Comedy/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/104mins
Starring: Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
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
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 ladys 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
Dorrs cunning plan falls apart as Mrs. Munson proves charmed
with luck and the gang starts falling apart.
The Coens 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.
Fantasy/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/125mins
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Alison Lohman
Director: Tim Burton
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.
Edwards son (Billy Crudup) arrives from Paris where he lives
and works. It is an uneasy meeting. The two dont 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 Burtons 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 Blooms sense of a wasted life. Burton suggests provocatively
that the myth is more real than reality.
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 dont 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
This made-for-instant-success CG fest tells the
classic Peter Pan like it really was in JMBarries 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 Wendys 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
Workaholic estate agent Eddie Murphy is supposed
to be on holiday with his family but cant 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 Murphys 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:
The Passion of the Christ
The Passion of the Christ is Mel Gibsons
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: Gibsons passion for the subject.
Religious/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/126mins
Starring: James Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Monica Bellucci Director:
Kill Bill: Volume 2
This, as everyone in the world already knows,
is the second thrilling instalment of Tarantinos 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
Action/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/136mins
Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah
Somethings 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
Romantic Comedy/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/124mins
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Amanda Peet Director: Nancy
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
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
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 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
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.
Starring: Daniel Bruhl, Kathrin Sass, Maria Simon
Director: Wolfgang Becker
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
Adventure/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/135mins
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif, Zuleikha Robinson Director: