Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Coach Carter

Coach Carter is a great Samuel L . Jackson vehicle. He plays the preachy, disciplinary, high school basketball coach, Ken Carter, in true Jackson style. A well done sports film, with real-life consequences for actions, some a little sad. A little long (2hrs. 16min) this is a solid sport biopic.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Celebrity Blind

I've decided that I am "celebrity blind". I have had my share of celebrity sightings over the years, but after reading a recent edition of Gawker, I have decided I just don't know what I'm looking at. Almost every celebrity I've seen had to be pointed out, or introduced themselves to me.... and I'm a consumer, I know what they look like!!! Unfortunately I have passed this gene along to daughter L, who saw Richard Kind (Mad About You) outside a theater in NYC and said "I've just seen someone famous, but I don't know who it is!!!" The story of my life!!!

It's not like I'm not interested, I love the scoops on stars, I get a kick out of my random brushes with celebrity, but I have spent years in the same haunts as this Gawker page, and have seen nary the glimmer of stars that this writer describes. (I may have let Tim Robbins cross the street in front of me in Tribeca this spring, but I'm not really sure). My take is, that they look so different in person (usually much better) that it doesn't register with me.

So my friend S and I are planning our annual summer attack on Manhattan, and I may just take random photos of passersby, and see if I can identify them later. I'll be discreet, it's easy to look like you're taking a photo of a building ......

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Machinist

The Machinist is a psychological thriller. Subtle in tone, and strong on continuity and style. This film explores the power of the psyche when it is in denial. The cast does an excellent job with a challenging script and form. The ending is worth the ride.

Waiting for Guffman

I think the most fascinating thing for me about Christopher Guest films, is that he works without a script. I have enjoyed Best of Show, A Mighty Wind, The Big Picture and now Waiting for Guffman, and marvel at the mastery of improv. For Waiting for Guffman he shot 60 hours of film, to get an 84 minute goof on small town theater, and comes up with a very funny film. A fun, light film that made me laugh!!!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Batman Begins

Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins is a great history of the character. All of the background to what Batman is, is believable and high tech. Christian Bale and Michael Caine are great together, and Morgan Friedman is a welcome ally as Fox, keeper of the bat-gadgets. I found it difficult to follow the fight scenes, they were fast, furious and dark, hard to tell who was who (maybe on purpose). But the strength of the the story (snappy one liners abound) and acting rise above this technical flaw. Batman Begins is a welcome addition to the franchise. Though I loved Michael Keaton and George Clooney as Batman, Christian Bale goes to the top of the list for me. His intensity and looks are the perfect combination for the millionaire and super-hero, and he carries off both Bruce Wayne and Batman as separate personalities. Though a little too long (drags a little when they are fleshing out the master-crime), this is a good summer action flick.

Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle is a wonderful animated adventure from the Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, who brought us the Oscar-winning film, Spirited Away. This story is full of wizards, witches, magic and adventure. It is fantasy without the sugar-coating. This is a lovely visual, with a story of war and love, that keeps you on your toes. My favorite characters were Turniphead, who doesn't say a word, yet brings the most joy to the screen, and Calcifer, the fire, and the power of the castle. With the voice of Billy Crystal, Calcifer is funny, warm, strong and wise. The voice of Howl is played by Christian Bale as the vain, tortured wizard, warrior and lord of the castle. Some of the war scenes may be a little too intense for little ones, but Howl's is not as scary as Spirited Away.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Mad Hot Recommendation

Once in a while I get to attend a screening of a film, at a film festival or special event, before it is released. In April I saw Mad Hot Ballroom at a fund raiser in Newport, it is going into wide release this weekend and coming back to RI. This is a documentary about a ballroom dancing program in NY city schools. Watching the kids evolve as they learn the dances is interesting, but the peek into the adolescent psyche is even more fascinating.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Hitch on DVD

Hitch comes out in DVD this week. This did OK in the theaters, but I think it will do really well in DVD. It's one of those nice surprises that you rent and really enjoy.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

I'm With the Band

My assignment at the Newport Film Festival was to drive Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer to their rehearsals,performance, dinner, film and party. Guest and Shearer, along with Michael McKean and Annette O'Toole, were performing at the Newport Blues Cafe, along with a discussion of their careers and music.

Not only were they charming, kind and friendly, but their concert gave this small-town gal the chance to say "I'm with the band". When we got to the venue for their performance, a security guard tried to tell myself, and the other driver ("THE Linda"), that only people with the band were allowed in the backstage area. We told them we were the drivers for the band, and got to sit in a special area, where we enjoyed a wonderful concert. It was an incredible performance, and an awesome day. McKean was honored with a lifetime achievement award, and his friends and collaborators were there to support and congratulate him. And I got to be a part of it all, thanks NIFF!!!!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

FFF (Film Festival Fun)

The Newport Film Festival is in full swing, and I actually got to see a film tonight!! Press On is a wonderful documentary about the pedal steel artist Robert Randolph. Once again, a documentary has shown me a world of music I've never seen. The enthusiasm and talent of these artists was amazing, and the culmination of success to performing at the Grammy's was heartwarming. Keep your eye out for this young man, his music is a pleasure. After the film Randolph's mentors, Calvin Cook and Ted Beard, performed. I met these gentlemen a few days ago and their charming personalities really came through in their music.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Oh to Be in DVD

Beyond the Sea and Be Cool are out in DVD today. Both were very enjoyable and should do well on the small screen. The production numbers in Beyond the Sea were great, who knew Spacey could dance!?!? Worth a look from the couch.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Traveling Pants

I went to see The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants with my teenage niece B. I thought I was prepared, because I had listened to interviews, read reviews, brought a teenager .... I did not bring enough Kleenex!!!! This was a wonderful film that incorporated the 4 lives of 4 young women, connected by life experience and a magical pair of jeans. Two of the stories really struck a chord with me. The interview I heard with Bradley Whitford on Friday, should have tipped me off to the Kleenex thing, but I thought I was tuff enuff ... boy was I wrong!!! I was surprised at the diversity of the audience in the theater. There were the expected groups of teenage girls in flip fops, but there were a fair amount of adults, who were treated to a wonderful film!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Cinderella Man

The first real Oscar contender of 2005 has come to theaters in the story of the depression-era boxer, Jim Braddock. For each of the major players in Cinderella Man, I have these thoughts:

Russell Crowe: You are an engaging actor, and played a believable father, husband, friend and upstanding human being. You did Jim Braddock proud.
Renee Zellweger: You played the quintessential mother and wife, and stand-up-for-herself woman, with grace and strength.
Paul Giamatti: To date, your best work. Energy and heart were all over the screen, and as the character Jimmy Johnston said, "your mouth should be in the circus".
Ariel Waller, Connor Price and Patrick Louis: You formed the heart of the family, and have some of the most beautiful faces I've ever seen on screen.
Craig Bierko: You played the bad guy to the hilt, and brought an ominous air to the character.
Craig Hollingworth: Great dialog and attention to detail, in a screenplay that moves right along.
Ron Howard: You got the best out of these actors, and gave us a creative, heartwrenching view of an outstanding athlete and human being, who gave you a great story to tell.

Bravo to all, this goes on my list of great sports films, family films and love stories.