To Sir, with Love (1967)

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To Sir With Love

This is one of my favorite movies of all time. Great message presented in a pleasant, and entertaining, package.

Ideological changes in post-Civil Rights movement America were at the heart of legendary African-American actor Sidney Poitier’s films in the late 1960s. One such film is this powerful drama, which stars Poitier as Mark Thackery, an unemployed engineer who applies for a teaching job because he needs the paycheck. He lands a job at a school in London’s East End that’s full of unruly teenagers who are profoundly uninterested in learning. After several failed attempts to reach the students, Thackery abandons the textbooks and conventional teaching methods and, treating them as young adults, he prepares his students for the job market. His unorthodox style is effective–the students begin to respect Thackery and absorb his lessons. But his substantial accomplishments are weighed in the balance when he is finally offered the engineering job he had been waiting for.

Poitier’s proud, defiant figure stands tall against the rowdy, aimless swinging-sixties London teens, but one of the film’s strengths is the respect that is paid to the disruptive students as human characters worthy of a better future. Lulu, who delivers a strong student portrayal, also sings the popular theme song.

One of Poitier’s greatest strengths is his ability to command respect in his roles. Neither he, nor any character he portrayed, demanded respect as a black man – he made it clear he deserved respect simply as a man. And he got it. He was truly a role model for all young men of the time and this movie was a wonderful accompaniment. Add a great supporting cast and you have a movie I recommend to everyone in my circle.

Amazon.com essential video
Novelist James Clavell wrote, produced, and directed this 1967 British film (based on a novel by E.R. Braithwaite) about a rookie teacher who throws out stock lesson plans and really takes command of his unruly, adolescent students in a London school. Poitier is very good as a man struggling with the extent of his commitment to the job, and even more as a teacher whose commitment is to proffering life lessons instead of academics. The spirit of this movie can be found in such recent films as Dangerous Minds and Mr. Holland’s Opus, but none is as moving as this one. Besides, the others don’t have a title song performed by pop star Lulu. -~-Tom Keogh


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 100%, Users 89%

Reign Over Me (2007)

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Reign Over Me

Reign Over Me

Tagline: “Let in the unexpected”

Alan Johnson has everything he needs to get through life: a good job, a beautiful and loving wife, and their wonderful children. Yet he feels isolated because he finds having a hard-working job and managing a family too much to handle and has no one to talk to about it. Charlie Fineman, on the other hand, doesn’t have a job or a family. He used to have both until he lost his family on the fateful day of 9/11, and the grief he felt caused him to quit his job and isolate himself from everyone around him. As it turns out, Alan and Charlie were roommates in college, and a chance encounter one night rekindles the friendship they shared. But when Charlie’s problems become too much to deal with, Alan is determined to help Charlie come out of his emotional abyss.

I am going to point you to the review by babubhaut, an IMDB user, which sums up my feeling of the movie nicely.

I am not quite sure why Sandler went with the Bob Dylan impersonation for this role but, that quirk not-withstanding, his performance is quite moving. Don Cheadle is always great. Jada Pinkett Smith is generally irritating, but her role here is small enough that I didn’t mind her.

Yes, it’s a message film – and it’s predictable. But it is still lovely and I know my family and friends will enjoy it.


Rotten Tomatoes: critics 63%; users 86%

Casino Royale (2006)

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Casino Royale

Casino Royale

In his first mission as 007, James Bond must win a poker game at The Casino Royale, in Montenegro, to stop a criminal who works as a banker to the terrorist organizations of the world, from financing crime and terrorism across the globe.

I must review this only as an action movie – not a Bond film. Though I enjoy Daniel Craig as an actor, he is no Bond. He is too “common” and rough, not a smooth bone in his well-toned body (at least not in this first outing) There are, of course, the usual Bondian staples; breath-taking chases, women falling into bed with Bond, then falling dead… But they don’t quite hold up in Craig’s hand.

The rest of the casting is strong enough, particularly Mads Mikkelsen (as the villainous Le Chiffre), Giancarlo Giannini (Rene Mathis), and Judi Dench (M).

I believe many in my circle will enjoy this one, despite the faults I find with it, so it tilts higher on the Word of Mouth Scale One can only hope that Craig can learn to be a bit more refinied in future installments.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 95%; Audience 87%

The Professional (1994)

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The Professional

The Professional

As visually stylish as it is graphically violent, this thriller directed by Luc Besson concerns Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a 12-year-old girl living in New York City who has been exposed to the sordid side of life from an early age: her family lives in a slum and her abusive father works for drug dealers, cutting and storing dope. Mathilda doesn’t much care for her parents, but she has a close bond with her four-year-old brother. One day, she returns from running an errand to discover that most of her family, including her brother, have been killed in a raid by corrupt DEA agents, led by the psychotic Stansfield (Gary Oldman). Mathilda takes refuge in the apartment of her secretive neighbor, Leon (Jean Reno), who takes her in with a certain reluctance. She discovers that Leon is a professional assassin, working for Tony (Danny Aiello), a mob kingpin based in Little Italy.

Not for everyone. As the synopsis says, it is quite graphically violent. It is also…oddly sweet. Damaged souls who find each other and form a new family, a plot device that has been used often – though not often so well.

The story is engaging, the direction is beautiful, the performances are absolutely top notch. You may find Gary Oldman’s turn a bit much, it seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it bit of overacting. I found it deliciously psychotic.

And there is simply no way you could watch this movie and not see the future stardom in store for a young Natalie Portman.

It loses a bit on the Word of Mouth Scale because of the violence & language. But, if you can handle a fair amount of blood and cussing, this movie should be on your list.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 79%; Audience 94%

Over The Rhine

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Over The Rhine

Over The Rhine

at The Rhythm Room

People, people, people – if you are missing out on these great shows, it is because you aren’t listening to me.

I know I told you about Over The Rhine a little late in the day, but the show has been on my public calendar for at least a month. What a phenomenal performance. Fun group, fun venue, fun crowd.

I was worried about not getting a ticket, so I showed up just after 6:00. There was one person in line ahead of me, the very nice attorney I met at the David Wilcox show in August. I had mentioned Over The Rhine to him, and he looked them up. I love introducing people to new music, and it was nice to see a friendly face.

The evening started with a performance by Griffin House, not that I had any idea who he was. Turned out to be a guy and a guitar, one of my favorite set-ups. Unfortunately, he had some sound issues – a little hot on the guitar volume and some buzzing when he was intentionally loud. He did a couple of protest songs which weren’t quite clever or subtle enough to work for me, but they were melodic and well delivered. I enjoyed his set quite a bit, enough to pick up two of his CDs (well, it was one for $15, 2 for $20)

He did this song, The Man That Says Goodbye To You Is Out Of His Mind. It is funny, though the humor was more evident live – you’ll just have to imagine the winking delivery and audience laughter in all the right places.

Over the Rhine was everything I expected them to be . . . and more. Really great live performers. I have seen so many concerts in my day, and one of my biggest pet peeves is musicians who just seem to be going through the motions (or who you wish were lipsynching because they sound so bad live). OtR seemed to be having a blast and I got the feeling they wanted us to be having fun, as well. There were some issues with the mix early on (too much of the instruments, not enough vocals) but they got that worked out.

Karin Bergquist delivers her exquisite vocals in a casual, intimate way. You can almost imagine her singing you torch songs in her living room, something I am sure she does for husband, and original OtR bandmate Linford Detweiler (who was fantastic on keyboards, guitar, bass…). Filling out the band on this tour were Jake Bradley, master of the upright bass, and Mickey Grimm, amazing on the drums.

If this group is coming through your town, do yourself a favor and see the show. You won’t regret it.

BTW: I got a few more of their CDs; two that I bought, and two that were gifted to me. I think I now have seven of their albums. How cool am I? OtR also releases all their albums on vinyl. Does anyone still have a turntable?

Cross posted at Vox

Scott Johnson

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Scott Johnson at The Last Exit

You know, when I tell you about these shows you should attend, you really ought to listen. If you missed the show you missed out.

Not only a great concert, but a great time. I had never been to The Last Exit so wasn’t sure what to expect of the venue. Last night it seemed the perfect place for a rock concert. Smallish enough to be cozy, big enough not to be cramped, friendly staff, great bar (where Sparks were only a penny till 11 – those things are…odd), graffitti covered bathrooms…

The show started a bit late, but it was worth the wait. Opening up were The Persuaders, really great sound. After their set I asked the bass player if they had a CD for sale and he told me it was only their second gig. Was he just messing with me? They sounded too good to just be getting together. Maybe he was serious because my brief search of the net (including MySpace) turned up nothing.

this pic not from last night After a short break to change up the stage, Scotty got it going. It is rare to find musicians who sound even better live than on their highly produced CDs, but that was definitely the case here. Perhaps the vibe of the room and the feedback of the crowd added to his performance. Whatever it was, it worked.

Robin Wilson joined him on stage to sing Stop, a song that you knew was intended for the Gin Blossoms from the opening chords, very distinct sound. Once Robin started singing, there was no doubt. I am glad Scotty put it on his album, it deserved a showcase.

Scotty finished his set, which was filled with his amazing guitar work, joined by Meredith Meridith Moore. What a set of pipes that girl has! I tried tracking her down online, as well, and had no luck. I do know she plays every Wednesday at The Big Fish Pub but, since I doubt I would be allowed in * , I probably won’t get to see her there. UPDATE: Meridith Moore

After Scotty was CHIME, a band out of LA. Also a really great sound, good enough that my buddy bought their 3 song EP.

All in all, a rockin’ good time. You shoulda been there.

CHIME, along with Scotty Johnson, Robin Wilson and several other bands, will be back out at The Last Exit tonight for Lanceapalooza. Doors open at 7:00, there will be two stages of music, and the proceeds are going to Maricopa County Animal Care & Control.

One more point about the venue that I definitely appreciated. The sound. It was loud enough that you knew you were at a rock show, but not so loud you worried about your ear drums bursting. I hate when bands are so loud you can’t actually “hear” and appreciate their music. I think, generally, bands crank it up so loud because they aren’t that good and don’t want anyone to catch on. I hate when your ears are ringing for the next three days. Good job to The Last Exit for finding the sweet spot.

Cross posted at Vox

David Wilcox

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David Wilcox

David Wilcox at The Rhythm Room

What a great show, he never disappoints. The Rhythm Room isn’t a great venue for a lot of acts, but for his one-man-with-a-guitar show, it is perfect. Despite the non-functioning AC, the show was very cool.


I met a very nice gentleman, an attorney who has worked in many facets of the law through several decades. A message from the universe, perhaps, as we had a lovely conversation about his work, the joys/challenges he finds everyday, and the path to get there (If there are any Wildcats reading this, he got his JD from U of A).

Many of the song selections, too, seemed to speak directly to me – not hard, David Wilcox songs are just that way – but tonight they hit just the right nerve; Start With The Ending, Inside of My Head, Ask For More….

He had a great turn-out and a very appreciative audience. He was a very appreciative performer, as well, and seemed to be enjoying his job on stage as much as we were enjoying our job in the seats.

I had a bit of an unrelated disappointment after the show, though I expected that it would turn out that way. Life doesn’t always go the way we would like it to, I guess.

I will see if I can put together a David Wilcox playlist in the next few days, I know you will enjoy it. (Yes, I know I have posted his stuff before, but it has been a while)

Upcoming at the Rhythm Room: Over The Rhine Sept 25th

Cross posted at Vox

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