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Heartbreakers * David Mirkin * 2001

Yeawell what do you know. I also saw this one flying and “Heartbreakers” is already more of a ‘plane-movie’ than “Bridget Jones’s Diary” (see review), because it is actually just watching Jenifer Love Hewitt being beautifull for about two hours or so. The story is that mother and daughter (Hewitt and Sigourny Weaver gather money by ripping-off rich men. Weaver seduces a millionaire and marries him. Then Hewitt also seduces him and Weaver ‘finds out’, dumbs him and gets half of his fortune (or whatever was agreed upon). The last man they want to make poor is Gene Hackman. Of course things go wrong, Hewitt falls in love with the owner of a bar, mother and daughter get a fight, but there is a happy end.
Only for cheap entertainment, in an airplane for example.

Hable Con Ella * Pedro Almodóvar * 2002

Talk To Her

This film has been on my ‘wanting-to-see-list’ for a long time, but not so high that I saw it soon. Another Spanish drama, parts of the lives of different people coming together and not really leading anyway. I won’t tell you about the story, that would take away too much, I can tell you that this is another very nice drama with a very nice story and very good acting. Of course in Spanish and if you liked the other titles I reviewed, I asume this one won’t disappoint you.

Gunpowder, Treason & Plot * Gillies MacKinnon * 2004 (series)

A fairly new series that I got on DVD cheaply in a luxery twofold ‘digipack’. These two-episode series are about an interesting part of history. The first series opens when the future queen Mary of Scots (1542-1567) living in exile in France, hears about the death of her mother, Mary of Guise (1515-1560). She returns to Scotland to claim the throne. Scotland has been in war with England for many years and also there is the (connected) ongoing war between Catholics and Protestants. England was mostly Catholic and Scotland Protestant, but ‘both camps’ were present in both empires, so there were internal struggles too. However the Catholic Mary of Scots wants a peacefull reign, she starts with serious problems, being a Catholic queen in Protestant Scotland. Then Mary marries the English earl James Hepburn (1536-1578), not particularly a happy marriage and not really with the result Mary hoped for either. When Mary has ‘produced an heir’ and the heat under her feet becomes too much, she surrenders and loses her baby-boy to her brother.
Disc 2 begins when Mary’s son, James (played by Robert Carlyle!) is grown up and ready to become king of both Scotland (James VI) and England (James I), he is the only heir to both thrones! Elizabeth I (1533-1603) is dying in England and his mother imprisoned in Scotland. When Elizabeth dies, James has his mother killed and he claims both thrones. He is not welcomed warmly in England, but this gets better, even as he remains a poor king. The series ends when James prevents an attack on himself and the parliament and after years of marriage with queen Anne of Denmark (1574-1619) finally becomes relatively happy now that the two have gained some wealth.
Of course I gave away whole the story, but since it is history anyway, it is easy to figure it out. These series are definately worth watching. The acting is good, the costumes and stages great and the story moving and educational. MacKinnon used two styles of filming for both episodes, which are actually two films (of about an hur and 40 minutes), because they play in two different periods and are about two different people. The first is ‘normal’, the second slighly different, with characters talking to the cameras explaining their thoughts and the events) which makes the viewer more involved in the story. “Gunpowder…” is a great watch, especially to watch in combination with the magnificent film “Elizabeth” by Shekhar Kapur (1998).
Funny detail, Tim McInnerny plays “Cecil”. He appeared more often on TV in the same historical period, but instead of playing Thomas Percy like he does in “Blackadder”, he chose another character.

The Grudge * Takashi Shimizu * 2004

Just like “Ringu” was made into the American version “The Ring”, “Ju-On” was anounced to get an American version as well. “The Grudge” started playing in the USA just when I was in Seattle and a few months later it is already here. My interest was caught when I found out that this time the project was at least still in the hands of the original director and I wondered how much Shimizu himself would Americanise (or to put it even more American: Americanize) his own creation.

So yesterday we went to one of the three local cinemas where “The Grudge” is shown. “Scarier than the Ring” the poster says. The same can be said about the original versions. Unfortunately we took a cinema which has the film in a small room with no surround sound which would definately have added to the effect.
It was a big relieve to find out that Shimizu left his film(s) in a rather Japanese style. The setting is even still in Japan, but now there are Americans who went to live their for work who get to fall under the curse. There is quite much Japanese language at the atmosphere is mostly left in tact. There are some Americanisations to be detected. There is more use of music, some scenes are slightly altered, some fright-moments have been added and an awfull horrorish special effect with no use is dragged in. In general the film remains fairly close to the originals though. I say originals, because the film has elements and stories of both part 1 and 2 (of “Ju-On: the grudge”, I haven’t seen either of the TV versions “Ju-On: the curse”). The sound is still an element that adds to the creapy atmosphere, which is extremely dense and pressing. There is a still a big part of mystique however no so much is left to the imagination anymore. The light and dark elements are still much in use and ‘the monster’ didn’t become too much of a monster (fiew). Those of you who have seen the Japansese versions will recognise bits of both Japanese parts and find out that other parts of the story have been cunningly altered in order to fit in the new version.

Karen is an American student who is in Japan for probation and it is her who works at the welfare instution. Her boyfriend is also in Japan for study, but he is added to the story. Also added in an American professor who appears to be the cause of the curse. Also some answers are given that are not clear in the Japanese film, while other things are left vague. Some scenes seem a bit out of place now too, since they were too easily taken from the original scripts (the haunted sister, the hung man banging against the wall).

Overall I must say that I am definately not dissatisfied with this American version. The atmosphere is still extremely pressing (some scenes leave the extreme atmosphere for an almost unbearable span of time) and the Japanese-horror-feeling is left mostly in tact. I wonder if the ‘normal horror audience’ will find this a scary film too, but to speak for myself, seeing a film like this on the big screen, is an extra addition to the effect. Shimizu has brung me gooseflesh again, but since I mostly knew what was coming, not as much as the first time I saw the first Japanese part. All in all I can highly recommand this film to anyone who wan’t to see a really good horror without the splatter and humour and also to anyone who has seen and liked the Japanese films.

The Green Mile * Frank Darabont * 1999

“Based on a book by Stephen King”. Not a very promising tagline, right? Of all the Stephen King films there are only two or three worth watching. Especially those who King wrote the actual script for are horrid.

Anyway, this is the reason that I never bothered to watch The Green Mile until a copy was put into my hands. Three hours?! Well, I have watched the whole thing, but I am not particularly impressed. The film is about section E of an American prison in 1935 which is the section for prisoners waiting to be fried on the electric chair. Tom Hanks (not exactly my favourite actor) plays the main character Paul Edgecomb who is head of the section and suffers from a serious inflammation of the bladder. When a new prisoner is brought to “the green mile” everybody is impressed by the size of the feebleminded John Coffey who is sentenced for the brutal killing of two young girls. Coffey turns out to have a curing gift and after curing Edgecomb and revive an impudent mouse, he is taken out of prison to also cure the bosses wifes braintumor. In the process Coffey also gets rid off two “bad men” in prison, one fellow prisoner, one pain-in-the-ass guard.
However “The Green Mile” fortunately didn’t turn out in an over-paranormal monstrosity and it is entertaining, it is really nothing special. Also I think that they could have easily told the story in two hours or less.

Good Bye Lenin! * Wolfgang Becker * 2003

This German film caused a revival in ‘socialist products’ when people saw that not everything was bad in the old DDR and people got either nostalgic or interested in products from these times. “Good Bye, Lenin!” tells the story of a young man living in East Berlin before the fall of the wall. He wants Easter Germany to become part of the rest and his over-fanatic socialist mother gets a heartattack seeing him at a protest-march. Mother gets in a coma, waking up after the fall of the wall. Because the doctor says his mother would not survive another stroke, every possible arousal should be avoided. Alexander decides to let the DDR live on within the bedroom of his motherm, faking grocery and even the news. Eventually this DDR becomes more of the ideal socialist state of Alex instead of that of his mother.

An amusing film giving a nice historical view of the changes in Berlin in the time of the joining-together of the two Germanies and the problems before and after this major event.

The Goddess Of 1967 * Clara Law * 2000

I remember that this film played in our local filmhouse and that I wanted to see it, but apparently not with a high enough priority to actually go and see it. After that I have had the film in my hands a few times, but not until a few days ago that I actually rented it.

“The Goddess of 1967” is a car, a Citroën DS (French: “Déesee” of Goddess). A young and rich Japanese (“JM” Japanese man?) has wanted such a car since he saw it in a film he loves. He finds one with help of the internet and travels to Australia to pick it up. Arriving he finds out that the man who sells it, shot himself and he takes the redhaired and blind girl “BG” (‘blind girl’?) for a drive accross Australia. A very nice and original drama / roadmovie follows. The flashback do not always make things clearer, but do make you learn the stories behind the main characters. Very nice.

Gladiator * Ridley Scott * 2000

I remember when this film came out. I did want to see it, since I can enjoy spectacular films once in a while, especially when they play in days gone by. Soon the hype and fuss came around it and everyone was talking about “Gladiator” and my desire to see it faded by the day. So I didn’t go and see it in the cinema and I didn’t rent it when it came on video and I figured that I may watch it by the time it is on tv.

But, a friend bought the DVD and told me that I should see it and last week he put the thing into my hands. Well alright then. As you probably know the film is about a Roman general Maximus (Russell Crowe) who is to take over the reign of Rome when the Ceasar would die. Ceasar’s son (who is passed in this decision) has other plans though, kills his father before he could make his decision public and takes over authority with big plans for changes. Maximus is supposed to be killed, but of course he wins the fight with his assassins and drives back to his home where he finds his house burned and his wife and son crucified. Then he is found by a slave-convoy and becomes a gladiator. Being remarkably good he wins all his fights and the love of the audience. Commodus (the new Ceasar) tries to get ridd off Maximus afterall, but of course fails. Eventually both get to fight eachother and both die.

Other things you probably know. The film lasts for three hours, which I found fairly long. The shooting, decors, scens, etc. are spectacular, the music bombastic and the story has everything that a ‘modern film lover’ (who likes popular films) wants: action and romance. Not a happy end though.

Good for entertainment. <3>

Girlfight * Karyn Kusama * 2000

Diana is a fairly violent and frustrated girl. Against her fathers will, she goes training in a boxing school and causes a mixed boxing amateur competition which she of course wins. “Girlfight” is the first and last film of Kusama and a nice film about a girl who falls in love with a boy which she eventually has to fight in the finals of the competition. Quite predictable, but quite amusing.

Girl, Interrupted * James Mangold * 1999

I had wanted to see this film since it played in the cinemas. Then it came on DVD and video and still I didn’t come to watch it and already now it is played in TV. I didn’t really know what to expect, either a heavy film like Heavenly Creatures or The Virgin Suicides or a lighter more comedy-like film. It proved to be something in the middle.

Susanna Kaysen (it took a while before I recognised Winona Ryder looking very youthfull) is a depressed teenager that tries to commit suicide with sleeping pills and Wodka. This doesn’t work and she is sent to a mental hospital. Here she meets a whole range of crazy girls and nurse Valerie Owens (a surprisingly good part by Woopie Goldberg). Susanna eventually becomes friends with the most impossible inmate being Lisa Row (I totally hadn’t recognised Angelina Joly!).

Anyway, drama, joy, problems and a good end for Susanne and a very nice film if you want to see a good drama some time.