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Fantasy role playing can help you find your true self!
A beautiful but superficial young woman is forced to make her own way in the world when her slimy boyfriend is arrested for fraud. She finds herself working at Astropia, a store of movies, comic books, and role playing paraphernalia and starts making steps towards real independence.
This is a terrific film! The characters are eccentric and engaging but still seem like real people. The main character (Hildur)is a rather blank bimbo who find herself (and true love) through the magic of role playing games. If Dungeons and Dragons (2000) had been this movie, I doubt any so called "geek" would have objected. This film pokes fun at the nerdy world of role playing but it is with genuine affection not scorn. In fact one of the best scenes is where Hildur (after having played a few times) talks with genuine enthusiasm about the experience to a potential customer and we see her light up for the first time.
The film is a bit rough around the edges and the special effects are not up to Hollywood standards but it is charming with a capital "C". Highly recommended!
Lovely film about love and family
I enjoyed this film despite the fact that it doesn't explore new ground and the ending was too abrupt and "neat" given what had transpired before. The plot was a little weak but what worked was the actors and the relationships established particularly between the characters of Sabah and Steven. The actors had nice chemistry and were convincing in their roles.
However, upon reflection, I think the best scene is the penultimate one between Sabah and her brother. Their argument seemed very real. They were two people who loved each other but were extremely frustrated with one another. Neither one is able to completely see the other's point of view. As they argue, they both talk on top of each other each bringing up past events that are neither completely true or completely false. And finally, as Sabah walks away for what may be the last time, her brother reveals a truth about their family's situation AND at the same time demonstrates his true motivation for being so intolerant of her relationship: an overwhelming sense that, in the end, he has failed his deceased father and his family. With that admission, he and his sister can move on to create a better situation for all concerned. Great writing and acting!
(My favorite quote from the movie? When Sabah's mother sneaks out to visit Sabah's boyfriend at his carpenter shop. Her first words upon entering: "What's with all the crosses?")
Next of Kin (1995)
Terrific series and a terrific Penelope Keith
Maggie and Andrew Prentice are entering their golden years and planning on a life of retirement leisure in the south of France when their estranged son, Graham and his wife perish in an auto accident leaving behind their three children(a girl and two boys) whom Maggie and Andrew barely know and now must care for. The series deals with how the five of them adjust to each other under exceptionally trying circumstances (They don't initially like each other very much). Believe it or not, this is a comedy! And a funny one it is despite the morbid subject matter.
Penelope Keith creates a memorable character in Maggie Prentice, an abrasive, easily irritated and self-involved woman who has the chance to make up for the years of neglect of her own son by caring for his three children. William Gaunt is also very good as the more easygoing of the two grandparents (with a tendency to drink too much) who must also make some extreme sacrifices to do the right thing by his grandchildren.
Wisely, this series has kept the more treacly moments to a minimum and so when they come they are all the more powerful as they indicate, fairly realistically, that grandparents and grandchildren are beginning to care for each other despite the conflicts that rage in the household daily. Some of the best moments: Andrew discovers that his grandson, Phillip, believes he is responsible for his parents' death and helps him cope; Georgia, the teen-aged daughter who is difficult at best, has stopped eating believing that no one likes her and it is up to Maggie to reassure her; and the last moments of the last episode of the series (shame on BBC for canceling it!) when Maggie receives a Mother's Day card from Phillip.
Bottom line: highly recommended
A Christmas Wish (2011)
Wanted: A better screenplay (but keep the actors!)
A woman has just been left by her husband and takes her two children and stepson away to find a better life. They end up in a small town where a friendly cafe owner gives the woman a job. The movie then explores how this woman tries to make a new life for herself with the help of the kind townspeople including a handsome deputy whose interest in her hints at the possibility of romance.
I wouldn't say this film is awful...just mediocre. And the frustrating thing is that it didn't have to be. It creates some interesting characters that are portrayed well by the actors involved. It has a heartwarming theme about faith and love but ultimately the writer(s) fails to make the story compelling.
Happily Divorced (2011)
If you like Fran Drescher, you'll like the show. If you don't....don't bother
I like Fran Drescher. I like her comic timing. I like her schmaltzy sense of humor. I like her willingness to mock herself in order to get a laugh. I even like her oh so nasally voice. So I like Happily Divorced. The show succeeds or fails based on whether you like Fran Drescher. Lots of people do and lots of people don't. What the show is about is really almost superfluous because no matter what the premise, if you like Fran Drescher, you'll watch it. If you don't, you won't. I like Fran Drescher and I like her new show.
But for those who may not know Fran Drescher the show revolves around a woman and her recently out of the closet gay ex-husband living together, getting on each other's nerves and even sharing a few tender moments. The supporting cast is all good. I like the performances of Robert Walden and Rita Moreno as Fran's supportive but laid-back parents. (When Fran finds out that her parents always believed he was gay and thought that she knew all the time, she yells "Why would I marry a gay man?" Their response?...a shrug.)
So Fran Drescher fans, give it a try. The rest of you, tune in to something else.
The Wild Pony (1983)
A good family film
Years ago, one of my favorite books was "Year of the Black Pony". I read it several times enjoying the story of a boy who gets the horse of his dreams. I came upon this film version and I am happy to report that it follows the book fairly closely. What I did not realize as a child but as an adult is that the book is really not about the pony at all. It is about a family coming together.
The story takes place during frontier days and concerns the Fellows family (father, mother, son, daughter) as they try to make a go of it as farmers. Unfortunately, Mr. Fellows doesn't take to farming and frustrates his wife, Sara, with his irresponsible behavior--the final one being a drunken altercation with a neighbor farmer named Frank Chance that ends in Mr. Fellows' accidental death. Sara quickly sees that without a man she will not be able to support herself and her children. She approaches Frank Chance with a most unusual proposition...a marriage of convenience to ensure support for herself and her children.
While the relationship between Sara and Frank serves as the central point of the film, the action is viewed through the eyes of Sara's son Christopher who comes to admire his kindly stepfather. The role of the wild pony in all of this I'll leave you to discover yourself but it's an uplifting film that the whole family can enjoy. I definitely recommend it.
My Future Boyfriend (2011)
Better than expected
I didn't have very high hopes for this movie as I sat down to watch it. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself viewing a very appealing film. An anthropologist (Watson) from 1000 years in the future comes back to 2011 to investigate the idea of "love" after finding a well-preserved romance novel written by Sara Rue's character. He is perplexed and intrigued to find himself attracted to Rue who thinks he's completely nuts.
Sara Rue is, as always, a pleasure to watch and Barry Watson had a commitment to his character that really came through. I have to think it takes some skill to be both weird and charming. The two actors had nice chemistry and the screenplay, while not exactly innovative, did display some intelligence. The only criticism I have is that Valerie Harper is WOEFULLY underutilized. She looked great though and definitely held her own with her younger co-stars. All in all, a good viewing experience.
A great climax to a so-so mystery
When I first read "A Murder is Announced" I was underwhelmed, considering it one of the weaker of Christie's mysteries. The plot just seems far too convoluted to be believable. However, watching this film helps you forget how needlessly elaborate the murder plot is as you get caught up in the excellent performances. Zoe Wanamaker's performance is, in particular, very memorable. (Some spoilers to follow).
I must comment on the death scene of Ms. Murgatroyd. It is a powerful scene and I felt quite affected at the grief-stricken reaction of Geraldine McEwen's Miss Marple. But upon reflection, I believe it is out of character. Miss Marple's effectiveness as a detective was due in part to her calm acceptance of the reality of evil in the world and her ability to be somewhat emotionally removed from the events that transpired around her. Miss Marple would have been distressed by the death and moved to grim action but I don't think she would have been reduced to paroxysms of sorrow even by the death of someone she cared about. For what I believe to be a more accurate portrayal, view the filmed version of this novel starring Joan Hickson. I thought her a little too stern to be Miss Marple initially but have revised my opinion.
Both versions of this novel are worth watching!
The Stone Tape (1972)
Science and the supernatural
The Stone Tape is a creepy film about science attempting to understand the supernatural and the consequences that result. A group of research scientists have set up shop in an old manor house. They discover the ghost of a young woman that appears to be haunting an old room in the house used for storage. Eventually, they come to the conclusion that the image and sounds are not that of a ghost but rather a "recording" of that event. This leads to an investigation of the stones that make up the room as possible alternative recording mechanisms. The scientists' investigations result in the unintentional "erasing" of the young woman's image. What lies beneath that image is, unfortunately, even more terrifying.
What makes the final scene so effective is that you anticipate it. There is no "twist", just a very logical conclusion based on the events that occurred before. You even understand it "scientifically" but it doesn't diminish the horror of the scene one whit. As the lead scientist walks into the room for one last time, you know exactly what will happen and you understand all of its implications. You also clearly understand how the inherent weaknesses of the main characters led to this outcome.
All in all, The Stone Tape is a very unusual and effective ghost story.
The Millionaire Matchmaker (2008)
Lifestyles of the Rich and Superficial
I never believed that anyone could come up with a TV show that I would despise. Reality programming has accomplished what I thought impossible. The Millionaire Matchmaker is (apparently) paid big bucks for her expertise in matching up clients. Does she use some kind of personality assessment, measure of compatibility, or even consider informally the background, education, or goals of the client and potential mate? Nope...it's all about hotness. This is bad enough but for the Matchmaker of this series to give some sort of lip service to the notions of long term relationships, marriage, and stability when the true goal is obviously nothing more than brief liaisons between the rich and the beautiful plumbs the depths of hypocrisy in a way that few other reality series have. I realize that reality TV is an oxymoron but the world being reflected by this program, be it real or not, is a completely repugnant one.