The Princess Bride (1987) PG

princessbrideThe Princess Bride was adapted by William Goldman from his novel, which he says was inspired by a book he read as a child, but its transformation by his wicked adult imagination has made the story witty and irreverent. And the film adaptation has remained popular since its original release in 1987.

It is story within a story with Peter Falk as a grandfather reading a fairy tale to his reluctant grandson. This clever romantic comedy-fantasy-adventure film can be enjoyed by every member of the family.

And if you can’t get enough of The Princess Bride, check out Cary Elwes’ (Westley) recent book, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.

Orphan Black. Season 1 (2013)

orphanblackSarah Manning has been running away from her life for some time, but wants to return home to see her daughter. While waiting at the train station, Sarah runs into a woman who looks exactly like her, who then commits suicide by stepping in front of a train. In an attempt to clear out the woman’s bank account, Sarah steals her identity, only to discover Beth Childs wasn’t the only one with the same face. Soon Sarah finds herself caught up in a scientific mystery, which exposes her own past and brings her face to face with her “genetic identicals” and the ways in which their upbringing influenced their personalities.

In addition to Sarah and Beth, the clones include an uptight soccer mom named Allison, a geeky grad student named Cosima, and a crazed zealot named Helena—all of whom are played by the enormously talented Tatiana Maslany. Maslany’s acting skills alone are reason to watch this show, as you’ll quickly forget there’s only one actress on screen in most scenes.

Orphan Black is a sci-fi drama full of danger and intrigue, with phenomenal acting, writing, and memorable characters. Season 2 was recently released and quickly raises the stakes while introducing new twists and clones–making the wait for season 3 (airing on BBC America in April) all the longer!

Beauty and the Beast (1991) G

beautybeastBefore heading to Disney World and the new Be Our Guest restaurant, I revisited this classic from my childhood. Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination. The Oscars for Best Original Song (“Beauty and the Beast”) and Best Score (the talented Alan Menken and Howard Ashman) come as no surprise as you listen to the enchanting music throughout the film. The story is engaging, the characters endearing (how can you not love a girl who is thrilled by books and libraries?), and the movie simply magical.

Roger Ebert was equally enthralled. Check out his review. And something else to look forward to – Beauty and the Beast will be here live on stage in late March as part of Broadway in Chicago.

The Black Book (1949)

blackbookAlso titled Reign of Terror, The Black Book is a suspense film that is as film noir as you can possibly get.  Yet instead of being set in a large American city during the 1930s, 40s, or 50s, it is set in 1794 Paris during the reign of terror. Charles D’Aubigny (Robert Cummings), is a French patriot looking to overthrow Maximilian Robespierre (Richard Basehart).

Robespierre is planning to become dictator of France, so that he can more easily continue his reign of terror wherein he sends anyone opposed to him to the guillotine without trial or hearing. One of D’Aubigny’s coconspirators is Madelon (Arlene Dahl). D’Aubigny and Madelon have a past and D’Aubigny is bitter about it; neither is sure they can trust the other.

In fact, almost none of the characters in this film trust each other and with good reason.  And the man most in the middle the man who no one should trust and who trusts no one is Fouche (Arnold Moss), the chief of police. He would like to destroy Robespierre but he will happily kill a friend or foe of Robespierre if it will advance his career. Moss does a great job with this character.

I will borrow a sentence from a review on IMDB to describe this film: “The atmosphere is particularly effective, with the dark photography and claustrophobic settings helping to establish the rampant fear, uncertainty, and paranoia that characterized the era.”

This film is nonstop suspense.  About the only criticism I could make is this is a film badly in need of restoration. The current DVD was supposedly restored but it’s far from what I usually experience in a restored film; I have seen worse copies of this film so it is an improvement, but even in its not-so-restored state, it is wonderful film.

Spotlight: Melody Gardot

melodygardotI just discovered Melody Gardot while searching for singers similar to Diana Krall. I recommend her music for vocal jazz enthusiasts who enjoy a little pop and blues. Gardot has an intriguing backstory that may well have informed her style. Lovely orchestration accents the romantic, lyrically wonderful albums.

Some of my favorite songs: “Impossible Love” evokes a French café ambiance, “Goodbye” demonstrates her sensuous chanteuse quality, “Your Heart is as Black as the Night” has a sultry, bluesy vibe, and the vocal style of “So We Meet Again My Heartache” just gives me goosebumps. Don’t miss her delightful version of “Over the Rainbow.”

Check out her albums today: The Absence (2012) and My One and Only Thrill (2009).

Claudia (1943) and Claudia and David (1946)

claudiaClaudia is a very young bride living in the country with David, her architect husband. She is very dependent on her mother and plots for a way to return to the city and live closer to her. However, when tragedy strikes, Claudia has to decide whether to allow herself to be treated like a child or a woman. Dorothy Maguire and Robert Young star in Claudia as well as the continuation Claudia and David.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2014) PG-13

anchorman2The legend of Ron Burgundy continues in this hilarious sequel as Ron is fired from his anchor position at the local network and offered the graveyard shift on the world’s first 24-hour news network. Burgundy revolutionizes television news in his new job, but perhaps at the cost of his family, friendships, and journalistic integrity. Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, David Koechner, and Christina Applegate all reprise their roles and are joined by a large cast of comedic cameos, including Kristen Wiig, James Marsden, Greg Kinnear, Kanye West, Drake, Jim Carrey, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and many, many more.

Anchorman 2 is full of laugh-out loud jokes and callbacks to its predecessor and is worth the watch just to see how many actors you can recognize.

Midnight in Paris (2011) PG-13

midnightinparisWhat a love story – between me and this movie! I have watched Midnight in Paris more than 10 times. The music! And the scenery of Paris is outstanding!

It is the story of a young author and his fiancée in Paris, and what happens to him while lost in Paris at midnight. It is so exciting as he travels back in time to meet the creative culture of the 1920s. How many can you recognize? The characters are played exactly according to their real personalities. Hemingway (Corey Stoll) – straightforward, tough drinker; Zelda (Alison Pill) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) – as crazy as they were in real life; and Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo)… Be sure to watch the bonus ending to learn how and why Woody Allen portrayed Paris.