This film, which made Alec Guinness a star all around the world, still ranks as one of the most popular British comedies of all time. The story is told by a droll, very serious young man, played by Dennis Price, who is being cut out of his royal bloodline by his stodgy, proper family. Even though Price is the MAIN character, Alec Guinness is the REAL star of this film, as he demonstrates his mastery of comedy by playing all eight members of Price’s family. Guinness’ performance is purely genius, especially with the way he changes mannerisms and other nuances for each of his eight characters. Not necessarily a fall-on-the-floor-laughing film, but a great one.

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Not exactly realistic, but a fun tale of a 19th Century duke who travels through time to meet his new wife in the present day. This film reminded me of the classic films of the 1940s and 1950s where believability was not necessarily a requirement. The “un”believeable part is the time-travel element that transports Hugh Jackman’s duke from the late 1800s to the 21st Century. I found myself not even caring that it is the most illogical premise ever conceived (at least, that I have seen). The movie really is not about if you believe in time-traveling. It’s about romance and love and fate and timeless passion. Jackman definitely steals the show as the charming, courteous time-traveler. Liev Schreiber also shines as Kate’s ex-boyfriend who starts the whole time-travel mess in the first place.

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Junebug is a hard movie to say whether I liked it or I just felt so sorry for the characters I took pity on the film. The best way to describe it is the call it a slice of Southern small-town American living. It’s basically a story about George, who has moved to Chicago but, on a trip back home, reconnects with his Southern roots. Those roots might have been dormant when he fell in love with and married Madeleine, an uptight, highly educated art dealer, but once George gets back home, those dormant characteristics began to surface….from everything from afternoon naps to singing hymns at the local church’s pancake breakfast. The supporting characters are the ones, though, that made this movie special for me. Amy Adams plays Ashley, a pregnant young woman just starved (I mean REALLY STARVED) for affection and attention. She is desperate to like Madeleine, mostly because she has very little positive reinforcement in her life. Ashley’s husband and George’s brother, Johnny, is a gruff loner who shows more attention to his cars than he does to anyone in his family, especially his pregnant wife. Even though Madeleine and George seem to be at the center of the story, I got more out of the supporting characters and their troubles. The Ashley character alone is so complex in her simplicity that she could star in a movie all her own (which might be one of the reasons Amy Adams got so many raves for her over-the-top yet (at the same time) understated performance, including an Oscar nomination for supporting actress).

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This film set the stage for early romantic comedies and also gave the brilliant career of director Frank Capra a boost. While running away from the demands of her strict, wealthy father, Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) meets struggling newspaperman Peter Warne (Clark Gable) on a bus going from Florida to New York City. They cannot be more different: he likes to drink more than work and she is spoiled and prudish about everything. What should be just a two-night ride turns into a much-longer trip filled with stops and mishaps, all of which bring the two closer together, despite their differences. This movie’s sharp, witty dialogue inspired a new form of film comedy, where the characters’ initial love/hate relationship inevitably turns to romance. This comedy style was used later for films such as Howard Hawks’ 1940 classic His Girl Friday and George Cukor’s The Philadelphia Story, also from 1940. Neither Gable nor Colbert wanted to make this comedy, but after they were both honored with Academy Awards for their work, they were probably glad they did. It Happened One Night also won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay Oscars.

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I had heard of this movie but I wasn’t sure why so many people had been asking for it. So, what I’m saying is that I went in with no expectations. And I came out laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. This has to be one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years…close-to-perfect comic writing, timing, acting….everything. Basically, it’s about a hot-shot London cop (Nick) who gets reassigned to a small English village where he thinks he will be completely bored for the rest of his career…but, boy, does he turn out to be wrong. The village police force consists of a bunch of crackpots…one of whom (Danny) becomes Nick’s partner. Some of the repartee between Nick and Danny is just priceless…Danny is quite simple-minded and his slow-wit counteracts perfectly with Nick’s confident policing. When Danny is forced to become a real police officer and fight real crime, the laughs do not stop! I immediately wanted to see Shaun of the Dead, which is the first film written by Simon Pegg (who plays Nick) and Edgar Wright. Sadly, I didn’t like that one as much, but for me, it would be VERY hard to top my Hot Fuzz experience.

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The teaming of the comedy team of Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and director George Cukor leads to comic mayhem as a bright rich girl steals her sister’s fiancée, a struggling young lawyer. Not the most famous of the Grant/Hepburn/Cukor pairings (The Philadelphia Story would have to take that prize) but I feel it’s the best. The comedy has a quirky, strange quality that makes it unconventional, which might be why it was not initially received as a classic, but it’s not too strange to miss this wonderful film.

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In this Harold Ramis film (shot in Woodstock, IL), Bill Murray finds out what it is like to relive one day over and over again, giving himself the time to examine his less-than-personable behavior. The story starts with Murray’s gruff and cruel weatherman character covering the annual “Groundhog Day” festivities in Pennsylvania. He is on assignment with a news producer (Andie MacDowell) and a cameraman (Chris Elliott). As Murray begins to live the same 24-hours again and again, which happens to be Groundhog Day, his hardened character starts to soften.

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Mike Nichols’ controversial film about Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman, in his film debut), a recently out of college lost-soul who begins an affair with his parent’s friend, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), just out of boredom. The affair allows him to procrastinate on other important decisions like graduate school and/or getting a job, much to his parents’ chagrin. More problems occur when he falls in love with the Robinsons’ daughter, Elaine (Katherine Ross). This film did as much for the 1960’s rebellion as it did for both the careers of Simon and Garfunkel and Mike Nichols, who earned an Oscar for his cutting edge direction.

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Another Oscar Wilde play comes to life…this time in one that is funny and charming and lively and sometimes even wicked… Set in late 19th Century London, the story revolves around an up-and-coming young politician who gets blackmailed by a “lady” into changing his opinion on an upcoming parliamentary bill. She has some evidence of how he got his early influence…and is willing and ready to use it if he doesn’t meet her demands. OK, so that’s the main plot, but as Wilde always does, the plot is only the beginning of the story. The best parts here are the supporting players and the smaller storylines about romances and the search for husbands, etc. Those are the juicy parts that offer the best snippets of Wilde-esque dialogue, innuendo and puns. One of the leaders in this smaller storylines is Rupert Everett, who plays a cad who has made it is goal in life never to marry. His story interweaves perfectly with the main storyline about the blackmail (he is friends with the politician and used to date the lady who is blackmailing him) but on its own, Everett’s story is a perfectly solid work. His entire character could be pulled out and turned into a full-length play or film, since there is so much meaty dialogue and so many stories to tell about him. If you have liked Wilde’s work in the past (such as A Woman of No Importance, Lady Windemere’s Fan’s, and most notably The Importance of Being Earnest), An Ideal Husband is guaranteed to please and if you’ve never seen anything written by Wilde, this is the one to start with. Trust me…you will want to see them all!

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Not having a sister, I’m not sure I complete understand the family dynamic in this film, but putting that aside, I feel this is a good film about love and relationships that neither gets too gooey or too preachy. It starts off like a lot of films have in the past…two siblings have more than their fair share of issues because they could not be more different. One sister is sleazy and superficial, whereas the other is brainy and slower in the “love” department. Sleazy sister likes loafing off her relatives. Brainy sister always is the responsible one who has to pick up the pieces of Sleazy sister’s life. After the Brainy sister finally gives up and kicks Sleazy sister out, the film takes an unconventional turn. Instead of having the typical resolution of “accepting each other’s faults” this one actually allows the characters to change and grow. Enter Shirley MacLaine, who plays the sisters’ estranged grandmother, and there suddenly are three intelligent female characters who are capable of transforming themselves without the help of a “good man” or constant attention from others. The three main characters use what they’ve learned from each other but on their own create their own change.

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