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One Love (2003)
Warm-hearted Jamaican love-story
A quirky love story with an exotic Jamaican setting.
Serena (Cherine Anderson) is the gospel-singing daughter of a devout Penticostal preacher (Winston Stona). It's a loving but repressive community, and she's being pushed into marrying a worthy member of the church.
Then she meets laid-back rasta Reggae musician Kassa (Ky-Mani Marley, son of Bob Marley) at a music contest. Initially drawn together by their mutual love of music, their forbidden relationship begins to blossom as they battle with a corrupt record-producer for a fair recording contract.
It's a good old-fashioned morality tale of love overcoming cultural and religious differences, with unobtrusive direction and strong performances from all concerned. As you might expect, there's a stonking Reggae sound-track featuring Bob Marley, Shaggy & Junior Kelly. Both the principals have strong voices and do their own singing.
The plot has similarities with Jamaican cult classic "The Harder They Come" (Trevor Rhone has writing credits for both films). But the treatment here is very different: where "Harder" was dark and edgy, this is warm-hearted and unashamedly sentimental, with an undercurrent of broad comedy. It's straightforward story-telling aimed at a mainstream family audience.
Caught the UK Premiere at the Birmingham Screen Festival and had a chat with one of the producers. The project was driven by her passionate belief that there is a need for more positive portrayals of the Afro-Caribbean community on film. So while we see a fair bit of Jamaican corruption, we also see charming if somewhat idealised views of life in a mountain village and an idyllic Rastafarian community.
It's an impressive achievement for a first-time production team. They pulled in a powerful Executive Producer, raised USD 2 million, and assembled a strong team around the project. They have secured a general theatre release in the UK, Germany and other European markets, with good prospects of a US release as well. So expect it soon in a cinema near you.
geoff -at- advantae -dot- com
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Style without substance
This seems to be the work of a film maker who has run out of things to say. My companion and I both felt that this was perhaps the emptiest film we had ever seen. We find the hype around this film bemusing. Be prepared to be disappointed - the emperor has no clothes!
Unlike his previous productions, the script is devoid of plot, suspense, wit, character development or any of the qualities that make story-telling on film worthwhile.
Instead we have a series of mindless, violent set pieces and knowing fan references to Asian genre movies. It is not the violence that turned us off - it is too stylised to be objectionable - but the utter lack of any point to the thing. Even the fight scenes themselves were predictable and repetitive, with none of the flair of the great kung-fu directors.
The bard summed it up rather well: "...a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
The Last Great Wilderness (2002)
Intelligent movie making on a budget
I was almost put off this film by ubercritic Philip French's savage review in the Observer: "a risible Scottish fiasco". Ouch! But it's very much better than that - as the high rating by IMDB voters suggests.
What Mr French seems to have missed is that this is a comedy - a deliciously dark comedy. The script plays with cliched genres such as the road movie and the horror movie - with subtle twists and knowing jokes. And although its tongue is always firmly in its cheek, it has interesting things to say about the crazy ways we try to deal with problems in life...
Any director exploring the funny side of madness, murder, shamanism, assisted suicide, crucifiction, and immolation is taking a bit of a risk. But on the whole, David MacKenzie pulls off his debut with aplomb. There are excellent performances from brother Alistair MacKenzie, the fragrant Victoria Smurfitt and the usual Scottish suspects, and a standout soundtrack from Glasgow unit The Pastels.
Quite a funky and thought-provoking night out - well worth seeing.
The Dancer Upstairs (2002)
Accomplished, intelligent & moving
A powerful film that tackles big issues with an intimate and often poetic touch.
Through the character of the idealistic but flawed police chief Rejas, Malkovich and Shakespeare have crafted a many-layered meditation on innocence and corruption, love and loneliness, the romance and the banality of violence, and the consolations and frustrations of domesticity.
The unhurried pace offers space for these themes to develop, and serves as a counterpoint to the sudden outbursts of extreme situationist violence,
A towering performance from Javier Bardem, while Malkovich directs with a sure touch, and a distinctive but unobtrusive voice.
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Good film, but a travesty of history
I am normally an admirer of David Lean. But it is difficult to understand why he chose to base this film on a real event at the River Kwai, as it grossly misrepresents the real "Colonel Nicholson" and caused considerable distress to both him and the River Kwai veterans.
The Colonel Nicholson character is based on the allied camp commander, Lieutenant Colonel Philip Toosey, who was a remarkable officer by any standards.
Awarded the DSO for heroism during the defence of Singapore, he refused an order to join the evacuation so he could remain with his men during captivity. In the hellish conditions of the camp, he worked courageously to ensure that as many of his men as possible would survive. He endured regular beatings when he complained of ill-treatment of prisoners, but as a skilled negotiator he was able to win many concessions from the Japanese by convincing them that this would speed the completion of the work. Behind their backs, however, he did everything possible to delay and sabotage the construction without endangering his men, and also helped organise a daring escape, at considerable cost to himself. For his conduct in the camp, he won the undying respect of his men.
After the war, he showed great generosity of spirit by saving the life of Colonel Saito, second in command at the camp and a relatively decent officer, when he spoke up for him at the war crimes tribunal. He worked for the veterans all his life, and became President of the National Federation of Far Eastern Prisoners of War.
He refused repeated requests by the veterans to speak out against the film, being much too modest to seek any glory or recognition for himself. However you will find his achievements documented in a book by Professor Peter Davies entitled "The Man Behind the Bridge".
Toosey hoped that no one watching the film would believe a British Army officer could be so stupid in real life. But with the film being rated on this site as one of the top 50 movies of all time, this hope may have been misplaced. Enjoy the film by all means as a work of fiction, but it is surely important to set the record straight and recognise the heroism of the real man involved.
Bangkok Dangerous (2000)
Fails to engage
This struck me as a rather average movie from directors who have yet to find their voice.
After a while, the self-consciously arty editing and sound track became wearing, and there is a general feel of style over substance.
For a movie with art-house pretensions, it has very little to say. The formulaic plot follows a predictable course to yet another shootout in a warehouse. And as others have pointed out - the crass sentimentality of the love interest stretches the credulity, to put it mildly.
Bottom line: this felt like a rather cold and academic exercise. The characters failed to engage, and in the end, I cared not a jot about their fate (not that you won't have predicted their fate in the first 20 minutes). Better to spend your cash on a good Tarantino and remind yourself of how this sort of nihilistic violence really should be done.