Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Happy Feet (2006)

Starring the voice of Elijah Wood, Hugh Jackman and Robin Williams

An individualistic penguin can’t sing like all the other penguins; instead he wants to dance. This is a good family movie, and enjoyed a lot of success in the theatres.

The Children of Men (2006)

Starring Clive Owen; Directed by Alfonso Cuaron

This is a depressing, realistic depiction of our world (20 years or so in the future) in which a mysterious condition has rendered everyone infertile. A faceless bureaucrat living without hope is asked by a mysterious group fighting the violent, repressive government in England to help a woman in need.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

Starring Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson, and Dustin Hoffman

A boring IRS auditor (Will Ferrell) finds out he may be a character in a story written by a novelist (Emma Thompson). Further, it looks like she’s planning to kill him off at the end of the book. This is a funny, thought-provoking movie that works on multiple levels. Dustin Hoffman is very funny as a professor of literature that Ferrell looks to for help.

Hollywoodland (2006)

Starring Ben Affleck, Adrien Brody, Molly Parker and Lois Smith

In the 1950s George Reeves played Superman on TV. At age 42 he apparently killed himself. Reeve’s mother (played by Lois Smith) suspects foul play, and hires a down-and-out private detective (played by Adrien Brody) to investigate the case. All is not as it seems.

Breach (2007)

Starring Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillipe; Directed by Billy Ray

Breach is a fascinating glimpse into the mind and heart of the FBI’s worst traitor, Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper). Eric O’Neill (Ryan Phillipe) is a young FBI agent-in-training; he’s assigned to be Hanssen’s assistant in order to investigate if the senior agent presents a security risk. Only later is O’Neill told that the FBI has discovered that Hanssen is selling secrets to Russia, and that O’Neill’s new job is to help catch him in the act. Cooper delivers a stunning, multilayered performance as Hanssen, inhabiting the role with authority, energy, and complexity. This movie is based on actual events.

Friday, February 16, 2007

M*A*S*H (1970)

Starring Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould; Directed by Robert Altman

This is a masterpiece of black comedy, set in the Korean War at a Medical and Surgical Hospital (M.A.S.H.) near the front lines. It's a moving, funny, sad movie, and features some memorable music and some great performances.

Thank You For Smoking (2006)

Starring Aaron Eckhart; Directed by Jason Reitman

This is a very funny film about a man who does PR for the smoking industry. As one of the tobacco executives in the movie says, “Gentlemen, our job is easy. Our product is widely available, its very cool and it’s highly addictive.”

The Sentinel (2006)

Thriller; Starring Michael Douglas and Kiefer Sutherland; Directed by Clark Johnson

We get an inside glimpse (procedural) of how the Secret Service guards the President. It’s interesting to see Sutherland in a non-“24” role, playing opposite Michael Douglas. There’s a plot to kill the President, and Douglas is the chief suspect. He’s on the run to clear his name and save the day.

All the President's Men (1976)

Starring Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, and Hal Holbrook; Directed by Alan J. Pakula

This is a thrilling look at a couple of young newspaper reporters (Woodward and Bernstein) at the Washington Post. They’re following the story of a minor break-in at the Watergate Hotel wherever it leads. This time, it leads to the White House and presidential misconduct. (Where are the Woodwards and Bernsteins of today?!) Like a police procedural, this movie really gives you a kinetic feel for how reporters do their job.

Rent (2005)

Musical; Directed by Chris Columbus

This is a joyous version of the Broadway musical, which in turn was loosely based on the opera "La Boheme". If you like musicals, here's another soundtrack you'll have to buy. (The opening song will stick in your memory, whispering "buy me" repeatedly. Eventually, I'll yield.)

Eight Below (2006)

Starring a bunch of amazing dogs and Paul Walker; Directed by Frank Marshall

Eight sled dogs are trapped in the Antarctic winter. Their chances of survival are bleak; they must contend with frigid weather and hostile beasts. This film features gorgeous and moving visuals of the Antarctic wastes.

The Music Man (1962)

Musical; Starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones; Directed by Morton DaCosta

A conman (Preston) comes to River City in Iowa to sell musical instruments and band uniforms. The Iowa folks are suspicious of him, and with good reason. The Buffalo Bills barbershop group performs memorably throughout the film. Marion the Librarian (Jones) takes an interest in the conman, and he in her. This is a funny, enjoyable musical with great songs and performances.

Guys and Dolls (1955)

Musical; Starring Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, and Vivian Blaine; Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

This is a fresh and funny version of the Damon Runyon story, with Sinatra and Brando as gamblers who get wrapped up in an improbable bet. This film features some great singing and dancing. It's a pleasure to see the early Brando in a light comic/romantic role. The romantic interplay between Sinatra and Blaine is also very entertaining.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Starring Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant and Kate Winslett

This is a great modern remake of the Jane Austin classic. It’s a pleasure to watch the ensemble cast as they move through this period romance.

Singin' in the Rain (1952)

Starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds

This is arguably one of the greatest musicals ever made, also quite funny. It gives a supposed chronicle of the transition from silent movies to talkies in the guise of a mythical studio and two star-crossed stars.

Brigadoon (1954)

Starring Gene Kelly, Van Johnson, and Cyd Charisse

This is a fluffy fantasy about a small Scottish village that awakens every hundred years. Two lost hunters wander into the village and find mystery and romance. Gene Kelly does some great dancing and some good singing. The film includes classic songs like "Almost Like Being in Love".

Blade Runner: The Director's Cut (1982)

Directed by Ridley Scott, Starring Harrison Ford

Scott shows us a bleak and visually stunning depiction of one of our possible futures, where genetically-engineered replicants (artificial people) escape to Earth and are hunted down by special policemen (blade runners). This director's cut is bleaker and more ambiguous than the original theatrical release. The film is based on the Philip K. Dick sci-fi story, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"

Akeelah and the Bee (2006)

Starring Lawrence Fishburne and Keke Palmer

An urban kid finds she has a genius for spelling. She gets drawn into the world of spelling bees. Lawrence Fishburne plays a professor we all wish we could have had as a teacher.

Romancing the Stone (1984)

Starring Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas

A romance/adventure novelist must go on a quest to rescue her sister and gain true love, basically living out one of her novels. It's full of comedy and adventure and thrills as she travels through the wilds of Colombia with a questionable adventurer (Douglas) in pursuit of a beautiful emerald (the stone). Danny De Vito is very funny as a thief trying to steal the stone.

United 93 (2006)

This is a factual, harrowing, carefully focused movie showing the real-life events on United Flight 93 as terrorists hijacked it on 9/11/2001. The passengers fight back, but at a terrible cost. We also see the National Flight Control Center as it tries to come to terms with the hijackings of airliners on that terrible day.

The Illusionist (2006)

Starring Paul Giamatti, Edward Norton, and Jessica Biel

Paul Giamatti plays a policeman assigned to investigate a mysterious magician (Edward Norton). The magician is in a conflict with Crown Prince Leopold at the turn of the century. This film has some delightful twists and turns.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Starring Steve Carrel, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin

This is a quirky movie about a strange family that goes on a road trip so the daughter of the family can compete in a beauty contest. Will her divided family be able to make it happen?

Step Up (2006)

Starring Channing Tatum & Jenna Dewan

Two very different people are born to dance, and get a chance to do it together. The film is set at a school for the arts.

Clerks II (2006)

Directed by Kevin Smith

If you enjoyed Kevin Smith's Dogma, you may also enjoy this movie, a follow-up to his original movie Clerks. It has a great tag line, "With no power comes no responsibility." It could best be termed a slacker comedy, sprinkled with *&*#$#* language. But hey, they'll be running the world in 20 or 30 years.

Con Air (1997)

Starring Nicholas Cage

This thriller is about convicts who take over a plane. It's a standard action movie with good explosions, etc., but also contains the hilarious line (in context), “Put the bunny down!”