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Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle

Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes (2000)
Fact: in the late 1800s, Arthur Conan Doyle studies for his degree in medicine. One of his teachers, Dr. Bell, introduces Doyle to his singular style of crime detection.

At first a cynic and skeptic, Doyle is slowly drawn to Bell’s ability to solve high profile murders. Bell uses profound observation, inference, and deduction as his main tools. Subconsciously, Doyle absorbs Bell’s style and method. Later the idiosyncratic Bell will become the most famous sleuth of all, Sherlock Holmes.

However, several brutal murders near the college and surrounding areas catch Bell and Doyle in a cat and mouse game that challenges them to the max. Be aware there are many gruesome aspects to the chase.

The acting, direction, and storyline are top of the line. It’s riveting. I watched it alone and survived.

Garrow’s Law. Series 1 and 2

Garrow’s Law. Series 1 and 2 (2009-2010)
I have not watched such a compelling TV series in the last ten years. It defines the word excellence on all levels—casting, acting, characterization, direction.

The storyline explores the historical evolvement of the law, gradually progressing to the “radical” idea that a man is innocent until proven guilty. Each episode covers the outcome of one courtroom drama. But the emotional changes in the main characters are pivotal to our gut response. I found this series intensely satisfying. Ah, yes!

“Courtroom drama gold”—The Sunday Times (U.K.)
Did you know the show is based on the life of pioneering 18th century barrister William Garrow? Check out the show's website on BBC One for more details.

Spotlight: Stieg Larsson Films

Spotlight: Stieg Larsson FilmsGet your money's worth with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. These must-see foreign movies capture the essence of Stieg Larsson’s “best of the bestselling books.” After thoroughly enjoying the Millennium Trilogy, I thoroughly enjoyed the movies. If you have read the books, the subtitles highlight the dialogue making it easier to follow. My only regret is there will not be another book/movie in this series.

Did you know? An American version of the film is in the works starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.

Glory

Glory (1989) R
This is a Civil War film, the story of the first and only black regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Cavalry, to actively participate in the bloody business of war. A young white officer from a wealthy Boston family (Matthew Broderick) takes on the grueling job of getting these men ready for battle. He is tough, untried, but idealistically driven to turn these men into soldiers and he does.

This is the heart of the story, watching the unit grow from roughshod to ready, forming bonds of friendship that reveal their own inner problems. The common desire to engage the enemy, thereby breaking down a unique military prejudice, is another absorbing part of the story.

The cast and characters grab your heart and keep it until the final second. A must see.

Also starring Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman. Check out reviews at Rotten Tomatoes.

Beaches

Beaches (1988) PG-13Beaches, an older movie re-released in 2002, still packs a wallop. Bette Middler and Barbara Hershey take the meaning of friendship to the max. It’s an ideal chick flick for a cold winter’s night. Middler’s persona sparkles against the quietly played character of Hershey. Songs and story ripe for viewing now.

Also check out the soundtrack for the film.

Look Back in Anger

Look Back in Anger (1959)
A black and white goodie. Claire Bloom and Richard Burton perform in this heavy-hitting drama about a man with a chip on his shoulder who cannot find his niche in the world and takes his anger out on his wife. The acting carries the day.

Check out the 1958 review (plus trailers) in The New York Times.

The Last Station

The Last Station (2009) R
If you like heavy drama, if you like things with a little English touch, if you know a little bit about Tolstoy, try this film. This movie isn’t for everyone.

The acting and the background are phenomenal. Tolstoy’s determination to give the profits of his books to the Russian people is violently opposed by his loving but neurotic wife.

Starring Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, James McAvoy, and Anne-Marie Duff.

The Searchers

The Searchers (1956)
John Wayne, actor, and John Ford, director, have collaborated successfully for more than a dozen films. The Searchers offers a realistic view of the West after the Civil War. The acting, the scenery, and the music produce a touch of the innocent beauty and of the awful brutality of life in the old west. Big John Wayne is the macho king, driven to find his niece, a captive of the Comanche. This film is a classic of its kind.

For more on the movie, check out About.com and TCM. If you want to see a special event on TV, TCM will be airing the film on Wednesday, December 22 at 12:45.

28 Days

28 Days (2000) PG-13
Sandra Bullock could not do a better job as she portrays a young party girl with big problems. Besides her empowering boyfriend, her other problem is alcohol. When she crashes her sister’s rented wedding limo into the front porch of a lovely house, she lands in rehab. And the fun begins. At first she fiercely denies her problem, but eventually becomes involved with other struggling addicts. Humor and a touch of pathos make this movie memorable.

Read reviews from Entertainment Weekly and Roger Ebert. Check out a feature article about Bullock and press junkets in The Austin Chronicle.

The Hunt for Red October

The Hunt for Red October (1998) PG
Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin star in this adaptation of Tom Clancy’s bestselling book and they get it right. Many movies based on a book do not succeed. The suspense and tension of the book are intact in this movie. The underwater shots of the giant submarine, the confusion of whom to trust, and more all lead to a blistering but satisfying conclusion. Perk up your summer with a little underwater excitement.

Our Vines Have Tender Grapes

Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945)
Based on the George Victor Martin novel, this movie presents one year in the rural community of Wisconsin. It is fun to watch Edward G. Robinson as a caring father. Actress Margaret O’Brien plays his young daughter (about 7 years) in a sympathetic but not saccharine way.

Although the times are harsh, the strong family values allow them to overcome problems. It is a nostalgic breath of fresh air. Some of these black and white oldies present living of Americana.

Vertigo

Vertigo (1958)
Movie buffs take note – Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo has recently been reformatted. This newer formatting is so artistic that it adds a new dimension to your experience. Not having seen the movie for many years, I was astounded at the fresh quality. James Stewart and Kim Novak (a Chicago gal) are mysteriously intriguing right to the last frame.

Go to TCM.com for more on the movie -- including a video clip, a trailer, and trivia.

Spotlight: Katherine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy

Spotlight: Katherine Hepburn & Spencer TracyThe chemistry between Hepburn and Tracy delights viewers, old and new. Blue collar and blue blood ignite the screen still. These three movies stand alone and stand above the gold bar.

Adam’s Rib (1949) is courtroom comedy. It established their reputation as the wittiest, most brilliant couple on screen. It is even better in the light of some modern day duds.

Pat and Mike (1952) continues to illustrate this team in a totally different setting, on the links and off the links. They continue to complement each other like bread and butter.

Desk Set (1957) is the final movie. In their ongoing battle of the sexes, I’m happy to say, everybody wins.  I think these movies represent the best of the “oldies.”  Enjoy, my friends.

The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead (1948)
Based on the bestselling novel by Ayn Rand, this movie is a classic. It holds up so well. Gary Cooper as the ultimate hero performs with strength and gusto. Providing the romantic interest, Patricia Neal presents a perfect foil to his gritty performance. The final courtroom scene presents a monologue to remember.

August Rush

August Rush (2007) PG
This story of star-crossed lovers will lift your spirits. When an Irish guitarist meets a beautiful cellist in New York, they fall deeply in love. Their child, a musical prodigy like Mozart, runs away from his orphanage (that story is a subplot since neither parent knows he’s alive…) and he sets out to find his parents through his gift of music.

He takes the name of August Rush and so their song of faith and love and happy endings begins. The journey has a few jolts and there is a touch of Oliver Twist in the characters, but it is definitely a fun movie.