Movies

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Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (2005)

A car accident and a chance meeting leads a widowed baker to a ballroom dancing class to find another man's childhood crush. All we know at first is that Frank Keane is a baker who is accompanying a man named Steve in an ambulance. Steve tells the story of how he fell for Lisa at the charm school they both attended. Steve asks Frank to go in his place and meet Lisa. Frank goes, of course, and we meet the rest of the cast at both the school and at a grief support group Frank attends.

Luther, Season One (2010)

John Luther is a Detective Chief Inspector in the London Police Department.  He is volatile, dedicated and able to deduce the psychological make-up of criminals in record time.  This show is a binge watch all the way.  The crimes are gruesome, but interesting, and the pace is fast.  I've never seen a detective show that spent so little time figuring out the criminal's next move or motivation.

The Mist (2008)

Mist coming in off the water isn't unusual, but this is a horror movie and so the mist that rolls in at the beginning brings with it unearthly and dangerous creatures, trapping a group of people in a grocery store. At first it's just the heavy mist that keeps them inside. After all, who wants to drive home when you can't see more than a foot in front of your face? But then a man arrives, warning everyone that there are things in the mist. The great part about this is that the mist itself obscures much of what is in it.

Orange is the New Black, Season One (2013)

Piper Chapman is a blue eyed, blond haired upper middle class college graduate with just about every possible advantage in life. Piper Chapman is also doing a fifteen-month sentence in a minimum security women’s prison for her involvement in a drug trafficking ring ten years earlier. This Netflix original television series is based on the bestselling memoir by Piper Kerman. It dramatizes the encounter between privilege and its opposite, depicting the lives of a variety of women who also made poor choices but had a lot fewer to pick from than Piper did.

Jindabyne (2007)

If you were on a fishing trip with friends and found the body of a murdered young woman in the river what would you do? Would you cancel the trip immediately and contact the police; or, go fishing and tell the authorities on your way home from the remote mountain location?  The decision by a group of friends to continue the trip has lasting repercussions.  Set in Australia, the film not only confronts the basic moral question, but also the racial and cultural issues involved since the young woman was Aboriginal.

Bad Words (2014)

Doesn't everyone miss Michael Bluth - Jason Bateman's character in Arrested Development? I was certainly won over and will watch whatever he stars in, just to see what he's doing next. In this, Jason's directorial debut, we follow a 40-year-old man (Bateman) who never graduated eighth grade and decides to compete in The Golden Quill national spelling bee - against middle school kids. It is no surprise when this outrages parents and judges, and there is a sketchy journalist documenting his mis-deeds. These deplorable characters are wonderfully offset by a 10-year old who is completely unfazed.

Insomnia (1997)

The sun never sets on Swedish detective Jonas Engström as he investigates the brutal murder of a teenage girl in a small town in northern Norway. Unable to sleep in the glare from the unceasing sunlight, Enström both solves and inserts himself into the crime, resulting in an anything-but-neat resolution. With its taciturn anti-hero cop and bleak setting, this film kicked off the Nordic noir phenomenon that is now so popular. Unsettling and well worth watching.

Philomena (2013)

Based on a true story uncovered by British journalist Martin Sixsmith, this is the moving story of a young Irish girl whose illegitimate child is taken from her by nuns and sold to an American couple in the mid-1950s. You might expect the movie to be mawkish and sentimental but it manages to avoid this with complex performances by Judi Dench as Philomena Lee and comedian Steve Coogan as Sixsmith.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Practically every character in this movie is a money grubbing, morally bankrupt, substance abuser and, sadly, they are based on real people. Their leader is Jordan Belfort, played beautifully by Leonardo DiCaprio, a seemingly regular guy from humble beginnings, who takes easily to what he considers the good life after figuring out how to profit wildly by getting people to invest in the stock market. Belfort comes off as an oily salesman but somehow has legions of devotees who worship the dollar as much as he does.

Herb and Dorothy (2009)

The Vogels are certainly an interesting couple.  Herb, a postal worker, and Dorothy, a librarian, amassed a huge collection of contemporary art and made an extraordinary gift to the nation. They donated the majority of their collection to the National Gallery of Art in 1992, and it has since grown to over 4,000 items.  The documentary follows this unassuming couple in their pursuit of pieces of art they enjoyed and artists they supported.

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