Alan Bates

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Picture - Jeff Beck, Jamie Cullum, Alan... London, England, Monday 21st July 2008

Jeff Beck, Jamie Cullum, Alan Bates and Kyle Eastwood - Jeff Beck, Jamie Cullum, Alan Bates and Kyle Eastwood London, England - at the BBC Jazz Awards 2008 at the Mermaid Theatre Monday 21st July 2008

Women in Love Review


Weak
Ken Russell's Women in Love is alternately heralded and dismissed by viewers. I stand somewhere in the middle: It's a definite mess, though the titular women out-act the men they're ostensibly in love with. Russell's at his pervy best here (and Glenda Jackson was the first actress to win an Oscar in a movie featuring a nude scene; in this case her own plus a notorious all-male, all-nude, fireside wrestling sequence), and his interpretation of D.H. Lawrence's book is on the liberal side. But ultimately the film is so confusing and meandering that its perversity is shuffled under the rug of its own pretensions. Still, it's memorable for both its era-specific shock value and for Jackson's alternately sweet and vicious performance.

The Sum of All Fears Review


Grim
The biggest mystery in The Sum of All Fears is not how terrorists manage to smuggle a nuclear bomb into downtown Baltimore. Rather, it's how CIA operative Jack Ryan, formerly played by Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford, has suddenly become 30 years younger and has turned into a junior agent at the CIA with only a few months of experience. In the hands of Ben Affleck, Ryan is no longer the commanding veteran he once was in films like Patriot Games. Now he's little more than a jerky teenager with a hot girlfriend and a chip on his shoulder.

I won't try to explain the metamorphosis of Ryan because it's never mentioned in the movie (and no, it's not a prequel; the film takes place in the present). Central to the plot is the hunt for an old nuclear bomb lost by the Israelis in 1973 and recovered, sold, and rebuilt by various arms dealers, terrorists, and neo-Nazi groups decades later. Their idea is to blow up the bomb in the U.S., blame it on the Russians, ignite a massive nuclear response from both sides, and -- in the greatest stretch of imagination ever to strike a Hitler enthusiast -- somehow survive WWIII and seize control of the world in the aftermath.

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The Cherry Orchard Review


Good
Actors understandably welcome the opportunity to perform Chekhov, whose plays are painfully funny in their quiet observation of human folly. In Uncle Vanya and The Three Sisters, we recognize some part of ourselves. Renowned director Michael Cacoyannis, who helmed Zorba the Greek in 1964, assembles a powerhouse international cast for his screen interpretation of The Cherry Orchard, including Alan Bates (Gosford Park), Katrin Cartlidge (Breaking the Waves), and Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures). That great horror actor Michael Gough is well typecast as an ancient butler, and grand dame Charlotte Rampling's timeless iconic presence lends itself beautifully to the tragic Madame Lyubov Andreyevna Raneskaya.

Despite the remarkable assemblage of talent, Cacoyannis' Cherry Orchard feels self-aware of adapting a renowned classic from stage to screen. The cinematography is handsome and stately, but more appropriate to the colorful orchards and vast family estate, the 1900 costumes, the theatrical entrances and exits, than to the intimacy of Chekhov's vivid characters. (It almost makes one long for the hand-held documentary treatment of Louis Malle's seminal Vanya on 42nd Street.) The stylistic choices here take a while to get used to, especially during a drawn-out prologue, absent in the original text, as Madame Lyubov and her buoyant teenage daughter Anna (Tushka Bergen) make elaborate preparations to return to their Russian estate after a self-imposed exile. Some may be exhausted by this Masterpiece Theater treatment (lingering over every piece of luggage) before Chekhov's social entanglements kick in -- which happens shortly after the dozen major characters have assembled at their estate.

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An Unmarried Woman Review


OK
Jill Clayburgh delivers her seminal performance in this well-regarded film about the female response to a husband who leaves her (er, so she's a married woman, but that's beside the point). And while Clayburgh soars, the rest of the film is hopelessly dated with its late '70s pop psychology, nutty hairdos, and creepy free love sentiment. And frankly, it's a little bit boring.

The Mothman Prophecies Review


Good
Although its title sounds new age goofy, The Mothman Prophecies most certainly is not. It's an intelligent, tense thriller of the unexplained, a film for anyone who thinks the X Files movie comes up short. In fact, most of the action plays out like an extended X Files episode, one that would leave fans of the genre a little spooked, slightly sad, and wanting more.

Based on real events, most of which occurred in 1966 and 1967 (the film is set in present day), The Mothman Prophecies is a complex meeting of unseen monsters, voices from beyond, and eerie coincidence (...or is it?) Richard Gere stars as John Klein, an established Washington Post reporter whose good fortune is shattered when his beautiful wife Mary (Debra Messing) sustains severe injuries in what appears to be a single car accident. As Mary slips in and out of consciousness, she asks if John has seen "it." "It," according to her wild sketches, appears to be some sort of beastly giant bat. Either Mary has suffered brain damage, or something wholly supernatural has entered John's life.

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Gosford Park Review


OK
If Robert Altman had been given The Remains of the Day, the end product might have looked something like this.

Gosford Park is the name of an English country estate, where, in 1932, a gaggle of royals and wannabes -- including a horde of locals plus a popular British actor and a Charlie Chan-obsessed Hollywood movie producer -- gather to attend a weekend hunting party. Upstairs, it's the usual hoity-toity, drawing room chitter-chatter, while downstairs an army of servants does little but gossip about the visitors above.

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The Statement Review


Terrible
No matter how much leeway you want to give certain films - whether they star an actress you like or are about a worthy subject - it just isn't enough, and you will end up disliking them no matter how much you don't want to. With some of these films, like The Statement, you end up coming close to actually hating the thing and hoping bad things happen to it.

An ostensible Nazi-hunting thriller that's far too impressed with its supposed moral ambiguity, The Statement is about former Vichy militia Pierre Brossard (Michael Caine) who, back in 1944, helped the Nazis round up and execute seven Jews in a small French town. It's based on the true story of Paul Touvier, who ordered such an execution on June 29, 1944 in southwestern France, and was sentenced to life in prison in 1995.

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Quartet Review


Weak
Quartet is -- quite strangely -- based on a true story. Jean Rhys's novel traces her life in glitzy Paris in the 1920s, one which stood in start contrast to the city lights.

Rhys -- reinvented here as Isabelle Adjani's wide-eyed Marya Zelli -- found her husband, an illegal art dealer, arrested and thrown into prison. Suddenly broke, she shacked up with a pair of Brits of questionable morality, eventually getting cut loose, whereupon she would become a professional writer.

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Hollywood North Review


OK
Here's an idea for a Canadian movie: Canadians make a movie!

Any cinephile knows that Canada's government will gladly fund the production of just about anything a Canadian wants to produce, no matter how bad the script. All it takes is a Canadian cast, crew, and shooting in the country.

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Gosford Park Review


Good

You may need a program to keep track of the two dozen-plus characters in Robert Altman's soap opera, murder mystery, chamber comedy-of-manners "Gosford Park."

Carpeted with dry wit and filled to the rafters with salacious secrets and unspoken animosity, the film takes place at an English country estate in 1932 and unfolds from two points of view -- above stairs, where a multitude of aristocrats size each other up in subtle sociological war games, and below stairs, where their gossipy maids and valets fall into a strict pecking order based upon whom they serve.

The estate is the home of the aloof upper-crusters Sir William and Lady Sylvia McCordle (Michael Gambon and Kristin Scott Thomas) and it's gathering place for their many coattail-riding relatives, including Aunt Constance (the wonderful, quizzically austere Maggie Smith) who habitually puts on airs as if she's not living off an allowance from the McCordles.

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The Sum Of All Fears Review


Weak

If there's any movie that might have been wise to shelve after Sept. 11, "The Sum of All Fears" is it. Of course, I can't tell you why without giving away a big part of the movie (which the TV commercials already give away). But suffice it to say if you're the least bit sensitive about terrorist explosions, steer well clear of this thing.

The movies that did get delayed in the wake of last year's attacks were either action-movie cartoonish ("Collateral Damage's" skyscraper bombing), tongue-in-cheek ("Big Trouble's" lax airport security and smuggled nuke) or unfortunate coincidences ("Sidewalks of New York" featured the twin towers prominently in several backgrounds).

This one portrays in all seriousness an enormously catastrophic terrorist attack, then virtually ignores its repercussions, casualties and aftermath except as they relate to a pseudo-intellectual political intrigue plot (substantially retailored from Tom Clancy's novel) about neo-Nazis trying to start World War III.

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Evelyn Review


Weak

The most celebrated child custody battle in Irish history is the subject of "Evelyn," a moving but uninspired feel-good drama in which Pierce Brosnan stretches his anti-Bond acting muscles as a struggling carpenter and painter desperately fighting church and state to get his three button-cute kids out of foster care.

It seems that when the wife of Brosnan's real-life character Desmond Doyle swiped their bankbook from the coffee tin in their row-house kitchen in 1953 then disappeared with another man, the enforcers of family law ("a cozy conspiracy between the Catholic church and the Irish state") decided a single father without steady work made an unfit parent.

As the opening act of the movie unfolds, Doyle's beloved young children -- two boys and a sweet little girl whose name begot the film's title -- are dragged off to strict orphanage schools run by tyrannical nuns. Meanwhile, Brosnan kicks his character's tires, struggling for several scenes to get a bead on the guy as he looks for work, resolves to stay sober and takes on the Goliath system.

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The Statement Review


Grim

Michael Caine is in the midst of a career Renaissance, giving some of his all-time best performances in the last few years ("Little Voice," "Quills," "The Quiet American"). But while he continues this streak in "The Statement," the movie doesn't rise to his level.

A dramatic thriller that follows prosecutors and assassins hot on the trail of an aging Vichy war criminal played by Caine, it's a film with scads of potential for tension and chills that seems to go wrong in dozens of little ways from the casting to the camera work to the conclusion.

While historical films set in other countries usually work when characters speak English, the entirely British cast of this comparatively modern-day film (set in 1992) seems out of place in its story of a French prosecutor (Tilda Swinton) and a French army colonel (Jeremy Northam) hunting a French World War II officer who is wanted for crimes against humanity. And it doesn't help that, despite being played by talented actors, the pursuers are dry, uninteresting characters with a single distinguishing personality trait between them -- Swinton's tendency to come off like a little dog snapping at the heels of those conspiring to hide her quarry.

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The Mothman Prophecies Review


Weak

By making a big deal out of the fact that his supernatural chiller "The Mothman Prophecies" is based -- however loosely -- on true events, director Mark Pellington seem to be hoping the picture's vagueness and creative liberties might come under less scrutiny.

Furnishing the story about an epidemic of haunting phenomena in a West Virginia hamlet with an acutely icy and unsettling atmosphere, Pellington certainly makes it easy to go along for the ride. But whenever there's a break in the action, the film's fictionalized elements can't help but come into focus, requiring the viewer to beat back the same sense of curiosity required to get sucked into this creepy legend in the first place.

The "true events" on which the movie is based took place in Point Pleasant, W.Va, in the mid 1960s, where dozens of residents reported eerie encounters with a giant, shadowy, winged humanoid with glowing red eyes. Many more said they began hearing unearthly voices that vaguely prophesized impending disasters and other phenomenon.

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Alan Bates

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