Blog

Charlie Wilson’s War

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) R
Hollywood heavyweights Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman star in this true story about a playboy congressman’s fight to free Afghanistan from Soviet rule. This fascinating and thought-provoking story follows U.S. Representative Charlie Wilson, CIA Agent Gust Avrakotos, and socialite Joanne Herring through the 1980s as they bring together traditional enemies from across the Middle East to combat the Soviet Union and end the Cold War.

For more about the topic, read George Crile’s 2003 book of the same name and watch the History Channel documentary The True Story of Charlie Wilson. Watch this clip from Oprah where Tom Hanks discusses Charlie Wilson. Also check out the video gallery at IMDB.com for clips from the movie and interviews with the actors and director.
Tags:

Bread & Tulips = Pane e tulipani

Bread & Tulips = Pane e tulipani (2000) PG-13
Bread & Tulips is a charming and quirky Italian film about an overlooked housewife who impulsively vacations to Venice and, with the help of a wonderful cast of supporting characters, finds herself. Part comedy, part romance, part fairy tale, this colorful film will leave you smiling!

In Italian with English subtitles.

Picture Snatcher

Picture Snatcher (1933)
This fast paced precode comedy/drama stars James Cagney as an ex-con who "goes straight" with a job as a photographer for a two bit tabloid. Taking pictures of poor people at their lowest moments, Cagney hits the big time when he sneaks a photo of a murderess at the moment of her execution (a real life event fictionalized in this movie).

Visit TCM.com to watch a trailer. For a similar precode movie about a ruthless columnist who dishes dirt on anyone--until the love of a good woman turns him around (sort of), see Blessed Event.

Australia

Australia (2008) PG-13
Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman star in this epic movie that’s also a love story. Baz Luhrmann directs this tale set in the Northern Territory of Australia during World War II.

My husband had traveled to Australia, and he loved the scenery portrayed in the movie. He was in the area where it was filmed.

Check out a LA Times interview with Nicole Kidman where she discusses the film and the region. Also visit Amazon.com for a behind the scenes video clip featuring Hugh Jackman. If you want to preview the movie, IMDb.com has several featurettes and trailers.

Cosi

Cosi (1996) R
Louis is a young amateur director badly in need of a job. He finds one in Sydney, working for a government program that rehabilitates mentally ill patients. Louis is suppose to direct the patients in a production of his choice but is completely overwhelmed by Roy, a patient, who wants to put on a production of the opera Cosi Fan Tutte by none other than Mozart!

Roy doesn’t seem to care that his fellow patients can’t speak Italian or for that matter even sing very well. Louis bonds with his players and manages to produce a witty, brilliant, bizarre production while the players accomplish the unbelievable.

The movie stars Toni Collette (who had a war of nerves with producers who wanted her to shave her underarms. She did not want to, believing she was keeping in character…she won). Also featuring Ben Mendelsohn, Rachel Griffiths, Barry Otto and many others who keep you laughing from beginning to end.
Tags:

Hobson’s Choice

Hobson’s Choice (1954)
Charles Laughton is the irascible Henry Hobson who owns a boot shop in 1890s England. Hobson dominates his three daughters, blustering and threatening them about their marriage prospects. His oldest daughter, though, takes matters into her own hands when she uses her own considerable willpower to marry her father's lowly and mild-mannered bootmaker Willie Mossop, played beautifully by John Mills.

A quiet movie in many ways, but with many delightful moments. Watching the transformation of Mossop from meek bootmaker to proud husband and owner of his own shop is reward in itself. Watch for Prunella Scales of Fawlty Towers fame as youngest daughter Vicky.

For more on the movie (including a video clip), visit the Criterion Collection website.

Finding Neverland

Finding Neverland (2004) PG
The story of the man who wrote Peter Pan, author James M. Barrie, Finding Neverland features another phenomenal performance by Johnny Depp. As the story begins, playwright Barrie (Depp) has staged a recent flop and his producer (Dustin Hoffman) is getting impatient.

Finding Neverland presents a fictional account of Barrie’s creative life and the inspirations that helped bring Peter Pan to the stage. Barrie meets the four Davies boys and their mother, Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) in London’s Kensington Gardens. Captured by their boyish imagination and touched by the recent loss of their father, he begins to tell them stories and is eventually inspired to write a play about a boy who stays young forever. The Davies boys show him Neverland, and he shows it to the world.

Depp, with his own boyish looks and childhood spirit, is perfect as Barrie. Freddie Highmore, who portrays the young Peter Davies, gives a remarkable toughness and sensitivity to his first movie role.
Tags:

Mean Girls

Mean Girls (2004) PG-13
Written by the talented Tina Fey, Mean Girls is a funny movie about girls in high school. Cady Heron gets a lesson in teenage hierarchy when she enters high school after years of being homeschooled in Africa. An all around good comedy.

Lindsay Lohan gives a great performance. Also featuring Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert, Amy Poehler, and Tim Meadows. Read an interview with Tina Fey on BlackFilm.com or watch an interview with Fey on Spike TV.
Tags:

It Happened One Night

It Happened One Night (1934)
Heiress Ellie Andrews eludes her controlling father by jumping off their yacht and swimming ashore. On her way from Miami to New York, she encounters unemployed newspaperman Peter Warne. The two fall in love as they deal with a washed out bridge, a broken down bus, and hitchhiking misadventures.

Starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night was the first movie to win all five major Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Screenplay in 1934).

Visit the American Film Institute to find more information on the movie AFI rated the #3 romantic comedy. You can watch a trailer of It Happened One Night, plus read film details and a summary. Also check out About.com's Classic Movies section for trivia.

Moonstruck

Moonstruck (1987) PG
When Loretta, an Italian America widow, agrees to marry Johnny, confirmed bachelor and mama’s boy, the fireworks begin. He asks her to visit his brother Ronny and invite him to the wedding. Not only does Loretta invite Ronny to the wedding, she falls in love with him. Her close-knit Italian family offers her their insights on love and life. Cher and Olympia Dukakis glow in their Oscar award-winning performances.

John Patrick Shanley won an Oscar for the screenplay of Moonstruck. He recently wrote the play and screenplay Doubt.

Miracle at St. Anna

Miracle at St. Anna (2008) R
The movie is about a black infantry outfit in Italy during WWII, but the film starts in the 1980s. A man is working in a New York post office as a teller selling stamps. A guy comes to buy stamps; the postal worker recognizes him, pulls out a gun and shoots him dead.

Then the movie goes back to WWII and we find out what triggered the attack. Four American soldiers end up behind enemy lines; they are sequestered in an Italian village after rescuing a young Italian boy. A statue is involved. Someone is a traitor.

You’ll have to watch Miracle at St. Anna to find out what happened in this interesting movie that will keep your attention throughout. Based on the novel by James McBride. Directed by Spike Lee.
Tags:

Charade

Charade (1963)
Charade, a film written by Peter Stone and Marc Behm, tells the tale of a woman (Audrey Hepburn) pursued by several men, including Cary Grant, who want the fortune her murdered husband has stolen. Directed by Stanley Donen, it also features Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy and an Oscar nominated score by Henry Mancini.

It spans three genres: suspense/thriller, romance, and comedy, and is both charming and amusing. The interaction between Hepburn and Grant is the best part of this 1963 film shot in Paris. Check out About.com for more about the plot, cast, backstory, and more.

Little Voice

Little Voice (1998) R
Shy and timid Little Voice can not even leave her home, but she sings like an angel. Listening to her dead father’s albums she can mimic her father’s favorite singers, including Judy Garland. But when her mother’s new boyfriend sees a way to cash in on Little Voice’s talents, Little Voice must decide if its time to break out of her cocoon. With Brenda Blethyn and Michael Caine.

The Red Violin

The Red Violin (1998) R
When the famous “Red Violin” by Master Nicolo Bussotti turns up at a famous auction house, the story of its creation is shown in flashbacks. Beginning in the 17th century in Italy, then to an Austrian monastery, a violinist in Oxford, the Cultural Revolution in China, and finally to Montreal. Each segment is in the language of the country.

The violin brings love, sacrifice, betrayal to its owners. The auction appraiser (Samuel L. Jackson) is not immune to its power and makes a life turning decision. The music helps make this a very seductive tale.
Tags:

Suddenly

Suddenly (1954)
Starring Sterling Hayden and Frank Sinatra, Suddenly is set in a small town (also called Suddenly) out west. Sheriff Tod Shaw (Hayden) gets word that the president of the United States is coming into town on the train. John Baron (Sinatra) and his cohorts are planning to assassinate the president. They take over a widow’s house. It’s very tense. I strongly recommend Suddenly – it keeps you on your toes throughout the whole movie.

An interesting side note: Suddenly came out about eight years before The Manchurian Candidate where Frank Sinatra is trying to prevent an assassination.