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Elisabeh Shue's utterly enchanting performance in the starring role is the centerpiece and main selling point of 1987's Adventures in Babysitting, a highly improbable but richly entertaining comedy, that is sort of a distaff re-thinking of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Shue plays Chris, a high school senior who is dumped by her scummy boyfriend (Bradley Whitford) right before their big date. With no other plans, Chris accepts an offer to babysit for Brad (Keith Coogan), who has a major crush on Chris, and Sara (Maia Brewton) while their parents go to a party.

Right after Brad's BFF Daryl (Anthony Rapp) shows up with the latest edition of Playboy that features a centerfold who bears an uncanny resemblance to Chris, Chris gets a phone call from her BFF Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller), who has run away from home but is in some serious trouble at the downtown Chicago bus terminal and asks Chris to come pick her up. Chris has no choice but to pile the boys and Sara into the station wagon and drive downtown, beginning one of the most bizarre comic adventures ever filmed, which includes car trouble, an encounter with some very dangerous criminals, and a garage mechanic (Vincent D'Onofrio) who bears an uncanny resemblance to a comic book hero that Sara worships, a strange detour into a blues club, and Chris' encounter with a dreamy frat boy (George Newbern) who becomes her savior.

This movie isn't exactly steeped in realism and it is hard to believe that everything that happens here happens in the course of a few hours and credibility is stretched to its limit at every turn. There is one scene where the children are actually climbing the exterior of the building where the party is that their parents are attending! But what makes this movie so deliciously entertaining is Elisabeth Shue's wonderful performance as Chris...no matter how dangerous or ridiculous their situation becomes, Chris never forgets that she is the babysitter and that these kids are her responsibility, not to mention making Brad feel like a king without leading him on.

Shue receives solid support from Keith Coogan and Daryl Rapp and from Calvin Levels as a sympathetic thief. According to the IMDB, Elisabeth's brother, Andrew, who played Billy on Melrose Place, is an extra in this film but I have never noticed him (the frat party is probably a good place to start looking if you care). Shue makes this a fun little ride and if you liked Ferris Bueller, you'll like this.
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"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."




Big Night is the utterly charming and richly entertaining sleeper of 1996 that nobody saw and it's really a shame. This is the story of Secundo and Primo, a tight pair of Italian brothers who run an intimate Italian bistro in 1950's Brookyln who are facing bankruptcy until a business associate, so impressed with their food, promises to have his good friend, jazz musician Louis Prima, come to the restaurant for dinner and it is the preparations for this "big night" that send the brothers and everyone in their orbit into a tailspin. This joyous celebration of everything that is Italian-American completely envelops you with an almost voyeuristic atmosphere and characters who vividly touch your soul.



The brothers are flawlessly played by one of our most solid and underrated character actors, the brilliant Stanley Tucci and Monk's Tony Shaloub and neither actor has ever been more appealing on screen.

Tucci's Secundo is smart, sexy, charismatic, and generous of soul and Shaloub's Primo is an arrogant boob who always remains likable. Tucci co-wrote and directed this gem with actor Campbell Scott, who also appears briefly as a slick-talking used car salesman and Tucci and Scott's one scene together is a standout, but it is the atmosphere and rich characterizations that take center stage here...Ian Holm steals every scene he is in as the brothers' benefactor and Minnie Driver, Isabella Rosellini, and Allison Janney are impressive as the women in the brothers' lives.

This movie is a joy from start to finish and made me wish that I was Italian. If you've never seen this one, please, treat yourself...and don't see it while you're hungry!
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Michelle Pfeiffer's Oscar nominated performance anchors 1992's Love Field a surprisingly moving marriage of character study and buddy movie that draws the viewer in with the draw of vividly human characters involved in a somewhat over the top story that manages to hold our attention due to the extreme likability of the two main characters.

Pfeiffer plays a Dallas beautician named Lurene in 1963, who is so devastated by the assassination of JFK that she decides, against her husband's wishes, to travel to Washington DC to attend JFK's funeral and, en route, befriends a black man (Dennis Haysbert)traveling with his daughter, and the relationship that develops between the two when circumstances find the three of them on the run together.

The story takes on an unexpected richness because these two people are part of the racially turbulent 1960's and because of the beautifully evocative performances from the stars. Pfeiffer, in particular, gives us a sad and slightly pathetic creature, wearing a platinum blonde Marilyn Monroe wig that seems to represent her desire to be someone else, her Lurlene is slightly ditzy, bored,lonely, but with a heart as big as all outdoors and the quiet dignity that Haysbert brings to his character in this tense situation is on target. Brian Kerwin also scores in the most significant role of his career as Lurene's abusive brute of a husband, but it is the performances and chemistry of the two stars that make this journey a memorable one.

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Helen Mirren's complex and mesmerizing Oscar-winning performance anchors The Queen, an intimate story told on a grand scale, documenting, in what could only be a blend of fact and speculation, the movements of the royal family, Queen Elizabeth II in particular, during the days following Princess Diana's death. Peter Morgan's uncompromising screenplay hypothesizes much of the Queen's thoughts and emotions during this difficult period as this story takes us into extremely private moments with the conflicted monarch of which no one could be privy, but basically, this story portrays the Queen as an icy and cold-hearted harridan who is curiously unmoved by Diana's death and does nothing to publicly grieve or acknowledge the Princess, who by this time, was already divorced from Prince Charles and had basically turned her back on the Royal family.

The film shows how Englanders begin to publicly air their resentment of the Queen for her actions, or lack thereof, and her battle of wills with Prime Minister Tony Blair, who tirelessly advocated that the Queen acknowledge Diana publicly and what she had come to mean to the rest of the world as "the People's Princess."

Stephen Frears' bold direction does not sugar coat the screenplay, which doesn't necessarily paint the title figure in a flattering light, but puts a human face on this mysterious icon. Mirren's delicately nuanced performance is breathtaking and Michael Sheen (FROST/NIXON) proves to be a formidable screen presence in his interpretation of Tony Blair. Mention should also be made of James Cromwell as Prince Phillip and Sylvia Syms as the Queen Mother, who also make the most of their screen time, but it is the bold screenplay and Mirren's artistry that make this film sing.
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One of my favorites from my early childhood.





1973 was a very good year for legendary director/choreographer Bob Fosse. He won an Emmy for directing and choreographing the television special Liza with a Z, he won a Tony for directing the Broadway musical Pippin, and blindsided Francis Ford Coppola by winning an Oscar for Best Director for Cabaret, the dazzling 1972 film version, which is Fosse's re-thinking of the 1966 Broadway musical.

The stage and screen versions are quite different and as independent works, they stand on their own as outstanding achievements and it is not necessary to have seen the play to appreciate the movie. The main focal point of Fosse's re-thinking of the musical is that he wanted it to be a more "realistic" musical and therefore made sure that all of the musical numbers (with the exception of "Tomorrow Belongs to Me")all took place within the walls of the Kit Kat Club. He cut several numbers from the original score, but if you listen, some of them can be heard as background music in several scenes. Fosse's artistry as a director can be evidenced in the "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" scene...to this day, the scene gives me chills every time I watch it.

He also shifted the focus of the way the story is told...the play tells the story from the leading man's point of view, but Fosse switches the focus to the character of Sally Bowles, the brassy, sassy party girl who believes in "divine decadence' and wears bright green fingernail polish.

Fosse also takes two secondary characters from the play, who are older, and makes them young and attractive in order to make their story more youth-friendly, I imagine.

Liza Minnelli turns in a dazzling Oscar-winning performance as Sally, a gutsy, self-absorbed party girl who shows signs of vulnerability and a desperate need to be loved. Minnelli makes the most of her musical and non-musical moments in the film...her climactic confrontation with Brian (Michael York)is brilliantly performed. York is charming and sexy as Brian and Joel Grey's Oscar winning turn as the Master of Ceremonies is a delight.



This film ruled at the '73 Oscars, winning eight awards in all (it lost Best Picture to The Godfather and deserved every accolade it received. A sparkling, eye-popping, thought-provoking, haunting film experience that should be savored over and over again.
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Billy Elliott is an enchanting and exuberant film that celebrates the joy and the passion of dance and how it can infuse anyone. Not since Footloose has a film so beautifully captured the passion and joy that can be experienced from the art of the dance. Billy is an ll-year old Irish boy who lives with his widowed father and older brother, who both work as coal miners. Billy is taking boxing lessons at a local gym but inexplicably finds himself drawn to a ballet class that is being taught on the other side of the gym and after taking a couple of classes, Billy has tapped into a real passion for the dance which he fights but cannot deny, despite having to initially attend class behind his family's back.

Eventually, with the encouragement of his teacher, who sees his passion after he takes his first class, Billy actually finds himself auditioning for a prestigious ballet academy, but this is not what this film is about. This film is not about the work and dedication it takes to dance or the roadblocks that can stand in your way nor is about it about the threatening of traditional gender stereotypes or about dancing being an indicator of sexual orientation, all of which are touched upon here, but this is not what this film is about. This film is about the pure joy of dancing and the passion that it can ignite inside a person.

Director Stephen Daldry has mounted an imaginative and infectious story on a truly original canvas. Lee Hall's screenplay loses the film points, primarily for its needless subplot involving a coal miner's strike which distracts from the enjoyment of the primary story being told.

Young Jamie Bell is nothing short of breathtaking in the title role, a riveting performance that should have earned him an Oscar nomination. The casting of Bell is inspired because he is not a dancer, further sustaining the film's underlying theme of someone who is not necessarily supposed to be a dancer, but has a passion for it that forces him to work at it. I love when Billy is walking out of his audition and one of the auditors asks him what it feels like when he's dancing and he replies, "It's like...electricity."

Julie Walters (Educating Rita) received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her performance as Billy's teacher, who recognizes the lack of technique in Billy but sees his passion more than makes up for it. Strong support is also provided from Gary Lewis and Jamie Draven as Billy's dad and brother, respectively (though their thick Irish brogues make them hard to understand at times). A warm and energetic film that will make your heart full. Later turned into a stage musical, also directed by Daldry.
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Director Sidney Lumet (Network; Serpico, 12 Angry Men)has managed the impossible and has mounted a surprisingly riveting drama thanks to superior acting from a hand-picked cast and Lumet's solid directorial hand. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a rather mean-spirited story that is made watchable because of its professional polish and the talent in front of and behind the camera. This intense family drama is the story of Andy and Hank Hanson, two brothers in deep financial trouble, who hatch a plan to rob their parents' jewelry store, a plan that goes horribly awry, resulting in the death of two people. What these brothers plan to do is completely vile and reprehensible; however, thanks to an intricate screenplay by Kelly Masterson, which requires close attention, as it flashes forward and backward to explain what drove these brothers to do what they do and the harrowing consequences of their actions, you understand how the Hanson brothers are driven to do what they do but you can't help but accept the eventual consequences of their actions.

Oscar winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman is brilliantly unhinged as Andy, the unconscionable mastermind behind this scheme, with major father issues, whose embezzling at work and drug addiction have driven him to this desperate point. Ethan Hawke delivers the performance of his career as Hank, the high-strung younger brother, three months behind in his child support and labeled a loser by his own daughter, desperate to regain his daughter's respect. Albert Finney is rock solid, as always, as the father, bitter and unapologetic about the kind of father he was, frustrated with the police's lack of interest in nailing the culprit of this horrific crime. Marisa Tomei delivers one of her stronger turns as Andy's empty-headed wife, who is having an affair with Hank and the legendary Rosemary Harris shines briefly in the role of the mother. Brian F. O'Byrne is also memorable in a brief role as Bobby, Hank's partner in executing the robbery.

These are unpleasant people wrapped up in an ugly story which you actually find yourself questioning the fact that it is actually unfolding before your eyes, but the actors and director so completely commit to the misery that is this story, that it envelops you and stays with you long after the credits roll.
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Barbra Streisand brought her own vision to A Star is Born, the third version of this classic Hollywood story about the romance between an up and coming star and her alcoholic husband whose career is fading into oblivion. Streisand put her own stamp on this movie, making the story more acceptable to her and more accessible to 1970s film audiences.

She changed the setting of the story from films to the world of music, making her Esther Hoffman a struggling singer who is discovered by an alcoholic, self-destructive rocker named John Norman Howard (Kris Kristofferson)who grooms her for stardom while his own career falls apart.

We all know this story and have seen either of the previous versions and some were unsettled by the fact that in this version, John Norman doesn't commit suicide, he is killed in a car accident instead, taking away a lot of the power of the story.

The point of the original story is that the actor sacrifices his own life so that his wife won't give up the career she's worked so hard for. One of the most amusing parts of the original and 1954 versions is the whole episode about Esther changing her name so it looks better on a marquee. Here, our feminist heroine, Esther Hoffman, refuses to change her name and for me, this small but vital plot points diluted a lot of the power of this story.

This production is overblown and uneven. It should be understood that Streisand was just on the edge of insanity while making this film. She was involved at the time with future film producer Jon Peters, who was running her career and her life. Peters butted heads with leading man Kristofferson as well as credited director Frank Pierson, who pretty much directed this film in name only...Streisand and Peters had the last word on everything regarding this film, much to its detriment, due mainly to Streisand's complete trust in Peters, who really knew nothing about film-making at this time.

But no matter what else she does, this movie comes alive whenever Streisand sings. Highlights for me were "Queen Bee", "Woman in the Moon", "With One More Look at You" and, of course, the Oscar-winning "Evergreen."

With all the hats she was wearing while making this film, needless to say, Streisand was not very focused on her performance here, which can be described, kindly, as uneven. Kristofferson, in a role originally offered to Elvis Presley, is strong and surprisingly sexy as John Norman Howard and Gary Busey also scores as John Norman's manager. For hard-core Streisand fans only.
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Anatomy of a Murder. is a riveting and powerful courtroom drama that still makes for mesmerizing entertainment even though its 1959 release was eclipsed by Ben-Hur being released the same year.

I saw this film for the first time about a year ago and still found it fascinating from start to finish. Otto Preminger, a director who was known for pushing the dramatic envelope, mounted this superb drama about a laid back, unassuming country lawyer who decides to defend a soldier who has been accused of murdering a man who tried to rape his wife.



Preminger assembled a first rate cast here, featuring actors at the peak of their careers as well as future stars who show here why they became stars. Ben Gazzara exudes a quiet intensity as the soldier on trial; Lee Remick (replacing Lana Turner) lights up the screen as his sexy, nubile young wife; George C. Scott is electrifying as the prosecuting attorney; Arthur O'Connell is the defense attorney's leg man; Joseph Welch as the Judge; Eve Arden as a wisecracking secretary, and towering above them all is James Stewart, in a powerhouse performance, as Paul Biegler, the small town attorney whose laid back persona belies his brilliance as a defense attorney.

Preminger brings us a very adult (for 1959) drama that still packs a wallop today, accentuated by a jazzy music score by Duke Ellington and an effective screenplay by Wendell Mayes. A true classic and, for my money, the best film of 1959...they don't make 'em like this anymore.
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.The late Dudley Moore had the most famous role of his too-short career in 1981's Arthur a raucously funny and alternately touching tale that generates warm smiles, big belly-laughs, and an occasional tear if you're in the right mood.

Moore received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as Arthur Bach, a drunken playboy who "races cars, plays tennis, fondles women, but he has weekends off and he's his own boss." Arthur is destined to inherit 750 million dollars when he marries a snooty society girl named Susan Johnston (Jill Eikenberry)who is the spoiled daughter of an undercover gangster. Things get sticky when Arthur meets Linda Morolla (Liza Minnelli) a waitress/struggling actress from Queens who steals neckties for her father's birthday.

Moore lights up the screen in one of the single funniest performances of the last 50 years. The late Sir John Gielgud won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his flawless turn as Arthur's acid-tongued butler and best friend, Hobson, whose outward disdain for Arthur's behavior covers more paternal feelings.

There are other funny contributions by Barney Martin as Linda's father. Stephen Elliott as Susan's father, and Geraldine Fitzgerald as Arthur's demented grandmother.

The film was directed with a keen eye for comedy by a first time director named Steve Gordon, who, sadly, died the following the year. There was a forgettable sequel several years later and the film was remade in 2011 with Russell Brand as Arthur, but this instant classic is not to be missed.
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Four years after premiering on Broadway, Elia Kazan brought Tenneesee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire to the big screen with most of the Broadway cast intact (Vivien Leigh replaced original Blanche Jessica Tandy, though Leigh did play Blanche in the original London production).

This powerful and steamy classic is the story of a mentally fragile woman named Blanche DuBois (Leigh) who arrives in New Orleans to visit her sister, Stella (Kim Hunter) and immediately becomes involved in a battle of wills and souls with her sexy and brutish brother-in-law(Marlon Brando).

Filmed in beautiful black and white, this movie beautifully creates summer in New Orleans, you can practically feel the sweat dripping off the characters. The acting, in a word, is brilliant. Vivien Leigh creates such a delicate china doll character in Blanche that many believed she was mentally ill when she was making the film. She wasn't, she was just that good an actress. Marlon Brando ushered in a new brand of leading man and a whole slew of unforeseen acting techniques in his performance as Stanley Kowalski. Brando electrifies the screen in this performance...so powerful, so sexy, so animalistic, so intense...when he's on screen you can't take your eyes off of him. Stanley is like a traffic accident...you can't look and you can't look away. Probably one of the five greatest performances by an actor in cinema history, it must be experienced to be believed.

Leigh and Brando get rock solid support from Kim Hunter as Stella and Karl Malden as Mitch, Stanley's co-worker and Blanche's potential beau. Leigh, Hunter, and Malden all received Oscars for their performances. This was the first film in history to win three of the four acting Oscars (this feat would not be duplicated again until 1976's Network) and, surprisingly, it was Brando who would be overlooked, losing to Humphrey Bogart for The African Queen, but there is a school of thought that Brando was robbed and I agree. Kazan's direction is steady and despite the "cleaned up" Hollywood ending, this is still a bold and penetrating motion picture experience that will haunt long after the credits fade. Remade for television in 1984 and 1994.
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A compelling story and first-rate performances make A Time to Kill a minor classic. This engrossing story is about an idealistic young white attorney, practically just out of law school, who agrees to defend a black factory worker on trial for murdering the two men who raped his daughter. A richly complex story has been constructed here that gives equal times to all sides, but most importantly, raises the veil on bigotry in the south and gives us an unsettling look at vigilante justice and things we'd like to believe don't exist anymore, like the KKK.

Akiva Goldman's screenplay, based on a novel by John Grisham, presents a disturbing story populated with characters painted in shades of gray.



The cast is superb...Matthew McConaughey snagged the role of his career as Jake Briganst, the young lawyer who has divided a town and put his family in danger, as well as his own life, by taking this case; McConaughey has never topped this performance and probably never will; Samuel L. Jackson delivers his accustomed powerhouse performance as Carl Lee Haley, the tortured defendant; Kevin Spacey is brilliant as the prosecuting attorney; Sandra Bullock is the idealistic law student who agrees to assist Briganst; Donald Sutherland is Jake's alcoholic mentor; Brenda Fricker is Jake's secretary; future Oscar winner Chris Cooper is a cop caught in the line of fire; and Keifer Sutherland completely inhabits the unsympathetic role of a KKK supporter whose brother was one of Carl Lee's victims. There's also a stylish turn by late TV legend Patrick McGoohan as the judge that deserves mention.

Thanks to inspired direction by Joel Schumacher(definitely one of his better efforts),this is a compelling and deeply moving motion picture that will have you riveted to the screen. As far as I know, the only film in which father and son Donald and Keifer Sutherland appear together, though they share no scenes.
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The 1967 film adaptation of Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park still holds up as one of the strongest film adaptations of Simon's massive body of work. This charming story of newlyweds adjusting to married life in their run-down, fifth-floor walk-up in Greenwich Village is slightly dated (you'll laugh when you hear what their rent is)but for some reason this film is still completely captivating, almost 40 years after its original release.

Jane Fonda takes over the role of Corrie Bratter, originated on Broadway by Elizabeth Ashley, the headstrong, young bride who wants to be the center of her husband's world and yet have everything her way. Fonda is a delight in this role, but IMO it is Robert Redford, who really shines in this movie, reprising his Broadway role as Paul Bratter, the young lawyer who is having trouble concentrating on getting his career in gear and keeping his nubile young bride satisfied as well. Redford delivers a beautifully low-keyed performance here...softening the classic Neil Simon one-liners, making their effectiveness all the more amusing. Redford never goes over the top yet never allows Fonda to blow him off the screen either. It's a great performance.

Mildred Natwick received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her deft turn as Corrie's ditzy mom, Mrs. Banks and Charles Boyer is charming as Victor Velasco, the Bratters' eccentric upstairs neighbor and Mrs. Banks' potential suitor. Veteran comic actor Herb Edelman also scores as Harry Pepper, the guy who installs and repairs the Bratters' phone. OK, the bit about climbing the five flights of stairs gets a little old, but it does not detract from this thoroughly winning comedy that is still fun to watch after all these years.

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Steve Martin scored a bullseye with Bowfinger, a smart and cleverly mounted comedy, which Martin also wrote, which stars Steve Martin as Bobby Bowfinger, a down and out Hollywood producer on the verge of going out of business who gets hold of a script to produce and wants big time action star Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) to star in it. When Ramsey won't give Bobby the time of day, Bobby decides to shoot the film without Kit's knowledge or consent.

This premise is a wonderful set-up for some very funny sight gags. Eddie Murphy is on target as Kit Ramsey and as a milquetoast lookalike hired to do Ramsey's stunt work and close-ups. Murphy delivers one of his funniest performances as the lookalike and there are other effective contributions from Heather Graham, Jamie Kennedy, Christine Baranski,Terrence Stamp, and Robert Downey, Jr. A smart and winning comedy about the inner workings of modern Hollywood with a great screenplay and starring performance by Martin and Eddie Murphy in the dual role of a lifetime.
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Boys Don't Cry was an unsettling, uncomfortable but ultimately rewarding film experience that gnaws away at you long after the credits roll. The film is based on the life of Teena Brandon, a woman who felt she was a man trapped in a woman's body and attempted to live her life as a man. Hillary Swank won her first Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her powerhouse performance as Teena, who changed her name to Brandon Teena and attempted to live her life as a man.

This film has little to do with homosexuality. As a matter of fact, early on in the film, when her best friend refers to her as a lesbian, she blows a gasket. This encounter, coupled with problems with the law, force Brandon on the road to a new life where he meets a shy young factory worker, played by Chloe Sevigny, and begins a romance with her, which is complicated by her friend (Peter Sarsgaard)whose constant challenging of Brandon in Sevigny's life leads to an inevitable and tragic showdown. The performances by Swank, Sarsgaard, and Sevigny (also nominated for Best Supporting Actress) are nothing short of mesmerizing.

A truly adult motion picture experience, this film features some uncompromising violence and a very graphic rape scene. Once you have the children safely tucked in bed and if you have the stomach for it, treat yourself to what was probably the most powerful film to be released in 1999. You've never seen anything like this and never will again.
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Totally agree. Love this movie. Incredibly funny, well-acted, and eminently quotable. Often when Hollywood does a "we're making fun of ourselves!" movie it's a little over-the-top, but this one's a little more incisive than most, I think, especially with the Scientology send-up. And it really nails the bad movie-within-a-movie. It seems to really understand the way in which bad movies are bad (the title and its corresponding explanation being the best example), rather than just making it awful in an obligatory way.



If anyone's interested, I wrote a review in my since-dormant-but-might-come-back-someday "Yoda's Overlooked Movies" thread. It's one of my favorite comedies.

"We're trying to make a movie here, not a film!"
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