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The Last Of England Review

"Impressionistic" doesn't have to mean "bad" -- but when the images are disjointed, clichéd, and disgusting, it pretty much does. The Last of England, an experimental film by the late Derek Jarman, begins with a man masturbating on a poster and goes downhill from there. The images include sequences of terrorists holding hostages (but we never find out who they are), kids standing on piles of rubble, a bride cutting her wedding dress with a pair of scissors, homoerotic (but not very erotic) sex scenes, and a pale, skinny naked man eating a dead bird. It's graphic and disorienting, yet also totally trite.

In the early part of the film, a narrator solemnly intones Eliot-like observations about the decline of England, post-industrial anomie, growing up in the Midland suburbs, or whatever. He rages against the upper class, the bureaucracies, or who knows what. Maybe The Last of England is supposed to be a comment about Thatcher (after decades of socialism, the British Left somehow managed to blame Thatcher for rampant unemployment and poverty). But it's hard to infer anything from endless, out-of-focus looped footage of demolished buildings and dancing drag queens. The title's right, though. If this film is any indication, the country that produced the Industrial Revolution, Newton, Darwin and Shakespeare is barely registering a cultural pulse.

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Feardotcom Review

After the first hour of the celluloid atrocity so cleverly named FearDotCom, I awoke from a dreadful nightmare: a nightmare chock full of bad acting, goofy makeup, a ridiculous story, and blatant plot thievery from David Cronenberg flicks. In a cold sweat, I shuddered and realized that I couldn't wake up from my nightmare. It wasn't a dream at all; it was playing out right in front of my face on a movie screen.

FearDotCom is easily in the running for worst film of the year. The whole mess is a painfully dull ripoff of much better films - namely Poltergeist, Videodrome, and 8MM (okay, so that one's not much better). Full of grotesque imagery of sadistic tortures and killings and a plethora of asinine characters and pathetic attempts at acting, FearDotCom is a prime example of just how bad a bad movie can be.

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The Lion In Winter Review

There's something terribly fascinating about the ruthless intrigue which takes place within a royal court. Think of the shifting allegiances in the recent Elizabeth or the diabolical conspiracies and ingenious assassinations of those ruthless Frenchmen in Queen Margot. Ah, yes -- those elaborate costume-dramas where the powerful survive by wit, cunning, a chess player's penchant for strategy, and the indelible art of the double-cross.

Watching these cinematic treats is nothing short of delicious. Since revenge is a dish best served cold, it seems appropriate that the grand dame of these films takes place in the bleak midwinter of 1183, when the royal family has gathered for the Christmas holidays.

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The Emperor's New Clothes Review


I'm a big fan of an emerging film genre I call the historical what-if story. "Shakespeare In Love" is the most well-known example of these yarns that skirt around the shadowy edges of known fact to create a fanciful fiction featuring a well-known figure. Others include the current, brilliant "The Cat's Meow," about a murder on William Randolph Hearst's yacht, and "Dick," a great 1999 comedy which presupposed that the Watergate scandal's Deep Throat was actually two ditzy teenage girls who overheard Richard Nixon's conspiracies while working as dog-walkers for the presidential pooch.

"The Emperor's New Clothes" takes a similar approach to the last days of Napoleon Bonaparte. As you may know, history proper records that after his defeat at Waterloo, the distinguished French general and pompous self-declared emperor died in exile under British guard in 1821. But this latest gem of this entertaining genre imagines the diminutive duce escaping back to Paris with grandiose plans to reclaim the throne, only to get waylaid into a more humble life as a middle-class fruit merchant.

Driven by a fantastic dual performance from Ian Holm as both Napoleon and the peasant look-alike who takes his place on the prison island of St. Helena, the film is funny, insightfully human and a delightful lark for history buffs without actually requiring much prerequisite knowledge.

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