Friday, April 23, 2010

You're Never Too Old for a "Mid-August Lunch"

Looking for a nice little old lady comedy?
It’s been a long time since “The Golden Girls” proved older actresses could be popular with audiences in the USA.
Italian writer-director Gianni Di Gregorio is one guy who appreciates older women without condescension or pandering.
Di Gregorio wrote and he stars in an utterly charming little comedy, “Mid-August Lunch.”
Gianni (Di Gregorio) is an older middle-aged man who lives with his elderly mother (Valeria De Franciscus) in the family’s ancient flat in Rome.
Gianni is evidently unemployed, although taking care of his mother amounts to a full-time occupation.
Gianni’s forte is cooking. He is a familiar figure at the local market, where he buys fresh ingredients and copious amounts of wine.
His tidy little life is put to the test when he agrees to look after his building manager’s mother (Marina Cacciotti) during the “Pranzo di Ferragosto” (Italy’s biggest summer holiday).
Gianni is in no position to turn down the assignment, but the ante is upped when the manager (Alfonso Santagata) show up with his aunt (Maria Cali), who also needs a place to stay.
If that weren’t enough, after a visit to his doctor, Gianni reluctantly agrees to look after his mother (Grazia Cesarini Storza) as well.
Put four women of any age who haven’t met together and the potential for conflict is high. When they are elderly there are further complications of diet, medicine and ingrained habits.
This is a light comedy though; not Edward Albee.
Gianni cooks, smokes, and drinks and drinks to cope with all the little skirmishes. At one point he brings in another layabout named Viking (Luigi Marchetti) to join the impromptu festivities.
This is a film ideally suited for Florida’s older audiences, and it is a preview of things to come for anyone under 50. The body ages. There are medical, physical and sometimes mental challenges, but the human spirit goes on, regardless of age.

Three stars

"Distracted" by ADHD at Caldwell Thteatre

Caldwell Theatre Company continues its exploration of contemporary issues with a dramatic comedy, “Distracted,” running through May 16 at 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton.
Playwright Lisa Loomer has taken a challenge faced by many in modern life and crafted it into a comedy that provokes and educates.
That challenge is ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), a common disorder that seems to have reached epidemic status.
ADHD (also called ADD) is most often diagnosed in young boys, though it can occur in girls and adult men and women.
Lisa Loomer is the mother of a son who was around the same age as the boy in her play when it was written. She did extensive research on ADHD and designed a play that is both entertaining and educational- oh yes, and quite funny.
Nine-year-old Jesse Cara (Brian Inerfield) isn’t the only “Distracted” person in this play.
Dad (Stephen G. Anthony) is always doing several things at once: talking, texting, or playing a laptop video game, all while watching television.
This is very frustrating for Mama (Laura Turnbull), who has to deal with Jesse’s outbursts, disrespectful attitude, foul mouth and inability to focus on tasks as simply getting dressed for school.
Reading between the lines we can guess that if Dad had been born today, he would have been diagnosed with ADHD. Because he was an ants-in-the-pants, hyperactive boy, Dad feels it is all perfectly normal.
In desperation, Mama visits a series of “experts” who not surprisingly, offer conflicting advice.
Doctors are a rich source of humor, as the doctor’s office experience is universal.
Director Clive Cholerton has cast some of South Florida’s best actors to play these characters.
It warms the heart to see Kim Cozort back on the Caldwell stage after she and her husband Ken Kay were in “exile” (but a very good kind), in Blowing Rock, NC for nine years.
Cozort plays three characters: imperious Dr. Waller, Jessie’s frazzled teacher Mrs. Holly and New Yawk neighbor Sherry, and she gives a distinct comic spin top each one.
Likewise Lela Elam is the officious Dr. Zavalla as well as a neighbor, Carolyn and a nurse.
Playwright/actor Michael McKeever takes the comic cake as three increasingly eccentric doctors and a fourth wall-breaking actor with ADD.
Versatile Kim Ostrenko is a neighbor friend Vera as well as yeoman duty as a waitress and a UPS delivery person.
Finally there is Jesse’s teenage babysitter Natalie (Nikki Bromberg), a girl with some pretty serious disorders of her own.
Lots of serious issues are raised between the yucks: holistic therapy vs. prescription drugs, psychological counseling, the role of information overload and media bombardment and the sheer frenzy of modern life.
There are no easy answers. I came away with the thought we should not be too quick to medicate just to shout a kid up and make him or her docile. Parents should exercise tolerance and patience and above all, pay more attention to their kids.
You may come away with a different conclusion, and Caldwell Theatre is making it easier by providing a series of talk-backs with the director, cast and experts, and a Lunch and Learn April 29.
Tickets are $34-$55 (students $10). Call 561-241-7432 or 877-245-7432 or visit

Friday, April 9, 2010

City Island, Dragon Tattoo,, The Runaways

I've had a rather busy movie week, so I've kept the reviews short and (mostly) sweet, starting with a slight comedy I liked more than most.

City Island

“City Island” was the opening night films a few weeks ago at Miami International Film Festival.
Now the new comedy, starring favorite son Andy Garcia, opens in area theaters.
“City Island” is the name of a fishing village within the Borough of The Bronx, New York. You can see it on your left from the expressway on the way to Throggs Neck Bridge. I always wondered what that little neighborhood was like. Thanks to this film, now I know.
Andy Garcia is Vince Rizzo, a prison guard (he prefers to be called “correctional officer”) with a “worst secret vice.” He wants to be an actor.
Obviously Garcia was attracted to this character, created by writer-director Raymond De Felitte, because it is an actor’s showcase. There is a double edge to this sword. Since it is such an “actorish” role, Vince Rizzo does not seem like a real guy.
The good news is this is a very funny film. De Felitte has recruited a crack supporting cast for Garcia, headed by Julianne Marguiles as his suspicious, harping wife Joyce.
Joyce wonders what really goes on at the poker games Vince seems so devoted to.
Of course Joyce suspects an affair, and it doesn’t help that Vince’s acting partner is Molly, a comely lass played by Emily Mortimer.
Vince isn’t the only Rizzo family member with secrets. Daughter Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) has lost her scholarship and is working a stripper part-time to pay for college.
Son Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller) has a thing for fat women and watching them eat.
If the house weren’t volatile enough, Vince brings home an ex-con, Tony Nardella (Steven Strait) who has a whopper of a secret himself.
“City Island” is best appreciated by people who have endured the trials and tribulations of being an actor and having to audition. For them, the scenes with Vince’s tough acting teacher (Alan Arkin) are alone worth the price of admission.
“Alan is a dear friend of mine, and he has a passion for acting,” revealed Garcia in a recent interview. “The hardest part for me was to keep from cracking up.”
Garcia not only stars; he is the film’s producer
“”It’s tough work,” admits the Miami resident. “It took me two and a half years to get this off the ground. The thing about being a producer is you want to see it happen. You have to really believe in what you are doing.”

Intriguing “Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” from Sweden

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is an intriguing and complicated little mystery from Sweden that won the Swedish equivalent of an Oscar and an audience award as Best Film at Palm Springs Film Festival.
The film is based on the first book of a trilogy called “Millennium” by Stieg Larsson.
Famed Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist plays Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading magazine journalist whose fearless reporting on an industrial fat cat has earned him a jail term.
Rising star Noomi Rapace plays Lisbeth Salander, a rebellious, outspoken 24-year-old who is a genius computer researcher.
His career in ruins, Blomkvist accepts the assignment of 82-year-old industrialist Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), who challenges the reporter to solve the mystery of the disappearance and presumed murder of 16-year-old Harriet Vanger in 1966.
It won’t be giving away any state secrets to reveal the middle-aged reporter and the young punk researcher join forces to discover a deep, dark, terrible and life-threatening secret.
Be forewarned there is some really rough stuff in this thriller, but the suspense is high and the action fast-paced, even though the film is more than two hours long.

Not Much Sense in “After.Life”

I went to “After.Life” hoping to see a serious examination of the near-death experience.
I went home disappointed.
“After.Life” stars Christina Ricci as Anna, a young schoolteacher caught in limbo between life and death, Liam Neeson as the undertaker who knows of her predicament but seems unwilling to help her, and Justin Long as Paul, her boyfriend who cries crocodile tears but is otherwise ineffective.
“Seems” is the operative word here, because we never know what’s going on with creepy Eliot Deacon (Neeson), who runs a one-man funeral home in a gloomy gray Gothic mansion. Is he a sensitive soul with a special empathy for the dying and dead, or is he simply a lunatic?
This first effort by writer director Agieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo is an ineffective hodgepodge of horror film clichés and gory jolts. The mostly naked Ricci catches your attention, but the mind wanders after the first half hour or so and at 90 minutes the film seems long and pointless.

“The Runaways” a Lurid, Entertaining Cautionary Tale

On a more positive note, “The Runaways” is an entertaining look at America’s first all-girl punk band, The Runaways.
The girl-on-girl kiss between Kristin Stewart and Dakota Fanning has overshadowed what is a rather good biopic by director Floria Sigismondi, who co-wrote the screenplay with Cherie Currie, based on her tell-all book, “Neon Angel.”
Cherie Currie was the lead singer of The Runaways, hand-picked by manager Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), simply because of her look. Just 15-year-years-old, Cherie (Dakota Fanning) reminded Fowley of a jailbait Brigit Bardot.
Shannon is the star player and over-the-top villain who insists to the five girls that are The Runaways that sex sells, and if they want to be successful they have to flaunt it.
The creative mastermind of The Runaways was guitarist, singer and songwriter Joan Jett, played by “Twilight’s” teen star, Kristen Stewart.
Joan Jett was to Cherie Currie what Mick Jagger was to Keith Richards: the former more focused and career-minded, and the latter more libertine, thrill-seeking and out-of-control.
If anything “The Runways” is a cautionary tale about the dangers of alcohol and drugs- especially for the young and naïve.
Cherie Currie burned out and fell into the abyss of addictions. This is the story of her return to real life. It is remarkably well done by two fearless young actresses and an older actor who relishes playing the exploitive, mercenary cad, entertaining us in the process.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Paul McCartney in Miami

Paul McCartney is a phenomenon.

On Saturday, April 3 at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium, he held 60,000 people in the palm of his hand.
I’m still floating on Monday, April 5. It was a concert I will remember the rest of my life, witnessed from Row 1, seat 7, close enough to see every expression on every one of the musicians; close enough to feel the heat when the fireworks go off in “Live and Let Die.”
McCartney still has the same boyish charm at age 67 as he did when he was “the cute Beatle” back in the 1960s. Better yet, he has the energy and enthusiasm of a man half his age or younger.
McCartney is one musical legend who embraces his celebrity and his fans.
The fans pay back in kind with a good-vibe love-fest that begins before the first chord is ever struck.
In Miami that was “Venus and Mars” from the Wings collection, followed by “Jet” and “Band on the Run.”
McCartney doles out some 20 Beatles favorites joyfully, segueing into “All My Loving,” sung beautifully by a backup band that is as good as any live stage band I have ever heard.
For the record they are longtime keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens (who plays one mean guitar on “Helter Skelter” too) and beatific drummer Abe Laboriel, whom I recognize from Paul’s last appearance at BankAtlantic Center.
Looking like a smiling Buddha, Laboriel is so into the music he seems to be in upper levels of ecstasy. Oh, and he has an angelic high tenor voice too.
Both guitarists; brunette Rusty Anderson and blond Brian Ray, sing exquisite harmonies while dashing off immediately recognizable riffs it takes normal mortals years to master- if ever.
The show is a gearhead’s delight, as all players trade off instruments on just about every song. This show was much more rock ‘n roll and guitar-heavy than previous ones I’ve seen. In addition to McCartney’s old reliable Hofner bass, he played a cavalcade of left-handed guitars, from the same Epiphone Casino he played with the Beatles to a paisley-colored Gibson Les Paul.
McCartney plays piano too, of course, playing tribute to his beloved late wife Linda with “My Love,” dedicated to the lovers in the audience.
One of the most touching segments was a tribute to his fallen comrade John Lennon, with McCartney’s haunting ballad (If You Were) “Here Today.”
Later in the show McCartney took to the stage solo with a ukulele given to him by the late George Harrison, and played “Something” as his band mates picked up their instruments and joined in a rising chorus.
McCartney is generous in his anecdotal details about The Beatles, Wings and his solo career- as if he was everyone’s favorite buddy.
How can you not love this man, and not admire his musical contributions to the world? McCartney performed almost 40 songs in nearly three hours, scarcely breaking a sweat. He may yet to prove to be the oldest rock and rolling prophet the world has ever seen.

Long live Paul McCartney!