical masterpiece impressed me, well done Mr. Burton!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War

In Charlie Wilson's War, sharp dialogue and beautiful people are a stark contrast to the plight in Afghanistan in the '80s. Millions in refugee camps, Soviet troops blasting the crap out of the Afghan countryside and it's people, it was a pretty desperate situation. Money and weapons were needed to keep a "situation" from becoming a war. Charlie Wilson, a Texas congressman, and CIA operative Gust Avrakatos, rose to the challenge and coordinated a covert war that brought the Soviets to their knees. Performances from Tom Hanks (who resembles the real Charlie Wilson), Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Julia Roberts are so effortless with the words of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, under the masterful direction of Mike Nichols. A strong film about an important struggle in world history.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Black Book

Wartime sacrifice turns to unexpected feelings in Black Book. This German film follows a Jewish woman who is part of the resistance in World Ward II. She infiltrates the Nazi regime with sex and allure. She lies, schemes and seduces her way into the top ranks to help thwart their murderous efforts. Along the way, under all the politics and violence, a relationship develops that no one expected. Beautifully shot and well acted, a good entry to foreign film this year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Screen Scenes:Showcase Cinemas, Warwick, RI

My hometown theater is the Showcase Cinema in Warwick, RI. A National Amusements multiplex that is only 4 miles from my house! I can leave the house 10 minutes before the film, and one highway exit, two traffic lights and I'm in my seat before the previews start! This theater was renovated to stadium seating in the late 90's. Shakespeare in Love was the first film I saw in the new setting, I still remember how awesome it looked. The seating is comfortable, candy is sold by the pound and every once in a while they host a Sneak Preview of an upcoming film. All major releases come here, and the staff is very patient with me when I ask if a film like Superman, Spiderman or Pirates will be on a big screen (they have large and small theaters and screens). I'm lucky to have such a nice theater so close to home!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Music, Magic and Mahem (doh!) in DVD

In DVD this week, we have three very different films. The gentle elegance of music, and bringing a song to life, is celebrated in Once. Everyone I know who saw this, went home and downloaded the soundtrack, a very cool film. Stardust is pure fantasy fun. Love, ego, a king, a pirate, witches, a star, a hero ... good stuff. Comedy was strong in film in 2007, and The Simpsons Movie was among the best. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the gang from Springfield in this funny, irreverent film.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Am Legend

Will Smith blows my mind. In I Am Legend, his acting chops are on full display. Forget the smart-mouth, indestructible, action heroes he's played in Independence Day, Men in Black and I, Robot. In this film he shows his more serious skills, as he did in Six Degrees of Separation, Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness, the dude can act. Smith's character, Robert Neville, is the sole survivor in New York City after a virus obliterates the population. Seeing the streets of New York, completely abandoned, is haunting. Broadway, Times Square, The Brooklyn Bridge, Park Avenue, Greenwich Street, Washington Square Park, all familiar to me, all freaky looking in this film. Neville is flawed, he is fallible and he is "going to fix this". I wasn't crazy about the story line of the virus mutating people to zombies, but they make it work, and I will say, the CGI is impressive. An intense survival story with a futuristic, sci-fi twist.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

December Boys

December Boys is a beautifully shot film (Australia). Four orphans, all with birthdays in December, get to take a holiday away from the orphanage. The boys meet some interesting folks on their seaside getaway. A film that celebrates friendship and some unconventional family structures, all based on love. Daniel Radcliffe is refreshing outside of his Harry Potter skin, the kid has a screen presence that's hard to ignore. December Boys is a solid rental.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Flick Picks 92ProFM : Holiday Edition

This post is for ProFM listeners that may need a reference for flicks we chatted about this morning in the holiday edition of Friday Flick Picks. Click on the name of the film for information ..... have a wonderful holiday season!
Juno (my favorite)
I Am Legend
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Charlie Wilson's War
Walk Hard:The Dewey Cox Story
Sweeney Todd:The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I'll have more movies to talk about in 2008, Happy Holidays!!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

American Pie

Until this week, I had not seen the movie America Pie. I know, classic teen comedy with a heart, should have seen it long ago , I know. I went through a movie snob phase where I thought all teen comedies were crap. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle turned me around (thanks M&J). Yes, there are bad teen comedies, but pay attention to the ones that are sensitive, topical and witty when they address the awkward, difficult, growing years fondly *argh* known as adolescence. American Pie is a smart, funny, risque look at sex, parents, friends, school and peer pressure. I'm glad I was encouraged to see this classic. Good stuff!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My Kid Could Paint That

As part of the Second Monday film series, The Newport Film Festivall screened the documentary My Kid Could Paint That. This film looks at the crazy rise to fame of 4 year old Marla Olmstead, because paintings she made were selling for thousands of dollars. A surprising child prodigy story that goes sour when the media infiltrates and questions are not answered. Compelling stuff, which was evidenced by the fact that no one left the Q&A with director Amir Bar-Lev . He was engaging, honest and open about his experience with the film and the Olmstead family.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Screen Scenes:AMC Empire 25 NY, NY

The AMC Empire 25 theater is where I saw my first movie in New York City. The Man Who Wasn't There was the film of choice, and we were at the theater half an hour before the film. My suburban movie experience of arriving at the theater 2 minutes before the film, went out the window. By the time we stood in line for tickets, rode multiple escalators and hit the ladies room, it was time for the film to start. The plush, red, high backed seats make for comfy seating, (and the armrests lift so you can cuddle). The size of this theater alone is mind blowing to me (25 theaters). I think it is at least 5 stories high , the view of 42nd street out the front windows is pretty cool. Along with the theaters there are cafes and restaurants for a total entertainment experience. I also like the easy access to Grand Central Station for the occasional day trip to see a sought after film. Cool theater in the heart of the city!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Park, Potter and Perseverance in DVD

You Must Be This Tall:The Story of Rocky Point Park is out in DVD! A sentimental journey for anyone who grew up in Rhode Island, and a great historical documentary about a pretty cool amusement park. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is out as well. A strong addition to the Potter franchise. Fun to watch the gang grow up. And finally, Jason Bourne brings us one of the most thrilling films of the year. Another strong franchise addition with The Bourne Ultimatum. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Golden Compass

If you're looking for fantasy adventure this holiday movie season, check out The Golden Compass! I have not read the book, I don't buy the religious controversy, I love amazing CGI, I love dramatic soundtracks done right. There is a lot of information to digest in this story, but the adventure, the rescues, the battles (one very intense, not for young ones), and the visuals made it all worthwhile for me.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Hottest State

Love stories are abundant in film. It's always interesting to see one that is not the classic formula, where the boy and girl are not Barbie and Ken, meant to live in happily ever after. The Hottest State is the story of William, a young man with a damaged heart from the divorce of his parents. He meets Sarah and falls hard. Sarah is the realistic one, William is the romantic. The combination makes an interesting story. It is a story of discovery, obsession, disappointment and growth. Shot well, with an eye for angle and color. A solid, thoughtful story of romance and growth.

Friday, December 07, 2007


I was asked about the movie Jaws recently, a classic thriller that is a favorite of mine. It brought back a memory. In the early 70's my family was on vacation in Martha's Vineyard. One day, my dad came back from town and said, "we were watching them make a movie, and boy was it boring! They kept doing the same thing over and over. That poor guy got slapped a million times!" Turns out my dad was watching Steven Spielberg direct Roy Scheider getting slapped in the face by Lee Fiero, in a scene from Jaws. For days, we watched them tow the Orca out of the harbor for filming, and hung out on the docks watching the workers weld barrels under the boat. They would sink the boat when the shark attacked, then pump air int o the barrels to raise the boat for another take. We took the bus ride out to Oak Bluffs to see the mechanical sharks (aka Bruce) stored in crates. We got a laugh out of the fact that they didn't work very well. Who knew Jaws would be such a phenomenon? Who knew that seeing a film about a shark that terrorized a beach community would end my love for evening swims? Who knew that my dad would forever think movie making was boring? Who knew, that on that vacation, I would experience movie magic? Lucky me!

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Juno is the happy surprise every movie fan longs for. I saw this last night at a Fox Searchlight screening (t-shirts as swag, thank you very much) and I am smitten. A smart, relevant script, solid acting and laughs (did I mention the laughs?) makes for a very solid movie. The writing on this one is amazing, the delivery as well (did I mention the laughs?). Juno is 16, a junior in high school, and after a casual encounter with sex, pregnant by her best friend. Her decision to carry the baby, with all it's consequences, is an educational, honest ride. Juno, her family and friends won me over. See it, enjoy it! I will do so, as well, again ......

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Surf's Up

When Surf's Up came to theaters, I had about had it with penguins on screen, so I passed. Now out in DVD, I took a look. It's the classic story of hero worship, competition and winning isn't everything. A young penguin, surfing and one pretty funny chicken kept me entertained. Clever writing, good running gags and a cool film technique makes this one's worth a look!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Screen Scenes:Jane Pickens Theater, Newport, RI

Right before a film starts at the Jane Pickens Theater, a huge, lush curtain pulls back. You are in a real theater (check out the balcony). The Jane Pickens Theater has supported independent film in Rhode Island for many years. It was one of the few art houses in this state for a long time. When my daughter was a student at NYU, the only way I could keep up with her film consumption, was going to the Jane Pickens. I have fond memories of seeing Life is Beautiful with her there.
I'm showcasing this theater first in this series, because it is the centerpiece theater of the Newport International Film Festival. If you've read here, you know I'm a volunteer driver for the festival. More fond memories! NIFF is the sponsor of the Second Monday film series. What is Second Monday you ask? It is a new film series that showcases independent, film festival type films throughout the year (complete with Q&As from the film makers), here in lil' ol' RI. For a film fan, like me, this is film brilliance! Oh yeah, this Monday, December 10th, they are showing the documentary My Kid Could Paint That. Come on down, the film starts at 7 PM. I'll be taking tickets, so when you hand over your ticket, say "hi"!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Pirates, Preschoolers and Profanity in DVD

Pirates of the Caribbean:At World's End is out in DVD this week. Plenty of swashbuckling from Jack Sparrow and the gang. I thought this was a good addition to the franchise (saw it in the theater twice).
In The Nanny Diaries, a college graduate bides her time between college graduation and career commitment by becoming a nanny. A little sobering for her, as the folks she works for are not the nicest parents or employers (or people for that matter). A decent drama.
And finally, my guilty pleasure film of the year, Superbad! Amazing profanities tumble from the mouths of teens who think they have the world (and girls) all figured out. The beauty of this film is the writing and performances, funny, funny stuff. Oh Santa, I hope I've been a good enough girl this year to find Superbad in my stocking!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

You Kill Me

As an actor, Ben Kingsley is one of the smoothest in the biz. In You Kill Me, he plays a recovering alcoholic, assassin, wooing the lovely Tea Leoni. He is looking sharp and acting smooth. This film never came to theaters around here, so I was glad to find it in DVD this weekend. The hit man is trying to get sober, continue his work, and falls in love along the way. This quirky film has humorous moments, but it doesn't get light enough for me to put a comedy tag on it. Good crime drama with a bit if a twist.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Namesake

Mira Nair paints a tale of family, heritage and tradition in The Namesake. Not only a colorful story, but a visually colorful and rich film. This is the story of a young man who struggles with his American life and Indian roots. Love, loss and lifestyle are all explored. Touching and real, the power of family and heritage are elements in this modern family drama. A beautiful film I really enjoyed.

Six Degrees of Flick4Friday

The Flick4Friday challenge was a fun exercise. "Choose a movie you dislike. Connect the lead actor to Kevin Bacon in six movie degrees." The idea is to see if this brings up any good movie recommendations.

Because my least favorite movie is so old, I tried to keep the connections contemporary (thanks for the help IMDb). See if you see anything you like here.

My least favorite movie is Lawrence of Arabia, too much sand. The lead actor is Peter O'Toole, so here we go.
1. O'Toole is the king in Stardust, which features Robert De Niro as a pirate!
2. De Niro is a thief in The Score with Edward Norton.
3. Norton is a magician in The Illusionist with Paul Giamatti.
4. Giamatti is a writer in Sideways with Virginia Madsen.
5. Madsen is The Dangerous Woman in A Prairie Home Companion with Meryl Streep.
6. Streep is on vacation (of sorts) in The River Wild with Kevin Bacon. *Whew*

Of these, The Score, The Illusionist and Sideways are my favorites. Enjoy!