Blog

Elf

Elf (2003) PG
I just watched this sweet-natured Will Ferrell holiday movie. He stars as Buddy, a 30-year-old, who, as an infant at an orphanage, crawled into Santa’s bag and soon arrived at the North Pole. Elf Bob Newhart raises him. Buddy learns of his true human-ness and sets off in search of his human dad (James Caan), who seriously needs some Christmas spirit. Buddy has fun elf-adventures along the way.

It ends pretty much as you think it will---all the more reason you and any kids watching will enjoy this one (though note the PG rating). Zooey Deschanel has a lovely part (and a lovely voice) as Buddy’s romantic interest.
Tags:

Emma

Emma (2009)
Jane Austen's Emma is either your favorite Austen or the one you can't stand. It is my favorite, and for over ten years I have loved the Gwyneth Paltrow movie version (1996).

Then I saw the 2009 three hour BBC production with Romola Garai as Emma, and my love is pulled two ways. Garai is delightful as the well-meaning but interfering Emma. The set and costumes are beautiful and the pacing is just right. But Jeremy Northam (from the 1996 movie) will always be my favorite Mr. Knightley.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010) R
So nice to watch “grown-up movies” without special effects. The stories are character driven.

For more about the movie, check out reviews from the Los Angeles Times and The New York Daily News.

Written and directed by Woody Allen. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin, Antonio Banderas, Gemma Jones, and Naomi Watts.
Tags:

Love Finds Andy Hardy

Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)
Love finds Andy--and does it--three times over! First there is steady girlfriend Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford). Then there is the town flirt (Lana Turner), and last but not least, the sweet new girl next door Betsy Booth (Judy Garland), who has a crush on Andy.

Mickey Rooney is the high energy all-American teenager, getting himself in all sorts of trouble and learning wise lessons from his father Judge Hardy. In this installment, Andy's in hock for a used jalopy and has dates with two girls for the big Christmas Eve dance. A charming and funny look at an idealized bygone era.

Check out TCM.com for more on the film.

Romancing the Stone

Romancing the Stone (1984) PG
A shy, retiring romance novelist is caught up in a real-life adventure when her sister is kidnapped. I recently discovered this comedic adventure that traverses the jungles of Columbia. There’s also a sequel – The Jewel of the Nile (though I admit I haven’t seen it yet).

Starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner (with support from Danny DeVito), Romancing the Stone is for fans of the Indiana Jones series and The African Queen.


Check out Roger Ebert’s original review.

Win Win

Win Win (2011) R
If you’re tired of (but still love) violent action movies filled with car chases and computer-generated special effects, cleanse your “movie palate” with this dramedy starring Paul Giamatti, best known for his Oscar nominated performance in 2004’s Sideways (a California wine country picture that won 94 film awards).

Giamatti’s character is a small town attorney and part-time high school wrestling coach without enough business to make a living for his small family. He sees an opportunity for steady income through a shady business decision to control the funds of a client, but he still feels conflicted and wants to do the right thing. When the grandson of his client comes into town to escape a life connected to his drug-rehabbed mother, the worried attorney sees another win/win situation to help a teenager and support the wrestling team at the same time.

This film is not your usual “R” rated comedy and would be suitable for most mature teens. There are subtle messages against smoking, and the film is mostly optimistic about life.

Writer/director Thomas McCarthy has two more character-driven films with good performances—The Station Agent (2003) and The Visitor (2008). Both star individuals defined by their loneliness who are seeking happiness. All three of these films that McCarthy has both written and directed are “certified fresh” at Rotten Tomatoes.

Wild Target

Wild Target (2010) PG-13
Bill Nighy plays Victor Maynard, the best hitman in the business. The only trouble is that Victor has no friends and no life beyond his profession. When outrageous thief and conman Rose (Emily Blunt) becomes his next target, Victor just cannot manage to get the job done. Soon Victor, Rose and hapless man-in-the-wrong-place-at the wrong-time Tony (Rupert Grint, Ronald Weasley of Harry Potter fame) are all hiding out from the new hitmen hired to wipe them all out.

If you like black comedy, this movie is laugh out loud funny, right up to the last frame. For another sympathetic hitman, see Pierce Brosnan in The Matador (2005).

Yes Man

Yes Man (2008) PG-13
My brother kept recommending this movie, and I finally watched it. Yes Man is a humorous movie about a man in a rut. He attends a “yes seminar” and it opens up new possibilities and opportunities for him. Yes Man is a good light comedic movie with laugh out loud moments.

If you like Jim Carrey, you’ll like the movie. Zooey Deschanel costars; her character is cool and funny. The actress-singer performs a lot of songs in the soundtrack. Her fictional band was in the movie (featuring real group Von Iva), which was also quite humorous.

Under the Tuscan Sun

Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) PG-13
This charming movie is for everyone who ever wanted a fresh start. The viewer wants Frances to be happy. As the movie progresses, we find out exactly what it will take to make her happy. Maybe a man is the icing on the cake instead of the be all and end all? She finds happiness helping others and building a new life (and a new home) for herself. The beautiful scenery in this movie adds to the appeal.

You can also check out the book of the same name by Frances Mayes.

The Right Stuff

The Right Stuff (1983) R
The Soviets beat us into space by launching Sputnik, but America is about to catch up. The Mercury astronauts are being trained to fly America’s spacecraft and they’re all hotshot pilots.

John Glenn (Ed Harris) and Gordo Cooper (Dennis Quaid) are some of the best pilots, but before them came Chuck Yaeger (Sam Shepard) – who broke the sound barrier. This is NASA’s effort to put a man into space and America in the 60s.

The film is based on Tom Wolfe’s great book The Right Stuff. I liked the movie because of the faithfulness to the book. It has drama, comedy, and suspense.

Julie and Julia

Julie and Julia (2009) PG-13
This movie is based on the book by Julie Powell (Amy Adams), who wants to be a writer. She decides to write a blog about her attempt to cook her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She will cook 524 recipes in 365 days. Flashbacks to Julia’s (Meryl Streep) life in France, her love of French food, her life with Paul Child, and the decision to go to cooking school offer the most interesting scenes in the movie. Julia’s enthusiasm for cooking is contagious.

You’ll long to eat great (not necessarily French) food while watching this film.

Megamind

Megamind (2010) PG
Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Brad Pitt, and Jonah Hill provide the voices in the latest animated film from DreamWorks. When the (sort of) evil Megamind destroys his nemesis, the perfect Metro Man, he takes over Metropolis. But without someone to battle, Megamind gets bored and creates a new superhero Tighten.

When Tighten fails to work for the good of the city, Megamind finds himself in the unlikely position of potential hero. With reporter Roxanne Ritchie as his moral compass, Megamind fights to save Metropolis.

A laugh out loud adventure for the whole family.

Red

Red (2010) PG-13
When retired CIA agents become the target of assassination attempts, they fight back. This action comedy proves that some things do get better with age.

The old black ops team of Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich is joined by newcomer Mary-Louise Parker. Together they must elude top level assassins and discover who’s trying to kill them and why.

I especially enjoyed seeing a different side of Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman.

Home Alone

Home Alone (1990) PG
This funny family movie is great to watch during the Christmas season or anytime. The family of Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) leaves for France for a Christmas vacation and accidentally forgets him.

The eight year old who everyone thinks is helpless defends his home against bungling burglars by outsmarting them with inventive booby traps. Culkin is endearing as Kevin, and Joe Pesci is great as one of the burglars. The late John Candy makes an appearance as the Polka King of the Midwest. Sequels were made but are not as good as the original.

Some local trivia: the nativity set used in the film is currently owned by Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Darien, Illinois, and is displayed at Christmastime. Another piece of trivia: the house in Winnetka where the movie was filmed is now for sale.

Tags:

Midnight

Midnight (1939)
Claudette Colbert is down on her luck. She managed to arrive in London from Monte Carlo with only an evening dress. Unable to find a job to make enough money for a room, she crashes a society party and meets John Barrymore, who turns out to be her own fairy godfather. Disturbed that his wife, Mary Astor, is more interested in a charming man about town than in himself, Barrymore hires Colbert to seduce said man away from his wife. However, a certain Paris cab driver, Don Ameche, has different plans for Colbert.

This funny and fast paced screwball comedy from the golden era of the genre has snappy dialogue and ridiculous situations. It also showcases the Colbert persona personality perfectly: when caught in a lie tell a bigger lie.

Check out the original New York Times review from 1939.