Recently by Michelle Prather

About The Young Idea DVD Review: A Revealing, Reminiscent Look Back at The Jam's Rise

This thoughtful history of the evolution of The Jam is heavy on band anecdotes, fan praise and a chipper Paul Weller enjoying the stroll down Stanley Road.
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The late John Weller, Paul Weller’s father and perhaps The Jam’s biggest fan, would ring in shows by shouting, “Put your hands together for the greatest band in the f@%king world!” And to legions of fans in the late ’70s and early ’80s, they absolutely were. The band not only echoed youth’s frustrations with politically poetic lyrics and riffs drawing from earlier periods of unrest, but they also taught their peers on the floor a thing or two about literature, autonomy—being someone intelligent enough to form and express an opinion boldly. With a heavy emphasis on fan lore, About The

Ballet Boys DVD Review: Transitioning Into Early Manhood—In Tights

This is the story of three boys whose destiny depends on their strength, grace, and determination.
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Yet another wonderful dance documentary from First Run Features, Ballet Boys (2014) takes balletomanes to Norway, where we meet young teenagers Lukas, Syvert and Torgeir. They’re a tightly knit trio because unlike other young guys their age, the majority of their days and evenings revolve around stretching, perfecting their double tours and performing. Pre-professionals in their respective dance careers, each has reached that proverbial fork in the road: carry on dancing for another several years only to be faced with the possibility of not securing a spot in a company—or hit the books in all earnestness to build the foundation

PS Dance! DVD Review: Public Schools Going One Step Beyond for Education

This brief but insightful documentary reveals how dance education can transform students' public school experience one pliƩ at a time.
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Now that stringent Common Core standards, piles of homework, and hyper-competitive college admission have become the academic norm in the United States, circumventing widespread bouts of anxiety and despair that result from such expectations has become an urgent mission for child advocates around the country. PS Dance!, which aired on PBS in May, demonstrates how integrating dance into a curriculum helps kids better internalize their studies, but even more importantly, creates an opportunity for them to find a center between body and mind. Hosted by journalist and news anchor Paula Zahn, this short documentary has a news special feel that

'71 DVD Review: A Winning Depiction of a Losing Battle

In tackling the divisive topic of The Troubles in Northern Ireland director Yann Demange blurs the boundaries of loyalty and highlights humanity.
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On Monday, rioting broke out amid a Protestant Orange Order parade in Belfast after it reached a stretch of road inhabited mostly by Catholics, republicans, and nationalists; at least eight people were injured. This, nearly 44 years after the Ballymurphy Massacre, which occurred in Belfast in early August 1971 and today remains a dark spot in the hearts of the Irish. At surface level, it can be easy to pick sides when reviewing history or current resurgences of turmoil. But what director Yann Demange asks in the extremely gripping and often gut-wrenching ’71 is: Can you always trust your loyalties?

Always Woodstock DVD Review: Predictability, Love, and Music

Girl leaves soulless music industry job to rediscover her sonic mojo in the legendary town of Woodstock. Bet you can’t guess what happens next.
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If you’ve seen last year’s Song One or Begin Again, then you’re well acquainted with the notion that sometimes music can flourish from fateful moments—death, job loss, a breakup—sometimes a couple of those on one truly crummy day. If you’re keen on that tried-and-true recipe, go ahead and give Always Woodstock a whirl, but just don’t expect a change of consciousness when fate and music intersect. Although Rita Merson’s debut feature has its endearing moments, thanks to likeable actress Allison Miller (Terra Nova, Selfie), it struggles to find its groove, keep the time, and make any sort of real impact.

The Snow Queen (2005) DVD Review: Make Believe Gets an Enchanting Makeover

This condensed cinematic version of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale illustrates how the warmth of love can overcome the icy oppressiveness of poverty and anger.
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The Snow Queen, BBC’s brief but visually and sonically hypnotic TV-movie adaptation of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale of the same name, is a testament to the way music, cinematography, and art direction can provide 99 percent of a film’s momentum when married thoughtfully and executed inventively. With no discredit to the cast, including Patrick Stewart as the voice of the raven, and Juliet Stevenson (Bend It Like Beckham, The Hour, Atlantis), it is the enchanting melodies and visuals that breathe magic into this experiment composer and executive producer Paul K. Joyce calls a “filmic opera.” Directed by Julian

I Give It A Year Movie Review: In Which Funny People Save a So-So Story

In the age of disposable marriages, two newlyweds struggle to decide whether they can be bothered to make good on "till death do us part."
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There are romantic comedies with premises so trite they morph into tragedies, others so saccharin you leave the theater with actual pain, and still others with writing that make typically wonderful actors look like amateurs a couple one-liners in. But there are a few that suffer from such standard rom-com pitfalls as predictability and sappy endings and still fare decently because the cast is so strong and the dialogue is so punchy; and that’s the safe spot where the Dan Mazer-directed I Give It a Year falls. Nat and Josh, played by Australian actress Rose Byrne (Adam, Bridesmaids, The Place

Girl Model DVD Review: New Faces Faced with Unglamorous Realities

Filmmakers David Redmon and Ashley Sabin reveal how swiftly the international modeling industry can chew up and spit out unsuspecting beauties.
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Every now and again the fashion world allows the mainstream to glimpse its process, get to know its people, and help the layman understand how a fashion icon comes into being (because it's complex, you see). Isaac Mizrahi filled viewers in on his neuroses, vision, and everything in between in 1995's Unzipped. Since then, every designer, fashion editor, and photographer whose persona rivals their talent has added their personal tale to the canon of fashion history. In the case of models, top-tier agency Elite Model Management has televised a couple of its Look of the Year competitions since the heyday

The Hour 2 Blu-ray Review: Six Gripping Hours of Corruption, Blackmail, and Love Triangles

In 1957, The Hour’s heavy hitters continue to expose corruption as they secretly battle personal demons and daily dramas.
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After having viewed the second six-episode installment of one of the BBC’s most little-known and underrated shows in the United States, I can only say that I sure hope this isn’t the final hour for The Hour. From the moment a bearded Freddie returns from his beatnik sojourn abroad with his pixie-haired French activist wife by his side, to the climax, which shall not be spoiled for you in this review, the momentum of the show increases so much that ceasing the series would be as big a blow to the storyline as it would be to the show’s most

Wagner & Me Movie Review: Stephen Fry Gets Real About His Favorite Composer

Stephen Fry attempts to find light in the darkness that shrouds Richard Wagner’s career.
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If you’re a devoted Fryphile, you’ll gladly park yourself on the couch to take in anything Britain’s most beloved gentleman has to offer, whether it’s hearing him narrate a Harry Potter video game or watching him eloquently spew facts about kangaroos on ripped episodes of QI. But Stephen Fry and director Patrick McGrady may be asking a lot of even the most committed Fry admirers by requiring 89 minutes of attentiveness to view McGrady’s first feature-length documentary about a 19th-century German composer who wrote a 15-hour, 4-part opera, especially if said viewers can’t bear hearing two bars of classical music.

Sunday Bloody Sunday Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

When a young male artist possesses the hearts of a thirtysomething woman and a middle-aged man, only he has the power to craft the outcome of their affair.
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John Schlesinger’s Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971), the highly anticipated follow-up to Midnight Cowboy (1969) is an honest, often somber, account of what lovers will tolerate and forfeit in order to retain who and what they believe they want. To drive the point home in a most poignant way, screenwriter Penelope Gilliatt created a love triangle in which fancy-free youth dominates at the top of the pyramid, and the slightly older, more experienced parties who find themselves predisposed to yearning are tucked uncomfortably at the bottom corners. Our lovelorn pair serving as the triangle’s foundation includes Alex Greville (Glenda Jackson), a

Magical Mystery Tour Blu-ray Review: There's a Fog Upon My Brain

This is what happens when Paul McCartney creates a film from a circle.
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While viewing the remastered version of Magical Mystery Tour, I unintentionally began scrawling the odd observation from the end of a notebook, working my way backward, which couldn’t have been more fitting for a film so delightfully backward and, at times, completely off the rails. But for all of the film’s unbridled weirdness, it’s incredibly smart in that it is a surrealist fantasy in which at least three generations of Britons come together, as it were, to enjoy some of Old Blighty’s time-honored traditions but with a seriously psychedelic twist. Although the divide between generations ran deep in Harold Wilson’s

Beatles Stories DVD Review: Tales Even Hardcore Beatles Fans May Not Know

Captivating hearsay delivered by Beatles fans for Beatles fans.
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It’s difficult not to be wary of new Beatles-related documentaries, especially considering some of the Netflix titles that appear alluring but leave you feeling regretful and robbed of valuable time following 90 minutes of Beatles Muzak and unfortunate production work. Unless it’s put out by Apple Corps, what’s the point, right? Well, for any Beatles fan new material is the point, and, unfortunately, even the most legitimate contributions to this very saturated brand provide very little of it these days. That’s where songwriter, author, and filmmaker Seth Swirsky comes in. Just be sure to remember his name so you don’t

Book Review: Classic Hollywood Style by Caroline Young

A rich, fetching collection that offers plenty of substance with its style
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Hardcover books selling Hollywood style are notorious for ending up in the bargain section of Barnes and Noble following a brief reign as pricy eye candy for end caps, but far too often they’re simply regurgitated imagery and content packaged in new, enticing ways. In the case of Classic Hollywood Style (Francis Lincoln Limited Publishers) Edinburgh-based writer and journalist Caroline Young saves the film and fashion aficionados who will likely gravitate toward her book from such disappointment by not merely detailing the iconic looks donned by film stars of the 1920s through the 1960s but contextualizing them within film and

Produced by George Martin Blu-ray Review: A Stroll Down Melody Lane with Britain’s Most Lauded Music Maker

Record producer George Martin talks wartime, music school, comedy records, The Beatles, and beyond.
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This January, Sir George Martin CBE turns 87. The reserved, seemingly guarded young man with movie-star looks and ears that helped transform raw tracks into treasures of music history is now the stately elder of popular music. He requires a hearing aid following years of positioning himself in the studio’s vortex of sound, but as you watch him audibly review his contributions to music throughout the duration of Produced by George Martin, it’s obvious that whatever frequencies he can no longer discern, he hears in his heart. Made for BBC Two’s Arena series last year, this Francis Hanly-directed documentary is

Weekend (2011) Criterion Collection DVD Review: An Intimate Portrait of New Love

The love story of an unlikely pair who find common ground through honesty, listening, and learning
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Weekend is a quiet, but candid, glimpse of how a seemingly fleeting attraction between two people with distinct identities can develop into a life-changing emotional bond if sincerity and openness are the instruments used to connect. Our pair in question, Russell and Glen, played by actors Tom Cullen and Chris New, share a fondness for hipster facial hair and a sense of fearlessness with regard to recreational drugs, but the manner in which they carry themselves, live their lives, and love their neighbors couldn’t be more different. Russell is discreet, cautious, and somewhat conservative in relationships, whereas the antagonistic Glen,

Misfits Season One DVD Review: Anti-Superheroes Who Would Make Superman Weep

After weathering a fierce storm, five outcast teenagers serving community service discover they have the gift, and curse, of superpowers.
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Oh, Misfits, so much to answer for. And “Buffy-esque snark,” as New York Magazine calls it, is a monumentally misleading description of a show that makes the U.K. version of Skins seem fit for American network television. Focus instead on the tagline at the bottom of the DVD case, which reads “Sex, drugs, and superpowers,” because that is precisely what Misfits serves. And we musn’t forget loads of choice profanity, violence, and some gore. It’s the kind of show parents would be horrified if their mostly good teens viewed with great enthusiasm (and they do), and at the same time

My Wife's Best Friend DVD Review: A Mid-Century Marriage Put to the Test

When a man reveals his misdeed to his wife, she makes him pay in spades.
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After George and Virginia Mason bid adieu to their deliciously cheeky friend Jane before boarding their flight, it looks as though it’ll be a typical day in the life of a well-to-do couple—but in some far off locale. As Virginia, played by Academy Award-winner Anne Baxter (The Razor’s Edge, All About Eve, The Ten Commandments) lights up her post-takeoff cigarette, she remarks, “I’ve never seen someone try so hard to be typical.” George (played by longtime Days of Our Lives actor Macdonald Carey) shrugs off the comment as though it’s one of the more benign barbs his spouse has directed

Michael Wood's Story of England DVD Review: 2,000 Years of Tales from Kibworth

Michael Wood and the residents of Kibworth investigate the village’s rich history from the ground up.
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Michael Wood’s Story of England, a six-part documentary originally aired on BBC Four in the fall of 2010, may lead viewers to believe that Wood has attempted to summarize the whole of English history in just shy of six hours. In a sense, he has—but he does so by examining England’s compelling and often turbulent past, from the Roman era to the present day, through the lens of village life in Kibworth. As viewers watch the history of this otherwise ordinary spot in the heart of England unfurl, the hope is that they also gain insight into how other English

Claudia DVD Review: She'll Steal Your Heart and Mock You For It

A snapshot of a young bride who must come to terms with real life in the 1940s
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Twentieth Century Fox’s 1943 cinematic release of Claudia, directed by Edmund Goulding (The Grand Hotel, The Razor’s Edge, and dozens more) is interesting in that it’s merely the middle point of a rather lengthy franchise featuring the Naughton family and the day-to-day stir that brings hilarity and heaviness to their wartime world. Novelist and playwright Rose Franken wrote stories about the goings on of David and Claudia Naughton, their two boys, maid, and extended family that were serialized in popular women’s magazines Redbook and Good Housekeeping in the mid-1930s before being published as an eight-novel series. In 1941, Franken adapted

Elmo's Magic Numbers DVD Review: 1-2-3 with Elmo, Max, Zoe and Will Arnett

The Sesame Street gang adds their two cents on the subject of math.
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If you’re familiar with the Sesame Street franchise, you already know that the brand is fairly consistent in delivering content for the two- to five-year-old set that attempts to unite “different cultures, ethnicities, abilities, and colors” through such fundamental concepts as respect and learning. The televised program spends its hour-long weekday slots focusing on a couple predominate themes, using Muppets; human friends, young and old; animated shorts; and musical montages to drive the major points home in a lighthearted, accessible way. Sesame Street also offers a slew of “Best of” DVDs focusing on specific subjects—from toilet training, to dinosaurs, to

Duran Duran: A Diamond in the Mind Blu-ray Review: A Virtually Flawless Live Performance

An influential veteran act shows how to make an audience swoon.
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As the instrumental “Return to Now” plays over the black-and-white opening sequence to Duran Duran’s first live release in nearly ten years, it’s already obvious that the show to follow will be a high-gloss, high-caliber affair. The band are shown perfecting the look of their shimmering attire and priming their instruments. Bassist John Taylor earnestly assesses his hair as keyboardist Nick Rhodes gracefully makes his way down a corridor while being photographed with an iPad. It’s a prologue that clearly establishes Duran Duran are seasoned, self-assured, and still looking the part of iconic figureheads of popular music. When the performance,

Kasabian Live!: Live at the O2 Blu-ray Review: Proof the Accolades Are Deserved

Irrefutable evidence that this band’s gone big time. (And why not?)
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If you’ve not seen Kasabian live for several years, prepare yourself for a show with a lot more flash, loads more swagger, thousands more people in attendance—and feathers. (See guitarist/vocalist Sergio Pizzorno’s feather-trimmed parka. And his feather necklace when he removes his parka—and the feather decal on the bass drum.) The feathers are, of course, a theme tying the highly ambitious stage show to the band’s 2011 release Velociraptor!, which received favorable criticism from the music press and was proclaimed to be among Kasabian’s best work to date. The shaggy, understated upstarts whose raw but ridiculously tight set made the

Never Stand Still Movie Review: A Love Letter to Dance, Dancers, and the Legendary Jacob's Pillow

Ron Honsa’s Never Stand Still gets to the heart of why people dance and why where they dance makes all the difference.
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Director Ron Honsa, whose television and film credits range from nightly news specials to Saturday Night Live to America’s Most Wanted, has spent many years using his talent as a filmmaker to support and uplift the dance community by directing dance for television. In 1985, he released his documentary The Men Who Danced, which chronicled the evolution of Jacob’s Pillow founder Ted Shawn’s all-male American company, Ted Shawn’s Men Dancers. Now, in Never Stand Still, Honsa explains what became of Shawn’s rustic farm in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts that he purchased in 1931, initially as a retreat where the

Tonight You're Mine Movie Review: A Totally '80s Idea in Modern-Day Indie Garb

Very reminiscent of the Before Sunrise/Before Sunset franchise,
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Filmed on site at the T in the Park music festival in Kinross-shire, Scotland, in July 2010, Tonight You’re Mine stars the dashing Luke Treadaway (Killing Bono, Clash of the Titans) as Adam, one half of the fictional electropop supergroup The Make, and Natalia Tena (About a Boy, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones) as Morello, the feisty lead singer of The Dirty Pink. When the pretty boys (including Mathew Baynton of Peep Show and Gavin and Stacy fame) meet the gritty girls in the middle of a bunch of obligatory festival mud at the start of the film, you get

Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance Movie Review: The Politics of Dance from the Ground Up

This documentary chronicles the Joffrey Ballet’s risk-taking journey through the often unstable world of American dance.
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Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance does what ballet so often fails to do: it draws laymen into a world perceived to be reserved solely for upper-crust patrons with a penchant for tutus and tiaras. That the Joffrey Ballet is the company to compel is fitting. In true startup fashion, it began as the underdog of American dance and remains the underdog of American dance, with no shortage of pioneering, persevering, and upsetting the status quo in between. It’s a company that champions diversity while taking great pride in homegrown talent. And since the middle of the last century, it has

Book Review: Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by William Travilla by Andrew Hansford with Karen Homer

Successfully fills a niche in an otherwise oversaturated market.
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Andrew Hansford’s Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled by William Travilla comes to sartorial aficionados, film fans, and pop-culture diehards amid a veritable Marilyn renaissance. Hot off the heels of last year’s Academy Award-nominated My Week with Marilyn and just before the Hollywood Museum’s extensive Marilyn Monroe memorabilia exhibit at its Hollywood, California, location in May, Dressing Marilyn successfully fills a niche in an otherwise oversaturated market. After revealing how he fell into his current role as curator of award-winning costume designer William Travilla’s estate and archive, Hansford offers a Briton’s take on visiting Hollywood for the first

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