Allan Corduner

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A Thousand Kisses Deep Review


Terrible

A mopey tone and hole-ridden plot make this romantic drama rather difficult to sit through. Even though the premise has hints of Charlie Kaufman cleverness, nothing is developed properly, and none of the characters ever come to life.

Mia (Whittaker) is jolted out of her quiet life by the suicide of an old woman in her building. After talking to maintenance man Max (Warner), she starts to suspect that the woman was her in the future. What follows is a trip into her past, as she visits herself 10, 20 and 30 years earlier, encountering the love of her life, Ludwig (Scott), a womanising, drug-addicted jazz musician. Can she convince her younger self (Whittaker again, and Barnes at age 10) to avoid him? And what's his connection with her parents (Fox and Slinger)?

The script throws us into time-travel from the start, before establishing characters or relationships, so we never engage with anything. Ludwig is a slimy loser in each period, so why Mia fell for him is a mystery; his charming-musician days were before she was born. And even though these people have been in each others' lives for decades, there's no sense of continuity. As we visit the time periods in reverse order, everyone's always meeting for the first time, which makes no sense.

Whittaker invests Mia with some emotional resonance, even if the screenwriters contrive for her her to miss painfully obvious clues about each coming twist.
Meanwhile, Scott is an ugly mess until we glimpse his swaggering younger self, at which point we finally see him sing (nicely) and play the trumpet (unconvincingly). Warner becomes a kind of mad-haired timekeeper with a magical lift that's perplexingly right where it always needs to be. The rest of the cast members are also only allowed to deploy one characteristic each.

This isn't much more than a soapy melodrama. As things get messier, and Mia must travel further into the past to fix it, there are some laughable anachronisms, head-shaking incongruities and silly plot points (look, a gun!).
And worst of all, it's completely po-faced, without a moment of real-life wit.
So it plays out like a lifeless, inept version of It's a Wonderful Life.

Burke & Hare Review


Weak
You can see what Landis was trying to do here: recapture the funny-scary tone of one of his biggest hits, 1981's An American Werewolf in London. But the mix of comedy and grisliness in this comical take on a true story is off the mark.

In 1828 Edinburgh, friends William Burke (Pegg) and William Hare (Serkis) realise they can make good money supplying cadavers to world-class surgeon Dr Knox (Wilkinson). But when they can't find a dead body, they kill someone instead. Hare's wife (Hynes) finds out and wants in on it, but Burke can't tell his aspiring actress girlfriend (Fisher) how he makes his living. Meanwhile, Knox is battling a rival surgeon (Curry) for the King's seal. And the local militia captain (Corbett) is closing in.

Continue reading: Burke & Hare Review

Picture - Allan Corduner Hollywood, California, Sunday 9th November 2008

Allan Corduner Sunday 9th November 2008 AFI Film Festival 2008 - Premiere of 'Defiance' - held at the Arclight Theatre Hollywood, California

The White Countess Review


Good
Audiences can expect one thing from the filmmaking team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory: a Merchant Ivory film isn't meant to be watched, like other movies; it's meant to be visited, like a museum. While the results are sometimes dazzling and rich, and at others times stuffy and inert, the Merchant Ivory approach is nonetheless consistent. Each of their scripts lies somewhere between screenplay and novel. The attention they pay to period detail is lavish. And a Merchant Ivory cast typically reads like a roster of the world's leading thespians. Their most recent effort, The White Countess, is no different.

In it, all the Merchant Ivory hallmarks are present. The stalwart cast is led by Ralph Fiennes and a trio of Redgraves: Vanessa Redgrave, Lynn Redgrave, and Natasha Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave's daughter. The setting -- Shanghai in the period leading up to the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945 -- is lush and meticulously rendered. And the script, loosely adapted from Junichiro Tanizaki's novel The Diary of a Mad Old Man, was penned by acclaimed writer Kazuo Ishiguro.

Continue reading: The White Countess Review

The White Countess Review


Good
Audiences can expect one thing from the filmmaking team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory: a Merchant Ivory film isn't meant to be watched, like other movies; it's meant to be visited, like a museum. While the results are sometimes dazzling and rich, and at others times stuffy and inert, the Merchant Ivory approach is nonetheless consistent. Each of their scripts lies somewhere between screenplay and novel. The attention they pay to period detail is lavish. And a Merchant Ivory cast typically reads like a roster of the world's leading thespians. Their most recent effort, The White Countess, is no different.

In it, all the Merchant Ivory hallmarks are present. The stalwart cast is led by Ralph Fiennes and a trio of Redgraves: Vanessa Redgrave, Lynn Redgrave, and Natasha Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave's daughter. The setting -- Shanghai in the period leading up to the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945 -- is lush and meticulously rendered. And the script, loosely adapted from Junichiro Tanizaki's novel The Diary of a Mad Old Man, was penned by acclaimed writer Kazuo Ishiguro.

Continue reading: The White Countess Review

The Grey Zone Review


Essential
One of the most poignant moments in the grave Holocaust drama The Grey Zone comes as a group of Hungarian Jews known as the Sonderkommando try to save the life of a young girl who has come out of the death chamber alive. These Sonderkommando assisted the Nazis in the killing of fellow Jews in exchange for a four-month reprieve from their own death sentence. They received better food and more comfortable living quarters, but they knew all along that their time would eventually reach a similar, tragic end. "It makes no difference, we're dead anyway," one of the men coils. But for this one fleeting moment, their thoughts of death elude them as they rescue this seemingly inconsequential girl.

Many scenes, like the above, though thoroughly bleak and depressing, exemplify why The Grey Zone is such a beautiful film. Based on true events as told in the book Auschwitz: a Doctor's Eyewitness Account, the film chronicles the struggles faced by these Sonderkommando as they plan and eventually execute a fatal uprising that destroys two crematoriums inside the Auschwitz II-Birkenau death camp.

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The Impostors Review


Good
A charming and funny farce, obviously the brainchild of Tucci on peyote (or something akin), The Impostors lacks the magic of a film like Big Night, but still makes you smile plenty. A host of indie regulars round out the cast, which features Platt and Tucci as hapless actors stranded on a cruise liner.

Topsy-Turvy Review


OK
One of my earliest childhood remembrances was watching a performance of H.M.S. Pinafore. I thought it was really neat. The costumes and music were amazing and even though I couldn't understand all of what was going on, I was fascinated by how all of these people worked together.

Now 20 years later, while watching another Gilbert and Sullivan performance (of sorts) I am still thinking the same things.

Continue reading: Topsy-Turvy Review

Me Without You Review


Grim
It should have won an award for worst accent ever, as "star" Michelle Williams' faux-Britspeak fades in and out and makes the movie borderline unbearable. The movie itself follows several years in the lives of two London friends (Williams and the far more interesting Anna Friel), who engage in all manner of self-destructive behavior. The film looks a lot more fun for the two girls than it is for us to watch. Very corny and often sappy to boot.

The Grey Zone Review


OK

A harrowing, soul-searching account of the Holocaust is presented from a very unique perspective in "The Grey Zone," which is based in part on diaries found buried at Auschwitz and the memoirs of Miklos Nyiszli, a Jew who served as the camp's doctor and aided the abominable Josef Mengele in his experiments on prisoners.

The story tells of a 1944 revolt by the "Sonderkommando," a squad of Jewish internees who chose to serve as wardens of the concentration camp's gas chambers and crematoriums in exchange for a few more months of comparatively privileged life. In exchange for their detestable duties, they got larger quarters, fresh bed linens, good food, cigarettes, and the right to loot the belongings of new arrivals.

The selfishness and cowardice of this choice tortures most of the characters in this film, none more so than Hoffman (David Arquette in a rare dramatic and anguished performance), whom we see early on herding naked throngs into the "showers," promising "The sooner you shower, the sooner you'll be reunited with your families." As the doors are closed, the camera slowly creeps in on Arquette, hearing the gas pipes rattle to life and the screams that come moments later.

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The Merchant Of Venice Review


Weak

In his bold, brusque re-imagining of William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice," screenwriter and director Michael Radford ("1984," "Il Postino") has successfully solved one of the play's two inherent impediments -- its insensitive, arguably anti-Semitic caricature of the greedy, vengeful Jewish creditor Shylock, who demands a literal pound of flesh as payment for a defaulted loan.

Applying audacious creative license, Radford has reinvented the character as a tragic and more central figure -- played by no less than Al Pacino -- whose villainy is motivated by a sense of indignation for his treatment at the hands of bigoted gentiles. This "Merchant" is no longer a farce, but a drama thick with implications about the dangers of religious power in society.

Unfortunately, Radford's creativity with the Bard's narrative doesn't extend to renovating the film's weightless, transparently contrived primary plot about Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes), a young man who wishes to woo beautiful heiress Portia (uncommonly lovely Lynn Collins), but fears he hasn't the wealth to make the proper impression. These romantic aspirations lead his merchant-shipper best friend Antonio (Jeremy Irons) to securing the sinister, high-risk loan from Shylock on Bassanio's behalf.

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Topsy Turvy Review


OK

Director Mike Leigh has usurped his subjects' mirthful sense of humor and penchant for prolonged presentation in his new film "Topsy-Turvy," a jaunty, jolly, light-hearted look at the lives of Victorian operetta architects Gilbert and Sullivan.

Like G&S, Leigh delights in garnishments that add color to his characters and to the pliant performances such details inspire.

Leigh's actors are always especially absorbed in their parts because of the way he works -- creating the screenplay in concert with his players during incessant rehearsals -- but in contrast to his downcast-but-hopeful, slice-of-life dramas ("Secrets and Lies," "Career Girls"), this picture radiates a distinct playfulness that is nothing short of contagious.

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De-Lovely Review


OK

"This is one of those avant-garde things, is it?" says a droll, dubious and dying Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) as he sits in an empty theater at the beginning of "De-Lovely," watching his life pass before his eyes on the stage, in a production conducted by an enigmatic, ironic, ethereal director named Gabe (Jonathan Pryce).

The answer to his question is a delighted "yes." This film is an imaginative, deconstructionist, celebratory musical biography woven together from elements of theater, meta-cinema, chamber drama and Porter's own MGM musicals with gratifying -- if deliberately glossy -- results.

Kline opens the picture as a frail but feisty old man (the age makeup is remarkable) who, as he watches his own story unfold, is alternatively tickled ("Oh, look, it's an opening number!"), critical ("He'd never wear that! Change it."), fondly reminiscent and pained by regret. And the actor also plays the younger Porter in the bulk of the picture, which has a merry, dreamlike quality to its stop-and-start interactions with the elderly Porter and his theatrical spirit guide.

Continue reading: De-Lovely Review

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