Rosemary Mason

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Front Row at the Movies

Front Row at the Movies 5
By Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Cooke Communications

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More than 175 reviews of the most notable films of 2011. Plot synopses, backgrounds, interviews, quotes, and insightful appraisals by the film critic for the Cooke Communications newspaper chain. "One of my favorite entertainment writers . . ." says book reviewer Rosemary Mason.

Front Row at the Movies 5
By Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Cooke Communications

Reviewed by Rosemary Mason

My friends call me a cinephile. That’s because I love movies. I also love talking about them with my buds. And I love reading about them, especially reviews that help me gain a greater understanding about a film.
That’s why I enjoyed Front Row at the Movies, a collection of reviews that examine all the notable films of last year, 2011. There are other volumes in the series, this being number 5.
Shirrel Rhoades is one of my favorite entertainment writers. I always read his weekly movie reviews. They are syndicated throughout the Cooke Communication newspaper chain. He has been a film critic for nearly half a century, writing for such newspapers and magazines as the Florida Times-Union, Key West Citizen, and Good Old Days. He also appears regularly on radio and TV sharing his observations about the latest movies with a wide audience.
But he tells me that his most enjoyable moments are spent in dark theaters, lost in another world, a parallel universe, that flickers up there on a big silver screen.
He shares these magical interludes and his insights about movies in his reviews.
 While watching “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” he tells us, “Johnny Depp is in rare form, his Captain Jack Sparrow full of vim and vigor. But Rush's Captain Barbossa gets many of the best lines. Nonetheless, we're back to the tongue-in-cheek, half-con-man half-fierce-pirate that Depp does so well.”
He takes you inside the FBI for candid comments about Leonardo DiCaprio's portrayal of “J. Edgar.” He talked with Marilyn Monroe’s half-sister for “My Week With Marilyn.” And for “Casino Jack,” he spoke with Kevin Spacey’s partner about how Trigger Street Productions got its name.
He calls “Young Adult” a case of arrested development. He explains why “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is all of those things. And why “Like Crazy” is, well, like crazy.
He takes you there when “Harry Potter” delivers a final wave of his magic wand. He introduces you to “HaChov,” the forgotten Israeli film that’s the basis for “The Debt.” And he reports how fanboys are calling “Columbiana” nothing short of “Kill Bill Vol. 3.”
He describes Martin Scorsese's “Hugo” as a young boy learning about films. Think: “Cinema Paradiso,” he says. And for the sci-fi opus “Priest,” he says, Think: John Wayne in “The Searchers.” But not as good.
He tells us all about Philip K. Dick, the late sci-fi writer responsible for “The Adjustment Bureau,” “Total Recall,” “Minority Report,” and “Blade Runner” – and how Dick questioned his own sense of reality. He drives past the house where Robert Alan Durst killed his wife in “All Good Things.” And he listens to the 1930s “Green Hornet” radio show, a tinny broadcast that spawned the TV show with Bruce Lee and later the movie with Seth Rogan.
He explains why his wife refuses to go see “Paranormal Activity 3.” As he says, “The first two films were so scary they gave her nightmares. Why repeat the experience when you know what to expect?”
In reviewing “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” he reveals his own brushes with the CIA and MI6. And while writing about “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” he tells about his visit to Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, where there’s a plaque that reads: “At this fearful place, Sherlock Holmes vanquished Professor Moriarity, on 4 May 1891.”
He tells us why “The Skin I Live In” is deliberately uncomfortable. How “Spy Kids 4” doesn’t pass the sniff test. And why “The Roommate” will make you want to live alone.
He blames “Source Code” on Einstein. He reveals the true author behind “I Am Number Four.” And he shares the algebraic success formula for Jason Timberlake’s sci-fi thriller “In Time.”
He details the financial woes that drove Nicolas Cage to make a movie like “Drive Angry.” He gets Cher to explain why she returned to the screen in “Burlesque” after a decade’s absence. And he points out how director Lars von Trier’s own clinical depression drove the theme in “Melancholia.”
He calls “Madea’s Big Happy Family” the greatest cross-dressing role since Flip Wilson put on a wig. In talking about “No Strings Attached,” he explains the Hays Office, Hollywood’s attempt at self-censorship that ruled from 1930 to 1968. And he reveals why Natalie Portman calls her friend Mila Kunis “Sweet Lips.”
He shows you how the remake of “Footloose” is only 2 degrees removed from Kevin Bacon. He chronicles the ways that Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson’s life paralleled “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” And he helps you decide whether “Hanna” is a fairy tale or a thriller.
His reviews introduce you to an international array of movie stars: “Overweight, rutabaga-nosed Gallic actor Gérard Depardieu.” “Adam Sandler, whose funny bone is still that of a high-school cutup.” “Bent-nosed Owen Wilson and rubber-faced Jason Sudeikis.” “Goofy Ed Helms … aloof Sigourney Weaver … overbearing Steven Root … stuffy Kirkwood Smith.” “Mel Colm-Cille Gerard Gibson … crazier than any of his characters.” “The new Thor is Chris Helmsworth … blonde and muscled and, well, god-like.” “James Franco … with his handsome James Dean looks.”
Rhoades writes in a friendly, colloquial manner, as if he were “sitting down with you over a cup of coffee after a movie.”
This handy collection groups films into genres, giving you storylines, comments from directors, quotes from stars, and valuable background to help you better understand and appreciate a favorite film.
Crammed with more than 175 movie reviews, this low-priced volume is an incredible bargain, about half-a-penny per review. And the entire book costs less than a Sunday newspaper.