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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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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When I first saw this one years ago, I thought it was too much of a farce…too over the top…too silly. But, re-watching it, I am able now to see it’s fine details as one of America’s great broad comedies. Cary Grant is at his wackiest here…as the nephew of two matronly ladies who have begun an unusual pastime…murdering lonely old men and having them buried in the basement. We’ve all seen (and loved) Grant do screwball…but this is pretty much as slapstick as comedy can get. He’s physical and very expressive…perfect for this role as the befuddled nephew of these two crazy killers. Directed by Frank Capra, I think one of the reasons this one took a while to sink in is because it’s almost TOO over the top. But, I guess as I’m getting older, I find the need for more and more comedy. And this one will sure satisfy that need!

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A light, comical film that is like a breath of fresh air in the stuffy world of cinema. This one never, ever takes itself to seriously…even with a tremendous cast of some of the finest actresses ever. Yet, it’s not laugh-out-loud funny…it’s a quiet, subtle film that keeps the audience smiling and guessing. Joan Plowright stars as the matriarch of a section of a town in Ireland known as Widow’s Peak, since all of the residents of the “section” are widows. Mia Farrow plays a woman who’s a bit out of her league among the widows but they include her anyway (we later find out why) and Natasha Richardson plays a wealthy American from England whose husband died and left her with money and a streak of viciousness. Plowright plays her air of superiority perfectly…she’s not too over-the-top but she’s just daft enough to make it seem convincing. Richardson is perfect…I honestly did not expect it when she did mean-spirited things…though I bought it just enough as the plot wants us to (since the surprise ending fits all of the pieces together). Mia Farrow, at first, seemed a little out of place to me as an Irish widow, but after watch a bit I totally forgot I was watching an American actress putting on an accent. The entire film is just a pleasure to watch…it’s funny when it needs to be and exciting at times. A true treasure!

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For a dark comedy, this one is pretty good. It’s edgy and extreme, funny without being too cutesy, and very well acted. Ben Kingsley plays Frank, a mob hit man with a problem…a drinking problem. And, like all serious addictions, it starts to affect his work. Now, when the normal guy/gal has their drinking affect their job, it’s one thing…but when a hired killer is drunk, it’s a little more serious of a problem. Sent out to San Francisco to “get clean” by his mob-boss uncle (who’s having other problems as well), he gets a job in a mortuary and joins AA. After meeting a girl, who is oddly indifferent to his profession, Frank cleans up, only to have to go back home to help his uncle with some “family” business. I’ve seen Kingsley in some mildly amusing roles, but this is pretty broad for him. And he pulls it off masterfully. And while he shines, and the other cast also holds their own, the real star of this one is the script. Sharp and witty, it’s a must see for anyone who doesn’t mind a little killing with their comedy!

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I’d heard all of the talk about how violent this film was, so I guess I was prepared because it didn’t seem that bad to me. What did stand out were the fabulous performances by the entire cast. The plot is simple…a man finds a briefcase filled with cash ($2 million) and takes it. He then is chased for the entire film by the man (Anton) who wants the cash back. Anton is a maniacal killer…he uses the most unlikely and unorthodox killing implements and does it all with a complete lack of all emotion. He is a killing machine. He wants his money back and he will kill anyone and everyone who gets in his way of that goal. And, somehow, I found him to be a sad character. No, like I said, he never shows ANY emotion, but I just felt a strange pity for him. Like John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards in The Searchers, he is an unlikable character with an edge that you grow fold of. The difference here is Ethan was a loner and searcher with an edge and Anton is a loner and searching murderer with an edge.

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James Bond meets The Day of the Jackal meets Fargo. Sounds strange, I know but watching four-time Bond actor Pierce Brosnan play a tired assassin is a strange thing to imagine. But, Brosnan does not let that stand in his way of making the role his own…he really seems to have fun with his character here. This is a dark comedy but much of the comedy is pretty light. I mean, unlike Fargo, this one does not use the murders as a source of the humor. The humor comes from the characters’ unusual personalities, especially Brosnan’s. Plot is simple here: a down-and-out businessman meets a down-and-out hit man in Mexico City where both are on business…Brosnan for a hit and Greg Kinnear’s businessman for a career-make-or-break client. They strike up a conversation which leads to a camaraderie which leads to a close friendship. These are both are hard-to-read people. On the exterior, it seems like it’s just Brosnan’s character who is the complicated one (he covers his complications with wisecracks, swearing, and liquor), but Kinnear’s complicatedness comes out slowly and more subtly throughout the film. I mean, Brosnan practically has a nervous breakdown in the middle of the film. But, the Kinnear character is just as fragile as Brosnan is. It’s a hard movie to describe because it has so many levels but what I can describe is that I enjoyed it tremendously.

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I loved this movie. Really. It’s quirky and silly and sweet and innocent and charming and disturbing and great! In the vain of films like The Straight Story, this film relies on its uniqueness to reel you in. But, unlike other quirky films, the charming qualities of the characters kicks in and wins you over completely…just like “Bianca” wins over the hearts of all of the townspeople of the small, Northern town. Ryan Gosling plays Lars perfect here…and it’s a tough role to tackle. He has to be low-key and expressionless at times when others aren’t. He has to completely “buy” into what he’s selling, no matter what. But, he has to avoid going too far in the opposite direction with the low-key behavior. Basically, Gosling becomes Lars here…just as the supporting players come to embody their personas as well. You might cry, you might laugh, but most definitely you will smile at this lovely film.

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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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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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