Return to Me (2000)
Pious, folksy Irish and Italian Catholic culture is used to refreshingly appealing effect in Return to Me, a sweetly wholesome romantic comedy about love and second chances. Minnie Driver plays Grace, a woman dying of heart failure until she receives a life-saving transplant. Later, she becomes involved with an architect (David Duchovny) who lost his wife in a car crash. What neither knows is that the heart beating in Grace's chest previously belonged to Bob's deceased wife. The fairy-tale implication is their hearts were united literally before they met — that Grace's heart belongs to Bob twice over, and he to it. Driver and Duchovny bring considerable charm and chemistry, and the sentimental logic works.
Carroll O‘Connor and Robert Loggia lead a delightful supporting cast as the owner and chef of O‘Reilly's Italian Restaurant, a picturesque establishment where old men sit around playing cards and arguing the relative merits of Italian and Irish culture. Director Bonnie Hunt and James Belushi round out the cast, providing a hilarious but affectionate glimpse of family life full of foibles and charms.
An unabashedly nostalgic celebration of the Western, Silverado was written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote the screenplays for Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back. Kasdan has called Silverado his “Western Raiders,” and it has the same tongue-in-cheek excitement, taut, complex storytelling and wistfully nostalgic innocence. It doesn't have Raiders’ spiritual dimension, but it has a good-vs.-evil storyline, with four heroic gunslingers (Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner and Danny Glover) standing up to a corrupt sheriff and an evil clan of ranchers. It's a whirlwind tour of virtually everything you can do in a Western: shootouts, ambushes, jail breaks, posse pursuits, wagon convoys, saloon gunfights, outlaw hideouts, wounded heroes, bucket-line firefighting, a cattle stampede. One significant omission: It includes cowboys but not Indians, since it's hard today to make a feel-good Western about Indians.
The story is sprawling but sturdy, the dialogue razor-sharp, the action rousing and cleverly choreographed. Other neo-Westerns have deconstructed the genre, but Silverado revels in strong heroes who stand up to bullies, pioneer spirit, family ties and loyalty among friends. It also depicts some morally problematic elements of the milieu, though with restraint and discretion.
The Kid Brother (1927)
Harold Lloyd has been called the “third genius” of silent film comedy, along with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. The Kid Brother is an ideal introduction to this forgotten master. By turns hilarious, touching and thrilling, it's rousing, crowd-pleasing entertainment. Unlike Chaplin and Keaton, with their exaggerated, eccentric screen personas, Harold Lloyd had a sweet, boy-next-door quality, as winsome and approachable as Jimmy Stewart or Tom Hanks. In his trademark spectacles, Lloyd played a mild-mannered underdog hero, too bashful to approach the pretty girl and too slight to take on the brawny bullies, who eventually discovers hidden strength in himself.
The Kid Brother balances humor, sentiment and action in a well-crafted story about the youngest son in a family of burly frontier heroes who must save his family's honor after the theft of public funds in his father's keeping. Standout sequences include an extended game of cat-and-mouse with Harold's bullying older brothers and a rip-roaring showdown aboard a listing steamboat. Great fun.