Welcome to my website!
Have you ever wondered why some critics review films? They don't even seem to like movies that much from what they write. I LOVE movies, and think about them long after the last credits roll across the screen. My reviews are meant to inform, entertain and never have a spoiler.
Enjoy my reviews and please comment and come back frequently! Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Candle for Spirit Bear

Yesterday I attempted to log in to post on my blog and my blog was lost! A couple of friends of mine also couldn't locate my blog. I am grateful it all seems to be working today. I don't think I'd have the time otherwise to figure out how to get it back.

You see I've been working on a 12-minute short screenplay to enter into the Duke City Shootout, a digital film fest happening here in Albuquerque in July. The title of my screenplay is A Candle for Spirit Bear. I am putting the polishing touches on it and once in the mail, will resume posting movie reviews.

Has anyone seen a good movie recently they would like to report on?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

A Movie for Every Mood

It is my intention to create A Movie for Every Mood website that will be a permanent place for full-length movie reviews. I would like to hear from my readers as to what categories of movies they would like to see reviewed on my website.

Here are a few of my own to start with:

Movies for when you want to believe in romance again.

Movies for white knuckling, heart-pounding action.

Movies that give you another cultural viewpoint (foreign films).

Movies when you want a good laugh.

Movies for when you want a good cry.

Movies about alternative lifestyles.

Movies to illuminate eras of history.

Movies that have won Academy Awards.

Movies that were nominated and should have won Academy Awards.

Hope that gives you something to get you thinking about what you'd like to see on my website.

As always, click on the comment button, and feel free to leave your message as a fellow blogger, anonymously, or as other.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Ocean's Eleven

Steven Soderbergh, well known for his Academy Award winning directorial work in the film Traffic, as well as in such innovative films as sex, lies and videotape, the George Clooney/Jennifer Lopez sizzler Out of Sight, and the popular Erin Brockovich has decided to apply his skills to a remake of "The Rat Pack’s” Ocean's Eleven. It has been a very long time since I saw the original film, Ocean's 11 that starred Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Peter Lawford, as well as Angie Dickenson in the sole female role, and I looked forward to seeing how a casino heist would fare in the modern day world of computers and elaborate security systems. Soderbergh came through yet again.

With an all-star cast including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, and Matt Damon among others, this film is a visual feast. Present day Las Vegas is stunning, Clooney as Johnny Ocean captivating, dressed in an elegant tuxedo it seems for most of the film, and Julia Roberts lives up to the woman Ocean risks it all for in order to win her back from her boyfriend the casino owner, played by Andy Garcia.

There were enough surprises to keep my interest and I did hope these eleven unlikely partners would pull off their elaborate scheme to rob not just one casino, but three in the same night. The actors were very well cast, and the film is funny, suspenseful and simply great entertainment. It was wise that the audience is not let in on all the details of the coming casino heist, so that we could be almost as surprised as Garcia’s character is when he discovers what is happening to him and his money.

Casey Affleck does very well in his role of the young and seemingly not very bright brother of another of the eleven, and their antics together are hilarious. I’d like to see Casey just once do something other than this type of character, and look forward to the day when someone casts him in a role that is a bit more challenging.

Ocean's Eleven is a must see. I'll rent Ocean's Twelve soon and let you know how I liked it.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Shipping News

The Shipping News is about a family coming to terms with its ancestry and healing from hurts inflicted long ago at the hands of one man, who is both Quoyle’s (Kevin Spacey’s) father and the half-brother of Kevin’s older aunt, played by Judi Dench.

Quoyle is introduced as an oft-abused boy who grows up to work as an ink setter in the newspaper industry. He is a mild man with low self-esteem and low self-confidence, but whom his future mate Petal, played by Cate Blanchett, takes a liking to. The result is their daughter Bunny. After a tragic end for Petal, when Quoyle’s aunt shows up after his father’s death, the three head for their ancestral home in Newfoundland, and enter a new life.

Quoyle only knows the newspaper world, and when he seeks employment at the local newspaper he is assigned a writing job as the editor of the shipping news. His self confidence grows as his self-expression flowers, and the family deals with metaphorical and literal ghosts from their past as Quoyle learns the sordid history of his family from the gossipy mouths of the villagers, and as his aunt is forced to share the family secrets with him.

Quoyle meets a lovely woman with a hidden past of her own, played by Julianne Moore. She is the only actor who seems cast out of place, much too pretty and refined for such a rugged setting. The film is directed by Lasse Hallstrom of The Cider House Rules fame, and under his skillful direction, the film is a healing journey unfolding before our eyes. The house the three move to seems to have a personality of its own, at once sinister and foreboding. The stark landscape and weather of the seaside village penetrates to the bone; it is portrayed as so cold and damp, you can feel it in your seat.

This is a fine film to watch if you want an intelligent study of a family healing from the tragedies of the past and moving onward to a healthier life for themselves. One by one, the doors are opened, viewed, and shut forever by these participants in life, seeking answers to the age old questions of, “Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?” Satisfying from beginning to end, with thankfully, a few moments of humor (the references to seal flipper pie are quite amusing). Because after all, life is not just about work and duty, but also about how we can laugh in spite of what comes our way, often unbidden. This film is a drama, with elements of suspense. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Horse Whisperer

The Horse Whisperer is a movie by Robert Redford. He stars in the movie and his stamp is in every scene. A long movie of 2 hours and 51 minutes, it seems he is deliberately slowing us down, having us move at a quieter pace, a slower pace. From this movie you can tell how much Redford loves the land. He took the time to show the beautiful patchwork fields of the Midwest through aerial shots. He showed the winding curve of roads up mountain passes, and he showed the beautiful mountains of beloved Montana. Small details, such as bales of hay being newly formed, the community farm gatherings for music and dance, were frequent.

Initially, the movie did a good job of establishing a sense of foreboding when Grace, the young girl in the movie, experiences a horrendous accident while riding horses with her best friend on a winter morning. It is truly one of the most horrendous and gut-wrenching accidents I have seen in a film.

Her mother Annie (Kristen Scott-Thomas) is a workaholic and distant from her husband, who clearly loves Annie and his daughter and wants the best for them. Annie is headstrong and won’t take no for an answer. She is very controlling and demanding. When Tom (Robert Redford), who has a knack with problem horses, refuses to visit her to look at Grace’s horse Pilgrim, she takes matters into her own hands and drives across the country with Grace and the horse, in an attempt to heal both of them and herself in the process. They leave the dad behind and arrive at the ranch. Tom is quickly intrigued with Pilgrim and agrees to work with them.

Tom’s virtue is patience. In fact the whole film seems to be an ode to patience. He waits an entire day to have the horse approach him. The horse seems to be suffering from posttraumatic stress from the accident, and Grace is clearly depressed and sad. Grace generally is convincing, although there is one scene with her mother, which is supposed to be a cathartic joining for them, which is not convincing whatsoever. Annie of course falls in love with Tom; Tom falls in love with her. This is also not convincing. Aside from Annie being pretty and perhaps Tom’s willingness to look through the guarded and defensive woman to find her scared little girl inside, I can’t see any other reasons for him to fall in love with her. And Annie, unable to love the man who loves her so deeply, finds escape in infatuation with Tom. Their love is never really consummated except in an exquisite dance floor meeting, done slowly in close up, a dance so filled with sexual tension that I’m surprised Annie’s husband never noticed it passed between them.

The movie is entertaining, not in an action-packed sense, but in the sense that you wonder: How is this horse going to heal? How is Grace going to heal from this tragedy? And more importantly, will anything break through Annie’s tough exterior?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Sleeping with the Enemy

Laura (Julia Roberts) seems to have it all. A darkly handsome husband (Patrick Bergin), a beautiful ocean front home on the beach, leisure time. Her secret is her husband Martin’s ruthless control over her. Laura walks on eggshells around Martin, who says they will be together forever. His domination of her extends even to the compulsive way he expects her to have the household arranged, towels straight, cupboards in order.

Martin loses Laura in a tragic boating accident because she doesn’t swim. But the audience is let in on her “rescue” before Martin even becomes aware of it. A strong heroic woman has been hiding within her, and Laura has been planning her escape for some time. She secretly learned to swim to save herself, both literally and metaphorically.

When Ben (Kevin Anderson), her next-door neighbor in her new life attempts to befriend her, she at first pushes him away. But her capacity to love and be loved wins over and she begins to allow him into her life.

Meanwhile, Martin is able to pull strands of Laura’s life together and believes she is alive. He sets out to hunt her down, the ultimate creepy figure who will stop at nothing to have her. Martin is the type of man who would scream before he kills his woman and then turns the gun on himself, “If I can’t have her, then no one can.”

All three lead characters’ performances are superb. Ben is fun loving, patient and warm as Laura tentatively starts to open up to him and take risks. Julia Roberts as Laura, shakes with her hands on the gun as if it were really her that the dark man who was her husband was stalking. Martin is sinister and foreboding.

The story had to move along to tell the truth about battered women and how they struggle to be set free from their abusive men, but the story line of Laura’s mother’s blindness is too convenient and contrived. Even so, we cheer for Laura and Ben at the end, just as we cowered in our seats knowing Martin was getting closer to finding Laura again.

Sleeping with the Enemy is a thriller with a message. Don’t miss it.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Mask of Zorro

This is from a movie review penned at the time it was first in the theaters.

I vaguely remember seeing Zorro, masked hero on black horse, ripping Z's into surfaces with a shiny silver sword on the tiny screen of our television. I like the idea of heroes. Men or women who will take a stand and risk their lives for a good cause.

The hero Zorro has come to the big screen and filled it with tearing, flaming Z's in Dolby digital sound. The teeming masses, acts of bravery, sword fights, and romance abound.

The story is clever. Zorro (Anthony Hopkins) loses his family when he is thrown in prison for 20 years, and a deceitful power hungry man comes to rule in the part of Mexico called California. Zorro manages to escape and through an act of synchronicity, meets a young man ready to be a pupil to the master. The young man, played by Antonio Banderas, has women across America swooning over his dark good looks and flirtacious ways with the villain's adopted daughter (Catherine Zeta-Jones).

The crisis is a scheme by the evil one to make millions from a gold mine, powered by slaves. The two Zorros are of course clever and after many sword fights, and a few humorous encounters, they save the masses from this toil that robs them of their spirit and autonomy.

I've not given away too much I think, as do you really expect to go to a Zorro movie and not have the good guys win? We like heroes because we need them. It is our human nature to expect a man (or woman) so adept and courageous that their actions will change our evil, greedy world, whether it be a Zorro, Lone Ranger, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Malcolm X. What we need to remember is that in order to free ourselves from the slavery of the day-to-day modern world, we must become our own heroes, each of us breaking out of the chains society expects us to wear.

The Mask of Zorro is enjoyable, despite several scenes of violence. Hopkins is wonderful, Banderas adequate to the role, and Zeta-Jones extraordinarily beautiful and high-spirited. A great fun movie. Bring popcorn.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Royal Tenenbaums

Marianne suggested I post some of my full-length movie reviews for your reading pleasure. I will begin with some older films that you can easily find on video or DVD if you are interested.

The Royal Tenenbaums
As I settled in to watch this black comedy, I was instantly delighted and reminded of another Wes Anderson movie, Rushmore. I was not disappointed, as the film lived up to its predecessor and then surpassed it. There are not many movies today that have left me with such a great feeling and grinning from ear to ear as I exited the theater, enchanted with its originality, inventiveness and the sheer pleasure of viewing it.

The Tenenbaum family is played by a host of very capable actors, including Gene Hackman as the aging patriarch of the family, Angelica Huston as his estranged wife Etheline, and Ben Stiller, Gweneth Paltrow and Luke Wilson as their three adult progeny. Owen Wilson, who also wrote the screenplay with Wes Anderson, plays their best friend dating from their childhood, and Bill Murray is Margot’s (Gweneth Paltrow) long-suffering husband. Danny Glover is Etheline’s accountant and suitor and all do an incredible job of staying in their quirky roles no matter what the other character is presently doing.

The story is one of a family healing and coming to terms with their past and the inevitable secrets and not so secret happenings within the walls of the ancestral home. Royal Tenenbaum, faced with a financial crisis and some revelation that perhaps he would do well to reconcile with his family before he passes on, sets about reunifying them all under one roof. The strong personalities within this family of geniuses leave no quiet or ordinary moments, nor is it filmed that way. Everything about this movie is so creative, from the way the film is narrated and the story progressing as through the chapters of a book, to the inventive sets, where even the paintings on the walls are amusing and yet somehow believable for these characters.

The ending is so tender, we’re caught off guard after having been allowed to peer into the private lives of this dysfunctional and brilliant family. May all families have such a healing before it is too late, and may you get out to enjoy this film. I predict you will see it more than once for the sheer delight it brings. See it once in the theater and once when it comes out on video. We should celebrate the creativity in this film, as well as the resiliency of the family, and the Tenebaums in their quirkiness are just “off” enough to make you think later about how it is our families have such bonds. After all, one could argue it is our siblings, those brothers and sisters whom we fought with, played with, slept with, ate with, stood in line for the bathroom with, are the ones who ultimately know us the best and are the ones who will always be there, through each of our marriages and divorces, successes and failures, and the Tenenbaums remind us of that in a most delightful and entertaining way.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Dinner and a Movie Revisited

Thanks for the comment/compliment Marianne! I would enjoy hosting a Dinner and a Movie type show, and I like your idea about viewers inviting friends over for dinner and to watch a movie on TV each week. If I were doing it though, I would suggest a menu for the following week's movie on each show. That would give people some time to prepare for the dinner. And I would only host on a network that didn't edit the films to pieces; only original, uncut versions of films allowed! Perhaps, someday.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Joe Bob Briggs

Lulu responded to my query about the Dinner and a Movie phenomenon with a comment about: "that guy who used to rate movies by numbers of killings, car crashes, sex scenes, etc. He was funny. And he always played specific type movies."

I remember who that was. It was Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater hosted by Joe Bob Briggs. The show was really funny. He would review the B-movies and have guests on for interviews, such as Linda Blair (famed for her work in The Exorcist).

I agree, Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater worked where Dinner and a Movie does not. And I discovered that Joe Bob is still around via his Internet website which is most interesting. So if any of you remember him and want to check it out, it is www.joebobbriggs.com Just be prepared for outrageousness.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Upside of Anger

The Upside of Anger is a thoughtful film starring Joan Allen and Kevin Costner. It is about Terry (Joan Allen) whose husband has inexplicably left her and her four daughters, who are of high school and college age. Kevin plays the neighbor Denny, a former baseball player now DJ, who becomes Terry's drinking buddy and more.

I thought the film began a bit slowly and seemed flat, but it grew on me. I won't give away the ending, but it pulled everything together and made me think about how our minds think up explanations for events that happen in our lives, and how those explanations do not always mirror the truth.

I recommend this film which is rated R. Kevin and Joan have chemistry together and are fun to watch, and the four actresses who are Terry's daughters (two you may have seen in other films or on TV are Erika Christensen and Keri Russell) are believable as well. I saw this film yesterday in the theater, but it seems to be ending its run so you may have to wait for video/DVD.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Dinner and a Movie

It used to mean going out to dinner and to a movie afterwards. Now Dinner and a Movie is sitting at home watching a movie broken up by not just commercials, but by two commentators/comics and a chef cooking up food to match the "theme" of the movie.

Why would people watch this? The movies on commerical television are cut to pieces already as they are edited for TV and no longer in the form the writers and director intended for the story. Does anyone really cook the foods they throw together? Do you think the jokes are really funny?

Tell me what you think of this phenomenon please.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Saving Grace

I've been thinking about gardening a lot lately, as my back yard is soon to be terraced and planted to create a lush, yet xeriscaped vista for me. I started to wonder what films featured gardeners or gardening in them, and remembered a very good British comedy, Saving Grace. It's about five years old, and I'm sure is available on videotape.

The film stars Brenda Blethyn as Grace, a middle-aged woman facing financial difficulties, who decides to cultivate a bumper crop of a certain illegal herb. Brenda Blethyn is just great in this comic movie, as she was in her previous films, Little Voice and Secrets & Lies.

Needless to say, I won't be planting anything Grace grew, but I wouldn't mind renting all three of Brenda's films I mentioned for a triple feature of the talent Brenda brings to the screen.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Theater versus your Living Room

Marianne asked about which is better: movies seen in the theater or at home? Some say that with the advent of home theater systems, complete with big screens, comfy theater-like seats, and even your own private popcorn maker, going to the movie theater will be a thing of the past. I would hate to see that happen.

Movies like Star Wars, Dances with Wolves, and Master and Commander - The Far Side of the World, are best seen on the big screen. In those films the universe, the South Dakota prairie, and the vast Atlantic and Pacific oceans are as much a part of the movie and as alive as the people in them. I like to be blown away by the incredible scenery or the imagination of the movie-makers when I see these in the theater.

More character driven movies, You Can Count On Me, Shall We Dance? (I prefer the original Japanese versionShall We Dance?, and Calendar Girls, can wait for the small screen of your TV set. Yes, the sets are wonderful, but the main focus of these movies is on the relationships between the characters, so the more intimate setting of your living room is enough for these movies.

Another way to look at which films to see in the theater versus at home is the quality of the sound (unless you have a dolby digital surround-sound system in your home theater room!) Musicals such as Lagaan: Once Upon A Time In India and Chicago benefit from hearing and seeing them in a theater.

And lastly, if you don't like to cry during movies when you're in public, leave tear jerkers for the privacy of your own home. Put on Finding Neverland, The Last Samurai, or The Pianist and have a good cleansing cry. Thanks for asking, Marianne!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Sleeper movies

Lulu wanted to know what I thought were good sleeper movies. Her definition of a sleeper movie is a film that didn't get noticed at the box office, but is really good anyway, perhaps being noticed once it came out on video and has a word-of-mouth reputation for being really good.

I think many comedies fit in that category because traditionally, comedies are not given as much attention by critics, or the Academy Awards for that matter. A comedy sleeper I love is Nothing To Lose. It stars Martin Lawrence and Tim Robbins. Tim's character is not having a good day, and when Martin's character decides to rob him, the fun begins. The two are inseparable for the rest of the film, influencing each other and getting into silly situations. It's a definite laugh-out loud movie.

Then there's Election, which is one of Michael Moore's favorite movies. Starring Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick, a high school election mirrors American politics in this hilarious R-rated film. Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor wrote the screenplay. You may recall they also wrote the screenplay for the film Sideways. Give them all a view. You won't fall asleep during these.