The movies selected for review are the choice of the reviewer. Depending on your source for DVDs, they may or may not be available that particular week, so you may want to clip the SOFA CINEMA column for future reference. Suggestions for DVD titles are welcome. Enjoy the movies.
Tickets on Broadway for Elton's John's new musical "Billy Elliot" are going for hundreds of dollars. The "Billy Elliot" DVD can be rented for less than the cost of admission at the local cinema. Treat yourself for Christmas and rent "Billy Elliot."
Living in Northern England as mines are closing and times are tough, young Billy (Jamie Bell) secretly finds joy donning dance slippers rather than boxing gloves. The 12-year-old lives with his dotty grandmother, an angry, out-of-work older brother and a father who is struggling to keep the home fires burning - literally.
The local ballet teacher (marvelously portrayed by Julie Walters) sees potential in Billy and takes him on as a private student.
Directed by Stephen Daldry (who went on to direct "The Hours"), this movie helps to pry open doors of prejudice and stereotypes in the most entertaining of ways. "Billy Elliot" definitely dances in the streets and into our hearts.
Note: Even though this film is in English, subtitles would have been helpful for Americans not accustomed to Northern English dialects. That's why they invented "rewind" buttons.
Ray Liotta isn't known for playing "nice" guys and Whoopi Goldberg doesn't play maids anymore and yet "Corrina Corrina" is a treat because these two excellent actors step with ease into these roles.
Manny Singer (Liotta) writes advertising jingles for a living but his life becomes complicated when his wife dies and he needs to find help with his young daughter. Good help was hard to find even in the 1950s and, after a string of interviews, he settles on Jonsey (played wonderfully by Joan Cusack). When that doesn't work, Corrina (Goldberg) gets the job and establishes a unique relationship with young Molly, who is struggling with the loss of her mother.
"Corrina Corrina" is anything but sad given a terrific musical score and the charm Goldberg and young Tina Majorino, as Molly, bring to the screen.
It is set in the '50s and Corrina and Manny's interracial relationship is an issue, but one that is dealt with in a realistic way.
A box of tissues may come in handy, but there are lots of fun moments in "Corrina Corrina."
"We Are Together"
Music truly is the universal language. How else can one explain a small group of orphans from South Africa singing on a concert stage in New York City with Alicia Keys and Paul Simon and winning the hearts of everyone in the audience?
"We Are Together" documents their journey. Paul Taylor was a film student when he traveled to South Africa and learned of Agape, an orphanage. Over the next three years, he filmed the trials and tribulations of the children, focusing primarily on Slindile Moya and her siblings. Having lost their parents to AIDS, the younger children lived at Agape, visiting their older brother and sisters at their humble family home when possible.
Times were tough. They had little worldly goods, their dying brother was being cared for at home by his older sisters, yet there was always singing and the joy of music lifted their spirits.
Taylor succeeded in documenting the Agape choir's journey filming with sensitivity and charm, intimate, but not intrusive. And the director was blessed with Slindile, whose voice not only sings sweetly, but whose eyes convey understanding far beyond her years.
Billie Holiday's rendition of "God Bless the Child" kept stealing into my mind as I listened to the children sing throughout this inspiring film.
For more information about this choir, go to http://us.wearetogether.org/.
Rebecca Redshaw worked in the film industry in Los Angeles for 25 years. A novelist and playwright, she has published in numerous magazines and newspapers in addition to teaching fiction. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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