OK – I’m a James Bond fan. So, right off the bat I’ll say I was leery. Leery of a blonde Bond. Leery about a relatively unknown actor jumping into the timeless role. Leery of an actor who might be a little too “hard” looking to play the über spy. But, enough of my fears…since this film and Daniel Craig’s performance put them all to rest, I will no longer focus on my apprehensions. What I will focus on is that this is a strong film in a series that has been through some hard times in the past…especially concerning actor changes. I will also focus on the fact that Craig makes a strong, determined Bond…different than all the others but made for the 21st Century. Could Connery be Bond today? Probably not. He would slap the wrong woman’s bottom and she’d sue him. Would Roger Moore? Well, no, because his series of quips would also land him in court for one thing or another. Pierce Brosnan was the perfect end-of-the-20th-Century Bond…debonair, striking, yet with a soft side. In Casino Royale, the 21st installment of the official Bond films (not counting 1983’s Never Say Never Again and 1967’s Bond spoof also based and titled on Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, Casino Royale), Craig holds onto Bond’s soft side right up to the very end. His Bond is raw and harsh and more “action” and less “sophistication” than his predecessors. The plot is pretty simple, which is another departure from most of the recent Bond films that get mulled down with convoluted stories. Here, Bond needs to win a high-stakes poker game so a terrorist does not win money to finance his crimes. This film also goes back to the beginning of 007’s career…right after he has been granted his license to kill by Her Majesty’s Secret Service (this makes sense since this is the novel Fleming used to introduce the world to Bond). And, granted, the film could use a little editing (it is close to 2 ½ hours long) especially around the card game. But, what the film doesn’t need is another Bond search. The right actor has been found! And we can only hope that he sticks around for a while.

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Based on the bestselling book by Helen Fielding, this story of the classic “singleton” hits both dramatic and comic highs and lows while entertaining throughout. Texan Renee Zellweger strikes the perfect British tone as Bridget, a single, frustrated Londoner who looks for love in all the wrong places. Hugh Grant steals most of his scenes as the devilish Daniel, who once again fits Bridget’s bill as the “wrong” guy. Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy, on the other hand, might very well be the “right” guy, if Bridget would ever realize it before it’s too late. Well-adapted from its diary format, this movie runs the gamut of emotions while never seeming forced or fake, mostly due to Zellweger’s robust and daring performance as the ever-disappointed yet daffy Bridget.

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I wanted to LOVE this movie. After-all, I adored the first installment. So, naturally, I was VERY excited to see this one. And, I have to say, I was let-down some. Not because it’s not a cute, witty film (the first one was extremely witty), but because it’s not AS entertaining as the first. Sequels do have a lot to live up to and this one, like most, falls flat, in comparison to the first. But, looking at the film on it’s own, it is a sweet, funny romantic comedy that has a lot of problems (the jail scenes need to be MUCH shorter) but that basically is a cute, fun film. Starting from where the first film lets off (Bridget just snags Mark Darcy as her boyfriend and she’s no longer a “singleton”), Bridget once again is up to her old tricks. Now that she HAS Mark, she tries her best to “get rid of him” by letting her paranoia get the best of her. Bridget is a very appealing character. She’s like every woman. She’s nuts at time. She’s not bone thin. She makes a lot of mistakes. She’s VERY imperfect. Why Mark (a heck of a lot more perfect than Bridget) would be with her is a mystery but doesn’t every slightly chubby, less than gorgeous woman imagine Mr. Perfect on her arm. It’s a film about watching someone live out her fantasies…and I’m sorry but I wouldn’t mind doing that.

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Like its predecessor, The Bourne Supremacy, this film holds up well against the first one of the series, The Bourne Identity. When it comes to series films, regardless of how good or bad the first one is, the subsequent films are usually never good…or at least as good…as the first. By a third film in a series, everything just seems to run out of steam…especially the screenplay. Plot is just mostly ignored…since blowing things up for no reason does not fall under the list of acceptable plotlines. In The Bourne Ultimatum, the script stays taut and clever from start to finish, the action stays consistently tied to the story, and the actors do not behave like they are sleepwalking through their performances. Beginning with the plot thread that left Supremacy up in the air, Ultimatum takes charge right from the beginning. Jason Bourne, this time, remembers more about his past and is determined to find out who is the person responsible for that said past. No, it’s not MUCH of a plot but at least it’s some justification for all of the action and fighting. It’s simple…a simple story…Jason Bourne wants to find out who he is and why he does what he does. Basing all the action on that logic, the movie makes sense. And it is one heck of a wild ride – once again Greengrass and his crew incorporate the camera in the action…make sure to take your Dramamine before this one because when Jason Bourne gets in a brawl, you feel like you’re punching right along with him. If you were a fan of the first two films, this one is a must see!

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Like the 2002 film, The Bourne Identity, this film features amnesiac Jason Bourne on his quest to find the truth out about himself and his possibly nefarious former life. Identity ends with Jason reconnecting with love Marie in an island paradise and Supremacy continues at that spot. From there, it spins you into a world of action, intrigue, and governmental intelligence like nothing ever before. Identity lays the groundwork for the character and plot, but this film answers most, not all, of the questions. It is faster, more intense, and a bit more easy to follow than the first installment. And, there is a car chase in Supremacy (one of the best car chases ever in movies, I feel) that will make you want to walk around for a while since just the sight of automobiles will make you sick. Matt Damon plays Jason Bourne to the hilt, capturing the right level of stamina, compassion, and strength of mind and body. The supporting characters (some carried over from Identity, some new) round out the film by filling in some of the holes about Jason’s past, that, of course, he can’t do since he’s lost his memory. This is one of the best action films in recent years (or decades). It takes the audience on a ride of fun and thrills, all while maintaining a level of plausibility, smarts, and common sense…things VERY few action movies do anymore.

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Writing this on June 3, 2005, the whole world now knows the identity of the mysterious “Deep Throat.” Having that newly revealed information does not diminish the impact of this film. Neither does knowing the outcome of the story. People flocked to see Titanic even though that outcome was also infamously known. The ending…or resolve…of All the President’s Men really is not the reason to watch it. Watch it for everything that leads up to the finale of Nixon as president—the detailed investigative reporting, the danger, the deadlines, the fear of incomplete information…or inaccurate information…the threat of losing jobs and even lives while covering this story. All of those pieces make this film about a very well-known time in American history a taut, fast-paced thriller. Yes…thriller. A movie about Nixon and Watergate and reporters and reporting is a thriller…all with an ending that is not a surprise to viewers? Hard to believe, I know, but nonetheless true. From start to finish, this film is packed with tense, exciting moments…all while making investigative journalism look like the coolest profession outside of taste tester for Ben and Jerry’s. The famous book that this film is based on, by then-Washington Post up-and-coming journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (who is now an editor at the Post), is dryer and more dense. The movie takes all of the many facts and details of the book and lays them out in a complex, tight structure that makes us sit on the edge of our seats.

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Off the top, I would like to state that I’m a huge Edith Wharton fan. I’ve read almost everything by her…including nonfiction and short stories…and love her style. I’m always leery when an “adaptation” comes out of a novel I love. Bonfire of the Vanities is one of favorite books of the latter part of the 20th Century and I’m still reeling from that debacle. So, when I heard that this novel was being adapted for the screen, I immediately got nervous. But, then I heard it was being directed by Martin Scorsese and I knew Wharton’s work would be in capable hands (though I thought there might be one or two added scenes of violence that old Edith didn’t really bank on). But, alas, I needn’t had worry about any blood shed…Scorsese held true to Wharton’s vision and created a modern masterpiece out of a classic masterpiece. Sticking pretty close to the novel, the plot is about love that goes unfulfilled. Newland Archer and May Welland look like they are destined to be a happy married couple. Enter May’s slightly colorful cousin Ellen Olenska…who Newland takes a shine to — and vice versa. Visually, this is by far Scorsese’s most prominent use of color on film. The film looks and feels like a fabulous artist’s salon we can all just step into. And when I read the book, I had a feeling that’s exactly what Wharton wanted us to envision. Which, I think, is the best thing an adaptation can hope for…capturing the author’s true vision. I doubt Tom Wolfe would say the film version of Bonfire of the Vanities has anything to do with his vision!

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I honestly didn’t know what to expect here, other than Kate Winslet falls for a young boy. And that is just the tip of this one. For me, this film stayed with me for days…it lingered and I kept thinking about certain issues from the film that the main character, Michael Berg, has to contemplate. It is a movie that gets not only the brain going but it makes the audience wonder, what would I do? I kept wondering even days after seeing the film, did the character make the right decision. What would have happened if he had done this…or that? It is not a perfect film and I found parts of it a little too slow, but for the most part, The Reader is a fascinating exploration into the psyche.

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This is a cute, fun movie that will take your mind off of your own financial problems…for 2 hours, at least. It’s not high art, but when you look at the title, if you think it might be an “art” film, slap yourself and then sit back and enjoy. Based on the books Confessions of a Shopaholic and Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Brit author Sophie Kinsella, the movie, like the books, feature an excitable, screwball female named Becky Bloomwood who lives to shop and shops to live. The movie, does though, change some major points…first, in the book, Becky is a Londoner…here, Becky is a confirmed New Yorker. Secondly, the man she falls for is her boss in the movie…in the book, that is a different scenario. Do these changes alter the fun of the film over the fun of the books…no. There are plenty of stores in both London and NYC! If you need a fun, entertaining pick-me-up, see this movie!

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When you hear about gangs in New York, do you automatically think of the Sharks and the Jets? When is the last time you heard someone say that they feel or look pretty when you didn’t think of West Side Story and the infamous song I Feel Pretty… “I feel pretty…oh, so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and bright…” If you don’t know that song, you might want to watch or even re-watch this film and I promise that soon, you will humming at least one of its many catchy, timeless tunes. Trust me, this film is contagious. More than most musicals of its era, this one is filled with songs and characters that are actually memorable. True, there is some corny stuff here but it wouldn’t be a 1960s musical with some sentiment. Part of the “difference” of West Side Story comes from the music itself…a score and songs written by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Both men perfectly capture the rhythm and energy of New York, but without forgetting about the grime and grit that goes along with any urban setting. Speaking of New York, this one is actually FILMED there…on the streets themselves…not on a set, like most musicals (and even many non-musical movies) of the day. So, the Jets and the Sharks are fighting about territory we REALLY see and can REALLY feel. The story, for the few who do not know, is really a modern day re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed who were doomed from the get-go. Whereas Shakespeare’s couple had feuding Italian families to hinder their romance, here it’s rival gangs and, more importantly, different cultures that get in the way of the young lovers’ happiness (Tony is in a White gang…The Jets…and Maria’s brother, Bernardo, is leader of the Puerto Rican gang, The Sharks). The real draw to this one, though, is the music…which is good since this is a musical, right? I promise after you hear a few bars of America, you will be singing along for weeks…“I like to be in America…OK by me in a America…”

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