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Keep warm and watch DVDs indoors this winter! (con’t)

Mystic River
Combining a murder mystery thriller with a richly textured character piece has all the hallmarks of a memorable film. Based on Dennis Lehane?s book of the same name, Mystic River focuses around three friends. Jimmy (Sean Penn), Sean (Kevin Bacon), and Dave (Tim Robbins) all grew up together in the suburbs of Boston. When we first meet them they are playing hockey together. They find some wet concrete, and as most kids would, they immortalise their names in the concrete. A man turns up in a car, intimidates them by identifying himself as a cop and hauls away Dave as a punishment for defacing public property. It turns out the man is a paedophile and the four days Dave spends with him changes him forever. We next see the boys as men. Jimmy is now a grocery store owner with a criminal background, is married to his second wife, Annabeth (Laura Linney), and has three daughters. Sean is a police detective for the Massachusetts State PD who is estranged from his wife. Dave has never fully recovered from his abduction, has a wife, Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden), and a young son. The three have grown apart, but are reunited over the murder of Jimmy?s 19-year-old daughter. Suddenly the question of what happened to Dave in those four days is raised and how much effect one event in childhood can have on someone?s life.

Like any good murder mystery, the less revealed before viewing, the better the suspense, but be rest assured, this film is well worth seeing. Most notable is Sean Penn?s performance. He shows an amazing portrayal of someone who has lost the most important person to him ? his daughter. You can almost feel his pain.

Released July 22 by Roadshow Entertainment


Mona Lisa Smile
Mona Lisa Smile has major chick flick appeal. It features the established talents of Julia Roberts and Marcia Gay Harden, combined with some of the hottest young things of Hollywood – Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Although this film is entertaining, it does not do justice to these talented women. Roberts plays first year graduate Katherine Watson who, in 1953, travels from California to teach at the New England campus of Wellesley College. She is intelligent yet somewhat bohemian, and hopes to find women eager to learn and carve out careers in a changing post-war era. What she finds however, are the best and brightest women learning that an engagement ring on a women’s finger is considered a bigger prize than a well rounded education. Katherine encourages her students to think independently, much to the disdain of the conservative college and many of the students.

This is a classic storyline of an independent thinker overcoming the odds and receiving the respect and admiration she apparently deserves. Unfortunately, the film has stuck so rigidly to this formula, at times it seems trite and predictable. Of course it isn’t real life, but it would be nice for the audience to be as inspired by Watson’s beliefs as some of the girls in her class are. It does, however make any girl relieved that she is growing up in an era where she can make her own life choices.

Despite this criticism, overall the film is entertaining. Dunst, Stiles and Gyllenhaal in their contrasting roles are all a pleasure to watch. Although somewhat overshadowed by her famous co-stars, Ginnifer Goodwin is another emerging star who gives a beautiful portrayal of the self conscious Connie. Definitely one for a girls night.

Mona Lisa Smile to be released on DVD in August