Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Alive Inside – movie review

          Moving….inspirational…deeply touching.
          This documentary shares the effect of music therapy on elders suffering Alzheimer’s or other dementia. These mostly institutionalized individuals are catatonic and curled within themselves. They are shut off from us who are their family members, friends and caregivers.  Until, that is, they have earphones connected to an iPod placed on their heads. They hear personalized music from by-gone years.
          These elders burst alive; many of them can’t even stay still and start swaying and dancing and singing along with the music. They become communicative for the first time in years, and we all applauded in the theater.
          Dan Cohen heads up a non-profit, Music and Memory, which has the lofty goal of providing personalized music through iPods for all residents in every elder care facility throughout the U.S. and Canada.

          How exciting and uplifting this documentary is.  Just think! This is a Blue Ocean Strategy-ish culture change for those aged who begin to open up and contribute a little but, more importantly, who are able to experience fun again because of the power of music! This film poses the question:  Are we really interested in the way people age or will we just play lip service to their contribution or lack thereof to society.

After his ‘awakening’ one stately gentleman cheerfully said, “It can’t get away from me if I’m in this place” – the place of the music. I kept it together until one woman about my age lite up upon hearing McCartney’s Blackbird.

          This is a must-see movie. It is poignant yet extremely inspiriting. And if, when you get home, you think you might want to contribute an iPod or two, you can reach out to them at They will take your old, unused ones or a contribution for new one(s).

          It’s not about expensive medications that really do no good to enhance the quality of their lives. It’s about one of the first changes I’ve seen to positively affect a group of people who might have lots more living to do and lots more joy to give us.
Five of possible five ticket stubs

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Fading Gigolo – movie review

          Written, directed and starring John Turturro, “Fading Gigolo” is a comedy about a man who decides to become a professional Don Juan in order to provide money for his friend, Murray. Fioravante (played by Turturro) is a fairly non-descript guy you wouldn’t look twice at if you passed him on the street. He takes his part-time role of “ho” seriously, however, and successfully transforms from the not-getting-a-second-look guy into the man you want to be with. You want to be with him whether he’s just listening to you, providing platonic touch or servicing you and a friend in a ménage-a-tois. The story unfolds into an interestingly and slightly complicated tale of emotions and love and money.

          I loved this movie, and I loved John Turturro as Fioravante. His face and character stand up to close scrutiny in scenes with little dialogue. Yes, he’s just a plain guy but via his acting – in both the movie and in the change Fioravante’s psyche must undergo with each client – he superbly transforms into a handsome, sexy, and savvy gigolo.

          The movie also stars Sharon Stone and Sophia Vegara as a couple of Fioravante’s customers.  Also excellently participating in this lovely film is Vanessa Paradis who plays a Hasidic widow and Liev Schrieber, a Hasidic neighborhood patrolman who follows Paradis through her meetings with Fioravante.

          Oh, I forgot to mention Woody Allen…how did that happen? Allen rarely just acts in films but he plays Fioravante’s friend and manager, Murray. He is the beneficary of a portion of the money from the ‘business.’  [Regardless of guilty or not guilty, it’s too bad we’ll never be able to see Allen without always wondering. It detracts somewhat from his excellent acting.] Murray’s relationship with Fioravante is poignant and filled with the stuff we all want our friends to have:  quiet support, pushy support and encouragement, unfailing admiration, and lots of humor.

          Did I say I love this movie? Well, I do and recommend it highly. It receives five out of five ticket stubs from me.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dancing in Jaffa – movie review

         This hour and 40 minute film documents the journey of one ballroom champion returning to his home town to teach children of two divergent groups to dance. These children are not just from different neighborhoods, they’re from different heritages and religions, cultures perpetually on the brink of war.

          Internationally renowned ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine returns to his city of birth, Jaffa along the coast of Israel to teach 10 year old Palestinian-Israeli and Jewish-Israeli children to dance and compete …together.  The film follows specifically the complex stories of a couple of different children who have had to deal with issues of prejudice, religious and cultural separation and politics of the unsettled region.

          While the individual stories are tender and touching, the bigger story is how the teaching experience becomes a microcosm of the Middle East’s struggle to work together in harmony.

          This is not a big film. It didn’t need to be made. The cinematography isn’t perfect. But I’m sure glad it was made. There’s nothing like showing children dealing with issues that adults have created for them.  We’re screwing up these precious, innocent, little sponges of delightful curiosity with our wars and politics and religious differences that get in the way of respecting the ways of others.
          Okay, okay….I’ll remember that this is a movie review and step down from my soap box and just say:  you’ll learn something if you take the time to see this little film. You’ll learn something about life in another part of the world and … about yourself.
Four out of five ticket stubs
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Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Girls in the Band – movie review

       This delightful 83 minute documentary was very enlightening about girl jazz bands…from their early inception in the 1930’s to the current day. Sure, it’s not a burning subject from my gotta-know bucket list but it was very informative and entertaining. The cast was made up of about 20 performers who were part of various bands throughout the years.

          I love all the wrinkly (and still thoroughly gorgeous) women today who shared their experiences in the film as they are shown playing in these bands from a by-gone era. There were some tough roads to travel as they toured, especially through the South during the height of segregation. Many of the bands were all black with one or two white women, or they were ‘international’ with blacks, Mexican and Asian women, with one or two Caucasians. Black families living in the areas would open their homes to these musicians for places to stay thereby jeopardizing their own welfare should segregationists find out what they were up to.

          The girls in the band had a blast. At the time they didn’t make a huge deal about the uniqueness of what they were doing. Most of them just knew they wanted to play an instrument at a very young age and not just those musical instruments thought to be for women to play – piano and violin. They played sax, trombone, drums, tuba, as well as just about everything else.

          If you liked 20 Feet From Stardom, you’ll like this movie too. I really enjoyed it.

Four out of possible five ticket stubs




Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nebraska - movie review

          If you escape to the movies as a respite from some of the harsher aspects of the real world, you might want to skip “Nebraska” starring Bruce Dern. It’s a bleak movie with a lot of nothing: no color (filmed entirely in black and white), flat landscape-less scenery of Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and lots of actors playing friends and relatives taking up space in living rooms or at dinner tables but saying little, stuck in their own worlds of … of what? I couldn’t even imagine. Grunts and vapid stares replaced any kind of recognizable conversation.
          At the same time, this movie is filled with a powerful story of love and hope and getting older and care giving and friendship and family. The blank openness of the film leaves much for your imagination to create the scenario of what it must have been like for the Grant family living a tough existence in Billings, Montana.
          Bruce Dern plays the patriarch, Woody Grant, who is singularly focused on getting to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim his sweepstakes prize of one million dollars from a magazine sweepstake promotional company.  His son David, played lovingly by Will Forte, tries to explain to his dad that the sweepstake is a scam and that his dad has not, in fact, won anything.  David is constantly tracking down his dad who is repeatedly escaping his home or the hospital to hit the road to Nebraska.
          I didn’t really begin to ‘get’ this movie until one hour and fifteen minutes into it when Kate Grant (June Squibb), who plays the wife of Woody, delivers a shocking and wake-up line in the film – I won’t spoil the surprise here. June Squibb’s performance is outstanding as she plays all the mid-western wives rolled into one who are fed up with vacant spouses that, on the surface, cause more grief than they appear to be worth. Ms. Squibb has played in a few movies (About Schmidt and Scent of a Woman, Meet Joe Black) and appears equally noted for her TV work in Getting On (a new HBO series) and Mike and Molly and Castle. I intend to check out her work; she’s that good.

          I’m not sure how to rate this film. On the one hand, it’s compelling and makes you think. On the other hand, all the components used to convey the bleakness (filming style, landscape, casting, story line) took a toll on my ‘enjoyment’ of the film, and perhaps that’s just the way it was supposed to be.
Three ticket stubs out of a possible five



Monday, November 4, 2013

Enough Said - movie review

          “Enough Said” is the story of the relationship of Eva, played by Julia Louis Dreyfus, and Albert, played by James Gandolfini. Eva is a divorced single parent who works as a masseuse and has a daughter who is headed out of the nest for college, and Albert, also a divorcee, is a somewhat slovenly, but imminently likeable, cinematic librarian. They meet at a party and begin an intimate and highly unlikely (my opinion) relationship.
          Separate from meeting Albert, Eva also meets Marianne at this party and she becomes a friend and client of Eva’s . During the tenure of their friendship and client relationship, Eva listens to Marianne complain in painful detail about her ex.  I doubt it’ll be much of a spoiler to say that in the most uncomfortable meeting, Albert and his ex, Marianne, find out that Eva has known both of them throughout their respective associations. This all happens at Marianne’s house, in front of Eva.

          What I won’t spoil is how it is all ends. For that, you need to take the time to see this charming, intelligent and refreshingly mature flick.

Honestly, I went to see this movie partly because it is James Gandolfini’s last. I must admit, he didn’t look well, sort of bloated and fairly unhealthy, which he actually was or portrayed so convincingly. There’ll probably be no accolades for “Enough Said,” but I found it a nice break from all the loud, metallic, zombie crap we’re being bombarded with currently at the theater. Oh, that made me sound sort of old, didn’t it?

                                                                                           Three ticket stubs out of possible five stubs


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Defending Jacob - book review

          Wow. That’s the word that immediately escapes my mouth as I close the back cover of a page-turning legal thriller involving a family that, under different circumstances, would look like any other that you might know.

          This is the story of Andy Barber who is an assistant DA in a rural Massachusetts community. He is well known and respected in his position and enjoys a happy home life with wife, Laurie, and 14 year old son, Jacob.

          The entire Barber family’s life is turned upside down when Jacob is accused of murder of one of his classmates. While this obviously tears up the Barber family emotionally, it presents a special wrinkle because of Andy’s position in the DA’s office.

          Andy understandably wants to believe his son is innocent but damning facts and shocking revelations make both parents wonder how well they know their son. This sounds like an open and shut case of a fast-moving thriller to be enjoyed over a weekend or on a sick day from the office.

          There are, however, a whole load of things that happen that are difficult to conceive but, to reveal them here, would spoil this excellent mystery/thriller. Suffice it to say, I’m going to recommend you get to the library or bookstore and read this entertaining story.

          Defending Jacob has been named “One of the Best Books of the Year” by Entertainment Weekly. The author, William Landay, is a Harvard graduate and a former attorney, like John Grisham and Scott Turow.
Four bookmarks out of possible five