Donald Sumpter

  • 18 February 2005



The Man Who Invented Christmas Review

Very Good

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave cynical audiences annoyed. But for those who leave their bah-humbug attitudes at home, it's a wonderfully entertaining take on a classic. In 1843, when Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, the holiday was a fairly low-key religious festival. But the book helped create a cultural phenomenon that is still growing. And this enjoyable film recounts how it was written in six short weeks.

At the time, Dickens (Legion's Dan Stevens) was Britain's most famous author. But his last three novels failed to sell. Desperate for a hit due to financial pressures, he decides to write a Christmas book, something that had never really been done. But he's distracted by the fact that his wife Kate (Morfydd Clark) is pregnant and his parents (Jonathan Pryce and Ger Ryan) have dropped in for a noisy visit. As he plans this new book, the central figure of Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) is inspired by someone he meets, as are the rest of the story's characters and settings. But he's struggling to complete the tale, and time is running short.

The film basically proves the resilience of Dickens' iconic novella, because it has remarkable power even when turned inside-out by this script. Director Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) gives the film a twinkly, often comical tone but doesn't shy away from the darker corners or some strongly emotional moments. And the script includes quite a bit of biographical detail about Dickens' life without making it too melodramatic. With his book, Dickens wanted to address Britain's harsh labour practices and the greediness of capitalism, urging people to be kinder to each other. So he reinvented Christmas as a time of year to reach out to those less fortunate.

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The Man Who Invented Christmas Trailer

Charles Dickens might be one of the most legendary authors in history, but it wasn't always plain sailing for him. In fact, ahead of the release of his 1843 novella 'A Christmas Carol', his career was already suffering. Dan Stevens plays the author in 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'; a tale all about how he went from failing writer to a festive miracle.

It's the early 1840s and London author Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) is suffering a bad case of writer's block. His last three books have been total flops, and the pressure to write a magical new story to grip the public has never been so high.

Before long, however, his new tale begins to develop in his head; a Christmas story about a miser named Ebenezer Scrooge (personified by Christopher Plummer) who is challenged by a series of mysterious apparitions. The characters develop beautifully, but before long he starts to hit another roadblock when he can't work out how to finish it.

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In The Heart Of The Sea Trailer

In The Heart Of The Sea is the true seaman's tale based on the last outing of the Whaling Ship Essex. After setting sale from the port on Nantuckett the 20 man crew expect their journey to be much like the others they've been on, very long and tough but on an old but very trusty ship.

After leaving the port, almost immediately the men are hit by a powerful storm which damages the boat. knowing they must make money and make the trip profitable before returning home, the men continue with their mission. After months of good fishing, the men doc at various ports for supplies. Almost a year into their trip and the Essex is struck by a gigantic whale which causes irreparable damage to the ship's hull.

Stuck with no other choice the surviving men must board one of the incredibly small whaling boats that they have on board. The remaining crew members find themselves stuck in a life-threatening situation, 1000 miles from land, incredibly tight rations and stuck at sea for an unknown amount of time, the crew must find a way to endure - both mentally and physically.

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Bypass Review

By Rich Cline


After Pride, young British actor George MacKay returns to a much smaller scale of filmmaking for this dark, moody English drama. It may be somewhat gloomy and intense, but it gets under the skin because filmmaker Duane Hopkins (Better Things) remains so tightly focused on MacKay's character, offering a complex portrait of a young man pushed to desperation. Some earthy humour would have helped make it more resonant, as well as perhaps a lighter touch with some of the bigger plot points, but this is thoughtful and provocative filmmaking.

MacKay plays Tim, a young guy barely out of his teens and struggling to care for his surly teen sister Helen (Lara Peake). Their parents are long gone, and older brother Greg (Benjamin Dilloway) is in prison. So with the bills overdue and his girlfriend (Charlotte Spencer) expecting a baby, Tim sees little alternative but to follow Greg's lead into petty crime. But his boss is pushing him into increasingly dangerous situations, and as he tries to keep up with everything, Tim is ignoring the signs that something is seriously wrong with his health.

The title is the clue here, and Hopkins deploys a variety of visual touches to tell the story from within Tim's limited perspective. This includes lots of extreme close-ups, frantic hand-held action, slow-motion camerawork and a sound mix that's often out-of-sync with the images. Combined with a mournful musical score, this creates a strikingly powerful atmosphere. Yes, it's all rather bleak, but things are livened up by lyrical flashbacks and conversations that seem cut off in the middle, demanding that we work out the scene ourselves because that's exactly how Tim experiences it.

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In The Heart of The Sea - Teaser Trailer

In August of 1819, The Essex set sail from New England. The whaling ship set out beyond the edges of the map to hunt in unknown waters. What the 21-man crew discovered, was far from what they could ever have imagined. A sperm whale - absolutely gigantic and hell-bent on destroying their comparatively tiny ship. While battling the demon of a sea beast, the ship was destroyed, and many of the crew were killed. As the few survivors struggled to find land and make their way back to South America, they faced a harrowing adventure, and fought insanity, storms, starvation and despair. All with the great whale fresh in their minds. The crew referred to it as Moby Dick.

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Review

By Rich Cline


Fincher brings a sleek, achingly cool vibe to this remake of the first novel in Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. Although he doesn't find any more subtext in the intriguing characters and rather straightforward mystery, the film holds us completely in its grip.

Disgraced journalist Mikael (Craig) takes a job on an isolated island looking into the 40-years-earlier disappearance of the teenage niece of millionaire industrialist Vanger (Plummer). But the deeper Mikael digs, the messier things get. He discovers all kinds of nastiness in Henrik's dysfunctional family. Then he teams up with gifted hacker Lisbeth (Mara) to unravel the knots in the story. But as a ward of the state, Lisbeth is also dealing with her own rather intense situation.

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The Constant Gardener Review

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A preachy but gripping socio-political thriller, "TheConstant Gardener" captures the parched beauty of African desert nations,personifies the horrors of their poverty in dusty, sunburned detail, andpulls no punches in its view of greedy drug companies that feign altruismbut view encroaching epidemics as lucrative boons for their stockholders.Based on the John Le Carre novel of the same name, thefilm's politics are couched in a brutal and twist-filled murder mystery.Ralph Fiennes plays Justin Quayle, a dry, charmingly wonky English diplomatwhose bottled adoration for his eye-catching young wife (Rachel Weisz)-- an impetuous, impassioned human rights activist his colleagues hopehe won't bring to parties -- becomes dangerously uncorked when she is killedand mutilated while on an aid mission.

Realizing there's more to her death than meets the eyewhen his inquiries for more information are deflected by even his closestassociates -- and suspecting she may have been up to something more aswell -- Quayle drops off the diplomatic radar and begins a dangerous amateurinvestigation that puts him in the crosshairs of corrupt politicians, corporatestooges and ruthless warlords.

Directed by Fernando Meirelles with the same unblinking,sweaty, ground-level grittiness he brought to "City of God,"his brilliant verite expose of Brazilian poverty, "The Constant Gardener"becomes an incredible puzzle with far-flung pieces that Quayle must linktogether with tenuous but damning evidence. And whether he travels to Londonor hitches a lift with the Red Cross to a remote village in Kenya devastatedby disease (in order to interrogate a particular doctor), he's under suchconstant threat that in some scenes it feels as if any background actorcould be a hired killer closing in.

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K-19: The Widowmaker Review

By Rob Blackwelder


If there's one thing almost all submarine movies do well, it's creating a corporeal sense of tension. It's a product of the genre's fundamental elements: inherent danger, high drama and human conflict in enclosed spaces, with no chance of escape and a requisite potential for war.

But if there's one congenital problem with submarine movies, it's that even in the good ones like "K-19: The Widowmaker," it's impossible to avoid a sense of deja vu.

No matter who plays the captain, he'll be the kind of principled but uncompromising leader who will take "this boat and these men to the edge because we need to know where it is." He will order emergency drills and time the response with a stopwatch. He will take the ship so deep the hull begins to buckle. He will butt heads with his equally strong but loyal Executive Officer who is beloved by his men. And some members of his crew will consider a mutiny when they think the captain is endangering them.

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