The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006)
The film recounts the dramatic story of two brothers and their comrades who join the Irish freedom fighters struggle to win Ireland’s independence from Great Britain in the early 20th century. The British treaty with the Irish is a short-lived victory as the freedom fighters’ disagreement over the terms of the treaty splits the new found country into civil war. Nominated for several British Independent Film Awards, the film provides an understanding view of what drove some Irish to continue the fight as members of the IRA.
Eat Pray Love (2010) PG-13
Julia Roberts stars in the movie based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir. I haven’t read the book, so I can’t say how true the film is to the book. I can tell you that the scenes of Italy, India, and Bali make the film fun to watch.
After a divorce and another failed relationship, Gilbert walks away from her life to explore the sensual pleasures of Italian food. Her next stop is an ashram in India where she develops her spirituality. She ends her travels in Bali to reconnect with a healer she had met in New York.
Gilbert’s real life journey comes with a Hollywood ending. Lots of good messages along with a happy ending.
The Young Victoria (2009) PG
An Oscar winning biography of the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign and her courtship with her German cousin Albert (Rupert Friend). Under the influence of self seeking Melbourne (Paul Bettany), the young Victoria (Emily Blunt) makes some serious missteps that lead to a constitutional crisis. Albert’s guidance and love provide the direction Victoria needs to become one of Great Britain’s most influential monarchs. The costume and setting are worth the price of admission.
Check out this interview with Emily Blunt.
Murder Ahoy (1964)
Margaret Rutherford is my all time favorite “Miss Marple.” Although she does not fit the physical description of Agatha Christie’s character, Rutherford brings a delightful touch to the character. The movie blends intrigue with humor and is family friendly. The film’s black and white might be off putting to younger audiences.
You can see Rutherford as Miss Marple in other films at the library.
Invictus (2010) PG-13
An inspiring film set in the early days of post-apartheid South Africa. Newly elected President Mandela confronts the deep distrust that resides within the country. Mandela uses an unlikely focus to unite the country– the South African rugby team. Though the whites and Afrikaners love the team, they are loathed by the blacks as a lingering symbol of apartheid. Mandela skillfully uses the team’s unlikely bid for the World Cup to unite the country and inspire the team. Wonderful acting makes this a must-see uplifting movie!
Casablanca (1942) PG
I like to spend New Year’s Eve watching my favorite movie: Casablanca. The film has all the ingredients for a terrific story– romance, intrigue, and heroism. Ingrid Bergman’s luminous presence along with a top notch cast including Bogie, Claude Rains, Peter Lorrie and Paul Henreid make this movie a classic. And don’t forget the song “As Time Goes By” which Arthur “Dooley” Wilson immortalized as Sam, the popular piano player of Rick’s American Café. Casablanca as escape for refugees and a haven for spies exudes its own corrupt and exotic ambience. Even if you’re not a fan of classic movies, Casablanca is worth watching just to understand the cultural references that it inspired including a great Bugs Bunny parody Carrotblanca that I remember watching as a kid!
Visit Amazon.com for a trailer, clips from the film, plus interviews with the stars’ children.
Inside Man (2006) R
Spike Lee directs and Denzel Washington dazzles in this fast-paced crime movie about a bank robbery that turns into a hostage situation. The plot’s unexpected twists elevate this above the typical bank heist story.
Also starring Clive Owen, Christopher Plummer, and Jodie Foster.
Check out reviews from Roger Ebert and About.com.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) PG-13
Loosely based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, the film tells the story of Benjamin, who lives his life in reverse. Born physically old but with the mind of a child, Benjamin continues to grow physically younger as he matures. Although not fast paced, this character driven story captured my attention and raised interesting questions about the importance of the people we meet in our life. Visually it is a beautiful film which begins in 1918 in New Orleans and moves forward to the fateful Hurricane Katrina. Brad Pitt (Benjamin) and Cate Blanchett (Daisy) bring star power to the story.
Prime (2005) PG-13
Rafi, a 37-year-old recently divorced woman (Uma Thurman) meets weekly to discuss her “intimacy” issues with her longstanding psychotherapist Lisa Metzger (Meryl Streep). Rafi finds her soul mate in David Bloomberg, a 23-year-old artist (Bryan Greenberg) who is living with his grandparents. Lisa is delighted that Rafi has found romance and dismisses the substantive age difference between Rafi and David—until she realizes that Rafi is involved with her son!
The ubiquitous Streep does a wonderful job as she struggles to balance her maternal instincts with her desire to do right by her client. The film has plenty of funny scenes which overlay the deeper issue of the consequences of this May-December romance.
The List by Rosanne Cash (2009)
When Rosanne was eighteen, her dad, Johnny Cash, was saddened that his daughter had never heard of so many classic American songs that he felt were an essential part of their musical heritage. So the Man in Black wrote a list of 100 songs that he felt she should know. This CD features twelve of those songs, including “Girl from the North Country,” “500 Miles,” and “Heartaches by the Number.” Cash does a wonderful rendition of these classics and on some pieces is accompanied by other artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello. I am not a country music fan, but this CD of wonderful traditional country folk songs is beautiful and highly recommended.
Listen to an NPR interview and check out a review at AllMusic.com.