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Jennifer Litchfield (Auckland, New Zealand)

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The Cat's Meow [DVD] (2001)
The Cat's Meow [DVD] (2001)
Dvd ~ Kirsten Dunst
Price: £2.40

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars �I�m asking you to join me in an oath of silence�, 13 Jan. 2005
This review is from: The Cat's Meow [DVD] (2001) (DVD)
The Cat's Meow offers an insight into what may (or may not) have occurred during a fateful pleasure cruise aboard media mogul William Randolph Hearst's yacht in 1924. One guest didn't survive the trip, and afterwards the other passengers only ever talked about what happened during those few days in riddles. The film is at pains to point out that it only depicts one possible version of events, which unfortunately does rather undermine the convincing storyline.
The story begins in Hollywood, "a land just off the coast of the planet earth", in that decadent decade dominated by the Charleston, flappers, and bootleg moonshine. The women's costumes are thus visually spectacular - all satin and feathers - but some of the actors seem to be overwhelmed by the splendour, and appear somewhat wooden as a result. The notable exception to this is Kirsten Dunst, who plays the effervescent Marion Davies, Hearst's mistress. However, the best lines in the film surely belong to the wonderfully cynical and sarcastic Joanna Lumley.
The thing the movie does capture to perfection is the double standards extant in Hollywood. One of the characters disdainfully dismisses the Prohibition, claiming that alcohol isn't illegal "for us". And that seems to pretty much sum up the attitude of the film fraternity at the time - that they are above rules and regulations. Even murder, it would seem, can be hushed up.
This isn't a murder mystery as such; anyone with a thorough knowledge of Hollywood history will know who died, and the whispers surrounding the event. But the average viewer may question if, after all this time, they really care what the truth is. Better instead to enjoy this film as a fiction.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Two Disc Theatrical Edition) [DVD] [2002]
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Two Disc Theatrical Edition) [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Elijah Wood
Offered by Todays Great Deal
Price: £1.31

4.0 out of 5 stars �What can men do against such reckless hate?�, 25 July 2004
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a worthy sequel to the outstanding The Fellowship of the Ring. It is much darker than its predecessor in both mood and in the very coloration of the film itself. The initial scenes as the audience falls through the inky blackness of the mines of Moria, following the epic duel between Gandalf and the inferno that is the Balrog, sets the tone for the rest of the film.
The Fellowship of the first film has splintered into three groups - Merry and Pippin have been captured by Uruk-hai, and are now being tracked by Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. Frodo and Sam are slowly edging nearer to the fires of Mount Doom in Mordor where they can destroy the terrible burden that is the ring. In their quest they are aided by the wonderfully dichotomous character that is Gollum/Smeagol. And The Two Towers really is Gollum's film. He is a triumph of digital wizardry that the audience will both loathe and wish redemption for.
The other major computer-generated characters - Treebeard and his ilk - are perhaps not so successfully believable; although few viewers could fail to be moved by the "last march of the Ents". The settings are simply stunning; both the natural scenery of windswept plains and craggy mountains, and the built sets, such as the Kingdom of Rohan that echoes the Viking settlements of old.
At the conclusion of the Battle of Helm's Deep, where (despite being a supposedly purpose-bred fighting force) the Uruk-hai are massacred by a handful of men, Gandalf prophesies that "the battle for Middle Earth is about to begin". The audience is left to ponder what further horrors, heartbreaks and triumphs are in store for the adventurers.

Cold Comfort Farm [DVD] [1995] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Cold Comfort Farm [DVD] [1995] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Price: £9.05

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "While I'm here, might I make a few changes?", 2 May 2004
Cold Comfort Farm is a jolly film that bounces along as merrily as its theme tune. It's a rollicking good comedy with a laugh-out-loud collection of Dickensian characters (the doom-stricken Starkadders, the rustic Adam Lambsbreath, and the upper crust Hawk-Monitors). Certainly the film is very over-the-top and silly, but it's light-hearted fun - a welcome alternative to the glut of psychological, heart-wrenching, blood-and-guts fare on the market.
The Starkadders live on the bleak acres of Cold Comfort Farm, where "the cows are barren and the sows are farren". Into this gloomy and eccentric setting comes young, 1930s-modern Flora Poste, who sets to winning the hearts and minds of Cold Comfort's inhabitants, and dragging the Starkadders into the twentieth century. Along the way she manages to rearrange and enliven her own life too.
Kate Beckinsale (prior to her arrival on the scene of big-budget American flicks) is a likeable and chirpy young lady with a talent for organisation. In the supporting roles, Joanna Lumley is delightfully sarcastic as Flora's incongruously named aunt, Mary Smiling, who has a rather unusual hobby. And Ian McKellen is a real scene-stealer as the fire-and-brimstone preacher of the Church of the Quivering Brethren.
The plot revolves around Great Aunt Ada Doom and the 'narsty' thing she saw in the woodshed nigh on 70 years ago. There is also the mysterious wrong perpetrated on Flora's father by the Starkadders sometime in the dim and misty past. So it is a tad frustrating that the audience is never let in on either of these secrets! But these are minor quibbles in what is otherwise an excellent comedic romp, with some interesting and atmospheric cinematography. A very good (and very British) laugh.

Johnny English [VHS] [2003]
Johnny English [VHS] [2003]
Offered by pkeylock
Price: £9.94

0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "It's an unmitigated disaster, English!", 11 Mar. 2004
Johnny English is a tired comedy, with stale and predictable gags. Consider the following example of outrageously unfunny verbal wit: "I think I'd rather have my bottom impaled on a giant cactus than exchange pleasantries with that jumped up Frenchman," says Johnny, unknowing that the 'jumped up Frenchman' is standing right behind him. It doesn't even raise the ghost of a smile. Rowan Atkinson should resign himself to the fact that his metier is as the silent Mr. Bean.
The film begins well enough, with an amusing daydream sequence, where Johnny English - pen-pusher at M17 (comic cousin of Britain's M16 spy agency) fantasises about his dangerous, dashing life if he were the notoriously brilliant Agent One. When Agent One, and the entire M17 spy corps are killed - through English's blunders - his dream becomes reality. It is up to him to save England from the machinations of a megalomaniac Frenchman, who wishes to claim the British throne and turn the country into a massive prison.
With a plot and characters like these, there is obviously the potential for Johnny English to be a humorous Bond-spoof, but the potential remains largely inactivated. There are occasional moments of genuine mirth, such as a hearse being chased by a tow truck, and the subsequent scene in the graveyard, but these are few and far between. The jokes are signposted a mile off, and include juvenile toilet humour. One does get the impression the scriptwriters were rather low on inspiration and in the resultant morass, one joke is even utilised twice. Ironically, the funniest moment of the movie is tacked on part way through the end credits, by which time most of the audience will have switched off in disappointment.

Saving Grace [DVD] [2000] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Saving Grace [DVD] [2000] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

10 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Have you tried plant food?", 16 Feb. 2004
Saving Grace is surely one of the leading contenders for the 'How to Ruin an Adequate Film in the Final Few Minutes' award. Naturally if you mix a quaint Cornish village - largely populated by retired genteel ladies - with a liberal dose of marijuana, a certain amount of silliness will ensue. However, the last seven minutes of the film descend into the totally ludicrous and is not even redeemed by being particularly funny. It is a real shame, because this comedy has the potential to be every bit as good as 1998's Waking Ned Devine, which also portrayed a picturesque small village and its oddball inhabitants trying to extract themselves from a tricky situation.
The protagonist of Saving Grace is middle-aged, recently widowed Grace Trevethyn, whose husband's legacy of bad debts has forced her into an unconventional way of earning money. Helped by her gardener, Matthew, she turns her horticultural expertise to the lucrative cultivation of marijuana. Unfortunately, this leads her into confrontation with the local police, her husband's creditors and a French drug baron. . . . . . . . . . whom all turn up at her greenhouse simultaneously. The relationship and rapport between Grace and Matthew is well-portrayed, and Brenda Blethyn gets the viewer emotionally involved with her likeable character - you can really feel what she is going through.
The casting of the minor roles is excellent, even if some of them are rather outlandishly eccentric. However, the transformation of Jacques the drug lord into Grace's romantic interest is highly implausible and does not fit the tone of the movie at all. And surely hydroponics is not such a revolution in the world of cannabis growing? Sadly the film swaps gentle humour for slapstick and ends up being as fake as the marijuana plants.

Finding Nemo (2 Disc Collector's Edition) [DVD] [2003]
Finding Nemo (2 Disc Collector's Edition) [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Albert Brooks
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £6.22

37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You're ridin' it dude. Check it out", 31 Jan. 2004
Finding Nemo is, quite simply, brilliant. Computer animation has come on in leaps and bounds since the days of Toy Story (1995) and Finding Nemo stunningly attests to this. From the vibrantly coloured and gently undulating coral on the reef, to the murky depths of Sydney harbour, to the clever use of reflection and refraction off the fish tank, this is a film in which the constantly changing scenery is a large part of its attraction. The original and well-judged score enhances the viewer's sense of wonder and their empathy with the characters.
But computer wizardry alone cannot create a great film. Finding Nemo is also blessed with an action-packed story and lots of laughs (largely courtesy of Dory - a well-meaning blue tang fish with short-term memory loss). Nemo is a young clown fish, eager to test his boundaries, who is caught by a diver and taken to an aquarium in Sydney. Whilst there, he makes friends with a motley collection of aquatic creatures who help him plot his escape. Meanwhile, his over-protective father, Marlin, begins a frantic quest to find his son. Along the way he is helped and hindered by three new-age sharks, some bodacious-dude turtles, a whale, and a monstrous angler fish (amongst others).
And yes, the ending may be a little mushy, but after such an epic adventure, the viewer will find the sentimentality relatively easy to stomach. Indeed, the character development is surprisingly deep for a children's movie, and it's a nice change to have not every character being entirely good or bad. Parents in the audience will certainly identify with Marlin's dilemma of wanting to protect his child, and yet coming to realise that the time comes when one has to let go a little.

Cruel Intentions [DVD] [1999]
Cruel Intentions [DVD] [1999]
Dvd ~ Sarah Michelle Gellar
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £1.91

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "You will be discreet about this. . .?", 24 Jan. 2004
Cruel Intentions has been slammed by critics, who have unfairly and unfavourably compared it with 1989's Dangerous Liaisons (both films stem from Choderlos de Laclos's novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses). Whereas Dangerous Liaisons is fairly faithful to the original, Cruel Intentions manipulates the plot - throwing a twist in the tail - and relocates the milieu from 18th century France to the present-day Upper East Side of New York, where underneath the veneer of respectability, wealthy teenagers plot each other's downfalls.

Stepsiblings Kathryn Merteuil and Sebastian Valmont are two such teenagers. They amuse themselves by arranging reputation-destroying paybacks for those who have wronged them, and make wagers on the outcome. The focus of the movie is Sebastian's attempt to make a conquest of the Headmaster's virginal daughter, Annette (who, in a heavy-handed attempt at symbolism, wears white throughout almost the entire film).

However, the movie certainly has some memorable high points, beginning at the very outset where the camera swoops fast and low over what appears to be a grassy park studded with rocks; only after the camera angles away does the viewer realise - with some discomfort - that the park is in fact a graveyard. The opening scenes also introduce the appealing and well-judged soundtrack, which includes artists as diverse as Placebo and Fatboy Slim. The Verve's song, Bittersweet Symphony, is an absolutely perfect 'just desserts' track at the film's conclusion.

These kids are incredibly nasty and vindictive, but owing to the verbosity of the script and the almost total lack of adult chaperones appearing on screen, it is difficult at times to remember that they are only teenagers. In the end though, perhaps we just like to see someone be very, very wicked and almost get away with it.

Thelma And Louise [DVD] [1991]
Thelma And Louise [DVD] [1991]
Dvd ~ Susan Sarandon
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £6.94

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We're fugitives now, right? Let's start behaving like that, 21 Jan. 2004
Thelma & Louise is one of those unfortunately all too rare movie gems which really engages the viewer. Watch it with a good friend and you'll find yourselves energised by the zest for life displayed by Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon in their stand out performances. Like Thelma and Louise, you'll want to ditch your jobs for the weekend and beg, borrow or steal a classic convertible car, before setting off on a road trip adventure along the USA's dusty mid-western highways.

The premise of the film is simple - put two ordinary people in an extraordinary situation and watch what happens as events start to snowball. Davis's bored housewife and Sarandon's diner-waitress are typical of thousands of women the world over. A chance encounter on the way to a run-of-the-mill weekend holiday in the mountains starts a chain of happenstance that thrusts the two friends into a situation where there are no signposts and no rules.

Thelma & Louise is often classified as a 'chick flick', but this is perhaps somewhat misleading. Certainly it is true that this is a film about two women, and the men in the story are shown as ineffectual or lacking in understanding (although watch for an entertaining appearance by Brad Pitt which is regarded as his breakthrough role). However one of the main themes dealt with is the emotive and perennially grey area surrounding attempted rape and how the reporting of it is dealt with - this is clearly not the fluff and insubstantiality usually associated with chick flicks. However, despite this and despite the outcome of the film (which on one level could be viewed as tragic), the brilliant and insightful cinematography of Ridley Scott leaves the viewer upbeat and with a tremendous sense of freedom.

Show Me Love [DVD] [2000] [US Import] [NTSC]
Show Me Love [DVD] [2000] [US Import] [NTSC]

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I don't want to be like everyone else", 21 Jan. 2004
Show Me Love is the unfortunately sanitised alternative title of "... Amal", with the result being that it sounds like a B-grade Mills & Boon romance, rather than the gritty and realistic insight into the trials and tribulations of teenage life that it is. The outstanding achievement of the film is that it doesn't fall into the same trap as many other teen flicks - the pitfall of unrealistically glamorising teen lives. Life in Amal is boring, trivial, angst-ridden, small-minded and definitely not at all glamorous.

The titular town is in Sweden and is perhaps best summed up by bored teen Elin contemplating another evening of hanging around and getting drunk: "Why must we live in ... Amal? When something's in, it takes so long to get here, it's out already because we're so ... behind!" In order to liven life up a bit, Elin accepts a dare to kiss Agnes, a socially awkward classmate who is rumoured to be lesbian. The kiss affects Elin more than she cares to admit - she likes Agnes, but Agnes isn't 'cool'; anyone who is different is the butt of cruel jokes, and Elin has her reputation to worry about.

Alexandra Dahlstrom and Rebecca Liljeberg deliver outstanding performances, as indeed does the entire largely teenage cast. This combined with the 'fly on the wall' camera work creates a film that is both naturalistic and engaging (despite the fact that non-Swedish speaking viewers must rely on subtitles). The story builds to the penultimate scene in the school bathroom when, sick of being messed around, Agnes confronts Elin, in a particularly memorable and funny yet touching 'coming out' sequence.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Two Disc Widescreen Edition) [DVD] [2002]
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Two Disc Widescreen Edition) [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Daniel Radcliffe|Rupert Grint|Emma Watson|Kenneth Branagh
Price: £7.39

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Hogwarts is no longer safe. It is as we feared", 21 Jan. 2004
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is much darker and more insidious in nature than 2001's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. This is not meant as a criticism; indeed, it is partly due to the undercurrent of menace, that this second filmic journey into the wizarding world surpasses its predecessor in terms of quality, enjoyment and heart-in-your-mouth scares. While it is funny and light-hearted in places, it doesn't gloss over the unpleasant aspects of life, and deals with racism in particular.

It is Harry's second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but owing to a blocked up wizarding portal, a flying Ford Anglia, and a whomping willow, the beginning of the term is far from ideal. Then Harry begins to hear voices in the walls of the school; voices that no one else is aware of. It would seem that the fabled Chamber of Secrets has been opened, and that the horror residing within has been unleashed upon the students.

It is nice to see how the young actors have developed their roles, although Ron's (Rupert Grint) slightly overdone comedic style would perhaps be more suited to stage performance. The real stars of the film however, are not the actors, but the wonderful and intricately detailed sets. From Hogwarts' gothic cathedral, to the glorious muddle of the Weasley household (complete with self-washing dishes and self-knitting jumpers), to the grime and nastiness of Knockturn Alley, the built sets are far more impressive than the CGI wizardry. In particular, the Quidditch match takes far too long and isn't really all that exciting. Having said that though, the computer-animated outsize spider sequence will likely scare the socks off small children and probably even some parents as well!

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