Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Businesses sought for merchants fair

In these challenging economic times, especially in the state of Michigan, the Saline Area Chamber of Commerce and your local newspaper wanted to collaborate to offer a merchants fair as a way for businesses to promote their goods and services and area families to see what Saline has to offer.

The Saline Area Chamber of Commerce’s First Merchants Fair will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 14 and I encourage you to attend, not only to help local businesses survive and keep Saline prosperous, but for all the fun your family will have at the event.

Twenty-six businesses are being sought right now to show off their goods and services at the event. Any business interested should jump on board soon to take advantage of the promotion it will receive early on. The event will be geared toward families and local businesses. We will encourage businesses to offer raffles, prizes and samples of their products. Cost to merchants to rent a booth for the day is $175 for chamber members and $350 for nonmembers.

“Given the current state of the economy and the fact many of our members were saying last year was a down year, we wanted to do something that would promote commerce and increase recognition of what a great market the Saline area is to do business in,” said Larry Osterling, executive director of the chamber.

The one-day event will be held at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds, 5055 Ann Arbor-Saline Road. In addition to the fair, which also serves as a fundraiser for the chamber of commerce, remote-control racing will be held at the fairgrounds beginning at 8 a.m. and the Huron Gun Collectors Show from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

We plan to have music and other forms of entertainment for families, but are still firming up the details. If you're a group, whether a band, local theater troupe or student club, interested in volunteering your time, please call the chamber.

“It’s going to be a fun time,” Osterling said. “It’s free and a great way to get out and do something interesting. There will be plenty of family and kid activities, entertainment, and many interesting business exhibits.”

Businesses interested in reserving booth space may contact the chamber at 429-4494 or Space is limited.

Saline Area Chamber of Commerce
In partnership with the Saline Reporter
Presents the
Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds
5055 Ann Arbor Saline Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Act now! Space is limited! Deadline for registration is March 4th
(unless we’re filled before then)

Booth Application and Registration Form

Name of Business __________________________________________

Individual Applying __________________________________________

Address __________________________________________

City _____________ State ________ Zip________

Booth Cost Chamber Members - $175.00 All others - $350.00
(Includes one 8’ table and 2 chairs)
Electricity outlet/20 amp $5.00
Extra tables @ $10.00

Total (enclosed) $______________

* Note – Please consider adding one item for donation for the special drawing to be held as part of the event. A complete outline of how and when to set up and what to expect as part of the total day’s events will be sent to you at a later date and will be available at the Chamber Office and on the Chamber web site

Return to either:
The Saline Area Chamber of Commerce
141 East Michigan Ave
Saline, MI 48176
The Saline Reporter
106 West Michigan Ave.
Saline, MI 48176

Thank You for Joining Us!
This is going to be a great Opportunity to promote your business!

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Saline Swarm attendance is a buzz kill

I've noticed that the Saline Swarm no longer plays a major role in basketball games. Perhaps I'm too hard on the group that is intended to mirror Michigan's Maize Rage. It was my fellow classmates who originally came up with the idea and marketed it through DECA. But in the games I have attended of the boys' and girls' varsity basketball teams since returning to Saline, that Swarm attendance has majorly fizzled since my days at SHS.

I'm not sure if attendance is down because the Swarm wasn't their idea and was therefore just another thing on the list of possibilities for participation, or if this particular class of students are not interested in supporting athletics. I also wonder whether or not the new school is somewhat to blame.

I've asked several current students, graduated students and current faculty about their thoughts on the brand-spanking-new high school, and most of them had this to say... "you don't see anyone." With all the school's floors and wings, I do wonder how students are able to organize effectively. In the old school, everyone passed by the same places every day, every hour. In the new school students and faculty can go all week before needing to venture into another area of the building. The cafeteria is the only truly common area, and it isn't even a room.

This puts students in a unique situation where self-motivation is incredibly important. Student group leaders now must have the initiative to go further in order to organize the entire class. Organizing facebook groups, events and emails to the rest of the student body is one option. The morning announcements is another.

But I guess at the end of the day, it isn't the school building's fault, it's the students. Perhaps they just aren't interested anymore. Maybe attending games is "out," in which case they'll have some learning to do on their college campuses. Being a fan can't be taught, and it shouldn't have to be. So, please, let the real fans stand up and show themselves. And if you won't, please educate me as to what everyone prefers to do with their after-school time instead.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Saline Fiddlers to hit airwaves

The good folks at the Saline Fiddlers are trying to promote an upcoming concert, so I posted their info under "News Update" on our Web site. But, just in case you missed that and my "tweet" on, here's the drill:

Saline Fiddlers to be on the radio
The Saline Fiddlers will hold its 15th annual Winter Hometown Show Feb. 7 with guest artists May “Daisy May” Erlewine and Seth Bernard of Earthworks. To promote the concert, members of the group will be on WLBY AM 1290 from 12:05 to 12:30 p.m. Saturday with veteran radio personality Lucy Ann Lance for a live song or two, and Lance will interview members of the group.

The fiddlers will open next month’s concert with new music and old favorites. The group will be followed by Erlewine and Bernard with their blend of emotion-filled folk and country music.

The show will start at 7 p.m. at Saline Middle School, 7190 N. Maple Road. Tickets are $15 or $20 and may be purchased online at or by calling 1-866-257-5333, ext. 1.

Also, look for a Neighbors page spread soon on the local musicians.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ryan's Favorite Movies of 2008

The year 2008 has been a fantastic year in film. It was the year that Mickey Rourke, Robert Downey Jr, and Tom Cruise all made comebacks. It was the year that for every major disappointment ("Australia," "Frost/Nixon"), there was a giant surprise ("Slumdog Millionaire," "The Wrestler"). It was the year that the line between big awards contenders and booming event flicks was blurred, which made for a lot of fantastic movies. Here's my favorite movies of 2008.

1. Mickey Rourke should win the Oscar for "The Wrestler," an incredibly emotional film with an ending that punches you in the gut. Although it easily could have succumbed to cliche, it doesn't, which is a minor miracle. The story of a washed-up wrestler, no one could have (or should have) played him other than Rourke. Evan Rachel Wood stands out in 3 scenes as Rourke's daughter. It's not a happy movie, but man is it a good one. So good in fact, that it's the best of the year.

2. A flick I'd barely heard of when it was released, "Slumdog Millionaire" was funny, suspenseful, somber, beautiful, and resonated with me more than anything else this year. Dev Patel and Freida Pinto are excellent, the script is top-notch, and the direction is stunning. Originally to be direct to DVD, thankfully it wasn't, and now it's taking the world by storm. An incredible achievement.

3. Not just another comic-book movie, "The Dark Knight" was exceptional in all areas. You want great performances? Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart and above all Heath Ledger will provide that. Giant explosions? Check. A layered, intelligent script? Absolutely. It has more in common with say, "Heat" or "The Godfather" than "The Incredible Hulk" or "Superman." The film that action movies will be judged by for the next 20 years.

4. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." An old-fashioned, technically astounding love story, the normally violent director David Fincher is surprisingly restrained here. Although he normally does more violent fare such as "Fight Club," he emulates say, David Lean here. The special effects, makeup, and Pitt's excellent performance come together seamlessly for an unforgettable movie.

5. When animation, science-fiction, romance, comedy, and an adorable title character come together seamlessly, you know you have a special movie. But "Wall-E" is Pixar's best movie, a huge feat considering they're the best, most consistent studio today. A young robot falling in love with a search probe is risky, original, and in the movie undoubtedly touching. Oh, and after the 20th time you see it, it still doesn't get old.

6. It's hard for a movie to inspire awe. For a documentary, it's almost impossible. But "Man on Wire," the story of Philipe Petit's 1974 tightrope walk between the Twin Towers, does it at the drop of a hat. It maintains the suspense of a heist movie but entertains and enthralls, a huge feat for a documentary.

7. "Rachel Getting Married" has a great cast, an awesome script, and somehow pulls an Oscar-caliber performance out of Anne Hathaway, as a recovering addict going to her sister's wedding, and the fascinating results.

8. My No. 8 pick is actually two movies. 2008 was an awesome year for comedies, and I just couldn't leave these off. "Burn After Reading" and "Tropic Thunder" are radically different in content and pacing but have one thing in common: they are hilariously funny.

9. The script for "Doubt" needed work, but then again it has four of the best performances of 2008. Meryl Streep is fantastic, I forgive her for "Mamma Mia." Philip Seymour Hoffman is excellent, both likable and shady enough to keep us on the edge until the end, which makes you question everything you've just seen. The breakout star is Viola Davis, who is devastating in 7 minutes as a mother whose boy may have been molested by a priest.

10. "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" doesn't sound like a Woody Allen movie. Set in Barcelona, a deep meditation on love with beautiful locations and cinematography. However, the witty script and fantastic ensemble cast bring together Allen's best film since Manhattan. For the Oscar race watch out for Penelope Cruz as the main's protaganist's suicidal, crazy ex-wife.

Honorable Mentions:
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Gran Torino
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Iron Man
Kung Fu Panda
Step Brothers
The Visitor

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Do you Tweet? Follow me

I am here singing the praises of I started posting links to breaking news through Twitter a month or so ago and I love it. I had been sending out e-mail alerts to everyone listed on my contacts list in Microsoft Outlook, but that's so tedious. By posting a headline on Twitter with the link, I am done and have the potential to reach a lot of readers to alert them to fresh, local news on our Web site. So far, I've posted 26 updates.

But the problem is I have the "potential," but not the people yet.

While I sent an e-mail to many people in my contacts list, which is over 300, I only have 36 "followers," as they're called on Twitter. I wish more readers would create a Twitter account and check it regularly. You can also follow other newspapers. I follow The Detroit Free Press and Mlive, as well as the Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary, which I also post to as part of my new publicity committee duties with the organization. I also follow Michigan Media, Lt. Gov. John Cherry, the Michigan Daily and numerous individuals.

It's a great way to find out what's going on in the state of Michigan, as well as our community.

I encourage you to check it out. It's free. You just set up a user name and password and then start "following" media sources, nonprofits and individuals. And, please, won't you follow The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader. We're at

Labels: , ,

so much snow!!

Good afternoon, community. Our city is suffering. The snow is everywhere and it is lonely. Those millions and trillions of flakes need a purpose. They need meaning. They need to be made into snowmen.

That's right! Snowmen! It's an age-old pastime that should be taken advantage of this winter season, considering the remarkable number of giant snowfalls we've had. I know there is a family on Saline Ann Arbor Rd. pulling its weight, because they had about five in their front yard at one point. It was like their own little guardian army.

Before it all melts away, take advantage of your surroundings and make a day of it. Take the kids out for some family bonding. Invite a love interest for a simply romantic date. Or go out with some friends for bonding and exercise. It sure beats running on a treadmill or renting another movie.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lost art of Children's Books

I recently purchased The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling in my local Borders bookstore when I realized children's books are, for the most part, a lost art. My recent Harry Potteresque purchase is an exception, as is the series itself. But how many good, memorable children's books are there these days that didn't once grace the shelf when I was a toddler?

The answer is not enough. My curiousity over this question led me to peruse the children's section at Borders in hopes that new authors and new stories would be in the top picks area. To my surprise, old habits continue to die hard and my very favorite books were still on display, such as Where the Wild Things Are, Shel Silverstein books such as A Light in the Attic, Dr. Seuss books, Roald Dahl books and the like. I even recognized the ones I was too young to know the names of, but I remembered their cover art. On every single shelf I looked at, I recognized nearly every book's cover, name or author.

Now, I'm speaking generally. Of course there are a few solid new children's series. Dora the Explorer is doing just fine, as is Junie B. But I wonder why they are outnumbered by classics. In the rest of the literary world, the classics remain, but do not dominate the scenery. Readers still have plenty of solid things to choose from. I think maybe it's because children's books are an art. It isn't like writing a normal book that will appeal to someone, somewhere. Children's books, in general, have a magical quality that either binds them to the generation indefinitely or appeal to no one.

Am I disappointed that the books I read as a child are still the most popular today? No. Maybe surprised that a new slew of children's book authors haven't had more success in the top reads aisle, but not disappointed. In some ways it's actually encouraging. It tells me that maybe one day I'll be able to read Little House on the Prairie to my daughter and she'll enjoy it. Or that maybe my son won't mind sitting at my side while I reread Matilda and Bears at Night.

Perhaps, then, children's books are less a product of the children themselves then they are of the parents who read them. After all, if I went into a children's section right now, I'd go straight to my old favorites. That's probably what parents do, as well, and that's probably why the old favorites continually spring up in the sections. Reading to your kids is a classic. So too, then, are the books that are read.

Goodnight, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ryan's Worst Movies of 2008

I am Ryan Michaels, a 12-year-old movie fanatic who loves writing reviews as much as watching movies. Below is my take on on the Worst Movies of 2008.

Although my reviews are mostly positive (what can I say, I like movies!), there are always movies every year that are awful. Or bad. Or face-meltingly, heartbreakingly bad. For example, even though I gave Speed Racer a "F", I saw it a second time and deemed it a "so-awful-it's-good" classic.

5. While Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon seems like a good idea on paper, "Four Christmases" is by no means good, or entertaining, or even watchable. It's tasteless, poorly-written garbage that couldn't be less in the holiday spirit. Seeing Vince Vaughn play Moses in a play is priceless. A two-minute jewel, stuck in a 90-minute piece of garbage.

4. A remake of a movie no one even liked, "Prom Night" was awful even by horror-remake standards.

3. Even by the low expectations I had for it, I don't think there was a more preachy or unfunny movie this year other than "First Sunday." From its incredibly annoying product placement (Look! A PSP in a Sony-produced movie) to its flat performance from Ice Cube. "First Sunday" was flat-out dumb.

2."Camp Rock" makes High School Musical 3 look like The Godfather in comparison. The leads are charming but undeniably wooden. It's corny from the very first second, where Demi Lovato literally sings about getting out of bed. I nearly broke into tears when my sister got it for her birthday.

1. The most awful, wince-inducing bad movie of the year is undeniably "The Love Guru." I love Mike Myers and hoped it would succeed. But then I saw it. When Justin Timberlake is more funny than Mike Myers in a movie, you know than Myers is falling flat. After almost every joke, he literally smiles at the camera for five seconds on end. And the end with the elephants? Please. It's horribly directed by a complete newcomer, Marco Schnabel. After seeing "The Love Guru," you literally don't want to watch a movie for a long time.

Dishonorable Mentions:
- Saw V
- Get Smart: Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control
- Semi-Pro
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
- Hancock (well, the last 45 minutes)

My list of my favorites of 2008 are coming soon. Until then, find a copy of "The Love Guru." It's probably already in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. Do me, and you, and humankind a favor: Burn it.

Film critic Ryan Michaels, a student at Emerson School in Ann Arbor and winner of a journalism award in the 2008 Michigan Press Association Better Newspaper Contest for his reviews, can be reached through

Labels: ,

Resolution update

We're almost a full week into 2009, and I've already seen both progress and failure in the five resolutions I set for myself not long ago. They are listed a few entries below, but for those too lazy to scroll, my five resolutions were: 1) read more, 2) Type "moot" instead of "mute", 3) regain my athleticism, 4) resist the draw of Dota and WoW, and 5) successfully train Princeton the puggle pup.

To be brief, I have already failed No. 4, which is the most troublesome because I actually hadn't played in about two months. It seems that making the resolution made the idea of playing even more appealing. Plus, my boyfriend decided to pick it up again... and misery loves company. I just can't kick my addiction when my go-to man is begging me to join in!

However, I am doing swimmingly in the others so far. I made some major book purchases at Borders yesterday and am tickled pink about it. Princeton also hasn't had an accident yet (knock on wood), I included "moot" in my column and I'm planning to sign up for a few fitness classes later today. Should be great...

We'll see how long it all lasts.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Resolution vs. A Plan

I realize many New Year's resolutions are made and very few are kept. So, dare I call adding fitness to my life a resolution? Maybe not, but it's something I want to do.

I was successful at it from fall 2004 through 2006, losing 40 pounds and dropping from a size 18 to a 12, before I was promoted to the Saline/Milan editor's position. While working in Chelsea, I was a block from the Chelsea Health and Wellness Center and made it a regular part of my routine. I'd exercise at lunch or after work. Often, I'd meet a friend there. We would work out on the treadmill for an hour and then work on our arms and legs. If it was the evening and I didn't have to return to work, I'd go for a swim.

But since relocating to Saline, it hasn't worked out for me. I tried the Saline Recreation Center and One on One Athletics. Neither lasted. I think I got spoiled in Chelsea. I loved the spa-like atmosphere, with the open floor and variety of equipment. I don't think I ever had to wait to use a piece of equipment, which was a problem at other fitness centers I tried. There was a hot tub in the locker room, a lap pool and warm pool, and a massage therapist on staff. One thing I really liked was the lockers with built-in locks in which you just plugged in a four-digit combination. Very convenient. There was also a track, and scores of televisions. Televisions are very important to distract me as I work out, so time flies faster.

Well, now I have a treadmill at home, in front of the big-screen TV in the basement. I just need to make a commitment to use it regularly. I think I'll start with that and then maybe step it up, as I think other forms of exercise are needed. I enjoy swimming, aerobics, step, and wouldn't mind trying pilates and yoga. I need to do it for my health, I know, but I'd like to drop those 40 pounds I gained back in the last two years. I know I'll never be a size 9 again, as in this picture taken in 1992 while I lived in Florida, but I can at least get active and see what happens.

But this isn't a resolution. It's a plan. I just need to stick to it.

While we're on this subject, here's a Q&A by Sue Collins with local fitness experts. It will appear in our Jan. 8 edition.

We asked three area fitness experts about how our readers can make healthy choices in the new year and discovered it’s all about setting realistic goals, integrating subtle lifestyle changes and having fun along the way.

Meet Helen Darling of Fitness Complete, who teaches group fitness classes in Milan at Dance XPlosion.

Hear what Carla Scruggs, director of the Saline Recreation Center, has to say.

And take to heart, the advice of Deb and Jim Winter of Curves of Milan.

Q: What advice would you give our readers to help them change their routine to be more fit and healthy in 2009?

Darling: Make small changes. Big changes can be daunting. For example, drink one or two more glasses of water each day. Exercise once or twice a week or 10 to 15 minutes per day. Add one or two vegetables or fruit servings each day.

Scruggs: Set realistic, small and attainable goals and then continue to set higher goals throughout the year. Get yourself a workout buddy. They can motivate you, and make you feel guilty if you try to skip out. Vary your workout, try all the equipment. If you start to get into a rut, try something new. Take a swim, the best full body workout. Or play racquetball, drop in on volleyball nights, try a fitness class.

Don’t use the same machine every day. Invest in a session with a personal trainer to learn how to use the machines and get a fitness workout catered to your fitness goals.

Winter: Prepare for exercise. What you do before you start an exercise program will be of greater benefit than you think. Putting yourself in the right frame of mind before you begin will help ensure long-term success, instead of being defeated before you begin.

Make exercise and eating better your friend, not your enemy. You must decide that a healthier lifestyle is what you want because of something that is highly motivating. Think of those people who are important in your life –– children, grandchildren spouse, parents, friends –– and the love that you share with them. You want to be around for them as long as you can and they want you to be.

Q: What is the biggest mistake people make in starting a new fitness routine?

Darling: Trying to change everything all at once, making one small setback and then giving up completely. People need to be patient with themselves. We all are human and we all make mistakes. We need to just get back on track and move forward.

Scruggs: Many people to not keep track of their fitness progress. We have cards available for members to track their fitness. Log how many minutes you are on a treadmill. Log how much weight or how many repetitions you can lift. Track your progress. You will impress yourself.

Also, not learning how to use the machines properly is a mistake. Take advantage of our fitness orientation class. Excuses are easy; don’t give up after two or three weeks.

Winter: There is no shortage of mistakes that people make, but one of the big ones is making it more difficult that it needs to be. The human body was designed to be active. Exercise improves digestion, increases energy and endurance, helps to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as affecting our brain chemistry by elevating “feel good” hormones.

But when you make the decision to get these benefits through exercise, you have to remember to not do too much. Research has shown that exercising 30 minutes, three times a week can be effective. While you can benefit from more, you don’t necessarily need more, especially if it’s going to make you quit. The more you do, the more likely you are to quit because you can’t do it all.

Q: What new developments or reminders will be surprising or helpful to people?

Darling: This is not new, but I believe that people don’t realize the importance of stretching daily. The difference in daily life is very noticeable.

Scruggs: Many classes now are addressing core and back strengthening. Many people have back problems and core training can help strengthen the back. Classes that we offer that address this are Bozu, yoga on the ball and pilates.

Exercise is for all ages. Water aerobics is a class that many older people enjoy as it is less stressful on joints. Our instructors are true professionals. They help each class member achieve their goals.

Winter: We like to focus on the Trilogy of Good Health: exercise, weight management and supplementation. If we are to be as healthy as we can be, we need to pay attention to each of these elements. Our bodies were created to work well and be healthy if we provide them with what they need, through activity and proper nutrition. Only by providing those things do we have a chance to optimal health.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Three to See at the Movies

Our papers have been extremely small lately because advertising is down, so I haven't been able to print Ryan Michaels' movie reviews. I thought this space would be a nice alternative. Enjoy!

I am Ryan Michaels, a 12-year-old movie fanatic who loves writing reviews as much as watching movies. Below is my take on “Valkyrie,” “Doubt” and “Yes Man.”

Tom Cruise recently said in an interview, “Go kill Hitler this Christmas!” in promotion for his film “Valkyrie.” The ironic part is that in this film Cruise tries, fails and is executed for his attempt.

It’s not really a spoiler in any way, for this is actually a true story. Regardless of Cruise’s false statement, “Valkyrie” is a fun, tense thriller that will keep you glued to your seat –– ridiculous moments included.

Cruise is Colonel Klaus von Stauffenberg, a German officer in 1944 who is becoming increasingly fed up with the Nazis’ planning and ideals. He begins to assemble a team to plot to kill Adolf Hitler himself. What results makes history.

The plot of the film is simple, the plan of the characters is not. The director of the film is Bryan Singer, who has mastered tension before, to the tune of two Oscars. The fact that even though we know the end, Singer still creates such tension deserves to be mentioned. The musical score is partly responsible. It’s elegant yet undeniably gritty.

The supporting cast is great, featuring Kenneth Branagh, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy and Terence Stamp. But the best supporting performance is by David Bamber. I’ve never heard of him before this. But in his three minutes as Adolf Hitler, he almost literally gives you chills.

Cruise is pretty good in this. Nothing Oscar-worthy, but not distractingly or face-meltingly bad, as he has been called.

It isn’t all roses, though. There are some moments that are undeniably corny. I won’t give most away, but one in particular where Cruise is forced to “Heil Hitler” with his severed arm was just ridiculous. It was the only time during the movie where people actually laughed.

One major thing that bugs you is the absence of any accents whatsoever. They all have the look of Germans, and type in German. And yet everyone has an American or British accent. Oddly enough, Cruise’s eyepatch doesn’t ever bug you, though.

It has taken a lot of bad advance buzz, a hundred date swaps and one big budget to get “Valkyrie” to the screen. It was worth it.

I give it a “B+” rating.


Perhaps the most compelling, and unlikely opposition of wits, occurs in “Doubt,” Meryl Streep vs. Philip Seymour Hoffman, featuring two of the best actors of our generation, in an emotional, exhausting duel of morals.

One is right, the other is wrong. Finding which is which tests your patience, and there is sort of a “That’s it?” feeling at the end. However, it has four of the best performances of the year –– three of those expected, one that one wouldn’t suspect.

It is 1964. Times are changing, and Sister Aloysius is watching it all, with contempt. The whole movie is set in a Bronx Catholic church/school, and it takes a while to realize just how confined the film really is. She is the principal of the school, feared among the children, parents and even fellow nuns.

The church itself is changing. The charismatic Father Flynn is trying to bring more fun and friendliness to the church, which raises Sister Aloysius’ eyebrows. But when a young African-American boy is called to the rectory by Father Flynn, Sister Aloysius immediately suspects inappropriate contact and, right or wrong, crusades against Father Flynn to have him removed. What results is more tense than most straightforward thrillers this year.

If there is a major weakness, it’s the direction, though I’ll get to that later. Although it could have been a great cliche, Streep plays it as the more human, more conflicted nun. It goes without saying that Streep is probably the best actress alive right now, and it's really interesting seeing her go from Mamma Mia to this. She is almost disturbingly bleak, unflinching in her quest to take out this priest. She only lets up at the very end, which is almost disturbing to see.

Hoffman has been consistently excellent in everything he does: “Capote,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” heck, even “Mission Impossible 3.” He acts quite well in this, and somehow pulls it off where you honestly believe it could be either way. He is charismatic, warm and occasionally funny, but almost sinister in an odd way. It truly does leave you guessing until the end.

The ending, many will argue, is unsatisfactory. On a storytelling level, it is. Emotionally? Heck, no. The ending is probably the most involving part of the film, as in the last 20 minutes.

The film is interestingly paced. At least 40 minutes of establishing shots and characters and circumstances then boom. The last hour is a firecracker filled with quick-paced arguments that truly show off all the acting talent this film has to offer.

Amy Adams, who you remember as the princess from “Enchanted,” plays a fellow nun in this film. She isn’t exactly Oscar-worthy, but by no means is she inferior to anyone else in this film. She has some great moments. The best performance in the film is likely the most brief: Viola Davis as the young boy’s mother. Her scene with Meryl Streep is like the film: Starts slow and then escalates, bit by bit, into sheer intensity.

“Doubt will split people, on its quality and implications. I’m on the side that unabashedly loved it.

I give it an “A-.”

‘Yes Man’

Jim Carrey does his normal hilarious, over-the-top schtick in a normal, over-the-top, occasionally hilarious comedy. In 1998, Carrey did a fairly good movie called “Liar Liar.” Basically, an average Joe, mildly disappointed with his life, trying something outrageous that changes his life. That is almost the exact same story here. The fact that this remains really enjoyable is a testament to Carrey’s talent, I suppose.

Carrey plays a bank loan officer named Carl, who after a tough break-up is sort of living in a shell with his job, two friends and apartment. But his friends take notice, and sign him up for a seminar: “The Power of Yes.” Basically, he must say “yes” to anything and everything.

It has its advantages. He finds a new love and gets promoted. But there is always a downside to freewheeling, and Carl will realize that the hard way.

Zooey Deschanel stars as Carl’s free-spirited girlfriend. Ever since “Elf,” she has become more and more charming by each film that goes by. Terence Stamp (that old guy from “Superman II” and “Wall Street”) plays the man who introduces Carrey to “Yes.” He mostly looks bored, although he has the best line in the whole movie, at the very end. The end is actually the best part, although seeing Carrey play guitar and speak Korean is hysterical beyond most measure.

It goes without saying that the general story is kind of tired, and that the formula for the whole thing is really evident. But Carrey plays practically the same character he has since “Dumb and Dumber.” The saving grace about that is the character is insanely likable. You’ve seen it before, but you like it.

I give it a “B+” rating.

Film critic Ryan Michaels, a student at Emerson School in Ann Arbor and winner of a journalism award in the 2008 Michigan Press Association Better Newspaper Contest for his reviews, can be reached through

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]