This is by far my favorite Roger Moore “Bond” outing. And, even one of the best in the entire Bond series. The Spy Who Loved Me begins very similar to another one of my favorite Bond films…You Only Live Twice with Sean Connery. Both films start with the capturing of crafts…in You Only Live Twice it is a space rocket and in The Spy Who Loved Me it is a submarine. Obviously, we know that these “stolen” crafts are not to work of a sane person or entity. But, who is it? Is it Russia? Is it China? Basically once the craft is captured, it is up to 007 to save the day, as usual. Where both films differ is in the villain. You Only Live Twice has the ever-popular Blofeld, who by the time You Only Live Twice came out, was getting a little passé. But, in The Spy Who Loved Me, Curd Jürgens plays Stromberg…one of the best Bond villains. His evilness is intense and not prolonged…if he wants to kill someone, he just does it (unlike the other Bond baddies who talk and talk and talk about killing before they actually get around to it). Moore also has excellent chemistry with his Russian counterpart…played by Barbara Bach. They play well off of each other, even though Bach is a little stiff at times. Moore’s quips usually get to be too much after a while but Bach does a good job of countering his jibes with some of her own.

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Are the hills alive? Well, if they weren’t before this movie, they sure are now. Take the premise from Maria von Trapp’s life story and add songs and dancing and what do you have—magic! That’s what Rodgers and Hammerstein must have discovered when they began adapting this story for the stage. And, shortly after its success on Broadway, Hollywood came calling and Rodgers and Hammerstein answered, taking director Robert Wise and writer Ernest Lehman along for the ride. If you don’t like musicals, you might be advised to be especially leery of this one. The Sound of Music takes the sappiness and melodrama you normally find (in small amounts) in musicals to new heights. But, in this film with this story and with these characters, it just seems to work and I love it. Julie Andrews (never better) plays Maria, a young, fledging novice nun who just can’t seem to make her convent life work with her rebellious and free-spirited personality. Christopher Plummer plays stern and ill-tempered Captain von Trapp, the head of a family for whom she governesses. Since I already said it was sappy, you can assume that a love story between these two unlikely people develops. Now seen as more of a children’s film, this movie is very much for everyone. Sure, children like the singing and the fact that there are six kids in the cast. But, adults should also appreciate that this film, though a bit overdone, is one of the best examples of the Hollywood musical ever produced.

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This is my guilty pleasure of 2004. I really liked this one, even though I probably shouldn’t. First of all, it’s supposed to be based on a much better Japanese film from 1997, which I have not seen yet – though I want to now. After I finished watching this film, I just felt all good inside…like I could dance and sing around my house, all by myself. And, I think that’s what the attraction is for everyone: this is a feel good film and who doesn’t want to feel good? The story revolves around a married man (Richard Gere) who is set in his ways of working late and coming home to his wife and older children. Through no dialogue, but just through the expressions on Gere’s face, we can tell he’s frustrated with the path his life has taken. This all changes when he discovers a dance studio and begins to take lessons…begrudgingly at first. Soon, the desire and need to dance consumes…he HAS to dance. It’s a compulsion, like something he cannot control in himself. Dance is just what he needs to bring some spice and excitement back into his life. I enjoyed this one from beginning to end. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, something else comes along and surprises you. It’s not a fabulously directed film that makes any strides in the area of filmmaking…it’s just a sweet, endearing film that leaves you with a good sense of humanity and optimism about life.

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Did you ever see a car accident on your way home from work and think…could that have been me if I had caught that elevator I missed? Well, this film asks a question like that…how does a split second in the life of a London woman alter her existence forever? The movie then plays out two scenarios…one with her making a train and one with her just missing it. From that moment in time and the story splits in two, this film becomes an excellent example of how life, love, happiness, etc. can all change on a dime. Gwyneth Paltrow plays the woman here…and she’s never been better…she captures the perfect combination of innocence and naïve that is required to play the role of a woman whose life hinges a moment in time. Not as metaphysical as it sounds…this one is a good film for all romantics, as well as people who’ve ever thought…”if only I’d made that train…”

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This is a film that honestly brings Shakespeare to life…literally and figuratively. A brilliant movie that utilizes many of the Bard’s plays for dialogue and antidotes, but most notably Romeo and Juliet, the ever-tragic saga of Italian star-crossed lovers. The tragic lover story is key to this film…the movie follow Romeo’s plot, in a lot of ways, and even takes quite a few scenes directly from the play. But, then again, that is the gimmick here. Will Shakespeare, in the film, is supposed to be suffering writer’s block…longing for a muse to get him back in the creative spirit. Just when all hope is lost, he meets Viola, the well-to-do daughter of a wealthy family. As she becomes his muse, their story, verse for verse, scene for scene, mimics what Shakespeare is writing. So, Viola’s and Will’s love is really Romeo’s and Juliet’s as well. So, when I say that this film TAKES scenes from Romeo, that is how it’s supposed to work…since the story of the film inspired the play. And, boy, does it all come together with passion. It might sound confusing, but worry not, it’s just a bit hard to explain. All will make sense. Even if you are not a fan of the Bard, or you are not familiar with Romeo (how could you not be?), the story still plays well and is ever-entertaining. Though, it does help some if you are able to catch the nuances between the film story and the play. How art not seen the play? For shame, for shame. A plague on your house.

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A modern day Cyrano de Bergerac story starring Steve Martin as large-nosed C.D. Bales, who falls for Daryl Hannah, who falls for Rick Rossovich, who does not know what to say to Hannah or how to say it. Enter Martin, who writes her beautiful letters, saying and meaning things she thinks are coming from Rossovich. This one shines because of the smart, snappy dialogue, written by Martin.

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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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Random Harvest could be called a sappy soap opera that is virtually unwatchable. It could be, but in my opinion, it’s most definitely not that. This is a highly powerful and engaging film with…yes, some very improbable circumstances. But, so what? If the acting weren’t as good as it is, maybe this one would have fell into that pile of melodramatic mush. But because Greer Garson and Ronald Colman are so believable and passionate here, I find it impossible not to enjoy the ride. Colman plays a man who has lost his memory during combat duty in WWI. At the beginning of the movie, he is in a mental institution. Garson is the woman who befriends him after he escapes. Of course, Colman and Garson fall in love and then, through a series of circumstances, he regains his memory…forgetting all about his life with Garson. Yes, I know it sounds illogical but trust me, it works…mostly because of the performances. Garson and Colman take the slightly over-the-top dialogue and bring it back into reality. They are both fabulous here…as is the entire movie in general. A great old-fashioned love story for a cold Winter night…or even a hot Summer evening…!

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A little bit of French Kiss mixes with the screwball elements of The Valet and The Closet for a fun, wild romp in this romantic comedy set in the French Riviera. Audrey Tautou stars in this fabulously funny film about a woman looking less for love and more for money in a beau. Being devastatingly beautiful helps her snag some rich gentlemen, but it also snags her a bartender, whom she mistakes for a wealthy playboy and he does little to correct her misperception. From there, the two set about together trying to out-do each other in the “rich” loves department. The bartender, who was hilarious in The Valet, is played by comic French star Gad Elmaleh. Between Tautou and him, they make the movie…his expressions of terror and her naivety make for a highly entertaining film.

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A classic love story, based on the award-winning novel by A.S. Byatt. Told in both the present time and Victorian times, Byatt’s story and characters leap off of the pages and director Neil LaBute captures that same vividness in the film. Aaron Eckhart and Gwyneth Paltrow play academics in modern-day England and while they research the relationship between two historical lovers, they fall in love themselves. LaBute does a great job of combining the past and present elements throughout the movie—scenes go seamlessly from historical times to the present day. LaBute lends equal time to both eras, allowing each love story to evolve in its own way…at its own pace. Beautiful scenery and lush dialogue enhance the emotions of this timeless love story.

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