Sterne's novel is a big old mess and has never been quite accepted in the literary canon. Published in nine installments over a decade, it's a subplot-mad, diversion-crazed bildungsroman where the narrator - Shandy - can't even get past describing his own birth by the end of the book, due to his tendency to go off on tangents. Along the way it packs in satires of contemporary intellectuals like Pope and Locke and plays with the novelistic form, including even having one page printed entirely black to represent sorrow at a character's death. They try that in the film, but then realize it's not quite so interesting for audience.
Continue reading: Tristram Shandy: A Cock And Bull Story Review
Alas, Strictly Sinatra is just as perplexing as its lead character, from Hart's ridiculous, patchy 'fro (this makes him sexy?) to his inexplicable involvement with the local mob (led by Brian Cox in another hardass performance). The thick accents are difficult enough to fathom, but when the characters have to scream over ambient noise, it's far worse. By the time Sinatra turns into GoodFellas, you'll have likely given up on the whole affair. (Worst moment: Boy-meets-girl montage reminds you of those aching moments that passed between the two lovebirds 45 minutes earlier.)
Continue reading: Strictly Sinatra Review
At the center are three sisters lookin' for a little love and compassion. Perky Soho waitress Nadia (Gina McKee, Croupier), her hair punked out in cute rabbit ears, indulges in the lonely hearts club of personal ads for Mr. Right, or at least a decent lay. Abrasive, no-nonsense hairdresser Debbie (Shirley Henderson, Topsy-Turvy) settles into a tract of not taking shit from anyone, especially her irresponsible ex, Dan (Ian Hart, Spring Forward). He can barely be counted on for weekend visits to their teenage son (Peter Marfleet). Molly (Molly Parker, Waking the Dead) is very pregnant and needs a little support from her friends, especially when her husband (John Simm) goes through a mid-life career meltdown.
Continue reading: Wonderland (2000) Review
Stephen Frears (High Fidelity) directs this powerful and moving work about a small facet of the past, and it's interesting to see him work without his trademark, wry humor as found in similar working-class-in-the-UK productions like The Van and The Snapper. Ian Hart is apt as the down-and-out father who gets sucked into anti-Jewish Fascism (thus endangering poor sis's breadwinning), and Borrows is a put-upon and precocious (yet not disgustingly so) kid in the tradition of Angela's Ashes.
Continue reading: Liam Review
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Playwright August Strindberg built his career on families and relationships paralyzed by secrets, unable to express their longings until the hour is far too late. That's an accurate reflection of what Aberdeen strives for, focusing on the pairing of an alcoholic father, Tomas (Skarsgård) and his alienated, openly hostile yuppie daughter, Kaisa (Lena Headey, Gossip). They haven't spoken in years, and wouldn't even be making the long trip from Norway to Aberdeen, Scotland by automobile if it weren't for Kaisa's mother (Charlotte Rampling, Under the Sand) rotting away in a hospital bed from cancer.
Continue reading: Aberdeen Review
The End of the Affair makes a lot of serious points, and offers a very modern, psychological drama in spite of the period setting (London during World War II). Instead of being another revisionist Hollywood remake, The End of the Affair is the best kind of historical drama: one that reminds you that history was made of real people and their emotions --- love, pain, jealousy, and emptiness.
Continue reading: The End Of The Affair Review
All right... so we don't have to wait till the sequel to see Emily Watson be cremated and we don't have to sit through two hours and twenty minutes of a film that make a suicidal lemming seem like a happy chump, but The Closer You Get isn't exactly a movie that sketches the Irish as progressing far into their adulthood. In store for Irish men in adulthood is a simple life of multiple pints of flat Guinness combined with a sexual desperation so great that the Irish men take out a want ad in the Miami Herald.
Continue reading: The Closer You Get Review
So what is Spring Forward? Simply put, Spring Forward is unique. It is not unique in the sense of Being John Malkovich or Spectres of the Spectrum (a uniqueness tainted with the surreal), but instead unique in the point of fact that it a movie that has no plot, that has no centralized point or purpose... that has nothing but characters. The characters are Murph (Ned Beatty) and Paul (Schreiber), two city parks department workers in Connecticut who spend one year talking while on the job.
Continue reading: Spring Forward Review
You may have heard of Pete Best, the band's original drummer. He's on the scene here (not Ringo), and so is bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, the so-called "fifth Beatle," the one around whom this telling of the Beatles tale revolves.
Continue reading: Backbeat Review
When you're the chosen one, like the boy wizard Harry Potter, expectations surrounding your arrival can be quite high. The same can be said for the film adaptation about said boy wizard, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. And while the young wonder might not let his magic school chums down, the movie chronicling his early wizard years could use a little lift.
Which isn't to say that Sorcerer's Stone, the first Harry Potter movie based on J.K. Rowling's inexplicably successful book series, is a boring movie. In fact, Rowling's exceptional world, involving young magic makers at a British wizardry prep school, transfers to the screen with a general creativity and charm in the hands of director Chris Columbus. The author's Cinderella-esque tale of a boy who gets invited to the most magical ball of them all, kicks off with a classic sensibility, almost like a modern Dickens.
From there, getting to the celebrated Hogwarts School is a treat, as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and the rest of the incoming first-years (including Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger) buy the proper wizard tools, find the elusive Track 9 3/4 at the train station, and travel in boats by moonlight to the gothic center of higher learning. Columbus weaves the special effects so smoothly into the narrative as to make the magic nearly matter-of-fact.
But after we get the general gist of life at Hogwarts, Sorcerer's Stone loses some of its sheen. The collection of characters to which we're introduced early -- Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall; Alan Rickman as the eerie Professor Snape; the delightful Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid -- aren't utilized well enough to provide the necessary oomph. They're stuck within Steve Kloves' (Wonder Boys) light, thin plot, with their roles eventually reduced to side characters, comic relief, or vague red herrings.
And the flatness of the narrative goes hand-in-hand with some of Sorcerer's Stone look as well. Save for a couple of sequences, Columbus just doesn't provide enough visual wow for such magical subject matter. I know that some of the action is meant to be dark, but the overall look of the movie doesn't have the punch that the on-screen activity demands. In the end, there are too many missed opportunities for maximum thrills.
A prime exception is the truly wonderful centerpiece of the film, a prep school Quidditch match. For the uninitiated, Quidditch is a soccer style game played completely in mid-air, with players on broomsticks. Picture a combination of The Wizard of Oz and Rollerball.
Columbus' take on this game is superb. There's speedy action, seamless effects, and some thrilling excitement. The design of the match provides a wonderful combination of visual styles, with mid-20th century prep school clothes amidst medieval set design. The scene is, by far, the highlight of the film, much as the pod race was in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (oddly enough, another somewhat disappointing movie about a chosen boy).
But once we get back to the tale of our trio of little wizards, the plodding plot returns. And unfortunately, Radcliffe, as our hero, doesn't seem too enthused by much of the wild goings-on. His school cronies, on the other hand, are just great -- Grint, as Ronald, is wide-eyed and sympathetic, and Watson, as the precocious Hermione, is smart and energetic, taking a bigger bite out of this movie than any other actor.
While Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone does score points by giving visuals to some wildly fantastic stuff, the total picture lacks polish, and feels like a mild setup to future movies. Similar to X-Men, we get an environment being introduced just for the sake of future movies. That creates anticipation among fans, but shortchanges those watching this one.
The release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone coincides with another Harry Potter milestone -- the beginning of production on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, scheduled to hit theaters in mid-November, 2002. Stone is already expected to break box office records, including a possible run at Titanic (highly unlikely, if you ask me). That means there's one thing Warner Brothers will be saying about young Harry for the foreseeable future... long live The Boy Who Lived.
Harry Potter's DVD is as inexplicable as it is ambitious. An enormous two-disc set, the DVD promises tantalizing "never before seen footage," but good luck trying to find it. Disc one is the standard movie, and disc two amounts to what is best described as an intricate game for kids. It's all designed as a puzzle -- to do anything you have to twist the right bricks to gain access, just like Harry and Hagrid did in London. If you didn't memorize the pattern, you'll have to go back to the movie (swapping discs in the process -- though if you screw up enough times, the game will eventually show you the answer). To open more and more of the disc you have to complete more and more idiotic tasks -- picking a wand, mixing potions, and the like. I gave up after half an hour of this nonsense, having exposed little more than a collection of interview clips. Warner Brothers: I appreciate that you've tried to do something beyond the usual with this highly anticipated release, but for us adults, give us a back door to the special features. We just don't have time for this Hogwarts -- I mean, hogwash.
School's in session.
"Spring Forward" is a quiet and simple but exceptionally absorbing character study about two everyday men at opposite ends of their working lives -- one a young parolee trying to begin anew, the other reluctantly watching his retirement encroaching on his unaffected contentment.
The film opens on the day Paul (Liev Schreiber) begins work in the parks and recreation department of a small New England berg. Fresh out of the pokey for holding up a Dunkin' Donuts in a moment of financial desperation, he's very rough around the edges, has a short temper and the look of a man apprehensively aware that this is his one real chance to turn his life around.
On his first day as a maintenance worker he's coupled with Murph (Ned Beatty), a life-long municipal employee whose years in the job are apparent in his body language and his shoulder-shrugging perspective on the things in life he cannot control. "Spring Forward" ends a year later, on the day Murph retires.
Continue reading: Spring Forward Review
Directed by the versatile and perceptive Stephen Frears, "Liam" is a refreshingly modest, yet very affecting look at the bleak life of struggling class Catholics in 1930s Liverpool, as seen through the eyes of a 7-year-old boy.
Similar in setting, circumstance, atmosphere and sooty sense of humor to 1999's Irish poverty yarn "Angela's Ashes," but more a depiction of simple hardship than abject misery (no dying siblings or shoes resoled with old bicycle tires), the focus of the film is sweetly mischievous little Liam (Anthony Burrows). He's a cheerful, cherubic lad turned shy and quiet because of a wicked stuttering problem and the frightful reprimands of domineering Catholic school teachers who spend much more time browbeating the children with ominous dogma than they do exercising the three Rs.
"Your soul is filthy!" his harridan of a schoolmarm barks. "Sin drives the nails deeper into the hands of Christ!" bellows his ruddy zealot of a priest, who also comes knocking on the family's door every payday to requisition a cut of father's wages for the coffer.
Continue reading: Liam Review
An amusing but forgettable, light rural comedy from Ireland, the generically titled "The Closer You Get" is another aren't-men-adorable-dimwits satire, about the lonely lads of a craggy coastal hamlet who concoct a inept plan to import sexy American girls for courting.
With most of the local gals unavailable or uninterested, this desperate lot of paunchy, pasty, ruddy Irishmen (lead by Ian Hart, "Backbeat") buy a classified in the Miami Herald advertising for marriage-minded, "attractive girls 20 to 21." Then they smarten themselves up as best they can and start a daily stakeout at the bus stop just outside town, anticipating the arrival of interested parties.
Of course, its a foredrawn conclusion that none show up and the men will pair off with local lassies after all -- but only after becoming jealous when the likable village women conspire to mock them by romancing a gypsy-like band of seasonal Spanish fishermen.
Continue reading: The Closer You Get Review
Anima Animus is the third album from Siouxsie Sioux's The Creatures, released exactly 20 years ago today.
Peter Doherty once again highlighted his talent as a musician, lyricist and performer during a very entertaining evening.
The eleven tracks that make up Feels' latest release combine a raw garage band authenticity with a self-assured swagger.
Edinburgh four-piece Gypsy Circus talk about their inspirations and their music in exclusive interview.
It doesn't take long to appreciate you are in the presence of rock music royalty when you are offered an audience with Paul McGuinness.
Doillon's latest release is self-assured, positive and empowered; it is not trying to be something it's not.
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