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Ian Hart - The premiere of 'Bates Motel' at Soho House - Arrivals - Los Angeles, California, United States - Tuesday 12th March 2013

Ian Hart and Jessalyn Gilsig - Ian Hart, Jessalyn Gilsig Saturday 24th March 2012 Celebrities appear and perform at a benefit for Autism Speaks

Ian Hart and Jessalyn Gilsig
Ian Hart

Ian Hart Wednesday 25th January 2012 HBO's 'Luck' Los Angeles premiere held at Graumans Chinese Theatre

Ian Hart
Ian Hart

Den Of Lions Review


Weak
I'll sit through almost anything that has Bob Hoskins in it, but lately I've come to realize that old reliable Bob hasn't made a great movie in nearly 20 years. Hell, Hoskins was in Maid in Manhattan! It's become so bad that studios are reissuing his finer work, like Mona Lisa and The Long Good Friday on DVD. Den of Lions is a predictable euro-terrorism-espionage thriller, the likes of which have been being pumped out en masse in the last ten years. The twist this time involves a Hungarian double agent, the FBI, and Stephen Dorff. Woo!

Killing Me Softly Review


OK
Hey, remember when Joseph Fiennes was a big artsy star after Shakespeare in Love? No. Well, neither does he. Today you're more likely to find him in a film like this, a bizarre erotic thriller from Chen Kaige, best known as the director of a variety of Chinese historical epics. Killing Me Softly features Fiennes as a maybe-he's-a-creepy-rapist/maybe-he's-not kinda fellow, and Heather Graham is the woman who falls in love with him at first sight. What develops is a story about a lost mountain expedition (which Fiennes was part of), missing ex-girlfriends, and lots of blind clues (think typewritten letters shoved under the door) that suggest Fiennes is a really bad dude. In the end the film comes across like a kind of cheap knockoff of Basic Instinct, right down to the string-heavy score. Fiennes even has a taste for kinky sex, and as a fearful Graham is tied to the kitchen table she says, "Sometimes I feel like I don't know you." It's pretty campy-silly, but it's surprisingly watchable for some reason, maybe because of the name-brand actors sleazing it in this Skinemax would-be classic. Who knows. Just check out the unrated edition for extra fun.

B. Monkey Review


Very Good
Her name is B. Monkey. Why they called her movie B. Monkey is beyond me. No matter. Asia Argento is rather striking in this lead role, about a gorgeous heist artist who tries to get out of the business, settles down with a schoolteacher (Jared Harris), and gets sucked back in to crime. The film's story (as told by Il Postino director Michael Radford) is sleek and fun, and is helped in no small regard by the fact that Argento spends virtually the entire 95 minutes buck naked. Nice.

Tristram Shandy: A Cock And Bull Story Review


Very Good
At one point during Michael Winterbottom's shambolically hilarious Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, a film about trying to film the legendarily unfilmmable 18th century novel, Steve Coogan says to a reporter that the wonderful thing about Laurence Sterne's book (which he obviously hasn't read) is how ahead of its time it was, that it was "a postmodern novel... before there was a modernism... to be post of." It's a throwaway line in some respects, but it's an excellent example of the layered absurdist humor that abounds within its wonderfully loose format. This is a film about ego, the fatal inability of people to plan their lives, and the delirious chaos of the creative process. It's also about what utter jerks movie stars can be, God bless 'em.

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

Strictly Sinatra Review


Weak
If Frank Sinatra had been born in Scotland, would he sound exactly the same? In Strictly Sinatra, Ian Hart's uber-Brit sounds like a squeaky-voiced Glaswegian when he talks, but he has a low and smooth American voice when he sings. He even croons Elvis! And his name is Toni Cocozza!

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

Wonderland (2000) Review


OK
The city of London has a million stories, and Wonderland tells just one of them -- well, okay, three. No, five -- five! Six -- eight -- all right, eleven subplots competing for screen time.

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

Born Romantic Review


Good
Kooky, nutty, cheesy... David Kane's Born Romantic is all over the romantic map as it tries to weave together three, four, or more Brit-love stories. Some are hit and miss, and the women in the movie (Jane Horrocks, Catherine McCormack, Olivia Williams) generally run rings around the blokes (in terms of acting ability, anyway). Altogether the movie never really gels, coming together like a cross between episodes of Coupling and Benny Hill.

Liam Review


Very Good
Stuttering Liam (Anthony Borrows) has problems like you wouldn't believe. For starters, he lives in Liverpool during the Depression. He's also pummelled with Catholic doctrine at school. Dad's out of work. Sis has to work as a maid for a wealthy Jewish family. And of course, there's the stutter.

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

Robinson Crusoe (1996) Review


Weak
It's considerably funny that the full title of this film is Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, an homage a la William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet that somehow indicates the film is more authentic than other renditions. Of course, of late (as with Bram Stoker's Dracula) this kind of etymology is meaningless -- and much of this Pierce Brosnan star vehicle is equally absurd, an attempt to make Crusoe more accessible to the hip kids of today by imbuing it with a bunch of phony action and romance not found in Defoe's real story.

Continue reading: Robinson Crusoe (1996) Review

The Hours And Times Review


Weak
Ever wondered what might have happened when John Lennon and his manager Brian Epstein spent four days together in Barcelona, just before the Beatles hit it big?

Me neither.

Continue reading: The Hours And Times Review

Monument Ave. Review


Good
Weird little Ted Demme movie about (what else?) drugs and thugs. Denis Leary plays a low-level gangster in an Irish mob, forced to maintain utmost secrecy when one of his best friends is capped by the boss right in front of his eyes (and in a rather jarring sequence). Curious story, it tells us about loyalty but never says whether that's a good or a bad thing. Not to mention, it's always tough to take Leary seriously in a dramatic role. At least he really is Irish.

Continue reading: Monument Ave. Review

Aberdeen Review


Bad
Call it a road trip for the walking wounded. Stellan Skarsgård plays such a convincingly zombified drunken loser that it's difficult to spend nearly two hours of screen time in his smelly, boozed-out presence. Yet this ever-reliable Swedish actor adds depth and significance to the otherwise plodding and forgettable Aberdeen, a sentimental and painfully mundane European drama.

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 Review


Extraordinary
I was dragged to see The End of the Affair expecting another lavishly costumed, pointless period romance of the Merchant-Ivory type ... only based on Graham Greene instead of Jane Austen or E. M. Forster. The kind of movie that our wives drag us to. Instead, I was converted.

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

The Closer You Get Review


Good
In Angela's Ashes, we got the impression that growing up a kid in Ireland really sucks. In The Closer You Get, we are made to believe that Irish adulthood doesn't get much better.

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

Spring Forward Review


Extraordinary
People will compare it to My Dinner with Andre. They will inevitably be wrong. People will assume that it has something to do with Daylight Savings Time. They, too, will be wrong. People will assume that just because Michael Stipe executive produced this film, it will end up seeming like Being John Malkovich. They, too, will be wrong. In point of fact Spring Forward is that rare gem, a film with no brothers or sisters to deal with, no son to look down upon or father to look up to. In the family tree of American cinema, the most Spring Forward can have are a few distant cousins.

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

Backbeat Review


Very Good
If you think the story of the Beatles begins in February 1964 on the stage of The Ed Sullivan Show then you need a pretty serious history lesson. Backbeat provides it, traveling back in time to the earliest days of the '60s, when the Fab Four were a starving band of outsiders living a fun but also fairly hellish life on the mean streets of Hamburg.

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

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone Review


Very Good

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 Review


Good

"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

Liam Review


Good

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

The Closer You Get Review


OK

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

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