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Les blessures assassines (2000)
Sister My Sister is the superior film for this true story.
I am admittedly fascinated w/ the story of the Papin sisters and its
effect on literature and film over the last 70 years, so I looked
forward to seeing this film - knowing the content (murder, incest) is
as disturbing as it is.
Although the cast gives fine performances, and Sylvie Testud is
truly dynamic as Christine, I cannot recommend this film over
Nancy Meckler's 1994 "Sister My Sister." Where this one seems
academic in its focus on the details, SMS puts the kettle on the
slow burner and lets it heat up to the boiling point. And you will not
find more intense performances than those of Joely Richardson
as Christine and Jodhi May as Lea.
SMS is riveting and ghastly and heart-breaking all at once, where
MM left me oddly unmoved but for the graphic depiction of the
murders themselves which Meckler, thankfully, used a more
Hitchcockian hand to depict in her earlier version. Meckler also
employed a more discreet touch to the scenes of incestuous
love-making, adding eroticism to the taboo that actually enhanced
the impact of disturbance rather than making it a gross out of
fleshy incestuous sex.
So, skip this one and look back on the video shelf for the superior
Sister My Sister, and you'll be happy you did.
Daniel Deronda (2002)
This was one of the more exquisite costume drama adaptations I have seen, with attention to detail absolutely striking in an archery scene that sets the bar for the entire series. Like the novel, it is polarizing in its two stories in one - people seem to either love/hate Daniel's plight or love/hate Gwendolyn's.
Personally, I found Gwendolyn equally annoying in both novel and film. Hugh Darcy, as the eponymous hero, was pretty to look at and delivers a fine, if unremarkable, performance.
But it is Hugh Bonneville as the dastardly Henleigh Grandcourt who took my breath away! He is flawlessly reprehensible, stealing every scene he was in and when he wasn't in a scene, I couldn't wait to see him again! It was terrific seeing Hugh Bonneville in such a role, as he's usually cast in the "very nice guy" roles (Bridget Jones Diary, Iris, Tipping the Velvet, etc). Although he's fine in such roles, as Grandcourt he made my skin crawl with his morally bankrupt, wealthy and pugnacious swagger. LOVED him!
What this series could have used more of was Jodhi May and Greta Scacchi. In difficult supporting roles, both women shine as, respectively, a searching, haunted Jewess and a scorned, bitter mistress. Barbara Hershey makes an appearance late in the series in a pivotal plot device that I won't reveal lest some unsuspecting viewer be bitter with me, and in a limited role gives a performance that reminds us why she became famous in the first place (and at least for this viewer, made me forgive her 'Beaches').
Overall, this adaptation is very enjoyable and recommended viewing for fans of the genre.
The Other Boleyn Girl (2003)
Television Should Always Be So Compelling!
Contrary to what the other reviewer here states, this was not meant to be a sweeping vision of history. It was clearly meant as a chamber piece - a chick flick of dark proportions.
While this production does not begin to embrace the scope of Anne's criminal nature, or the greater national ramifications that became of her union with Henry VIII, it doesn't aim to. What it does do, however, is paint a poignant portrait of what it was to be a woman in the 16th century, and how ruthless those days in court were.
I'm a fan of the novel this is based on and am hugely thrilled by this adaptation. It is bold and striking and the lead performance by Jodhi May is one of the most compelling I have ever seen anywhere. It should certainly act as her calling card to producers everywhere that she is more than ready to make the transition from ingenue to adult role. By this performance, I'd say she made the leap long ago.
Jared Harris turns in a dead on performance as the Tudor king who became a tyrant and not the least bit because of his union with Anne Boleyn. The rest in the cast paled in comparison to these two, but that does not mean they turned in poor performances. To the contrary, this was a top notch production I wish greater American audiences could see.
The only glitch for me was toward the end when there is video footage of modern day England, tourists at the Tower of London. I don't get it. But I can forgive one small moment in light of the greater ambition and success of this project.
Period drama should always be so delicious!
The Turn of the Screw (1999)
AT LAST a strong adaptation!
The 1961 Deborah Kerr vehicle, "The Innocents" went for the
supernatural chills and is likely the best adaptation ever (at least
it's likely the most popular), but this straight-forward rendition of
Henry James' best known short novel is probably the closest to the
author's intentions to date. By sticking with psychological terror
rather than creepy SFX, this production succeeds in portraying a
young woman's descent into madness that too often takes a
backseat to the realm of ghost story in lesser productions. Jodhi
May's wide-eyed performance is nothing short of brilliant. Pam
Ferris and Colin Firth round out the strong supporting cast
(although Mr. Firth is seen only in the first five minutes of film and
nothing more, so you Pride & Prejudice fans beware!).
Eminent Domain (1990)
Intriguing but uneven
1979 Communist Poland; Donald Sutherland's high ranking official suddenly finds himself without priviledge and no explanation as to why. Nothing and no one is safe in his world. His friends no longer want to be seen with him, his special needs daughter (Jodhi May) is removed from her Geneva school and returned to Poland over night, his wife (Anne Archer) endures an emotional breakdown under the duress, as he finds himself in impossible circumstances at every turn. This film works in showing the subversive wickedness of Communism - how in theory it is government for the masses but in reality it may deny individuals any and all rights on a lark. But the pacing is not always sure of itself and the performances range from even handed (Sutherland) to overwrought (Archer). Worth a look.
Max and Helen (1990)
By the numbers movie lifted by performances of cast
Simon Wiesenthal (Martin Landau) goes after a former Nazi and in doing so, upturns the lives of a doctor (Treat Williams) and his long lost love (Alice Krige). As this one is written, I think it would actually play better on the stage - it feels stagey rather than filmic. But in 1990 it was likely the best of its kind on television. The focus of this story is that on the lost lovers and their individual plights rather than the former Nazi himself, and that is refreshing. The performances of all the cast help this one rise above the average.
talk about coming of age!
Mo picks up Pete in a club and together they trip the night away.
Only Pete tends to pass out with all the drink and drugs, and Mo tends to flashback to a childhood birthday party when her brother (?) was killed. She's reliving that birthday party in the present, only Pete has become her brother and quite literally her cake. Will she eat him too?
This short is well crafted and keen on visual symbolism (red icing on hands = blood of slain brother, water = sexuality & life). Jodhi May and Enzo Cilenti provide the right mix of lust and wonder to their tripped out characters. While it was strange seeing Jodhi May sans BBC costume drama, it was ultimately very good. We need to see her more often in modern settings as she's one of the best actors of her generation.
Tipping the Velvet (2002)
Very enjoyable, campy romp through 1890s lesbo London
For every fan of coming of age tales, this 3 hour adaptation of the
Sarah Waters novel is pure fun. Cinematic nods to Baz Luhrman's
kinetic style, as well as to all those prim and proper period pieces
ever present on the BBC (where you're likely to have seen almost
every prominent member of this cast). It's rather bawdy and over
the top in spots, but that's just what the novel called for. The cast
is appealing and, in the cases of Anna Chancellor and Hugh
Bonneville, perfect. In the case of Rachel Sterling, as our heroine
Nan, you simply must overlook the fact that she's far too pretty to
ever be mistaken for a boy and run with it. It's a fantasy, after all.
Some fans of the novel may be put out by the various changes in
character (particularly that of Jodhi May's character, Florence), but
the changes all work toward the greater good of this teleplay and
provide an overall high quality entertainment value.
The Gambler (1997)
A surprisingly engaging story
Based on the true events of the writing of The Gambler, Dostoyevsky meets the much younger Anna when she comes to him as stenographer. This is as much a tale of chaste love as it is romantic, and the interweaving of the fiction they scramble to put together in order to keep him out of debt (and avoid losing the rights to all his works, both present and future!) with the elements of their reality is seamless and thoroughly engaging. The incomprable Louis Ranier shows up long enough to lose her fortune at the roulette table -- and the entire movie in three short scenes. I highly recommend this for fans of unconventional love stories and Masterpiece Theater. Those whose tastes run a bit faster may find themselves bored by the pacing and lack of flesh (but for Polly Walker's beautiful backside in one spicy scene). All in all, this one was much better than anticipated and I wouldn't mind keeping it in my collection.
Lovely & Amazing (2001)
It was both.
And I haven't enjoyed a little girl's performance so much since seeing Jodhi May in "A World Apart." AT LAST a new gem that doesn't rub right off as a product of the Hollywood Machine.
If you haven't seen "Walking and Talking" rent it today. And then rent this gem of a film that is truly befitting of its title.
A World Apart (1988)
Excellent coming of age tale
If this is indicative of things to come, Jodhi May will be one strong actress to reckon with. Barbara Hershey has never been better, but Jodhi May steals the show as her neglected daughter struggling with terms of identity and growth in South Africa pre-Apartheid. This one is truly a gem. I highly recommend seeing it at any opportunity. I have a copy of it I taped off the television years and years ago. I'm hoping one day it is released on DVD.
Far from Heaven (2002)
Brilliant but exclusive
This is truly a brilliant film, but one that has to be looked at in
context in order to appreciate it at something deeper than face
At face value, it's pure 1957 MEL-OH!-DRAMA! and, as such, it's a
real knee slapper. go ahead -- ask the gay couple sitting in front of
me and the old black woman and her daughter sitting behind me.
ask my friend sitting next to me, she too laughed 3/4 of the way
through (until the uptight white guy sitting in front of us turned
around and glared). That last 1/4 grabbed her, though, and she
was weepy by the end.
Deeper than face value, though, and one has to be an avid film
enthusiast in order to fully appreciate it.
I think this one succeeds on so very many levels -- performances
(all), art direction, period piece, lack of irony and, most importantly,
fully embracing itself at every turn. But had I not any prior
knowledge to why this movie was made the way it was I would
have been relegated to the shallow end and it's genius lost on me
I agree with Ebert's review wholeheartedly, but I disagree that this
is the best film of the year simply because of the thin line between
film as a storytelling medium and art for art's sake. Another
example would be Gus Van Sant's remake of "Psycho." Did
anyone but film students "get" it?
Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
This one will quietly rip your heart out.
This is a true story of how three little girls taken from their
Aboriginal homes in 1931 by the Australian government to be
trained in domestic duties before being sent to work for white
families, risk their lives to escape their Dickensian nightmare and
make the 1200 mile trek back to their home.
Phillip Noyce deftly allows the landscape and his leading
non-actresses to convey this horror story to its greatest effect. I
wept openly for both joy and outrage. This is, indeed, an
embarrassment to the Australian government that has never
apologized to the generations of lost children and their families for
its official stance on biracial peoples, a position that held firm
white supremecist beliefs through 1971. Even to this day, the Oz
government would rather ignore it in hopes of it simply going away.
Fortunately, Noyce makes the smarter choice of showing that not
all whites are evil, and not all blacks are innocent. Kenneth
Branaugh seems to be making a career out of convincingly
portraying the worst kind of evil person - the kind who fully believe
the evil they are doing is for the greater good. It does it well and, in
this case, with nary a hint of a 'twirling mustache' (as one reviewer
I highly recommend this for viewing by all audiences. School aged
kids say, 10 and older, should be able to watch this with their
parents and/or teachers with an open dialogue afterward.
Unsympathetic Hero gives lead to good film.
Ted Demme directs this morality tale of a truly unsympathetic hero
and Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz have never been better.
Everything about this one is good and solid, if only the poor
schmuck at the center of this story would have chosen to make an
honest living instead of trying to take the so-called "easy" way out.
I mean, really, how poorly are we supposed to feel for the guy who
introduced cocaine to the American masses?
A bit of miscasting with Rachel Griffiths and Ray Liotta as Johnny
Depp's parents. As talented as these two are, I didn't buy them as
That aside, it's a good movie worth watching more than once, as
it's very layered with many characters that parlay the decade of
decadence, including a turn by Paul (PeeWee Herman) Reubens
as a hair dresser cum drug dealer. Too bad for that, too, as it's a
reminder of his hidden talents that will forever be locked away for
various felonioius violations (at least they should be).
For fans of Johnny Depp, this is a must see, but it is Peneloope
Cruz who is absolutely riveting in her portrayal of his consuming
wife with an insatiable appetite for party fortunes.
Point of Order! (1964)
should be required viewing for all American students
The best thing about this documentary is that there is no narration, there is no commentary; clips of the Army-McCarthy hearings that finally brought an end to Joseph McCarthy and his era of bully politics that destroyed so many American lives. There are arguments both pro and con re: McCarthy and his basic premise (that Communists had infiltrated Hollywood and the American government, indeed, all the way to the Executive Branch). He may have had a valid point at one time or another, but it quickly became overshadowed by his ego and insatiable appetite for power.
Sound like anyone we've seen recently in Washington? I recommend viewing this riveting film as it is not partisan - it is McCarthy in all his egomaniacal ranting and raving against those who stood by their personal beliefs and held firm in their convictions that the Constitution of the United States of America would forever be their guide.
Monsoon Wedding (2001)
one of the best films I have ever seen.
Bar none. This one is a reaffirmation of life and love and the
commitments that bind the two forever. Forget that you don't really
know anything about Indian culture or language. It speaks the
language of the human heart -- and that is always universal. I can't
wait to watch this one again, and strongly encourage everyone to
I LOVE THIS MOVIE!
Eric Schaefer may never top this effort, one of the most deeply romantic movies ever made. Two people who come together in spite of themselves and the worlds they live in and the resulting romance that braces them like no other is one sure to leave viewers talking. I hope so. It certainly deserves to be noticed, and I long for the day it is FINALLY released on DVD so I can add it to my collection.
The Ring (2002)
As good as the first, but just.
As scary movies go, it's not bad in spite of taking a very creepy
theme - death by videotape - and making it PG-13 material. Which
makes me want to rant on WHY this one made a PG-13 rating in
spite of its thematic content and yet a light romantic comedy like
Kissing Jessica Stein received an R . but I'll abstain.
Comparatively, this version is more engrossing than the Japanese
original (1997) and although it does flesh the original script out a
bit, it still fails to live up to its creepy theme - that a supernatural
presence is killing people by having them watch a videotaped
picture puzzle riddle. The Japanese version depended too heavily
on the metaphysical and internal struggle of its heroine (and her
clairvoyant ex-husband) and as a result it doesn't pack much of an
emotional punch. The American version brings more of that inner
turmoil to the surface and we are able to follow along as she trips
and stumbles and figures her way through this nightmare.
The production values are all good, particularly with re: to the
videotape itself and the collective imagery it holds. It's a well-shot
movie, and the DOP deserves kudos for a job well done.
The performances are all fine, and the story is full of possibility, but
the delivery is lacking and could have been much better. I blame
the director, Gore Verbinski, who has failed to live up to his
potential before (The Mexican, Mouse Hunt). In what other
profession can a man make millions by being mediocre?
Naomi Watts deserves better material than this, as does the
under-used Jane Alexander, who makes an appearance here as
an island doctor who may or may not have a clue to what's going
I think, in greater hands, this might have been an excellent film
going experience. As it is, I can recommend it on a matinee if you
really want to spend the money, or on rental if you are smarter
than, and have a greater depth of patience than, the average
Kissing Jessica Stein (2001)
Swell Evening w/ the Girls!
I won't give a synopsis as there are at least 90 of them here already. What I will say is that this is a smart, funny and endearing date movie for everyone who's ever had a conflict of self. It's billed as a lesbian movie, but it's not, not really.
Although an unlikely situation, it's not improbable, and watching these two characters go through the stumble of finding love in an unexpected place and then dealing with the ramifications of that is pure delight.
Heather Juergensen and Jennifer Westfeldt have written an engaging story more about the human condition than anything else, and it is akin to some of the greatest romantic comedies ever made -- Annie Hall (certainly, as it is quite derivitive of it). There are no overt sex scenes and no nudity and at the risk of sounding like a prude, it was refreshing to have something left to the imagination. Hollywood should follow this lead.
Also true with great romantic comedies, this film is not simply about love, but about people. It's about people and relationships and what one goes through to find their self, and in spite of its R rating by the MPAA, it is highly recommended viewing for all adult audiences.
The Sweetest Thing (2002)
poor direction makes this one flip flop not fly
In spite of the vast comedic talents of the cast, this movie couldn't make up its mind whether it wanted to be a romantic comedy or a spoof of romantic comedies. I blame it on the director, who does show some inspired moments of allowing his movie to fly off the rails, but mostly gets caught up in pulling back the reigns. Such a shame, as this one could have been a great big laugh fest. As it is, it's merely a flat comedy with moments of forced hilarity.
What happens when good girl falls for bad boy
If you're looking to dissuade your daughters from the fella she adores but you think little of, have her sit through this. Ira Einhorn was a celebrity of the peace / earth movements of the 60s and 70s. Extremely well respected, his peacenik persona cloaked a darker side that hated women and thought very little of anything other than himself and his personal causes. When his long-time girlfriend Holly Maddux decides to leave him, she disappears and eighteen months later her decomposed body is found in a locked trunk in his apartment. Through it all, Ira maintains his innocence, doing his best to convince the world that the American Government set him up, that Holly's murder was done to 'embarrass' him. Out on bail, he flees the country and lives at large in the UK until being caught in the late 90s in France. The French, however, knowing he has been convicted in absentia of Holly's murder and faces life in prison without parole once returned to the US, refuses to extradict him. Apparently, a higher court overturned this decision and he is currently appealing a later order to be sent back. Kevin Anderson and Naomi Watts are superb as the leads; he gives you the shivers as he unveils the layers of a clearly narcissistic sociopath and she, simply, breaks your heart. How many promising young women have you known who fall victim to their own lack of identity and the whims of an abusive lover? Filmed as a tv miniseries, this is a three and a half hour vehicle for victim's rights. While the first half of this is used to set up Ira and Holly's dysfunctional relationship, the perspective of Holly's family, and the anguish they go through in trying to bring their daughter's murderer to justice, takes precedence in the second half. If the evidence weren't so damning against Ira Einhorn, this would be just another manipulative movie of the week (however well acted). As it is, it leaves the viewer haunted by the possibilities of a life brutally extinguished and infuriated by the fact that justice is continually skirted by the one person responsible for the crime.
The Christmas Wish (1998)
Nice cast, dull movie
Even as tv christmas fare goes, this one's a snoozer. I usually adore the leads in this but could they possibly have had a more plodding vehicle? There were no surprises, nothing refreshing; in fact, the story line was so tepid and ridiculously drawn that I hated it. I simply hated it. The one shining spot in it all was Naomi Watts' performance as the single mom / love interest. Even Debbie Reynolds' typically vibrant self couldn't pull this one off the pillow. I'm glad I saw it once, but once was quite enough for me.
Persons Unknown (1996)
great cast, standard fare
I bought this movie on-line because it was cheaper than renting it. That said, with a cast lead by the likes of the ever-reliable Joe Mantegna and the under-used Kelly Lynch, and supported by Naomi Watts and John Favrau, my expectations were sadly high. This is nothing more than standard crime fare with double crossing and crazy drug killers and one nasty cop (the always great JT Walsh). However, beneath all that, lies a tender love story between two broken people who just can't take another heart break. I'm a sucker for a love story like this, and it works in no small part thanks to the talents of Mantegna and Watts. I'm glad to have it in my collection.