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Never Say Never Again Review


Weak
There is a special place in movie hell for Never Say Never Again. Not that it's particularly bad -- though it's hardly good -- but because it's such a cheeseball experience with a strange and horrible pedigree.

The story goes that the remake rights for the classic Bond movie Thunderball weren't held by the usual parties due to a complicated collaboration over a few of the earlier Bond movies. Writer Kevin McClory and producer Harry Saltzman ended up in court, and ultimately was settled with the result that McClory retained the right to make his version of Thunderball. And 20 years after the original came out, he did.

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Gandhi Review


Extraordinary
In a society rife with Robin Williams waterworks and Ben Affleck angst, it's nice to have an occasional jolt of truth. Gandhi, while a couple of decades old now, still has that bold-faced honesty which we find so often lacking in many contemporary films.

Gandhi stars Ben Kingsley in a retelling of the life and times of revered Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi, renowned peace lover, sage, and all around worldly wise man. There is little told here that cannot be read in any history book, for Gandhi is not some sort of Hollywood trumped up, Pearl Harbored dramatization of history. Rather, it's just the facts, nothing but truth.

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A Bridge Too Far Review


Good
There are star-studded projects, and then there's A Bridge Too Far, a World War II movie the likes of which would cost upwards of $300 million to make today. There are lots of bridges in the film, actually: The Allies aim to capture a series of them in German-occupied Holland as part of Operation Market-Garden, a byzantine plot that would theoretically cripple the German war machine in western Europe, where Germany is already on the run. However, Allied mistakes and an unexpected amount of German firepower nip the plan in the bud. The film is more a showcase for some searing acting -- and at three hours long, there's plenty of it -- than it is a classic war film. The battle scenes just don't come across as impressively as in other films of the era -- the fact that VW Beetles with plastic tank shells on them were used in lieu of some of the Panzers is just one sign that all the budget went to that exhaustive cast list.

Nicholas Nickleby Review


Good
Poor Charles Dickens. He has the good fortune to be remembered by the entire world. What high school student hasn't been forced to suffer through Great Expectations? Nowadays, one of his books (and he didn't really write that many) is turned into a movie or a mini-series every year. (2001 saw four Dickens recreations on film or TV.)

2002 will earn but a single Dickens adaptation, a motion picture of Nicholas Nickleby, perhaps Dickens' least-read work and one of his most wandering (the novel being more than 800 pages long).

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A Month By The Lake Review


Good
Take a base of Enchanted April, a little of Il Postino, maybe some Mediterraneo, throw them together, and what do you get? A mess, to be sure, and I'm guessing it the result is something like A Month By the Lake, John Irvin's new film about two star-crossed lovers who find romance in their "golden years."

Vanessa Redgrave and Edward Fox play the leads of Miss Beaumont and Major Paulo, aging British singles who vacation at a lake in 1937 Italy, just before World War II. The pair soon discover each other: She is a headstrong photographer. He is a crusty businessman who dabbles in sleight-of-hand. Clearly, they are meant for each other, and a love/hate relationship develops on the spot. As the romance progresses, the two abuse and play off each other's insecurities so well, you'd think they really were a couple. When youngsters Miss Bentley (Uma Thurman) and Vittorio enter the picture and complicate matters, the film becomes a game of sly cat and mouse, where you never know who is chasing after whom.

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The Day Of The Jackal Review


Excellent
It's awfully long, but The Day of the Jackal (which inspired a remake almost 25 years later) is a terribly compelling look at the machinations of an assassin and the military/police machinations that must occur in order to apprehend him. Or, more to the point, the machinations of 1973, before the dawn of the electronic age, when hotel registration cards had to be collected by a local policeman, deposited at the station, messengered by motorbike to a city, and phoned in to HQ if a match was made. It's inefficiency that lets our British Jackal (Edward Fox) get within spitting distance of his target, Charles de Gaulle, after nearly a week of travelling across Europe with the French cops (led by Michael Lonsdale) on his tail. Delightfully intelligent and often irreverant, it's a good yarn and a good thriller to boot.

The Republic Of Love Review


OK

The DVD case for The Republic of Love engages in a little harmless misinformation. The film is not actually based on a Pulitzer Price-winning novel. It's based on a book written by someone (Carol Shields), who wrote another book (The Stone Diaries), which did win a Pulitzer.

That's some comfort, too, because I can't fathom how a middle-aged romantic tragicomedy like this could possibly win a major award.

At its core is a story of a radio talk show host Tom (Bruce Greenwood) and "mermaid researcher" girlfriend Faye (Emilia Fox). Tom has a string of divorces behind him, the result of being too anxious to fall in love with every girl he meets. Faye is gunshy -- it seems that all of Tom's ex-wives are friends of hers. (And, strangely, she's never met him?)

None of this is played for laughs, really. We're supposed to feel bad for Tom and pine for he and Faye to find something lasting amidst an environment of bleak winter, dysfunctional families, and dying geriatrics. Cold and detached, it's hard to get behind either of these characters, who not only don't seem very right for each other, they don't seem very right for anyone. Case in point: When Tom is jogging with a friend, the guy (right next to him) collapses and keels over dead. Tom doesn't notice: He's distracted by a billboard with his face on it, concerned with the size of his nostrils. As for Faye: A mermaid researcher? I can't put my finger on it, but something just doesn't gel there.

Director Deepa Mehta does nothing to make this palatable. In fact, she goes out of her way to distance us from the story and the characters, most notably through washing the entire movie into total gray, giving it just a hint of color (in the end, the movie brightens up in a particularly awful scene that has animated flowers growing over the frame). Wintry symbolism has never felt so forced -- and in a film that ought to have been played as a romantic comedy, it's never been more out of place, either.

This film is one of Film Movement's simultaneous theatrical/DVD releases -- but I can't find any theater that's showing it. Film Movement is also the sole distributor of its DVDs -- releasing one a month -- so you can't usually get them at Amazon. This one's the exception.

Gandhi Review


Extraordinary
In a society rife with Robin Williams waterworks and Ben Affleck angst, it's nice to have an occasional jolt of truth. Gandhi, while a couple of decades old now, still has that bold-faced honesty which we find so often lacking in many contemporary films.

Gandhi stars Ben Kingsley in a retelling of the life and times of revered Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi, renowned peace lover, sage, and all around worldly wise man. There is little told here that cannot be read in any history book, for Gandhi is not some sort of Hollywood trumped up, Pearl Harbored dramatization of history. Rather, it's just the facts, nothing but truth.

Continue reading: Gandhi Review

Stage Beauty Review


Weak

A Renaissance drama set during the last days of men playing women in the English theater, "Stage Beauty" is peculiarly out of sync with its own narrative.

Akin to "Shakespeare in Love" and "Girl With a Pearl Earring" in fictionalizing real historical figures, the film stars Billy Crudup ("Almost Famous," "Big Fish") as Ned Kynaston, an acclaimed actor of female roles in the 1650s whose career is ruined by King Charles II's decree reversing Puritan rules that banished actresses from the stage. Claire Danes plays Maria, his devoted dresser who is destined to take his place as the toast of the London theater when she becomes the first woman to take to the boards in 18 years.

It should be an enthralling tale, but too many story elements just don't jibe.

Continue reading: Stage Beauty Review

All The Queen's Men Review


Terrible

Husky men in drag may be good for a sketch-comedy guffaw, but as the basis for an entire movie the idea always gets stretched way too thin.

It's the difference between "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," a good movie with authentic transvestites who happen to be fun and funny, and "To Wong Fu, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar," an inane movie built on nothing more than the incongruity of seeing Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo in flamboyant frocks. (OK, Leguizamo looked pretty damn good.)

But far worse than even "To Wong Fu" is "All the Queen's Men," in which decking out burly boys as "broads" is little more than a fatuous gimmick -- the kind of 25-words-or-less concept that is the basis of most bad movies: Wouldn't it be funny if a bunch of Allied soldiers went undercover as assembly-line women in a German factory during World War II?

Continue reading: All The Queen's Men Review

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Edward Fox Movies

Nicholas Nickleby Movie Review

Nicholas Nickleby Movie Review

Poor Charles Dickens. He has the good fortune to be remembered by the entire...

Stage Beauty Movie Review

Stage Beauty Movie Review

A Renaissance drama set during the last days of men playing women in the English...

All The Queen's Men Movie Review

All The Queen's Men Movie Review

Husky men in drag may be good for a sketch-comedy guffaw, but as the basis...

The Importance Of Being Earnest Movie Review

The Importance Of Being Earnest Movie Review

Film director Oliver Parker is fond of controversial fiddling with established stage classics. In 1995...

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