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May 2004
Issue 048

KS Classifieds

Classifieds now combined with Kansai Scene.

The Ladykillers

Coming Soon

Comedy/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/104mins
Starring: Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Touchstone Pictures

It is no news that Hollywood has lately gone on a binge of remaking old and foreign movies. In many cases the original films were not just fine, but classics of their type and have never begged for a remake, and you have to wonder what more could you add to the sublime 1955 original of the Ladykillers. However, this one comes to us from the Coen brothers of Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, and Fargo fame. The Coens are serious film makers — or seriously funny film makers — so we should not be quick to dismiss.
They have kept much of the original plot but have made something quite satisfyingly different from the original.

Alec Guinness’ Marcus is renamed Goldthwait Higginson Dorr, Ph.D (Tom Hanks) and is pretty much the same kind of overly cerebral criminal mastermind but recast as the ghost of Tennessee Williams and dressed like Colonel Sanders. Dorr and his gang rent space in the home of old biddy Mrs. Munson (Irma P. Hall) ostensibly for band practice. The crooks are still posing as musicians while they are tunnelling from the old lady’s root cellar into the vaults of a nearby casino. The old lady catches them with the cash from the raid and the game is up. There is only one thing to do and that is to bump off the darling old lady and this is where Dorr’s cunning plan falls apart as Mrs. Munson proves charmed with luck and the gang starts falling apart.

The Coen’s Ladykillers is a gourmet blow out of irony that reaches out from the confines of the plot to become a happily despairing portrait of humanity and that fickle thing called life. The Coens toss out cultural quips with such disarming ease that most of the comedy seems to be happening in the background and the slapstick is almost a distraction to the real fun of the film. In between people blowing themselves up, watch out for the golden calf, Israelites, the island of rubbish and Bob Jones University. And watch out for Hanks’ wonderfully twisted Dorr.

Big Fish

Out Now

Fantasy/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/125mins
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Alison Lohman
Director: Tim Burton
Columbia Pictures

Travelling salesman Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) is on his deathbed in his lifelong home, watched over by his devoted wife (Jessica Lange) and the family gather to pay their last respects. Edward’s son (Billy Crudup) arrives from Paris where he lives and works. It is an uneasy meeting. The two don’t get along, or more to the point, young Will Bloom is fed up with his father. You see, Bloom senior is a lugubrious spinner of fantastic tales. He is the Baron Munchausen of Alabama, and young Will is thoroughly fed up with it. He wants to know the real story, find out about his real father, and wants no more of these silly fantasies. He implores his father to tell him the truth of his life before it is too late. The old Bloom agrees but recycles the same old tales at excruciating length.
Will hears for the umpteenth time how his dad parachuted into China to kidnap a pair of singing conjoined twins, met a catfish as big as a shark, consorted with giants, witches and every kind of magical circus character. And I thought being a travelling salesman was a dull and thankless job.

These tales are told through flashback, Ewan McGregor playing the young Edward and Alison Lohman as the young Mrs. Edward, and it is in these flashbacks that director Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood — any film with an Edward in it) does what he is best at: creating a mesmerising world of big imagination.
Big Fish, alas, unlike many of Burton’s other films, lacks the dark edge and tends toward sentimentality. It is, in the end, a very wholesome family flick. That is not a bad thing in itself, but Burton, we feel is spinning his wheels. Having said that, he does show that it is myth that gives meaning to life for many people, and there are poignant suggestions that these myths are a compensation for Bloom’s sense of a wasted life. Burton suggests provocatively that the myth is more real than reality.

Film Reviews: Chris Page

Also playing

Dawn of the Dead

Ho hum. Another remake. This time of the 1978 seminal horror flick of the same name. You probably have the plot burned into your psyche by now: a mysterious disease that turns its victims into murderous zombies afflicts a small town in Wisconsin. The zombies bite healthy people who become zombies and so on. Where did this virus come from and where is it going? We don’t need to know. The point is fun and gore and you get plenty of both in this new version. Where the first film had some self-deprecating humour, this one is po-faced.

Horror/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/100mins
Starring: Sarah Polley, Ving James, Jake Weber
Director: Zack Snyder
Universal Pictures

Peter Pan

This made-for-instant-success CG fest tells the classic Peter Pan like it really was in JMBarrie’s book. The Disney-panto sentimentality is gone. Instead we have the stirrings of sexual awakening and intimations of mortality. Peter and Wendy actually kiss and Hook is a mess of jealousies, bitterness and hatred of youth. Hook, played by Jason Isaacs, is also Wendy’s dad, so the Freudsters will be working overtime on this one.
However, the psych stuff does not take away
from the ripping yarn.

Fantasy/US/ English (Jap-subtitles)/113mins
Starring: Jason Isaacs, Jeremy Sumpter
Director: PJHogan

Haunted Mansion

Workaholic estate agent Eddie Murphy is supposed to be on holiday with his family but can’t pass up the chance to sell this creaky old mansion and drags the whole brood in for a good haunting. The house has a sad and tormented past, and is choc-full of lovesick ghosts. The butler, played by the show-stealing Terence Stamp, becomes convinced that Murphy’s wife is the key to lifting the curse on the house. Not much for mum and dad here, but plenty of fun for the kids.

Kids, comedy horror/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/99mins
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Marsha Thomason, Terence StampDirector: Rob Minkoff
Walt Disney

The Passion of the Christ

The Passion of the Christ is Mel Gibson’s passion about the Passion of the Christ. There is little or no Christian teaching, no proselytising. The film is an attempt to demonstrate the suffering and sacrifice that one man went through for humanity — at least as the devout Gibson sees it. In this mission to create a visceral account, Gibson has made something extraordinarily violent. Possibly more violent than many people will tolerate. What value is there for the non-Christian apart from the technical accomplishments? Answer: Gibson’s passion for the subject.

Religious/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/126mins
Starring: James Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Monica Bellucci Director: Mel Gibson
Newmarket Films

Kill Bill: Volume 2

This, as everyone in the world already knows, is the second thrilling instalment of Tarantino’s thrilling Kill Bill duo. In the first, the bride slashes her way toward the man who completely spoiled her wedding, and in this one, she succeeds in slashing all the way to the man itself. There are some surprises in volume 2: it hints at having a plot and then throws in a couple of twists. Where in the first film everyone is motivated by revenge, we now have the human emotional range expanded to include jealousy as well.

Action/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/136mins
Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah

Something’s Gotta Give

Jack Nicholson plays a rich media type with a penchant for younger women and fast living — in other words, he plays himself. His latest young flame takes him home to the Hamptons to meet Mum (Diane Keaton playing herself) where Jack has a heart attack and the doctor (Keanu Reeves as a doctor? No way!) falls in love with Diane Keaton despite the 25-year age difference, but now Jack has fallen for Diane (not Keanu) too and if this sounds like a sitcom, it is. Good dialogue, great performances from the veterans.

Romantic Comedy/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/124mins Starring: Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Amanda Peet Director: Nancy Meyers
Columbia Pictures


Devon is a red hot drummer from Harlem who is given a place in a university in Atlanta and an instant place in the marching band. Here his talent and extrovert, show off nature begins to earn him as many friends as enemies. Eventually he manages to alienate too many people around him and begins to grow up and take charge of his talent. This could have been a cheesy premise and an occasion to trot out all kinds of clichés about black Americans, but the execution is thoughtful and heartfelt.

Drama/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/118mins
Starring: Mick Cannon, Orlando Jones, Zoe Saldana
Director: Charles Stone
20th Century Fox

Party Monster

Macaulay Culkin, who you will remember as the cherub in Home Alone, is perfect here as the destructive, malign and drug addled Michael Alig. Alig arrives in New York from Smalltown, Indiana, and sets up as a party promoter. Mostly though, he is promoting himself. He is self-obsessed to the point of being hermetically sealed and gathers people to adorn himself, as others gather accessories. The shallowness of the individuals and the spiral of self-destruction is excruciating. We are not surprised to find out the real Alig is in prison for manslaughter.

Drama/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/98mins
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Seth Green, Chloe Sevigny Director: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
Strand Releasing


Gus Van Sant brings us this very brave fictional account of a high school killing spree similar to the tragedy at Columbine. It is brave because high school killings are not entertainment, because this kind of thing will not sell, and because it opens up the film maker to all sorts of criticism. Van Sant presents the events at his fictional school without Hollywood effects, without moralising or even analysis. No drama, just a fly-on-the-wall observation that invites the audience to wonder about why, in a way that no shrill news report can.

Drama/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/81mins
Starring: Alex Frost, Eric Deulen, John Robinson
Director: Gus Van Sant
Fine Line Features

Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain is the tale of two lovers separated by the American Civil War. Jude Law and Nicole Kidman fall for each other just in time for Law to be carted off to war. Kidman is left to fend for herself and to fend off the compellingly nasty Ray Winstone who claims dibs on her. Meanwhile, Law is cast into the horrors of combat. Sickened by the carnage and pining for Ada, he deserts. So begins a Homeric trek across the war-ravaged South in which Law encounters unspeakable brutality and is tempted by various sirens.

Love, War/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/155mins
Starring: Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger
Director: Anthony Minghella

Goodbye Lenin!

A genuinely original and funny film about a young man who tries to keep the collapse of East Germany from his mother. Mum lapses into a coma in 1989 just before the Berlin wall comes down and the process to reunification gets under way. How-ever, Mum is a big fan of the old way of life, so when she does come round and the doctor says that the slightest shock could kill her, the son embarks on an elaborate deception, filling the house with relics of the past and enlisting the neighbours’ help to keep the changes from her.

Comedy-drama/Germany/ German/121mins
Starring: Daniel Bruhl, Kathrin Sass, Maria Simon
Director: Wolfgang Becker
X Filme

Hidalgo (Ocean of Fire)

Viggo Mortenson is the man with the horse. Famed circus rider and cross-country racer, he and his nag Hidalgo are invited to the Middle East to take part in the fabled Ocean of Fire rice. Of course, no one expects the upstart foreigners to win or even finish, but how wrong everyone is. Hidalgo is a ripping yarn in the vein of Indiana Jones, et al. All good clean fun as his enemies will do anything to stop him, and he passingly rescues damsels in distress.

Adventure/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/135mins
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif, Zuleikha Robinson Director: Joe Johnston
Touchstone Pictures


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