St. Patrick’s Day 2019 — Irish Movies for Families!

Posted on March 17, 2019 at 7:09 am

Copyright Republic Pictures 1952

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Here are some movies from or set in Ireland for families to enjoy.

1. The Quiet Man John Wayne plays American Sean Thornton (John Wayne), who returns to in Innisfree, the small, beautiful Irish village where he was born, to buy his family’s old home. He meets fiery Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara), courts her, marries, her, and then really has to win her as both must learn some lessons about intimacy, pride, and trust. Yes, there are some moments that seem sexist but the underlying story is as glorious as the spectacular landscape and as touching as the endearing characters.

2. The Secret of Roan Inish A little Irish girl named Fiona goes to stay with her grandparents and becomes convinced that her baby brother, whose cradle was carried off to sea years before, is alive and being cared for by Selkies, seals who can transform themselves into humans. This is a quiet film, filled with lovely images that convey the magic surrounding anyone who believes in it. It explores themes of loyalty and commitment to family and following your heart.

3. The Commitments A group of hardscrabble Irish musicians come together to firm an American-style soul band and perform songs like “Mustang Sally” and “Try a Little Tenderness.” Look for future Frames and Once performer Glen Hansard in the group. (Mature material)

Copyright 2007 Summit Entertainment

4. Once The best song Oscar went to this bittersweet film about an Irish musician (Glen Hansard) who meets a pianist and singer (Markéta Irglová) from the Czech Republic.

5. Millions The Oscar-winning director of “Slumdog Millionaire,” Danny Boyle, also shows his gift for working with children in “Millions,” the story of a young boy who finds a bag of money.

6. My Left Foot Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for his portrayal of Christy Brown in this true story of a writer and painter who was paralyzed and could only use his left foot — and of his indomitable mother (Oscar-winner Brenda Fricker).

7. The Secret of Kells This quietly exquisite animated film was a surprise Oscar nominee. It is about an 11th century boy who lives in a monastery run by his stern uncle and the gorgeous illuminated manuscript that changes his life.

8. Circle of Friends Minnie Driver and Chris O’Donnell star in Maeve Binchy’s story of love and friendship in 1950’s Ireland.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gV9sHAHGE5A

9. “Hear My Song” A fast-talking small-time promoter has to persuade a retired performer to sing again.

10. In the Name of the Father Day-Lewis again, in another true story, this time the story of a father and son who were imprisoned for an IRA bombing. Emma Thompson plays his dedicated lawyer and Pete Postlethwaite was nominated for an Oscar as the father who ends up in prison as well.

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EW Ranks the Best Fake Songs

Posted on March 15, 2019 at 8:00 am

I really enjoyed this Entertainment Weekly list of the best songs performed by musical groups on television and in films. Of course it includes the legendary Robin Sparkles “Let’s Go to the Mall” from “How I Met Your Mother” and he title song from “That Thing You Do” — though every song in that film should be included, especially “Mr. Downtown.” I was glad to see “Inside Llewyn Davis” included, “Sing Street’s””Drive it Like You Stole it”and two songs from the under-appreciated “Music and Lyrics” and thrilled to see “A Goofy Movie” on the list as well. And of course I have my own favorites that do not appear on the list. Where is Spinal Tap? “Waiting for Guffman?” “A Mighty Wind?” The also-underrated “Bandslam” has a great fictional group with a wonderful name: I Can’t Go On I’ll Go On and great songs, like “Someone to Fall Back On.” And the new “Documentary Now!” episode inspired by the D.A. Pennebaker film about the recording of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” cast album, “Co-Op,” has brilliant fake Sondheim songs like “I Gotta Go,” sung by Paula Pell, inspired by “Ladies Who Lunch,” and “Holiday Party,” echoing “Getting Married Today.” I’d buy that cast album.

I know it is unforgivably esoteric, but just once when I was a kid I saw a television show starring Ricky Nelson as a musician and there was a song in it I always remembered. Decades later, after the internet turned out to have the answer to almost everything, I was able to track it down and it turned out it was written by none other than Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Here’s the soundtrack.

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What Movie Makes You Feel Better?

Posted on November 4, 2018 at 8:00 am

The New York Times asked some of the stars of the big fall movies what movies they like to watch when they’re feeling down. Two of them picked “The Lion King” but for different reasons. Interestingly, most picked movies that meant a lot to them when they were kids, suggesting that it is partly about the content of the film but partly about taking them back in time that they find comforting. Perhaps the most surprising answer — and my favorite, though I’d never find that movie cheering — is from Tim Blake Nelson, who picks the documentary about underground comix legend R. Crumb. Nelson, who is a writer as well as an actor, expresses so beautifully what moves him about the film and about Crumb’s life.

In spite of a family whose level of dysfunction honestly cannot be described in words — making the film all the more essential — and a welter of his own debilitating social issues, R. Crumb remains resolutely true to who and what he is. His resilience and perseverance result in drawings as lacerating as Daumier’s, as distinct as Toulouse-Lautrec’s, and as beautifully, tragically human as Schiele’s — mostly in the milieu of underground countercultural cartoons and illustrations. The movie ultimately provides great hope in its depiction of an artist who simply won’t compromise, and who furnishes a way of seeing the culture that has impacted popular aesthetics to this day. As sad as it is, this makes “Crumb” one of the more strangely uplifting films I can name.

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List: Killer Robots in the Movies

Posted on October 11, 2018 at 8:00 am

Many thanks to William Topaz and inmyarea.com for inviting me to create a list of killer robots in the movies. Of course it has classics like “Terminator” and “Metropolis,” and some off-beat choices like the Fembots in “Austin Powers,” but I’m pretty sure I’m the only one to include “What a Way to Go!” with Paul Newman and Shirley MacLaine.

Actor Paul Newman & actress Shirley MacLaine in a scene from What A Way to Go. (Photo by Mark Kauffman/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
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Get Ready for “First Man” With These Moon Shot Movies

Posted on October 5, 2018 at 1:09 pm

Copyright 2018 Amblin Entertainment

“La La Land” director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling have teamed up again for “First Man,” the story of Neil Amstrong and the 1969 Apollo 11 voyage to the moon. Get ready for space travel with these outstanding fact-based films — they are not only true stories; they are some of my very favorites:

Hidden Figures One group of braniacs figured out how to build the rocket, another figured out how to create the fuel necessary to make the almost half a million mile round trip. And a whole other group had to figure out how to hit the target, so that fully fueled rocket ship would not bypass the moon and go hurtling off into the universe. The remarkable story of the math people, including brilliant black women, is told in this warm-hearted and inspiring film.

The Dish Another story of the unsung heroes of the space race is this utterly charming film about the Australian crew who ran the satellite dish that allowed the footage of the moon landing to be shown around the world.

The Right Stuff Tom Wolfe’s ground-breaking book about the earliest days of the space program, including the selection of the first group of astronauts is the source for this film, written and directed by Philip Kaufman and starring Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Barbara Hershey, Dennis Quaid, Pamela Reed, and Sam Shepard.

Apollo 13 Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, and Ed Harris star in the gripping story of a flight to the moon that went terribly wrong. “Failure is not an option,” said Flight Director Gene Kranz. Even though we know they came home safely, the film will keep you on the edge of your seat.

In the Shadow of the Moon This British documentary about the history of the Apollo program with archival footage and interviews with people who made it happen.

From the Earth to the Moon This brilliant miniseries from “Apollo 13” star and space geek Tom Hanks looks at the space program from many different angles, including the press, the government contractors, and the wives of the astronauts. The last episode is a poignant parallel story that includes the making of Georges Melies’ classic of the same name.

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