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When your main cast is Christopher Walked, Morgan Freeman, William H Macy and Marcia Gay Harden, you have to ask – why have more people not heard of this film? It’s certainly very entertaining throughout and gave us plenty of laughs. Walken, Freeman and Macy are three security guards at a Boston art museum, who are devastated when they learn that their favourite pieces of art are to be transferred to an art gallery in Denmark, and they hatch a plan to steal the pieces for themselves…

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Year of release: 2009

Director: Peter Hewitt

Writer: Michael LeSieur

Main cast: Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, William H Macy, Marcia Gay Harden

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Genre: Comedy, crime caper

Highlights: Everything! Lots of comedy, and a superb cast

Lowlights: None

Overall: Give this a watch – I can’t imagine you will be disappointed

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Set in 1953/54, this film stars Julia Roberts as Katherine Watson, a graduate student from California, who takes a position teaching Art History at Wellesley College, Massachusetts.  The females under her tutorage are surprised by her subversive attitude (by their standards), and her progressive beliefs, as they all think that they are destined to be wives, mothers and nothing more.  The faculty are unhappy about her teaching methods, with the exception of Italian tutor Bill Dunbar (Dominic West), a charismatic but irresponsible man who has a reputation for sleeping with his students, especially Giselle (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is clearly still stuck on him.  The main characters apart from Katherine and Bill are four students, namely Giselle; Joan (Julia Stiles), an intelligent young woman with a yearning to study Law, but who believes that a woman cannot have a career and marriage; Betty (Kirsten Dunst), a particularly spiteful young lady, who is a product of her overbearing mother; and Connie (Ginnifer Goodwin), a sweet-natured girl, who despairs of ever finding a man who loves her.

This film caught my eye purely because Dominic West is in it; as one of my favourite actors, he never disappoints, and as expected, was great here – as indeed was the whole cast.  All four of the main student characters were perfectly played, and I particularly liked Goodwin’s Connie.  Dunst was also outstanding as Betty, even if I could not stand her character for most of the film (nonetheless, her actions are understandable, if not excusable).  I’ve seen some reviews which suggested that Julia Roberts was not well-cast as Katherine Watson, but I beg to differ.  I enjoyed her in this more rounded and human role than some that she played earlier in her career, and enjoyed her chemistry with Dominic West.  Marcia Gay Harden and Juliet Stevenson were wonderful in supporting roles, as Katherine’s housemates, respectively another tutor, and the school nurse (who is fired for providing the students with contraception).

The film was inspiring too – there were some funny moments, and a surprising amount of tear-inducing scenes (I had to watch the last few scenes through my tears).  It was thought-provoking and emotionally satisfying, and I thoroughly enjoyed it from the first scene to the last.  Very highly recommended.

Year of release: 2003

Director: Mike Newell

Producers: Joe Roth, Richard Baratta, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Paul Schiff, Deborah Schindler

Writers: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal

Main cast: Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ginnifer Goodwin, Dominic West, Juliet Stevenson, Marcia Gay Harden

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This review relates to the mini-series made in 1992, chronicling the life of Frank Sinatra. The Executive Producer of the series was none other than Tina Sinatra, Frank’s youngest child. The story starts when Frank is 10, and is singing in bars to entertain the customers, and it finishes in 1974.

Frank is played by Philip Casnoff, a Broadway and tv/film actor. It must have been formidable to take on such a role (Casnoff met Sinatra on set), but Casnoff did a fine job. He looked enough like Ol’ Blue Eyes, to be believable, and rather than trying to do a straightforward imitation, it seemed more as though he was trying to capture the essence of Sinatra. He was excellent in the role, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.

Other stand-out cast members were Gina Gershon as Frank’s long-suffering first wife Nancy (Tina’s mother), and Olympia Dukakis as Dolly, Frank’s formidable mother. Marcia Gay Harden also does a great job as Frank’s second wife, Ava Gardner.

Considering that Tina Sinatra was at the helm, this series is a surprisingly warts-and-all look at Sinatra’s life. It captures the pain suffered by Nancy at her husband’s distance and specifically his penchant for other women, and also portrayed the tempestuous relationship between Frank and Ava.

However, I would say that this is best enjoyed if you already have some knowledge of Sinatra’s life. This is because while the series lays out the early days of his career, and how he built his way to the top, the later years are covered much quicker (his marriage to Mia Farrow is shown from first meeting to divorce in a total of about 10 minutes). There is also little shown of his friendship with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr, although the series does show the breakdown of the friendship between Frank and Peter Lawford, after John F Kennedy – for whom Frank had campaigned vigorously – rejected an offer to stay at Frank’s house, for which Peter, who was married to JFK’s sister, got the blame.

Needless to say, the music is excellent, and the atmosphere and excitement that this exciting new singer caused, is well shown.

Overall, I would strongly recommend this series to any fans of Sinatra, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.

Year of release: 1992

Director: James Steven Sadwith

Producers: Tina Sinatra, Stanley Neufeld, Richard M. Rosenbloom

Writers: William Mastrosimone, Abby Mann

Main cast: Philip Casnoff, Gina Gershon, Marcia Gay Harden, Olympia Dukakis, Bob Gunton

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