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Mark your calendars! "Rebecca Redshaw's SOFA CINEMA: An Easy Guide to DVDs Volume 1" will be published this fall. Read all her DVD reviews compiled in one book.
"Summer of '42," unrated
If you've ever wondered about the importance of the musical score in a film, watch the opening credits of "Summer of '42" with the volume turned off. Then start the movie again and close your eyes and listen to the same few minutes. Michel Legrand's score is magical, triggering emotional nostalgia from the first note.
Released in 1971, "Summer of '42" is a fictional portrayal of screenwriter Herman Raucher's summer vacation encounter. Directed by Robert Mulligan ("To Kill a Mockingbird") with a relatively unknown cast, the events surrounding Hermie (Gary Grimes) and Dorothy (Jennifer O'Neill) may leave you wondering if it were possible their world was truly that sheltered.
Hermie is 15 and, along with his two buddies on the island, has little to occupy his time but go to the beach and wonder what it would be like to "be" with a girl. When Hermie sees Dorothy's husband ship out for military duty, he pursues his innocent infatuation by carrying her groceries home and doing chores at her beach house.
Now, it may be hard to imagine, living in the information-laden 21st century, that this particular level of naïveté ever existed, but it was a different era. The war affected everyone and letters, not the Internet, brought news to one's front door.
"Summer of '42" offers a glimpse into a time gone by, a leisurely stroll on the beach, a stunning Jennifer O'Neill and the haunting score of Michel Legrand.
"Radio Days," rated PG
Imagine renting a DVD and watching the movie with your eyes closed. The "Radio Days" sound track is not only a nostalgic stroll down memory lane, it's an education on listening that is in danger of being forgotten. What fun it must have been to lie awake in the dark imagining "The Shadow" lurking about or "The Lone Ranger" riding Silver to the rescue.
Woody Allen's young alter ego Joe (played by Seth Green), is enamored with the Masked Avenger's adventures on the radio. Joe's multigenerational home is filled with fun characters: Mom (Julie Kavner), Dad (Michael Tucker) and Aunt Bea (Dianne Wiest), who all struggle with life's day-to-day problems while the world is focused on surviving World War II.
"Radio Days" is not your typical formulaic film. There's no conflict to be resolved (other than the peripheral World War II), no romantic entanglements (other than Joe's Aunt Bea's pursuit of the perfect man) and no psychological angst for young Joe (except possibly the aftereffects of numerous head slaps from a loving father).
Woody Allen serves as narrator and says, "Every time I hear a song from the radio, I get instant memory flashes." If you're of the generation that recalls the tunes on the sound track first hand or of the current generation that is accustomed to constant visual bombardment, "Radio Days" is a great way to travel back in time.
"The Horse Whisperer," rated PG-13
Are gas prices limiting your vacation plans? In addition to Robert Redford, "The Horse Whisperer" offers the wide open spaces and glorious vistas of Montana for an inexpensive getaway.
Teenager Grace MacLean (Scarlett Johansson) is involved in a terrible accident while on an early morning ride with her best friend. Her horse Pilgrim is near death from injuries and Grace is depressed about what her future holds. Her mom, Annie (Kristin Scott Thomas), is a high-powered editor who is accustomed to solving problems in a New York minute.
After extensive research, Annie feels the only solution is to hire Tom Booker (Redford) to "heal" the horse and her daughter. Annie's dilemma? Tom has no interest in leaving his ranch and western lifestyle.
The Booker extended family includes Tom's brother (Chris Cooper) and sister-in-law (Dianne Wiest), who have more than a passing interest in the relationship developing between Tom and Annie.
Directed by Redford and based on Nick Evans' 1998 novel, the pace of this movie may frustrate anyone wanting quick cuts and music video effects. But the point of "The Horse
Whisperer" is that some things take time, so, settle in pardner. Not every problem is solved by a pill or a shot and watching Tom work his quiet magic on those around him is worth putting your feet up for a few hours.
Rebecca Redshaw can be reached