This movie got panned in the theatrical release reviews. But, it is a good film. Not the best about families and how family situations change as time goes by, but it’s a strong movie that’s worth while seeing…ESPECIALLY if you are a parent or have middle-aged to older parents. One of the reasons this film has a soft spot for me is that the De Niro character reminded me of my father. Approximately the same age, both my dad and the De Niro character are sorts of aimless, lost men. De Niro’s reasoning behind this aimlessness is that he is recently widowed. My father’s is just that he likes to be aimless (my mother is still very much alive). Now back to the movie…the De Niro character, after having all four of his grown children cop out on coming to visit him for a family reunion of sorts, he decides to go to them instead. What lies ahead of him is an odyssey he never anticipated. No, it’s not a GREAT movie. But, over-all, it’s a tender movie with lots of heart.

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The first season was good. The second season is almost perfect (barring the silly season ending). This show is an example of why writing is so crucial to making a good idea great. The scripts are sharp and perfectly witty. The dialogue snaps off the characters tongues as if they are those characters instead of paid actors. This is not to say the plotting is not good…it is. But the sharpness of the writing is what, I feel, really makes this show stand out from the other “controversial” shows that cable offers. The basic plotline revolves around a recent widow with two boys (one teenager and one younger) who supports her family by selling pot in an upscale suburban neighborhood. Quirky characters and interesting subplots (and of course the snappy dialogue) make this show a must see!

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A crusty police detective who is close to retirement age relocates to a small North England town from London, where he still continues to work as a police inspector and gets a new partner instead of retiring. One of the reasons he cannot retire is that he is continually haunted by the brutal murder of his wife…back when he was living in London. Set in the 1960s, the George Gently character seems, at first, like all of the other grumpy, old British police detectives and this will be like all of the other British police series…ala Frost, Morse, etc. But, Gently has an edge that carries through all of the episodes and makes this one stand out among the crowd.

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I was not expecting to like this movie. Halle Berry is good but Benicio Del Toro is excellent in this film about love, loss, friendship and grief. Playing a man fraught with agony over the death of his best childhood friend and dealing with a debilitating drug addition, Del Toro’s performance makes this so-so movie a very strong film. The death of his friend, who was Berry’s husband, is the focal point of the film…most everyone’s struggles and problems stem from that event. Except Del Toro’s…the death of his friend is just one of many things that have snowballed downhill in his life. If you are not enticed by the plot, watch it for Del Toro’s performance. I’m sure you will not be disappointed.

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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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To be honest, I am not a Ben Affleck fan. And I have seen many of Kevin Smith’s films and am not crazy about him either. So, I went into watching this movie with no expectations whatsoever. I chose to watch the movie, on an airplane, only because I had seen all of the other selections. After saying that, I find it all the more surprising that I loved this movie. Even Ben Affleck didn’t bother me as I became entranced in the story and with the characters. Affleck plays an entertainment publicist who, right at the beginning of the film, falls in love, marries, and prepares for fatherhood. After his wife dies in childbirth, he has to find a way to combine a tough business persona with that of a loving, compassionate father. It is a heartwarming film that does not have as many of the predictable elements most films of similar themes have. It has characters you fall in love with, who can melt your heart just by giving the right kind of look. It’s not the best film ever made, but it is one of the best of its kind made in recent years.

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A wonderful feel-good romantic comedy of the 1990s…which was a decade of some of the best (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, etc.). But, it also answers the question…what would a single (or divorced, widowed) president do if they wanted to start dating while in office? Here, President Shepherd meets someone he’s interested in and thinks he can just start dating…like he’s a regular guy. But, he isn’t…he’s the President. And, he picks someone tough and opinionated and stubborn…lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade, who at first, finds all of the attention (from him and from the nation) sweet but then it begins to grate on her, especially when it starts affecting her career. One of the things that really makes this one stand out among all of the other “rom coms” is the cast. Bening and Douglas are just perfect together…both when things are good and when things are problematic. They exude chemistry…we can really see these two people together. Romantic comedies are usually unrealistic in their simplicity, so having good, solid characters helps make the story a success. And this one is more than successful…it shines!

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Berg’s latest is a great, strong piece on not only loss, but on coming to terms with oneself. We meet the main character, Helen, months after she has lost her husband of many years from a sudden heart attack. Her daughter Tessa is on her own and Helen has to find a way to come to terms with being alone. I found the way Berg constructed Helen to be very believable of what a recent widow might go through. I didn’t think Helen’s reactions were too over the top or corny. This is a good summer beach read…it’s short, well-written and uncomplicated.
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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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