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mar9

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46 reviews in total 
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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Fat, Dumb and Rich, 23 May 2007
8/10

The three nouns above were the episode titles for this 3-part documentary about the USA. "Fat" is naturally about food, and it's no surprise to find that the portions from the perspective of an austere Englishman are mind-bogglingly huge. As are the people who eat them. "Dumb" is basically a road trip through the some of the stranger sights the US has to offer, and the stranger people who populate them. "Rich" is an exploration of the US lifestyle for those fortunate enough to be able to afford it, and the answer is that it's pretty fine. Jonathan Ross is the perfect presenter for this show that proves that it is impossible to exaggerate the weirdness that is life in America. He gives his subjects free rein to be as mad as they obviously are, and participates wholeheartedly. Part 1 in particular is a good companion piece to "Supersize Me" and the other episodes are somewhat reminiscent of Michael Moore when he's not being irritating and invading office foyers and boardrooms. Find "Americana", watch it. It's good.

4 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Dated, Feeble and Silly, 25 August 2002
2/10

Attempted cash-in on the incredibly successful "Raiders of the Lost Ark" fails dismally. Ludicrous stunts; the two leads (Chamberlain and Stone) lack charisma and look embarrassed. Inane, insane, cocaine-fuelled garbage that is clearly a product of its time (the mid-80s). Even John Rhys-Davies backs up from his decent work in "Raiders" (playing the latest in his long line of typecast swarthy mid-Easterners), but after seeing his performance in this film, it's obvious why his career slipped to the lost world of video game cut-scenes.

Suitable only for non-discriminating viewers, or if you want to pick it to bits and laugh at it; if the latter, you'll be kept busy, believe me.

Panic Room (2002)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Jodie Foster fans won't be disappointed, 26 June 2002
6/10

Jodie Foster is a wonderful actress and she is in form in this dark and at times suspenseful film. Unfortunately, the house in which she is trapped by robbers seeking a stashed fortune is the second-best actor in this film. Some woeful dialogue between the villains doesn't help either.

The climax suffers from Hollywooditis (indestructible bad guy - again??) but for most of the way this is a good but not great film.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Patience rewarded, 21 May 2002
8/10

This is a film that probably needs to be seen more than once. It is a great, measured, complex Persian carpet of a film, with a huge cast and an initially bewildering array of characters. If the viewer does not pay attention, it would be easy to be dismissive about it, because although it is a long film at over two hours, by contemporary standards not much seems to happen. The film's value is in the authentic performances of the entire cast and the interactions between them.

Watch out particularly for Richard E. Grant's gleefully sadistic footman, Stephen Fry as the police inspector and Kelly Macdonald's subtle performance as Mary. But really, everybody is good in this, not a bad performance in the ensemble.

"Walkabout" grows up, 29 April 2002
8/10

Stunning cinematography and riveting performances by the three (non-professional) actresses playing the children are the salient features of this astonishing film. Phillip Noyce was obviously very homesick when he decided to make this movie. His love for his country of birth pours forth from every frame. At its heart this is a very simple tale, based on a true story of three Aboriginal girls, forcibly removed from their family because they had white fathers, who run away from the mission station in which they are incarcerated and who proceed to walk home across more than 1000 miles of desert.

This is much more than a road movie, however. Noyce has walked an expert tightrope, able on the one hand as an Australian to portray his homeland and its people accurately, but at the same time have the expatriate's luxury of detachment, being able to undertake an analysis of the background (political and social) to this story, without being shrill or preachy. We see the facile racism of the white bureaucrats (tinged with grudging respect as the girls elude recapture), and the human reality of those who witnessed the inhumanities of the Stolen Generations first hand (either as victims or as perpetrators). Even the black tracker sent after the girls (great work by David Gulpilil) is conflicted - he wants to go home, but his duty is to hunt the fugitives down.

Music and sound effects add to a remarkable cinematic experience. Heavy, crunching footfalls punctuate this film, setting the tempo, delivering suspense, marking time. This film will be a standard in Australian schools for years to come, and deserves a global audience as well.

Wild Zero (1999)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Ace in a (deep, deep) hole, 24 April 2002
3/10

This is a lurid piece of cult schlock from Japan, that combines the following elements: rock 'n roll, drugs, bikes, guns, UFOs and zombie flesh eaters, in a combination that makes about as much sense as a caviar vindaloo.

Criticising this film may seem unfair, seeing that it sends itself up about as energetically as it possibly can, and considering the mish-mash of a plot, self-parody is this film's only option. If this film tried to take itself seriously, it would easily reach the bottom of the cinematic pile.

Among the many flaws in "Wild Zero", acting is probably the most obvious. Unfortunately, the zombies give the best performances in this film. Most of the actors with speaking parts in this film either cannot act at all or can only do it badly. It is also riddled with continuity errors, and is probably the worst edited film I can remember. The music is another minus. I thought bad rock 'n roll disappeared from monster movies after the 60s, I was wrong. Imagine The Saints without talent, or The Ramones lacking charisma and minus one or two chords, and you're getting close to the standard on display here.

To be fair, the movie has a positive message about tolerance at its centre, and a couple of impressive manga-like images are thrown up on screen during the action sequences. But at the close I would caution anyone if they intend seeing this film; it could do your head in.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Astonishing story, well acted, 22 April 2002
8/10

No-one would dare write a novel as far-fetched as John Nash jnr's life. A prodigy, a mathematical genius, a paranoid schizophrenic, a Nobel laureate. With raw material like this, "A Beautiful Mind" was always a short-priced favourite to be a good film. Well, it is, but I don't think the Academy was right to call it the best film of 2001.

Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly deliver exceptional performances. I'm again frankly mystified why the Academy firstly nominated Connelly as a supporting actress when she gets enough screen time to be rightly regarded as a co-star. And as for Crowe not winning Best Actor, well... People who view this film superficially could write Crowe's performance off, dismissing it as thespian sleight-of-hand, a bit of hunching, stillness, some drool and hey, presto, paranoid schizophrenia. They would be wrong. There is so much depth to Crowe's portrayal. He plays Nash in the early years superbly as a self-acknowledged genius, arrogant but just a bit detached from normality, the accent just right. Then the years of Nash's illness, the terrifying delusions, the pain in his eyes during his insightful moments. This is incredible stuff, and Connelly is not overshadowed, she plays the role of Alicia masterfully.

It is interesting how Nash's delusional episodes are portrayed as real in this film, which is reasonable, given that they were real enough to Nash at the time. To tidy the film up, a couple of elements of Nash's life are neatly excised - the mistress, the early divorce from Alicia and their subsequent remarriage. Nash's 30 long years imprisoned in his illness are skimmed over in the final reel, which to my mind unbalanced the film a bit. It seems rushed in the last few minutes, as if Ron Howard has noticed that the film is already quite long and he's cramming the last bits in.

Finally, could it be that Ron Howard has constructed this film to draw parallels between Nash's life and that of post-war USA? Initial brilliance, unlimited potential and boundless optimism. Then a catastrophic fall into paranoid fantasy, stagnation, impotence and paralysis (for the USA, the Cold War years, culminating in Vietnam). Then a rebirth and recovery, slipping into comfortable autumn years with an acceptance of self, but at the same time an acknowledgment of the troubled past. As Harrison Ford said in "Frantic", "I am an American and I am crazy!"

The Golden Dawn....., 20 April 2002
4/10

....couldn't rescue this picture from abject mediocrity. Michelle Trachtenberg, captured just before she scored the plum role of Dawn on "Buffy", is a prodigious young talent, but is given too little to do in this sub-par film adaptation of the "Inspector Gadget" animated series. Matthew Broderick and Rupert Everett mug shamelessly to little effect, and the end result is frankly a mess.

The film is too chaotic and violent for very young children, though it might just work for pre-teens. For older viewers, there is too much cuteness (typical Disney), the acting is way too hammy and apart from the challenge of spot-the-cameo, there is not much on offer.

The film pretends to be a retread of "The Six Million Dollar Man", but in fact offers a saccharine reworking of "Robocop", as bumbling but good-hearted security guard John Brown (Broderick) is horrifically injured in a robbery-murder, providing the raw material for the eponymous crime fighter. Unlike the animated series, the film emphasises Gadget (and the romantic interest, robotics expert Dr. Brenda Bradford) and plays down the importance of Gadget's niece Penny and dog Brain, who in the cartoon series did all the detective work while Gadget bumbled about, getting himself into trouble.

This film also deserves some sort of award for shameless product placement. The billboard with an internet search engine prominently displayed could be forgiven, but the candy and soft drink vending machine in Gadget's car - in a children's picture - is beyond the pale. Even Robocop would baulk at this level of corporate mind control.

Labyrinth (1986)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Glossy nostalgia for the Puf 'n Stuf generation, 11 April 2002
6/10

Family pictures are a curious breed, particularly when they aspire to greatness as George Lucas' fantasy "Labyrinth" seems to. There is a recipe to making such films, and the recipe is interesting as much for what it includes as for what it leaves out. Being a fantasy family picture, "Labyrinth" requires: enough magic to bedazzle the small children, a feisty young hero or heroine, scary monsters, a boo-hiss villain, narrow escapes, and a happy, warm, ending to bring a tear to the eye and prompt a family hug. It must not have: blood, realistic violence or excessive terror.

The included elements are there up to a point, and the film is colourful and glossy. Unfortunately, it is also terribly bland. David Bowie's Goblin King (a surprisingly flat performance) is utterly camp and devoid of menace. A bit of sexual tension between Jennifer Connelly's Sarah and Bowie would have helped, any tension at all actually. Sarah's supposed race against time to rescue baby Toby should pile on the suspense. It doesn't. The goblins and beasties should be at least a little scary. They are not. Sorry, Jim Henson's creations are irretrievably cuddly and cute in this film. The deus ex machina Sarah utilises to eventually enter the Goblin King's castle is also a let-down.

Without some sort of edge, "Labyrinth" falls short of greatness. It remains a curiosity, particularly for those wanting to see Connelly's early career. It is a cinematic pantomime, a feature length H.R. Puf'n Stuf. It's safe. It's nice. It makes you wonder what it could have been.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Warm and rainy, 10 April 2002
8/10

After the lacerating "Salaam Bombay", one could be excused for thinking that Mira Nair had lost her passport to creating a nice little family film. Yet for the first couple of reels, she seems to have made just that, as our struggling-to-be-upwardly-mobile family makes preparations for a wedding that is supposed to be perfect but is obviously anything but. I must admit I had difficulty with this part of the film, as the subtitling was patchy and when the actors spoke in English it was sometimes difficult to tell who was speaking and what was being said. This could be a film that improves on repeated viewing.

Perseverance pays off however. This is a "family" film with a finely-honed edge. Who could imagine that this seemingly shallow and chaotic family could have a genuine hero as its head in Lalit (Naseeruddin Shah), or that this film could reach across cultures to touch universal themes so effortlessly? Or that the dodgy tradesman P.K. (Vijay Raaz, in a wonderful performance) could combine the earthy humour of Shakespeare's rude mechanicals with the soaring romanticism of an urban Romeo? Tremendous stuff.


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