Shut Up and Sing
Directed by Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck, 2006
The Dixie Chicks are a polarizing force in music. Ever since the ‘fifteen words heard ‘round the world,’ everyone has an opinion and there aren’t many people in middle. While all of this controversy is a reality, none of it affects the Chicks’ musical talent. Love them or hate them, they can still play.
Ticket sales were slow for the Chicks’ latest tour supporting their first post-comment album, Taking the Long Way. The band was also hoping to capitalize on the release of their video documentary, Shut Up and Sing, directed by Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck. I was pleasantly surprised. Shut Up and Sing is an entertaining look at the album making process. All the struggles and doubts showcased in the movie paid off as the Dixie Chicks swept the 2007 Grammy Awards. This movie is a must-see for any fan of the Chicks.
Directed by Roy Ward Baker, 1972
I have a slight obsession with insane asylums. I gobble up books set in asylums, and I absolutely love movies where the action takes place in an asylum. So, when Asylum came out on DVD in 2006, I knew I had to check it out!
Here’s a run-down of the plot: Dr. Martin arrives at the Dunsmoor Asylum for the incurably insane to apply for an open position. He expects to be interviewed by asylum director Dr. Starr. Instead he is met by Dr. Rutherford, who explains that Dr. Starr suffered a mental breakdown and is now one of the patients. If Martin can deduce which patient is really Dr. Starr, the job is his.
Who is Dr. Starr? Is it the woman whose affair with a married man turns murderous? Is it the tailor who made a one-of-a-kind suit for a very mysterious customer, with evil results? Is it the beautiful young lady accused of murdering her brother while her nurse insists “Lucy” did it? Or is it the “doctor” whose specialty is making voodoo dolls? You’ll use your own skills of deduction as you join Dr. Martin on his quest to find the real Dr. Starr…
For fans of the Hammer horror films, good old fashioned scary stories, or if you’re like me and enjoy anything set in asylum, Asylum is the film for you!
Directed by Brad Anderson, 2004
“It’s as if a screenplay by Franz Kafka had been filmed by Alfred Hitchcock.” This is how one review summed up The Machinist and I wholeheartedly agree. Christian Bale stars as an emaciated industrial worker who is becoming totally detached from reality. We slowly see the many elements of his nightmare existence exposed with devastating results. The film features an appropriately eerie music score by Roque Banos that perfectly evokes the spirit of Bernard Herman, Hitchcock’s favorite composer. This film is highly recommended for fans of the unusual and for me is one of the best of recent years.
Directed by Sanaa Hamri, 2006
As a rule, I don’t do romantic comedies. I never have anything in common with the characters. The romances seem forced, the breakups ridiculous, and the make-ups even more contrived. Yes, I may be a tad cynical when it comes to romance; but when I saw the trailer for Something New, something told me I should watch this movie.
Kenya McQueen is a young, professional African-American woman. She’s worked very hard to advance in a field not only saturated with men, but white men – colleagues and clients alike. She and her friends get together and talk about what it means to be single and successful black women.
Kenya decides to take a chance on being set up for a blind date. After arriving at the coffee shop, she checks out the black men, looking for the person she’s meeting. Then her date arrives… Kenya is horrified when she realizes she’s been set up with a white guy. She basically blows him off at this point, but runs into him again at a party.
Brian Kelly is a landscaper. Kenya hires him to work for her. As he transforms her disastrous backyard, Kenya is transformed too. You want these two to get together as you experience their chemistry. Brian brings out a new uninhibited side to Kenya.
Of course there is conflict, then a breakup, and eventually a make-up that occurs in this romantic comedy. But Something New addresses other very contemporary and relevant issues during this process. It features a great cast, including Blair Underwood as a wood-be suitor, and Alfre Woodard as Kenya’s mother. The soundtrack is awesome. I won’t say anything else about this movie except watch it!
Dot the I
Directed by Matthew Parkhill, 2003
What a cool movie! It starts with what appears to be a typical love triangle. Imagine a young woman about to be married. She’s out on the town for her hen night (bachelorette party to most Americans). As part of the tradition, she chooses one man to share her last kiss as a free woman. This kiss plants the seed of doubt about whether she’s ready for marriage.
Just when you think the film is going to be a romantic drama, it turns into a thriller. The young lady has a tragic past. Her fiance’ is rich, but dull and controlling. And the guy with whom she shared her last free kiss doesn’t want to let her go. Dot the I is writer/director Matthew Parkhill’s feature film debut. I’ll say no more, lest I give away key points of the plot. This was one of the most refreshing movies I’ve recently watched. It stars Natalia Verbeke, James D’Arcy, and Gael Garcia Bernal, whom you may remember from The Motorcycle Diaries or Y Tu Mama Tambien.
Directed by Greg Marck. Starring Rachael Leigh Cook, Barbara Hershey, Patrick Swayze, and Hilary Swank. 2003
If you’re in the mood for a black comedy containing a 1/3 cup of suspense, and a teaspoon of thriller, try 11:14. The movie consists of several different stories. It starts with a young man driving down the highway drunk. It continues with a van full of kids up to mischief. Enter a cop with two prisoners in his vehicle. Switch to a teenage girl who is pregnant. But wait, I forgot to mention the man who discovers a dead body in a cemetery. Yikes! Yes, you do need to pay attention to the details, including the time when you watch this film. But I guarantee you’ll gain satisfaction when you see how everything fits into 11:14. Director Greg Marcks’ first full-length feature film is pure entertainment!