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FOXY BROWN (1974) (***)

Intended originally as a sequel to COFFY, FOXY BROWN turned into a stand-alone production late in the game and ended up working more completely than its predecessor. Though still just a vigilante justice/ revenge flick, this film sets up its main character and conflict then keeps consistent throughout.

Foxy Brown (Pam Grier, JACKIE BROWN) is the pistol-packing girlfriend of drug informant Dalton Ford (Terry Carter, TV's original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), who has just had plastic surgery to take on a new identity as Michael Anderson. Before Foxy and Michael can go on vacation, she has to bail out her no-good brother Link (Antonio Fargas, I'M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA), who is in debt to loan sharks for $20,000. After taking out two of their thugs, drug kingpin Steve Elias (Peter Brown, THE WEDDING PLANNER) and madam Katherine Wall (Kathryn Loder, THE BIG DOLL HOUSE), who runs a model agency as a front for her prostitution ring, go gunning for Foxy. After tragedy strikes, Foxy sets out to turn the tables on the dealers, who have ruined her neighborhood and harmed her loved ones.


THE LOOKOUT (2007) (****)

Don't miss the best movie of 2007 thus far. Scott Frank's crime thriller is actually more of a character study. Star Joseph Gordon-Levitt solidifies his place in the upper echelon of young actors. This taut story is driven by a strong central character and filled with a fleshed out supporting cast. Director/writer Frank, who makes his directing debut with this film after writing such films as MINORITY REPORT and OUT OF SIGHT, makes us believe in his protagonist's life and clearly allows us to understand his motivations. It ranks up there with films like FARGO and A SIMPLE PLAN.

Chris Pratt (Gordon-Levitt, TV's THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN) was a cocky, high school hockey star in his small Mid-Western town before a car accident killed his friends and left him scarred and mentally and emotionally damaged. Now working as a janitor at a bank at night, Chris has trouble remembering things as well as sequencing events. He is prone to emotional outbursts and lacks impulse control. He lives with a sardonic, blind man named Lewis (Jeff Daniels, THE HOURS), who is his best friend. They hope one day to open a restaurant, but a visit to the Pratt house for a holiday meal, shows us how little faith they have in Chris now and how much denial is still present regarding who he has become.


IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS (2006) (***)

Nominated for Best Documentary at the 2007 Academy Awards, this film peeks into the lives and the politics of a section of the three major ethnic groups in Iraq — the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds. Director James Longley took two years filming in Iraq to gain a perspective of how the American invasion has changed the lives of its citizens.

In the first section, we watch a fatherless, 11-year-old, Sunni boy as he tries to attend school after having failed for four years previously while working for the domineering owner of a Baghdad garage. In the second part, Moqtada Sadr followers in two Shiite cities enforce Islamic law at the point of a gun. In the third section, a family of Kurdish farmers welcomes the U.S. presence, because it has allowed them hope.


NEAR DARK (1987) (**)

Mixing genres can sometimes revitalize both genres in the end. Cowboys and vampires is not a bad idea, but executed poorly and it could be a joke. Adding the gang metaphor to the mix as well, NEAR DARK handles the tone fine, but is a near miss in most other departments.

Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar, TV's HEROES) is a cowboy who picks up the pretty stranger Mae (Jenny Wright, TWISTER) one night. He thinks she's different from all the girls of his small Texas town, which is true because she's a member of a roaming gang of vampires. And when Adrian wants to neck with her right before dawn, he'll get bit, turning him into a creature of the night. Now Caleb has a choice — get his head lobbed off or join the gang. However, to join the gang, he has to kill and drink his victim's blood. The other gang members, which include leader Jesse Hooker (Lance Henriksen, THE RIGHT STUFF), wild Severen (Bill Paxton, FRAILTY), punked out female Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein, ALIENS) and loose canon kid Homer (Joshua Miller, RIVER'S EDGE), don't think Caleb is cut out for the immoral, immortal life. As Caleb struggles with the draw of the gang, his father Loy (Tim Thornerson, WHO'S HARRY CRUMB?) and little sister Sarah (Marcie Leeds, BEACHES) go on the road searching for him.



Wow, this is a very misunderstood movie. Some of the reasons why it has been written off for so many years may include: director Russ Meyer (who is not known for making great films); the fact that it is written by legendary critic Roger Ebert; it's association with the notoriously bad VALLEY OF THE DOLLS; or the fact that if you're not with it you might actually think the overwrought story is just plain bad. In actuality it's actually an often-brilliant satire of the free-love culture and Hollywood cautionary tales.

For the story, an all-girl rock group, The Kelly Affair, heads out to Hollywood to find fame and fortune. Kelly McNamara (Dolly Reed) is the outgoing lead singer, Casey Anderson (Cynthia Myers) is the quiet bass player and Petronella Danforth (Marcia McBroom, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR) is the sexy black drummer. The band's young manager Harris Allsworth (David Gurian) is dating Kelly, but she is quickly lured away from him by the party lifestyle of drugged out record producer Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell (John Lazar, SUPERVIZENS) and blonde gold digger/ wannabe actor Lance Rocke (Michael Blodgett, THE TRIP). Other key characters include porn star Ashley St. Ives (Edy Williams, CHAINED HEAT), Kelly's rich aunt Susan Lake (Phyllis Davis, TV's MAGNUM P.I.), lesbian clothing designer Roxanne (Erica Gavin, CAGED HEAT), Susan's stiff and snobby business manager Porter Hall (Duncan McLeod, BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE), law student and Petronella's beau Emerson Thorne (Harrison Page, TV's JAG) and the heavyweight boxer champ Randy Black (James Inghehart, DEATH FORCE). The girls will get tempted by sex, drugs, greed and violence as they slide down the slippery slope of show business.


BRAZIL (1985) (****)

Terry Gilliam brings a unique vision to his work — a mix of social commentary, absurd slapstick and pitch black humor. BRAZIL — which is set in a cold, totalitarian society — is not only his most accomplished work narratively, but the most effective blending of the various elements of his style.

The world of BRAZIL is a bureaucratic industrial behemoth where the government controls everything, but excels at nothing. Minor tasks take ages to accomplish due to pointless paperwork. A mistake occurs that leads to a Mr. Buttle being arrested instead of Archibald "Harry" Tuttle (Robert DeNiro, AWAKENINGS), whose crime is that he is covertly operating as an engineer who is infinitely more efficient and competent than the government's Central Services workers. The error comes down to the records department where Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce, EVITA) must clean up the mess. Lowry is not only good at his job, but seemingly the only one who cares about what he's doing while the rest of his co-workers just watch TV. His boss Mr. Kurtzmann (Ian Holm, THE SWEET HEREAFTER) is a nervous wreck whose main talents are avoiding responsibility and passing the buck.




This Saturday, I am off to Statesboro, GA. to the Art Fest (its 25th year). I am borrowing a shelter and some other stuff and I am taking my wares on the road. I call my work The Wandering Artist Salon (WAS) because most of it is done plein air (without a net). I really enjoy drawing and painting on location.
What makes me enthusiastic about this Festival is that this is the first time I am taking my oil paintings

I will have my normal inventory of cards, prints and watercolors. If you are in the area stop by- it is on the campus of Georgia Southern University - again, in Statesboro on Sweethearts Circle. There will be about 35 other artists with demonstrations (10:00 am - 7:00 pm) BBQ and musicians on two stages with entertainment all day -and a concert beginning at 7:00 pm...did I mention BBQ?


GRINDHOUSE (2007) (***1/2)

More than just one movie, but a movie experience, GRINDHOUSE gives movie fans a double bill with Robert Rodriguez's PLANET TERROR and Quentin Tarantino's DEATH PROOF. This celebration of 1970s and 1980s exploitation cinema embraces the no hold's barred attitude of those films, playing many conventions for laughs. At over three hours, horror fans really get their money's worth with two solid entertaining films as well as some nice fake trailers from directors Rob Zombie (DEVIL'S REJECTS), Eli Roth (HOSTEL) and Edgar Wright (SHAUN OF THE DEAD).

The experience kicks off with a Rodriguez directed trailer for a film called MACHETE starring Danny Trejo. It nails the low-budget revenge flick vibe perfectly and starts off the night with a bang. With the line "They messed with the wrong Mexican," the trailer felt like a Latino version of the blaxploitation hit, THE MACK or SUPERFLY. Then we move into the first feature, PLANET TERROR. Rodriguez's zombie epic finds solider Muldoon (Bruce Willis, SIN CITY) unleashing a disease on a small Texas town when a deal with the scientist Abby (Naveen Andrews, TV's LOST) goes wrong. On the run from the "Sickos" go-go dancer turned wannabe stand-up comedian Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan, TV's CHARMED) loses a leg, but in the process rekindles her relationship with her tough as nail boyfriend El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez, TV's SIX FEET UNDER). The survivors along for the ride include syringe-gun toting anesthesiologist Dr. Dakota Block (Marley Shelton, THE LAST KISS), Sheriff Hague (Michael Biehn, TERMINATOR), the sheriff's bbq chef brother J.T. (Jeff Fahey, THE LAWNMOWER MAN) and Dakota's father/ ex-sheriff Earl McGraw (Michael Parks, KILL BILL, VOL. 2).



Will Smith gives the best performance of his career in a drama that reminds us that there's always someone who has it rougher than we do. But in the end, smarts and hard work can accomplish anything. As Smith said while promoting the film, the true-life story of Chris Gardner is what the American Dream is built on.

Smith plays Gardner, a salesman who used his family's life savings to buy bone density scanners. However, Gardner's dreams of making it big in the bone density scanner business don't pan out as he expected. His wife Linda (Thandie Newton, CRASH), who has to work long hours just to put food on the table, looks at Chris' latest business venture as just another one of his pie in the sky schemes. As the trailer tells us, she leaves him with their young son Christopher (Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, TV's ALL OF US) right as he's trying to become a stockbroker intern. The film goes on to chronicle the many hardships that Gardner must endure as he tries to raise his son alone while competing for a single shot at getting hired as a stockbroker.


SILENT HILL (2006) (*1/2)

SILENT HILL is about as much fun as watching someone else play a videogame. There hasn't been a good movie based on a game yet, and there never will be unless someone realizes that the engine that drives a videogame is not the same as a feature film. We need characters we care about in situations where we want to see them succeed. Getting past the next "level" is not as rewarding when we're spectators and not participants. The film thrusts us into the action right off the bat.

Rose Da Silva (Radha Mitchell, MELINDA AND MELINDA) desperately runs from her house looking for her daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland, TIDELAND), whose sleepwalking is getting dangerous. Rose's husband Christopher (Sean Bean, FLIGHTPLAN) wants to take Sharon to a doctor, but Rose decides to steal their daughter and take her to the ghost town Silent Hill, West Virginia, which her young girl seems to be obsessed with. When Rose and Sharon get close to Silent Hill, which was abandoned due to a coal mine fire burning under the town, they arouse the suspicions of police officer Cybil Bennett (Laurie Holden, THE MAJESTIC). When Rose is pulled over, she runs from the cops and ends up crashing her car right outside Silent Hill. When she wakes up her daughter is gone and she seems trapped in the strange town where ash rains from the sky and demons and monsters (both human and non-human) inhabit the town.


Thanks and Links from Nancy

Nik and I want to thank everyone who sent us such lovely e-mails of condolances about Kirby's passing -- they have made us feel so much better but even though we miss him terribly he did live to a ripe old Dalmation age and spent the last year touring Europe with us (he could bark very expertily in Flemish which is more than we can do).

Through the miracle of modern computers I will be reading my story about my train trip to Russia on the radio show TALES FROM THE EARTH, KUSF 90.3 FM on Wednesday, April 11 at 7:30 PM (San Francisco time -- everyone else has to do the time conversions if they want to hear it). For more information visit - web cast and iTunes. The guest the week before me is poet Laurence Ferlinghetti.


Sad News and Good News

Our beloved Dalmatian Kirby passed away last night. All of you who knew him know how much we loved him and how much he will be missed.

As in all things with the bad comes the good. We have received our official Belgian residence and work permits so we are legally Belgian. Now we begin the long hard task of learning Flemish.

As we near the first Anniversary of the beginning of our new life we will soon send out an account of our adventures in Europe.

Nik and Nancy



Disney's second 3D effort is definitely an improvement over their first outing, CHICKEN LITTLE. Relying far less on SHREK-like antics, the film economically moves forward holding on to its central thread — its main character's search for family. The ending delivers so well that all the problems that came before are easily forgotten.

Lewis (Daniel Hansen and Jordan Fry) is an orphan, who creates wacky inventions. After yet another disastrous adoption interview, Lewis decides to build a memory device so that he can remember his mother, who he is convinced didn't give him up because she didn't love him, but because she had to out of circumstance. However, during the science fair where he's about to unveil his new device, he is visited by a boy from the future named Wilbur Robinson (Wesley Singerman, A CHARLIE BROWN VALENTINE), who warns him that a shifty Bowler Hat Guy (director Stephen J. Anderson) is out to steal his invention. Eventually, Lewis and Wilbur get stuck in the future and Lewis promises to fix the time machine as long as Wilbur takes him to see his mother.



Character Movement:

In the first lesson on center of gravity we showed how when a character is standing still – an imaginary line runs vertically through to the feet. (fig. 1)

Because they are standing with their weight equal on their two feet, the character is centered or balanced on those two feet.

When a character moves they will try to stay balanced. If they lift a leg they will shift their weight over the center of gravity to compensate or counter-balance for the movement. Sometimes an arm or leg or both will be used to counter-balance the movement and weight shift. (fig. 2 and 3)



Though it's not one of Robert Altman's masterpieces, A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION is still a fitting closure to the career of one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. The sly, dry and somber humor of Garrison Keillor works well with Altman's signature style. The film is equal part concert film, backstage dramedy and an ode to witty radio entertainment, which the PRAIRIE HOME radio show has singularly kept alive long past the time when the form of entertainment has died everywhere else.

The plot is simple; it's the last performance of the PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION radio show before an axeman (Tommy Lee Jones, THE FUGITIVE) sells the radio station to some corporation. Keillor playing himself moves along with the show as if it's like any other. He's not a sentimental fella. Singing duo Yolanda and Rhonda Johnson (Meryl Streep, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, & Lily Tomlin, I HEART HUCKABEE'S), however, reminisce about the good ole days and how their family started performing to Yolanda's daughter Lola (Lindsay Lohan, MEAN GIRLS). Dusty (Woody Harrelson, WHITE MEN CAN'T JUMP) and Lefty (John C. Reilly, CHICAGO) perform their humorous country and western tunes.


ROCKY BALBOA (2006) (***1/2)

Rocky has returned after 30 years in top form. Since the debut of the original film, the franchise has stepped further into ridiculousness with each subsequent installment. Sylvester Stallone wrote every episode and directed two through four. For years, the original looked like, at best, Stallone's single artistic idea, and at worst, a total fluke. Now at 60, Stallone goes back to the emotion of that original film and delivers a gut punch to his critics. Instead of a sad joke to close out the series, he leaves us with a sad tale about a man who rose to great heights and then life knocked him down to Earth where he will have to spend the rest of his days.

After losing all his wealth in the last film, Rocky (Stallone) has now lost his greatest love Adrian. He owns a small Italian restaurant in Philly where he retells the stories of his glory days to the customers night after night. He's very lonely, but he tries to keep up a good front with his goofy humor. However, his brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA) doesn't want to reminisce about the past, because it's too painful for him to remember how he treated his loved ones. Rocky's son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia, TV's GILMORE GIRLS) works at a stockbroker firm where the large shadow of his father is cast over him at all times.



The Saint Patrick’s Day festival brought in over 400,000 “visitors” to Savannah. Included in their numbers were a niece and her three friends from Charlotte, NC. and a nephew and his girlfriend from Melbourne, FL. Our place was packed. Everyone had a great time and it is always was nice to see family!

Also, many former students flew in for the festivities. Among were three from Los Angeles and a bunch from Atlanta.

Nine of us had a perfect lunch at A.J.’s Dockside on Tybee Island – the day was pristine with clear sunny skies. The conversations were many and lively - they ranged from talk about curriculum to productions to art to just general ribbing and fun topics. It always makes me feel warm inside when former students do well. We talked about their past experiences at school and how determined they were as students – it is easily see why they are doing so well now.


TMNT (2007) (***)

Sometimes what you bring into a movie makes a big difference in how it will be viewed and ultimately enjoyed. If you're a history buff you may be irritated with period inaccuracies in a war movie. A fan of a certain comic might hate a feature version because it's not what they remembered or wanted. So going into TMNT it has a lot riding against it in terms of fans' expectations and how critics or even the general non-fan population view the Turtles either from the animated TV series or men-in-suits live-action films. It's tough to do anything right in some critics' minds when your franchise started with grown men playing teenage mutant ninja turtles.

I come to TMNT as a person who was a big fan of the TV series as a kid and vaguely remember liking the original live-action film when it first came out. Therefore, I have knowledge of the franchise and expectations of what would make a good or bad TURTLES movie. Thus my recommendation of the film comes from that point of view. If you were a fan of the series (but maybe not a hardcore one, I can't say how it stacks up to the comics) then you will not be disappointed by this film. All others should either go in with an open-mind or take their baggage and fly over to another theater that's not playing this movie. TMNT isn't a great film, but it brought back fond memories of the characters that I loved in my youth.



Oh the puns come flooding to mind when thinking about this film. Nothing but terrible. Nothing but disgusting. Nothing but stupid. I felt sorry for the talented performers as I watched this crud, thinking how did they get convinced to be in this thing. Then when I looked up the credits I found my answer… and the answer was shocking. Dan Aykroyd not only plays two roles, but he also wrote and directed the film too. Chevy Chase, Demi Moore, John Candy must have owed Aykroyd a favor. His screenplay is based on a story from his younger brother Peter. It's a pet project that caught rabies.

Chris Thorne (Chase, FUNNY FARM) meets Diane Lightson (Moore, ST, ELMO'S FIRE), who was recently dumped by her rich businessman boyfriend. Thorne is driving two clients to New York City and he offers to take Diane along with him. While driving through a small town, he tries to outrun the police and his eventually caught by the local police chief Dennis (Candy, PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES), who takes them to an out-of-the-way mansion, where Judge Alvin "J.P." Valkenheiser will pass judgment on them.


mister bagley

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

This is a pencil test from mister bagley - a blog based series I am playing with….

The premise is always the same…mister bagley is walking along and then he stops and takes something out of his bag…it could be an everyday item
or it might be totally outrageous. We will see…


MARIE ANTOINETTE (2006) (***1/2)

Forget what you may have heard about this film. Roger Ebert said it best when he wrote, " Every criticism I have read of this film would alter its fragile magic and reduce its romantic and tragic poignancy to the level of an instructional film." I couldn't agree more.

At 14, Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES) is taken from Austria and virtually given to France as a payment for peace between the two countries. On the border, before she enters France, she is stripped bare, so that nothing Austrian (accept for her flesh I guess) is allowed to enter the French court. She meets her fiancée Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman, SHOPGIRL) mere hours before their marriage. He can barely look at her, let alone drum up the nerve to play his part in Marie's purpose to bring an heir to the French court at Versailles. She is all but a prisoner in the huge royal estate, where her every action is criticized and every move is governed by excessive and demeaning ritual. Robbed of everything she knew as well as her childhood, she has no voice of her own, only duty. Trapped in a ridiculous world, she can only find release in partying, because it's all that is tolerated. Eventually, she loses herself in excess to ease her pain.


MY SUMMER OF LOVE (2005) (***)

Based on a novel by Helen Cross, the film takes the core conflict of the book, mainly just focusing on the teen romance story. It's more interested in capturing the rush and danger of teenage love than presenting a grander issue. This character study follows these particular characters over one unforgettable summer.

Mona (Natalie Press, TV's BLEAK HOUSE) is a working class teen whose mother has died and her father was never been in the picture. She has inherited the family pub with her brother Phil (Paddy Considine, IN AMERICA), who has just recently been released from prison where he found Jesus. Mona thinks he's crazy when he pours all the booze down the drain and turns the bar into a Christian community center. With her married boyfriend discarding her and her brother transforming into someone she doesn't even know, Mona is lost in the world until she meets Tamsin (Emily Blunt, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA).


300 (2007) (****)

If you go into this film wanting a history lesson on the Battle of Thermopylae then you will be disappointed. If you want a rousing, iconic and gorgeous looking entertainment then you will love 300.

Based on Frank Miller's graphic novel, the story follows King Leonidas (Gerard Butler, DEAR FRANKIE) of Sparta who defies the surrender demands of Persian king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro, CHARLIE'S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE) in order to keep all Spartans free citizens. Leonidas gathers an army of 300 of Sparta's best warriors to make a stand against the 20,000 plus Persian army at a narrow path along the sea.

But to do so he must break the superstitious and corrupt laws of his country. In going against the politicians he creates political strife at home, which his wife Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey, THE BROTHERS GRIMM) must deal with. She must try to persuade politician Theron (Dominic West, MONA LISA SMILE) to help Leonidas, but Theron has his own agenda. Fighting alongside Leonidas are his veteran captain Artemis (Vincent Regan, TROY), his chief spokesman Dilios (David Wenham, LORD OF THE RINGS), ardent follower of Spartan beliefs Stelios (Michael Fassbender, TV's BAND OF BROTHERS) and Captain Artemis' son Astinos (Tom Wisdom). Later the Thespians, lead by Daxos (Andrew Pleavin) and a deformed hunchback Ephialtes (Andrew Tiernan, THE PIANIST) will try to join the fight.


JESUS CAMP (2006) (****)

Depending on your political or religious persuasion this film is either a straight-forward portrait of the evangelical movement in America or really freakin' scary. I've never hid my political leanings in my reviews because that would be disingenuous. However, this film is such a lightning rod that I'm afraid that it's nearly impossible to review without injecting your point of view somewhat. So the most even-handed way I can think of to review it is to just describe some of its key characters and scenes and present the questions that it brought up in my mind. Even those questions will probably tell you my feelings, but at least it prevents this movie review from spiraling off into a political rant.


ZODIAC (2007) (***1/2)

David Fincher, director of SEVEN and PANIC ROOM, adapts Robert Graysmith's books on the notorious unsolved case of the Zodiac killer who plagued Northern California in the 1960s and 1970s. The straight-forward procedural focuses first on the police investigation into the crimes and then how Graysmith, a cartoonist at the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, took it upon himself to hunt down the killer when the case went cold.

The film begins with one of the Zodiac's killings and sets the unease tone of the entire film. Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN) is a young cartoonist at the time and floats around Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr., WONDER BOYS) as the lead reporter investigates the murders. Graysmith is very interested in the Zodiac's cryptic messages, which he helps give Avery some incite into. So as Avery pokes his nose into the case, detectives David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo, YOU CAN COUNT ON ME) and William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards, TV's E.R.) begin their investigation.