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Macbeth on the Estate (1997)
I managed to get a copy of this VERY hard to obtain BBC adaption of "MacBeth on the Estate". God, this film should be available to EVERYONE. It is extremely timely and believable. It is totally convincing in the unique setting that director Penny Willcot (sp?) picked. In a world of drugs and Drug King-pins, MacBeth fits wonderfully. I just can't believe more people haven't seen this. This is the best modern-day adaption of Shakespeare I've ever seen. All the acting is perfect. The stand-outs are Susan Vidler (what a seductive and pained Lady MacBeth she does make), James Frain (a MacBeth full of male pride, envy, ambition, and an all consuming lust for his manipulative wife. He goes from reluctant assassin of his King to horrifying mass murderer with terribly convincing emotion), and David Harewood (a deeply moving McDuff). I have watched my tape of this over and over, and it moves me to tears every time. It is Shakespeare at it's best. It is Shakespeare for the masses. So *new*...so different...so fantastically glorious. If you can track it down, watch it! You'll adore it. William Shakespeare could never have foreseen a MacBeth like this...but his wonderfully tragic anti-hero makes a perfectly unrepentant--yet still tormented--Drug Lord.
The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
Great adaption, considering it had to fit into 2 hours
Okay, I've not read the whole book, just parts of it. And, I can sympathize with those who feel cheated that a lot of the book didn't make it into the film. BUT, if they had put everything in--even just half of what they cut out--the movie would have been over 10 hours long! Most films--not all, but most--that are based on books are NEVER as good as the written version. There's no way to get all the subtle nuances in there, to fully explore all the characters...and "The Count of Monte Cristo" is **loaded** to the brim with great characters. They--the writers, and director--did the best they could to fit the main theme of the story into a realistic movie length. People just aren't gonna sit through a 3-plus hour film, no matter how good it is. Actually, this book is best suited for a mini-series. The one character that I wish could have been developed as well as he was in the book, was Gerard de Villefort (the chief prosecutor)...now that is a very deeply complex man. In the book, Villefort is more of the main villan, imo...at least from the parts I've read. There is the story about his conflict with his father, the fact that he was married twice and his first wife died, the matter of his daughter Valentina (a name the writers of the film gave to his wife), and the delicious sub-plot of his 2nd wife trying to poison and kill off so many members of his family..plus an affair and illegitimate son that Villefort tries desperately to conceal. I would have loved to have seen any of these plot-lines, because I adore James Frain, and I know he would have done a glorious job with it all. He was **fantastic** in the limited story they gave Villefort in this film adaption, but I'd have truly loved to see him play the character in all his evil glory, as he was in the book.
That said, I thought **all** the actors were fantastic. Caviezle (sp?), and Pearce were wonderful, Harris was great as usual, and Frain did an exceptionally convincing job as Villefort. Just wish we could have seen more of the lovely and talented Helen McCrory, and the wonderful Freddie Jones. Despite the fact that soooo much was cut from the original story, I was very pleased with this film. The actors were **glorious**--all of them! If you want a film that's just like the book, then be prepared to sit at your local theatre for over 15 hours. Please, my literary purist friends, get a GRIP! What do you expect from a 2 hour version of a novel as excruciatingly long as "The Count of Monte Cristo"?? Maybe y'all should just settle for the mini-series starring the highly over-rated Richard Chamberlin.
A&E ought to be ashamed of butchering the BBC version
I have already posted my glowing comments on this unique and very special tele-film...but, I have to add a few more. I was blessed by having the opportunity to see "Armadillo" as it premiered on BBC1. Oh...what a treat it was! If you liked A&E's *very* edited version of this entralling drama, try and get the *uncut* BBC1 version...then, you'll absolutely love it. It is 10 times better, with lots of fabulous, funny, and emotionally touching moments...plus extremely important character development and plot enlightening scenes. A&E cut over 20 minutes from how it was meant to be presented...all in favor of those big-bucks commercials. I know they have to have their commercials, and sell their soap and bug spray, and make that moola. But, it **really** hurt to see how they butchered this wonderful piece of drama. I just don't understand why they would do that. I mean, they were one of the producers. It seems to me they would have wanted this gem to be seen in all of it's amazing glory. It was still very good...*but* it could have been sooo much better. Damn! Still, I'm proud that America got to see the ever lovely and talented Mr James Frain in a role tailor made for him...and Rea, Bonneville, and McCormack were wonderous as well.
Haunting, yet uplifting
This is a gloriously beautiful film. Jean Vigo was an immense talent born ahead of his time. Seeing this made me want to see the real works of Vigo. I was extremely touched by the love share between Jean an his wife, Lydu. Frain and Bohringer (sp?) have such a natural chemistry as the ill-fated famous couple. It breaks my heart to know how he/they suffered. Yes, he was extremely ill with tuberculosis...and realized he had limited time to realize his dreams as a film-maker, but the true suffering he endured came in the form of the French censors, who banned or butched his work based only on the fact that his father was considered a traitor and an anarchist...so, Jean suffered by association.
Despite his and Lydu's terminal illness, and the prejudices they had to live with, their's is really an uplifting story of undying love, faith, and committment to each other. They lived fuller lives than most of us ever will, experienced truer love than most of us will ever be fortunate enough to have, and realized more of their dreams and goals than most of us could ever hope to. And, Jean did all of this in a life that lasted only 29 years. This movie brings to vivid life the love, losses, tragedies, and triumphs of Jean Vigo and his beautiful wife. It emphasises how important they were to one another.
All in all, this is a true gem of a movie. Beautiful and touching love story, endearing characters through out, excellent and extremely dedicated cast, superbly shot with gorgeous scenery...a film that breaks your heart, but it also lifts you up as well...because of the power of love and the power of believing in one's self. My only complaint is that I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Vigo actually working on his films. They did show this, but more of it would have been very welcome.
Anyway, if you love love stories, or are a fan of Jean Vigo, see this film. You'll adore it.
Path to War (2002)
I was just a young child during the whole of the 60s. Even still, it was a troubling and scary time. This film explained a lot to me as to how we became so embroiled in a war not of LBJ's or even JFK's making. And, I don't even blame the advisors. What would you do...what would any of us do, especially in the mind-set of the early 60s...when the U.S. was engaged in Cold War and saw it's self as the ultimate power and protector of Democracy and the Free World (As a matter of fact, don't we still view ourselves that way today?). Men such as McNamara sincerely believed they were giving the President sound advise, but when it became clear the War in Vietnam was a mistake, Johnson's ego would not let him consider pulling out of the war. As stated in an earlier review, once he was committed to the war...that was it. He was gonna see it through, even if it meant a one term Presidency.
All the cast was marvelous. Michael Gambon was very credible as LBJ. And, I particularly enjoyed Donald Sutherland, Felicity Huffman, James Frain (I'm a big fan of his), and even Alec Baldwin (whom I usually can't stand). The scene where LBJ intimidates a cowering George Wallace aptly conveys his art of manipulation. And, the scene where Johnson threatens to send a frustrated and resigning Dick Goodwin to Vietnam as a Marine private aptly conveys his habit of scaring the bee-jeebies out of his underlings. I also was especially moved by the scene where the Quaker anti-war protestor burns himself alive in front of McNamara's Pentagon office. I really think this is one of Baldwin's best proformances. I also want to say that I think, for the most part, the Brits (Gambon and Frain) did a fantastic job with their accents (one Texan...one Bostonian).
In short, it was a very well done docu-drama. Frankenheimer did himself proud...and unlike Oliver Stone, he let the facts speak for themselves. It was a timely film, especially in this day of America's New War. And, it was an enlightening history lesson. Heart felt thanks to all envolved.
The Buccaneers (1995)
What a glorious mini series. Entralling!!
I paid almost 40 buckaroos for this PBS/BBC collaboration...and it was worth every red cent. What a treat...what a wonderful story...what amazing characters...and what a fantastic cast! Mira, Carla, James Frain, and Greg Wise are absolutely AWESOME. I love them all for making this mini such a delight. It's absorbing to the point that I was glued to my TV set till the very end. Mira's character (Conchita) is full of fire and has an amazingly kind heart...and her Brazilian accent is perfect. Carla wins your heart as the head-strong, and independent Nan (Annabelle). Greg Wise is great as the romantic and determined Guy Twaite. But, the best--to me--is James Frain's Julius, Duke of Trevenick. Julius is one of the most complex characters I've seen on a small or large screen in a very long time. He's a young man who feels immense love but is unable to express it adequately...and when frustrated by his emotions or by his young wife (Nan), he is prone to abusive behavior...that he later regrets. He is a product and victim of his times...a prisoner of his title and what is expected of him as a Duke. Carla's and James' chemistry was so wonderful that some how you hope they will be able to work things out in their difficult marriage. You see all the missed opportunities on the part of both Nan and Julius...opportunities that probably would have made their union a success. So, it's sad and rather tragic to see it all fall apart, when it really didn't have to. But, Julius and Nan are both VERY young...and ill equiped to overcome outside influences, or to fully realize the duties of their positions as Duke and Duchess of Trevenick. Julius is guilty of bad actions and heartless decisions, yet, at the same time, he is capable of sincere kindness and gentle-ness. He is a man torn between the past and it's restraints upon him and the present with it's promise of love and happiness if he would but only allow himself to feel and express it. Julius Trevenick is someone you love and hate at the same time.
All the characters are well drawn. All the cast is first-rate..and the story is extremely compelling. I believe Edith Wharton would be very proud.
Hilary and Jackie (1998)
Acting and writing make this a must see
I enjoyed this film immensely. All the actors were perfect in their roles. Emily Watson and Rachel Griffiths should have won the Oscars they were nominated for. Totally convincing, both of them....and deeply touching. And to answer the previous reviewer: No, there are no limits to the talents of James Frain. He is an excellent and extremely charismatic young actor, and just gets better project after project. I thought he played Barenboim as a very sympathetic character, and I loved seeing he and Emily working together again.
In short, the story is very well written, and effectively shows both view points. The acting could NOT be better....and the music is simply glorious.
Where the Heart Is (2000)
Heart warming movie, with a touchingly quirky romance, and lots of true friendship
I adored this movie, and it reaquainted me with the wonders of James Frain. I've always appreciated him as a talented actor, but the way he turned the Forney role into one of interest, really won me over as a fan. The writers didn't give him much to work with, but he took what they gave him and made Forney an intriguing and extremely adorable love interest for Novalee.
All the actors were fantasic. And, though the script was a bit melodramatic, and often predictable as well as unbelievable...it still worked for me. I was totally won over by Novalee and a town full of wonderfully different characters. I've watched it a half dozen times, and love it as much as the first time I saw it.
If you love romance, great acting, and are a believer in the concept of Karma, you'll love this movie.
What Rats Won't Do (1998)
A wonderful, funny, endearing romantic comedy
Many of the critques I've read on this little movie claimed it was too cliched at the end...too mushy (for lack of a better word). I disagree 100%. Besides, aren't all the enjoyable romantic comedies a bit "mushy"...don't most of them end with the guy getting the girl? Isn't that the point? This film is so romantic, and sooo sweet. It brightened my day.
It's got a lot going for it. A great cast, though I thought Parker Posey was way over the top in her role as the "grieving widow". Charles Dance was fantastic as always, and James Frain & Natascha McElhone have beautiful chemistry together. I'd love to see them act together again. Their scenes are the most enjoyable in a movie full of enjoyable scenes. Also, it was lotsa fun to get a glimpse into the British Legal system...my, but they do have some strange customs. Though, I did find the black flowing robes and stiff white collars rather appealing :) It was a VERY British movie, with a very British cast, doing extremely British things, and for me, that was another big plus. I love all things British, and oddly enough, Irish as well.
But the biggest plus for me was James Frain. Ever since I saw him in "Where the Heart Is" & "Nothing Personal", I've been a huge fan. It was so delightful to see him in English mode. I've seen him play so many characters from American to Spanish to Irish...but very few with his true native accent.
If you love romance, and witty humor you'll adore this movie.
Nothing Personal (1995)
Gritty realism, and heartbreaking
I sought this film out because I'm a new Frain fan and wanted to see more of his work. First of all, his Irish accent is great. He's got a keen ear for dialects, it seems. His acting was marvelous, as usual. James Frain aside, I thought the film was very well done. It showed the conflict in Northern Ireland as the *mess* it really is. Both sides are guilty of grave injustices, and the men drawn into the conflict usually have very little to say about their circumstances.
Also, it is interesting to realise that not every man (or woman) that is supposedly fighting for his country, is really doing *just* that. For example, when Kenny (James Frain) asks Ginger (Ian Hart) why he does "it", Ginger can't come up with a morally acceptable answer. Why? Because Ginger isn't in it for the noble cause of protecting his country or the rights of his fellow Protestants...Ginger is in it for the fun of killing. He's full of blood-lust and it's the perfect job for a guy like him. In a struggle like this there are guys like Liam (John Lynch) who just want to live their daily lives and enjoy their families...guys that see all of the fighting just begats more fighting. There are guys like Kenny that are born leaders full of charisma, and they add fuel to the flames, rather they mean to or not. Also, Kenny genuinely believes in the "cause". He believes what he is doing will make a difference in the future...which is a bit odd 'cause his character seems too intelligent for it all. But, like a lot of other seemingly intelligent men, he is sucked into a gang lifestyle not even realizing it...'til it's too late. Then there is Ginger, a pure psycho who isn't in the fighting for any other reason but for the sheer thrill of it, which in a gangland type war makes him a valued asset, some might argue. However, now, in this film, Ginger has out lasted his worth, and has become a very dangerous loose cannon.
Everything comes to a boiling point, and predictably, the ending is a tragic one. What makes this film worthy is that is shows both sides of this ages old conflict. Being American, I can't begin to fully understand what all struggle is about. But, I do know there has to be a better way.
All in all, a well acted, touching...but troubling film.