Category Archives: Jennifer

Spotlight: Acapella

After watching Pitch Perfect, a hilarious comedy about dueling college acapella groups, I started exploring more recent music in this style.

straightnochaserThe New Old Fashioned by Straight No Chaser (2015)

The group’s fifth album includes their unique take on some of today’s biggest hits: I particularly enjoyed “All About that Bass (No Tenors)” and “Shut Up and Dance.” They also feature mashups of popular songs, but the best track is “The Movie Medley,” which features the soundtracks and hilarious commentary about famous movies including Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Forrest Gump. Also available on Hoopla.

pentatonixPentatonix  by Pentatonix (2015)

In their most recent studio album, Pentatonix moves from covering popular hits to releasing all original material. Pentatonix is a catchy mix of upbeat songs that will tempt you to sing and dance along with the group. Particularly enjoyable is “Sing.”

And did you know? You can check out Pentatonix as Team Canada in Pitch Perfect 2.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I don’t mention the soundtracks to both Pitch Perfect (especially “Bellas Finals” featuring a mashup of six songs) and its sequel Pitch Perfect 2 (look for “Anyway You Want It” performed by five groups). Also available on Hoopla.

ER. Season 1 (1994-1995)

ers1I recently revisited the medical drama that started it all. Set in Chicago, ER follows the personal and professional lives of the doctors, nurses, and interns working in the emergency room of County General Hospital. While much of the technology has changed, the fast-paced electrifying show still grabs your attention for the 44 minute episodes. Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) created the show based on his own time as a resident in a busy urban hospital.

Season 1 garnered 8 Emmy wins, including Julianna Marguiles for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Check out the Variety review of the pilot. And revisit the early days of ER to get a look at a young George Clooney (as playboy pediatrician Doug Ross), a baby-faced Noah Wyle (as trauma surgery intern John Carter), plus try to spot famous guest stars including Rosemary Clooney, William H. Macy, and Ming-Na Wen. Episode “Love’s Labor Lost” nabbed 5 Emmys, features a major turning point for Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards), and includes a guest appearance by Bradley Whitford.

Can’t wait to reacquaint myself with season 2!

Olympus Has Fallen (2013) R

olympushasfallenWhen telling a friend about Olympus Has Fallen, I called it “Die Hard for the 21st century.” If you’re in the mood for an intense action adventure film (and don’t mind the implausibility), check this one out. Gerard Butler gives a strong performance as the disgraced Secret Service agent who penetrates the White House to save the president (Aaron Eckhart) after terrorists seize the building. Also starring Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, and Dylan McDermott.

Woman in Gold (2015) PG-13

womaningoldA gripping historical drama, Woman in Gold travels between 1930s Austria and 1990s America. Based on a true story, the film centers around Gustav Klimt’s painting, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. Austria looked at the portrait as a national treasure; Maria Altmann simply saw it as a picture of her aunt. Stolen from her family by the Nazis in 1938, the painting becomes the center of an international controversy in the late 90s when Altmann fights for the return of her family’s property.

The present day legal battle is complemented by flashbacks to Maria’s childhood, her relationship with her beloved aunt, and her daring escape from a no-longer-safe Austria.

You’ll get drawn into the story starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. And if you’re like me, you’ll wonder about the true events that inspired the movie: check out this book for what really happened.

Join us on Thursday, September 17 at 2:00 p.m. We’re showing Woman is Gold as part of our Thursday Afternoon Movie series. Register here.

What If (2014) PG-13

whatifIn this offbeat comedy, Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) and Chandry (Zoe Kazan) meet at a party, strike an instant connection, and become best friends. She has a boyfriend and he’s been burned too many times. Can the pair really be just friends? What If is a sweet and smart romantic comedy set in Toronto with both funny and dramatic touches.
– Jennifer

What if your best friend was a girl? What if you liked her for more than just a friend? What if you don’t know how to tell her?

This charming film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Wallace, a med school dropout rebounding from recent heartbreak, who finds himself questioning all of these things.

Enter his roommate’s cousin Chantry, an animator living with her long term boyfriend Ben. The two hit it off immediately and continually enjoy each other’s witty banter and humorous dialog. In a disastrous attempt to tell Chantry his true feelings, Wallace finally answers the question What If
– Chris

Chef (2014) R

chefOnce a rising star, Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) has a meltdown that goes viral. Adrift and unemployed, Casper accepts help from his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) in the form of a beat-up food truck. With his sous chef Martin (John Leguizamo) and his young son Percy (Emjay Anthony), Casper rediscovers his love of cooking and his creative mojo on a road trip from Miami to Los Angeles. Chef is a heartwarming comedy about food and family.

Beauty and the Beast (1991) G

beautybeastBefore heading to Disney World and the new Be Our Guest restaurant, I revisited this classic from my childhood. Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination. The Oscars for Best Original Song (“Beauty and the Beast”) and Best Score (the talented Alan Menken and Howard Ashman) come as no surprise as you listen to the enchanting music throughout the film. The story is engaging, the characters endearing (how can you not love a girl who is thrilled by books and libraries?), and the movie simply magical.

Roger Ebert was equally enthralled. Check out his review. And something else to look forward to – Beauty and the Beast will be here live on stage in late March as part of Broadway in Chicago.

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) R

goodmorningvietnamI’ve seen the clip of Robin Williams saying, “Gooooood morning, Vietnam!” loads of times and always wanted to watch the film; I finally viewed Good Morning, Vietnam for the first time after his death.

As an irreverent airman and a DJ in 1965 Saigon, Adrian Cronauer is in Vietnam to provide a bit of comedic relief to the troops (and as a bonus, irritate his superiors). Williams’ comedic talents are on full display. His monologues, voices, and impersonations, as well as his physicality, keep your eyes glued to the screen. And while he excels as a comedian, he handles the dramatic turns admirably as well.

The music is amazing, highlighting many hits of the 1960s. Check out the soundtrack that nabbed Williams a Grammy (it features a mix of Williams’ comic routines and music).

Check out Roger Ebert’s take on Williams’ performance and the film.

Veronica Mars Season 1 (2004-2005)

Veronica_Mars_season_1_DVDAfter hearing about this cult classic and the groundswell of fan support to make a movie, I finally watched season 1 of Veronica Mars. I can see the appeal. The title character (portrayed by Kristen Bell) is a likable yet troubled high school student in Neptune, California.

After her best friend Lilly (Amanda Seyfried) is killed and her dad Keith (Enrico Colantoni) loses his job as sheriff over the handling of the murder investigation, Veronica uses her PI skills to discover the truth behind Lilly’s death. This arc lasts the entire 22 episodes, as does Veronica’s quest to discover what happened to her at a party last year. In the meantime, she’s solving mysteries big and small for classmates and community members, plus dealing with the typical high school angst. A smart, addictive show.

Sports Night. The Complete Series (1998-2000)

Before The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin created Sports Night. My only complaint for the snappy series is that it only lasted two seasons…but what an entertaining 45 episodes. Sports Night focuses on a group that produces a lives sports newscast, much like ESPN’s SportsCenter.

The snappy, rapid-fire dialogue, the witty banter, and the entertaining cast of characters will make the episodes fly by. And this isn’t just for sports fans – while the events of the show are centered around sports, it’s more about the characters and the clever dialogue. I’ve gotten friends who don’t follow sports hooked on Sports Night. Warning: if you try an episode or two, you may be compelled to finish the series immediately. Enjoy!

Oh, and if you need a bit more convincing…you’ll find Felicity Huffman pre-Desperate Housewives, Peter Krause before Six Feet Under and Parenthood, Josh Charles before The Good Wife, Joshua Malina pre-The West Wing and Scandal, plus Robert Guillaume.