Resurrecting the Champ

Somber...that was the word that occurred to me as I exited the theater amid almost silent fellow audience members.

This movie, "Resurrecting the Champ" is a cross between "Shattered Glass" and ... I don't know ... maybe something about fathers and sons. In my opinion, along with the ambition of the journalist, played by Josh Hartnett ("Blow Dry" and "Wicker Park") and the ingenuity of a homeless man who calls himself "The Champ," played by Samuel L. Jackson ("The Long Kiss Goodnight," "Snakes on a Plane" and "Star Wars"), the strongest theme centers around the need for fathers to live up to the admiration of their sons and the need for the sons to earn the respect of their fathers.

I have to admit I didn't see the plot twist coming but I disagree with the critics who think Jackson is on track for an Oscar nomination. In fact, I think his was the weakest performance in the movie. Hartnett did very well as a recently separated man who desperately wants to reconcile with his wife and son. Alan Alda ("Flirting With Disaster" and "Betsy's Wedding") is, once again, completely convincing as the managing editor of Hartnett's newspaper. David Paymer is always dependable, as is Teri Hatcher. Neither of them break a sweat in their stereotypical roles.

Wait for the captions on the DVD, as the dialogue is mostly mumbled; things are very understated with heart-felt speeches by Hartnett to both his estranged wife and his confused son.

This movie is nothing to write home about, but you could do worse...

Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom...

The full name of this odd little film is "Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School." Never heard of it? Me either! This 2005 film must have gone straight to DVD and I can sort of see why. On the other hand, it has a few things to recommend it:
  • Robert Carlyle ("The Full Monty" and "Hamish Macbeth" - BBC TV Series) is a baffled widower, stuck in grief and confusion. His bakery truck is passed by a speeding motorist who suddenly has a smash up and Carlyle's character is unwillingly drawn into the injured man's life.
  • John Goodman ("O, Brother Where Art Thou?" and "The Big Lebowski") is the speeding motorist.
  • Mary Steenburgen ("Elf" and "Sunshine State") is the current proprietrix of the eponymous school.
  • Sean Austin ("Lord of the Rings" and "Men of Valor") is in the grief therapy group with Carlyle and four or five other widowers.
  • David Paymer ("Ocean's Thirteen" and "Resurrecting the Champ") is the facilitator for the grief therapy group.
  • Marisa Tomai ("My Cousin Vinny" and "In the Bedroom") is a dance student at the school.
  • Donnie Wahlberg ("The Italian Job" and "Band of Brothers") is another student at the school. He thinks he's Michael Flatley...you know...Lord of the Dance... but I am convinced he must be wearing a thong because he has a problem, ya know? Keep an eye on him in his first few scenes. He's very funny.

There are a few surprise cameos and I won't spoil things for you. By the way, it wasn't until just NOW that I figured out where Tomai's leg injury came from, so some of it wasn't instantly clear.

Although I found some of the flashback stuff a bit tedious and a couple of scenes were downright awkward, they were balanced by some laugh-out-loud moments, so all in all, it's a nice film. As you know, I always like having a nice person that I can root for...


La Buche

First of all, a HUGE thanks to the movie critics in Mesquite, Nevada who recommended this for JayFlix.net. This movie is wonderful!

The rest of you, check your catalogs and see if you can get your hands on this wonderful little French delight. I bought mine from Best Buy, so suspect it is available here and there.

This movie is written and directed by Daniele Thompson, who wrote the wonderful "Cousin, Cousine" from the late 80s...another favorite of mine. Once again it explores family dynamics, secrets, passions AND a recipe! Be sure to look at the extras on the DVD because it's there! The recipe is for, what we here in the U.S. would call a chocolate jelly roll! (I think that it is the eponymous "Buche" of the title.) The chocolate filling is the only part I'll have to try once or twice, but with all that heavy cream, I guess I'd better not try it much more than that. Yum!

I don't think I need to tell you about the story, just get the movie and enjoy the repast! I will tell you that just before Christmas, a man dies. The movie begins with his funeral. His widow hasn't told his FIRST wife of his death, so his cell phone starts to ring as he is being lowered into his grave. You can take it from there...

The actress who plays a daughter who performs for a living at the Russian nightclub is terrific. She sings Russian songs ...in Russian...and convinced me that she is really the one doing it - no lip synching! I suspected that only our American DVD featured Dean Martin's Christmas music, but no, his is the name in the original credits, so I guess the French like HIM, too...not just Jerry Lewis.

I was so involved in this story that I could hardly pause it long enough to make a pit stop! I really, really love, love, loved this movie. Appealing actors, involving story, great comic moments, clever dialogue, this movie is poignant and memorable.

Death at a Funeral - 2007

Here is a bunch of familiar faces, even though we might need a little reminding where we've seen them before. Suffice it to say, this starts with a funeral. The hearse brings the corpse to a substantial middle-class home; the grieving son, Matthew Macfadyen (Mr. Darcy in the latest "Pride and Prejudice") opens the casket and discovers they have brought the wrong man. The funeral attendants make a hasty exit and promise to return as quickly as possible. Thus our story begins.

We visit a variety of homes and watch a variety of folks preparing for the funeral in a variety of ways. One fellow, who is waiting for a ride, is concluding a phone deal for some quasi-LSD, so he hurriedly dumps out some Valium and puts his "stash" in the bottle. The folks coming by to pick him up are nearly broadsided en route and the husband, Alan Tudyk ("Firefly," "28 Days" and "A Knight's Tale") is so rattled that his wife, Keeley Hawes ("Me and Mrs. Jones" and "Macbeth"), spotting the Valium bottle on the table, gives him one to quiet his nerves. His "trip" is a hoot. Everyone in the theatre was laughing as he became fixated on one woman's silly hat. He's a terrific actor and actually pulls off the nude scene very nicely, as well.

Peter Dinklage ("The Station Agent," "Elf" and "Find Me Guilty") is a hitherto unknown guest who becomes very un-welcome, indeed!

Our hero's brother, Rupert Graves ("The Forsyte Saga," "Tenant of Wildfell Hall" and "Amazing Grace") is a successful author who flew first class from New York to London and now pleads poverty when our hero needs the lion's share of the inheritance money to purchase a flat for his family.

We are treated to the usual assortment of quirky folks and situations - the British are very good at that - and my only regret was that there were no captions, because I have no doubt that much witty dialogue got by me. Wait... Rent the DVD... Turn on the captions. (Even without them, I laughed out loud.) You will enjoy it!



This dandy British miniseries stars John Hannah ("Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Sliding Doors" and "The Mummy"). He is a detective working on a missing person case. His own wife has gone missing and it is causing him no end of emotional grief - he's drinking too much, is hallucinating and is generally deteriorating. His sidekick has to awaken him each day to get him to work...late but at least to work...

His fixation leads him to the conclusion that his "missing person" case is inextricably tied to a well-known case of amnesia that is being studied at a nearby medical facility. As he becomes more and more convinced of the link, he also alienates his coworkers -- more and more. He also alienates the well-known amnesiac and his new wife, because that fellow has created a new life for himself and isn't sure he WANTS to remember his past.

John Hannah is a terrific actor and he is super in this role.

BIG caveat! No captions! I turned the volume waaaay up and was able to get most of the dialog, but never heard the resolution to the blood in the carpet padding.... If you watch this, maybe you can tell me...


The Invasion

This remake of "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is one of those "Don’t go in the basement!" sorts of things. You know, terrible suspense, lots of car chases, zombie-like people clustering around victims to do heaven-only-knows-what to them. Evidently, once you are "exposed" to the antibodies, they can't take over your body until you fall asleep and go into REM.

Naturally, Nichole Kidman ("To Die For" and "The Hours") is exposed by her former husband, played by Jeremy Northam ("Gosford Park" and "Happy, Texas"), so part of her struggle is to stay awake while trying to find and save her little boy.

Thank goodness, Daniel Craig ("Munich," "Infamous" and "Layer Cake") is on her side...or is he...

The main attraction for yielding to the body snatchers is the Utopian promise of peace, love and happiness. Everyone will get along, there will be no striving to excel, no war, no competition. They describe life as being like a grove of aspen, which we all know is actually one massive single entity, not a bunch of individual trees, each quaking separately.

LOTS of car chases, lots of foot chases, lots of zombies, lots of blowie uppie stuff! Nah...I didn't much like it.


The Bourne Ultimatum

There is something so satisfying about watching really smart people try to outwit really smart people! This "Bourne" series really hits the nail right on the head!

Director Paul Greenglass ("United 93" and "The Bourne Supremacy") once again subjects us to the herky-jerky camera work that typifies his films. You feel you are right in the middle of the action, desperately searching over the heads of the crowds trying to spot the villains, the hero, the assassin, whomever! When things are a little quieter, you don't trust it for even a minute, knowing full well that Matt Damon ("The Brothers Grimm" and "Stuck on You" [notice I didn't mention the Ocean's series...smile...]) will react with cat-like speed and grace when danger once again rears its ugly head.

Jason Bourne still doesn't know who he REALLY was before the water- boarding and brainwashing that took place three years earlier under the auspices of the CIA. He remembers just enough to know he was created, not just trained.

Once again, we have Joan Allen ("The Upside of Anger" and "The Notebook") as a CIA Director who still looks like she "needs some rest." And Julia Stiles ("Mona Lisa Smile" and "10 Things I Hate About You") is pursued by an assassin through crowded streets in Morocco. Both Joan Allen's and Julia Stiles' characters have come to admire Jason Bourne's struggle to reclaim his identity and they also have become repelled by the CIA's willingness to kill him to keep things from getting messy.

There were some touches I personally enjoyed. If any of you have ever been to a demolition derby (I haven't, but I have watched "Grandview, USA!"), you know in order to damage the other guy's car and keep yours running, you have to use the BACK of your car, not the front, where a damaged radiator, fan or other vital parts might put you out of commission. Well, our friend Mr. Bourne already knows that and one of the chase scenes turns into a demolition derby.

When Stiles' character is on the run with Damon's, they do NOT get sidetracked by their libidos, instead they continue with the job at hand. I appreciated THAT, too! And Joan Allen's character is just as smart as the rest of them. David Strathairn ("River Wild" and "Good Night, and Good Luck") is lean, mean and sleek, as the cold-blooded professional who intends to clean house at the CIA, once and for all!

The Kingdom

"The Kingdom" is Saudi Arabia. The time is NOW and the protagonists are FBI agents who insist on going and making an on-site inspection of a suicide bomb that killed and maimed many US citizens in a "safe" zone.

Jamie Foxx ("Dreamgirls" and "Ray") leads the elite team of agents which includes Jennifer Garner ("13 Going on 30"), Chris Cooper ("Breach" and "Lone Star") and Jason Bateman ("Arrested Development"). These agents, because they are FBI and "know where the negatives are" manage to blackmail and coerce both the Department of State and the Ambassador from Saudi Arabia into an immediate deployment to the scene of the crime, despite official resistance.

Jeremy Piven ("Entourage") is the frazzled State Department official who is doing his best to get them un-deployed as quickly as possible because he doesn't want the local police to feel they have been usurped.

The Americans manage to step on toes and blunder into politically incorrect situations, but win over their Saudi counterparts through their expertise and willingness to risk their lives to solve the crime and lock up the makers of the bombs.

If it does nothing else, this movie once again, drives home the fact that the issues at stake here are mainly religious...deeply committed citizens (on both sides!) and deeply entrenched prejudices....alas...


When I left the theatre after watching "Stardust" I began mentally formulating this review. It was instantly obvious to me that I wasn't sure if it was a drama, a comedy, a fairy tale or a horror film. It was with relief that I came to the realization that my confusion wasn't limited just to me...the scriptwriters didn't know either! No wonder it was such a challenge.

This CGI-loaded film is something that a 14-year-old boy would dream up in his bedroom. Very slight plot, pretty girls, pirates, magic castles, witches and LOTS of "blowy-uppie stuff!"

Claire Danes ("Stage Beauty" and "Shopgirl") is a fallen star that our hero Tristran, played by Charlie Cox ("Casanova") has been sent to retrieve by his self-centered girlfriend, played by Sienna Miller ("Factory Girl" and "Alfie"). He finds the star in a crater and immediately ties her to him with a thong so she can't escape.

By the time the villainess, played by Michelle Pfeiffer ("Hairspray" and "Grease II"), comes snarling into the fray, things have become seriously confusing. We add Robert De Niro in a flying pirate ship, Rupert Everett, Peter O'Toole and Ricky Gervaise, and all I can say is, "Good Luck!" I think you'll like it, no matter which genre is your favorite!

I will repeat, however. I LOVE seeing Pfeiffer doing her comic stuff again! (Maybe this wasn't meant to be comedy... hmmm... I guess you'll have to make up your own mind.)


Around the Bend

Thanks to my lookout in Nevada, I saw this nifty little sleeper which boasts Michael Caine ("Cider House Rules" and "Secondhand Lions"), Josh Lucas ("Sweet Home, Alabama" and "Glory Road") and Christopher Walken ("Catch Me If You Can," "Undertaking Betty" and"Who Am I This Time?"). Obviously it is going to be nicely done!

Michael Caine is an eccentric, difficult to tolerate, old man who lives with his (VERY patient!) adult grandson (Lucas) who is a single parent raising his pre-teenage boy while working as a bank manager. It is clear that Caine wants his errant son (Walken) to come home and get the family's long-simmering differences ironed out. (Walken abandoned Lucas when he was only two years old. That is why Caine had to raise him.)

These four generations are thrown together, bounce apart, and are asked to confront their problems....all in a fast-food joint.

You won't be disappointed.

Paris, Je t'Aime

Have you heard about this one? It consists of 17 different films about different parts of Paris and why they are loved. It boasts far more directors than features, e.g., Ethan and Joel Coen are counted separately, but they jointly directed only one feature: "The Tuileries."

These films are of various lengths, some as long as 10 minutes, while others are far shorter. One is shot in a single continuous take, while others have more standard editing. Some are funny, some tragic. Some are sad, others poignant.

Actors include, Ben Gazzara, Gena Rowlands, Marianne Faithfull, Steve Buscemi, Nick Nolte, Miranda Richardson, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Fanny Ardant, Elijah Wood, Bob Hoskins, Rufus Sewell, Emily Mortimer, Natalie Portman, Gerard Depardieu, plus dozens of French actors and actresses.

An American actress, Margo Martindale, plays an American "woman of a certain age" who has come to Paris and is thinking her thoughts in French as a voice-over. I had to laugh, as her French is so bad I could almost understand her! She has been in dozens of American films as a character actress. She was particularly effective as the hateful mother in "Million Dollar Baby."

This is an experimental effort and has that feel. I found the ending very satisfying, as it seemed to tie a number of the disparate segments into a more cohesive whole. This is for the adventurous, not for the viewer who wants a beginning, a middle and an end.

Be advised....