I re-watched this one recently and was reminded what a good thriller it really is. Harrison Ford is in his peak here and Tom Clancy’s work has never been sharper and better. Based on the Clancy novel, Ford plays Jack Ryan, former CIA and current instructor at Annapolis…aside from devoted father and husband. While on a business trip to London with his family, he stumbles into an IRA fringe group’s plot to do some damage to the British royals. Ryan kills one of the terrorists, saving the lives of the Royals but making an enemy for life of the dead man’s brother. Filled with tension and just enough lightness to soften the ride some, this film is just as sharp as it was when I saw it in the theater in 1992. If movies are good, they stand the test of time and only get better. This one proves that even political thrillers can stand the tests of time…if done right.

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Good old Eliza Doolittle with her flowers in Covert Garden Market…she’s so seemingly content in her existence on the steps of the famed London opera house. Then, along comes Professor Henry Higgins and turns her simple world upside down. From the classic play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw and then adapted into a musical production by Lerner and Loewe, director George Cukor masterly takes hold of the big screen version, making Eliza, Professor Higgins, and all of the rest seem as fresh as the day Shaw originally penned them. Audrey Hepburn as Eliza caused quite a bit of controversy in the day. Julie Andrews, who originated Ms. Doolittle on the stage, was seen by Hollywood execs not to be “Hollywood” enough for the starring role. So, very Hollywood Hepburn was brought in as a replacement, along with professional-dubber Marni Nixon singing the songs for her. Rex Harrison was able to reprise his stage role of Professor Higgins (I guess he was “Hollywood” enough, or at least would not take no for an answer) and he did manage to “sing” his own songs. As in the stage productions, Harrison got away with his lack of singing talent by doing more of a “melodic talking” to music. Regardless of all of the hoops that were leapt through along the way, the end result is one fabulous film. And, even though I’m sure Andrews would have been great in the movie, Hepburn just shines here, as if Audrey and Eliza were one in the same. Isn’t it Loverly???

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My soft spot for this one is that I love Beatrix Potter’s books. And I’m heading to the English Lake District this year on vacation…hoping I will love it as much as I think I will. Aside from that, is this an accurate film of Potter’s life? Um, not by a long shot. But, it is a charming, sweet film that, on its own, stands as a wonderful love story. Renee Zellweger again (as she does in the Bridget Jones movies) plays a great Brit — aside from perfecting the accent, she has the slightly aloof manner down pat. Here, she plays Potter as a woman ahead of her time…independent, aggressive, disobedient and defiant. If you’re looking for a film to watch with the whole family, look no further. If you’re looking to write a biographical report on Beatrix Potter, keep looking.

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When I took screenwriting classes in college, I always wondered if I would make it in Hollywood. One of the reasons I never did is that I do not write like Woody Allen. I’m not always a fan of Allen…most of his recent films have been so-so comedies (with the exception of the unique Melinda and Melinda), but Match Point is one of the best films I’ve ever seen, and most assuredly the best film of 2005, in my opinion. Why? How about this…not a word is out of place and there is nothing extra that should be in the film and nothing that shouldn’t. It’s a perfectly constructed film all the way around, I attest solely to Allen’s writing. The actors are good in their roles but I wouldn’t say that’s what “made” the film for me. Allen just simply has a way of working a story so it seems so easy and so perfect at the same time. It is a neat, clean circle…the story starts off with one thread and that thread runs through the entire film but in a subtle way until the ending, when you realized, “OH, I get it.” The story revolves around a young tennis pro who gets a job at an upper class athletic club and soon makes friends with one of the members…an affluent young man who has both a pretty, demure sister and a beautiful, sultry fiancée. The tennis pro falls for the sister but really falls hard for the fiancée. What happens from there leads to a complex, intricate series of events that keep the audience guessing at every turn. The ending, unlike most films I’ve seen recently, will not disappoint or ruin the masterfulness of this film. What happens right up to the last second will only increase how strong this film is…which is proof of Allen’s genius.

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For Roger Moore’s second time as 007, the filmmakers decide to go back to what James Bond does best…be Bond. In Moore’s previous outing as the super-spy for MI-6, 1973’s Live and Let Die, the best thing about it was the music (Paul McCartney and his post-Beatles band Wings did the title song). Here, Moore’s Bond welcomes back Q’s gadgets and his fast-acting romances. The plot is pretty silly (unlike the other Bond stories???)…Bond believes a famous hit-man (who only shoots his prey with golden bullets from a golden gun) has targeted him so he goes on the lookout for the assassin. What the “Man with the Golden Gun” really wants, though, is money (don’t they always want money!)…money for his clever way to harness the power of the Sun. But, if Bond happens to die, all’s the better. Christopher Lee (of Dracula fame) plays “The Man with the Golden Gun” but even though the role as a baddie usually offers actors to live out their fantasies of depravity, Lee does not seem to be enjoying himself. But, then again, maybe he read the script!!!! All in all, this is a fun romp through the MI-6 world of Bond and his ladies. Not the best Bond but not the worse either. A ringing endorsement, ain’t it?

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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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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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As critics and audiences alike call this their favorite James Bond film, I guess I am no longer alone in thinking this is one of the best spy films ever made. There is very little wrong with Goldfinger and what is wrong is very easily overlooked because of the strong plot and even stronger characters. With many series, the filmmakers begin to wane and rest on their successes when number three (or so) comes along. But, this is the case where the third film truly is the charm. Number one in the series Dr. No and two (From Russia with Love) just seem like practice in order to get to this third installment in the Bond series. Bond creator and author Ian Fleming got the title Goldfinger from the villain’s name…a man who is obsessed with gold. Truly. And the actor who plays the man-in-gold (Gert Fröbe) fits the bill perfectly. Sean Connery’s Bond also comes into his own in this film. In Dr. No he seemed a little unsure of himself and in From Russia with Love, it was the opposite…he seems TOO confident as the super-spy. Here, Connery shows the right tone of power, control and fear. And the plot is also one of the best ever in a Bond film…with Frobe’s Goldfinger trying to destroy the gold in Fort Knox so his mass amounts of gold increase considerably in value. But, for Bond films, plot always seems to take a back seat to the gadgets, romance and action. Here, at least, they made an attempt at a story…and did a great job in the process. No worries, though. There are lots of gadgets, action and romance. Promise.

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For Pierce Brosnan’s first 007 outing, he sure picked a fun ride. This is a James Bond film with bite…one that was perfect for Bond’s reemergence in theaters after a six-year break (the previous Bond film, License to Kill with Timothy Dalton, was produced in 1989). It also is a good film for the end of the 20th Century…no more Cold War doesn’t mean the former Soviet Union countries cannot be used as adequate threats. This story deals with a former MI-6 agent who went over to the other side in order to avenge his past (his Russian parents were Cossacks who were sent home by the British to be executed by Stalin) and cause World chaos. There are MAJOR parts of this film that are outlandish and unbelievable. But, remember, this is a Bond film. Unbelievable is a requirement. Brosnan fits into Bond’s tux perfectly…he mixes the right combination of Connery’s suaveness and Moore’s wit and Dalton’s fierceness. The series lagged with the two Dalton films (License and 1987’s The Living Daylights) mostly because many of the Bond-isms were gone. Yes, Dalton’s 007 was still asking for his Vodka Martini’s “shaken not stirred” but the quips and especially the romances were practically nonexistent…the latter probably because of the 1980s “safe sex” era. Enter Brosnan who brings it all back with gusto! Ian Fleming would be proud.

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Give this one some time to grow on you…I came close to giving up about 30 minutes into this film. Then, just as I practically had my finger on the STOP button of my remote, the plot settled down and began to come together. I understand what the director (Mike Hodges of Croupier fame) was trying to do in the beginning. He was trying to set the stage of a dark, murky movie by showing us the characters in little segments to make us deliberately confused. Just because I understand what Hodges was doing doesn’t mean I like it. Once the crime has been committed, all of the pieces begin to fall into place and turn a complicated premise into a smart, original thriller. We get to know the characters we had only seen in bits and pieces before. We get to know what led up to the crime that is committed. We get to know some back-story on the main character, played brilliantly by Clive Owen. Owen’s character has turned his back on his former criminal/gangster ways, disconnecting himself from his family and friends, and become homeless (he lives out of his van in the woods and moves from one cash-paying construction job to another). The story hinges on the believability of Owen. We HAVE to believe his character in order for the story to work. Of course, going from gangster to homeless man is quite a personality change. But, is the change sincere or just a weak way to escape his past? Owen, once back around his former friends and “associates,” tries his best to stay clean but crime’s a-calling. Owen fights and fights off his temptation and the question of whether he will win the fight is almost as thrilling as the mystery around crime. The ending, at first, bothered me. I wanted a more solid ending…I wanted to know about the characters and what happened to them. But, as I thought more about it, based on what we know about the Owen character, the ending is just as it should be.

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