Reviews written by registered user
|8 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One can probably assume from the film 'The Cook, the thief his wife and
lover' that director Peter Greenaway has a rather warped view of humanity;
he is nihilistic about society's future, abhorrent of Thatcher's regime
furiously condescending of the entrepreneurial upper classes and their
exploitation of the workers. This anger manifests itself in the shocking
scenes of violence and depravity contained in the film, which earned the
film an X certificate back in 1989 and (surprisingly) resulted in the film
reaching a larger audience than anyone anticipated (the film grossed over
million in the USA) and proved that there is more weight to the old adage
'no publicity is bad publicity' than one might expect. However it should
be forgotten that the film received almost unanimously euphoric reviews
film critics (or at least from those that didn't flee from the cinema) and
is indeed one of the most brilliant, visceral, imaginative and unique
of cinema. It's not for all tastes, but those who can stomach it will be
rewarded with a slice of delectable cinematic cuisine of the highest
The film's central locale is 'Le Hollondais', a restaurant of the most impeccable quality in every aspect. Night after night the restaurant is attended not only by an assortment of wealthy and decadent noveau riche, but also by low-level gangster Albert Spica (Michael Gambon) accompanied by his tormented wife Georgina (Helen Mirren) and a consortium of pimps, hit-men and psychopaths. Each evening Albert treats the dining area of the restaurant like his court, spewing out vile speeches of ignorance and bigotry, making unqualified criticisms of the cuisine and assaulting any of the other diners if they object to his hog-like behaviour. The chef (Richard Bohringer) despises Albert, but presents a façade of obedience and servitude to avoid any maltreatment from Albert and his cronies (much like the other dining guests, who exhibit remarkable patience with the revolting Albert). Georgina seems resigned to marital martyrdom, but also sees the ridiculousness of Albert's arrogance and pomposity (though she rarely contradicts him, he hits her with the exquisitely calligraphic menu when she does). However, one night her eyes meet Michael's (Alan Howard), an intellectual who sits quietly in the corner of the restaurant, delicately eating his meal whilst engrossed in his book, seemingly oblivious to Albert's loud displays of crudeness. Lightning (proverbially) strikes and with little hesitation the two make for the Ladies toilet, where they engage in a passionate tryst in one of the cubicles. And thus the cycle begins; each night Albert continues his rants and consumption of excessive amounts of food, whilst the cook assists Georgina in finding hiding places for her and Michael to make love. However the naturally distrustful Albert soon realises he is a cuckold and orders that lover be killed by having each page of his book thrust down his throat with a sharp spindle. Georgina, however, is able to turn the tables on Albert, which leads to the films shocking denouement where the thief receives his just desserts in a manner best described as poetic justice.
So what is the film about? Is it a darkly humorous political satire on our materialistic times? Is it exploitative pornography coupled with scenes of unnecessary brutality? Or is it simply a story about a cook, a thief his wife and her lover? This is not an easy question to answer; the film's political undercurrents are intentionally enigmatic and vague, Greenaway certainly isn't handing us the answers on a silver platter (in interviews he refuses to talk about his film's subliminal meanings) and we are left to our own devices to discern the films message (if indeed it possesses one). Whilst one could simply accept the film as an updated Jacobean tragedy mingled with the savagery of a Charles Bronson revenge flick, this would rob the film of its allegorical significance, which the film most certainly possesses (in a strangely subversive way). I personally tend towards the argument that 'The Cook the thief his wife and her lover' is Greenaway's manifesto for his disgust at Britain's social hierarchy; the excesses of the wealthy, their subjugation of the workers and their insatiable desire for (as Dickens's Oliver would put it) 'more'.
The quartet of main actors give performances of uninhibited power; they must metaphorically (and in the case of Helen Mirren and Michael Howard, literally) bare all. Each inhabits their character perfectly; the dour, soft spoken Richard, who subversively undermines Albert's authority by assisting Georgina in her sexual caprices, is played with model restraint and calm by Richard Bohringer (although his thick French accent is sometimes hard to comprehend). The part of Lover is less straightforward (he says nothing for the film's first 40 minutes) but Michael Howard acquits himself well to a rather limited role, the real tour de force performances, however, are delivered by Mirren and Gambon. Georgina's transformation from abused wife, to daring lover, to seeker of vengeance is perfectly portrayed by Mirren, she is the film's defiant heroine and earns our sympathies for her desperate plight. As Roger Ebert surmised so aptly 'Gambon plays Albert as the kind of bully you can only look at in wonder, that God does not strike him dead' he is the epitome of excess (gastronomically, egotistically, financially etc.) and lacks any redeeming features, but Gambon also has the talent to give a performance that makes us realise what a pathetic and (surprisingly) vulnerable character he is (though he's still utterly loathsome).
Upon its release many saw the film as a political allegory with the thief representing the tyrannical Thatcher, who subjugates the dutiful workers (the cook) whilst ruining Britannia (the wife). This behaviour is all ineffectually opposed by left wing intellectuals (the lover). Whether or not this is true, indeed whether or not you love or loathe this film, it is a powerful experience that will linger with you for quite some time.
My Score: 9 out of 10
Back in 1994 La Reine Margot' dispensed of every preconceived notion of
traditional costume drama, bringing a radical and shocking slant on history.
The lavish sets and costumes remained but the atmosphere was now tainted
with bloodshed, poison, lust and incest. The regal palaces that were so
stereotypically populated by loyal subjects are transformed into a viper's
nest of power politics, schemes and deceit where royal heritage counts for
little and deviousness is the key to success.
The year is 1572; France is torn apart amidst the conflict between Catholics and Protestants whilst the King is a mere puppet, first to his domineering, Catholic, mother (Catherine de Medici, played with superlative coldness by Virna Lisi) and later to the protestant leader Coligny. In a half hearted effort to bring peace to the land Catherine marries off her daughter Margot (Isabelle Adjani) to the protestant Henri de Navarre (Daniel Auteuil), a political manoeuvre that deludes no one. Margot and Henri are certainly a less than content couple; as they walk down the aisle they engage in a hissing match with one another where Margot succinctly informs him that Just because we're married it doesn't mean I have to sleep with you' and suggests he steer clear of her bedroom. They also fail to adhere to any form of decorum during the wedding reception; whilst Henri brawls with the Catholics (and flirts with a very youthful Asia Argento, of xXx fame) Margot goes window shopping amongst the male guests, looking for a viable one night stand. When the wedding guests prove unsatisfactory she simply dons a mask and takes to the streets, masquerading as a prostitute, and continues her search amongst the hordes of Protestant soldiers, who have gathered for her wedding, eventually settling on the dour La Mole (Vincent Perez). However any illusions of peace are shattered after a botched attempt to assassinate Coligny, as the Catholics, fearing a revolt, slaughter 6,000 Protestants in what becomes known as the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.
The sheer horror of the massacre is reproduced with unflinching realism by director Patrick Chireau, who manages not only to shock but also recreate an atmosphere of utter chaos, exemplified by the moment when Margot is wandering amongst the palace corridors which have been besieged by soldiers and are strewn with corpses (Margot is curtly told return to your room and lock the door'). Unfortunately some of the impact of the massacre is lost due to the fact that we know barely any of the characters who are being murdered and it begs credibility that the Protestants seemingly put up no resistance. One of the few survivors of the slaughter is La Mole, who is saved by Margot when he breaks into her chamber, looking for sanctuary, which Margot freely gives to him (and more). In the aftermath of the massacre Margot also manages to save Henri de Navarre, forging a valuable alliance in the process. However, suspicion has been aroused that she is a traitor and she finds that she is in a decidedly vulnerable position where her only hope of freedom is to flee to Navarre with Henri.
Isabelle Adjani, France's premier actress, delivers one of her finest performances as the stubborn and promiscuous Margot, who despite initially coming across as vain and conceited later earns our sympathy as she finds herself in an impossible situation, where her position in the royal family is of little consequence (her brothers love her in a perversely incestuous way and her mother sees her as an inconvenience and potential threat to her authority) and the threat of assassination always looms around the corner. Whilst the political manoeuvrings and power struggles are intriguing the same cannot be said for the tepid romance between Adjani and Perez. The pair lacks any chemistry; even their scenes of erotic passion come across as frigid and awkward. They make an attractive couple, but not a particularly convincing one.
La Reine Margot is also one of the most visually sumptuous films ever released; the big budget clearly didn't go to waste in recreating the gothic decadence of the period and the costumes were deservingly nominated for an Oscar. It's easy to view La Reine Margot' as a precursor to the acclaimed 1998 film Elizabeth', as both centre around a female historical figure who has to endure the conflict between Catholics and Protestants whilst surviving assassination attempts (usually via poison) and overcome tragedy as those who they care for are systematically murdered. Indeed if nothing else La Reine Margot' provides a chilling insight into one of history's most horrific atrocities and offers an unsettling portrait of the moral bankruptcy that pervaded throughout 16th century society.
My Score: 8 out of 10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It would be fair to say that Hollywood remakes are generally a tricky
prospect, be it an 'Americanization' of a foreign film or an update of a
beloved 'classic', the problem is that these films are generally
characterized as soulless cash-ins, created by greedy Hollywood big-wigs
the hope of increasing the annual dividends. These films are usually
slaughtered by critics, rejected by the public and left to wallow in
So now we come to 'The truth about Charlie' a remake of the Hepburn/Grant
classic 'Charade', which judging by Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and the
score (a rather underwhelming 4.8) has been tossed by the critics and
alike, on the ever increasing pile of Hollywood's misconceived projects.
It's a pity really because I actually enjoyed 'The Truth about Charlie'
(although I must confess I haven't seen the original version; 'Charade',
I may have been a little harsher if I had) and felt the reaction it
was not completely justified, as there are numerous reasons to recommend
The film begins with Regina Lambert (Thandie Newton) returning home to her apartment in Paris, only to find the place ransacked and her husband nowhere to be found, however she is soon informed by the police that he has been murdered. It's not long before an entourage of mysterious characters appears who are quick to inform Regina that her husband had a past, had managed to make away with $6 million and that they're very keen to get they're hands on the loot and are perfectly willing to go to extreme lengths to do so. It's not all bad for Regina, as she manages to find some comfort (and more) with handsome stranger Joshua Peters (Mark Wahlberg), although an American agent named Louis Bartholomew (Tim Robbins) warns her to be wary of Joshua as his motives may well be duplicitous. Of course it soon becomes very difficult for Regina to know who she can trust, as she is soon being cornered by a trio of disgruntled thugs, by Joshua Peters, by Louis Bartholomew and by the French Authorities all of whom seem to believe she has knowledge of the money's whereabouts.
And the plot twists just keep on coming, some obvious, some surprising and none superfluous. A film like this needs a strong, likeable, believable protagonist who holds your attention throughout the film. 'The truth about Charlie' is lucky in that it has Thandie Newton to carry the lead role, as she has managed to draw favorable comparisons with Hepburn's performance in the original, having not seen 'Charade' I can't comment on that, although she does posses something of a likeness to Hepburn and has her own brand of infectious charm, achieved largely through her ability to convincingly balance vulnerability and strength in a character. Newton is perfect for the role and the film would not be nearly so good without her and one can only hope she will soon join the Hollywood A-list as she has more than enough talent to deserve to do so. The same cannot be said for her (more famous) co-star; Mark Wahlberg. He comes across as bland and unlikable; there's something strangely obnoxious about him and the script gives little opportunity for character development, while Wahlberg demonstrates his limited acting range and lack of chemistry with Newton. The rest of the cast give solid performances in their mostly one-dimensional roles, Tim Robbins being the stand-out. The film does have a few plot hole (without wishing to give too much away one character sacrifices their life to save Regina, even though they perhaps would be more inclined to kill her than rescue her) and the ending is contrived and mawkish, clearly they wanted to tie all the loose threads together and also hoped to increase the films commercial potential. Acclaimed director Jonathon Demme captures the atmosphere of the sleazy side of Paris perfectly, and the soundtrack, which is comprised mostly of French Pop, also adds flavour to the film (and is remarkably similar to the soundtrack used in Neil Jordan's 'The Good Thief').
Whilst those who adored 'Charade' are liable to loathe this film, I'd recommend that anyone interested in stylish thrillers were little is what it seems (and almost all the characters have at least two names) check this film out. My score 7 out of 10
It seems that Hollywood's found its new favourite genre;the heist movie,
already we've had big budget extravaganzas such as 'Ocean's 11', 'The Score,
'The Thomas Crown Affair' and the appropriately named 'Heist'. All of these
movies have enabled large ensemble casts of important Hollywood actors to
devise and execute brilliantly inventive thefts, but in the process have
generally sacrificed any personality in the characters. I was therefore
looking forward to the 'good thief' as an elegant tale not only of
devilishly clever thievery, but also(due to the fact this was being directed
by Neil Jordan) as a character study of flawed, fallible but ultimately
Alas t'was not to be. Jordan has in fact made a very stylish but emotionally hollow film with frustrating plot holes and a 'twist' (and I use the word 'twist' very loosely, I saw it coming a mile off) ending which is likely to leave audiences baffled and cheated.
The film centers around Bob(Nick Nolte) a has-been thief and heroin addict who, bizarrely, is loved by everyone. However all is about to change when he befriends a 17 year old prostitute and rescues her from an abusive pimp, as soon he has chained himself to his bed in order to go cold turkey and has begun to plot an elaborate (and utterly ridiculous) painting theft with a large group of shady misfits.
Sadly all the plot potential is squandered, as Jordan opts instead for a sleek cruise through the nightclubs, brothels and dark alley ways of Monte Carlo, paying virtually no attention to the characters and employing an extremely distracting method of editing; as the camera pauses in freeze-frame for a split second as a scene ends. The plot drags on at a soporific pedestrian pace, indeed the heist is never gone into in the specifics but discussed in a distinctly broad manner (hinting that perhaps Jordan hadn't given much thought to how the Heist would actually work). Still, Jordan has always had a good command of dialogue and there are plenty of good one-liners and witticisms, though these sadly are wasted as the actors (particulairly Nolte) mumble their lines or speak with such strong accents that their dialogue is basically unintelligible. Had it not been for the subtitle option on the DVD I doubt I would even of gathered that Nick Nolte's Character was named Bob.
In fairness the actors are well cast and Nolte was born to play Bob(it's just a pity you can't understand what he's saying) and the soundtrack, which is an eclectic mixture of Techno,rock and French pop, adds considerable atmosphere to the proceedings.
I loved Jordan's films 'The Crying Game' and 'Interview with the vampire' but this film fell short of my expectations by some way. My score: 5 out of 10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Shrek is a film which delights in making fun of the classic fairy tale's
rites of passage with dollops of satire and a surprising amount of black
comedy and (of course) a nice, sweet underlying message about beauty on
inside and never judging a book by its cover etc. etc.
Shrek works so well because it is not specifically aimed at either adults or children and provides plenty of entertainment for both with the usual (rather crude) humour about flatulence, belching and so on to amuse kids and plenty of sly in-jokes and jabs at Disney that will raise a smile from adults.
The plot of Shrek revolves around the eponymous title character who just happens to be a large green ogre.A loner with an inferiority complex, a stroppy attitude and bad breath, shrek certainly isn't the archetypal hero of a fairy tale, but none the less (or perhaps because of) he ends up being one of the more lovable creatures ever to be animated. Unbeknownst to Shrek however is the fact that times are decidedly turbulent for fairy tale creatures who are being systematically rounded up and evicted by the diminutive Lord Farquaad and unfortunately for shrek his swamp is the area they've been relocated to. Not content to share his home with Pinocchio, the three little pigs, tinkerbell and countless others, Shrek, accompanied by a talking donkey named er.. Donkey, sets out to speak to Farquaad and get rid of the 'squatters'. In the meantime Farquaad has chosen (under the advice of the magic mirror) to marry Princess Fiona (he chose her over Snow White and Cinderella), there is however a snag: she's imprisoned in a castle surrounded by lava and guarded by a dragon and for the pint sized Farquaad the idea of personally rescuing her is decidedly unnapealing. He therefore strikes a deal with Shrek: if Shrek rescues the princess he gets his swamp back free from the unwanted inhabitants. And so the adventure begins...........
Shrek succeeds principally for two reasons, it's quartet of main characters and its humour. As previously mentioned Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers, not that you'd know; he adopts a Scottish accent which makes his voice almost unrecognizable) is refreshingly flawed and a welcome change from the bland heroes that populate cinema. Donkey(Eddie Murphy) is the stereotypical wise-cracking sidekick who is the films main source of comedy. The role is used in essentially every animated movie and the results usually vary from the good (Robin Williams;Aladdin) to the dire (Billy Crystal;Monsters Inc.) but Murphy is arguably the best yet (though I still think he is the weakest of the four main characters). Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) is essentially a combination of the classic damsel in distress with the added twist of Diaz's 'Charlie's Angels' alter-ego which enables her to kick Monsieur Hood and his Merry Men's french butts in Matrix style slow motion Kung Fu. And last (but certainly not least) is lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) an old fashioned villain who, despite being devious and nasty, is not the cold embodiment of evil most films try to create.
Of course there are so many repeatable lines of dialogue and endless visual gags that you could easily compile a 'greatest hits' selection (my personal favourite is Cinderella and Snow White brawling over a wedding bouquet). Like all fairy tales Shrek must have a happy ending, but this time there's an added twist(which isn't even hinted at until 2/3 of the way into the movie) just to make sure the movie maintains its freshness. The only slight quibble I have is the rather confusing contradiction in the film's moral sub-plot about how one should not judge people because of their physical appearances, and yet the film happily stereotypes the midget Farquaad as a Napoleonic megalo maniac, its by no means offensive but it left me rather bemused at what the film was trying to say.
All in All an excellent animated feature (certainly better than the awful Monsters Inc.) I give it 8 out of 10 and strong recommendation
How does one begin a review of what is arguably the most controversial
movie of the 90's? Perhaps I should start by saying that although Basic
Instinct is complete trash with nothing residing beneath its glitzy
surface(despite the claims of Camille Paglia there are NO subliminal
meanings and the phallic symbolism of the ice pick is purely
it's also a riveting psychological thriller with Doublas and Stone
an impressive double in a refreshingly gripping film.
I will not go deeply into plot detail, as the story is practically part of hollywood folklore, but in summary volatile cop Nick Curran(Michael Douglas) falls in love with murder suspect Catherine Trammell(Sharon Stone) who may,or may not, have brutally murdered her lover with an ice pick. If the plot sounds familiar its probably due to the fact that Basic Instinct is essentially a combination of writer Joe Eszthera's film 'Jagged Edge' and director Paul Verhoeven's film 'The Fourth Man', both of which had their fair share of sex and fashionable violence. Despite this Basic Instinct still is enjoyable and having seen either of those films will have no affect on the unpredictability of the film.
At the centre of the film is Stone's performance which is actually quite superb(though in the long run this film's been more of a curse than a blessing to her film career)as although she's easily the least probable femme fatale ever to grace(or poison to be more accurate) the silver screen, Stone plays her with such zeal that we can't take our eyes off her. That said it should also be pointed out that she becomes rather less intriguing after the first 40 minutes when she becomes involved with Michael Douglas, as her character loses a great deal of her mystique and her personality has less bite. Then of course is the infamous scene (which practically every other reviewer has mentioned and I am going to be no exception) where Tramell is being interrogated by the police and coolly turns the tables on them by exploiting their libidos and reducing them to drooling idiots, totally ridiculous but easily the film's best scene and certainly one that is not going to be soon forgotten (no doubt to the chagrin of Sharon Stone).
The rest of the cast are fine, with Michael Douglas doing the character he does best(the rather thuggish white male who constantly gets involved with the wrong kind of woman), Jeanne Tripplehorn doing an adequate job as Nick's pyschologist and George Dzunda manages to be the only half-way likable character in the movie as Curran's best(and only)friend. Unfortunately Leilani Sarelle is under-used as Catherine Trammell's enigmatic girlfriend(I forgot to mention Catherine's Bi-sexual).
The film is, of course, not without flaws. No-one (not even the director) could deny that Basic Instinct has such big plot holes you could park a car in them as for some of the events in the film to make sense characters would need to be either clairvoyant or in possession of other-worldly powers. The endings also a bit of a cop out (no I WON'T reveal it) as it was clearly engineered so that it could be easily changed with a single edit if preview audiences were unsatisfied with it.
It is also impossible to ignore the huge controversey that surrounded the films release with a particulair furor being caused by feminists and lesbians over their portrayal in the film. In truth the jury's still out on wether Basic Instinct is homophobic, but I personally don't think it is as the characters' sexuality is never really an issue although in fairness it is used as a somewhat cheap plot device to titillate the audience. The case made by feminists is much stronger as all the women in the film are portrayed as dubious and potentially dangerous. The main defence against all this is that, frankly, all the characters are unpleasent and devious , with perhaps one exception, and no discrimination is given in any way. The other issue was, of course, the sex scenes which ,although explicit, are really rather passé these days.
The film is stylishly filmed, expertly paced, brilliantly directed and has a superb music score from Jerrry Goldsmith. I'll give it a high score(by my standards) of 8 out of 10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Disclosure is a silly but intriguing thriller, which would have been much
better had the screen-writer chosen to concentrate on the sexual
plot thread as opposed to the confusing computer conspiracy mumbo
The plot of Disclosure revolves around Tom Sanders(Michael Douglas) a fairly stereotypical buisness man, with a high paying job, a loving wife and two children. However on the day he is expecting a promotion he finds that the prestigious position has been given to a woman named Meredith Johnson(Demi Moore) an old flame of his and he begins to suspect his career may be in jeapordy.For this reason he later goes to her office for a buisness discussion, but finds she is more interested in rekindling their romance and after much groping, groaning and close-ups of Demi Moore's wonder bra (but no Sex)he flounces out of her office, declaring he is happily married and has no interest in beginning an affair. Meredith does not respond well to this and the following day Tom finds himself accused of sexually harrassing her, but mores is at stake than he imagines.
Sadly the film fails to concentrate on this theme as swiftly the film plummets into conspiracies, double-crosses, all to do with computer products and software, none of which makes much sense and seems have no other purpose than as a cheap plot device to enable Tom to humiliate Meredith at the end of the film.
Still the film is worth viewing, it is competently directed by Barry Levinson, and has a superb music score by Ennio Morricone and the entire office structure which Tom works in is stylishly designed and the film is well paced (even though it is implausible in numerous places) and holds your attention throughout.
The acting is solid, Michael Douglas performs well enough in a rather bland role whilst Demi Moore gloriously vamps it up as the schemeing Meredith. There's good support from Donald Sutherland as Tom's unsmypathetic boss and Roma Maffia turns in a great performance as Tom's tough-talking lawyer.
All in all a good film that could have benefited from some script moderations, but I'll give it a reasnobly good score of 7 out of 10
Gladiator is a film which contrives to be something more than just
'no-brain actioner' but unfortunately the film tries too hard to be unique
and simply wallows in its own pretensions and clichéd dialogue, delivered
unconvincing cardboard cut outs of characters.
The plot,in short, revolves around Maximus(Russell Crowe) a talented Roman general who, after winning a huge battle at Germania,is privately chosen by the Emperor(Richard Harris) to be the next ruler of Rome. Commodus, the Emporer's son is informed of this and does not take the news well and swiftly reasserts his right to the throne by .....well I think the rest is already covered quite sufficiently in the 'Plot Summary' section, so I'll begin criticizing this bloated piece of historical nonsense.
Ridley Scott is famed for his distinctive visual flair, and Gladiator is another impressive piece of style over substance, as Scott lavishly recreates imperial Rome with the aid of some imppressive computer graphics and superbly choreographs the elaborate battle sequences with brutal attention to detail. However once you get past these superficial details you discover the glaring faults that prevent the film from being as good as it should have been. Crowe's maximus is a fairly 2-dimensional character and his facial expressions seem to be limited to either scowling, suppressing rage, or just generally moody, whilst his dialogue consists of 'uber-hero' clichés all delivered in a typically macho, gruff voice lacking any inflection or emotion. Crowe can be a very good and versatile actor but he flounders in this role, remaining in dull monotone for most of the picture.
The Film is partially redeemed by solid performances from Connie Nielsen as the tragic, but strong-willed, heroine and Joaqiun Phoenix completely camps it up as the vile Commodus to great effect and Derek Jacobi is impressive in a small role as a member of the Roman Senate.
Many people love this film but I don't consider it to be particulairly special (maybe I'm too demanding) so I reccomend you check it out for yourself, but the fact this film won the 'best picture' oscar proves very little and only demeans the academy's already waning credibility.
For now I'll give the film a mediocre score of 6 out of 10