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No News. How about some DVDs?

December 10, 2006

Okay, news is still slow--should pick up in a week or so, and take off in January.

How does that saying go? Web site content abhors a vacuum?

Since it seems that everybody else puts DVD reviews on their web sites, I scoured my movie database for a few obscure but worthwhile flicks that might otherwise go unnoticed (or forgotten). (These aren't really reviews.)

Since this is a holiday season, I picked out a few small, low-stress, feel-good movies that can bring a smile to your face.

They've got great performances, likable characters and happy endings.

If not your cup of tea, then I've got some completely different picks waiting in the wings.

The Dish (2000)

Directed by Rob Sitch

This is an Australian light drama/comedy starring Sam Neill, based on, as they say, a true story.

It's 1969, and Apollo 11 is on its way to the moon. Neill Armstrong is set to make his giant leap for mankind, and the only parabolic antenna (dish) located on the side of the earth facing the moon and big enough to receive the television signal is located outside a small town in the Australian outback.

The three laid-back Aussies who crew the dish are suddenly thrust in the world spotlight, with a by-the-book NASA rep looking over their shoulders.

The Dish

The small town throws a party; the Australian Prime Minister shows up, and they wait for the historic event to unfold.

Meanwhile, the crew struggles to deal with a chain of embarrassing snafus that threatens the live transmission, all the while trying to keep their problems secret from the world.

The thing that makes this movie such a treat is all the delightful little character stories that are effortless parts of the whole. Lots of grins.

Moon Over Parador (1988)

Directed by Paul Mazursky

This is definitely a comedy, and one that leaves a warm, fuzzy feeling. Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, Raul Julia, Sonia Braga, Ed Asner, Charo, Sammy Davis Jr., Jonathan Winters.

As it says on the back of the case:

"Richard Dreyfuss plays actor Jack Noah, who gets the role of his life when Parador's fascist strongman consumes too much national drink and drops dead the day before elections. The chief of police (Raul Julia) then 'invites' Noah to assume the role of president -- under threat of death.

Moon Over Parador

"Noah's confidence grows with each speech and with personal support from the dead leader's sultry mistress (Sonia Braga), a champion of Parador's downtrodden masses. But when guerilla fighters strike, Noah wonders if it might not be time to move to a new role."

This one ain't heavy; it just works!

Dave (1993)

Directed by Ivan Reitman

I'm mentioning this movie because it shares the same premise as Moon Over Parador. You're more likely to remember Dave.

In Dave, Kevin Kline is drafted to stand-in for the philandering U.S. president after he has a stroke. Dave (Kline) is manipulated by a corrupt chief of staff, and subsequently supported in good deeds by first-lady Sigourney Weaver, all before returning to his old life (with one very nice addition).

Another good one for the holidays. Compare and contrast politicians to nice people.


Contact (1997)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Okay, so Contact is not such a small obscure movie. Not with this lineup: Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, James Woods, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Angela Bassett.

Might have slipped your mind, though, and good for a second watch. Leaves you with a little optimism, unlike, say, Gallipoli.

Anyway, Scientist Ellie Arroway (Foster) conflicts with man of religion Palmer Joss (McConaughey) after Earth makes contact with extra-terrestrial life.

No little green men, or gray ones. Not that kind of contact.

This is also a spiritual journey for Ellie and Palmer, one that defines their affections for each other.

Keeps your attention, or mine anyway.