Once you start watching, chances are you won’t be able to stop! I mean, this show is truly addictive. Basically, it revolves around four gay friends in Pittsburgh… “friends” being the key word since, aside from the occasional experiment, they remain platonic. I would say the main character of the three is Brian Kinney, the self-obsessed ad exec who comes across as narcissistic but really will go to any lengths to help his friends. Aside from Brian, there is Michael—the most middle-of-the-road, Emmett—the most flamboyant, Ted—the most uptight, and Justin—the most innocent. They all go in and out of relationships together, talk about one-night-stands together, go through life crises together, drink together, workout together, etc. Also mixed in are Debbie, Michael’s wild and outspoken mother, and Mel and Linz, two lesbians who have a child fathered by Brian (and another one later on fathered by Michael). Debbie adds quite a lot of spice to the show, with her opinions on everything. But, the show is definitely spicy on its own with its graphic content. Leave it to cable (Showtime) to come up with something this controversial and ultra-contemporary.

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First of all, I’m not a rough and outdoorsy type. I love (LOVE) to travel but the thought of heading to a place where the food consist of things I couldn’t even look at or the thought of being without modern (and sadly, essential) conveniences (like a coffee maker, laundry machine, etc.) or having to sleep outside among the dirt and animals and bugs (THE HORROR!) is just unthinkable to me. But, of course, my idea of travel is not the only one out there. Movie star Ewan McGregor and his pal Charley Boorman come up with a plan to drive motorcycles from London to New York eastbound, meaning the long way around. And, at over 20,000 miles, long is an understatement. In a trip that they estimated would take them three and a half months, they started several months before the departure getting financial backing for their worldwide quest. They accepted an offer to do an ongoing documentary for British TV, they organized a crew of producers and camera people who would be accompanying them (only one cameraperson rode with Ewan and Charley…the other crew members drove different routes in SUVs), they scouted out the best roads, they talked with officials of each of the countries, they exercised to get in shape, and on and on and on. The DVD set (two DVDs at approx. five hours) is the resulting documentary they produced and is simply fascinating to watch. There is a good hour of pre-trek information, but most of the documentary is spent with Ewan and Charley on the road….in Britain, France, Germany, Croatia, Slovakia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Siberia, and finally North America. Each country they go to and each minute they ride gets more and more captivating. It is a story of adventure, survival and most of all, friendship.

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The second installment of the McGregor/Boorman world trek via motorcycles was even more exciting than the first (Long Way Round). This time, most of the episodes were devoted to the trip…rather than all of the preliminary work. Sure, the first few episodes cover some of the pre-trip stuff, but it felt like it moved along faster this time. And, once they got on the road, it was pure enjoyment. Though parts of Europe and then the entire length of Africa, Charley and Ewan ride gravel roads, sand highways, and rocky passages, all while we follow along. Not the most action-packed fun you can have, but for travel buffs who can never get the wanderlust out of their systems, this is a great way to do some good armchair traveling.

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Before you assume that this review is about that silly American television show that came and went in 2003, think again. This is the British BBC show that gave us silly Americans the idea for our paltry version. My guess on the reason the American version didn’t fly (aside from the fact that it just was not good): prime time network television. Like HBO’s raunchy and sexual Sex and the City, Coupling revolves around what 30-somethings do or don’t do in the bedroom. American TV is not ready for something like this to be shown on a major network in prime time. Thankfully, Americans now have the chance to see the BBC comedy on DVD. Coupling is a smart, risqué, show that challenges any viewer to think about her or his own relationship(s). There are six major players, all of whom deal with their own battles of lack of sex, volume of sex, fears of commitment, worries about never finding their soul mate…etc. The men have one view and, of course, the women another. Together, they clash sometimes and get it right others. Unlike Sex and the City, this show is more about talking about sex, rather than showing it. But, the conversations alone, given how sharp and witty the dialogue is, provide for enough humor to go around…with some left over to spare.

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This is a simple movie. Nothing really happens, aside from small, little strides the characters make in getting closer to each other. It’s more like a case study of the human psyche or even the human spirit. Regardless of how little happens, though, I came away feeling moved and affected by what I had just seen. If action movies or fast-paced films are your speed, this one might not sit with you, but I would recommend everyone at least give this small film a chance. It has a powerful message in that we are all flawed in our own ways and that by just being there for one another, we can help. There is no corny “let me help you” kind of dialogue here—nothing that cliché would be found in this script. Sometimes, especially with the main character (played with perfection by Peter Dinklage), nothing is said at all. A meaningful film that takes its time to say (or show) what it needs to and leaves out all of the other stuff.

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“Get busy living, or get busy dying.” There is more sentiment in that one quote from The Shawshank Redemption than there are in most movies. This film is a true modern treasure—a timeless film that will be remembered and revered with the likes of It’s a Wonderful Life and other poignant classics. The story, based on a Stephen King short story, starts off quickly, with the trial of Andy Dufresne playing over the opening credits. The trial is not the important part here and by filming the opening in that way, director Frank Darabont lets his audience know that we do not need to show how Andy was falsely accused. It is just important to know that he is. The real importance of this film lies in the relationship between two heterosexual men and that no matter how bleak things look, one should never, ever give up hope. There is nothing strange about the relationship between Andy and Red. They just are two men who form a deep bond of love while incarcerated. The middle of the film takes the audience on various other little journeys, such as the saga of prison librarian Brooks, who gets released after 50+ years at Shawshank Prison. The stories of these other characters strengthen the movie’s base as a powerful, inspirational story about love and hope. One of the best film endings ever, the last 20 minutes of this film are even stronger than the first 20, something very few films can attest to. Anyone who has been staying away from this film because they think it is a “prison” movie is missing out on one of the best on-screen relationships (whether platonic or romantic) ever conceived. And, just try watching this one without getting a lump in your throat or tears in your eyes. For both men and women, that’s a very tall order.

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A touching, heartfelt film that does a perfect job of not being too sappy or weepy. I mean, I cried, but I don’t think this film intentionally takes the audience on a “false” emotional roller coaster. In this film, all of the emotions are sincere and come from the remarkable performances and the delicately-tuned script. The story is basically about two men…Michael is content at a home for the disabled until Rory comes to live there. Rory is paralyzed from the neck down and Michael has Cerebral Palsy and is barely verbal, though Rory can understand him perfectly. Rory makes Michael see how unfulfilling life at the home is and introduces Michael to the world of pubs, women and independence. Michael and Rory’s are two lost souls…Michael is unaware that he is a lost soul and Rory is painfully and VERY bitterly aware that he is lost forever—lost in world of movement and mobility. Together, these two men teach each other so much about life and love and respect. They are good and bad for each other at the same time…when Michael moves out of the home and into an apartment with Michael, I was SO UPSET. I thought this would lead to NOTHING positive for both men. But, the independence Michael develops and the love he feels for both the nurse they hire to care for them (romantic love) and for Rory (platonic love) teaches him so much about life…things he never would have learned by just staying in the home. Even though some of these lessons lead to heartache, they enrich both Rory’s and Michael’s lives immensely. This is a hard film to watch without feeling that emotional roller coaster but at least in this case, the ride is realistic and worth it.

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OK—everyone has seen it. Everyone knows the story. Some people can even recite the dialogue (I would have to confess, I’m in this category). When you get right down to it, this is a great movie. Sad thing is that it gets so over-watched around the holiday season that many people have the “not again” mentality. PLEASE don’t disregard this movie just because it has been overplayed, colorized and basically abused. What director Frank Capra does here is capture a little slice of Americana—something that Capra excelled in. Unlike Capra’s other Americana films (most notably Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Meet John Doe, and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town), this one has a dark edge—a hardness that makes us think for a second that maybe America is not all that it’s cracked up to be. That is where Jimmy Stewart’s acting genius kicks in. His portrayal of the lowly, always-disappointed George Bailey has the audience rooting him on, even when he’s at his most weak. I mean, here is Bailey, standing by a bridge, looking down into the icy waters of the river, waiting for the perfect moment to jump. Does anyone really believe he will? No—not with the genuine way Stewart breathes life into Bailey. No one with that much compassion in their heart could really ever end it all? But, that’s why Stewart is perfect as Bailey. He does give Capra a “hard” edge, all while keeping the film, at its core, a feel-good film…one that can and should be enjoyed ANY time of year, not just in the holiday season.

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Every Tuesday after sunset in 2009 from July 14 to August 25, Chicago will show free movies on a 50-foot by 34-foot screen in Chicago’s downtown Grant Park at 100 S. Lake Shore Drive. (It’s south of Millennium Park, and north of the Art Institute). Butler Field, Grant Park — 100 S. Lake Shore Drive

July 14, 2009 @ 8:58 pm: Sunset Boulevard (1950)

July 21, 2009 @ 8:52 pm: Duck Soup (1933)
July 28, 2009 @ 8:45 pm: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1950)
August 4, 2009 @ 8:37 pm: Born Yesterday (1950)
August 11, 2009 @ 8:27 pm: Psycho (1960)
August 18, 2009 @ 8:17 pm: Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
August 25, 2009 @ 8:05 pm: Tootsie (1982)
People start staking out their spots early As soon you get off work at 5pm. GO! Expect about 9,000 people to show up.

What to bring:
Ø Blanket to lay on or chairs to sit upon.
Ø Blanket to wrap up in. It may get quite chilly at night!
Ø Munchies to delight the tastebuds
Ø Drinks, but no alcohol. No liquor in Chicago’s parks.

Ø Items to pass the time: card games, book.
Ø Napkins or Paper Towels
Ø Plates and Utensils
Ø Bug Spray (just in case!)
Ø Hand Sanitizer
Ø Trash Bag
Ø Jacket or Sweatshirt

Films will be shown in rainy weather as long as lightning, strong winds or other severe conditions are not present.

No Pets Allowed!

Umbrellas and grilling are prohibited in the festival area.

Where to sit:
Ø Just like a traditional theatre, don’t sit too close to the front
Ø Watch out for dog droppings!
Ø Sit behind people who have a blanket down and ask if they will be getting chairs later
Ø Don’t sit down with blank grass in front of you. People with chairs might arrive and block your view
Ø If you bring chairs with you, try to sit in front of people with chairs. It’s just common courtesy.
Price: Free.

Parking: http://millenniumgarages.com/garages/grant-park-south/

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What is it about this movie that makes me so uncomfortable? Is it the continual mentioning of racial issues? Is it Selina, who is visually handicapped? Is it the way Selina’s mother treats her? Well, it is all of the above…and more. This film is a striking piece of 1960s cinema…in the heart of the Civil Rights era, it demonstrates much of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others preached…that we are all human—black, white or whatever. It also shows how truly colorblind love (all kinds of love) can be. Selina plays a very emotional abused and used blind girl who happens to encounter a distinguished Black man one day in the park. She, of course, cannot see that he is Black. He can see that she is White, but befriends her since he feels completely sorry for the situation she lives in. Yes…a Black man feeling sorry for a White girl in the 1960s. Well, like I said, this movie is about being truly BLIND to color. It’s about the human condition and the soul of a person, rather than the race. The platonic love Sidney Poitier’s character feels toward Selina has nothing to do with her being White. And, the romantic love Selina feels toward Poitier has absolutely nothing to do with his color, since she doesn’t even know what he looks like. A fabulous film about how racial and social situations matter very little compared to matters of the heart.

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