Tuesday, December 22, 2009

“The Gift”

Even if Annie Wilson (Cate Blachett) didn’t have her gift of clairvoyance, “The Gift” would still be a pretty good suspense thriller. But that added dose of the supernatural gives the movie a jolt that director Sam Raimi uses to blur the lines between Annie’s visions and reality to keep you guessing. The plot of “The Gift” revolves around the disappearance of Jessica King (Katie Holmes), a woman engaged to a local school principal (Greg Kinnear) while sleeping with virtually every other man in town. After coming up dry, the police reluctantly turn to Annie. She leads them to Jessica’s body on the property of Donnie Barksdale (a menacing Keanu Reeves), the abusive husband of one of her clients (Hilary Swank). The resulting court case seems to satisfy everyone – except Annie. She’s haunted by visions that lead her to believe she’s helped convict an innocent man. And when she tries to set things right, that’s when everything starts to go wrong. “The Gift” is thoroughly enjoyable, with a top-notch cast and a surprise ending that defies prediction. It’s definitely worth a look. My tweet (influenced by recent tabloid headlines): The Gift-When Katie Holmes disappears, clairvoyant Cate Blanchett knows it’s not because she’s trying to get away from Tom Cruise. 7.5 (out of 10)

“The Gift”

Released: 2000

Rating: R

Length: 110 minutes

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves, Greg Kinnear

Director: Sam Raimi

Genre(s): Drama, Thriller, Mystery

Friday, December 18, 2009

“Grizzly Man”

For 13 summers, Timothy Treadwell lived with the grizzly bears in a remote area of Alaska. Although he believed himself to be a protector of the bears, many people thought he was a nut. In “Grizzly Man,” Werner Herzog pieces together Treadwell’s story from video footage shot by Treadwell himself and interviews with the people who knew him. While the interviews and Herzog’s narration serve to provide context and chronology, it’s Treadwell’s footage that makes “Grizzly Man” so compelling. With his Prince Valiant haircut and Mr. Rogers’ speaking manner, he’s is quite a character. The remarkable thing is that bears have become so accustomed to Treadwell’s presence that he’s largely ignored. Likewise, he’s become so accustomed to the bears (maybe too much) that he’s fearless in his interactions with them. This is not the kind of stuff you see in National Geographic specials – from some unmanned close-up camera or shot from a safe distance. Treadwell gets up close and personal with 1,000-pound beasts that could maul or kill him in an instant. Which, unfortunately, is how it all ends. But even when you know that going in, this story/character study a well-meaning but misguided man is no less surprising. My tweet: Grizzly Man-Werner Herzog's fascinating documentary about a man who lives with bears in the wild until they have a “falling out.” 7 (out of 10)

“Grizzly Man”

Released: 2005

Rating: R

Length: 100 minutes

Cast: Timothy Treadwell, Werner Herzog, Amie Huguenard, Warren Queeney

Director: Werner Herzog

Genre(s): Documentary, Nature

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

“Stranger than Fiction”

Let me first say that I like Will Ferrell. You might even consider me a fan. “Blades of Glory,” great. “Talladega Nights,” terrific. “Elf,” a delight. But “Stranger than Fiction,” just okay. The difference? As Howard Crick, the main character in “Stranger than Fiction,” Ferrell’s essentially playing himself. And sorry, but he’s not that interesting an actor. It makes me wonder if he can carry a movie when not in character or doing broad comedy. If you don’t agree, rent “Melinda, Melinda.” It’s painful to watch Ferrell do his Woody Allen impersonation. Or look at the dismal box office for “Land of the Lost.” The other thing about “Stranger than Fiction” is that I liked the idea more than the movie itself. It's a pretty standard story about "living like you were dying" but with a high concept twist. I can just imagine the pitch: “The main character realizes he’s the character in the book, a la ‘The Truman Show.’” And “Stranger” tries to get all metaphysical like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Being John Malkovich” but lacks their wit, charm and inventiveness. So while watching "Stranger" I couldn’t keep from thinking about those other movies and wondering how much better this one could have been. Which earned it this tweet: Stranger than Fiction-This Spike Jonze/Charlie Kaufman-esque movie suffers from not being attached to Spike Jonze or Charlie Kaufman. 6.5 (out of 10)

“Stranger than Fiction”

Released: 2006

Rating: PG-13

Length: 113 minutes

Cast: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman

Director: Marc Forster

Genre(s): Comedy, Fantasy

Thursday, December 10, 2009

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (1966)

I know this isn’t a movie. But it is available on Netflix, so it’s worth a word. I have to admit, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is my must-see Christmas cartoon. Chuck Jones of Warner Brothers/Bugs Bunny/“What’s Opera, Doc?” fame lends his hand at bringing Dr. Seuss’s story about the fall and rise of the green grouch to life. And frankly, this animated TV show manages to pack more entertainment into a half hour than Ron Howard and Jim Carrey had in their bloated, live-action version. Partly because the story hews closely to the book – the only major addition are the musical numbers (including, “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch,” sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, a.k.a. Tony the Tiger in the Frosted Flakes commercials) – and Boris Karloff’s pitch-perfect narration. Seuss manages to teach a Dickens-worthy lesson about the spirit of Christmas without being preachy or syrupy, while Jones manages to add his special touch without getting in the way. The result of their collaboration is a cure for even the biggest holiday grump. My tweet: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)-Dr Seuss & Chuck Jones believe even hardened cynics can be redeemed. Dick Cheney, are you watching? 10 (out of 10) Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my hands on a trailer or promo for the show, so here is one of my favorite scenes:

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Other holiday movies worth watching: “A Christmas Story” and “Elf”

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

Released: 1966

Rating: NR

Length: 26 minutes

Cast: Boris Karloff, Thurl Ravenscroft, June Foray

Director: Chuck Jones

Genre(s): Children's Fantasy, Fantasy Comedy, Holiday



Tuesday, December 8, 2009

“Doubt”

Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) doesn’t like Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman). She’s an old battleaxe of a nun – all rules and regulations. He is young, charismatic and part of the new, more open church. It’s this dislike that turns into distrust and fuels the accusation at the center of “Doubt.” When Sister Aloysius voices her concern “about matters at Saint Nicholas School” to the other nuns in her charge, young Sister James (Amy Adams) tells of the school’s lone black student (Joseph Foster) being called to the rectory by Father Flynn. From that seed, Sister Aloysius spins her case to take down Father Flynn. She accuses him of an inappropriate relationship with the boy yet has nothing but her certitude, and the tiniest shreds of circumstantial evidence, to back it up. Publicly, Father Flynn has shown nothing but kindness toward a boy who has few friends. And the movie never reveals the truth. Just as is life, you’re left to draw your own conclusions. So is Sister Aloysius in the right? Or is Father Flynn the victim? Do you really expect a clear-cut answer from a film titled “Doubt?” My tweet: Sister Meryl Streep accuses Father Philip Seymour Hoffman of improper conduct with an altar boy. Hilarity does not ensue. 8.5 (out of 10)

“Doubt”

Released: 2008

Rating: PG-13

Length: 104 minutes

Cast: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams

Director: John Patrick Shanley

Genre(s): Drama, Adaptation, Period

Thursday, December 3, 2009

“Transamerica”

It’s been said (by me, at least) that the pretty actress who plays ugly usually gets the Oscar. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Felicity Huffman in “Transamerica.” (She was nominated. But the honor went to Reese Witherspoon for her portrayal of June Carter in “Walk the Line.”) They made a mistake. Huffman’s performance as Bree, a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual, is nothing short of amazing. She captures the man trapped inside the woman’s body in a way that’s so believable, you’ll find yourself forgetting what the real Felicity Huffman looks or sounds like. The plot of “Transamerica” is set in motion when Bree, who’s one signature away from her sexual reassignment surgery, gets a call from the son she never knew existed (Kevin Zegers) and her therapist (Elizabeth Peña) refuses to approve the surgery until she ties up this one last loose end from her prior life. Bree reluctantly flies to New York and then offers to drive the boy back to Los Angeles – while trying to conceal her true identity. There are bumps out on the road (including the revelation of Bree’s status). But over the course of the drive, the two learn a lot about themselves and each other as their relationship grows. That may make “Transamerica” sound like a conventional road movie about self-discovery. But it’s made much more interesting because of the subtle and graceful performance at its center. My tweet: Transamerica-A pre-op transsexual travels cross-country with his son & learns how to be a father just in time to become his mother. 8 (out of 10)

“Transamerica”

Released: 2005

Rating: R

Length: 103 minutes

Cast: Felicity Huffman, Kevin Zegers, Fionnula Flanagan, Burt Young, Elizabeth Peña

Director: Duncan Tucker

Genre(s): Drama, Family, Urban

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

“Mamma Mia!”

I’ve always thought that ABBA’s music was danceable, if vacuous. But I never realized how little the music had to say until it was knit together to support the narrative behind the movie “Mamma Mia!” (Their exclamation point, not mine.) The plot revolves around Sophie Sheridan (played by Amanda Seyfried, who’s great on HBO’s “Big Love”) planning her wedding. She dreams of being given away by the father she never knew. But in this case there are three possible fathers (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård). So she invites all three while somehow managing to conceal the real reason they’ve arrived from both them and her mother (Meryl Streep). It’s occasionally amusing, but never really funny. There were also two musical surprises in “Mamma Mia!” worth noting: Meryl Streep can sing, Pierce Brosnan shouldn’t. Frankly, I’m not sure why this movie became such a hit, or why the Broadway show in New York City packs in the tourists. So maybe I’m missing something. But I stand by my tweet: Mamma Mia!-Of all the movies featuring an ABBA-exclusive soundtrack, this is the best. 4.5 (out of 10) If you’re looking for a movie with a song catalog-backed narrative, I’d recommend “Across the Universe.” The music is better and the staging is much more inventive.

“Mamma Mia”

Released: 2008

Rating: PG-13

Length: 108 minutes

Cast: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried

Director: Phyllida Lloyd

Genre(s): Adaptation, Romantic Comedy, Musical

Thursday, November 26, 2009

“Elf”

Around this time of year, there’s an endless parade of saccharine-sweet holiday movies trying to tug at your heartstrings. Fortunately “Elf” is one of the few that won't leave you with sugar shock. Most of credit for that goes to Will Ferrell’s charming portrayal of Buddy the elf. (More on that later) As a baby, Buddy crawls into Santa’s (Ed Asner) sack unnoticed and ends up at the North Pole. Raised by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) as his own, Buddy grows up to be a misfit who towers over the other elves and doesn’t have their knack for building toys. When he’s told that his real father (James Caan) lives in New York City, Buddy sets off to find his roots. And that’s where the real fun begins. As an actor, Will Ferrell excels at playing clueless characters and Buddy provides him with the perfect conduit to channel his inner doofus. There’s such a wide-eyed innocence about Ferrell’s performance, that you truly believe Buddy is experiencing the City’s “charms” for the first time. And after a rough start in the Big Apple, Buddy manages to win over his stepbrother (Daniel Tay), get the girl (Zooey Deschanel), change his father’s heart and save Christmas. All that earns “Elf” a place on the nice list. Not just because of what the movie does, but because of the way it does it. My tweet: Elf-Hollywood retelling of SNL alum Will Ferrell’s first visit to New York City. 7.5 (out of 10)

Another holiday movie you might enjoy: “A Christmas Story”
Another Will Ferrell movie you might enjoy: “Blades of Glory”

“Elf”

Released: 2003

Rating: PG

Length: 97 minutes

Cast: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Bob Newhart

Director: Jon Favreau

Genre(s): Comedy, Fantasy, Holiday

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

“Knowing”

Now that “2012” has been released there has been a lot of buzz about end of the world movies like “War of the Worlds,” “Armageddon” and “The Day After Tomorrow.” “Knowing” is another one to add to the list. This one’s a little difference because of its a cryptic, spooky, sci-fi storyline that revolves around a 50-year-old time capsule dug up at an elementary school. One student’s time-capsule entry, a page filled with seemingly random numbers, ends up in the hands of MIT astronomy professor John Koestler, (Nicholas Cage). He deciphers the code and discovers that the list has predicted man-made and natural disasters for the last 50 years. So while Koestler is trying to contain himself (Cage kicks his natural intensity into overdrive here), his son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) is being stalked by a group of otherworldly men. “Knowing” is the kind of movie that will strain your willingness to suspend disbelief. But if you manage to get past that, it can be a fun popcorn movie. There’s a lot of action, surprises, and cool special effects, including a plane crash at Logan Airport, a subway car that careens through a station in New York City, alien spaceships and, of course, the end of the world. My tweet: Knowing-A page of numbers retrieved from a time capsule tells Nicholas Cage the future. Unfortunately, none of them match the lottery. 7 (out of 10)

“Knowing”

Released: 2008

Rating: PG-13

Length: 121 minutes

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Chandler Canterbury, Ben Mendelsohn, Adrienne Pickering

Director: Alex Proyas

Genre(s): Action, Thriller, Supernatural

Thursday, November 19, 2009

“Mr. and Mrs. Smith”

Like a lot of married couples, John and Jane Smith (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) are trying to reignite the passion that’s evaporated from their quiet suburban lives. They’re even in counseling, which, from the looks of it, doesn’t seem to be helping. But the excitement returns once they discover they’re both professional assassins working for competing agencies with each other as the target. (What spices up a relationship better than a little gun play?) Feeling betrayed, John and Jane shoot up their home only to realize they can’t shoot each other. When their employers decide to finish the job, it brings John and Jane even closer. They finally open up and communicate, which includes some amusing revelations during a high-speed car chase in the neighbor’s minivan. “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” is a slick, sexy romp that rarely slows down and the heat between the two stars can make you understand the off-screen pyrotechnics that Brangelina set off. Which, of course, is the inspiration for my tweet: Mr. and Mrs. Smith-Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie are hired to kill each other. And in the end, Jennifer Aniston wants to kill them both. 7.5 (out of 10)

“Mr. and Mrs. Smith”

Released: 2005

Rating: PG-13

Length: 120 minutes

Cast: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Vince Vaughn

Director: Doug Liman

Genre(s): Romance, Adventure, Action

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

“Flash of Genius”

There are lots of times in my life when I’ve heard the phrase, “it’s not about money, it’s about the principle.” That usually means it’s about the money. But “Flash of Genius” presents one of those instances when it really is about the principle. (At least as presented in the film.) This is the “true” story of Dr. Robert Kearns (Greg Kinnear), the electrical engineer and college professor from Detroit who invented the intermittent windshield wiper. His invention is so obvious, it’s surprising no one had thought of it before. Well, the Big Three had all thought of it. But none of them had, to use their term, “cracked it.” Engineers from Ford are amazed when they see the device work for the first time. Feeling leery, but advised that it would cement the deal, Kearns delivers a prototype to Ford’s engineers for testing. Then the company quietly abandons the project. This doesn’t make complete sense to Kearns, but he accepts it. Until he spots a new Ford with intermittent wipers on the road. From that moment on, Kearns’s sole mission in life is to right this wrong: to get Ford to recognize his patents, declare that he is the true creator of the intermittent wiper and admit they stole his invention. His business associates, friends and family plead with him to give it up and move on. But Kearns keeps pressing on, turning down Ford’s ever-growing settlement offers and losing almost everything, including his sanity, in the process. But in the end, Kearns gets what he wants when a jury declares him the victor in his suit against Ford. Intrigued by the story, I visited Wikipedia to do some “fact” checking and discovered that Kearns also sued Chrysler, GM, Mercedes-Benz and a host of other automakers. He was awarded somewhere in the vicinity of $40 million. So despite the protestations of the on-screen Kearns, maybe it was, at least in part, about the money. My tweet: Flash of Genius-Greg Kinnear invents the intermittent wiper & Detroit rips it off. Could their current hard times be the karmic boomerang? 7 (out of 10)

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“Flash of Genius”

Released: 2008

Rating: PG-13

Length: 119 minutes

Cast: Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham, Bill Smitrovich, Aaron Abrams, Dermot Mulroney

Director: Marc Abraham

Genre(s): Drama, Adaptation, Biopic

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Graduate: Here's to you, Dustin Hoffman

The Graduate is one of my all-time favorite movies and I've seen if more times than I can count. This time I made note of how brilliantly miscast Dustin Hoffman is as Benjamin Braddock. He’s a California native, but sounds like he was raised in New York. He doesn’t look like either one of his parents, William Daniels or Elizabeth Wilson. And he’s supposed to be a track star and “ladies man?” Director Mike Nichols took a tremendous leap of faith, because Dustin Hoffman is a disaster on paper. But on-screen he’s perfect. His fumbling responses to Mrs. Robinson’s (Anne Bancroft) seduction, the awkwardness of their first “meeting.” The way he tries to disgust daughter Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross) on their first date only to apologize for his boorish behavior. His frenzied drive up and down the California coast as he tries to track her down and that final smile on the bus. The point is, there were a lot of actors in Hollywood who looked the part. (In fact, Robert Redford was originally considered.) But I can’t imagine anyone occupying it as well. My Tweet: The Graduate-Dustin Hoffman beds his father’s business partner’s wife and falls in love with their daughter. Then things get complicated. 10 (out of 10)

“The Graduate”

Released: 1967

Rating: PG

Length: 106 minutes

Cast: Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, Katharine Ross, William Daniels

Director: Mike Nichols

Genre(s): Drama, Adaptation, Comedy

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day”

It’s not often that a sequel surpasses the original, but James Cameron’s “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” certainly does. The reason is that Cameron wisely decided not to rehash the hugely successful Terminator movie. He turned his nascent franchise on its ear by making the original T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) this film’s hero. This T-800 is sent back from the future to protect the teenage John Conner (Edward Furlong) from the shape-shifting T-1000 (Robert Patrick). In the process of rescuing mom Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) from a mental hospital and convincing Cyberdyne’s lead inventor Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) to destroy his work, the T-800 and John, forge an unlikely friendship. It almost takes on the air of a buddy film with John teaching the socially-awkward Terminator (He is an android, after all.) catchphrases like “Hasta la vista, baby” while the T-800 becomes the father figure John’s never had. Robert Patrick’s T-1000 is imposing because of his dogged determination and the serious expression he maintains throughout the film (Android, again). And the special effects still stand up today. There’s a sequel (a lackluster retread of this story, wisely not directed by Cameron) so you know that judgment day will still arrive. But that shouldn’t spoil the enjoyment of watching John, Sarah and the Terminator trying to keep the future from happening. My tweet about the Terminator turned Governor: Terminator 2: Judgment Day-Cyborg Arnold Schwarzenegger finds Robert Patrick’s T-1000 almost as challenging as the California legislature. 8.5 (out of 10)


“Terminator 2: Judgment Day”

Released: 1991

Rating: R

Length: 139 minutes

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Edward Furlong

Director: James Cameron

Genre(s): Sequel, Action, Thriller

Thursday, October 29, 2009

“Gracie”

From the opening scene in “Gracie,” when 15-year-old Gracie Bowen (Carly Schroeder) knocks a bottle off the hood of a car with a soccer ball kicked barefoot from 20 yards, it's obvious she’s got ability. Trouble is, hardly anyone notices. Gracie lives in the shadow of her high-school soccer-star brother Johnny (Jesse Lee Soffer). But Gracie doesn’t mind. He’s one of the few people to recognize and nurture her talent. So when a tragic accident takes Johnny’s life, Gracie decides to honor his memory by carrying on the family’s soccer tradition. But there is no girl’s soccer team at Gracie’s South Orange, N.J. school. And whoever she turns to for help – from her father (Dermot Mulroney) to her friends, to the coaches and the school board – Gracie only hears words of discouragement. Ultimately, it’s up to her to fight for their respect and the right to play with the boys. As in every underdog-comes-from-behind movie, Gracie gets her shot – both figuratively and literally. This inspiring story is based on the real life of Elisabeth Shue, who plays Gracie’s mom and delivers a valuable piece of advice at a pivotal point in the film. My tweet: Gracie-To earn a spot on the boy’s soccer team, a young girl has to perform gender attitude-reassignment surgery on her critics. 7 (out of 10)

“Gracie”

Released: 2007

Rating: PG-13

Length: 95 minutes

Cast: Carly Schroeder, Dermot Mulroney, Elisabeth Shue, Andrew Shue

Director: Davis Guggenheim

Genre(s): Drama, Teen, Family

Thursday, October 22, 2009

“House of Games”

This taut psychological thriller is David Mamet’s directorial debut and tells the story of Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse), a psychologist trying to help a patient who’s in over his head with gambling debts. When she approaches the con-man who owns the marker, Mike (Mamet veteran Joe Mantegna), he asks for Margaret’s help in deciphering other card players’ “tells” or body language. As Margaret get drawn deeper and deeper into Mike’s world as part of his con game, what she doesn’t know is that she’s the one being played. It’s a complex, well-crafted puzzle about games inside games with an ending that you’ll never see coming. Or as I wrote on Twitter: House of Games-In this Mamet film, a psychologist learning how con men ply their trade gets sucked into a con herself. You will too. 9 (out of 10)

“House of Games”

Released: 1987

Rating: R

Length: 102 minutes

Cast: Lindsay Crouse, Joe Mantegna, Mike Nussbaum, Lilia Skala

Director: David Mamet

Genre(s): Thriller, Crime, Mystery

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

“The World’s Fastest Indian”

“I feel the need, the need for speed,” may have been from “Top Gun.” But it might as well have been uttered by New Zealander Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins) in “The World’s Fastest Indian.” This fact-based drama is the story of the 67-year-old grandfather’s dream of setting the land-speed record in his modified 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle. Having tinkered for more than 25 years to squeeze every ounce of performance out of the bike, he finally mortgages his home to take the Indian to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to race (hopefully) into the record books. Everyone thinks the endearingly crusty Munro is going to kill himself, including the officials at Bonneville, who need a little convincing before letting the brake-less, chute-less bike with makeshift tires and an equally antique rider onto the track. Ultimately, Burt gets his run. But will he get his record? My Tweet: The World's Fastest Indian-Anthony Hopkins wants to set the record in his tatty Indian motorcycle. So no, it's not a John Ford western. 8 (out of 10) It’s a feel-good movie for guys.

“The World’s Fastest Indian”

Released: 2005

Rating: PG-13

Length: 127 minutes

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Lawford, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Rodriguez

Director: Roger Donaldson

Genre(s): Drama, Period, Biopic

Thursday, October 15, 2009

“Penelope”

This is a charming ugly ducking tale you can share with your kids because it deals with “values” themes like self-esteem and vanity. In “Penelope,” the title character (Christina Ricci) is born with the face of a pig to pay for the past sins of her wealthy family. She’s been sequestered in her family’s mansion since birth because of her appearance. Her mother (Catherine O'Hara) believes that the only way to break the curse is for Penelope to find true love. Yet despite a sizable dowry, suitor after suitor runs off once Penelope reveals the curse. (Frankly, her face is more cute than scary.) Eventually, she runs away from her overprotective parents to explore the world, makes real friends and finds the happiness that has eluded her. This being a fairytale, of course “Penelope” has a happy ending. But not without teaching a valuable lesson that that beauty and, I guess, love are more than skin deep. My Tweet belies the sweetness of the movie: Penelope-In this modern fairytale, Christina Ricci is cursed with the face of a pig. She must have really ticked off the makeup people. 7 (out of 10)

“Penelope”

Released: 2006

Rating: PG

Length: 101 minutes

Cast: Christina Ricci, Catherine O'Hara, James McAvoy, Reese Witherspoon

Director: Mark Palansky

Genre(s): Drama, Comedy, Fantasy

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

“Office Space”

Talk to anyone who works in a cubicle farm about “Office Space” and chances are they'll be able to quote it chapter and verse. Mike Judge’s workplace comedy pokes fun at almost everything that sucks the soul out of office staff -- clueless bosses, pointless procedures and ineffective “improvement” initiatives. Ron Livingston is the worker bee who, with the aid of a hypnosis session gone wrong, decides that the corporate life isn’t for him. And it’s precisely his “I couldn’t care less” attitude that starts to get him noticed by management. Which can be either good or bad, depending on your point of view. My 140-character review on Twitter: Office Space-A celebration of corporate America’s embrace of the human spirit and refusal to let go until it’s been crushed. 8.5 (out of 10)


Another Mike Judge movie you might enjoy: Idiocracy

“Office Space

Released: 1999

Rating: R

Length: 89 minutes

Cast: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, David Herman, Ajay Naidud

Director: Mike Judge

Genre(s): Comedy, Romance

Thursday, October 8, 2009

“August Rush”

I tweeted: August Rush-Young runaway Freddie Highmore is a musical prodigy with a gift for playing the heartstrings. 7 (out of 10) because I’m not a big fan or tearjerkers. They make me feel like I’m being played. This one is no different. But I feel I can (almost) recommend because of the music. “August Rush” is the story of Evan Taylor (Freddie Highmore), the lovechild of Lyla Novacek (Keri Russell), a concert cellist, and Louis Connelly (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a rock musician. Louis is out of the picture before Lyla realizes she’s pregnant. And within minutes of Evan’s birth, he’s given up for adoption without Lyla’s knowledge. Eventually Evan ends up on the street. His genius, and my reason for the recommendation, is that Evan hears the music in everything around him. He also has an intuitive affinity for musical instruments. He just picks them up and plays – brilliantly. At first this talent is discovered and exploited by a street musician (Robin Williams). And later it’s nurtured by a kindly pastor (Mykelti Williamson) who helps the young genius get into Julliard. Even still, Evan’s big dream is to reunite his family. And that’s really the narrative backbone of this movie. So if you’re looking to shed some happy tears, August Rush delivers. But for me, the real reward was in the music that goes along with it.

August Rush”

Released: 2007

Rating: PG

Length: 113 minutes

Cast: Freddie Highmore, Robin Williams, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Terrence Howard

Director: Kirsten Sheridan

Genre(s): Drama, Comedy, Music