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!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Governor's Cup Short Screenplay Competition

I entered the above screenplay competition with my 10-page screenplay, A Candle for Spirit Bear. To my delight, it was selected as one of the 12 finalists in the competition out of 433 entries.

It was not selected to be one of the four short screenplays to be filmed, but better luck next time. It was a wonderful learning experience for me and a great honor to be selected as a finalist.

The New Mexico Film Office has a website you may be interested in which I added under my links on the left. It lists films currently in production in New Mexico and all about opportunities in the state to work in the film industry.

I will be away from my computer for about 12 days, and will get back to you with some new reviews once I return. Have a good Memorial Day weekend my faithful readers!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams is based on the novel Shoeless Joe
Shoeless Joe
by W. P. Kinsella. When I first heard of this film, I wondered if I’d like a movie about baseball and father/son relationships that takes place largely in a cornfield in Iowa. It is now one of my favorite films, and the perfect DVD to buy your Dad for Father’s Day.

Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is an average guy with a wife Annie (Amy Madigan) and a daughter Karen (Gaby Hoffman). His life has been uneventful until one day he hears a voice: “If you build it, he will come.” Ray deciphers this to mean that he should build a baseball field. Annie supports this vision of his, and Ray plows under a good portion of his crop of corn in order to build it. And they wait to see who will come.

Eventually, a ghostly figure appears on the field. It is Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta), and a short while later several of the Chicago White Sox show up for practice. But that is not the end of it. Ray hears another message that sets him off on a cross-country journey to Boston to seek out a reclusive writer and former activist from the 1960’s, Terence Mann (James Earl Jones).

That’s all the plot you really need. Sit back and enjoy as Ray’s magical journey unfolds. This is the most appealing and engaging Kevin Costner has ever been in a film. His Ray is truly the "everyman" here that he embodies so well. Amy Madigan plays Ray’s wife Annie just right: a spunky, opinionated woman who is loyal to her husband and encourages his dreams. For me, that is the best part of the film; watching Ray and Annie sort out what the voice is trying to tell them, and then taking the action to create a little bit of heaven on earth. The appearance of James Earl Jones as the writer Terence Mann is a bit of casting genius. His sonorous voice convinces Ray and us that keeping the field, even though others think it’s crazy, is the right thing to do. It’s really a message about how we must keep building our dreams.

Phil Alden Robinson, who also directed the film, wrote the screenplay. The film and the screenplay were nominated for Academy Awards, but lost to Driving Miss Daisy that year. The music is perfect for the action. This was Burt Lancaster’s last film, and his playing Archibald “Moonlight” Graham (an actual person that Mr. Robinson found in a baseball encyclopedia) seems a fitting way to leave us.

It is a tribute to the film that the baseball field created for the movie in Dyersville, Iowa still draws hundreds of tourists a year who go there hoping to touch a bit of the magic they felt from seeing Field of Dreams. And if you’d like some help creating your own little bit of heaven on earth, get Building Your Field Of Dreams
Building Your Field Of Dreams
by Mary Manin Morrissey. The book is well written, easy and interesting to read, and I believe it can be useful no matter what your spiritual beliefs.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Good Will Hunting

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote the screenplay Good Will Hunting from a short story Matt had written in college. Their story of writing the screenplay and nurturing it along until it got filmed the way they envisioned is inspirational to any aspiring screenwriter. But here, I’m going to tell you about the film, which is a masterpiece. Gus Van Sant directed the fine cast, which included the two young screenwriters/actors as well as Robin Williams in the important role of Sean, Will’s therapist. The drama is rated R for strong language, including some sex-related dialogue.

Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a troubled young man, an orphan who suffered abuse at the hands of a succession of foster parents. He lives in an impoverished neighborhood in Boston, where he hangs out with his loyal working class buddies, including his best friend Chuckie (Ben Affleck). Will is also a mathematical genius, but chooses to work as a janitor. His janitorial position just happens to be at MIT, where he surreptitiously completes math problems left on the blackboards for advanced students.

Professor Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard) tracks down the mysterious Will, and decides to try and help him. He strikes an agreement with Will’s parole officer to keep him out of jail. They will meet weekly for math instruction, and a therapist will provide weekly therapy sessions for Will.

Will scoffs at the idea of therapy, no doubt having suffered through many inadequate counseling sessions in the past. But the professor enlists the help of an old college roommate of his, Sean, who teaches psychology at a community college. Sean is quickly intrigued by Will and the challenge, and agrees to provide the therapy.

This film amazes me every time I watch it because of the way the therapy is portrayed. There is little I can complain about other than one moment when Sean becomes angry with Will and pushes him up against a wall. Other than that, Sean is depicted as an ethical and competent therapist, which we don’t often encounter in the movies.

One night when Will and his buddies go to a Harvard hangout, he meets Skylar (Minnie Driver), a pre-med student from England. She is charmed by his wit, and gives him her phone number. They begin to date, but Will can only allow Skylar to see little bits of himself, fearing that if he reveals who he really is, she will leave him.

Sean helps Will with his intimacy issues, and it is a beautiful thing to watch. At the Academy Awards, Robin Williams won Best Supporting Actor, and Matt Damon was nominated for Best Actor. Damon and Affleck famously won Best Original Screenplay, and it launched them into their successful acting careers. The nominations and awards that were given to Good Will Hunting are far too long to list here. If I didn’t know who the screenwriters were, I would have guessed them to be far older than they were when this was written (they were in their twenties). The dialogue is clever and wise, and the decisions Will makes about his life, important decisions about friends, career, and love, are depicted realistically. This is one of my favorite movies, and I hope that someday, Damon and Affleck will write again.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Blast from the Past

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’ll be reviewing some of my Mom’s favorite movies. The first is Blast from the Past. This romantic comedy rated PG-13 has as its backdrop a unique story. Calvin and Helen Webber (Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek) are an affluent couple living in Los Angeles in 1962. For those of you not old enough to remember that era, that was the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the nation was gripped by fear of nuclear war. At that time people thought a direct nuclear attack could be survived, if they were safe beneath the earth in their own personal fallout shelter.

Mr. Webber is a brilliant scientist (and eccentric) who had a fallout shelter built underneath their 1960’s home and equipped it with enough supplies for his family to survive for three-plus decades. The worst happens, or so the Webbers think, and they seal themselves into the shelter which protects them from the radiation. In reality, a plane has crashed into their home.

Mrs. Webber is pregnant and soon has her baby, whom they appropriately name Adam. Thirty-five years later (the half-life of radioactive fallout), the locks on the shelter spring open. Mr. Webber’s first glimpses of Los Angeles in the ‘90s convince him that there really was a nuclear disaster, and the stress causes him to fall ill. Adam (Brendan Fraser) must now be the brave soul who exits the shelter to get food and supplies.

Although Adam is well schooled, he of course hasn’t seen the world face-to-face. His joy and wonder at discovering the things we all take for granted most of the time is at turns humorous and poignant. Adam also wants to find a girl while he’s out and about (remember he’s 35 years old and has never seen other humans besides his parents). The film becomes a great romantic comedy between Adam and Eve (Alicia Silverstone), who meet soon after he surfaces. Adam employs Eve to help him get the supplies his family needs, and she slowly falls for him.

There are so many great laughs in this film. Sissy Spacek should have been nominated for some acting awards for her performance as Mrs. Webber. If you’re an actor wanting to see how good comedy is done, watch her as this 1960’s housewife trapped with only her husband and son for 35 years beneath the earth. Ms. Spacek gives Mrs. Webber such personality, and she is so much fun to watch. Brendan Fraser is wonderful as the grown man experiencing the world for the first time, and I think this is my favorite performance of his. I first grew to like Alicia Silverstone in her Clueless role, and her Eve here is just the right woman for Adam. Christopher Walken is, as usual, brilliant.

My Mom is 88 years old and loves this film. And so do I. Blast from the Past would make a great Mother’s day gift, and a fun movie to watch together.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Groundhog Day

February 2nd is Groundhog Day, but don’t wait till then to see this delightful comedy that is another film on my favorites list. Bill Murray is Phil Connors, a TV weatherman in Pittsburgh assigned for yet another year to cover Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, PA (actually filmed at the quaint village square in Woodstock, Illinois, which is just over the border from Wisconsin northwest of Chicago). Accompanying Phil are the newly hired producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), and the cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott). They arrive the night before the event to get up bright and early to film the segment for the news. Phil is a man who is full of himself and not liked by many people. He is attracted to Rita, but has no clue how to romance her, much less even make her like him. Rita is all sweetness and light as expertly created by Andie MacDowell.

After the shoot, Phil can’t wait to get out of Punxsutawney, but a blizzard he didn’t predict keeps him in his bed and breakfast for another night. Mysteriously and magically, Phil awakens the following morning to February 2nd, not February 3rd. Phil is confused, and fails to make sense of this strange déjà vu like experience, but then it happens again the next day. And the next. And the next. And the next.

Bill Murray’s performance in Lost in Translation received a lot of press, and that is a flawed film which I can review some other time. However, Groundhog Day, released 11 years earlier, gave Bill Murray a much better role in which to express himself, and to show what a fine actor he really is. It is his best film role. He does a wonderful job of portraying Phil as he struggles to come to terms with whatever weird time warp he has stumbled into which causes him to always awaken on February 2nd there at the bed and breakfast in Punxsutawney. I have read some compare Bill’s performance to that of Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life, and I shamelessly admit that I prefer Groundhog Day. Sorry Jimmy.

Phil’s predicament is the beauty of the film which was flawlessly written by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis, and who should be credited with creating a classic screenplay for all time. When Phil realizes that tomorrow never arrives, he has big choices about how to spend his day. Will he indulge himself in the pursuit of pleasure, go crazy from the monotony and repetition, or make every day count in a unique and special way?

See for yourself. Harold Ramis directed this wonderful film, which is rated PG. I unconditionally recommend this movie. Not only will it make you laugh, it will have you looking at today in a whole new way.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Film ratings

I am adding a link to my blog for film ratings (see links on the left). It has a section on Questions & Answers: Everything You Always Wanted To Know About The Movie Rating System. There are informative explanations of what the five ratings mean and how they are determined. Check it out sometime.