What is about dysfunctional families that are so attractive to us? For me, as I am certain for many of you, it’s because we relate, because we are at times mired in it. I think most of us are the products of, or participants in, familial dysfunction. And not that that’s always a bad thing. It certainly isn’t when it comes to EVERYBODY’S FINE, Kirk Jones’ remake of Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1990 “Stanno Tutti Bene”. For me, this is one film that resonates so close to home, so much so that my heart aches watching it, but in a good way. You could lift my entire family and insert it in place of the characters in the film. Thankfully, Kirk Jones didn’t make that fatal mistake but instead called upon the impeccably perfect Robert DeNiro along with Kate Beckinsale, Drew Barrymore and Sam Rockwell to hold up a mirror to each of us and then instill more guilt than a Jewish mother with every adult child out there (I would say parents will be guilted as well but I don’t think pigs are flying yet.) The result is a beautiful and touching portrait of a family trying to reconnect physically and emotionally and make “everybody fine.” Continue reading
Originally published in 1843, Charles Dickens’ “ A Christmas Carol” is believed to be one of the greatest Christmas stories ever told. And I have to agree. Next to “Oliver Twist”, “A Christmas Carol” is my favorite Charles Dickens novel. I still remember on reading it back in my elementary school days, how I was drawn to the darkness and grit of story and the characters, and how from the darkness sprang a beautiful hopeful light and joy. And it seems that I am not the only one touched by the tale as over the years there have been countless incarnations of Dickens’ masterful work, from children’s book adaptations to knock off stories to cartoons to animated films to no less than 70 theatrical films and made for tv movies with everyone from Mickey Mouse to Vanessa Williams and Mister Magoo, Reginald Owen, Alastair Sim, a 1910 Marc McDermott, Tim Curry and Bill Murray, all being visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Now Disney enters the fray, yet again (you may recall the adorable “Mickey’s A Christmas Carol) and together with Robert Zemeckis, brings us one of the most authentic adaptations to the Dickens’ classic that I have ever seen Continue reading
Ten years ago a cult phenomena was borne from the fertile imagination of Troy Duffy. Essentially an ode to vigilante justice, a topic on which Duffy speaks quite passionately (as he does about filmmaking) harkening back to the Bible and certain circumstances which warrant “an eye for an eye”, the stories of Duffy and the Boondock Saints are themselves the things on which Hollywood legend is made.
A bartender/barback, the magical light of Harvey Weinstein shone down from above, blessing Duffy with cash and a too-good-to-be-true production deal for this longshot idea. Calling on rootings of Catholicism and the Irish-Catholic community of the Boston area, the Saints made a name for themselves not only with their myriad of killings (all warranted mind you and all inflicted upon the dregs of society whom we shall not miss) but the manner in which they killed. Brothers, Connor and Murphy MacManus (the Saints), believe in right and wrong, moral consequence, faith, loyalty, family and each other. Doing everything in tandem, complete with stylized killings and a calling card of prayers before pulling the trigger and pennies covering the eyes of the deceased, they became legends. Great basic story, right? Guns, action and good looking guys, great selling point, right? But, as we all know, if the deal seems to good to be true, it generally is, and by the time SAINTS was made, legal wranglings abounded and theatrical release was “limited” at best. Also adding to the 1999 problems was the Columbine incident which caused many to “blacklist” THE BOONDOCK SAINTS. But, according to Duffy, thanks to Blockbuster as, “they gave us a real big, uncommon release that put 60 to 120 copies per store in all their stores because they felt this was a much bigger movie”. As a result, the word got on these bad ass, kick ass, fine looking gentleman and the legend, and explosive groundswell cult following of THE BOONDOCK SAINTS began. Continue reading
In addition to my love and mesmerization with movies from small on, a key visual element in my youth was cartoons – and not just your standard Bugs, Tweety, Taz or Tom & Jerry. No I went full bore along with my brothers for the early Japanese anime complete with dubbed voices. Part and parcel of a 60’s era Philadelphia tradition, Wee Willie’s Cartoon Corners was the only place to get your afternoon fix of futuristic adventure complete with Speed Racer and my fave, the 1960’s black & white Osuma Tezuka classic, ASTRO BOY. So ingrained was ASTRO BOY in my youth that the television theme song was even used for a choreography routine in our second grade school play. Already long beloved in Asia, ASTRO BOY had universal appeal with his goodness, adventure and excitement that permeated the 60’s cartoon culture. After all, how many of you wouldn’t want jet rockets for legs and incredible strength to power through rock walls with just your fist, and still be a darn good friend, although I think we all agree that Astro’s shirtless speedo look wasn’t exactly what we could wear to school. Continue reading
As the school bell rings the start of another day, let me say this – AN EDUCATION is some kind of education!
Jenny is your average 16 year old schoolgirl. Attending a private school in the London suburb of Twickenham, her father pushes her to be the best, get those straight “A’s”, study, study, study, earn that scholarship to Oxford. And after all, you need to go to college to find a husband. (I know, I know. What do you expect in 1961?) Between classes all day and cello practice every afternoon compounded with extra Latin homework every night (Cogito Ergo Sum), Jenny is left little time for any social life. Yet, she still finds time to dream of the day she leaves home, venturing out into a world filled with excitement and adventure. Sprawled on her bedroom floor singing along to the sounds of Parisian singer Juliette Greco, Jenny’s teenage angst is blossoming.
Then one rainy day, Jenny’s wish for excitement and adventure is prematurely answered when a stranger named David, driving a fancy Bristol roadster, takes pity on this poor girl toting a cello walking in the rain. Continue reading
How many of you out there remember the Golden Ages of roller derby in the 50’s, the 70’s or even during the depression in the 30’s. For me, coming from Philly, roller derby in the 70’s was a staple of entertainment – particularly for viewing on UHF television. And while roller derby and the Philadelphia Warriors were banking those turns and jamming their way into the hearts of the crowd, my dad was reminding me of derby back in the 50’s. But roller derby wasn’t just in Philly. It was reigning supreme across the country because as Drew Barrymore describes it, “you don’t have to be a certain body shape or ethnicity or economical background.” As things do, however, derby slowly faded only to be reborn in the late 90’s with a whole new look and feel. According to screenwriter and roller derby diva Shauna Cross aka Maggie Mayhem of the LA Derby Dolls, in today’s roller derby, “the personas and the characters are very over-the-top, sexual, flamboyant and burlesque. Continue reading
We are so used to seeing films with a predictable plot line of mother wrangling unruly child or lonely miserable single mother trying to befriend her single child that we forget there are single dads out there, too. However, when we do see them, they are generally divorced, a part-time only dad, and a girlfriend inevitably enters into the mix. Which is exactly what makes THE BOYS ARE BACK so refreshing, so enjoyable, so emotional and so entertaining, as it is the complete antithesis of these hackneyed worn out plot lines. THE BOYS ARE BACK is filled with heart and love, the beautiful Southern Australian seaside of Adelaide, one of the best performances of Clive Owens’ stellar career, and a little six year old named Nicholas McAnulty who is guaranteed to not only steal every scene, but your heart as well.
Joe Warr is your average dad. Continue reading
Charlize Theron: Oscar Winner. Kim Basinger: Oscar Winner. Guillermo Arriaga: Golden Globe Winner and Oscar Nominee. Robert Elswit: Oscar Winner. John Toll: Double Oscar Winner. It is the collaborative effort of these great talents and more, that bring emotion, depth, intrigue and life to Guillermo Arriaga’s latest story of love and redemption. Probably best known as the Oscar nominated screenwriter of “Babel”, “21 Grams” and “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada”, Arriaga now steps behind the camera to direct THE BURNING PLAIN, which I believe, is his most powerfully heartfelt and dramatic work to date.
I have long enjoyed much of Tyler Perry’s work. Generally one of the token Caucasian press at screenings or press junkets, I have often felt Perry’s work has elevated beyond that of a stereotypical caricature African-American and successfully crossed over into every demographic with character traits relatable to every ethnicity, demographic and religion. More than anything, though, I find his characterizations more deeply rooted in Southern culture and religion, a point on which my very Southern and very religious aunt, a Tyler Perry fan, agrees. In essence, his characters and storylines have been relatable and entertaining to everyone; that is until I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF.
What man writes a script – a comedy no less – that has a character who gets his testicles blown off? A woman writing it, I would believe. But a guy? Well, leave it to Mike Judge, the brains behind “Beavis & Butthead”, “Office Space” and “Idiocracy”, to do just that. A man who you might call obsessed with the thought of his own testicles being blown off, to hear Mike Judge tell it, seems a perfectly normal concept. “When I was in high school, for science fair I actually made an x-ray machine, x-ray generator, with an old tv tube and a Tesla coil. I got it to work and then I read that x-rays can actually make you sterile. So I immediately built this lead box around it and I got scared as I got older. I was 15 at the time and thought ‘Man, did I just ruin my testicles and I won’t be able to have kids?’ Then when I was first married, I had the premonition that my testicles were going to get knocked off in a car wreck. And then I got into a pretty bad freeway wreck and I remember thinking, ‘Ah, my testicles are still here! My back hurts, my neck hurts, but…my testicles are here.” And so, you have part of our story – all based in reality. Judge makes this little tidbit one of the primary comedic prongs in this funny (albeit uneven at times), extraction of the humorous, er, or not so humorous, events of one man’s dysfunctional life. Continue reading