BY FAR the best Romeo and Juliet adaptation out there, this film is a classic for The Bard himself would be proud of. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli and starring two then-unknown teenage actors as the star-crossed lovers, this movie oozes sensuality, humor and utter despair. Set, as the play is, in Verona, Italy, Romeo Montague meets Juliet Capulet and they fall in love at first sight. One MAJOR problem is that the Montagues and the Capulets are major enemies. We all know the rest of the story…what’s special here is the way Zeffirelli captures the passion and the intensity of the romance. And by using teenagers, we focus on what their young, impulsive relationship might really have been like. After-all, no one is more impulsive than an adolescent. And, then there is the music Zeffirelli picked (probably the most famous part of the movie) and the way he shot the film with such lush colors and muted lighting. Basically, if you’ve never seen an adaption of this story, this is the one to watch. And if you have seen others, this one will surpass all!

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OK – I know. The setting for this film is a little bizarre. It’s a Jimmy Stewart film set in Budapest. Jimmy Stewart—the all-American boy living and working in Hungary? Strangely, neither Stewart nor Maureen Sullivan have Hungarian accents. Or dress Hungarian. Or act European in any way. Basically, this movie could have (and should have) been set in America, but since it’s based on a play by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo, film director Ernst Lubitsch must have decided to leave the setting alone. Getting past that, this is a charming, endearing film that will surely become a favorite if you like romantic comedies. This is one of the best of the genre. Lubitsch is known for his stylized and sophisticated romantic comedies and even though this one lacks a little of the polish of some of his earlier works, it still satisfies. Stewart plays a head shop clerk and Sullivan plays his co-worker/nemesis/pen-pal. Even by today’s standards the dialogue is crisp and alive, with nothing to date it after all this time. And Stewart and Sullivan are a great pairing, seeming just as perfect together when they are bickering as when they are kissing. You’ve Got Mail was a re-make of this classic, but the 1998 film lacks the style and wit of the original.

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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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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 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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Who knew that lighting two cigarettes at a time would be so romantic? I guess Paul Henreid knew, since he did that for Bette Davis in this film. That scene is just one of many tributes to their characters’ love and affection for each other. Davis plays frumpy and wealthy Charlotte Vale, whose mother has a hold over her so strong that Charlotte has a nervous breakdown. While recovering, she also undergoes a physical transformation that takes her from an awkward gal into an elegant, sophisticated woman of the world. Yes, it’s a little cliché and “convenient but Davis makes her character’s sudden transformation work. Charlotte’s relationship with unhappily married Henreid soon becomes the focus of the film and even once Henreid is out of the picture, Charlotte is never able to put him out of her mind. A tour-de-force by Davis, who did many good films, but few as moving and sentimental as this one.

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A charming film that is something I would normally term as “sappy.” I usually stay far away from my self-proclaimed “sappy” films but I was drawn to this one because I always had a soft-spot for Kevin Costner. Needless to say, I fell in love with Message in a Bottle (and Mr. Costner, all over again). This is not to say it is not sappy. It is sappy with a capital S, please, don’t get me wrong. But, I just have to admit this is one time I like the sap. Set in Chicago and on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a Tribune reporter heads South to the beach on vacation where she meets a rugged, loner who happens to be handsome. They have some awkward moments at first but mostly, it’s pure chemistry. She goes back home to Chicago and he braves the wilds of the city to come and visit her. Your basic sap…but, this one is just high quality sap…I know that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement but it’s a good love story, trust me. I don’t think Mr. Costner is the ONLY reason I fell for this one. I really have more standards than that, don’t I? Well, you will just have to watch this one and see!

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Not exactly realistic, but a fun tale of a 19th Century duke who travels through time to meet his new wife in the present day. This film reminded me of the classic films of the 1940s and 1950s where believability was not necessarily a requirement. The “un”believeable part is the time-travel element that transports Hugh Jackman’s duke from the late 1800s to the 21st Century. I found myself not even caring that it is the most illogical premise ever conceived (at least, that I have seen). The movie really is not about if you believe in time-traveling. It’s about romance and love and fate and timeless passion. Jackman definitely steals the show as the charming, courteous time-traveler. Liev Schreiber also shines as Kate’s ex-boyfriend who starts the whole time-travel mess in the first place.

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A good thriller by Kenneth Branagh…who is not your typical “thriller” director. Maybe that’s what keeps this one original—Branagh’s unusual take on the suspense genre. Well, whatever it is that makes this film witty and clever, it works. Set in two time periods, it tells two stories that at first seem mostly separate but then begin to reveal some joint characteristics. The 1940s part is shot in black and white and revolves around a couple who appeared to be madly in love…at least until one of them is killed and the other is accused of the murder. The present-day story (shot in color) deals with a woman who is suffering from amnesia and the private investigator trying to help her. How these stories interweave is the original part. Branagh does a great job of holding off on the suspense until just the right time. But, once it kicks in, watch out!

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