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When you're in a hurry the unexpected can happen.
15 July 2005
Rushing off to meet his girlfriend (Lena Heady) young professional (Martin Freeman) is desperate for transportation - in a city the size of London, at rush hour, it is not so easy. He can't get a cab, runs towards the station realizing time is running out. But he spots a cyclist (Jodhi May) and persuades her to give him a lift on her bike rack.

The thing is it is more than just a quick ride, as he is to find out. Despite the lack of dialogue the actors transcend sound with their looks, emotions and body language - A very cute short film with a longer and louder message.
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Woman on Top (2000)
The spiciest cook in San Francisco wins stomachs and hearts alike
15 June 2005
There is something inherently humorous about watching an extremely photogenic star like Penelope Cruz get caught up in funny little theatrical moments - like driving a taxi down Lombard Street, flipping her larger co-star on his back and hanging out with a tall, athletically built transvestite.

While the scenes of her cooking class will melt hearts and endear her to American audiences, the comedic moments she embodies so well are the real class of this picture. I'm just wondering if some TV station hasn't tried this formula somewhere? I really enjoyed this picture right up to the point where the requisite dark blue TV suits get in the way of more fun and originality. The rest of the movie kind of tiptoed away a little too carefully.

Anyway, hats off to Ms. Cruz in an endearing and auspicious first 'American' film role and to Harold Perriman Jr. who has extended the size range and taste of women's wear. I would like to have seen more of their shenanigans and 'girltalk'.

I would definitely recommend this film for a multi-couple date night. Think of the delightfully varied and opinionated conversation over expensive cappuccinos afterward.
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Spanglish (2004)
When the sum of the parts outshine the whole Enchilada
7 June 2005
James L. Brooks's newest addition to his Oscar triumvirate of 'Terms of Endearment', 'Broadcast News' and 'As Good As It Gets' is 'Spanglish', a romantic comedy targeted for a broader and more open - minded audience.

Written with the emblematic twists of character, human frailties exposure and wit we have come to love, 'Spanglish' six main characters outshine - as individual performances the movie as a whole. But, they carry this film a considerable distance. They draw the viewer behind the facade and remote gated driveway of the attractive, contemporary and comfortable looking Bel Aire home where one sees not only an American dream fulfilled but a dream family that is living on a low calorie emotional diet.

Adam Sandler, making a very tidy and interesting escape from his angry comedy persona is John Clasky, Master Chef and gentle, loving dad. His lovely but neurotic, narcissistic and driven wife, Deborah, is played with terrific physical and emotional commitment by Tea Leoni. She actually challenges us to not really like her at all - yet somehow manages to leave one with the impression that she bears no malice; it is just difficult to drive her much like all-the-bells-and-whistles Cadillac Esplanade she commands in the picture. Mild-mannered and sweetheart daughter Bernice, played convincingly by Philly native Sarah Steele defines what the term "good kid" really means. Also, as Deborah's mother Evelyn, the clever comedy veteran Cloris Leachman gets her share of deftly written laughs and more than everyone's share of liquor.

Into this dreamy, seductive and fault-zone adjacent home with big pool marches the dazzling and solid immigrant mom turned nanny/housekeeper, Flor, played with remarkable emotive and expressive agility by the popular and talented Spanish actress, Paz Vega. Vega's Flor, guarded and hesitant, sustains her existence all for her daughter, Cristina, (Shelbie Bruce) who is equally dazzling and intelligent. When Flor is expected to join the Claskys in their incredible Malibu summer rental she reluctantly thrusts her once sheltered and carefully raised daughter into this wild California surf and turf.

Showcasing the standout Vega, who learned English as the film was being shot, her lovely and charming Flor must learn English too. She communicates to the audience despite the lack of English subtitles to translate her Spanish; A clever and wise Brooks feature. Staying up late to finish language tapes she is seen in a new light: A stronger and more verbally adept employee that questions Deborah's motivations and a caring compatriot that soft dad Sandler can understand and bond with even if he is somewhat vague in managing his own family issues.

Here is where this picture really takes off and then takes off again. Flor's determination to maintain her Mexican cultural continuity and raise Cristina with proper values is sorely confronted by Deborah's desire to covet and showcase the type of child she apparently wishes Bernice was. It is the departures from reality as we know it that may test some to really embrace this picture.

But yet, socially challenged as it may be, Spanglish really pushes us to look beyond conventional wisdoms and ask the right questions: What is really important in the American Dream Home: Facades or family? And ultimately, that is what should matter in this picture as it pierced my heart and would not let go.
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