Thursday, December 4, 2008

Disturbia (2007)

What did I learn from Disturbia? Shia LaBeouf is a pleasant surprise. He's a wee bairn barely out of his 20s but his face is expressive, he's likeable and he can act. Until this movie, all I knew about LaBeouf is that I enjoyed saying his name and that he might be a bit of a bad boy (shouts out to the Entertainment News tidbits at msn.com).

I wasn't expecting much from Disturbia. I thought it'd be a spoof about moving to the 'burbs from the "big city" with hijinks leading to neighbor bonding. Now that I have cable and hundreds of channels to pore over, it's easy to make choices because they are easily revoked. I said, what the hell and selected Disturbia--the name intrigued but it happened to be starting the same minute I had found it on the Guide channel.

Before the first 10 minutes had played, there was intense action that sets up the movie. An event leading from this incident causes Kale (LaBeouf) to end up in home incarceration for three months. Kale quickly falls into a slump of inactivity and boredom--being at home 24/7 slowly brings on insanity. His mother Julie (Carrie-Ann Moss) is gone a lot but when she's there, she's unable to connect with her increasingly slacker teenager. The boredom leads Kale to start monitoring his neighbors through his binoculars: he's got the new neighbors with the hot teenage daughter, the grade-school brats who torture him with pranks and the neighbor he starts to suspect is a serial killer. Shenanigans ensue, suspense builds and rising action follows. Disturbia is a simple film. There are times you are pushed to suspend reality too much, but you want to because, it's extremely entertaining. It reminds me of a modern episode of the Hardy Boys meets Scooby Doo...think "If it hadn't been for you meddling kids..." So, yeah, see it and look up Mr. LeBeouf. He's had a quite a few roles already. Am I the only newbie?

Director: DJ Caruso

Country: US

Genre: Thriller

Run time: 105 minutes

Scale: 3.75

Or, My Treasure (2004)

Dysfunction Junction Teenager Or (Dana Ivgy) wants her mother Ruthie (Ronit Elkabetz)to stop prostituting herself on the streets of Israel, get a different kind of job and just be her mother. Or collects plastic bottles for recycling, she works washing dishes at a restaurant--anything to bring money into the home in hopes her mother won't leave the house that night to walk the streets. Or takes care of Ruthie--validating her, getting her up in the morning, getting her a job, dying her hair. Her mother is the rebellious teen in the equation, who really does not want to stop doing what she's doing. From the beginning you see the smarts on Or. Her mother is a girl in a woman's body. It's lovely and painful to watch how much they depend on each other because even though Or is clearly the adult, she needs her mother, if not to have someone to take care of.

The movie shies away from judging Ruthie for being a prostitute. This way it focuses instead on the co-dependency and guides the viewer through it--you are in it. It's honest and unflinching, but ultimately it is Or who gets disappointed over and over. This is one to see if you are interested in character development. Or is not an action flick. It's about hope and disappointment, youth versus age and loss of innocence. Not a happy ending, but after you see it, you wouldn't want it any other way.

Director and co-writer: Keren Yedaya

Country: Israel

Genre: Drama

Run time: 100 minutes

Scale: 4

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

This movie capped the Thanksgiving holiday. You know the feeling, post-family conversations and catching up, you've lazed around all day and now it's post-function. You are tired yet not ready to hit the sack. That's the perfect time to start watching. Be warned. You will begin watching and it's brutal, and not in a good way, not at first.

Dewey in his diaper thongThis parody, loosely based on Walk the Line, pulls liberally from many musical genres and pop culture. With so many turns, where to start? At the beginning...once John C. Reilly enter the picture, the film shines. His acting is so genuine, he should have been nominated for an Academy Award (I was happy to learn that he was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy). Reilly not only embodies but exudes Dewey Cox. The songs are fantastic--most of them catchy with clever and witty lyrics. Reilly performs almost all the songs himself and even Jenna Fischer sings one. Reilly, Judd Apatow and others involved with the film penned the songs themselves.

Walk Hard is epic. It tells a layered story that isn't as flimsy as you'd expect. It traces the life of this made-up icon through his waltzes with different musical genres trying to find himself and wrestle the demons that torment him. Gratuitous fun is a plenty: the intro-to-drugs scenes led by Tim Meadows, the sink-ripping and references to being cut in half. This is no Scary Movie 4 (parts of which I did enjoy). The five of us watched this one and we loved it (except for the one who fell asleep); however, I wonder if I misquoted how much they liked it. Did we like it because we were sleepy and on the drink? I re-watched it yesterday and it passed the test. I enjoyed it more upon second viewing. The humor is good, the scenes are surprisingly fun. The Beatles scene is brilliant. It's fast, funny and original. The behind-the-scenes of this one is super interesting--depicting how they wrote the music and worked with Reilly as a singer. It's like watching a band documentary making-of. If you haven't seen this one yet, see it soon. If you've seen it already, see it again. I'll be adding movie and soundtrack to my collection. It's a brilliant musical comedy art piece. I would compare it to the Rocky Horror Picture Show but that isn't fair to RHPS, which is a masterpiece. Think of Walk Hard as RHPS's "little indie cousin who could."

There are so many cameos that you are sometimes distracted from the action trying to figure out who's who. You have not only Jack White and Jack Black (can't be a coincidence) but add to that Paul Rudd, Craig Robinson, Jason Schwartzman and many of the Freaks and Geeks alums.

Director and co-writer: Jake Kasdan (co-wrote with Judd Apatow)

Country: US

Genre: Comedy/Spoof

Run time:  96 minutes (felt like longer--in a good way)

Scale: 4.5

Boy A (2007)

(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)

If you only read the movie description on the DVD case, you'll be apprised of storyline but I'll write freely, so please heed the spoiler warning. Boy A, we learn, was a lonely boy growing up with a mother dying of breast cancer. She never leaves her bed and pushes away her son when he comes looking for motherly support. His father is completely checked out--sits in front of the television and barks at Jack to not bother his mother. We never see his face. The young pre-Jack boy befriends another lonely boy--a sociopath with a short fuse. Pre-Jack falls for the allure of a friend. You learn the sad path in flashbacks spread through the course of the movie. Jack and his friend are accused of the brutal killing of a 10-year old girl. The boys are tried, convicted and sent to prison for a long time.

After rehabilitating for approximately 10-12 years (I'm guessing), Boy A is set upon the world with his new moniker, Jack Burridge (Andrew Garfield). His caseworker, Terry (Peter Mullan) is fond of him. He's put everything into helping Jack. He remains as Jack's lifeline, guiding 24-year-old Jack through his new life identity and supporting him while Jack learns how to socialize in his new world, while keeping his former identity and violent past a secret. Jack finds a job, meets some mates and falls in love. A sub-plot involves Terry's son finding him and wanting to get to know him after years of estrangement. Seems that Terry didn't see his son or make an effort and now he's getting to know him as his son tries to figure out his dad's motivations for having been an absent father.

I'm sorry I missed this one in the theater. I was captivated throughout, watching the likeable Jack. Garfied creates a well rounded character. His vulnerability is worn self-consciously in his expressions and body language. He brings life to a boy who would be otherwise detested and unlikable. You, the viewer, are privy to his general crime but you don't get the specifics until close to the end and at that point, you are even more confused. Then, you are struck with the reality. Jack is complicit but also a victim. The ending is likely to spur an ethics debate about his role in the crime. That's what I loved about it. It leaves you confused about what he did or didn't do. It's a simple, yet layered story that questions, among other things, if innocence can be regained.

Not a feel-good; it's a well constructed dark movie that doesn't flinch at reality and the choices we make regarding good and evil.

Director: John Crowley

Country: UK

Genre: Drama

Run time:  100 minutes

Scale: 4

Pusher III: I'm the Angel of Death (2005)

Pusher III is the best offering from the Pusher trilogy. The more I contemplate, the more I like Pusher II, but Pusher III has complex emotional elements that were missing from I and II.

Pusher III takes place in the span of one day--a long and hectic day. Past-his-prime drug lord Milo (Zlatko Buric--who has a role in all three Pushers) is on day 5 of sobriety and seems likely to relapse as the tensions escalate the second the movie opens. His demanding daughter is celebrating her 25th birthday and he's to cook for the party of 50, while also trying to sell off ecstasy pills about which he's clueless. His colleagues are young and letting him know he's old and needs to evolve or else. He's presented with so many Gnarly crewhurdles that it's no wonder he's tempted to use at every turn. The tension building and plot complications are gripping. You're there with him at every stressful step. He's an empathetic and likeable character. You see him tiring of his life as each turn gets more difficult. I don't want to spoil the plot happenings but he does reach his breaking point and things get messy. The ending drags on; the violence is savage and hard to watch (think hammers and industrial garbage disposal), but this is a great movie. Gives the dark side of Copenhagen a peep. Even though Pusher was lame (IMHO) and Pusher II isn't as great as Pusher III, it works well as a trilogy...gotta have the potatoes with the meat.

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Country: Denmark

Genre: Action/Gangster

Minutes:  100 minutes

Scale: 4.25

Pusher II: With Blood on My Hands (2004)

Cheesy ink I watched Pusher well over a year ago. I don't remember many of the details, but I remember that most of the characters were unlikable. This makes it difficult to connect with the movie and you end up with an uncomfortable distance. The main character was a dealer. He was emotionally dead, except about his dog (if I recall correctly), but even that wasn't enough.

Earlier this year while at Dan's birthday party, he asked me if I'd seen the Pusher Trilogy. It was then that I learned that it had been a trio of movies about drug dealers. I told him I'd hated Pusher, so I figured it wasn't for me. He mentioned that Pusher II had starred Mads Mikkelsen, whom I admire. Mikkelsen is one of the Danish Golden Boys of Cinema. He's an excellent actor with great acting chops and an enticing face.

Tonny (Mikkelsen) has just been released from prison. Doesn't take long to figure out he's a screw up. What does he want most? To be a good thug and gain the love and appreciation of his hard-as-nails gangster dad, but daddy already has a favorite--Tonny's half-brother, Valdemar (approximate age: 8). Tonny can't make a right move. He's everyone's scapegoat and can't escape his loser-dom. No one respects him and he's used to it, joining in on the laughter. These moments are especially difficult to watch because although his motivations are questionable, you can't help fall for the fact that all Tonny wants is to be liked and respected, which eludes him. He's told he has a child from a past hook-up. Again, we learn that it's his fault, although it isn't certain the baby is actually his. He's reluctant to take the paternity test, although as the movie progresses, it seems he's more afraid of the child not being his. The only thing he seems good at is connecting with this kid; when he holds the baby, his reaction is palpable. The movie is cold and distant because of the world it plays in; it's violent and you realize this is no lightweight movie. It's favorable to stay in character and away from that maudlin vein that takes dark topics and glibly molds them into "touchy-feely" pieces of crap. I can't say that I'm not a victim of wanting a bit of that...a scrap to help me connect but this one was on my mind for a long time afterwards. The ending is especially symbolic. It speaks leagues to Tonny doing something to get the love that's been elusive.

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Country: Denmark

Genre: Action/Gangster

Minutes:  100 minutes

Scale: 3.5

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Big Love, Seasons 1 & 2 (2006-08)

The Big Lovelies 

This HBO series is about a polygamist and how he juggles the demands of three families, the business needed to sustain them and the issues that come up trying to keep his families satisfied while managing the endless issues that crop up. Bill (Bill Paxton) is well cast as the patriarch. First wife, Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and second wife, Nicki (Chloë Sevigny) are often at odds. Carefree third wife, Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) is the easiest for Bill to oblige. Polygamy can be a headache and Big Love delves into the constant trials faced by Bill, his ladies, his business partner, his extended family and all of their kids.

The show took a while to unravel and become compelling. Toward the end of the first season, it took a turn that I can only describe as Sopranos-light, but this made it just a little more interesting. It was more like the writers ratcheted up the conflicts. By the end, I wasn't sold on it but I was sure I was on board for season 2.

Season 2 was readily available at the library (a place that never fails). It held interest. Things have gotten much more sinister. I'd like to get into some plot details but they're all so sticky and tangled that it's hard to summarize in a few words. In conclusion, I'm looking forward to season 3, which happens to kick off on HBO (which I now have) in January (not long to wait). I wonder how long they can keep this going. It's no Sopranos or Six Feet Under, at least not yet. Will season 3 deliver? Stay tuned.

Broken (2006)

Aspiring singer Hope (Heather Graham) leaves Ohio for Los Angeles with big dreams. She meets bad boy Will (Jeremy Sisto) on a deserted beach. They start dating, fall in love, blah, blah, blah. He gets her hooked on heroin until she works her way out of his life and back to her depressing one as a waitress in a diner where people seem to only order drinks. The climax of this movie occurs in this very diner when Will returns to get Hope back regardless of whether she wants him or not. Michael Goorjian (Justin from Party of Five), a puffy and almost unrecognizable (post plastic-surgeried?) Linda Hamilton and Jake Busey appear in supporting roles).Despite two great leads, Broken is boring and pointless. A few scenes were visually stunning but the movie just doesn't deliver. The soundtrack was the most enjoyable part. Steer clear.

Director: Alan White

Country: US

Genre: Drama

Run time: 97 minutes

Scale: 1.5

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bleak House (2005)

In high school, I had some tough English classes. My junior year in Ms. O'Neill's class, most of our grade was to be garnered from a term paper on a famous work of literature. While exploring the idea of Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop, I read the first chapter. It was dense and hard to get through, so I decided on Tennessee Williams instead. (On side note, I recently learned that back in the day, authors got paid per word, rather than entire piece, which explains a lot, Mr. Dickens.)

Who's Who That said, the BBC adaptation of Dickens' ninth novel, Bleak House, made me regret my decision. Despite its length, 15 installments over three DVDs, I couldn't stop watching. So much going on in this tale. At its center, there is a court case Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. The case has been going for years and years caused by two contrasting wills. There are two minors at its center. Then, there is the orphan, Esther Summerson (Anna Maxwell Martin). Her character reminded much of Jane Eyre...she is a young girl of little means. She is identified as "not fair" in her beauty, yet she is a hard-working, strong and kind woman, who ends up winning the hearts of several men. Miss Summerson carries around pain from the cruel aunt who raised her and made sure to let her know that she had be her mother's disgrace. But, will Miss Summerson discover her past? Learning her past could destroy lives.

The cast is enormous and includes many eccentric characters. Even minor characters are quirky. They possess fabulous names, including Smallweed, Tulkinghorn, Clamb, Dedlock, Flite, Skimpole, Woodcourt. The actors relish in calling out these names in a bombastic, entertaining fashion. (I'm reminded of Newman saying JER-ry and Jerry saying NEW-man.) Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock is cast perfectly. The cold and emotion-less Anderson and her much older, craggy-faced husband are an interesting couple. Mr. Tulkinghorn (Charles Dance) is the scheming blackmailer. Mr. Guppy (Burn Gorman), as the young solicitor in training, is also a delight, except during his stalker moments, which thankfully don't persist.

Period pieces are not for everyone. Think of this one as a mystery/drama. I found it extremely watchable.

Directors: Justin Chadwick, Susanna White

Country: UK

Genre: Drama

Run time:  470 minutes

Scale: 4.5

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Visitor (2007)

Thomas McCarthy does a smash-up job portraying interpersonal relationships. His sophomore effort (follow-up to The Station Agent) is evidence. McCarthy is also an actor and a writer. He had a stint as an unethical reporter on The Wire's last season.

Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) is a dead man. He leads a solitary life devoid of passion and happiness. He possesses musical wont which he chips away at through uninspired piano lessons. The most encouragement his teaches gives her desire to purchase his piano, if ever he decided to quit playing, because, in her words, he isn't very good at it. He doesn't let anyone in and if anyone gets close, he send them on their way. As a college professor, he has stopped caring about much. He hides behind the farce of writing a book. When he leaves Connecticut for his apartment in NYC to further work on this book, he discovers a couple living in his place--they are strangers to him. Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) is from Syria and Zainab (Danai Gurira) is from Senegal. The couple discover they were tricked by someone into renting a place they thought was available (this plot point never gets resolved). Walter puts them out but when he realizes they have no where to go, he lets them stay You are really cool, Walter until they can find lodgings. During this time, Walter and Tarek forge a friendship revolving around music and the African drum. Tarek teaches Walter to drum and Walter comes back to life. Zainab remains indifferent to Walter, until Tarek gets thrown into a detention center and Walter is the only one who can help.

The Visitor is about friendship and finding happiness (without going down the sticky maudlin path). The movie is loyal to Walter, its protagonist, and to the changes he undergoes when his life becomes wrapped up in theirs. There's witty dialogue, colorful characters development and a steady moving plot.

Director: Thomas McCarthy

Country: US

Genre: Drama

Minutes:  103 minutes

Scale: 4.5

Danzig at Showbox SoDo (11.8.08)

One of my music regrets is never having seen the Misfits back in the day in Chicago. I saw many bands at the Metro, the Double Door, the Lounge Lizard, the Elbo Room to name a few. I saw flyers for the Misfits, but they never made my radar until well into the new millennium well after their break-up. Alack!

MUTHAAAAA!!! Last night, Danzig played, led by Glenn Danzig, the former lead singer for The Misfits. Danzig isn't punk; it's metal. There are a few metal bands I enjoy, but there is something about Glenn Danzig I love. It could be called an obsession. At 53, he's still rocking. I've spent more than one night watching Danzig vids with C&A ("who bought this??"), so when I saw the ad for Danzig's show, we three were on board.

We started our adventure at the Triangle in SoDo. It was quiet, unlike during Mariners games. From there, we headed to the venue to check the lineup. It was a night of death metal. The tour was named the Blackest of the Black. I don't know much about death metal but as an outsider looking in, I can appreciate the face paint, studded gear and themes of death and destruction. What didn't amuse was the line that ran about three blocks outside the venue. We waited it out at the Hooverville across the street. There we watched as the line didn't diminish. We had some fun there as well as meeting some scoundrels that were going to help us sneak in (it didn't work), thereby avoiding the very long line:

Clown crush 

 

 

 

 

 

Hi Glenn

 

 

 

 

 

 

New friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

No ignoring the clown tonight

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power Trio

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we made our way over, the line went fast for the girls, but we made a terrible discovery--all cameras were banned! Andy's wallet chain was prohibited as well. These rules were not venue-made but requested by bands (which one??) This made things problematic as we took the bus to the venue. What to do? We left the line to strategize. Carrie hid her camera and Andy's chain in some bushes. I knew that I couldn't leave my camera, so I had to take more extreme measures. No need for detail but we made it in and all was well. (On a side note: The Showbox does not fool around when they prohibit cameras. Carrie saw one person getting dragged out for attempting to get a shot.)

Dimmi Borgir--the Norwegian death metal band was the last act to warm up for Danzig. I went to the front with the new friends. We entered the mosh pit. Having been out of pit practice, I was knocked down a few times, but this was a friendly crowd. I was brought back onto my feet by the crowd. The energy was fierce. The band played hard. When they ended, we had a break to prepare for the real moment of the night...the night that has been building since September when the show was announced. The Danzig pit was way too rough. These fans were serious, but I had to stay up there and watch Glenn and company in action. This band puts on a great show. Amazing to watch him, his energy, his love for the music. The huge smile plastered across my face all night probably made me look a fool, but I was HAPPY. Even though I never got to see the Misfits, this was a great consolation. I hope Glenn and Danzig keep rocking into his 60s.

Following was the only band-related picture--the band van. While we couldn't confirm it was the Danzig van, I'm going to pretend it is so.

Danzig tour van

 

 

 

 

 

 

11.8.08--A night to remember.

Volverás (You'll Be Back) (2002)

This one stayed with me well after viewing. It revolves around two brothers who haven't seen each other in five years. After a chance run-in (or was it?), they stand as strangers. Disappeared older brother, Carlos (Tristán Ulloa), is a has-been gambler borrowing against his poker debt, still looking for the big win that will set him free of his many debts. He's a pariah pitied in the gambling crowd. Baby brother Ignacio (Unax Ugalde) is a successful and esteemed architecture student with a promising future. He's days away from leaving Spain for Los Angeles to start an internship. He buys a ticket for his girlfriend to join him, but she's resentful because she'd doing well in her architecture studies. This leads to distance. During this increasing distance, little bro gets closer to his delinquent brother. It's hard to watch the snake lure the lamb. Carlos, aided by his girlfriend, creates the lair and Ignacio willingly enters.Ignacio possesses vulnerable blue eyes. Looking at them, you feel a pang of sadness and his thirst for Carlos' approval. You get the sense that even though Ignacio gets into trouble after finding Carlos, he feels alive--perhaps something he hasn't felt since Carlos left. The parents are cold and empty. They don't pay much attention to the kid as long as he's following his good son path. Sibling relationships are some of the most interesting. You share the parents, yet each child can have a varying experience.

Volverás leaves some pieces unresolved. This adds to its allure. The relationship between Carlos and Ignacio draws you in. Carlos has a goal and it revolves entirely around Carlos. It's heart-breaking but it keeps the viewer interested, albeit in an uncomfortable manner.

Director: Antonio Chavarrías

Country: España

Genre: Drama

Minutes:  102 minutes

Scale: 3.5

Friday, November 7, 2008

RocknRolla (2008)

I have exciting news for you: I didn't hate RocknRolla. In fact, I kind of liked it. Wakey wakey! CONS: It has it's flaws...could have been edited WAY down and tossed the needless characters of Lukacris and Jeremy Piven (Ari Gold has ruined Piven forever for me--he'll never be anyone else.) The flimsy plot device (involving a painting <yawn>) didn't excite, but it was a vehicle for a very fun threesome of: One Two (Gerard Butler), Mumbles (Idris Elba--"Stringer Bell" of The Wire fame) and Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy). From the start, their chemistry smolders and guides you though the silly and convoluted plot. You are on board with them because their friendship is solid. This is a movie about loyalty and family. The good friends try to make good but are foiled by a crime lord on a real estate scam. But, really, that's the dull storyline allowing Ritchie to write the story he really wanted to write--the one about the friendships. That's the story that shines.

The violence level is conservative for Guy Ritchie. That was a surprise. Thandie Newton...oy...what is happening to you? You were awesome in your indie days of Flirting. Now, you have resorted to 1-D caricatures (see review for W). No no no! I can't take it. Make it stop. Tom Wilkinson is hardly recognizable as Lenny Cole. And, there's something appealing about the heroin addict but he doesn't carry the movie as he's supposed to as a plot complication. However, I remain very open to the possibility of the next installment! I cannot deny it...I enjoyed RocknRolla.

Director: Guy Ritchie

Country: UK

Genre: Action/Gangster

Minutes:  114 minutes

Scale: 3

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ils (Them) (2006)

The opening scene of this French horror film is terrifying. It plays upon fear of driving through dark wooded areas at night when the unexpected may happen (and does). This scene gets you good and warmed up. It's the best scene; the rest of the movie doesn't hold up to this, but if you see it, you'll understand.

Why won't you play with us? We are introduced to a couple living in a large, secluded house in the country. Lucas (Michaël Cohen) and Clementine (Olivia Bonamy) have had a nice relaxing evening afternoon after the workweek. When Clementine decides to get some work done while Lucas sleeps, odd things start occurring. She gets a call with strange noises on the other end. She eventually re-joins Lucas but awakes to different noises coming from downstairs and outside. As they start investigating, the learn they aren't alone. The story moves along as Clementine and Lucas battle the mysterious hooded figures to survive. That's really it for plot. The simple, yet frightening sounds add to the unease. The house is reminiscent of a European version of the hotel from The Shining. The house itself becomes a character, playing a role and adding to the tension, but what is most eerie is the ending when you learn that this movie is based on true events. I won't give it away but it's unsettling.

Directors: David Moreau and Xavier Palud

Country: France and Romania

Genre: Horror

Minutes: 90 minutes

Scale: 3.5

Arranged (2007)

Arranged is distributed by Film Movement. FM is almost always the sign that lets you know that you will mostly see a quality film. Plus, there's always a film short included on the DVD.

This is the story of Nasira (Francis Behnamou), a Muslim, and Rochel (Zoe Lister Jones), an Orthodox Jew. Both women teach at a Brooklyn school. Their students expect the two to clash due to the tension between the two cultures. Instead, the two become friends and bond over their shared expectations that they will enter into arranged marriages. There are some lovely friendship moments. This movie was fun to watch, especially as you see them experiencing the process of getting arranged. The relationships with their families during the process are strained. It's not a simple process. You see Rochel's bad meetings with prospective husbands and Nasira's disappointment at her first suitor. Family pressures and disapproval propel the women into a stronger friendship. Nasira is particularly funny and creative. Arranged is interesting on many levels. It might be geared toward women, but the cultural aspects make it fascinating for all.

Directors: Diane Crespo and Stefan C. Schaefer

Country: US

Genre: Dram-Com

Minutes: 90 minutes

Scale: 5

In Bruges (2008)

Rubbish about two hitmen hiding out in Bruges after a hit goes wrong in London. Ray (Colin Farrell) wants to drink and cavort; Ken (Brendan Gleeson) prefers to sightsee while they wait for further instructions from their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes). Ray is a flat character. Ken is more interesting. Their differing views on how to spend time in Bruges worked, as most can relate to a trip becoming difficult with a bad travel companion.

Bruges is lovely but the movie is flat. The usually enjoyable and compelling Colin Farrell is annoying. The movie thrives on its violence. The scene where the hit goes wrong happens in a church without a silencer. Come on! There are some quirky bits and there's a twist that gives the movie a final shot of adrenalin but by then, you could be dozing. The plot starts moving in the last two scenes. There's English humor and it has its moments, but it just wasn't enough to sustain it. Bleh.

Director: Martin McDonagh

Country: England

Genre: Dram-Com

Minutes:  107 minutes

Scale: 2

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

L'homme de Sa Vie (The Man of My Life) (2006)

When Frédéric (Bernard Campan) invites his new neighbor, Hugo (Charles Berling) to join him, his wife Frédérique (Léa Drucker) and their extended family for dinner one summer evening, he gains a friend. Hugo announces to the crowd that he is gay. There's a moment of "oh-no-he-di-nt" but they're French and h are sophisticated. Soon, Hugo becomes part of the family. Hugo is a graphic artist and Frédéric owns a company. Both are avid runners and take to daily runs together. Frédéric seems happy as a husband and father. The two men engage in philosophical discussions about relationships and life. A physical attraction develops. It's subtle and intellectually based. A few subplots lead back to the central conflict, but this is mainly Frédéric's story as he realizes his attraction, the possibility of exploring it and what he stands to lose.

I think I like you L'homme de Sa Vie is subdued--it's chatty and artsy, mostly a character development piece. There's something special about it, but I can't pinpoint it. I wasn't quite engaged but I also was never 100% bored. The ending is left to interpretation but may occur seems evident. The director is a woman and perhaps that adds to the singular story and ending.

Director: Zabou Breitman

Country: France

Genre: Drama

Minutes:  114 minutes

Scale: 2.5

W (2008)

I was chomping at the bit to see W. I expected controversial but encountered a slow and jumbled disappointment lacking a pulse. The cast was thoughtfully put together. Josh Brolin is super as an empathetic and witty W. You forget the actor and see only the character. James Cromwell and Ellen Burstyn depict the opposing natures of George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Bush. Elizabeth Banks is a sultrier version of Laura Bush. Jeffrey Wright is entertaining as General Colin Powell against the axis of evil: Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss), Condoleezza Rice (Thandie Newton) and Karl Rove (Toby Jones).

The story begins in present day. It's told in flashbacks that begin at W's college days when he's rushing a fraternity at Yale. We learn about the drinking, the brushes with the law, the issues with Poppy, meeting Laura and the events leading to his political career and the Iraq Invasion.

The flashbacks jump back and forth too much. Knowing how it ends, what do we have to look forward to? It suffers from lack of build-up and surprise. I learned Bushie trivia but after the first hour, I was clock watching and hoping I'd seen the last of Thandie Newton as Condi Rice. I'm not a fan of Condi, but Newton is a caricature (social commentary perhaps?). Each time she spoke, I was taken out of the moment and reminded I was watching Newton delivering an imitation. Newton's body language as Rice was authentic but her voice was irksome. This sounds like the Hollywoodland review (there were similar issues; however, Hollywoodland was better).

Not knowing if some details were fact or fiction, I searched for the research/info Oliver Stone collected for the film. I found W. The Official Film Guide. Regretfully, the site was more compelling than the movie. If you insist, see a matinee. Better yet, wait for the DVD.

Director: Oliver Stone

Country: US

Genre: Drama/Bio

Minutes:  130 minutes (seemed much longer)

Scale: 2

Hollywoodland (2006)

Ben Affleck's performance in Hollywoodland received big buzz. He portrays George Reeves, the actor who played the popular Superman (the first one).

It's a film-noir piece that details Reeves' trajectory to fame, which spikes quickly once meeting Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), wife of MGM head Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins). The film delves into the mytWhat's bigger my hair or the scoop?h surrounding Reeves' death. Was it really suicide or was it a murder? If it was murder, who did it and why? Private investigator Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) turns a scrap and uncovers a meaty dish of conspiracies and cover-ups. While Brody delivers in his role, his character has a few issues. First, his hair. For a noir film, he is decades early with that spiked hair. Second, Simo's sub-plot--he's a lousy dad and his son is, you guessed it, a HUGE fan of Superman) gets too much screen time. As usual, Lane shines. Her character falls hard for Reeves and helps establish his career, due to the unique relationship with her husband. Despite the great acting, the story is flat and the plot points don't string well together.

I'm unfamiliar with George Reeves, so I cannot comment on Affleck's portrayal. Based on reviews he received, I'm certain he was spot-on but nonetheless--I wasn't fond of Reeves character. The theories presented are interesting but conclusions are lackluster. The most captivating aspect of the film is how popular Superman and the show became. Boys would run inside to turn on the television in time to watch their anticipated show. However, the young fans responsible for his enormous fame weren't enough for Reeves. He desired real acting cred, but he never made it as big in any other role.His fans were devastated when Reeves died.

Director: Allen Coulter

Country: UK

Genre: Drama/Bio

Minutes:  125 minutes

Scale: 2.5

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) (2007)

The movie is based on the memoir written by the former director of French Elle, Jean-Dominique Bauby. Considered an icon, he was adored and living a charmed life when at the age of 43, he suffered a massive stroke. He went into a coma for weeks. When he awoke, he learned he was completely paralyzed. He could only move and blink his left eye. He was told he had Locked-in Syndrome--while mentally alert he couldn't move his body.Amalric as Jean-Do; Lenny Kravitz in background

The movie is told through the perspective of Bauby's (Mathieu Amalric) left eye. The camera becomes his eye (first person). His ex-girlfriend, the mother of his children (Emmanuelle Seigner), is at his side. In his inert state, he revisits his life, formative experiences and those where he erred. Prior to the stroke, he had the idea (and contract) to write a modern-day version of The Count of Monte Cristo, but once he is locked-in, he shifts focus to the memoir.

In rehabilitation, his speech therapist works to help him communicate again since he cannot speak. The therapist recites the letters according to their frequency of use in the French alphabet. She reads them slowly so that each time a letter of the word he wants to spell out arrives, he E-S-A-R-I-N-T blinks. To express no, he is to blink twice. This is how he re-learns to communicate.

At 5am, Bauby would awake and think about what he wanted to write that day. At 8am, the transcriber would arrive and they would begin the day's work. The book was entirely written by blinks. Each letter composed by a blink. His transcriber got credit in the book for her work assisting him.

The cinematography (Janus Kaminski) is full of lovely images and unusual angels. Some are photo ready. It's a visual treat. Director Julian Schnabel is an artist (painter) first, film maker second (he also directed Basquiat and Before Night Falls). He learned French to make this film in French and keep his vision accurate. Schnabel also wanted to be able to communicate with the folks at the hospital where Bauby lived and died in. This movie earned him two Golden Globes: Best Foreign Picture of the Year and Best Director. It was nominated for four Academy Awards and picked up several other awards and nominations. Every actor delivers. With a robust cast and a brilliant, unique story, perspective makes this movie what it is. You are rediscovering his life in his shell of a body and you feel it from the moment he awakes from his coma.

Director: Julian Schnabel

Country: France

Genre: Drama/Bio

Minutes:  112 minutes

Scale: A mighty 6!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Snow Angels (2006)

A humble gem, Snow Angels kept me on edge for 110 minutes. The cast is an odd combo. Many of the actors are known for their roles in large films but have shined in indie films.

Annie (Kate Beckinsale) and Glenn (Sam Rockwell) are an estranged couple. Factors contributing to the estrangement: Glenn's drinking, Glenn's inability to hold down a job, Glenn's atteKiss kissmpted suicide, Glenn's born-again preaching. He wants to see more of their daughter, but Annie is afraid he is still emotionally unstable. Their relationship is tense and volatile and, at times, familiar and close. Set in the '70s, the cinematography captures the visuals and the feeling of the era. Shot as if you were in the room with the characters, you feel the discomfort churning in many of the scenes.

Arthur (Michael Angarano) steals the movie. This trombone-playing teen possesses je ne sais quoi. He's a busboy at a Chinese restaurant. There, he works with Annie, his former babysitter, and Barb (Amy Sedaris). (Side note: It was hard watching Sedaris in a dramatic role and not waiting to laugh, expecting her to make that Strangers with Candy face.) Arthur's parents are separating and he's trying to feel his way through his own frustration and loss of innocence and balance it against the excitement of being discovered by a cool and cute classmate.

This is just the background for this tragic story. A psychologically extreme movie, you get tension, conflict and some lovely moments. Recommended!

Director: David Gordon Green

Country: US

Genre: Drama

Minutes:  110 minutes

Scale: 4

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Nordic Heritage Museum (Ballard)

After years of wanting to explore this place, it has happened. I owe it to synchronicity, which began upon my return from Mexico. I took the bus home from the airport. At the bus stop, an Irish tourist, Daniel, asked me how to get to 4th/Pike. He was on his way to the Green Tortoise Hostel, a rock's throw from the Market. I had the same stop (to make my transfer to another bus), so we took the bus to Westlake Center and I walked him to the Green Tortoise. We discussed meeting a few days later to go the Olympic Sculpture Park and Nordic Heritage Museum.

We set off into the OSP, walking and chatting as strangers are wont to do. However, a problem developed--I had to find a toilet. We couldn't find the port-a-potty. I asked a few strangers walking in our direction if there were any beyond. Some were clueless; one man said yes, he believed there was one. Meanwhile, the bladder was filling at the quickened rate it does when you cannot find a WC. Suddenly (after dozens of minutes), I spotted the bathrooms. My gait increased and as I walked up to the oasis, the sign posted on the door almost brought tears (not happy ones) to my eyes: BATHROOM CLOSED. A friendly passer-by noted that they'd been open just yesterday (that's great...THX!). He suggested I relieve myself under the bridge. Let me explain: the bridge led to the pier where several folks were fishing. Daniel seconded the suggestion. I was reluctant for about 10 seconds. There wasn't enough time to walk to the front of the park where I was assured there was one, so I climbed off the bridge onto the craggy rocks. I may talk big about bravery in acts, such as public urination, but in reality, I am squeamish. When I got to the area under the bridge, I realized I was gonna have to go much deeper since the fishermen on the pier and folks on the trail could see me. I had to make my way around and through huge cobwebs and trash to finally find an obscured location. There was one guy on the pier I was unsure about but once I unbuckled, unzipped and started, it was instant relief. I happened to have a napkin in my purse. I made my way back out and we continued as if this occurrence was just a piece of a day-in-the-life. What is the point of my story? I'll tell you...what the hell is wrong with OSP not having more bathrooms for the peds? Come on! As we headed back out of the park, toward the entrance, there it was-the sole port-a-potty. It was near a construction area and I must have missed it on the way in. ARGH!

On to the Nordic Heritage Museum. Tucked away in Ballard, this former school has climate control issues and consequently isn't accredited. The building (which happens to have very nice bathrooms) is for sale. Within the next two years, the museum will be moving into a warehouse building near Habitude on Market street. Check it out. This museum is unique. The exhibits are  set up as dioramas. Who knows if they'll keep the integrity when they move.

From the Nordic Heritage Museum site at http://www.nordicmuseum.org:

"The First Floor
The Dream of America is the story of immigration told in an exhibit of life-like dioramas. Travel with your family back to the nineteenth-century Scandinavian countryside to begin the journey to America, starting with the move to the city. The voyage continues as you board a ship to make the Atlantic crossing, and land at Ellis Island. The adventure goes on to experiences in New York, and the expansion to the Midwest, Great Plains, and Pacific Northwest, ending in Ballard. Here the growth and development of a typical small Northwest community is displayed, complete with a post office, church, drug store, blacksmith shop, and a family home."

Dala horse

 

You are welcomed by a Dalecarlian or Dala horse. This traditional wooden statuette originated in the Swedish province of Dalarna. It represents Sweden.

 

Waiting for the boat to go abroad 

More waiting... 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close-up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old-school fire hose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jail cell used for drunks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"The Second Floor
The Promise of the Northwest exhibit includes two galleries that focus on the logging and fishing industries, which employed many immigrants who brought skills learned in the old country. These galleries show the contributions of the Nordic pioneers to the settlement of the Pacific Northwest. The Heritage Rooms display treasured and useful items the immigrants brought with them, including folk costumes, textiles, tools, and furniture."

"The Third Floor
The third floor exhibitions illustrate the differences and the common bonds among the Scandinavian people. There is one gallery for each of the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Each gallery highlights that group’s special achievements in the Pacific Northwest."

If you've read this far in this longest post ever, you will see why the Nordic Heritage Museum is a good time. If the batteries in my camera hadn't run out of juice, you'd have seen images of the beautiful furniture and boats on display. Also on display: huge Lego sculptures. Again, make sure to get there before museum is moved. You won't regret it.

The Heartbreak Kid (2007)

Not your typical happy-go-lucky rom-com, this twisted story begins as Eddie (Ben Stiller), the perpetual bachelor meets Lila (Malin Akerman) and they begin dating. They make out A LOT. Then, Lila learns that she will be transferred to Rotterdam for her work as an ecologist. She'll be gone for two years. However, if she's married, she won't be sent abroad. It's only been six weeks and he isn't sure. After his dad (real life dad Jerry Stiller) and buddy Mac (Daily Show" correspondent Rob Corddry) give him so much crap about his commitment phobias, Eddie and Lila jump the broom. Immediately (on the honeymoon), Eddie realizes it was a mistake. When he meets and falls for Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), a fellow vacationer at the same resort, he must figure out what to do.We're Moving to Rotterdam?!??

Ben Stiller is hi·lar·i·ous. The movie is raunchy, Tito's character (Carlos Mencia) is tiresome and some jokes fall flat, but it has some pretty good LOL moments. When you think it's over, you get an epilogue. The ending is unexpected, but when it happens, I had to laugh (and roll my eyes). Go into it with no expectations and you will find some morsels of enjoyment.

Director: Peter Farrelly & Bobby Farrelly

Country: US

Genre: Comedy

Minutes:  114 minutes

Scale: 3

Le Petit Lieutenant (2005)

This movie was on the shelf at the library. Knowing nothing about it, I grabbed it as an experiment in fate. In a few minutes, you meet Antoine (Jalil Lespert) as he graduates from the police academy, selects his assignment and joins a plainclothes homicide division in Paris to get away from Normandy and the ho-hum life he expects as a policeman there.

I'm Bored In Paris, he gets a room in a boarding house, meets his co-workers and gets to know his supervisor, Caroline (Nathalie Baye), a recovering alcoholic, as he awaits his first assignment. When a dead man is fished out of the Seine, Antoine gets the excitement he's anxiously been awaiting. As he and his partners are on the trail of two mysterious Russians that may hold the key to the dead man, you learn more about Antoine and Caroline. He's likeable and his character development is compelling. His relationship with Caroline is interesting because he is the age that her son would have been had he not died. This is subtle but it does affect the storyline; however, the director/writers missed a good opportunity to use this detail. The acting was pretty good but the story is missing an arc.

My gripes are a) an important sub-plot is that Antoine has a wife he's left behind in his home town of Le Havre. She isn't present at his graduation, but you suddenly see his wedding band when he's in Paris (it was a distracting detail as it seemed to appear out of the blue); b) the movie moves along fast to try and find the Russians but you don't really learn why the guy in the river was killed; and c) the movie starts with Antoine as the protagonist and then, 3/4 of the way in, becomes Caroline's movie. The reasons leading up to this are clear, but it becomes disjointed and many unknowns remain. The ending is abrupt; it made sense but left me unsatisfied.

Director: Xavier Beauvois

Country: France

Genre: Drama

Minutes:  110 minutes

Scale: 2

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Les Jolies Choses (Pretty Things) (2001)

French actress Marion Cotillard took the 2008 Best Actress Academy Award for playing Édith Piaf in La Vie En Rose. She picked up several other prestigious awards for the role. Cotillard embodied the role so extremely that when I saw the actress outside the movie, I didn't recognize her.

Les Jolies Choses is one of her earlier movies. A humble film thatWhatcha looking at? wrestles with sibling rivalry. Marie and Lucie are twins who couldn't be different--Lucie is a friendly, sexual free-spirit to whom people are drawn. Marie is morose, quiet and austere. (Cotillard plays both roles.) When Lucie gets a shot at a possible recording contract, she faces the reality that she cannot sing. She calls in a favor with her twin, although they rarely speak. Talented singer, Marie, stands in for Lucie as Lucie and if they can pull this off, who knows what's next in this love-hate relationship.

Nicolas (Stomy Bugsy) is Lucie's best friend and later gets involved with Marie. The movie gets at the crux of the siblings' dilemma. The plot following what happens between the women, what happens with the record contract and how Nicolas interacts with the twins isn't action-packed. There are less than compelling sub-plots, but the movie holds interest and excels at character development--watching Cotillard develop Lucie's character is worth it.

Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Country: France

Genre: Drama

Minutes: 105 minutes

Scale: 3

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Dying Gaul (2005)

This has been on my list since the SIFF from years back. After watching this, I am in need of some comedic relief. These last three have been weighty and levity is the answer.

The Dying Gaul plays like a chess game with three players engaged in extreme psychic warfare. The background is Hollywood, which makes a lot of what happens seem suitably placed.

Robert (Peter Sarsgaard) is a screenwriter who has recently lost his partner/manager to AIDS. Jeffrey (Campbell Scott) is a film executive salivating over Robert's autobiographical script. He is trying to woo Robert to get the movie made. Robert stands to get paid a mighty buck; the caveat is that he must change his script to remove the gay theme and make the story heterosexual. This quandary gets settled relatively easily (again, Hollywood-sell-your-soul style).

In the meantime, an odd triangle forms between Robert, Jeff and Jeff's wife, Elaine (Patricia Clarkson). Elaine is quite curious about Robert. As a former screenplay writer, she reads his script and falls in love with it and perhaps that ignites her curiosity about Robert. Through her Internet stalking, Elaine learns something that threatens to destroy her marriage and seemingly happy life with Jeff and their kids. The ending is chaotic and culminates in TRAGEDY.

Director: Craig Lucas

Country: US

Genre: Drama

Minutes: 100 minutes

Scale: 3

Atonement (2007)

For some time now, I'd been resistant to Atonement due to all the hoopla surrounding it. I kept it on the radar but didn't entertain it until much later. When I started watching it yesterday, it was darker than I'd expected. It's a literary adaptation (from Ian McEwan's novel). Not having read the book, I can't compare the movie version to it but the movie was a success. There are tricky circumstances that the director was adept at putting to film.The worst is yet to come Atonement received a 2008 Golden Globe for Best Picture.

In short, the movie is about perception versus reality and how a moment of assured perception affects the lives of three individuals and breaks up a family. A 13-year-old Briony (Saoirse Ronan) is an unreliable witness to a crime on the grounds of the family home. This puts family friend and sister, Cecilia's (Keira Knightley) love interest, Robbie (James McAvoy) in serious trouble that sabotages his hard-worked-for future plans. The story is a tragedy that spans Briony's entire life and forever affects all there that fateful night when Briony thinks she sees Robbie attacking her cousin.

There is much more I can say about this movie but this is all that you really need to know going it.

Director: Joe Wright

Country: UK

Genre: Drama

Minutes:  123 minutes

Scale: 4

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Nue Propriété (Private Property) (2006)

This French film opens with a dedication: To Our Boundaries. This statement says it all. Starring French favorite Isabelle Huppert as Pascale opposite Thierry (Jérémie Renier), as her son, and François (Yannick Renier), his twin brother (real-life brothers).

As the first scene rolls, you know the kind of trouble you're in for. Pascale is admiring herself in her new lingerie in front of the mirror. She calls her son François over to provide his assessment of what he thinks. It's a confusing viewer moment. It seemed out of line that a mother would ask her teenage son; what you are watching is in opposition to your belief, yet on-screen so normal for that situation that you can't help wonder if it's you and not the movie. Then, Thierry shows up and makes a remark that the lingerie looks nice if she's trying to look like whore. At that moment, I am jolted out of the twisted reality (it's them, not me). The rest of the movie follows similarly. Majority of the scenes are shot during meals.

I'm unclear about the age the boys are supposed to be. In real life, one is in 25 and the other is 31 and they look it, so when she refers to the 15 years she's been living for them, it's a moment of shock. The beauty is that they are man-boys and their brawn and strength lend themselves well to the story.Trouble's a brewing

Pascale and the boys' father had a bitter divorce. The fallout is still evident and the brutal arguing is never shielded from the boys, who are clearly the pawns in the acrimony. The deeper conflict begins when Pascale wants to sell the house, move away and open a B&B with Jan (Kris Cuppens), her Flemish neighbor and clandestine boyfriend. Problem being not only is this the twin's childhood home, but it was left to them, not Pascale in the divorce. Thierry is outraged and a battle begins. The only sane character is Jan. He is the only one able to extricate himself from her web. I found those scenes rewarding and validating from the audience perspective.

I've seen Huppert in many movies. She is the queen of cold. I'm not sure I can name another actress who captures it quite the same severe way. This can be off-putting, but she's so effective. This cast is assembled well so that when the all-out war breaks out, it believably divides the family. It's especially aggressive between the two boys, which leads to the tragic ending.

Music is discernibly missing from the film, except for the final scene, when the mad, chaotic violining is fitting. Not for the weak-hearted.

Director: Joachim LaFosse

Country: France or Belgium (subtitles were FAST)

Genre: Drama

Minutes:  101 minutes

Scale: 3.5

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1981)

A few weeks back, as I read my DailyCandy e-mail, I learned that an important movie from the annals of my youth and my discovery of punk of was playing (one night only) at the fabulous Grand Illusion Cinema. I was pumped for Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. I mentioned it to Carrie and Andy, who said, "Sign me up."

Diane Lane as Third Degree Burns The thing is, I couldn't remember the movie. I remember my best friend Liz, for Halloween one year, dressing as Corinne "Third Degree" Burns (Diane Lane), an orphaned 14-year-old who goes on the road with her band--her cousin (Laura Dern) and sister (Marin Kanter). Corinne's mother has just died and her dead-end teenage life is heading nowhere fast. This is the way movies used to be--a girl barely in her teens hits the road with her punk band, The Stains, to play in bars and clubs. No CPS, no meddling family member trying to help capture her and bring her back home.

This is a movie ahead of its time. Written by a woman (Nancy Dowd), it's about women "not putting out," aka getting trampled. Corrine makes no excuses. The band is edgy, rebellious and unapologetic, but she also has a heart. She goes for what she wants, steals a song from another band after letting the lead singer seduce her. Female-empowered and unrepentant, especially for 1981. A cult classic, but it was only just recently released to DVD.

The music powers through the movie. Ex-Sex Pistols Paul Cook and Steve Jones join Ex-Clash Paul Simonon for the Looters. Ray Winstone plays the lead singer of the band.

See it!

Director: Lou Adler

Country: US (classic 70s Americana)

Genre: Drama

Minutes:  87 minutes

Scale: 4.5

Mexico

This was my fifth time to the beloved Mexico. Why do I love it there? The people, the energy (median age is 26), the beauty, the language and the economics. Haruna is there for a year learning Spanish. This is my visit to see her:

Grocery stores are excellent samples of cultures. Fun to see familiar products in their foreign language counterparts. Some groceries have interesting sections or focus on a certain product, such as soap. For some reason, I've noticed many Spanish speaking countries have a lot of soap--a lot in stock in a variety of brands.

Here is the bakery section of Soriana. There were six large shelves, all open, no covers of baked goods:

Haruna in bakery section at Soriana

Baked goods at Soriana Mercado

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don't know how she did it but she managed to slip into a mini car ride for kids. I could barely stop laughing to take the picture:

Haruna accepts dare 

 

At night, food stands crop up on the streets. The following taco stand is around the corner from Haruna's. I ordered chorizo and beef tacos and I'm salivating just recalling their deliciousness:

Taco stand

Taco Stand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taco Stand 

Taco Stand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following are some Guadalajara sites. Some observations: no one wears shorts. It can be 90 but men, women, kids...all wearing pants. Sunglasses are not the norm. People STARE.

Cathedral  Calle en El Centro

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courtyard in Governor's Palace

Orozco Mural @ Palacio del Gobernador 

 

 

 

 

 

More mural

Mural

Mural

Mural

 

We took a trip to Tlaquepaque. This town is artsy with many art galleries, art workshops and craft stores. Fun to look, big to pay. Please look:

With Haruna in Tlaquepaque

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tlaquepaque

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergio Bustamante Gallery  

Sergio Bustamante Gallery

Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took a bus trip to the beach town of Manzanillo (4.5 hrs Southwest of Guad). It was HOT, HUMID and SUNNY. I'm recharged again...at least through October.

Manzanillo

Hauna @ Manzanillo 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We returned to Guad and I had to go home. Last day was spent scurrying through the chaotic streets of Guad, a bit infected with speed ourselves. The market was an incredible maze across 4-5 floors of shoes, electronics, purses and bags, counterfeit DVDs, food (and all its good and bad smells), mugs, shotglasses, instruments, clothes and their good and bad smells. Everything is a deal to be made. Fun to watch, exhausting to partake. Noticed a lot of spitting in the market.

View at Mercado Libertad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Mercado

Mercado

Mercado

Breakfast @ Sandy's in Guad

Breakfast @ Sandy's in Guad

Walking in Guad

 

There're sculptures and fountains all over:

Peepee fountain

More fountains

Statue in Gaud

Another art piece

Serpiente

 

Back in the day of my family travels, I remember the days of loading passengers from the tarmac. So, it always feels like a throw-back treat when you have to walk the hot pavement to climb the stairs:

Boarding plane in  Guad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The End!

About to land in Seattle