waitress adrienne shellyWaitress

Funny, touching, tough: three words that truly describe this vastly underrated 2007 comedy-drama, written and directed by the late Adrienne Shelly.  Starring Keri Russell as a pie baker in a terrible marriage, this film is really about standing up for yourself and what is important in your life.

WARM-BODIES_510x317Warm Bodies

There are few films that boast a truly original premise, but Warm Bodies is one of them.  What genre is it?  Well, it’s the only zombie romantic comedy I’ve ever seen.  Written and directed by Jonathon Levine, it stars Nicholas Hoult as a zombie boy who falls in love with a human girl, played by Theresa Palmer.  Great fun!

we_bought_a_zoo_pWe Bought a Zoo!

We Bought A Zoo! is a friendly little movie released in 2011, based on the memoirs of the same title by Benjamin Mee, who bought his own zoo in England.  Starring Matt Damon and Scarlet Johansson as Benjamin and his Zookeeper, the movie features an amazingly cute performance by Maggie Elizabeth Jones as Benjamin’s daughter Rosie.

Words and Pictures Juliette BinocheWords and Pictures

Which is more important: words or pictures?

This is at the core of this powerful 2013 film about education and artistic expression.  The script by Gerald DiPego is extremely well written and the direction by Fred Schepisi is outstanding, but the real reason for this movie’s success is in the two great performances by Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche as the two teachers who inspire their students to understand and to achieve more than mere talent can produce.


 Across_the_Universe_3lgAcross the Universe

Conceived, produced and directed by the eclectic Julie Taymor, this film is a romantic musical that incorporates parts of 34 songs composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and the three of them plus Ringo Starr (“Flying”).  Most of the songs are sung on-screen by the characters, though there are some instrumentals.  This places the film in the category of old-style musicals where people seem to burst into song as a part of the story.  To everyone’s credit, it actually seems to work very well indeed.

1-adjustment-bureau-copyThe Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau, based on a Phillip K. Dick story, is a far-fetched, but very engaging film.  David Norris (Matt Damon) is a Brooklyn politician who meets a fascinating woman, Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) on the night that he has just lost the Senate election.  When she runs away, he is motivated to give a galvanizing concession speech that will reenergize his career.


Adventureland is a funny and moving teen romance written and directed by Greg Mattola about a group of teens working at a summer carnival.  The main character, James Brennan, is a student who has just graduated from a small college and is saving up his money to go to the Columbia School of Journalism so he can begin a career in travel writing.  Played with both humor and angst by Jesse Eisenberg, James is trying to find romance, but his own geekiness stands in his way.

All is Lost RedfordAll is Lost

A man sleeps peacefully aboard his small yacht when it suddenly bangs into some sea debris, tearing a hole in the side.  This begins a great survival story where one problems piles upon another as he is tossed across the Indian sea toward shipping lanes and possible rescue.  But he must first face storms, sharks, and other menaces.  And even when he reaches the shipping lanes, will anyone see him?


A terrible way to triumph over God.  These are the words of 18th Century Italian composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) referring to his murder of the brilliant, meteoric Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ((Tom Hulce). He tells the story to Father Vogler (Richard Frank) who has come to hear his confession at the insane asylum to which Salieri has been confined following a suicide attempt.

 american-hustle-posters-sonyAmerican Hustle

Loosely based on the FBI ABSCAM sting operation, this 2013 film was written by David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer and directed by Russell of The Fighter and  Silver Linings Playbook fame.  Bringing along Christian Bale and Amy Adams from The Fighter and Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence from Silver Linings Playbook, he has created a brilliant sting comedy that takes place at the height of disco mania, 1978.

Art of Getting By3The Art of Getting By

In The Art of Getting By (2011), George (Freddie Highmore), a high school senior living in New York City, falls into a fatalistic funk.  Although he is a gifted artist, he realizes that he’s going to die some day and asks himself: What is the point of trying?  Seeing no point, he gives up working on his school assignments, skips class and tests and just skates by as a loner.  Facing this failure, he is placed on academic probation.

Austenland PictureAustenland

The heroine of the movie, Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) is a disheartened Jane Austen fan. Obsessed with the writer, she looks at her own life and sees failed relationships, a dead-end job and no future, so she decides to spend her life savings on a trip to England to resort called Austenland


We Bought a Zoo!


We Bought A Zoo! is a friendly little movie released in 2011, based on the memoirs of the same title by Benjamin Mee, who bought his own zoo in England. The movie transports the story to California and changes history in other ways to make a good movie.  The always entertaining Cameron Crowe, (Almost Famous, Elizabethtown) directed the film and wrote the script from an earlier version by Aline Brosh McKenna.

Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) struggles to raise his two children, a 14 year old son, Dylan (Colin Ford), and a seven year old daughter, Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) after the death of his wife (Stephanie Szostak) from some abrupt disease (cancer?). Dylan can’t seem to cope and acts out at school, eventually getting expelled from school for theft.  He is an aspiring artist and spends most of his time making violent and dark ink drawings.  Rosie is well adapted to the loss, although she misses her mom and frequently asks Benjamin to tell her stories so she doesn’t forget.  Like Dylan, Benjamin cannot deal with the loss.  Frustrated, he quits his job as an adventure and travel writer—over the objections of his brother, Duncan (Thomas Haden Church)—and begins to look for a house more isolated from the city.

After looking at a number of houses with Rosie, they are steered to a country property by a novice realtor (J.B. Smoove). There is just one catch: it is a zoo and ownership of the property includes continued maintenance of the zoo.  Benjamin is very reluctant, but seeing Rosie with a flock of peacocks changes his mind and he invests his entire savings in the project, with the goal of re-opening the zoo on July 7.

Rosie is enthralled and remarks several times with great charm, “We bought a zoo!” This zoo comes with attendants, of course.  The woman in charge is young Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson), who is not professionally trained, but advanced through the ranks to get her job.  There is a designer, Peter MacCreedy (Angus Macfadyen), a carpenter, Robin (Patrick Fugit), and Kelly’s 13 year old home-schooled cousin, Lily (Elle Fanning), who takes a shine to Dylan.

There are, of course, complications, not the least of which is Dylan’s continuing funk and Benjamin’s own frustrations. An inspector, Walt Ferris (John Michael Higgins) adds to their woes by presenting an expensive list of improvements that must be made before the zoo can open.  Tapped out, Benjamin begins to think that the project might ultimately fail.

The movie punches all the right buttons. The potential overdose of sugary sweetness is balanced by Benjamin and Dylan’s conflict and their grief over the loss of Mrs. Mee, but there’s still a lot of sugar. And eye-candy. Matt Damon is terrific, handsome, likeable, and extremely empathetic and so is Colin Ford. Of course, there is also the great beauty of Scarlet Johansson and Elle Fanning.  Johansson is very believable and empathetic as Kelly.  Those who aren’t beautiful are odd looking goofballs, such as Church, Smoove, and Higgins. At times, a little directorial discretion regarding these comedians might have helped the film.

Crowe also indulges himself profusely in the “cute” factor, not only with the character of Rosie, but in a great many shots of the zoo animals. Maggie Elizabeth Jones is at times almost unbearably cute, but she never fails to delight and shows a great deal of acting skills for a child.

It’s a very good movie for kids and for the family. I love cute little girls, sympathetic plot lines, beautiful people, and animals, but I also have great sympathy for those who lose loved ones to cancer, so I bought the movie, hook, line, and sinker.  I would gladly see it over and over, because it is a really entertaining “feel-good” movie.

Just remember, “20 seconds of courage” can change your life!

The Adjustment Bureau

1-adjustment-bureau-copyThe Adjustment Bureau, based on a Phillip K. Dick story, is a bit far-fetched, but a very engaging film. David Norris (Matt Damon) is a Brooklyn politician who meets a fascinating woman, Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) on the night that he has just lost the Senate election. When she quickly runs away, he is motivated to give a galvanizing concession speech that will reenergize his career.

A year later, the men of the Adjustment Bureau, an organization that adjusts humans to keep us following “the plan,” set up a situation where David’s day is supposed to be interrupted by one of their men Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie), who nods off and misses his assignment. When David sees Elise on the bus, the plan has gone awry.  Furthermore, he walks on in an adjustment of his boss, Charlie Traynor (Michael Kelly) and freaks out. Everyone is frozen while Richardson (John Slattery), the head of David’s team of Adjustment men, scans his brain.  They have to intervene with him and tell him what’s going on.  They burn Elise’s phone number and tell him he can’t have anything to do with her.  Well, David isn’t having any of this and he sets out to try to alter the plan so he can end of up the girl he loves. 

Matt Damon is excellent as David. Not only is he a believable politician, but his single-mindedness in trying to outwit the Bureau really makes the film move.  Emily Blunt is very engaging as Elise and Terrence Stamp is terrific as the man at the Bureau (“the Hammer”) they call in to make him give up his search

It’s a very fast-moving, enjoyable film with great music and it comes in at just over 90 minutes, so it’s the perfect length. It’s a really fun evening’s entertainment!