Sunday, December 31, 2006


Volver, translated, means "to return". And the characters in this film do just that. To tell too much plot would ruin a lot of the impact and humor that makes this film so charming. I will say that the plot is surprising, develops well and has many very poignant and funny moments. A refreshing film, that blends family themes with a thriller edge. Another gem from Almodovar.

Notes on a Scandal

In Notes on a Scandal, Cate Blanchette and Judi Densch deliver some of the most explosive performances I've seen in film this year. As two women who keep an awful secret, and deal with the consequences of exposure, we see the byproduct of loneliness and longing. A powerful film, with uncomfortable subjects.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Dreamgirls is a show business success story of struggle and ambition. A ruthless music promoter sucks the soul out of a 60's girl group and popular R&B singer, in the interest of popularity and money. Central are the emotional issues of loyalty, love and infidelity. This is a film full of wonderful musical performances. From Eddie Murphy, to Beyonce Knowles, to Jamie Foxx, to Keith Robinson, to the dynamic Jennifer Hudson. The best performances come from Jennifer Hudson, who had the audience cheering during the heartbreaking "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going". I will say, Beyonce's shining moment is her rendition of "Listen". Well staged and beautifully shot, this is a wonderful film interpretation of this Broadway hit.

The Pursuit of Happyness

Will Smith takes a strong dramatic turn in The Pursuit of Happyness. No accent, no homeboy, no smart mouth, just pure drama. I fell in love with Smith as a dramatic actor in Six Degrees of Separation, this is a return to that form. He portrays Chris Gardner, a guy trying to make a living. He has a rough time in sales, but finds a talent as a broker with Dean Witter. He toughs out a six month, unpaid, internship while being soley responsible for his 5 year old son. It is a heart wrenching story, and Smith portrays the struggle well. His young son Jaden does a nice job as, yup, his son.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Hurricane

When I started my Oscar project, one film that escaped me was The Hurricane. I didn't get the magic of Denzel Washington, so I didn't care much about missing the film. With the release of Rocky Balboa, lists of great boxing films have been popping up. The Hurricane is usually mentioned. As a result, I sat down with Denzel, and I finally get him as an actor. In this film he is powerful, understated and rocks the acting in the character of Rubin Carter. Good boxing sequences, but he is credible and intense in the prison scenes as well. A performance I really enjoyed.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web is my all-time favorite book. I read it many times as a child, and then again a few weeks ago. I was totally prepared to be disappointed by the film, and thankfully I was wrong. What a pleasure it was to see E.B. White's classic brought to the screen in live action. It was warm, funny and pretty. I was afraid the celebrity voices would be distracting, but they enriched the effect. The pace is perfect and the humor is smart, not cheesy. Bravo for this wonderful story of friendship and loyalty!

The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd is a historical drama depicting the origins of the CIA. The style is subtle and the story is told in several time periods. There is intelligence and counter intelligence, you never know who is telling the truth....they're all spies. The film is slow and about 30 minutes too long, but a quality drama.


A young man doesn't get in to any of the colleges he applies to, so he creates his own. Accepted is a surprisingly good comedy that explores esteem, freedom, parental expectations and the realities of the world. It is funny and pretty clever. I was pleasantly surprised by this comedy.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Best and the Worst of 2006 in DVD

I find it interesting that films I thought were the worst and the best this year, are released in DVD this week. Little Miss Sunshine and A Scanner Darkly are both on my Top 10 of 2006 list (coming mid-January). Little Miss Sunshine is at number one. I have been singing this film's praises since August. So much so, that I have been accused of being on the payroll at Fox Searchlight ... I wish! Invincible, another good football true story is out this week also.
The Lady in the Water and All the King's Men have got to be two of the most painful film experiences I have had this year.
An interesting collection of DVD releases this week.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

We Are Marshall

We Are Marshall is the true story of the loss of the Marshall University football team in a plane crash in 1970. We feel the heartache of a community that loses 75 beloved athletes, coaches and friends. Matthew McConaughey plays the coach that volunteers to bring the football program back to life. This is a good drama that pays respect to the memory of those lost, and celebrates the spirit of perseverance. I liked the portrayal of emotion that ranged from joy to horror to sadness to anger to determination to joy. It comes full circle. Nicely done, a good sports history film.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Rocky Balboa

As the theme from the original Rocky played, the words Rocky Balboa started to roll across the screen, and the audience went nuts!! I had forgotten how iconic the character has become. In Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stalone plays the gentle, tough, well intended goof-ball the world fell in love with 30 years ago. In flash back, we revisit those early days, the early fights and the reason Rocky is a legend. Set in present day, Rocky now owns a successful restaurant called Adrian's, his son is trying to make his own way as a young adult and the current heavyweight champ is young and scrutinized. Rocky has something burning inside and feels the need to fight again. It's a good story and Stalone does a good job with interesting shots and creative editing. Yo, Rocky's back!!!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Heroes, Hot Wheels and Haughty in DVD

Out in DVD today, is the Devil Wears Prada. A fashion magazine editor reigns her haughty power over assistants who actually achieve personal growth. Talledega Nights : The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is a funny spoof on NASCAR. On a more serious note, World Trade Center is a poignant look rescues at the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Technically, Apocalypto is an excellent film. The visuals are stunning. It ended there for me. The story was just OK, the soulful stares bored me, the action was rehashed and the little bit of dialogue was ridiculous. This film was a huge disappointment for me. Gibson is a genius at marketing and he sure got me. Arrrggghhh!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Dixie Chicks:Shut Up and Sing

In 2003, during a Dixie Chicks performance in London, Natalie Maines made a derogatory comment about George Bush. It changed the careers of those women forever. Shut Up and Sing is a documentary that follows the events in the 3 years since that fateful comment. The comment aroused accusations of communism, they were banned on radio, concert ticket sales suffered and death threats were launched. I think it shows just how volatile the political atmosphere in America has become. These women are strong, smart and stick to their guns. Right or wrong, this film looks at the right to free speech, and the backlash that can occur when it is exercised.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Blood Diamond

In Africa there is so much unrest. Blood Diamond depicts Sierra Leone in 1999. This area is rich in diamonds. There is a frightening rebel faction that rules the area with violence and terror, to maintain control of this industry. This is the story of an honest fisherman who values his family, and wants a better life for his children. His world is shattered when his village is stormed by rebels, his family taken to a refuge camp, and he is forced to work mining diamonds. He comes across a large, rare stone that he manages to hide. Though a variety of circumstances he comes in contact with a mercenary, who has the connections he needs to get back to the diamond's hiding place, and to then sell it. The man agrees to give up the stone, but his larger motivation is to find his family. This film is intense and violent. Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou are great. ** More information here on how to avoid purchasing conflict diamonds.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Here Come the Film Awards

With the announcement of the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures' annual awards, the film award season begins! I don't think awards are the ultimate goal, but they are a good review of the year in film. I work on my Oscar Project all year, so I get a little nervous this time of year, worried that I've missed something. It's been a good year in film, so stay tuned. Oh, and George, still here, and I like limoncello!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tough Guys in DVD

There are a variety of tough guys out in DVD today. The ultimate is Pirates of the Caribbean:Dead Man's Chest. Jack Sparrow and Davy Jones square off, and the lovely Elizabeth will not take a back seat. Jolly good fun!! A movie version of Miami Vice brings Crockett and Tubbs to the big screen. A gentler form of tough guy is found in The Architect . I saw this film at the Tribeca Film Festival, earlier this year. The architect of a public housing project must defend his design to the residents .... or make it right.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas)

In keeping with my Christmas-themed movies, today I saw the French film Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas). This story takes place in 1914, at the beginning of World War I. There was a cease fire on Christmas Eve that brought out the human being in the Scots, French and Germans who had been killing each other the day before. The scene that touched me the most was when the song Silent Night united the men. The fighting was undermined by that night, but souls survived. This film has such a gentle heart, yet acknowledges the ugly side of war. Well worth seeing!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Nativity Story

The Nativity Story follows the gospel stories depicting the time from when Mary becomes pregnant with Jesus, to his birth. The achievment in this film is portraying the emotion of the events. We feel Mary's shame, fear and faith. We feel the shame and confusion of Mary's parents. We feel the hate and greed of Herod. We feel the awe and peace of the shepherds in the countryside. And we feel the love, strength and devotion of Joseph. The portryal of Joseph is the real strenth of this film. I saw one of the most romantic scenes in film between Mary and Joseph. *sigh* The themes of love and faith are strong in this film. An authentic, basic telling of an age old story. Loved those wise men!

Deck the Halls

After he was interrupted in his description of Deck The Halls, on The View this week, I was compelled to see what Danny Devito was talking about. I thought this was an enjoyable family comedy. I always find Devito charming and funny. The story is basically a war of two neighbors for their version of the ideal Christmas. Their wives love and tolerate them, but take a stand when things go too far. The basic theme is community and family. Thank you George Clooney for taking Danny out on the town, so he would get a little extra attention for this film. I enjoyed it!

Sorry, Haters

Sorry, Haters is the story of a disturbed woman, who has focused her unhappiness on an old friend. She involves a young Muslim cab driver, in her desperation to deal with her jealousies, under the guise of helping him with an immigration problem. They embody the tone of a post 9/11 New York City. Robin Wright Penn is engrossing, as her deranged character plods forward to no good end. Abdel Kechiche and Sandra Oh are outstanding in this psychological drama. An emotional ride.