Monday, May 28, 2007

The Good German

Four months after the 2006 Oscar nominees were announced, I have finally seen all of the nominated films. The Good German was nominated for Best Original Musical Score. This film did not play in a theater near me before the Oscar ceremonies, so I waited for the DVD release. This is an OK war film. In Steven Soderbergh's signature muted tones (in this case, black and white) we explore post World War II political corruption in Berlin. George Clooney, Cate Blanchete and Toby Maguire give it their all. I thought I would like this film more, but the most memorable facet, for me, is the music. A contemplative look at this period in history.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

This Is Spinal Tap

Over 20 years ago, three young men made a mockumentary called This Is SpinalTap. I first saw this film in 2002. Several years ago, I had the privilege of meeting these gentlemen at the Newport Film Festival. When I saw the film on the shelf at the library this weekend, I grabbed it to see what I thought of it with a new familiarity.

At the film festival, I spent most of my time with Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest. Guest and I had a funny conversation about why women have so many pairs of shoes. (We were picking up a few pair for his wife and daughter at one of the sponsor stores, support your local sponsors). After I made my case for women, and their relationship with shoes, he sheepishly admitted he had a similar weakness for guitars (the man is an amazing musician). In the film, there is scene with Reiner and Guest, where Guest's character shows off his guitar collection. I got it.

There is also a jubilant scene at the end of the film, where the boys are reunited on stage after Nigel's (Guest) disgruntled departure from the band. Mike McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest were all very kind, polite and charming with me and other festival folks, but when the three of them came together, there was a magic and a "click" that is hard to describe. These men have known each other most of their lives, and that chemistry blasts on the screen in that scene. Fun to watch this film having met these talented guys.

At a Q&A someone asked if they would ever perform again as Spinal Tap. They chuckled and said they are happy to perform the Spinal Tap material, but were pretty much over the wigs and makeup. It has been reported that they are performing in London, as Spinal Tap, on July 7th, as part of Live Earth. I'm dying to see if they don the wigs and makeup, cuz no matter what they look like, they always sound great!!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean:At World's End

I have been looking forward to Pirates of the Caribbean:At World's End from the moment I saw Captain Barbossa walk down those stairs at the end of Dead Man's Chest. I literally clapped my hands with glee! In honor of Disney's request of journalists and bloggers not to reveal plot twists and resolutions, I'll just make a few observations:

Know your pirates
Stay through the credits
Pirates are great when they are making fun of being a pirate.
The acting is stellar
Visual effects, A++++++
Dialogue is cheeky, pay attention ...... arrrrggggh

Can't wait to see it again, yo ho!!!!

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Loveable and the Laughable in DVD

In DVD this week is the lovable Peter O'Toole in Venus. A dark comedy, with a lot of heart. O'Toole deserved the Oscar nom. In Letters from Iwo Jima, even at war, soldiers stay in touch with loved ones as best they can. A beautiful piece from Clint Eastwood.

In the ridiculous film Apocalypto, we are supposed to buy this as a historical drama. The dialogue is awful and the film tiresome. If you're curious, I suppose DVD is the best way to see this film. *ugh*

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Away From Her

Alzheimer's is a cruel disease. It effects the entire family. In Away From Her, a woman assists her husband in choosing where she will spend her last days, as it becomes apparent she has the disease, and is deteriorating. Once in a facility, Fiona gets to the point where she cannot recall her husband, but develops a relationship with one of the gentlemen at the home. As difficult as this is for the husband, he is respectful of the disease, and works hard to be understanding while coping with his own emotions. This is a multi-layered story with great emotional depth. Julie Christie is amazing in her performance as Fiona. A realistic, warm look at aging, marriage, elder care and love.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Year of the Dog

The Year of the Dog is a wonderful story of love and self discovery. Centered around a woman who loses her beloved dog, and searches for herself. There are bumps along the road, but she deals with them, and ultimately finds herself, and figures out where her true love lies. The cast is small and strong. Molly Shannon is masterful as the main character (who knew). John C. Reily, Peter Sarsgaard, Laura Dern, Thomas McCarthy, Josh Pais and Regina King all develop their characters well. This film was a pleasant surprise for me, really enjoyed it.

Shrek the Third

I went to see this early in the weekend so I could see it with as little preconceived notion as possible. The theater was packed, I had popcorn AND soda, the film began, I was bored. What, huh!??!? I loved the first Shrek, liked Shrek 2 even more, Shrek the Third was such a disappointment for me. The story was weak, Shrek trying to get out of being king and scared of becoming a father. The first few scenes were such downers, a funeral, a bar room brawl and a visit to a high school with all the angst hanging out. The only mildly funny part, for me, was an encounter with Merlin the Magician (yet a little disturbing, as he had no pants) with a little spell gone wrong that gave Donkey and Puss something to work with. There are attempts at creativity and humor that fall flat, and I'm guessing from the lack of laughter in the theater, went right over the heads of the kids I saw this with. The narcoleptic Sleeping Beauty still cracks me up, but there was not enough of her. Best I can say is that Shrek the Third is OK. The redeeming quality is that the animation is still stellar, this is a great looking movie.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Dead Girl

When people die, they tend to be raised to a status that is a bit skewed. In The Dead Girl, we see the life of a woman passed, from four perspectives. It paints a well rounded portrait of the girl. The inspiration was a murder trial the writer/ director sat on the jury of. The chapters are short, real and gritty. This is a cool film.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Brooklyn Rules

I took more away from Brooklyn Rules than just a wonderful film experience. I also took away the spirit of a film maker. Michael Corrente is the director on this film, he's worked four years to put it in front of audiences. The film opens in limited release on Friday, but Corrente brought the film to his home turf a week early. The Columbus Theater in Providence, RI, is the perfect setting for this homecoming. He introduced the film tonight, and spoke to the power of word of mouth, with a passionate plea for appreciation of quality film.

This is the story of three young men growing up in Brooklyn in the 80's. There is the mob, there are girls, there is family and there are life choices. This film tells a good story, has a strong cast, looks great and has a cool soundtrack. Well done Mr. Corrente! A film well worth seeing, I enjoyed it!! Look for it in a theater near you soon.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mind Games in DVD

Both films I've seen out in DVD this week, have to do with tricks of the mind. The Fountain deals with the stress of a doctor's wife's terminal illness. Pan's Labyrinth shows us the horror of war and how a young girl's mind might cope. Both beautiful films, well worth renting.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


If you've been reading here for any period of time, you know that I love to make going to a film an event. Today, Mother's Day, Fox Searchlight was running a promotion with it's latest release, Waitress. This gem from Adrienne Shelly, has opened in limited release, and was showing in select locations with the promise of Mother's Day bliss and gift bags! There were magazines, body wash, lipstick and all kinds of coupons. Fun stuff!! My daughter and her boyfriend entertained my wish to see this movie at the Criterion Theater in New Haven, CT. Thanks guys!!

Oh yeah, the film ....... in a word, fantastic!! The story of a young waitress at a pie diner, who finds herself pregnant in an abusive marriage, is poignant, funny and heartfelt. The values of friendship and self worth are held high. This film is well written, acted and shot. Once again, we have a small budget film, with a big heart and a strong message. Well done and worth seeing!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Local Love for Brooklyn Rules

Director Michael Corrente paid a visit to my favorite morning radio show this morning. The occasion is the release of his new film, Brooklyn Rules. Corrente, a native Rhode Islander and veteran film maker, has chosen his home turf to open the film on Friday, May 11th, at the Columbus Theater in Providence. Should be quite an event! On May 18th, the film goes to limited release in New York, Boston and Los Angeles and, hopefully, wide release after that.

This film is set in Brooklyn in the 80's and Corrente described it as a cross between Stand By Me and Goodfellas. He gave a lot of insight to the film and film making. Gio and Kim asked great questions, it was fun to listen! Gio and Will had seen the film, and they loved it. Can't wait to see it myself!

My favorite Corrente films are Federal Hill, Outside Providence and American Buffalo. Check them out in DVD, and see Brooklyn Rules when it comes to your town!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Nice and the Nasty in DVD

A smattering of "nice" films, and a few that drift toward the nasty, are out in DVD today.

Catch and Release is a good treatment of grief, unexpected discovery and friendship. I think this film will be more satisfying in DVD than the theater. I liked it.

Music and Lyrics is a sweet story of a cute girl helping a cute guy do his job .... oh yeah, and they fall for each other. Pretty predictable, but Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore do such a good job, I really didn't care.

Starting at nice, moving toward nasty, we have The Painted Veil. A couple meets, falls in love (the nice), falls out of love (the nasty) and fall back in love (oops, too late). Beautiful film and fantastic acting, this is an interesting story.

A little more nasty, is Breaking and Entering. Business partners suffer break ins at their office, and trauma at home. A good story, presented in a subtle style with strong performances and a few good twists.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Spiderman 3

Spiderman 3 is a nice addition to the Spiderman franchise. The characters now have depth, we get to know them a little more in every instalment. The special effects are stunning, though I will say darker, with Spiderman, Harry Osborne and Venom, all in black. Loved the Sandman character, his visual was very cool. Mary Jane has real life issues, and screams less. Peter Parker's still a dork, but we get in his head more. Now for a little point - counterpoint. I thought the dramatic scenes were too long and too many. My friend said it told more of the story of Peter Parker ... she's right. I said rent it and fast forward on all closeups, my friend said the action scenes deserve the big screen ... she's right. Always good to have folks to discuss with after a film. This Spiderman is the most complex, the chase scenes become fight scenes. When Harry cracked his head in an early scene, a small voice said "that's gotta hurt!" Though there has always been ironic humor in the Spiderman films, this one does it best, so many very funny moments. Who knew Spidey could make fun of himself?!?! The great moments are great, and the dramatic a bit slow, but effective. All in all, a decent start to the summer blockbusters ..... $148 million, yikes!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Kentucky Derby

A little time out from film here, to comment on the Kentucky Derby. My daughter is there, the Queen of England is there, I have money on the race, what could be better?!?!!? I have a nostalgia for horse racing for several reasons. College pals and I enjoyed the infield at the Preakness in 1977, I attended Royal Ascot (yeah that's England folks, and the Queen was there that day too) in 1999 and I saw Cigar run at Suffolk Downs in 2000. Not a huge equestrian history, but I get a kick out of elite horse races, and the races are described as (and I agree) the most exciting two minutes in sports. The excitement is often fueled by money. I won a Derby purse years ago. A $42 win had me all about horse racing. I lost the next year, and declared I was out on betting. A call from my daughter, at the track today, had me back in the game. I had my money on Nobiz Like Showbiz, but Street Sense kicked my ass!! My horse finished 10th. Great race .... on to the Preakness!

If you are looking for a film reference here, I highly recommend Seabiscuit, both the film and the book. The film is good, the book has so many amazing stories, and breathtaking reenactments of the races.


While waiting for post-time of the Kentucky Derby, I had time to watch the Hungarian film Kontroll. This award winner, from the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, was shot in the Budapest underground subway system. The camerawork is masterful, this film is a visual experience. Mike Russell, reviewer for the Oregonian recommended this film, and it did not disappoint. A rag-tag group of railway officers are in charge of order in the underground. All kinds of chaos ensues, and their own bodily harm is constant. Oh yeah, and they're chasing a murderer and career mischief-maker. The pace shifts, about half way through, as the plot turns to romance. It feels like a welcome break. When the action returns, it is startling and satisfying. Good stuff, great film!

By the way, I had my daughter put five bucks on Nobiz Like Showbiz at the Derby ... wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tribeca 2007 Day Five (final chapter)

The day started with breakfast at Bouley Bakery. We took a table on the sidewalk so my friend's dog could hang out with us. Got myself together and headed up to Chelsea. My choice for lunch was a funny little place called Trailer Park. From the toilet on the sidewalk next to the front door to the rolls of paper towels on the bar for napkins, this place was pretty kooky. The food was excellent and I saved the little silk flower on the toothpick that was stuck in my sandwich. My final screening was Normal Adolescent Behavior. A good film about the emotional seesaw of the teen years. When I came out of the film I had a text message from my daughter, telling me she was in the neighborhood. We met and shopped our way up 7th Avenue. She even found a hat to wear to the Kentucky Derby this weekend! We met my other daughter and her husband at 44 SW in Hell's Kitchen. Yummy Italian cuisine was enjoyed by all. After dinner we jumped in a cab and tried to catch the end of a show my daughter's friend was playing at the Cutting Room. We missed the show, but got to chat with the musicians before we headed home. It's been a great time here in the Big Apple ...... thanks TIFF!!!

Normal Adolescent Behavior

My last film at TIFF was Normal Adolescent Behavior. A creative look at a group of high school students as they deal with their relationships with each other. The director, Beth Schacter, conducted the Q&A, and gave enthusiastic answers to questions about her creative editing, music placement and casting. A good film for my film festival finale!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Gardener of Eden

In The Gardener of Eden, a young man who has little direction, becomes an unwitting hero. The more I think about this film the more I like it. Directed by Kevin Connoly (Eric on Entourage), this film looks at the lives of young men, with no direction, at a point in life when they should be getting a clue. Often violent, in ways you would not expect. Lukas Haas, Giovanni Ribisi and Erika Christensen turn in solid performances. Another Rhode Island connection, Christensen's character goes to Brown University.......

Tribeca 2007 Day Four

I'm sitting in my pajamas, watching TV, goofing around on the computer this morning, and I get a text message from my daughter. She's early for work, and do I want to go for coffee? Goodness, didn't know I could get dressed and up to Canal Street in 15 minutes!! (Granted, she got me in the lovely state of ball cap, slapdash makeup, sweatshirt and sunglasses, but hey, I made it). We had a lovely visit in a Starbucks. She went to work, I strolled back to the hotel, smiling to myself as I walked down the street that served as the location for the film I had seen the night before. Properly showered and sans ball cap, I head up to Union Square to meet a friend for lunch at the Blue Water Grille (chocloate fondue for dessert, yum!). The east village was my daughter's home her freshman year at NYU, I haven't been up there much since. I was pleased that I remembered where things were and got around easily. There was a protest going on in the park (there often is) so we stuck to the streets for our walk to the theater. The film was the Gardener of Eden. We got to the theater and the line was going in. I thought this was odd, because we were pretty early. We showed our tickets at several points along the way, and when we sat down in theater I looked at the ballot I had been given for the audience choice award. We were at the wrong film! The guy who tore my ticket looked right at it. I think the volunteers are getting tired. We collected our ticket stubs, found the right line and had a good laugh. When we came out of the film, it had begun to rain, and neither of us had an umbrella, so we crossed the street and ducked into the closest pub, the Village Pourhouse, for a beverage. When the rain let up, a quick walk through Washington Square Park brought us to my favorite restaurant in NYC, Rocco. A wonderful little Italian restaurant on Thompson Street. The food is always tasty, the service warm and homey. I've been going there for years, and it never disappoints. When we finished dinner a thunderstorm was brewing, so we dashed to the subway, said our goodbyes and I headed back to the hotel. This city really wears me out. For two nights I have tried to watch Letterman. The night he had Kirsten Dunst on (on her birthday), I fell asleep during the monologue, the night he had Toby Maguire on, I think I fell asleep as he walked out for the monologue ..... yeesh!! Haven't seen many celebrity interviews since I've been here. Though I did use Youtube to watch Ellen interview Ryan Gosling. He told this great story about his Mom at the Oscars, that involved Meryl Streep. Very cute!

Punks, Pervs and Primadonnas in DVD

In a break from Film Festival talk, there are several DVD releases worth noting today.

Alpha Dog is well worth look. Young punks in LA get into their share of trouble. Intense, well written and good performances.

Little Children spent very little time in theaters in Rhode Island, which is a shame, because this is one of the best films from 2006. Seeing Patrick Wilson in person last night, I noticed that he is as hot in person as on the screen!

Dreamgirls hits stores today, and I predict this one will fly off the shelves. Worthy of being in any film collection.

Tribeca 2007 Day Three

No screenings until later today, so I slept in. Felt great, I love being on vacation! Lunch was at The Cupping Room. Got to read my newspaper and relax. Since I had the day to myself, I decided to do a little shopping. It was pretty windy out, and as I was walking down the street, I spotted a policeman's hat in the street. I looked up, and saw a police car with one of New York's finest, looking under the car. I scooped up the hat and returned it to it's flustered owner. He said, "the wind just took it right off my head!" (he was very young, and very cute). Later, after the screening of Purple Violets, as I'm walking out of the venue, I hear "hello Miss", I turn around and see a very young, very cute policeman smiling at me. Same guy!?!!? I'll never know. I said hello and kept moving with the crowd. In another "encounter in NYC", I'm walking down the street and I see a woman talking on the phone and think, "hey I know her". It was the festival manager of the Newport Film Festival (she lives in NY), whom I have become friendly with over the years. We chatted on the sidewalk for a while, and a young man with TIFF credentials overheard me talking about The Education of Charlie Banks. He invited me to text message a review of the film to the big screens they have on the streets all over the city. Pretty cool! Dinner was at City Hall, a wonderful restaurant in Tribeca. My friend had been to a wine tasting there a few months ago and wanted to go back. The owner waited on us, and the food was outstanding. So was the company!!!