Vera Drake

  -spoiler-   Vera Drake, a film by Mike Leigh, is not easy to write about for several reasons. But let this not diminish the fact that Vera Drake is an outstanding example of cinema-craft.   It is London in the early 1950’s. Vera (Imelda Staunton) is a working class wife who lives with her husband, George (Richard Graham), and two grown children. Vera goes about working and helping her house-bound mother and others; she is terminally cheerful, busy and kindly, without a hint of s … [Read more...]

National Treasure

National Treasure is a very entertaining film about a family, with links to America’s Founding Fathers, that generation after generation follows historical clues to a treasure hidden - buried by the Freemasons in the early years following the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) somewhere in the United States.   Nicholas Cage is Ben (Franklin) Gates (re: Bill Gates? Riches?)and his whole life’s mission is to find the treasure. His partner in discovering the last clue on a ship sun … [Read more...]


In vino veritas is the first thing I thought of when I was watching director/writer Alexander Payne’s (About Schmidt) new film, Sideways .  Naturally, the marketing team got there first with the connection, but it is true. This is a film that uses wine as a metaphor for life. Sideways is a small film because it never goes beyond itself; it stays courageously focused on a one week journey taken by quasi-middle-aged friends Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church) through c … [Read more...]

Finding Neverland

I have always been a fan of Peter Pan. When I was a graduate student living in Kensington, London in the mid-1990's, I made a literary pilgrimage one Sunday to pay homage to the boy who never grew up and the places that inspired the geography and magic of Neverland. I walked first to Kensington Gardens and then to nearby Hyde Park and the Serpentine to see the island of the lost boys and finally to the wistful statue of Peter Pan (and fairies) that Sir James Matthew Barrie donated in 1912. … [Read more...]

Christmas with the Kranks

Christmas with the Kranks will open in a few days starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis. It's based on John Grisham's 2001 novella, Skipping Christmas. Tim Allen is Luther Krank and Curtis plays his wife, Nora. When their 23-year old daughter and only child, Blair, joins the Peace Corps and departs for Peru the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Luther realizes that he and Nora don't have to do the Christmas thing this year, and can just skip Christmas. So he figures out that he and … [Read more...]

Mean Girls

Mean Girls is the latest in my catch-up program for films released earlier this year that I missed in the theater. Tina Fey, of Saturday Night Live, wrote the screenplay and acts in the film as a math teacher. I have to admit at the outset that my benchmark for entertaining flicks about teen life is Amy Heckerling's 1995 film Clueless, that is an updated version of Jane Austin's Emma. Mean Girls is not as funny as Clueless and bears similarities to many teen flicks without … [Read more...]

Motorcycle Diaries, The (Diarios de motocicleta)

The Motorcycle Diaries, is the story of a road trip taken by Ernesto "Che'" Guavera (Gael Garcia Bernal of El Crimen de Padre Amaro) and his friend Alberto Granada (Rodrigo de la Serna) in 1952. Their plan was to ride a motorcycle from Buenos Aires, around the southern most tip of South America and north to Venezuela in four months - arriving in time to celebrate Alberto's 30th birthday. Che' Guavera is known as one of the major leaders of the Cuban revolution who was eventually … [Read more...]

The Polar Express

I loved The Polar Express. Just saw it this morning, and I thought it was wonderful. It ranks very close to Pirates of the Caribbean for me, in that it was that kind of pure entertainment that makes a trip to the multiplex worthwhile and satisfying. The Polar Express is a different kind of entertainment that Pirates, but films like these are strong reminders of what Hollywood is capable of when all the creativity is generously poured into bringing stories like these to the screen for the … [Read more...]

Cinderella Story, A

A Cinderella Story with Hilary Duff as the over-worked and ill-treated teen, is an updated 'tween version of the fairy tale, only for those who have strong teeth that won't melt from the sugar. I just voted at (I gave it a 2 out of 10) and saw that viewers either loved it or hated it. Roughly 25% have it a 10 (excellent) and 25% gave it a 1 (awful) and all other votes scattered in between. It must have hit it's target market: girls loved it and parents - or a huge number … [Read more...]

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

Hi everyone! At long last I am back from my trip to Rome and my 30 Day Retreat. It was awesome, especially the silence. Silence is a gift. I went to see two new films today, and I will be writing about them, but first let me play "catch up" once again on recent films that I missed (blessedly) in theaters, but caught up with on the long flights to and from Rome. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story was one big bark, like that of a dog howling under a full moon and starving. I thought that Vince … [Read more...]