The Lookout

This one is a dandy!!!!

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (teenybopper movies) plays Chris Pratt, a young man who carelessly caused a horrific car wreck while still a teenager. Two of his passengers were killed while he and another one were very badly hurt. He suffered brain damage and now, four years later, has progressed to a sort of half-way house where he tries to master some basic living skills. Jeff Daniels ("The Squid and The Whale") plays his blind roommate who is assigned to live with him. Between them, they work on his tentative steps toward independence. He attends class, sees a counselor, and does custodial work at a local bank, which we, the clever audience, can see is obviously ripe for a robbery.

Bruce McGill ("Animal House" long, long ago) is his successful father who owns several upscale car dealerships, Carla Gugino ("Spy Kids") is his very attractive counselor and Matthew Goode ("Match Point") is brilliant as a man who was a couple of years ahead of Chris in high school and is renewing their acquaintance, made extra appealing by a beautiful young woman, Isla Fisher ("Wedding Crashers") who seems to genuinely admire Chris.... She can remember his exploits when he was on the high school hockey team and he finds that flattering.

His only means of keeping track of basics, like showering (WITH soap), eating breakfast, remembering his car keys, etc., is to write them down in his little notebook. You watch his struggle, relate to his frustration and completely understand his point of view when he listens to the siren song of the crooks.

This is an edge-of-the-seat nail biter, made so much more involving because basically Chris is a decent young man who is completely out- thought, out-manned and out-gunned by a clever, ruthless gang.

Do NOT miss this movie!
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Starter for 10

So. Have you heard of this one? It stars James McAvoy ("The Last King of Scotland" - he was the Scottish doctor and "Chronicles of Narnia" - he was the faun) and no one else you've ever heard of... other than an aging Charles Dance in a tiny role.

McAvoy plays an ambitious, working-class trivia buff who is selected to represent his posh private university in a well-known nationally televised contest, "University Challenge," which takes place each year. Of course he falls for the blonde, even though we all know right away that the dark-haired activist just HAS to be his soul mate.

In my opinion, the best things about the movie are his flaws. He is a highly commendable young man, with all-too human parents and friends, to whom he tries to remain loyal, but he blunders into a couple of missteps which are completely understandable, which have devastating effects on him.

McAvoy seems to be the critics' darling right now, and he is certainly quite capable. However, although I find him personable, charming and pleasant to watch - in my view, no pedestal yet. .. maybe later...


Me Without You

This little 2001 sleeper may not even be available to rent. I'm not sure where my source got it, but I can't find it in the catalogs. It stars a brilliant Michelle Williams ("Brokeback Mountain" and "Dawson's Creek"), Anna Friel ("A Midsummer Night's Dream") and - be still my heart! - Oliver Milburn ("The Forsyte Saga" and "Tess of the d'Urbervilles"). In addition, you will see Kyle MacLachlan ("Blue Velvet" and "Dune") in the thankless role of the visiting American professor.

The stage is set showing two little girls who live next door to each other. They play together, get in trouble together and have what seems to be an almost sibling rivalry. William's character, "Holly" is routinely the underdog, while Friel's "Marina" is a self-centered manipulator. In addition, Holly nurses an unrequited crush on Marina's older brother Nat.

The second section of the movie becomes a little hard to tolerate, with Marina's night clubbing, drugging and general out-of-control behavior, in which Holly loyally tags along, if only to pick up the pieces. You can see that Marina instinctively foils Holly's crush on Nat, who moves to France after expressing an interest in Holly after all, because he was misled by a conniving Marina. Holly (thinking he has forgotten her) trudges her way through one dismal fling after another, including a clash with Marina over their English Lit professor (MacLachlan). Whew! Pretty soapy, huh?

Remember I said this was a chick flick, so there is no need to discuss the plot any further, but I WOULD like to mention a few other facets to this film. Oliver Milburn played a young Forsyte in the second version of "The Forsyte Saga," the supremely popular Masterpiece Theatre production. He was appealing and ingenuous, but now he has grown up! YUM!

Michelle Williams displays such a convincing British accent I had to look up her bio and remind myself she is from Montana! She inhabits her roles so fully, you never catch her acting... Keep an eye on her... I suspect the best is yet to come!

Good luck finding this...


Wild Hogs

"Mid-Life Crises" for four old friends, John Travolta ("Face-Off" and "Swordfish"), Tim Allen (All those "Santa Clause" movies), Martin Lawrence ("Big Momma's House" and "Nuthin' To Lose") and the wonderful William H. Macy ("Fargo" and "Happy, Texas").

These four guys, each for very different reasons, agrees to a road trip on their motorcycles. Not just the weekly outing, but a real one from Cincinnati to the Pacific Coast. Macy is by far the most inept of the four, with one mishap after another, which, because he is such a skilled actor, manages to be the funniest. This has the standard low-brow humor, e.g., the state trooper who misunderstands the sleeping arrangements and assumes it is a gay free-for-all after Macy burns down their tent; all of them stripping to the buff on a dare while in a swimming hole, only to be joined by a happy family who obviously intends to spend the afternoon; running out of gas in the middle of the desert.

They land in an isolated bar that is a tough, motorcycle-gang type dive. Before long they have managed to irritate the leader (has Ray Liotta gotten taller?) and before it is resolved, have inadvertently blown up the bar. You know how these things go...

I just have one question: (I got sidetracked by the "Extreme Makeover" plot that is running while the credits scrolled.) Was that Peter Fonda?

This is NOT worth a ticket at the multiplex, but if you are really, really bored some evening, go ahead and pop some popcorn...


The Shawshank Redemption

Odds are that you skipped this one when it first came out, as it landed with a thud at the box office. For one thing, very few people had read Stephen King's novella, and most of us never even bothered to figure out how to pronounce it. Suffice it to say that I, among many others, was wrong. This simple little story has now taken its place among the top 50 American movies of all time!

The basis of the movie is about a man (played by Tim Robbins) convicted of murdering his wife and sent to prison with a life sentence. You see the unpleasant (putting it mildly!) rigors of prison, and watch a friendship slowly build between him and a black lifer (played by Morgan Freeman) incongruously named "Red."

Several things delight me when watching a movie:
  • I love watching really smart people deal with a tough situation
  • I love seeing people who have grit and determination
  • I love knowing what "really happened"
  • I love watching a character evolve
  • I love happy endings.
This movie has all five...but no "blowie-uppie stuff." Hurrah!

If you are lucky enough to have access to the 20th Anniversary Edition, be sure to watch the hilarious spoof, "The Sharktank Redemption" on the second disc.

Maybe Baby

The other night I watched my DVD of "Maybe Baby" with Hugh Laurie ("House" and "Stuart Little") and Natasha Richardson ("The Parent Trap" and "Blow Dry"). He is a script writer for BBC and she works for a talent agency which just signed a very, very handsome (and horny) new client.

Our couple is struggling to have a baby, so their sex life has morphed into scientific tedium; taking her temperature to see when she's ovulating, sex on demand, pelvic exams, sexual activities evaluated by advisor or counselor, sperm tests, fertility tests, test tube implants, etc., etc. (Rowan Atkinson is her gynecologist. He invites young interns to "review" her pelvic exams with him.)

Laurie is having trouble at work and is told he has to produce a new screenplay or he will be demoted to writing for a daytime kiddie show. On a personal level, he can see the absurdity of their dilemma and asks her if she thinks they should turn it into a movie. She is vehement in her refusal, "It's too private, too painful, too embarrassing!" On the sly, he starts writing it anyway on spec and the powers-that-be love it.

To his surprise, they buy it but tell him that the female "voice" sounds too masculine and suggest bringing in a female screenwriter to work with him. He refuses. Instead, he starts reading his wife's diary in secret, and the "voice" is fixed immediately, verbatim! THEN the plot thickens, as her handsome new client gets a crush on her AND is hired to play the husband in the film that has resulted from her personal quandary...unbeknownst to her.

This is a little more grownup than we expect here in The Colonies, but the leads are wonderful! And the guy playing the director is deliciously outrageous!