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This week

Womantalk brunch

The Center, 12700 Southwest Highway, Palos Park, will host a New Year's Eve Womantalk brunch and discussion on Monday, Dec. 31 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Ladies are invited to join the discussion of the readings of Sarah Ban Breathnach's "Simple Abundance" and "Romancing the Ordinary" books.

A free-will offering will be collected. Reservations are required. Call The Center at 361-3650.

Farm and Ranch camps signup

Registration opens Jan. 2 for children and teens who love animals and nature at the summertime Farm and Ranch Camps of the Children's Farm, 12700 Southwest Highway in Palos Park.

Children entering 2nd through 12th grades in the fall attend the camp which will begin its 76th season on June 16. Later summer sessions begin July 1, July 7, July 21 and July 28.

Each day is packed with fun for the 40 campers who learn to ride horses, care for animals, hike in the woods and creeks, and make campfires. Campers enjoy campouts, hayrides, games, crafts, and new friends.

Older teens who seek outdoor leadership skills and outdoor adventure are invited to register for the Senior Outdoor Leaders-in- Training program, which includes challenges such as backpacking and canoeing.

The Center advises registering early, as many sessions fill before April. A scholarship fund makes camp possible for children who need financial assistance. Prospective campers may call 361-3650 or visit thecenterpalos.org for more information.

Toastmasters Club

The Center Toastmasters Club will meet on Wednesdays, Jan. 2 and 16, at 7 p.m., at 12700 Southwest Highway, Palos Park.

Toastmasters International is an organization for people interested in improving and practicing their public speaking skills. Members take turns leading the meetings and giving speeches, gaining confidence from the encouragement of each other.

The Center Toastmasters meet on the first and third Wednesdays of every month. New members and guests are always welcome. For more information, call Dave Sanders or Lois Lauer, at 361-3650.

Upcoming

Poetry class

A poetry workshop will be offered at The Log Cabin Center for the Arts, 12700 Southwest Highway in Palos Park for six sessions, 9:15 to 11:45 a.m., beginning Friday, Jan. 4. The remaining five sessions will then meet on the third and first Tuesdays of January, February and March.

Under the guidance of MaryAnn Grzych, of Palos Heights, the class shares and critiques each others' works as they learn together to express significant feelings and ideas through their writings.

The cost of the workshop is $52 for six sessions. Registration is required. Call 361-3650.

Teen pottery classes

Teens in grades 7 through 12 are invited to register for a six week pottery class beginning Monday, Jan. 7, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., at The Log Cabin Center for the Arts, 12700 Southwest Highway, Palos Park.

Instructor Heather Young will teach students to create all shapes and sizes of clay pots both by hand and on the pottery wheel. The class fee is $78 which includes all supplies and firing costs. Registration is required. (361-3650; thecenterpalos.org)

Art classes

The Log Cabin Center for the Arts offers new sessions of collage, quilting, lapidary and stained glass starting Monday and Wednesday, Jan. 7 and 9, at 12700 Southwest Highway in Palos Park.

Collage with April Schabes begins at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 7 for beginning collagers and on Wednesday, Jan. 9 for experienced students. Calligraphy classes with Marge Boyd begin on Monday afternoon, Jan. 7 at 1 p.m. Harry Meneghini teaches stained glass to students on Monday nights, beginning Jan 7 at 6:30 p.m. Denise Dulzo teaches quilting on six Wednesday afternoons, beginning Jan. 9 at 1 p.m. Lapidary classes begin on Monday, Jan. 7 at 9 a.m. with Larry Rothenberg, and on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 6:30 p.m. with Sharon Byrne.

Registration is required for all classes. Call The Center at 361- 3650, or visit thecenterpalos.org.

Videoview

by Jay Bobbin

(NOTICE: Ratings for each film begin with a 'star' rating - one star meaning 'poor,' four meaning 'excellent' - followed by the Motion Picture Association of America rating, and then by a family-viewing guide, the key for which appears below.)

STARTING THIS WEEK: "THE WORDS": With all the plagiarism controversies of recent times, you'd think the creatively blocked author (played by Bradley Cooper) at the heart of this story would know better ... but then, you might not have this somewhat intriguing movie. While visiting Paris, he just happens to run across another writer's manuscript, which he gets published under his own name and has great success with. Inevitably, though, he pays a big price for claiming someone else's credit. The impressive cast also includes Dennis Quaid, Jeremy Irons, Zoe Saldana and Olivia Wilde. DVD extras: two "making-of" documentaries. *** (PG-13 and unrated versions: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and Movies on Demand)

"THE WELL-DIGGER'S DAUGHTER": Celebrated French actor Daniel Auteuil ("Jean de Florette," "Manon of the Spring") also serves as director and screenwriter in this take on the Marcel Pagnol screen classic, in which Auteuil casts himself as a widower struggling to furnish good lives for his six daughters. His plan goes off course when the eldest of the siblings (Astrid Berges- Frisbey) becomes pregnant by a pilot (Nicolas Duvauchelle) who soon goes off to serve in World War I, first dividing and later uniting the two families. *** (Not rated: AS) (Also on Blu-ray)

"IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE": With the week of Christmas a light one for new releases, it's appropriate to include several seasonal staples, such as this Frank Capra-directed 1946 classic. James Stewart makes the perfect George Bailey, the hapless Bedford Falls citizen whose experience of seeing how life would be without him has been echoed by countless TV series episodes. Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and (as wingearning angel Clarence) Henry Travers lend great support. DVD extras ("Collector's Set"): theatrical trailer; "making-of" documentary; Capra tribute. **** (Not rated) (Also on Blu-ray)

"WHITE CHRISTMAS": As comfortable as an active fireplace on a cold winter's night, this tuneful 1954 retooling of the 12-years-earlier "Holiday Inn" makes great use of its Irving Berlin score. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye make an ideal team as military veterans who become successful entertainment partners, then use their talents to help their former commander (Dean Jagger) re-energize his failing resort. Rosemary Clooney - aunt of George - and Vera-Ellen are charmers as the siblings who distract the guys. DVD extras ("Anniversary Edition"): two theatrical trailers; audio commentary by Clooney; seven "making-of" documentaries. **** (Not rated) (Also on Blu-ray)

"A CHRISTMAS STORY": There's never a doubt this holiday favorite will come back around, thanks to its annual 24-hour marathon on television. Anyone who ever desired that one special holiday gift can empathize with Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), author-narrator Jean Shepherd's young alias who desperately wants a Red Ryder BB gun - the one his mother (Melinda Dillon) warns will "shoot your eye out." Always deserving of citing is Darren McGavin as the gruff dad who never actually curses, though it sure sounds like it. DVD extras: theatrical trailer; three "making- of" documentaries; audio commentary by Billingsley and director and co-writer Bob Clark. *** (PG: P) (Also on Blu-ray)

"LOVE ACTUALLY": From the outset, writer-director Richard Curtis' fabulous 2003 comedydrama is all about the countdown to a British Christmas ... and also about a lot more, thanks to a labyrinth of characters with involving stories. Among the best: the new prime minister's (Hugh Grant) attraction to an aide (Martine McCutcheon); an art gallery manager's (Andrew Lincoln, "The Walking Dead") secret passion for his best friend's (Chiwetel Ejiofor) new bride (Keira Knightley); and a faded music star's (Bill Nighy) bid for a comeback with a seasonally refitted pop tune. DVD extras: deleted scenes; music video. *** (R: AS, N, P) (Also on Blu-ray)

COMING SOON: "LOOPER" (Dec. 31): A veteran assassin (Bruce Willis) is sent back into the past, where he becomes the target of his younger self (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). (R: AS, P, V)

"DREDD" (Jan. 8): Karl Urban plays the futuristic law enforcer, who tries to stop the suppliers of a dangerous drug. Olivia Thirlby co-stars as the rookie assigned to him. (R: AS, P, GV)

"HIT & RUN" (Jan. 8): A protected witness (Dax Shepard, also the writer and co-director here) emerges from hiding to drive his girlfriend (Kristen Bell) to a job interview. (R: AS, N, P, V)

"HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET" (Jan. 8): A divorcee and her daughter (Elisabeth Shue, Jennifer Lawrence) move to a neighborhood where a dual murder occurred years before. (PG-13: AS, P, V)

"TAKEN 2" (Jan. 15): CIA veteran Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) falls into the hands of a relative of one of the kidnappers he previously saved his daughter (Maggie Grace) from. (PG-13 and unrated versions: AS, V)

'This Is 40' scarily real


by Jase Howell

"This is 40" is a comedy/drama about marriage and family that can be characterized by may adjectives, but conventional is certainly not one of them.

If you're looking for that cute, warm and fuzzy film, go watch "Parental Guidance." If you want brutal honesty mixed with some outlandish dialogue, writer/director Judd Apatow's "This Is 40" is closer to your style. This honesty, however, may even be a bit much for those with tendencies toward this brand of humor.

The film is billed as a "sort-of sequel" to the smash hit "Knocked Up," although the leads of that film (Seth Rogan and Katherine Heigl) not only do not appear here, but are never even mentioned. Apatow has explained that even an invitation of those characters would distract from the tale he wanted to tell of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), the couple that did feature very prominently as supporting characters in "Knocked Up."

Here we find Pete and Debbie both celebrating their 40th birthdays during the same week. We also find that after 10-plus years of marriage and two kids, the couple is battling life on all fronts - parenting, each other, age, finances and just about everything else a married couple grapples with. You may think you've seen this too many times, but believe me, you have not seen it played Apatow's way. Pete and Debbie have the usual arguments, but with Apatow's eye they are rendered much funnier. Take for instance the film's opening argument, which stops the couple from showering together and leads to a huge debate about Viagra. This material is very frank, but in Apatow's hands is extremely funny.

Pete and Debbie are both new business owners struggling to survive. Pete has moved on from Sony Records to open his own label that is floundering and hanging all its hopes on a comeback by Pete's geriatric idol, Graham Nash (who features all too prominently). Debbie, meanwhile, has a fashion boutique that is doing quite well, with the exception of the fact that one of her two trusted employees, Jodi (Charlyne Yi) or Desi (Megan Fox), has embezelled $12,000 from her.

This film also has some daddy issues, as Pete's father (Albert Brooks) is constantly asking for handouts from him, much to Debbies consternation. Then again, she has her own problems in trying to connect with her dad (John Lithgow), an absentee for her whole life. Both fathers have started new families and have kids the same age as Pete's and Debbie's kids, Sadie, the 13-year old acting like a rebelling 13-year old girl, and the precocious Charlotte. Both children are Apatow's own children, Maude and Iris, respectively (Mann is his wife in real life).

All of this adds an almost voyeuristic quality to the film as the tensions rise and the arguments grow more and more vicious and vitriolic. A writer/ director attempting to encompass the difficulties of raising a family while directing his wife and two children, with Rudd we guess as his face for the film. Then again, as funny as much of this is even in at its nastiest points (and it does get nasty for virtually every cast member) you could take away the actual family connections and this film would still be a rare breed.

If I'm uplaying the rough nature and realness of the film, don't be completely mistaken. Apatow's crackling wit filled with coarse but side-splitting one-liners is as evident, as it has been in some of his classics "The Forty-Year old Virgin" and "Knocked Up." It's just that toward the end of the film the characters are spitting the brilliant material in some very venomous rage as they are trying capture some true-to-life knock-down, drag-out fights. This a gutsy film, the things we may have found funny early in the film are almost blanched later by the frighteningly real nature of the conflicts' escalations. What was once lewd but funny is now just mean and hurtful.

But like a car wreck we can't look away from it and imagining ourselves in the same situation. "This Is 40" is raw at times, but real life is often raw. This is very ambitious project and a great success of a film from a guy some people consider merely a raunchy comedy director.

Top Country Albums

  1. Red, Taylor Swift, Big Machine Records
  2. Here's to the Good Times, Florida Georgia Line, Universal Republic
  3. On This Winter's Night, Lady Antebellum, Capitol
  4. Cheers, It's Christmas, Blake Shelton, Warner Bros.
  5. Night Train, Jason Aldean, Broken Bow
  6. Christmas with Scotty McCreery, Scotty McCreery, Mercury Nashville/19 Recordings/ Interscope
  7. Tornado, Little Big Town, Capitol
  8. Tailgates & Tanlines, Luke Bryan, Capitol
  9. Blown Away, Carrie Underwood, Sony Nashville/ Arista
  10. Hunter Hayes, Hunter Hayes, Atlantic

Basketry classes at Log Cabin


Basketry student Michelle Burns makes a huge basket for her home’s entryway at The Log Cabin Center for the Arts, 12700 Southwest Highway in Palos Park.

The Log Cabin will offer basketry workshops on six Thursdays, beginning March 28, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Under the guidance of instructor Jane Dwyer, new basketry students make a wood-bottomed basket, with a choice of colored trim, and then choose one or two more basket styles to complete during the six week session. Returning basket-makers choose their own styles, sizes and colors of baskets.

Basket classes cost $78 per six-week session, plus a $25 materials fee. Registration is required. Call The Center at 361-3650.

Submitted photo.