This is my guilty pleasure of 2004. I really liked this one, even though I probably shouldn’t. First of all, it’s supposed to be based on a much better Japanese film from 1997, which I have not seen yet – though I want to now. After I finished watching this film, I just felt all good inside…like I could dance and sing around my house, all by myself. And, I think that’s what the attraction is for everyone: this is a feel good film and who doesn’t want to feel good? The story revolves around a married man (Richard Gere) who is set in his ways of working late and coming home to his wife and older children. Through no dialogue, but just through the expressions on Gere’s face, we can tell he’s frustrated with the path his life has taken. This all changes when he discovers a dance studio and begins to take lessons…begrudgingly at first. Soon, the desire and need to dance consumes…he HAS to dance. It’s a compulsion, like something he cannot control in himself. Dance is just what he needs to bring some spice and excitement back into his life. I enjoyed this one from beginning to end. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, something else comes along and surprises you. It’s not a fabulously directed film that makes any strides in the area of filmmaking…it’s just a sweet, endearing film that leaves you with a good sense of humanity and optimism about life.

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Right off the top, let me just say I know little to nothing about math. And even though the main characters in this film are math geniuses, my lack of knowledge did not hinder me from liking this film. Math is only the background…the basis of this film, not the plot. In a nutshell, it’s a story of a daughter who just lost her father. Add to that the father was a math genius…but also insane (later in life). Add that the daughter is also a math prodigy and fears following her father’s footsteps down the path of mental illness. Yes, it’s a heavy subject but the film moves along pretty quickly through all of it…no, it’s not a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat film but what film about math geniuses is? Based on a successful stage play, this is a drama…a dark drama about family relationships and personal soul-searching. The stand out thing about Proof is Gwyneth Paltrow’s performance. To me, this is by far her best acting work. She is emotional without being too over the top and she’s sorrowful without being too sappy. There are several scenes where there are intense close-ups of her face…and just through the look in her eyes and her facial expression, she tells the audience everything we need to know about her character’s state of mind at that very second. A very powerful performance to top off a strong and meaningful film.

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A fabulous legal thriller that owes most of its points to the performance of Edward Norton, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role. A breakout role of Norton, the character he plays here is Aaron, a shy, stuttering young man who has many more layers than anyone gives him credit for. Aaron is accused of a heinous crime, which he is adamant he did not commit. Enter smug, self-obsessed attorney Martin Vail, who takes Aaron’s case because it’s assured a lot of publicity. Vale, in the beginning, couldn’t care less about Aaron, but as time passes and Aaron reveals more of himself to the lawyer, Martin warms to Aaron…some. But, just as he does…WHAM! A curve is thrown that keeps Vale and the audience guessing. But, this is not anywhere near as powerful as the final curve. As I said, this movie is really put over the top with Edward Norton’s portrayal of Aaron. The portrayal comes to fruition at the end. Call it the payoff. And, boy, it is a doozy!

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A charming film that is something I would normally term as “sappy.” I usually stay far away from my self-proclaimed “sappy” films but I was drawn to this one because I always had a soft-spot for Kevin Costner. Needless to say, I fell in love with Message in a Bottle (and Mr. Costner, all over again). This is not to say it is not sappy. It is sappy with a capital S, please, don’t get me wrong. But, I just have to admit this is one time I like the sap. Set in Chicago and on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a Tribune reporter heads South to the beach on vacation where she meets a rugged, loner who happens to be handsome. They have some awkward moments at first but mostly, it’s pure chemistry. She goes back home to Chicago and he braves the wilds of the city to come and visit her. Your basic sap…but, this one is just high quality sap…I know that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement but it’s a good love story, trust me. I don’t think Mr. Costner is the ONLY reason I fell for this one. I really have more standards than that, don’t I? Well, you will just have to watch this one and see!

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I’m sure most people have seen this one and I’m most definitely not in the minority for liking it. I just think this is one of the best action/suspense films in years. Yes, it’s ALL supposed to be set in Illinois and us Illinoisans know that we do not have any kind of dam like that in this great state. But, ignoring that, this one is just top-notch in most every way. Harrison Ford plays Richard Kimble, a doctor who comes home to find a one-armed man attacking his wife. Kimble fights with the man, but the murderer gets away. Kimble is accused of the murder, when the police don’t buy his “one-armed man” story. After managing to escape from incarceration (one of the best train crashes ever put on film), Kimble makes it his mission to come back to his hometown of Chicago and find the one-armed murderer. It’s sharp, fast, well structured, well acted, has just enough humor, and is riveting when it needs to be and laid back when it needs to be. Basically, just a good film.

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Don’t call it “Hitchcockian” but this film is a good, nail-biting thriller. Yes, it’s flawed (which is the main reason it shouldn’t be called “Hitchcockian”) but over-all, I was entertained by this one…mostly because of Clive Owen’s brooding intensity, which he has done in films before but that he perfects here. Owen plays a suburban upper-middle-class husband and father who, by chance, meets a seductive woman on the train one morning. After that first encounter, Owen is tempted enough to seek her out again. And, that leads to more and more, etc. Where this film takes off is once the affair is over…then the action begins. Not the best thriller ever made, but something good to hold your interest on a Saturday night…

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Meet the team behind Shred America!  Hear how they skateboarded 850 miles, from Chicago to New York, watch a preview for their movie, and pick up skateboarding tips.

When: 2:00pm Sunday, September 28
Where: Niles Public Library, Large Meeting Room

Register at our website!

Visit them on MySpace.

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Being a big Hitchcock fan always puts me in a tight place when people ask me about my favorite film. Of course, it would be a Hitchcock film, but which one? When the pressure heats up and I am cornered, I would confess that this film would have to fit the bill of not only my favorite film, but also, more importantly, my favorite Hitchcock film. The reasons? Well, it has every quality that Hitchcock is famous for. It has the comic element. It has the mistaken identity element. It has the “wronged” man element. It has what is commonly known in Hitchcock circles as the MacGuffin (some aspect of the plot that is totally irrelevant but succeeds in distracting the attention of the audience). And, it has romance. Basically, this is the film Hitchcock has been working up to his entire career. And, boy does it show. The performances showcase some of the finest work Hitchcock has ever filmed, especially “wronged” man Cary Grant, never looking more debonair, even when he’s running from crop-dusting planes in a suit and tie. This was Grant’s fourth film with Hitchcock and the two have never worked better together. My VERY close runner-up for best Hitchcock film would be another Grant movie, Notorious, from 1946. Even though Grant is near perfect in that earlier film, he simply radiates perfection in this movie. His comic timing, facial expressions, tone of voice, and mannerisms are all seamless. So, if you want to see a great movie, rent any Hitchcock film. If you want to see the best of Grant and Hitchcock, rent this one!
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