Thursday, October 29, 2009


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)


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


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)


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

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Face in the Crowd: The Glenn Beck Story?

There were a couple of comments posted on the TweeterFlix YouTube Channel comparing this movie’s main character to Glenn Beck. Now I’ve never seen or heard his show, but I can’t imagine it’s a compliment. In Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd,” Andy Griffith plays Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, a drifter discovered in the drunk tank by a roving reporter from the local radio show (Patricia Neal). Impressed by his natural wit and charm on the air, the station offers Rhodes his own show. He builds a loyal following with friendly conversation and homespun advice and pretty soon big city promoters are knocking on hls door. Eventually Rhodes moves from radio to the new medium of television with products and politicians seeking his “everyman” touch. And as his audience and influence grows, so does his ego. But there are skeptics, like TV writer Mel Miller (Walter Matthau), who believe it’s only a matter of time before Rhodes reveals the boorish, narcassistic hypocrite he really is. So if you believe that’s Glenn Beck or his fate, (or maybe if you're Glenn Beck himself) then A Face in the Crowd” may be worth adding to your queue. My Tweet (for those familiar with The Andy Griffith Show”): Small-town drunk becomes a national celebrity and self-destructs before settling down in Mayberry with his son Opie. 7 (out of 10)

Another film by Elia Kazan you might enjoy: “Splendor in the Grass"

“A Face in the Crowd”

Released: 1957

Rating: NR

Length: 126 minutes

Cast: Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Anthony Franciosa, Walter Matthau

Director: Elia Kazan

Genre(s): Drama, Adaptation

Friday, October 2, 2009

“Running Scared”

I usually find shoot em up movies kind of dumb. (Just see my review of “Shoot Em Up.”) But “Running Scared” is different. There are a lot of flying bullets and resulting blood. But there are also enough twists and turns in the plot to keep you interested. It opens with Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) careening down the street with a blood-covered boy in the passenger seat of his car, then abruptly cuts to a flashback of the events that led up to that moment. To make a long story short (and not give up too much) the boy, Oleg, (Cameron Bright) got his hands on a gun Gazelle, a mob henchman, was supposed to dispose of and used it to shoot his stepfather (Anzor Yugorsky), who just so happens to be the nephew of a Russian mob boss. When Oleg and the gun disappear. Gazelle desperately tries to find the gun in the world of pimps, hookers, pedophiles, crackheads and other assorted creatures of the night while hes pursued by a crooked cop (Chazz Palminteri), his crew and the Russian mob. Its a pretty wild ride. My tweet: Running Scared-Mobster Paul Walkers frantic search for a cop-killers gun. A veritable travelogue of NJs less savory locales & locals. 7.5 (out of 10)

“Running Scared”

Released: 2006

Rating: R

Length: 122 minutes

Cast: Paul Walker, Cameron Bright, Vera Farmiga, Chazz Palminteri

Director: Wayne Kramer

Genre(s): Drama, Action, Thriller