THE MIGHTY BEAN

 

This section contains scans of DVDs and VHS covers. Its reviews are not written by professionals, but fans. If you're interested in writing a review (without too many spoilers) please send me an email with the review(s) you'd like to submit.

 

The email address is loucifer67@ themightybean.com

 

Kristin Battestella has an excellent blog : http://ithinkthereforeireview.blogspot.com/search/label/Sean%20Bean

 

Here you'll find an extensive archive of new commentaries on books, film, tv, and music-in addition to reprints of older reviews and a few screen captures. If you're looking for more than just a few hundred words on the latest film release, sit back and enjoy browsing through Kristin's TV on DVD reviews, nods to classic books and film analysis, off beat music opinions, and much more!

 

She gave me kind permission to post the very insightful reviews on the film’s Sean played in that she has archived there. The ones she did for the regular films will be posted here, the Sharpe reviews, will be posted in a new section on Sharpe Heaven.

 

Black Death Catchy and Good

By Kristin Battestella

It took me awhile to watch the 2010 historical horror thriller Black Death after it finally arrived from Netflix. Well, golly gee, I shouldn’t have waited!

English monk Osmond (Eddie Redmayne) watches the Plague come to his monastery’s doorstep and wonders if he can serve God just as well on the outside with his ladylove Averill (Kimberley Nixon). When zealous knight Ulric (Sean Bean) comes to the monastery on a quest from the Bishop, Osmond takes the opportunity as a sign from God and leaves the Abbott (David Warner). Osmond volunteers to lead Ulric and his men on their mission to a village beyond the marsh. The village, lead by Langiva (Carice van Houten) and Hob (Tim McInnerny) is strangely untouched by the Black Death. Though Ulric insists something foul or unnatural must be at work, young Osmond is not so sure and comes to question his faith, life, death, and God.

Party like its 1348! Director Christopher Smith (Creep, Severance, Triangle) and writer Dario Poloni (Wilderness) get right to it with a non-intrusive opening narration, fear of the plague, and bodies lining the street. The audience remains knee deep in the Dark Ages via emotional characters, lofty concepts, and deadly circumstances. Devout and superstitious ideologies of the time regarding if plaques and pestilences are punishment from God or demonic doings are firmly and intelligently established in what we too simply label as just a little horror film. Although Black Death is indeed styled like a scary quest film; a road trip movie with a rag tag group of warriors traveling far, duking it out, and dying in creative ways just to destroy the bad guys. There’s a bit of humor, too- blaming the plague on the French or going out with some anachronistic defiance and curses. Actually, the camaraderie among our not so merry band reminds me of Neil Marshall’s Centurion. And of course, some of Black Death’s themes can seem like a repeat now thanks to the similar but much maligned Season of the Witch (It’s 6% Rotten, that’s all I’m saying about that Nicholas Cage drivel!) Yes, Ulric and his boys run around and swordfight a lot. However, there’s a dang good story with spiritual depth, fine action and cinematography, and a stylishly spooky setting. What’s not to like? Black Death has some sweet battle fare and some nice shocks and scares. The intriguing spin here is more than the usual burn at the stake fair, which we don’t see all that much anymore anyway. The dialogue is delivered rhythmically and seriously despite talk of demons and necromancers being responsible for the plague. Performance and plot are not at the mercy of the gore, which is the easy norm and quick routine horror trend today.

Well, Sean Bean looks a little Boromir here thanks to our imprinted image of him from Lord of the Rings, sure, and his new stateside success with Game of Thrones certainly contributes. But he’s so dang good at riding in to save the day! Ulric has a job to do and believes God is on his side, and he will do anything to get it done. He tells someone to move out of his way, he moves. Ulric is a great, godly menace, righteous yet unflinching in his gruesome ways. He doesn’t think twice about a mercy killing or ordering the deaths of the ill that jeopardize his mission. Ulric also doesn’t reveal the details of the task at hand until absolutely necessary. Why does he automatically think everything is evil or at the very least, the worst, first? On Ulric’s suspicion alone we think foul things are afoot at the Circle K- and it effing works. But then… well, I can’t give it all away. Suffice to say, I was gasping at the television and covering my mouth, shocked, I tell you, shocked!

Despite Bean’s top billing and prominence on the artwork, Eddie Redmayne’s (The Pillars of the Earth, The Other Boleyn Girl) monk Osmond is the character with which the audience identifies most. His relationship with Kimberley Nixon (Cherrybomb) is believable, yet Osmond also wants to faithfully serve God in any way possible. Redmayne is a pleasant antithesis to Bean- in both stature and philosophy. However, how different are Osmond and Ulric really? Can each be both warrior and priest? Can Ulric be an action man of God laying down his sword for his beliefs? Can Osmond take up violence to save what he believes in? After all, isn’t killing in the name of the Lord still just killing? Is Ulric- believing himself to be sent by God- more religious than Osmond- who started the journey for his own desires? Is it better to hide away in a church and pray or be in the cruel world slaying evil? This is not a religious movie per se, but the questions raised by both men’s ways add an emotional and intelligent dimension to Black Death.

It may take half the movie to meet the supposed necromancer Langiva, but the budding build and fine mystery set off Carice van Houten’s (Valkyrie, Repo Men) eerie performance. Why yes, what is so wrong with a monk loving a woman? Maybe God’s divine love isn’t enough for a man after all. Maybe the plague is punishment from God, not an evil curse like the ruling Christians say. But that is just like the trickery of a witchy woman, isn’t it? Are not these temptations exactly what the too good to be true promises of the devil offer? Do we really merely need miracles or someone in which to believe? Who is on the right side in Black Death? Houten encapsulates all this juiciness perfectly. Likewise, Tim McInnerny (Blackadder) is creepy as Langriva’s would be partner in crime, Hob. John Lynch (In the Name of the Father) also stands out as Wolfstan, the voice of reason among Ulric’s troupe. However, Andy Nyman (Death at a Funeral) as Dalywag, Dutch thespian Tygo Gernandt as Ivo, and Johnny Harris (Whitechapel) as Mold are not only stuck with some really weird names; but they are cut from a little too much of the same cloth. It’s the polite way of saying they are all the same and serve the usual purposes of good swordplay or dramatic death. Does it hamper the film? Not at all- although I would have liked more from David Warner (Doctor Who, Hornblower) as the cranky Abbott instead.

Fortunately, Black Death’s design is almost a player unto itself. The scoring is on form- properly action, but also old school with Latin chants. The music and sound effects know when to be silent just as much as they put the exclamation on the big moments. Though the photography is a little dark in some spots, the video style works as if we the viewers are reporters riding along with the recording equipment. Black Death has a dirty realism- this is not the good old Knights of the Round Table shiny and spectacle fifties flair. The robes, chain mail, cool medieval kirtles and gowns, sweet churches and monastery design go a long way in creating both the lovely medieval we expect and the poor desperation of the time. Langiva is also wonderfully styled in rich red in a picture with an otherwise natural and devoid palette. The German locations- from mountains and forestry to snowscapes- look stunning. Despite its deadly subject matter, Black Death is a beautiful film. It’s both aesthetically pleasing to modern audiences who expect stylized visuals and realistically accurate enough for historical fans.



Of course, there are the obligatory and ridiculous previews on the blu-ray rental copy; but due to some of the darker photography and stunning locations, I can’t imagine seeing this on DVD. Naturally, subtitles are needed for all the wacky names and soft religious debates, too. There are also plenty of features on the blu-ray set, including deleted scenes, cast interviews, making of shorts, and behind the scenes treats. The cut scenes aren’t even the kind that are bad and deleted for a reason. They lengthen the journey and provide more detail about the beliefs and actions of our crack medieval team. At less than 5 minutes, I don’t know why they were excised from the film. It’s also nice to hear the film was shot chronologically to up the tension as they went along. You would think more films would do this and not go out of order- folks acting on meeting each other after they’ve already died and all that- but I digress.


Naturally, this is not a film for kids thanks to the violence, torture, blood, and subject matter. Actually, big surprise, Black Death is kind of a morbid movie, even a little depressing. Slice and dice heavy horror fans might not like the seriousness and debates here. However, old school audiences longing for more truth, realism, and intelligence in their scares can find what they are looking for with Black Death. In some ways, I don’t even want to call this a horror film. This is a thrilling drama with horrific events, yes, but it has equal amounts of both- enough to appease even none horror or historical and mildly gothic fans. Please please please do not let any bitter tastes left from Season of the Witch put you off here. Once again, American theatrical audiences were instead given that p.o.s. when we could have gotten a little Black Death instead. Catch it ASAP.

 

CA$H Juicy, Dark, and Fun
By Kristin Battestella


Well, I was supposed to go to Home Depot last weekend and buy plants for my garden, but I ended up at the movie theater next door instead. When I saw my local Regal was showing the limited released Sean Bean money fest CA$H, well then I just had to take a little detour on the tomatoes.

Chicago couple Sam (Chris Hensworth) and Leslie (Victoria Profeta) Phelan think fortune has smiled upon them when a suitcase filled with over a half a million dollars literally lands on their station wagon. They pay off their mortgage, buy a Range Rover, and get new furniture-life looks like it’s on the up! Unfortunately, Reese Kubic (Sean Bean) wants his money back. He had to ditch the loot before being arrested by the police, and now the jailed Reese calls in his twin brother Pyke (also Bean) to find the Phelans. Once Pyke finds Sam and Leslie, the obsessively stylized criminal banker isn’t content with what’s in the suitcase. Pyke insists they replace the money that was spent, forcing the once kosher couple into a dangerous life of crime.

Some promotions and trailers are all fast desensitizing blurs of action and effects. CA$H’s trailer, however, actually accurately represents writer and director Stephen Milburn Anderson’s (Dead Man Can’t Dance, South Central) analysis of greed and corruption. Though it’s labeled as a gritty American thriller-which CA$H indeed is- I found the script to be very witty. I dare say this film is meant as a black comedy, satirizing America’s obsession with wealth along with our recent financial dire straights. We are a rich country that’s somehow made up of poor people just trying to make their next payment. We on one hand have the money to be okay for the most part, but we can never seem to have enough of that titular cash, either. Anderson’s script and direction style helps CA$H tell it like it is. Sometimes you can’t help but laugh at the irony of greed and the things we do for money. The script doesn’t shy away from what needs to be said. Anderson makes not only a commentary on money, but also class and race relations and corruption high and low. It’s a serious, well-handled analysis, and yet I found myself chuckling and smiling through some of the sarcasm and perfectly nailed wit. It’s a clever way to disguise such dark material with dry, memorable humor.

No, I probably wouldn’t have gone to the theater to see CA$H if Sean Bean (Sharpe, Lord of the Rings, Patriot Games) wasn’t in it. However, if this film earns a nationwide release, American audiences might finally understand why there are such massive Bean followings overseas. It is a little gimmicky that Bean is playing twins, as the imprisoned brother Reese has little to do other than bookend the film by establishing the scenario. It’s somewhat odd that they would go to so much trouble to mullet and tattoo Bean up for only three scenes, but Reese’s contribution to the way things unfold is as critical as it is bemusing. The shaggy hairstyle Bean sports as Pyke also seems a little out of place-such a seriously meticulous and well kempt guy would surely have a more cropped cut. However, the need for Pyke to slick his hair and straighten his tie after some violence is a fine character tick. The attention to Pyke’s style is a great ironic reflection on how appearances can be so deceiving. As Lord of the Rings says, Pyke does look fair and feel fowler. He does yoga, never seems to sleep, is a genius with numbers, and has a thing about drinking directly from the sink tap before roughing someone up. Pyke’s expensive suits and confident style further stress that he’s really a latent sociopath. Would a normal person who could walk away with over a half a million dollars stay and insist on the retrieval of a measly $75,000? The swanky score and suave pop tunes also add a classic edge to Pyke and CA$H itself. We know something badass is about to go down when the lyrics elude it, and likewise the brassy ensembles set the mood when something sexy is onscreen. I was surprised at several mentions of this being Sean Bean’s first lead, but in many ways CA$H is his long overdue American coming out party. His slick dominating presence drives the entire film and pushes all the right buttons onscreen and off. This may even be Sean Bean’s best performance since Lord of the Rings. CA$H proves he’s worth much more than five minutes of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief or broad baddies like National Treasure and crap like Crusoe. It’s about ^(&*%#@ time!

I have to say, at first glance to me a lot of these young blonde and buff actors look the same. I tend to confuse the upcoming Thor actor Chris Hemsworth with his Star Trek son Chris Pine and Channing Tatum from that God-awful G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra. After CA$H, however, I’ll probably remember Hemsworth can act. His Sam begins as a down on his luck average Joe doing the best he can in a ho-hum life and a stilted marriage. Who can’t relate? When fortune seems to smile on him with a found half a million, who wouldn’t react in the same way? When Pyke comes along however, Sam’s marriage and manhood are called into question. Is he a coward? Is Pyke deliberately pushing him to the edge and calling him out to get what he wants? The desperate changes in Sam are well done from Hemsworth. We see the range of emotion from honesty to anger and even cruelty. CA$H is a great examination of who’s in the right or where the level of crooketry begins and ends. Sam is an upstanding citizen, isn’t he? At what point does he become a criminal, and how far is the point of no return?

Not much has been said of the relatively unknown Victoria Profeta (Push) as Leslie thus far. Although she seems way too stickly and boney thin to me, she does a fine job as the fulcrum between Sam, her husband, and Pyke, their deadly houseguest. Though equality and feminine wiles are discussed between the trio, it is an unusual part-not quite equal to the men and naturally a little kinky between them. Leslie also starts as the honest good girl, but she comes to enjoy the criminal life a little too much. When robbing a convenience store to earn back Pyke’s money, she also proudly takes some Twinkies. After all, what’s a little shoplifting at this point, right? Leslie is more angry and vocal against Pyke then Sam, and he uses the whipped factor against them. Is Leslie more dominant than Sam is? In a truly healthy marriage, wouldn’t there be no dominance? There’s even a hint that Sam doesn’t eat meat because Leslie says so- and Pyke uses all these revelations against her. Though it probably could have been any pretty blonde steaming it up between the boys, Profeta does hold her own amid the sexual angst. Leslie’s eventual- if conflicted- lean towards Pyke further represents how much money can change people-and how quickly. The adrenaline and the power money brings is indeed attractive to her, and oh how green shows a person’s true colors.

There are some violent and action oriented scenes in CA$H of course, as is the nature of a heist film. However, this is not necessarily an action piece. Had this been a big blockbuster American production, we would not have spent half the movie in quiet confined scenes revealing our three characters. A mainstream version would have to have an Ocean’s Eleven culturally balanced ensemble with an elaborate scheme and repeated robberies and chase sequences. CA$H is instead refreshingly filmed in addition to its character piece pace and plot. The Chicago represented looks a little slim and shady, reiterating how easy it is to slip into a life of desperation or illegal means. The camera work is both fast and intense or claustrophobic and askew when it needs to be, but Anderson also knows when to let his cast play their parts. CA$H visually looks like the duality of greed it portrays. All the styles and dressings are deceiving. There isn’t any major great Michael Bay action sequences, but you still can’t look away from the visual clues stressing CA$H’s analysis of crime and corruption. This film does not shy away from its reinforcement about race, creed, or greed. No, it isn’t politically correct at all, and the accuracy of simply telling something like it is refreshing. Stephen Milburn Anderson should do more-and if CA$H has a modest success in its theatrical release; I dare say a follow up would be welcome.

It’s actually been some time since I’ve been to the movies, believe it or not, so I was just as observant of the CA$H theater experience as the movie itself. There were only five other people in the theater, understandable for a warm Friday matinee. However, I found it ironic that with so little people, there was still someone in the theater talking, someone was on a blackberry, and someone else had a baby with him. I don’t really know why someone would bring a baby to sleep through an R rated movie, but the infant was quieter than the talking or the phone! It was also bemusing to see the previews for Robin Hood and Season of the Witch before CA$H. Rumors and wishful thinking earlier attached Bean as being part of Robin Hood, and he is also starring in his own creepy Dark Ages picture Black Death later this year. While European audiences don’t have to wait for these independent films like us Americans often do; after having seen Sean Bean on the big screen, I hope Black Death makes it to a theater near me, too. Of course, the DVD of CA$H is already available overseas- complete with plenty of extras. When the set comes to Region 1, it will certainly be more than my $9 theater ticket. I guess I should start saving my money now!

This gritty yet witty examination of money and power is not for kids of course, thanks to the obligatory blood, sexual innuendo, and F-bombs. However, intelligent crime thriller audiences and fans of the cast will adore CA$H. If you have any preconceived notions about con artist or heist and robbery action films, leave them at the door when you see CA$H. This avant-garde piece will have you examining the way your balance your own check book in addition to some great societal analysis and fine performances.
Spend some CA$H and see this one ASAP.

 

 

Bean Steals The Hitcher
By Kristin Battestella


Who didn’t love to hate Sean Bean when the English actor first came onto the US radar in 1992’s Patriot Games? Following with another villainous turn in the initial Pierce Brosnan Bond flick Goldeneye (1995), it is no wonder American audiences didn’t begin to appreciate the versatile actor until Bean’s understated performance as the ill-fated Boromir in The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Always popular overseas as Napoleonic hero Richard Sharpe in the British television series of the same name, Sean Bean’s most recent high profile American picture was this winter’s The Hitcher, a remake of the 1986 Rutger Hauer yarn about a psychotic hitchhiker who trails innocents and frames them for his crimes. Directed by famed music video helmsman Dave Meyers, The Hitcher boasts production support from mega action chairman Michael Bay (Armageddon, The Rock) and Matthew Cohan-who also fronted the edgy and popular remakes of The Amityville Horror and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (as well as the sci-fi flick The Island-also starring Bean).

 

Unfortunately, The Hitcher failed to further shiver mid January movie going audiences. Incredibly short at under 1 hour 25 minutes, The Hitcher might have been over priced for theaters. Do however, look for the recent DVD release in your video store’s sale bin.

Now back to Sean Bean. Despite being a horror enthusiast, I wouldn’t have picked up The Hitcher for rising stars Sophia Bush or Zachary Knighton. Even cult favorite Neal McDonough (Star Trek: First Contact) was a pleasant surprise, but I won’t kid you-I bought The Hitcher for the 48 year old Bean. Once considered by fans as the most beloved Hauer film, The Hitcher now belongs to Sean Bean.

 

The Hitcher’s story begins when college cuties Grace Andrews (Bush) and Jim Halsey (Knighton) take off across the American Southwest for Spring Break-in a classic 442 no less. Unfortunately, after encountering seemingly pedestrian hitchhiker John Ryder (Bean), their lives quickly turn to carnage, terror, and high speed pursuit. Ryder initially attacks the couple, but they manage to escape him- only to find he has killed others and is framing them for his rampage. New Mexico State Police Lieutenant Eldridge (McDonough) pursues Grace and Jim-who look more and more like the killers with every turn.

 

I have to admit, I first though Sophia Bush to be one of President Bush’s daughters! Young starlets are so interchangeable in Hollywood today, and the B horror flick is often where new names perfect their death scene antics. The One Tree Hill star does hold her own here in the otherwise all male cast. Of course she looks the pretty for the part, but Bush carries an untraditional edge and non-blonde bimbo look that fits the ballsy chick here. Nothing against TV guester Zachary Knighton, but his performance was a dime a dozen. Screenwriter Eric Red was smart to turn this version’s focus on Grace-as opposed to the original’s hold on C. Thomas Howell’s Halsey. It’s 2007, yet Knighton’s look harkens back to the nineties grunge and skater style. I didn’t find it attractive then, and I certainly don’t believe this Jim will be the star of Spring Break any time soon. Whether it’s poor skill or by design, here Jim is a limp fish next to Bean’s Ryder.

 

While not exactly a sex symbol in the US in his day, Bean’s psycho turn here is nonetheless the most attractive thing in The Hitcher. Yes he’s older now, and well, he does have a big nose, but Bean’s command of these college kids is evident from the moment they almost hit him on the road. The complexity of Ryder-who is he? Where does he come from? What does he want?- is more interesting than seeing if Grace and Jim make it. It’s a horror flick-we know someone isn’t going to survive-but in some part of the back of your mind, you want that tawdry ending where Ryder walks off into the sunset to nab another wayward couple.

 

Although I expected the film to be billed as ‘And Sean Bean as The Hitcher’, he is rightfully given top billing, followed by Sophia Bush. He’s twice her age-old enough to be her father-yet Bean and Bush (hee) have some interesting chemistry onscreen. Maybe as a woman it’s the fear of rape, or perhaps its my one to many viewings of Bean in the steamy Lady Chatterley, but I was routing for physical action between these two for the duration. You can’t have a rugged, mean Bean and a short skirted Bush without some rough potential. Meyer does give the audience a fine balance of hints and foreplay and lots of f-bombed dialogue. Kudos also to whoever decided to give Sheffield born and bred Sean an American accent. Knowing his true and definitely British accent is being hidden here adds to Ryder’s creepiness. If even that isn’t true about Ryder, what else is there lying there, waiting?

 

While I haven’t seen the Rutger Hauer version of The Hitcher in some time, the 2007 version reminds me more of Stephen Spielberg’s early road rage classic Duel. Bean’s performance is akin to Duel’s crazy and dubious tractor trailer more so than Hauer. For myself, Blade Runner is the creepy Hauer flick and Ladyhawke is my favorite of his films. Hauer’s most iconic moment in The Hitcher, however, now belongs to Sean Bean. The ‘late model black thunderbird’ car chase and shoot ‘em up has even my honey rooting for villainous Bean.

I’m a bit tired of remakes and sequels, and it’s a double edged sword to know The Hitcher is in Matthew Cohan’s line of horror revisits. On one hand, the story is very familiar, but then again, Cohan and his team have seemed to perfect the art of maintaining the best of the original and infusing it with modern filmmaking. The visuals and creative deaths in this Hitcher could not have been done in the eighties. Lighting, however, seems to suffer for Meyer’s fast paced music video style. Sometimes The Hitcher is almost too dark to see anything. Sure maybe it adds to atmosphere or mood, but we want to watch the action in the creepy desert jailhouse. Equally jarring is Meyer’s cuts to outside action. Beautiful open desert shots have even the actors noticeably squinting.

 

Another place The Hitcher misses more than hits is its somewhat low body count. Indeed perhaps it is even too short for its own horror/car chase genre. Near the end of the film, I found myself missing ensemble horror road trip films- where one by one the nobodys and bimbos are picked off. It might have been interesting to see Grace and Jim with a buddy couple who meets their end courtesy of John Ryder-or perhaps that scenario could have put the film beyond believability. The Hitcher is also partially undone with its over simple dialogue. Some of it is really great-Eldridge’s hick cop banter and Ryder’s ambiguous one liners bring humor and food for thought, but our couple utters too many cries along the lines of ‘What does he want? Why is he doing this?’. Even the bullseye gem ‘I’ll be back in 15 minutes’ makes a cameo.


Although The Hitcher came and went in theaters, I expected the DVD release to have more features than it does. There’s an up close segment on Knighton and his definitive bloodfest scene, plus a detailed behind the scenes look with the complete cast and crew. For fans who want to know the ins and outs of all the car stunts-here it is. I was, however, disappointed with the deleted scenes and alternate ending. Outtakes would have been a real treat, but instead we get four different versions of how one hotel room scene could have gone down. Indeed deleted scenes are usually deleted for a reason, and the way that hotel room scene is finalized in the film is the superior outcome.

 

The alternate ending was a little over the top for theaters-as the cover promised-but not nearly as extreme as it could have been. The highlight of the features for me was Sophia Bush confessing she was really afraid of Sean Bean!

If you don’t like spooks, cars, and gore, then The Hitcher is not for you. Are there scarier and more gory horror films out there? More serious and hard core action, high speed thrillers? Of course, but you can’t find solid acting and character complexity in Jason X.

 

Perhaps what is the creepiest thing about The Hitcher is that this kind of road rage can happen and does happen. This film is a must see for Sean Bean fans or Sophia Bush lovers. Perhaps the question is not to purchase this DVD, but rather what would you do if one of the S.B.s was thumbing for a ride on your street?

 

 

 

 

North Country Could Have Been Stronger

By Kristin Battestella

 

After seeing North Country in the bargain bins at nearly every video store, I took the $4 plunge. I caught part of the 2005 film on television, and hey, Sean Bean is in it, so why not?


After leaving her abusive husband, Josey (Charlize Theron, Monster) takes a job at the Pearson Mines to support her two children, Sammy (Thomas Curtis) and Karen (Elle Peterson). Her father Hank (Richard Jenkins), also a miner, disapproves of Josey’s job, as do most of the male miners. Union representative Glory (Frances McDormand, Fargo) tries to keeps the hazing of the new female minors to a minimum. Unfortunately, Glory can’t keep her tough exterior while her health is failing. Her husband Kyle (Sean Bean)-previously injured at the mine-must care for Glory. Josey’s Mom Alice (Sissy Spacek) offers support where she can, but after one too many incidents at the mine, Josey turns to ex hockey star turned lawyer Bill (Woody Harrelson) and takes the first class action sexual harassment lawsuit to court.

 

Clearly meant as a vehicle for Charlize Theron, the Oscar winner gives a fine performance here along with other such female Oscar heavy weights as Spacek and McDormand. The faults with North Country are not with the cast. In their brief scenes, Woody Harrelson and Sean Bean support the ladies very well, but it is as if they don’t have enough to do. The leading women also don’t seem to be as moving as they could be. The talent was definitely there for North Country, but director Niki Caro and writer Michael Seitzman seem to have missed the emotional mark.

 

Based upon the book by Clara Bingham, this true story about women fighting back against sexual harassment should be more moving then it turned out onscreen. After years of courtroom reruns on television, the legal scenes in North Country seem stilted and on the cheap. Woody Harrelson is capable of the courtroom charisma needed, as seen in The People vs Larry Flint, but it seems as if the history making legal precedence is set aside for chick flick moments.

 

The North Country DVD does have a brief deleted scene reel, and for once, these pieces should have been left in the film. Several key conversations between each main cast member were left on the cutting room floor. Some have dialogue, and some are just lengthy moments between the leads, but these scenes add some of the depth needed. At exactly two hours, North Country seems a bit short nowadays. All the pieces to the puzzle are there, but North Country doesn’t quite deliver.

Men probably won’t like this attempted gun-ho women’s picture, but younger folks may not either, largely due to the eighties look of the film. North Country’s setting is cold Minnesota, 1989-and the hair, costumes, and production look it. I must, however, say the ice hockey presented actually looks authentic-not an easy thing to find! Unfortunately, the DVD contains only the deleted scenes, the standard subtitles, and a brief behind the scenes with the real women of the class action lawsuit.


Instead of directing audiences to ‘stand up’ for themselves and other against abuse by going to a website, here was another missed chance to get seriously exhaustive about the issue of filming what is still a touchy subject. How did Theron prepare? Was it rewarding or difficult for the real victims to see their tale onscreen? What does the real mining company have to say about all this? Sadly we just don’t know.

Although North Country didn’t quite hit the nail on the head, the film is just right for a certain audience niche. Women and victims of abuse will find the film worthy, and students learning about such lawsuits might help themselves with a viewing. No one here has a glamorous role, but fans of the cast will no doubt tune in as well. North Country brought to light a very important subject, but the next step was there for the taking.

 

 

Flightplan: The In flight Thriller for Families
By Kristin Battestella

 

I didn’t expect to see the airplane thriller genre to revive anytime soon after 9/11, but the claustrophobic, understandably turbulent action offshoot made famous by the likes of Executive Decision and Air Force One never actually went away. Unfortunately real life events are still forcing a fictional tone down, but the 2002 Jodi Foster thriller Flightplan embraces the new less on action, more on brains turnabout.

 

Flightplan begins with former Engineer Kyle Pratt (Jodi Foster) preparing for a flight from Germany to America. Pratt and her six year old daughter (Marlene Lawston) are transporting her husband’s coffin home, and understandably so, both mother and daughter are upset and confused. Kid is very fearful of the outdoors and the jumbo plan designed by Pratt. The packed double decker plane provides little comfort to the family, and when Mrs. Pratt wakes up from a restless sleep, she discovers her situation has gotten worse. Every mother’s fear-kid has disappeared. When evidence implies that kid was never even on board the plane, both the crew and passengers suspect Pratt of foul play.

 

While researching for this review, I was surprised to find Jodi Foster’s role was intended for Sean Penn. The change is nominal-the masculine first name of Kyle is only mentioned once in the film, and although it would have been intriguing to see a father dealing with the loss of a six year old, the vigilante father theme has been done before. I wouldn’t think the role out of Penn’s range, especially now, as an older subdued actor. For Foster however, the role comes almost too easy. Make no mistake, her performance was spot on, and no doubt about it, this is Jodi’s film. Her facial realizations, actions, and movements are just right, yet it seems we’ve seen Foster in this kind of role before with previous hits Little Man Tate and Panic Room. Yet still, she adds her own spin on this near hysterical, yet highly intelligent mother. Panic Room was more action and stunts and about strong women taking control. Here, you would have somehow expected a man to be a propulsion engineer-except Foster plays Pratt as sympathetic, yet always with her wits about her. Not an easy line to walk, and its probably Foster’s Oscar winning talent that makes it seem so effortless and nonchalant.

 

I was impressed with the mostly unknown cast that holds its own with Foster. We see just enough of daughter Julia for the seeds of a realistic relationship, and hey, it’s a cute kid. Who wants to have her kidnapped, really? I’ve not seen Peter Sarsgaard before, but his portrayal of the ambiguous marshal Mike is equally subdued versus Foster. Likewise, Erika Christensen becomes fishy as the lone flight attendant who may be trying to help Foster, as does contentious stewardess Stephanie (Kate Beahan). The dialogue between all is tight and real, including the swift references to Foster simply as ‘Mrs. Pratt’. They are all just trying to be so polite!

Kudos to director Robert Schwentke and writers Peter Dowling and Billy Ray for keeping the film multi cultural and languaged. On-plane video and the jet’s crew are often heard repeating everything that’s said in English, German, and French. Making a film like this with an American protagonist and a solely American crew is simply not realistic.

 

Fortunately, the most obvious antagonist in Flightplan is Sean Bean as Captain Rich. His attempts at sympathy toward Pratt try his patience-and he seems quite the jerk. His flat out questioning of Pratt’s drinking or medication and labored indulgence of her absurd requests allude to a Twilight Zone feeling. Is there no one on Pratt’s side? Why does she have such blind faith in the Captain’s control of the plane? Thinking of his crew and passengers first makes Bean-who is very well known to American audiences for his villainous turns in Patriot Games, Goldeneye, and Don’t Say A Word- look like the bad guy. His uppity British tone had a tinge of villainy, but of course, early on you learn that nothing in Flightplan is what it seems.

 

Flightplan excels in delighting the mind over the action. We’ve seen films like Turbulence that pride themselves on how much they can make their prop plane shake, but Pratt’s knowledge of aeronautics and aviation provide smart set ups and believable in-flight action. The references to the 9/11 attacks are also well played. You can’t not mention it or how its change airline procedures. How the crew and passengers react to these restrictions in the unusual situation of having a child onboard go missing is more suspenseful and mind thrilling than losing cabin pressure.

 

The believability of a child missing on a plane-How many places could there be? It’s not like she could leave!- is helped by the ultra slick set of the plane. Lush bars and crew areas, double decker passenger lounges, spacious cockpit. The posh look of the common plane areas is state of the art, and the underbelly sequences are dark, cramped, full of mechanics-very realistic. If you don’t know what the innards of a plane look like, you can imagine with Flightplan.

 

The behind the scenes features on the widescreen DVD are standard enough-and by the way, do get widescreen even if you are still clinging to full screen viewings. The scope of the plane and flying cannot be fully realized with a cropped picture. Schwentke and his team shed light on the featurettes, along with cast interviews, screen tests, and the usually movie magic reveals. What amazes me most about Flightplan is while it does have some potentially scary scenes and the obligatory plane explosions, the film is quite family friendly.

 

Younger children may be frightened by the kidnapping set up or death talk-especially children that might have recollections of September 11th, but thinking kids 10 and up might enjoy a night in with Flightplan. Enough action, realistic folks to root for, and very little blood or language. Parents beware, however, over a few scenes involving the stereotyping of Arab passengers. I don’t suspect that is something even the smartest kid could really understand.

 

The conclusion of Flightplan, unfortunately, leaves a bit to desire. After showcasing Foster’s intelligence, the ending relies on one the the bad’s cohorts to confess everything. It’s also a bit foolish to have Pratt ultimately destroy the evidence that could clear her without the cohort’s capture. Still, all parties carry their performances through to the end. Not only carry, but step up as the story unfolds to its inevitable- if potential let down- ending.

 

But hey, it’s tough for parents to find a film the whole family can watch. Even if you think your children are too young to understand the finer points of Flightplan, it’s not the kind of film you have to keep looking your shoulder for while you watch. Let the kids cheer for something-and perhaps get a lesson and some food for thought with the entertainment.

 

 

 

The Dark Good, But Nothing New

By Kristin Battestella

 

In recent years, this new chick flick styled horror has sprung up. The Grudge, The Ring, Darkness, and The Dark. This 2005 British production adds a few new twists to the genre, but doesn’t take the next step in standing out amid such similar films.

 

After separating from her artist husband James (Sean Bean), Adelle (Maria Bello) travels to Wales with daughter Sarah (Sophie Stuckey) for a visit. Things have been tough between the ladies, but the Welsh countryside seems good for the reuniting family. The area is full of mysterious buildings, cult legends, and lovely beaches and cliffs. Unfortunately, Sarah vanishes on the beach. While James and local handyman Dafydd (Maurice Roeves) lead a massive search, Adelle discovers a strange girl named Ebril (Abigail Stone) now living in their home.

 

Okay, so the chick flick horror genre really began with Jamie Lee Curtis and Halloween, but this recent trend of chick horror always has the same key pieces: An American woman in a foreign country with a child somehow involved in said horror. The Dark brings a nice twist with its Welsh mythology, but there isn’t much time invested in this notion. Two scenes of the staple ‘talking to the old person who was there’ and the standard ‘lost journal/internet/microfilm’ montage set the intrigue but doesn’t take what makes The Dark unique far enough.

 

Maria Bello (A History of Violence, ER) is finely cast as the not so perfect mother on a quest to find her missing daughter. She’s the right style; a bit edgy, off her rocker, yet hip, blonde rocker chick. Bello does fine, and it’s a strong role for what is odd to say an ‘older maternal’ part as compared to a teeny sexy chick part. The Dark, however, is not going to make Maria Bello a movie star anytime soon. Nothing ill against her, but everyone does the foreign low budget horror flick at some point. The Dark isn’t bad, just meh. Naomi Watts, Sarah Michelle Gellar, aren’t they all the same?

 

Likewise I am curious why Sean Bean (The Lord of the Rings) took two so similar parts within a year. Silent Hill and The Dark are very much the same vein, and Bean plays the searching, protective father in both. Odd that he has come down to independent horror features after such success with The Fellowship of the Ring. However, after seeing him in so many villainous roles, it is nice to see the softer side of Bean. (My husband kept suspecting he was someone involved in the evil!) Still, I can’t help but chuckle during his scenes with Sophie Stuckey and Abigail Stone. Do these little girls know who he is? Were they afraid of him? Don’t they say to never work with kids or dogs?

 

There is no question, however, about the lovely locations in The Dark. The stunningly beautiful yet violent and creepy cliffs and oceans onscreen add to the parental fear of the leads. My goodness how do British people really live so close to these cliffs without fearing their kids are going to plummet? This realistic filming adds to the creepiness of the abattoir. Based upon the novel Sheep by Simon Maginn, the animals are also a bit freaky; Herds of sheep surrounding folks, looking at people and baa-ing. The Dark shows promise with these foreign and weird touches, but it’s not enough.

I suppose the biggest question is this: Is The Dark scary? First viewing; maybe. Bean and Bello fans will tune in for sure, but those made to jump moments are now so commonplace that the spooks don’t work. Television Director John Fawcett’s (Xena, Queer as Folk, Taken) jagged abattoir flashbacks, cliff plummets, and otherworldly Annwn hell-like filming make great strides and look very cool, but don’t top what’s already been done onscreen.

 

Outside of a few f-bombs, I don’t see why The Dark is rated R. The child torture scenes are mild compared to other films, and the blood and gore isn’t heavy. Maybe European audiences prefer the parental struggles and life versus death debates, but us Americans want Blood! Gore! Sex! And we want it Now!

 

The Dark does nothing wrong, in fact its foreign and mature takes add to the film, not detract. The Dark is good. I’ve watched it several times, I’d watch it again, and I recommended The Dark to my horror loving husband. Too many similar films and not enough umph unfortunately give The Dark a feeling of déjà vu and familiarity instead of nail biting horror.

 

Although the dvd only offers one extra-an alternate ending that isn’t too shocking-if you’re looking for a bit of weird and creepy, The Dark is an affordable show without too much commitment.

 

 

National Treasure Neat for Kids
By Kristin Battestella

Capitalizing on its Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Disney tried for gold again with 2004’s National Treasure. The intelligent and ambitious vehicle has not gone on to as much success as Pirates. Nevertheless, National Treasure is ideal for tweens interested in a thinking person’s movie.

Acclaimed film veteran Christopher Plummer opens the tale, telling his young grandson Ben Gates how their family holds a vital clue in finding a vast treasure brought to the New World by the Knights Templar and protected by Free Masons from the British. Hidden and since lost from memory, Ben (Nicholas Cage) spends his adult life searching for the treasure, despite his father’s (Jon Voight) bitter realization that the treasure is no more than a myth. After the discovery of a ship buried in the Artic Circle, Ben realizes the next clue found there suggests the treasure map is on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

To stop his former business partner Ian Howe (Sean Bean) from stealing and destroying the Declaration, Ben and his understudy Riley steal the Declaration first. After interfering with their plans, historian Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) insists on coming along to ensure the protection of the invaluable document. With Ian and FBI investigator (Harvey Kietel) on their trail, the trio travels from Washington to Philadelphia and New York, gathering clues and searching for the treasure.

The premise of National Treasure is more intelligent that most, but it is ambitious and not fully executed. Trying to ride the Da Vinci Code tail, National Treasure resorts to basic exposition on American history with some fantastical turns tossed in along the way. The script is too broad and witty in the wrong places. Intellectual teens or history fans will no doubt dig Treasure, but for smarter adults, the movie doesn’t hold many repeat viewings. The first time around, the Declaration heist, Philadelphia chase, and New York underground escape only go so far, and eventually, plot holes take center stage.

Often shown on broadcast and basic cable channels, National Treasure is only worth a second or third view for the cast. Justin Bartha as Riley has most of the amusing moments as the sarcastic sidekick. His deadpan style is offbeat and more refreshing than if the role was set up with a blatant laugh track. Likewise, Nicholas Cage is clearly having fun with the role. The Oscar winner and action star surely has his pick of material, so after dark pictures like his award winning turn in Leaving Las Vegas, and more recently Snake Eyes and 8mm, Cage delivers his historical wit with a lighthearted manner his fans will no doubt enjoy. Relative newcomer Diane Krueger (Troy) fits the bill as Doctor Chase.

All the secondary characters are under written and not properly showcased- the talented actors behind them do as much as they can within the script. Krueger is the pretty but brainy and clearly attracted to Ben, and Harvey Keital (Pulp Fiction) is the scary FBI agent who really isn’t all that scary and in fact helpful stereotype. Villain veteran Sean Bean (Patriot Games, Goldeneye, Don’t Say A Word) suffers greatly as the clichéd European unobstructed bad guy bent on acquiring the treasure simply because he can. Bean’s sublte threats on Riley’s sidekick are some of the better played scenes in the film.


Whether he was made up to look older or was unwell during filming, Jon Voight does not look well as Patrick Gates. Although the relationship between the father and son is a big part of National Treasure, the script does little to add to the oft-told scenario. Voight seems tired as the Old Dad-perhaps that is his award winning acting range, but for someone who was also once a respected Historian, Dad’s left with clichéd phrases and glib remarks. The only thing I found rewarding in the Voight and Cage duo is that Cage was in Gone in Sixty Seconds with Voight’s real life daughter Angelina Jolie and they, of course, aren’t speaking to each other.

The scope of National Treasure is also a bit presumptuous for someone who has grown up in the areas in which the film takes place. Although the Declaration heist is very vague and undefined in most places, it also gives away real facts and science. Would the powers that be really let a movie show how to steal the Declaration of Independence? Likewise, the Philadelphia locales are taken somewhat out of context. The elaborate double chase through Philadelphia takes the audience on a course that isn’t actually possible through the city. One notices these things after multiple viewings, but younger audiences will take the substitution of story for van chases and death defying avalanches, which in the end, was probably Disney’s intention.


Yes, I’ve been harsh on National Treasure, and I don’t expect you to see it ten times like I have, but I expected more from a big vehicle backed with a lot of money and starring Nicholas Cage and Sean Bean. Female fans will most definitely watch for them, but National Treasure is more for young conspiracy fans interested on loose coincidences and facts about Benjamin Franklin. History teachers might benefit from a viewing followed by a fact or fiction discussion and trip to Philadelphia, but I don’t think that’s what Disney had in mind when they launched their massive contests and treasure chances with the film’s box office release.

National Treasure is available on DVD with some fun extras for the kids, and the film has been popular enough to warrant a sequel. National Treasure: Book of Secrets is currently filming. Focusing on the mysterious surrounding The Lincoln assassination, I don’t see how it could top the original if it tries to stretch its tiny premise against the original’s well, national attempts.

More intelligent than The Mummy, and most definitely better than The Scorpion King, National Treasure is the young man’s Indiana Jones. And even then, I’d recommend The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles first, but *they* aren’t really available on DVD yet.

 

Review written by Annbax.

 

For anyone of you who may or may not have seen this film.I should like to share a few thoughts about it, after having received the new version with the director's cuts included.


The Director's Cut version is 187 minutes long and tells a simplified version of the Trojan War.  Here we meet the legendary figures of Greek mythology, or is it history?Written, perhaps from a spoken tradition in 800BC by Homer in his epic 'The Illiad', with some additions from the much later Roman work 'Aeneid' by Virgil.

 

The extras on this DVD are more about the fighting scenes, the Director's own comments and something of Diana Kruger and Brad Pitt.

 

This  tragic story of death and destruction begins with  Paris, son of Priam, king of Troy, foolishly seducing Helen, wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta, and taking her back to Troy, against the advice of his own brother Prince Hector.  From this selfish move the epic saga begins.

The King of Sparta, seeks the help of his bother the most powerful of all Greek Kings to rally all the Greek princes to fight for Helen's return.  Agammemnon readily agrees to help his brother for he has long sought the destruction of Troy. There is one man that the Greeks need, but he is no ally of Agammemnon, and that is Achilles!

 

Achilles will only listen to the counsel of one man. A man he respects.  That man is Odysseus, King of Ithaca.  Odysseus is  an extremely intelligent man with the ability to control Achilles and bring him onside.


From this point we have invasions, battles, deaths, arguments, domestic, love scenes and every type of scene that one would expect from a big budget film about the destruction and humiliation of a city in the Bronze Age .  The fight scenes are spectacular, the sets  and costumes are excellent.  The actresses playing the leading ladies are beautiful and very acceptable in the roles they are given. 

 

The young male leads were handsome, bronzed and virile.  But, in my opinion, it was the older men who gave us the better examples of good acting, inspite of at times a mediocre script.  Brian Cox, gave us a fine performance as the omnipotent, meglomaniac Agammemnon.  Whilst the legendary Peter O'Toole outshone the Princes of Troy with his performance as the wise, powerful, yet very gentle King Priam.  His performance was subtle and most moving especially in the scene where he smuggles himself into the Greek camp to retrieve the body of his son Hector from Achilles. 

 

By the end of this film only one powerful Greek prince is alive to bury the dead and restore order in burning Troy.  That man is Odysseus played, of course by Sean Bean.  Odysseus, described by Achilles'mother as the 'silver-tongued' king.  We see him first, in the hills of Ithica, with his sheep and dog, fooling the ambassadors of Agammemnon.  He is playing the shepherd with humourous comments and twinkling eyes lighting his smiling face.  He is then dressed as a soldier when he recruits Achilles, with clever arguments.  It is Odysseus that builds the Horse and enters the city... it is Odysseus that ends the story, which is prophetic of an earlier short scene where Achilles berates him from landing late on the invasion beaches... Odysseus quietly replies that it is not the persons first into battle that count, but who is there is the end....

It is Sean, who usually spoke the words of wisdom, it is Sean with twinkling eyes and quiet voice that captured scenes.. it is Sean with the still features that  with a glance saw a soldier making a toy for his son..It is Sean who put a more humane face on the Greek army.He was the brains behind the brawn.

 

 

Review by Annbax

 

May I be so bold as to introduce you to a modern director’s view of the Tudor monarch King Henry V111?


In this made for TV version we are introduced to a man, with a charismatic and dominant personality, a second son of a usurper king, a man not intended for the throne of England, not until his elder brother had died… then his problems were to begin.


Our story has a brief beginning. The year is 1509, King Henry V11 lies on his death bed.. His son and heir is sent for… Henry, Prince of Wales, is told that the most important duty he has to perform is to provide a male heir to the throne of England. To do this he must marry his brother’s wife.. Catherine of Aragon.


We next see the mature Henry some fifteen years later, being told that one of his mistresses has borne him a son… yet his wife, who has miscarried several children has only produced one living child; a daughter. In Henry’s mind the problem lies in breaking church rules and marrying his brother’s wife. The only solution is to divorce Catherine and marry his new love Anne Boleyn.
Enter Cardinal Wolsey, the senior cleric of England and Henry’s mentor and Chancellor . When Wolsey fails.. The Protestants of England seize their chance.. Henry breaks with the Catholic Church, divorces Catherine, creates the Church of England and marries Anne Boleyn . Thus, as every English school child learns the history of his six wives.. Divorced, be-headed, died, divorced, beheaded, survived!


This story concentrates on Henry’s marital problems and the issues unleashed.
We see powerful families such as the Howards and the Seymours conspiring to enhance their court positions by promoting their own female members to the king’s attention, or trying to destroy their rivals with intrigues, real or imagined.


We see Protestants versus Catholics as they fight for the king’s ear.. We see rebellion, treason and executions. We see the King reforming the church in England by destroying the institutions which would support the Papacy. The King and Parliament, ordered the dissolution of all the monastic establishments. The land was handed to the crown and sold or given to the king’s supporters. The monks, nuns and friars were homeless… This destruction leads to the Pilgrimage of Grace….


This is a true story.. Not a fictional tale…

It is a splendid piece of TV dramatisation.. The sets are atmospheric and the costumes splendid. The language and concepts are contemporary as the story has power and meaning today. A splendid cast was put together. David Suchet is the powerful and autocratic Cardinal Wolsey, Mark Strong is excellent as the scheming Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk… whilst Henry’s wives are played by such excellent actresses as Assumpta Serena in the role of Catherine of Aragon, whilst Helen Bonham Carter is wonderful as the assertive Anne Boleyn . Emelia Fox, daughter of Edward Fox and niece of James Fox, delights us as Henry’s much loved Jane Seymour. The only queen who gives Henry his son!


Ray Winston puts in a stunning performance of the driven Henry.. A powerful and volatile man.. Yet a vulnerable man, who is never quite sure if his wives love him as a man.. And driven by his perceived need to have a legitimate son and heir.. We see him disintegrate after the death of Jane… a man not to be crossed a man who would execute a wife or a failed courtier or traitor almost on a whim.

And what of Sean.. He plays the soldier and lawyer Robert Aske.. A man who fought with his king, a devout man, who sees the horror and suffering caused by the suppression and destruction of the monasteries. A man who leads from the front some 50,00 men from the North of England to try to stop the destruction. He plays a caring and confident man who is a formidable enemy, shocked , sickened and angry at the destruction he sees. Here Sean gives us a passionate performance of a North country man on a quest to get justice for the voiceless. He is the ideal man for the role and gives us a dynamic performance especially in the scenes with Ray Winston.
Aske a courageous, intelligent, articulate man of letters and action. On a doomed mission!

 

Henry VIII Fine Television Production

By Kristin Battestella



I’ve always had an interest in history and British monarchy, even before this recent resurgence with The Tudors and The Other Boleyn Girl. I like the former greatly and heartily dislike the ladder. So I took a chance on the 2003 British television production Henry VIII. The Verdict? Praise.


When Henry VIII (Ray Winstone) becomes the King of England, he quickly becomes obsessed with securing a male heir. Bastard sons and daughter Princess Mary will not do, despite the continued prayers from her mother, Queen Katherine of Aragon (Assumpta Serna). When Anne Boleyn (Helena Bonham Carter) comes to court, Henry is quickly smitten. He goes against the Pope and seeks to divorce his wife, forever dividing England and the Catholic Church.


Henry VIII is more historically accurate than the recent youthful, sexy Tudor adaptations. Its focus on Henry leaves some history and persons by the wayside, but this tight style allows for more soul searching on the monarch’s part. The limited hours, however, speed the storyline up greatly. The treasonous Duke of Buckingham is dealt with very quickly, and in brutal action sequences rather than political talks and trials. Likewise, the jousts are brief, but loud and vicious. The costumes, sets, looks and locales are all authentic and charming. Expenses onscreen were not spared, thankfully, though the candlelight and colors seem old world and saturated somehow- not as vibrant as those other shows. However, this fits the castle sets and historical locations.


It is unfortunately tough to tell who is who at court, and the names and titles of all the dukes and graces are not always given in Henry VIII. The Reformation is also thrust to the viewer very suddenly with secret meetings and more people that you’re not sure who is who. I appreciate the respect the audience is given; assuming we are all educated enough to know the back story of Mary Boleyn, The Reformation, and Queen Katherine of Aragon’s marriage to Henry’s ill brother Arthur. I do fear that this also makes Henry VIII too highbrow for the casual, young viewer.


Normally I adore Helena Bonham Carter (The Wings of the Dove, Harry Potter, Howard’s End, Sweeney Todd), but it seems I’m alone in feeling she is miscast here as Anne Boleyn. She doesn’t seem naturally pretty enough to charm the king and is far too fresh and even bitchy towards Henry. She also turns from hating him to infatuation to love far too quickly, and then we’re supposed to feel happy for her when she becomes Queen. It is then, somehow pleasing, to see her dramatic trial and subsequent dicey disposal.


Ray Winstone (Beowulf, King Arthur) is not a heartthrob like those other King Henrys we’ve recently seen, but his hefty look and booming voice are more in keeping with the historical Henry we dramatize so much. His early devotion to Queen Katherine is beautiful and well played, unlike his obsessed letters and shout outs over Anne Boleyn. He doesn’t feel as charming when chasing after Anne, and after this queenly switcheroo, I don’t feel sorry for Henry when Elizabeth is born-instead of the son he so eagerly desires. I like the older King who wants a son to secure his lineage, not the lovesick horny guy chasing a woman whose sister he has already gotten pregnant.

 

Assumpta Serna (Sharpe) is a delight as Katherine of Aragon. She’s a bit too humble and overly devout, but her Spanish authenticity is wonderful. I think she is also made up to look older and uglier than she is, but we see too little of her nonetheless. Cardinal Wosley (David Suchet, Poirot), Thomas Cromwell (Danny Webb, Doctor Who), and the Duke of Norfolk (Mark Strong, Sharpe) also seem wasted in this first part. Jane Seymour (Emilia Fox, Silent Witness) concludes the wives showcased in part 1 of Henry VIII, but again her plainness doesn’t seem worthy of the king.


Director Pete Travis (Endgame) and scriptwriter Peter Morgan (The Other Boleyn Girl, The Queen, Frost/Nixon) blend tight, old fashioned dialogue with swift action, and the music from veteran composer Robert Lane (Merlin) compliments the screen with period authenticity and classic score. While I’m glad this series is available on DVD, there are no features and subtitles on disc 1. Despite the talented (but misused) cast, the rushed time and limited length hinder Henry VIII. Fine production values and a strong performance from Winstone, however, make the show. I am to say the least, eager for Part 2.




Now that second wife Anne Boleyn (Helena Bonham Carter) has been beheaded, King Henry VIII (Ray Winstone) has found brief happiness-and a son- with Jane Seymour (Emilia Fox). Unfortunately Catholic revolts led by soldier Robert Aske (Sean Bean) cause trouble for the King, as does the marital meddling of Thomas Cromwell (Danny Webb) and the Duke of Norfolk (Mark Strong).


Ray Winstone is still on form as the King torn between love, the church, wives, and betrayal for part 2 of Henry VIII. We have brief moments of a mournful, reflective Henry, but we’re also treated to an equally deceptive, ambitious, and gluttoness ruler. It’s not uneven acting on Winstone’s part; Henry VIII was just that messed up. In fact, Winstone’s soft, gentile style mixed with his boisterous body and voice bring life into that famous portrait we spend so much time dramatizing.


All right, I can’t help myself, so I may as well get to it. I adored Sean Bean’s appearance as Yorkshire revolt leader Robert Aske. Though the departed Helena Bonham carter is still billed second for this latter half and Bean is given ‘and Sean Bean’; the Sharpe actor rivals the power and onscreen weight of Ray Winstone like no pretty female actress can. His scenes are brief; but the medieval leather clad, horse-riding Bean is a delight to route for. We ended Part 1 largely with Anne Boleyn- seeing Henry last as an angry and vengeful husband. Opening Henry VIII here with the brutal destruction of Catholic monasteries and valiant words from Bean’s Aske instantly sets us up for the wicked and self-indulgent King that is to come. I wish there had been more of Winstone and Bean together. Do you hear me casting directors? Hear ye, hear ye!


Unfortunately, Jane Seymour (Emilia Fox) comes and goes too quickly in Henry VIII. Understandable in the scope of history, but Henry’s infatuation with her is definitely rushed in comparison with all the romance given to Anne Boleyn. Likewise Anne of Cleeves (Pia Girard) comes and goes in only a handful of minutes, and it is again tough to tell who is who as Henry’s court changes with his wives. Thankfully, there’s a bit more time spent on Catherine Howard (Emily Blunt, The Devil Wears Prada). Ray Winstone is considerably made up and aged for the film, so it is bizarre to see the bearded and hefty King with the beautiful teenager Catherine. We know this odd pair will not end well. And of course, we conclude with Catherine Parr (Clare Holman, Blood Diamond)-the lucky one in the school phrase ‘Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.’


The final fifteen minutes of Henry VIII gives us a wonderful deathbed sequence from Winstone, and of course, the obligatory fates of his children Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth. Of all the Tudoresque productions out there, they do have one common theme. Henry VIII may have brought a lot of political and personal turmoil to his country, but through Elizabeth, he also brought about one of the greatest empires on earth.


Despite its lack of subtitles, disc 2 of Henry VIII fortunately has a thirty minute behind the scenes feature with reflections on history and drama from Ray Winstone, Helena Bonham Carter, Assumpta Serna, and Sean Bean. Henry VIII does pack a lot in its two parts-maybe too much- but it is historically accurate for the most part. There’s a bit of blood and violence amid all the old speaketh, but nothing too disturbing for today’s audiences. Where The Tudors and The Other Boleyn Girl are not for the young as well as old, teachers might enjoy a classroom showing of Henry VIII. Without all the sex and R rated romance, Henry VIII is also just right for parents wishing to give young folks some education. It has no doubt already been studied and dissected by Tudor aficionados. Fans of the cast will also enjoy. Buy or rent Henry VIII for a night of family history for you and yours. Off with her head!

 

 

Review written by Annbax.

 

Los Angeles;John Person is an unemployed actor, deep in debt, and living in a rented apartment, without furniture.  His only friend is Grace, the girl next door.  One evening another neighbour called Neely offers him a job.  For twenty-five thousand dollars all he has to do is deliver a blue suitcase to a trucker called Cowboy in the small town of Baker,California. Neely seems a little strange and he knows an awful lot of personal information about John...John is unsure but desperate for money. He takes the job...


Baker is a small town in the middle of a vast desert.. a busy highway cuts through the town, which seems to be there for the sole purpose of aiding any traveller.  The local ladies, seem pretty and very pleasant, but the local resident males are a little strange... there is Elroy the night manager, who knows John is to meet Cowboy, there is Dan, concerned about the trains coming through and there is the violent, psychotic Randy, who is obsessed with Ruthy. Ruthy is a young lady bored with Baker. She is the adopted daughter of Stella, who runs the local bar. Meeting these locals has a profound effect on John's stay in this isolated community. It is his adventures and interaction with them that results in him constantly missing Cowboy.  Cowboy leaves messages telling him to wait for him. The locals know Cowboy and each one describes him in ever more sinister terms.. is this man to be trusted?


Meanwhile John has learned that Neely, his neighbour was murdered and decapitated... the FBI are on his trail and looking for a man in black driving a recreational vehicle known as an RV. Besides the blue suitcase, Cowboy has left a blue bowling ball bag for John to keep. The FBI agent finally catches up with John and leaves after questioning him. Finally, after many adventures with the eccentric locals,out in the mysterious desert, John rendezvous with Cowboy, who rescues him from a awkward situation in the nick of time.


What does John see? A man in black, wearing a black stetson, a long duster coat, cowboy boots and driving an RV.  Is this man a killer?


He is soft spoken, with a strange accent.  He is handsome with piercing blue eyes. He is quietly efficient and comanding, a man of intrigue and adventure.  Candy, the local 'lady of the night', had described him as being a little scary and strange, yet he had paid her well and she had not been harmed.  John is given more blue cases and told to head for the desert in the night....I shall say no more.


There are many questions, but few answers... one question is why blue?
What do the cases contain and why band-aids? Is the government involved?  The plot thickens...Take care when you are planning a trip!

 

I rather enjoyed this quirky little film.  It was the directorial debut for Steven Anderson, who also wrote the script. He was a former cameraman, with the result that the photography and lighting are excellent. The desert scenery is also quite a stunning backdrop. The cast I thought was excellent. Kelsey Grammer played the cameo role of FBI Agent Banks.  Daryl Hannah played the pragmatic and sensible bar owner Stella. My favourite Canadian actor, Adam Beach was excellent as the deeply disturbed lover Randy.  John Person the actor was played by the actor/director Jon Favreau.  I enjoyed his performance, but they were all very keen to work with Sean.


 Again this man can dominate a scene, by just standing there in the shadows.  He smiled and you were left wondering if his thoughts were good or evil.  His voice was soft and displayed American language idioms rendered with a hint of Yorkshire accent.. it added to the character and the mystery.  Even when malevolent there was a touch of gentleness about him... was everybody wrong about this character?


Needless to say he looked magnificent in the dress of the 'bad guy' of the old west.


I should like to add that the DVD had many extras. This included comments on the making of the movie.  Here the director and members of the cast passed comments on their roles and the production in general.  Sean again gave us some positive thoughts on the new director and his role in the film.  What I found interesting were the cut or alternative scenes.  I was annoyed with the directors comments that some scenes were cut to ensure the movie lasted ninety minutes. Some scenes should, in my opinion been left in.  Many included Sean's work. The director commented that Sean's acting was fabulous.. he was able to convey magnetism, mystery and aura.. some of his best performances cut to save time.. or to shock us later.  Why waste talent?  Why insult your audience by thinking that ninety minutes is long enough?There was an alternative ending rejected for Cowboy would have been the dominant character.

 

 

 

Review written by Annbax.

 

It is a cold,dark, snowy scene.. a large gaunt building is infront of our eyes and a small boy hides in the shadows.. he watches two men carrying a large bundle into a van, guarded by a large black and tan dog!  He is spotted and chased by the huge, vicious animal...the dog is almost upon him. 


  Next we see a small boy woken from a disturbing dream.. he wraps himself inside his duvet and leaves his bedroom to find his father. A father concerned that his son is having nightmares about his invisible friend Tom. Soon we are aware that this film is the story of two boys or is it?
Thomas is a child with only one parent remaining to guide and guard him.


Thomas knows that he was adopted and that his mother is now dead. He lives with his father, an artist in a studio flat in London. His father still seems to be struggling with the loss of his wife and trying to come to terms with it by constantly painting her from memory to such a point that domestic chores have been neglected and there is little money coming in.


To add to the problem Thomas is being bullied at school and his grades are suffering as is his behaviour. Paul Sheppard, Thomas's father is called into school by a concerned teacher.  Something has to be done.. the social worker suggests sending the child to boarding school.  Paul manages to secure some money and at least treats the child to a birthday party and a trip to the space museum. They make a new friend Celia the pilot, who lives in the flat below.. Things begin to be improving for them both.


Interspersed between this story we see the life being led by Tom, a child being brought up in an institution, from which a number of children seem to have disappeared in sinister circumstances.  A place where children can be bullied, beaten and forgotten about.. Tom runs away and the adventure really begins. From then on the pace quickens.. there are sinister plots, criminal activity and funny happenings...culminating in police chases and excitement on an aeroplane!


This film is delightful.. it examines the life of children and their issues and problems, as well as the stresses they too encounter.  It is set in the weeks before Christmas a delightful time for some families and children.. Yet it does deal with darker issues such as loss and fear of the unknown, in both child and adult.


This is a Dutch production dating from 2002.  The well balanced script was written by Esme Lammers, who also directed the film.  The extras on the DVD are excellent including interviews with Esme, Sean and Aaron. The cinematography uses the classic views of London and the Christmas decorations very well indeed. In her interview Esme Lammers extolls the virtues of British actors and the depths they bring to their roles.  She particularly enjoyed working with Sean and described him as being like Stradivarius.. a consumate master of his craft.  The child actor Aaron Johnson was excellent as both Tom and Thomas, whilst Celia was played by the attractive Inday Ba.


In his interview Sean explains why he was attracted to the part and how much he enjoyed a break from the hard action men that he usually is in movies.  Here he plays a man struggling to come to terms with the loss of his wife, a man with a son with problems at home and at school, both of whom are lonely and feel a little isolated.  A man who seeks to help his child, often he is puzzled, sometimes amused, often despairing and always kind and loving.  A man who does the shopping and takes the dog for a walk and warns his child to take care going to school. He is a very warm, very human man.. a man you can have empathy with. What a delightful performance this man gives us.  We see a brilliant actor not afraid to work with children and animals.. and still able to dominate the screen.


I hope that if you are lucky enough to find this movie on DVD or TV screen you may wish to view it.  If I told you more I would give the game away!!!!

 

 

title

Tom & Thomas A Darling Little Film
By Kristin Battestella


This 2002 family drama from Dutch director Esme Lammers was actually recommended to me a few years ago. Now that the DVD is available stateside, I was finally able to take a peak at Tom & Thomas- and it’s a charming and thoughtful little caper.

Thomas (Aaron Johnson) and his adoptive father Paul (Sean Bean) are doing all right, despite the passing of Paul’s wife Laura and the usual trouble of bills and keeping the flat tidy. Thomas, however, still dreams of his imaginary friend Tom (also Johnson), who is stuck in a cruel orphanage where he is whipped by handyman Finch (Bill Stewart). Thomas begins having trouble at school himself, with falling grades and bullying thanks to strange sensations and pains when something bad happens to Tom. For unbeknownst to Thomas, Tom is a real boy who escapes his institution for the streets of London. When the two boys meet at the Space Museum, the usual brotherly bonding and twin hijinks ensue. Unfortunately, Finch and Head Master Bancroft (Derek de Lint) want their quarry back- and they erroneously kidnap Thomas instead.



Naturally, Tom & Thomas begins with a little confusion as to which boy is which and which is even real. However, Esme Lammers (Amazones) and scriptwriter Jim Davies (Casualty) establish the latent but intimate connections between the twins, and the happy circumstance of one boy versus the unfortunate situation of the other quickly ingratiates the audience. The swift editing clarifies which child is which, leaving just enough ambiguity and speculation about what’s really going on. Lammers carefully moves us through these concurrent but separate stories, keeping us vested in each as we move to their inevitable convergence. The story is on one hand, predictable and what we expect in a separated at birth country mouse and city mouse style. However, scary real world turns keep Tom & Thomas intense-perhaps even a little too menacing or more visually sinister than the 10 and under target audience usually sees. Thankfully, the charming, heartwarming, and relatable tale keeps up the interest and suspense from beginning to end.


In all the Sean Bean films I’ve seen, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him portray such a lovable father and wholesome family gent. Paul’s a poor painter thanks to his hang up of only painting his late wife; but he’s doing right by Thomas, and the role change towards this kindhearted widower is wonderfully welcome after so many action oriented and villainous parts. Bean’s only other father figure roles from the horror flicks The Dark and Silent Hill and the class action lawsuit vehicle North Country followed several years later. Unfortunately, in those three films total Bean doesn’t even get the screen time- much less any development of his character- as he does in Tom & Thomas. The man is a father and family man himself, so we should expect he can portray such onscreen, but his Samba Bus driving sensible dad is a pleasant surprise nonetheless. They say one should never work with kids or dogs, but Bean’s charm with his young co-stars and determination onscreen will steal the show for his die-hard lady fans.



Inday Ba (Casualty) is also delightful as Celia Scofield, Thomas and Paul’s new downstairs neighbor. Nothing is made of any racial issues in her budding romance with Paul, and any romantic strides come after she has befriended Thomas over their mutual love of piloting and spaceflight. Celia and Thomas’ relationship comes first, keeping the storylines charming and innocent. Right off the bat, we know there is nothing creepy in their friendship-unlike the nasty adults at Tom’s school. This was simply a wonderful piece of casting and performance-an ethnic, mature, professional Celia can be intelligent, a sassy pilot, and an independent woman whilst still taking time to play video games with a nine year old. Upon my research, I’m sorry to find that Ba has passed away too young and too soon. Her adult and mature example of being true to oneself and following one’s dreams is portrayed as inspiration, and rightfully so.

Yes, the villains are a little stereotypical, but Bill Stewart (A Touch of Frost, Richard II) and Derek de Lint (China Beach, Poltergeist the Legacy) are no less menacing thanks to the nefarious trafficking at hand. The late Stewart’s Finch (What is it about the creepy handymen at kid’s schools being named Finch, Mr. Potter?) is dirty and frightening while de Lint is the oh-so-slick front man. Sean Harris (Outlaw) as kid-poacher Kevin is also a genuinely scary sidekick thanks to his high-energy craziness and a very nasty pet rottweiler. The dogs in Tom & Thomas are simplistically made out to be either heroic or villainous, but there’s also an even suggestion that how the owner trains the dog has a lot to do with that- in kin also to how the boys are different thanks to heredity versus environment. It’s not such a bad thing, however, to have the bad guys be bad and the good folks wear the proverbial white hats. The real world ruthlessness on screen is scary enough-we don’t have to get fancy with effects and melodrama for these villains and fears to be understood by young or old.



Aaron Johnson (Nearly Famous, Kick Ass) and stand in Ryan Nelson (White Teeth) do wonders as the titular boys. For being so young and inexperienced at the time, Johnson subtly crafts different styles and mannerisms for Tom and Thomas. At first, it’s easy to differentiate the boys by location and clothing, but once they dress the same, we still know who is who thanks to smartly placed vocalization and personality. Not only does Johnson give each boy different charm with Bean, but you can’t help but love both boys’ social quirks. Yes, it’s the same actor, but we do think of Tom and Thomas as two different boys, each with youthful wishes and dreams that deserve to be fulfilled. I should rant about the US’ recent cancellation of our space program as crushing such wonderful astronomy dreams, but I digress! The space exploration angle may be too standard, but you can’t go wrong with disenchanted boys reaching for this height of heights. For his part, Nelson does wonderfully in the technical aspects on screen. You know he is there, along with the usual split screens and such, but the Haley Mills’ smoke and mirrors look dang good- especially in the ingenious house of mirrors scene. What better place to have long lost twins meet?


Of course, Americans might not like the assorted British accents or the London locales, but the Britness certainly won’t deter any Anglophiles. The visual style of Tom & Thomas is a little simplistic but understandably innate to a young viewer- a neat, colorful, creative loft of course wins against a drab, snowy, spooky, and ominous orphanage. Quirky music sets the tone for the humorous twin switcheroos, or likewise scares or tugs our heartstrings with melancholy notes as needed. Though not solely a Christmas film, the holiday’s charm adds to the joy of birthdays, parties, trees, and presents onscreen. Perhaps there is a latent commentary here about the hidden yet ongoing and illegal buying and selling of children worldwide. There’s also some non-threatening role reversal between Celia and Paul-but as adult viewers we see these things. Tom & Thomas isn’t about the social issues. First and foremost, it’s an honest, personal tale of twins finding each other through their share of hardship. Who can’t appreciate that?


Yes, this DVD has until recently been very elusive. Fortunately, Tom & Thomas’ bare bones set is available online for purchase or rent from Netflix. The English subtitles probably go a long way for children not used to the accents; but other than a few onscreen dangers and suspense, there’s nothing here to deter a family viewing. Tom & Thomas has all the cuteness, charm, and simplicity for young and old to enjoy.

 

Don’t Say A Word Speaks Too Little

By Kristin Battestella

 

Maybe you’ve seen 2001’s Don’t Say A Word. Perhaps you don’t like thrillers or find Michael Douglas past his Fatal Attraction prime. You do, however, know one thing about director Gary Fleder’s tale: “I’ll never tell.”

 

I’m sure you know someone who imitates Brittany Murphy’s haunting chirp; perhaps you do a good one yourself. Don’t Say A Word is much more than a Murphy romp, but its not as much as it could be.

 

Michael Douglas (Wall Street) leads a fine cast as Dr. Nathan Conrad, a psychiatrist with a flare for helping troubled young folk. His wife Aggie (Famke Janssen, X-Men) is laid up at the Conrad’s posh townhouse with a broken leg and daughter Jessie (Skye McCole Bartusiak, 24). All seems just peachy until Dr. Conrad receives an emergency call on Thanksgiving Eve. Dr. Louis Sachs (Oliver Platt, The West Wing) needs Nathan’s insights on a new patient, Elisabeth Burrows (Brittany Murphy, Sin City). After his initial visit with Elisabeth, the holiday morning seems grand-until the Conrads discover Jessie has been abducted during the night. Jewel thief turned kidnapper Patrick Koster (Sean Bean, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) calls Dr. Conrad with his demands; Get the number locked inside Elisabeth’s troubled mind or Jessie is dead.

 

Based on the novel by Andrew Klavan with a screenplay from Anthony Peckham and Patrick Smith Kelly (A Perfect Murder), Don’t Say A Word certainly has an intriguing premise. The opening robbery scene and subsequent patient and family sets establish who everyone is and what is happening. The suspense and food for thought comes in the unanswered why. How did Koster come to Nathan? What is the number? The direction from Fleder (Kiss the Girls) and the performances onscreen are realistic and well played. It’s tough to have an action opening followed by seemingly random looks into a New York family’s life, but it works here. We are invested in these people’s dilemmas. We want answers and resolution.

 

Michael Douglas is on form as the sympathetic yet intelligent Dr. Conrad. At first we might find him uppity and smug-Nathan has left the down trodden psychiatric hospital for uptown and lucrative psychiatry. Oddly enough, you are rooting more for the opening heist. You want the double cross on Koster to succeed. Seeing how Dr. Conrad and his family get caught in Koster’s revenge scheme instantly makes the determined father likeable. Douglas often plays the Fonda-type innocent and wronged man with roles like The Game and more recently the elderly comedy The In-Laws; a remake co starring dad Kirk Douglas. We know he’ll do what needs to be done, and we believe his motivation.

 

Perhaps more intriguing is Famke Janssen as Aggie, the bed bound wife. When Koster is spying on her and carrying on glib phone conversations, you feel every bit for Aggie’s pain, helplessness, and fear for herself and her abducted daughter. It’s bemusing to see Janssen and Sean Bean on opposite sides since they were so delicious as the evil duo in Goldeneye. The turnabout makes Koster seem even more dubious, and you really want Aggie to do something about it. But what can she do? Not just a pretty face, Janssen sells what could be very claustrophobic and still scenes with real tears, intense stares, angry fidgets, and subtle movements. Untraditional camera angles also work in Aggie’s storyline. She may not move, but the camera does. Likewise the cuts to Sean Bean as Koster on the phone expand Aggie’s space.

Often typecast as the villain courtesy of his vile roles in Patriot Games and Essex Boys, Bean is creepy as ever in Don’t Say A Word. We’ve seen his villainy before, but American audiences may not be as familiar with Bean’s voice, unlike his popular narration, commercial, and voice over work in the UK. His delivery for Koster is perfectly vile and suave. Every time Koster calls Dr. Conrad, you know who’s in control.

 

Strangely, Brittany Murphy doesn’t have much to do beyond the ticks and chants of the stereotypical crazy person on film. Bartusiak’s Jessie is cute enough, but the strength of these characters is raised by the three leads. The Conrads want their daughter, Nathan reaches out to Elisabeth like a father to a daughter, and both the younger girls are very important to Koster and his schemes.

 

I would like to have seen more of the authorities’ storyline. Jennifer Esposito’s Detective Cassidy is always one step behind. It’s a shame her scenes aren’t given more weight to parallel the main focuses. Yes, another thread to conclude may not always be a good thing, but somewhere halfway through Don’t Say A Word, things get a little obvious. The intelligent layers peel down to other stereotypical themes. It turns out Elisabeth isn’t all that troubled after all, everyone has their rah rah moment and then it’s time to move onto Thanksgiving Dinner. For all the fine performances and mature set up in Don’t Say A Word, the end wraps up almost too nicely. I liked Don’t Say A Word and am still recommending it to intelligent audiences, but intrigued viewers must look to the dvd features for more in depth scenes and analysis. Cast and director commentaries, storyboards, and deleted scenes give some fulfillment.

 

Don’t Say A Word is an intelligent and well acted film when such movies are tough to find. Repeat watching may not be in the cards, but any thinking person audience should tune in.

 

 

Essex Boys Is The English Goodfellas

By Kristin Battestella



I heard the Goodfellas comparison when I first discovered the 2000 British crime thriller Essex Boys. I didn’t think it possible. Nothing compares to Goodfellas, not even The Godfather III. With a fine cast, brutal violence, and a twisted story based on factual events, Essex Boys is indeed the height of English gangster flicks.


When Jason Locke (Sean Bean) is released from his five year prison term, he quickly returns to his criminal ways. Unfortunately, his drug dealing crew has moved up the crime and social ladders without him. His abused wife Lisa (Alex Kingston) in tow, Locke assembles a new dealing crew and product by threatening former prison compatriot John Dyke (Tom Wilkinson). Locke’s driver Billy (Charlie Creed-Miles) ends up cleaning one mess after another, and soon neither he nor Jason can escape the vile twists and turns of crime in Essex.

 

 Based on real life criminal events, Essex Boys serves up a complex story of drug dealing love, loyalty, and betrayal. Some of it is very English, and very Essex in particular. If you don’t have an ear for British accents, the subtitles are a must in catching all the subtle dialogue and details. I must admit though that Essex Boys is quite quotable, too. Director Terry Winsor (Hot Money) and co writer Jeff Pope (City Lights) equally present the players and keep us guessing as to who is double crossing and back-dooring whom. It’s refreshing to have a film where not all is revealed up front. We’re treated as an intelligent audience in for a crazy ride. Nothing is given away or dropped too soon, and the finale of Essex Boys may not be what you expect.


Now, as much as women go gaga over rough and tumble Sean Bean (Goldeneye, The Fellowship of the Ring), his performance as Jason Locke is not for everyone. He has the range and talent for a wide variety of roles, but we must admit that Bean does villains best. After spending years on television as Napoleonic hero Sharpe, Bean went to extremes here to revitalize his vile film persona. His acid loving, drug using, rapacious-wife beating-crook is so lush and detailed and spot on that it can really put off even the most Bean inclined viewer. Locke drinks and goes crazy, but has a mastery of weapons, women, and brutality. It’s a strong, heavy role that’s sick and sexy in its own way. Thoughts that Bean must have gone to a very dark acting place to achieve this grit are never far behind in Essex Boys. Most actors could not- or would not- say or do some of the things portrayed here. Even my Dad (who won’t watch Sharpe because he can’t picture Bean as a good guy) agrees that this is one of Bean’s hardest hitting performances among his plethora of villains.


Alex Kingston is not a traditional beauty to me, and that serves her well here. There aren’t many strong roles for older women in the US, but Kingston makes the most out of the unglamorous role of Locke’s down low wife Lisa. She’s strong, intelligent, and loyal; yet weak, stupid, and desperate at the same time. Her coyness keeps you guessing the entire film. You feel for Lisa and you hate her at the same time. In some scenes, I dare say she’s even annoying and you almost think she deserves what Jason gives to her. I don’t think Kingston had to take such an ambitious, unflattering part at the height of her ER career; but you can also see why she chose to take such a heavy and gritty role. Alex Kingston almost makes the movie, and there’s plenty of naughty bits showcased for her male fans.

 

I’ve seen Tom Wilkinson in a variety of roles, from The Full Monty to The Patriot. He continually surprises me with his talent and mix of humor and drama. Wilkinson has plenty of films to his credit, but I wish he did more stateside. It’s great to see him and Sean Bean onscreen together, even if it’s a violent, uneasy alliance between the two. There is a bit of dark humor in Essex Boys, but its so sardonic and even disturbing that it would actually not be funny if it weren’t for Wilkinson’s charm.


Amid all this crime and betrayal, Charlie Creed-Miles’ (The Power and the Passion of Charles II) Billy is the perfect everyman. He’s just trying to make some money and keep his girl, but he quickly sinks into an inescapable life once he meets Jason Locke. The audience can relate to Billy, yet we can see how he changes through the course of the film. He’s a little stupid or at least naïve to start, but by the end of the film, Billy knows all the criminal ins and outs. Holly Davidson (Causality-but more famously known as Sadie Frost’s sister) also does well in a relatively small but critical role as the object of Jason Locke’s bizarre affections. The cast is quite well rounded; and although we’re lead to believe Sean Bean is the star, nothing in Essex Boys is truly what it seems.

 

While Essex Boys has fine action sequences, shoot outs, and chases to supplement its intricate plot and storyline, the look of the film, is, well, less than stellar. Terry Winsor keeps his film dark, with a mostly dull palette but for some very bad clothes and set dressings. In some ways, the UK sets the bar for our American trends; but Essex Boys looks low, behind the times, stuck in this bipolar crime underworld. Flashy nightclubs, heady music, and dated styles also dampen the film’s look and feel, but this production also creates a realistic looking time capsule. We can believe that these things did indeed happen not so long ago. The low end dress and style of these folks shows us there is a reason for them to make some money and get the heck out of Dodge. Thankfully, there’s plenty of eye candy on all fronts to appease male and female viewers.


Essex Boys is certainly not for everyone. Tweens under fifteen should stay far away, and folks who don’t like British accents will most likely hate such thick dialects and regional speech. I must stress, however, that one should not let the ‘Englishness’ of Essex Boys deter one from this great movie. My bare bones dvd doesn’t have much, but it does have subtitles! Fans looking for grit and action and sex will find it all in Essex Boys. If you love any of the cast or love crime thrillers, Essex Boys is an affordable must for your collection.

 

 

Review written by Annbax.

 

On many occassions I am drawn back to watching this fast paced thriller over and over again. 


 This made for TV cliff hanger was screened on British TV in 1999 and stars Sean in the multi-layered role of Neil Byrne, a role especially written for this fabulously talented actor.


 The scene is set with a speeding train heading into Scotland.  In a compartment sits three men, two prison officers with their dangerous ,convicted murderer.  The vicious killer is taken to the toilet , from which he manages to escape, leaving only a book to denote his presence. The man was convicted of brutally slaying his own wife and daughter. The man hunt begins...the killer is clever and resourceful, he changes his appearance and finds himself in his family base of Manchester where the murders took place. He steals a car, finds some place to live and gets a job as a mini -cab driver.  In the meantime a national man hunt is being organised with lots of media coverage.  The escaped prisoner then begins a telephoned dialogue with the prison governor  about the missing book and the numbers it contains!


The secondary theme in this thriller seems to revolve around a group of middle-aged business people, who appear to be financiers and property developers, but as you listen to their conversations you find that there is more than a hint of organised crime, murder and corruption. They are certainly hunting the convicted man as much as the police. Whilst he , in turn , seems to be searching for them! Who is this Man?


Whilst all this action is taking place, another murder happens and it is linked to the escapee.  A man from the Taxi company is abducted and beaten.. he too knows Spanish John and the police are closing in!
Throughout all this well directed, tightly scripted and stunningly photographed film we see Sean in the role of Neil Byrne, a resourceful, clever, skillful man, with some electronic know how and certainly skilled in survival techniques and self defense. We see him as a  man haunted by a dead wife and child; a man searching for answers; a man who uses violence as a last resort; a man hunted by gangsters and corrupt policemen and others from more shadowy areas.. a man convicted of murder..trying to make sense of it all and seek justice for himself and his family.


The acting from all involved in this project was first rate and there was not a weakness even in the more minor roles. All of which was enhanced by a good script and excellent direction.Sean's performance was electrifying. There were moments when he was cool and calm and calculating, moments of toughness, moments of grief and joy, moments of fear and despair... the complete aspects of the entire human condition was portrayed by him in voice, body language and appearance. 


My first impression of this movie is that it was an extention of the film 'The Fugitive', but the story line is stronger, with far more twists and turns.   This is a film  I recommend to all who admire Sean.   Enjoy it!

 

 

Eerily Disturbing and Necessary Bravo Two Zero

By Kristin Battestella

 

Alright I confess, I was initially interested in the 1999 war drama Bravo Two Zero because of its star Sean Bean. This disturbing Gulf War film-based on the book by Andy McNab- however, transcends star power with its grit and scary realism.

 

SAS Sergeant Andy McNab (Bean) must take his team into Iraq to locate the crucial launchers and communication lines of Baghdad. When the mission is disastrously compromised, McNab and his men race to the Syrian border in hopes of rescue and safety. Unfortunately, McNab and two of his men are captured and sent to the bowels of an Iraqi prison.

 

There’s really no way around spoilers this time I suppose. Since he wrote a book based on his experiences, we know McNab survives his ordeal, and if we know he gets captured, then we also know the happy go luckily opening of the film will soon turn grim. In Bravo Two Zero, however, its not knowing what happens or why it happens, but the arduous getting there is how this film gets you. Knowing the mission will go downhill, knowing the team doesn’t make it to safety, knowing the torture McNab endures-these things are disturbing and so gut wrenching to us because these aren’t things we civilians are supposed to know. War is grand and heroic! Pretty uniforms and lots of medals, right? Bravo Two Zero begs to differ. Well known in print and on screen across the pond, I’m surprised Bravo Two Zero has received so little attention in the US.

The supporting cast is in fine fashion, even though I have no idea who most of them are. This support behind Bean looks the part of the banged up career soldier. None of them start off pretty, and they certainly don’t end up pretty. Likewise, McNab’s captors look and sound authentically Middle East, but their uniforms and dark prison tactics take on a Nazi-esque feeling. The look and feel of Bravo Two Zero looks authentic enough to me. Experienced viewers or modern veterans might be able to spot errors in tactics or technology, but the guns, desert gear, and drab locations work. Compared to big budget productions, Bravo Two Zero may seem dirty or small scale, but I imagine things aren’t prim and proper in the trenches. Some Americans might be confused by the dialogue or Bean’s narration as McNab, but the wondrous subtitles solve these quirks.

 

Naturally, this film is not for the faint of heart. While perhaps worthwhile in high school classrooms for viewing and discussion, Bravo Two Zero has extensive torture scenes that should not be viewed by the squeamish, children, or anyone with post traumatic stress disorder. Shedding light on the underground of war is important, yes, but no less easy to stomach.

 

Of course if you don’t like Sean Bean, you might not like Bravo Two Zero-although any naysayer of the oft villain from Patriot Games and Goldeneye might be pleasantly surprised at the tour de force portrayal given here. He’s popular for his rugged good looks and bad ass personas, but its very easy to root for Bean during this two hours of abuse and dirty shame endured by McNab. It’s astonishing the pain McNab endures-mentally and physically. The things done to him; the things he made to do. Bean displays the strength and courage that the real life McNab clung to in order to survive. In my viewings, there are times I’m amazed McNab survived all he did. Bean’s by no means a glamorous actor, but I can’t see Orlando Bloom being hosed down in a torture scene. There’s nudity yes and veiled sexual content, but if you’re looking for the sexy loverboy Bean, you won’t find him here. I’m surprised Bean received no accolades or awards for Bravo Two Zero. Indeed die hard fans of the Beanster may find this simulated torture too tough to watch, but his acting chops shine through.

 

Contrary to my husband’s beliefs, I don’t buy every Sean Bean movie. I do have to be interested in the subject matter, you know. What struck me about Bravo Two Zero was its real life story stemming from the First Gulf War. Not many Gulf War pictures seem to be made. Three Kings with George Clooney’s side war story of gold? Courage Under Fire’s brief segments of female war action? Black Hawk Down captures the military mistakes of the time with clarity not seen since Platoon, but it’s about the US’s ill fated plans in Somalia, not Iraq. Bravo Two Zero is unique in that it gives us a realistic portrayal of the first Gulf War and it gives it to us with some SAS flair. Sometimes us Americas forget that our allies don’t exactly have it easy when they join us.

 

Bravo Two Zero is on the one hand very nineties. The music, the style, the clothes; and very British as well, in slang and feel. Viewing director Tom Clegg’s (Sharpe) vision today is, however, eerie and all too familiar at the same time. If Saddam Hussein was not referred to in the present tense during the film’s news footage, the audience could swear this is a tale from our contemporary action in the Gulf. It’s a little frightening to realize these things happened then, they are most likely still happening now, and since these last two wars have not shown us the error of our ways, it will probably happen again.

 

Despite its ruthlessness, Sean Bean fans will no doubt tune in to Bravo Two Zero. Action and war movies fans should also take a gander. There’s plenty of background material and debate on McNab to follow up with as well. It certainly isn’t pretty but Bravo Two Zero tells an important tale of grit and modern warfare. Pick up this necessary and affordable DVD today.

 

 

Review written by Annbax.

 

This drama-documentary format was again a BBC production, directed by Tom Clegg, a gentleman who knows all to well the acting skills of the star  Sean Bean, for he is the man who had directed all fifteen episodes of 'Sharpe'.


But this film is about the trials and tribulations of a group of British SAS soldiers, who are airlifted deep into Iraqi territory to find mobile scud launching platforms and to destroy their communications network.


We are introduced to the team as they, dressed in civilian clothing say farewell to their wives, partners and children.  They appear to be a bunch or ordinary men just leaving for a day's work.  When they arrive in Saudi, they are dressed in desert camaflauge, they sleep in makeshift accommadation in a storage hangar.. they are short of essential equipment and have to scrounge it from other military units.  They spend some moments writing letters to their loved ones incase they do not return. From this , all too brief poignant moment , they  are airlifted into the desert, each man carrying more than his body weight on their backs.
The next section of this film revolves around failures.. radios that do not work.. the position surrounded by larger than expected enemy forces, and shepherds... they are discovered and have to fight ... to head to Syria, on foot, some 170 kms  to the north.. to travel in blizzards .. to fail just on the border.  All this is the regulation standard stuff seen in many a prescriptive war picture.  This is different for this is a true story and the role Sean plays is the one of Sgt. Andy McNab.


We have seen the tenderness, although briefly, in the married man and father.. we have seen the  NCO and military man, bonded to his fellows in the unit... a man capable of making difficult decisions.. a  man with well trained military skills.. a leader.


In the final part of the film we see the horror of capture, the dehumanising of men, and those still willing to follow the rules laid down for captured men.  This is the section where we we Sean enduring these moments, with courage and determination, even if they are to die.  Even here amongst the pain and torture there are moments of humour and hope.  Luckily five of the eight men return to Britain alive.


This film required the actors to participate in modern military training and weaponary skills... they needed to be fit to work in the desert environment in which this film was made.  This is seen in the extras on the DVDs.  There was some stunning desert scenery and the script was appropriate to the story line.. a very different setting to the Napoleonic Wars.

I thought that this was an excellent film of its genre.. it tackled some very difficult issues and showed us the barbarity of war, from an unusual angle.  It was realistic without being 'Gung Ho' or jingoistic.  All the actors played their roles well... and Sean.. his skill shines through dirt,blood, pain, joy and suffering. Another of Sean's many varied roles.

 

 

 

 

Review written by Annbax

 

The year is 1880.. the venue is Tzarist Russia.. the opening scene is a frozen waste, with a man fleeing a pack of hungry wolves.  The man falls and his only concern is that he has never really known love. 

 

Thus we have the main theme of this visually spectacular movie.  Levin is the man pondering the meaning of love; a love he has yet to find.  This character, wonderfully portrayed by Alfred Molina, becomes the narrator of the story we are being shown.  Firstly there is his search for love and his devotion to Princess Kitty, which sees him going through highs and lows of frustration and despair, as Kitty admires another man. This man is the handsome, Count Vronsky . It is Levin who introduces us to Anna Karenina, a beautiful young woman, married to an older man to whom she has a young son. Anna alights alone, in Moscow.  She is in the city to try and save her brother's marriage. Whilst she is there she has an unforgetable encounter with Count Vronsky... There the story really begins...with a sumptuously staged ball room scene and some splendid dancing.

 

This film covers a period of three years from 1880 to 1883.  It shows us the tragedy of doomed love for one couple and joy and happiness for another couple. Kittty, when she refuses Levin, discovers that Vronsky is not interested in her.  She is then sent abroad to recover from a serious illness.  Luckily she returns and finally rediscovers Levin. Love is rekindled and the couple marry.  Their marriage survives the death of Levin's estranged brother and the pair have a child. 


In contrast Vronsky and Anna try hard, at first not to continue with their love... but she is trapped in a loveless marriage to an older, dull authoritarian man, in an age when women had few rights.  After a tragedy at the races her husband learns the full extent to their affair and sets out to end it.  Anna almost loses her life when she loses the child she was carrying.  She is rescued by Vronsky and taken to Italy, whilst they wait for her husband to divorce her.  They return to Russia, and set up home together.  Anna finds herself isolated by society.. she is still suffering from post-natal depression and uses opiates to deaden her pain. Whilst her son is told that she is dead.  A pain that Vronsky cannot really understand.. he is finally driven away by her paranoia and growing insanity. Her suffering ends on a railway line .. it is in a railway carriage that Levin finds a grieving Vronsky, a man now ready to sacrifice himself in the service of his country.

 

This 100 minutes of film, means that Tolstoy's story is cut to the bone with time lines being shown by sub-titles.  This, at times means, that there can be some confusion, especially when there are short scenes and obvious time gaps.  It nevertheless is a visually stunning film,in both sets and costumes, which was actually filmed in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The railway line  is almost a symbolic line, not only between the country estates, and the two cities, but it is where a significant meeting took place and two lives were lost. One at the beginning and the other at the end.  Perhaps it is the journey of life and a search for love and happiness.

 

What of the actors?  James Fox was a superb, dictatorial Karenin. Mia Kirshner was fine as Kitty and Sophie Marceau played the lead role of Anna.  She is a beautiful woman and, I must say I enjoyed her performance, although she can be a little bland and expressionless at times.

Last, but by no means least , there is Sean as Count Vronsky.


Here we see the RADA trained actor... handsome, impeccably dressed in stunning uniform or formal and informal dress of a Russian Nobleman .  A man who is superb whether riding or dancing.  An able and respected officer ,well liked by his peers and adored by his mother.  A mother who does  point out the perils of his romance with Anna.  Sadly he is too much in love to listen.  His sentiments are honourable for he wants to marry and cherish Anna, but he cannot cope with her growing pain and illness.   Sean's acting was superb.  He has to show the restraint imposed on a 19th. century nobleman, but with an under lying passion.  There is no swearing, even in his despair.  His facial expressions were superb and the clipped, soft English voice mesmerising.

 

If you can find a copy of this film... obtain it. There is far more to see then I have told you.

 

 

When Saturday Comes

By Helen Dyke

 

Jimmy Muir (Sean Bean) is in his 20’íes, living in Sheffield and stuck in a dead-end job at the local brewery.  He loves football and plays every week in his local amateur team.  He goes out drinking with his mates and has plenty of success with the local ladies as well.  Jimmy�s life starts to change dramatically after he gets a new girlfriend, Annie Docherty (Emily Lloyd) and gets spotted by a local football scout, Ken (Pete Postlethwaite).  Will Jimmy be able to live the dream and play professional football or will his bad habits and lack of self-belief get the better of him?  Jimmy Muir needs to grow up but will he be able to do so?

 

I really enjoyed this film.  I’m not mad about football but the film is more about Jimmy and less about ‘the beautiful game.’ Sean does a great job and gives an emotional performance showing anger, fear, grief, happiness and excitement.  We see Jimmy’s journey through self-doubt and self-hatred moving into determination to do the best he can.  Jimmy Muir makes a lot of mistakes and Sean puts his heart into it throughout.

 

The supporting cast are also great: Jimmy’s brother and father are a big influence on him as are his hard drinking mates.  Emily Lloyd isn’t afraid to be vulnerable as Annie and enjoys some tender sex-scenes with Sean.  Pete Postlethwaite is magnificent as Ken.  Sean and Pete have worked together before on Sharpe and the rapport between them added depth to their scenes together.  (My husband who loves football but, for some reason, is less keen on Sean said he thought Pete Postlethwaite was the only good thing about the film).

 

When Saturday Comes was, I think designed to slot into the same genre as Billy Elliot and Brassed Off.  It lacks the emotional force of these films and feels a bit light-weight in comparison.  Taken on its own merits it is a heart-warming story of a young man finding he can do more than he imagined possible if he has the courage and discipline to give it his all.

 

 

GoldenEye One of the Best Bond Pictures

By Kristin Battestella



Even though I liked Timothy Dalton’s duo of Bond pictures in the late eighties, I had all but forgotten about 007 by time 1995’s GoldenEye came around. After a six-year delay, Pierce Brosnan finally debuted as our man James, resulting in one of the finest films in nearly fifty years of Bond onscreen.

 

Ten years after 007 James Bond (Brosnan) loses his friend and fellow MI6 agent 006 Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) during a mission in Russia, Bond once again finds himself in the former Soviet Union. The control keys to a powerful satellite codenamed GoldenEye have been stolen, and a reluctant M (Judi Dench) puts Bond on the case. 007 rescues Russian computer analyst Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco) and uses the kinky Soviet pilot Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) to find Janus-the crime syndicate secretly operated by the scarred Alec Trevelyan. Bond must stop his former comrade from using GoldenEye’s electromagnetic pulse to steal millions and decimate England’s infrastructure.

 

When the press about GoldenEye began in 1994, I wasn’t very interested. After License to Kill, I was hoping for another Dalton picture. Sure, I like Pierce Brosnan, but I knew and loved him in the television show Remington Steele and in some ways still prefer his role there to his Bond. After GoldenEye, Brosnan’s tenure slowly moves downhill. By time we get to his fourth picture Die Another Day, Brosnan is a smirky, quipping parody. Here, however, Brosnan adds another dimension to Bond. He’s almost the perfect blend between his predecessors. Brosnan has the dark edge of Dalton, the humor of Moore, and the strength and suave of Connery. GoldenEye isn’t a pure action and gadget vehicle thanks to Brosnan. His 007 has history and issues-grudges from the past and a current world that has no need for old time spies. Through his swagger, smarts, and style, we believe Brosnan’s Bond can endure the past, present, and future. Of course, this James isn’t all dark and dreary. Brosnan’s mannerisms and vocal delivery add just the right touch of humor and wit. It’s really a shame that half of his reign is cheap. These young folks that grew up on Brosnan’s Jimmy have the best bits of the franchise- and yet some of the worst. Still, after another viewing of GoldenEye, I can forgive Brosnan The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. His debut is that good.

 

Not only do we have a fine 007, but GoldenEye also has the extra bonus of Sean Bean (Patriot Games, Sharpe) as former MI6 Agent 006 Alec Trevelyan. In the film’s opening sequence, we meet this pair of agents infiltrating a hidden Russian base. It may seem silly, but this duo is one of the franchise’s best notions. As a kid, I didn’t care about plot references to 002 or 009; I thought James Bond was THE one and only big man in Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The fact that there are really badass agents like 006 out there brings new cool to GoldenEye. So, MI6 has skeletons in the closet, eh? Things aren’t always as cut and dry as previous Bonds would have us think, are they? Bean begins the picture as a cool and tragic agent too close to the edge and becomes the bane of Bond’s existence. Sometimes we like a Bond picture purely for the villain, and Bean delivers one of the series’ slickest and most memorable bad guys.


006 has all the charm, suave, gadgets, and babes as 007-what’s not to love? The fact that he is blonde and bad against dark haired, good guy Bond is also a subtle visual trick against our ‘black hat’ bad cowboy motifs. Once upon a time, we can believe Trevelyan was a good guy. 006 has some great lines in GoldenEye; he tends to get the last word on Bond, and his punch lines are dry and memorable. I’m sure there are other instances in the franchise, but his ‘Bond. Only Bond’ is as close to 007’s famous introduction as one can get. It’s not just the cheeky script, but Bean’s slick delivery that make 006 so bad it’s good. We believe Sean Bean could have been Bond, and as he says, ‘I was always better!’ We’re supposed to root for Bond, but Bean doesn’t make it easy. I wish it were possible for him to return to the franchise in someway, but his perfection here is tough to beat. Imagine current Blonde Bond Craig versus Bean as Lago in an updated remake of Thunderball... I can dream, can’t I?

Although we couldn’t have a blonde Bond when Bean auditioned, we can have a woman as the head of MI6. Dame Judi Dench’s (Shakespeare in Love, Notes on A Scandal) debut as M is wonderfully cranky and hard-assed like Bernard Lee and Robert Brown before her. The Berlin Wall is gone, the Soviet Union dissolved-M’s sizing up of Bond as a misogynistic relic of the Cold War is completely accurate. Dench’s delivery and style are akin to the skeptical audience. Why should we still care about Bond? What is he going to do in GoldenEye to warm our hearts again? Against the definitely not Bond Girl M, Samantha Bond’s (Emma, Distant Shores) Miss Moneypenny is charming as the flirtatious secretary with a jest for James. Her talent, look, and age are on par with Brosnan, and her wit has shades of former Penny Lois Maxwell.

 

Stalwart Desmond Llewelyn continues as Bond’s gadget wizard Q, and the banter with Brosnan is on form. There’s just enough tongue in cheek and dry Brit wit to keep things funny, not stupid. The gadget debriefing scene packs in a lot of quips and bits- and all of it works. As opposed to some older Bond pictures where everyone is dubbed, unnamed, or well, weak; GoldenEye has a healthy supporting cast. From The Living Daylights veteran Joe Don Baker returning to the series as CIA ally Jack Wade to Alan Cumming (X-2: X-Men United) as quirky Janus henchman Boris Grishenko, each has a moment of charm. Robbie Coltrane (Harry Potter), Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting), and Tchéky Karyo (The Patriot) shine as well.

 

GoldenEye of course continues the Bond tradition of hot international babes. Now very well known, Dutch model and actress Famke Janssen (X-Men, Don’t Say A Word) steals almost all of her scenes here. Her Xenia Onatopp not only has a name worthy of her vile henchwomen predecessors, but she gets off on killing-literally. It’s so twisted it’s cool. Again, you would think a woman who can kill people by crushing them between her legs would laugh folks right out of the theater; but this kitschy Bond Babe works. Janssen doesn’t speak very much, but she holds her own against the Brosnan and Bean big boys. Equally feisty is Polish-Swedish actress Izabella Scorupco (Reign of Fire) as sassy computer tech Natalya Simonova. Scorupco is a little too pretty to be a simple computer programmer, but she’s intelligent and spunky. Moreover, in a series infamous for its dubbing, her Russian accent is a-okay. Not only does Natalya get some Bond loving, but she’s got some fun dialogue. Rather than being a woman merely there for looks, she figures into the plot to disarm the GoldenEye weapon. It’s serious and realistic, too- not like flaky, buxom scientists before and after.


Perhaps the mid nineties styles and computers are out of date now, but GoldenEye has an intelligent, scientific plot to go along with all the gadgets, action, and effects. Actually, there aren’t many obvious effects to speak of-satellite shots and some blue screen work-but nothing as ridiculous as the invisible car from Die Another Day. The action here is where it’s at. In some ways director Martin Campbell (The Mask of Zorro, Casino Royale) adheres to several Bond standards-the obligatory planes, chases, and fights, of course. However, GoldenEye’s post-Iron Curtain St. Petersburg setting allows for some cool twists on the action. Snow, communist relics, armored trains, and tanks through old world city streets give homage to the franchise and real life history while upping the ante onscreen. To go along with it all, we have an updated Bond Theme; an edgy title song from U2 and Tina Turner; and sweet opening titles with plenty of babes bashing the hammer and sickle.

 

I have to say, my husband is not a fan of GoldenEye. He finds it too slow. Perhaps some of technobabble talking scenes do drag in the first hour of the picture, but by the finale, writers Michael France (The Punisher), Bruce Ferstein (Tomorrow Never Dies) and Jeffrey Caine (The Chief) balance the intelligence and action nicely. GoldenEye isn’t just one of the best Bond pictures; it’s meaty enough for generic action and adventure audiences. You want chases and explosions-it’s there with all the smarts and excellent performances. I would however, caution a casual fan from taking in a television viewing of GoldenEye. Though tame in that Bond only bags two babes, networks edit for time and content in all the wrong places. I was so angry that BBC America cut most of Trevelyan’s scene with Natalya-even the ‘tastes like strawberries’ zinger. How dare they!

 

Several dvd editions of GoldenEye can be found at very affordable prices. Mine was under $7- a fairly risk free commitment for the hesitant Bond viewer. Collectors will of course own the special edition and package sets with extensive features, but it looks like we’re still waiting on GoldenEye’s blu-ray release. I’m trying to wait for all the Bond films to be released on blu-ray before I pick up any. What if they pull out another super special ultimate blu-ray pack of the entire series like they did with the DVDs? Nevertheless, I probably won’t be able to wait once this blu-ray set comes out. I can always pass along my DVD to my dad. I’ve made him watch this one so often, now he likes Brosnan’s Bond. Even if you aren’t a Bond fan, GoldenEye should be enough to convert you.

 

 

Jacob Important and Honest, But Imperfect

By Kristin Battestella


In my search for family friendly religious film, I was very pleased to see TNT’s The Bible Collection available on DVD. Taking on the ambitious of chronicling Biblical drama from Abraham to the Apocalypse, this second film in the series falters on slow pacing and little action.


Jacob (Matthew Modine) is the second son of Isaac (Joss Ackland, Shadowlands) and Rebekah (Irene Papas, Z). He follows the God of Abraham and seeks to do what is best for his people, unlike his elder, hairy twin Esau (Sean Bean). Esau favors hunting and Canaanite women and trades his birthright to Jacob for some porridge. At his mother’s behest, Jacob disguises himself as Esau and takes Isaac’s dying blessing. Discovering the betrayal, the angry Esau vows to kill his brother. Jacob flees to his uncle Laban (Giancarlo Giannini, Quantum of Solace) and falls in love with Rachel (Lara Flynn Boyle). They wish to marry and return to Canaan and amend ties with Esau. Unfortunately, the deceptive Laban tricks Jacob into years of suffering with false marriages and indentured service.

 

It’s a lovely Biblical tale, and I applaud Ted Turner and his production team for not only dramatizing the better known or frequently told Old Testament epics. However, Jacob’s story of love, betrayal, and servitude doesn’t translate well to the screen. Writer Lionel Chetwynd (Kissinger and Nixon) gives us several quiet two-man conversations, but these sentimental moments don’t dig deep enough into the familiar relationships of Jacob and Esau or even Jacob and the love of his life Rachel. Director Peter Hall (The Camomile Lawn) gives us one brief and somewhat humorous camel chase-but some implied animal death adds a bitter exclamation point. This is an older television movie, so there’s nothing too scandalous, but the wedding switcheroo between Rachel and her sister Leah (Juliet Aubrey, Primeval) is way too obvious-even for younger folks who aren’t up to date on his or her Genesis reading.

Jacob is supposed to be all about the man himself, but Matthew Modine (Vision Quest, Memphis Belle, And the Band Played On) has little material to with which to work. The tale seems thin as it is, but this telefilm also doesn’t take the story deep enough. If Jacob loves Rachel so much, how can he have so many other wives and handmaidens? Is he conflicted about this? What are his relationships with his sons? Modine does his best to show love, anger, and frustration, but the bare script gives little room to maneuver. I think we’re meant to believe Jacob is quiet and stoic, but it’s not. In 1994, Modine was quite the star, and I do believe the Emmy nominee has the talent to pull of a juicy tale if given the chance.


Likewise, Sean Bean (Sharpe, Patriot Games) and Lara Flynn Boyle (The Practice, Twin Peaks) have little development beyond their relationships to Jacob. Both suffice as his antagonist and faithful foundation, the entire supporting cast looks the part and delivers on form. Nevertheless, I want more of Jacob. Where’s Esau bringing forth the Edomites? Where’s Rachel’s maternal strength? That’s all we get of Isaac and Rebekah? Sean Bean in a cop out camel race and Lara Flynn Boyle squatting over her dad’s stolen idol statues are not what I have in mind. Sure, it’s only a ninety minute television production, but if given the proper treatment and appreciation, Jacob can take its little love story and show its proper weight against those other pillars of Jewish history. I kept waiting for Rachel to bear Joseph and Benjamin already, but the show ends with a rather broad montage implying the settlement of Hebron.

Though Jacob is a slight misstep, you can’t quite skip it and go directly from Abraham to Joseph. The Bible Collection is a wonderful series for reflection and teen Bible study, but I do wonder if Jacob’s nudge nudge wink wink bedroom bait and switch is too much for immature youth. Jacob portrays Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah accordingly, but if it’s not for giggling teens making jokes about the kinky ways of the Old Testament; then for whom is this picture? Serious adults looking for Biblical reflection will find Jacob fairly broad, and teenyboppers will love or laugh at its love story mentality trumping the issues of betrayal and the struggle against the followers of the God of Abraham.

Even with its misguided direction and untapped potential, Jacob is an essential part of The Bible Collection and gives some justice where justice is due. However, parents and teachers may want to preview Jacob before a showing with the kids. Despite its slow pace and underutilized cast, lovely locales and an authentic feeling shine through. The entire Bible Collection can be found affordably enough individually, as a set, or online. For a little history and Biblical reflection, spend a night with Jacob.

 

 

Scarlett No Gone With The Wind

By Kristin Battestella

 

I wanted to like Alexandra Ripley’s 1991 Novel Scarlett, but the book holds little against Margaret Mitchell’s original or the classic film adaptation. Likewise the 1994 miniseries Scarlett boasts lavish locales, costumes, and all the soap opera scandals one could ask for. These visuals and shockers are fine and dandy, but in the end William Handley’s adaptation holds little weight onscreen or off.

 

Now that Melanie Wilkes is buried, Scarlett O’Hara Butler (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer) pursues her wayward husband Rhett (Timothy Dalton) to Charleston. Despite a brief, yet passionate reconciliation, Rhett rejects Scarlett and marries Anne Hampton (Annabeth Gish, The X-Files). Although she is pregnant with his child, Scarlett does not tell Rhett, instead traveling to New Orleans to find her O’Hara relatives. Cousin Father Colum O’Hara (Colm Meaney, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) is returning to Ireland, and Scarlett leaves America for her ancestral homeland.

While the supporting cast does well with what they are given, no one is given that much, except Scarlett herself. Joanne Whalley Kilmer made a name for herself somehow in the early nineties, but I’ve never seen her in a part that stole the show for me. Navy Seals? Willow? Outside of being the former Mrs. Val Kilmer, what has she done? A better actress could make do with such a convoluted script, but nothing about Kilmer’s (or rather Whalley’s now) performance harkens to the powerful Scarlett we’ve previously viewed or read. Vivian Leigh was by no means perfect, but she commanded attention when entering a room. Little Joanne is actually quite short in comparison to her leading men.

 

Timothy Dalton is actually my favorite Bond (The Living Daylights, License to Kill, and the quirky Beautician and the Beast!) but he has precious little to do here. Everyone in Scarlett is made to look stupid. All Rhett does is bat his eyes at Scarlett, then whisk away again. Over and over they taunt each other. I would have liked to have seen Dalton more. He seems capable of giving Rhett weight, but his shining moment in Scarlett never comes. Likewise Sean Bean’s (Sharpe) barely there English Lord Fenton is reduced to his usually villainy. At least his and Dalton’s accents are authentic. It’s a joy just to hear them talk so we break from Miss Whalley’s horrendous southern delivery.

 

Two bright spots in Scarlett that earn their keep (Sean Bean’s rapacious self is always a keeper) are Colm Meaney as Scarlett’s cousin Colum and Melissa Leo (Homicide: Life on the Street) as her sister Suellen. Both are few and far between in the series, but their accurate portrayals and authentic looks lend real honesty to their scenes. Sure we love the over the top bits, but it’s nice to remember most of the people during this time were not like Scarlett, Rhett, or Lord Fenton. Many were poor, working class, humble folks.

 

Accents and dialogue may suffer, but Scarlett is the best looking miniseries since North and South. Scarlett’s clothes reflect each of her situations perfectly. Despite her somewhat humble dress in Ireland, Scarlett is never seen in the same outfit twice. We don’t spend much time in any one locale, either. Atlanta, Tara, Charleston, New Orleans, Ireland, London all look stunning. I’m in heaven making my ‘beautiful scenery’ screen captures. The post Civil War opulence is certainly a delight to look at, even if it is a bit overwhelming. How many different places does Scarlett own? Buying the fabrics to make her gowns today wouldn’t be cheap, either.

Pretty and shiny things onscreen, however, are not enough to explain the mishmashed story presented by Hanley. The end of the novel is completely forgotten in favor of a new, murderous idiocy, and the only worthy subplot regarding the Fenian Brotherhood vanishes partway through.

 

The dvd presentation hinders the viewing of Scarlett as well. The six hour mini series is split over two discs, with no breaks. It’s one straight mother load without even additional credits introducing the players in the second half. So if one did want to pause and return, it’s a matter of skipping chapters instead of having definite episode beginnings. Upon my first viewing, I thought there would be an end at which to stop. Instead I was fighting to stay awake, wondering when Scarlett would end.

 

Despite my complaints about Scarlett, there is an audience out there who will adore this film. Period buffs, romance fans, folks who like to see Sean Bean stripped and oiled for now matter how brief a time- Scarlett is affordable enough for these indulgences. My set was $6.99 new. Gone with the Wind it is not, but take Scarlett for what it is; guilty visuals to sleep to.

 

 

 

Black Beauty for Young and Old

By Kristin Battestella

 

Whether by choice or requirement, every school kid has probably read Black Beauty. The 1877 novel by Anna Sewell shed light on the mistreatment of horses, and the 1994 film adaptation written and directed by Caroline Thompson renews this heartwarming story for all.

 

I bypassed Black Beauty when I was working at a video store and again when it worked its way into the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. There have been countless films, cartoons, and series taking the name (14 at imdb!) -horse movies themselves are a dime a dozen, and my favorite has always been The Man From Snowy River. This December, however, I chanced upon a second hand copy of Black Beauty. $2, Sean Bean’s in it, and hey, my nieces would like it.

 

Well, I should not have waited on my purchase. Alan Cumming voices Beauty, a lovely black stallion who enjoys his early life with Farmer Grey (Sean Bean) and subsequent move to Birtwick Park. There he frolics with fellow horses Ginger and Merry Legs and kindly stable hands John Manly (Joe Carter, Dinotopia) and Joe (Andrew Knott). Unfortunately, hardships and injury force Beauty’s move to a cruel Lord and Lady, hostile liveries, a kind but hard working cabbie named Jerry (David Thewlis), and finally backbreaking labor before his return to idyllic pastures with Joe. It’s a story that’s been tread more than once, but this faithful film includes all the good, bad, and tear jerking of Beauty’s life.

 

Although he’s top billed, Sean Bean’s role as Farmer Grey is rather small-especially considering that in 1994 he was perhaps at his height: Sharpe, Patriot Games, Goldeneye. Nevertheless, Bean gives us a touch of how good he can be as a good guy-it’s a rarity in American films and a pleasant surprise. Also often cast as a villian, David Thewlis (Harry Potter, Kingdom of Heaven) also surprises as poor, but kind Jerry. Darling as the actors are in Black Beauty, the star is without a doubt the horse- Docs Keepin Time (The Horse Whisper, Busch Commericials, too.). Thompson (Edward Scissorhands, The Secret Garden, Corpse Bride) smartly makes people are secondary in the film, even though they are the positive or negative influence in Beauty’s life.

 

At first an adult may scoff at the idea of a film narrated by a horse, but Alan Cumming (X-2, Tin Man) sells the animal’s innocent and loving nature. Just like the book is narrated by Beauty, I found myself waiting for the horse’s commentary in the film’s quiet moments. At some point during the viewing you are without a doubt on the animals’ side. It leads to much food for thought. Yes, why don’t those pesky humans listen to Beauty? Why are humans cruel to animals to begin with? Why do we fail to notice when a horse is in pain or has instincts that we fail to comprehend?

 

Underlying the charming work onscreen is the lovely score by Danny Elfman (The Simpsons, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory) When words or visuals won’t get you, music will. Cumming’s vocals and the music timing fit the horse’s work perfectly. I applaud Thompson and her production team for its work-which I’m sure wasn’t easy even with the best trained acting horses. The beautiful English locales and majestic looks of the horses practically sell themselves. Again, with such scenery it’s easy to be on the horse’s side. Nods to the 19th century are also enchanting. The nobility’s clothes versus the poor, Dickensian streets of London, carriages and coaches bring us back to a time we often imagine as lofty and ideal. In fact, Beauty’s telling shows us how low and ignorant those times often were.



Naturally, all the visuals mean diddly if you haven’t got a story. Black Beauty could have been done with claymation ala Gumby and it would still turn the heart of anyone. My nieces are young and can be touchy-so I put on the DVD for a solo viewing-besides, I could get some lovely screen captures. It’s been many years since my horse phase (does every kid have a horse phase?) I haven’t read books like The Saddle Club or King of The Wind in years. I dare say its been twenty years since I’ve read Black Beauty. Even so, when my nieces borrow books from me, Sewell’s classic is the one I always suggest. Unfortunately, my nieces saw a cartoon version and said it was too sad. Black Beauty is very sad, down right upsetting in some parts, yet it’s the story my father and I always discuss when we pick up the kids at school. It’s as if this kind of emotion is necessary for youth. Books and film like Old Yeller, Where The Red Fern Grows, Shane. Children ought to learn about the extremes of the human-or horse-condition. Learning how to cry can do us all a bit of good.

 

Thompson smartly frames Black Beauty with happy opening and closing scenes. Just in case you aren’t familiar with the story, you need to know it has positive outcome. There were moments in my viewing I expected, and others I had forgotten-but each brought a tear to my eye or a choke in my throat. I don’t recall the reception this film received upon its release in 94, but Black Beauty is kind of like Les Miserables or The Ten Commandments. Sometimes a story is too good to mess up-too good for critics and box offices numbers to matter.



Any age, animal lovers or not, Black Beauty can be enjoyed by anyone, and such family friendly entertainment is tough to find at such an affordable price. Black Beauty is available at most retailers under $10, cheaper if you know where to shop. As much as I whole heartily endorse Black Beauty, parents should be careful with those under ten or any extra-sensitive kids. The film is rated G, but a pre-viewing without the kids is a safe way to determine when your child is ready for this heartwarming, but tough story. Be on the look out for some sad goodbye sequences and animal abuse. One upsetting horse death might want to be skipped by parents all together.

Naturally, the film comes with the standard warnings about animals on set, although the DVD is devoid of behind the scenes or interactive featurettes that might help kids separate fact from fiction. It’s wise to remind younger audiences that the story does have a happy ending, and it’s a purely fiction film-although it brought about social changes on the mistreatment of horses. Depending on the younger folks’ reactions, parents could consider directing young readers to the book or the story of invalid author Anna Sewell. The wealth of material and emotion experience around Black Beauty is worth the tug at any and all heart strings. Share Black Beauty with the young and old.

 

 

 

 

Review written by AnnBax


Picture the scene a beautiful English country house and estate, a young baronet and his beautiful wife.. a dream of a scenario for any young family to be raised.  But there are a few major problems.. We are in the first few years of peace after the Great War, towns, villages and great estates have lost whole generations of young fit men, the local mine is struggling to survive and the baronet is a paralyzed and impotent man..what is the future for Wragby Hall, it's great estate and it's ancient family?


Will Sir Clifford and his beautiful wife, Lady Constance be the last of their line? Sir Clifford is a proud, arrogant and determined man, who will keep his mine and estate going at whatever the cost.. He is a giver of orders and his workers are lesser mortals.  Lady Constance, the daughter of a flamboyant and more liberal man, Sir Michael Reid, a successful artist, is careworn and tired from nursing her husband and amusing him .  Both her sister and father are concerned about her physical and mental health, for her husband has banned all intimacy with her , in fear of being upset.


Constance's only escape are the gardens, parkland and woods that surround the great house... is this to be her salvation? ..for out there is beauty.  For out there is a man, whom she meets first, in less than pleasant circumstances.  That man is her husbands's gamekeeper. A man excellent at his job, but seen as a 'half-tame animal' by Sir Clifford.Sure enough he seems , at first to be ill-tempered, dour and sullen...but Connie is to find  that Mellors is far more intune with her needs, and that under his facade is a clever, resourceful, intelligent, wise and tender man with a troubled past of his own.. that comes to haunt them.


Yet Constance still needs to care for Clifford, until the wise and resourceful Mrs Bolton, appears on the scene as Clifford's nurse... we then see another theme coming into the story for there appears to be a growing relationship between Clifford and his nurse... this frees Connie, who has already been told by Clifford that she can take lovers, to satisfy her needs, as long as they are gentlemen, and if she becomes pregnant he will raise the child as his own. As long as she remains his dutiful, loyal and loving wife...  The centre of Connie's world becomes the gamekeeper's domain.


Basically the director Ken Russell is giving us a different slant on a story of forbidden love... a love story frowned on in the time period in which it was set. Here two worlds are contrasted.  Firstly we see the magnificent house, with it's great empty rooms, furnished to perfection.. a house sitting in a beautiful landscape..whilst the pit village is black, drab and squalid. It's inhabitants poor and grey, whilst Sir Clifford's guests are splendidly attired and dressed for dinner.. driving home in expensive cars. Which world does Connie crave?  The real one is her answer.

This TV mini series was filmed in 1993, and was co-written by it's director and actor Ken Russell.  It does not follow the story of the most famous version of 'Lady Chatterly', for Lawrence wrote three versions of the story. Russell combines all three versions to tell this love story. 


The cinematography is excellent, for we see the story through the passing seasons.  The script well written and a splendid ensemble of actors playing their parts. James Wilby is excellent as the snobbish and self centred Sir Clifford.  Shirley Anne Field plays to perfection the wise, formidable and empathic Mrs. Bolton.  Ken Russell played Connie's artistic father, Sir Michael, whilst I enjoyed Connie's forthright sister and confidant played by Hetty Baynes.  I equally enjoyed Joely Richardson's performance as the submissive wife, careworn and unhappy, who struggles to help her less than understanding husband, whilst craving real love and affection. 

Oliver Mellors needed to be played by a man, who could make you believe that a rich baronet was no match for a working man.  A man who had to be at times rough, tough and sullen, capable of both great passion, anger and tender love.  A man who could act in silence, with his eyes and face.  That face had to be handsome and accompanied by a beautiful male body.  Here Sean Bean can and did tick all the right boxes and produce an unforgettable performance. 

Might I suggest that you watch this series and see if I have got it right?

 

 

Lady Chatterley Not All Porn (But Still Not For Everyone)
Guest Review By Leigh Wood

 

On The cusp of my Lord of The Rings obsession, I’ve been passing the time by watching films starring the actors from Peter Jackson’s Oscar winning epic trilogy. When my quest for Sean Bean films led me to watch Ronin- in English and Spanish-I broke down and bought the first movie I had seen the Boromir actor in- the 1993 BBC production of Lady Chatterley.

Sure Patriot Games and Goldeneye are great, but it was director Ken Russell’s adaptation of the banned D.H. Lawrence novels that embedded Sean Bean in my brain. Sex, adultery, class divides, and naughty language sent not one, but three versions of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover underground. When the third and most tame version was finally published in 1928, scandal and controversy erupted on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

I knew nothing of this history when I first saw the theatrical two hour version late at night on cable. Boy or girl, a young teen will find the soft core porn that is currently everywhere in our society. At the time, I often tuned in for Red Shoe Diaries. A few bumps and grinds, perhaps some boobs, sometimes a nice story and historical location. The Marilyn Chambers movies, however, I could do without. I sought more than weak porn. I wanted a story.

 

Imagine my surprise when Lady Chatterley appeared. Unlike its early 20th century/World War I contemporaries Avonlea and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Lady Chatterley stars Joely Richardson as the sexually repressed young wife of a paralyzed veteran (James Wilby) who finds love in a scandalous affair with her husband’s gamekeeper (Sean Bean).

 

Make no mistake, there are kinky folks who will tune into the second and third parts of Lady Chatterley’s four hours purely for the sex scenes. To take the series only for those visuals, is however an injustice. The miniseries format allows director Russell to take the time and set up the marriage of Lady Constance and Sir Clifford. They are both intellectuals in the upper class. Connie hails from a heady and upstanding artistic family, and Sir Clifford has a long list of noble names to live up to. The couple get on well enough, but there is already strain between them when the story opens. One might wonder how and why they married in the first place. The War? Perhaps the union was an unofficially arranged one? Already we have questions, as does Lady Chatterley. She yearns for more than serving as nurse to her often grumpy (although understandably so) husband. Sir Clifford, however, doesn’t want to see his title end, and invites Connie to take a lover, in hopes of claiming an illegitimate child for his own.

 

At first, Constance clings to the image of a loyal wife-despite prodding from her own sister and father. She finds the ranch hand-foreman-wild-man-of-the-woods Mellors rude and fearful. Finally, after discussing the symbolism of the black horse of passion with Sir Clifford, Connie hires a nurse for her husband and sets off to explore her estate-an estate that the brutish and strong-not paralyzed-Mellors is always lurking. Inevitably, the Lady and the Gamekeeper begin a purely sexual affair. Their encounters grow to something more, and the couple seeks to find an escape from the society that divides them.


I dare say the serious opening and closing hours of Lady Chatterley are my favorites. The story’s setup and resolution are indeed more important than the sex scenes, even though no sexual scene is superfluous or fluff. The reflections on the war, striking coalminers, and class debates all give weight to the story. Sir Clifford reads and becomes extremely intellectual while bound to his wheelchair, yet he sees nothing wrong with the English class divides. Connie of course disagrees with the notion that there will always be people who boss and people to boss. Mellors is a higher servant than most, yet he still must take orders from other household servants, and Sir Clifford mocks his accented speech. Constance’s father and sister also find no problem with her taking a lover, but all expect it to be a man of upper standing, not a servant. Likewise, none of the lower class cared that Mellors and his wife lived separately until the affair with Lady Chatterley comes out. He becomes an outcast in his own society-a class that Clifford jokingly calls ‘the enemy’.

The absurdity of this class division is obvious to the viewer. The juxtaposition of the bright, big, and beautiful green Chatterley estate versus the cramped dirty, rocky mines is a smart move by Russell, as are the love scenes between Connie and Mellors. The natural wooded part of the estate is theirs, where class troubles can’t reach them, and simplicity and innocence rule-unlike the cold, structured halls of the Wragby estate.

 

Russell and his co screenwriter Michael Haggaig also give double duty to the production’s dialogue. I’ve not read any versions of Lawrence’s books, only criticisms, but the screenwriters use the sound source materials to their advantage. Every line spoken has double and symbolic meaning. Part one ends with the first significant interaction between Mellors and Lady Chatterley. She wants a key for the hut on the property, and Mellors closes with, ‘If you let me know when you want it.’ Sexual innuendo, the face value meaning, a little key into the lock penetration symbolism, and a hint of chastity belt referenced all in six words.

 

The acknowledgement of speech divides is also sharp. When Connie’s sister Hilda (Hetty Baynes) finally meets Mellors, she asks him to speak ‘normal English’. The similar but different nature of the way they talk should keep the lovers apart, but it is a treat for the audience. Listen closely, and not just for the naughty language.

 

Now of Nip/Tuck fame, Joely Richardson was fairly new at the time of Lady Chatterley’s release, as was future Sharpe star Sean Bean. Both give every ounce to the production, and the delivery from the actors is also perfect. The way Sean Bean says ‘Your Ladyship’ alone shows his pent up torment. We follow Connie’s perspective more, but listen closely to Mellors’ speeches. He’s been a lonely misunderstood soul and now he’s found an emotional awakening with the one woman he shouldn’t have. Likewise Joely Richardson is perfect in nearly every frame. She’s so proper in the beginning, then shrinks in illness. She looks radiant and grows in beauty as her relationship with Mellors grows. The looks and unspoken movements between the two are exceptional. She bites her lips and nails when observing Mellors, and he often tilts his head or hunches away shy in her presence-as opposed to his upright towering over the permanently seated Clifford.

The chemistry between the leads is evident, yet Russell swiftly finds ways to symbolically divide them onscreen. Many of the scenes between Richardson and Bean are through fences or gates, implying one or the other is always locked out or in. Even after their relationship begins, trees or posts will cut the two shot down the middle, leaving a divided but symmetrical shot onscreen. Subtle but brilliant from Russell. These shots show how out of her element Constance is, but also how trapped Mellors is. The cinematography, acting, and dialogue all multitask, and multiple viewings of Lady Chatterley is a must if one is to catch everything. Sir Clifford and his nurse Mrs. Bolton also develop a special relationship, parallel to Connie and Mellors, but acceptable of course. Their conversations seem more evenly matched. They play chess and the widowed nurse is more physically intimate with Sir Clifford then Connie, taking over the duties of bathing and shaving him. Her words are also accented, but Clifford never insults her about it. Wilby does a fine job as Clifford. He insults and bosses Mellors, but in fact it is Clifford who cannot function without his servants. Mellors may take orders, but he his own man, where Clifford’s paralysis puts him at the mercy of everyone else-even Mellors. Wilby swiftly moves from sorrowful and intelligent to brutish and melancholy. You feel bad for Clifford when his motorized chair gets stuck, and further emotional when it is Mellors who must push the crippled husband of his lover. Sir Clifford of course insults Mellors and then we hate him again.

 

Perfectly matching James Wilby is Shirley Anne Field as Mrs. Bolton. She plays the widowed nurse expertly yet with a slight air of ambiguity. Her button up style and always proper air are perfect, if a little Mrs. Danover from Rebecca. She claims to be there for both the husband and wife but clearly puts together the pieces about Lady Chatterley and Mellors. When rumors begin about their affair, Russell alludes that it might have been Mrs. Bolton leading the servant talk, yet she swiftly covers for Connie and keeps Sir Clifford in the dark. Clueless as he is anyway, Clifford doesn’t doubt Mrs. Bolton, nor does Lady Chatterley. It’s almost as if she might have let something slip, but not out of malice. Mrs. Bolton seems to understand that Wragby Hall isn’t where Connie belongs and seeks to speed her escape to Mellors. The women talk frankly about knowing true love, warmth, and tenderness from a man. Mrs. Bolton knows that is what Connie needs, and she won’t get it from Sir Clifford.

 

Social and sexual intrigue aside, Lady Chatterley is a stunning period piece. The Wragby Hall location is breathtaking and takes on the feel of a supporting character itself. When Mellors waits on its vast steps, he’s clearly out of his element. Likewise Clifford’s room could seem like a dream. Incredible bed, books everywhere, the piano and the latest inventions. Connie, of course, fits neither in the uppity hall or the meager shack in the woods. Joely Richardson’s costumes are so lush. Today such hats and flapper style dresses would seem ridiculous, but they looks gorgeous onscreen. The proper style, yet free spirited fabrics and layers fit the character so well, and Russell’s attention to detail sets everything off. Richardson’s wisps of hair and the clang of her beads set the tone for her wild ways.

 

Sean Bean’s costume also says far more about his character than he does. So lowly valued, yet he wears a button collar and tie while he lurks the woods with a dog and a gun strapped to his back. The wearing or removing of his page boy hat also add depth to Mellors’ mood and respectfulness. Even the music and props complete every scene. By no means is Lady Chatterley some B porn production. The wind up gramophones, old time radios, candelabras, and vintage cars sell every authenticity, and the score moves between modern jazz tunes and haunting classical arrangements. Russell insisted on using English compositions, and the tunes top off the flavor of the film.

 

But finally I must mention what I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for. The sex scenes in Lady Chatterley were spared nothing less than Russell’s best, of course. There isn’t any foreplay, fondling, or even oral sex. When Connie and Mellors finally get to it, they get to it. The initial consummation is a bit awkward for both parties. They discuss and try to resist but ultimately succumb to the sort of re-virginal experience. Lady Chatterley hasn’t been with a real man in some time, and Mellors confesses his demeaning wife was the only woman he had ever been with. The dialogue is indeed necessary in the kinky scenes. If what’s going on isn’t clear in the visuals, the characters say what they mean, and I mean they say it!

 

The pre and post conversations are particularly important in two ambiguous sex scenes-one that is near rape and another that is most likely anal sex. If you’re not reeling and all giggles over those, prepare yourself for Part 3. I suspect Lady Chatterley’s ‘For Mature Audiences Only’ warning is for the full frontal nudity sequences. I don’t wish to spoil it, but ladies if you go in slow motion, you will see the whole Bean.

 

In the end, however, Lady Chatterley isn’t about the tawdry sex scenes. By part 4, sensitive types may need a box of tissues. The speeches from Connie and Mellors are so sincere, honest, and downright poetic that the audience can’t help but root for the couple. Russell hold nothing back, from nasty husbands, kinky sex, and bad language so that we are raw, primed, and moved for the production’s big finish. In Lady Chatterley’s final fifteen minutes, you will be agonizing and cheering Connie and Mellors on to happiness. Do our fair lovers find each other at the end? I shan’t tell!

 

The Lady Chatterley DVD is available in all regional formats at a very affordable price. Usually under $30 at most retailers, or online if you’re a bit shy about the purchase. The double disc set has little special features to speak of, only a brief photo gallery, trailers, and an interview with Ken Russell. Not for children of course, I also don’t think men will enjoy Lady Chatterley. Despite plenty of Joely’s bits, males won’t be interested in the story or period costume drama. Keep Lady Chatterley for your own guilty pleasure, or for that all girls night you’ve been planning. All four hours in one sitting, tears, and repeat viewings- I assure you Lady Chatterley will not disappoint.

 

Patriot Games Better Today

By Kristin Battestella



Although I have the DVD, I can’t help but tune in every time Patriot Games comes on cable. The 1992 action thriller from Tom Clancy’s book is just as awesome today as it was then.


After averting a radical IRA terrorist faction’s attack on royal cousin and Northern Ireland Secretary Lord Holmes (James Fox, A Passage to India), former CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) returns to Maryland with his pregnant wife Kathy (Anne Archer) and daughter Sally (Thora Birch). Unfortunately, vengeful Ulster terrorist Sean Miller (Sean Bean) escapes from prison and plots the destruction of the Ryan Family. Jack returns to the CIA, helping Admiral Greer (James Earl Jones) find Miller and his compatriots Kevin O’Donnell (Patrick Bergen) and Annette (Polly Walker). When his family is gravely threatened again, Ryan must take matters into his own hands and stop Miller once and for all.

 

I do have a few issues with Patriot Games, so I’ll just get them out of the way first. Sometimes 1992 doesn’t seem so long ago to me-but when you see the almost eighties looking styles here, we do remember this really was almost twenty years ago. Kathy Ryan’s clothes and style might have been posh at the time, but now…not so much. Some of the action sequences are also a little dated in choreography. It’s not that Patriot Games is small scale or ill paced by any means. We’ve just been treated to a lot more effects laden and much more complex and violent films in recent years. This is an action film, but there’s a lot of thought, character, and emotion behind it. Strange to say, but sometimes that seriousness isn’t what a viewer wants if they’re looking for mindless, desensitizing action.

 

Director Phillip Noyce (Dead Calm, The Bone Collector) and screenwriters W. Peter Iliff (Point Break, Varsity Blues) and Donald Stewart (The Hunt for Red October, Clear and Present Danger) keep the best of Clancy and craft a fine blend of suspense and family drama. There aren’t many great one liners here, but the script is memorable and believable. Despite the extreme and sometimes improbable circumstances in Patriot Games, we believe that not only could this happen to the Ryans, but to any one of us. Even in the big action numbers, the camera is tight on the people involved. We feel the emotion whether things are rough and tumble or sad and somber.

 

But of course, who doesn’t love Harrison Ford? He is perhaps the best actor of this generation, and Ford shows his clout in Patriot Games. Instead of the bravado hero, we meet an older, worn family man. He’s a retired Dad-well off perhaps, but just like the rest of us in most ways. Jack Ryan is not a superhero. Ryan messes up; his family’s life is taken out of his control. Ford is able to deliver the sad eyes and tears when needed, but we know not to push a man to defend his castle. When Ford says, “I will fucking destroy you.” we believe the declaration as easy as we believe that the only thing in life that is “100% for certain” is his daughter’s love.



Before The Lord of the Rings, if Americans knew who Sean Bean was, they knew because of Patriot Games. His intense stare and quiet revenge boil over through villainous looks and actions-Bean only speaks about ten times in the picture. Even though that little dialogue is creepy, too, the silent intensity makes Miller’s vengeance-especially in comparison with Harrison Ford. Prior to Patriot Games, Ford (Do I really need to infer on Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Witness, Blade Runner and all that?) was the action hero with great toys and quick quips. He starts out the funny, elder family man; but as the film progress, Ford’s fear for his family forces him into equally brooding and silent defense. It’s perfectly acceptable for us to hate the silent killer Miller, but we root for family man Ryan to take matters into his own hands. What’s the difference between Miller’s revenge for his brother and Ryan’s defense of his family? Were the situation reversed, would we feel different? Although they aren’t onscreen together often, Bean and Ford make us love and love to hate their characters. You don’t find this character complexity and intelligence in just any action flick. This depth keeps Patriot Games great up against more recent, flashy action yarns.

 

This is why American’s who know who Sean Bean is actually really hate him. You can’t just shoot up Harrison Ford’s onscreen family and expect our love. However, Noyce smartly uses the evils of Miller to his advantage. We don’t see any of Miller’s kill shots-the camera is always tight and up close on Bean’s face, showing us the cold joy he shares in murder. Miller even smiles when his prey is imminent. This isn’t the frights of fictitious monsters. In the novel, there is no brotherly angle for Miller, he’s merely pissed Ryan bested him. Presumably, the family efforts were added to give reason or sympathy to Miller’s ruthlessness, but this also implants a frightening personal question to the audience: What would you do if it were your dead brother? How would I react if my family were in danger? The reality of these questions and answers keeps the villainy real and our hatred on par. It’s a fine performance by Bean-one so good that us Americans can’t separate the actor from the terrorist. After all, they are both named Sean, aren’t they?

 

Patriot Games may be simplified as a man versus man vehicle, but there’s actually quite an ensemble cast here. It’s another facet not often seen in big action pictures. A superstar, maybe one or two name support players, but then the talent pool drops. Here, however, we’re treated to Samuel L. Jackson and James Earl Jones (Star Wars, anyone?), Polly Walker (Rome), Patrick Bergen (Sleeping with the Enemy), a cute Thora Birch (American Beauty), and a charming Richard Harris (The Field, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone). Each actor has their moment of significance, and small, quiet, development scenes are allowed to blossom. Only Anne Archer (Falcon Crest, Fatal Attraction) seems a little out of place. At the time, she was the mature, wifely actress of note-but today, her star’s fallen against the rest of the international cast. Her Kathy’s a little snotty and uppity, too- a surgeon with a Porsche and nothing else to do. Even so, she looks the right age and style to match Ford-unlike some of the action hotties we often see.

 

Naturally, Irish and English relations are very different then they were in 1992. If Patriot Games was exclusively about IRA relations, its politics would now be one of study and history. By keeping the story personal with family and patriotism at the forefront, the politics are able to fold and meld into our current issues, thoughts, and feelings. That’s all well and good for a heightened movie experience, but I must warn that lovers of all things Irish might be a little offended at the somewhat stereotypical portrayal of Ireland and the IRA. Red wigs, some forced accents-the Celtic music, however, makes for a beautiful score. Careful listeners will also notice pieces of James Horner’s tunes from, of all films, Aliens; and observant viewers can spot Bean’s different hairstyles during the re-shot finale, too. On a side note, it’s also fun to watch Bean’s next film Lady Chatterley for the stitches and subsequent scar he received in the big finish with Ford. A boat hook to the left eye, ouch!

 

The Special Collector’s Edition dvd of Patriot Games isn’t necessarily as special as we’ve come to expect magical special editions to be, unfortunately. There’s restored film and sound, yes; but only a short interview feature with some of the cast and some trailers, whoopdeefingdo. Widescreen is a must, and a blu-ray edition is available in addition to several Jack Ryan sets. Readers of Clancy’s novel will find significant changes in the plot itself, and some might find the troublesome ending too far changed or rushed. Nevertheless, Patriot Games may perhaps be the most loved of the Jack Ryan film series. Of course, it is not the first. Alec Baldwin helmed The Hunt for Red October in 1990 and Ford would continue in 1994’s Clear and Present Danger before Ben Affleck too over for a prequel attempt in The Sum of All Fears (2002). Each has their mistakes as well as their moments. You don’t have to see all to appreciate one, but Ford fans who adore Patriot Games should pursue Clear and Present Danger.

 

Action fans looking for an intelligent caper need look no further than Patriot Games. Younger audiences may not grasp all the intelligence and subtleties; but outside of the built in fright of the storyline, brief sexuality, and mild language; there’s isn’t much to deter a family viewing-especially a television edit. Fans of the cast will also delight again and again. Great drama, action, politics, and performances- how can you not love Patriot Games?

 

 

Review written by Annbax

 

Professor Jack Ryan, his wife Cathy, a surgeon, plus their daughter are on vacation, spiced with a little business and pleasure, in the city of London. Ryan is speaking at a conference whilst his wife and daughter are site seeing.   They meet up in a popular tourist area and here three families collide with devastating consequences. 
 Ryan and his family witness a terrorist attack on a limousine carrying Lord Holmes and his family.  Ryan, in an effort to protect his own family becomes involved, he is wounded, but manages to shoot a masked man, and apprehends another.  The rest of the gang escapes.  The man arrested is called Sean Miller and the young man dead is his brother...this incident, has dire repecussions for all involved...


 Miller is arrested, questioned with only silence as an answer, tried and imprisoned.. The only animated response from him is when in the dock he threatens revenge on Ryan... Sadly for Ryan, Miller escapes with help from the IRA cell he works with, flees the country and disappears, whilst Ryan returns to Maryland and resumes his life at a Military Academy.  His wife, now pregnant resumes her life in the hospital and the daughter is in school.  Their peace and tranquility are shattered by some stunning and violent events centred around the family.. they are not safe..


Jack Ryan is a man to be reckoned with.. a former CIA analyst he returns to the fold, enlists the reluctant help of a spokesman and politician from the IRA, who denies their involvement in the attacks on his family... Meanwhile in the British Isles, some members of the IRA are killed by unknown assasins, and a antiquarian bookshop is being watched.  There is also concern that Lord Holmes a prominent member of the establishment , with Royal connections, had been targeted by an enemy within.... no sign of Miller...
 He is in a terrorist camp deep in the desert... spy satelites and the military are used to destroy the camp.  Everything seems fine until Lord Holmes visits Ryan and his family at home in Maryland...more is to come
 This is a taut, pacey, action packed thriller, from the pen of Tom Clancey.


It bears all the quality associated with a big budget motion picture put together by an efficient team with a good track record.  We have good graphics, fine sets and a good script with plenty of action.  Yet there are moments of great stillness and silences, which add to the quality of the film and the drama shown.  There is violence, but also pictures of tenderness and normality.  The story is well balanced.
 Harrison Ford, was, without doubt, the main star attraction for this movie.
Abley assisted by Anne Archer as his long suffering but loyal wife.  James Earl Ray and Samuel Jackson are also excellent in their  supporting roles.


  Richard Harris gave us a commanding cameo role of Paddy O'Neil spokesman and IRA politician, whilst Patrick Bergin was charmingly chilling as Kevin O'Donnel , leader of the rogue IRA terrorist cell. Other British actors, worthy of mention are Alun Armstrong , James Fox, as Lord Holmes and Hugh Fraser as his secretary.


 What can I say of Sean as the pivotal character in this story?  He was mean, lean and silent.  His face, motionless,like a piece of sculpture.  His eyes dead and only animated by hate... Sean Miller was portrayed  as an angry rage and vengeance filled man.. a classic psychopath with little or no empathy for any around him.  A cold blooded killer who few could control.. a loner, a man with no social graces, who would kill any who stood in his way, including his fellow IRA cell.  He spoke little, but said much with his face and eyes... his voice rich with the accents of Northern Ireland... a far cry from the soft cadences of south Yorkshire.
Sean is a master of this kind of character a consumate actor of the highest quality.


 I recommend all, who, can to see this high quality film.  The newer DVDs come with some extras added in 2002.  There are interviews with the director, producer , script writers and others involved including special effects, Harrison Ford, Anne Archer and James Earl Jones, but sadly nothing from the UK element.
 I hope I have helped for here is adventure, car chases, boats and helicopters with a good story attached.

 

 

 

 

Review written by Jaye

England, mid 18th Century (1992)

Sean Bean...............Robert Lovelace
Saskia Wickham......Clarissa Harlowe
Sean Pertwee..........Jack Belford
Jonathan Phillips......James Harlowe

"

The exhilaration of it. To carry off such a girl as this Clarissa Harlowe in spite of all her purity and virtue. So tantalizing." Lovelace.

Storyline: Clarissa is an independent, but virtuous young woman, who has inherited a substantial estate from her grandfather. This makes Clarissa's siblings, James and Bella immensely jealous and matters are not improved when Robert Lovelace, an infamous rake, rejects Bella and turns his attentions to Clarissa. James and Bella use the fact that Clarissa is being wooed by Lovelace to discredit her and imprison her in their home. Knowing she is virtuous and pious, Lovelace wagers his friend, Jack, 50 guineas that he can bed her. Unable to live under her family's thumb, Clarissa escapes with the help of Lovelace only to find she has exchanged one prison for another as Lovelace becomes more and more obsessed with her. The wager fades into insignificance as the seduction becomes a very personal challenge. Clarissa finds deception and lies at every turn, and her letters to her only friend Anna (Hermione Norris) are intercepted and rewritten.

Acting/Dialogue: The performances by all the actors in this production is brilliant. Sean Bean, in possibly his most evil role, is utterly and wonderfully despicable. Sean Pertwee is also splendid as Lovelace's best friend, whose support for the contest wanes and then does a complete turn around after he meets Clarissa and realizes the lengths to which Lovelace will go to win her. Also well portrayed is James Harlowe, just as despicable and low a character as Lovelace himself, but without any of the charisma. There are many wonderful quotes, most of which belong to Lovelace. Probably the best from Lovelace are, "Oh she may threaten, she may weep, she may rave 'Oh traitor! Oh fiend!' but little by little she comes to like her little cage." And his dying words, "Well done Jack, you have avenged her well. One man cannot have every woman worth having..... Clarissa let this redeem my soul.".

Historical Accuracy: Well shown is how little control women had over their lives in that period. They had to marry exactly whom the family wanted. The costuming was lovely, from the dresses to the gentlemen's wigs.

Believability: Based on the famous novel by Samuel Richardson this film is excellent. It takes the time to depict the various characters and their surrounding with great detail without detracting from the plot. The suspense is kept up throughout. If you're not familiar with the story, then you will be wondering up to the last minutes the fates of Clarissa, Lovelace and the Harlowe family. The frantic, constant letter writing is a wonderful and accurate touch.

Turn Ons: The entire four hours are brilliant. But the two scenes that struck me most are where Lovelace asks Clarissa to help reform his character, he looks so sincere, you almost believe him. And where Jack truly realizes the horrors that Lovelace forced on Clarissa. I also liked the Harlowe's butler, Joe (Matthew Wait) you never quite know whose side he's on, he takes money from Lovelace and also seems to support James.

Turn Offs: The music at times seemed to detract or overpower the dialogue. Whether this is due to the copy I have being not the best, or whether it was originally like that, I don't know, but at times I could barely hear what was being said. [EDIT] I now have Clarissa on DVD, and I was correct in that the bad sound does seem to have been caused by a poor copy at the time. I struggle to find anything wrong with this. It has always been my favourite Sean film and remains so.

by Jaye, 1998

 

 

Clarissa Delightfully Juicy and Disturbing

By Kristin Battestella

 

Despite being a Sean Bean fan and a classic literature aficionado, I’ve always avoided watching the 1991 television adaptation Clarissa for one critical reason: I don’t want to end up reading Samuel Richardson’s one million word book! If The Lord of the Rings took me four months, I can’t imagine what birth I’d have to set aside for this early classic of morality and torment. Thankfully, the BBC has given us a condensed, delightful, and tragic helping here.

 

Clarissa Harlow (Saskia Wickham) is a chaste and devout daughter. Upon her grandfather’s death, she inherits most of his estate-much to the chagrin of her brother James (Jonathan Phillips). The ruthless but handsome rogue Robert Lovelace (Bean), meanwhile, is charming Clarissa’s sister Bella (Lynsey Baxter). However, once Lovelace meets the fair and innocent Clarissa, his attentions quickly turn to her sexual conquest, much to his and friend Jack Belford’s (Sean Pertwee) sport. Clarissa’s father (Jeffrey Wickham) and Uncle (Ralph Riach) plot for her to marry the decrepit Mr. Soames (Julian Firth), and pleas to her mother (Frances Vener) fall on deaf ears. Virtually a prisoner in her chambers, Clarissa corresponds with Lovelace and her friend Anna (Hermione Norris) with pleas of assistance. Despite the long line of broken ladies in Lovelace’s past, Clarissa flees from her family with him. Unfortunately, he soon confirms her suspicions of his true nature, and Clarissa realizes her situation may have gone from bad to worse.

 

Part One of this four hour miniseries feels like a quick fifty minutes where nothing really happens. Thankfully, Director Robert Bierman (Waking the Dead) kicks up Janet Barron and David Nokes’ (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall) adaptation for Part Two. The audience feels for Clarissa, we have no reason to like her family and learn to like them even less as the tale moves along. However, we are also privy to Lovelace’s true colors from the start. Sometimes the pacing of the back and forth parlor drama is more annoying than it is dramatic early on, but as the complexity of the characters and situations are allowed to stew, Clarissa shifts from love or money Austen ideologies and debates to gothic, almost predatory horror. By the second half of the series, we are hooked in to seeing the degradation of the players, despite the increasing inevitability of an unhappy outcome.

 

Saskia Wickham (Peak Practice, Demons) treads a fine line as the titular woman in question. She is our emotional fulcrum, the one we are supposed to care about and root for. Sometimes, however, it’s tough to like Clarissa amid all the whining and back and forth highbrow discussions. We can almost understand why cruel sister Bella, Mrs. Sinclair and the working girls despise her. Clarissa is at times too good, too naive, and too dang annoying. How can she merely sit at her desk and write letters rather than see how things can play to her favor? Is she really so meek and useless? Fortunately, as Clarissa progresses, we do appreciate Wickham’s high and mighty attitudes. When she does get wise of Lovelace, it’s too late. Once stripped of her gilded cage, we can relate to Clarissa and feel for her-or at least we certainly don’t want to be her. She’s caught between two evils, and though we want to see her survive unscathed, it doesn’t seem likely.

 

We don’t have much of Sean Bean (Sharpe, Lord of the Rings, Patriot Games) and his Lovelace in Part One, but the cruel rogue turns up the fictitious charm as Clarissa develops. In some ways, he is the Vader of the piece-every use and situation is generated by Lovelace or orchestrated into his favor. Sometimes I found myself chuckling that any lady could fall for such an obvious lothario and snake-but Sean Bean plays Lovelace with such tongue in cheek delight. He is juicy, and he knows it. It is attractive, alluring, powerful, and scary all at the same time. We have no doubt that Lovelace will see his intentions upon Clarissa fulfilled. It’s a little too freaky and we don’t want to see him win, but we also know he will and must see his conquest to fruition. The viewer wants to know how far Lovelace will go, even if we regret going down the dark path with him. It’s a difficult part to play, a character within a character. Lovelace is slick and pretty-but the powdered wigs and makeup are a little garish and gaudy to us. But also, this is a very ugly role, a cruel and wicked wolf in sheep’s clothing that makes for an exceptional performance. Had Clarissa been a fancy HBO production, I’ve no doubt there would have been an Emmy nomination for Bean.

 

Naturally, some of the humongous book’s time and players have been whittled down, but the cruel support in Clarissa is on form. Saskia’s real life pop Jeffery Wickham (Sapphire & Steel, The Remains of The Day) is wonderfully conflicted as the stern father damning his daughter for choosing herself over her family duty, and Jonathan Phillips (Titanic, Vanity Fair) and Lynsey Baxter (Gormenghast) are equally creepy as the somewhat kinky and cruel siblings. I didn’t even recognize Hermione Norris (MI-5) as Clarissa’s good-hearted pen pal Anna, but she and Sean Pertwee (Cleopatra, Mutant Chronicles) as Jack Belford add an extra element to the series. Both are stuck on the sidelines between Clarissa and Lovelace and can’t do much to help. Belford’s realization of how far Lovelace is willing to go marks a fine turning point in Episode 3. It’s an element of hope for the audience, but we also see how far past the point of no return this situation is.

 

Shirley Henderson (Marie Antoinette, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) is also a naughty riot as the sassy maid Sally, and Cathryn Harrison (Soldier Soldier) as Mrs. Sinclair is delightfully cheeky and twisted as the leader of the disguised brothel effectively keeping Clarissa prisoner. We can see the prostitutes and all their deceptions for what they really are, but by time they resort to full on kidnapping, drugging, and violence with Lovelace, the writing is on the wall for Clarissa. The conclusion of Clarissa does leave a few questions and doesn’t clarify a few of the details, but a vindication of sorts and thus a satisfying conclusion is met. Now, I am tempted to find out which of Richardson’s nine volumes have all the juicy stuff and take a literary gander. Oh, darn!

 

Clarissa is of course, a period piece, and fans of powdered wigs and frock coats will delight. The ladies costumes are all wonderful-even the rakish styles and overdone looks look accurate-as do the houses and set dressings. For those of us who see George Washington on the US Dollar Bill daily, the men’s ponytails and curly Q bangs are quickly overcome, but others might find the male opulence somewhat humorous. Once your knee deep into Clarissa, however, the stylized world overcomes the pomp and ceremony. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles to help with accents and old world language, but the intelligent viewer will pick up on the old speaketh dialogue just fine. I was surprised to see there are a few features on the Clarissa set- -including some outtakes and screen tests. The slides on author Samuel Richardson are also interesting reading, but it’s a shame there’s no behind the scenes interviews with scholars and such for the real scoop of the novel’s place in literary history.

 

Men who love to hate Sean Bean and the women who can’t get enough of him will love Clarissa. Fans of the rest of the cast, period piece lovers, costume connoisseurs, and literary scholars will also delight. Some of Clarissa second half is a little too heavy for youth or the classroom, but if you’re deep enough to even consider the book, then I think one is probably mature enough for the film. Clarissa is romantic and yet disturbing, charming as well as revolting. Fine performances, great visuals, and a fine story keep this adaptation of the two hundred and fifty year old tale relevant. Get to know and love Clarissa today.

 

 

 

 

 

Review written by Annbax

 

This film is powerful. It rivals a Shakespearean drama set in rural Ireland in the 1930's. Times are hard and the land is marginal. 'The field', is rented land that has been improved, with years of sweat and labour. The tenant is a powerful and dominant character called Bull McCabe, who discovers that the widow, who owns it, is about to sell it to the highest bidder.

 

Bull is a powerful man, who is feared and respected by most of his fellow villagers. A man who has a repressed son, Tadgh, played by Sean, and a wife, with whom he has not communicated with for eighteen years. He is outbid for the field by an American, of Irish descent, who has plans to bring industry to the valley. This American seems to have one ally the priest.
When Bull loses the field, his megalomania and obsessions know no bounds.. We also get a feeling that there is a past he is hiding, for his surviving son, did have a brother, who seems to have died in mysterious circumstances.. Bull's journey into insanity has tragic results for all around him...


The setting for this film is wonderful, the script well written and performed by a powerful cast. Bull McCabe, played by Richard Harris, who received an Oscar nomination for this demanding role. Tom Berenger is the American, Brenda Fricker the mother and John Hurt plays the simple, yet strangely cunning go-between. With such a cast and an excellent production team the performances are all excellent.


As Tadgh, Sean is anything but the swash-buckling soldier, or the cocky villain. He plays a repressed, almost simple soul, who hardly says a word in the first half of the film. He appears in almost all the scenes, silent usually but re-acting to all the action or dialogue around him, with flashing eyes, stooping shoulders, staggering walk, or an almost blank stare.. a character in awe and fear of his dominating father. It is only in the last part of the film that he begins to speak, in a soft Irish accent, questioning his father about his actions and the death of his brother.. We see Sean as a young man and actor, already able to perform on the same level with older, more experienced actors. An actor capable of a stunning performance, with little dialogue to work with.
This is a serious film... worth seeing, if you get the chance.

 

 

Irish Locales Make The Field

By Kristin Battestella

 


I stumbled upon The Field through a six degrees game on the imdb. The 1990 film based upon the play by John B. Keane stars Richard Harris, Sean Bean, and Tom Berenger, but The Field is more than a connecting degree. Stunning Irish landscapes, potent performances, and bittersweet storylines make The Field a delightful little film.

 

Bull McCabe (Richard Harris) and his son Tadgh (Sean Bean) are proud Irishmen who rent the field from the Widow (Frances Tomelty) They till the land with fertilizing seaweed and graze their animals on the field, but after years of being terrorized by Tadgh, The Widow decides to sell the field at a public auction. None of the townsfolk will dare bid against Bull, and he uses the town idiot Bird (John Heard) in his intimidation plans. Newly arrived Irish American developer (Tom Berenger) wants the field for a new roadway, and unfortunately, he doesn’t take Bull threats to heart.

 

As refreshing as it is to see Sean Bean (Patriot Games, The Fellowship of The Ring) in a non villainous role, Richard Harris owns The Field. His Oscar nominated performance alone was worth the DVD purchase. Bull McCabe is just that, a bullheaded old school man who despises the English and those who couldn’t keep their land during the potato famine. Bull and his wife haven’t spoken to each other since their eldest son died 15 years prior, and Harris is superb at balancing the hardened laborer with the tortured father. When the pressure of purchasing the field under legal means becomes too much, Bull is willing to sacrifice himself, what’s left of his family, and anyone else who stands in his way.

 

As stellar as Harris’ performance is, the role would be diminished without worthy support. Bean is admirable as the tormented Tadgh. He’s young, not the brightest bulb, and not all that interested in the field-which puts him in direct conflict with Bull. The Elephant Man star John Hurt is unrecognizable at Bird. He puts on the town idiot role inside and out-the tattered looks, stuttering, and do-anything-for-a- drink style is a sad representation of what happens to those who lost their livelihood during the famine. As much as Bull genuinely likes Bird, he’s not above manipulating him into his devious plans. Richard Harris may be the star, but each character in the field brings his or her element of tragedy.

 

Little seen in the U.S. upon its release, The Field has another ace the hole. The on Location Irish filming is a character unto itself. Briefly, you can understand Tom Berenger’s want to change this small tight nit Irish community. If it weren’t for his fancy car, you could swear The Field takes place in the 19th century. Horse draw carriages, no roads to speak of, thatched roof homes- the juxtaposition of this aging, strapped community against lush green and fertile land, stunning cliffscapes, and quaint Irish ways adds surprising depth to a film based on a play. These exceptional visual layers, however, can’t cover the thinness of the play turned movie. As bittersweet as the story is, some of its mystery elements are in fact too obvious to a film audience. The chain of events is a likely one, but the performances make the watch worthwhile.

 

Today’s American audiences might also find The Field slow or poorly directed. Naturally there’s no effects to speak of, and perhaps more monologues than we’re used to. With little action, there’s no need to move the camera either. Director’s slow zooming, following shots, or vast panoramas are meant to capture the scope of the region and the inner complexities of the characters. It’s not overtly art house styled, but viewers looking for something fast paced won’t find it in The Field.

 

Perhaps not commonly available at most retailers, The Field is more affordable at online purchasers. The dvd has no features beyond the film. I would have preferred a play to screen documentary and cast commentaries, but the film speaks for itself. Fans of Irish films and any of the actors involved should not miss The Field. Likewise classic film buffs or old school studies shouldn’t miss the tragic tale. Watch The Field today, ready with tissues instead of popcorn.

 

 

 

Review written by Annbax

Let your imagination take you back in time.. The place is the far south west, remote and wild.. You are on the borders of north Devon and Somerset.. The land around you is the vast expanse of Exmoor.. The date is the 1670’s and 80’s. The age of the Cavalier King, Charles 11 .. An age of growing affluence, splendid buildings and wonderful clothes…but on Exmoor things are slightly different…


On the edges of the moor farmers earn a living raising sheep and cattle in the hills, whilst arable farming in the well watered valleys.. Life could be good apart from the constant threat of the Doones. Deep in a remote valley live in exile a once aristocratic family clan, who terrorise their neighbours plundering and killing at will.


Sir Ensor Doone is the old patriarch of the family, whilst the brigand band is led by his son Carver ..
John Ridd is an educated prosperous, loyal and law abiding young yeoman farmer who lives with his mother and sister, on the edge of the moor. His only enemy are the Doones, especially Carver, who killed his father.. Whilst out fishing he has an accident and his life is saved by Lorna.. He falls in love with this young, beautiful woman in spite of the fact that she is a dreaded Doone.. But he is not her only suitor.. For Carver wants her too….


We are then taken on a roller coaster of a ride, when John Ridd sets out to rescue Lorna from the grip of her family… is she really a Doone? An exquisite pendant might hold the key to the mystery? We have feuding , fighting and many adventures with the added colour of highwaymen and rebellion. Will true love succeed?
All this is played out with the backdrop of misty moor land and stunning scenery.

The script is an adaptation from R.D. Blackmore’s classic novel. This is a made for TV movie, produced in 1990. I think that it suffers from being only of film length, rather than being in episodes for some of the characters and historical links have been omitted or taken out of sequence, but nevertheless there are some excellent performances from a well balanced cast of players.


Polly Walker is beautiful and quite charming as Lorna. Sir Robert Stephens has a cameo role of Sir Ensor Doone and the always excellent Billie Whitelaw plays John Ridd’s long suffering but honest and brave mother.


The two leading young men are a joy to watch. Clive Owen plays the adult John Ridd. The epitome of a fine English yeoman, honourable, strong and in love.. A man who sets out to be Lorna’s knight in shinning armour whatever the cost. Pitted against him is the formidable Carver Doone played by Sean. Young, lean and mean.. a classic villain… dressed in black, leather thigh boots, long haired and bejewelled. A character who appears on the surface to be a socio-path. A man full of anger, nurtured in violence. Yet this story is set in a more violent time. Sean does give him some depth of realism.. We find that he is the illegitimate son of Ensor.. Carver resents the fact that his father did not marry his mother. Yet Ensor has used his son to reek havoc on his neighbours. Ensor has decided that Lorna will be his main heir, not Carver, thus further fuelling his angst. Carver, who has a tender spot for his own young son, wants to marry Lorna to gain his share of the inheritance. He has some tenderness for her, for he tries to give her food when she locks herself away. Saying that no one needs to die.. All this in a west country soft accent , with the odd Yorkshire vowel slipping in.. complete with a gold tooth ! This romantic tale, set in a romantic age is almost a lost classic.. The character of John Ridd is there alongside Heathcliffe, Rochester, Thornton and Darcy, whilst, Carver Doone is one of the great villains of literature and Sean does him justice!


 

War Requiem Out There, But Good

By Kristin Battestella


At first, I wasn’t interested in seeing Derek Jarman’s War Requiem when it was released on DVD in late 2008. After watching the trailer online, I had a change of heart. Set to Benjamin Britten’s opus mass (itself inspired by the World War I poems of Wilfred Owen), the mostly dialogue-less War Requiem is uneven and bizarre; but no less beautiful and chock full of anti war sentiments.


Now, how can I summarize a film that begins with a speech from Laurence Oliver in his final performance and ends up with Tilda Swinton’s Nurse surviving the dust? War Requiem loosely follows a dramatized Wilfred Owen (Nathanial Parker) as he crosses paths with Swinton, a meaning well but misunderstood German Soldier (Sean Bean), and a creepy zealot named Abraham (Nigel Terry). War Requiem isn’t so much linear as a visual representation of Britten’s unaltered 1963 composition. As I said, I wouldn’t go for this type of film myself, but the charm of in your face music and pictures can’t be defined.

 

Reuniting most of his cast from 1986’s Caravaggio, Derek Jarman again uses Tilda Swinton’s (Michael Clayton, The Chronicles of Narnia) unique and striking look to his advantage. Asking your cast not to speak is a not easy, but Swinton’s mannerisms and talent relate the anguish of war and the haunting music perfectly. Her orange hair feels like the one bright spot amid all this violence and death, and Swinton rises and falls with the anguish of wartime hospital life.

 

We’re treated to Sir Laurence (Rebecca, Wuthering Heights) only briefly. He sets the pace of War Requiem with the opening poem ‘Strange Meeting’- the only words we hear before the music. His wheelchair bound Old Soldier reminds us of the frailty of humans, and how close we are to death before, after, and during battle. Likewise, the young, idealist Nathanial Parker (Inspector Lynley Mysteries) quickly becomes disillusioned with fighting, war, COs, and the enemy- as is his German compatriot Sean Bean (Goldeneye, Sharpe). The small, but talented cast shows their worth without words, but Bean’s character is particularly wasted- as most young soldiers are. His senseless death and bizarre afterlife scenes are somehow bittersweet and eerie. His brief, touching, and tragic scenes with Parker encompass War Requiem’s statement perfectly.

 

Along with the fine but silent cast, the segments of real war footage spliced into the narrative make War Requiem. Color, black and white, World War I through Vietnam-the big bombs, death, and trench warfare are perfectly in time and theme with Britten’s chorales, drums, and crescendos. In some ways, War Requiem might have been better were it just this crafty marriage between real imagery and music. Then again, a fully dramatic Great War piece with this cast would have been all right, too. Within such a short ninety-minute run time, however, the mix of both narrative and war collages strikes the audience in all ways. We react to the quiet, human moments of the cast-for nothing tugs a person’s heartstrings more than the sight of another human experiencing joy or pain. Although, if that fails in this desensitized day and age; Jarman’s bombardment of the horrors of war hits the audience with cold reality: despite time, technology, and loss of life, the battlefield does not change.

 

As beautiful as War Requiem is, it is also very ugly in many respects. Sure, we have the gritty, dirty, bloody war aspects from the archive footage and in the drama-but this is also a little film made very much on the cheap. Some of it is deliberately cold, dark, stark, and bare, but it’s a bit obvious that this is as much out of necessity as it is for artistic statement. The costumes and military gear look authentic enough, but the cast is made to look dirty, too. Sometimes I just want to rush up and scrub the television screen. Being made dirty and cheap in 1990 might also make War Requiem a tough viewing for folks used to technical masterpieces ala Saving Private Ryan.

 

Lovely as this mix of music and film is, War Requiem doesn’t get its score quite right. Softer, quiet moments in the music make for a lot of dead time onscreen. Do we need to see Tilda Swinton braiding her hair for a full five minutes? Some spots look like Jarman is trying too hard to make statements or be weird rather than using what the score is telling him. At other moments, the slow actions of the cast don’t match the booming music. Naturally, this is not the easiest musical composition to mirror, so whatever flaws War Requiem has are artistically forgivable. Maybe you don’t like the look, but the music is undeniable. If Fantasia is the perfect blend of visuals and music, then War Requiem is the underground stepchild. As unique and special as these examples are, I’m surprised more big spectacular orchestral films aren’t made. Is there a silent film Romeo and Juliet set to Montagues and Capulets out there? People like ballet, still, don’t they? What’s the difference?

 

It’s not perfect, but War Requiem is a lovely little mix of music, drama, war, and silent statements. Fans of Jarman no doubt love War Requiem, but anti gay audiences might not like some of the latent AIDS commentary here. Having said that, a serious classroom audience might be ripe for a critical viewing- What does War Requiem do right? Where is it wrong? What can we gain from it visually, musically, and socially? It’s been twenty years since War Requiem was made, and we still haven’t learned the lessons it offers. Avante garde and not for all, War Requiem is still a beautiful little film worthy of a look.

 

 

 

 

Stormy Monday A Smooth, Moody Film Noir
By Kristin Battestella

I’ve had other actor obsessions before my current Sharpe and Sean Bean tangent-just so you know. Sometimes I like an actor for his looks, but he’s got to have charm, talent, and charisma, too. That is why I also love Tommy Lee Jones. When I discovered the 1988 neo noir Stormy Monday boasted both Jones and Bean, well, you can guess how long it took me to make that purchasing decision.

Call girl Kate (Melanie Griffith) is trying to get out from under the thumb of corrupt businessman Cosmo (Tommy Lee Jones). Kate’s been waiting tables, hoping to leave New Castle, England and return home to Minnesota. Unfortunately Cosmo arrives for ‘America Week’, hoping to buy out club owner Finney (Sting) along with other strategic business and political maneuvers. Finney’s everyman Brendan (Sean Bean) meets Kate accidentally and the two become romantically involved, unaware of the plot brewing around them until it’s too late.

I have to say right away that my dad hated Stormy Monday. He claims it’s the weakest film in which he’s seen any of the four leads. If you don’t like atmospheric neo noir films, Michael Figgis’ 1986 moody Monday is not for you. Nowadays I think audiences favor fast paced mystery-suspense thrillers; unlike sixty years ago, where quiet, deliberate noirs slowly built to twists a la Laura or The Maltese Falcon. While its brewing story and blues music have an audience, I can see how not everyone would like Stormy Monday. Dare I say its style is too European for us me me me Americans? Perhaps.


Thankfully we do indeed have a fine cast in Stormy Monday. In only his second major film, the very young, very blonde, sans tattoos, and be-earringed Sean Bean holds his own against some serious performers. Purely on an indulgent scale, that must have been some choice to make back in the day between Sean Bean and the equally young and pretty pouting Sting. We meet Brendan as a down and out baby faced musician, but he’s quickly drawn into this crooked New Castle underground along with Kate. Melanie Griffith also starts out bright eyed and busy tailed, or at least hopeful, but her despair over her inescapable fate takes over despite her romance. Griffith’s part is also a bit depressing. I can see her need to vary material, but after the light hearted Working Girl, folks might be turned off by Griffith’s dark turn here. The timing of the two films, however, was critical in boosting the cast and crew to new fame. Bean and Griffith make a cute on screen couple, but also an odd one. Some of their scenes are fine and steamy, but in others, Griffith looks far too old for Bean. He’s yet to become his rugged and villainous self, remember.

Of course, Tommy Lee Jones is his wicked self ala Under Siege. We don’t get as much of him as I might have liked, but Jones’ presence alone raises the level of every scene he’s in. We know the situation is dangerous because Tommy Lee Jones says so. We know Cosmo can do whatever he wants and always has his way. This of course, can’t bode well for Sting’s Finney. Maybe Sting has never fully made it on screen as an actor’s actor, but even today his one named star power is a given. Instead of trying to stretch his actor chops like Dune or The Bride, Sting plays the owner of a jazz club who has babes and occasionally plays bass. But of course, it will be Finney who gets his way, right? Jones and Sting play a fine cat and mouse game while Bean and Griffith inadvertently interfere. Who has the upper hand? Who is really the star of the film? You aren’t always sure.

Stormy Monday involves a secondary, largely musical and humorous plot involving the real life Krakow Jazz Ensemble. Some of their music is good, some of it is so bad it’s funny, and some of it is just plain bad. It’s not all meant to be easily listening, but you must like blues or jazz to enjoy Stormy Monday. The on location production looks very eighties and very poor, but the music, mood, and ambiance are very rich. It’s strange that some of America’s trends and pop culture comes from the UK, but the country’s film production seems so low budget and ill defined compared to Hollywood. The film’s ‘America Week’ theme has eighties connotations and relations on screen and off.

Thankfully, the music touches everybody the same way. All the music onscreen has a source, whether its being played in clubs, through the juke box, or because everybody is listening to the same radio station. Director and writer Figgis ingeniously unifies the entire film through song. Naturally those that like Stormy Monday can see it as the precursor to future fine work from Michael Figgis. Leaving Las Vegas, anyone?

My dvd was very affordable at under $10, but it has little features beyond trailers and weak menus. The story by Figgis is perhaps a routine one, but the atmosphere and music, along with fine lead performances and chemistry, make Stormy Monday a must for any fan of the cast. A small indulgence for you this Valentine’s Day.

 

Caravaggio Weird, but Good

By Kristin Battestella

 

Like most Italians, I’ve always known of Caravaggio and his paintings. Like most Sean Bean fans, I was very happy when the 1986 film Caravaggio came out on DVD last year. It’s weird, hot and bothered, full of layers inside and out. It may not be for everyone, but Caravaggio is an art house lover’s dream.

 

Young painter with promise Caravaggio (Dexter Fletcher, Nigel Terry) mixes business with pleasure as he sells himself and his art on the street. Eventually he’s taken in by the church and paints religious masterpieces, all the while living a very heady and underground lifestyle. The beautiful Lena (Tilda Swinton) and street fighter Ranuccio (Sean Bean) model for some of Caravaggio’s paintings, but their twisted love triangle cannot last.

 

When I think of Caravaggio, firstly I think of the incredible canvases onscreen. Director Derek Jarman (War Requiem, Jubilee) has recreated Caravaggio’s paintings in painstaking detail. The highlights of the film are the sequences showing Caravaggio painting his masterpieces from posing models. These scenes are lit perfectly and saturated with vivid colors. It’s as if the art itself was on the screen. American audiences may not take to this quiet, still life look and feel, but you can’t deny the breathtaking living art in Caravaggio.

 

On the other had, this is one very weird and out there movie! The loud and maniacal sequences are too dizzying and border on the senseless at worst and seem out of place amid the film’s silently beautiful scenes at best. Viewers can take their pick on production values-either considering them extremely poor and low budget or intentionally sporadic and sparse. Why couldn’t Jarman make a straight, period piece costume drama detailing the life of Caravaggio? Regardless of the film’s finances, Jarman chose to make Caravaggio the way he did. Yes, a lot of it is incredibly weird and too over the top, but parts of the movie are also a lot of fun. The intentional anachronisms in Caravaggio add much needed humor and a light air to the film. Typewriters, motorcycles, and calculators add some fun class to this abstract time and place. These pieces also add commentary and statements without words, much as a painting would. Obsessive muckrakers clicking away on typewriters and priests chachinging on their silver calculators-these subtlies say more than exposition ever could.

 

Despite its lovely look and bizarre feel, the cast of Caravaggio is what makes the movie. Nigel Terry (Excalibur) is fittingly weird and heady as the adult Caravaggio. He is perfect as the X factor and catalyst between Lena and Ranuccio. Its no surprise that this trio worked with Jarman again in 1989’s War Requiem. Although neither is the star and I wish both were onscreen even more than they are, the film debuts of Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton, The Chronicles of Narnia) and Sean Bean (Sharpe, The Lord of the Rings) put the icing on Caravaggio’s cake. Swinton is both ugly and gorgeous as the jealous and power obsessed Lena. She starts out dirty, ugly, and boyish, but ends up lush, gorgeous, and tragic. Swinton doesn’t say much here, but her onscreen presence is undeniable. Her chemistry with the very young and beautiful Sean Bean is also exquisite.



Sure, I like Sean Bean, but you can’t often call his villainous performances or rough heroes beautiful. In Caravaggio, however, Bean’s Ranuccio is hot, aggressive, statuesque- but severely flawed at the same time. It is no wonder Caravaggio falls prey and preys upon these two misguided young lovers. The cast and the silent symbolism of power and wealth make the film-particularly during one lovely modeling scene between Bean and Terry and the subsequent hammock scene between Swinton and Bean. Yowza!



Naturally, it is easy to see the parallels between director Derek Jarman and his onscreen Caravaggio here. Yes, there’s a lot of subtext and statements both veiled and exposed, but there’s so much more to this film than speculation about Jarman’s controversial life and style. I myself am not a big fan of directors or writers knocking on audiences’ heads with obvious statements and commentary. Thankfully, Caravaggio can be enjoyed for its weird and beautiful style onscreen without any heavy handedness from Jarman. If you’re looking for it, you’ll find it, but you don’t have to adore Jarman to appreciate the vision here. Some of that vision is, in a way, coming from the titular sixteenth century Italian painter himself. His paintings and style dominate the screen- adding to his art and genius and his bittersweet life.

 

The dvd presentation mirrors the portrait-esque style of Caravaggio with interactive, moving menus. The subtitles are essential in picking up the film’s soft dialogue. There are plenty of interviews and commentary, conceptual art, storyboards, trailers, and galleries to immerse the viewer with Jarman and Caravaggio himself. My DVD also came with a lovely write about the film.

 

I think it goes without saying that not every is going to like Caravaggio. Although there is nothing extremely overt, prudes or anti art house folks should avoid anything by Derek Jarman. If you have a problem with homoeroticism or anti Catholicism on film, you should also skip Caravaggio. That being said, fans of the titular painter and Jarman’s work probably already adore this film. Bean and Swinton fans should tune in as well. Some of its bad, some of its good-and some of it you may not fully get the first time around, but Caravaggio is a beautiful film with a talented cast. Take a chance on this gem today.

 

 

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