Films I’ve viewed recently…..

The Age of Adaline

I’ll tell you the worst of it first: there’s a corny narrator. It’s a smidge predictable. The theater never really melted away while I was watching it.

But here’s why it’s worth watching: Blake Lively’s wardrobe as Adaline – stunning! I want all of the clothes! So classy. This film actually has gotten me following Ms. Lively on Instagram, if you want the confession. She is so fashionable. She’s like an off-shoot of Sarah Jessica Parker or something! I’ve honestly never seen Gossip Girl; maybe the only thing I’ve seen her in was Ben Affleck’s The Town, where she plays a pretty skanky woman.

Other reason it’s worth watching: Hello – Harrison Ford! The night my mother-in-law and I went to see this, I had just been watching The Empire Strikes Back with the girls; I went from young Harrison to old Harrison. So surreal. I love him at any age. He brought a tenderness to his small role in this film. And the young man who plays him in his 20’s? Hard to believe he’s not a blood relative!

The final reason it’s worth watching: The guy who plays her love interest – who is named Ellis in the film. Michiel Huisman. I don’t even know what to say about him, other than I can’t wait to see him in something else. I may even start watching Game of Thrones just because I’ve heard he is on it.

Cinderella

This was pretty harmless. I took both girls, and they enjoyed it. I was entertained. The scariest part was when the step-mother {played with menace by Cate Blanchett} was waiting for Cinderella in her room, holding the glass slipper, basically like, “Busted, Dearie.” She can be so intimidating!

The prince was a dork, but it was still sweet to watch them falling in love at the ball. And I loved seeing Rose and Daisy from Downton Abbey in different roles. Scene stealer: Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother – such a fun scene!

This would be a good film to watch outside on a projector one night this summer, for sure.

My Best Friend

This is a French film with subtitles: warning!

What happens when a man realizes he is friendly but has no friends? He decides to find a bestie, that’s what. This is equal parts humorous, sad, touching, and cringe-worthy, depending on the moment. But it’s definitely a ride worth taking. Especially if you don’t mind subtitles. And I don’t.

Mockingjay, Part I

Costumes: check.

Peeta: no check.

This was not as good as #2. Then again, the third book in this series was not my favorite, either. But you’ve gotta see it – don’t you? – if you’re planning to watch the last film when it comes out…

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Sweet, harmless, visually stunning. Pretty much I am retiring here. I loved seeing some of my favorites acting here, and it was fun to have two ladies from Downton Abbey together in something else, acting entirely differently.

Honestly, I was very excited to see this recently in my preparation to see the second one {because – hello! – Richard Gere is in it!!}, but it fell a little short of the hype. Still fun, though.

The Night at the Museum Series

Matt wasn’t so interested, but you know I am a die-hard Ben Stiller fan, so the girls and I had three very fun, Junior-Mints-and-Popcorn-packed nights watching all of these.There were lots of giggles and, believe it or not, lots of great discussions about people in history. AND! Now when Clementine talks about wanting to travel to NYC, it is strictly because she wants to visit the Museum of Natural History. Holla’!

American Sniper

The day before the Oscars, I sat through three movies in a row at the theater. Yes, it was as awesome as it sounds, but it also was hard on the back.

This was the film I was least looking forward to seeing, but it was my favorite. For those of you who haven’t followed the true-life story, the film is about the life of Chris Kyle, a veteran of four tours in Iraq. Chris wrote a book about his experiences as the military’s number one sniper of all time and how this affected his civilian life. The trial for Chris’ murder was just wrapped up last week. The film really drives home the irony that he was in these terribly dangerous situations, yet was killed in rural Texas.

It’s directed by Clint Eastwood – hello! But it really didn’t feel like an Eastwood film. There was so much more intensity due to the use of close-ups, point of view shots, and just the subject matter in general. I think the essence of Eastwood that shined through was the message – our veteran’s need us. They’ve provided a duty to our country, and they really need the resources for proper counseling and mental health assistance after all of the things they’ve seen and have been through.

Bradley Cooper loses his Bradley Cooper-ness in this film. He is such a chameleon, isn’t he? I didn’t even recognize Sienna Miller as his wife. Actually, I thought it was some new actress who wasn’t very good at acting {harsh, I know!}, so I was surprised when it dawned on me that it was her.

The Imitation Game

This movie taught me something, which I always appreciate. It’s about the breaking of the German engima encoding machine during World War II by a group of highly-intelligent code-breakers in England. It’s also a film about tolerance – tolerance of women in the work place, homosexuality, and of individuals with Aspergers. During WWII and long after, these three groups were marginalized and disrespected in ways that really hurt to watch and that still happen today. It was a very powerful film.

Benedict Cumberbatch {my husband is forever calling him “Cumber-bunch”} – I get how awesome he is now. He did a beautiful job playing a man who saved so many at the expense of himself. And Tom Branson from Downton Abbey is here, too!

The Theory of Everything

Within ten minutes of the film starting, I wanted to leave. It was a brilliant and wonderful film, but I just was worried I would cry. It was so hard to watch Stephen Hawking become trapped inside of his own body. The one thing I knew for sure when I watched the Oscars was that Eddie Redmayne had to win for this role – I’m so glad he did. He totally earned it.

I love that this film was based upon Hawking’s first wife’s book about their marriage. It’s an examination of loyalty and sacrifice. He was given two years to live when they married. She hung in there a lot longer than that, and so did he. It was brilliantly done. I was glad I didn’t get up and leave at the beginning!

12 Years a Slave

I haven’t said it yet, but the best movies are usually the most difficult to watch, aren’t they? Because we all know what’s going to happen to Solomon Northrup at the beginning, there was a great pit in my stomach, wondering exactly how it was all going to go down – how was he going to go from a free man in Saratoga to a slave on a plantation in the deep South?

After he is kidnapped and forced to keep his identity a secret for his mere survival, we meet all kinds of people – children separated from their mothers, slave masters with a shred of humanity {again, Benedict Cumberbatch – the man is everywhere, y’all}, slave masters who are so insanely mean that you will never see the actor the same way again {I’m looking at you, Michael Fassbender!}. We meet Patsy, the role that gave Lupita Nyong’o her well-deserved Oscar for best supporting actress. Our heart bleeds for Solomon, who learns time and again that he is trapped and can trust no one.

And then Brad Pitt enters the scene, and, well, he is Brad Pitt after all – a good guy. And then it’s time for lots of Kleenex. This movie officially broke me – the Ice Queen melted a little. Okay, a lot. I didn’t just tear-up; the tears actually dripped down my cheeks. Happy now?!

I am so glad that, as time goes on, there are more books like this, more films like this, more stories told that are so like this one. I even heard that one of the plantations outside of New Orleans is a slave history museum.

Everyone’s story matters.

The One I Love

Okay. I cannot stop telling people about this film. The Mister and I watch a rom-com every Valentine’s Day. This year, this was the closest thing we could find on our Netflix instant queue. I’d heard an interview with star Elizabeth Moss when it came out at the theater this fall, and it went something like this:

I wish we could talk more about it! But, you know, you’ve got that big twist after the couple leaves for a weekend to work out their problems. Like, everything shifts early in the movie, and we just can’t talk about that without giving it all away.

Yes. Thanks. Intriguing!

Basically you’ve got a married couple and their therapist {Ted Danson! Ha!}. He has decided the last resort of saving their marriage should be going away for the weekend to a house in the country that he sends a lot of his couples to. They get there, and then things take a turn in the Twilight Zone direction, music and all. It’s not scary! Just really awesome. Like, on-your-toes, what-the-heck-is-going-on, how-will-this-be-resolved awesome. The kind of awesome where it felt like the whole movie was twenty minutes long.

In other words, rent it.

"About Time", Fresh ScratchAbout Time

I absolutely adored this movie. Adored. Like, I could watch it all the time. It’s not a brainless romantic comedy. It’s smart and has twists, British humor {yay!}, and a wonderful montage in the London Underground. The gist is that this guy finds out that all the men in his family can travel back in time to any moment in their lives at will. But he learns that there are some things you just can’t change, and that one action affects so many outcomes. It’s really a darling movie that will make you laugh and cry, even though that sounds so cliche’. You will fall in love with this couple.

"Inside Llewyn Davis", Fresh ScratchInside Llewyn Davis

In general, I appreciate films by the Coen Brothers, but I don’t love them. Having said that, this has been my favorite of their films. You’ve got sleepy-eyed Oscar Isaac in the lead as Llewyn, a fictional 1960’s folk singer who is trying to get a break after his partner has committed suicide. After only being known as half of a duo, it’s pretty hard to get anyone to take him seriously. So he’s homeless, couch-surfing, and playing at The Gaslight. And there’s a cat. And John Goodman. And Justin Timberlake {does he have to be so good at everything??}. And Carey Mulligan. Ooh, and Garret Hedlund, ladies. And a twist. And great music.

"Tracks", Fresh Scratch, Film ReviewsTracks

I spent a very nice, very chilly evening with my friend Tracy, eating Thai food, gabbing, and watching this very awesome, very inspirational film at the Olympia Film Society {Note to self: OFS is still very chilly in the winter – wear winter boots and bring mittens. Maybe a blanket??}. I’m so glad she invited me, because it was amazing!

Mia Wasikowska stars in this film as the young woman who, in the 1970’s, made her way across the desert in Australia with three camels and a dog. She was sponsored by National Geographic Magazine, in exchange for a pesky photographer meeting up with her every few weeks to snap some photos and document her journey.

Adam Driver plays the photographer {you’ll remember him from This is Where I Leave You, which I reviewed in October}, and he manages to worm his way into your heart, even though he is super-dorky and annoying. Mia gives an amazing performance as a woman who is happiest when she is alone with animals. The bond she forms with these four tugs at the heart – I mean, Tracy cried! I loved this actress in Jane Eyre, and I am beginning to think she is one of our greatest performers. The real stars, though? The Australian extras and the cinematography. This film was brilliantly shot and edited.

"Annie", Fresh Scratch, Film ReviewsAnnie

Emily and I took our girls to see this just a few days after it opened. I still remember when I was probably five years old when I went to see the original with a family friend and my cousin. I insisted on sitting in the front row because I thought it was the best. That must’ve sucked for the grown up!

I wonder if this movie will be as a big of a part of childhood for my girls? There’s quite a bit of merchandising for this one, as there was for the original. We’ve got the locket and the soundtrack and the red dress so far, and I know my older daughter especially loved the urban quality to this tale.

I really enjoyed it! Jamie Foxx plays a great Mr. Stacks. He is arrogant and cold, but somehow loveable. And he can sing, which we already knew, but it was nice to be reminded. Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan? Well, I loved Carol Burnett in the original, so this was hard for me. She really plays this character with a lot of ire, but she lacks the comedic timing I expected for it. Annie herself was spunky and adorable and really, really smart. I love that my girls loved her.

If you haven’t seen this yet with your family, it’s a great one that everyone can manage to enjoy.

"Interstellar", Fresh Scratch, Film ReviewsInterstellar

First of all, no one told me it’s three hours long. So, let me tell you, it’s three. hours. long. And it seems a smidge long at times, but it’s fantastic.

That Matthew McConaughey. He’s so good at every role, isn’t he? I mean, he brings charisma to everything he does.

In this case, he is a dad. This movie really has been especially touching for the dads I know who have daughters. Most of them admit to crying!

The film takes place in the not-too-distant future – a time when all money is spent on the most basic survival: food. The earth is so ravaged that entire crops stop growing, until all that will grow to feed the population is corn. The mid-west is a place of dust storms, a place where all you can dare to dream of is becoming a farmer. McConaughey’s character used to be an astronaut, but there is no longer a space program because all money has been diverted toward food.

Enter his daughter Murphy. She shows all the promise to be a great scientist, but the times just don’t allow for indulging this dream. But her dad does, and it’s beautiful.

You’ve seen the previews, so you know that through some turn of events, he goes to space in order to find a way to save the human race, leaving his daughter back on earth. How that all goes down is exciting and crazy and mind-stretching. I can honestly say this movie has stuck with me so much that I’ve thought about it every day since seeing it. Wow, huh?

It’s worth the ticket.

"Into the Woods", Fresh Scratch, Film ReviewsInto the Woods

I went to see this on my love for Meryl Streep alone. I heard a great interview with her that re-aired on NPR after the Golden Globe nominations came out, and I was intrigued.

Did you know she learned she could do good voice impressions by singing along with Barbara Streisand records as a teenager? Cool.

If you love, love, love musicals, I’m betting you will love this movie. I enjoyed myself – it was funny. Johnny Depp’s wolf was down-right leacherous, and the words to his song made him sound like a pedophile. The princes were arrogant and really had me chuckling.

There is a point where the film reaches a natural ending, but then continues. This is where I got a little restless.

The best part was taking my fourth-grade daughter to her first more adult movie at the theater. She was anxious the whole movie, waiting for something scary to happen. I love that the movie created a new mood for her to experience at the movies.

It’s a toss-up – see it at the theater…or not.

Socked in with fog? Has the snow got you down? Here are some to watch at home:

"Django Unchained", Fresh Scratch, Film ReviewsDjango Unchained

I know. It took me long enough to see this. In my defense, my Netflix queue is almost 300 films strong, with at least 30% of the list being kids’ movies. If I ever stop teaching, I will watch a movie every night instead of grading. Ahh. Heaven.

Gory? Yes. Gratuitous violence? Yes. It’s Tarantino – what do you expect?

However, I will say that I believe this is his best movie. The plot is easy to follow, which isn’t always the case. This tale is told in a linear fashion, and that made a big difference for me. I was really wrapped up in the story and whether or not Django would succeed in getting his wife back. And did you know it’s loosely based on the Norse tale of Sigurd the Volsung?

At it’s heart, though, this film is all about the character development. Our dentist, played by Christophe Waltz {who won an Oscar for this role}? I loved him. Samuel L. Jackson as the butler who inflicts his own types of torture on the other slaves? Hated him. Jamie Foxx as Django? Brilliant. He really is an amazingly talented actor. His character really grows in this movie from a submissive slave to a powerful man.

But the character that is best played? Leonardo DiCaprio as the master of the plantation. Absolutely despicable. He has a knack for playing grimy characters, doesn’t he? You can’t question his talent.

"Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day", Fresh Scratch, Film ReviewsMiss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

This came out probably a decade ago almost, and it’s taken that long to move up in my Netflix queue. Those kids’ movies! I had a student who raved and raved about this being her favorite movie, so on Christmas night the Mister and I watched this to satisfy my curiousity.

It was simple and delightful. I adore Amy Adams. She plays a ditzy actress with a lot of heart in this film, which is a caper, of sorts. She is not Miss Pettigrew, though. That would be Francis McDormand, who plays her unlikely assistant for one day. There are hi-jinks, near-misses, and lots of beautiful people. A perfect escape.

"Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day", Fresh Scratch, Film ReviewsAlexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Honestly, we took our girls to see this this fall against their will. They didn’t love the book, and they acted like we were forcing them into a fate worse than death. It was the weirdest thing. But we all managed to laugh.

We parents went for Steve Carrell {I so miss The Office!} and Jennifer Garner {about as far from her days as Sydney Bristow as she can get!}. The kids loved all the crazy things that happened, especially when Steve Carrell wears the pirate shirt, as seen in the picture above, and has reason to yell, “I’ve still got me arms!”

We say that a lot around here.

Like any good family movie, it was for all of us. At times, I was the only person in the whole theatre who was laughing. And that’s okay.

Rent this for a family night that won’t suck.

"Talk to Me", Fresh Scratch, Film ReviewsTalk to Me

Okay. So you’ve heard me mention the Olympia Film Society pretty often over the years, right? I love it so much. But I don’t have time very often to get my buns down there to see all the indie movies I want to see. Sigh. So after each month or so, I take all the movies on the old flyer that I didn’t see {which is usually about all of them, sadly} and add them to my Netflix. This makes for some funny arrivals. Like, “What the heck? Who put this on there? What is this???” And it always ends up being one I put on there but forgot about. And I always want to just send it back un-watched, but I’m always thrilled that I don’t.

Got all that?

This was one such film. I mean, you’ve got Don Cheadle and the guy from Twelve Years a Slave. And Taraji P. Henson. And Martin Sheen. You just can’t go wrong with a cast like that.

It’s a biopic about Pete Green. Who’s Pete Green, you ask? Well, he was the disc jockey who got the African American community in DC through the Civil Rights movement. He was their voice. It’s an amazing, inspiring story with some awesome soundtrack. I loved it.

"The Wolf of Wall Street", Film Reviews, Fresh ScratchThe Wolf of Wall Street

Ugh. Leo plays one absolutely disgusting dude. He does it so convincingly, too. This movie glamorizes the negative side of human nature. I mean, this is based on real events. And when no one can tell you no because you are so filthy rich, aren’t most people going to do whatever feels good?

If you are a Scorsese fan, totally watch it. He is an amazing director, and this picture must’ve been quite the circus. But if you’re not sure, you may want to sit this one out. You need a strong stomach!

"Rush" movie, Fresh Scratch, Film Reviews, Ron HowardRush

Two words: Ron. Howard.

Bam.

One phrase that comes to mind: “I feel the need – the need for speed.” {I know that’s not from this movie – duh! – but it happens when I watch racing.}

This movie, based on real-life Formula One racing rivals, was. so. good. I loved the story of rivals. And of pushing limits. And of acceptance. Ron Howard can make a movie about an ant farm for all I care – I will love it because he will make me love it. And because he is Richie Cunningham. {I actually had a crush on Potsy, but let’s forget I admitted to that.}

This is Where I Leave You

The Altman family patriarch has just died, leaving four kids, a wife, and a wish that they all remain beneath the same roof together for one week. As the layers peel back, we see the imperfection of each person’s life, but we also see the beauty. The film mostly follows Judd {Jason Bateman}, and I promise your heart will go out to him in a big way. I love those characters that want the messy, happy life instead of the perfect, unhappy one.

Anyway, you will love this film – I promise! Have a kleenex handy, but be ready to laugh, too. I mean, the sister is played by Tina Fey!

"Nebraska" Nebraska is a film that shows us that the simple stories matter. Your little life is not insignificant. I didn’t enjoy this movie, but – as I have told my film students – you don’t need to like a film to appreciate it. I thought it was beautifully shot. And the main character’s wife was hilarious!

"Mr. Sherman and Peabody"I took my girls to the summer $1 movie one morning to see Mr. Peabody & Sherman. It was okay. I like that history is woven through the story, but otherwise it wasn’t that notable.

"Same Time, Next Year"You guys. Same Time, Next Year? So good and so honest.

It’s from the 70’s. It stars Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. It was originally a play. The acting is cheesy, but I love the story, and so many of the lines in it are so, so true. It’s about two people who are both married to others, but they meet up at the same cabin on the same weekend every year and have a decades-long affair that takes the viewer through much of the twentieth century’s big moments. The end will have you at the edge of your seat.

"Rio 2"All my girls really wanted to do this summer was to watch Rio 2. They have seen the first one a bajillion times, so I made sure our last Family Night {that’s what we call Friday nights around here} involved pizza and this flick. I’d say it was not as good as the first, from an adult stand-point. Though these films are flashy, I love the underlying message of saving the rainforests, and I love that there’s a female scientist.

"boyhood"And “Boyhood” – who has seen it?! It is an epic journey. The genius Richard Linklater filmed it over twelve years, so you see this boy grow in real time and see the actors change and age {hello, Ethan Hawke! Still crazy about you after all these years!}. And it’s just a beautiful, simple/complicated story of coming of age and growing and changing – not just for him, but for all the people in his life. It ended so perfectly, too.

I loved how the cars and fashion and music changed so authentically as the story went on. Even the quality of the digital filming improved with each year, and I could notice it. Please, please see it! It reminds you of how poignant life is and how we are all just doing our best, even though we have no idea what the heck we are doing.

"Begin Again"

“Begin Again” is a movie in which I totally lost myself, and those are my favorite kinds. I’d seen huge posters for it all over the Underground in London earlier this month, and I couldn’t wait for the release date.

Some reasons I knew I’d love it?

1) Mark Ruffalo. Hello. You know what I mean, unless you are from Mars.
2) It was written and directed by John Carney, the same dude who made “Once,” which, if you haven’t seen it, you must – pronto.

The story line was engrossing. You’ve got Dan {Ruffalo}, a record label executive who’s fallen on rough times. And you’ve got Gretta {Keira Knightly}, who is about to leave NYC to head back to England, as she just got brutally dumped by the man whom she was pretty much responsible for making a star.

Dan discovers Gretta at an open mic and wants to give her a record deal, only he really can’t. What ensues is not your typical rom-com. It doesn’t play out in the traditional formula, which was refreshing. I think it’s time society explored more of these male-female dynamics that are deeper and more complicated than your average meet/fall in love/have cute dates/get in a fight/get married. Because these relationships actually exist!

With no money for a studio, they record her album all over the city using a hodge-podge of musicians as her band and recording all the ambient city noise into every song. Truly, it’s a beautiful love letter to a beautiful city. And Keira Knightly actually sings! And she sounds good! She’s got the voice of something like “Sixpence None the Richer” or “Frente” – that sweet, 90’s, indie voice.

I walked away smiling. Dan and Gretta have this fabulous night wandering the city, sharing their iPhone playlists with each other. Sharing your guilty pleasure, just-for-me-because-I-love-it music with someone is so soul-baring. I know that sounds over-blown, but it’s so true. It’s a really intimate thing. You can learn so much about a person through their favorite songs. Ever done it?

Dan says to Gretta something about life being like a string of pearls. When you’re young, there are so many pearls. As you get older, the string between them kind of starts to get really long. “This is a pearl, Gretta.” {sigh.}

Indeed.

I love those pearl moments. I try to grab as many of them as I can.

"Chef"

Chef by Jon Favreau – remember the dude from Swingers? That’s mostly how people in my age group remember him.

Mister Fresh Scratch apparently missed me while I was gone in Europe for almost three weeks, and he left me an actual hand-written invitation inside a book of poems (!) to a date night. He gave me two choices and sort of a “check which one you want” type of message. Naturally, we went to see the foodie flick.

This movie was hilarious! A lot of it was funny maybe only if you love to cook or have worked in a restaurant or follow that kind of stuff, but a lot of it could appeal to anyone. But not little kids – lots of f-bombs. It’s about a chef who is tired of being bossed around by the restaurant owners of the world, and he finally strikes out on his own. He gets a food truck and starts cooking the kind of stuff he feels passionately about.

Isn’t that what we all kind of aim for? Maybe not a food truck, but to sort of stick it to the man and strike out on our own, being happy with what we are doing. Right?

It’s also a story of a father and son. It’s so incredibly heartwarming. It weaves in Twitter (major product-placement!) in a really edgy, funny way, too. Twitter actually brings father and son closer together. Who knew?

I can’t not mention that Scarlet Johanssen is in this film. She has an entirely different look as a restaurant hostess. That girl is a chameleon, I tell you!

Anyway, I left the theatre (air conditioned!!) with a smile from ear to ear. I’m guessing that if you at all enjoy reading this blog, you will enjoy Chef.

PS: I’m going to have to buy that soundtrack! So awesome.

"The Grand Budapest Hotel"

The Grand Budapest Hotel, by Wes Anderson.

Going to see this movie solo on a Friday night at the Olympia Film Society was my prize to myself after putting another year of teaching to bed. That’s how I roll. I never drink soda, but I found myself chugging down an orange one. And I sprinkled Junior Mints on my popcorn {try it!} and salted the heck out of it. I mean, go big, right?

And the movie was sublime. It was sort of a heavenly night that I did not want to end. Ever.

I don’t care who you are or what you think of Anderson’s movies, I know you would be lying to me if you told me you didn’t have just one that occupied a special place in your heart. This one knocked Rushmore out of first place for me. And that’s saying something!

First of all, the visual quirkiness and strange symmetry of every single scene and shot is stunning in this film. I’d say it’s his best in the category of cinematography. Then you’ve got crazy characters and an even crazier story line. There’s even some gore! I literally hid my eyes at one point. WHHHHAAATTT?

The story is told from the former lobby boy’s perspective. We meet the man who trained him and to whom he literally owes his life. We see the rise and fall of the posh hotel. There’s an art heist, an inheritance gone awry, and a girl with a funky birthmark. There are trains and prison breaks and – just, you name it! It’s there!

Wes definitely has muses, and they’re here, too. Schwartzman? check. Brody? check. Bill Murray? check. check. check. check to all you are thinking probably.

By now it’s out on dvd/blu-ray. Watch it! You will laugh and cringe and be kind of in a dreamy state when it’s all over. I wish I could live in one of the little worlds Anderson creates.

"The Lego Movie"

The LEGO Movie

I did not even see this with my children. Instead, I was peer pressured into watching it by my friend and co-worker Steve on the flight to Europe. He is sort of a man who loves Legos.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It even had a better message than the theme song, “Everything is awe-soooooooome!” suggested. And it had a funny kitty that was sweet and lived in the land of rainbows but was clearly a little repressed and would get all crazy-eyed at times. I can relate.

The character of Batman was pretty cool, too. So, yeah, okay – this movie wasn’t boring or torturous.

"Dallas Buyers Club"

Dallas Buyers Club

This falls into the category of movie that I know I will be so glad I watched, but I worry will be too hard to watch. You know that kind? But I was wrong.

Wrong!

It wasn’t hard to watch. It was actually humorous at times, thanks to Matthew McConaughey. And thanks to the witty banter between Jared Leto’s character and Matthew’s character. I was so blown away by those two performances. They absolutely deserved their Oscars and worked their butts off {um, literally – they are skin and bones} to earn them.

I always appreciate any film that puts a face and some humanity to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Working with teenagers and film today, I think that they, in particular, need to see more movies like this. This disease is really not on their radar like it was for us growing up, and I worry about them.

Anyway, off my soap box. Rent it. It’s a must-see, for sure.

"Pitch Perfect"

Pitch Perfect

All of my friends kept telling me to see this. And my students. Just the most random mix of people would snort-laugh when they talked about this over the last year. Thanks, Marie, for letting us borrow it. Hilarious!

If you like Glee, you’ll love this. It’s Glee at college, on steroids. Rebel Wilson stole the show as “Fat Amy” – seriously, she got most of my laughs. The songs get kind of tired until about 2/3 of the way through, but then they finally changed it up and it got awesome. The main character’s love interest is such a cutie that you will wish you were in college and seriously in like with him, too. Promise.

But you’ve probably already seen it. Because apparently I am the last person on earth who hadn’t until last week.

the MuppetsT

he Muppets Most Wanted: 

Two Kermits can be confusing on a little kid. Let me start by saying that. This film revolves around Kermit’s kidnapping. His evil look-a-like, Constantine, has busted out of his Siberian prison in order to perform the heist of his little froggy life. He slaps a fake mole on Kermit, gets him caught and sent back to Siberia, and then proceeds to snow the rest of the Muppets while they’re on their European tour.

My Clementine is five and did not like this “bad Kermit.” Just a heads up!

This is not as good as the new Muppet movie a few years ago with sweet Amy Adams. The gems of this one are Tina Fey as a prison warden with a Russian accent and Ty Burrell {Phil on Modern Family} as an Interpol investigator with a French accent. They totally saved the movie for me! I give it a “Meh.”

"Her"

Her:

My film students saw this over Christmas break and wouldn’t stop asking me, “Have you seen it yet? When are you going to see it? I need to talk to you about it!!” Over spring break {opportunities sure are slim when you’re a mom of two little kids – whaaa!} I slipped into the Olympia Film Society {after paying, of course. Just in case it sounded like I didn’t.} with a bunch of, curiously enough, old people.

The movie was about a weird topic, yes – the main character, played by Joaquin Phoenix, falls in love with is operating system, Samantha. But I was able to look past that soon enough. The setting is an LA not too far into the future, where all the men, oddly, wear their pants up really high. Anyway, the entire film was profoundly, profoundly sad. I left totally depressed. But that doesn’t mean it was a bad movie. It wasn’t.

So much of the film involves people not interacting with one another. Rather, they have earpieces in that allow them to communicate with their phones. Their phones read them emails, tell them the weather, you name it. It’s not visual at all anymore; you just put in the earpiece and verbally see what’s up. So all these people are rushing around, seemingly talking to themselves. And Joaquin’s job is actually to learn about people and then write their letters for them – letters to their kids, love letters, whatever. Sob!

We are not far from this at all. In fact, look around. We may not have the earpiece part just yet, but everyone is always looking down at their phones. It is so sad. We’ve all been guilty of it. So falling in love with an OS with artificial intelligence doesn’t seem so weird. It’s like falling in love with someone through letters or over the phone, but without any possibility of meeting up.

Amy Adams is fabulous and sympathetic and not wearing any make up in this film. Her character brings humanity and hope and is totally essential to the likeability of this picture. Hooray, as usual, for Amy!

It comes out on dvd in about two weeks, if you’re curious.

Skyfall:

I know, I’m kind of late to the game on this one. But I think it’s the best Bond movie yet. I love Sam Mendes’ films. And I think Javier Bardem is a brilliant actor, whether playing a good or bad guy. This was a film that made me think, that was action packed without getting boring {I seriously will fall asleep when it just keeps going without making you think}, that had a good amount of Bond cheese-factor, and that had a gorgeous bit of scenery from the Scottish Moors. Not to mention, the city of London itself is a big star. I wanted to bone-up before I find myself there again this summer {with a bunch of high schoolers, so don’t be too jealous}. This movie made me like Bond again after a big hiatus.

**I also watched Miyazaki’s Spirited Away recently. Blech. Too scary and weird. It gave me nightmares.**

the secret life of walter mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty:

My husband and I started seeing little clips of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on tv commercials just before Thanksgiving, and we were intrigued. He thought it looked funny, and I was like, “How have I not heard about this?”, as I am pretty up on pop-culture with teaching a film class. So we made a date to go on the last day of the year.

Can I please just tell you that it blew my mind? That it was amazing? That it was gorgeous? That it was heartbreaking? And frustrating? It was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen in my life. And I have seen a few. It was everything I never expected, and such a perfect cap to the crazy year I’ve had internally.

Wait. What!? Mrs. Fresh Scratch had some sort of crazy year? Yep. I did. I don’t think I’ve felt so much angst about my life since I was a teenager.

A friend joked with me that I have been having a mid-life crisis. I’ve felt like I’ve been jolted off course somehow. Like my trajectory shifted and I just now noticed: I am going the wrong way.

Yikes.

But another friend – someone who has known me since I was a little ninth grader – refers to this instead as a mid-life understanding. And I love that term. Because, really, the angst comes from understanding where you are and where you want to be and that maybe they aren’t in tandem. The understanding is that you need to own a big piece of your life. And you need to own the choices you made that got you to where you are.

And this is what I understand: when I was younger, I didn’t appreciate all of the freedoms I had. I took them for granted. The freedom to choose to live the life I dreamed of. The freedom to chase my crazy dreams. The freedom to go everywhere and to say yes to all the good things. The freedom to make fun mistakes.

And there are lots of big reasons why I didn’t get it. I don’t know that you really can when you’re young unless someone is standing there the whole way, shaking pom poms at us, telling us to say yes even in the face of fear of failure or fear of the imperfect; someone telling us it’s okay to make mistakes. There were a lot of dreams I turned my back on because they weren’t practical or because I was afraid of saying yes to uncertainty.

I think a lot of us hit this place in life where we are drowning in the every day. And somehow we start to remember. We snap out of it. We look around and go, “What the?? Where am I??” Life is short. It’s way too short to operate from fear.

I’m done with living from that place. And I understand more than ever that the girl I once was is the woman that I am now, only with the latest operating system installed. And two kids and a husband. But we’ll keep them around. I am more than ever the girl who likes time to herself, who likes to have fun with nice people, the girl who likes to listen to her tunes loudly, the girl who likes to stare out windows and daydream, and the girl who likes to think deep thoughts and connect it all together with the tip of a pen.

So what the heck does all this have to do with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty??

Walter is stuck. His circumstances caused him to turn his back on his big dreams when he was younger, and now he spends so much time thinking about them that he can barely function in the world. He says no to the people who beckon him to wake up and come back to life and to let it be messy.

Until, one day, he doesn’t say no anymore. With a little 5 o’clock shadow, some amazing soundtrack, a skateboard, some pretty glorious Icelandic views, and a nudge from the always-bad-ass Sean Penn, Walter starts to live the life he had imagined.

Because it is never too late to be the person you wanted to be when you were young.

Because it’s all still waiting for you.

Because the people who love you want you to be your best self.

I could talk about how this film also is a great commentary on technology vs. print, or how it shows us that people are people the world over. Or how Sean Penn’s character is an amazing photographer who sometimes lets the perfect shot go un-taken just to be present in the moment.

I could tell you a lot about all that.

But instead I will say that Ben Stiller – the guy with the big ears who tried to woo Winona Ryder in “Reality Bites” back when we were younger – has given us a gift this winter in directing this film.

The gift?

A simple, hearty shove. Get out there.

"Hunger Games: Catching Fire"

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I will start off by saying I didn’t love the first in this series of films. Peeta’s hair was way too unnaturally blonde for a character from a setting where people don’t have the money or vanity to dye their hair, and it bugged me to no end. He wasn’t the Peeta I’d had in my head when reading the series, and it affected everything. That, and the four-year-old boy with his mom sitting next to me; he was crying to go home because it was too scary, and she was telling him to be quiet so mommy could watch her movie! {People, come on! These movies are not for little ones!}

I snuck off to see this by myself early in the break, and it played to a packed theatre, even though it had been showing for nearly a month. There had been enough years since I had read the book that I couldn’t quite remember the details, and so I could resist comparisons this time and just enjoy it. It was so much more emotional than the first film. Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar-winning performance in the amazing Silver Linings Playbook has helped me to see her differently, and I feel like she gave more to the character of Katniss than last time. She is still guarded, but we see more of her heart as her world is being ripped away from her in this film.

The special effects were awesome, as was the feeling of teamwork among the characters. The train seemed cooler than before, too. The cinematography – which I loved in the first film – is again what really shines; expansive, wide, establishing shots while in her home district, and tight, close-up shots while in the arena to heighten that feeling of being hunted. Brilliant.

And Peeta’s hair? Nailed it. It’s the blonde that is the real blonde of a teenaged boy, thankyouverymuch. It made me believe his character and believe his relationship to Katniss, and it made me root for him. I played right into their hands: it’s such a cliffhanger for the third – and final – installment! If you’re at all a fan, you should totally go see it.

"American Hustle"

American Hustle:

I hereby crown David O. Russell as the king of the gritty movie.

You know I am in love with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. This is a perfect bookend to a holy trinity of films by one auteur. He goes big here.

He gets human nature and he just pins it on the screen for us to squirm around in our seats over. And he does it with humor. Painful humor at times, but humor nonetheless. Bradley Cooper with his hair in perm rollers? Christian Bale {remember how handsome he was in Little Women with Winona Ryder, ladies?!} performing the most painful and disgusting comb-over in the history of hair? Jennifer Lawrence dusting her house while angrily singing along to “Live and Let Die” in front of her character’s little boy? All so sad, but performed with just enough tongue-in-cheek to make you comfortable.

I am not going to give the plot away. Sorry! Let’s just say there’s some conning going on in this movie.

Here’s what rocked about this film: the setting {late 70’s early 80’s NYC/NJ?! Awesome}; the costumes {specifically, Amy Adams’ costumes}; um, Amy Adams {everything she touches is golden}; the soundtrack {wicked}, the way it starts off with you wondering if you are going to be able to get into it, and mid-way through has you locked into a maze with no idea where you’re going to go – but you’re excited about it – and by the end has you rooting for all the wrong people; Jennifer Lawrence’s crazy character who thinks she knows everything; Jeremy Renner’s convincing performance that made me like him for the first time.

I loved going to see it with my brother and realizing he talks as much during movies as I do.

I love that David O. Russell’s movies can really only be appreciated by adults who have done a little bit of living. Teenagers just wouldn’t get it on the level on which I think it’s meant to be understood. I think a person who hasn’t lived long enough would not find much to love in Russell’s characters in any of his films, but someone who has can see that there is good in anybody. And that there is bad in everybody. And that is normal. And it shines in his films. He sees that everyone has a deeper story and then gives the viewer a chance to get to know them. Truly, that kind of depth of character is rare in films that make any sort of money these days. He’s tapped into the right audience.

I can’t wait to see what happens at the Oscars! I’m expecting a little bit of love to be shown in the direction of this film.

"Frozen"

“Frozen”: Not gonna lie: not far after the beginning of this film, my date {a sweet, four-year-old daughter o’ mine} begged to go home.

I said, “No.”

So, yeah, I liked this movie!

I took Clementine to see it the day after Thanksgiving after reading a great review for parents on Common Sense Media dot org. For those of you who haven’t been bombarded by all the commercials {this is by Disney, after all}, it takes place on a fjord in Scandinavia. Two princesses become estranged as one tries to hide her embarrassing – and potentially dangerous – power to turn things to ice. When the younger sister finds love with a prince, all bets are off.

Elsa storms off, leaving the town in a permanent state of winter, and her sister Anna goes on a quest to find her. With the help of a hilarious snowman named Olaf and an oddly-cute-for-a-cartoon-guy named Christophe, she makes headway. There are a few short, scary scenes {wolves chasing your sleigh? a sister who has gone rogue and is embracing her icy-ness? a blast of ice to the heart, anyone?}, but nothing like how these movies usually go.

And the reason Clementine wanted to leave? The love stuff. If someone’s giving someone else the batting eyelashes, it’s all over with her.

In the end, the big message is that you don’t need a boy to save you – you need your sister. And for this mama of two girls, that’s a message I can rally behind.

George Clooney in "Gravity"

See George Clooney in Gravity – because even in a space suit, he still can turn on the charm and wit like nobody’s business. I mean, I went to see “Gravity” the first weekend it came out because of the wonderful things I had heard about the director, about Sandra Bullock’s performance, about how the film had been made, and about how it was a big-budget film that was still laden with enough humanity that it was being shown- and well-recieved! – at film festivals. But you know what? It’s all a lot of pretty and intense packaging around, well, George Clooney. Thank you, powers that be. Yes, it is insane how on the edge of my seat I was. Yes, the special effects totally freaked me out. Yes, see it in 3-D! Yes, I cried, okay?! Sandra Bullock was really good {sniff!}. And, yes, it even made me angry. It was the first time I really thought about how much trash and stuff we have floating around in space. How will we clean that up? Is there even a plan for that? And it even made me remember how badly I had wanted to be an astronaut as a kid after seeing “Space Camp.” Remember that one?

Before_Midnight_poster

Before Midnight“: It all started when I was eighteen. I had a crush on Ethan Hawke, and saw his movie poster for a little film called “Before Sunrise.” I rushed to the theatre, and it left an indelible impression on my young, romantic mind. It’s the film where Jesse and Celine meet and fall in love over a night’s worth of wandering around the city of Vienna and talking about everything in the way that introspective college kids do. He has to catch a flight home the next morning, and she needs to catch a train. They vow to meet on the platform in six months. Will they or won’t they? Nearly a decade of making boyfriends watch this ensued.

Flash forward nine years. I am pregnant with my first child and see another poster, this time with the title “Before Sunset.” And there are Jesse and Celine, walking the streets of Paris. I went solo to see it at the Olympia Film Society. The lightness of the first movie had gone away, as we found out what had happened when they were supposed to meet up. They discuss big things like marriage without laughter, parenthood, the environment, and the brevity of life, all against the stunning backdrop of the city of lights. Their conversations are not at all unlike those I have had in real life. Before Jesse catches his flight home, he drops her off at her apartment, and it’s “will they or won’t they?” all over again, but in a whole new way.

So I wondered fervently, “Did they or didn’t they?!” for nine more years, until, at last, I saw a trailer for “Before Midnight.” I made my cousin Evie have a movie marathon with me of the first two in the trilogy one afternoon in Hawaii last spring after she had just given birth. We rushed to the Olympia Film Society as soon as we could after she arrived for a visit in July. The back drop was Greece this time. And there was Ethan’s Jesse; scruffy, scrawny, relaxed, and so cute after all these years. And there was Julie Delpy’s Celine; radiant, fashionable, and with the body of a woman who had given birth {yay for reality!}. I let out a big sigh and was in heaven for the next two hours.

But the next two hours were not heaven-ly. I think I read somewhere that this movie was described as more explosive than the action movies at the the theatres this summer, due to a huge fight. And, oh, my, was it a doozy. And what they argued about mattered to me on so many levels. It mattered because it was them, and they’ve sort of become my touchstones in life, as corny as that may sound. For the first film, I was young and had stars in my eyes. For the second, I was just about to have my world rocked by motherhood, and for this, I was approaching ten years of marriage and all that a lengthy relationship entails. And it mattered to me because they said things that either my husband and I have said to one another in hurt or in anger, or they said things that I have only thought but have been too afraid to say. They go there. It was gritty, gritty, gritty. And so real. And you see that it is normal that love changes. It’s normal that it grows deeper and becomes less than love all at the same time. It’s normal to get bored, and it’s normal to get frustrated, and it’s normal to want to bail.

And Jesse’s left me thinking for months about a line of his. Something about how we’re only really free for such a tiny time in life; those years between leaving home and having a child. It left an ache.

Director Richard Linklater hooked up with these two actors back when they were in their early twenties, and they’ve written each of the smart screenplays together. Because Julie Delpy has a voice in the process, her character never says some stupid, shmarmy thing that a woman wouldn’t really say. You can trust her. She’s fierce. And both actors have experienced so much of life in the last eighteen years; careers, failed marriages, children; they know what’s up and they put it into the dialogue. I think these movies are brilliant and raw, and I would thank them if I could for being so honest. And for revisiting Jesse and Celine every nine years or so.

I think this trilogy is the real love story of generation x.

PS: Please don’t try to watch them out of order or you won’t get it!

"Management"

Management“: Matt wanted to watch this after we got home from our anniversary trip to Bend, Oregon this summer because it was filmed in Bend. It was a B movie, but it made my husband cry. But he cries at every movie, so don’t let that sway you too much. Basically, our male lead stalks Jennifer Aniston’s sad business woman character each time she is in town and staying at the hotel he runs with his parents. And then they fall in love. Meh. I couldn’t turn away, though, because it was all so unbelievable and pathetic and sad!

"The Peaceful Warrior"

Peaceful Warrior“: Remember after-school specials when we were growing up? This is like one of those. A bad one. I think Nick Nolte’s character says every cliche known to man. My students recommended this to me years ago. Obviously they hadn’t seen a good movie yet. Ouch!

"New York, I Love You"

New York, I Love You“: Fascinating! We loved this movie so much. It’s an ensemble piece, but not just any ensemble piece. Each vignette is directed by someone different, and one director was Natalie Portman. Basically, there are tons of roughly ten minute vignettes of people meeting or in different situations across NYC, and here and there a person from one vignette crosses paths with another in a different vignette. I thought it was brilliant because, if you’ve ever spent time in New York City, then you know that it doesn’t feel as gigantic as it is. This illustrates that phenomena. Ethan Hawke’s in it {bonus!}, and what his character says will make you blush. And you’ve got Bradley Cooper, Robin Wright, Orlando Bloom, Christina Ricci, and so, so many more talented actors. I never wanted it to end!

"Despicable Me, II"

Despicable Me 2“: Minions. Steve Carrell as the voice of Gru. Fart guns. Minions. Need I say more?

"Monsters U"

Monsters University“: Too scary for little ones. I mean, who wants to watch kids sleeping peacefully in their beds who then get terrorized by monsters collecting the energy from their screams? Not my kids. We only watched the whole thing because we were at the drive-in and couldn’t get out.

"Happy Feet"

Happy Feet“: I know it came out a while ago, but I took Clementine to see this for $1 one morning at the mall this summer. We loved it. Except for the scary, evil-looking seal. It was so cute. And Robin Williams has a voice in it which totally cracked me up. It has a fabulous undertone of environmentalism in Antarctica, which was nice to see. It gave us a lot to talk about. And it gave my daughter the desire to take a tap class – bonus!

 

 

silver-linings-playbook

Silver Linings Playbook“: For some reason, I want to start off saying that I am not one of those ladies who is ga-ga over Bradley Cooper. Back when he was on “Alias,” he was cute, but baby ducks are cute. And Jennifer Lawrence? I wasn’t super-impressed with her in “The Hunger Games.” So when she won the coveted Best Actress Oscar this year for her role in this film, my curiosity was piqued. And when the camera kept cutting to Mr. Cooper in the front row, crying and laughing and hanging on her every word, it was clear to me that they had experienced a huge connection while working on this film.

With Robert DeNiro.

Plus, she seems lovably dorky in real life, and I may know some people like that. Um, sign me up.

I watched this before I took my Ambien on the way to London: totally worth staying up for.

Here’s the thing: it’s gritty. It doesn’t quite seem locked to any one time period. It’s not flashy. It almost feels low-budget in the way “Good Will Hunting” did – they don’t need to hook you with anything but the awesome storyline. And hook you they do.

You’ve got Bradley Cooper’s character: he has spent eight months at a mental facility after going ape on his wife’s lover and discovering he has been living with bi-polar for his whole life. He’s released to the custody of his parents, who certainly have their own issues. He is trying hard to be a better man for his wife, with whom he really wants to get back together. He is like a walking self-help book, but also a ticking bomb at the same time.

And we’ve got Jennifer Lawrence’s character: she has recently lost her young husband in an accident. She’s been escaping by sleeping with everyone she knows. She loves ballroom dancing, but has never had a partner. She’s got a mouth on her and also suffers from mental illness.

They make a deal that forces them to spend time together, and it just breaks your heart in all the best ways. And Robert DeNiro playing his dad? So vulnerable. This film was just absolutely brilliantly cast. I loved every second of it. If you’ve been afraid that it’s too heavy and therefore haven’t watched it, it’s not what you think.

You can do it!

the-avengers-

Marvel’s The Avengers“: Meh. I know! I know! Everyone loved this flick last summer, and it made serious bank. Here’s why I think I diverged from popular opinion…

…I love Pepper Potts. You by now know that I love all things Gwyneth, and her nerdy – yet flirty – turn as Pepper is so incredibly entertaining. And I find Robert Downey, Jr.’s “Iron Man” to be absolutely lovable. He is funny and really an unlikely hero. And he needs Pepper to make it all work. I loved all of his scenes in this film, but there just weren’t enough. And there wasn’t enough Pepper Potts! I guess that’s why it was not called “Iron Man.” Or “Pepper Potts.” Hello – I am slow sometimes!

Will you be mad if I say I fell asleep near the end?

This is 40

“This Is 40”: Out of all the movies I watched on the return flight from Munich {a day of travel where I succeeded in staying awake for nearly 24 hours so as to stave off jet-lag!}, this was by far my absolute favorite. If you haven’t seen it, you must. Today. And then tomorrow. It’s that good.

It made me laugh out loud over and over {on a plane full of sleeping people}, cover my eyes, groan, gasp, cringe, get a little teary, and probably yell, “No he/she didn’t!!” more than once. The last movie that did this to me was Meryl Streep’s “It’s Complicated,” so it’s been a few years. And my poor co-worker Steve – he watched it on the plane, then he told me to watch it so we could talk about it, then I kept hitting him while I watched it or pausing my movie and his to be like, “What!!?? This is so good!” And when it was over we had a four-hour conversation inspired by the film, and he never got to finish the movie he was watching. I am sure he will be oh-so-happy to see me at the end of the summer when we are back at school.

This story – minus a few things and plus a few things – is what my life is like. Except I am not forty. Not YET. But it’s out there, man.

It touches on everything about being part of a marriage with kids and being an adult in mid-life: body-image, time alone, raising kids, having a career, wanting to be wanted, wanting to still be you, money, your parents still driving you nuts, date night – you name it. It’s all right here. No one knows what the heck they’re doing as a spouse or parent or even as a grown-up, and this movie is not afraid to show you.

I could point out the specific parts of the movie that I totally related to, but I have to keep some mystery from Mr. Fresh Scratch, who is so sweet that he reads this every day. We’ll talk later, okay?

"Jack Reacher"

“Jack Reacher”: Co-worker Steve had this on his iPad, and the domestic part of our journey had no free movies, so we grabbed a splitter for the head phones and watched this.

Are you a fan of Tom Cruise? I am a fan of his acting. And I think he did not smile even one time in this movie, which was too bad, because it is Tom Cruise we are talking about. But I digress.

This had brilliant cinematography and awesome chase scenes while he was driving that sweet ride in the picture above. And the plot kept turning in on itself, making me re-think everything I thought I had figured out, which I like. I enjoy a movie that keeps me on my toes.

The basic plot is that Jack Reacher is a rogue investigator who is super-smart, and he comes in to help exonerate an old Army buddy who is being charged with a killing-spree. There are meth-heads who are plotting against him, but you know it will be okay in the end, because, hey, it’s Tom Cruise. Right?

Very entertaining. Just the kind of movie that would’ve been fun to see at the drive-in.

gatsby

“The Great Gatsby”:

Carey Mulligan’s Daisy says his name perfectly and breathlessly: “Gatsby.”

After witnessing Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, that’s how I hear his name in my brain. There’s just no going back to plain old “Jay Gatsby.”

Opulent. The latest incarnation of this film can be described in no lesser term. It is a true feast for the eyes. Everything is big and glittering and full of promise. From the moment the film began, it was everything I’d visualized as the high school student who read it more than once…for fun.

So what if a lot of the set is digital. Doesn’t Gatsby believe in a perfection that doesn’t actually exist?

While the supporting cast of this film is brilliant {Loud and crazy Isla Fisher as loud and crazy and colorful Myrtle? Seeing BFFs DiCaprio and Toby Maguire together? Carey Mulligan’s Daisy Buchanan, with her perfect skin? Amazing!}, one absolutely is haunted by DiCaprio’s performance as Gatsby. He brings absolute heartache and longing to the role. He is a man of a thousand expressions, and they are put to magnificent use here. As an audience member, I couldn’t help feeling on eggshells, like things were about to crack any moment, because Gatsby’s desperation was played so close beneath the surface of his suave exterior. So close, there was no way to miss it. DiCaprio’s Gatsby isn’t just a guy who is hoping to get the girl – he is the guy who is obsessed – dare I say, delusional and stalker-like? Oscar nomination, please? He brought an intensity to the role that has been missing from every other Gatsby. You feel like his very existence depends upon Daisy leaving Tom to be with him. And I suppose it does.

Truly, his character broke my heart. It’s the same reason why I read this book a few times in high school: who doesn’t relate? Who doesn’t think – when you are young – that if you were just a bit more, well, more – that all-important person would come back? When you are young, you don’t understand that you are enough. You’re too afraid to be as-is, because how boring is that? And you think you have all the time in the world, so of course Daisy will wait for you to become rich while she foresakes all other men. Uh, no, my friend. That is not how the world works! But we couldn’t see it then, could we?

All of this – combined with the hip-hop music, the signature Luhrmann cinematography, the desolate Valley of Ashes – is just as it was meant to be. I can’t help but think Fitzgerald would’ve loved it. I certainly enjoyed all of the homage paid to his words as they visualized – quite literally – on screen, leaving us with the book’s memorable, often-used last line:

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Meanwhile, can I please have Nick Carraway’s bungalow?

"Admission" poster
I would look at Paul Rudd like that, too, Tina.

“Admission”: Who does not love Tina Fey? Well, okay, maybe Sarah Palin. But, otherwise? And Paul Rudd had me at that look he gave Alicia Silverstone at the end of “Clueless.” Oh, and he pretty much had me throughout all of “The Object of My Affection” {remember that one? with Jennifer Aniston?}. This movie was a perfect escape. It was funny, it was a little provocative at times, I laughed out loud, I gasped once;  you know, it was a fun ride. It was so much fun, in fact, that when the lights came back on in the theatre, I found myself in that confused state in which few movies besides a good romantic comedy can put me: the state of where am I? Oh, yeah. I am not with Paul Rudd. Oh. Right. I am married to the Mr. And I don’t live in New England. That’s right. Sigh. The movie did not change my life, but it did transport me from mine, and with no mind-altering substances involved! Sometimes that’s pretty dang fun. After lots of lame rom-coms, this was very refreshing.

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind”: Yes. Seriously. I am really writing about that movie. It took me decades to watch this again. It’s one of many child-inappropriate movies my parents let me watch on HBO when I was under the age of five. {You read that right.} And my mom still defends that it was okay because they told me it was “all pretend.” I won’t go into my great childhood fear of aliens coming to get me while I slept. Maybe another time.

Anyway, I show “Super 8” to my film students each semester, and it has been compared to what Spielberg did with this film {probably since the Spielberg-worshipping JJ Abrams directed it and Spielberg produced it}. Right away, I will say I like “Super 8” way better. We didn’t have the really cool special effects yet at the time “Close Encounters” was made. Now we do. Nice, eh? Now that I’ve made that statement, though, I will say that this movie still gives me the willies, especially near the beginning. Richard Dreyfuss on the train tracks? Genius suspense. The kid wandering off into the night? Oh. my. gawd. There’s a reason Spielberg is a pillar of film making. You can find good proof here. It’s totally a fun movie for a summer night with lots of popcorn.

“The Artist”: Five Oscars, right? A cute dog, right? Silent for most of it, right? Right. And yet, I did not love it. It takes a dark turn that I just did not see coming, and I couldn’t recover. The beginning is the best part. I was totally bummed when I finally saw this after all the hype. It was a snore-fest. Anyone with me?

“50/50”: I pretty much want Joseph Gordon-Levitt to be my little brother. Or at least to live next door {with Zooey Deschanel because, come on!, did you see “500 Days of Summer”?!}. This movie was one of the better ones I’ve watched lately. The Mr. and I cried. And cringed. And laughed. And took deep breaths. It was very heavy. If you don’t know, it’s about a young man who finds out he has cancer and doesn’t have much of a shot at making it. We watch him go through the process and all the emotions as he comes to terms with this new direction. Seth Rogen plays his BFF, and he stays beside him {though kind of crudely!} every step of the way. It was nice to see a movie about the power of male friendship. And Bryce Dallas Howard, whom I think is massively talented at playing the mean rhymes-with-hitch, is right on par for the role of nasty girlfriend who can’t hack being with a guy with cancer. Definitely one to watch, but have some kleenex on-hand!

“Morning Glory”: Oh, I wanted to love this film; I really did. Diane Keaton? Harrison Ford? Harrison Ford?! You know the special feelings I have toward Ben Affleck? Well, I have had them for Harrison since college, ever since the night I dreamed he was Indiana Jones and we kissed, and then the theme song from the movie came on and he laughed and I woke up. There’s even a poster of him in my classroom. {ooh. maybe i should get a ben affleck poster, since it’s film class and all…} True story. Anyway, even Harrison could not rescue this movie. Rachel McAdams is just too peppy. One fun part? The guy who plays Phil on “Modern Family” makes an appearance, and his character is very un-Phil. Super fun. Otherwise, notsomuch.

“The Lord of War”: Conjure up the sound of a loud buzzer. That’s what I think of when I think of this movie. It was so terrible. So. Terrible. It’s about the black market for guns from America to other nations. The facts about the illegal sale of weapons from our great nation to nations at war, which are listed at the end, were very disconcerting – the kind of stuff you want to close your eyes for, while also plugging your ears and going, “Lalalalalaaaa!”Nicolas Cage is the bad guy who sells the weapons. Remember when Nicolas Cage was awesome? There was nothing to like about it. Nothing. If you want to watch a movie about people doing illegal things, watch “Blow” with Johnny Depp.

“Drop Dead Gorgeous”: An oldie but a goodie, circa 1999. Kirsten Dunst as a teenager – so cute! Amy Adams {yes, that Amy Adams!} in her very early twenties – spectacular! This was a black comedy about the world of beauty pageants, filmed in a faux-documentary style, a’la “Best in Show.” It’s time for the regional pageant that feeds into the state pageant, which takes a winner to the nationwide pageant! OMG! But someone is killing off the contestants and sabotaging things left and right. Who could it be? Totally mindless entertainment. Loved it.

“Magic Mike”: I am getting old. Or Matthew McConaughey is getting old. Either way, when my cousin Evie and I saw this at the theatre last summer, the best part was that one of the, oh, four people in the theatre was a really old little lady with a walker. And when there was the first scene in the strip club, she hooted and said something like, “Yeahhhh, boyyyyy!” This film was terrible. And the main actress in it was terrible. A total waste of my moolah. I can’t believe it’s a Soderbergh film! But, yes, Channing Tatum is a totally cute guy. Yes. I am with you there.

“Midnight in Paris”: I will say up-front that I have not had the privilege of visiting Paris yet. The city of lights has always seemed enticing and romantic, but this film gave it a whole new, enchanting sheen. Our protagonist is a successful Hollywood screenwriter – perfectly and earnestly played by Owen Wilson – who comes to his favorite city on a vacation with his beautiful-but-superficial fiance – played by Rachel McAdams. He spends a lot of time alone, walking the cobblestoned streets and finding inspiration to finish the novel that is his real love. Like me, he has a fascination with the Paris of the 1920’s we all have read about; a world filled with Hemingway {who, as a writer, is pretty much God to me}, F.Scott Fitzgerald and his zany wife Zelda, dark bars, the perfect cocktail, flapper dresses, and Picasso. I had watched zero previews for this, so it was a lovely surprise when the film took a magical turn as our main character found himself among the greats each night at midnight by hopping into an old-fashioned car.

Hemingway gives him advice on love and writing. He shows his novel to Gertrude Stein. He has an attraction to the girlfriend of Picasso, beautifully and sweetly played by Marion Cotillard. He finds inspiration and spark, things missing in his own life in the twenty-first century. He tries to explain it to his fiance, and I think you know where this is going. It was a delightful ride. It smacked of Woody Allen with the snappy dialogue, of course, but it didn’t get overly-cerebral. It reminded me of The Curse of the Jade Scorpion with its fun-factor.

In short, I adored this movie. I’d watch it again and again. For this busy mama, that’s saying something.

“To Rome with Love”: The best thing about this film is, hands-down, Rome. It definitely is a love-letter to the city. In the end, I felt like my husband and I had just enjoyed a walk around the city and relived some of the best dates we ever had from our trip there almost five years ago. The second-best thing about this film was the cute little Italian man who won our hearts with Life Is Beautiful. His character was precious and baffled, and he was just adorable. Basically, what we have here is a bunch of different stories going on, and most of them don’t even overlap with one another. I was constantly like, “What does this have to do with anything?” In the beginning, the introduction to each little sideshow was hilarious, but each lost steam. The most annoying part of this film was Ellen Page. Her character was such a poseur, and the spark that develops between her and the nerdy guy who played the founder of Facebook in that other movie? Absolutely unbelievable. And Alec Baldwin’s character? I wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be real or some sort of a ghost. The film was very random. Certainly there are better Woody Allen movies out there – Annie HallMatch Point – but I wouldn’t put this in a list among those classics.

“Lincoln”: I was thrilled to see Daniel Day-Lewis win the Golden Globe this year for his performance as Honest Abe. I can’t believe that a man with such a deep, bellowing brogue was able to pull up the light, high, quiet voice he gave to Lincoln. He walked differently. He had a funny tic with his head. Everything about him just seemed to sort of shape shift to form the image of one of our most beloved presidents. Daniel Day-Lewis is a method actor. This means basically that he really researches his characters and makes very thoughtful choices about how he will play them, and then, well, then he embodies them. That sounds creepy, I know. But, by all accounts, he pretty much was Abe Lincoln on and off the set while making this movie. It’s amazing the ways people tap into their creativity.

And the movie – so touching. I cried at least four times, and you know I’m the ice queen at films. The wardrobes were so impressive. The set of DC in Civil War times caught me off guard – it’s hard to imagine a city so metropolitan ever being the size of my hometown today. And the tension between Lincoln and Mary, his wife? So great that I noticed in nearly every seen where they are together, a window was open. No matter the season. It was an intriguing touch. I love that, with all the facets of Lincoln’s life and presidency to choose from, Spielberg {I bow down to you!} chose to make this movie about the moment in time when Lincoln chose to “feed two birds with one seed” – as my very peace-loving husband likes to say. He chose to hold off a talk of peace with the confederacy – and keep even the possibility of peace secret – in order to push Congress up against the wall: the amendment creating equality for all races would effectively force the South to surrender. Peace was going to have to come no matter what, but Lincoln used the moment to his advantage. I love that. And I loved reflecting later that something like that would be impossible today — too much technology for those kinds of secrets and delays. The perfect storm, as they say. So go and see Mr. Day-Lewis while it’s still in theatres. You may want to introduce him to shampoo while you watch, but you will have your breath taken away, nonetheless.

“Les Miserables”: I think that “Les Mis” is akin to many other special experiences in life {ahem}; you never forget your first time. For me, I had seen this book by Victor Hugo on our shelf after Mr. Fresh Scratch moved in and had always thought, “Oh, hellll no. There’s no way he read that whole thing. And there’s no way I am going to touch that.” But then, a few years ago, the previous theatre teacher and director at the high school where I teach announced he was leaving. Gasp! He was amazing. His swan song would be “Les Mis.” As you all know, I’d never read it. It looked scary. How the heck would he do this? Y’all, he was brilliant. It was amazing. The sets were simple, but still loom large in my memory. Seeing my students shine and belt it out and look grubby is something I can’t even measure with words. I cried. It stuck with me. It touched me deeply. I was moved. Forever and ever, amen. I became a lover of “Les Mis.”

Cousin Anne and I pushed our husbands to go see it on our fabulous end-of-2012 double date. To be honest, the dudes fidgeted the entire length of the movie. And that’s a long time. If you haven’t seen it or heard about it, you are likely living beneath a rock, but you also likely may not know it’s really long. It’s also epic and grand and dirty under its fingernails. Hugh Jackman is so broken when the story opens that you can’t even tell it’s Hugh Jackman. He is such a tender Jean val Jean. Russell Crow? Meh. Stodgy. Uptight. Looked uncomfortable singing. Everyone else was wonderful and raw. Seeing it on a big screen was amazing, as it’s a larger-than-life production. And there was a cute boy that my nieces keep pinning pictures of on Pinterest. But what stole the show for me was the acting of Helena Bonham-Carter and Sasha Baron-Cohen. As the innkeepers, they are filthy, raunchy, and moral-less. But hysterical. We don’t hear enough about their performances. Anne Hathaway? Heartbreaking. But I’m telling you, the innkeepers make the movie. They are ruthless and shocking and make you uncomfortable. But back to my opening line: you never forget your first time. For the millions spent on this production, nothing will ever hold a candle to those kids on the high school stage. I really think, in the case of “Les Mis”, the first time is the best time.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”: I went to see this at the Olympia Film Society with some of my book club girlfriends a couple nights after Christmas. The movie absolutely brought the book to life for me in a way that I  loved. It’s rare, but I enjoyed the movie way more than the book {and the author was the screenwriter!}. A big reason is that the setting came alive: the early nineties – when I was in high school. Ding, ding, ding! And the music? Sigh. Anytime I hear “Come on, Eileen,” I am guaranteed to love everything and everyone. The movie starred Logan Lerman as our main character. He is so sweet. He reminded me of my first love. Who doesn’t like to be reminded of that? Then you’ve got the pixie Emma Watson, who was sassy and vulnerable and always fashionable. Finally, the guy who stole the show – Ezra Miller. Oh. my. goodness. I think he should be nominated for some sort of award. He was electric. So see the move; skip the book. In my humble opinion.

“Trouble with the Curve”: Okay. So this looked promising in the few previews I saw on tv earlier this fall, but I figured I’d likely see it on dvd. I mean, I rarely get away to the theatre to see something I want to see {two small daughters will do that to you}. I wasn’t going to put it at the top of my list because, well, let’s be honest here: in the last few movies Clint Eastwood has made, someone dies. And it feels very tragic, sad, and heavy. I’ve walked away feeling like I just saw a fantastic movie that was also very heartbreaking.

This movie? I am going to give you a spoiler: no one dies! And with a cast that includes the ever-effervescent Amy Adams and the surprisingly {still!} funny Justin Timberlake, not to mention the creepy guy from the early “Scream” movies, Eastwood’s more humorous side is played up. He’s got such a great, totally dry sense of humor, and it completely shines in this movie. I just loved it. I’m so glad it was the only decent choice when my friend Carie and I finally got a date on the calendar to see a movie earlier this fall.

It’s about a man {uh, that’d be Clint Eastwood’s character} who is an aging baseball scout in the South. He gets sent on one last scouting trip to prove he’s still got it, and his high-powered attorney daughter {that’d be Amy Adams’ character} joins him in North Carolina to see what’s up with his extra-extra crotchetiness. She discovers a lot of things on her trip: her dad needs a doctor, Justin Timberlake’s character is pretty endearing, she kind of hates her job, and she also has a lot of potential as a scout.  The dynamics between the characters are complex, and the chemistry between all the major actors is amazing. My eyes were riveted to the screen, I laughed a lot, and I found myself remembering how much I used to love baseball. This keeps happening to me!

Any movie that reminds me of my love for that game has got to be good, as I’ve purposely shunned it for years {see my review of “Moneyball.}. That’s my barometer for an excellent baseball movie. Any movie with Amy Adams is fabulous in my book, so it’s got that going for it, too. I love how she plays all these different kinds of women, but something about her shines through in each performance that is so very…her. George Clooney’s the same way – they’ve got a special kind of charisma. For Eastwood at his finest, definitely go see this film. You will not leave with a heavy heart for a change!

“Argo”: Oh. my. goodness. I’ve been saying it for years, – and, as a lover of films and as a film studies teacher, I feel like I have a leeetle bit of cred {not much!} – but Ben Affleck is THE NEXT BIG THING as far as directors go. Seriously. First, go see “Argo” and contribute to the good numbers the film is getting at the box office. Then, rent “Gone, Baby, Gone” and “The Town,” his previous directorial efforts: they are amazing. They pay homage to the gritty areas outside of Boston and keep you barely on the edge of your seat. But “Argo”? “Argo” takes it up a notch, because “Argo” is based on a true story, is kind of a period piece (my childhood!), and was filmed in Turkey.

Benny took on a huge, pretty recently de-classified event in our history – the extraction of the six Americans who escaped the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Iran and went into hiding in Tehran during Carter’s administration – and did it absolute justice, bringing it to life {albeit probably much more dramatically and oh-my-god-they-might-make-it-out-by-mere-seconds!} for those of us who were just learning to tie our shoes when it happened. We already know how it’s going to end, but he made me doubt it. I love that he got to the script first. I love that he’s into telling the truth. I pretty much love everything about Ben Affleck, no apologies to my husband who, I am pretty sure, already knows this.

He acts in the movie as Tony Mendez, the man from the CIA who was responsible for not only coming up with the long-classified {everyone thought it was the Canadians who were responsible for getting these folks out at the time for lots of political reasons, but it was actually this dude from the CIA – I love this kind of stuff!} actual idea of smuggling the Six out of Tehran during the hostage crisis by setting up a fake movie called “Argo” that was scouting the area for location purposes {the six being his “Canadian crew”}, but also doing the actual extraction. He plays the part absolutely seriously.

The film is completely spot-on with accuracy to the time period – the music, the clothes, the smoking happening everywhere, the cars, the cans of Miller….it’s totally legit as far as the time setting goes. His pacing is unbelievable, which is what I noticed from the other films, too. He unravels a story in such a way that I feel like I just might have a heart attack before the age of forty because he pulls you ever so slowly, yet ever so urgently, toward the film’s climax. My poor husband – I feel like I’ve never talked so much during a movie. Have I mentioned yet that I totally cried near the end? And I quite nearly never cry at movies; “Titanic” took all my tears in my twenties – please don’t judge.

There weren’t often subtitles for the Farsi spoken in the film, which helped the viewer feel the sense of panic and isolation of the Six. The casting was impeccable, and Victor Garber {the only witness to Ben and Jen’s wedding, fyi! I am such a fountain of knowledge.} as the Canadian Ambassador? Perfection. During the credits, the real Six’s passports were shown side-by-side with the fake ones of the cast in the movie – uncanny. The shots were amazing. Lots of them were totally close-ups and mid-shots to contribute to the feeling of isolation, but my favorite was one at the very end, where everything was out of focus but the two characters in the scene. It stood out from the rest of the film, and I liked that.

Make plans for date night. Get your buns to this movie. I think it’s going to be Mr. Affleck’s turn to get another statue this winter, and you will want to see why.

“Moneyball”: Looooo-hoooooved it! I am a fan of the baseball movie, I will admit. My husband may be shocked to know that, for most of my life, I loved all things baseball. I loved watching my brother play Little League. I loved eating candy from the concession stand. I loved collecting baseball cards {and where are those cards, little brother?}. I loved that crappy, crisp, broken, stale stick of gum inside a pack of Top Deck baseball cards. I loved the Oakland A’s {more specifically, my Jose Canseco poster in middle school}. I loved Don Mattingly. I love the movie “Bull Durham” to bits. I. loved. boys. who. played. baseball. Especially pitchers. But they always broke my heart. They should come with some kind of warning label. And then I met my husband, the ultimate frisbee player who used to be…a swimmer. I breathed a sigh of relief and said goodbye to all things baseball-related.

What brings me back to the baseball film again and again is the nostalgia it evokes, both for me, personally, and also for a time when the game was just somehow different. I was leery of this film only because it is a true story, and baseball isn’t always what I’d built it up to be, growing up. Enter Brad Pitt {who I also love and used to have a poster of in my dorm room; remember his hair in “Legends of the Fall”? Exactly. If that man cries, I cry. And don’t get me started on my “I <3 Brad Pitt” t-shirt I had in college. It disappeared in my freshman dorm, and I have never been the same.}. He plays Billy Beane, general manager of the A’s. Things aren’t looking good, and the franchise just doesn’t have much money compared to certain east coast powerhouses. Now enter Jonah Hill, a big time statistics dude who turns the whole game into numbers. Together, they start getting players no one thinks are any good because his character just looks at it all mathematically, which was revolutionary. Hill and Pitt have amazing chemistry, but the scene-stealer for me is one of my favorite, most versatile actors: Phillip Seymour Hoffman. His character opposes Pitt at every turn and sometimes gets  hopping mad. It’s very entertaining! The movie also has a parallel thread of Pitt, his daughter and his ex, played by Robin Wright {formerly Penn}. This part really tugs at the heart strings.

I hands-down recommend this movie, if you haven’t seen it yet. It made me love baseball again for roughly two hours, and it showed that Brad Pitt’s still got it, as if we ever doubted him.

“The Tree of Life”: This movie could not be more different than the other Brad Pitt movie, “Moneyball,” released in the same year. I fell asleep at parts, and my husband and I talked of turning it off. I think we finally fast-forwarded through the weird parts, just to get to the story. It has two very different things going on, though I suppose they are connected in a very artistic way that I noticed but just didn’t enjoy. On one hand, there’s the story of the tumultuous childhood of our main character, played by the ever-awesome Sean Penn. In this part of the movie, we see flashbacks to his time growing up under the thumb of his authoritarian, hot-headed, intimidating dad, played by Brad Pitt with a flat-top haircut. He looked so mean and was so. very. mean. He really had it out for just one of his three sons, his oldest, which is the younger Sean Penn. If he let a screen door slam, Pitt’s character would make him go back and close it quietly, not once, but one hundred times. The poor kid’s saving grace was his mom, played by the delightfully talented Jessica Chastain of “The Help.” You could surmise that her character just stayed with Pitt’s character because it was the 1950’s and she didn’t have a lot of options, and also because she didn’t want him to ever be alone with her boys.

Nothing about this movie felt good.

The other vein of the movie, which took up huge chunks of time in the middle of our sort-of-story line, was an epic visual of the creation of the world, complete with Bible verses, dinosaurs, and quite the symphony. For like twenty minutes at a time. I know I should be mature and analyze its connection with the film, but, really? I was just left going, “What the heck?!” It was very Dali-esque, with lots of clouds, some sort of heaven, and our characters appearing at times to send off one of the sons who died as a teenager.

I may be a film teacher and movie-lover, but this film was just too much for me. I can appreciate the vision that went into the cinematography, but I don’t think it translated well at all for the average American movie goer who is used to a clear plot line.

“I Don’t Know How She Does It”:  I loved everything about this movie. There’s Sarah Jessica Parker, who totally nails it as an over-extended mom; there’s Greg Kinnear, who is completely endearing as her sweet and supportive husband; there’s NYC in the winter; there’s family singing to “Lovely Day” on a road trip; there’s a mom singing “Bushel and a Peck” over the phone to her kid at bedtime; and…there’s the epic struggle of a working mom. Our main character brings home the bacon, fries it up in a pan, where’s stilettos, bakes the pie for the PTA, and….never really sleeps. Sound {mostly} familiar? Hmmm? She’s up for a big promotion at work, but hubby has dreams to realize, too, and something’s got to give. I loved how she doesn’t do any of this gracefully. You could just tell that SJP wasn’t reaching too far for connection with her character. I felt a lot of anxiety in some moments, like it was happening to me, and I think that’s pretty telling. Being a movie with SJP and Greg Kinnear, it has a sweet ending. It was a wonderful way to spend an evening with the hubs, and it made for great conversation afterward when he said, “Wow. It must be really hard for you to do all you do.” Yes, dear.

“One Day”: Remember that guy, back before you had met your husband, who knew everything about you, with whom you could have lots of fun and talk with about everything or nothing? The guy whom you were totally in love with, but who absolutely frustrated you to no end because he just couldn’t seem to see that? And you were too young to be bold enough to just say how you felt? Yes? Okay. This is a movie about that. Our lovely lead, the capable-of-anything Ms. Anne Hathaway, plays a Brit (nice accent, too!) who finally has a tender moment with her college crush….on their graduation night. Aaah! They keep in touch, and the movie, like the book {By David Nicholls: One Day (Vintage Contemporaries Original)}, shows us the state of their relationship every year {for about twenty years} on that very date. It’s really cool – you get to see the styles change from one scene to the next, and you have to kind of figure out what’s happened in the year between the last scene just by their conversations and interactions. It was just enough work to be intriguing but not tiresome. But that’s not all! There are some serious plot twists about two thirds of the way through that really shake things up, and the twists keep coming right to the end. I am so glad that no one ruined this movie for me with a spoiler, as it did take me a while to get around to seeing it. If you like Ms. Anne, if you came of age in the early 90’s, if you like a romantic drama, and if you ever once have thought about that frustrating guy, hurry up and watch this already! You will be so glad you did.

“The Muppets”: My kids are Muppets fiends. We have tons of old episodes of The Muppet Show on dvd laying around my house, and they’ve seen all of the old movies. This movie was a natural fit for them. And for me and Mr. Fresh Scratch! There was something for all of us to laugh at, just like in the old ones. A lot goes over the kids’ heads, which is kind of fun. I absolutely adore Amy Adams, and I was so happy she was in the movie. She can really be cheesy, and she did not disappoint. My girls like her, too. The basic premise is that there is a guy who was born a muppet into a human family. His only dream is to be on The Muppet Show alongside others like him. His brother, played by Jason Segel, is determined to make it happen. But first they  have to actually bring back The Muppet Show. All kinds of hijinks are involved in trying to get the old cast together, let alone produce one last episode. They have to deal with imposter Muppets and bad dudes. Truly, it’s something for the whole family to laugh at together. The end, when the credits are rolling, is the best part!

“Hop”I truly only rented this one for my kids to watch on Easter via the iPad while we were flying home from Hawaii. I felt badly that they were missing Easter, so this was a treat I gave them. It was pretty much a treat only for them, as I could’ve taken or left the movie. It’s about a bunny who grew up underground on Easter Island (in this movie, Easter Island is the home base for all things Easter related) as the heir to the Easter Bunny title. Only, he doesn’t want to be the Easter Bunny. He wants to play the drums in a rock band. He escapes to the US where, oddly, he befriends James Marsden’s character, who realizes he wants to be the first human Easter Bunny. Huh? My kids were not super-engaged, and the only thing holding my attention was the voice of Russel Brand. Meh.

“Yogi Bear”: You know the dollar movies they have at the theatres on the weekday mornings in the summer? This was one of those. It proved difficult to find a film in that whole summer-dollar-movie gaggle that was appropriate for both my seven-year-old and my three-year-old. When I read about this on commonsensemedia.org, it pretty much said the movie was brainless and harmless. That proved accurate. I almost fell asleep at parts, but my kids were laughing and giggling hysterically and non-stop! It baffled me! I loved “Yogi Bear” cartoons as a kid, so I was a little weirded-out by this CGI Yogi and Boo-Boo in a world of real human characters. But he still said “pic-a-nic” like the old Yogi, and he still said, “Hey, Boo Boo!” My girls were dying laughing over all of his schemes and inventions to get picnic baskets.  The ranger was played by the guy from the tv show “Ed,” Tom Cavanagh. The storyline is that Jelly Stone National Park is having its timber cut down and sold because it’s not a profit-making park. The ranger gets some help in saving it from a documentary film maker played by Anna Farris, along with assistance from a turtle the world had thought was extinct. It’s silly, silly, silly, and when it was over my kids wanted to know when we’d watch it again. It was absolutely harmless, but once was enough for this mama.

“Rio”: This isn’t one I normally would’ve taken a three-year-old to see. But it was at the dollar movie while big sis was going to horse riding camp each day, and Teensy needed a little spoiling. Mainly, though, I knew she’d seen it at daycare already and loved it, and I was curious. She’s still going around and singing the title song. First of all, the bird’s name is not “Rio,” it’s “Blue.” It’s about a Blue Macaw who was stolen from the rainforest around Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as a baby bird and smuggled into the US to sell on the black market. He fell out of the delivery truck and was rescued and raised by a science geek who is voiced by the lovely Anne Hathaway. A bird biologist from Brazil approaches her years later and convinces her to bring Blue to Rio to mate with the only female Blue Macaw they have in order to save the species. Blue gets stolen again in Rio and must escape the bad dudes and get over his fear of flapping his wings. There were a lot of scary parts with the bad guys, and it strikes a chord with kids just learning about stranger-danger, for sure. It’s pretty hip, and there are lots of fun songs, thanks to will.i.am and Jamie Foxx being a part of the cast of voices – but it’s a little too sexed-up in parts. Blue is voiced by the ever-nerdy Jesse Eisenberg, which is perfect. I find more and more that I can enjoy an animated movie a lot based on who is voicing the characters, so this one is fun. It has a happy little ending, but I would say it’s too scary for the average three-year-old.

“The Hunger Games”: If you enjoyed the trilogy of books even a little bit, you should definitely check out the movie. {But please don’t be like the lady next to me in the movie theatre who brought her four-year-old son to see it. I had to pull all my big hair to one side just to block him out because I felt so badly for him. He kept whispering, “I’m scared, Mommy. I want to go home,” and his mom kept telling him, “Mommy just wants to watch her movie. Please be quiet.” So. sad. Isn’t it some kind of abuse to make your small child watch all of that violence?!} My friends Marie and Patrick had a “Hunger Games” potluck just ahead of showtime at the theatre. Our invitations came with singed edges and asked us to bring a food that would’ve fit in in District 13. Brilliant! I brought something I thought might have fit in at Peeta’s bakery, naturally. So here’s what the film had going for it: Jennifer Lawrence brilliantly played Katniss. She was perfect with her quiet reserve and pride. The cinematography was awesome. The filming of the District 13 scenes was at such a contrast to the filming during the Game; District 13 scenes were all wide shots that took in the mountains and countryside and all the little grimy cabins, while the games were all close-ups, lending to that feeling of frenetic fear and of being hunted within a contained space. The wardrobe was fabulous, especially in District 13. They looked like a bunch of folks from Appalachia in the 1940’s. Loved it! Also, Lenny Kravitz was perfectly cast as a super-cool and kind of mysterious Cinna. Here’s what didn’t work for me: The training scene was so boring I found my eyes closing. The cast of other players in the game made me feel like I was watching an ABC “After School Special” (do they even have those anymore?) – not the best acting. And, my biggest complaint of all is that Peeta is just not played by the right guy. You can tell the actor’s hair isn’t really blonde, so he comes off looking really fake, and Peeta is not a fake person. To me, Peeta is supposed to be unassumingly handsome, and he should have a quiet, strong confidence. Not happening. Overall, I give the whole thing a second place to the book.

“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”: {I actually was quietly given a copy of this dvd when it was released into the theatres. Somehow someone from Hollywood got it, let their mom borrow it, and their mom let me borrow it. It was all very covert. And exciting. Shhh.} We’re coming up on the anniversary of September 11th, and that is what this film is about. “Where were you?” We’re all going to be taking a moment to reflect on this soon, as we will surely be asked. It was the one morning as a single teacher that I had not turned on the news while I was getting ready. In the car on the way to my classroom of fourth graders, I thought the people at 107.7 The End radio station in Seattle were playing a sick joke. My whole day was a delicate dance of learning and comforting and worrying and sorting fact from fiction, like everyone else’s, I’m sure. Lots of kids didn’t come to school that day because the fear was so rampant. At the end of the day, I knocked on my husband’s (then boyfriend of just a few months) door. Instead of talking about it, he wanted to watch a Monty Python movie. And we didn’t really talk about that day. As the years have went on and we have had to grieve so many things, both separately and together, his reaction makes sense to me now. But we never really got to talk about it until we watched this film.

This movie starts with all the confusion that happened that morning, only it’s happening all around a little boy who has some mental quirks. He’s walking home through Manhattan after school is shut down. He has some sensory issues and doesn’t answer the phone while his dad (Tom Hanks) keeps calling from the towers. The guilt from this gives him no peace for a long, long time. His mom is played by Sandra Bullock, who is, in a word, perfect. We learn through flashbacks what a wonderful and special relationship this boy had with his father, who really understood his quirks. He finds something hidden in his dad’s closet that he thinks will explain things to him somehow, and so he goes on a covert quest through the city for months and months every weekend while his mom thinks he’s doing something else. He has to talk to strangers, which is very difficult for him. He meets a lot of people from different walks of life while he’s looking for answers, and he learns a lot about sharing grief. His grandma lives in an apartment across the street, and he also is trying to unravel the mystery of her mute guest this entire time. The whole movie is tender, sweet, at times even funny, but always tearing your heart out. It comes to a beautiful conclusion that really leaves you with the lingering notion that we are all in this thing together. I really, really, really recommend this movie with two thumbs up, ten bags o’ popcorn, and five out of five stars! And, P.S.: Tom Hanks is one of the best actors. Ever. Ever. Ever. Who’s with me?


“The Tourist”: This movie was, in one word, fun. I can’t believe more people haven’t seen it! Just to start off and prove my credibility, it was nominated for three big Golden Globes in 2012 (Depp: Best Actor, Jolie: Best Actress, and Best Motion Picture, people!). Why did I add it to my Netflix queue? It was because of Venice. The city of Venice is a major player in this movie, and she is a beauty. The previews showed our characters glamorously zipping around the canals in old wooden boats, and I knew I would just love it. And I did absolutely, 100% adore it. I spent three days in Venice with Mr. Fresh Scratch, mom-and-father-in-law Fresh Scratch, and Teensy. Teensy was very sick most of the time, though, and we were all tired after a month abroad. Plus, the crowds were enormous (Italy in the summer is not recommended, travelers!). Even though I feel like I got to see a lot of cool stuff in the city, there just was not as much carefree exploration as I had hoped. This movie actually filled in a lot of blanks for me, as far as Venice goes. So, aside from a virtual vacation to Venice, what does this movie offer? Well, it offers Johnny Depp, first of all. He so often plays larger-than-life characters, so it was so entertaining and endearing to see him as a fumbling American school teacher who somehow found himself mixed up with the character played by Angelina Jolie. She is somewhat of a spy, a character who used to catch spies but somehow found herself in love with the biggest wanted man of all. She’s being followed everywhere by British agents who want their man, and they think she will slip-up and lead them to her. It may sound a little bit Jason Bourne-esque, but, truly, hilarity ensues. The two of them were delightful together, and the film has some major twists. It reminded me of a 1980’s romantic caper. We don’t see enough of these types of films. Well, at least I don’t.

“The Descendants”: Remember when I mentioned hiding out at The Grand Cinema in Tacoma this past winter for an afternoon with Mr. Fresh Scratch? Well, it was to  see this film. Finally. After the Oscars. But, finally! It was a journey into pure, authentic human vulnerability set at the speed of all things Hawaiian. Meaning: it floats along. There’s no crescendo or earth-shattering moment. Rather, the film is punctuated by the very raw, authentic moments in which we find our characters. Every thing about this movie is so believable. The characters are neither all good nor all bad; the situation seems realistic; the beautiful backdrop of Hawaii is so nearly like another character that I swear I started to get whiffs of plumeria in the air. George Clooney plays our main character, a mostly-absentee workaholic father/husband. With his wife in intensive care after a boating accident, he is left to learn how to not only parent his two spunky, sort-of-troublesome daughters through this rough situation, but also how to parent, period. Through the film run the threads of  his wife’s infidelity (oddly enough, with a character from the early “Scream” movies whom I never would’ve pegged for this kind of roll) and the weight of his Hawaiian heritage. George’s character was very plain, not very witty, and kind of begging for a hug, but not in a pathetic way. He gave an excellent performance. I laughed a bit and cried a bit. And it takes a lot for me to cry at movies, so that’s saying something!

“The Black Swan”: Eww. Ick. I think I watched the majority of this movie through my fingers as they covered my eyes! This film was a psychological thriller at its best. There was so, so much hype around it and Natalie Portman’s performance that I was afraid I’d built it up too much before finally watching it. But I hadn’t. It was all more intense than anything I could’ve conjured up. Natalie Portman plays a ballerina who is so obsessed with perfection that no one likes her and her only friend is her mom, who happens to be an ex-ballerina. Her entire focus is given to being the best. ballerina. ever. When she lands the roll of the Swan Queen, she really begins to unravel under the pressure, and we get to watch. It wasn’t purty! But it was so well done. Her labored breathing was almost always in the background, adding fuel to the fire. I was stunned, horrified, speechless. I was uncomfortable. And I tell my film students that if a movie can make you feel something, even if it’s discomfort, it’s usually a good one. I also tell them that not liking the story does not mean it wasn’t good. This was good. It brilliantly portrayed a breakdown so well that we, the viewers, could no longer tell what was real, just like the main character. There was a chilling laugh that ran throughout the movie, seemingly coming from no where, that totally freaked me out. I would recommend watching it if you haven’t, just because it really is a masterpiece of storytelling and Natalie Portman totally rocked it. Do keep in mind, though, that it does really amplify all of the negative stereotypes about ballerinas, so take all of that with a grain of salt.

“The Lorax”: We took our daughters to this film on opening weekend (they are nearly three and nearly seven, respectively) after a lot of anticipation and build up at our house. Teensy had checked out the beloved book by Dr. Seuss at her school’s library months before, then proceeded to renew it half a dozen times. It was the first real book she read by herself. Teensy-Weensy has had the poster up on the back of her bedroom door for months. We were excited to try taking her to a movie at last! But, alas, nearly-three proved to be too young for this PG movie (why, oh why, didn’t I notice it was PG and not G? This is where knowledge of the site Common Sense Media would have really come in handy!). By the time we reached the half-way mark, she was curled up in one of our laps. When it was nearly over, she was crying, so Mr. Fresh Scratch took her out for cocoa while Teensy and I finished. The villain proved to be too mean for T-W’s taste, and I felt so guilty for not having looked into the film more beforehand. All that being said, it was a fun, visually-pleasing flick with the same message as the book (“take care of the earth!”). What makes it different from the book is the focus on where the little boy who visits the Once-ler comes from, and this provides us with the view of the aftermath of the destruction of the Truffula trees (wow, that’s a sentence with a lot of “of-s!”). We see a town that has to purchase bottled oxygen and has never seen a real tree. The best part for me was enjoying all the voices of the characters. A lot of fun people got on board with this film to provide the voices: Danny DeVito, Taylor Swift, Betty White and, my favorite, Ed Helms. Ed Helms voices the character who destroys everything to make the Sneeds (“which everyone, everyone!, needs!”). He sings silly songs a lot, just like his character Andy on “The Office,” which really tickled my funny bone. Both his character and Betty White’s provide lots of little laughs for the grown-ups. The Barbaloots were dang cute, too! It was absolutely appropriate for my 1st-grader, but, I think, if you’ve at all sheltered your kids from the media like I have, this is not for a preschooler.

“The Time Traveler’s Wife”:  I will come right out and say I liked the book so much better. I really, really wanted to absolutely love the movie – and I did enjoy it – but it didn’t grip me like the novel. This is one of my favorite books of all-time; it’s such a unique story. Somehow it’s easier to capture the confusion of the story as it’s released piece by piece into the imagination than it is to get a solid line of the events when they are being visually bombarded toward you. All that being said, however, the film was heartbreaking! My husband loved it. He cried {ooh, he will kill me for saying this, but he cries at most movies. He cried at the end of “Dirty Dancing.” It’s true! I saw it. But I think this is a nice quality in a man, so I am proudly sharing with you at his expense.}! I may have teared-up a little bit, too. Just a little. The story-line is this: a man is afflicted with a gene mutation that makes him time travel. He always arrives naked. For some reason, he often travels back to the same location (at different times), and that is the childhood home of his future wife. It’s very interesting, and also fun, to try to get a chronological thread in one’s mind to connect the dots. The book offers much more light and hope, while the film is pretty dark. Though I don’t believe it transferred well to the screen, it is still worth a watch, especially if you’ve read and enjoyed the book.

“500 Days of Summer”: Oh, how this film tugged at me! It has been so talked-up by my film students for the past few years, and they have constantly been referencing it. Enter my new fascination with all things Zooey Deschanel {listening to her band, “She and Him,” never missing an episode of “The New Girl,” and keeping tabs on her via Facebook}, and I just had to move it to the top of my Netflix queue. I recently scored a stormy night with no cable or internet connection (thank you, snow storm) and with no hubs, as he’d went out for game night. I grabbed a fat glass of red wine, some chocolate, and popped in the dvd. From the perspective of the cine-o-phile, this movie gets major, major props for creativity. It does a lot of cool things and the camera angles are very fresh. From the perspective of a hopeless romantic, this film gets major props for making me feel like I was falling in love. The basic premise is that Summer is the female lead, not the season, and it’s a bunch of snippets of our main character Tom’s 500 days of being in various stages of love with her. Before each scene is the same beautiful screen with a ticker that changes to the day we’re about to see.  Oh, and it’s all random and out of order, much like the way we recall memories. Zooey is so endearing and has a wonderful wardrobe, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s lead reminds me of every guy I’ve ever dated. The music is wicked awesome and kind of a third main character. The bittersweet ending was just like real life, and I felt like I’d just had another relationship in its entirety by the end of the film. Not an easy feat!

“The Bucket List”: Awww. Rob Reiner is such a great director, right? It has only been in the last decade that a director has given us Jack Nicholson in a role where we actually feel tenderly toward him {think “Something’s Gotta Give” or that one with Helen Hunt}, and this is no exception.  He and Morgan Freeman play two men who aren’t given long to live due to cancer.  They have become friends while being treated together in a hospital suite. They set off to tackle a “bucket list” they made together in the time they have left.  We go everywhere from Egypt to Mt. Everest {or so you are made to think, but I think it’s safe to say that they were all computer-generated images} and glimpse the things they realize really matter in life: experiencing joy and bringing joy to others.  It was sweet, but the ending was inevitable. It made us cry. Not a bad way to pass the time on a Saturday night.

“Crazy Stupid Love”: Loved this!  Mr. Fresh Scratch also loved it!  I mean, it’s a recipe for success: Steve Carrell, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling…? Each played their part to perfection. The film was, obviously, all about relationships. Though there were a few pretty unrealistic bits of dialogue, especially by the character playing Steve & Juliane’s son, it had enough relateable moments that the whole thing was believable.  To be objective, the film also had a pretty slow start, but it really does get there in a big way. Emma Stone’s character was adorably charming, and there’s a big twist near the end that forced me to pause it and re-think everything. Love that!  Oh, and there is a scene where Steve’s character gets a makeover that really inspired me to take my husband shopping with someone’s unlimited credit card.

“The Sound of Music”:  I am fairly certain I was one of the oldest grown-ups never to have seen this film.  If I had a dollar for every time someone said, “(gasp!) You haven’t seen The Sound of Music?!” I would not have to have a job!  My six-year-old daughter finally cornered me into watching it after she’d learned some of the songs from her babysitter last year.  We watched it in two parts, breaking at the intermission (May I just say how much I love an old-fashioned film intermission?). We were on the edge of our seats.  What would happen to Maria?! For those of you readers who also have not caved and watched the film, let me offer you a little summary.  It’s the eve of World War II in Austria. Maria is a young woman who is beginning the process of becoming a nun.  The other nuns think she isn’t really cut out for a life of austerity, so they give her one last shot of freedom by sending her to be a governess to the seven children of the wealthy widower Captain von Trapp.  She charms the children and, inadvertantly, their father, with her musical ways of making everything happy and fun.  The wealthy Baroness of Berlin wants the captain to herself, so there’s a little suspense as to what will happen.  All the happiness in the world, however, cannot save Maria and the von Trapps from the arrival of the Nazi’s in their beloved homeland of Austria.  The ending is a cliffhanger for me, but my daughter just assumed the best was about to happen.  I love that about children!  A must-see if you are one of the last hold-outs!

“Bridesmaids”: Oh, my.  If ever there was a female counterpart to “The Hangover,” this is it!  I laughed. I put my hand over my mouth in horror.  I, at times, covered my ears!  It was irreverent, but that was just part of the fun!  The basic premise, in case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard about this hit of the last summer, is that a girl gets engaged and enlists her best friend as her maid of honor, then throws in a bunch of unlikely other bridesmaids, most of whom she barely knows and one of whom wants to steal the title of “maid of honor.” Shenanigans ensue around things like dress shopping, the bachelorette party and the shower. I love that these women had dialogue about things women talk about in real life. The lead was cute and loveable, but messed up, which is believable! Plus, she wasn’t the bride!  The story mainly revolved around the maid of honor. Seriously, though, the scene-stealer was the gal from that tv show “Mike and Molly.”  Holy cow!  No makeup, and totally playing a different character than on tv!  She’s got talent!  Also, I am in love with the adorable Ellie Kemper from “The Office,” so it was fun to see her cute face. I loved this movie for a great laugh, but I think it crossed one too many lines for Mr. Fresh Scratch’s comfort :).

“The Adjustment Bureau”: Awesome.  This movie moved along at such a nice clip that, when it was over, I said, “What?  Already?” To be honest, it didn’t have a lot of falling action; it reached the climax and suddenly was resolved.  That’s hard for me.  But the idea that we all have a plan that the universe is somehow trying to get us to follow is kind of cool {heck, I wrote my thesis on it in college!}, and it was played out in an original way in this flick.  The director was the screenwriter of all the “Bourne” movies, and it showed just enough.  Matt Damon doesn’t disappoint as a young politician with his star on the rise. Plus, it was funny in all the right places.  Loved it!

“Letters from Iwo Jima”: Clint Eastwood is the master when it comes to pacing a visual story.  This film, a companion to his “Flag’s of our Fathers,” was so touching and had me hooked from the start.  I watched it late at night and didn’t fall asleep once: unheard of! It’s the story of the Japanese troops in WWII as they prepare, and then defend, Iwo Jima. It stars Ken Watanabe, who is a commander with a heart. I’m not a military expert, but his strategies really made the most of what little they had to work with.  They had no reinforcements, no help from air or sea, all the troops had dysentery, they weren’t being fed well, and a few of the generals below the commander were against him, so there was a little mutiny happening that really botched things up further. This film, when paired with its companion from the US-perspective, really gives the viewer a better understanding of what went down during that historic battle.  I love it when I can learn something real from watching a movie.

“New Year’s Eve”: I saw this at the theatre…it was not worth seeing at the theatre.  Sad!!!  I loved “Valentine’s Day,” so it was a bummer to be disappointed with this one.  The quick summary is basically that it’s about a bunch of different people in different situations, all stoked to see the ball drop at Time’s Square in NYC.  I love a good romantic comedy, as you know, but this one didn’t have it going on.  The great thing it was missing with such a star-studded, ensemble cast was the connection between the different story lines.  I few of them intersected, but not nearly enough to tie it together.  Things I loved: Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Bon Jovi covering “Have a Little Faith in Me,” and imaging being stuck for a whole day in an elevator with Ashton Kutcher. 🙂

“The Fabulous Baker Boys”: Confession: I have been wanting to see this since I was in middle school.  I can remember going to the video rental place and picking it up a time or two, only to have my mom tell me it was inappropriate (along with “Pretty Woman”). It’s been in my Netflix queue for years, and it finally made it to the top. Allll those years to hype it up in my mind…..you can imagine the rest.  It’s about two brothers who have a piano lounge act and are burned out. The places they play are sick of their routine, too.  They decide to shake things up by hiring a singer. It was super-dated and, though it was shot in Seattle, they messed up the setting.  For example, Jeff Bridges’ character is trying to get to work at a hotel, but he goes through Pike’s Market, down to the waterfront near the aquarium, then walks into a hotel many blocks back up the hill.  Uh, that’s not the way, dude!  So things like that were frustrating to someone who lives nearby. I loved watching Michelle Pfieffer, though.  I grew up wearing out our video of “Grease 2” taped from the tv, so I enjoyed her singing.  The Bridges brothers are always great, but overall, it wasn’t the movie experience I had been waiting for.

“Hugo”: Scorsese strikes again!  This was my first 3-D film experience.  It was so fun!  And the glasses now are thick and black, not like those goofy paper contraptions. My husband, and many of my high school students in recent years, read the book it’s based on and loved it. The movie was such a great story about a boy who’s lost his family and lives in the walls of the Paris train station, keeping the clocks running on time. He is also working on restoring and automaton, a project he started with his father. He befriends a little girl, gets in trouble with the station’s cop who is determined to send him to an orphanage, and learns a ton about the history of early movies.  This film has got a lot of subject matter, which is why I think everyone loves it who sees it, young or old.  It is visually stunning!  This is a great one to watch with your family.

“Waiting for Superman”: I just had to see what all the fuss was about. This film tugged me in a lot of different directions.  It left me feeling very confused about my profession {I am a high school English teacher at a public school part-time}. On the one hand, it does a nice job following a few kids who really need a leg up as they try to get into some cool specialized public school programs {some were Charter Schools} that are lottery-based. What I didn’t like was that it made the viewer think that, if these kids didn’t get into these special programs, their future in a traditional public school setting was doomed. I have to have more optimism than that.  Maybe that’s naive.  I’m not sure anymore.  All I know is that all these programs, the massive teacher and principal firings in DC, the Adequate Yearly Progress requirement, the state and national tests….these are all band-aids. I’m getting on a bit of a soap-box here, but what these programs offer to kids are small teacher/student ratios and a staff who is appreciated. That’s appealing to everyone because kids get the attention they need and can’t easily fall through the cracks. Teacher’s have time to help each and every one of them.  Badabing. You want to fix what’s wrong with public education?  Build more schools and hire more teachers so we can have small classes (My largest is 36 this year….unacceptable!  You want to grade 36 essays?) for every kid.  It’s a win-win.

“Pan’s Labrynth”: Okay.  This gave me some nightmares.  My husband was talking about one particularly freaky creature in the film for days afterward. Should it bother me that this is the favorite film of many of my students?  The majority of me says that it should not.  What you’ve got here is a fairy tale told through a dark, dark lense.  Or, what you’ve got here is a horrific tale of something just awful, but told with a magical fairy tale overlay so that it makes it okay at the end.  Either way, it was highly imaginative, nail-biting, and amazingly set. It was filmed and directed with much skill and careful thought, one can easily see. It’s set during the Spanish Revolution, out in the middle of a forest near some ancient, Pagan ruins.  Throw in a lonely little girl, a tyrant of a step-father, a lot of violence, a lot of blood, and a centaur, and you’ve got the recipe for a fairy tale you absolutely should watch without your children.

“The Swell Season”: Mr. Fresh Scratch and I were really impressed and actually quite touched by the film “Once” a few years ago.  “Once” was a low-budget film out of Ireland about a busker who teamed up with a Czech immigrant whose haunting piano and vocal skills, when paired with his guitar and gritty passion, made magical music.  We loved the soundtrack.  We cheered when their song won an Oscar. And then I heard about this documentary about the actual actors in the film, following them on their whirlwind tour with their band, The Swell Season, following the Oscar win.  It was a heartbreaking documentary.  We saw it on a date to the Olympia Film Society a couple weeks ago, and Mr. Fresh Scratch cried!  What’s so painful is that you’ve got two very talented, Oscar-winning musicians on the one hand, but then you’ve got two very different experiences of life and of the world of music on the other.  Glen Hansard dropped out of school at fourteen to play guitar on the streets for money because it was his passion.  It took seventeen years to get to the place where he had the success off of “Once” and the subsequent Oscar win. He had worked for over half of his life in pursuit of his dream. He was so thankful of his fans and of his opportunity in “The Swell Season,” but he also knew that he was there because he loved music, whether he won an Oscar or not.  On the other hand, you’ve got Marketa Irglova, who, sort of on a whim and because she had a crush on Glen, kind of got swept up in the tidal wave on the cusp of her twenties.  They made the film when she was just seventeen.  By the time they’re on tour in this documentary, she’s barely in her twenties, and all she’s done after high school has been centered around making “Once” with Hansard.  Think back to when you were that age: did you really know what you wanted to be yet?  Did you know how to decide that without influence from others? Did you want to commit? I shudder at why I became a teacher!  You can tell she’s wrestling with living the gypsy  life of a musician, and a famous one, at that. Plus, she didn’t have to work as hard as Glen for it.  It wasn’t a dream she pursued.  It felt like she expected the whole thing to be pretty slick and easy, while Glen was trying and trying to explain to her that what they’re experiencing is just a grain of sand in their hourglass. It made for great conversation afterward.  Check out their first film, check out their music, and then give “The Swell Season” some face time. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

“Little Fockers”: One reason to watch: Owen Wilson.  He carries the film. If you love Owen Wilson, hang in there – you’ll be entertained eventually.  Otherwise, not nearly the laughs generated by Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro as in the first two in this film series.

“The Kids are All Right”: This film was not just some film about a lesbian couple and their teenage, sperm-donor children.  At the crux of the film was just the plain old theme of marriage.  Of how hard marriage can be.  Of how you sort of can get typecast in your marriage. Of how you sometimes stop really seeing your spouse. I think it was noteworthy!  Julianne Moore and Annette Benning really became their characters and were very convincing.  Mark Ruffalo was very…scruffy, earthy, and super-cute. The kids were…all right (heh, heh!)!  Pretty much every different sexuality was represented in various sex scenes. If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I am pretty much turned off by too many graphic sex scenes.  That was kind of the case here.  But it was still so worth it to get to Julianne Moore’s character’s speech at the end about marriage!  Stick with it!

“The Last King of Scotland”: This film was a bit of a history lesson for me.  I grew up hearing the name Idi Amin, former president of Uganda, but never really knew what all the fuss was about. This movie sheds some light (though, remember, smart movie viewers, films always have an angle! They don’t take the place of the truth completely because everyone has a bias in telling a story) on his rise to power and the horrible things he did, as a very insecure man, to keep it. It clearly is the story as seen through the main character’s point of view (Amin’s former personal doctor, Scotsman Dr. Garrigan), who was Amin’s trusted advisor on all matters for a time before he saw Amin’s abuse of power and was basically smuggled out of the country.  Forrest Whitaker, who plays Amin, completely transforms in this role.  It’s no wonder he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his turn as this dictator.  The film moved quickly, both in the actual shots and as a whole.  I was caught up in it fairly early and quite surprisingly riveted.  It was a view of Uganda in the 1970’s that I won’t soon forget.  I would recommend it for a night you feel like learning something. Just be prepared: it is pretty dang graphic.

“No Strings Attached”: Alright.  I must be getting, ahem!, older.  What is up with the romantic comedy genre becoming so explicit?!?! There were scenes in this film that I felt uncomfortable watching and that kind of crossed some sort of line for me.  What ever happened to leaving some things up to the imagination? However, it was a fun film, and what is wrong with watching Ashton Kutcher for a couple of hours?  Ashton Kutcher, I love you.  I love you for superficial reasons, like your brown eyes and your nice hair.  Mr. Fresh Scratch, I love you, too.  I hope this isn’t a problem.

“Blood Diamond”: At first, it was distracting to me that Leonardo DiCaprio was speaking with a S. African accent.  But, by the end of the film, I thought he was doing a fantastic job at what was probably a very difficult role for many reasons. The subject matter of this film is that of which we do not pay enough attention to here in the U.S. The film is all about conflict diamonds from Africa which are mined in horrific ways by force and then sold on the black market to fund weapons for their civil wars. The film also speculates that diamonds aren’t really as rare as we treat them, but that the market is so controlled that it keeps this vicious cycle going. Disgusting, really. This sparked a conversation with my husband right away, about my engagement ring. It was not a nice conversation.  Let’s just say that it ended a week later with me going to our jeweler to speak to them about my diamonds.  I was assured that they only use certified conflict-free diamonds, but, after viewing this film, that doesn’t mean a whole lot to me.  At least they try, I guess.  Anyway, this film is painful to watch at times, but Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly also do such great jobs in their roles that it really is something to see.  It was a must-see if you at all consider yourself socially conscious.

“The Help”: I love it when a film does the original book version justice.  I read the book when Teensy Weensy Fresh Scratch was a new baby.  It was heavy enough to lay open on the couch next to me while I nursed that baby like there was no tomorrow.  I loved that book so much that I felt just empty when it was over. Like, “How could they all leave me?? What  happens to them next?” I thought it was the hormones at the time, but, leaving the movie theatre, I felt the same way.  My bff Shara expressed the same sentiment. I know lots of people all over the country have been crazy over first the book and now the film.  I, personally, connect with it because of my time living in the South.  I could picture those Southern Junior League members, the neat-as-a-pin homes, and the women who cleaned them. Every character came to life for me in the book and, wonder of wonders, they looked just as I imagined them when I saw them on the big screen.  No joke.  That’s something.  Kathryn Stockett’s book was very long and had lots of great details, and I am so glad that the screenwriters and casting directors really took notice and cast some dead-ringers for the main characters.  I always have enjoyed Bryce Dallas Howard, and she did not disappoint as the queen bee Hilly. I think this is the first film in which I’ve seen the delightful, spunky Ms. Emma Stone, but I will certainly be seeing more of her work.  She was absolutely perfect as Skeeter, the main character.  I loved Skeeter in the book for lots of reasons, not the least of which was her constant battle with her curly hair in that Southern humidity {I had the same problemo}. Sissy Spacek was hysterical as Hilly’s mother!  The real scene stealer, however, was Octavia Spencer, who played Minnie. Those eyes just made everything about her and her actions that much more intense!  She cracked me up.  The soundtrack was really fun, as it is set in the 1960’s, but I was disappointed that a key moment in the book that referenced Bob Dylan’s “The Times, they are a’Changin” was left out of the film. It was a pivotal point in the book, and I was bummed that the screenwriters didn’t see it that way.  Truly, though, that is my only complaint.  Rush-rush-rush to the theatre and buy a ticket for this movie {if you haven’t already!}!

“Super 8”: Oh.my.stars.  I have to put this in all caps: THIS IS THE BEST MOVIE EVER!!!!  I am so stoked to write about all the reasons why.  Okay, so it takes place in middle America, 1979.  Something crazy happens, but telling you about it would wreck everything, so, sorry, no summary here! J.J. Abrams of “Lost” and “Alias” and Spielberg are at the helm. Killer soundtrack. Excellent casting {hello to a sweet Elle Fanning, Dakota’s lil’ sis! And to Kyle Chandler. He’s been cute for years!}. It’s filmed in such a way that makes it look like it was filmed in 1979.  A little gritty.  Some blue lights messing with the screen.  No crazy special effects.  I mean, it does have special effects, but they enhanced the story rather than overshadowed the story.  I hate how movies these days get all about the special effects and away from a real story {ever heard of a little film called “Avatar“?}.  Take all the things I just said, plus add the feeling of friendship a’la “Goonies” or “Stand by Me,” and you have the makings of something amazing.  From about 10 minutes in, I was gripping my husband’s poor hand like I never have done at the movies to him, ever!  It was a ride.  Since you’re kind of seeing it through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old, you feel just as attached as they do.  I love that the film succeeded in giving you that point of view.  The entire film is just intentional shot after intentional shot.  It was so well planned in each frame.  As a film teacher, I really appreciated this.  I cannot wait to show it every semester right before my students make their final films so that they can see how far some good planning can take you.  I give this a gagillion stars!

“Bee Movie”: Great family flick.  My kids loved it and I loved it.  Truly, that’s golden!  Great adult humor.  I just love Jerry Seinfeld!

“Just Go With It”: Such boy humor.  Thank you, Adam Sandler.  I enjoyed it. Certainly not the best, most creative, most original rom-com I’ve ever seen, but entertaining, nonetheless.  Mr. Fresh Scratch wants me to say he thought it was stupid, even in spite of Jennifer Aniston’s rockin’ bod.  Okay.  Anyway, aside from Ms. Aniston’s contributions {I thought she was really funny and touching, fyi}, Dave Matthews and Nicole Kidman are in the film, of which I had no idea, so that was a fun surprise.  Their characters were hysterically well-done. Take those two and Sandler’s character’s best friend/cousin, who was such a whack-job, and I was laughing my butt off.

“The King’s Speech”: Finally!  I have been awaiting this film’s arrival in my mailbox for months.  When you are a busy mom, getting to the theatre to see every Oscar-nominated film is just not a possibility.  It wasn’t even before I had children!  Who does that?  You?  Tell me how you work it in!!  My friend Megan told me that this was the buzzed-about film to watch this year when we were going into Oscar season.  Once I had time to go see one, I went with “The Fighter” instead.  Marky-Mark, Colin Firth..??  I wondered how a movie about an old king with a speech impediment would hold my attention.  This is how: sympathy. The film starts with a speech given by King George VI back when he was the Duke of York {he’s the current Queen Elizabeth’s father, fyi}. It is so painful and your heart can’t help but go out to the guy if you are any sort of human being.  Ugh.  I had my hands over my eyes!  Colin Firth was just brilliant and, as with Helen Mirren in “The Queen,” you could tell he’d done his research.  The movements of his mouth and the sounds that came out when he was trying to speak were so spot-on with what happens in real life. He was so reserved.  Geoffrey Rush’s played such a kind  and patient character; the two played off of one another so well as character foils. The film was touching, painful, and also funny. Along with all that it has going for it, it teaches you about just how the throne was abdicated and also has some killer low shots {I have never seen a film with so many}. It is absolutely no wonder why this film took home many Oscars {best picture, best director, best actor for Firth}. Definitely watch it if you haven’t yet!

“Larry Crowne”: “That’s Crowne with an ‘e,'” as Tom Hanks’ character states more than once in this funny flick.  Look, if you love Tom Hanks {me-me-me!}, you are going to enjoy this movie.  If you love Julia Roberts {me-me-me!}, you are going to enjoy this movie.  Have I mentioned yet how much I love Julia Roberts?  Well, since all of my wedding guests know this, you can, too: when I am in doubt about something, I wonder, “What would Julia do?”  I really do.  My cousin/maid of honor happened to mention that in her toast at our wedding, and more than a few guests remember.  Ah, well.  Nothing to be ashamed of! Anyway, this movie is just so sweet.  It was co-written by Tom Hanks and Nia Vardalos (“My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding“) and directed by Hanks.  Yes, directed by Hanks!  I love that.  It had wonderful close-ups.  You feel sorry for his character, Larry Crowne, right away.  He seems a little hopeless.  And if you’re looking for the America’s Sweetheart version of Julia, you ain’t goin’ find it here.  She’s an alcoholic community college professor who rocks some awesome dresses {I think so, from a teacher’s point of view!} and likes an enormous margarita after work each day.  You can kind of guess what happens, but it’s not the central part of the story.  The film’s soundtrack felt like a bit of a tribute to Tom Petty, as there was song after song by the rocker.  It was fun.  It was harmless.  I “escaped,” and that is the best part of a good film, if you ask me.  That and the fact that I saw it with my movie buddy Carie who always lets me choose the film!  Ooh, and that it was free because I used a movie ticket my brother gave me for my birthday!  Sweet!

“Water for Elephants”: I am such a huge fan of this best selling novel by Sara Gruen! If you haven’t read it, you really should put it to the top of your list.  It was about something I thought I’d never be interested in: circuses in the early 20th century.  It completely had me at hello, however, as did this film.  Mr. Fresh Scratch and I went on a date to The Olympic Club in Centralia recently for their Wednesday night special of a movie, a beer, and a burger for $12 {great deal, by the way!} to view this movie, which we were sad to have missed on its first run at the big theatres. He also read and adored the book.  I love it when that happens!  Anyway, I loved that Reese Witherspoon was cast as the leading lady, but had not been thrilled when Robert Pattinson, aka Mr. “Twilight” series/Edward Cullen, was cast as Jacob, the main character in the story.  As an aside, I pretty much think all of the acting in the “Twilight” series is crap, save Taylor Lautner for obvious reasons.  Even just half way through this film, though, my opinion of Mr. Pattinson as an actor had already completely changed.  He was loose, he was emotional, he had a great American accent, and he had perfect body language for his character.  I will no longer discount him as an actor!  Reese absolutely shone.  The story was touching and managed to maintain that larger-than-life, yet very gritty, mood that was established in the book. You hate the villian. You cheer for the good guys. You smell peanuts in the air.  You want to become a vet!  Wait!  That was perhaps just me.  This is a must-see and would be a good movie to watch with your family if you have teenagers.

“Man of the Year”: Mr. Fresh Scratch wants me to state for the record that he absolutely hated this movie and that it was terrible, boring, excruciating, etc.  I love Robin Williams.  I did not love this movie, but I did, however, find it mindlessly entertaining.  The premise is this: Williams’ character {kind of like a Jon Stewart type} jokingly throws his hat into the presidential campaign, only to quickly get serious about it and discover he won.  Or did he?  Seemed like something that could happen in this day in age, but it felt very cable-movie-channel ready and just not well done.

“The Queen”: This movie sparked a brief, “Where were you when Princess Diana died?” q and a with Mr. Fresh Scratch and I almost instantly.  I remember being at my dad’s house, cozy on the couch, with a lovely post-sunset glow over Puget Sound, watching some news with him.  I was just about to start my junior year of college.  Isn’t it funny how those details get so ingrained?  Same for when John Kennedy, Jr., died.  College summer-school afternoon.  Waiting to go to a Dave Matthew’s concert that night at the Gorge.  I digress!  {What else is new?!} Anyway, Helen Mirren totally deserved her Oscar for this role.  She was so uptight!  And you could tell she’d done her homework; her walk was even distinctively different.  I love those kind of details.  Overall, it was a very eye-opening film about just how unprecedented a situation Diana’s death presented to the Royal Family.

“Volver”: Remember reading Like Water for Chocolate? This is totally like that, but with the supernatural factor dialed way down.  {Thinking of that book reminds me of the scary ghost in the film version.  I was creeped out!} This film has the quirkiness of that story.  It also has Penelope Cruz. She was nominated for an Academy Award in this role! And I don’t care who you are, you are not well if you don’t enjoy watching Penelope Cruz.  I love listening to her speak English in her cute accent, but listening to her speak rapid Spanish is like listening to beautiful music.  She fires away in this flick!  This film also has subtitles, which I always enjoy.  I know that’s not for everyone, but I love how it’s sort of challenging at first to read and watch, but then it all melts away and you’re absorbed. The film feels low-budget, but it tells an interesting, sometimes funny, sometimes icky, sometimes touching story.  Basically it’s about two sisters (the gal who plays Penelope’s sis is so hysterical! she overacts in a very BBC way.) who are visited by their mom’s ghost.  However, there’s a plot twist that slowly straightens itself out the last quarter of the movie or so.  I figured it out and totally thought Mr. Fresh Scratch did, too, but then at the very end he stopped the dvd and said, “Wait!  Do you even get what’s going on, or do you need me to tell you?  Because I think I’ve totally figured it out.” Probably another reason I loved the film; I “won” by putting together the pieces of the puzzle first.  In your face, Mr. Fresh Scratch!

“Jane Eyre”: So, you’ve read my book review. With a book that delicious, I simply had to check out the most recent flick!  Last week, when I should have been grading my senior film students’ final movies that were due in less than 48 hours, I decided I “deserved a break.” Isn’t that phrase just another way of saying, “I’m in wicked denial!” or, “I don’t want to do this!”???  Anyway, I called up my friend Chris, who also read the entire unabridged thing through and luhhh.huhhh.oovvved it, and who also had an ass-load of grading to do, and we went to see the late showing at the Olympia Film Society, home of the world’s best popcorn….I paid for Chris’, as it was her first pilgrimage to see a fine film at OFS.  I had to show her how to make it properly, filling it only halfway in order to squirt it with tamari and douse it with brewer’s yeast, only to do it again on the top-most layer. Yum.  Ooh, and a little known factoid about OFS: the best seats are the front row.  No lie.  Best leg room, and the screen is pretty far away since it was/is an actual theatre-theatre. But don’t steal my spot, dude.  Back to the film.  Immediately, I was gripped.  It started off in media res.  For those of you who were not in my sophomore Latin class with the lovely pixie Ms. Deal, that’s “in the middle of things.” Homer starts off his Iliad and Odyssey this way. This choice was brilliant for this film, as it then avoided being just another movie-version of the book.  I love it when people get creative!  That simple move changed everything.  We start off with Jane running from Thornfield Hall and Mr. Rochester, yet, if you haven’t read it, you have no idea why.  It covers all that happened before that moment, certainly, and in just two hours {as I mentioned in my review of the book, it’s 500 pages!}.  Jane was plain but pretty, and Mr. Rochester was dark but attractive.  And the two certainly had chemistry.  My, my.  The on-location-in-England shooting was marvelous and majestic, as was the lighting.  It always felt like twilight.  It was delightful. If you loved our heroine, go see the movie!

“127 Hours”: Breathtaking. Awe-inspiring. Jaw-dropping. Cringe-worthy. Uplifting. This movie was many things.  If you haven’t seen it, you may wonder how a movie can be made that documents one man’s true-life experience of surviving 127 hours in a narrow ravine in the Southwest with his hand pinned between a rock and hard place….and not be boring, barring the big parts we know about already {spoiler alert!  He has to cut his own arm off!}.  Well, the answer is: cinematography, peeps.  It’s all in the planning panning.  And zooming, and edgy intercutting.  It was fabulously done.  I will cut to the chase here and say, “You must see it!”  It made me think of Oprah because this man’s ordeal is one where she’d say, “It was the grace of God” that he ever a) survived that long without significant hydration or food, b) broke his own arm, c) cut off his own arm, d) repelled down a cliffside, e) ran into some hikers {when he was 17 miles away from the parking lot!}, and f) was air-lifted FROM THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE in time to have not bled to death.  Seriously.  This is miraculous stuff. It reminds you there is a reason you – and I mean that “you” individually- are put on this earth.

“Love and Other Drugs”: Okay, so, main character totally cute? Check!  What is with the films I pick??  My husband even said, “Jake Gyllenhal used to be cute, but now he’s really good looking, isn’t he?” Me: smile.  What bugged me about this film was all the sex scenes.  They were really gratuitous.  I think there was a better way to tell this story, somehow.  Still, if you need to look at something pretty, Jake’s your man this film is kind of for you.

“Something Borrowed”: I will say this upfront: I love a romantic comedy.  But it’s got to be good. By “good,” I mean that it’s got to make me forget all of my troubles, what I had for breakfast, and that I am even in a movie theatre.  The rom-com is a total escape for me.  And this one did it!  Yay!  From the beginning, I hated Kate Hudson’s shallow character.  And I loved Ginnifer Goodwin’s sweet, meek, sleek-haired foil to Kate’s big, loud, blonde turn as Darcy.  What was the big draw for me going in, though?  Um, that’d be “Jim” from “The Office.”  Otherwise known as John Krasinski.  He’s so…cute.  I love him.  He did not disappoint as the main character’s male bff.  As if that was not enough eye candy, there was the male lead. My, my.  Collin Eggelsfield.  Hello, sir.  I got so wrapped up in this film that I: a) wanted to move to NYC and be 30, b) wanted to go to The Hamptons this summer and be 30, c) wanted to have a love affair with “Dex,” the main character, and be 30 and single, and d) figured I’d do this all as a 30-year-old, single, childless lawyer….Oh, wait.  I am none of those things. I digress.  The ending was not what I was expecting, exactly, which was nice.  I felt moved to laugh loudly, a’la Julia Roberts, and often, which was cathartic.  And I had to remind myself after it was over that I am a thirty-something married mother of two who spends her days in a classroom and a kitchen and that this scenario that had just been acted out before my eyes was one in which I would never play a part. :(.  That, my friends, makes it a good romantic comedy!  Ohh, and the soundtrack was all my faves from the ’90’s, including some Counting Crows and Third Eye Blind.  word.

“Up in the Air”:  I had this one in the bag from the beginning.  That was a bummer. Don’t you hate it when you figure out the big ending too early?!  I really enjoyed Mr. Clooney, however.  Am I sensing a theme in all of my film reviews?  Anyway, he was very convincing as a little lamb needing tending to.  I can see why he got nominated for an Oscar.  You should rent it if you haven’t.

“The Fighter”: Yowza.  This film reminded me of why a Marky-Mark (aka: Mark Wahlberg) centerfold {in his Calvin Klein boxer-briefs} was hanging up in my locker in high school.  He has muscles on his muscles.  He is a thing of beauty.  I could go on and on, but Mr. Fresh Scratch already pretty much wants to vomit when I wax dreamily on this film.  Could be he’s jealous his brother and I went to see it.  Ha!  We saw it at my fave place for film viewing, The Olympia Film Society {best. popcorn. ever.}.  Nothing like a gritty film about folks living hard on the outskirts of Boston.  I really mean that.  I grew up spending time with my cousins who lived in such a place.  We’d get there, and my parents would disappear.  Us kids (8 total) were left to roam around the ‘hood.  It felt very unsettling to little ol’ me.  I still have no idea where all the adults were.  Anyway, this film has all the stuff I remember; lots of run-down cars and homes, swearing, and that thick accent.  I enjoyed this film much like I have enjoyed two by Ben Affleck, “Gone, Baby, Gone” and “The Town.”  They are very true-to-life, which is good since “The Fighter” is based on a true story.  At times I cringed, at times I swooned, but I left feeling hopeful.  Show stealer: Amy Adams.  I love, love, love that chickadee.  She swore like a truck driver and fit the bill perfectly.  I recommend this whole-heartedly.

“A Serious Man”: Coen Brothers; you freak me out.  Not always in a bad way.  I watch kind of in the way I listen to someone telling me some horrifically bad news about a friend of a friend.  Sort of with morbid fascination.  The actor who played the main character was up for a Golden Globe when this came out.  I can see why.  It had an abrupt ending, like a lot of Coen films, but I didn’t hate it.  I also don’t recommend it.  After watching this, Mr. Fresh Scratch got mad at me for the umpteenth time for always “Hijacking the Netflix” with my weird films.  I call them “sophisticated.”

“New Moon”:  I can sum this up by these two words: Taylor Lautner.  And then there’s a lot of bad acting! But there’s Taylor Lautner. always bummed these aren’t actually filmed in Forks.  However, Taylor Lautner.

“Fast Food Nation”: really disappointing and not like the book.  Poorly done and didn’t offer hope :).

12 Comments on Films

  1. Which Jane Eyre did you see? Is it the 2011 version with Mia Wasi-whatshername and Michael Fassbender? (Sorry, since I don’t know the theater I don’t know if it only shows first run/recent stuff – it sounds like one of those lovely ones that might do an older film solely for the love of it. In which case, they might have shown the Toby Stephens version….)

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