Finding Neverland


'Finding Neverland' is the play within the play within the play that is really about finding the magic at the heart of imagination. And, fittingly enough, it's all about believing.

Johnny Depp plays J. M. Barrie, the playwright who wrote Peter Pan. It's London, 1903.  The theater is the exclusive reserve of high society:  reserved people in reserved seats.  Barrie has enjoyed some success, but he'd not gotten in touch with his 'inner child' enough to pen the story that would immortalize him. Until he met the Davies family.

The Mom (Kate Winslet) is alone with her four sons, and somewhat destitute since her husband died. Her overbearing mother (Julie Christie) provides material relief, but emotionally, she's a dead weight. She constantly fusses about discipline and responsibility, and seriousness.  As if, should there be any playfulness left in them at all, it would soon be snuffed out for lack of a belief that it was important.  Sort of like Tinkerbell.

Life of David Gale

'The Life Of David Gale' is a polemic against the death penalty. It raises, and then answers, the question of 'What if someone executed by the state is actually innocent?' But the viewer finds out all the information only in bits and pieces, that is, at the same rate as the main character, Bitsy (Kate Winslett). She's a big-time magazine reporter who gets chosen for the exclusive rights to interview former philosophy professor David Gale, during his last three days on Death Row.

We, the viewers, get to witness her initial skepticism about the innocence of someone who was accused of rape and murder, and then convicted by three courts. She agrees to do the interview because they have appealed to her pride, as someone suitably high-profile who has proven that she will maintain confidentiality of sources (by going to jail). So she listens to the Gale (played by Kevin Spacey) unfold his story, and it's not pretty.

Bend It Like Beckham

'Bend It Like Beckham' is this year's 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding.' It's about a girl growing up in a very ethnic family, and how she struggles to honor her roots and yet find some independence. She's not perfect, but she's likable because she's so passionate. And she tries so hard. And while she cannot bend the world to her point of view, she can at least decide what to embrace and what to refrain from embracing (Ecclesiastes 3), and in the process discover something of who she is.

There are several refreshing elements to this film for the American moviegoer. First, it does not adhere to some of the silly Hollywood rules about what is glamorous. The lead character, 'Jess' Bhamra (Parminder K. Nagra), is neither tall nor skinny nor blonde nor blue-eyed; though her friend, Jules Paxton (Keira Knightly), is all those things. What the two girls have in common is a gift for soccer. Jess has just been playing 'football' with (guy) friends in the public park near her house. Jules is playing on a women's team. When she spots Jess' skill, she invites Jess to be on the women's team, as well. The coach, Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), is skeptical until he sees Jess play. And then he is ecstatic. And so is she, because she didn't realize how good she was until now.

Gods and Generals

Actually, it seems more like 'God and Generals' because there is a whole lot of Scripture quoting, praying, conversing about the mysterious will of the Almighty in a reverential tone and, on deathbeds, the literal assurance of Heaven. It's not often a Hollywood movie is so very religious. But it is also very violent.

'Gods and Generals' is the adaptation of Jeff Shaara's Civil War historical novel about the early part of the war, when the Confederates were consistently victorious. Lee and Jackson looked invincible, while the Union suffered with a series of hesitant commanders who were either intimidated, afraid to make a mistake, paralyzed into inactivity, or all three.

Head of State and The Good Thief

Both movies rely heavily on the star power of the leading male, but make sure to feature a young, attractive woman. Both expect the viewers to accept an unlikely plot line long enough to be charmed by the skill and ingenuity of the main character. Both develop the main character as someone not ordinarily thought to be important, but who enjoys tremendous success, and we root for them both because they represent the 'anti-hero,' the one who plays against type.

In 'Head Of State,' Chris Rock plays a lowly town alderman, Mays Gilliam, who is caught on the national news doing a dramatic rescue, just because he happened to be nearby at the time. This catches the attention of the Democratic Party's kingmakers, who have a problem. Their presidential candidate and his running mate have died in a plane crash. They need to find a sacrificial lamb quickly, because the opposition is the well-known Republican who has been the vice president for eight years. Nobody wants to run against him. And so they choose Gilliam, the unknown, the 'man of the people,' and try to garner some goodwill for the next election.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Chuck Barris' life has been so bizarre that when they made a movie of it, you still can't tell what's real, what's fantasy, what's fiction, and what's such a whopper of a tale that it could very well be the truth.

The Pianist

'The Pianist' is the true story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, the Polish pianist who was just entering his prime in the ill-fated year of 1939. The German blitzkrieg began there, in September, and Poland fell in a fortnight. Then it was the occupation, with the gradual encroachment of civil rights. Jews had to wear armbands with the star of David. Jews couldn't be seen in public parks or on public benches. Jews couldn't walk on the sidewalk. Jews had to have a work permit. Jews had to relocate, in a narrow area known as the Warsaw ghetto. And the once-proud and prosperous Szpilman family, mother and father and sisters and brothers, were crammed like beggars into a dirty hovel where even the rats cannot survive because there is no food.

‘Catch Me if you Can’

In 1963, Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo De Caprio) was a normal 17-year-old high school kid. Then his world fell apart. His father, owner of a small printing business, and recent honoree of the local Rotary club, runs afoul of the IRS. Suddenly banks will no longer lend to him. The family has to sell their nice house and their late-model car, and downgrade to a lowly apartment and a rattle trap used auto.

Movie Review – ‘Santa Clause 2’

Tim Allen does it again. He not only plays Santa Claus convincingly, but is warm and funny without being saccharine or sappy. In "Santa Clause 2" the jolly elf in the red suit appears with a cast of children and puppets and makes something magical.

The viewer doesn't have to have seen the original "Santa Clause" to catch up to the sequel.

‘Chocolat’ movie review

The setting is a sleepy French village around 1960. Everything was nice and neat and orderly. The town is run by a benevolent despot of a mayor (Alfred Molina), who also takes attendance as the head usher at the Catholic church every Sunday. His wife is always traveling abroad.