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Feb 2005
Issue 057

Out now!


Beyond The Sea

From Feb 26th

Drama,Biography/Us/English (Japanese Subtitles) 121 Mins.
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 speed.

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.

Alexander

From Feb 5th

Adventure, Drama/War/US/English (Japanese Subtitles)/175mins
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jared Leto, Angelina Jolie
Director: Oliver Stone
Warner Bros.

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 movies do.
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.

Film Reviews by Colin Doyle

Also playing

The Notebook

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.

Thriller/US/English/109mins
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Joan Allen
Director: Paul Greengrass
Universal Pictures

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.

Romance/US/English/115mins
Starring: Anne Hathawa, Julie Andrews
Director: Garry Marshall
Disney

Cellular

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.

Thriller/US/English/94mins
Starring: Kim Basinger, William H. Macy, Chris Evans
Director: David R. Ellis
New Line Cinema

Ocean's Twelve

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.

Thriller/US/English/116mins
Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Warner Bros.

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
Warner Brothers

Sylvia

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 defensive padding.

Drama/US/English (Jap. Subtitle)/110mins
Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Daniel Craig,
Director: Christine Jeffs
Icon Film

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 little movie.

Animation/France/French/78mins
Voices: Be Latrice Bonifassi, Lina Boudreault
Director: Sylvain Chomet

Finding Neverland
(Neverland)

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
Miramax Films

Ray

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 important.

Drama/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/152mins
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King
Director: Taylor Hackford
Universal Pictures

The Terminal

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
Dreamworks

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