Wednesday, June 20, 2007


It's summer. That means it's time for the popcorn fodder (better known as blockbuster movies) to hit the big screen. High adventure, stupid comedy, and massive amounts of special effects are synonymous with this season. And who am I to turn my back on some good theatre-going fun? Here's my list of can't miss (at least I won't miss them) movies of the summer.

Knocked Up (June 1)
I just saw this. Laugh-out-loud hilarious, heartwarming, and definitely crude--Knocked Up is a comedy lovers must-see. Seth Rogen could very well be the next Will Ferrell. He's already sporting the curly mop 'fro, and his brand of comedy made me shoot Cherry Coke out my nose. Even though the jokes are raw to say the least (what do you expect from the people who brought us The 40 Year Old Virgin?), the story is genuine and will appeal to men and women alike.

Ocean's 13 (June 8)
George Clooney has become the king of slick. And I love a really slick movie. A heist is always fun. A heist that involves the likes of Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt, and Al Pacino is right up my alley. Plus, this movie promises to be better than the previous sequel. (Steven Soderberg supposedly apologized for Ocean's 12 by making Ocean's 13.)

1408 (June 22)
John Cusack starring in a movie adapted from a Stephen King short story. You better believe I'll be seeing this one. Stephen King adaptations don't have the most solid track record, but movies from his shorts are usually very good. (Let's just forget Secret Window ever happened.) I'm always more one for classic ghost stories than slasher flicks, so 1408 is definitely my cup of tea. Oh, and did I mention that John Cusack is in it? :)

Ratatouille (June 29)
Though I wasn't 100% thrilled when I saw this preview attached to Cars last year, the story has grown on me. Besides, it's a Pixar movie. Even my least favorite Pixar movie has been better than most movies I see in a summer. With the added bonus of Brad Bird in the director's chair again, this is sure to be a very cute movie.

Live Free or Die Hard (June 29)
Bruce Willis is, without a doubt, the manliest man in Hollywood. People laughed when Sly Stallone decided to do another Rocky, but there has been no such laughter when previews for the fourth Die Hard hit the streets. And because I am such a guy when it comes to action movies, this will not be missed.

Transformers (July 4)
I am a child of the 80s. The teaser trailer that said nothing more than the title of this movie made me a little giddy. I'm suppressing the fact that Micheal Bay is directing it because I grew up loving the Transformers, and even he can't screw it up too badly.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (July 11)
If you know me at all, you know that I'm thoroughly excited about this movie. I do not see movies in their opening week, but I will be seeing this one! The fifth installment of the Harry Potter series has never been my favorite book, but after reading it the first time, I knew this would probably make one of the most exciting movies. I'm putting a lot of faith into fairly new-to-the-game writer Michael Goldenberg's script. From what I've seen in the preview, I believe the adaptation will not disappoint.

Talk to Me (July 11)
For all those who won't be standing in the long lines for Harry Potter, you should check out this smaller picture. Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor star is this true story about an ex-con turned radio personality in Washington, D.C. circa 1960. Radio DJ humor blended with civil rights activism plus two of the finest character actors in the Business starring opposite each other? That is just icing on the cake.

Hairspray (July 20)
Remakes and I don't usually get along, but this looks like too much fun. All I can hope is that the remake brings new life to the original cult classic without disrespecting it. I'm also curious to see how spry John Travolta is in a fat suit.

Becoming Jane (August 3)
In a summer full of big movies, Becoming Jane will be a nice diversion. Jane Austen is one of my favorite writers. Her novels, and movies adapted from her novels, have been near and dear to my heart for years. Why wouldn't I want to see a movie about her life? Anne Hathaway looks perfectly comfortable in the role, and James McAvoy is such a cameleon, I don't doubt for a second that he was perfectly cast too.

Stardust (August 10)
To continue the period motif, Stardust will be a week behind Becoming Jane. Yet this movie is more than a period piece. It's more like Shakespearean fantasy...or a cross between The Princess Bride and A Midsummer Night's Dream with a bit of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen mixed in. I don't love Claire Danes, but with a cast that includes Robert DeNiro, Ian McKellen, and Ricky Gervais, can I really complain (too much) about Danes?

Superbad (August 17)
Co-written by Seth Rogen, the star of Knocked Up, Superbad is a coming-of-age/buddy comedy that is a strange cross between Freaks and Geeks and basically every 80s teen movie I've ever seen. I mean strange is a good way because this might be the sleeper comedy hit of the summer.

I know there are movies that aren't here that you think deserve to be here. In fact, there are a few that I'll probably remember after I publish. So make sure to check your local listings for some great summer blockbusters, and don't forget about the little indies either. The summer months are full of those too.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Sweet Misery

Jim (Nathan Fillion) gently pours fresh berries into a filled pie crust. Jenna (Keri Russell) removes melted dark chocolate from the stove top and pours it over the berries. As she stirs the mixture together, Jim leans over her in an achingly loving way. These two are so adorable together, you want to forget that they're both married to other people. And, for that moment in the kitchen, you do.

Scenes like this one are what make Waitress an extraordinary movie. Scenes that whisk you away from your movie theatre seat and transport you to this little southern town. I was so lost in this movie, I was almost startled when someone in the theatre laughed or coughed.

Jenna is a waitress at Joe's Pie Diner in a small southern town. She's married to an awful man from whom she simply wants to get away. Then she finds out she's pregnant. That's when her life starts to turn around. The new doctor in town is the adorable Dr. Pomatter. There's an instant attraction between the two, but Jenna tries to ignore it because there's a Mrs. Dr. Pomatter. But the attraction grows and soon they're all over each other at every moment.

I wanted to see this movie because I love Nathan Fillion. I also have a fondness for Keri Russell, so the cast sold me. Good thing I got treated to bright visuals and a wonderful story too.

Writer/director Adrienne Shelly was an extremely talented woman. Her prose are so quirky yet so natural, and the way she directed every scene made me instantly love every character. (Well, not every character. Jeremy Sisto's Earl is a pitiful little man who deserved an elbow to the nose once or ten times. But I know I wasn't supposed to love Earl, so it's okay.) The only disappointing moment for me was the end. I didn't mind the idea of everything being wrapped up with a nice bow. It's just that I didn't like the packaging so much. Sorry for the cryptic talk, but I can't give details without revealing major plot points. Let's just say a couple of characters should've gotten a different deal.

Even with a couple of small disappointing moments at the end, I still highly recommend Waitress. It's as sweet as Jenna's pies, and it's a wonderful movie to honor Adrienne Shelly's memory.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Silver Screen Made Small

I love movies. That has obviously been established. But lately, I've found a great love for television too. So, I thought maybe I should throw in a couple of blogs dedicated to the small screen. This blog is going to be about great made-for-TV movies and miniseries. I was trying to make the list just about made-fors, but since the best thing to ever air on television can't be left off this list, I had to include it. More on that later...a lot more if I know myself at all.

Because I have trouble putting things in any sort of order, I've decided to put these in chronological order. I know, I know, it's a cop out, but it's my blog, so I can do what I want. OK, enough lead in, time to get to the list.

Roots (1977) Originally aired on ABC
The ultimate classic in made-for-TV productions. Roots is a must see. Most people may forever remember Levar Burton as Geordi LeForge, but his mind-blowing performance as Kunta Kinte should not be forgotten. If you haven't seen this miniseries, check out the new DVD box set.

Stephen King's It (1990) Originally aired on ABC
This was a great movie to me. It was about kids (because I was 11 at the time). It was based on a Stephen King novel, and it scared the crap out of me. Honestly, one of my favorite adaptations of a Stephen King novel. Granted, the first half with the kids is better than the second half with the adults, but you need both halves for the movie to work.

And the Band Played On (1993) Originally aired on HBO
I was 14. My mother had just subscribed to HBO, and this was the first movie I ever watched on the channel. I watched it four more times after the first go around. And the Band Played On tells the story of the discovery of AIDS and the political/scientific fight that ensued in its early days. An all star cast--Matthew Modine, Alan Alda, Anjelica Houston, Lily Tomlin, Steve Martin, Ian McKellen--turn in excellent performances, and not until Philadelphia did I see a better movie about AIDS and its victims.

If These Walls Could Talk (1996) Originally aired on HBO
Does anyone see a pattern forming? Slavery, AIDS, murder...and now abortion. I'm a morbid person it seems. But hey, made-fors are usually heavy on the drama. This one is no exception. Spanning three decades--1950s, 1970s, and 1990s--this movie is really three short films wrapped into one. Each short piece is about the a woman who's struggling with an unwanted pregnancy. No matter what side of the fence you're on, these stories were meant to tug on your heart strings...and they do a good job of it.

Band of Brothers (2001) Originally aired on HBO
Remember in the opening comments when I said I must include miniseries on my list? Well, this is why. Band of Brothers is hands down the best thing I've ever watched on television. That's a lot for me, an obsessed fan of Lost, to say about something. But I will not shrink away from my love of this miniseries. I happened to catch a short marathon on HBO one day, and I was hooked. I recored all 11 hours of it (10 episodes at an hour+ a piece). Watched it once when it aired, twice on video. Then I bought the DVD set, and I've seen it three more times since then. It's a sickness, I know. My husband won't let me watch one episode on the History Channel because I'll have to watch them all. If you are a war buff, see this show. My favorite episodes are the first two which most people don't like because there are no battles, but without the opening episodes, you would never know where the men of Easy Company came from.

Boycott (2001)
Originally aired on HBO
Have you ever stepped back and realized that there's never been a theatrical biopic about Martin Luther King, Jr.? Kind of interesting, don't you think? Well, HBO filled a large void in 2001 with this movie. What's wonderful about Boycott is that it's not really a MLK biopic. It's the story of the Montgomery bus boycott that was first spark of the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King is at the center of the story, but he's just showing hints of the strong leader he will become. Jeffrey Wright, an amazing actor in my opinion, plays the man with incredible grace.

See Jane Date (2003) Originally aired on ABC Family
Because I am a girl, there must be at least one chick flick. And since I don't watch Lifetime or Oh!, it's hard to find them on TV. But I love this movie! Charisma Carpenter plays Jane, a woman whose mother is pressuring her to find a man, but she just has the worst luck (as most women in these kinds of movies). The refreshing thing is that she doesn't meet Prince Charming until two minutes before the credits roll, so the movie is literally about a woman dealing with the dating scene. Yes, it's cheesy, but it's so cute I just don't care.

Iron Jawed Angels (2004) Originally aired on HBO
Hilary Swank is one hell of an actress. With the exception of The Karate Kid III and Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, the woman never misses (ok, I didn't see The Reaping). In Iron Jawed Angels, she leads an amazing cast of women in a movie that every woman should see. I am an avid voter. I believe that my right to vote shouldn't be wasted or ignored. This movie instilled that idea two-fold in my head. Seeing the portrayal of these women struggle through the suffrage movement made me proud to be an American woman who will forever thank those women for allowing me the right to vote.

Something the Lord Made (2004)
Originally aired on HBO
I'll step down from my political pride high horse to talk about the last movie on my list. With sepia tones and subtle storytelling, Something the Lord Made reminds me of Cider House Rules. Mos Def plays Vivien Thomas, a carpenter with high hopes of going to medical school. When the Depression hits, his dreams are dashed, but he ends up becoming a technical assistant for Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman), the chief of surgery at Johns Hopkins. Together, the two men make amazing discoveries in heart medicine but must also deal with racial prejudices. HBO knows how to make a heart-wrenching story (as if you couldn't tell by my list), and this one is no different. For those skeptics who think rappers can't act, watch Mos Def and get back to me.

Wow. That was a lot longer than I thought it would be. Looking back at the list, I seem to be a big fan of HBO. There's probably a reason they have so many Emmys! Let me know what made-for-TV movies you love. (Maybe you'll get me watching some other channels.) Have you seen any that appear on my list?