If you ever are tempted to commit a crime, watch this. I say this, because this British mini-series is, I would say, the strongest piece of material I’ve ever seen or heard of that covers each aspect of the criminal justice system…from police station to trial. But, the accused here, Ben Coulter, does NOT commit a crime. He, which you know from the beginning so I’m not ruining anything, is an innocent victim. Yes, he had a one-night-stand with a strange lady he had just met. Yes, he drank WAY too much. And yes, passed out in her kitchen after having consensual sex with her. After he wakes up and finds her stabbed to death, he panics and flees the scene, has a car accident, where the police are called and eventually find out Ben was the one in the dead girls’ house. We (the audience) know he did not do this. But, the police, lawyers, judges, fellow inmates, and even his parents are not so sure. The evidence is overwhelming. The coincidences are just too insurmountable. He just HAD to have done it, right? Well, step-by-step, each of the pieces is chipped away as the wheels of Lady Justice roll on. Even though the story is set in England, the same principles apply…justice, for all its merits, moves slowly and is not above imperfection.

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I’m only vaguely interested in history, so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get into this one. I’m on season two and boy, am I hooked. It is riveting TV, even though much of the plot is known already. Henry is played with charm, charisma and a touch of evilness that makes it impossible to love him completely, but also impossible to turn away. His quest for power is addictive and the men (and women) around him seem to feed off of his need for world domination. Sexy and biting, this show is much more than just history. Now, whether it’s accurate in its historical tellings, that is something I will leave to the experts.

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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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I’m sure most people have seen this one and I’m most definitely not in the minority for liking it. I just think this is one of the best action/suspense films in years. Yes, it’s ALL supposed to be set in Illinois and us Illinoisans know that we do not have any kind of dam like that in this great state. But, ignoring that, this one is just top-notch in most every way. Harrison Ford plays Richard Kimble, a doctor who comes home to find a one-armed man attacking his wife. Kimble fights with the man, but the murderer gets away. Kimble is accused of the murder, when the police don’t buy his “one-armed man” story. After managing to escape from incarceration (one of the best train crashes ever put on film), Kimble makes it his mission to come back to his hometown of Chicago and find the one-armed murderer. It’s sharp, fast, well structured, well acted, has just enough humor, and is riveting when it needs to be and laid back when it needs to be. Basically, just a good film.

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First off, I’m not a big fan of “historical” or “costume” pics, but this one for me worked. It is a love story, a thriller, a drama and a heartwarming tale of both friendship and a saga of life-long betrayed all rolled into one. Based on the novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas, this story has been told before in movies, and probably will be told again…I mean there is so much hatred and passion in this one that it’s hard for filmmakers to resist using it for subject matter. What makes this version captivating for me was the look and feel of the film, and also the performances by both main players…Jim Caviezel and Guy Pierce. Caviezel plays Edmond Dantes, a man dastardly wronged by a man he assumed was his close friend…Fernand Mondego. Pierce is so malicious and cruel in this film that it’s still hard for me to see him in anything else and not see him as a villain. And Caviezel is convincing as a man who will stop at nothing to get revenge. The film is visually stunning, set mostly in France which has never looks better. The visuals themselves are so vivid that they tell their own story…so even if you’ve read the book or seen another version before, check this one out…for the look alone!

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One of Newman’s best roles…in my humble opinion. OK — it also happens to be the role he probably looks his best in. Does that have something to do with it — you betcha! Playing a two-bit street kid, one of his petty crimes finally lands him in a prison…and part of a chain gang. Not wanting to be there, he makes trying to escape his new occupation…getting caught and sent back almost as often as he attempts to flee. Newman is not the only reason to watch here…George Kennedy won a Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as one of the fellow inmates. And the other prisoners are also great…befriending Newman, cheering him on as he flees, and welcoming him back as he returns. Not a movie for all people…ladies, be where. This is the antithesis of a “chick flick.” But, then again, you can always mute it and just look at Mr. Newman!

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If you can get past the annoying whistling (of the soldiers whistling a certain march, which is the movie’s theme music), this David Lean epic is one of film’s true masterpieces. William Holden stars as the tough, bitter Shears, who has been imprisoned in a POW camp for months when British colonel Alec Guinness and his troops are captured and sent to the camp. For me, this movie is one of the few large-scale epics I ever liked, mostly because it’s not too corny and sentimental. Don’t get me wrong…I like sentiment as much as the next gal but I prefer it in a romantic comedy or a melodrama. Corny romance and dialogue always seemed out of place, to me, in an epic. The one question I have, though, with the film is the ending. Not the finale—which ends with the train scene of all train scenes—but, rather just the second half of the film. After Holden’s character escapes from the camp, he finds himself enjoying his freedom. When he is propositioned by superiors to take them back to the camp so they can bomb a bridge the Japanese are building (with the help of Guinness’ soldiers), he reluctantly agrees. Reluctantly or not, I would never have agreed. We are told (through previous dialogue and through a montage of shots during the escape) that escaping the camp was an arduous ordeal and we already know that life inside the camp was hell. Nothing or no one would make me go back to hell once I got out, so I never really do get why Holden agrees. But, alas, if he didn’t there would not be a movie. And what a great movie it is! And that’s not just my opinion—ask the Academy. Winner of seven Oscars, including ones for Guinness and Lean.

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A touching, subtle film that unravels slowly and delicately. The story of a woman who has just been released from 15 years in prison for killing her 6-year-old son…we don’t know why or how. We don’t even find out what crime she committed until more than a half-hour into the film. It’s like a present that we unwrapped…savoring the gift inside so we keep the suspense high. Kristen Scott Thomas uses this slow, methodical storytelling to her advantage…creating one of the most complex, disturbed, misread and misunderstood characters in recent cinema. She does not push the character to be liked…or push the character to be absolved of sin. She lets the audience’s opinion unfold slowly…just like the slowness of the film. A great movie!

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A lesser-known Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall film that, despite an un-Hollywood ending, is one of their best. The chemistry between the two has never been better. The film begins from the visual perspective of Bogart’s wronged-criminal character. The camera moves with Bogart’s eyes, so the audience only hears his voice and does not see his face for the first part of the film. Once we see Bogart, the film picks up its pace some, but throughout, this film is a strong thriller. Don’t look for everything to be resolved in the end – but aside from that, this one will keep you guessing.

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