Video ReviewsShadows on the Tube

Things I caught on video or DVD or airplanes or in a rerelease...
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If you have an film you want me to review - just ASK
last update 14.Jul.03

back to the top BOYFRIENDS
urwin and petrucci
dir-scr Neil Hunter, Tom Hunsinger
with James Dreyfus, Mark Sands, Michael Urwin, Andrew Ableson, David Coffey, Darren Petrucci, Michael McGrath, Russell Higgs
release UK May.96; US 14.Feb.97 • 96/UK 1h22 3˝ out of 5 stars
This low-budget British film owes much of its plot to A Midsummer Night's Dream ... or perhaps Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy. It tells the story of three sets of boyfriends who gather for a weekend in a remote cottage. All of them are facing serious relationship issues from Paul (Dreyfus) and Ben (Sands), together for five years and wondering why; to Matt (Urwin) and Owen (Ableson), together for three months and wondering where it's going now; to Will (Coffey) and Adam (Petrucci), just recently met and pretty sure nothing will develop at all.
Fortunately, filmmakers Hunter and Hunsinger (Lawless Heart) have a keen eye for both humour and the universality of the story--the characters' sexuality is not the main thing here. There are several genuinely funny sequences, and the mostly unknown cast is quite good, including a rare dramatic turn from Dreyfus (better known for his goofy roles in Gimme Gimme Gimme, Absolutely Fabulous and The Thin Blue Line). As the characters deal with jealousy, betrayal, misunderstanding and reconciliation, the film could have easily descended into soap opera territory, but the cast and crew keep it from degenerating into either melodrama or the American style of filmmaking in which there are easy answers for everyone by the time the credits roll. This is an accomplished little film that deserves to be seen. And it says several quite powerful things about the nature of relationships and commitment. There’s also a superb 20-minute reunion doc, Boyfriends Revisited, on the DVD. [18 adult themes, language, sexual subject matter] 8.May.96/revisited 24.Jun.03
jolie and burns
dir Stephen Herek; scr John Scott Shepherd, Dana Stevens
with Angelina Jolie, Edward Burns, Tony Shalhoub, Stockard Channing, Christian Kane, Lisa Thornhill, James Gammon, Melissa Errico, Greg Itzin, Max Baker, Jesse James Rutherford
release US 26.Apr.02; UK 28.Mar.03 • Fox 02/US 1h43 2˝ out of 5 stars
This is a typical romantic comedy livened up with a few magical plot points--watchable but nothing special. Lanie (Jolie) is an up-and-coming Seattle TV reporter up for a big network job; then a homeless street prophet (Shalhoub) tells her she's only got a week to live. Suddenly she's doubting life with her fiance baseball pro (Kane), spending more time with her father and sister (Gammon and Thornhill), bickering even more with her cameraman-ex (Burns), and just generally being herself on the off chance that the prophet isn't a madman. Yes, now she's "one crazy chick!"
The screwball formula is so formulaic that we never doubt for a second where the film is going. Director Herek seems to doubt the material, overstating the romance and emotions, and inserting lots of corny musical interludes that only emphasise the contrived plot. Everything is just so Important (with a capital I) that the real issues are trivialised--touched on without any grappling. Meanwhile, the performances are good, from Channing's scene-stealing turn as a veteran TV interviewer to Shalhoub's surprisingly edgy vagrant. Burns is charming as ever, and Jolie shows a gift for smiley comedy ... although her platinum bleach job is truly frightening! From its promising beginning, the film turns into slushy life-examining rom-com, complete with cute kid (Rutherford as Burns' son). But it's not bad, really. Except for Angelina's hair. [12 themes, language] 15.Jul.03
back to the top THE SEA [El Mar]
bergonzini and casamajor
dir Augusti Villaronga; scr Antoni Aloy, Biel Mesquida, Augusti Villaronga
with Roger Casamajor, Bruno Bergonzini, Antónia Torrens, Hernán González, Juli Mira, Simón Andreu, Ángela Molina, David Lozano Nilo Mur, Tony Miquel Vanrell, Victoria Verger, Sergi Moreno
release Spain 14.Apr.00 • 00/Spain 1h47 2˝ out of 5 stars
This disturbingly violent and moving drama is set in Mallorca during the Spanish Civil War. Three childhood friends, now age 20, run into each other in a sanatorium 10 years after a horrific event that still haunts them. Ramallo (Casamajor) is a dashing young man hiding deep psychological scars. He wants to join the fighting, but needs to recover from an illness first. Then we start to find out about his shady dealings and relationships. Manuel (Bergonzini) is a fragile young man who is suppressing his deep longing for Ramallo with religious fervour. And Francisca (Torrens) is now a nun, but she also holds a torch for Ramallo.
From the horrible opening sequence when we witness the events a decade earlier, this film has a dark and grisly tone to it--frequently gruesome and virtually exploding with repressed lust and illicit desire. These people are seriously disturbed, and we quickly become aware that they aren't going to solve all their problems in this film! Director-cowriter Villaronga creates a fascinatingly moody tone, but he keeps things just a bit too over-serious and mopey for his own good. It's gripping simply because we haven't a clue what might happen next, but we're also not sure we want to see what's coming. Eventually when the plot takes over from the twisted interrelationships, the film begins to feel rather corny and contrived. The story hinges on several coincidences ... and don't they offer any actual treatment in this sanatorium? And in the end, all of the sexual longing and blook-soaked grisliness leave us wondering what the point is, really. [18 strong themes, violence and gore, nudity, language] 14.Jul.03
back to the top SWEPT AWAY
madonna and giannini
dir-scr Guy Ritchie
with Madonna, Adriano Giannini, Bruce Greenwood, Jeanne Tripplehorn, David Thornton, Yorgo Voyagis, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Beattie, George Yiasoumi, Ricardo Perna, Patrizio Rispo, Francis Pardeilhan
release US 11.Oct.02; UK 16.May.03 DVD • Screen Gems 02/UK 1h29 2 out of 5 stars
Guy Ritchie's remake of Lina Wertmuller's 1974 desert island classic is such an uneven mess that it went straight to video in the UK. It's about a spoiled rich woman named Amber (Madonna) who reluctantly goes on a Mediterranean cruise with her husband (Greenwood) and a few friends, then locks horns with a swarthy Italian deck hand named Peppe (Giannini, whose father Giancarlo played the role in the original film). Then one day Amber and Peppe end up lost at sea ... and stranded on a deserted island together, where the roles are reversed. Amber's money means nothing; Peppe's ability to catch a fish is what's important. So he takes out his revenge against her tyranny, and in the process teaches her Important Life Lessons.
There's a good story here, but Ritchie just misses it completely with his attempts to be silly at the beginning, raw and controversial in the middle and then slushy and sweet at the end. It doesn't help that none of the characters are remotely believable; we couldn't care less what happens to them. Especially as each one discovers hitherto untapped resources for nastiness. This is due to a fatal concoction of dodgy acting, dire dialog and uneven direction that always seems unsure what it's trying to be--funny, dramatic, epic? Madonna is simply never anyone besides Madonna, and this is a big problem. That said, there's a certain wicked glee in watching a film this uneven and chaotic as it tries over and over again to win us over, but never even has a chance. Oh and the scenery is lovely, as are some of the actors. [15 themes, language, innuendo] 2.Jun.03
back to the top THE WOLVES OF KROMER
layton, williams and cumming
dir Will Gould • scr Charles Lambert, Matthew Read
with Lee Williams, James Layton, Kevin Moore, Rita Davies, Margaret Towner, Angharad Rees, David Prescott, Rosemarie Dunham, Matthew Dean, Leila Lloyd-Evelyn, Alastair Cumming, Boy George
release UK May.03 DVD • 00/UK 1h22 2 out of 5 stars
This fairy tale horror comedy is so camp it hurts! In the English countryside, two wolf-boys (complete with tails) meet; the knowing Gabriel (Layton) takes the novice Seth (Williams) under his wing, leading to a rocky romance. In a nearby country house there are all sorts of strange goings on, including two sinister maids (Davies and Towner), an increasingly sickly granny (Dunham) and a nervous young family on holiday. Meanwhile the local priest (Moore) leads the villagers on a wolf hunt that culminates, of course, in The Ruined Church!
This film is haunted by the ghosts of Ken Russell and the 1975 French classic La Bete--gonzo filmmaking style, arch and camp, with over-the-top performances. There's even narration by Boy George, outrageous innuendo a-go-go, and a villainous character named Fanny! Technically, it's cheesy and very low-budget, with appalling editing lurid cinematography. The villagers are goofy and overwrought, while the handsome Layton and Williams are much more naturalistic. This makes it feel like two separate films edited together--a zany monster romp with a touching love story. The parallel between werewolfism and sexuality is obvious (and comical), with the wolf-boys cast out from their families for being different, while the repressed priest bristles at their evilness. Strangely, the film also has that quaint British sensibility in which everyone talks about sex all the time, but no one ever does anything! In other words, it's completely unhinged and surprisingly good fun. But it would've been better if it had the courage of its convictions. [15 adult themes and situations, language, innuendo] 16.Jun.03
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© 2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall