Monday, September 1, 2014

Tina's August 2014 Movies

I watched a dozen movies in August, trying hard to see only movies I hadn't seen before (those marked with an *), but I couldn't resist a few old ones.  At least one I should have resisted (you'll identify which one by its one can rating). Numbering picks up from July and all movies are rated on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna, with 5 being the top rating.

103.  City by the Sea* (2002) — Life isn’t easy for junkie Joey Nova (James Franco).  He has a girlfriend and a baby and a nasty drug habit.  When he and his buddy get into a fight with a dealer, Joey ends up stabbing the guy to death.  The cop who catches the case is his estranged father, Vincent LaMarca (Robert DeNiro), who abandoned his son after divorcing his mother (Patti LaPone).  Will father catch son?  Will he help him or bring him in?  I would not have watched this movie had DeNiro and Frances McDormand, who plays the cop’s girlfriend, not been the leads.  It was a taut cop story and worth seeing.  3½ cans.
104.  Boyhood* (2014) — Growing up is never easy, and surviving the upheaval of divorce only complicates things for the children, as this drama poignantly demonstrates.  The mother (Patricia Arquette) tries to build her vision of a real family for her son (Ellar Coltrane and daughter (Lorelai Linklater, the director’s daughter), but keeps marrying abusive losers who only make life worse for everyone.  Continual money problems and constant moving means the kids change schools and have to make new friends, and spend much of the time trying to figure things out on their own since the mother has to deal with her own problems.  The hook here by director Richard Linklater is that he filmed this movie over a 12-year period, so you see the actual actors actually age, none so obviously as the main character, Mason, who evolves from an innocent 6-year-old to a high school graduate on his first day of college.  Linklater teams with his star from “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset,” Ethan Hawke (as Mason’s father), once again.  Let me say that I really wanted to like this movie, but instead found it just as dull as I found the aforementioned Linklater works.  Mason is a good kid, but, because of the upheavals, he doesn’t get too close to anyone.  The family has communications issues and cannot relate to each other in a genuine way (I’m not saying the dialog is not authentic, it’s just gloomy).  In the end, I just didn’t really care about these people.  I can recommend it only to those with the patience to sit through three hours of not much happening.  3 cans.
105.  Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion* (1997) — Romy and Michelle (Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow) are sweetly vapid young women approaching their 10-year high school reunion without decent jobs or men in their lives.  Best friends forever, the two somehow survived the horrors of high school — which this movie depicts with stereotypical accuracy — without even realizing that they were not in any clique.  They went to the prom together, dressed like Madonna, and while Romy pined for the high school jock, Michelle was worshipped by the geek who would later become rich and famous (Alan Cumming, without a trace of his Scottish accent, like a very young Eli Gold).  When they decide to attend their high school reunion, they create a story that depicts them as hugely successful their careers, claiming that Romy invented “Post-It” notes.  About to be ostracized yet again, they manage to turn the tables on the perky prom queen and her court.  Kudrow and Sorvino play their parts to the hilt, all blond, long legs, short skirts and eye rolls.  This is no “Citizen Kane,” but it is a pleasant enough diversion that was almost worth waiting 17 years to see.  I can probably go another 17 before I see it again.  3 cans.
106. China Moon* (1994) — If you are a fan of “Body Heat” or the old Barbara Stanwyck-Fred MacMurray classic, “Double Indemnity,” this film noir is right up your alley.  I think “film noir” is French for “sexy lady gets man to do something for her he shouldn’t do,” which generally means to murder or help murder her husband.   In this suspenseful movie, Ed Harris is Kyle, a cop known for his ability to crack a case, but this time he falls for the murderer.  Madeline Stowe is married to a mean, abusive and very rich banker (Charles Dance) when she meets detective Kyle in a bar.  He pursues her, and soon she is plotting for a way to knock off hubby and be with him.  Can she pull it off with his help?  How far is he willing to go for the woman he loves?  Will the cops turn the tables on him?  My only criticisms of this movie are that it takes a while to get going, and that the title really has nothing to do with anything.  Though “Body Heat” (with sexy Kathleen Turner and sweaty William Hurt) may be more sultry, “China Moon” is just as suspenseful.  4 cans.
107.  Seeking a Friend for the End of the World* (2012) — It is the end of the world as we know it, as an asteroid hurtles toward the earth it will ultimately destroy.  Seems like a good time to reassess your life, no?  Steve Carrell is Dodge, a hapless, morose guy whose wife bails out.  His young neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightley), breaks up with her boyfriend, and Dodge and Penny hit the road to find Dodge’s true love, his high school girlfriend, before the apocalypse.  This is an unusual road movie for sure, but, to me, it dragged on and on.  How long will it take before these two realize that they are meant for each other and that time is of the essence?  About 2 hours.  The ending is sweet, but getting there was a long, strange trip.  3 cans.
108.  The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone* (1961) — Karen Stone (Vivien Leigh) is an aging American actress whose wealthy husband dies of a sudden heart attack on their way to Rome following a failed Broadway show.  In Rome, the sad and lonely actress is introduced to Paolo, a handsome, much younger man (Warren Beatty, with a terrible Italian accent) whose “services” are booked by the Contessa (Lotte Lenya).  The lonely widow, ever so proper and afraid of what others may think of her, embarks on a relationship with the gigolo.  Beatty does his best James Dean, head cast downward, looking innocent yet calculating (probably adding up Mrs. Stone’s money in his otherwise empty head) as he enjoys the fruits of his “labor” — custom made clothes, dinners at the best restaurants, etc.  She clearly cares for him, but does he really want a woman more than twice his age?  The sad thing here is that Leigh herself was an aging actress by then.  In looking this movie up, I found another version with Helen Mirren and Oliver Martinez that I may just have to watch next.  3½ cans.
109.  The Hundred-Foot Journey* (2014) — Last month I saw “Chef,” another movie about food, and I was glad that I ate before I saw it.  The temptation of Helen Mirren, rapidly becoming one of my all-time favorite actresses, and food was irresistible.  Here she is Madame Mallory, the irascible owner of a hoity-toity restaurant in the French countryside who is dismayed when an Indian family builds a much less formal Indian place directly across the road in her tiny town.  She is the doyenne of diners, a celebrated restaurateur with a Michelin star to her credit.  But the Indian family has young chef Hassan (Manish Dayal), who has exactly what it takes to be an outstanding chef.  He also has a crusty and charming father (Om Puri) with whom Madame eventually builds a peaceful coexistence.  Meanwhile, Hassan strikes up a relationship with Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), who works for Madame and is no slouch in the kitchen herself.  This movie has no surprises, but, in the hands of director Lasse Halstrom, and with engaging performances by the key players, it offers a tasty treat.  3½ cans.
110.  Grand Central* (2014)  — This documentary tells the story of the rise, fall and rise again of Grand Central Terminal in New York, the largest train station in the world and one that was built over 100 years ago.  With tremendous foresight and planning, the building functions as well today as its creators originally envisioned.  Although Grand Central fell into disrepair in the 1970s, the New York power elite, mourning over the loss of the once great Penn Station, fought to save it.  People like Jacquelyn Kennedy Onassis, Bess Myerson and Mayor Ed Koch pushed not only to restore the beaux arts beauty to its grandeur.  Today it is a spectacular, thriving space where people eat, meet, greet and travel.  I love a happy ending.  3½ cans.
111.  Remember the Day (1941) — Way back before present day scandals involving unseemly relationships between teachers and students, it was possible to have a teacher demonstrate warmth and caring.  Here Claudette Colbert is Miss Trinell, an 8th grade teacher whose young student, Dewey Roberts, has a crush on her.  They bond over his love of boats.  Also with a crush on Miss Trinell is Mr. Hopkins (John Payne), a fellow teacher who sweeps her off her feet.  It is scandalous for the two unmarried adults to consort with each other (this movie takes place in 1914), so one of them will pay the price.  We start the story as an elderly Miss Trinell goes to a rally for presidential candidate Dewey Roberts many years after their initial encounter, and flash back to that special time of growing up.  This is an endearing and sweet movie that could not be made today.  3½ cans.
112.  Wordplay (2006) — What is a 10-letter word for something that captivates the mind?  How about engrossing?  Will Shortz, The New York Times Crossword puzzle editor, is the creator of a national crossword championship, held every year in Connecticut, that attracts people who are crossword fanatics.  Leading up to the tournament, we meet many of the contestants as well as celebrities from President Bill Clinton to comedian Jon Stewart who are dedicated to the Times’ puzzle.  The contestants practice all year, timing themselves, and can complete a Monday or Tuesday puzzle in just a few minutes — in ink (the puzzles get progressively harder during the week).  People who enjoy language (and obscure words) and who like to solve problems are attracted to these puzzles.  We see how they are constructed (the puzzles, though we can see how the players are wired, too) and by whom.  I love language but my brain is not wired to do puzzles or even to play Scrabble all that well, so I can admire these intelligent people and their mastery.  4 cans.
113.  Longtime Companion (1990) — The timeline of movies about the AIDS epidemic begins with this drama, continues with 1993’s “And the Band Played On” and leads to the recent airing of HBO’s “The Normal Heart.”  These moving dramas have much in common, as they all portray groups of young men whose world is suddenly rocked by what is first characterized as a virus of unknown origin affecting gay men.  In this movie, as in the others, the group slowly diminishes in size as men lose their partners and friends to the dreaded disease.  Where the other movies work in the activism in the fight against AIDS, this one concentrates on the relationships between the men, with Bruce Davison in the lead.  Other actors include Campbell Scott and Dermot Mulroney.  Movies like this can never and will never have a happy ending until the disease is eradicated, but just seeing the fear of the people involved as they try to understand what is happening is very powerful.  3½ cans.
114.  Stayin’ Alive (1983) — Tony Manero (John Travolta) hauls out the white suit and the attitude in this sequel to “Saturday Night Fever” that was directed by Sylvester Stallone.  Tony has crossed the bridge from Brooklyn and now lives in a dumpy Manhattan hotel, where he auditions and gets rejected from plenty of Broadway shows in his quest to be a professional dancer.  He falls for the lead dancer in a new show, a haughty Brit played by Fionnola Hughes, who considers him beneath her in talent and social standing.  If the show in which they star opened on Broadway, it would close by intermission.  Stallone overstages and overpowers everything, dousing it liberally with Rockyesque music largely performed by his brother, Frank, with some BeeGees tunes thrown in for good measure.  The dance sequences are like boxing rounds.  This movie is like “Sharknado,” but at least in “Sharknado,” the players got the joke.  Here they don’t understand how preposterous the whole Broadway show is and play it straight.  Travolta, while he’ll never be a Broadway dancer, gamely tackles the whole thing with zero body fat and occasional flashes of the charming /angry guy we loved in the original.  “Barely Alive” might have been a better title.  1 can.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer (A)Musings

Robin Williams — Wow.  You just never know what someone is feeling.  How someone who made so many people happy could be so sad himself is a tragedy.  RIP. 

I don’t know who Pearl is, but today I am wearing her mother’s earrings.

I notice that I am becoming more indecisive lately.  I can't decide what music to listen to on my walks, what clothes to wear or even pick out socks without pondering the decision — as if anyone would know or care.  Are you indecisive?  Yes and no.

Why is it that when I yawn, my ears always seem to pop?  They don't seem clogged between yawns, so I can only conclude that my brain is leaking out through my ears.

What could be more ignominious than having either a rest stop or a women’s prison named after you?  There’s a good news/bad news scenario.  “Congratulations, Lombardi Family.  We’re naming the Turnpike rest stop after Vince!”

I watch “Jeopardy” every night, and I just have to say that Alex Trebeck is a bit of a “know-it-all.”  I guess that makes him a wise guy.  By the way, if you record “Jeopardy” and skip the commercials and Alex’s meaningless little chat with the contestants, you can watch the whole show in about 20 minutes.  Don’t tell the sponsors.

Do you ever drive past a construction site, notice that a building has been demolished on a lot you pass all of the time and you have no idea what the building was?

No one seems sadder than Ted Allen when he has to tell one of the contestants on “Chopped” that “You’ve been chopped.” 

For someone who sees as many movies as I do, it is amazing how few “blockbusters” I watch.  I eschew action-adventure for the most part, shy away from anything remotely scary or bloody (which leaves out all those vampire movies) and anything with fantasy in it (I just cannot suspend my sense of reality).  That means when the list of Top 10 Box Office movies comes out, it is likely that I will have seen none of them.  Yet I manage to watch 150 or so movies a year.

If I stick the left earpiece of my headphones in my right ear, what happens?  Will I hear things in the wrong order?  Does it matter?  Will the audio authorities come after me and box my ears?

It is a wonder I can see at all sometimes with all of the schmutz that's on my glasses.  

July marked the 25th anniversary of the TV sitcom "Seinfeld," a show about, well, basically, nothing.  And who didn't love that? Waiting for a table in a Chinese restaurant, Vandelay Industries, Kramer, Elaine's manic dancing...all classic TV moments.  I watched from the first episode of what was originally called "The Seinfeld Chronicles," and enjoyed every episode except the finale, which was God-awful.  Still, overall, a great show.

My DVR has a perplexing habit.  When I turn it on, it sometimes flashes a read-out that says “DUI” before it give me the time or channel.  Do you think it drinks while I’m not watching?  I can’t come up with a logical translation for DUI.  Suggestions?

It amazes me how we have to nurture our plants and flowers and yet weeds can grow in cracks in the asphalt and thrive despite drought, cold and every other condition thrown at them.

As a walker, I am grateful for those electric fences that persuade dogs to stay in their yards and not attack me. 

My BFF suggested that I pick up the pace a little when I walk to get more out of the experience.  But wouldn't that potentially jeopardize my standing as the dead-last finisher in the Resolution Run/Walk on New Year's Day?  I have held the title for 2 years and don't want to give it up now, not when I can go for the three-peat.

Isn’t it odd that you can walk along feeling fine when suddenly you get a pain in your ankle or shoulder or elbow for no apparent reason, think you’ll never walk again, and then it goes away?

Last walking reference:  I try to walk for health and fitness, yet now I am developing bunions.  It seems to me that the punishment doesn't fit because walking is no crime.

After our horrible winter, I promised I wouldn’t complain about the summer heat.  So I’m not going to complain about the summer heat.

I know we need rain, but can’t we just get regular rain instead of torrential downpours that overfill my pool?  I’m tired of getting flash flood warnings on my phone every time we get another deluge.

One of my BFFs retired as a teacher.  Now I can call her anytime, because she has no class.

I used to have to straighten out those twisted cords on all of my phones.  I was always untangling them in the office — even in other people’s offices.  Now that we all have cordless phones, that’s one habit I have dropped.  Instead, I’m fixated on keeping the headphone cord for my iPod free of twists and kinks.  I guess I’ve just transferred that OCD characteristic from one thing to another.  Blue Tooth is a good thing for me!

Don’t you just love to find a book that you absolutely cannot put down, that you want to finish but don’t want to finish because you will be sad when you are done reading it?

I have some habits (actually, too many to mention) that really annoy me.  One is that I will write down a phone number but not the name that goes with it.  Later on I find the number but have no idea whose number it is. 

I need to go to bed earlier.  I don’t sleep well anymore, what with at least one stop in the bathroom after which I have trouble falling back to sleep, so that means I am usually up early after 5 or so hours.  Maybe if I went to bed earlier I could erase those Samsonite bags under my eyes.  I really don’t think I look my age (going on 64), but those bags!  You could go on a trip around the world with smaller bags than the ones under my eyes!  Maybe it’s time to see the wizard on Park and 73rd.  Or just go to bed earlier.  That would be cheaper and far less painful.

The very idea that a dab of concealer under my eyes could possibly disguise the bags is optimistic at best — or just plain foolish.  Maybe a vat of concealer, applied with a trowel, would make a difference.  I just bought a lighted make-up mirror, a concession to the fact that I need a lot of light to see.  I didn’t quite understand how BIG an 8 inch mirror was until this enormous looking glass arrived.  It also magnifies my face 7 times, so my head now looks like it could be on Mount Rushmore, and my pores look like the craters of the moon.  But my lipstick and eyeliner (yes, I do wear eyeliner — as infrequently as possible) will look great.  I’ll just have to get over the scariness of my face that big.

I don’t mind cooking, but cleaning up is a giant pain.  Since I live alone, both the cooking and the cleaning up are my responsibilities.  But at least I get to eat whatever I want to eat.  So there’s that.

These days, I measure the effectiveness of my brain by trying to recall every word of “Love Child” and “Along Comes Mary.”  When I stop remembering the lyrics, I’ll know trouble lies ahead.

You can’t tell me that my nails don’t grow faster in the summer.  I mean, you can tell me, but I won’t believe it. 

My bottle of nail polish remover has an expiration date.  Really?  What happens when nail polish remover “goes bad?”  Will the bottle itself disintegrate?  Just wondering.

Does anyone actually go on line and take the survey that Kohl’s asks you to take every time you purchase something?  We could save plenty of trees if they would stop handing out that little slip with the website on it.  Besides, most people go on line just to complain about service, and at Kohl’s I find everything to be more than acceptable.  Except that they keep asking me to take the survey!

What’s the point of ordering a load of mulch, having it delivered and then letting it sit in your driveway for the entire summer?  Not me, but several houses I pass have done just that.

Alert the media:  I actually finished two magazines this month in the same month they arrived!  Aside from my weekly People magazine, which takes only 10-15 minutes to absorb (if that’s an accurate description), I normally skim magazine articles first and put the magazine aside for later, in-depth reading.   That means I will soon be done looking at holiday recipes for Thanksgiving and Christmas from last year’s Better Homes & Gardens.  Yet I cannot recycle my magazines unless I have at least gone through them once.  Why do I continue to subscribe, you (reasonably) ask?  Well, I wouldn’t want to miss something interesting now, would I?

And speaking of magazines, I have subscribed to TV Guide since 1974, and notice that they seem to send out a lot of “double issues” now, which makes me wonder — with a subscription that will probably outlive me, do I get half as many issues as I used to get?  Is a double issue counted as two issues?  Oh, the weighty concerns on my mind!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tina's July 2014 Movies

I somehow managed to see a bunch of movies in July, even without a lot of rainy days.  Movies are rated on the basis of 1-5 cans of tuna, 5 being the best.  Any movies not previously seen are marked with an * and numbering picks up from last month.

84.  The Case Against 8* (2014) — HBO is airing an engrossing documentary this month about the four-year fight to overturn California’s Proposition 8, legislation that banned gay marriages in the state.  For two couples – one waiting to marry (Jeff & Paul) and already-married lesbians (Chris & Sandy) – the fight was personal, since both gay couples had to agree to be plaintiffs in the case with the ultimate hope that they would be able to marry and receive the same rights and benefits as heterosexual married couples.  An equal rights organization in California and an all-star legal team made convincing arguments that led to the banning of Prop 8, but the legal battle continued through various tactics and appeals all the way to the US Supreme Court.  Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act and said it would not rule in the Prop 8 case, thereby allowing the lower court’s decision to overturn it to stand.  Sadly, marriage between same sex couples is still banned in 31 states.  This absorbing look at the case and the principals sheds new light on the whole issue of equal rights under the Constitution.  I love a happy ending. 
3½ cans.  
85.  Rocky (1976) Who isn't familiar with the story of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), a lovable loser and club fighter who gets the chance to go up against the World Champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in a championship match?  Who doesn't get a thrill out of seeing Rocky sprint up the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum with the iconic theme song playing in the background?  This is the classic story of the underdog who beats (almost) the odds. Just seeing the faces of Rocky, Adrian (Talia Shire), Paulie (Burt Young), Mickey (Burgess Meredith) and Apollo again was like seeing old friends.  When Adrian goes from mousy with glasses to dolled up with beret, we get yet another thrill.  Give Stallone credit: A Hollywood underdog himself with little of note on his resume, he wrote "Rocky" and refused to sell it unless he could play the lead.  He parlayed the role into a veritable franchise.  Someday we'll see Rocky wheeling down the halls of a nursing home, calling out to Adrian, in Rocky 115. But until then, this inspiring story is to be cherished and loved. 4½ cans.
86.  Rocky II (1979) — After vowing to retire from the ring, the almost-champ finds himself with a new house and car and no way to support his family.  There is way too much story about Rocky not being able to find work.  A pregnant Adrian returns to her job at the pet store, but only after almost losing Adrian does Rocky agree to take on Apollo Creed again — with Adrian’s blessing.  Once again he trains in earnest and sprints up those iconic steps.  The sequel has a longer and less authentic boxing sequence, but Rocky is still the lovable lug we can’t help rooting for.  3½ cans.
87.  Rocky III (1982) — Please, someone, stop the madness!  In this second sequel to the original, Rocky now has a much better house and haircut, he has traded in his pork pie hat and leather jacket for form-fitting, custom-made suits, and he appears on everything from the cover of Newsweek to “The Muppets Show.”  He and Adrian have a big house, a couple of kids and a better life.  He takes on and beats all the contenders now that Apollo Creed has retired from boxing, but, like Apollo himself once took Rocky for granted, he overlooks a ferocious and hungry fighter named Clubber Lang (Mr. T, at his snarly best) who has everything to gain by going up against the champ.  Can Rocky pull off another championship bout?  What about his trainer, Mickey?  And Yo, Adrian?  And that expensive haircut?  Maybe I’m just getting Rocky-ed out, but I am starting to lose the eye of the tiger here.  Luckily, Rocky doesn’t.  3½ cans.
88.  An American President (1995) — Andrew Shepherd is a regular guy.  He’s a handsome widower with a 12-year old daughter who falls in love with an unmarried professional woman, and all would be fine except that she is a lobbyist and he happens to be the President of the United States.  Michael Douglas has made plenty of movies, but none that I like him in more than this Rob Reiner charmer.  Annette Bening is the woman who creates controversy just by dating him — that, and they happen to be on opposites sides of a piece of environmental legislation and Shepherd is facing political opposition from a Senator running for president (Richard Dreyfuss).  Aaron Sorkin’s smart script divulges the details of the inner workings of the White House, where presidential privacy is virtually non-existent.  Michael J. Fox as a George Stephanopolis-type aide and Martin Sheen as the President’s right hand man lend their own appeal to the mix here.  This is just a feel-good movie about two adults falling in love, and I did — with the movie and with the characters.  This American President gets my vote.  4 cans.
89.  Entrapment* (1999) — In this clever caper, Catherine Zeta-Jones is Jen, an insurance investigator checking out a master art thief, Mac (Sean Connery), who pilfers things like Rembrandt paintings.  She goes undercover to work with Mac to protect the insurance company from having to pay out claims for stolen works of art, as they plot intricate schemes to outwit the elaborate security measures standing in the way of the heist.  Or, she isn’t working for the insurance company at all, but is, as she tells Mac, a master thief herself.  In any case, she and Mac work very well together and are able to execute their plans to perfection.  This is a suspenseful and interesting movie, but it seems so completely unbelievable that I had to suspend my sense of reality to enjoy it.  Oh, and someone tell Sean Connery to stop wearing that bad rug, please!  3 cans.
90.  Tammy* (2014) — You have to hand it to Melissa McCarthy: She is not afraid to tackle anything, no matter how bad she may look or how outrageous the situation.  In this story, which she co-wrote with her husband (Ben Falcone, who also directed) she is the title character, a braggadocios loser whose car and marriage expire on the same day.  Time to hit the road, destination unclear, with granny’s car and bankroll — and Granny, herself (Susan Sarandon, in a bad wig and even then not looking nearly old enough to be the mother of Allison Janney or grandmother of Melissa McCarthy; see previous movie for problems with bad wigs and suspending my sense of reality).  OK, buying the premise, we see the two plunge nearly Thelma and Louise-like into a series of misadventures, picking up men (Granny and Gary Cole), drinking (Granny again, though Tammy isn’t exactly sober), blowing things up and committing crimes.  A road trip/buddy movie never really has a significant plot, and this one is no exception.  McCarthy’s predilection for risk-taking and her knack for physical comedy are reminiscent of Lucille Ball — on a much more physical scale.  This movie will never be mistaken for the great comedies of our time, but it continues McCarthy’s streak of mouthy, over-the-top characters who amuse theatergoers.  Or was that just me?  3½ cans because it is NOT a great movie, but I did like it. 
91.  The University of Sing Sing* (2011) — There is an eager bunch of students attending classes taught by Mercy College professors in New York State.  They do all of their readings, hand in their work on time, participate fully in class discussions and truly value their education.  For the men convicted of violent crimes who are serving their sentences in the correctional facility in Ossining, New York, education is a form of freedom, a way to escape from the despair they have caused themselves, their families and the victims of the crimes that put them in prison for long stretches.  This moving documentary shows the real meaning of education provided by Mercy through a program called “Hudson Link.”  The men acknowledge their past but see education as hope for their future, not only to help them get jobs once they leave prison but to help them think, reflect, and become better, more fully realized individuals.  The success of the program can be measured by the recidivism rate, which is only 2% for the Hudson Link graduates, compared to 45% for all others who leave Sing Sing.  I defy anyone who sees this movie not to get a huge lump in the throat watching graduation day.  4 cans.
92.  Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) — Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) passes out at her 25th high school reunion and wakes up back in high school, surrounded by the trappings of her teenage years and looking for a way to change the course of her future life.  With shades of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Back to the Future,” this Francis Ford Coppola fantasy reminds us of the things we did as teenagers that dictated the course of whom we became as adults.  In Peggy Sue’s case, it was “going” with Charlie (Nicholas Cage), a typical teenage boy of 1960, with a big pompadour hairdo and dreams of becoming the next Fabian.  Peggy Sue herself knows she and Charlie will marry and get divorced, so she wants to change the course of her story.  The details here make the movie fun to watch — Peggy Sue and her high school friends, in her old bedroom, with the lectures of her parents and with a bit of cynicism about the hopes and dreams of everyone around her.  In school, she tells the math teacher that algebra will make no difference in her life, and it’s hard to argue with that logic.  Turner and Cage do fine work here, and, to Coppola’s credit, he doesn’t try to make the women actually look like teenagers, which would not have worked.  Look for Coppola’s daughter, Sophia, now a director herself, in a small role as Peggy Sue’s much younger sister.  3½ cans. 
93.  I Was a Jet Set Stewardess* (2014) — There was a time, back in the age of “Mad Men,” when traveling was glamourous.  People got dressed up and sat happily on board new jet planes, smoking and being served excellent food by specially selected and trained stewardesses.  These women were college educated, beautiful, young and unmarried — because those were the job requirements.  Oh, yes, and they had to wear girdles (count me out).  Their tailored outfits were designed by respected fashion designers and they were proud to put on the uniform.  The job of stewardess was coveted and the women who took on the responsibilities could often speak more than one language and wanted to expand their horizons.  As one former stewardess recalls in this documentary, there weren’t as many flights, so they could fly to Tahiti and stay there for a week waiting for their assignment home.  The tales about stewardesses and pilots and stewardesses and passengers hooking up might have been exaggerated, but they weren’t untrue.  All that ended when the first jets, the Boeing 707s, were replaced by the new generation of larger planes, like the 747, with 500 passengers and no opportunity for the flight crew and passengers to establish a rapport beyond fastening their seatbelts when told.  Eventually the changes in the industry and the discriminatory practices by the airlines led to the changes in service that we experience as travelers today.  But while they lasted as stewardesses, the women in this film loved almost every minute.  3½ cans.
94.  Jersey Boys* (2014) — I’ve been a fan of The Four Seasons (no, not Vivaldi) since I got my first transistor radio (a pink Sears Silvertone) in 1962 and the number one song in America was “Sherry.”  Dozens of hits and radios later, I’m still surprised at the depth of the group’s catalog of well-known songs, most of which are performed in the course of this movie, which is the story of the NJ-born and bred Frankie Castaluccio — before he changed it to Valli — (John Lloyd Young) and his semi-mobster pal Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) and their struggle to make it in the music biz and what happens when — as we all know — they hit it big.  It isn’t until singer/producer/songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) joins the group that they begin to soar as high as Frankie’s falsetto.  Director Clint Eastwood makes a faithful adaptation of the huge Broadway hit, incorporating the technique of “breaking the fourth wall,” where the actors slip out of the action to speak directly to the audience.  The stage version of any musical brings more energy than the screen version can muster, so the last scene — a big production number — comes across a bit flat.  The struggles, mistakes in judgment and eventual break-up of the group are recounted against the growing catalog of their songs, which always seem appropriate to the plot.  On the downside, the film firmly supports every negative Italian and New Jersey stereotype that ever existed.  But in the end, this is a musical, and the music takes center stage.  4 cans.
95.  Mask (1985) — This movie was Cher’s first venture into “Serious Acting” and she shows she has the chops to pull it off.  Here she is a single mother who hangs out with bikers, uses drugs and is generally what you would describe as a “free spirit,” which means she has a foul mouth and a bad attitude.  Her sweet teenaged son (Eric Stoltz) is a normal kid who collects baseball cards, excels in school and just happens to have a disease that has left him with a horribly disfigured face.  Neither mom Rusty or son Rocky allow Rocky’s appearance to define him, though he realizes his limitations more than she does.  One of my favorite actors, Sam Elliott, plays Gar, Cher’s on-again-off-again biker boyfriend, and Estelle Getty of “The Golden Girls” has a small role as Rusty’s mother.  This movie is based on a true story.  Rocky really packs a punch.  4 cans.
96.  Tin Cup (1996) — Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy (Kevin Costner) is a failed golfer with a sweet swing and a laid-back attitude who runs a dilapidated driving range in the Middle of Nowhere, Texas.  When classy psychologist Molly (Rene Russo) turns up for golf lessons, he is intrigued, despite the fact that Molly is dating pro golfer and arch rival David (Don Johnson).  Tin Cup decides he needs a few treatments on his head while she learns to swing, and he ends up entering and contending for the title in the US Open golf tournament.  Roy is smug, David is arrogant and Molly is torn between them.  This highly unlikely story tries hard to turn on the charm and get you to like it, but it is no better than the 4th best sports movie made by Costner.  Here he is less appealing than he was as Crash Davis in “Bull Durham,” despite trying to win us and Molly over.  3 tin cans.
97.  Chef* (2014) — Jon Favreau (who wrote and directed) plays Carol, a chef who loves to cook.  Unfortunately, the owner of the restaurant where he works (played by Dustin Hoffman) is afraid to serve his loyal customers anything not on the tired old menu, and when a food critic comes (Oliver Platt) and blasts Carl for his unadventurous, dated cuisine, it sets off a Twitter war that leads to Carl’s demise.  He takes the advice of his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara, who really tones down her usual screen persona) and starts a food truck operation, driving from Miami back to California with his loyal sous chef (John Leguizamo) and young son Percy, with whom he doesn’t spend much time as a divorced dad always at work.  Everyone bonds, the people in each city love the food and everyone is full and satisfied.  There’s nothing too exciting here, but either the film is well edited or Favreau has mad knife skills, because watching the chef at work is thrilling.  One caution:  Don’t go to this movie hungry.  The beauty shots here all involve delicious-looking, well-prepared food, much more than one person could possibly consume, though you will want to do just that.  3½ cans.
98.  Mystic Pizza (1988) — Who could resist the movie that gave us Julia Roberts in her first starring role?  But Julia is not the only young actress to captivate the viewer in this coming of age story of three young, lower middle class women working as waitresses in the aptly named Connecticut pizza joint, Mystic Pizza.  Anna Beth Gish is Roberts’ idealistic, Yale-bound sister, and Lili Taylor is their commitment-phobe friend who is head-over-heels in love with her boyfriend (Vincent Dinofrio) but isn’t sure love is really forever — or for her.  The relationship between the girls seems genuine, as is the affection which they share with the pizza parlor owner (the underrated Conchata Farrell, one of my favorite actresses).  The secret lies in the pizza sauce, but, in this movie, it is the binds we make when we are young that get us through the ups and downs of young adulthood and beyond.  If you haven’t seen it, order a pizza and enjoy the show.  4 slices.
99.  Erin Brockovich  (2000) — Speaking of Julia Roberts, she’s come a long way in this movie, based on a true story of a single mom looking for work who talks herself into a job with a lawyer and ends up uncovering rampant and dangerous chemical pollution in the water of a small California town.  Roberts’ title character is just a little too brash and dresses a little too provocatively for most of the folks she encounters, but her earnestness wins them over.  It doesn’t hurt to have a neighbor as beefy as Aaron Eckhart next door.  Albert Finney is terrific as Erin’s boss, and Conchata Farrell (see above) has a small role as his assistant.  Roberts earned the Best Actress Oscar for this performance, and it is easy to see why (or maybe Meryl wasn’t nominated that year?)  If you are in for a dogfight, you’d want Erin in your corner.  4 cans.
100.  36 Hours (1964) — I watched this movie mostly as a tribute to the late, great James garner, the laconic star who passed away in July, but I had forgotten how good a movie it is.  Garner plays Major Jeff Pike, who is high up enough in the military to be intimately acquainted with plans for D-Day, the Allied invasion at Normandy that is days away in June, 1944.  The Germans manage to slip him a mickey and he ends up in what he thinks is a US Army hospital 6 years after the end of the war.  A clever German doctor (Rod Taylor) has devised a scheme to convince Pike the war is over and that he has amnesia.  His treatment includes discussions of events Pike remembers, all to gather information about the coming invasion.  There is plenty of intrigue, as Pike’s nurse (Eva Marie Saint) plays a pivotal role in the ruse.  This movie doesn’t give Garner the ability to charm the viewer, but his performance in a captivating story is excellent.  Pay attention to the first 2 minutes for an incident that plays a critical part later in the film.  4 cans.
101.  Sharknado 2: The Second One* (2014) — There is blood in the streets and there are sharks in the air in this sequel to last summer’s campy surprise hit, “Sharknado.”  This time around, hero Fin (the luckiest actor in the world, Ian Ziering) and his ex, April (Tara Reid, barely breathing) land in New York — literally, they crash land in New York in the midst of “a storm of biblical proportions” with sharks raining down at 2 inches per hour (or so says Al Roker).  Fin has to find his sister and her husband, so he goes to Citi Field to catch them at the Mets game, but snow wipes out the game.  And then there are the sharks.  April’s hand is ripped off by a shark, and she ends up in the hospital, where, despite being left with a bloody stump, she manages to dress in what looks like a Chanel suit, complete with a necklace that I couldn’t fasten with two hands.  The stump comes in handy (so to speak) later, when she attaches a circular saw to it to fight the flying fish.  Fin fights the enemy with the help of his other ex, played by Viveca A. Fox, and decides he will have to blow up a building this time around to defeat the storm.  People are beheaded, smacked around by the sharks, and Fin manages to play “Frogger” as he literally jumps the sharks.  Cameos include Robert Hayes of “Airplane” fame (and little else) as the pilot of the plane headed to New York, and Judd Hirsch, the star of the old sitcom “Taxi,” as a cabbie driving Fin to battle.  Al Roker and Matt Lauer, in what we can only hope is his first and last dramatic role, play themselves, as do Kelly Ripa (who kills a shark with her spike heels) and Michael Strahan.  The rest are too numerous to mention.  Fin’s chain saw has reached biblical proportions, and he manages to slice a flyby shark in half in what looks like the middle of Times Square.  When he needs a helping hand, he just reaches into the mouth of a shark and pulls out one that happens to be holding a gun so he can shoot down his prey.  It was brought to my attention after publishing this review that the hand in question belonged to April, his ex-wife, and he took the engagement ring off the hand and gave it back to her. Romantic, eh?   In the end, Fin (get it?) saves the day, which can only lead one to the conclusion that the Sharknado franchise will live to see another sequel.  Foolish, silly and irresistible, this movie was actually sponsored on Syfy by a seafood restaurant, Joe’s Crab Shack.  The only thing that would have made it better would be if Steve Sanders’ old pals from “Beverly Hills 90210” were cast.  I’d love to see a shark rip off Brenda Walsh’s head.  Stick your tongue firmly in your cheek and go for the ride.  It’s so bad it’s good!  4 cans.
102.  Waterloo Bridge* (1940) — Talk about eclectic taste in movies!  This movie could not be more different in tone, taste, style and substance than the last entry.  It is the ill-fated story of love — boy meets girl, they fall in love and plan to marry and things never go quite the way they plan.  In this case, British Army officer Roy Cronin (Robert Taylor, looking like the definition of dashing) meets dancer Myra Lester (a radiant Vivien Leigh) and they fall madly in love.  But he’s about to ship out for World War I (which they didn’t know would have a number, but that didn’t happen til later and doesn’t matter here…) so she breaks her curfew to stay with him and gets bounced out of the dance company by the mean ballet troupe leader (Maria Ouspenskya).  He has to ship out earlier than planned, so they cannot marry, and she is left to take care of herself without a job or money.  While the movie doesn’t show exactly what she does to make ends meet, she hangs out at Waterloo Station and on Waterloo Bridge with people with Cockney accents and looks pretty upset most of the time, so you get the idea that she’s finding a way to deal with her dire straits.  Is Roy alive or dead?  Will he come back to her? Will they still get married?  No spoilers here.  After “Sharknado,” this was a welcome change of pace.  3½ cans.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What a Load

My sister and I have a seemingly inveterate interest in laundry.  We have a lot of it, which, for me, as a single person, is way above the average.  When we have extra time on our hands — like when we are stuck in our houses enduring a snow day — we throw in a “bonus load.” 

Sometimes when I go out for my walk, I set the timer on the washing machine so a load will be going (and nearly done) by the time I get back.  I know, I know, what if the hose breaks and floods the house?  Sure, but I could be upstairs when that happens and not know about it anyway.  It’s not like I go out with the dryer on.  I stopped that when I was in Dunkin' Donuts once and a woman there got a call that her house was on fire.  The local paper reported it was a dryer fire, so now I always stay home when the dryer is on.  That way I can go up in flames along with the laundry, I guess. 

I am obsessed about cleaning the dryer vent.  I do it after every load, and sometimes even during the load if I see that it looks full.  I have one of those long brushes, so I stick that down in the hole, too, and every year or so I have the dryer vent blown out.  I actually had to have my handyman create a trap door on the deck so the cleaners could access the vent outside, but, since the dryer nearly caught fire because the previous owners NEVER cleaned the vent, it was a clever solution to the problem and a good investment. 

Whenever her son arrives home from college, my sister is up to her knees in laundry.  We know that he does his own laundry on occasion, but when he comes home on breaks, she can’t wait to get her hands on every item of clothing he lugs home so she can wash it herself.  I know the feeling.  Boys are just grungy, and you can’t tell if the stuff they bring with them is the clean stuff or the dirty stuff because it is never neatly folded.  And the sheets?  Washing them hardly seems like enough.  Beating them on rocks down at the river might not be enough.  Quarantine and disinfecting might do the trick.  Possibly.  But we aren’t sure.

One summer my BFF’s son lived in my house while working at the Johnson & Johnson law department.  Although he was happy to do his own laundry (his version of the truth), I pounced on any pile left in the laundry room.  I never could tell whether he had already washed his clothes or they were waiting to be washed.

As for me, there are numerous laundry rules.  The sheets have to be washed before they are used for the season (flannel in the winter and cotton in the summer) just to get that fresh laundry smell.  I draw the line at having sheets, towels and underwear hanging outside on a clothes line, but I have been known to take the rack and put it on the deck to get that natural, fresh air smell as the stuff dries.

Of course, any new pajamas or underwear must be washed BEFORE wearing.  You do this, too, right?  It’s not just me. 

In my world, there is a towel “code.”  Bath towels are used once on one side and then turned over for the second use before they are relegated to the laundry pile.  My BFF insists this is a crazy rule, since, as she says, “You’re clean when you get out of the shower.”  Nonetheless, I wash them after two uses.  Add in my towels from aqua aerobics — which get washed after every single use to rid them of that chemical smell from the pool — and there’s always enough for a load around here.

I am pretty fussy when it comes to folding my clean clothes — fussy to the point of obsessed.  When I broke my leg once and couldn’t carry the laundry basket to do my own wash, my mother did a load for me and folded everything neatly.  I insisted that I could put it away.  The moment her car was out of sight, I stood on my crutches and refolded everything.  Try doing that to the sheets when you don’t have a leg to stand on.  I never told her, either.

I really hate it when I’m taking the laundry out of the dryer and I find one big, long thread from something in the load, and it is tangled around the towels and socks and underwear, and I’m are afraid to pull it for fear that something in there will completely unravel (although it never does) and I’ll ruin it.  I had three threads in a recent load, untangled the mess and cut them off.  So if my socks flop or my underwear goes south or a towel disintegrates, I have no one to blame but me.

Recently I switched from liquid detergent to those little plastic pods.  The advantage there is there is one per load, so if the package contains 22 pods, that’s good for 22 loads.  On the bottle of liquid detergent, it says I can get 32 loads, but I doubt I ever do.  I’d keep track, but then I’d know I was completely crazy.  This way we can only suspect insanity without complete verification.

I also use the “color catchers” you can buy in the detergent section.  Sure, I sort my whites and darks, but once in a while there is some deep pink or red thing that you just want to throw into the load and not risk having all the whites turn pink.  Throw in a color catcher and the segregation of colors is not necessary.  As someone who has some pink dish towels that started as white dish towels, I really appreciate — though I don’t understand — this technological innovation.  I just know it works.  My sister, ever the doubting Thomas of the family, still does a separate load just of red garments.  When her son was little, it seemed that every team he played on wore red, so she had a separate rack in the laundry room where the red stuff would be hung to dry. 

Have you ever thrown something in the hamper or laundry basket only to take it out before it is washed and subjected it to the “sniff test” for one more possible wearing?  “I only wore it for a few hours,” you think, figuring you can get away with it just one more time before it absolutely has to be washed.  The converse of this situation is when I wear something very briefly and immediately toss it in the laundry.  I’m doing a load anyway, and I have enough underwear to take an around-the-world trip without doing laundry, so why not? 

Recently I had a dream that I threw my bathing suit in the dryer and it came out like one of Barbie's bathing suits.  Since you're not even supposed to put bathing suits in the washing machine, throwing them in the dryer is grounds for arrest by the laundry police, I suppose.  I wonder if I can file a “missing sock” report with the laundry police…

Last night, I carried the laundry thing a step further when I had the urge to iron a few items, much to the consternation of my Facebook friends, who implored me not to do it.  They suggested I rewash and throw these things into the dryer and remove them quickly (which I had initially done), or buy a steamer or even take them to the dry cleaner – any alternative except ironing.  That reminded me of growing up, when I would open the refrigerator and find — amid the fruits and vegetables — my father’s carefully rolled, dampened shirts, waiting to be ironed.  My mother used a sprinkle top on an old Coke bottle specifically for this purpose.  Sound familiar?

Laundry is one common denominator we all share.  Even if you send it out, or if someone else does it for you, we all have it, deal with it, and it feels so good when it’s done. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Tina's June 2014 Movies

It was a veritable 80s film fest at the Gordon house this month, but there are many really good ones in the bunch.  Movies are rated on the basis of 1-5 cans of tuna, 5 being the best.  Any movies not previously seen are marked with an * and numbering picks up from the previous month.

70.  My Kid Could Paint That* (2007) — Really?  Then why is your kid’s artwork on the refrigerator when 6-year old Marla Olmstead’s paintings are hanging in art galleries and the homes of collectors?  This fascinating documentary looks at the prodigious work of young Marla, who appeared to be a wunderkind of the art world — that is, until “60 Minutes” aired an examination of her creative process and cast doubts on how much of the abstract art was actually created by the budding artist and how much was either coaxed or completed by her father.  The family, which had banked upwards of $300,000 selling Marla’s work, suddenly became the object of doubt and derision not only in their hometown of Binghamton, NY, but nationwide.  To assuage the doubters, they recorded her creating a painting from start to finish, showing her working all on her own.  This film questions not just the authenticity of the art, but raises the question of what is art anyway?  Can genuinely valuable paintings be created by a 6-year old?  Maybe you had better take a second look at what is hanging on your refrigerator.  You could have the next Marc Chagall.  3½ cans of paint.
71.  Roman Holiday* (1953) — It’s not easy being Queen…or, in this case, a European princess.  Dazzling Audrey Hepburn brings a fresh new face to the screen as Princess Anne, the young princess who, on a tour of European capitals, rebels against the boredom of her strict schedule, clothes and everything that dictates her existence.  One night in Rome, she escapes from the eyes of her minions and finds herself on the streets, passing out from medication and rescued by American journalist Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck).  He takes her in, and then, after learning her true identity, takes her around town with his photographer friend (Eddie Albert) in tow, figuring he can write a story about the mysterious young royal.  Neither of them knew they would fall in love (even if the audience could have guessed as much).  The princess gets her hair hacked off, outwits, outlasts and outplays the palace guard and the polizzia.  Within 24 hours, the fairytale is over, but will Bradley capitalize on what turns out to be a romantic adventure?  When in Rome…3½ cans.
72.  Broadway Danny Rose (1984) — Danny Rose (Woody Allen) is a manager of strictly D-List talent (balloon artists, bad comics, nightclub signers) whose biggest act, a lousy lounge singer named Lou (Nick Apollo Forte) refuses to go on stage unless Danny can convince his girlfriend Tina (a gum chomping Mia Farrow) to come to the show.  But Lou is married, so Danny has to bring her as his date.  The problem is that Tina is married, too, and her husband’s brothers are hot after the two, thinking Danny is her lover.  Woody is his usual nebishy self, tossing off funny lines and generally wondering what is happening to him as he tries to outrace the thugs.  2½ cans.
73.  Stripes (1981) — This classic Bill Murray comedy is predictable, but with John Candy and Harold Ramis along for the ride and Ivan Reitman directing, it is also predictably funny.  Murray is a laconic cab driver who loses his job, his apartment and his girlfriend in the same day.  His solution is to join the Army, and he drags his buddy (Ramis) along for the ride.  Before you know it, he has irritated everyone above him in rank — and that’s pretty much everyone on the Army base — and is forced to do push-ups in the rain and mud.  But you also know he will somehow lead the troops in triumph at the end — if that’s what you call it.  This is not my favorite Murray movie (“Caddyshack” or “Groundhog Day” are much more amusing), but Murray is too slick to pass up. 3 cans.
74.  Broadcast News (1987) — James L. Brook’s terrific movie look at network news is about integrity — and flop sweat.  Albert Brooks is Aaron Altman, a skilled writer and reporter with no charisma on camera.  William Hurt is Tom Granick, who admittedly is a lightweight intellectually but has a persona ideally suited for the camera.  It is inevitable that he will rise up the ladder of network news, even if he is dumb enough not to realize it.  But the glue factor here is Jane Craig (Holly Hunter), the dynamic writer-producer who barks commands that belie her slight frame and who steers the nightly broadcast with supreme confidence in her abilities, even if she does go through a crying jag every day.  Jane knows Tom is over his head, just as she knows Aaron is a talented writer who deserves a chance to anchor the news.  But one weekend stint as a substitute anchor that results in an epic case of flop sweat takes Aaron out of contention.  Jane is caught between the two newsmen romantically.  Could someone of her superior intellect really fall for a pretty boy who is nowhere near her level?  This film is a great look at the production of news and yet brings a real personal touch.  My favorite line is when the head of the news division asks Jane what it’s like to always think you are the smartest person in the room.  She knows she is, and it is never easy.  Broadcast this: 4½ cans.
75.  Footloose (1984) — This exuberant tale of a fish out of water stars Kevin Bacon in his breakout role as Ren McCormick.  Ren and his mother move from Chicago to the little town of Beaumont, where Ren, with his spiked hair and narrow ties, looks nothing like the other kids in high school.  They like to race trucks while Ren likes to — GASP — dance.  But dancing and loud music is forbidden in Beaumont and the restrictions are proselytized by Reverend Moore (John Lithgow), father of high school hot girl Ariel (Lori Singer).  Soon Ren is teaching his awkward buddy Willard (Chris Penn) to get his groove on.  Sarah Jessica Parker is the adorable girlfriend of Willard, there is a rivalry between Ren and the local tough guy Chuck, and, at the end, there is much dancing.  Considering that this town prohibits such exhibitions, there are sure a lot of great dancers.  I love the music here and the joy of free expression and dance.  4 cans.
76.  Bull Durham (1988) — And the 80s Film Festival continues with one of my favorite Kevin Costner baseball movies (he also starred in “Field of Dreams” and “For the Love of the Game”).  Here he is Crash Davis, a veteran catcher who suddenly finds himself demoted to A ball, the lowest level in the minor leagues and a far cry from “the show,” as he refers to the majors.  He is sent to Durham, NC, specifically to tutor phenom Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), a young pitcher with a million dollar arm and a 10 cent head.  Crash gives Nuke a crash course in how to pitch, handle himself and deliver sports clichés to the press, while local baseball fan Annie (Susan Sarandon) teaches him some of the finer facts of life.  Crash is going nowhere, while Nuke is full of potential.  The depiction of baseball in the minor leagues is priceless: Long, boring bus trips, clubhouse pranks, awkward conversations on the mound and more chewing and spitting than you would think humanly possible.  Crash is much more suited for the mature Annie (she’s not only older, but she listens to Edith Piaf), but not while she is interested in schooling young Nuke.  Costner’s speech about what he believes in is worth the price of the movie.  And wow, he looks great here.  4 cans.
77. Breaking Away (1979) — And now we venture back to the 70s for this charmer about four high school graduates unsure what to do with their lives.  Dave Stoler (Dennis Christopher) rides bikes and dreams of joining the Italian racing team – so much so that he speaks Italian around the house and drives his “Papa” (Paul Dooley) crazy.  Dave is one of the “cutters,” the town kids in Bloomington, Indiana, who aren’t college students and aren’t really the men who cut limestone in the local quarries, like their fathers did.  Mike (Dennis Quaid) was a high school quarterback and longs for his glory days.  Cyril (Daniel Stern, in essentially the same role he played later in “Diner,” but this time without the benefit of a college education) is goofy and funny and cannot get along with his father.  The fourth musketeer is the runt of the litter, Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley), the almost forgotten one.  These guys don’t have enough ambition to actually break away from their hometown.  They just want to defeat their college rivals in the “Little 500” bike race, and Dave wants to win the college girl who thinks he actually is Italian.  This warm, sweet movie unexpectedly won an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, losing out to “Kramer vs. Kramer.”  3½ cans.
78.  Notes on a Scandal (2006) — I finally moved back to the 21st century with this taut drama about a scandalous affair between an attractive, married and iappropriately older teacher, Sheba (Cate Blanchett) and a 15-year old student (Andrew Simpson).  But the real relationship is between Sheba and a fellow teacher, Barbara (Judi Dench), a dour, lonely spinster who has designs of her own on an increasingly vulnerable Sheba.  Barbara stumbles upon the teacher and student affair and uses that bit of information to build a close bond with Sheba that she thinks is something more.  Outstanding Oscar-nominated performances by Blanchett and Dench elevate the story to more than a soap opera, and it held my interest to the end.  4 cans.
79.  Thelma & Louise (1991) — Thelma and Louise (Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon) have men problems, money problems, and, after a girls’ weekend goes terribly awry, murder problems.  When a lout in a bar tries to rape Thelma, Louise shoots him and the girls take off, trying to get away with murder.  Along the way to Mexico, through rural Oklahoma and on the run, they ramp up the fun with armed robbery and by picking up a young Brad Pitt, whose movie feature debut is a memorable one.  This romp is a buddy movie, a road movie and a fun flight for two women who have put up with plenty of crap from the men in their lives.  Call it revenge for past transgressions if you will, but the girls just want to have fun.  The iconic last scene is the female version of the ending of “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.”  4 cans.
80.  Labor Day* (2013) — If you have the choice of A) Renting this movie from Red Box for $1.20; B) Watching it for free; or, C) Skipping it altogether, go for option C.  Josh Brolin is an escaped con who cons his way into the car, house and lives of depressed single mom Kate Winslett and her adolescent and moony-eyed son (Gattlin Griffith).  He needs a place to hide while on the lam, so he forces them to take him in and, of course, turns out to be a great guy who can do everything from household repairs to throwing a baseball or making a mean peach pie.  Actually, making the peach pie turned out to be the best part of the movie, which should tell you why you should just go bake a pie and skip the movie. 1 can of peach pie filling, though they only use fresh in the movie.
81.  Nonstop* (2014) — Liam Neeson again plays a guy very much in charge in this suspenseful movie that takes place on an airplane.  Someone knows he is an air marshal and keeps sending him threatening e-mail messages about killing passengers every hour if $150 million isn’t transferred to an off-shore account.  Julianne Moore is sitting next to him, amused by his fear of flying, but she is soon full of fear herself, as strange things keep happening on that plane.  Although this one is billed as an action/adventure, that didn’t stop me from dozing off more than once.  All I know is that with Neeson’s record, I want his name to be my emergency contact when I travel.  It’s never easy, but he gets the job done.  3 cans.
82.  Starting Over (1979) — Seeing this erudite comedy was better than ever for me (to quote a line from one of the songs).  Burt Reynolds underplays his role as Phil Potter, a man whose wife Jessie (the always stunning Candice Bergen) dumps him and then tries to get back into his life just as he establishes an attachment to teacher Marilyn (the late and much lamented Jill Clayburgh).  Potter is basically a good guy, a little buttoned up (as evidenced by his ever-present trench coat that is actually buttoned up), but he is skittish enough about his new relationship that he has an anxiety attack in Bloomingdales while buying a couch with Marilyn.  And when Jessie reappears in his life to win him back, he is in a quandary.  Jessie is a singer whose belting is the equivalent of Elaine Benes’s dancing on “Seinfeld,” and Bergen, to her credit, plays it to the hilt.  Reynolds is deadpan as his character with just a bit of the arched eyebrow and askance look when appropriate, and Clayburgh is endearing as she tries to trust the relationship she and Reynolds have established.  There are witty lines throughout the script, as one would expect from screenwriter James L. Brooks.  So happy I got to see this adult comedy again.  4 cans.
83.  Big (1988) — Tom Hanks caused a splash in “Splash,” but he really hit it big here.  When 13-year old Josh Baskin visits a carnival and goes to the Zoltan machine, he wishes he were bigger.  The next day, his wish is granted and Josh wakes up in Hanks’s body.  Aside from the obvious problems of clothes that don’t fit and hair that has suddenly sprouted on his now-manly body, Josh needs to find that Zoltan machine and wish for his old life back.  Accompanied by his best buddy, Billy, he heads to NYC to track down the Zoltan machine at the next carnival.  While there, he realizes he needs a job to live and he gets one — at a toy company.  Hanks is brilliant in the role, awkward and physically unfit for this new body and naïve and sweet as a 13-year old who is now treated like a man — especially by co-worker Elizabeth Perkins.  Will he find true love or will he find Zoltan and go back to the real Josh and his family?  Penny Marshall directed this movie with a deft touch, and Jared Rushton as Billy is terrific, but it is Hanks who seals the deal.  The scene of him dancing on the floor piano in FAO Schwartz is priceless.  4 cans.