Tuesday & Thursday   7:00 pm movies

Abstracts -- July

Adventures of Robin Hood
When Prince John (Claude Rains) and the Norman Lords begin oppressing the Saxon masses in King Richard's absence, a Saxon lord (Errol Flynn) fights back as the outlaw leader of a rebel guerrilla army.  This 1938 classic was one of the first full color movies, and has been loved ever since.  This version has been carefully restored to the same brilliance as when it broke records in 1938.

Hopscotch
Grounded with a desk job by incompetent superiors, a clever CIA agent retires and writes a tell-all memoir that will embarrass his bosses, prompting him to go on the run and elude them.  In the process he hopscotches around the world in a hilarious adventure as he plays Mozart to accompany his typing, assisted by an old flame.

Chariots of Fire 
Two British track athletes, one a determined Jew (Ben Cross), and the other a devout Christian (Ian Charleson), compete in the 1924 Olympics.  Their struggles and conflicts build to a climax as they board a steamship to cross the English Channel and bear the load of preparations and tension under the pressure of world competition.

Analyze This
A psychiatrist (Billy Crystal), bored with his patients, finds himself forced to take on a mob Godfather (Robert de Niro) as a patient who has suddenly become soft and vulnerable in a world that solves differences with a gun. These two worlds clash at the psychiatrist’s wedding and the mobster’s Mafia meeting where weakness could prove fatal. The journey to a cure in these two worlds creates unique humor.

Absolute Power
A career thief (Clint Eastwood) witnesses a horrific crime involving the U.S. President.  To cover the crime the President (Gene Hackman) uses his power over the FBI and other agencies in an attempt to murder the thief and anyone he has contacted.  You are shocked by how such power can overwhelm opponents, but the thief outwits the President.

Driving Miss Daisy
An old Jewish woman (Jessica Tandy) and her African-American chauffeur (Morgan Freeman) in the American South have a relationship that grows and improves over the years.  Freeman’s unique performance and Tandy’s willful portrayal bring memorable comedy to the conflicted demonstrations of tolerance and prejudice and ultimately long-lasting friendship in this moving story.

The Goodbye Girl
After being dumped by her live-in boyfriend, an unemployed dancer (Marsha Mason) and her 10-year-old daughter are reluctantly forced to live with a struggling off-Broadway actor (Richard Dreyfuss).  The actor’s noisy habits and strange behavior irritate the dancer but eventually each shares in the struggles of the other as the daughter is the first to fall in love with the actor, reluctantly by the dancer because she fears being dumped again.

National Velvet
A jaded former jockey (Mickey Rooney) helps a young girl (Elizabeth Taylor) prepare a wild but gifted horse for England's Grand National Sweepstakes.  This classic movie exemplifies the homey goodness of general-audience productions of the era, including Lassie Come Home which introduced Taylor a year earlier.

North by Northwest
In this Alfred Hitchcock classic, a hapless New York advertising executive Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies headed by Philip Vandamm (James Mason), and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive.  Thornhill is thrust from one surprising threat to another until he survives a harrowing climb down from atop the president monument on Mt. Rushmore with Mason’s beautiful girlfriend (Eva Marie Saint).

 

Abstracts -- August

Presumed Inocent
As lawyer Rozat [Rusty] Sabich (Harrison Ford) investigates the murder of colleague Carolyn Polhemus (Greta Scacchi), he finds himself more connected to the crime than anyone else.  Tension builds in this portrayal of Scott Turow’s* first novel as Rusty finds himself accused of the crime, in part because of his romantic involvement with Polhemus.  Rusty’s wife has borne the pain of this involvement and eventually the murder itself.
___*A student of famed Stanford writing teacher Wallace Stegner

Singin' in the Rain*
Long-time dancing partners Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Conner) put on a mesmerizing show of comedy dancing virtuosity as Lockwood fends off no-talent Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) and falls in love with upstart Kathy Selden (teenage Debbie Reynolds).  Jean Hagen’s Lamont is hilarious as her scatterbrain struggles with the introduction of talkies reveals Lamont’s squeaky voice, which must be replaced by Selden’s dubbed voice.
___*I had no idea when I watched this, my first movie in Los Angeles after driving from Chicago following graduation from Illinois Tech in 1952, that it would become a premier classic of the Hollywood musical comedy era. 

The Whole Nine Yards
Struggling dentist "Oz" Oseransky’s (Matthew Perry) life is turned upside down when famous gangster Jimmy "The Tulip" Tudeski (Bruce Willis) moves in next door, and his loathsome wife Sophie (Rosanna Arquette) convinces him to inform a notorious mob boss about the gangster's whereabouts.  The hapless Oz is caught between the murderous Tudeski and the mob boss as each plots to kill the other.  Eventually Oz sides with Tudeski and uses his dental skills to hide the body as he falls in love with the mob boss’s girlfriend.

Grumpy Old Men
A lifelong feud between two neighbors since childhood only gets worse when a new female neighbor moves across the street.  Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau take this inane plot and make it an uproarious rampage through their comic talents, knocking over garbage cans every time they stop at a bait shop for worms, tossing fish to rot in the other’s car, dragging an ice fishing shack to thin ice and generally being a thorn in the other’s side.  Their deep down love for each other comes out as Matthau saves Lemmon after he collapses with a heart attack. Both perform crazy antics from beginning to end, amended by gems from Burgess Meredith and sexy doings by Ann-Margret.

Two Weeks Notice
Harvard educated lawyer Lucy Kelson (Sandra Bullock) uses her career for social activism. George Wade (Hugh Grant) is the suave public face of a development firm that Lucy routinely opposes.  Wade has a reputation as a lady's man, with legal counsels a series of beautiful female lawyers with questionable credentials who have acted more as his casual sex partners.  Needing a real lawyer, he offers Lucy the job of his legal counsel on a chance meeting.  Lucy, who has no intention of being the latest of his bed partners, accepts the job as she feels she can do more good from the inside.  This oil and water relationship gives rise to many humorous conflicts and ultimately a love interest.

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Seven elderly Britons, for a variety of reasons, respond to an online ad and travel to Jaipur, India, where they find run-down hotel with a young, exuberant, and optimistic host.  Evelyn, newly widowed, wants low-cost experience, Graham seeks a long-ago love, Douglas and Jean have lost their pension in a family investment, Muriel needs cheap hip surgery, Madge seeks a rich husband, and Norman is chasing women. India affects each in different ways, enchanting Douglas and Evelyn while driving Jean deeper into bitterness. Their host, young Sonny, has dreams but little cash or skill; he also has a girlfriend whom his mother dismisses. Stories cross and discoveries await each one.  An outstanding cast fills the film with belly laughs and pathos.

Water For Elephants
After his parents' death, veterinarian student Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson) is left penniless and homeless.  Events lead him to joining the circus as their vet, working under their unstable boss August (Christoph Walzt whose violent tendencies give everyone reason to be cautious around him, including his beautiful and quiet wife Marlena (Reese Whitherspoon), whom August is very possessive of and who Jacob finds himself soon falling in love with.

Philomena
When former journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is dismissed from the Labour Party in disgrace, he is at a loss as to what do. That changes when a young Irish woman approaches him about a story of her mother, Philomena (Judy Dench), who had her son taken away when she was a teenage inmate of a Catholic convent.  Martin arranges a magazine assignment about her search for him that eventually leads to America.  Along the way, Martin and Philomena discover as much about each other as about her son's fate. Furthermore, both find their basic beliefs challenged.

The Quiet Man
Sean Thornton (John Wayne) has returned from America to reclaim his homestead and escape his past.  Sean's eye is caught by Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara), a beautiful but poor maiden, and younger sister of ill-tempered "Red" Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen). The riotous relationship that forms between Sean and Mary Kate, punctuated by Will's pugnacious attempts to keep them apart, form the main plot, with Sean's past as the dark undercurrent.


Abstracts -- September

The Untouchables
Federal Agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) sets out to stop Al Capone (Robert de Niro).  To work around rampant corruption, he assembles a small, hand-picked team, a Chicago beat cop (Sean Connery) among them.  With the team, Ness rapidly advances from abject failure to a series of busts that threaten Capone’s grip on the city. Capone’s most easily proven crime is Federal tax evasion, which the team accomplishes with testimony from Capone’s bookkeeper.  There is much intrigue and mob-instigated violence on the way.

Annie Hall
Alvy Singer (Woody Allen), a forty year old twice divorced, neurotic, intellectual Jewish New York stand-up comic, reflects on the demise of his latest relationship, to Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), an insecure, flighty, Midwestern WASP aspiring nightclub singer.  Alvy not only reviews the many ups and downs of their relationship, but also reviews the many facets of his makeup that led to him starting to date Annie.  Those facets include growing up next to Coney Island in Brooklyn, being attracted to the opposite sex for as long as he can remember, and enduring years of Jewish guilt with his constantly arguing parents.  Non-stop funny incidents and quips from beginning to end.

In the Heat of the Night
Detective Virgil Tibbs is caught up in the racial tension of the US South when he is arrested after the murder of a prominent businessman.  Tibbs was simply waiting for his next train at the station in Sparta, Mississippi and the confusion is soon resolved.  But when local police chief Gillespie learns that Tibbs is the Philadelphia PD's number one homicide expert, he reluctantly asks for his assistance.  The murdered man, Mr. Colbert, had come to Sparta from the North to build a new factory and his wife and business associates immediately point the finger at Endicott, the most powerful man in the county and the one who had the most to lose if a major new employer comes to the area.  Tibbs' life is clearly in danger but he perseveres in a highly charged and racially explosive environment until the killer is found.

Rear Window
Professional photographer L.B. "Jeff" Jefferies breaks his leg while getting an action shot at an auto race.  Confined to his New York apartment, he spends his time looking out of the rear window observing the neighbors.  He begins to suspect that a man across the courtyard may have murdered his wife.  Jeff enlists the help of his high society fashion-consultant girlfriend Lisa Freemont and his visiting nurse Stella to investigate.

Marty
Stuck as the last of six children at home with an overbearing Italian mother, the only child still unmarried, 34 year old socially awkward Bronx butcher Marty faces middle age with no prospects of marriage.  But when he is goaded by his mother into going to the Stardust Ballroom one Saturday night, Marty unexpectedly meets Clara, a lonely teacher.  Suddenly, Marty's future seems bright.

The Long Hot Summer
Sixty-one year old widower Will Varner, in ill health, owns many businesses and property in Frenchman's Bend, Mississippi, including a plantation.  His children are a disappointment to him, whom he sees as not being able to carry on the Varner name.  Son Jody Varner has no ambition and does not work, spending much of his time fooling around with his seductive wife, Eula. Twenty-three year old daughter Clara Varner is clever but stuck with a weak suiter, genteel mama's boy Alan.  Into their lives comes Ben Quick, self assured and aggressive, the man Clara needs and Jody should emulate.  Sparks fly as the characters sort things out.

Coal Miner’s Daughter
Biographical story of Loretta Lynn, a legendary country singer who came from poverty to worldwide fame.  She rose from humble beginnings in Kentucky to superstardom while changing the sound and style of country music forever.  At only thirteen years of age, Loretta Webb marries Doolittle Lynn and is soon responsible for a sizeable family.  Loretta appears destined to a life of homemaking  but Doolittle recognizes his wife's musical talent and buys her a guitar as an anniversary present one year. At eighteen, the mother of four children and busy housewife still finds time to write and sing songs at small fairs and local honky-tonks. This gift sets Loretta Lynn on the grueling, tumultuous path to superstardom and country music greatness.

The Contract
Ray Keene (John Cusack), a father who wants to redeem himself in the eyes of his son (Jamie Anderson), finds himself forced to bring Carden (Morgan Freeman), a world-class assassin, to justice.  All the while, he must protect his son and evade the assassin's team who are methodically hunting them down in the wilderness.  Brilliant acting and an entangled plot make for thrilling entertainment.

Abstracts -- October

Crocodile Dundee
Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee (Paul Hogan) is an Australian crocodile hunter who lives in the outback and runs a safari business with his trusted friend and mentor Walter Reilly.  After his surviving a crocodile attack, a New York journalist named Sue (Linda Kozlowski) arrives to interview Mick about how he survived and learns more about the crocodile hunter.  Their several adventures, including Mick saving her from a crocodile attack, inspires Sue to invite Mick to visit New York City, a new adventure for him.  Mick finds the culture and life in New York City vastly different from his home as he falls in love with Sue.  Many funny incidents occur during the cross culture adventures in Australia and New York.

Roman Holiday
Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) is a reporter for the American News Service in Rome. He is caught in a lie by his boss after sleeping in and missing an interview with HRH Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn), who is on a goodwill tour of Europe.  However, he thinks he may have stumbled upon a huge scoop. Princess Ann has officially called off all her Rome engagements due to illness.  He recognizes the photograph of her as being the young simply dressed drunk woman he rescued off the street last night, and who is still in his small studio apartment sleeping off her hangover.  Joe engages photographer friend Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert) to secretly photograph the princess as he takes her on an adventure-filled Roman holiday.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Brick (Paul Newman), an alcoholic ex-football player, drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife, Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor). His reunion with his father, Big Daddy, who is dying of cancer, jogs a host of memories and revelations for both father and son.  Brick’s position in the largely dysfunctional family is restored as suppressed feelings burst out in a confrontation between father and son in a dying fit of rage and love between the two.

The Pink Panther
Bumbling Inspector Clouseau (Steve Martin) must solve the murder of a famous soccer coach and find out who stole the infamous Pink Panther diamond.  But the unlikelihood of his success is why he has been assigned the case by Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Klein), so he can swoop in and solve the case himself and thus gain the elusive best inspector of the year award.  However, his plot is thwarted by Clouseau’s bumbling into solving the crime.  In many ways the plot and performances in this film outshine the classic 1963 Pink Panther film starring Peter Sellers and David Niven.

On the Waterfront

Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) dreams about being a prize fighter, while tending his pigeons and running errands at the docks for Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), the corrupt boss of the dockers union. Terry witnesses a murder by two of Johnny's thugs, and later meets the dead man's sister (Eva Marie Saint) and feels responsible for his death. She introduces him to Father Barry (Karl Malden), who persuades him to provide information for the courts that will smash the dock racketeers.

Martian Child

What's the nature of being a parent and of being a child? David (John Cusack) is a widower grieving for two years. He writes science fiction and was considered weird as a boy. He meets Dennis (Bobby Coleman), a foster child who claims to be on a mission from Mars, stays in a large box all day, fears sunlight, and wears a belt of flashlight batteries so he won't float away. David takes the six-year-old home on a trial. His sister and his wife's best friend offer support, but the guys are basically alone to figure this out. Dennis takes things, is expelled, and is coached by David in being normal. Will the court approve the adoption, and will Dennis stay? Can a man become a father and a child become a son?

American Graffiti
A couple of high achieving high school grads, Curt Henderson (Richard Dreyfus) and class president Steve Bolander (Ron Howard), spend one final night cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college. The buddies are a cast of characters we all remember from the 50’s and 60’s, including odd ball Terry Fields (Charles Martin Smith), blonde bombshell Debbie Dunham (Candy Clark) and hot rod king Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford). The sound track is a collection of the era’s hits played by real life disk jocky Wolfman Jack, who serves the plot in person.  I relive part of my Chicago life as Curt is taken hostage by a local gang to pull a daring prank on a police car.

The Kingston Trio Story

This is a comprehensive documentary of the well known folk singing group. It explores the trio’s history from before their first recording in 1958 as a young group, to separations and replacements, and finally re-assembling and family life in their mature years, all told by experts in the field and by Bob Shane, the long-term anchor of the group. It covers the group’s musical philosophy, work ethic, and precision in pitch and timing that made their records best sellers and led the trend to folk song groups as popular music.  Throughout the telling the video shows them playing many of their classics, like “Tom Dooley”, “M.T.A.”, “A Worried Man”, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”, “Sloop John B”, and Bob Shane’s signature song “Scotch and Soda.”

The Queen
Diana the 'People's Princess' has died in a car accident in Paris. The Queen (Helen Mirren) and her family decide that for the best, they should remain hidden behind the closed doors of Balmoral Castle. The heartbroken public do not understand and request that the Queen comfort her people. This also puts pressure on newly elected Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), who constantly tries to convince the monarchy to address the public. The multi-award winning film takes us behind the scenes of the sad and touching event we all remember so well.


Abstracts -- December

My Week with Marilyn
Sir Laurence Olivier is making a movie in London. Young Colin Clark, an eager film student, wants to be involved and he navigates himself a job on the set. When film star Marilyn Monroe arrives for the start of shooting, all of London is excited to see the blonde bombshell, while Olivier is struggling to meet her many demands and acting ineptness, and Colin is intrigued by her. Colin's intrigue is met when Marilyn invites him into her inner world where she struggles with her fame, her beauty and her desire to be a great actress.  Captivating and educational.  A bare hint of nudity.

Kramer vs. Kramer
Ted Kramer is a career man for whom his work comes before his family. His wife Joanna cannot take this anymore, so she decides to leave him. Ted is now faced with the tasks of housekeeping and taking care of himself and their young son Billy. When he has learned to adjust his life to these new responsibilities, Joanna resurfaces and wants Billy back. Ted, however, refuses to give him up, so they go to court to fight for the custody of their son.


Abstracts -- January

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Butch and Sundance are the two leaders of the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. Butch is all ideas, Sundance is all action and skill. The west is becoming civilized, and when Butch and Sundance rob a train once too often, a special posse begins trailing them no matter where they run. Over rocks, through towns, across rivers, the group is always just behind them. When they finally escape through sheer luck, Butch has another idea, "Let's go to Bolivia". Based on the exploits of the historical characters.

The Monuments Men
Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history. An unlikely World War II platoon is tasked by FDR to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves. The art is trapped behind enemy lines and the German army is under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell.  How could these seven museum directors, curators, and art historians with no military skill hope to succeed?  In a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they risk their lives to protect and defend mankind's greatest achievements.

To Catch a Thief
American expatriate John Robie, living in high style on the Riviera, is a retired cat burglar. He must find out who a copycat is to keep a new wave of jewel thefts from being pinned on him. High on the list of prime victims is Jessie Stevens, in Europe to help daughter Frances find a suitable husband. The Lloyds of London insurance agent is using a thief to catch a thief. Take an especially close look at scene where Robie gets Jessie's attention, by dropping an expensive casino chip down the décolletage of a French roulette player.

Silver Linings Playbook
After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.  We learn about mental illness as the movie alternates among poignant, crazy funny, outrageous, and romantic.

Sabrina
Linus and David Larrabee are the two sons of a very wealthy family. Linus is all work -- busily running the family corporate empire with no time for a wife and family. David is all play -- technically employed in the family business but never showing up for work, spending all his time entertaining, and having been married and divorced three times. Sabrina Fairchild is the young, shy, and awkward daughter of the household chauffeur, who has been infatuated with David all her life, but whom David hardly notices till she goes away to Paris for two years and returns an elegant, sophisticated, beautiful woman. Suddenly, she finds she's captured David's attention, but just as she does so, she finds herself also falling in love with Linus, and she finds that Linus is also falling in love with her.

To Kill a Mocking Bird
Small-town Alabama, 1932. Atticus Finch (played by Gregory Peck) is a lawyer and a widower. He has two young children, Jem and Scout.  Atticus Finch is currently defending Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman.  Meanwhile, Jem and Scout are intrigued by their neighbors, the Radleys, and the mysterious, seldom-seen Boo Radley in particular.  An Oscar-winning movie of the classic novel by Harper Lee.

The Graduate
Ben has recently graduated from college, with his parents now expecting great things from him. At his "Homecoming" party, Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's business partner, has Ben drive her home to seduce him, which leads to an affair between the two. The affair eventually ends, but comes back to haunt him when he finds himself falling for Elaine, Mrs. Robinson's daughter.

Julie & Julia
Julia Child and Julie Powell - both of whom wrote memoirs - find their lives intertwined. Though separated by time and space, both women are at loose ends... until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness and butter, anything is possible.    Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julie Child is one of her best performances – Child’s personal drama come alive before you.

Sully
On Thursday, January 15th, 2009, the world witnessed the "Miracle on the Hudson" when Captain Chesley Sullenberger, nicknamed "Sully", glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career.


Abstracts -- February

Anatomy of a Murder
Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara), a lieutenant in the army, is arrested for the murder of a bartender, Barney Quill. He claims that the victim had raped and beaten his wife Laura (Lee Remick). Manion is defended by Paul Biegler (James Stewart), a humble small-town lawyer just returned from his many days of fishing. Biegler discovers that Manion is violently possessive and jealous, and also that his wife has a reputation for flirting with other men. The prosecution will try to make the court believe that Laura had been drunk, was picked up by the bartender, and then Manion beat her up when he discovered they had been together. Manion pleads "not guilty" and Biegler, who knows that his case is weak, tries to find evidence that will save Manion. Much interesting and humorous dialog among lawyers and the judge, played by an experienced lawyer.

Pinocchio
This is the most beautiful animated full-length movie ever created by Walt Disney and his crew.  Ideas and action are brilliant, as is coloring and attention to detail.     Inventor Gepetto creates a wooden marionette called Pinocchio. His wish for Pinocchio to be a real boy is unexpectedly granted by a fairy, who assigns Jiminy Cricket to act as Pinocchio's "conscience" and keep him out of trouble. Jiminy is not too successful in this endeavor and most of the film is spent with Pinocchio deep in trouble.

Baraka
Without words, cameras show us the world, with an emphasis not on "where," but on "what's there." It begins with morning, natural landscapes and people at prayer: volcanoes, water falls, veldts, and forests; several hundred Balinese Hindu men perform kecak, the monkey chant.  Indigenous peoples apply body paint; whole villages dance. The film moves to destruction of nature via logging, blasting, and strip mining.  Images of poverty, rapid urban life, and factories give way to war, concentration camps, and mass graves. Ancient ruins come into view, and then a sacred river where pilgrims bathe and funeral pyres burn. Prayer and nature return. A monk rings a huge bell; stars wheel across the sky.

Gandhi
In 1893, Mohandas K. Gandhi is thrown off a South African train for being an Indian and traveling in a First-Class compartment. Gandhi, a lawyer, starts a non-violent campaign for rights of Indians in South Africa. After numerous arrests and unwanted worldwide attention, the government relents. Gandhi is invited back to India, where he is now considered a national hero and urged to fight for India's independence from the British Empire.  The campaign generates great public pressure. Weak from World War II, Britain finally grants India's independence. Then religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims erupt into nation-wide violence. Gandhi goes on a hunger strike until the fighting stops but the country remains divided and Muslims split off as Pakistan. Gandhi is opposed to the split, and spends his last days trying to at least bring peace between Pakistan and India.  This angers dissidents on both sides, one of whom assassinates him, raising him to deity.

Amelia
Amelia Earhart, a Kansas girl, discovers the thrill of aviation at age 23, and within 12 years has progressed to winning the Distinguished Flying Cross for being the first woman to pilot a plane solo across the Atlantic Ocean. At age 39, she sets out on an attempt to circumnavigate the globe, an adventure that catapults her into aviation myth.  The film comes alive with her barnstorming, romances, and many details that go into supporting record shattering flights at and beyond the edge of possibility.

Miss Potter
Thirty years old and single, Beatrix Potter lives in London with her social-climbing parents, who are exasperated that she has turned down any number of eligible young men. Her only real friends are the animals which since childhood she has lovingly drawn and made up stories about. She finally succeeds in selling a book of the stories, and it becomes Norman Warne's first project. He quickly falls in love with both the book and Beatrix and together they carefully arrange publication. This proves the first of many successes, offering her the possibility of escaping from her parents' way of life and London.  Her life expands in the Lake District where she preserves a huge area as a working farm which benefits all today.


Abstracts -- March

Charlie Wilson's War
In the early 1980s, Charlie Wilson is a womanizing US congressional representative from Texas who seemed to be in the minor leagues, except for the fact that he is a member of two major foreign policy and covert-ops committees. However, prodded by his major conservative supporter, Houston Socialite Joanne Herring, Wilson learns about the plight the people are suffering in the brutal Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. With the help of the maverick CIA agent, Gustav "Gust" Avrakotos, Wilson dedicates his canny political efforts to supply the Afghan mujahideen with the weapons and support to defeat the Soviet Union. However, Charlie Wilson eventually learns that while military victory can be had, there are other consequences and prices to that fight that are ignored to everyone's sorrow.

Frost / Nixon
Writer Peter Morgan's legendary battle between Richard Nixon, the disgraced president with a legacy to save, and David Frost, a jet-setting television personality with a name to re-make, in the story of the historic encounter that changed both their lives. For three years after being forced from office, Nixon remained silent. But in summer 1977, the steely, cunning former commander-in-chief agreed to sit for one all-inclusive interview to confront the questions of his time in office and the Watergate scandal that ended his presidency. Nixon surprised everyone in selecting Frost as his televised confessor, intending to easily outfox the breezy British showman and secure a place in the hearts and minds of Americans (as well as a $600,000 fee). Likewise, Frost's team harbored doubts about their boss' ability to hold his own. But as cameras rolled, a charged battle of wits ensued.

Shrek
When a green ogre named Shrek discovers his swamp has been 'swamped' with all sorts of fairytale creatures by the scheming Lord Farquaad, Shrek sets out with a very loud donkey by his side to 'persuade' Farquaad to give Shrek his swamp back. Instead, a deal is made. Farquaad, who wants to become the King, sends Shrek to rescue Princess Fiona, who is awaiting her true love in a tower guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. But once they head back with Fiona, it starts to become apparent that not only does Shrek, an ugly ogre, begin to fall in love with the lovely princess, but Fiona is also hiding a huge secret.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Wealthy native Brit Lawrence Jamieson, living in Beaumont-sur-Mer on the French Riviera, earns his money through big cons on wealthy unsuspecting women. With corrupt police Inspector Andre, who provides him most of his intel, and his butler Arthur, he pretends to be a deposed prince who needs money to finance a secret war to liberate his people. Then his world is invaded by brash American Freddy Benson, another con man whose targets are also wealthy unsuspecting women. While Lawrence works on thousands of dollars per scam, Freddy works on tens to hundreds of dollars. To get rid of Freddy, Lawrence issues an ultimatum: the person who is able to con a mark out of $50,000 first will get the French Riviera as their territory. Their mark is naive and bumbling American "soap queen" Janet Colgate.

Sideways
A week before his friend Jack is to be married, best man Miles and the prospective groom head off to wine country for a week of fun, relaxation and wine drinking. Miles is the oenophile and does his best to teach Jack a bit about the art of appreciating great wine. All Jack cares about is drinking and carousing, something he accomplishes when he meets the attractive Stephanie at one of the vineyards. Miles is something of a sad sack, a high school English teacher who is a failed writer at heart. He has yet to get over the fact that his wife has divorced him, and further learns she has remarried. On top of that he faces that nerve racking wait for word from a prospective publisher. Miles has an opportunity to start anew with Stephanie's friend Maya but when he lets slip that Jack is about to be married any hope of a relationship seems to be lost.

Big
Josh Baskin would do anything to be big so he can hang out with his crush at the carnival. At a Zoltar machine he plunks in a coin and wishes to be big. After Zoltar tells him "his wish is granted" Josh notices the machine is unplugged. He wakes up the next morning in an adult's body but he still has the same personality. With the help of his best friend, Billy, Josh learns how to act like a grown up as he sets off to find a Zoltar machine to return himself to a boy. But with his youthful outlook and personality he finds himself with a girlfriend and exceling to a top rung at his job -- he’s not sure he wants to be a kid again. Will Josh stay big or become a 13 year old boy again?

Beautiful Girls
Pianist Willie Conway returns to his snowy home town to attend a high school reunion. He reunites with old friends Tommy "Birdman" Rowland, Michael "Mo" Morris and Paul Kirkwood. Mo is happily married with two children but Tommy is having an affair with former high school girlfriend Darian Smalls, who is now married, while stringing along girlfriend Sharon Cassidy. Paul worships posters of professional models he has plastered all over his bedroom wall but, when threatened with competition, suddenly asks his girlfriend Jan to marry him. As Willie waits for girlfriend Tracey to arrive, he is taken with beautiful Marty, a 13-year old neighbor. Into this mix comes Andera, cousin of Stinky, another high school chum who is becoming a successful bar owner. These characters and more churn together in a funny, poignant high energy coming of age drama.

Rushmore
Max Fischer is a precocious 15-year-old whose reason for living is his attendance at Rushmore, a private school where he's not doing well in any of his classes but where he's king of extracurricular activities. From being in the beekeeping society to writing and producing plays, there's very little after school he doesn't do. His life changes dramatically when he finds out he's on academic probation, and when he stumbles into love with Miss Cross, a pretty teacher at Rushmore. Added to the mix is his friendship with Herman Blume, wealthy industrialist and father to boys who attend the school, and who also finds himself attracted to Miss Cross. Max's fate becomes inextricably tied to this odd love triangle, and how he sets about resolving it is the story in the film. Quirky nuttiness and strange happenings give this film its unique flavor.


Abstracts -- April

Steel Magnolias
This movie has everything: great cast, lively comedy and satisfying drama. Sally Field plays M'Lynn, a mother worried about her sickly daughter Shelby; Julia Roberts as Shelby, who feels having a baby is worth risking everything; Dolly Parton as Truvy, a bouncy beautician who brightens like a light bulb when her little shop is full of "hens"; Olympia Dukakis as Clairee, the town gossip with biting humor; Daryl Hannah as Annelle, a very religious young woman who drives everyone crazy with her sudden fits of prayer; and Shirley McLaine as Ouiser (now there’s a Southern name!), the town grouch who tows her pathetic dog around and mercilessly cusses out her reflected grouchiness in M’Lynn’s husband Drum (Tom Skerritt). Humor and pathos shine equally throughout the drama.

Waking Ned Devine
The lucky winner of the national lottery is Ned Devine, so taken by his good fortune that he now can't be waked because he died from the shock of it! News of the win spread quickly in the scenic little Irish village of Tully More, but not the secret news of Ned's demise. With lottery officials closing in to confirm the prize claimed by the deceased Devine, Ned's closest friends scheme to keep the prize money close to home, in memory of Ned of course! But as the plot twists humorously, they learn it is hard is to keep such a secret in a small town.

The Bucket List
I can tell if a movie is good by the way it keeps me riveted to the story, and this is one of them. It's no surprise that a movie with highly talented actors like Nicholson and Freeman would be good. I'm not normally attracted to movies with a deep inner meaning, which this one has, but it doesn't beat you over the head with it. Here are two guys facing death and decide to go out and do all the things they've ever wanted to. Some scenes are dramatic, others are funny, and in the end, the deep inner meaning just kind of shines through without a bunch of sappy sentimentalism. And yes, I did get a bit watery eyed near the end, which means this is a good story that you can get into and feel part of.

A Fish Called Wanda
When four people team up for armed robbery, then all try to keep the whole lot for themselves, hilarity follows. The humor in this film is clever and constant, never letting up for a moment. Watch especially for Kevin Kline's performance of Otto; it's one you'll remember for years to come. Otto’s attitude and character suit Kline’s talent perfectly. The contrast with John Cleese's Archie Leach is phenomenal: deep down Leach is an honest person caught in a bad marriage with a selfish daughter. The film is action packed and funny from beginning to end as befits a story conceived and largely written by John Cleese.

Calendar Girls
Director Nigel Cole delivers a charming, touching, funny story with a message. It is based on the true story of a few society women in England who decide to do a quasi-nude calendar to raise money for a cancer center. The well-known story itself holds few surprises, but the cast is so wonderful and the dialogue so crisp that one can't help but enjoy the film. Helen Mirren and Julie Walters lead the mostly female cast who bare it all ... sort of.  The awkward struggle to get the mostly straight-laced women to bare even that much provides much of the humor, and their unlikely trip to Hollywood to promote the calendar make this a one-two punch of movie enjoyment. A wonderful movie for all ages and both sexes!

Juno
A tale told over four seasons, starting in autumn when Juno, a 16-year-old high-school junior in Minnesota, discovers she's pregnant after one event in a chair with her best friend, Bleeker. In the waiting room of an abortion clinic, the quirky and whip-sharp Juno decides to give birth and to place the child with an adoptive couple. She finds one in the Penny Saver personals, contacts them, tells her dad and step-mother, and carries on with school. The chosen parents, upscale yuppies (one of whom is cool and laid back, the other meticulous and uptight), meet Juno, sign papers, and the year unfolds. Will Juno's plan work, can she improvise, and what about Bleeker? A quirky, funny, heart-warming, prize winning movie you will enjoy.

Prairie Home Companion
A final live variety show broadcast via radio becomes a metaphor for the natural order of life. A concept and script by Garrison Keilor uses every natural and technical element of working with a tight and close ensemble producing a weekly show to sooth us and guide us through the natural but difficult transitions of aging, becoming less relevant and then dying as new, young life develops and strengthens during our final "performances." This is a rare film for its remarkable cast and crew and one wonders how the great Robert Altman was able to gather them all at the same place and time to shoot this film. Funny, moving, and classic songs sung well with Keillor’s radio band backing.

City Slickers
Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal) is frustrated with his job selling ad time on the radio. Phil Berquist (Daniel Stern) is in a hateful marriage and found cheating with the checkout girl. Ed Furillo (Bruno Kirby) is settling down with an underwear model. The three friends decide to go on a getaway driving cattle. There they meet the beautiful, just dumped  Bonnie Rayburn (Helen Slater), Barry & Ira ice cream makers, father & son dentists, and a hardened trail boss Curly (Jack Palance). The film works via the chemistry among the three comedic talents, plus Jack Palance playing up his rough cowboy act. There is some really funny, insightful mid-life-crisis guy talk, and Jack Palance delivers a few memorably funny punchlines. And who can forget his one-arm push-ups at his academy award.

Burn After Reading
Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich), a Balkan expert, is fired from the CIA because of a drinking problem, so he begins a memoir. His wife wants a divorce and expects her lover, Harry, a philandering State Department marshal, to leave his wife. A CD-ROM falls out of a gym bag at a Georgetown fitness center. Two employees there try to turn it into cash: Linda, who wants money for cosmetic surgery, and Chad, an amiable goof. Information on the disc leads them to Osbourne who rejects their blackmail pitch, so they try to sell what they think are the disk’s top secrets at the Russian embassy. Linda meets for a tryst with Harry as Harry makes a sex machine for his wife, and Osborne slowly goes nuts. It’s hilarious to watch screen sex symbols Brad Pitt and George Clooney playing bumbling nitwits.


Abstracts -- May

Mona Lisa Smile
Katherine Ann Watson (Julia Roberts) has accepted a position teaching art history at the prestigious Wellesley College. Watson is a very modern woman, particularly for the 1950s, and has a passion not only for art but for her students. For the most part, the students all seem to be biding their time, waiting to find the right man to marry. The students are all very bright and Watson feels they are not reaching their potential. Although a strong bond is formed between teacher and student, Watson's views are incompatible with the dominant culture of the college.

Romancing the Stone
Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner), a mousy romance novelist, receives a treasure map in the mail from her recently murdered brother-in-law. Meanwhile, her sister Elaine is kidnapped in Colombia and the two criminals responsible demand that she travel to Colombia to exchange the map for her sister. Joan does, and quickly becomes lost in the jungle after being waylaid by Zolo (Manuel Ojeda), a vicious and corrupt Colombian cop who will stop at nothing to obtain the map. There, she meets an irreverent soldier-of-fortune named Jack Colton (Michael Douglas) who agrees to bring her back to civiliza-tion. Together, they embark upon an adventure that could be straight out of Joan's novels. Hapless villain Ralph (Danny DeVito) bumbles into the mix to provide humorous color.

The Notebook
Duke is reading a story to an older woman in a nursing home. Her memory is slipping from her day by day. The story is of two lovers who meet in the south at a carnival. Allie was 17, a city girl from money, and Noah was a local boy. The two spend the summer together but Allie is forced to move and go to college, although she was willing to give it up for Noah. Noah writes Allie every day for a year with no response. In frustration he restores the old run-down house he took Allie to one night for a romantic encounter. Seven years pass during which Allie meets and falls in love with wealthy soldier Lon. When Allie sees Noah's picture with the restored house in the paper, she is drawn back to him. They spent a few days together and she is torn between Noah and Lon when it is time to leave. We learn her choice and more in the nursing home.

On Golden Pond
The loons are back again on Golden Pond and so are Norman Thayer (Henry Fonda), a retired professor, and Ethel (Katherine Hepburn) who have had a summer cottage there since early in their marriage. This summer their daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) -- whom they haven't seen for years -- feels she must be there for Norman's birthday. She and her fiancé (Dabney Colman) are on their way to Europe the next day but will be back in a couple of weeks to pick up the fiancé’s son (Doug McKeon). When she returns Chelsea is married and her stepson has the relationship with her father that she always wanted. Will father and daughter be able to communicate at last?

Moonstruck
No sooner does Italian-American widow Loretta (Cher) accept a marriage proposal from her doltish boyfriend, Johnny (Vincent Gardenia), then she finds herself falling for his younger brother, Ronny (Nicolas Cage). She tries to resist, but Ronny lost his hand in an accident he blames on his brother, and has no scruples about aggressively pursuing her while Johnny is out of the country. As Loretta falls deeper in love, she comes to learn that she's not the only one in her family with a secret romance. This sleeper of a movie became very popular because of the music and close-knit family as well as the romances.

Love Story
Harvard scion and Law student Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O’Neal) and music student Jennifer Cavilleri (Ali MacGraw) share a chemistry they cannot deny, and a love they cannot ignore. Despite their opposite backgrounds, the young couple put their hearts on the line for each other. When they marry, Oliver's wealthy father (Ray Milland) threatens to disown him. Jenny tries to reconcile the Barrett men, but to no avail. Oliver and Jenny continue to build their life together. Relying only on each other, they believe love can fix anything. But fate has other plans. Soon, what began as a brutally honest friendship becomes the love story of their lives.

Shakespeare in Love
Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) is a known but struggling poet, playwright and actor who not only has sold his next play to both Philip Henslow (Geoffrey Rush) and Richard Burbidge (Martin Clunes) but is bereft of ideas and has yet to begin writing. All attempts fail in search of his muse until he meets the beautiful Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow). She loves the theatre and would like to take to the stage but is forbidden, as only men can be actors. She also admirers Shakespeare's works. Dressed as a man with name Thomas Kent, she auditions and is accepted for his next play. Shakespeare sees through her disguise and they begin a love affair, one they know cannot end happily for them: he is already married and she has been promised to the dour Lord Wessex (Colin Firth). During rehearsal of the play, Will and Viola's love is transferred to the written page, leading to the masterpiece that is Romeo and Juliet.

Man From Snowy River
Jim Craig (Tom Burlinson) has lived his first 18 years in the mountains of Australia on his father's farm. The death of his father forces him to go to the low lands to earn enough money to get the farm back on its feet. Kirk Douglas plays two roles as twin brothers who haven't spoken for years, one of whom was Jim's father's best friend and the other of whom is the father of Jessica, (Sigrid Thornton) the girl he wants to marry. A 20 year old feud re-erupts, catching Jim and Jessica in the middle of it as Jim is accused of letting a prize stallion loose.
The movie has beautifully photographed scenery with herds of wild horses, and breathtaking horsemanship.

Tootsie
Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is an unem-ployed actor with an impossible reputation. In order to find work and fund his friend's play he dresses as a woman, Dorothy Michaels, and lands the part in a daytime drama. Dorsey loses himself in this woman role and essentially becomes Dorothy Michaels, captivating women all around the city and inspiring them to break free from the control of men and become more like Dorsey's initial identity. This newfound role, however, lands Dorsey in a hot spot surrounded by a female friend-lover (Teri Garr), a female co-star he falls in love with (Jessica Lang), her father (Charles Durning) who falls in love with him (i.e., Dorothy), and a male co-star (George Gaynes) who also yearns for Dorothy’s affection.