'Effie Gray', despite being a film about a secret love story, takes a very repressed approach to sexuality.
Critics have been divided about the latest British period drama to hit cinemas. Effie Gray is based on a notorious true scandal from the mid-19th century, and most reviews have commented that the buttoned-up approach leaves the film feeling more than a little dull.
Dakota Fanning stars in 'Effie Gray'
Indeed, for a film about a torrid love triangle, the movie only barely hints that there's any sex going on beyond lots of aching glances. Director Richard Laxton was clearly channelling Victorian timidity about these things, but there are spicier hints laced through Emma Thompson's script and the layered performances of the strong cast, including Dakota Fanning, Greg Wise, Tom Sturridge, Julie Walters, David Suchet, Derek Jacobi and Thompson herself.
Continue reading: Effie Gray: Does It Take Victorian Repression Too Far?
Brave wins the Oscar for Best Animated Film, adding to the awards it has already won including a Golden Globe and BAFTA.
Pixar added yet another Academy Award to the pile last night as the Disney-owned studio's fantasy blast from the past Brave picked up the top prize for animation at the star-studded event.
The film, inspired by Gaelic folklore and the landscape of the Scottish Highlands, had already won the BAFTA and Golden Globe for the same category - following in the footsteps of the six Pixar films that have also won the award since it's inaugural year in 2001. The film battled off competition from Wreck-it Ralph, Frankenweenie, ParaNorman and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! to take home the award.
In addition to being set in a pre-historic Scotland, the film also incorporated a wealth of Scottish talent including Kelly MacDonald, Robbie Coltrane, Billy Connolly and Craig Ferguson, with Brits Emma Thompson and Julie Walters also voicing parts in the film. Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond praised the film and it's continued success - and what it means to Scotland too - telling the BBC, "To win the Oscar for best animated film is a massive achievement. It is absolutely fantastic to see Merida and the gang continue to fly the flag for Scotland in Hollywood."
Watch the trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Welcome back, Potter.
The beloved Harry Potter returns to screens, a scant year after his most debut, with the film version of book two in the unfathomably popular Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Unfortunately, while the Potter-obsessed will likely find few faults with the film, this sequel captures much less of the original's magic. (And while I've not read the books, I understand the same can be said for the second novel as well.)
Secrets finds Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) back at home with his Muggle family on summer vacation, locked in his room (though no longer under the stairs). Before long, Harry is set to return to Hogwarts -- despite the insistence from his uncle that he is no longer allowed to study magic. But a daring prison break, courtesy of the Weasley family -- including Harry's best bud Ron (Rupert Grint), gets Harry back to school, despite the meddling of a Yoda-like "house elf" named Dobby (very obvious CG). The masochistic Dobby tries to convince Harry that his life is in danger if he returns to Hogwarts -- though in reality his life appears more in danger due to Dobby's "helpful" meddling.
Harry of course does return to Hogwarts, where all his familiar experiences await him. Hermione (Emma Watson) is still the class brain. Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) is still the school clown. Snape (Alan Rickman) is still Snape. The new additions to the cast include a new Dark Arts professor, Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh), a narcissistic wizard with questionable ability, as well as the father of Harry's platinum blonde archrival Malfoy, Lucius (Jason Isaacs).
While the cast is still in fine form (the exception being a shockingly haggard Richard Harris as headmaster Dumbledore; Harris died a few weeks before the film's release), it's the story that is decidedly lacking in this episode. The titular Chamber of Secrets is a legendary room inside Hogwarts fabled to hold a menacing creature. It can only be opened, we're told, by an heir to the Slytherin family. When a mysterious message appears on the Hogwarts walls in blood, Harry begins hearing hissing voices, and students begin to turn up paralyzed. It appears the Chamber of Secrets has been opened -- and suspicions fall on Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) as the heir. Or is it Harry?
What follows is another nearly-three hours of exposition as Harry, Ron, and Hermione attempt to crack this riddle, Nancy Drew-style, while the body count at Hogwarts keeps rising. Mercilessly padded, the movie drags us through ages of all-too-familiar territory: a Quidditch match ends predictably; spells go awry; the trio works on a potion together; one-note characters appear only to say their line and soon exit the story. Finally, invariably first-on-the-scene Harry coincidentally discovers a blank diary -- it's amazing how much coincidence drives the plot -- that leads him on a circuitous path to discover the Chamber, just in time for a final showdown with what looks astonishingly like a miniature-golf hazard.
Jeez, I'm bored just writing about it. So much of Secrets is so unnecessary that my audience was way ahead of the circuitous yet ultimately very simplistic story. Kids spent the three hours running up and down the aisles -- only their parents had the fortitude to stay with the plot. That said, this installment is much funnier than the original, and it has a bit more of a grown-up sentiment to it. Still, it's going to take more than an ominous voice in the walls and a flying car to keep even the most patient adults interested in a three-hour movie.
Chamber of Secrets is enjoyable for many of its stretches, and it's unfortunate that director Chris Columbus (giving up the reins for episode 3) didn't take more chances with the source material, excising the many irrelevant parts and adding in a bit of his own vision. As such, we have a movie that plays out in fits and starts of fun alternating with boredom. Sad to say, the kids will probably want to leave midway through this one and ask you to replay the original on DVD when you get home. Poor Harry, when we see you again (in two years' time), I hope you'll have regained a bit of your magic.
As with Potter #1, the film comes to DVD in an exhaustive and impressive two-disc package, headlined by one of the most aggressive 6.1 channel audio tracks I've ever had the privilege to hear on DVD. This film thankfully makes it much easier to find the deleted/extended scenes, all of which are well worth checking out and add a bit of depth and flavor to an otherwise so-so movie. There are also tons of games for the kids and a few interviews for the adults, including one with J.K. Rowling.
Try putting right down the middle of the course.
The honeymoon is over for Pierce Brosnan's incarnation of James Bond.
Just as Brosnan has begun to clearly distinguish his own bent on the character -- less loquacious than his predecessors, with an artful but well-bred smirk, quick to resort to lethal measures, yet an acute vulnerability when it comes to his bed mates -- most everything else that made the 1990s 007 renaissance such a smartly balanced mix of classic Bond and modern action has already been turned into a tired, caricature-like shadow of itself in "The World Is Not Enough."
The new, sassy and independent Miss Moneypenny (Samatha Bond) has been relegated back to desk duty and her banter reduced to a routine of spiritless double-entendres. Coming off her "Shakespeare In Love" Oscar win, Judi Dench's delightfully dour M has been laboriously humanized, given a conscience that doesn't suit her.
Continue reading: The World Is Not Enough Review
In his second big-screen outing, adolescent wizard Harry Potter is blessed with enough cinematic magic to overcome several of the very same problems that left last year's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" feeling a little protracted and rambling.
Sure "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" spends twice as much screen time on atmosphere and adventure scenes than on plot and character. But this time around every episode seems relevant, which is a vast improvement over last year's film, bloated as it was with Quidditch matches and monster moments that didn't advance the plot one iota.
Returning director Chris Columbus retains the enchanted ambiance as Harry heads to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for his second year of instruction in the black arts. But nothing is ever easy for our young hero, as unseen forces seem to be conspiring against him -- not the least of which is some kind of elusive beast that's loose in Hogwarts' halls, turning students to stone.
Continue reading: Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets Review
Harry Potter is growing up, and so is his movie franchise.Under the tutelage of a new director -- Alfonso Cuarón, known for both children's fare (the 1995 remake of "A Little Princess") and an edgy, insightfully soulful, sex-charged teen road-trip flick ("Y Tu Mama, Tambien") -- the boy wizard has graduated from the world of kiddie movie spectacles with tie-in toys.
"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" is a film in which depth of character, cunning humor and hair-raising chills come shining through the visual blitzkrieg of special effects -- which are also magnificently improved over the series first two installments. Case in point: a half-horse, half-eagle creature called a Hippogriff that gives "Lord of the Rings'" Gollum a run for his money as the most life-like CGI creation in cinema history.
Beyond just its detailed feathers (which fluff when it shakes) or its golden eyes (which bore holes in the screen with obstinate personality), this winged equine's every movement, from its canter to its peck, is a studied yet natural, amazingly fluid amalgam of the two beasts that were combined to create it.
Continue reading: Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban Review
About 75 percent of "Message In a Bottle" is waiting for theother shoe to drop.
Robin Wright Penn plays a Chicago Tribune researcher whobecomes fixated on finding the author of a grief-filled love letter setadrift at sea. By the time she meets him, the letter has done a numberon her heart and she falls in love quickly with the achingly widowed, middle-agedsalt, played by a Kevin Costner, and spends most of the movie trying tofind the right moment to say "Hey, I read that letter to your deadwife that no one was ever supposed to see."
Continue reading: Message In A Bottle Review
Overly self-indulgent director Chris Columbus could have cut out the entire middle hour of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and if you hadn't read the popular children's book, you'd never know the difference.
A good 70 percent of the picture consists of showy set pieces that don't service the plot (which we'll get to in a minute) so much as obligingly recreate unrelated passages that would be missed by the boy wizard's enthusiastic and possessive fan base had they been omitted.
One 10-minute episode is spent watching a sport called Quidditch, sort of a flying-broom version of field hockey with more than one puck and incredibly intricate rules that go largely unexplained. It's a lot like the pod race scene in "The Phantom Menace" -- irrelevant but spirited -- although with 1/10th the special effects budget. (Oh, that blatant blue-screening!)
Continue reading: Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone Review
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