Finally arriving Stateside via Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn, Goldwyn having handled the similar but less-weighty "Napoleon," this 2005 Irish/U.K/French/U.S. co-production of "Lassie" returns the beloved collie to her roots: pre-World War II Yorkshire, just as in the original 1938 novel "Lassie Come-Home" by Brit-native Eric Knight. This is a key point for audiences here, who -- remembering the long-running Wrather Prods. TV series launched on CBS in 1954, wherein the dog had been transplanted to the American heartland -- will likely be expecting a sentimental story laced with whi...Read more
The greatest contribution to literature made by Beat Generation icon Allen Ginsberg was also the most perishable. For Ginsberg, verse wasn't something to be entombed in zero circulation magazines and academic journals, but a magic incantation to be chanted, howled out and spoken aloud. A born performer and spokesperson, Ginsberg reclaimed for poetry its rightful place as a theatrical art form. To see him read from even his most mediocre works was to witness a man in the grip of an enormous and charismatic gift that was closer in kind to Marlon Brando and Richard Burton than to Blake or Keats or Yeats.Read more
The staging in this production is blocky, and that blocking is weird. The battle between the soldiers and mice is crowded and confused. A couple waltzes through. The action is close up and adds to a general sense of "What the...?" Mechanical toys and circus acts at the delicious spun-sugar palace are whimsical, but one wants to cry, "Bring on the dancing girls!" Or candy canes or the Nutcracker prince, who here is not agile but a stiff thing made of wood. The expectation for "The Nutcracker" ballet elements is too strong to break without good reason. Without these elements, the audience looks to character interplay, but the acting is often false. The parents bicker. Uncle Drosselmeier mugs. The extras romp.Read more
Jet Li has practically made a career out of playing nationalistic Chinese heroes, so it's hardly a surprise that he would select yet another such figure as the centerpiece of “Jet Li's Fearless” (not to be confused with Jeff Bridges' “Fearless”), a high-powered “tournament”-style martial arts film set during the early part of the 20th century when a waning Qing (aka Ching) Dynasty found itself increasingly overcome by foreign power and influence. What is surprising is that for all its glossy production values and punctilious fight choreography, “Fearless” -- the film that Li has claimed would be his last in the genre -- is also surprisingly joyless. And for fans of Li's best work, that's probably not the swan song for which they had hoped.Read more
A finely crafted Norsk Film production by first-time director Hans Petter Moland, this war story tells of the collapse of Norway during the German invasion in 1940. Partly a history lesson--scriptwriter Axel Hellstenius' characterizations of the country's officer corps lend a critical commentary on their quick capitulation--but mostly an intimate look at an antiquated former cavalry officer, Thor Espedal (a crustily convincing Espen Skjonberg), "Secondlojnanten" succeeds for the same reasons as has recent small-budgeted World War II film fare. Like the 1990 Danish "A Day in October" and the 1992 American indie "A Midnight Clear," this $2.9 million production wisely concentrates on people, not battle.Read more
Writer/director Yvan Attal ("The Intrepreter") is also the husband of actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, a fact anyone who's seen Attal's 2001 film "My Wife is an Actress" would already know. In Attal's new film, "Happily Ever After," he and Gainsbourg again play husband and wife under Attal's direction. The result is again intriguing. Three men are at the center of the drama; they're all dissatisfied with their lives. Vincent (Attal) is married with a cute kid, and though he and Gabrielle (Gainsbourg) try to spice up their lives with little role-playing, there is still something missing. They both fantasize; Vincent does more. George (Alain Chabat) and Nathalie (Emmanuelle Seigner) are more overt in their dissatisfactions and just scream at and insult each other.Read more
You've got to admire the audacity of "Death and the Compass." The work of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges is all but unfilmable, but Alex Cox has tackled one of his stories anyway. The result is stylish, sometimes overly so, frustrating and intriguing. It might not be totally successful, but this Together Brothers production leaves viewers with plenty to think about.
A typically Borgesian tale of conspiracy, the Kabbala and an oddly philosophical detective, the film involves a series of murders that might (or might not) be motivated by the occult.