Adam is a strong film that is tough to watch. I continuously felt sorry for the main character, Adam, who has Asperger’s Syndrome. But, feeling sorry for Adam is part of the story…the script is written so that we do feel bad for him. The film opens with his father passing away and he now lives alone, which is new territory for Adam. Asperger’s, which is a form of autism, prevents him from living a so-called normal life…he has few, if any, friends and he lives his life through habits he knows. When he meets a new neighbor, Beth, his insulated world threatens to either unravel or expand to include her. A touching, sweet film, Adam is part love story and part drama, but no matter which part you prefer, you will admire the strong performances here by both Hugh Dancy, who plays Adam and Rose Byrne as Beth. Dancy’s Adam has more of an edge than other mentally challenged characters of late (Sean Penn in I Am Sam and Cuba Gooding Jr. in Radio). Adam is a hard person to get to know, be involved with, and especially to love and I feel Dancy conveys that difficulty to the audience through his stellar performance. Over-all, it is worth all of the uncomfortability for this one…it’s a great film.

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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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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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One of the most romantic films ever put on celluloid; this film has been copied, remade, emulated, talked about and cried over since its release. The story originated as Love Affair, a 1939 film directed by Leo McCarey and starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer. Then came this 1957 film, re-directed by McCarey. Then came Sleepless in Seattle, which was a pseudo-remake, followed by 1994’s Love Affair, which was back to being a traditional remake…just updated for the latter part of the 20th Century. Why all of these retellings? Well, it’s a good story and as close to a perfect romance as you can get. There’s everything here…comedy, tragedy, high drama, passion, sex appeal, tears, etc. Out of all of the versions, this one reigns supreme. Why? Two words: Cary Grant. Not to slight Deborah Kerr. She’s excellent here, but come on. It’s Cary Grant.

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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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Everytime I see this one, for some reason I always forget the twists and turns it takes, which is good since that of course increases the suspense for me. This is a prime example of wonderful melodramatic noir films of the post-WWII era…maybe even the best example. Not as serious as Laura, (or as good) and not as over-the-top as some (such as the Joan Crawford campy classic Mildred Pierce), The Postman Always Rings Twice is a perfect mix of murder and sex. Based on the short novel written by the same author as Pierce and another murder/sex film noir classic Double Indemnity, James M. Cain, Postman finds drifter John Garfield drifting to a roadside gas station/café owned by a older guy and his sultry, younger wife, Cora, who puts the D in DAME and the X in SEX. Lana Turner has never had to play up her sensual self as much as in this film…she seems to just sizzle each time the camera is on her. And Garfield does a good job of catering to her…not being able to resist, but putting up just enough resistance to lead to trouble. Basically, a great potboiler for those cold, lonely nights.

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Surprisingly, I didn’t see this one until I was in my 20s. I used to think Bogart was a rough, unappealing creature…that is until I saw 1954’s Sabrina and began to see him as a softer, more compassionate soul. He possesses a knack for charming women off their feet, while being just a bit brash about it. He’s still rough and tough when he needs to be, but he knows when to bring out to tough guy and when to bring out his softer side. In Sabrina, I got a sneak peak at this behavior. In Casablanca, Bogart had it perfected…his character Rick Blaine is the romantic leading man to end all romantic leading men—not because he’s OVERLY sensitive but because he’s JUST sensitive enough. Now for the story…basically it’s about a nightclub owner in Morocco during WWII (Bogart) who reunites with an old flame (Ingrid Bergman, looking her best) that he fell in love with in Paris during the German occupation of France. Complications are plentiful, such as that the “old flame” is married…to a member of the French Underground, no less, which makes him trouble to the Nazis in Casablanca. But…really the details of the plot are pretty irreverent. Why? Well, how come even though the story is rich and filled with subplots and interesting characters, people only remember the relationship between Bergman and Bogart? And even though this film is a WWII intrigue thriller, why is it mostly know for being strictly a timeless “love story?” Rent this one and see if you can put answers to these questions…

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All I had heard about this movie is that it’s about a man who gets younger, rather than older. And that is an important part of the film…but it is far from the crux of the film. The film, at its true heart, is a love story, which is well-done, not contrived and very well plotted. This surprised me for several reasons. David Fincher is not exactly the “go to” guy for your Hollywood love story. He’s a action/thriller/gritty/dark director who’s films always have an edge. Here, I feel Fincher’s edge is the fantasy of the aging backwards gimmick, since the love story he creates is simple and gentle…a touching masterpiece of on-screen romance. This is the type of love story you would see with Tracy and Hepburn…magical and real. It reminded me a little of William Wyler’s Roman Holiday, which, like this film is known more for another aspect of the film (in Wyler’s case, his movie is known more for being a comedy) than for the more touching, more vivid true sentiment of the film. Fincher’s fantasy aspect adds emphasis to the love story, just like Wyler’s comic aspects of Roman Holiday accentuate the doomed relationship between Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. In addition to this multi-layered story, the performances by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett have never been better…especially Pitt, who convinces us every step of the way that he really is a man who was born old and will die young.

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What can I say? Venice. Rossano Brazzi (tall, dark, handsome, and Italian) and summer. What more is there? Add into the already-perfect mix director David Lean and star Katharine Hepburn and what you end up with is simply magical. Summertime is a movie for everyone who has ever been in love, ever wanted to be in love or ever even thought of falling head of heels in bliss. Hepburn plays a single woman in the prime of her life (someone who might be derogatorily called an old maid or a spinster) who finally fulfills her dreams of venturing to Venice. While she loves the beauty of the city, she feels forlorn at seeing all of the couples enjoying the splendors of Venice together. Soon, she encounters a shop owner (played by Brazzi) who sweeps her off her feet, even though he has more than his fair share of secrets. Their love affair changes her life and her outlook on everything, especially Venice. Director Lean (best know for his sweeping epics including Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai) uses his mastery in both capturing the magnificence of Venice and the delicateness and wonder of a love affair. Once you watch this one, you might want to head to Venice and fall in love, so be prepared to call the airlines!

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Rivaling Gone with the Wind as one of the most picturesque, epic love stories ever, this one is set in Hong Kong, after WWII. Unlike GWTW, this one ends tragic, though of course, that is all I will say. Starring William Holden, who plays a war reporter, and Jennifer Jones, who plays a Eurasian doctor from China who encounters prejudice in Hong Kong, this is a sweeping tale of love and loss, happiness and sadness. With the Oscar-winning song playing in the background constantly, this film is sure to make any romantic satisfied.

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