Archive for the ‘Movie reviews’ Category

I was watching American Idol tonight and once again, I heard the music in the background of the IKEA ad. I’ve heard this fave tune of mine every week in the AI show. IKEA selected a music track called “Home” for their current TV advertising in Canada. The ad focuses on the family home, which IKEA wants to furnish, of course. “Home” is the perfect song for their sales pitch. I am very familiar with this song, and recognized it the first time I saw the ad, even though only a brief portion of the song was aired (for somewhere between 30 and 60 seconds, I would think.)

The song “Home” was featured in a one-hour music video called Big Easy Express. The video chronicles the train journey of three bands, during the course of one week several years ago. They were playing and singing on a chartered train, traversing the American southwest. The three bands in this one-week tour by train were: Mumford and Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. It was the music of the latter band that drew me to the music video. I had happened to see the band on Letterman, and really liked the tune (yes, they were playing Home) and so went looking for them online. I bought the video, and have played it numerous times. It looks great on my iPad, and I never get tired of the music. The movie (about one hour long) is very entertaining, and I felt it was really worth the modest price to download it from iTunes. I have enjoyed watching it on my tablet and singing along a little with the bands! This film won at least one award, maybe two. It will make you smile.




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I sure hope that you, the reader, have access to Turner Classic Movies. In this month leading up to the Oscar telecast, the airwaves are full of classic movies. TCM features movies that have won (any kind of) Oscar nominations in the past. This month is a bonanza for lovers of old movies, and it is not over yet. TCM continues (until the Oscar night itself) to show movies that received Oscar nominations or wins. I have seen just in the past few days a whole bunch of beloved films.
It used to be hard to see these movies as reruns, but 50 years down the line from when they were first exhibited, we can find them on the internet (Netflix!) or on iTunes for a price. Most of them are also available on DVD as well. However, there’s a real sense of fun in getting to see them for free on one’s TV.
Dr Zhivago, one of my all time fave movies, is on TCM tonight, opposite the season finale of Downton Abbey. I just have to go with DA tonight. I need to see what happens!

This weekend some of these following great films have been available on TV in Toronto. I’ve been in 7th heaven for some days – stuck inside during yet more snow falling, with great movies to watch. Some were broadcast before the weekend. But I’ve seen all of them except the ones that TCM skedded after midnight.
Quo Vadis (does not show up here very often)
King Solomon’s Mines First movie I ever fell in love with.Seldom aired on TV.
An American in Paris First musical I ever loved
Singin’ in the Rain Second musical I ever loved
Ben Hur
North By Northwest (aired late last night and I just could not stay awake for it all. Love it.)
I hope some of these show up for you during Oscar month. Keep your eye on TCM (if you can get it) for the rest of the month.
I’m betting a few more good titles will show up before the end of the month.

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The Help

This week I finally saw The Help. I’m no movie critic, but I came away from this film thinking to myself, “This movie has ‘Oscar’ written all over it.”

In fact, the movie has received a number of nominations for Golden Globes. (The Academy Award nominations are not yet public. I think maybe the members of the Academy are doing their voting this week.) The Oscar nominees will be announced near the end of January, 2012.

I thought that The Help was perfectly cast. I liked that the main characters were not so famous that they distracted me from the plot. Most of the main actresses in the film are very experienced, and inhabited their roles with a realism that was uncanny. The book really came to life here. In fact, I think that I enjoyed the movie more than I enjoyed the book.

Watching this movie will transport you to the time and place: Jackson, Mississippi, when racism was  endemic. It’s another world away from today. It would be hard to believe had I not seen this kind of racism for myself when I made my very first trip to Florida over 50 years ago. This Canadian girl was shocked to see washroom signs that said Colored Only. Nothing like that existed anywhere in Ontario that I had seen, but those signs were common in Florida.

I thought that the script glossed over a critical part of this narrative – which was the drive to keep the black servants out of the bathrooms of the white people. The women in this story could not stomach the thought of black bottoms touching their toilets, and so came up with the idea of building outdoor toilets for ‘the help.’ But other parts of the story sprang to life with uncanny realism. Hilly was perfectly awful. Skeeter was perfectly set on getting her book about ‘the help’ written and published. ‘The Help’ actresses themselves will get Oscar nominations for sure!

If you liked the book, you will love the movie. It’s another time, another place. Racism lives in this society. Skeeter prevails and launches a career. ‘The help’ continue, but their story has gone public and nothing will ever be the same.

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It’s only taken me 13 years to catch up with The Big Lebowski, which was released back in 1998. I’ve loved two other movies by the Coen brothers, Raising Arizona, and Fargo. I have long wanted to see The Big Lebowski, sure that I would enjoy it. This month I rented the movie from iTunes, with the intention of watching it one night while on vacation. But instead of watching the movie, I watched real live sunsets, and late at night read a book on my iPad. But the month that I have the movie on my iPad was running out quite quickly, especially since I have returned from my holiday. It was time to settle down with the Coen brothers and enjoy the movie.

Now, I am no movie critic, and if you want to read what the real critics had to say about this movie, their reviews are easy to find by Googling the movie’s title. Your first hit will be Roger Ebert’s review, and who am I to put a review up against Roger Ebert? So I’m just going to write a bit about what I really enjoyed about this movie. This is a movie about mistaken identity and there are 2 Lebowskis in the movie: Jeffrey Lebowski –The Dude, and Jeffrey Lebowski –The Big Lebowski, who is the one the bad guys are after.

Maybe you have heard this quote from the movie, “The Dude abides.”  The Dude of course is Jeff Bridges, who is truly wonderful as an unemployed guy who mainly goes bowling with his friends, and generally shambles through his life, smoking dope and drinking White Russians (made with fresh ‘half and half,’ of course.) His buddies are played by John Goodman and, playing against his usual type, Steve Buscemi (who also excelled in Fargo.) The convoluted plot of this movie is related in countless reviews, and a summary of it is easily found by Googling. It’s mainly a plot on which to hang a bunch of witty events that will have you laughing.

There are numerous pleasures in this movie. One of the first things I loved about it was the sound track. I reveled in hearing a lot of familiar artists in the background, as some of the improbable but hilarious events unfolded. I heard (in no particular order) Creedence (CCR), Booker T and the MGs, Yma Sumac (!), Santana, Debbie Reynolds, and Kenny Rogers. Yes, Yma Sumac. I had not thought of her for many years!

At one point late in the movie, The Dude gets knocked out, and there ensues a brilliant dream sequence, which is an homage to the great musical “ballets” of MGM musicals in the ’50s. Since bowling figures heavily in this movie (whenever these guys need to get centred again, they go bowling), in his unconscious state, The Dude dreams an elaborate “ballet” sequence with chorus girls wearing headdresses made of bowling pins. It’s a tribute to Busby Berkeley and it is too funny.

I also enjoyed seeing a few actors whom we don’t see that often any more: Ben Gazzara, and Sam Elliot were two that I liked a lot, then and now. Both men, in 1998, were as handsome as ever and acting as well as ever. Another actor who steals his every scene is John Turturro, who is hilarious in spandex. Philip Seymour Hoffman has never let me down in any movie, and he’s dependably oily here. Julianne Moore as Maude, the daughter of the real (The Big) Lebowski, is a crazy and wonderful nutbar.

And finally, I now get the famous tagline from this movie, “The Dude abides.”

Oh yes, he does. Kudos to the Coen brothers, and to Jeff Bridges, for creating an absolutely unforgettable character, The Dude.

Now, let’s go bowling!

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I have  just seen the movie  Sarah’s Key; saw it two days after finishing the book. I recommend both!
This novel is based on an actual fact: the rounding up of French Jews by the French police (under instructions from the Nazis) in 1942.
Thousands of Jewish French citizens were sent to the death camps by French police. Knowledge of this event, known as Vel’ d’Hiver, was long suppressed.
Story goes back and forth between the past (’42) and the present. In the present, Julia, a journalist, is researching the story of Vel’ d’Hiver, and also coping with events in her personal life.
In 1942, Sarah, the girl of the title, is rounded up and sent to a camp where she is separated (forever) from her parents. This part of the movie, as a mother and grandmother, I found difficult to watch, but I got past it. Story has ingenious structure that links the present to the past.
This is a mesmerizing story, and both the book and the movie are well worth your time. Kristen Thomas Scott as Julia drives the story and she is excellent, as always. The young actress who plays the child Sarah in 1942, is truly amazing. I’d expect some Oscar nominations for this film.

You do not need to have read the book to enjoy this movie. It is really well done.

I rate both the book and the movie as 8/10 on my personal enjoyment scale.

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If you haven’t yet gotten out to see the nominees for this year’s Academy Awards, may I suggest that it is time to get cracking?
I’ve never publicly promoted a movie before, but this year, I’ll make an exception.
The King’s Speech is just a wonderful movie, and the cast of characters brings to life the Royals just before, and during WW2.
King George V briefly appears, and then is succeeded by his playboy son David, the lover of Wallis Simpson. He becomes King Edward VII, but is never crowned because it is soon evident that love and romance will supersede his royal duty. He abdicates the British throne, and his younger brother Bertie becomes King George VI and leads the British people through WW2. But Bertie, who never expected to rule the nation, has a problem to cope with. He stammers, quite badly. And there hangs a story worth telling.
This film is a slice of British history, seen through the eyes of those at the helm of the country.
It’s one of the best movies I have ever seen, with sublime acting and sets that are utterly authentic. (I’d love to have a film or book on The Making of The King’s Speech.) Colin Firth gives a master class in acting here, virtually disappearing into his role as Bertie….and thereby earning an Oscar nomination. Unless you are living in a cave somewhere, you probably know by now that he is the front runner for the award.

The story will grab you, and unless I miss my guess, you will be rooting very hard for Bertie, long before the end of the movie. Also in this movie we have two of our favourite British actors, Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, in the same film again, oh bliss. Fell in love with them as Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, and here they are in another British drama, back to entertain us again. They are not “a couple” this time, but a delight to see again.
The Best Supporting Actor and Actress nominations of Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham-Carter are also well-deserved. Rush should walk away with the statuette.
Please, please go see The King’s Speech before February 27 (Oscar night.)

This link will take you to more than one trailer. I hope they will convince you to get out to the movie!


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