Is Anybody There?

B

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Lowest Recommended Age: High School
Profanity: Some crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Elderly characters are disabled, characters die, accidents with some graphic wounds, some macabre images
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: May 1, 2009

A boy whose parents turn their house into a nursing home can be expected to develop an interest in death. Ten year old Edward (“Son of Rambow’s” Bill Milner) is more than interested. He is fascinated. And that is in part because he is terrified. He hides his tape recorder under the bed of a dying resident to see if he can actually hear the sound of the spirit escaping the body and he avidly watches a television show about ghosts to see how he can communicate with the souls of the departed. He is more interested in the dead than he is in the living.

The same can be said for the home’s newest resident, Clarence (Michael Caine), a former magician, who moves into the room previously occupied by the most recent departed, and previously before that by Edward himself. Clarence is reluctant to stay but Edward’s mother (Anne-Marie Duff), out of her kind nature and her desperation to get the 50 quid a week, persuades him to give them a try. Clarence is bitter and bereft and has no interest in making new friends.


These two lonely guys are clearly move-made for each other, but to its credit, this film allows them to be more complicated and less cuddly than the usual feel-good comfort movie. Milner continues to be one of the movie’s most appealing young actors and Caine delivers capably. Their scenes together are nicely acerbic. Director John Crowley allows the story to take its time for most of the film and then seems to speed everything up for the last few scenes, which seem hurried and cluttered and for the first time falls into formulaic patterns. But like Clarence, the movie still has a few tricks up its sleeve.

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Drama Family Issues Movies

List: Rainy Movies

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Douglas Howe has a great list of rain scenes in movies over on Idol Chatter, including two of my favorites, “Singin’ in the Rain” with Gene Kelly and “Say Anything” with John Cusack.

Cusack for some reason is always getting drenched in movies. You could fill a whole list of great rain scenes just with Cusack performances.

A guilty pleasure of mine is the last dance number — in the rain — in “Step Up 2 the Streets.”

I love the rain scene in “Garden State.” And one of the best dance numbers ever is “Isn’t it a Lovely Day to be Caught in the Rain” with Astaire and Rogers in “Top Hat.” Oh, it is a very lovely day indeed.

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For Your Netflix Queue Lists

Ebertfest, Part 2

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It took me nearly 48 hours to get home due to weather and other delays, but I am back with some more from the Ebert festival.

I was on a panel called “Film Criticism and the Web,” with 10 critics including Richard Roeper, the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips, radio and television stations WGN’s Dean Richards, Time Out Chicago’s Hank Sartin, Ain’t-It-Cool’s Steve Prokopy (aka Capone), Kim Voynar of Film Essent and Movie City News, Lisa Rosman of US Weekly and Flavorpill, and eFilmCritic’s Eric Childress and Peter Sobczynski. We spoke about our concerns that print film criticism was shrinking, but the very make-up of the panel demonstrated the reach and variety of voices available through other media.

Following his treatment for cancer, Ebert cannot speak. But he is marvelously expressive, his enthusiasm for these marvelous movies communicated with his every gesture. He has a laptop that synthesizes text into speech and he thought as long as he could not speak with his own voice, why not have a very classy British accent? You can hear him introduce the young Romanian star of “The Fall,” Catinca Untaru, standing with her mother and step-father, in this clip. Prokopy and I interviewed her before the audience following the screening. She appeared in the film almost half her life ago — she is now 12 — and it was a lot of fun to see that while she is very grown up, she is still as unaffectedly charming as she was in the film. I thought it was very funny that she said she wanted to see the Swedish vampire film on the schedule, “Let the Right One In,” because in Romania they know a lot about vampires!

Standing next to him is Chaz Ebert, Roger’s wife, who served as the very gracious mistress of ceremonies throughout the festival. I was very touched by all she and Roger did to make me feel especially welcome.

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The theme of the festival is a quote from Roger: As film exhibition in North America crowds itself ever more narrowly into predictable commercial fodder for an undemanding audience, we applaud those brave, free spirits who still hold faith with the unlimited potential of the cinema. There was no more touching moment in the festival than in the discussion following the stunning documentary about the damage caused by Katrina and by the failure of government and humanity that followed. The young woman whose own footage was in every sense the heart of the film, Kimberly Rivers Roberts, spoke about how the movie helped her to pursue her dream of being a recording artist. “I didn’t know what I could do until I saw myself on screen,” she said. At their best, movies reflect back to us a self we hardly dreamed we were capable of becoming. The 14 films at this festival left the audience filled with new ideas of what we can be.

The first person who sends me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com with Ebert in the subject line will get a baseball hat and t-shirt from the festival.

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Contests and Giveaways Festivals

Bride Wars

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MPAA Rating: PG for suggestive content, language and some rude behavior
Profanity: Some strong language including b-word and almost-bad words
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking including drinking to deal with stress, characters get tipsy
Violence/ Scariness: Comic violence
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: January 9, 2009
Date Released to DVD: April 28, 2009
Amazon.com ASIN: B001TUZD8O

Movies thrive on smackdowns. “Clash of the Titans.” “Alien vs. Predator.” “Freddy vs. Jason.” “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Rocky vs. Apollo Creed. And now, Bridezilla vs. Bridezilla. Kate Hudson (who co-produced) and Anne Hathaway play BFFs who are sweetly supportive of each other for two decades, linked in part by their shared obsession with the perfect wedding, until they both get engaged. At first, they are delighted and agree to be each other’s maids of honor. But when the only available spots at their dream location of The Plaza are at the same time, their brief attempt to resolve the conflict quickly escalates to armed combat.

Hudson plays a lawyer named Liv, a hard-charging, keep-it-all-together type with severe bangs and black-rimmed eyes that are supposed to make her look severe but just look raccoon-ish. Hathaway is Emma, a sweet-natured teacher who gets pushed around by everyone. But when it comes to her wedding, she decides to push back.

The promising premise and surface gloss are entertaining and Hudson and Hathaway just about own the adorable category these days. But this story has a sour taste and a hollow heart. The men in the story are disposable accessories, never consulted or considered, barely remembered. Not only is there no suggestion that they or their families might have some role to play in planning the wedding, there is almost no suggestion that they might have some reason for being there after the honeymoon. Weddings are like some huge supermarket sweep of frantic me-me-me events. Both women have to shanghai substitute maids of honor. They engage in an embarrassing dance-off at the bachelorette party to see who is sexier. Co-screenwriter Casey Wilson (of “Saturday Night Live”) shows up as another bride and the regal Candace Bergen appears as the most sought-after wedding planner but here is not one woman in the story who shows any consideration or affection for a man. A friend of Kate’s and Liv’s who gets married at the beginning of the film is already planning her next wedding by the end. The only love story that matters here is the one between Kate and Liv. No one ever asks if any of this madness serves any purpose other than one-upmanship. This is not a story about people getting married — this is a movie version of playing with Barbies.

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