out with the old

My fellow Minnesotan movie blogger (and fellow LAMB) Daniel G at Getafilm wrote this sweet, poignant post on the demise of three theaters in Roseville (one of our best suburbs), after an AMC 14-plex moved in.

The megaplexes (while very pretty) are sucking up all our memories.

Read the post here.
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guest critic: meet bill

Hey, folks! My dear friend Dorcas Hathaway scored advance tickets to Meet Bill, the new Aaron Eckhart/Elizabeth Banks comedy (I'm trying not to be bitter). So today, you have The Center Seat's very first guest critic! I give you.... Dorcas Hathaway.

Aaron Eckhart pulls a very good performance as a middle-aged guy who has a crap job, a cheating wife, and is still living in the shadows of his brother. The ongoing joke about his gut hanging made me laugh every time.

He’s at a groundbreaking ceremony for yet another thing that his rich in-laws have donated, when he first meets The Kid (Logan Lerman). Bill is staring in the bathroom mirror of self-pity when a kid runs into the bathroom to escape the principal (and flush a dime bag). He gets roped into a mentoring program, and ends up with the same kid (or else there wouldn’t be much of a movie). Bill is trying to get out of his current BS job at the in-laws’ family bank and open a SweetSweet doughnut franchise, but his father-in-law basically controls all their assets. Then Bill catches his wife Jess (Elizabeth Banks) cheating on him with the slimy TV news guy Chip (Timothy Olyphant,) so he goes to stay with his rich brother and his brother’s life partner. Then the rest happens, which I won’t spoil.

Reed Diamond (Paul, the brothers partner) reminded me of the hilarious Stephen Guarino in Logo’s "Big Gay Sketch Show". I especially loved when Paul is whining to Sergeant (Craig Bierko) in bed that Bill was loud on a Friday night, “but it’s 10:30.” He sounds exactly like me every Friday night.

Lucy, (Jessica Alba) is a charming and funny sales girl who works at a sexy mall lingerie store. The Kid is trying to get her, though she is obviously ten-plus years older than him.
Jessica Alba is okay at comedy, but really needs to stick to action.

Logan Lerman needs to be in more movies. He is really talented and funny. I loved the glow on his face when he asked to take a vat of chocolate doughnut icing home after he stuck his finger in it. Priceless.

Speaking of price… I tend to be overly sensitive about product placement. When Bill receives a package of SweetSweet doughnuts from DHL, not a crumb out of place, it makes me wonder how much it cost them to put that little box in there. For that matter, how much does Starbucks pay for Mary Louise Parker to hold a Frappucino in every shot of "Weeds"?
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patriot games

***Spoilers ahead.... but, seriously, the movie came out 16 years ago. Deal with it.***

My dad's a big guy. Really big muscles, super-macho, third-degree black belt, all that. When I was a little girl, my sister and I reveled in it... he'd pick us up, throw us around--a total teddy bear. And he'd always remind us how much he loved us, and how we were always safe as long as he was around.

Now I'm older, and of course the world is a bit more complicated--Daddy can't come in and fix my boo-boos anymore--but that idea of the strong family man, who will put everything on the line for his wife and kids, is still very powerful with me.

That's pretty much what Patriot Games (based on the *fabulous* Tom Clancy bestseller) is about. Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is an ex-CIA agent, minding his own business on a family trip to London, when all hell breaks loose. There's a terrorist attack on a group of British royals; inexplicably, Jack jumps into the middle of it and thwarts the bad guys. Of course, the bad guys are pissed, so they come after Jack and his family. That's when the movie goes from a straight-up shoot-em-up to some seriously powerful emotional drama. There's one scene when Jack's standing over his broken daughter's hospital bed--you can see the pissed-off daddy rage boiling over through his eyeballs. You know, at that moment, that all hell is about to break loose. And, of course, it does. Jack jumps back into the CIA fray and not only brings down the terrorist organization, but wastes the chief baddie (Sean Bean) in an intense, unforgettable climax.

I know I've derided the whole genre of "dick-flicks" before, and this probably fits squarely within that category. But there is so much compelling emotional depth in this particular movie, that I can never turn down a chance to watch it. Plus, the Irish/New Age soundtrack is totally rad.
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postlet #5

Captain Crash and I went to White Castle last night to eat some sliders and play some cards. A street person started harassing us, getting all aggressive. The guy stuck his finger in my face, and all hell broke loose. Captain Crash was out of his seat in a second, towered over the guy, and yelled, "IF YOU TOUCH HER...", looking all big and scary. The guy tucked tail and ran. A bonafide My Hero moment.
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i... can't... wait...

It must be spring in Minnesota. In only 15 days (if the guy on the answering machine is telling the truth), the Vali-Hi Drive In will open for the season. This place is easily the best place to catch a movie in the Twin Cities area, for the following reasons:
  • Triple feature
  • $7.50 per person (at least that's what it was last year)
  • Little kids running around in pajamas
  • Sound through your car's stereo
  • Bring the dog
  • Steaks/salmon/hot dogs/hamburgers on your portable grill
  • Awesome snack bar
  • Cold beer/wine/soda/whatevs in your cooler
You just gotta get there early. And I mean EARLY. Check this out.

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imdb top 250

Nick Plowman over at Fataculture inspired me to post the IMDB Top 250, which some consider to be a list of the best films of all time (I have my doubts). The ones I've seen are listed in bold, and you can click on the few one that I've reviewed on this site.

So... out of 250 movies, I've seen a paltry 91. All right, let the ridiculing begin. I do have a teensy excuse, though: I haven't been fully aware of my movie geekdom for all that long. Let a girl catch up.

OK, so feel free to express your outrage in the comments section. I'll even help you out. Fill in the blank: "You've never seen _________?!?! And you call yourself a movie buff? Shame, Nayana, shame."

  1. The Godfather (1972)
  2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  3. The Godfather: Part II (1974)
  4. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly(1966)
  5. Pulp Fiction (1994)
  6. Schindler's List (1993)
  7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
  8. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  9. Casablanca (1942)
  10. The Seven Samurai (1954)
  11. Star Wars (1977)
  12. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  13. 12 Angry Men (1957)
  14. Rear Window (1954)
  15. Goodfellas (1990)
  16. City of God (2002)
  17. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  18. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
  19. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  20. The Usual Suspects (1995)
  21. Psycho (1960)
  22. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
  23. Fight Club (1999)
  24. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  25. Citizen Kane (1941)
  26. North by Northwest (1959)
  27. Memento (2000)
  28. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
  29. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
  30. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
  31. The Matrix (1999)
  32. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) -- I started to watch this one, and fell asleep.
  33. Se7en (1995)
  34. Apocalypse Now (1979) -- I've started to watch this one TWICE. I suppose I'll try again.
  35. Taxi Driver (1976)
  36. American Beauty (1999)
  37. The Professional (1994)
  38. There Will Be Blood (2007)
  39. Vertigo (1958)
  40. Amélie (2001)
  41. American History X (1998)
  42. The Departed (2006)
  43. Paths of Glory (1957)
  44. M (1931)
  45. No Country for Old Men (2007)
  46. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  47. The Third Man (1949)
  48. Chinatown (1974)
  49. The Lives of Others (2006)
  50. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  51. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  52. Alien (1979)
  53. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
  54. The Shining (1980)
  55. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
  56. The Pianist (2002)
  57. Spirited Away (2001)
  58. Double Indemnity (1944)
  59. Forrest Gump (1994)
  60. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
  61. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
  62. L.A. Confidential (1997)
  63. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
  64. Das Boot (1981)
  65. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
  66. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
  67. The Downfall (2004)
  68. Aliens (1986)
  69. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  70. Raging Bull (1980)
  71. Rashômon (1950)
  72. Metropolis (1927)
  73. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  74. Modern Times (1936)
  75. Singin' in the Rain (1952)
  76. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
  77. Rebecca (1940)
  78. Sin City (2005)
  79. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  80. All About Eve (1950)
  81. The Seventh Seal (1957)
  82. Some Like It Hot (1959)
  83. City Lights (1931) -- It's up next on my Netflix. Thanks, David.
  84. Amadeus (1984)
  85. On the Waterfront (1954)
  86. Life is Beautiful (1997)
  87. The Great Escape (1963)
  88. Touch of Evil (1958)
  89. The Prestige (2006)
  90. The Elephant Man (1980)
  91. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
  92. Jaws (1975)
  93. The Sting (1973)
  94. Cinema Paradiso (1988)
  95. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
  96. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
  97. The Apartment (1960)
  98. Braveheart (1995)
  99. The Great Dictator (1940)
  100. Blade Runner (1982)
  101. Strangers on a Train (1951)
  102. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
  103. Batman Begins (2005)
  104. The Bicycle Thief (1948)
  105. High Noon (1952)
  106. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
  107. The Big Sleep (1946)
  108. The Wages of Fear (1953)
  109. Notorious (1946)
  110. Back to the Future (1985)
  111. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  112. Ran (1985)
  113. Oldboy (2003)
  114. Fargo (1996)
  115. Unforgiven (1992)
  116. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
  117. Donnie Darko (2001)
  118. Princess Mononoke (1997)
  119. Cool Hand Luke (1967)
  120. Ratatouille (2007)
  121. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
  122. For a Few Dollars More (1965)
  123. Yojimbo (1961)
  124. The Green Mile (1999)
  125. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
  126. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
  127. Nights of Cabiria (1957)
  128. Gladiator (2000)
  129. Into the Wild (2007)
  130. Die Hard (1988)
  131. Annie Hall (1977)
  132. The Battle of Algiers (1966)
  133. The Deer Hunter (1978)
  134. Ben-Hur (1959)
  135. It Happened One Night (1934)
  136. The Sixth Sense (1999)
  137. Platoon (1986)
  138. The General (1927)
  139. Life of Brian (1979)
  140. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
  141. The Killing (1956)
  142. Wild Strawberries (1957)
  143. Amores perros (2000)
  144. Les Diaboliques (1955)
  145. Finding Nemo (2003)
  146. The Incredibles (2004)
  147. V for Vendetta (2005)
  148. Heat (1995)
  149. Brief Encounter (1945)
  150. The Wild Bunch (1969)
  151. Children of Men (2006)
  152. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
  153. The Graduate (1967)
  154. The Princess Bride (1987)
  155. 8½ (1963)
  156. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
  157. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
  158. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
  159. The Big Lebowski (1998)
  160. Juno (2007)
  161. Stand by Me (1986)
  162. Crash (2004)
  163. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
  164. Gandhi (1982)
  165. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
  166. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
  167. Snatch (2000)
  168. Harvey (1950)
  169. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
  170. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
  171. The Thing (1982)
  172. The African Queen (1951)
  173. Trainspotting (1996)
  174. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  175. Gone with the Wind (1939)
  176. The Gold Rush (1925)
  177. Groundhog Day (1993)
  178. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
  179. Beauty and the Beast (1946)
  180. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
  181. Scarface (1983)
  182. The Conversation (1974)
  183. American Gangster (2007) -- This movie so does not belong on this list, IMHO.
  184. Patton (1970)
  185. Duck Soup (1933)
  186. Toy Story (1995)
  187. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
  188. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
  189. Nosferatu (1922)
  190. The Terminator (1984)
  191. Sleuth (1972)
  192. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
  193. The Hustler (1961)
  194. Umberto D. (1952)
  195. Stalker (1979)
  196. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
  197. Glory (1989)
  198. Ed Wood (1994)
  199. King Kong (1933)
  200. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
  201. The Lion King (1994)
  202. The Exorcist (1973)
  203. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
  204. Grindhouse (2007)
  205. Spartacus (1960)
  206. The Lost Weekend (1945)
  207. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  208. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
  209. The Lady Vanishes (1938)
  210. The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
  211. Magnolia (1999)
  212. Stalag 17 (1953)
  213. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
  214. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
  215. Run Lola Run (1998)
  216. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
  217. Frankenstein (1931)
  218. Big Fish (2003)
  219. Out of the Past (1947)
  220. Casino (1995)
  221. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
  222. Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
  223. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
  224. Mystic River (2003)
  225. Toy Story 2 (1999)
  226. Once (2006)
  227. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
  228. Rififi (1955)
  229. A Christmas Story (1983)
  230. Hot Fuzz (2007)
  231. Ikiru (1952)
  232. Dial M for Murder (1954)
  233. Manhattan (1979)
  234. Young Frankenstein (1974)
  235. Infernal Affairs (2002)
  236. Rope (1948)
  237. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
  238. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
  239. Roman Holiday (1953)
  240. In Cold Blood (1967)
  241. His Girl Friday (1940)
  242. Hero (2002)
  243. The 400 Blows (1959)
  244. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
  245. Harold and Maude (1971)
  246. La Strada (1954)
  247. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
  248. The Searchers (1956)
  249. In Bruges (2008)
  250. Le Samouraï (1967)
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it's on!

So I finally got my Hayley vs. O-Ren Ishii post in, and it's posted on the LAMB website. Feel free to go there and vote for your fave... but I really have to give props to my girl Pat from Doodad Kind of Town. She decided to have O-Ren torture Hayley..... at Target. Sweet.

Correction: The O-Ren portion of the post was actually written by Pat Piper of Lazy Eye Theatre. My bad.
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postlet #4

I drove to Madison last weekend to spend Easter with Dad and Stepmommy. I was nervous about their acceptance of my new hair. It was cool, though. They have a rad new pad.
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postlet #3

I think I've found a new church. I researched them on the Web, and then drove around creepily in their parking lot last night.
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the band's visit

Greg and I have this habit... we get together, fully intending to work together on his homework (it's a screenwriting class, and I'm a fairly fast typist), but we end up just hanging out. Watching a movie, going out to eat, whatever. You could say it's because we're lazy or procrastinators (and you probably wouldn't be too far off), but I think it may have more to do with the fact that we genuinely miss each other's company. You know, we were together for a reason... It's nice to remember the good stuff about being his friend, and not just the heartbreaking stuff.

So a few Saturdays back, we did just that... we got together to work, but just ended up going to Landmark's Edina Cinema to see The Band's Visit. (Side note: I could never get him to come see indie movies with me when we were married! What is the deal with that?)

Before seeing this movie, all I really knew about it was what I had seen on the "coming soon" posters around Landmark's theaters. I figured it would be a continuation of 2006's Oscar-winning short West Bank Story, which provided comic relief on the subject of Israeli-Palestinian tensions. I loved that movie, so I figured this one couldn't be all bad. And it wasn't... but I didn't think it was anything like West Bank Story; where that film was wildly hilarious, The Band's Visit was gently touching.

The story centers around an Egyptian (Arab) police band who visits Israel and mistakenly heads to the wrong town. You expect all kinds of crazy Arab/Israeli tension, and there's a little, but mostly the film is just about human beings passing through each other's lives for one day. Everyone in the movie seems a little lost... not just geographically, but personally.

Surprisingly, although the credits are in Hebrew and Arabic, most of the film is in English (which is why it wasn't eligible for the 2007 Academy Award category for Foreign Language Film). There are a few moments, when either the Arab or Israeli groups are alone, when Hebrew and Arabic are spoken, but English seems to be the lingua franca for the two cultures, so that's what we hear most of the time.

And, hey, some of the cinematography kicks ass (see the above still).

It's not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
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postlet #2

I had a dream that my OnDemand wasn't working. I woke up, and my OnDemand wasn't working. Weird.
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the other boleyn girl

If you failed history as a kid (or were surprised in Titanic when the boat sank), there could be spoilers ahead for you.

Even though The Other Boleyn Girl received less-than-stellar reviews (the Tomatometer gives it a 39%), I went to see it because I'm a huge fan of the novel. I still am, by the way. Philippa Gregory is a talented storyteller, and I highly suggest you check it out. (The book, I mean.)

In Ms. Gregory's novel, the story is laid out in intricate detail, with two sisters competing for the affections of England's King Henry VIII. We all know it ends badly, but that doesn't matter while you're reading the book--the ups and downs are gripping, and the ending is heartstopping.

Here's the problem: it's quite a monumental task for a movie to capture all that stuff, and still clock in at under two hours. Unfortunately, director Justin Chadwick and screenwriter Peter Morgan just weren't up to the task. In the end, all we get from the movie are things we learned in fourth grade:
  1. Henry VIII was a complete tool.
  2. Girls can be really mean to each other.
  3. Anne Boleyn got her head chopped off.
  4. They wore funny hats back in "olden times".
  5. Anne Boleyn's daughter Elizabeth grew up to be a great queen (surprise!)
Yeah... they really did present that last tidbit as an AMAZING TWIST, as though anyone interested enough in English history to spend two hours of their lives watching this film wouldn't already know that.

You don't really need to see this thing... but please do read the book.
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ok, so it's my second (or maybe third) blog-a-thon

Sorry, Fletch. Of course LAMB Devours The Oscars was my first. View my entries here and here.

And, of course, the LAMB has a new upcoming event: "Sirens of the LAMBs", in which we pit famous movie femme fatales against each other, bracket-style. In the first round, I have the daunting task of pitting Hayley from Hard Candy against O-Ren Ishii from Kill Bill. We'll see how I work that one out.

Stay tuned!
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my very first blog-a-thon

I've gotta tell you... these last few months of diving headlong into the blogosphere has been nothing short of paradise.

And now I'll be participating in my very first blogathon, sponsored by Ferdy on Films.

Stay tuned... and click here if you want to do it, too.
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singin' in the rain

As most of my fellow film gluttons certainly know, TCM held their regular "31 Days of Oscar" film festival last month (God bless 'em). One of the many fantastic films I caught was the classic MGM musical (some say the best of all time) Singin' in the Rain.

My friend David, knowing I'd seen it, has asked me repeatedly for a few thoughts. So, here goes:

  1. I should have seen this movie long ago. Before watching it, I had no idea of the plot (a 1920's movie studio scrambles to keep up with the sudden demand for "talkies"). For a bonafide movie buff like me, the in-jokes were priceless. It's always so much fun to see the movie industry poke fun at itself.
  2. Gene Kelly is a badass. His dance numbers are insane... especially the "Singin' in the Rain" sequence. I've since read that he actually had a flu and high fever while filming that. Awesome.
  3. I already knew I loved Cyd Charisse from her turn as Fiona in Brigadoon. The hot "Broadway" number in this film cements that for me.
  4. This is, refreshingly, a plain old comedic musical. It's not epic and comedic like Sound of Music, or epic and dramatic like Fiddler on the Roof. It's just really satisfying. I totally dug it.
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Ugh. You people are difficult. (I'm talking to you, Karl Hungus!) But I hope you know I say that with the utmost love.

OK, OK, I'll breach my policy of net anonymity.... just this once.

This was taken with a cell phone in my bathroom yesterday morning.

They're very new... still need to mature. One friend suggested I try corporal punishment. But I love them, love them, love them! (My officemates still aren't too sure.)

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postlet #1

I have dreadies. They are utterly boss. Yay me.
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sabrina, sabrina

I am one of the nine people in this world (Captain Crash included) that actually prefers the 1995 Harrison Ford/Julia Ormond Sabrina to the classic 1954 version with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.

I know, I know. But don't go trashing my movie cred right away... let me explain!

Of course no one can compare to Hepburn and Bogey. I know that... everybody knows that. Her fresh face and elegant manner is inimitable, though it is hard to accept her as the frumpy teenager in the beginning of the film. And Bogart is just so damn moody and mysterious--but he doesn't project the vulnerability which is necessary to make Linus Larrabee (his character) work.

I am fully aware that the original Sabrina is a classic, and that people have trouble with classics being tampered with.


When I first saw the 1995 version of Sabrina, I had no idea that the original even existed. Maybe that allowed me to see it with a fresh eye. The story is enchanting: a dowdy girl has a massive crush on a rich playboy who doesn't know she exists... she goes off to Paris and reinvents herself... she comes back and--boom! He falls head over heels. What comes after is even better, with an extremely satisfying ending.

In both movies, the story is fairly the same, with a few teensy changes: for one, the 1995 Sabrina goes to work for Vogue instead of cooking school (cooking school? such a domestic cliché! and the Vogue thing explains her transformation so much better). And naturally, the grand old steamships are replaced with jets, including the Concorde.

But what swept me away when I first saw Sabrina at 16--was Paris! Oh, how it made me want to go to Paris. The City of Lights is almost another character in the film; it's so pivotal to Sabrina's reinvention. That's evident in one of my favorite lines, spoken by Ormond as Sabrina: "I met myself in Paris." (Incidentally, the reinvention theme so strikes a chord with me right now.)

The 1995 film was actually filmed there (unlike the original), so we're treated to lush Parisian vistas and some fabulous French actors. The remake captures the city so effectively that you can almost feel the mist on your face as Sabrina meanders down the Ponte des Artes, and smell the flowers when she wanders through the Jardin des Tuileries.

I saw the original version of the film for the first time last week. It was definitely amusing, with a lot more laughs than the Sabrina I'm used to... (and I have to say, Hepburn singing La Vie En Rose was supersweet) but in my opinion, it just doesn't compare. Sabrina was done right in 1995.
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heath ledger's final role

Looks like Heath Ledger's final role in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus will be completed by three actors: Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law.

Read the whole story here.

Uhh... really? This could be either really good, or really bad. The producers say that "each of the parts played by Johnny, Colin and Jude is representative of the many aspects of the character that Heath was playing." So, are we going for an I'm Not There thing?

Please, please, please don't fug this one up.
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christians, communists, and censors (oh my)

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I've had some trouble reconciling my love of movies with the attitudes of other Christians (yes, I'm a Christian) who believe that censorship is the way to go. After reading a fascinating and insightful post on censorship by my friend Rick over at Coosa Creek Mambo, I've got two new thoughts on the topic.
  1. I could never have imagined that communist China and prominent members of my faith would express identical sentiments about entertainment.
  2. If Christianity is all we say it is, and if Jesus is really the way, the truth, and the life, then shouldn't that hold up to scrutiny? Shouldn't we encourage free thought, rather than prevent it? I just don't understand.

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hard candy

Have you ever been in a situation so shocking, so devastating, that it changes reality around you? Suddenly there's a buzzing in your ears... the colors seem oversaturated... everything looks like it's moving under a strobe light. I have experienced this only twice in my life: once, when my beloved friend Jacob died unexpectedly, and the second time, when Greg asked for the divorce. At that point, the world around you doesn't seem quite real; your senses, or your brain, or whatever, doesn't want to accept how reality has suddenly and irrevocably changed for you.

Hard Candy captures that circumstance in a spectacular fashion, in ways other movies have only flirted with. It's the story of a fourteen-year-old girl (played precociously by a younger Ellen Page) who begins to seduce a thirty-two-year-old pedophile, and then suddenly turns the tables on him. After she gets the upper hand, the ways in which she toys with him are simply horrifying, and we experience with him that surreal suspension of reality.

The movie begins blandly enough, with the two flirting in a chatroom, meeting at a diner, going to his place... but then he starts to feel kind of fuzzy. He passes out; when he wakes up, he's bound tightly to a chair, and the whole tone of the movie changes. We actually feel sorry for him... he doesn't seem so bad! We wonder why she tortures him as she does--is she a bit insane? Well, of course she is. But she's not wrong.

As the movie devolves, as the terror within the man starts to grow, as we see the inevitable conclusion looming, we start to see the world as he does. Scenes are interspersed with blinding, full-screen flashes of red. Images get blurry... the girl moves as if under a strobe. We swim in denial with the man (she can't be doing this!). We witness his heartbreak; we watch as he is completely broken.

For any of us who have spent a bit of time on this planet, the experience is completely familiar. Of course we're not all pedophiles, confronted with evidence of our sins... but most of us have experienced that distortion of our senses that happens when we must deal with something utterly terrible. I, for one, hope I've lived through that for the last time.
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please to excuse...

I've been feeling a bit un-bloggy the last few days. I apologize for my overdue review of I Am Legend, which I actually saw for the third time last night (incidentally, three is more than enough). It's coming soon, I promise.

Meanwhile, check this out: my official favorite movie theater, the Riverview, has unveiled its new website, complete with pictures and some cool history.
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in the valley of elah

Hank Deerfield (played by Tommy Lee Jones) is a tough guy. He's a military man. He doesn't go in much for things like affection, or showing emotion. He knows how the world works, and he especially knows how his army works... until he gets a phone call that changes everything.

You see, Hank and his wife had two sons, who both followed in their dad's military footsteps. The eldest died in combat--a helicopter crash--a few years ago. His remaining son, Mike, just finished up a tour of duty in Iraq... only according to the guy on the phone, Mike has gone AWOL from his New Mexico army base.

Not so, thinks Hank. He knows his son; he knows the discipline that he himself instilled in his boy from a young age. Mike wouldn't go AWOL; so Hank jumps in his truck and drives to New Mexico to see what's up.

Here is where Hank's world starts to crack: upon arriving, he questions Mike's buddies and anyone else who might be able to help him sort out his son's disappearance, and he only gets vague answers, cold shoulders, and the realization that his kid was into drugs. Then, when Mike's charred remains are discovered in a remote field, the Army tries to keep it quiet, and the sherriff's office (there is some question of jurisdiction) carries on a disinterested investigation.

But Hank's a tough guy, remember? He's not going to let this go. He carries on his own investigation with the help of an eager female desk jockey, played by Charlize Theron. The two unlikely comrades dive in; they scrutinize the minutiae of the case, and Hank's perception of the world and his beloved Army crumble evne further. As he figures out the details of his son's murder, the horror of Iraq is also revealed to him bit by bit; he realizes that being a soldier in Iraq is different from being a soldier in any other campaign. Over there, civilians, even children, are considered threats, and acting on that assumption can suck all the humanity out of a person.

Hank's tough exterior only seems to crack once: in my favorite scene, when he tells a young boy the story of David and Goliath. In that moment, we realize this guy's lost both his kids, and what a tragedy... because underneath all that gruffness lies a really cool dad.

In the Valley of Elah starts out as just a murder mystery, with all the action taking place here in the United States, and it's gripping drama in its own right. By the end of the movie, though, you realize you've just watched a gripping commentary on the devastation that this Iraq war causes to the very people who fight it. Where Paul Haggis' last project, Crash, bludgeons the viewer over the head with its theme of racism, In the Valley of Elah just sneaks up on you--you almost don't realize there was a message until the movie is over. Jones' subtle performance is heartbreaking: sure, he's tough and gruff, but emotion oozes out his eyeballs.

It's on DVD right now. See it.
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the spiderwick chronicles

When I was five years old, Mom and Dad gave me a boxed set of all seven volumes of C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. I was already an avid reader by then (maybe I'll tell you about that sometime), and I devoured the books--not once or twice, but more times than I could count. Seriously. Dad and I used to quote the books to each other in the course of normal conversation. (Yes, people, I have always been that nerdy.)

The great thing about C. S. Lewis (though of course I couldn't articulate this as a five-year-old) is that he wrote great literature for children, without ever patronizing his audience. The characters are round, deep, and dynamic; the storylines are intricate; the concepts are complex. Even now, as a twenty-nine-year-old, the books are just as challenging and satisfying. Best of all, every time I read them, I discover something new.

So you can see, I've been spoiled from an early age to expect children's literature with real substance, something that can actually stimulate ideas and make a person think. I admit the bar's a bit high, but there it is. Unfortunately, The Spiderwick Chronicles doesn't quite reach.

The story's cute enough: two boys and a girl, still smarting from their parents' recent separation, move into a creepy old house. Presently they find that an ancestor of theirs had uncovered a whole other magical world in the forest around the house, and wrote down his observations of that world in a book. One of the kids (of course it's the rebellious one who tells off his mom all the time--cliché alert!) discovers the book and, subsequently, the secret magical world.

The creatures are kind of cool. The animation is great. Of course, the voices of Seth Rogen, Martin Short, and Nick Nolte are just money in the bank. I gotta say it, though: that Freddie Highmore kid pisses me off. He plays both of the boys (they're twins), and he does this annoying thing during all his reaction shots: he just sits there with his mouth hanging open. ACTING, ladies and gentlemen!

OK, so there's not really much of anything wrong with the movie... I guess if you've got kids, bring 'em. But do them a favor... don't let this be the only kind of entertainment (movie or literature) that you expose them to. Take your children to The Spiderwick Chronicles once, but let C. S. Lewis be their regular bedtime story.
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you decide

OK, this is the thing: I watched a crapload of movies this weekend. Too many for me to review them all. But I do want to do some good reviews this week, so this is what I propose--I'll list what I saw, you tell me what you want to read about, and throughout this week I'll review the most-requested three or four. Deal?

Here are the movies I saw (some were for the second or third time):
  • In the Valley of Elah
  • Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
  • Singin' in the Rain
  • Nanny McPhee
  • From Here to Eternity
  • Michael Clayton (third time)
  • I Am Legend (second time)
  • Ben-Hur (second time)
So, what do you think?
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