Monday, April 30, 2007

Purple Violets

I have always enjoyed films made by Edward Burns. Though he has enjoyed success with big studio films like Saving Private Ryan, 15 Minutes and The Holiday, he likes to make small, independent films based on people's heart stories. At the screening of The Groomsmen last year, he mentioned the film Purple Violets. I attended the premiere screening of this film last night. The story of a successful author in a writing slump is not new, but throw in a reunion with some college friends, and rekindling of some old romances and we've got a good story. Burns gives us great dialogue and his cast brings it to life with style. Once again new York City is a character in the film. Many of the scenes were shot on the streets I've been walking for the last few days, funny to watch the characters move on familiar ground. I kept thinking, "I was there today ...... and there ....... and there .... hmm". Just a pleasure. The whole cast was at the screening, and we were siting right across the aisle from them. Debra Messing, Selma Blair, Patrick Wilson, Donal Logue and Dennis Farina all look fantastic, I hope I didn't stare too hard! Burns' enthusiasm and candor during the Q&A really showed how much he loves making films.

TIFF 2007 Day Two

First thing Sunday morning, and I'm off to a screening of the new documentary, Brando. The 2 hours and forty five minutes it took to tell Brando's story was well spent. Then to Mary Ann's, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, for lunch. Have to be quiet in this town when the Red Sox are kicking Yankee butt, and the TV in the bar was right over my head! At the Tribeca Talks panel, five very smart, very funny women talked comedy and working in the industry. I had my first experience with Turkish food when I joined a friend of mine for drinks and eats at Turks&Frogs in Soho. I love eating in this town!

Sunday, April 29, 2007


A documentary about Marlon Brando was next on my film schedule at TIFF. Friends and colleagues were assembled for this film, to discuss and pay tribute to the artist. It was interesting to hear Brando's history. His early work was great for the film fan, but I had no idea the impact it had on the careers of his costars and peers. Near the end of his life, comments from his family and close friends, like Johnny Depp, give insight and dimension to a film legend as a father, grandfather and friend. This film will be broadcast on Turner Classic Movie channel on May 1&2. Worth checking out!

Look Who's Laughing

The Tribeca Talks panel discussions are the most interesting feature of this event. I have had the pleasure of hearing Martin Scorsese, Peter Jennings, Steven Soderbergh, J.J. Abrams and others, up close and personal, discussing different aspects of film and film making. Today it was five of the the most successful women in comedy, talking about comedy in regards to gender. It was an interesting discussion. The more I listened to them, the more I realized how hard-wired men and women are, in regard to how we react to art. Yes, I believe comedy is an art. Humans love to laugh, we all want to feel better. Comedians and comic writers search for the elusive laugh anywhere they can find it. Sometimes it is smart sometimes it is crude. Samantha Bee, Rachel Dratch, Susie Essman, Rachel Harris and Debra Messing tossed the topic around for about an hour, and gave some interesting insight to the fact that they don't regard gender when they work. It's just a competitive business in general, for both men and women. The more interesting discussion was about networks reaction to comedy and how far they can go, with language and topics, as opposed to the pay channels where there are no limits. These women were very generous, smart and funny. Director Jay Roach was the moderator, and did a good job keeping this lively group on topic.

The Education of Charlie Banks

Seeing The Education of Charlie Banks, in a film festival setting, was an experience. I chose this as my first film at TIFF this year, because a lot of it was shot in Rhode Island this summer. A coming of age story, with a protagonist who was lethal with his bare hands, played against type, by Jason Ritter. It was a solid story with an excellent cast and location *ahem*. The Q&A was attended by Peter Elkoff (the writer), Fred Durst (the director) and two of the principle actors, Jesse Eisenberg (Charlie Banks) and Eva Amurri (Mary). The group was charming and answered all questions thoroughly. Durst even shared a little story about finding a house in Barrington that they shot vacation scenes in, the day before they needed to shoot. At one point, a small voice asked Durst if he was planning on making more films, and what was his next project. Durst started to chuckle and pulled the young actor who played Charlie Banks, as child, out of the audience .... a plant! It was a cute moment. As everyone was taking their seats before the film, a guy came into my row and said (I'm not making this up) "Is this seat taken?". I'm sure I looked pretty silly, sitting there grinning to myself .........

PS This film won TIFF's "Made in NY" narrative film prize 5/5/06. Well done!

TIFF 2007 Day One

This is my fifth year attending the Tribeca Film Festival, in New York City. This film festival was started as an effort of the film community(specifically Robert DeNiro and Jane Rosenberg) to help the rebuilding of lower Manhattan after the devastation of 9/11. I fell in love with lower Manhattan when my daughter attended NYU 1998-2002. Cities can be pretty hostile, but I've always been so impressed with this area and it's residents. I feel safe, there's a lot to do and the food is great! When I came back to the area in October and November of 2001, the area was a shell of what I had seen in August. The quiet and ash were sobering. The progress here has been amazing. Though the site of the towers is still pretty much a hole, the area around it is alive. People fill the shops, parks and restaurants. There is new construction everywhere, and I notice new growth and strength every year I have returned.

The film festival itself has evolved. The panels are varied. And the programmers try to get the latest and greatest in documentary, short and independent film here. They do a good job. One thing I notice, is that many of the artists attached to the films either live in NYC or are happy to come here. The Q&A sessions after the films usually are well attended.

I arrived in Manhattan mid-day, got rid of my luggage and the car and headed to the box office. It felt good just to be walking down the sidewalk, and I reoriented myself to where the coffee shops, restaurants and delis are. After my tickets were in hand I checked into the hotel and went off in search of lunch. Up West Broadway there is a funny little place called Edwards that makes a tasty turkey burger and delightful Bloody Mary.

Off to the film, The Education of Charlie Banks (more on this later) and on the way home I stopped at the pizza place and picked up a slice of lasagna pizza (yum). A good start to the 2007 experience.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cure Kid's Cancer Radiothon

The fine folks at 92ProFM let me talk about movies, on the air, every Friday morning. This week, their attention turns to something more important. For the next few days, they are involved in a radiothon to raise money for Cure Kids Cancer. Hasbro Children's Hospital, here in Rhode Island, is an amazing facility for children's health, and treats children's cancers. The money raised goes to research to find cures and treatments for cancer, so if you can, give us a hand. To donate, you can call 877-719-5437 or click here Cure Kids Cancer Radiothon. Thanks for your support, the radiothon runs from now until Saturday. Tune in to 92.3 FM to hear the inspiring stories of these brave kids and their families, as they deal with the devastation of cancer and it's treatments ..... give now!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Queens and (K)Nights in DVD

More good DVD out today. The Queen not only brought an Oscar-winning performance from Helen Mirren as Elizabeth II, it's also an interesting look at the days following Princess Dianna's death from the royal perspective.

What if things in a museum came to life at night? Night at the Museum is a solid comedy that explores this what-if. Set in the Museum of Natural History in NYC. Good stuff!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Rhode Island at Tribeca 2007

I've finalized most of my plans for Tribeca Film Festival in NYC, I leave next Saturday!! There are some interesting Rhode Island connections to some of the films and events I'm attending.

The first film I'll see is The Education of Charlie Banks. Fred Durst, of Limp Bizkit fame, directed this film and did a lot of the filming in Rhode Island. This film created quite a stir while it was here, the students on the east side were spectators and the local news folks were all over it.

The last film I'm seeing is Normal Adolescent Behavior, with Amber Tamblyn. The filming shut down the small town of Wickford for a few days. Traffic is unheard of in Wickford, so it was quite an event. (Yeah, traffic is an event in RI .... it's a small place).

I love comedy, so I got a ticket to a panel titled, "Look Who's Laughing". Women in comedy are the topic. Rachel Dratch, of SNL fame, is on the panel. She has come to the Newport Film Festival several times, and rumor has it she has relatives in the area. I met her a few times, and saw her show with the Upright Citizen's Brigade last year. Also on the panel is Debra Messing, of Will & Grace and film fame, who lived in RI in her teen years. She was a RI Junior Miss and hailed from the town next door to mine. Nothing like making TIFF feel like home!!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz is a creative comedy. From the folks who brought us Shaun of the Dead (best zombie movie parody, ever) we now have a cop movie parody that is off-the-hook funny! Simon Pegg is pitch perfect as Nicholas Angel, super cop in London. He is transferred to a rural town that is not as perfect as it appears. Laugh out loud funny, with every cop movie cliche a target. Fantastic editing creates a pace that just runs the gauntlet of comedy. Oh yeah, and when the promo says "Big cops. Small town. Moderate violence" keep in mind, the violence involves spewing blood, lots of bang-bang-shoot-em-ups and one real ewwwww moment at the end. A fun romp as only the Brits can do.


In the final scenes of Fracture, Ryan Gosling shows us just what kind of actor he is. He holds his own with Anthony Hopkins, and almost steals the scene. This is a nice, tight courtroom drama - murder is the crime - that has the prosecution winning, then losing, then .... well, I won't ruin the end. This is a film with wonderful acting and interesting camera work. I was thrilled to see Xander Berkeley play one of the judges (hardly recognized him without the beard, but oh those eyes). Well worth seeing.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Brits and Bad Guys in DVD

I really enjoyed the British films History Boys, Notes on a Scandal and The Last King of Scotland. These were some of the best films of 2006.
Smokin' Aces is a mob vs cops, racing the assassins film (got that?), with a bang, bang shoot em up ending. All worth a look in DVD.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Meet the Robinsons

After Meet the Robinsons I realized that I sell kids short. In discussion with my 8 and 10 year old nephews after the film, I learned that they could define minion. Fabulous!! We saw the film in 3D which was cool. This is the story of a boy in search of family. A creative, clever, funny script gives us another story that involves time travel. In this adventure, everything was explained, and made sense.

They showed a short film first, that was made in 1953 with Donald Duck, Chip and Dale. Working for Peanuts was made in 3D back in the day, it was great!


Well, color me surprised at how much I enjoyed Disturbia. I love a good thriller, and this one delivers. A young man is restricted to home confinement, and his boredom has him watching the neighbors. Is he observing criminal behavior, or is he the victim of an active imagination and cabin fever? This story develops effectively. Though the climax of the film uses all the cheesy thriller devices, thunder, lightning, grainy video images, foreboding violin music, even duck tape, it worked for me. Keep an eye on young Shia LeBeouf, who carries this film well.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Slow Burn

Ray Liotta gave a great interview on my favorite morning radio show this week. He talked about his latest film, Slow Burn. I don't know if it was due to the interview, but I liked this film more than most critics. A story of mistaken identity, with Liotta as a DA trying to get gang domination out of his city. But who is he chasing, and who does he believe? I was guessing right to the end.

The Hoax

The story of Clifford Irving's fabrication of a Howard Hughes autobiography in the early 70s, makes for interesting film in The Hoax. Irving is a desperate author, who thinks writing about Hughes is the perfect project, because the recluse would never appear to defend himself. As the pressure of legitimizing the story intensifies, watching Irving decline and become delusional, is fascinating. He actually seems to start believing himself. Irving manipulates his wife, best friend and publisher. This is a wonderful performance from Richard Gere as Irving.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

About an hour into the Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, I was pretty bored. And then Bond, played by George Lazenby, unpacked a kilt! Yes, the man dons kilty formal wear and looks hot! Can we talk about the tailoring of his shirts? Yikes! A strange story, with Bond hiding inside a strange character. I'm either missing Connery, or I just wasn't crazy about this Bond adventure.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bobby in DVD

The only DVD release I've seen this week is the film Bobby. A large ensemble cast captures the last hours at the Ambassador Hotel the night Robert Kennedy was shot. Worth a rental.

PS The power of Grindhouse. The DVD Vanishing Point was available on Netflix yesterday, today there is a long wait *grrrr*

Monday, April 09, 2007

Road to Tribeca 2007

The 2007 Tribeca International Film Festival starts 2 weeks from tomorrow!! This will be my fifth year attending, and I have come to adopt a few traditions. On-line ticket sales started Saturday. In my memory, every year but one, the website takes a dive the minute the box office opens. Traditionally, it all sorts out in a few hours and all goes well. My stress is that some of the things I want tickets to are popular, so I feel a frantic need to get my order in quickly (as it was, two films I wanted were sold out). My traditional "freak out when the website is down" happened Saturday morning, accompanied by the phone call to my daughter who traditionally assures me "everything will work out fine". It always does.

Today I got the confirmation e-mail, assuring me that my ticket choices are now secure, with the cheery line at the end, "See you at the festival!" I believe that is personally directed at me, and the folks at TIFF can't wait for me to arrive! Oddly enough, I traditionally do run into a few festival staffers. The films are often introduced by one of the programmers or staff members. They always introduce themselves. If you go to enough films, you see many of the same people over and over again. On a few occasions, I have run into these folks on the street, and stare with my "you look familiar, but who are you?" look. They are all so friendly, that when I do that they traditionally smile and say hello. For an event in such a large city, it's things like this, that make this festival so appealing to me. Can't wait! Funny thing is, the first film I'm seeing was filmed in RI! .... more on that later ......

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Top 10 things I liked about Grindhouse:

10 The super chatty girls sitting behind me left after the first feature.
9 The pace of the 2 films is so different, really drives home that you've seen a double feature. More of a cinematic experience than just going to a movie. Even the fake trailers are entertaining.
8 Fantastic cameo appearances from Nick Cage, Bruce Willis and Fergie.
7 Marley Shelton as a doctor in super high heels!
6 So well written and acted, all performances are fantastic!
5 Rodriguez is the master of the gross and the explosive.
4 Tarantino is the master of dialogue and the camera shot.
3 Sydney Poitier as a morning radio show DJ.
2 Kurt Russell as a creepy stalker who gets what's coming to him.
1 Cherry Darling as the best movie badass with a machine gun leg!

I had a blast!!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis is a coming of age film, not only for young adults, but their elderly grandparents. This film was a feature selection at Tribeca Film Festival. This story focuses on a young man who's father died when he was a teenager, his mother has moved away, so his parental relationship is with his grandparents. Grandma is in good shape, but Grandpa is in declining health. He was the boy's rock, now the roles are reversed. Sensitive, real and touching, this story is well written and acted. Well worth a rental.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

What's a Grindhouse?

Two of my favorite directors, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez , have collaborated on the film Grindhouse, one of this week's major releases. These two have been friends for a long time, and the combination is movie magic for me. I have not been this geeked out about a movie in a long time. Scouring the Internet, and watching the entertainment shows like they are oh so informative, I have consumed as much hype as I can before I find my way to the theater this weekend. Yes, I'm middle aged and female, but I love a good action film with lots of bad guys, machine guns and car crashes .... throw in a zombie any time you want! This double feature promises to deliver!

Grindhouse films were b-level exploitation films of the 70's, that would run one after another in your local theater (no multiplex back then). The genre was horror, slasher, zombie .... shocking and bloody was better. I'm not a huge fan of the slasher variety, but this film promises zombies and a serial killer who uses a car as his weapon, so I'm in. The more ridiculous,the better.

Can't wait for this one, stay tuned .....

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Women, Webs and Wonder in DVD

Three very different genres of film are out in DVD this week.

The foreign film Volver is a creative story of an interesting woman. Penelope Cruz turns in an outstanding performance.

The family film, Charlotte's Web, is a strong portrayal of the classic story of loyalty and friendship. This version is heartfelt and pretty clever.

The historic drama The Good Shepherd depicts the early days of the CIA. Star studded, this is a strong drama, with interesting insight to the effects of power and intelligence.

A good week for rentals!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Blades of Glory

The latest comedy starring Will Ferrell is Blades of Glory. Well written, with some very funny gags. In some cases ridiculous, but very fun. Not the greatest ever, but certainly satisfying. This is a comedy to relax and enjoy!
PS There's a funny bit in the credits.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

You Only Live Twice

Impressive explosions, ninjas, astronauts and the iconic Blofeld, on which Dr. Evil from Austin Powers is based, appear in the fifth film in the Bond series, You Only Live Twice. Amazing to me that this film was made in 1967. The effects are so impressive, the dialogue snappy, the action non-stop! I'm having so much fun with his series!