Thursday, March 30, 2006

Wallace & Gromit

Nick Park's distinctive style of clay animation has captivated audiences since the debut of the English sleuthing duo of man and dog, Wallace and Gromit, in the early '90s. Wallace, a cheese-loving hack inventor, and his patiently faithful (and ever industrious) sidekick Gromit find themselves in and out of trouble in some of the most absurd (if patenly banal) situations. But it's precisely this slice of life, and cheese, that keeps audiences coming back again and again. The original trio of short films that launched Park's career, A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers (one of my all-time favourite animated films), and A Close Shave, have achieved cult status only solidified by last year's critical success (and Oscar nominee) The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the duo's first long player.

While Park's Aardman Studios enjoyed acclaim for their first feature length animated film, Chicken Run, fans couldn't wait to see Wallace and Gromit again. When Were-Rabbit arrived last year, we hadn't seen a new film of the duo in over 10 years. And while this film lacks the homespun whimsy (and bracing speed) of the original trilogy, it deftly tackles the classic horror genre with a razor wit that the whole family can enjoy. Keep your ears out for the voices of Helena Bonham Carter (now perhaps better known for her voice than her face after Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride), and Ralph Fiennes - and yes, Peter Sallis still provides the familiar voice of Wallace. Fun for all...

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Monday, March 27, 2006

Good Will Hunting

After our previous discussion of Chicago movies, my wife and I decided to have a look at some Boston movies before attending the Public Library Association's conference last week. With a bit of research, we determined that Boston hasn't fared as well as Chicago in being the subject setting of as many films, but one of the titles rose to the top.

I can't believe that I'd never seen Good Will Hunting: A rebellious 20-something MIT janitor from South Boston fights to overcome a troubling past, an uncertain present and an inability to commit to just about anything but bars and brawls, flexes his mental muscles, proves he's an unparalleled math genius and decides to take a chance on love. Sure there are many films that pit a struggling young man against the obstacles that only he must overcome: learning to love, learning to make decisions for oneself, learning to learn how to learn. A number of these movies happen to be some of my favorites (I'm a sucker for rites of passage represented in literature and film): Say Anything, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Almost Famous, and Dead Poets Society. But Gus Van Sant takes Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's astutely sensitive (albeit slightly derivative), Academy Award winning script and spins a magical yarn with amazing visual charm and top notch acting to boot. Outstanding performances by Damon, Stellan Skarsgard and Robin Williams (who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor) propel this film to the next level.

4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Crash to be Screened at the Library

In a rare bout of serendipitous programming, our library planned months in advance that Crash would win big at the Oscars and scheduled a screening for this coming April.

As part of the on-going "Lunch and a Movie" series, Crash will be screened April 18 at 12 noon in the library meeting room. Bring your lunch and enjoy some "light entertainment." Sorry, no evening screenings planned as of yet, but we're working on a potential series for the Fall. Stay tuned.

Note: Discussion isn't historically part of the "Lunch and a Movie" proceedings, however, I wouldn't be surprised if conversation erupted as the credits roll. It's worth looking into.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Chicago Movies

Having recently had the great pleasure of seeing the new DVD special edition of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, I've been thinking about great moments in Chicago cinema. It's amazaing how many films have been set in Chicago.

As an icebreaker to get this blog discussion going,
What are some of your favorite Chicago movies, and why?

Add your comments to the right -->>

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

April Film Discussion

The Film Group will reconvene on Wednesday, April 5 at 7:00pm to discuss Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso. Released in 1988, the film garnered a number of critical accolades including wins at both the Academy Awards and Golden Globes for Best Foreign Language Film, and at the Cannes Film Festival for Special Jury Grand Prix.

Cinema Paradiso is a film that celebrates cinema. Film critic Richard Gilliam believes the film "evokes the magic of motion pictures, in a style both nostalgic and poetic." It's hard not to identify with the way a film captivates us and holds up a fantastic mirror to our own lives. What makes this film even more remarkable, in light of its meta-subject matter, is its idyllic setting and the way the story gently interweaves a non-linear narrative of one boy's development into manhood, with a timeless intergenerational love story. Gilliam continues: "It takes place in a small Italian town in the years before television, where motion pictures were a social event, and the people who gathered for them knew each other by name. The ambiance is largely autobiographical, drawn from the memories of writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore, who shows great affection for his characters, even when they suffer misfortune or unhappiness."

In 2002, the film was re-edited and returned to theatrical release with an additional 50 minutes of footage picking up where the original story left off. This version is known as simply, Cinema Paradiso: The New Version.

For the purposes of our discussion, I ask that you seek out the first, original version of the film. If you enjoy this version and are curious about Salvatore and his loves, then by all means seek out The New Version as supplemental material.

I look forward to seeing you next month! Enjoy the film.