Sarah Curtis

Sarah Curtis

Sarah Curtis Quick Links

Film RSS

Hysteria Review


OK

There's probably a fascinating, complex story behind the invention of the vibrator in 19th century London, but this silly farce isn't it. Instead, this is a comical romp that just happens to be set against the birth of the most popular sex toy in history. It's nicely assembled, with a strong cast, but the tone is so goofy that it never breaks the surface.

It's the late 1880s when young doctor Mortimer (Dancy) takes a job in London with Dalrymple (Pryce), who specialises in treating hysteria, considered a serious medical condition at the time, even though it seems to only afflict women whose husbands are neglecting them socially and sexually. As Mortimer courts Dalrymple's placid younger daughter (Jones), lining himself to take over the practice one day, it's the feisty older daughter (Gyllenhaal) who continually challenges his worldview. And as he treats his patients, Mortimer works with his friend Edmund (Everett) to create a mechanical vibrating device that has an immediate effect on his patients.

Everything in this story is played broadly, as if it's frightfully hilarious to talk about sex in such a straightforward way. But this prudish approach only trivialises everything about the story, from the premise to the characters themselves. And it doesn't help that the script never gives any of these people more than one or two key personality traits. The actors do what they can with them, adding moments of effective drama and comedy while hinting at the serious themes underneath the story. But it's so silly that we never really care about anything that happens.

Continue reading: Hysteria Review

The Awakening Review


OK
A nifty twist on the standard ghost story, this British period drama starts extremely well and then slips into overwrought melodrama. And while the plot feels a little too gimmicky, at least it's complex enough to hold our interest.

In 1921 England, Florence (Hall) makes a fortune debunking fake psychics who claim to talk to the ghosts of Brits who died from war and flu over the previous decade. Her latest challenge is to solve a mystery at a private school in Cumbria, working with teacher Robert (West) and matron Maud (Staunton).

Rumour has it that the ghost of a schoolboy haunts the house, so Florence sets out to find out what's really going on. But she has her scepticism shaken to the core by some genuinely bizarre events.

Continue reading: The Awakening Review

Run Fatboy Run Review


Terrible
Simon Pegg and Asia Argento are birds of a feather: They both have a preternatural ability to enliven even the limpest of cinematic propositions. Whereas Argento has a longer track record (xXx, Land of the Dead, and the recent Boarding Gate), Pegg doesn't have the American market completely (forgive me) pegged, nor does he have the pedigree. But the man has a way of balancing sarcasm and general incompetency that gives a goofy zing to some mighty soggy material (The Good Night, Mission: Impossible III).

With Run Fatboy Run, the directorial debut of Friends' David Schwimmer, Pegg moves up in the world and proves that he can, indeed, carry a movie. Written by Michael Ian Black, a seminal member of the comedy troupe/television show The State, Fatboy tells the story of Dennis (Pegg), a 1980s reject who gets the daft idea to leave his pregnant wife Libby (Thandie Newton) at the altar. A few years later, he has a gut, works security for a lingerie shop, and must vie for the attention of his son and once-fiancé against Whit (Hank Azaria), a healthy businessman who wants to marry Libby. This passive-aggressive tête-à-tête finally leads Dennis to attempting to compete in the same marathon as Whit.

Continue reading: Run Fatboy Run Review

On a Clear Day Review


Good
Over here in America, it seems we just cannot get enough of the gentle shenanigans of average, everyday Brits. If they are slightly older and perhaps finding themselves financially strapped and driven to eyebrow-raising lengths by the hard times, well, so much the better. Into this proud lineage comes On a Clear Day a charming, if slight, bit of fluff from across the pond that has nothing whatsoever to do with the similarly-titled Barbra Streisand musical from the '70s.Peter Mullan plays Frank, a quiet, middle-aged Scot who is left floundering when he is laid off from his shipbuilding job. He embarks on a mission, seemingly on a lark, to swim the English Channel in an effort to give himself purpose and shed personal demons that have plagued him for years. Admittedly, this is quite thin, plotwise, but if we learned anything but a new dance routine from The Full Monty, it's that working-class British fellows made redundant can be remarkably entertaining in keeping themselves occupied.Though he staunchly refuses to tell his family anything about his intentions, Frank has a small clique of friends - former coworkers, mostly - serving as his motley training crew, headed by a put-upon Chinese fish-and-chips vendor (Benedict Wong) and given hyper energy by the cheerfully hapless Danny (Billy Boyd). They are caught up in Frank's determination to change his life, and predictably inspired to do something new with their own, and it is remarkably sweet and uplifting in a straightforward and non-saccharine way, a rarity these days.First-time feature director Gaby Dellal has crafted a dutifully small and endearing bit of fluff, only faltering briefly with some easily-forgiven flaws. She does fall victim to a hallmark of young directors - the need to be unnecessarily flashy - with her shooting of action via its reflection in a small domed mirror or her slow pans of an ordinary boat. Also, the film is not adept at offering fleshed-out logic. Why this unassuming Scottish man takes on a personal mission to swim the Channel, or what he hopes it will accomplish - and what it does ultimately accomplish - is left unaddressed and open to interpretation. But if you accept the pull of those crazy urges we get from time to time - the desire to do something stupid, and hard, and to revel in a feeling of true accomplishment - then that is probably sufficient in the way of movie logic.What gives the film layers and makes it so watchable is the extremely capable acting. Mullan (My Name is Joe, Young Adam) is an immensely likeable actor, and his Frank is an amiable and capable fellow, but he can also be profoundly frustrating. Being taciturn is one thing, but he often seems to outright ignore his wife (the adorably floopy Brenda Blethyn). And he is deeply scarred by the death of his son nearly 25 years ago, but he's so distant from his surviving son that it borders on rude. This persistent haze that surrounds poor Frank, and mires him into such melancholic inaction, is what prevents On a Clear Day from being a straight-up comedy. All of the characters are witty and quirky (though not aggressively so) and have their moments of amusing antics, but they are also each battling a very real sadness, and the film does well in striking a balance between the two.There is little about On a Clear Day that is especially profound or innovative, to be sure. The most effusive praise it will likely garner is that it is genuinely cute and sweet without becoming twee or simplistic. That said, there is certainly a place - and a market - for films like these. I certainly know what I'll be telling my Auntie to see the next time she tells me they don't make "nice movies" anymore.Nope, can't see forever.

Mansfield Park Review


Good
What is it about Jane Austen? This box-office stalwart has inspired five major film adaptations in the '90s (six counting the excellent BBC/A&E production of Pride and Prejudice in 1995).

I think I know what Austen's secret is: Her books are recent, but not modern. Her central characters have good manners and triumph over bad marriages or economic straits, instead of succumbing to their own vices or whining too much about their problems.

Continue reading: Mansfield Park Review

Charlotte Gray Review


Good
Ever go to a movie solely for the stars? It may not be anything particularly inventive, but watching some of your favorites onscreen can be worth the price of admission. Charlotte Gray, unfortunately following in the plotline footsteps of this year's Divided We Fall, holds this kind of talent appeal through stars Cate Blanchett and Billy Crudup.

Charlotte Gray (Blanchett), a Londoner, joins the French Resistance after her pilot boyfriend gets shot down over France. When a fellow female spy is caught on her first drop-off assignment, Charlotte stays with local rebellion leader Julien (Crudup) and takes care of two Jewish boys whose parents have been captured. Meanwhile, she continues to meet with her contact to find ambush points for Julien.

Continue reading: Charlotte Gray Review

Mrs. Brown Review


Good
Judi Dench earned an Oscar nod for her spot-on portrayal of the troubled Queen Victoria (two years before winning an Oscar for repeat royal performances as Queen Elizabeth in two 1999 films). In the 1860s, Victoria was inconsolable after the death of her beloved husband, so she sends for hubby's favorite horsemaster, Mr. Brown (Connolly). Brown succeeds in bringing her out of her coccoon of misery, but not without drawing the attention of a nosy press and nearly toppling the monarchy in the process. The socio-political side of Mrs. Brown is not so well-realized as the emotional side of the relationship between Brown and Victoria, a gut-wrenching analysis of station and the politics of the heart.

The Governess Review


OK
Minnie Driver nipple alert! Sometimes there's nothing more painful than a forbidden 19th-century romance, filled with chest beating and cries of "This is madness!!" Nonethelss, Sandra Goldbacher ushes in yet another take on The Piano, only without much of the real, underlying emotion. Set in the lonely Scotland manse of a photographic pioneer (Wilkinson), Driver arrives on the scene from London to care for the family's child. Hiding the fact that she's a Jew, she quickly falls for her charge's father. Hair-tearing ensues, thanks to Driver's rebellious influence on the family. A really dull ending disappoints, but the film on a whole isn't unpalatable if you're looking for something a little more contemplative (read: slow).

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain Review


Good
If you're expecting a big joke about the unfortunate title of this film, you'll be disappointed. Everyone else has done it already. I saw the film late, and I'm just not falling into that trap.

With that out of the way, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain refers to the title character, Hugh Grant, who is given this wacky Welsh nickname as the result of some wacky events surrounding the wacky title hill/mountain.

Continue reading: The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain Review

Sarah Curtis

Sarah Curtis Quick Links

Film RSS
Advertisement

Suggested

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Film Review

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Film Review

Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie brings a dark and gritty tone to this larger-than-life franchise.

Vacation Puts Ed Helms Face-To-Face With His Heroes

Vacation Puts Ed Helms Face-To-Face With His Heroes

Ed Helms has spoken about his initial reluctance to follow up the 80's cult classics.

American Ultra - Trailer

American Ultra - Trailer

Mike's current life revolves around his girlfriend, a healthy amount of weed and his job at the local cash & carry.

Advertisement
Michael Douglas Shifts From Ant-Man To Beyond The Reach

Michael Douglas Shifts From Ant-Man To Beyond The Reach

Michael Douglas' two movies this year couldn't be much more different.

Richard O'Brien To Return To 'The Rocky Horror Show' For First Time In 20 Years

Richard O'Brien To Return To 'The Rocky Horror Show' For First Time In 20 Years

O'Brien, Rocky Horror's creator, will be playing the narrator in a special West End run in September this year.

Is Calvin Harris About To Pop The Question?

Is Calvin Harris About To Pop The Question?

As soon a pop partnership Calvin Harris and Taylor Swift got together, we knew it...

Surprise New One Direction Single Tops iTunes Chart Within An Hour

Surprise New One Direction Single Tops iTunes Chart Within An Hour

Just a day after Zayn Malik said that he had left them to make “#realmusic”, One Direction...

Advertisement