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The Man Who Sued God (2001)
Typical Connolly Fare
The story's an excellent one. A fisherman see his boat get hit by lightning, but the insurance company won't pay up as they call it an "Act Of God", so he decides to sue God - well the leaders of the churches, anyway.
I wish Billy Connolly would play less roles where he's called upon to be Billy Connolly, where there's no at all the swearing and being Scottish - he can be a really good actor, and he sort of is in this. Judy Davis, however, isn't convincing, but I'm sure that's the fault of the role or the writing, rather than Ms Davis herself.
At first thought, the ending seems to be very Hollywood, but in the time since I saw the film, it would appear that perhaps it was the best possible conclusion. The two other possible endings - one would have been even more Hollywood and the other one would have been a disappointment.
(And on a minor point, I think this was the first time I've ever seen a movie or TV show set in Sydney that didn't go for the stock cliche of shots of the Harbour Bridge and/or the Opera House - kudos to the writers for not being formulaic in that respect).
Bruce Almighty (2003)
Jim Carrey Not Being Jim Carrey
I don't normally go and see Jim Carrey films. Jim Carrey being Jim Carrey isn't good enough reason for me to get the bus to the movies and pay for popcorn. But occasionally, he'll do a film - like as 'The Truman Show' - where he doesn't goof around - and this is one of them - and it's good.
Carrey plays Bruce, a local TV reporter, who has a run of bad luck and takes it out on God, who promptly turns round and challenges him to become the Almighty for a while.
There are some really good moments and plenty of laugh out loud scenes. The concept's good and the writing and the special effects are excellent.
Jennifer Aniston's a bit of a disappointment but Morgan Freeman is fantastic as God - which, lets face it, is a role that he was born to play! And a real life God, Tony Bennett, makes a cameo appearance.
Worth going to see (and watch out for the parting of the tomato soup!)
Hope Springs (2003)
Hoped For Better
The story so far: Broken-hearted English artist flies to a small New England town he just picked off the map to run away from a fiancée that hurt him. He meets up an an American girl and then ex-fiancée arrives and lots of fun etc etc etc
This *should* have been a good film. Three lead actors who, on their day, are more than excellent, and a script that, although formulaic in the rom-com mould, has enough changes to at least make it interesting.
So why does it fail?
None of Colin Firth, Heather Graham or Minnie Driver actually make us believe their character. I'm guessing that the film was pitched on the strengths of Firth in 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'Bridget Jones' Diary' without realising that Colin Firth actually isn't Hugh Grant - mind you Grant would have failed at this film too. It needed somebody who wasn't a 'name' but then, of course, it wouldn't have got made.
In the role of the evil ex-fiancée I wonder who else they considered; Minnie Driver was an interesting choice that seemed not to work - whilst not exactly pure evil, you know the script-writers called for Cruella de Ville with a hint of niceness. Heather Graham was slightly more believable as the kooky girl-next-door type, but the stars of the show were Mary Steenburgen and Frank Collison as Joanie and Fisher.
The entire film strikes me as a money-making exercise for the studio. Throw an Englishman that the American rom-com demographics have heard of and sit back and hope the dollars come in.
It Works - But Only Just
If you're going to see a movie directed by Spike Jonez, then you know it's going to be out of the ordinary.
Nicolas Cage plays Charlie Kaufman, the screen-writer of 'Being John Malkovich' and this film, and it centres around his attempts to write a screenplay from book written about orchid hunters in Florida. Whilst he struggles (and fails) to write, his twin brother, also played by Cage, goes to a 'How To Be A Screen-Writer' lecture and ends up writing a widely acclaimed film, adding to Charlie's paranoia and psychosis.
The film switches between Meryl Streep's character writing the original book and Charlie writing (or not) the screenplay until the two timelines collide.
Cage is excellent, Streep is average and I have no idea why Tilda Swinton is in the film. OK, she's good, but you spend more time wondering why she was cast rather than concentrating on her character or the film.
There are some stunning effects and dramatic sequences, but it's difficult to work out who's trying to be profound: the film or the book.
I'm pleased I've seen it, but I won't bother seeing it again.
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
The story's good... that's all I can say.
Forgive me, for I have sinned. I forgot the golden rule of cinema-going: Never go and see an Adam Sandler film.
Don't get me wrong, this film has a good story. Barry, a weak lacking-in-confidence nerd, hen-pecked for life by his seven sisters, calls a phone sex line and then gets blackmailed and attacked by the owners of the sex line, after money. At the same time, a work colleague of one of his sisters sees a photo of him and goes out of her way to meet him. He's strange, but they start a relationship, probably the first Barry has had.
However, that's the only good thing about this film. Sandler is in this role, as always, very bad and even those that you expect to be better, such as Emily Watson, are let down by a bad script.
Don't bother. Watch the weather forecast instead, it'll be a more productive use of your time and resources.
Anything done by Spike will be praised.
I hope, from his seat on Heaven's comedic throne, Spike Milligan can see and can enjoy this film, as Terence Ryan and Ken Tuohy have taken a book that the author himself said writing it "nearly turned me mad" into a joy to watch.
The film tells the story of the Irish town of Puckoon and the problems befallen upon it when the partition between Northern Ireland and the Republic is drawn up, cutting its way through the centre of the village and, more worringly, through the middle of the churchyard. This causes some deceased, buried in the Catholic churchyard, to now be in the Protestant north - and so the local priest, assisted by a wide variety of eccentric locals, aims to move the bodies back undercover of darkness, and so avoiding the bureaucratic British border guards.
It was inspired work to cast the Irish comedian and poet Sean Hughes to play the part of Madigan. He brings an innocence to the part, especially in his to-camera pieces (which is normally where he interacts with the voiceover of Richard Attenborough, playing supposedly the writer/director of the film). Daragh O'Malley playing Father Rudden is also worthy of considerable praise; and the rest of the cast, from the household names like Elliott Gould and Griff Rhys Jones to people with what would normally be called 'bit parts' - such as Spike's daughter Jane who plays Madigan's wife give 100% The credit for this goes, in no small part, to the wonderful characterisations given by Spike in the original book.
I could argue that the film is slightly too long, or that Elliott Gould's Irish accent left a little to be desired, but those would be only minor points and take nothing away from the excellence of this film.