Beyond The Sea
Drama,Biography/Us/English (Japanese Subtitles)
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Kate Botsworth, John Goodman,
Director: Kevin Spacey
Lion's Gate Films
In the five years or so between Elvis joining
the army and The Beatles invading The Ed Sullivan Show, it seemed
as though every teen idol in America was called "Bobby."
Bobby Vee/Curtola/Vinton/Helm/Fuller, even Bobby "Boris"
Pickett who sang The Monster Mash, all came and went with admirable
The exception, for a time, to the cookie-cutter
mould was Bobby Darin. Having paid his dues with novelty songs,
like Splish-Splash (which, ironically, is still one his most famous
tunes), Darin went beyond the Bandstand crowd to winning over their
parents with serious international hits like Beyond the Sea and
Mack the Knife.
He was a headliner in Vegas (where every sidekick
and arranger was called Sammy, and answered to Frankie), which in
those days was quite a leap; he made movies and was nominated for
an Oscar. It didn't last long, though: like many singers of the
day, his career tanked during the British Invasion of the early
60s. He was making a comeback of sorts when he died at 37 in 1973.
Although that sounds untimely, he was never expected to live past
15, due to childhood rheumatic fever. Well, I guess he showed them.
Kevin Spacey is 45. If you can forget that he's
playing a man who's career peaked in his mid-20s, you're halfway
home. Still, when I first heard about this movie, I immediately
thought of the old Tom Lehrer line: "When Mozart was my age,
he'd been dead for five years."
This is not just a vanity project, though: Spacey
directed, co-wrote and starred in this movie. He performs all the
Darin songs on the soundtrack, and acquits himself quite nicely.
Whatever you might think of the schmaltz of the 60s lounge-lizard
world of Hollywood and Las Vegas (if anything at all), Spacey re-creates
it meticulously and (we assume) accurately. Amidst all this, Darin's
failed marriage to the teen actress Sandra Dee (Kate Botsworth)
also comes under the microscope (with Dee's evident approval or
remuneration, because she's still alive and so are her lawyers).
This is a labour of love on Spacey's part, and that tends to make
up for the so-what-ness of it all.
Adventure, Drama/War/US/English (Japanese Subtitles)/175mins
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jared Leto, Angelina Jolie
Director: Oliver Stone
Alexander the Great doesn't need a movie to be
a controversial figure. Even today, the Greeks and Macedonians who
live in Toronto have words during certain ceremonies in front of
Alexander's bust on Danforth Avenue. And of course, there's still
some controversy about just who or what a Macedonian is. Alexander
still frays tempers thousands of years after his death. He is, in
other words, Oliver Stone's kind of guy. You'd think he could have
done more with him in this movie.
The story unfurls for hours on end, as most Stone
The difference here is that you feel it. Part of the problem is
the interminable narration by Anthony Hopkins (as Ptolemy), but
perhaps the biggest mistake was the casting of Colin Farrell as
the blond-rinsed Alexander. In fairness, though, Farrell could only
be as good as the work he was given to do. Stone's lead characters
are often on the brink of madness or obsession (Jim Morrison, Jim
Garrison haunted by Kennedy's assassination, Richard Nixon, the
lead couple in Natural Born Killers employing their natural born
talents), but Farrell's Alexander just goes out and methodically
invades countries until he can't anymore and dies at 32. And talks
a lot. And broods. And rides horses. And invades (the battle scenes
are much more interesting than those of last year's Troy, but still).
His "controversial" love life doesn't
amount to much either. Alexander is shown getting into the rough
stuff once with his pagan wife (Rosario Dawson), and sharing a few
chaste cuddles with his lifelong male companion Hephaistion (Jared
Leto), but our hero doesn't seem to be having much fun either way.
If you go to the theater with high hopes of being shocked by the
depravity, you'll be disappointed. I was more intrigued by Alexander's
ambiguous relationship with his powerful mother (who is, after all,
Angelina Jolie), but in our confused age, the sight of two historically
accurate guys hugging gets a director denounced by the Greek government.
He might as well have passed Farrell and Leto the breath mints and
told them to go to it.
What could be an overly sentimental story turns
out to be quite charming. We see the story of two young people,
a rich girl and a local boy from the place where her parents spend
their summers. Even the boy (Ryan Gosling) thinks his courting attempts
are in vain, especially when her parents disapprove of him. It's
a simple story, given a poignant edge when you realize that it's
being read by the same boy, in old age (James Garner) to the girl,
now his elderly wife, who's retreated into Alzheimer's. The director
is the son of John Cassavetes, and he uses his father's famous improvisational
technique here to great effect.
Drama/US/English (Jap. Subtitles)/123mins
Starring: Gena Rowlands, James Garner,
Director: Nick Cassavetes New Line Cinema
The Bourne Supremacy
Jason Bourne(Matt Damon), the man with no memory
but remarkable killing skills is back for part 2 of this well-made
trilogy. The plot is not simple. Bourne is hiding out in India and
is tracked down
by a Russian assassin. Around the same time, a CIA spook is found
dead in Berlin: Bourne's fingerprints are all over the crime scene.
How, if Bourne was in Goa...? And why frame him? Bourne suffers
flashbacks and nightmares which may or may not be helpful. Perhaps
part three will pull it all together. This installment, like the
first, is well-paced and shot with edginess and realism.
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Joan Allen
Director: Paul Greengrass
The Princess Diaries 2
Princess Mia, from Princess Diaries 1 has to
get married or forfeit her position as heir to the throne of Genovia,
a European country where everybody speaks American English (the
villains all have British accents, which dates this movie, because
all bad people in movies now are supposed to be French). Julie Andrews,
an Oscar-winning actress and legendary singer, appears as Mia's
grandmother, the queen. I can't imagine why. Maybe she lost a bet.
Good news: Garry Marshall also directed Happy Days and Laverne and
Shirley. Bad news: thirty years ago.
Starring: Anne Hathawa, Julie Andrews
Director: Garry Marshall
Remember Phone Booth, the movie where Colin Farrell
couldn't leave the phone booth or a psychopath would kill him? This
is that story turned upside down. A woman (Basinger) has been taken
hostage and hidden in an attic. A science teacher, she's able to
get an old wall phone working, and dials at random. She gets a 20-something
guy (Smith) on the line and has to persuade him not to hang up until
he can get help, trace her call and release her. Can the guy with
the phone and the veteran cop (Macy, great as usual) track her down
before the batteries die (or she does)? Stay tuned.
Starring: Kim Basinger, William H. Macy, Chris Evans
Director: David R. Ellis
New Line Cinema
Ocean's Twelve certainly sounds like a rehash
of every caper film you've ever seen, but Steven Soderbergh and
his cast are obviously having so much fun that it would seem spiteful
not to join in. This time, the victim of the gang's first sting
(Garcia) catches up with Danny Ocean (Clooney) and wants his money
back. The gang is forced out of retirement to perform a string of
jobs in some rather pictures-que cities. They discover, though,
that they've finally got some serious competition from another phantom-like
robber. A good old-fashioned adventure yarn with some great characters
and sharp dialogue.
Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Taxi (Taxi NY)
This is a goofy comedy in which Queen Latifah
plays Belle, a bike messenger who turns taxi driver in an improbably
and unnecessarily super-charged and customised yellow cab. Jimmy
Fallon is a cop, Washburn, who can't drive well not without
causing a pile up every time he gets behind the wheel. Four supermodels
who speak Portuguese rob a bank and the cop commandeers Belle's
cab to give chase. Cue endless CG enhanced car chases around New
York. A film for connoisseurs of the car chase more than for connoisseurs
of the cinema.
Drama/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/97mins
Starring: Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, H. Simmons
Director: Tim Story
20th Century Fox
The Phantom of the Opera
Apparently the stage musical The Phantom of the
Opera from Andrew Lloyd Webber has been seen
by 80 million people or has been seen by one person 80 million
times. This begs the question of why we have to have it on film.
Or has viewing Phantom suddenly been made compulsory in law? The
film format, of course, allows for lavishness even beyond the apparently
uninhibited stage production and director Schmumacher is
not known for his restraint. What the film version cannot do is
improve the music or add any depth to the story.
Musical/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/143mins
Starring: Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, P. Wilson
Director: Joel Schumacher
American Sylvia Plath and British Ted Hughes
were the golden couple of postwar English literature.They met at
a party, and she bit his cheek and drew blood when he kissed her
goodbye. That pretty much sums up the relationship and the movie.
Gwyneth Paltrow portrays Plath with all her obsessions, the main
ones being Hughes and death. Death by gas won out in the end, and
her posthumously published poems and novel made her more famous
than the once celebrated Hughes, whose career (and life) were haunted
by hers for the 35 years he outlived her. State of his psyche: without
Drama/US/English (Jap. Subtitle)/110mins
Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Daniel Craig,
Director: Christine Jeffs
The Triplets of Belleville
Tired of the wide-eyed innocence and terminal
cuteness of the home-grown anime? This film's for you. A hilariously
bizarre French cartoon done in a sharp,edgy definitely non-cute
style. The story, such as it is, involves a bicycle-racing prodigy
(trained, mercilessly, by his loving grandmother), who is kidnapped
by the Mafia and, suffice it to say, can only be rescued with the
help of his intrepid, long-suffering dog and three 1920's music
hall performers. The dialogue is limited, so even if you speak neither
French nor Japanese, you'll get a laugh from this beautifully grotesque
Voices: Be Latrice Bonifassi, Lina Boudreault
Director: Sylvain Chomet
The really cute thing about JM Barrie's Peter
Pan story is that it is really about the author's own desire to
not grow up. In Finding Neverland we see how Barrie (Johnny Depp)
attached himself to the widow Sylvia Davies (Kate Winslet) and her
four boys and forgets about his own wife. His last play was a failure
and he is looking for a new project when he meets the widow, comes
to idealise her, and becomes obsessed with her four sons, who in
turn provide the inspiration for his famous story. Award-deserving
performance from Depp.
Drama/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/101mins
Starring: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman
Director: Marc Forster
At the age of five, Ray Charles watched his brother
drown. Immobilised by fear he did not move to help. Two years later
he became blind but remained haunted by the image of the death of
his brother. Although no one blamed Charles he blamed himself and
carried this guilt throughout his life. Perhaps this trauma led
to his later drug addiction, or even contributed to his musical
talents. Not even Charles knew for sure. Jamie Foxx channels the
musician as we retread the career that was as eventful as it was
Drama/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/152mins
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King
Director: Taylor Hackford
Victor Navorski (Tom Hanks) finds himself in an
immigration mess at JFK airport: while travelling to the US there
has been a coup in his home country and he is temporarily stateless.
Immigration officials confine him to the airport terminal until
the trouble back home blows over and he can be processed. Trouble
doesn't blow over and Navorski is forced to live for months in the
terminal, using his wits and natural charm to get by and feed himself.
This is a saccharin, feel-good movie from beginning to end but Hanks
is on top form.
Comedy, drama/US/English (Jap. subtitles)/121mins
Starring: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley
Director: Stephen Spielberg