Holiday Movie Reviews



            I didn’t know Gwyneth Paltrow was in this film!  I was surprised by that.  Though this is a superhero movie, it’s a smart and funny one.  Robert Downey Jr. is older (and more buff) than you’ve seen him in the past.  RDJ plays Tony Stark, a weapons inventor/millionaire/playboy, who creates an iron suit to escape from a group of terrorists in Afghanistan.  This experience changes him, and he decides to upgrade the suit (in secret).  


Jeff Bridges (looking good, even with a shaved head and graying goatee) is his partner/nemesis.  Tony’s true friends are Navy weapons inspector (Terence Howard) and Gwyneth, his loyal PA/potential love interest.  RDJ is a naturalistic actor, so he brings gravity to his character (like Christian Bale did with Batman).  He gets some serious moments and some REALLY funny lines, too.  Not to mention- RDJ has great eyes!               




Slumdog Millionaire


I saw this (new) film w/ the fam this past weekend in the Indy suburbs.  (My mom knew many folks who’d seen it already at the local uni.)  It was only playing at 3 theaters in the Indy area, so the place was packed!  I was a little surprised, but many people are visiting during the holidays.  And this particular theater (inside a new high-end mall) is very nice.  The previews were interesting; I learned re: Two Lovers, an upcoming drama/romance starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix.  It was shot in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn and Manhattan.  Here is more info from IMDB:


Two Lovers is a romantic drama set in New York City. It tells the story of Leonard (Joaquin Phoenix), an attractive but depressed young man who moves back in with his parents following a recent heartbreak. An aspiring photographer, Leonard works part-time at his father’s dry-cleaners. His concerned parents try to set him up with Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), the sweet and caring daughter of a close family friend. A big family dinner serves as their introduction and Leonard arranges to see her again. Then late one night Leonard looks out his bedroom window and notices a ravishing young woman he’s never seen before. Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow) recently moved into an apartment in his family’s building – an apartment paid for by the wealthy married man she’s seeing.


            Unlike Bolly flicks, or even most indie films, Slumdog gives a wider view of modern India (particularly Mumbai).  There are many heavy moments, but some light ones as well.  You see slums, poverty, violence, and all the things that Bollywood NEVER shows.  (This film is a collaboration btwn folks from the UK as well as India.)  It’ll remind you of the world of Charles Dickens, b/c orphans are: begging on the streets, scavenging for food, and dealing with (very shady) elements of society. The child and teen actors in Slumdog are cute and very easy to relate to, BUT they are not actor-y or cutesy in ANY way.  


The central character, Selim Malik, is played by 3 actors, including Brit desi (Dev Patel).  One of Bollywood’s biggest names (Anil Kapoor) is the smarmy host of the game show 18 y.o. Selim is on- an Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?  Respected indie film actor (Irfan Khan) is the no-nonsense police inspector who interrogates young Selim.  The show’s host and the cops think that Selim, a wide-eyed tea boy for a call center, is cheating on the show.  They take him away after the 1st night of competition.  How can someone like him (called a “slumdog”) have SO much general knowledge?  But the events of his (very difficult/painful) young life have been leading to his big moment.  Selim doesn’t care for the money (20 million rupees = $4 million); he wants to be on TV to reconnect with his one friend/true love, Latika.  Check it out for yourself- it’s an unpredictable, action-packed film!  



3:10 to Yuma (1957)


            Even though this is a classic Western film, it comes off as VERY contemporary!  At the center of the story are two different men: Dan (Van Heflin) is a serious, quiet rancher, husband, and father; Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) is a cool, smooth-talking career criminal.  Dan needs the money ($200), so he joins up with the men who will escort Ben to another town, then eventually to Yuma (where he’ll be jailed).  Earlier, Ben and his gang robbed a stagecoach and killed its driver.  As they wait for the train, Ben tries various tricks to unsettle Dan.  The characters are slowly developed, and there is NOT a lot of dialogue at times.  The acting is mostly done with the eyes and slight facial expressions.  Check this film out ASAP!  (I can’t wait to see the newer version of this with Christian Bale and Russell Crow.)               




You Can’t Take It With You (1938)


            This is a quirky comedy film (dir by Frank Capra) re: 2 VERY different families in NYC.  James Stewart (a young man from a wealthy banking dynasty) and Jean Arthur (his secretary) are the romantic pair; these actors also teamed up later for Mr. Smith Goes to WashingtonThere is a scene in a courtroom that’ll remind you of the ending of It’s a Wonderful Life.  Jimmy Stewart has some GREAT reactions to the (very wacky) events surrounding “his girl’s” family and friends.  On the down side, this film is a little too long.  The characters seem nutty (at first), but they all have good hearts.     




His Girl Friday (1940)


            It’s one of the earliest romantic comedies.  The stars are wily newspaper editor (Cary Grant) and his stressed-out reporter/ex-wife (Rosalind Russell).  He wants her to report on/write about a BIG story; she wants to get married and “have a normal life.”  The dialogue is fast and snappy!  If you haven’t seen this slapstick film, check it out sometime. 






Happy Birthday Denzel!!!


Today (December 28) is the b-day of my ALL-TIME fave actor- Denzel Washington!  Can you believe that Denzel is 54?  Wow! 


My fave films of Denzel’s are: Glory, Malcolm X, Cry Freedom, Mississippi Masala, Philadelphia, The Pelican Brief,  and Crimson Tide.

Emma’s HOT List

I have created my own list of hotties.  (Warning: Some are SUPER-HOT!)  Some are rising stars, while others  have been making their mark in TV/film/etc., for years.  Not only are these gents good-looking, they’re good actors!

Aaron Eckhart 


He’s not just Two Face, but an actor of MANY faces and facets.  Aaron grew up in Cali,  was raised Mormon, and attended BYU (where he met director and close pal, Neil LaBute.)  They both come from a similar background, and have collaborated often.  LaBute operates outside the mainstream, working on topics he likes.   Aaron is  unafraid to take on unusual projects; he’s gained lbs. and changed his hair/looks for many roles.


This is a screen shot from Possession (one of my fave films of ALL time!)   In it Aaron plays an underappreciated American researcher (post-PhD) in London who happens upon a JUICY secret (at least in the field of Romantic poetry).  He joins up w/ an icy Brit Womens Studies prof (Paltrow) to get more info…   Too bad no REAL poetry experts look like him- LOL!!!


I smile a lot in public because I tend to look too serious. 
Adrian Lester


Wow, check out those EYES!!!  Like many performers of the “old days”, Adrian Lester can sing, dance, AND act onstage and onscreen.  He’s a BIG talent (physically, too- he’s around 6’4″) who has a rather soft voice.


After I saw him in Primary Colors, I wondered why he wasn’t in more (big) films.  Fans of the bard can check him out in Branagh’s musical film Love’s Labour Lost and As You Like It.   His smile is VERY sweet!

Chiwetel Ejiofor 

HP Portrait Studio

With a (Nigerian) name like that- you’re gonna have a nickname (Chewy)!  This young actor (under 35) can pretty much play ANY part, as the song goes.  He’s done Shakespeare (screen/satge), played a transvestite (Kinky Boots), and acted opposite Denzel (Inside Man / American Ganster)!


He made a HUGE impression w/ Dirty Pretty Things, a smart, sensitive view of immigrant, working-class London.  He played a Nigerian immigrant (and former doc) who worked days driving a cab and nights at a hotel.  Chewy based this character partly on his OWN immigrant father (who was a real-life doc).  Unfortunately, he lost his father in a car accident when he was 11 y.o.  The scars on his forehead are a reminder of that.


He disappears into roles like few other actors can, which makes him valuable to any film, but it also makes it difficult for him to become a star. 

I enjoy every role that I’ve seen him perform. His acting seems effortless and his interaction with colleagues is a beautifully timed dance.

A superb artist and I believe he will win that Oscar one day. A magnificent actor!

-Fan comments from IMDB

Christian Bale


Welsh-born Bale has appeared in Shakespeare, dramas and comedies demonstrating a versatility, depth and range that has made him one of the best reviewed actors today and one of the most popular actors on the Internet.


Though born in Wales, he calls himself British (as he didn’t grow up in Wales).  Christian grew up onscreen; his 1st movie role was at age 14 in Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun.  He trained for 10 weeks in dancing and martial arts for the dance sequences in Newsies (1992) and Swing Kids (1993).   


Since it’s holiday season, check out Little Women w/ Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, and Kristen Dunst.

An actor should never be larger than the film he’s in.  

Spin magazine, March 1996
I only sound intelligent when there’s a good scriptwriter around.  


In American Psycho, Christian tackles a very, very EVIL businessman consumed w/ his own desires.

It’s the actors who are prepared to make fools of themselves who are usually the ones who come to mean something to the audience.


I don’t think I was particularly in need of superheroes. I never had any fascination with Superman or Spider-Man or a Batman kind of character. If it happened at all, it was imagined characters that I had invented. My dad was a role model for me. He was a fascinating man. There was intrigue and entertainment growing up with him. He gave me an edict that I still pursue: Life should never be boring.
Denzel Washington


Man gives you the award, but God gives you the reward.
To keep him out of trouble, Denzel’s parents sent him to The Boys and Girls Club; he’s now one of their spokespeople.  A couple of weeks ago, I saw Denzel’s first film, a comedy called Carbon Copy (opposite George Segal).  Not only did he look in FAB shape, he was confident and easy with the lines, actions, etc.  When Denzel is attached to a film, people all over the world take notice.  Some guys just have the “it” factor!   


Did you know one of Denzel’s twins, Katia, is now at Yale university?

On Oprah, Julia Roberts commented that “working with Denzel (on The Pelican Brief) was like working with The Beatles.”  Dir. Ed Zwick uses a lot of close-ups on him, because “even when he’s not saying anything, the audience is looking at him.”  His wife in Crimson Tide, Vanessa Bell-Calloway, told People that “Denzel has wit, style, and intelligence.”  But the coolest thing about this big Hollywood success is that he’s willing to help young actors!
Dylan McDermott


My theory about actors is we’re all walking milk cartons.  Expirations dates everywhere.

After a very troubled childhood/family life, Dylan and his lil sis were adopted by his step-mom (actress/writer/feminist icon Eve Ensler).  She encouraged him to go to acting school and Fordham.   She also turned his life around.   He had become a hard drinker and was constantly in fights. At age 23, he quit drinking.  He also changed his name from Mark to Dylan in tribute to Eve.


This is a shot from The Mistress of Spices– a terrible film I suffered through just to see Dylan.  In order to NOT alienate her Bollywood fans, Aishwarya Rai DID NOT kiss Dylan on the lips in Gurinder Chadha’s rom com film.  Boy, talk about missed opportunity! 

Hugh Dancy 


In Elizabeth I, a great UK miniseries I previously wrote about, Hugh goes toe-to-toe w/ Jeremy Irons and Helen Mirren.  Not bad for a guy just who’s just 33! 



Who better to rescue a damsel in distress?  LOL… Daniel Deronda is about a young man- sensitive, caring, and highly intelligent, but haunted by doubts about his identity.  Is he a British gentleman like his adopted father?  And why is he drawn to the Jewish faith?


Hugh is not just a pretty face; he graduated from Oxford University with a degree in English Literature & Language and speaks French fluently. 

My dad is an academic but there was never any question of me following on that route. I’m thick.

Ioan Gruffudd


Isn’t he looking sophisticated in this pic?  Ioan starred in Amazing Grace, and had a bit part (as Tony Blair) in Oliver Stone’s W.  He’s done TV, historical stuff, action- you name it!  An interesting fact about Ioan is that his first language was Welsh; he’s a bilingual, multicultural guy.   


You don’t need blue eyes to be a hottie- warm brown ones can work, too.  Did you know Ioan starred on a TV show (Horatio Hornblower) a few years back?  It’s now sold in the US.  You may have seen him in Wilde opposite Stephen Fry; he had gorgeous long hair then!


I’m looking forward to seeing one of his (older) films- Solomon and Gaenor.  It’s a youthful love story between a Jewish boy and a Catholic girl in Ireland. 

Jimmy Smits


Where else can you find cheekbones like that!?  His height and striking looks (his heritage is Puerto Rican) make him a major presence onscreen.  Jimmy Smits has been making his mark since the late 1980s, when he was cast on LA Law.  Too bad he didn’t take the offer to star in CSI: Miami.  (I’d rather watch him than David Caruso ANY day!)  He grew up in one of the toughest neighborhoods of Brooklyn (Bushwick), and can be seen in ads for the charity NY Cares.  


Here is a pic from The West Wing, where Jimmy played Matt Santos, a serious, sympathetic democratic presidential candidate w/ a young fam.  Hmmm… sounds familiar. 


Sometimes art imitates life!  Like our future prez, Jimmy is someone who transcends race.  He’s played Latino characters (from many backgrounds), but also characters that weren’t race-specific. 

Toby Stephens


I like this longer hair A LOT!  Toby is possibly the hottest Bond villain (aside from fellow Brit Sean Bean.)   Speaking of Sean Bean…  He and Sean acted in Sharpe’s Challenge (shot in Rajasthan, India).   Speaking of India…  He’s acted in English AND Hindi (alongside Aamir Khan in The Rising).


Like mom, Dame Maggie Smith (above w/ bro),  Toby has an unmistakeable (posh) accent, confidant gait, large expressive eyes, and a wide smile.


In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Toby plays a kind country farmer who falls for his new neighbor, and becomes a father figure to her little son.   This character is VERY sweet and gentlemanly!


Toby took on the challenge of Mr. Rochester- a very “changeable” romantic hero who’s “larger than life.”  Now he has MANY more fans!

I am SLOWLY getting used to DC…

Hello readers!

Feeling a BIT blue?  Dark blue maybe?  Money low in the bank?  Investments down?  Join the world!  My mom says Obama will make some BIG changes for the better.     

I’m VERY slowly emerging from my depression after leaving my love (NYC)!  Since I have a long-term sub job and interview(s) coming up, I have to get focused.  There is NOT much time to whine and cry these days!  (I did that for 2-3 wks already, though!)

What I’m Watching:




Yes, I started watching b/c of “NY” in the title, but it’s a pretty good show.  Gary Sinise is VERY strong (no surprise there!), and there is a sweet office romance btwn Danny (Carmine Giovinazzo) and Lindsey (Anna Belknap), two cops who seem like opposites (at first glance).  And… wait for it… they actually look like REAL people!!! 




The REALLY cute guy (Eddie Cahill) who played Rachel’s younger bf on Friends is here, too. 




And Hill Harper plays a doc; he’s also an author who wrote re: youth issues.



Movies I Recommend:

Dan in Real Life



Dan was living his life w/ his 3 (adorable/challenging) daughters until he met a woman who turned his head (after MANY years).  Then he “went a little crazy” as he admits.  But who wouldn’t fall in love w/ Juliette Binoche!? 





Who wouldn’t fall in love w/ Patrick Dempsey!?  (Even my dad likes him!)  This is a fairy tale for BOTH kids, teens, and adults!  Also ya get to see NYC…


Tortilla Soup



A Mexican-American version of the fantastic Chinese film Eat Drink Man Woman.   You get to see Latino actors from several different backgrounds here.  And Elizabeth Pena is ALWAYS great to watch IMHO!



Some GOOD News (for a change)…

Hello readers!  Thanks for checking back with me.  I’m missing NYC like CRAZY… still!

People are trying ALL crazy ways to get jobs these days!  One recent MBA grad posted his resume in his taxicab in NYC.  A middle-aged man (who had experience and degree from MIT) stood outside with a sandwich board, and got job offer. 

I recently found out about 3 schools (Queens & Bklyn) that have started looking fot ELA teachers ALREADY!!!  One of the schools has a GREAT reputation.   2 charter schools (that I learned about at a job fair before) are looking for MANY subj teachers.  

On the DC front, I will start subbing at a small Catholic school very soon.  I just heard back from a charter HS that needs a sub, too.  This group of charters has a good rep, too. 

Yeah, I feel a LITTLE less useless now!