Category Archives: 4 of 5

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)


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Pan’s Labyrinth

In 1944 fascist Spain, a girl, fascinated with fairy-tales, is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the center of the labyrinth. He tells her she’s a princess, but must prove her royalty by surviving three gruesome tasks. If she fails, she will never prove herself to be the the true princess and will never see her real father, the king, again.

Beautiful, captivating, mesmerizing . . . and a story, as well.

The subtitles were a bit of a distraction since the images were so amazing. Like with Amelie, I hated to look away from the picture to catch the dialog.

The movie is not, however, all fairies and bows and butterflies. It has serious brutality, which is why it loses a star. I am not sure this is a movie I would recommend to my sister, for instance.

This movie is much like Life is Beautiful, involving a fantasy world which helps a child deal with a world which is frightening and harsh.

Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing: critics 96%; users 94%

Kinky Boots (2005)


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Kinky Boots

From the makers of “Calendar Girls” comes an uplifting British comedy about two outcast dreamers who finally figure out how to stand up for themselves . . . in thigh-high leather stilettos.

Despite the Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 57% from the critics, this is a sweet movie – perhaps that is why it scored much higher with the general public who give it 78%.

Despite the name, there is nothing kinky, or even racy, about this movie.

Despite the cross-dressers, I recommended this movie to my mother, and she really enjoyed it, as well.

An absolutely fabulous performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor puts it right over the top for me

Rich in spunk, humor, dignity, subtle emotions when needed, and dressed to kill when belting songs like “I Want to Be Evil” in a meaty, gal-guy voice, Ejiofor amps and vamps the contrivances appealingly.

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 57%; Audience 78%

Last Holiday (2006)

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Last Holiday

Last Holiday

“…when she learns she only has a few weeks left to live, Georgia gathers her money, quits her job, and flies to a swank European resort she’s always dreamed of visiting. Naturally, her new carelessness with money and fearless candor lead everyone around her–including her senator (Giancarlo Esposito, Do The Right Thing) and her former boss (Timothy Hutton, Ordinary People)–to think she’s a mover and shaker. Last Holiday unfolds the way you expect it to (dozens of movies and TV shows have similar plots), but Latifah and the capable cast keep it alive.” –Bret Fetzer

I wasn’t expecting much from this movie, though I had heard it was funny. I was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining it was – though I would hesitate to call it a “good movie”. I would say it is what it claims to be, a fun little romp. It is also quite palatable for the whole family – not so chick-flicky that it would be hard for guys to sit through, not full of bad language or scenarios that would make it uncomfortable in mixed company.

Based on Word of Mouth Scale, I would recommend it to just about everyone in my circle.

A couple of silly complaints:

  • I think Queen Latifah has shown she has acting chops and she is well cast here, but if you are going to have her in your movie, find a way to get her to sing.
  • I don’t know how they would have gotten it into the script, but why have LL Cool J in your movie and not have him shirtless at least once?

Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 55%; Audience 70%

pieces of april

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few movies actually have an effect on me emtionally. usually i’m just a passive movie watcher who usually doesn’t allow myself to get too involved with what’s happening on the the screen.

to put it simply, i have never cried at the end of a movie.

that was until i saw big fish. that movie is something i call my “dad” movie. the ending just made me think of what it would be like for me and my father. i completely broke down. the end of the royal tennenbaums gave me that feeling too just not as much big fish.

i’ve been in search of my “mom” movie and feel that i’ve found it in pieces of april.

the movie revolves around an estranged daughter named april (katie holmes) who is currently living in new york city and spending the entire day cooking thanksgiving dinner for her mother, joy, (patricia clarkson) who is dying of cancer.

they haven’t talked in years and all joy can remember are the bad times. the family is really hesitant about going. the other daughter, beth (allison burns), does everything in her power to try and talk her mother out of going.

it could possibly be joy’s last thanksgiving so you get the feeling that she wants to be there.

the thing about this whole story is that i could see myself cooking some sort of big dinner for my mother if the time ever comes that she becomes sick or, god forbidden, dying.

even though i didn’t cry at the end of this movie, i did feel compelled to write something about it. if you love your mother or haven’t talked to her in a while, you may want to watch this movie and then call her afterward.

pieces of april


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What is about a Pixar animation that just puts it head and shoulders above the rest?

The previews leading up to the new hit Cars explained it all. Having Cars collowing previews for films like Barnyard and Open Season probably did more damage than good for those films; especially considering that last two things to play were Pixar and Brad Bird’s (Iron Giant) Ratatouille and a Pixar short film, One-Man Band.. These two, let’s call them animated shorts, showed off the power that Pixar has to offer.

With that said, Cars was visually stunning, but the story, well, it had a little lacking.

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Spencer’s Food & Wine

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5626 W Bell Rd, Glendale, AZ

I went to this club expecting it to be something else, La Grocerie to be exact. And I thought it was… until I got home and looked at my receipt for their address. New owners or just a new name? I’m not sure, but it was a similar experience to my last visit.

I get the impression that they thought I was a food critic of some sort (I guess, since I am writing a review, I am) – I was dining alone, I asked some very specific questions about their menu, I solicited my servers opinion on two of the dishes, I let her know I planned on having dessert, and asked her to leave the wine list so I could pick the perfect wine to go with something chocolate. Then I took pictures of my food and was writing notes on my MDA. All in all, pretty suspicious looking. Sorry the pics are dark and blurry, but the restaurant is dark – go figure.

I started with the Crunchy Apple and Gorgonzola Quesadilla with prosciutto and candied walnuts.

Really interesting mix of flavors, great presentation. This may have been a bit better for me with just a slight tweak, however. Most of the flavors were so mild that the gorgonzola was a bit much. I think this might have been even better with a more subtle cheese, something with just slightly less bite/tanginess.

On to dessert. I had tried the Flourless Chocolate Cake on my previous visit and was seriously disappointed, so I skipped it this time. Had I realized it was a different restaurant (and so possibly a different cake) I may have tried that again. Instead, I went with the Chocolate Covered Strawberries – how could you possibly go wrong?

This was a good-sized serving, six large berries for $5.00. The berries were perfectly ripe and juicy. The chocolate, however, was too thick (did I just say that?) There is a balance to be achieved and the chocolate should not be that heavy. They were served covered in whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate syrup – yummy but messy. My one suggestion there would be to keep the chocolate syrup off of the stems – easy to do and much less messy for your customers who are trying to navigate their way through eating giant hunks of solid strawberry flavored chocolate 🙂

The servers were friendly and attentive, not to mention adorable, and the atmosphere was pleasant. On the Friday and Saturday nights they have live music. Their line-up rotates through NuGruv (not familiar with them), Subterranean Jazz (a bit too contemporary for me), Royce Murray (B-3 blues), and the John Shea Trio (no idea).

King Kong

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King Kong

Caught an early showing of King Kong Friday night, and I went in with seriously low expectations. I am sick of Hollywood’s insistence on remaking movies rather than showing a smidgen of creativity and perhaps giving us something original.

Peter Jackson has given us a most excellent film. This is the movie they will use as justification for all the crappy remakes, past and future. This movie will make other directors think they, too, have what it takes to furbish a classic.

Beautiful. Stimulating. Heartbreaking….Outstanding. And what an amazing job they did with Kong – I can’t imagine there was anything else this year that will come close for the effects Oscar®. They really need to come up with an award for Andy Serkis whose work here as the giant ape, and as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies, is integral to the success of our experience – and outside the scope of traditional Academy categories.

I have only a few small complaints:

  • Too long. I am not the first to say this, but I definitely agree. It didn’t really need to be 3 hours long; a full hour is gone before we even get a hint of Kong, a lot of time is spent on developing characters we don’t really need to know, and some of the loving homage to New York in the 30’s, though impressive, is not needed (can’t believe I am advocating taking that out).
  • Too scary for the little ones. There were several families in attendance with small children. People, this flick is rated PG-13 for a reason, in this case because of the violence and scary monsters. Think of the bits you know will be in the film, the giant ape, the dinosaurs, the screaming damsel – then realize they are being presented on the big screen with surround sound in a dark theater – NOT good for kidlings. Throw in the tribe of cannibals, the giant bugs…. You get the picture and should leave the little ones with a sitter. But, why should this movie be any different? To clarify, my complaint isn’t with the level of scary in the film, but with the parents who insist on bringing their children.
  • Jack Black. This surprised me, because I am a Jack Black fan. He just didn’t fit this part, and he was a bit distracting to me.
  • The effects. Most of the effects were so breathtaking you forget that what you are watching is computer generated. Because of the success of most of the CGI, when it stumbles even slightly (e.g. during the Brontosaurus chase), it becomes a glaring disappointment. Though far beyond what you’ve seen elsewhere, that sequence just seems sloppy here.

Small complaints, to be sure, and they don’t diminish my Word of Mouth rating at all.

BTW: I didn’t cry at the end, though I was fully expecting to – perhaps because of that expectation I was sufficiently braced for the trauma…

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