Movies

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Ladysmith Black Mambazo: On Tip Toe

As much a fascinating history of the joyfully syncopated isicathamiya (“on tip toe”) music born in the townships of South African apartheid as the captivating story of founder Joseph Sabalala, this beautifully moving tribute to Ladysmith Black Mambazo,  directed by Eric Simonson, inspires and uplifts. This Academy Award nominated film tells the story of how (and why) this extraordinary hybrid of Zulu harmonies and Western influences became a World Music supergroup. Over 50 years and 5 Grammy Awards later LBM still mesmerizes.

In a World (2013)

If you’re like me, you’ve never thought much about the people behind movie voice-overs. This quirky comedy lifts the veil on the voice-over industry and introduces you to vocal coach Carol and her egotistical, bullying voice-over star father, Sam. A strong ensemble cast includes a nerdy but charming sound engineer with a crush on Carol, Sam’s very young girlfriend, plus Carol’s intense sister and her husband. A funny and charming story about a woman trying to break into a male-dominated business and finding love along the way.

Orphan Black (2013)

Amazing acting anchors this new sci-fi series from BBC America (shot in Toronto). Tatiana Maslany plays multiple clones in this thriller that opens with Sarah, a gritty young outsider witnessing the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like her - except more affluent. Sarah assumes the identity of this unknown woman - who ends up being a police officer. Soon bullets are flying and mysteries are multiplying.

Enough Said (2013)

I totally watched this movie for the stars - but it wasn't a guilty pleasure! Released shortly after James Gandolfini's untimely death, its the story of his character falling in love with a massage therapist played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The relationship is complicated by Julia's character's developing relationship with a poet, played by Catherine Keener - a character who turns out to be James' character's ex-wife. Toni Collette plays a friend of Julia's. I have enjoyed so many productions with each of these actors, it was a real treat to watch them all together. A recommended date movie.

Parade’s End (2013)

It’s 1914 and the world is about to change forever in this five-part adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s classic series of novels set in England before, during and after World War I. Christopher Tietjens is a traditional Englishman living by the old moral codes and conventions. His wife, Sylvia, strains against the limits placed on women and wives and challenges her husband—and “society”—at every turn. As Christopher tries to manage his marriage and resist changes to the status quo, he becomes drawn to Valentine Wannop, a young and feisty suffragette.

Borgen (2010-2011)

Birgitte Nyborg is the idealistic new (and first female) prime minister of Denmark in this absorbing political series drama. The intricacies of parliamentary politics are surprisingly riveting by themselves, in addition to the melodramatic back stories and personal lives of Nyborg and the other major characters, including her too-good-to-be-true husband, Philip (but is he really?), her media advisor/spin doctor Kaspar Juul (with a mysterious and ominous childhood), and the rising TV anchor star Katrine Fonsmark (Kaspar’s on- and off-again girlfriend).

Mad Men (2007-)

If you like TV antiheroes like Tony Soprano, it's time to start watching Mad Men, featuring Don Draper, a Madison Avenue ad man who is a poster child for poor judgement. This period drama takes place during the 1960s and watching it is like time traveling to a past that feels very nearby. Historical events are incorporated into the episodes, including the 1960 presidential election, the death of Marilyn Monroe, the assassination of JFK, and the mass rape and murder of eight nurses by Richard Speck in Chicago in 1966.

The Well-Digger's Daughter (2011)

On the eve of World War I, widowed well digger Pascal struggles to raise his six daughters but the oldest one, 18-year-old Patricia, goes astray, falling for a dashing airman who loves her and leaves her in the usual way. This French-language movie, based on the book by Marcel Pagnol, is heartwarming in the best sense of the word: beautiful shots of the lush Provencal countryside, the innocently luminous Patricia, the amusingly gruff but loving Pasal, and assorted charming minor characters.

Rango (2011)

A family's pet chameleon suddenly finds himself thrown out of his safe aquarium and left to fend for himself in the Western desert. He goes from living in his own private fantasy world (as a movie star and director) to playing a starring role as a swashbuckling hero who rescues the drought-ridden town of Dirt from evil bandits.

Death at a Funeral (2008)

If you need some laughs, you'll definitely find them in this dark comedy about a funeral held at an English country manor. Family members and friends gather and the proceedings get more and more out of control as hallucinogenic drugs, family secrets, sibling rivalry, and a blackmailing dwarf cross paths. It's not a spoiler to reveal that there definitely is a death by the end of this funeral, but it isn't the guy in the casket. It could even be you, dying of laughter.

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