Michael Clayton

Michael Clayton (2007) R
Michael Clayton (George Clooney) works for a large law firm. He’s a lawyer but the firm won’t let him practice law because he’s too good at fixing the law firm’s messes. When the firm’s top lawyer experiences a breakdown, Michael must clean up the defense of a chemical plant land contamination. Three billion dollars are at stake and Michael has a lot on his plate – not to mention his financial and family problems.

This was one of Sydney Pollack’s last movies and he is terrific as one of the firm’s big shot lawyers. Tilda Swinton received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as legal counsel for the chemical plant.

A great movie thriller and one of the best George Clooney films ever.


Hombre (1967)
Paul Newman perfected the role of the anti-hero. In Hombre, Newman plays a white man who had been raised by the Apache Indians and adopted their way of life. When John 'Hombre' Russell unexpectedly inherits a lodging-house, he sells it and heads to Bisbee, Arizona. He joins a party on a stagecoach – travelers who are incapable of protecting themselves or coping with the Western badlands. He becomes the natural leader of the group in its survival against a robber band headed by Richard Boone. In doing so, he becomes the hero, the guy who can handle things and defend the weak.

This could just be the best western ever made! Critics praise the performance of Newman and the writing of Elmore Leonard. All of the performances are excellent, making it an intelligent and important entry to the Western genre. It gets better with time, and the message is universal brotherhood.

The Reader

The Reader (2008) R
In 1958, a 36-year-old German woman has an affair with a 15-year-old boy. Later in life when he is a law student, she is on trial for World War II war crimes. Kate Winslet gives an outstanding (and Academy Award-winning) performance in this movie.

Want to find more out about the basis for the movie? Read the novel by Bernhard Schlink. Also check out Sally’s review of the novel in our Current Picks blog.

The Captain’s Paradise

The Captain’s Paradise (1953)
In this delightful British comedy, Alec Guinness is Henry St. James, the captain of a steam ship between Gibraltar and North Africa. In North Africa waits his wife Nita (Yvonne de Carlo), a beautiful hot blooded spitfire with whom he dances the nights away and drinks champagne. In Gibraltar waits his prim and proper wife Maud (Celia Johnson) – a woman delighted with a new vacuum cleaner as an anniversary gift.

With Maud, St. James has home cooked meals and a mug of hot chocolate before promptly turning in at 10:00.  The only one in on the captain's double life is his envious first mate. All is well until each woman begins to want what the other has. All three leads are completely winning and surprising.

Rachel Getting Married

Rachel Getting Married (2008) R
A woman (Anne Hathaway) is released from rehab...again...and just in time to attend her sister's wedding. Emotions boil to the surface in this realistic family drama.

There are plenty of reviews of this film; check out Roger Ebert, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, and Entertainment Weekly. Hathaway won the Critic's Choice Award for best actress.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
This funny and entertaining musical just might be Marilyn Monroe’s best movie. In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Monroe and costar Jane Russell are superb. To publicize the movie, the actresses put their handprints in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre – and they both wrote “gentlemen prefer blondes.”

For more fun facts about the movie, visit the TCM website. And enjoy this video of the leading ladies at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.


Gaslight (1944)
Gaslight is a superb example of a woman-in-peril suspense film. It is a psychological thriller, perfectly atmospheric, set in a foggy, dark London of the Victorian period.

Ingrid Bergman’s performance as a woman slowly losing her mind is great – she received an Oscar for it. She is the victim of games being played to make her doubt her sanity. (The term to gaslight someone to make them doubt themself comes from the movie’s title. It refers to the frequent dimming of the gas lights she sees.)

Charles Boyer is the devil trying to destroy his wife’s mind, and Joseph Cotten the dashing, intelligent inspector whose suspicions save the day. Angela Lansbury, at 18 years old, makes her screen debut in this very enjoyable, albeit old film.


Changeling (2008) R
In 1928 Los Angeles, 9-year-old Walter Collins disappears. His mother, Christine (Angelina Jolie), is hopeful when a boy claiming to be Walter is found in Illinois. However, when they bring him to California, she knows the boy is not her son. Christine takes care of the boy for a time, but when she tells police he is not Walter, they put her in an insane asylum.

This unbelievable scenario is based on a true story. Read about it in this 1999 LA Times article. Visit for movie trailers, clips, and interviews with director Clint Eastwood and Jolie.


Waitress (2007) PG-13
A bittersweet tale of a small town woman who turns hopelessness into a fresh start.

Check out a New York Times article about the movie and the late writer/director/actress Adrienne Shelly. Visit the Fox Searchlight website for articles and videos about the movie and the actors.

Old Acquaintance

Old Acquaintance (1943)
Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins are childhood friends who, as adults, compete in every area of their lives. Hopkins is an overly excitable successful writer of potboilers with the husband and daughter serious writer Davis longs for. Sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, always worth discovering. See these two powerful actresses in another great movie, The Old Maid (1939).

Not familiar with Miriam Hopkins? Catch her in the these delightful Ernst Lubitsch comedies: Trouble in Paradise (1932) and Design for Living (1933).

Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading (2008) R
Is it an anti-spy thriller? Is it a farce on Washington? Is it a play on idiot behavior? Yes to all above and more!

This black comedy from the Coen brothers has an out of work CIA analyst (John Malkovich), who's wife (Tilda Swinton) wants a divorce but is advised to copy her husband's personal and financial files first. The lawyer's secretary leaves the files at her health club and they are found by a trainer (Brad Pitt) who thinks that he can use them to blackmail the analyst. Linda (Frances McDormand), a fellow health club employee, takes the files to the Russian embassy in order to get them to buy the information so she can have cosmetic surgery. And a Treasury agent (George Clooney) carries on an affair with both the wife and the health club employee who wants cosmetic surgery.

The film keeps you wondering what is going to happen next and at the end of the film you wonder what exactly happened. The language is strong, and graphic violence makes an appearance.

Hometown Legend

Hometown Legend (2001) PG
Athens, Alabama, was the capital of high school football. But when the coach’s son dies in a freak accident during the state championship game, things change. Twelve years later, the county has decided to close the high school and bus students to nearby Rock Hill. The coach comes out of retirement for one final season, to try to turn around a program that hasn’t seen a winning season in twelve years.

Follow the new kid in town (Nick Cornish) – an untrusting teenager from the foster care system; the girl (Lacey Chabert) dreaming of saving her hometown; and a coach (Terry O’Quinn) looking to make a difference. This uplifting story keeps you interested till the somewhat surprising ending.


Niagara (1953)
Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotten star in this dark story about love and murder set at Niagara Falls. Though not the best film ever made, Niagara helped cement Monroe's status as a box office draw. It afforded her the chance to play a cold-blooded and conniving role. Joseph Cotten turns in another of his intense, dark and disturbed portrayals.

There is an interesting noir feeling to this Technicolor film with the stalking sequence in the clock tower and the finale. The film makes great use of the falls themselves, both in a "travelogue" sense and in terms of using the location to create and maintain atmosphere. Released in 1953, it's still good to watch again!


Milk (2008) R
A great story of how a gay person in the 1970s gets elected to political office in San Francisco, and the hard times gays endured to get their voices heard.

Sean Penn won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his title role as Harvey Milk. Also starring Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, and James Franco.

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace (2007) PG
This moving film tells the story of the fight to outlaw slavery throughout the British Empire during the late 18th century. Based upon true events, we learn of idealist William Wilberforce, who fights in Parliament for the abolition of the trade and is pushed along by many including his pastor, John Newton.

Newton was a slave trader who experienced a "great deliverance" during a storm at sea. He came to recognize the inherent evil of the slave trade and for the rest of his life tried to make amends to his savior for the wrong he committed against his fellow man. Newton is the author of the timeless hymn "Amazing Grace."

The film is moving and inspirational with wonderful acting by Albert Finney and Michael Gambon.