A fun film about some haphazard thieves who happen upon a small town in Texas and become attached to it and its residents. The thieves have just escaped from jail and the small-townspeople mistake them, through a series of misunderstandings, for a gay couple. Of course, this town is conveniently having a beauty pageant and, of course, who wouldn’t be better than the new gay couple to host the pageant. It is a completely entertaining, enjoyable film that will definitely put a smile on your face. Steve Zahn is used to playing quirky, unusual characters, but seeing Brit Jeremy Northam, who is used to playing proper, buttoned-up historical characters, as a wild “gay” crook is worth the popcorn right there!

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Another slam-dunk performance by Malkovich! Here, he plays probably his most quirky, unusual yet…a combination of different characters…all pretending to be Stanley Kubrick. What???? Yes, you read me right. Malkovich’s character plays a man named Alan Conway…who is obsessed with being known as Stanley Kubrick. Well, in addition to Kubrick, Conway is also obsessed with NEVER PAYING FOR ANYTHING, which he is able to get away with MUCH easier as Kubrick, than as Conway. Set in London in the 1990s, the tag-line for this film is “a true-ish story.” And, that would be pretty accurate…since there WAS a man in London in the late 1990s pretending to be Stanley Kubrick. But, that I believe is where the truth ends. All of Malkovich’s characters I would say are originals. If the imposter really did do some of the things Alan Conway gets away with, I would want to shake that man’s hand. Because Conway does and gets away with the more ludicrous things…they have to have been conceived in the mind of the screenwriter, right? But, then again, the idea of someone posing as a famous film director is pretty much out there already.

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A fun, lively film about an entertainer/magician/all-around-showman who has a final last hurrah in the spotlight, which is much more than he really deserves. John Malkovich comes across with a unique, completely original character that makes me respect him more as an actor. After playing bad guy after bad guy, his performances got a little monotonist. Here, though, Malkovich cannot be called anything but unusual and exceptional. The story of a “Kreskin-like” illusionist (actually, Buck Howard was inspired by The Amazing Kreskin, which you find out at the end) who we think is waning toward retirement. When he comes up with one last big idea to gain some popularity back, of course the audience thinks he’s crazy (which is pretty accurate). But, the idea, by some twist of fate, takes off and gives him more success than he’s ever had. The story itself is silly at times but Malkovich makes this movie with his quirky, distinctive performance.

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This film is what I wanted the film Under the Tuscan Sun to be…a true experience of the culture, people and general “soul” of the place. The region of Provence in France is a beautiful region…similar to Italy’s Tuscany in the way people rave of its beauty and its scents and its postcard images. This series is based on the book of the same title by Peter Mayle, a former ad man in London who, along with his wife, decide to retires early in a farmhouse in Provence’s Luberon region. Mayle’s book became a sensation (mostly because it is about someone who actually does something that most people just dream of) just like Frances Mayes’ book about “escaping” to Italy…Under the Tuscan Sun. Unfortunately, the film version of Mayes’ book was changed into more of an exploration of romance instead of a study of Tuscany and its people. This TV version of Mayle’s book, on the other hand, is exactly what the book is…and more! When I say more, I do not mean to criticize Mayle’s beautiful book in any way. I just mean that SEEING Provence in its full glory surpasses the written word some. And what sights you see here! A Year in Provence is filled with the “air” of Provence…the images, the language, the smells, the culture, etc. This is a FUN time…there is something for everybody: scenery, humor, culture, beauty. How can you miss!

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The first season was good. The second season is almost perfect (barring the silly season ending). This show is an example of why writing is so crucial to making a good idea great. The scripts are sharp and perfectly witty. The dialogue snaps off the characters tongues as if they are those characters instead of paid actors. This is not to say the plotting is not good…it is. But the sharpness of the writing is what, I feel, really makes this show stand out from the other “controversial” shows that cable offers. The basic plotline revolves around a recent widow with two boys (one teenager and one younger) who supports her family by selling pot in an upscale suburban neighborhood. Quirky characters and interesting subplots (and of course the snappy dialogue) make this show a must see!

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For a light, relaxing time in the Scottish Highlands, look no further than Monarch. But, sometimes, relaxing can be far from accurate…especially for new Laird of Glenbogle…Archie MacDonald. Archie was just another unassuming business owner in London…his girlfriend was also his business partner and they had a good, yet unadventurous relationship. Enter a sudden trip to the Highlands, where he finds out his family’s home and land is in threat of foreclosure…and Archie is forced (begrudgingly, at first) to become more of a Scotsman than a Londoner. The show is sweet and innocent…filled with colorful characters and breathtaking scenery of the Scottish landscape. A great show for all ages.

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What is there to say about Hyacinth Bucket???? She’s very fashionable. She’s cultured. She’s meticulous. She’s clever. And she drives people CRAZY! Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet, please) is a married woman living in what she feels is a superior home in an inferior area. She drives her neighbors to insanity, her husband to drink (well, not really), her sisters and brother-in-law to drink (really), the postal worker and the milk delivery person to hide, and everyone else around her to run in the opposite direction when she’s in the vicinity. But, is Hyacinth aware of all of this? No…she thinks she’s loved and admired — for her class and her breeding and for her impeccable taste and for her Royal Doulton with the hand-painted periwinkles and her INFAMOUS candlelight suppers. Patricia Routledge excels here as the ever-perfect, ever-annoying Hyacinth. She is able to make this over-the-top character likable even though it’s usually hard to love Hyacinth. She’s the woman you hate to love, but just can’t help it. And even though it’s the writing that creates a character, the actor is the one to pull it off seamlessly, which Routledge definitely does here.

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There are just some things that make people laugh. And, no matter how many times I watch it, Fawlty Towers is my thing. I finally had to buy the set since I don’t think I’ve ever really seen an episode uninterrupted since I’m always in fits of giggles. Shot in the mid-to-late 1970s in England, this show is a true cult classic…still on public television late at night sometimes and still has a VERY loyal, avid fan base…both in Britain and around the world. The premise all stems from the B&B in Torquay, England run by a husband and wife team, Basil and Sybil Fawlty. There is the flighty receptionist, the temperamental chef, and a whole cast of guests who are not exactly getting the best service possible. Only 12 episodes were produced but each of them is funnier than the next. Yes, humor is relative so what I find funny, you might not. But, give this one a try. Chances are, you will, at the VERY least, find it entertaining.

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In the world of show business, there is a lot of material for comedy. And The Office (the British television show) creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant use every last one of the opportunities for humor until the well is dry and until the audience is laughing so hard they cannot get off the couch to put the next disc in. Again, Gervais acts in the series also, as he did in The Office and his comic timing is just brilliant. He plays a struggling actor who makes a living as an extra in movies and TV. Unlike most extras, his character sees all of his “extra” roles as small, bit parts which will lead to larger and better roles. Naturally, this is not always the case, which adds to much of the humor. A series of “real” famous actors as guest stars helps make this comedy series a real winner.

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