A charming tale about legal issues in the Edwardian Era of London…but also a fascinating look at the social graces of the day. How prim and proper everyone is…and restrained — it’s almost sinful (in a VERY reserved say, of course). Based on a true early 20th Century case in London, a young man gets accused of a small crime and consequently expelled from his private school for the alleged deed. Director David Mamet (normally more known for American crime dramas) takes the story (which was first turned into a play by author Terence Rattigan) and brings it and early 1900s London to life. Mamet uses some real locations that the actual case might have taken place in (the Horse Guards, House of Lords, and in Inns of Court) and fills the story with true passion and sincerity. There is tension, humor and romance, but all done with the appropriate levels of Edwardian propriety. Nigel Hawthorne is never better as the family patriarch, who puts everything into his son’s legal batter…even his health. Mamet’s real-life wife Rebecca Pidgeon plays the Winslow sister and the always spot-on Jeremy Northam plays the lawyer who takes the case. Both of these performances are played on the right level…passionate about their causes but perfectly undemonstrative. Edwardians would be proud!

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When a father tries to force early success on his musical prodigy child, he soon realizes what his child needs most is his love. On its own, the storyline provides meaningful and poignant scenes and makes a heartwarming film. Weave the use of music into the mix and the film becomes even more powerful and stunning. But, at the true heart of this film is the relationship between the old man and the child. This film proves that no matter how high of expectations we set for our children, we never stop loving them even if they don’t achieve all that is expected. A meaningful film for anyone who at one time was someone’s child—meaning a film for all.

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A charming, sweet film about a father who runs a bathhouse in Beijing and his two sons, one mentally handicapped and the other, Da, a stoic businessman. The movie revolves around Da’s coming to terms with his father’s ill health and his brother’s dependence on their father. Da had moved away years ago and not even bothered to introduce his father and brother to his new wife. His character’s transformation in this film is the highlight, even though it is a subtle, unassuming transition from detached to loving son. I’m not big on foreign films yet this film is so special that I watch it often. It’s a beautiful story of compassion, acceptance and emotion. It is a timeless tale about a man who comes of age a little later than most to open his heart to his family.

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Based on a novel by one of my favorite contemporary authors, Richard Russo, this film is a small, unsung gem…just like the book. Telling the story of Sully, an aged laborer rural New York State who, between his quirky friends and bad health, is not having an easy time of it at late. Russo excels in stories like this…about small towns and small heroes who don’t do the big, grandiose things to get noticed…they do the little things that usually do not come with any form of notoriety…or even appreciation. They are the fathers and sons of the Everyman…and Newman is always your perfect Everyman…even here, in the twilight of his years. Quirky and slow in parts, this film, like the novel and Russo’s other novels, unveils itself slowly and cautiously. But, the unveiling process is a great ride!

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Incendiary examines how a London terrorist attack forever destroys the life of a working-class mom. Michelle Williams, who was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, plays a London mother and wife…the opening scenes capture her closeness with her 4-year-old son and the distance with her husband. She meets Jasper Black, played by Ewan McGregor and sees her chance to escape some of the dullness of her marriage. When her son and husband head to a local soccer match, she sees her chance to get together with Black. While she’s with him, a terrorist bomb explodes at the soccer stadium and her son and husband are among the dead. She runs through the gambit of emotions…sadness, of course…relief, that her mundane marriage is over?…guilt, that she was betraying her husband at the very moment of his death?…hatred, for the terrorists responsible for the loss of her beloved son? She tries to find some understanding by befriending the suspected bomber’s son, but this just leaves her more disillusioned. Yes, Incendiary sounds like a bleak movie with little hope, and though at times it is, some optimism does manage to sneak in. Williams does a superb job of conveying all sorts of emotions. Her performance raises this movie from just another post-911 tale to a deeper, more powerful film on loss and redemption.

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Next time you’re in the shower, make sure Norman Bates or his mother are nowhere to be found. Ranked number one by the American Film Institute’s 100 Years, 100 Thrills, this Alfred Hitchcock movie still stands, even after 40 years, as one of the most scary, if not scariest films of all time. Psycho is not a horror film—it is just a fast-paced thriller that thrills a little more than most Hitchcock films. Also contributing to the “horror” quality are a very memorable ending and one of the most copied, talked-about, and studied film scenes ever…the shower scene. Hitchcock took quite a few chances when making Psycho. First, his leading lady Janet Leigh is out-of-the-picture about a third into the film. Then, the director chose to shoot the film in black and white, something that was not done that often in 1960. Hitchcock also cast lesser-known actors to play other key role, especially then-unknown Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. Those risks paid off and placed Psycho at the top of Hitchcock’s best films.

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