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Smokey Joe's Café was a dazzling and captivating musical revue comprised of songs by the team of Lieber and Stoller, who unknown to me prior to this show, composed a lot of Elvis Presley's biggest hits as well as some other Tin Pan Alley classics, whose origin had escaped me prior to this show.

The version I saw of this show was, according to the announcer, the final performance of this show on Broadway so I did not see the original cast, but I was more than impressed nonetheless. No characters or dialogue...just singing and dancing, one spectacular number after another. Highlights for me included "Poison Ivy", "On Broadway", "DW Washburn", "W-O-M-A-N", "Hound Dog", "Jailhouse Rock", "You're the Boss", "Loving You" and topping it all was BJ Crosby's show-stopping rendition of "Say Hello to a Brand New Fool".
This show is full of "I didn't know they wrote that!" moments that take you back to a different time and place in pop culture in general and musical culture in particular, when songwriters still wrote songs and singers really sang them. For musical theater fans, a joy from start to finish.
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It's not Shakespeare, but St. Elmo's Fire was a great guilty pleasure from the 1980's that is still watchable thanks to its charismatic cast. In another variation of The Big Chill, this film follows a group of Georgetown college students a year after graduation and the different paths their lives have taken even though their friendships remain flawed but solid.

Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy are now living together and Nelson's Alec is now pushing Sheedy's Leslie to get married even though he constantly cheats on her claiming marriage will make him faithful. Andrew McCarthy plays Kevin, an aspiring writer who everyone is convinced is gay because he has been in love from a distance for many years and won't talk about it. Emilio Estevez is a waiter who becomes obsessed with romancing a doctor (Andie McDowell) who he went out on one date with in college. Mare Winningham is now a social worker who is in love with Billy, played by Rob Lowe. Billy is an aspiring musician and aimless drifter who's been through 20 jobs since graduation and is lost without school. Demi Moore shines as Jules, the party girl who slept with everyone in college and whose partying lifestyle is starting to catch up with her. It's not deep or meaningful, but it's a lot fun and the cast is game.
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1978'sStraight Time is a dark and somber drama which asks a lot of difficult questions and offers few answers but continues to fascinate as its screenplay is rich with characters who are all painted in shades of one here is all good or all bad. Just like the questions posed in the story, none of the characters are black and white.

Dustin Hoffman gives one of his most powerful and underrated performances as Max Denbo, a career criminal who has been in and out of the prison system for most his life who is again out on parole as the story begins and as much as Max wants to straighten his life out, all he finds along the way is roadblocks and bigotry, bigotry towards ex-cons trying to start their lives over that eventual leads him back to a life of crime.

Hoffman is riveting as Denbo, a loser who clearly wants to carve out a new life for himself but society and circumstances keep throwing up roadblocks. You feel for this man and you want to see him turn his life around but you can't help but understand completely the backslide he takes and you always sympathize with him.

Hoffman gets strong support from Theresa Russell as a sympathetic employment agency worker, Harry Dean Stanton and Gary Busey as friends from Max's past who he reconnects with and M. Emmett Walsh as a slimy probation officer. This sobering indictment of our society's rehabilitation system and its lack of effectiveness pulls no punches and stays with you long after fadeout. A haunting and impressive film. Bit of Trivia: In the scene where Hoffman goes to visit Gary Busey at his home, that is Busey's real-life son, Jake, playing his onscreen son.
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Stranger than Fiction is an offbeat and imaginative fantasy that is as intriguing a journey for the film-goer as it is a welcome change of pace for its star, Will Ferrell. Ferrell is cast dramatically against type as Harold Crick, a lonely and brilliant IRS agent who wakes up one day and hears a female voice narrating his life, which the pragmatic and completely practical Crick finds unsettling at first but learns to accept it to a point, until the day the narrator announces that he is going to die.

We then learn that the narrator is actually a mentally-shredded, chain-smoking novelist named Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) with writer's block and that Harold is the main character in Eiffel's latest book. It is revealed that Eiffel always kills off her main characters but is stuck on how to do away with Harold. Meanwhile, Harold seeks the help of an eccentric college professor (Dustin Hoffman) in learning who this narrator is while tentatively pursuing a relationship with a free-spirited baker (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who he is auditing.

The story reaches a fever pitch for the viewer as we become completely engulfed in this cat and mouse game of Harold trying to prevent his death before Eiffel can write it, but then the story veers in an unexpected direction that makes this challenging race for Harold's life even more riveting.

The film features an intelligent screenplay and crisp direction and Will Ferrell is an absolute revelation here, creating a character like nothing he has done before. His Harold Crick has a mind like an Excel spreadsheet, but is also socially inept, hypersensitive, and full of suppressed dreams. For those who have hated Ferrell's work prior to this, I challenge you to give this film a try. Ferrell actually delivers a performance of depth and vulnerability that might surprise you.

Gyllenhaal has never been more appealing on screen and Hoffman is quietly masterful as the know it all professor trying to figure out who the narrator is by learning who it isn't first. Thompson tended to grate on my nerves as Eiffel and Queen Latifah's role as her assistant was pointless, but it is the deft story and the surprisingly effective performance from Will Ferrell playing a normal human being that made this film a winner.
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Summer Stock was the final musical that Judy Garland appeared in while under contract to MGM. Judy plays Jane Falbury, a woman single-handedly struggling to run a farm and keep a milquetoast of a fiancée (Eddie Bracken) at arm's length.

One day, Jane's sister, Abigail (Gloria DeHaven) arrives at the farm and informs Jane that she has invited the cast of a show she's appearing in to rehearse at the farm. Jane reluctantly agrees to let the cast rehearse at the farm if they agree to help with chores around the farm.

Then Jane falls for Joe (Gene Kelly) the director and star of the show and Abigail's boyfriend. This is the paper-thin plot from which this delightful musical springs and Garland, despite the hell that was her personal life at the time, never lets it show on screen. Shortly after the release of this film, Garland tried to commit suicide and was "released" from her contract with MGM.

The most famous musical number in the film is "Get Happy" which features Judy in a sexy cut-off tuxedo surrounded by muscular chorus boys. If the number looks out of place with the rest of the film, there's good reason. After the film was completed, MGM bigwigs decided the movie needed a stronger finale. Judy was called back to the studio six months after the rest of the movie had been completed and they shot "Get Happy" and inserted the number near the end of the film. During that six month interim, Judy had lost twenty pounds and does look noticeably thinner in "Get Happy" than she does in the rest of the film.

This was Judy's third and final film with Kelly, who also makes a strong impression with a solo dance he does on an empty stage that involves a squeaky floorboard and a newspaper, and two great duets with co-star Phil Silvers: "Dig dig dig for your Dinner" and "Heavenly Music." Attention should also be paid to a lovely solo Judy has called "Friendly Star". The barn dance sequence is also a lot of fun and showcases Garland's underrated skills as a dancer.An MGM classic that definitely marked the end of an era.
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Superman Returns is the long awaited revival of the comic book hero to the big screen since he first arrived back in 1978. This gargantuan 2006 production finds our Superhero returning to Metropolis, the Daily Planet, and Lois Lane after an extended absence in which Superman apparently returned to Krypton to confirm the destruction of the planet of his birth. Upon his return to Metropolis, Clark Kent finds his old job back at the Daily Planet, finds out that Lex Luthor is back on the loose after five years in prison and that Lois Lane is engaged and has a child.

Director and co-writer Bryan Singer has mounted this production with a great deal of care and attention to detail. He seems to have been attempting to revive the spirit of the original 1978 film, as certain dialogue, settings, and music have been lifted and re-thought from the 1978 film (including Superman and Lois' romantic flight over Metropolis to "Can You Read My Mind?") but it all rings hollow for me because the film is lacking the primary ingredient that made the 1978 film so successful...humor.

Singer has directed this film with a totally straight face. It is dark, bleak, and humorless, the only exception to that being the deliciously campy performance from Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor. Taking the humor out of the story also affects its pacing giving us a long and laborious film that offers state of the art special effects but not much else.

The casting ranges from OK to completely off the mark. Brandon Routh is sincere as Clark Kent/Superman and his resemblance to the late Christopher Reeve doesn't exactly work against him. Kate Bosworth is bland and unconvincing as Lois Lane...the emotional spitfire that Margot Kidder created back in 78 looks better and better after this tired interpretation of the role. Frank Langella is miscast as Perry White as is Sam Huntington as Jimmy Olsen and James Marsden fails to bring any spark to the proceedings as Richard White, Perry's nephew and Lois' fiancée. Even the normally charismatic Parker Posey fails to liven the proceedings as Luthor's new mistress, Kitty.

I also found it hard to accept the fact that Lois could fall in love with anyone else, much less have a child with him. The whole idea of Lois falling in love with another man works against the entire legend of these two characters and may be at the crux of why this this movie doesn't work.
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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is the dark and dazzling 2007 film adaptation of the landmark 1979 Broadway musical by Stephen Sondheim that won nine Tony Awards.

Not for the faint of heart, Tim Burton, the master of dark and demented (BATMAN, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY), found source material that seems tailor-made for his directorial sensibilities and mounted a deliciously entertaining film that should please most Sondheim purists and possibly motivate newcomers to the piece to seek out the original stage musical.

For the uninitiated, this is the story of Benjamin Barker, a barber who was wrongfully imprisoned many years ago by the evil Judge Turpin, who was responsible for the "death" of Barker's wife, Lucy and the kidnapping of his daughter, Johanna, who returns to his old stomping grounds, a grimy London alley called Fleet Street to exact revenge on the Judge. Enter Mrs. Lovett, the slovenly owner of a dirty meat pie shop, whose infatuation with Barker and the desire to improve her own business, sparks a most fascinating business partnership.

This musical shocked theater audiences in 1979 and in the hands of ghoul master Burton, is no less shocking today. Burton employs his accustomed darkness to the already twisted material, making the story even creepier…the film allows Burton to expand portions of the story that were only touched upon on stage, particularly the back story of Benjamin, Lucy, and the Judge which makes the return of the clearly demented Todd much more plausible.

Presenting the story on film also allows Burton to put another character center stage…the blood. There is blood everywhere here, as it should be, making the savagery of what Todd and Mrs. Lovett are doing even more sickeningly fascinating than it was on stage. Needless to say, expansions in some areas of the story require sacrifices in others and the main sacrifice Burton made here was with Sondheim's gargantuan score…a great deal of the original score has been cut from the film, which is missed at times, but the theatrical aspects of the score had to be altered for a film adaptation. The famous "Ballad" which occurs throughout the show, would have hampered the telling of the story on screen. As a matter of fact, the original theatrical trailer for this film completely disguises the fact that this film is a musical.

The film features impressive art direction and cinematography (I can't remember ever seeing blood so red) and the cast is first rate. Johnny Depp's Oscar nominated turn as Sweeney Todd is nothing short of brilliant, a deeply internalized performance that was definitely developed from the inside out. As for Depp's singing, I had my doubts when I first heard he had been cast in this role, but it works for the movie screen…his "Epiphany" is breathtaking. Helena Bonham Carter's Mrs. Lovett sucks all of the humor out of the character and I don't blame Bonham Carter completely, Burton has to share this one.

Mention should also be made of Alan Rickman's Judge Turpin, Timothy Spall's Beadle, and Sascha Baron Cohen as Pirelli, a competitor of Todd's who recognizes him from the old days. A hauntingly impressive adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim masterpiece that does it justice.
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Sweet Dreams was the 1985 film biography of country and western singing legend Patsy Cline, magnificently portrayed by Jessica Lange, who delivers one of her most charismatic performances as the singing legend who rose from humble beginnings to become a country and western legend.

Lange imbues a fire and spirit into Cline that is quite endearing and allows us a perhaps partly speculative look at the fire that drove Patsy to become what she did. There is a great moment when Patsy is meeting with a record producer (David Clennon) and she is describing the kind of career she wants and he says, "Oh you want to be Kitty Wells?" and Patsy replies, "Hell no, I wanna be Hank Williams!"

According to this film, Patsy didn't want to be a country singer, she wanted to BE country music. I also love the scene where Patsy is introduced to the song "Crazy" and says she can't sing this man's song and the producer explains, "Sing it the way you always do, Patsy...your way...let the words tell the story." Patsy slows the tempo, does it her way, and it became her signature song.

Lange not only delivers a wonderful performance in this film, but she does one of the best jobs I have ever seen on screen of an actor lip-synching to another voice. Her lip-synching to Cline's voice is practically flawless. If it weren't for the fact that I know exactly what Cline's recordings sounded like, it would have been hard to tell that Lange was not doing her own singing here. Lange delivers such a charismatic performance here that, despite the fact that her singing is dubbed, Lange still received an Oscar nomination for her performance.

Lange also gets solid support from Ed Harris as Patsy husband, Charlie Dick and from Ann Wedgeworth as Patsy's mom. I don't know why this has always bothered me but I noticed that in COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER, Patsy seemed to be a major character in Loretta Lynn's story but Loretta is not even mentioned in this film. Nevertheless, this is a warm and entertaining film, definitely a notch above the average film biography, thanks mostly to an extraordinary performance by Jessica Lange.
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In the tradition of GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS, THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, TO SIR WITH LOVE, and DANGEROUS MINDS we get a new variation on the old story of a group of misfit high school students finding new motivations in life through a dedicated teacher.
Take the Lead is a fact-inspired tale revolving around Pierre Dulaine, the owner of a ballroom dancing studio who, after witnessing an act of teenage vandalism, offers to teach ballroom dancing at an inner city high school. The principal tentatively agrees to let him teach the kids who are permanently in detention for the rest of the school year.

Despite a preachy, cliché-filled screenplay and manic music video direction, the film is watchable because the dance sequences are positively electric, superbly choreographed by JoAnn Jansen. Antonio Banderas is charming and understated as Dulaine, the caring teacher who does manage to reach these kids until the world of these kids and the world of the students at his own school begin to collide.

Banderas wisely underplays to the extremely gifted young actors chosen to play the delinquents-turned-dancers here and allows them to shine, as they should and do. Alfre Woodard also manages to make the most of a predictably-written role as the principal of the school.

When the movie leaves the dance floor, it screeches to a dead halt, but every single dance sequence in the film is mesmerizing, whether it's a single student practicing by herself in a quiet boiler room or a three versus two tango challenge that is like nothing I've ever seen on screen.

When the movie dances it works, when it stops dancing, be forewarned as it trots out every cliché you've ever seen in a movie about inner city high school kids, but Banderas and the dancing make it worth watching.

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Teaching Mrs. Tingle was a surprisingly effective little black comedy that was more entertaining than I imagined something like this could be.

Katie Holmes plays a straight-A high school student whose entire academic future is threatened when the cold blooded Mrs. Tingle (Helen Mirren) accuses her of stealing the answers to an upcoming exam. A desperate Holmes, with the assistance of two friends(Barry Watson,Marisa Coughlan) ambush Mrs. Tingle at her home, tie her to her bed,and plan to keep her prisoner until she agrees to let Holmes off the hook.

The premise is rather off the wall, but the story is mounted with tongue firmly planted in cheek and if viewed in that fashion, this movie can provide some goofy fun. Holmes has always been a dreadful actress IMO and this movie did nothing to change my mind about that but Oscar winner Mirren is marvelous in the title role, speaking with a near perfect American accent, Mirren is masterful, turning in a performance of almost Gothic quality. Marisa Coughlan also has her moments as the self-absorbed drama major who enjoys this game a little too much until she allows Tingle to manipulate her as well.

Mention should also be made of Michael McKean as the school principal, Molly Ringwald as Miss Tingle's substitute (her take on Cleopatra is hilarious), and especially Jeffrey Tambor, hysterical in a memorable bit as a fellow faculty member who is having an affair with Tingle. But the script is rather clever, Mirren is wonderful and the ending with a twist is on the money.
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Terms of Endearment is an undeniably gripping and emotional film experience that will have you rolling on the floor during one scene and weeping uncontrollably during the next. The film was a surprise box office smash that won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1983

This film follows the complicated relationship between an icy, Texan widow named Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine)and her slightly-off-the-wall daughter, Emma (Debra Winger), who at the beginning of the film is marrying a man named Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels), whom her mother clearly hates (Aurora doesn't even attend their wedding), seemingly just to get away from Aurora.

The film follows Emma's marriage through three children, infidelity, and unexpected tragedy but it never lets go of the unspoken bond between Aurora and Emma...a bond so strong that it transcends telephone lines, geography, and even dialogue at times...there are moments in the story where you see Aurora and Emma communicate without saying a word to each other. The film primarily focuses on the very tangled relationship between Aurora and Emma and how everything that each does drives the other crazy but never changes the love between them, no matter how deep the denial.

Writer-director James L. Brooks won a pair of Oscars for writing and directing this funny and heartbreaking story that stretches over a long period of time but never fails to hold interest and trust me, the last 20-30 minutes of this film will have you weeping.

Shirley MacLaine finally won her long-overdue Best Actress Oscar for her controlled performance as Aurora and Jack Nicholson won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as a retired astronaut who moves in next door to Aurora after Emma moves out and begins a hilarious and touching relationship with Aurora. Debra Winger is explosive and unpredictable as Emma and Jeff Daniels is fully invested in the unsympathetic role of Flap. A truly unique motion picture experience that will leave you limp.
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Thank you for Smoking is a bold and gutsy satire that takes a politically-sensitive issue and turns it on its ear in a manner that will thoroughly entertain those who view it in the way it is a satire.

Written and directed by Jason Reitman (son of famed director Ivan Reitman), the film stars Aaron Eckhart as Nick Naylor, who works as a lobbyist/mouthpiece for an organization called The Academy of Tobacco Studies, where his job boils down to being a goodwill ambassador for the tobacco industry. His current endeavors include negotiating a multi-million dollar movie deal for a futuristic sci-fi movie starring Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones where they would smoke throughout the film, opposing a campaign being spearheaded by a US Senator to put a new label on cigarettes that says "Poison" and display a skull and crossbones underneath it, and delivering a suitcase full of money to the original Marlboro Man, who is now dying of cancer, in order to get him to stop badmouthing smoking. Between these duties and his interview with a reporter (Katie Holmes)that reveals just a little too much, Nick actually finds his life in danger.

This is one of the smartest and most original satires to hit the silver screen in a long time and as long as you keep in mind that it is a satire, the film is richly entertaining. We all know that smoking is bad and this film just takes a pointed and off beat look at the issue from the side of the tobacco industry in a world where their side of the issue would matter. Beautifully balancing Nick's twisted world and the sometimes perverted requirements of his job is his relationship with his son, whose hero worship of his dad makes Nick question whether or not he worthy of said worship.

In the spirit of films like Network and All About Eve, the real star of this film is the razor-sharp screenplay by Reitman, based on a novel by Christopher Buckley, that humorously skewers the tobacco, advertising, and entertainment industries and should have been nominated for an Oscar. Reitman's kinetic direction works perfectly for this dark and brittle story, beautifully executed by a great cast...Eckhart (best known prior to this as Julia Roberts' boy toy in Erin Brockovich) turns in a charismatic and riveting performance as Nick Naylor and gets flawless support from JK Simmons as his boss, Rob Lowe as a fast talking movie studio exec,William H. Macy as the Senator heading the poison label campaign, and in a brilliantly understated turn, Sam Elliott as the dying Marlboro Man.

A truly unique and daring movie that breaks some bold new ground and should establish Jason Reitman as an important new force in film-making. A masterpiece.
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That's Life! is a lovely family drama from 1986 directed by Blake Edwards centering on an affluent family man named Harvey Fairchild (Jack Lemmon)who goes through an emotional roller-coaster due to his approaching 60th birthday. He is so busy wallowing in self-pity and depression that he is not even aware of the fact that his wife, Gillian (Julie Andrews) is facing a life-threatening illness.

This barely-seen and highly underrated film was an unexpected delight with an intelligent screenplay, sensitive direction by Edwards and a 100-megawatt star performance by Jack Lemmon in the title role. Harvey doesn't garner a lot of sympathy as this story progresses because this is basically a guy who has everything and is moping around feeling sorry for himself because he can't deal with the natural process of aging and even more incredible than Harvey's ridiculous behavior is Gillian's condoning of it, considering what she's going through.

If the truth be told, this is pretty much a Blake Edwards home movie featuring his family and Lemmon's. This is the first time Edwards and Lemmon have worked together since The Days of Wine and Roses and they prove to be a formidable actor/director team, no Scorsese/DeNiro, but they definitely understand each other.

The film wreaks of nepotism with Chris Lemmon playing their oldest son, Blake Edwards' daughter Jennifer and Andrews' daughter, Emma Walton also appearing as siblings in the family. There is even a cameo by Lemmon's real life spouse, Felicia Farr, as a fortune teller. The home of Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews is even utilized as the Fairchild family home in the film.

Edwards, Andrews, and especially Lemmon fans should definitely give this one a look if they haven't seen it...a quiet, affecting drama that effectively blends the smile and the tear.
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That Thing you Do! was a warm and affectionate valentine to the world of pop music in the 1960's which marked the directorial debut of two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks. Hanks lovingly examines a phenomenon that was practically an epidemic in the music world in the 60's...the "One-Hit Wonder."

This film is the story of a garage band in a small town who call themselves The Oneders who have perfected a nice little ballad called "That thing you do." The night they perform the song publicly for the first time, the drummer doubles the tempo and, as an up tune, the song is a smash. They record it and it even gets radio play.

The group then meets a Mr. White (Hanks), who agrees to manage the group and get them national exposure. He changes their name to The Wonders because they keep getting introduced as "The Oneeders" and books them on tours of state fairs and even gets them on TV and in a beach party movie, all on the strength of this one song, but when the group pressures White to make another record, that's where the problems begin.

This movie accurately portrays the way a musical act in the 60's was able to catapult to stardom on the strength of one record and then disappear forever. The film is beautifully mounted, with imaginative direction by Hanks and Oscar-worthy art direction and costume design.

Tom Everett Scott lights up the screen as Guy, the drummer whose change of tempo changes the lives of the group forever. The film also features impressive turns by Jonathan Schaech as the arrogant lead singer, Steve Zahn as the fun-loving empty-headed guitarist and Liv Tyler as Schaech's girlfriend.

Take note of my favorite scene in the film where the members of the group hear their song on the radio for the very first time...the joy depicted here is infectious as is this film, which proved to be an impressive directorial debut for Tom Hanks.
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Steve Carell, Emmy nominee for THE OFFICE and the only actor who came close to stealing ANCHORMAN from Will Ferrell, lights up the screen in The 40 Year Old Virgin, a completely winning and original comedy, co-written by Carell and Judd Apatow, that turned out to be one of the most refreshing and drop dead funny surprises of 2005. Carell and co-writer and director Apatow, have managed to create a comedy that is not only hysterically funny, but undeniably warm and charming.

Carell plays Andy, an anal-attentive electronics store salesman who cooks gourmet breakfasts and has an expensive collection of action figures (when you remove them from their original packaging, it decreases their value)who agrees one night to an evening of poker with three of his co-workers (Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, Seth Rogan), who manipulate Andy into admitting that he has never had sex with a woman. We then spend the rest of the film watching poor Andy getting really terrible advice from his well-intentioned buddies about the best possible method of "deflowerization."

Such a premise would normally suiggest a smarmy sex comedy, but that's not what we get at all here. Carell and Apatow's screenplay is smart and almost always takes the high road, in the best tradition of the Woodmeister, and every time you think you know where it's going, the story takes a complete U-turn.

Catherine Keener, one of Hollywood's sexiest and most intelligent screen presences these days, is sparkling and vivacious, as Trish, the businesswoman and single mom Andy falls for. Rudd has some very funny moments as Andy's buddy who is still obsessing over an ex and Jane Lynch is also amusing as Andy's self-absorbed boss. As I watched this practically perfect screen comedy, which works from start to finish, and remembered that Carell co-wrote it as well as starred, I couldn't help but wonder if Carell is going to be the next Woody Allen. If this winner is any indication of where he is headed as a writer and performer, he is well on his way.

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The Best Man is a hip and sexy re-thinking of films like THE BIG CHILL and RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN,this time with an African American cast.

The film centers on a group of college buddies who are reuniting for a wedding. Things get sticky when one of the group has written an about to be published novel, where the characters are just thinly disguised versions of his friends and how revelations in this book alter and shake the foundations of these relationships.

Taye Diggs is attractive as Harper, the author of the book and the best man at the wedding; Morris Chestnut plays a professional football player and the groom; Nia Long is sexy and funny as Jordan, a TV journalist/Oprah wannabe who hopes to rekindle a romance with Harper at the wedding; Harold Perrineau plays a grade school teacher caught in a stranglehold of a relationship with an emasculating female (Melissa DeSousa); Terrence Howard steals every scene he is in as this group's voice of reality; Sanaa Lathan plays Harper's fiancée who can't get Harper to commit and Monica Calhoun is the bride who is at the center of the explosion caused by the book.

There's nothing terribly original here, but the cast is charismatic and works very hard at making the material fresh and appealing. It's predictable, but still fun is to be had here.
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1983's The Big Chill is one of those beautifully crafted and wonderfully acted films that is so ingratiating that I can watch it over and over and never tire of it. Director Lawrence Kasdan hits the bullseye in this alternately hilarious and moving variation on the earlier Return of the Secaucus Seven.

This film follows the reunion of a group of friends who went to college together, who have gathered for the funeral of their mutual friend, Alex, who has committed suicide. The original screenplay included scenes with Alex, who was played by Kevin Costner, but, in a stroke of genius, it was decide to delete all of the Alex scenes in the film, lending a wonderful air of mystery to the character of Alex and allowing the audience more input as to why Alex decided to end his life. Director Laurence Kasdan's decision to eliminate Alex's scenes was a stroke of genius.. I also loved that these old friends of Alex from college gather for his funeral and are forced to face who Alex had become through the eyes of current girlfriend Chloe (Meg Tilly).

Alex's friends are Harold Cooper (Kevin Kline), who now owns a shoe store franchise and his doctor-wife, Sarah (Glenn Close), who also serve as our hosts ; Michael (Jeff Goldblum), a writer for PEOPLE magazine; Meg (Mary Kay Place)an attorney who wants to have a baby; Sam (Tom Berenger) an actor with his own TV show who misses the simple life; Karen (JoBeth Williams), a restless housewife who would really like to be a writer and Nick (William Hurt) a drug dealer who would like to be anything else. I love when Nick tries to lighten the mood at one point and the only one who laughs i Chloe,p a brilliant directorial touch by Kasdan.

This gathering of old and new friends sets the stage for some long-dormant resentments to bubble to the surface and for some long buried passions to be re-ignited. Kasdan has a sharp directorial eye and a flawless ear for dialogue with one of the most quotable screenplays ever and it is all set to a soundtrack of the greatest music from the 1960's ever compiled for a movie soundtrack.

The cast is perfection...Close received a Best Supporting Actress nomination but the entire cast works at the same level and to honor one without honoring the ensemble wouldn't have been right. This is the ultimate ensemble piece and it works just about perfectly. Anyway you slice it, an instant classic.

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The Break Up is another incorrectly marketed romantic comedy, that like 2005's The Family Stone, turned out to be anything but the film it was advertised to be.

This disjointed and odd film chronicles the end of the relationship of Gary (Vince Vaughn) and Brooke (Jennifer Aniston). They meet in the opening scene at a baseball game and the bulk of their relationship is illustrated through photographs shown during the opening credits. What we see is the final days before the big fight where Gary and Brooke decide to break up, but remain roommates in the condo they co-own. Then the story segues into this WAR OF THE ROSES type battle to see which one can hurt the other more.

The main thing that bothered me about this film is that the story is one-sided. I believe when making a film about a relationship, no matter what phase of the relationship, we should be able to empathize with both parties involved. In this film, Gary comes off as a victim of this cold manipulative bitch Brooke and it doesn't work. Vaughn's performance is solid but Aniston just comes off as shrill and annoying.

There is a solid supporting cast including Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, Justin Long, Joey Lauren Adams, and the divine Judy Davis, but even their presence fails to make this film entertaining. It's mean-spirited and unpleasant and the lion's share of the blame has to go to Vaughn, who produced and co-wrote this mess. I don't know what he was trying to do here, but it didn't work.
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The Brothers is a breezy, but ultimately empty flip side to Waiting to Exhale which chronicles the friendship between four attractive and professional African American males as they navigate through various problems regarding the opposite sex.

Nothing deep or exciting here, but the cast is attractive and works to please. Morris Chestnut plays Jackson, the doctor who loves the chase but is scared to death of commitment; Shemar Moore is the engaged brother who thinks he's ready to settle down; DL Hughley is the married brother who is not getting what he wants in the bedroom; and Bill Bellamy is the attorney whose bad experiences with black females have led him to a decision to only date white women. Despite stilted direction and a paper thin screenplay, the very attractive cast makes this watchable. There is effective support from luscious Gabrielle Union as the lady with a secret Chestnut falls for and from Jenifer Lewis and Clifton Powell as Chestnut's divorced parents. Basically, the film comes off as a 90-minute rebuttal to Waiting to Exhale, but the attractive and willing cast make it worth a look.
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The Cable Guy is a twisted black comedy about a manic cable TV installer who invades the life of one of his customers well beyond the point of comfort.

Director Ben Stiller brings a decidedly dark twist to what could have been a standard comedy that distracts to the point where we're not sure how we're supposed to feel about the central character...are we supposed to like him? Fear him? Pity him? It's hard to determine exactly because the screenplay is all over the place and Stiller's rein on the manic Jim Carrey in the title role isn't quite tight enough.

There are some on-target jabs at the television industry but most of the laughs provided here are nervous ones. Carrey works hard to make his off-the-wall character likable but only succeeds half the time. Matthew Broderick makes an effective straight man as Stephen, the young architect whose life Carrey invades.

The film also features Leslie Mann as Broderick's girlfriend, George Segal and Diane Baker as Broderick's parents, and Jack Black as his best friend. Owen Wilson can also be glimpsed in a brief cameo as a blind date of Mann's.

Director Stiller is also featured in an amusing set of cameos as twin former child stars whose murder trial is being covered on Court TV. Jim Carrey was paid 20 million for this film and after seeing it, you have to wonder why.

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