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!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Shall We Dance?

Shall We Dance? is a remake of a 1996 Japanese film of the same name. The Japanese Shall We Dance? film is excellent, and I highly recommend you watch it, as long as you can follow along with the subtitles. Japanese society is much different from American society, and the plot works better coming from that culture.

Having said that, I still appreciated Shall We Dance? released in 2004. Richard Gere is John Clark, a successful attorney who spends his days helping people write their wills, and who has a lovely family. He’s been married to his wife Beverly (Susan Sarandon) for 19 years, and all seems perfect for him out in suburbia: the beautiful house, two wonderful children, and a loving marriage.

But John feels something is lacking in his life. He notices a beautiful woman standing alone in the window of a dance school each night when he commutes home from Chicago on the train. Finally, his curiosity gets the better of him and one night he ventures into the school owned by Miss Mitzi (Anita Gillette). The woman in the window turns out to be Paulina (Jennifer Lopez), who continues to be the mysterious draw for John.

John begins ballroom dance lessons along with two other men, and watching them learn together is delightful. John also discovers that his coworker Link, brilliantly played by Stanley Tucci, is an avid ballroom dancer who keeps his passion for the art secret.

Beverly begins to be suspicious of the changes she and her daughter are seeing in John, and hires Devine (Richard Jenkins), a private detective to trail him. Devine and his classics spouting assistant Scott (Nick Cannon) discover what John is really up to. What happens next is never predictable, and the dancing is wonderful to watch.

When I first saw the film in the theatre, I didn’t like Jennifer Lopez’s performance much. Upon watching it the second time, I appreciated what she did a lot more. Her character is quite depressed when we first meet her, and she brightens up as the story progresses. She is truly an incredible dancer, and shows John and his dance partner Bobbie (Lisa Ann Walter) how to Rumba. She also dances a really great Tango with John.

Other dances they learn are the waltz, the quickstep and the Paso Doble. If you like dancing, you will like this film. It also is very thoughtful about the relationship between John and Beverly. Beverly has some outstanding insights into why people marry that she shares with Devine. It’s a great film for Valentine’s Day, and who knows, may just inspire you to dance.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Wedding Singer

My sister and her husband introduced me to The Wedding Singer. They always told me about this song in the film they really loved, Grow Old With You (they are such a romantic couple). I was confused about the film at first because it takes place in 1985, and Drew Barrymore, who plays Julia in the film, was only 10 years old then! The film was actually made in 1998, and also stars Adam Sandler as Robbie who is the wedding singer. The film is rated PG-13, and received an award at the MTV Movie Awards for Best Kiss between Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler.

There’s a lot to like about The Wedding Singer. First, it makes great fun of the 1980’s. Think back to that time, and remember Madonna, Boy George, Miami Vice, big hair, and truly horrendous bridesmaids' dresses. People were still renting out bands to play at weddings back then. It was just before DJs took over the task of providing the music at weddings. The music throughout the film is classic 1980’s, and thrown in for good measure are some great songs, some funny, and some sweet, that Adam Sandler helped compose. The music is featured on two CD's: The Wedding Singer and The Wedding Singer 2.

Robbie is engaged to be married to Linda (Angela Featherstone) when he meets Julia at a wedding where he is the entertainment and she is serving as a waitress. Linda breaks it off with Robbie at a most inopportune time, and he is crushed. Julia tries to cheer him up, and he takes on the task of helping Julia plan her wedding to Glenn (Matthew Glave) as Glenn is much too busy making money (and doing what Glenn does), to spend time on something like planning for their wedding.

Robbie and Julia become friends, and Robbie sees Glenn for who he really is, and he’s not someone he thinks should be marrying sweet Julia. You’ll have to rent the DVD to see how it all turns out. The ending features Billy Idol as himself (remember his song White Wedding ?), and is simply great.

Jon Lovitz and Steve Buscemi have small cameo roles. Adam Sandler is just great, especially during his depressed scenes when he has to sing at a wedding, and when he shares a song with Julia that was inspired by the Cure (written half when he was with Linda, and half after she dumped him). Drew is sweet and charming and plays a great romantic lead. I highly recommend The Wedding Singer for your next romantic comedy. Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore later paired in 50 First Dates. Come back for that review some other time.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

You've Got Mail

As you can see, I’ve been reviewing quite a few romantic comedies available on video or DVD. I thought that would be appropriate as Valentine’s Day is just around the corner in February.

You've Got Mail is my favorite Nora Ephron movie. It is rated PG and is a delightful romantic comedy set in New York City. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks star along with Greg Kinnear, Dabney Coleman, Steve Zahn, Heather Burns, Dave Chappelle, and Jean Stapleton.

Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) and Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) have been emailing each other anonymously after a chance meeting in a online chat room. They have avoided revealing identifying details of their lives, yet have developed a strong friendship through their correspondence.

Joe owns Fox Books, which is a large chain of bookstores, and one is being built in the West side neighborhood where Kathleen’s children’s bookstore has existed for over 40 years. Joe and Kathleen meet and do not hit it off, as Fox Books is seen as being a blight to the quaint little neighborhood, and a threat to all independent booksellers.

Meanwhile, Kathleen is getting business advice from Joe via email, neither suspecting the other’s true identity. Neither of them are in satisfactory relationships, and they agree to meet at a cafĂ©. Joe sees Kathleen waiting for him, and is faced with the realization that the woman of his dreams is Ms. Kelly. He knows she will not be happy to see him, so shows up as Joe Fox, not the man on the internet she’s been waiting to meet.

Kathleen’s bookstore eventually does have to close. While Joe is talking to his father (Dabney Coleman), he realizes that Kathleen is the one single person in the world who fills his heart with joy. So he sets out to win her over.

I appreciate the process of Joe and Kathleen realizing that the person they dislike for their many faults is also the person they are in love with for all the right reasons. The writing by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron is superb, the acting inspired. Tom Hanks plays probably his best romantic role in this film. Meg Ryan is cute and spunky as always while giving depth to Kathleen’s situation and the challenges it brings. I won’t give away the ending, but it is just how a romantic comedy should end, very touching, maybe a few tears shed. You've Got Mail is a great film to watch for Valentine’s Day.

Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain is receiving incredible buzz since it won four categories at the Golden Globes (Best Director for Ang Lee; Best Drama; Best Original Song; Best Screenplay for Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana). The film is rated R for sexuality, nudity, language and some violence.

It is 1963 when the film begins. Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) are two young cowboys sent out to Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming to tend a herd of sheep for the summer. The owner of the herd, Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid), doesn’t want the forest service to see where his sheep are grazing and gives them strict instructions on how to perform their job in this isolated area.

Ennis is a very quiet young man, but Jack eventually gains his trust, and they begin a sexual relationship one cold night. Ennis makes it clear to Jack that their relationship cannot continue beyond the summer, as he is engaged to be married to Alma (Michelle Williams).

They part at the end of the summer, and go their separate ways, Jack back to Texas, and Ennis to be married and start a family. Jack eventually marries Lureen (Anne Hathaway), the beautiful daughter of a wealthy family, and also starts a family. Jack contacts Ennis after a few years, and they begin to go on “fishing trips” together periodically up on Brokeback Mountain.

Their relationship is not without its trials. Ennis is more in love with Jack than he is with his wife, who discovers the truth the first time the two lovers tryst. Unfortunately, she does not confront Ennis with this knowledge until many years later.

Jack meanwhile cannot exist without sexual encounters with other men, and he frequents Mexico for these affairs. Ennis is jealous of this, and yet will not form any legitimate life with Jack, as he has haunting memories of the torture and murder of a gay man that holds him back from making any commitment to Jack. The cast is absolutely superb together, and I don’t doubt that we will see Academy Award nominations in several categories.

The film boasts incredible mountain scenery, and the original score by Gustavo Santaolalla fits perfectly with all we are seeing. I recommend this film, although it is not a happy film. It is sad, and sometimes disturbing, as the relationship between these star-crossed lovers is intense and sometimes violent. I predict that after you leave the theater, the film will have you talking to your friends about what you’ve just witnessed for many blocks down the street.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Sleepless in Seattle

I don’t think that Sleepless in Seattle is a great romantic comedy. I didn’t really care for it when I first saw it, and after watching it again, I still feel it is not Nora Ephron’s best screenplay. The film was released in 1993, and I remember that people really seemed to like it, but I never understood why. Ms. Ephron also wrote When Harry Met Sally, which you may recall starred Meg Ryan, who is in this film along with Tom Hanks.

Sleepless in Seattle is really about an 8-year old boy named Jonah (Ross Malinger), whose mother has died 18 months ago, and who is now ready to have a new mother in his life. However, his father Sam (Tom Hanks) is not ready for a new wife. This is the part of the film that worked, seeing the relationship between Jonah and his father as they deal with the grief over the death of their mother/wife, and the hope that Jonah gives to his father for a future with a caring woman in it for both of them.

Jonah takes control, and calls a radio talk show from his home in Seattle on Christmas Eve, and speaks to Dr. Marcia Fieldstone about their dilemma. He gets his father on the phone, and thousands of women across America are touched by their plight as evidenced by the letters that are delivered to their doorstep with offers to become their new wife and mother.

In Baltimore, Annie (Meg Ryan) hears the segment on the radio. Although she is engaged to be married to Walter (Bill Pullman), she is intrigued by what she hears. Annie becomes obsessed with this man she's only heard speak on the radio, and writes a letter to Sam that her helpful friend Becky (Rosie O’Donnell) mails without her knowing. She eventually ends up flying to Seattle and stalks him. There are some sappy scenes where Sam sees Annie in the airport, and then sees her standing in the middle of the road during her stalking him down. I just don’t buy this whole theme. It is just not real.

Annie explains why she's going to Seattle to meet Sam as her having to do it so she doesn't go through life wondering if he could have been the one. I could see this happening if she already knew him (like someone from the past from high school or college for example), but she doesn't. She's only heard him on the radio. It's the part of the movie that just doesn't work for me.

Annie flies back to the East Coast without meeting Sam. Meanwhile poor little Jonah, desperate for a new mommy, writes to Annie pretending to be Sam, telling her to meet him at the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. His friend Jessica gets him a plane ticket and Jonah flies off to New York alone to meet Annie. I was touched by Jonah’s confidence as he tells the taxi cab driver that he’s on his way to meet his new mother. Ah, the innocence and hope of a child.

Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are together in this film for probably all of five minutes. And yet people say what a wonderful film it was for them, what great chemistry they had. Are we watching the same film? They do have great chemistry together as actors, but not until You've Got Mail, a far superior romantic comedy I’ll review very soon.

Other things that just don’t work are Jonah’s little friend Jessica. She seems far older than him, can type and book plane tickets. Not believable. And the way Walter is portrayed is insulting. His only vice seems to be that he is allergic to just about everything. There has to be something more there to make us not like him, and it’s not provided. I don’t feel sorry for Walter; I feel sorry for Annie. She is delusional, goes off to stalk this man clear across the country, and we never get to see what happens after she meets up with Jonah and Sam. Her main complaint about Walter is he’s too perfect for her, they like all the same things, etc. And that’s a problem?

I did enjoy the music in the film. There were lots of great songs sung by Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Carly Simon, Louis Armstrong and others. Parts were enjoyable, but the romance part between Annie and Sam is not what it's about. As I said, it’s really about the little boy wanting a new mom after he loses his mother, and how his father reacts to this. The romance is total fantasyland, and doesn’t work. If you’re looking for a good romantic comedy, don’t rent it. Try one of the other ones I’ve reviewed recently. They are far superior to Sleepless in Seattle.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Honeymoon in Vegas

Honeymoon in Vegas was released in 1992 and is rated PG-13. It garnered two Golden Globe nominations, one for Nicholas Cage as best actor in a comedy/musical, and one for best comedy/musical that year.

Jack Singer (Nicholas Cage) is unable to marry his girlfriend Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker) because his mother on her deathbed asked him to make a promise that he would not marry. His mother, played by Anne Bancroft, told him that no one could ever love him as much as she does, and she continues to haunt his dreams.

Betsy is growing weary of Jack’s stalling, and Jack further uses his clients in his private detective agency as examples of why people shouldn’t bother to marry; they’ll just cheat on each other.

Jack senses Betsy withdrawing from him, and so suggests they fly to Las Vegas to get married. Once there, he stalls yet again. Betsy meanwhile has been spotted by the professional gambler Tommy Korman (James Caan), as she is the spitting image of his deceased wife Donna. Tommy arranges a poker game and invites Jack to play, fixing it so he loses $65,000, and then tells him that if Betsy spends the weekend with him, he’ll erase the debt.

Little does Jack know that Tommy plans to fly Betsy away to Hawaii for the weekend. They leave and a frustrated Jack returns to New York. He finally comes to his senses and jumps on a plane to Hawaii in pursuit of Betsy. That’s where the fun begins. Pat Morita is a taxi cab driver named Mahi Mahi, instructed to delay Jack as long as possible from finding Betsy. He takes Jack to a run-down shack where Chief Orman (Peter Boyle) lives. It just gets crazier and crazier from there. Betsy is succumbing to Tommy’s manipulations, as well as the charms of Kauai, and part of her is just fed up with Jack’s refusal to marry her. She eventually agrees to marry Tommy. Jack ends up in a Hawaii jail, Tommy and Betsy return to Las Vegas, and Jack has to join the Flying Elvises in order to get back to Vegas in time to stop Betsy from marrying Tommy.

The songs throughout the film are Elvis classics, and the Elvis impersonators wandering through Las Vegas are just great; all nationalities and ages take a try at being the perfect Elvis. It’s a very cute and funny comedy. Nicholas Cage is just great, as is Sarah Jessica Parker in this pre-Sex and the City role. If you just want some light entertainment that will make you smile, Honeymoon in Vegas would be a good choice.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Fools Rush In

For all you romantics out there, Fools Rush In will give you what you’re looking for. Salma Hayek plays Isabel Fuentes, and Matthew Perry plays Alex Whitman in this excellent comedy/drama/romance from 1997. Alex has come to Las Vegas for work, and one night he and Isabel have a chance meeting in a restaurant. The attraction is immediate, and they end up spending the night together.

Three months later, Isabel comes looking for Alex. He is relieved to see her, as she snuck out after their one night together without telling him where he could reach her. Isabel tells Alex that she is pregnant with his child, and will be keeping the baby. Although initially shocked, Alex decides this is what he’s always wanted, and they are married in a Las Vegas chapel, Elvis giving away the bride.

Their cultural differences create some conflict for them, but nothing is more difficult than the fact that Alex’s work is in New York City, and Isabel’s family is in Las Vegas. Their families couldn’t be more opposite. Isabel comes from a large, colorful, Hispanic Catholic family who has dinner together every Friday night, and Alex rarely even speaks to his parents.

Central to the movie is Isabel’s and Alex’s differing takes on destiny or fate. During their first conversation when they meet, Isabel tells Alex about signs, and how she believes that one’s destiny has already been decided; you just have to read the signs. Alex is skeptical of this idea. Isabel jokes about there being an explanation beyond reason, beyond all logic, that brought them both to the exact same spot that night, and later it is clear that fate brought them together. They are clearly in love and meant for each other.

The scenery in this film is extraordinary, although I admit I am partial to the soulful desert landscapes of the Southwest. I have driven over the road at Hoover Dam where Arizona and Nevada meet. The Arizona/Nevada state line that appears on the road over Hoover Dam was painted there specifically for filming. It remained there for several years, but I read that as of September 2005, it is no longer there.

Fools Rush In is rated PG-13. Ms. Hayek and Mr. Perry are wonderful in their roles, as are the actors playing their parents. Jill Clayburgh plays Alex’s mother, and Matthew Perry’s own father plays his father in the film. The film is just sweet and hopeful and will leave you with a happy feeling all over. Watch for the signs. They are everywhere.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Notting Hill

Notting Hill is a very fine romantic comedy, and a favorite of mine. The film is rated PG-13, and was released in 1999. Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts were nominated for best actor and actress in a comedy, and the film was also nominated for best comedy/musical at the Golden Globes.

Julia Roberts plays Anna Scott, who is an American film star in London on business. While out shopping one day, she stops in at a travel bookstore owned by William Thacker, played by Hugh Grant. Anna and Will are quickly attracted to one another. If Anna wasn’t a big movie star, I think the encounter would be like any other two people meeting for the first time, in the instant when they notice the spark in each other’s eyes that tells them this could be someone special.

Once the two get together however, Anna’s old boyfriend, tabloid journalism, and Anna’s temper haunt their relationship. Further complicating all the comedic as well as dramatic situations they find themselves in, is Will’s eccentric flat mate, Spike (Rhys Ifans). Like most romantic comedies, we are drawn right through to the end wondering if these two will ever get together and stay together.

Even if the device of Anna being a celebrity were removed, the film is still about true love and forgiveness. Anna delivers a great line, that if it isn’t in the American Film Institute’s best movie quotes, it should be. Anna tells Will to remember, “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” In the end, both of them need to reach for forgiveness in order to be together.

Notting Hill is very funny and touching, and I also enjoyed the British humor and language. The Golden Globe nominations were richly deserved, and Mr. Grant and Ms. Roberts are well matched as soul mates with some hurdles to overcome in order to have a life together. Good for a movie night at home.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Back to the Future

Back to the Future is every bit as fun to watch today as it was when it was first released in 1985. Marty (Michael J. Fox) is friends with Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd), an inventor who creates a time machine out of a DeLorean. Marty is accidentally sent back to 1955, where he meets his own parents when they were teenagers.

Marty’s parents Lorraine (Lea Thompson) and George (Crispin Glover) are unforgettable characters as played by these two wonderful actors. Doc warns Marty that he must not interact with anyone in 1955 as it could change the future. The warning comes too late however, and Marty has to make sure his parents get together or he and his siblings won’t exist! This is not an easy task, as Lorraine has developed a crush on Marty. Further complicating the situation is Biff (Thomas F. Wilson), a bully who terrorizes George and tries to come on to Lorraine. George lacks the confidence to ask Lorraine to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance, and Marty painstakingly coaches him to take a chance on Lorraine.

Doc meanwhile has problems to solve with the time machine, as there is no plutonium readily available back in the fifties to power his invention. Fortunately Doc is creative, his heroes being Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein.

The contrasts between 1985 and 1955 are still striking, and part of the fun of the movie. Doc doesn’t understand Marty’s slang, and people understandably find Marty strange. Science fiction was very big in the fifties, and Marty uses this to his advantage with George, pirating a bit of Darth Vader mixed with Van Halen to get him to pursue Lorraine.

I also enjoy seeing how Marty’s influence on his father has repercussions for years to come. George stands up to Biff, and doesn’t take his bullying anymore, and this changes Marty’s family in very positive ways when he finally does get back home. It reminds me how acting courageous and taking risks can change the course of one’s whole life.

Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale wrote this classic comedy, science fiction, and action/adventure that received an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay. It won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture in 1986, and an Academy Award for Best Effects/Sound Effects Editing. There were two sequels to Back to the Future, which I will review at a later date.