Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Love in the Time of Cholera

Disease and love are not always mentioned in the same breath, but Love in the Time of Cholera blends romance with struggle well. Will love win over society, family, politics, disease?? A fifty year struggle for love has heart and humor. A different slant on the classic love story, the acting and the ending made the film for me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Screen Scenes : An Introduction

When I was a kid, the only movie theater I knew about was called The Majestic Theater. I thought it was called that because movies and their venues were just that, majestic! Imagine my surprise when I learned that different theaters had different names. I have had the pleasure of seeing films in many interesting theaters over the years, and for me, they all have something special. I revel in the experience of attending movies, whether it be a Saturday matinee or a world premiere. From the locations, to the parking, to the seats, to the events, to the concessions, to the screen, to where I sit, and maybe even who sits near me *whew*. Watch for Screen Scenes in coming posts ........

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sprinkle the Spices in DVD

In DVD this week, a few tasty treats. A pie waitress suffers and triumphs over life's dilemmas in Waitress. The mysteries of the mind are explored through fantasy dream analysis is the anime Paprika. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'm Not There

I'm Not There is not a biopic. It is a collage of performances, from six different actors, that capture the essence of Bob Dylan throughout his life and career. I've never been much of a Dylan fan, though I'm familiar with his music and respect his work and fans. As a film fan, this film was a real treat for me. The composition, the concept, the tone, all made the final shot of Dylan himself very powerful. Well done.

PS... I just watched the Dylan biography No Direction Home. I'm Not There is an amazing portrait of the man ... wow! 11/28

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Mist

The Mist is the second film adapted from Stephen King material to come out this year. In this story, a group of people are trapped in a grocery store, by what is lurking in the strange mist outside. At first the tension comes from "what could it be?", which is a pretty scary thing. Then, we are shown what "it" is, which is also pretty scary. Then, the people turn on each other in fear, which is the most scary of all. Good monster movie that also shows how people can react to fear. Pretty scary.

August Rush

What could be better than Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Johnathan Rhys Meyers, Terrance Howard and Robin Williams on screen together? August Rush should be a slam dunk with these folks, but the plot of this film is so ridiculous and full of unbelievable situations, that I found this a very frustrating story. Two musicians have a child that is a musical prodigy, yet they know nothing of him for 12 years. The reunion of this family was mind boggling for me. The acting and music hold this film up, but not enough to make it make sense.

Friday, November 23, 2007


I love a healthy sense of humor, and it appears that Disney's is firmly intact. Enchanted is a tongue-in-cheek look at fairy tales, and the happily ever after. A fairy tale princess is exiled to real-life NYC to keep her away from her "one true love". Despite the evil queen who is behind this, the prince follows in rescue mode, there is singing, there is dancing. The entrances of the characters to Times Square and musical numbers in Central Park show the city in a light we don't normally see. Well presented, funny, great stunts and special effects, this film is a fun ride!

Starting Out in the Evening

Newport International Film Festival has a new executive director, welcome Louisa Percudani. She is establishing a new film series, once a month, to extend the film festival experience throughout the year. The first film of this series was Starting Out in the Evening. A thoughtful film about a writer who has had success and is struggling to finish his last novel. It explores relationships, growth and "the madness of art". The acting and writing are outstanding. Frank Langella and Lauren Ambrose master the primary characters beautifully. Lili Taylor peppers in a strong performance as well. After the film, we had the pleasure of a Q&A with the film's producer Nancy Israel. It was an interesting discussion. This film opens in limited release this weekend and should expand to more theaters over the next few weeks, catch it if you can.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Purple Violets on iTunes

I was lucky enough to be at the premiere of Purple Violets at Tribeca Film Festival this spring. The latest romantic drama from Ed Burns, is now available as a download on iTunes, an interesting distribution decision. I would hope to see this film in theaters, but worth a look in any format. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pieces of April

Certain holidays bring out seasonal film favorites. In the weeks leading up to Christmas you can watch It's a Wonderful Life almost any time, night or day. At Easter The Robe and Jesus of Nazareth tend to show up.

A few years ago I saw a wonderful film called Pieces of April , and have declared it to be my favorite Thanksgiving movie. This small, independent film stars Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, OliverPlatt and Derek Luke. April is the family black sheep, living in a small apartment in NYC. Her mother is being treated for cancer, and not strong enough to handle the holiday preparations. The family is driving from suburban New Jersey, to the city for a Thanksgiving dinner that an inexperienced April is preparing. There are two story lines. The family's road trip and April's preparations. The film goes back and forth until two stories converge. This film is funny, poignant and a little edgy. For me it really captures the emotions of family, holidays, traditions and love. This film, from Peter Hedges, is a real gift. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Music and Macho in DVD

In this holiday week there are some great films out in DVD. One of the most fun movies of the summer, Hairspray is released to DVD. The story of a young girl and her dream to dance. John McLane returns to save the world from cyber criminals in Live Free or Die Hard. Rescue Dawn is the true story of soldiers escaping from a Laotian prisoner of war camp. Harrowing stuff! Happy viewing .......

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

Certain stars lure me to films I might not normally see. My latest "movie crush" is Jason Bateman. He was the main reason I went to see Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium this afternoon. I'm glad I did. The fantastical story of a man 243 years old, with a magical toy store, Magorium decides his time on earth is over. The toy store has a life of it's own. When Magorium decides to call it quits, it throws a tantrum, his manager and heir goes into denial, his young pal Eric gets practical and his accountant (played by my man Bateman, affectionately referred to as "mutant") becomes the voice of reason. A gentle tale that deals with coping with death. A little deep, but one to keep on the DVD shelf to give a little comfort when a loved one passes away.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Motion capture, digitally animated, Beowulf is a crazy ride. With kings and monsters, body parts fly, heroes are summoned and above it all the cry goes out "I AM BEOWULF!" My favorite exchange happens twice, it goes like this:
Wiglaf: "Do I go in with you?"
Beowulf: "No"
Wiglaf: "Good"
Spanning 50 years, the story has it's ups and downs, but generally entertains. This epic is available in 3D, and it's worth it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Matt Damon *** He's Always Been Sexy

In honor of Matt Damon's hail from People Magazine as the Sexiest Man Alive 2007, I'd like to say, he's been sexy for me from day one. I'm not prone to op-ed in this space, but Matt Damon deserves a little gush. Most of us first became aware of this young man with an amazing film called Good Will Hunting. After an Oscar win, where does a young actor/writer go? Damon went to work. His filmography is impressive. I've seen a lot of his work, and just walking, he's damn sexy. I kind of like his more obscure films because you know he's just working his ass off, again, sexy (love hard working men). Do yourself a favor, see Bourne Ultimatum, enjoy! Congrats Matt, the kudos are well deserved!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Romance & Cigarettes

I love musicals. I love James Gandolfini. I never thought I would see the two together, until I saw Romance and Cigarettes. A creative film from John Turturro, it is the story of Nick Murder (Gandolfini), his indiscretions, his family, his life, his death. It is one wacky crew. Crazy to watch folks like Susan Sarandon, Steve Buscemi, Kate Winslet, Christopher Walken and Gandolfini himself burst into song and dance. This story is racy and raucous, I was highly entertained.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thieves and Third in DVD

The Ocean's series continues with Ocean's Thirteen, out in DVD this week. Danny and the gang are robbing a casino and the schemes continue. I initially said wait to rent this one, so here you go! Shrek the Third is also out in DVD. Another summer threequel I found disappointing, but this is a rental the kids will probably like.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lions for Lambs

The star power behind Lions for Lambs is impressive. Redford, Streep, Cruise, the ultimate Hollywood heavy hitters. Interesting to me that I was more affected by the words and actions of the lesser known actors' characters. Young people, either trying to make a difference, or cynical about trying. For me, this is a consciousness raising film that doesn't say anything new, but raises important issues. I think it's good to talk about and question government, war, authority, history. Get involved, try, look back, look forward, ask questions. Lots of questions, and there are no easy answers. I liked this film, it made me think.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Evil and greed do a stunning dance in No Country for Old Men. A man on a hunting outing stumbles on a drug deal gone bad. He finds bodies, busted up trucks, a pile of dope and a bigger pile of money. He takes the money and the chase begins. An impressive film from Joel and Ethan Coen that will be discussed at length. A crazy, violent story, artful cinematography, outstanding performances, a splash of humor, this is a morality tale that will go down in film history as one of the greats. Not for the squeamish or weak of heart.

The Devil Came on Horseback

I met Anne Sundberg at the Newport Film Festival this summer. A bright, successful film maker, most of my interaction was with her the on the phone, as she informed us of delays in her travel. The poor thing met canceled flights, late trains and traffic jams, but she persevered and made it to Newport with her film The Devil Came on Horseback. Out in DVD, I just finished watching this documentary about the genocide in Dafur. Seen through the eyes of Brian Steidle, a retired Marine who took a contract job in Dafur as an unarmed military observer and American representative for the African Union in that region. Stunned at what he saw there, he took photographs, spoke with officials, and when he couldn't take it any more, returned to the US and tried to help through channels here. An excellent depiction and explanation of what is going on in Dafur, politically and culturally. It is frightening and appalling. It is also frustrating to see how difficult it is to get anything done about it. Awareness is the first step, if you want more information visit the film's website here, or Save Dafur, here. I finally met Ms. Sundberg in person the last day of the film festival, I should have thanked her for making such an important film.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Fred Claus

It's rough to be the sibling of someone famous. In Fred Claus Vince Vaughn plays the older brother of Santa Claus. This is a cute film that is, at times funny, and sometimes preachy (drags in a few spots). An efficiency expert comes to the North Pole with threats of shutting Christmas down if things don't improve. Fred needs money, Santa needs help, I liked story. The special effects in this film are great, all the travel scenes are very cool, and the North Pole looks magical. A fun holiday film. (Thanks for the early screening ProFM!)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Cooking, Christmas and Crisis in DVD

There's a lot of variety in DVD this week. Ratatouille is one of my favorite films this year. A clever story and cool animation. In time for the holidays, Deck the Halls hits DVD. Two neighbors try to outdo each other with their holiday decorations. Very funny and, of course, a lesson. Speaking of lessons, Sicko is Michael Moore's latest documentary. The topic this time is health care. He travels the world comparing different systems, not all are good. Not exactly objective, but good to raise awareness.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Bee Movie

A few words about Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie:
with a touch of satire
did I mention funny?

The young crowd I saw this with, cheered at the end, I was with them! A fun ride!

American Gangster

Biopics about real life drug lords are nothing new. In American Gangster, the rise and fall of Frank Lucas is explored. Lucas approached the smuggling and dealing of heroin, in Harlem in the 70s, like a business. He went straight to the source overseas, only dealt with suppliers (no street dealers) and kept a low profile. This made him rich. A diligent and honest cop brought him down. Ridley Scott, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Josh Brolin, Denzel Washington and a great supporting cast, do a good job bringing this story to life. It's an interesting story.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

"May you be in heaven a full half hour before the devil knows you're dead."

This Irish toast is the origin of the title for Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, and sets the moral tone. Sidney Lumet masterfully sculpts this film of two brothers involved in a crime gone awry. Bit, by bit, Lumet feeds us the story, with a time-fold technique that makes you think, and pay attention to details. The brothers are flawed and ugly. Prone to bad decisions, haunted by troubled pasts. They attempt a robbery out of desperation, and it has dire circumstances. Building high emotion with lighting, camera angles and slow build scenes, this film is one hell of a ride.

Show Business:The Road to Broadway

Show Business:The Road to Broadway is a documentary following the creation and openings of 4 Broadway shows in the 2003-04 season. Avenue Q, Wicked, Caroline or Change and Taboo, all Tony nominees that year. Theater gives me chills. I am the consummate audience, I think a theater ticket is well worth the dollars spent, especially on the Great White Way. This behind the scenes look at the writers, composers and actors was such a treat for me. The passion and talent of these people is overwhelming, I teared up more than once. The first show I ever saw on Broadway was The Wiz, in 1977. What an intro! First row, first balcony, I was in awe for three hours. Since then, this country girl has made it to the Big Apple to see A Chorus Line, Chicago, Rent, The Boy from Oz, Mary Poppins, 42nd Street, Sweet Charity, Avenue Q, Noises Off, Beauty and the Beast, Pacific Overtures, the King and I, Movin' Out and Hairspray. Every experience was amazing! By the way, the Tony for Best Musical that year went to Avenue Q and having seen it this summer, I concur!