One for the Money

It looks as though Katherine Heigl wants to start a new movie franchise. She is an executive producer for this mediocre film version of Janet Evanovich's first Stephanie Plum mystery. If you've read those books you know there is always a number in the title. It felt to me that the screen- writers and director were trying too hard for "kooky" (much like the books), but eventually our unemployed heroine overcomes her inept fumblings and awkward beginnings as a skip tracer for a bail bondsman, and acquires a bit of professionalism and credibility.

In the two books I've read in this series, Stephanie seems to have two men in her life. I'm hoping the ones we saw here will show up again (if there is a next time), because they are appealing.

Here's who we see:
  • Katherine Heigl ("Life as We Know It") is Stephanie Plum, unem- ployed, car repossessed, threatened with eviction, desperate for a job...ANY job. She couldn't have a worse beginning, wandering into dangerous situations, woefully untrained and inexperienced.
  • Jason O'Mara (Lots of TV) is Joe, the cop who failed to appear for his hearing. He is accused of murder, AND he and Stephanie have a "history." She can't wait to bring him in and collect the bounty!
  • Daniel Sunjata (Lots of TV) is Ranger, who epitomizes the all- purpose professional, a crack shot, always prepared, AND atten- tive to our heroine.
  • Patrick Fischler ("Red State") is Cousin Vinnie, the wormy bail- bondsman who reluctantly gives our gal a job...family, you know.
  • John Leguizamo ("The Lincoln Lawyer") is Jimmy Alpha, a motor- mouth who runs a gym and knows everybody.
  • Sherri Shepherd (Lots of TV) is Lula, a working girl who sees a lot of action from her spot on the street.
  • Debbie Reynolds (Lots of TV) is Grandma Mazur, living with her daughter and son-in-law but willing to give our heroine a LOT of advice AND her old Buick.
This is a well-intentioned Chick Flick and I wish them well, it just isn't very involving. I will admit that Heigl and O'Mara did grow on me, so by the closing scene, I was grinning along with the rest of the audience. (Shhh... Don't tell, okay?)
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This link takes you to a preview:
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Galaxy Quest

"...by Grabthar's hammer, you shall be avenged" are the words that drive our classically trained Shakespearean actor around the bend every time his character has to say them in this inspired comedy. Designed as a send-up of the durable Star Trek movie and television franchise, we howl as we recognize each character and his or her personality.

Written by David Howard and Robert Gordon, this brilliant spoof takes the cast of a long-canceled television series, "Galaxy Quest" as they make endless promotional tours, cashing in on their bewildering popularity. They visit all over the United States and meet costumed fans who swear their devotion day after day, week after week, year after ...well, you know...

Director Dean Parisot ("RED 2") assembled this cast:
  • Tim Allen ("Toy Story") is Jason Nesmith, who played Peter Quincy Taggart, gallant captain of a beloved starship and commander of the intrepid crew. He doesn't realize the other cast members detest him.
  • Sigourney Weaver ("Alien") is blonde! Her character, Gwen DeMarco, was Communications Officer Lt. Tawny Madison. To her everlasting frustration, her only duty was to repeat what the computer had just said.
  • Alan Rickman ("Sweeney Todd") Alexander Dane only took this job for the money. Never in his wildest nightmares did he think his alien character Dr. Lazarus, would become a cult classic!
  • Sam Rockwell ("Moon") Actor Guy Fleegman always wanted to be cast as a character with a name, otherwise he would be the first to die in the episode.
  • Enrico Colatoni ("Person of Interest") Mathesar is the alien who grew up watching Galaxy Quest, thinking it was a newsreel from Planet Earth, not a fictional series.
Eighteen years after the series was canceled, these people are still stuck in a rut. They can't seem to find meaningful work, so they tour endlessly. It's a living...

Suddenly aliens capture them, thinking our cast is part of Earth's military defense. They need help. They must defeat invaders of their home planet. No one can convince them it was acting! Now our cast needs help and their best bet is a youthful fan who knows the layout of their fictional spaceship better than they do!

This hilarious sci-fi adventure is rated PG, with no profanity, no sweaty bodies and no blowie uppie stuff. It is silly, satisfying and sweet. Do NOT miss it!
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Please see this preview:
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Man on a Ledge

Can you spell "diversionary tactic?" This PG-13 heist film is a Master Class on film making: action, suspense, humor, pacing, you know...all the elements that keeps an audience smiling as we perch on the (L)edge of our seats.

We start out with a cop, wrongfully accused, who must break out of jail to clear his name. Have we ever heard this one before??? Naaah....

This time, we see:
  • Sam Worthington ("The Debt" and "Contraband") as the cop. Breaking out of prison and climbing onto that high ledge is only the beginning....
  • Elizabeth Banks ("The Next Three Days") is a police negotiator who lost her last client when he jumped off a bridge. She really does NOT want to lose this one.
  • Jamie Bell ("Tintin" and "Defiance") is our hero's brother, using those diversionary tactics to steal a diamond which will help clear our hero's name.
  • Ed Harris ("The Way Back" and "Appaloosa") is the wealthy industrialist who owns that diamond.
  • Edward Burns ("27 Dresses") is a police official who wants to see this crisis brought to a happy conclusion...soon!
  • Anthony Mackie ("The Adjustment Bureau") has been trying to help our hero...maybe....
  • Kyra Sedgwick ("The Closer") is the comic relief: an on-the-scene television newscaster, always there, always wrong, always plug- ging away, no matter what.
No sweaty bodies, no gunshots, no vehicular mayhem, no profanity, no blowie uppie stuff. Why did we have such a good time? (See first para- graph.) We were almost sorry when it was over because this shell game was so much fun! ("Keep your eye on the pea...or in this case, the dia- mond.") Director Asger Leth and Venezuelan writer Pablo F. Fenjves did us proud. Let's watch for this pair for future projects.

WE were certainly diverted!

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The Grey

First, let me ask you a question: How would you prefer to die? Plane crash? Suicide? Starvation? Diabetes? Freezing? Drowning? Bleeding to death? Falling? Attacked by a wolf? In this grim endurance test, you get to evaluate them all and pick a favorite. My colleague can't vote, her eyes were covered too much of the time.

We start with a North Slope oil-drilling team getting ready to go home for a much-needed break. They are rude, crude and lewd. It's clear from the get-go that the plane is going to have icing problems, so it's no surprise when they crash in the trackless wilderness where a relentless wolf pack sees the handful of survivors as intruders.

Let's talk about some of those survivors:
  • Liam Neeson ("Taken") is a grieving widower with no will to live ...until he's about to die...THEN he kicks into gear and starts a titanic struggle to survive.
  • Dermot Mulroney ("The Family Tree"), almost unrecognizable here, is a near-sighted engineer who is a steady influence when the going gets rough...but he IS afraid of heights.
  • Frank Grillo ("Warrior") never hears a plan he likes. He argues about everything and challenges everyone. We suspect all that bombast conceals a cowardly yellow streak down his spine.
  • James Badge Dale ("Rubicon") seems to be a sweetheart, always fair, always even-handed and certainly a trooper. He has a scene here that reminded me of "Sometimes a Great Notion," please tell me if you, too, recognize it.
We have various personalities: the big-talking coward, the trash-talking wit, the taciturn Alpha male, the arguing contrarian, you know, all the stereotypes.... The script provides an interlude of humor as they relax around a campfire, but we mostly see dogged attempts to survive. The only outdoors training I ever had was with an Arizona Scout troop, but the city slickers who wrote this script made such laughable choices for their characters I wanted to shout at the screen, "Oh, come ON!"

After two hours of arduous struggle, I found myself leaning toward suicide...
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The Flowers of War

If you've read Iris Chang's non-fiction book "The Rape of Nanking" you have some idea of what horrors to expect. As we know, in 1937 the Japanese invaded China; after conquering Shanghai, they turned their attention to the capitol, Nanking. The result was the slaughter of over 200,000 people.

In this movie, based on the novel by Galing Yan ("Xiu Xiu, the Sent- Down Girl"), we have a fictionalized story in this chaotic setting. We are in a church compound where two groups seek shelter: the first, a dozen convent girls fleeing Japanese soldiers, and the second, a gaggle of "working girls" from a prominent brothel who throw their suitcases over the wall and demand sanctuary. A drunk but frightened Western mor- tician has come to prepare a priest for burial, and our story begins.....

These were the few actors I could pick out of the cast:
  • Christian Bale ("The Dark Knight") is the mortician, boozy and rude; Bale seems to enjoy playing a crude American who laughs in the face of their predicament. He first puts on a priest's robe to avoid Japanese bullets, but by the time he has to bury some of their little group, he isn't quite so blithe.
  • Paul Schneider ("Water for Elephants") in a cameo as another American fleeing the massacre, is incredulous that our hero is choosing to stay and try to help his charges escape the city.
  • Ni Ni in her screen debut is the lovely self-appointed leader of the prostitutes. None of the women like the "big-nosed" Occidental, but a job is a job.
  • Xinyi Zhang ("Love is not Blind") becomes, by default, the leader of the convent girls. She is observant, multi-lingual and expects her father to help them escape.
Of course, the two groups of females instantly clash: the convent girls are horrified to think that "those women" would dare sully a church, while the prostitutes view the girls as naïve, over-indulged virgins. We see moments of heroism, experience anxiety when characters make foolish choices and hold our breath when the soldiers make their demands. This is 1937 Nanking, so expect gunfire, blood, rape, and lots of blowie uppie stuff.

Note: Because soldiers are always posted outside the church compound gates, all conversations are whispered, so unless your hearing is very, very good, wait for the DVD and see if it has closed captions.
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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Do you ever feel manipulated? Furthermore, do you feel tough enough to endure another 9/11 heart breaker? I didn't think I was...but because I am familiar with Director Stephen Daldry's work ("Billy Elliot"), I took a chance. This movie is contrived but involving and I'm sure the book by Jonathan Safran Foer on which it's based must also be contrived, so I can't blame the screenwriter Eric Roth ("Forrest Gump").

I simply trusted this cast:
  • Tom Hanks ("Toy Story 3") plays the Ward Cleaver role in this 2011 version of a 2001 "Leave it to Beaver," you know, the impossibly ideal family, with an adorable boy as the center of their universe. In this case, that boy is a little too precocious, a little too obsessed and a little too rude, at least for MY taste. Dad dies in 9/11; this is not a spoiler, you know it from the preview.
  • Sandra Bullock ("The Proposal") is the grieving mother/widow, strictly utilitarian and taken-for-granted up to the highly unlikely and illogical end, which is explained by a lengthy voiceover.
  • Thomas Horn (spotted while winning $31,000 in Teen Jeopardy), in his screen debut, is Oskar Schell, an exceptionally smart son, always challenged by his brilliant father but also the possessor of a scathing tongue. His answering machine recorded the last six phone calls from his dad before the tower collapsed on 9/11.
  • Max von Sydow ("Shutter Island") is the cryptic renter at his grandmother's house. This character figures prominently, but never says one word.
  • Viola Davis ("The Help") is one of the hundreds of people whose last name is Black with whom Oscar meets, trying to discover his father's hidden message from something that can be opened by a mysterious key.
  • John Goodman ("The Artist") is the doorman in the New York building where our family lives. He and the boy trade insults every day...but I'm not sure why.
The conclusion felt lackluster and slapped together, consequently, this movie doesn't really end, it just sort of drifts to a standstill. I realize the movie has garnered a lot of praise, but I can't see why. Now that you know what to expect, you're on your own ("YOYO" to quote a friend).
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Here is an R-rated Action/Thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh ("Ocean's" trilogy). My biggest problem was that there was very little action and it certainly wasn't a thriller. In fact, this was the most passion- less thriller I believe I have ever endured. There was a lot of talk, but even the talk was emotionless and ineffective; the plot was never very clear.

The central issue seemed to be money, but there were so many double crosses and conflicting coalitions, I finally lost track. It's too bad because I found the lead to be attractive and "the real deal." She clearly wasn't using a stunt double, as a matter of fact, in "real life," she is a Mixed Martial Arts champion and this is only her second film.

These folks tried to make it work:
  • Gina Carano ("Blood and Bone") at first glance seems to be the token female, but her character is the former black ops super soldier whose betrayal initiates all the action.
  • Channing Tatum ("The Vow") is a fellow professional agent who works with our heroine.
  • Michael Fassbender ("Shame," who is enjoying being the flavor-of-the-year in Hollywood), plays an agent sent to Barcelona "take her out." (He mostly keeps his clothes on in this one...smile...)
  • Ewan McGregor ("Beginners") seems to be in charge of the professional agents, but his motives aren't totally clear.
  • Antonio Banderas ("Puss in Boots") is the mouthpiece for the kingpin in Barcelona...we think...
  • Michael Angarano ("Red State") is the hapless guy in the diner whose car is commandeered and him along with it. He goes from cautious to helpful to terrified in just three scenes.
  • Michael Douglas ("Solitary Man") is a government official who seems to be playing both ends against the middle.
I guess Soderbergh doesn't have to hit a home run every time at bat. The most tantalizing thing about this film was the R-rating. I don't know why. There were only a couple of gunshots, we saw no blowie uppie stuff, there were very mild car pursuits, and I noticed no profanity or nudity. Yawn....
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Men With Brooms

Looking for another "feel-good" movie? Here is a little Canadian sports comedy flick that features one of my favorite actors, Paul Gross ("Slings & Arrows") as a former member of a curling team. In the extras on this 2002 DVD from the city library, writer/director Gross explained that he wanted to do a movie that was very specific to Canada, and what could be more Canadian than the sport of curling...thus the brooms...

As you might guess, being a "former member" is where our story begins. You will meet other curling teams, players, and coaches, plus a few women, some of whom are also "former"s, i.e., former wives, former girlfriends...you know.... Sports movie clichés abound, which is probably why this is a feel-good movie. Remember, clichés work!

Here is part of the cast:
  • Paul Gross ("Gunless") is that former curling champ now adrift in ennui: divorced, alienated from his father and lacking any moti- vation to change things.
  • Leslie Nielsen ("The Naked Gun") is our hero's estranged father and former curling coach.
  • Molly Parker ("Deadwood") is NOT a "former."
  • Michelle Nolden ("The Time Traveler's Wife") IS a "former" ...maybe...
  • James B. Douglas ("Camille") is a recently deceased former curling coach, whose ashes play a significant role.
It was fun to learn enough about the game that I could recognize good moves and bad. Of course, for all you curling fans, that won't be necessary...smile...
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Red Tails

This movie documents an important step toward equality in the U.S. military. It is based on the exploits of an Army Air Corps wing staffed by African American men from the Tuskegee training program. We see what a challenge it was for them to find acceptance by fellow military officers, the frustration they encountered because they were issued equipment discarded by other groups and the pride they developed as a much- decorated and highly honored American squadron that contributed to the Allied victory in WWII.

Based on a story by John Ridley (lots of TV) and produced by George Lucas ("Star Wars"), this well-meaning film has plenty of action and humor, but the weak dialogue by Aaron McGruder ("The Boondocks") left me shaking my head. Anachronisms abounded: "Man up," "Get your mojo back," and "Stay with me" (to a wounded airman), sounded more like 2012, not the 1940s.

This cast did a fine job despite the script's many shortcomings:
  • Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad") does a quick cameo as a racist officer.
  • Cuba Gooding Jr. ("The Hit List") smokes a pipe here to give his character gravitas. He is a fair-minded officer who wants his men to succeed and understands the importance of morale.
  • Terrence Howard ("The Brave One") is the officer who does battle for his men at headquarters. He negotiates for new fighter planes and meaningful assignments.
  • David Oyelowo ("The Help") brings dash and sex appeal to his character; he's the daredevil who wants to fly that extra sortie and who can spot a beautiful woman from the air. This British- born actor is sensational!
  • Daniela Ruah ("NCIS: Los Angeles") is the lovely Italian woman our eagle-eyed lover boy spots.
Full disclosure: I'm a former pilot, so I saw illogical scenes that bothered me, but those same scenes might very well be thrilling to a less picky viewer. This is a war movie, so expect male bonding, blood, plenty of dogfights and LOTS of blowie uppie stuff.

Executive producer George Lucas (who personally funded this movie) said in an interview that this project is to celebrate heroes largely forgotten by America, and to offer an opportunity to a galaxy of black actors too often ignored. Kudos!
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Brief ad before the trailer:
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Strictly Ballroom

Okay, I'm going to dust the cobwebs off this 1992 comic musical and encourage you to watch Scott Hastings do his "crowd-pleasing steps!" then thrill to the sound of one lone pair of trembling hands as it claps in that echoing ballroom. Goosebumps every time!

Australian Baz Luhrmann ("Australia") launched his Red Curtain Trilogy with this sweet, goofy, romantic, cartoon of a musical. The other two in this trio are "Romeo and Juliet" (1996) and "Moulin Rouge!" (2001). All three are conceived and developed with only one thing in mind: The Audience. And that's US!

These wonderful actors make it happen:
  • Paul Mercurio ("Joseph") is Scott Hastings, son of the proprietors of a struggling ballroom dance studio. His father is a hen-pecked sad sack, while his mother is an ambitious spark plug. They both agree that "this is Scott's year to win the Australian Pan Pacific Championships" and bring glory to their studio.
  • Barry Otto ("Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole") is Scott's father, quietly melting into the woodwork, as his wife runs the show.
  • Pat Thomson ("Phar Lap") is fearless as Shirley Hastings, Scott's mother who is tone deaf to everything but her own ambition. I'm sorry to say that she died the same year this film was completed and we lost a fine actress.
  • Tara Morice ("Razzle Dazzle") is Fran, the poor student stuck in Beginners, who has aspirations... She does janitorial work to pay for her lessons. It is Scott who asks her, "Do you think you could dance without those glasses?" (I LOVE clichés!)
  • Bill Hunter ("Finding Nemo") is Barry Fife, who disqualifies Scott for not using Federation-approved dance steps. Hunter, who died in 2011, was part of Australia's acting aristocracy.
As you can tell, the plot swirls around an upcoming Ballroom dance contest, with Scott in a frantic search for a new dance partner, as his has been stolen away by the reigning champ. Fran wants to audition, but she's a Beginner!

Be prepared to completely buy into this plot, root for the good guys, hiss at the bad ones, watch Fran's father do an amazing Paso Doble with his mother-in-law (Fran's grandmother), and thrill to some spectacular ballroom dancing with stunning costumes. (Luhrmann's parents danced in Ballroom competitions, so he knows whereof he speaks.)

I've owned this DVD for years and it's almost worn out....
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The Iron Lady

Meryl Streep is such a show-off! She has given an Oscar-worthy perfor- mance in a sad, shoddy retelling of the tale of Margaret Thatcher, the storied Tory (...smile...) who came from nowhere to serve as England's first female Prime Minister in a male-dominated profession; AND she did it for eleven years. Unfortunately this muddy, disjointed film spends almost half of the running time on the most UN-interesting thing about her, which is her decline into extreme old age. What was the point? Most of us won't be firing on all cylinders when we reach our 80s.

When you consider the interesting events in Thatcher's life: her childhood as the daughter of a village grocer; her early attempts at politics; her college education; her courtship, marriage, and family; the Falkland War (which she likened to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, e.g., thousands of miles from home, but an action that demanded a reaction); the labour unions' ferocious opposition and riots; the collapse of the Soviet Union; the fall of the Berlin Wall; two bombing attempts on her life; and the death of her husband Denis after over 50 years together; it makes me sad to see so much screen time devoted to how delusional and unhinged Thatcher has become. Nor did I appreciate seeing Denis larking about as a sort of court jester, while Margaret feebly tries to chase off his persistent ghost.

Of course we see the best of the best:
  • Meryl Streep ("Julie and Julia") is peerless as the Iron Lady, as we watch her master lessons in poise, vocal control, public speaking, demeanor and political Dress for Success. ("Very well, I'll ditch the hat, but the pearls STAY!") How does she DO that?
  • Jim Broadbent as Denis Thatcher, has played this part before (the husband of a powerful woman losing her mind) in "Iris" and no one does it better. I'm sorry so much of his role was just filler to prove to us how barmy Margaret Thatcher has become.
  • Alexandra Roach ("Trap for Cinderella") is young Margaret. The casting matches the two actresses nicely, so nothing clashes.
  • Harry Lloyd ("The Game of Thrones") is young Denis. His physical comedy matches Broadbent's to a T, so I was convinced.
  • Nicholas Farrell (LOTS of TV) is Airey Neave, one of Thatcher's earliest and most constant supporters. He is killed in one of those IRA bombings. 
This PG-13 historical film left me, a history buff, frustrated. As a movie lover, I see this one as a terrific opportunity to tell a compelling story, which has been utterly wasted except as a showcase for a brilliant actress. Why doesn't anyone ever ask ME about these things?
Bottom line? Streep rules! The script? Not so much.
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Joyful Noise

"This town is so small you can be married three times and still have all the same in-laws!" This is a teeny sample of the kind of corn-pone, good-natured humor you will enjoy.

Full disclosure: I have never been a fan of Gospel music...but this movie could change my mind. We are with a small-town choir that competes in regional and national contests, so we see thrilling choreography and hear terrific music. Each time a number ends we think, "How can they beat THAT?"

Here is the top tier of talent:
  • Dolly Parton ("Nine to Five"), whose character is widowed during the opening credits. She fully expects to take the place of her choir director husband after his fatal heart attack. Her solo is so sweet..... Remember she has earned multiple Grammy Awards.
  • Queen Latifah ("The Secret Life of Bees") gets that coveted position of choir director instead. This only increases the bad blood between Parton's wealthy widow and Latifah's single mom. Her solo is poignant..... Remember, she too, has been honored by the Grammys.
  • Keke Palmer ("Akeelah and the Bee") is the talented daughter of that new choir director. Her mother can't accept her daughter's burgeoning maturity, while SHE can't accept her parents' separation. I LOVE her Face in the Mirror solo!
  • Jeremy Jordon, primarily a stage actor ("Newsies" and "West Side Story") plays the widow's grandson. He lands back in this little burg after his mother kicks him out. He spent his childhood here, so he already knows that talented daughter! BTW, this actor is a FIND! He sings, he dances, he acts and he's good-looking!
  • Courtney B. Vance ("Final Destination 5") is the minister of the local church. He wants what is best for the church, the town, and his parishioners, but he has to balance the budget, too.
  • Kris Kristofferson ("Dolphin Tale") makes a couple of cameos as the soon-dead choir director.
There are so many other outstanding actors, it's a shame I don't have more room. Suffice it to say, you will come to know everyone in the choir and you will delight in each person's moment to shine. And the cat-fights between Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah are a pure joy. Both are so likable and the dialogue is so good, you want them to go on and on.

This PG-13 movie has a little more (mild) profanity than I expected, but it's done in such a good-spirited way, I can't be too upset. There is a throw-away subplot or two, but we are so busy enjoying ourselves, we overlook them. We see no sweaty bodies, vehicular mayhem (watch Grandma Dolly drive!), gunshots or blowie uppie stuff. We see lots of decent people trying to bring some pride to a little town that has had its share of hard knocks.

When I go to a movie, I always want someone to root for. This one gives us a whole town full of worthy folks. What a pleasure. "Joyful Noise" is a pulse-quickening joy!
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An Australian teenager takes her new-found sexuality out for a test drive to Jindabyne in this award-winning film. As you might expect, her results are less than stellar. Our heroine is clearly drifting between childhood and adulthood but her focus is always tactile. Watch how she caresses her scrapbook or her lover's fingertips.

Winner of 13 awards at the Australian Film Institute in 2004, including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Film, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor and Actress, I found this DVD (with captions!) at the city library. Yes, you may also expect wonderful editing and cinematography.

These four won those acting awards:
  • Sam Worthington ("The Debt" and "Man on a Ledge") is Joe, a young man who works for his father on his cattle station and also does the occasional mechanic's job. He is a bit of a rounder, but next to our flighty heroine, he is a rock!
  • Abbie Cornish ("Limitless" and "Bright Star") portrays Heidi, trying out her wings, making ill-advised choices for bad reasons and not yet settled enough to learn from them. Joe says "She's like my mom's perfume: Mom would spray a mist in the air and then walk through it. I can still feel Heidi on my skin..."
  • Lynette Curran (lots of TV) is Irene, the generous proprietor of the Jindabyne motel where our heroine lands. This hard-working gal has her own set of problems but tries to help when she can.
  • Erik Thomson ("The Boys are Back") has a small but pivotal role as Richard, the gay neighbor who is moving away. His character has an intelligence and a stillness that I found very appealing.
This PG-13 film has some fisticuffs, lots of nudity and alcohol (remember, it's Australian), but no vehicular mayhem or blowie uppie stuff.
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The Family Tree

Black comedy time! This one, presented at the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival and first reviewed by Yours Truly in June of that year, features a classically dysfunctional family: the father, a mildly frustrated mid-level manager, living in a house he can't afford; the mother, a bored do-gooder using her mother's wealth to provide her with a home and charitable projects; the daughter, a Goth teenager who talks a good game but may not be quite as tough as she sounds; the son, a gun enthusiast entertaining thoughts of suicide. This family has actually been fired by a family counselor.

Here's a roster of the actors:
  • Dermot Mulroney ("Flash of Genius") is Dad, disheartened by his wife, confused by his daughter, and alarmed by his son's propensity for guns.
  • Hope Davis ("Charlie Bartlett") is Mom, nursing an active hatred for her OWN mother, and having a wild fling with a neighbor.
  • Brittany Robertson ("Cherry") is the daughter; does that class- mate's Mohawk have to be quite so purple and quite so tall?
  • Max Thieriot ("Chloe") is the son, trying to be a tough guy for the Lord.
  • Keith Carradine ("Nashville") is their minister, who sees their son's marksmanship as a God-given talent.
  • Chi McBride ("Pushing Daisies") is the randy neighbor whose enthusiastic lovemaking causes a life-changing accident.
  • Jane Seymour ("Wedding Crashers") the world's worst mother/ mother-in-law/grandmother.
Mom suffers a brain injury during a zesty tryst with a neighbor. When she awakens from her coma, she can only remember her husband and their early happy courtship and marriage. As family members try to adjust, they slowly come to realize that there just might be a second chance here.

This R-rated romp has fun situations, dark, dark humor, and people to care about. I really enjoyed it!
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The lead-in ad before the preview is very short!
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Fresh from Sundance, this award-winning independent film explores the coming-of-age of a teenage girl, the daughter of a Brooklyn city police- man and a prim, ambitious mother. She is marginalized by her class- mates, alienated from her parents and ignored by former friends. She has become...a "Pariah."

She is evaluating her writing abilities, her scholastic potential and her sexual orientation against a background of a preoccupied father who thinks she is in a tomboy phase that "soon will pass," and a mother who coolly tells her "I'll pray for you," picks up her Bible and walks away, when the girl seeks validation, love or even a little understanding.

Brilliantly written and directed by Dee Rees in her first full-length feature film, we see:
  • Adepero Oduye as Alike, our protagonist, smart, shy and creative. We have a lot of hope for this character by the end of the film.
  • Pernell Walker as Laura, our heroine's best friend and confidante.
  • Kim Wayans in the unsympathetic role of Audrey, the mother who thinks good dose of church should fix the problem.
  • Charles Parnell is Arthur, the father/cop, who has other things on his mind but will not tolerate any of the neighborhood toughs saying bad things about his daughter.
All of the performances in this R-rated film are first rate, so credit clearly goes to Director Rees, but the muddy dialogue, the too-busy editing and the jerky hand-held camera detract.

Watching the heartbreaks of first love reminded me why I am grateful that we only have to experience adolescence once in a lifetime. That was quite enough for me, how about you?
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This is a link to a preview:
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Wilby Wonderful

This isn't exactly a review, it's just a recommendation for a little 2004 Canadian dramedy that features Sandra Oh ("Sideways"), Paul Gross ("Slings & Arrows") and Ellen Page ("Juno"). I got the DVD from the Seattle library, but I've ordered my own copy for my personal library. It does, after all, have closed captions.

This is small-town Canadian stuff, understated and very deliberately paced, but as we move around among the various townspeople, a story begins to take shape. Oh is an ambitious Realtor, married to laid-back Gross, who is a local cop. Page is the rebellious daughter of the town slut.

I'm SUCH a fan of Paul Gross, but there is another guy, Callum Keith Rennie, that I'm gonna keep an eye out for in the future. Yum! He's done a lot of movies and TV, and will be in the new American series, "The Firm" that starts this season. It features Josh Lucas in the lead. I might take a peek and see if I can spot Mr. Rennie.

IMDb says: A day-in-the-life dark comedy concerning a group of islanders, their respective secrets, and one man's plan to kill himself quietly.

This is NOT one of those condescending flicks where the sophisticated filmmaker snickers at the poor unenlightened rubes in his film. The small- town people here have the same issues as the big-city folks and it's great to see their own unique way of dealing with them. Just thought you might like to know.