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Saturday, December 22, 2007:
Quickie movie review
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"On a Clear Day" (2006)

After decades of laboring as a Glasgow shipbuilder, no-nonsense Frank Redmond, a 55-year-old working-class man, suddenly finds himself laid off. For the first time in his life, Frank is without a job or a sense of direction, and is too proud to ask for guidance. His best mates--rascally Danny, timid Norman, and cynical Eddie--are there for him, but Frank still feels desperately alone. An offhand remark from Danny inspires Frank to challenge himself. Already contemplating the state of his relationships with loving wife Joan and all-but-estranged son Rob, Frank is determined to shore up his own self-confidence. He will attempt the near-impossible--swimming the English Channel. As Frank plunges headlong into his new daily life, his astonished friends are swept along with him. Prodded by stalwart fish-and-chips shop owner Chan, the men support Frank, train him--and keep their goal secret from his wife and son. Frank is unable to confide in those closest to him, but as the big day and moment of truth draw near, there is a sea change. Frank's family confronts him, and he realizes that he must repair his strained family ties. As Frank and those closest to him discover--or re-discover--reserves of love and compassion, he realizes that he is also swimming from one part of his life to another.

I had seen the preview for this a few times, and thought it looked interesting. I liked the idea it was set in Scotland, a country I've always wanted to visit. I also liked that it took a look at the typical stoic, older man going through a sudden and chaotic change to his life, one he didn't expect but must now deal with.

In the beginning, Frank doesn't know what to do with himself. He wanders through his days, trying to fit in, but find that his wife is keeping secrets from him and he doesn't know how to relate to his son, a stay-at-home dad. One day he comes to the idea of swimming the English Channel, and puts all his time and focus into the challenge. Supported by his buddies, yet keeping his plan from his wife, Frank finally has a purpose to his day, but will his secret add more strain to his already distant family? A past tragedy overshadows their lives, and it becomes obvious that not everyone has come to terms with what happened all those years ago.

It was a good movie, rather simple and ordinary, but enjoyable. I think a lot of people can relate to having a dad like Frank, one who doesn't communicate with the family much, but rather fills the role of provider. His wife thinks he's having an affair, and his son thinks his dad is embarrassed to have a son who doesn't support his own family. The swim across the Channel represents many things in this quiet movie, least of all is the courage to reach out to those who love you and ask for help. I think most of the characters learn something here, and it was a feel good movie that had a charming setting. I could listen to that accent all day...though I admit there were moments I had no idea what was being said. Yet that doesn't take away from the movie, not if you're watching carefully.

Rating: **** out of *****

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"Enchanted" (2007)

The tale follows the beautiful princess Giselle as she is banished by an evil queen from her magical, musical animated land--and finds herself in the gritty reality of the streets of modern-day Manhattan. Shocked by this strange new environment that doesn't operate on a "happily ever after" basis, Giselle is now adrift in a chaotic world badly in need of enchantment. But when Giselle begins to fall in love with a charmingly flawed divorce lawyer who has come to her aid--even though she is already promised to a perfect fairy tale prince back home--she has to wonder: can a storybook view of romance survive in the real world?

The movie starts out animated, where Giselle is dreaming of her perfect prince and finds him in Prince Edward, who is completely perfect in every way. But his evil stepmother Narissa has no desire to give up the thrown for an insipid little nobody, so she sends her to a very scary place - New York City. Thinking she'll find life in Manhatten much like her own in Andalasia, Giselle soon discovers not everyone is helpful and happy and dreaming about true love like herself. Reluctantly helped by Robert when his little girl sees Giselle struggling to get home, Giselle possesses all the qualities of a Disney heroine, and can enchant the animals in this world like she does in her own. Robert only wishes to send her back home so he can get on with his life and marry for practical reasons, but of course things don't work out the way either of them planned, not when Giselle begins to see Prince Edward as much too perfect, and Robert realizes that an optimistic young woman who loves animals and children may lead to the happily-ever-after he doesn't want, but one that works out just fine in the real world.

It's a cute movie, and pokes fun at the perfection of the animated Disney classics we all grew up with. I found it to be a little too sweet at times, though I liked how the perfect prince doesn't take himself too seriously, and how Giselle doesn't all of a sudden become this cynical modern woman but retains her optimism throughout, even when she begins to question the choices she's made. Patrick Dempsey, now in his forties, still comes across as boyish and charming, much like that young guy from "Can't Buy Me Love" (I believe I've made that reference before). And don't worry about Prince Edward - he finds a princess who wants all that perfection for herself, because of course this is a Disney movie and we need our HEA.

(Note: I had to laugh too, at one point during the movie, Giselle is "calling" the animals with a "ah ah ah ah ah" that reminded me of the Pink Ladies pageant number "For All Seasons" in "Grease 2").

Rating: **** out of *****

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"Alvin and the Chipmunks" (2007)

Three chipmunk brothers, Alvin, Simon, and Theodore are adopted by a man named Dave.

Well, it's actually more than that. When we first meet Dave Seville, he is struggling to get a new song produced, and visits Ian, his friend from college who is now a big-time record producer for Jett records. As you can imagine, it wasn't a very good song, and Dave is booted out of the building. Meanwhile, those rascally chipmunks accidentally end up in the big city, and find their way to Dave, who inadvertantly leads them to his house.

Let's just say Dave is not happy to have these "rodents" taking over his house and making a mess. After losing his job, he wants to send them back to the forest where they came from, and Alvin, Simon and Theodore are crushed, because they've become rather attached to the modern conveniences of living in a house. When Dave hears the trio singing in perfect harmony, he changes his mind, convinced he's found "the next big thing", and brings them into Ian for a new chance. But the poor critters get stage fright, and disgusted, Dave brings them home.

But soon the talents of the 'munks are discovered by Ian, and Dave tries to set some boundaries for the youngsters so they are not spoiled. The chipmunks have begun to become rather attached to Dave, especially Theodore, who thinks of him as a "dad". But when Alvin, Simon and Theodore think Dave doesn't really want them around, it has the 'munks going to live with Ian, who has no rules but expects them to work their bushy tails off to make him more and more money. Dave realizes how much he misses the little guys, and doesn't think that their career is healthy, so he tries to get them back. Turns out Dave has a soft spot for those little critters, and wants to be their dad after all.

Cute, cute, cute. I know it's crazy to get so attached to animated creatures, but oh, they were so adorable. I didn't want to see this movie at first because I thought it was like the "Garfield" movies which I haven't seen nor do I really want to, but this one just tugged at my heartstrings. Those high-pitched voices and big eyes were my downfall. I think if it would have been turned into this modern, total hip-hop story it would have sucked. Yes, there are some hip-hop moments, but they don't overshadow the movie, thank God. Jason Lee is an interesting actor, and I think he really made Dave the perfect blend of cynical and sentimental without making the movie too sappy. It's a fun film, perfect for kids and adults alike.

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****

What movies are you watching?

What would you recommend?

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  1. Well, thanks to Kristie, I've been watching North and South over and over and over again :-)

    I saw Enchanted and loved it! Kiddo has the soundtrack and we listen to it a lot.

    Kiddo and I want to see Alvin & the Chipmunks, The Sea Horse, and 27 Dresses.

    My friends and I are wanting to see PS I Love You, but I'm still holding off because I really would like to read the book first. Knowing me, I should just give it up ~ it's not going to happen.

  2. Dev, thanx to you and Kristie, I've added "North and South" to my Netflix, and should get it next week - yay!

    I also want to see "27 Dresses", "THe Water Horse" and most especially "PS I Love You". I thought I'd read the book first but I don't think I can wait - I wanted to go see it last nite but went to "National Treasure" instead.

  3. Wow, great reviews, Stace! I guess we know what you've been up to, huh?! ;oP

    I saw Atonement last weekend and absolutely loved it. I'd give it a B+, for sure. It's very serious and does not have an HEA, but it's fantastically acted and beautifully shot.

    We always go see a movie on Christmas Day. My guess is we'll be seeing National Treasure II. I still want to see PS I Love You and also Charlie Wilson's War.

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