Saturday, June 17, 2006

Films to Watch and Some to Avoid

The White Countess – a good film – Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson (as the Countess), Vanessa Redgrave, Lynn Redgrave, John Wood – set in Shanghai in the 30’s shortly before Japan invades China. Strong storyline, good acting and excellent images – story by Ishiguro. This was the last film James Ivory made before his production partner, Ismail Merchant, died in 2005 (they were also gay partners), and it is very much in the style of Merchant Ivory productions. Keep an eye on Madeleine Daly (the young girl playing Katya) – a young actress who will do well.

Secret Agent – a quiet little film with Robin Williams, Bob Hoskins (producer and actor), Depardieu, Jim Broadbent, Patricia Arquette, Eddie Izzard (as Vladimir, the Russian ambassador) and a strong overall cast. This is the Joseph Conrad novel – not exciting, but classic 1920’s drama. Well done.

Anytown, USA – IMBd summarizes this documentary in this way “Candidates, Two blind Politicians, One Race. Anytown USA follows a tightly run race in the small town of Bogota, New Jersey and resonates as an all-too-familiar look at partisan politics in our increasingly polarized nation”. (Bogota is pronounced Boga da). A great little documentary – Kristian Farga (Mind’s Eye, Severe Clear) directs. Enjoyable, amusing, intriguing and well worth watching on a rainy day.

The Family Stone – Diane Keaton plays her usual role in this misfit family movie, which is both dull and predictable. Some nice starts, but no strong finishes in either dialogue or plot. Craig T Nelson (Coach) best actor in this movie and Sarah Jessica Parker does a good job as a stuck up “bitch-like lady – Claire Danes is a very stunning lady with not enough to do in this movie.

Ǽon Flux – Charlize Theron stars in this sci-fi thriller along with the “hunky” Marton Csokas (Bourne Supremacy, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and several others), directed by Karyn Kusama (Girlfight). Brief glimpse into the future after a pandemic wipes out 95% of the world’s population. Has a kind of strange familiarity to it – Minority Report pace and feel. Sophie Okonedo also appears alongside Charlize – she’s an interesting (and busy) actress who also appeared in Hotel Rwanda, the TV series Spooks as well as the Inspector Lindley Mysteries and several films. Not a great film this, but amusing (and occasionally sexy with a few nice visual effects). Nice minimalist settings and poor dialogue. A very atheletic Charlize shows no sign of the knee injury, which forced her out of the Joffrey Ballet in New York. She did however get injured in making this movie – neck problems – and production stopped for a time.

Dominion – The Prequel to the Exorcist – what a total and absolute pile of pants – crap from start to finish. Avoid at all costs. Cant believe this was made in 2005 – its almost as bad as Michael Winner’s first films.

Black and White – Robert Carlyle (2002) movie with Charles Dance (fresh from his performance as Mr Tulkinghorn in Bleak House and his directoral debut – Ladies in Lavender). Set in Australia, based on a true 1958 story of the aboriginal sentenced to hang for the murder of a young white girl. The aboriginal part is played by David (Ned Kelly, Rabbit Proof Fence, Harry’s War) – excellent court drama. My friend the Judge checked out the details and thinks its not that bad from a dramatic point of view, though there are errors of fact.

Break a Leg – an actors movie about acting. Written by actors. It is a total an absolute pile of pants (probably underpants). Rent it or buy it and destroy – do us all a favour! If you are about to watch it, go for a long walk – with luck, it will be over by the time you get back. Not only is the script poor, the acting is dire and the plot is as imaginative as a one legged beetle trying to make it with a dandelion.

Torpedo Run – this 1958 movie has Robert Hardy in one his ealy roles, Glenn Ford and Ernest Borgnine.. usual 1958 U-Boat drama. Give me Das Boot anytime.

Elizabeth 1 – Helen Mirren, Hugh Dancy, Jeremy Irons in this visually stunning, made for TV well written piece (3hours plus) focusing on her relationship with the Earl of Leicester (Irons) and Early of Essex (Dancy). Strong performances all around, with good political vignettes. Well worth watching. Mirren, as usual, outstanding.

Flightplan – I generally like Jodie Foster – she is an intelligent, smart and skilled actor. She was roped into this at the last minute and would have been wise to drop out – its not a good film. Predictable, slow, repetitive – no thriller at all. Sean Bean (Sheffield lad) plays the aircraft captain, Jodie the mother of a girl who goes missing during the flight and the rest of the cast do average job with a poor script and far fetched plot. Avoid.

Freedomland – directorial debut of Joe Roth, a well known studio executive. Big cast – Samuel L Jackson, Julienne Moore (The Hours), Edie Falco (The Soprano’s), Bill Forsythe (The Last Marshall) – based on the novel by Richard Price. A car is hijacked in one of the projects, inside is supposed to be small 4yr old boy. Car driven by white women. Lots of levels, good acting, lots of drama. Ebert didn’t like this movie. I do.

World’s Fastest Indian – a nice film with Sir Anthony Hopkins as an old New Zealander who wants to break the world land speed record. Amusing, sensitive, textured. Good film.

If Only.. – a gentle, UK film looking at what would happen if you could anticipate the future. Jennifer Love Hewitt and Paul Nichols carry this film, which she also bankrolled it. Good evenings viewing.

Prime – intriguing film with Merly Streep as a therapist whose client dates her estranged son. Uma Thurman is the love interest here and it’s a well crafted piece with a set of Jewish lines. Good entertainment for a pleasant evening with a nice wine.

Films I am still wanting to see:

Da Vinci Code (Tom Hanks)
The Libertine (Johnny Depp)
Take the Lead (Antonio Banderas)
Syriana (George Cluny)
What the Bleep do we Know?
Nine Lives (Dakota Fleming, Kathy Baker, Glenn Cose, Ian McShane)
Hustle and Flow (Terence Howard)
Friends with the Money (Aniston)
Magnolia (William H Macey)

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