Movie Review: I Am Sam

If Sean Penn was an actor who cared for such accolades you’d think his role in I Am Sam was chosen for kudos alone but knowing this notoriously prickly player, you can bet it was for the challenge. Penn is quite incredible as the retarded father of a bright eight year old. Unfortunately he has the mental age of a seven year old. Regardless he’s taken great care of the child and would surpass most fathers with far greater faculties.

Penn not only perfectly takes on the characteristics of the mentally challenged, he bares the soul of the man as well. He’s matched by one of the most extraordinary child actors for some time with Dakota Fanning. She illuminates the screen every time she passes by. Michelle Pfieffer has never been better as the hot and bothered lawyer who takes on the case when little Lucy is removed from her father’s care. And Dianne Wiest is particularly effective as the acrophobic neighbour who plays surrogate mother to this strange family.

I Am Sam can be a bit schmaltzy at times but the honest acting of the cast keeps it real. It also enjoys a sunny soundtrack of Beatles covers played to great effect by contemporary artists.Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $35.95, click here.

The Roadshow I Am Sam Competition!

Thanks to Roadshow Home Entertainment, She Said and Total DVD have three copies of I Am Sam to give away. If you want your chance to win, click click here.

Bend It Like Beckham

Bend It Like Beckham kicked a goal this year by becoming the feelgood sleeper hit of the year. Timed to coincide with the 2002 World Cup, this charmer told the unusual story of a British Indian girl who wanted be a soccer player.

The British film industry seems now almost purpose built to produce little charmers like this. There must be some feelgood factory in London somewhere pumping out quirky comedies looking at the lighter side of the British class system. Whether it’s Full Monty or Billy Elliot, these films depict working class strugglers fighting against all odds to make their mark on the world.

Here we have a lower middle class teenager who dreams of kicking a ball around the field like her hero, Posh’s dress-up partner, David Beckham. Unfortunately she’s a girl and an Indian one at that who is expected to learn how to cook not learn how to curve a ball. She joins an all-girl soccer team unbeknownst to her family when she should be preparing for her sister’s wedding.

Writer/director Gurinder Chadha knows the world well and it’s her intimate knowledge that shines from the screen. Her actors seem privy to their characters as well and newcomer Parminder Nagra is a real find. She is so perfectly petulant in this role you want to clip her over the ear hole as much as you want to cheer her on. Her family is played by a delightful group of Asian actors who are hysterical in their attempts to keep their wayward child in line.

Bend It Like Beckham is a a great film made with much love and humour, a feelgood flick that will definitely give you a kick.

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $33.95, click here.

December 10, 2002

Movie Review – “About a Boy”

About a Boy

(Based on the book by Nick Hornby)

Directed by Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz.

Comedy and a beautiful soundtrack.

Will (Hugh Grant) is a lonely selfish loser who learns some important lessons from an unavoidable relationship with young geeky-boy named Marcus (Nicholas Hoult.)

Will’s day is made up of units. Filling in units of time with leisure activities. Watching countdown, buying CDs, playing pool, shopping for designer clothes and conjuring up ways to meet women. Will doesn’t work and he’s never had to either. His father’s success as the writer of a Christmas song keeps the royalties flowing in and keeps Will at home and on the couch.

Will develops a single mother predator strategy when he hits on the idea that single mother’s make brilliant no-strings attached flings. With this in mind he seeks out the local support group SPAT (Single Parents Alone Together) armed with the a single father sob story a fictitious 2 year old son called Ned.

It’s here Will meets his first target of prey, single mum Suzie (Victoria Smurfit) and scores his first date, a SPAT picnic in the park. Their first date brings with it, along with Suzie’s own baby, a tag-along kid, Marcus, the son of Suzie’s friend Fiona (Toni Collete.) This is the beginning of the unusual bond that develops throughout the film between Will and Marcus.

Will plays a reluctant default-type guardian as Marcus pushes his way into Will’s life seeking comfort, security and shelter from the bullies at school and his mother’s suicidal depression at home. As this is happening , much to his surprise, Will finds himself taking an interest in Marcus’s well being. His first adrenaline hit of caring outside his own miserable life rushes through his heart when he takes Marcus to buy a “cool” pair of trainers to help him blend in at school and escape the vicious bullies.

That’s when Will meets Rachel, the most desirable single mum yet and he finds himself falling in love for the first time. “Oh what a tangled web we weave” the situation is complicated by the fact that Rachel is under the impression that Will is Marcus’s father. Will’s heart is struck when Rachel angrily pushes him away pointing out the shallowness of his deceitful behaviour. Will crawls back home, finds his place on the couch, and reverts back filling in units of time.

Will’s solitude brings him to the realisation of how much he cares about Rachel, Marcus and Fiona – a realisation that sees the normally self-obsessed Will put himself on the line to help Fiona and Marcus. The care and support he uses to save his friends actually pulls him out of his own self-centred hole and he end up saving himself at the same time.

The Soundtrack is from “Badly Drawn Boy” and it’s brilliant and definitely one of the best elements in the film. Lots of full lush guitar sounds and simple effective basslines. It’s beautifully complementary to the film.


Caroline Kinny-Lewis

August 7, 2002

Mulholland Drive DVD review and competition

Director David Lynch is infamous for his evocative dream-like films that seduce the senses and guide you through mysterious and often dangerous worlds.

With Mulholland Drive he has outdone himself with a nightmarish, noirish tour through the darker side of the Hollywood dream factory and the story of a little girl lost in LA that is one of the sexiest films in recent memory.

Mulholland Drive is a strange and sordid tale of an innocent seduced by forces she (and indeed the viewer) can barely understand. Australian actress Naomi Watts is remarkable in the role of the naive would-be actress. She shows an incredible range in a multi-layered film that allows her to play dual roles, even roles within roles when you see her change into character before your eyes. The life of her character becomes increasingly more peculiar when a sultry brunette (played impeccably by Laura Hanning) appears naked and unannounced in her apartment.

This is only the beginning of the bizarre events that lead them through a typically Twin Peaks style world of smoky cabarets, billowing red curtains and suspicious strangers. The key to enjoying Mulholland Drive as with most of David Lynch’s work is not to try and interpret the story but to allow yourself to be swept along by the experience. Indeed in the final third the film bends back upon itself and refutes much of what has gone before.

Part of this strange open-endedness comes from the fact that this film has a history as odd as the movie itself. It was originally intended to be the pilot for a new TV series but execs were nervous about its heightened sexuality and its graphic violence (indeed the opening scenes of a car crash are especially shocking).

They turned the pilot down and Lynch went away and added additional scenes and the results proved sensational, especially among critics who religiously included the film in their top ten lists last year. It went on to win Best Director from both the Boston and Los Angeles Film Critics and Best Picture from the New York Critics as well as reaping the coveted Best Director award at Cannes. Not bad for a film consigned to the dust heap.Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $35.95, click here.


Thanks to Roadshow Entertainment, She Said and Total DVD have three copies of Mulholland Drive to give away. If you want your chance to own the most star-studded, sexiest and spookiest thriller in years, click click here.

Harold and Maude

It would probably be safe to say that there has probably never been another film like Harold and Maude.

Certainly it is similar in style and tone to many other films of the late ’60s/early ’70s. It has the same incongruous blend of whimsy and black comedy. It has similar themes of alienation and anti-establishment sentiment and a quirky line in morality. It also has the ubiquitous folky soundtrack, provided by none other than Cat Stevens before he became Yusef Islam. In fact if you want to see modern homages to this curious kind of romantic comedy, refer to the films of Wes Anderson including Rushmore and the more recent The Royal Tenembaums.

But no-one has dared go anywhere near the emotional terrain and indeed the challenging sexuality of the film. This is because it is about the relationship between a young man and an old woman. We have seen countless wet dreams about young girls and older men and are made to feel this is acceptable if not desirable. But for some reason, the reverse is seen as stomach churning and sickening in the extreme.

Harold, played in a definitive career moment by Harold Budd, is an odd young man given to staging suicide attempts that cause endless indifference from his upper class family. Maude is an eccentric old woman who despite her age is perfectly in keeping with the hippy ethos of the time. This iconic role was taken on by an equally iconic actress, the remarkable Ruth Gordon. Apart from having acted in dozens of films in a career that began in 1915 and ended over 70 years later, Gordon was also a celebrated writer, penning the classic Hepburn/Tracy vehicle Adam’s Rib. Through her joy and incandescence, Harold sees himself in a new light and learns to love life and indeed learns to love Maude.

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $35.95, click here.

The Year of Living Dangerously

Here is an odd thing. A film of considerable political integrity that is also one of the sexiest thrillers ever made.

Much of the sizzle comes from the onscreen chemistry between Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver. On their own each actor is a force of nature. Together they make are volcanic.

The setting for this film is rather rare as well. It traces the last moments of the Indonesian dictator Sukarno who was deposed in the 1965 revolution. This may be the only mainstream international film set in the region and it has been applauded for its authenticity and courage, thanks to astute direction from Australian Peter Weir.

In Living Dangerously, Guy Hamilton is a journalist on his first job as a foreign correspondent. The dull assignment soon hots up and Guy finds himself the best reporter on the job with the help of his photographer, half-Chinese dwarf Billy Kwan and his relationship with diplomat Jill Bryant. These relationships become a metaphor for the entangled political struggle itself that erupts into a shattering, unforgettable conclusion.

The truly standout performance is from the diminutive Linda Hunt who plays an Asian man, even though she is in fact a Caucasian woman. The transformation is spell-binding and never short of being utterly convincing. Far more than being an extraordinary act of illusion, it is a committed performance in an impassioned role that won her a much deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $35.95, click here.

June 18, 2002

DVD Reviews : Legally Blonde & Calamity Jane

Legally Blonde

This is a story of a different kind of blonde ambition. Indeed the path that Reese Witherspoon takes in Legally Blonde from baffled bimbette to legal eagle is not too dissimilar from the one taken by its Australian director Robert Luketic.Luketic was a local film school graduate who had gone against the grain by producing sunny light entertainment while his classmates made deep and meaningful art. His classmates must be kicking themselves these days as Luketic’s broad sensibilities led him to make Titsiana Booberini, a short film starring Tanya Lacey as a dowdy check-out chick with dreams beyond her station. When the film was exhibited at Sundance it was a sensation and the director was mobbed as he left the cinema. In true Hollywood style, he gained an agent and representation in less time that it took to screen the film.

Their faith seems well rewarded as Legally Blonde, his first feature film, went to number one in its first week out in America. It’s not hard to see why. The film sparkles with good-natured exuberance yet still manages to make a meaningful statement of its own: don’t judge a book by its cover and beauty should never be an impediment to brains.

Reese Witherspoon plays a valley girl type who follows her boyfriend to Harvard in the hope that transforming herself into a more serious young woman might win him back. Witherspoon is, as always, stunning. She recalls the best blondes that came before her like Marilyn Monroe and Judy Holliday who like Witherspoon had the intelligence and timing to play dumb brilliantly. You sense that Witherspoon has depths that we haven’t yet explored. Indeed she deserves to inherit the mantle worn by other aging America’s sweethearts like Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan, except you sense her range might be even greater than anyone has imagined, just like her character in Legally Blonde.

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $34.95, click here.

Calamity Jane

If you thought Doris Day was a prim and proper epitome of ’50s virginity, think again. Here Day plays a boisterous uber-tomboy, the fiery hellcat of the Old West in this musical comedy cum romantic western that lost none of its charm over the years (although it has gained some interesting new interpretations).

In Calamity Jane, Doris Day dons buckskins, boots and a scout cap to play the legendary forntierswoman who tries to save the local saloon from ruin by bringing back to her backwood town Adelaide Adams, a star from Chicago. Unfortunately she mistakes her maid Katie for the artist herself. After a disastrous debut, Katie settles in town and sets up home with Calam until it looks like she’s moving in on the man Calamity loves but will never have. After much soul seaching and stirring singing, the paths of true love converge and Calamity gets her man (although not the one she was initially hoping to lasoo).

Calamity Jane crackles with good humour and excellent songs, the most memeorable being ‘Secret Love’. The song went on to win the Academy Award as best song of the year and the recording sold over a million. As Wild Bill Hickock, Howard Keel was in a class of his own when it came to playing robust roles in musical comedies and here he shines most brightly especially during his rendition of “Higher Than a Hawk”. Other highlights include ‘The Black Hills of Dakota’, ‘I’ve Got a Heart Full of Honey’, ‘Keep It Under Your Hat’ and ‘I Can Do Without You!’, not to mention ‘A Woman’s Touch’, in which Katie and Calam set up house together, that has contemporary audiences howling for its camp undertones.

Calamity Jane is such a sunny and endearing entertainment one wonders why no-one has bothered to bring it to the stage in recent years. No calamity there, cause you can own a copy of it yourself of DVD.

May 21, 2002

DVD Review – Truly Madly Deeply

The acclaimed tele-movie that launched director Anthony Minghella’s distinguished big screen feature career, Truly Madly Deeply is a tour de force romantic comedy, rich with insight, sensitivity and real heartfelt emotion. A more than welcome addition to the zone 4 DVD catalogue, this delightful classic wins through with dazzling performances from the lead and supporting ensemble cast, not to mention Minghella’s daring willingness to subvert the usual romantic comedy paradigms, favouring a full satisfying melancholic piquancy over cliched saccharine fairytale wish fulfillment.

Opening with a searing exploration of grief and loss heart-rendingly portrayed by the magnificent Juliet Stevenson, Truly Madly Deeply immediately sets itself apart with its unshrinking focus on the tortured widowhood of Nina. A sweet, warm-hearted language expert with a good job, loving friends and a ramshackle apartment, we see that Nina is nevertheless brave facing her way through the depth of despair – she simply cannot come to terms with the sudden loss of her beloved husband, Jamie (Alan Rickman), a year before.

Not exactly hysterical subject matter. But it’s the film’s initial embracing of Nina’s pain, which allows the audience to go on the fantasy journey that follows, as a ghostly Jamie comes back from the dead to comfort and ease Nina on her way to a new life without him. Indeed, it is because we feel exactly how much she loved him, that it becomes easier to believe Nina’s longing could have brought Jamie back. Or, later, to understand that the ghostly Jamie’s real purpose in returning is to help set Nina free from her undying attachment.

So while you may sob in the first half hour, this will only heighten your sense of joy at the return of love lost. Similarly, you will have real empathy as Nina gradually begins to realise that living with the ghosts of the past is no substitute for embracing life and moving forward to new pastures. One of the truly great date flicks, Truly Madly Deeply also boasts a stirring classical meets contemporary score, stretching effectively from Bach to the pub sing-a-long strains of ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’. A must-to-own triumph for any DVD collection.

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $27.95


She said, in conjunction with Total DVD, has five copies of Truly Madly Deeply on DVD to giveaway, thanks to the generosity of Fox Home Entertainment. To win this wonderful prize, all you have to do is , answer a simple question and enter the draw.

March 13, 2002

DVD Reviews – Little Man Tate

Marking the directorial debut of Academy Award winning actress Jodie Foster, is the simple but effectively told story of a troubled child genius and his relationship with his trailer park barmaid mother. Originally released back in 1991 at the height of her popularity and career, the film also features Foster in the comparatively small but pivotal role of the devoted barmaid mum who is daunted by and fears her eight year old son’s prodigious brilliance.Hotly anticipated at the time of its release, disappointed critics and failed to ignite the box office beyond a slow simmer. A small film that self-consciously failed to capitalise on the star-turned-director’s serious actress clout at the box office, <Tate eschewed the sort of fiery bleak dramatics that had made Foster a star, in favour of a straightforward story un-flashily told.

A decade on, it is perhaps for that very reason, that appears to have aged well. Proving herself to be an assured first-time director, the consummate actress Foster also puts in a suitably compelling performance, with equally effective support from a cast of notables and talented newcomers including Dianne Wiest, Debi Mazar, Harry Connick Jnr and Adam Hann-Byrd debuting in the title role. Low-key but effective DVD entertainment

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $27.95

March 13, 2002

DVD Review – Bedazzled: Special Edition

A re-working of the minor Dudley Moore and Peter Cooke ’60s comedy classic that infamously featured Racquel Welch as the seven deadly sin ‘Lust’, the basic story line of Bedazzled is itself merely a variation on the age old Faustian theme – a person who sells their soul to the devil for love, riches, immortality? (insert suitable enticement here).In the original Bedazzled, this perennial morality tale was warped and re-fashioned to delightfully ridiculous if lightweight comic effect, with the devious, wily, British foppishness of Cook effectively pitted against the dimwitted Two Ronnies buffoonery of Moore. Relocated to America and given a devilish boob job three decades later, the new <Bedazzled perhaps lacks some of the original’s frothy comedic oomph – after all, it was a pretty stale concept even way back then, not withstanding the cheeky decision to upgrade Satan to the role of mischievous seductress with flawless supermodel beauty.

However, the remake is saved by two key factors. Firstly, Brendan Fraser is a delectable hunk with a genuine comic flair, who is always eminently watchable, even when his films aren’t. Secondly, Liz Hurley has great fun with the role of Satan, giving the film a sparky, nudge-nudge Benny Hill meets Not The 9 O’Colck News playfulness. Add to that a solid Special Edition package, complete with behind-the-scenes featurette, entertaining interactive menus, deleted scenes and two engaging audio commentaries, and you have a sturdy little DVD performer that’s just perfect for an undemanding Saturday night at home on the couch.

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $27.95

March 13, 2002

DVD Review – “The Mexican”

Somewhat of a box office and critical disappointment on release last year, even despite the presence of two of Hollywood’s most bankable and acclaimed stars in Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, nevertheless The Mexican is still a much better film than many have given it credit for. Definitely worth picking up on DVD, this meandering but engaging comedy thriller is an unexpected, quirky delight that should please more than just the usual posse of Pitt and Roberts fans.

Cheekily blending smart snappy dialogue, a convoluted plot, tangential storytelling and a healthy disrespect for the marquee pulling power of its five star headline cast, The Mexican was poo-poo-ed on release for giving the audience too few (and too short) scenes featuring both key stars on screen together at the same time. Ironically, however, this is also arguably one of the film’s great strengths.

By not subjugating story and style to the box-office-centric demands of star power, The Mexican manages to rise above the usual problems associated with modern Hollywood star vehicles, delivering a distinctive film with a real sense of character, place and an engagingly unpredictable story. The film has also been given a smashing Collector’s Edition package, replete with commentary, deleted scenes and behind the scenes footage. Like Molly says, do yourself a favour.

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au

March 13, 2002