In his latest outing, "Hors de prix," Gad Elmaleh ("The Valet") is following in the footsteps of some mighty predecessors:
  • William Holden in "Sunset Boulevard"
  • Gene Kelly in "An American in Paris"
  • George Peppard in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
Are you starting to get a glimmer? Elmaleh works at an upscale Parisian hotel where he is a bellhop, dog-walker, waiter, busboy and (sometimes) bartender. Audrey Tautou ("Amelie" and "The Da Vinci Code") is a conniving, resourceful, high-priced "companion" to much older, very wealthy men. She first encounters our hero in the wee small hours of the morning, when he is filling in at the hotel bar in the bartender's absence. Because he is dressed nicely, she assumes he is a patron, not a mere employee. Of course, she is tres attractive and charming, so he clumsily allows her to believe it, and proceeds to dig himself a hole he can't get out of, so he too, in a great cinematic tradition (see above), becomes a "companion."

French actress Audrey Tautou has been compared favorably to our own, sorely missed, Audrey Hepburn, with her expressive eyes, pencil-thin frame and blinding smile. Personally, I think the resemblance is slight, but I can see why people make that comparison. Tautou is an appealing actress in her own right, why try to find resemblances? Watch for her demonstration of a far-away look; she's really good! You can actually SEE her eyes cloud over.

I very much enjoyed watching her teach him some of the tricks of the trade and got a giggle out of them comparing their "take": Jewelry, watches, clothes, even a scooter. They are hard-working professionals and you actually want to see them do well. It was fun to recognize the little ploys they used and to appreciate how well they worked. Marie-Christine Adam is the wealthy older woman who becomes Gad's "sponsor." She is indeed, a cougar worthy of the title.

Of course this is a romantic comedy, so don't go expecting car chases, gunfights, explosions or any other blowie uppie stuff, just two attractive people scrambling to find their way...and maybe each other...in beautiful settings, with pretty clothes and upscale surroundings.

I liked it.


Disaster Movie

Derivative! Of course, that's the whole point. These folks made a movie that makes fun of movies. The fun for us was seeing how fast we could identify either the movie being spoofed or the performer who was being satirized. They usually gave us the names of the actors, singers and personalities fairly early on, but to watch their movements, appreciate the costumes and see how astonishingly close the impersonators came, was a romp.

Some of the people being satirized:
  • Justin Timberlake
  • Amy Winehouse
  • Mike Myers
  • Harrison Ford
  • Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana
  • Flava-Flav
  • Javier Bardem
  • Dr. Phil
  • Amy Adams
  • Michael Jackson, the list goes on and on.
As to a few of the movies being given the raspberry:
  • 10,000 BC
  • Indiana Jones
  • Batman
  • The Hulk
  • Hellboy
  • Sex and the City
  • High School Musical
  • Prince Caspian
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • Hancock
  • Superbad
  • Enchanted
  • Beowolf
  • Wanted
  • Juno
  • Iron Man
  • Speed Racer
  • and most of all, Cloverfield
This thing is strictly for undiscriminating movie addicts. It's silly, raunchy, violent, inane and lots of fun.



Here's a big surprise: The best thing about this movie is Don Cheadle. I expect that sometime, he will finally be awarded his much-deserved Oscar; unfortunately, this won't be the time.

This is a post-9/11 world, with radical Muslims plotting against the US, the FBI overstepping its bounds to track terrorists internationally and more traditional Muslims caught between those two worlds.

Cheadle ("Hotel Rwanda," "Talk to Me," "Reign Over Me" and the "Ocean's" franchise) plays a deeply religious explosives expert (Yes, you see lots of blowie uppie stuff!) who is working for the radical faction. Guy Pearce ("L.A. Confidential" "Memento," "The Count of Monte Cristo," and "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert") is the straight-arrow FBI man who, with a CIA sidekick, tracks terrorists all over the world. He can't help but notice that Cheadle's character is usually in the vicinity when a major terrorist operation goes down. Once again, the talented Mr. Pearce has disguised his Australian accent, this time with a mild Texas one.

Other than a completely unexpected plot twist that elicited an audible response from the screening crowd, this film verges on the absurd; too many coincidences; some sadly garbled geography; a preposterous script. For example, Cheadle's brilliant character risks everything to intercept a woman in a park so he can tell her that he can't ever see her again. How clever is THAT?!

Espionage films require close attention. Mine was VERY close because I had so much difficulty making out the dialog. Ah, for Closed Captions...

The House Bunny

Anna Faris ("Scary Movie" and "My Super Ex-Girlfriend") is a Playboy Bunny evicted from Hefner's mansion at the ripe old age of 27. This character is always upbeat, sunny, optimistic and quite dense! She hasn't a clue how to support herself and is instantly homeless. When she sees a sorority house at a nearby campus, she thinks it's another Playboy Mansion. Instead it is a distaff version of "Animal House."

This motley assortment of female nerds, dweebs and dorks only totals seven. They MUST recruit 30 more pledges before the upcoming school term or lose their charter (sound familiar?). Our heroine offers herself to be their house mother, whereupon she quickly converts them to the idea of being glamorous, sexy and flirtatious. One of the dweebs is played by Rumor Willis, who is the eldest daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. Her character seems to be suffering from scoliosis, as she wears a body brace throughout the first half of the movie.

The presence of another second generation offspring shocked me: Colin Hanks (Tom's son) has an admirable oeuvre ("Band of Brothers," "Untraceable," "Orange County" and "King Kong" - 2005) and shouldn't have to stoop to a movie of this caliber!

Hugh Heffner appears as himself, the mansion seems real, the (mostly male) audience obviously enjoyed feeling smarter than a bimbo.

The movie is loaded with double entendres, horny guys, wild parties, and a flimsy moral: "Be yourself." By the way, evidently the female version of a kick to the crotch is an elbow to the breast. Hmmm...


Sex Drive

"Sex Drive" is a Summer Movie. This is Hollywoodese for a testosterone-driven peep show featuring lissome young women and clueless young men aching for release from their frustrations. It is lewd, crass, profane, gross and politically incorrect, but has, hidden within it, a surprisingly sweet little love story.

I laughed in spite of myself at the crude humor, and was amazed at an over-the-top performance by James Marsden ("The Notebook" and "Enchanted") playing waaaay below his game as our hero's belittling (and cruel) older brother. Our callow hero is played by Josh Zuckerman (who has been working steadily since 2000 but mostly in television) with the roles of his two best friends filled by Clark Duke ("Superbad") and Amanda Crew ("John Tucker Must Die").

This movie bears a vague resemblance to a couple of forerunners:
  • "Trojan Wars" starring Jennifer Love Hewett, which centered around a virginal young man desperate to realize his sweaty dreams but as a condition before doing the deed, had to find some "protection." I knew about this movie because a friend had a major supporting role.
  • "The Sure Thing" starring John Cusack, which is one of the best road movies ever made.

By the time our hero and his best female friend realize that they are made for each other (BIG surprise!), it has actually become fairly involving.

This movie really is gross... Funny, but gross...


August Rush

"August Rush" is a drama, a romance, a musical and a fantasy all rolled into one delightfully entertaining package.

The story begins eleven years prior to the present. A talented cellist, a graduate of Juilliard School of Music, has given a concert at Lincoln Center in New York City. Lyla Novacek, played by Keri Russell ("Waitress" and "The Upside of Anger") is carefully managed by her ambitious father. After the concert she goes to the roof of the building where the after party is being held because she needs to decompress.

On the roof is a rock musician, Louis Connelly, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers ("Bend it Like Beckham," "The Velvet Goldmine" and "Match Point"), who is also decompressing from his performance as a popular guitar player in a small band; he has just completed an appearance at a nearby club.

They meet, discover to their mutual delight that they are kindred spirits and spend the night together up there on the roof. Of course her father derails their plans to meet again the following day at Washington Square Arch, so they are lost to one another. Lyla discovers she is pregnant, is injured in an accident when she is near term and her father tells her the baby died, though he actually signed it over for adoption. His duplicity was in vain; she quits performing and becomes a music teacher in Chicago.

Louis has also stifled his love of music, has become a successful businessman and lives in San Francisco.

Their son, who eventually adopts the professional name of August Rush, is raised in an orphanage. He is reluctant to leave because he is afraid his parents won't be able to find him. August is played to perfection by Freddie Highmore ("Finding Neverland" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"). He is bullied by the older boys because he has an unshakable belief that his parents will find him. He has had no contact with music or the making of music during his life in the institution.

When he is eventually told he is to be sent out for adoption, he runs away. Here is where the fantasy comes in. His first contacts with various musical instruments are almost psychic. He hears music in the traffic, the jackhammers, the skate boards, etc., and when he hears a guitar for the first time he is transported...and so will you be! You have NEVER heard a guitar played quite like this before. AND little Highmore learned to play guitar specifically for this role!

The sound track on the movie is amazing! It goes from street music, rock and gospel, to classic orchestral and fusion sounds that are unique and satisfying. Even the exit music is wonderful.

As I say so often, clichés become clichés because they WORK! My companion and I got goose bumps right on cue, she cried when she was supposed to, we thrilled to the drama of three lost people searching for each other, and naturally, we were immensely satisfied with the ending. This is NOT a spoiler. You know from the beginning that somehow this just HAS to have a happy ending, but you also know you are going to enjoy every step of the process!

Other than Robin Williams playing a hateful (and scary) Fagan-like exploiter of street children, you have armloads of people you can root for. What more could a person want?

I didn't like it...I LOVED it!


Swing Vote

This pleasantly diverting and timely little piece will slip in under the radar and scarcely make a blip...but I had a nice time. It is rare to sit in an audience and hear folks laughing out loud, repeatedly, throughout the first half of a movie. In this odd little film, Kevin Costner ("Field of Dreams," "The Upside of Anger" and "Dragonfly") is a ne'er-do-well, country-fried, indolent drunk. Am I being too subtle? He is a mildly profane, worthless, single father whose long-suffering daughter, spectacularly well played by Madeline Carroll (mostly TV and horror films), seems to be the only adult in their trailer-trash domicile.

She struggles to get him up and off to work each day, tries valiantly to attend elementary school and earn good grades, but fails miserably, so he is fired from his egg-packing job in their teeny New Mexican town. Then he forgets to show up to vote in the Presidential election, despite her urgent reminders. She slips into the bingo parlor where the town votes, signs the roster and steals a ballot while an elections worker dozes. As she starts to vote for him, there is a power failure. The voting machine locks up, so she tears off the ballot stub and flees in the darkness.

Of course, because this thing originated in Hollywood and we checked our skepticism at the door, the election is evenly tied, New Mexico can tip the balance either way and it too, is tied. It all comes down to one vote in the county where Costner lives. They link the missing ballot stub with his (forged) signature and Costner becomes the Man of the Hour. He has to swear to recast his ballot in 10 days. He doesn't want to tattle on his daughter, so they are both implicated.

Like Henry Fonda, Costner has a knack for playing plain-spoken characters (although he is NO Fonda!). His delivery is pitch perfect for that kind of person, although he will never be much of an actor. Madeline Carroll, however, does a remarkable scene where she reluctantly delivers an alibi to her school classmates for her dad.

Kelsey Grammer ("An American Carol," lots of voice work for children's cartoons and three television sitcoms) is the incumbent Republican, while Dennis Hopper ("Sleepwalking") is his Democrat challenger. Their campaign managers are played, respectively, by Stanley Tucci ("Kit Kittredge: An American Girl" and "The Devil Wears Prada") and Nathan Lane ("Birdcage" and "The Producers"). Both are slick, focused and pragmatic, while both candidates start to suffer qualms of conscience.

The fun comes as we watch both campaigns pander to the lowest common denominator, see the absurd political ads that are quickly developed and observe the feeding frenzy of the press which is camped around the trailer park. Eventually, it's clear that some common sense will start to prevail. I like redemption movies and Costner's character is sorely in need of redemption!


Vicky Christina Barcelona

At least it's a good travelogue. This movie just didn't grab me the way Woody Allen's "Match Point" did a few years ago, but it offers extraordinary shots of Barcelona's unique architecture, restaurants, viewpoints, parks, waterfront and plazas. The story flirts with what I would crassly call "an old man's wet dream." (Did I just say that?!) For example, the idea of a ménage a trois featuring two world-class beauties: Penelope Cruz ("Volver" and "Vanilla Sky") and Scarlett Johansson ("Match Point" and "The Other Boleyn Girl") certainly would qualify, don't you think?

Johansson plays Cristina, a free-spirited young woman visiting Barcelona on a lark with her long-time friend, Vicky, effectively portrayed by Rebecca Hall ("Starter for Ten" and "The Prestige"). The first is looking for a new experience, while the second is visiting an old friend before her fall wedding in New York. Patricia Clarkson ("The Station Agent" and "Lars and the Real Girl") is the restless old friend, who ends up engineering a great deal of mischief in Vicky's life.

The two young women meet a favorite of mine, Javier Bardem ("Before Night Falls," "The Sea Inside" and Oscar winner for "No Country for Old Men"), who plays a local artist, recently single after a notorious, mutually violent divorce from his spitfire wife, Cruz.

Personally, I was grateful for a wonderful voiceover by Christopher Evan Welch ("The Hoax" and "The Good Shepherd"), formerly from Seattle. He is not only a fine actor, he enunciates!

Other than a fine performance by Hall, this was singularly uninvolving.

Oh well... The theater was air conditioned, and I loved the scenery!

Hamlet 2

Dumb, dumb, dumb... One cliché after another. Raunchy, idiotic and trite; sexist, racist and illogical. I don't suppose you want to know that I laughed out loud...more than once...
Steve Coogan ("Tropic Thunder" and "Night at the Museum") is the inept drama teacher in a Tucson high school. The student newspaper does NOT appreciate his efforts to mount a play and the arts department is being closed at the end of the term. His wife, played by Catherine Keener ("40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Capote"), is out of patience and eventually leaves him. The man who takes her away is played by David Arquette ("Two Brothers and a Bride") who has maybe five words of dialogue in the entire movie! To my surprise, Elizabeth Shue ("Soapdish" and "Leaving Las Vegas") is in this thing; her lovely looks and indisputable talent are both totally wasted.

The students, who only took Coogan's class by default, are mostly Hispanic, consequently he has categorized them as illiterate street toughs.

Suffice it to say, to write a sequel to Hamlet, probably the greatest tragedy in the English language, is absurd, because everyone is dead by the final curtain. His goofy idea is to use time travel as his deus ex machina which allows Hamlet to go back and prevent the tragedies. This also allows him to cast Jesus, Albert Einstein and a few other luminaries.

Of course, against all odds, the play is finally mounted in a warehouse to overwhelming success.

Two actors were worthy of note:
  • Amy Poehler ("Baby Mama" and "Blades of Glory") is the representative of the ACLU, there to defend our hero's First Amendment rights. She has only a couple of scenes, but she knocks them out of the park.
  • Joseph Julian Soria ("Bliss" and "Bondage") is impressive as the Hispanic student who upsets our hero's preconceptions. I hope this helps him find more worthy roles!

My opinion? This movie is for a very specific audience and you probably don't fit... Don't go!


Tropic Thunder

Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara were a top-notch comedy team in the 1960s. When Ben was born he was in constant contact with A List entertainers and never lost touch. As his career has grown, he can tap into talent and recruit "names" that other producers only dream of.

"Tropic Thunder" starts with some fake movie trailers along with authentic studio logos and a green ratings notice with each movie saying it is "suitable for an audience"...no age, no rating, no nothing. The trailers show a blonde (Australian!) Robert Downey, Jr. ("Iron Man" and "Chaplin") playing a monk who has fallen in love with another monk, played by Toby McGuire ("Spiderman")! Jack Black ("King Kong" and "The Holiday") plays multiple roles in a tasteless Eddie Murphy-type comedy. Ben Stiller ("Meet the Parents" and "Zoolander") is clearly aping Sylvester Stallone and his "Rambo" series. I found the opening clips to be hilarious!

Stiller's character, Tugg Speedman, has had some bad, bad box office lately and MUST have a hit. He will star in a Vietnam War drama based on a book written by a grizzled vet played by Nick Nolte ("Hotel Rwanda" and "The Hulk"). Cast in Stiller's platoon we find Robert Downey, Jr, whose character has had his skin pigment altered so he can play a black man. In addition to Black, we find stand-up comic Brandon T. Jackson (who IS black), and Jjjay Baruchel (the spelling is my own because he reminds me of a good friend when I first met him 20 years ago).

Casting a white man to play a black one would be more problematic but the real black man is so unrelentingly critical that all the bad things that MIGHT have been said have already BEEN said. Very, very clever. Stiller makes fun of the egos, the drug use, the fakery and the flim flam of Hollywood. It is clear that he absolutely knows that world!

This movie is gross, bloody, profane, disgusting, has lots of blowie uppie stuff and I found it to be funny as hell.
  • Tom Cruise is practically unrecognizable as a bald, pudgy, foul-mouthed studio head
  • Matthew McConaughey is Stiller's bewildered but greedy agent
  • Steve Coogan is the befuddled British director of the movie within a movie
  • Christine Taylor (Stiller's wife) is a studio flunky
  • Tyra Banks is herself
  • Maria Menounos is herself
  • Jon Voight is himself
  • Jennifer Love Hewitt is herself
  • Jason Bateman is himself
  • Lance Bass is himself

The movie works best for those of us who follow the movie industry. We are more likely to pick up on the insider jokes, recognize the faces and know when we are having our legs pulled. Others might find it confusing and tiresome. The guy next to me, along with being quite drunk, found the movie "stupid" and left before the initial trailers ended; I was laughing my head off!


The Closet

Here is a French comedy that is now several years old: "The Closet" which stars Daniel Auteuil ("The Valet," "Manon of the Spring" and "Cache") has been called "the perfect comedy." Auteuil is an accountant at a French condom factory who overhears a conversation in the men's room; he is to be down-sized as a cost-cutting measure. He is depressed; his teenage son doesn't like his spaghetti sauce; his ex won't return his calls; and now he's going to lose his job.

That evening, he drinks a bottle of wine and decides to end it all. When he goes out on his balcony, his new neighbor (the moving men are still schlepping furniture and boxes into his apartment next door) says, "Don't jump! You'll mess up my car parked down there!"

The upshot is, they get acquainted, share another bottle of wine and our hero tells his new friend his woes.

The guy says, "I used to be a personnel manager for a large company. You can keep your job, just let them know you're gay. France has anti- discrimination laws, you know!"

Our hero says, "But I'm NOT gay!"

The neighbor says, "They don't have to know that at work, do they?"

And the fun begins....

This wonderful little piece is written and directed by one of my favorite directors in the whole world, the sweetly dependable Francis Weber ("The Dinner Game," "Le Jouet," "La Cage aux Folles," "Three Fugitives" and "Les Compères"). Also in this wonderful cast is the always-working Gerard Depardieu ("Green Card," "Unhook the Stars" and "Manon of the Spring") and Thierry Lhermitte ("The Dinner Game" and "The Divorce"). The dynamics of a corporate culture are beautifully captured and the various personalities, subplots and events are terrific. You'll LOVE the kitten!

Recent requests for foreign movies on DVD have prompted me to look at my own collection. A movie which enjoyed such a wide release in this country should be available through the rental outlets... It's a keeper! By the way, all of the movies in that last paragraph are entertaining, well- directed and acted. I highly recommend all of them.


America the Beautiful

The biggest tragedy of this award-winning 2007 movie, is that no one will see it! Right now it is slipping into general release in some movie houses, and I wish it lotsa luck! It never lags, is entertaining, involving and informational.

Darryl Roberts, the producer and director, is a man with a mellifluous voice and great intentions, who has crafted a wonderful documentary about the concept of "beauty" in America. I can't think of any aspect of it that was overlooked. We are treated to an up-close and personal look at plastic surgery, liposuction, anorexia, the fashion industry, the advertising (airbrushing!) industry, the cosmetics industry, the food industry, the exploitation and sexualization of child models and even cosmetic surgery for dogs!

He interviews young men and explores their attitudes about the issues that surround women: their fashions, their body weight and their sex appeal. (The guys don't come off very well...)

The central focus is on a terrific 12-year-old girl who was discovered by a talent agent. She was six feet tall, she was eager to excel, she instantly mastered her runway walk, and she had a mother who was a frustrated model. Needless to say, she was an immediate hit in Los Angeles, then the next year went to The Big Apple and was the flavor-of-the-month there. By the following season, she was no longer a fad in New York, so she went to Europe where she landed two gigs then was told that she was "too fat." As a result, by age 16 she was a has-been, went back to high school and took up basketball. At no time, not even by the wildest stretch of the imagination, could she ever be construed as "fat."

This documentary makes many, many interesting claims: Lethal ingredients in American cosmetics are concealed as "trade secrets" and don't have to be disclosed; this is accepted by the FDA. Many cosmetic "surgeons" are NOT licensed, consequently there is no recourse in the event of death or disfigurement. Medical examiners refuse to show anorexia as a cause of death, thereby concealing that statistic from official documents. As an aside, I found it remarkable how many dogs have had sagging lips fixed, drooping eyelids trimmed, even missing "equipment" restored after males are neutered (they use silicone pebbles).

This is an exposé, NOT a diatribe. There is wry humor throughout, and we are treated to fascinating interviews with women in education, the media and the entertainment world. One of the playwrights talks about a woman in Africa who was puzzled when she was asked if she liked her own body. She very emphatically DID. Then she asked the American woman if she liked "that tree over there? ...and that other tree over THERE?" When the playwright said she liked both trees, the African woman asked if the one tree envied the other because its shape was different. She was telling the American that dwelling on different shapes was ridiculous.

There were interviews with high-school age students who seem to understand the problem, but also feel helpless to fix it because of the mind-boggling amounts of money involved.

If this is re-run on television, please watch it.


Fly Me to the Moon

Wow! I have said before that 3D has come a long way. This animated story certainly proves my point.

Although I went in thinking this was either a Disney or Pixar production, to my surprise it is neither. This only serves notice that CGI artists with know-how, CAN work wizardry without being employed by either one of those giants.

The opening credits begin with a slow pan through a grassy, weedy, bug-infested area. A dragonfly seems to hover about a foot in front of your face, while various flying insects zoom onto the screen from over your shoulder. The soundtrack plays "Fly Me To The Moon" by a male vocalist...I guessed maybe Tom Jones, my companion thought it might be Frank Sinatra. Maybe it was Tony Martin. Let me know if you stay through the final credits; it should be there. In fact, I have tried to look up the featured soundtrack artists and their selections, because they were uniformly excellent. I haven't found anything yet...

To oversimplify: three adolescent flies want to have an adventure. They are encouraged by a garrulous grandpa fly (voiced by Christopher Lloyd, Marty McFly's zany mad scientist/friend in the "Back to the Future" franchise - McFly...get it? ...smile...) who loves to reminisce. Of course, houseflies can read newspapers, so they are aware of the first moon shot being scheduled by NASA. These three little guys plan to hitch a ride in Apollo 11 with Buzz Aldrin and his crew. ("Buzz" ... get it? .smile...)

Because this takes place in the 1960s, the Cold War is in full sway. The villains are Russian flies who seemed to be inspired by the accents of Boris and Natasha from the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" TV series.

The story is simplistic and all the human faces look alike, but the children in the audience loved the 3D (so did I!) and the movie does a neat balancing act between defying one's parents and being properly contrite when caught.


Bottle Shock

"Based on a true story." I always like to see that when a movie begins, don't you?

Seattle International Film Festival attendees awarded star Alan Rickman ("Something the Lord Made," "Snow Cake," "Truly, Madly, Deeply" and "Sense & Sensibility") the "Golden Needle Award" for his performance as the stuffy British wine expert who is talked into visiting the California Wine Country by his feisty Parisian friend, played by Dennis Farina ("What Happens in Vegas," "Paparazzi" and "You Kill Me"). His mission is to see if California wineries in 1979 can produce wine worthy of a taste test in France. California wines have been sneered at, ridiculed and rejected by the French from the very beginning, so the vintners in Napa Valley are NOT welcoming, as they assume it will be another rigged excuse to jeer at them.

Rickman's culture shock is delicious. No one can look disgusted, snooty and curious, all the while trying to maintain some modicum of good manners better than Rickman! His hesitant first encounters with Kentucky Fried Chicken and corn chips with guacamole dip are two of his more memorable scenes.

Bill Pullman ("Independence Day," "While You Were Sleeping" and "Ruthless People") is a dedicated perfectionist who is down to his last loan. His vineyard is carefully maintained and his bottling techniques are meticulous...almost to a fault! He is frustrated and broke. His son, played by Chris Pine ("Star Trek," "Smokin' Aces" and "Just My Luck"), is a major disappointment, unmotivated and going nowhere...fast!

Of course there is the inevitable romantic triangle which lacks any spark whatsoever, so there is very little point in discussing it. Suffice it to say, it isn't important to the story. They are able to use "real" newspapers and magazines when Rickman is successful in arranging a blind taste test conducted by France's acknowledged top wine experts.

We all love it when the little guy comes from behind, don't we! Watching how it all came about is the joy of this heartwarming little film.
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Here is a trailer:
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First, I'm going to make a list of things I want to see in a movie:
  • Great acting
  • A solid marriage
  • Unpredictability
  • Relatable characters
  • Cute kids
  • Heartwarming plot
  • Wonderful music
  • Wise old folks
  • Fantastic success
  • Brilliant people doing audacious things
  • Fulfilled hopes and dreams
  • Beautiful horses
  • A happy ending
This wonderful Swiss/German film has everything but the horses! Winner of the AFI Film Festival Audience Award and submitted for Best Foreign Film to the 2006 Academy Awards, this sure-fire winner will delight you from beginning to end.

As a result of a rave review from one of you (in Nevada) on my JayFlix list, I checked this out of the library. The only actor with whom I am familiar is the great Bruno Ganz ("The Boys From Brazil," "Bread and Tulips" and "The Manchurian Candidate" - 2004). I have admired his work for many years. You wouldn't recognize any of the other names, so I won't waste your time. I will say that the little boy who portrays Vitus at age four is cuter than a button and the boy who portrays him later is a piano protégé in his own right!

The story revolves around a young genius. You first meet him when he is four, already reading books and the newspaper. The boy has an IQ of 180, is a piano protégé, is a mathematical whiz and is deeply unhappy. All he really wants is to be "normal." His teachers resent being ridiculed and his classmates resent his obvious superiority. His only respite from his demanding life is time spent with his undemanding grandfather (Ganz) in his leaky old woodshop, making boomerangs and fantasizing about flying airplanes.

His parents have a solid marriage and the boy is secure in their love, but he clearly sees how much his mother wants him to succeed with his music. His rebellions are par for the course, but also a little bit different from those of the average kid. His father is dealing with the ups and downs of the corporate world while his mother tries to keep the child focused on his piano. Neither parent pays much attention to the boy's other gifts or his frustrations.

Things change after the boy falls from a balcony and suffers a head injury. The unpredictable twists and turns had me deeply involved every step of the way! No car chases, no blowie uppie stuff, no sweaty bodies, not one gun is fired and no fruit baskets were damaged making this film. ...smile...

Check it out! (Rent "Flicka" if you want to see horses...I did...)

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2


This will be a lackluster review simply because I do NOT fit the demographic. I doubt if I was EVER a "tween" so I don't think this would ever have appealed to me.

As you can see from the title, this is the second installment from a novel by Ann Brashares. It features four young gals of various body types, any one of whom, through some sort of fantastical device, can fit into a unique pair of blue jeans. They send it back and forth as each needs it to intervene with some personal crisis or other.

The four actresses, reprising their roles from Part 1, are:
  • Alexis Bledel - who capably played the daughter in "Gilmore Girls."
  • America Ferrera - the coyote who smuggled the little boy across the border in "Under the Same Moon."
  • Blake Lively - "Gossip Girl."
  • Amber Tamblyn - "Joan of Arcadia." (She's Russ Tamblyn's daughter.)

The movie is contrived, episodic, fragmented and not involving. Tamblyn is the only one who delivered her lines with any sense of comedy or sarcasm. She has already proven her chops in earlier work, so that's no surprise.

In my opinion, the piece is mostly harmless...


The Valet

As you already know, I love movies where you can find characters to root for. "The Valet" ("La Doublure") has a script FULL of them!

What a joy! A billionaire industrialist (Daniel Auteuil "The Closet" and "Cache") is thoroughly taken with his gorgeous supermodel girlfriend. She is devoted to him, they have a regular place to meet and his life is very, very good. A photographer for a local tabloid snaps a picture of them as they go to their limo, with an oblivious parking lot attendant also captured in the shot.

This hapless parking valet (Gad Elmaleh, who looks like a younger version of my former brother-in-law Frank Morrison) is a droopy-eyed fellow, totally in love with a young woman who owns a nearby bookstore. She has just rejected his proposal of marriage. The billionaire's attorney spots the fellow in the picture and the two connivers hatch a plot, foisting off the parking valet as the man who was REALLY accompanying the supermodel. Auteuil's motive is crystal clear, he can't afford a divorce because his clever wife, Kristen Scott Thomas ("Four Weddings and a Funeral," "The English Patient" and "Gosford Park") controls 60% of their holdings.

Once the financial details are in place, the parking valet and the super- model have to present the image of "a couple" to the outside world. My biggest pleasure was seeing what decent and smart people these two pawns are shown to be. If either of them had shown the slightest chink in their goodness, this movie would never have worked.

The valet's baffled parents can only stand to one side and try to figure out what in the world is going on. As an aside, the father collects bottle openers and he mentions -- with PRIDE! -- that he has been invited to a dinner on Wednesday to talk about his collection. Please, please see my review of "The Dinner Game!" ...a little insider joke...

I liked this movie a LOT! Of course, my main reason for seeing it in the first place was because I adore Francis Veber's movies: ("Les Comperes," "La Chevre" and "Three Fugitives"). His movies always have heart...