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8/10
A sad but inspiring tale.
5 April 2016
When their ill mother dies, the Hook children bury her at night in their garden and keep on living as if everything were normal, so that they will be able to stay together as a family. The oldest of the seven children, Elsa, takes command but she does listen to their thoughts, especially those of the oldest brother. They work together well but not without some disagreements. To get advice from their late mother, the family gathers together for "Mother Time" and Elsa channels their mother's advice to her siblings. The children work pretty well together to do a good job of managing the house, finances, school, cleaning, shopping, cooking etc. After a while, their mother's husband, Charlie Hook, appears and he takes charge, with varying reactions from the seven children.
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D.I.Y. Hard (2002)
8/10
A Delightful Twist to an Old Scenario
7 February 2016
MAY INCLUDE SPOILERS: During a police chase, the fugitive breaks into a woman's home and takes her captive. His demands of the police are: a plane to Rio, $50,000 etc. Then he notices that her home is a complete mess. When he confronts her about it, she does not seem to care; she appears to be deeply depressed. His demands on the police now include paint, curtains, tools, a new dress etc. All of the demands are met, except for the flight and the money. Her spirits lift as they completely remodel her decor: DIY means "Do it yourself" after all. They do make a lovely couple. The mood of the film is reminiscent of "Cold Comfort Farm" and Monty Python at its best, whereas the story is a combination of "Die Hard" and "Woman in the Dunes".
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Doc Zone: Twin Life: Sharing Mind and Body (2014)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
8/10
A Lovely and Fascinating Tale
29 November 2015
Tatiana and Krista Hogan are conjoined twins, who are joined at the head. They share parts of their brains. The twins are happy together most of the time; they are the best of friends. Each controls parts of the other's body. It is totally amazing how fast that they can run.

The film observes them as they play together and with other members of the family and other children. Looking after them all is a full-time job for both parents who are assisted by a set of grandparents, who are living in a house trailer parked in the driveway and, financially, by the government.

We witness many medical appointments, with comments by many of the participants. Even members of the medical establishment are thrilled and amazed by the twins.

All aspects of the film are done superbly: the photography and sound and the narration by Anne-Marie MacDonald. I cannot recall any moment when I was not totally captivated by the film. Tatiana and Krista are loved by all who meet them, and by me and I am sure that they will be loved by you too.
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Amazonia (2013)
9/10
A Glorious Experience
4 October 2015
This is one of the most beautiful films that I have ever seen. There are only a few words spoken and they are spoken by a young girl to the monkey who is the central character of this tale. The Capucin monkey was a family pet and became free in the Amazon rain forest when the airplane he was travelling on crashed. At first he is dismayed but he quickly learns to fit in with his new environment and animal friends.

The nature photography is superb, with gorgeous views of the scenery, the sky, the weather and the animal activity. Scene after scene offer a great variety of interesting animal behaviour. Some scenes are very touching and others are very exciting. Since the hero of the tale wears a bright red collar, he can be easily identified in a group of monkeys.

The music is beautiful and suitable to the activity. I predict that I will see this film repeatedly. My wife loved it too.
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Arctic Blast (2010)
7/10
We Enjoyed It
16 September 2015
Many films which purport to be Science Fiction are, in reality, Science Fantasy. I have studied Science for most of my long life and taught it for many years in High School.

Science Fiction may extrapolate the current laws of Science into hypothetical situations but must not directly contradict the current laws of Science at the time of writing: It is impossible for an object to exceed the speed of light as in the warp speeds of the Star Trek series; If time travel were possible, then one could go back in time and kill an ancestor, from which it follows that one would never have been born, which is known to be false: Reductio ad absurdum; so much for the Back To The Future and the Terminator series etc.

It has actually been postulated that global warming could cause another Ice Age, at least in the northern hemisphere, by raising the sea level and thereby interfering with the Gulf Stream, which brings warmth to the north.

Many of the reviewers of Arctic Blast complained that the Science was bad. Many occurrences were very far-fetched but none of what I saw broke any actual rules of Science. I noticed several but accepted them as useful plot developments. It was a gripping Science Fantasy with a good warning message about Mankind's disruption of the environment.

I was drawn to it because it starred Michael Shanks. The acting was good and the characters were believable. My wife and I both enjoyed it.
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The Deep End (2001)
9/10
A Rare Event
9 September 2015
The Deep End is a rare event: a touching thriller that is based more on relationships and personal growth than on plot, a film on a tight budget ($3 million) that is completely captivating, a remake of a film (The Reckless Moment (1949)) that really works. Many critics gave the film a top rating, and a few did not like it much, but most agreed that Tilda Swinton was superb. My own opinion is that everything works: the superb acting, the suspense, the finely detailed direction, the beautiful cinematography, the masterful screenplay, everything, even the melodramatic parts.

Margaret Hamilton (Tilda Swinton), is an average, ordinary-looking, middle-class housewife, whose husband is away with the military. Her family is her life. She has reason to believe that her son (Jonathan Tucker) has killed someone and she disposes of the body to protect him.

It only makes things worse by leading to blackmail. The handsome blackmailer (Goran Visnjic) gets caught up in a family emergency and becomes fascinated by and drawn into the close family setting. He is also attracted to Margaret. The film is mainly about her relationships with her son and with the blackmailer; one can connect emotionally with each of them and their own personal predicaments. The other family relationships are incidental but they do illustrate how her life is completely filled with the needs of others; there is not much time left for her needs.

The DVD allows one to watch much of the film a second time, with the two directors (Scott McGehee and David Siegel) discussing the details behind the making of each scene, often showing several radically different takes of the same scene and explaining why they chose the one that they did. It gives a deep insight into the filmmaking process.

To watch the film, I recommend that you turn off the telephone and pick a time when there will be no interruptions so that you will be free to become deeply absorbed in a very moving experience.
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9/10
Justice Can Be Very Slow
13 November 2012
This is a very special trial movie, focussing on racial prejudice in the North Carolina "Justice" System in the 1980's. Darryl Hunt was accused of a crime that he did not commit. The black community rallied behind Darryl, supplying money for his defence and giving moral support. The NorthCarolina "Justice" System is shown as incompetent, uncaring and corrupt.

Darryl Hunt is a very honourable man. He accepted that police can make mistakes, because he is a forgiving person. He made an honourable decision, which made it more difficult for him, because he believed that it was the right thing to do. I could see no bitterness in Darryl, although there must have been times when he was very tempted.

Eventually the truth started to become more widely known and Darryl had broader support, including the white community. Against all odds, he finally gained his freedom. I was very inspired by those who supported Darry and by Darryl himself. He is a man I would like to know personally.
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8/10
We can live comfortably without producing much waste.
2 March 2012
The film shows that people can live comfortably, without acquiring much material destined for the ever-diminishing supply of landfills. A couple competed to see how little waste each could acquire in one year. During the year, they had to discover where they could purchase things that were not packaged and avoid things that were. Each collected about one waste-basketful. How much do you collect in a year? It informs us of the billions of pop cans discarded by Americans in one year and the huge numbers of other common items.

The devastation created in the oceans, because of plastic waste, is also shown. On Midway Island, thousands of miles from the mainland, adult albatrosses fed in the ocean and then fed their babies. The stomachs of the babies became full of plastic and they died. This could result in the extinction of many species if we continue to despoil the oceans.

I rated the film 8 out of 10 because it does educate the public about the danger of waste material created by man.
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8/10
The Strickland sisters move from mansion to cabins.
28 February 2012
Of the six Strickland sisters, five of them became prolific writers. Catharine wrote children's stories, memoirs and books about nature; Susanna wrote children's stories, memoirs, novels and poems and Agnes became the biographer of the Queens of England and was very popular at the court of Victoria. They were brought up in a large estate in Suffolk, England: an idyllic setting.

At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the returning soldiers were unemployed; this created a severe depression. Their family business collapsed and their father died. Susanna and Catharine both married returned soldiers, John Moodie and Thomas Traill respectively. John and Susanna had a classic romantic-love marriage; the Traills were less close. John was also a published writer and poet.

Because of the depression and the fact that returned soldiers would be granted large tracts of land in Canada, if they emigrated there. Both couples headed off to Canada, the Traills first and the Moodies after, only to be disappointed when they arrived. Catharine survived cholera, contracted in Montreal. Then they found that their land, near what is now Peterborough, Ontario, was virgin forest and their homes were cabins, instead of the cleared land and mansions that they were familiar with.

Catharine, who was a great lover of nature, adapted better than Susanna, who was very much a society person. Life became even harder for the sisters when their husbands, who were better soldiers than farmers, headed off to Toronto, then called York, to fight against the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 and to get much needed cash. Moodie remained a soldier for several years, in order to pay off debts. This was the lonely low point of Susanna's life. The good news was that John Moodie was given a job as the Sheriff of Hastings County. The movie then jumps to the the sisters' elder years, summarizes their accomplishments and ends.

Afterword: The Belleville part of their lives is just as interesting as the wilderness part. In 1840, the Moodies moved to Belleville, Ontario, where Susanna could be back in society. John Moodie is now remembered, in Belleville, as Dunbar Moodie, using a middle name.

In 1863, Dunbar lost his job as Sheriff, for health and political reasons. They then moved to a large, grey, stone home on the West Hill in Belleville; their old home was too expensive. The home is still referred to as the "Susanna Moodie cottage". If you want to see it, Google it; if I want to see it, I simply look out my kitchen window and there it is.
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The Soloist (2009)
9/10
Thoughts To Prepare You for Watching the Film.
16 June 2009
Since Ingmar Bergman's 1962 film, "Through a Glass, Darkly", the 2009 film "The Soloist" is one of the two most accurate portrayals of schizophrenia, from the point of view of the mentally ill person and of people who want to interact with the ill person. I speak from experience. David Cronenberg's film, "Spider", is the other.

I was disappointed in my two favourite critics, James Berardinelli and Roger Ebert, each of who gave "The Soloist" only 62½%.

Berardinelli says, "The Soloist is afflicted with a lack of passion. The story lacks a strong trajectory; it meanders, seemingly unsure of precisely what it wants to do and say and where it wants to go." Actually, that is the reality of schizophrenia. One never knows what is going to happen next. There are many setbacks. He also says, "The soundtrack supplies multiple, overlapping voices. The objective is to invite the viewer to participate in the unhinging of Nathaniel's mind, a first-person perspective of schizophrenia. Unfortunately, it feels artificial and contrived." I have taught seven NAMI* courses on mental illness. One episode in one of the classes involves requiring class members to perform certain simple tasks while being bombarded by random voices from behind. Many class members find that to be the most unnerving, and illuminating, of all the activities in the course.

Ebert misses the point when he says, "Yes, mental illness can be like that, but can successful drama? There comes a point when Lopez has had enough, and so, in sympathy, have we." Dealing with a mentally ill person can be devastatingly frustrating. Must we always be entertained? There is a place for grim reality in drama. Otherwise, how can we learn?

"The Soloist" is as accurate a representation of schizophrenia as you could experience without becoming mentally ill yourself. If you keep that in mind then the film will be rewarding; if, however, you are looking for a film that makes sense easily and progresses from point to point in a logical manner, then look for a different film.

If you choose to watch the film and absorb the reality of mental illness, then you will learn much. You never know when that knowledge will be of great value to you. Then again, you may be spared, and never need it.

The film introduces a very important idea: mentally ill people do better if there is someone, whom they trust, who takes an abiding interest in them.

It also poses one very important question: should mentally ill persons be forced to take medication to stabilize themselves? Different states, provinces and countries have different laws concerning this. Some feel that mentally ill persons should be forced to take medication if and only if they are likely to harm themselves or others. Mentally ill persons are often unaware that they are mentally ill, and cannot be convinced otherwise. Would they have more freedom to decide correctly for themselves if they were first medicated until they become sane? The film addresses this question but does not attempt to give a definitive answer. You will have to think out that question yourself, keeping in mind that different people have different reactions to the same medication. There is no universal answer, but for each individual, there is probably a best answer but not necessarily a good one.

The film captivated me from the beginning to the end. I did not miss the common devices that some movies use to make them exciting. There was excitement enough for me in the growth of the principal characters and in the learning that I did, and in the thinking that I was forced to do.

*NAMI is The National Alliance on Mental Illness.

P.S. Schizophrenia has absolutely nothing to do with having multiple personalities, or of dichotomies (apparent contradictions). The split in the expression "split personality" is the split between the personality and reality. Unfortunately, the word is misused far more often that it is used correctly.
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Lantana (2001)
8/10
A psychological study and a splendid ensemble performance
17 March 2008
Lantana is a psychological study of ten people and their love lives: eight, in four marriages; a gay man; and a single woman. The mood is gloomy throughout but the characters are engrossing and and the story is relentlessly gripping. The core cast is a splendid ensemble; there are no stars. None of the ensemble characters is more important than any other, although the policeman, Leon Zat, get more screen time because he is involved with all of the other characters through the investigation of a missing person. However, there are several other notable incidental characters. The acting is superb throughout. The endings, for each of the main characters, are clear and varied. Hint: learn each of the ten ensemble character names at the first opportunity, in order to follow the film better.
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Caramel (2007)
7/10
A study of a wide variety of romantic problems.
11 March 2008
Caramel is a romantic comedy centered on the daily lives of five Lebanese women living in Beirut, each of whom has a totally different love problem. Layale is having an affair with a married man. Nisrine, who is soon be married, is not a virgin. Rima and a beautiful salon customer, Siham, have obvious lesbian feelings for each other. Jamal, a customer and a TV ad actress, is worried about getting old. Rose, a tailor/seamstress with a shop next to the salon, is an older lady who finally finds a man to love, after devoting her life to taking care of her of older sister (or mother), Lili, who has mental problems: probably suffering from Alzheimer's.

The men are incidental to the stories of the women. Youssef is a shy, young traffic policeman who is smitten with Layale. Charles, an older man, becomes Rose's suitor.

The stories of Layale and Rose are well developed and beautifully poignant. The story of Rima is also poignant because of the homosexual taboos, the probable reason for the lack of a fuller development of the story. Nasrine's story provides much of the comedy of the film. The story of Jamal, although well acted, is not very interesting and the love element is not developed beyond a desperate desire to look younger, suggesting that she has no lover; that story could have been deleted from the film, leaving the character in a minor role.

Each of the stories ends differently: with different combinations of desperation, resignation, hope and/or marriage.

I rated the film at 7/10 but, had the story of Jamal been played down, I would have given it 8/10.
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Dinner with Friends (2001 TV Movie)
9/10
A thoughtful investigation of the relationships among friends.
23 June 2007
Dinner with Friends is a very thoughtful investigation of the relationships among friends and how little we really know about the people whom we love. Two couples have been best friends for many years; Gabe and Karen introduced Tom and Beth to each other. Now, twelve years after their marriage, Tom and Beth are divorcing. The film studies all of the possible interrelationships: the men, the women, the opposite gender spouses and the couples, before and during the breakup, and hints at the probable situation afterward. The acting is superb all around. It is obviously a stage play done as a movie but, being predominantly a dialogue movie, it works well.
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10/10
Why Don't You All Love This Film?
6 May 2007
Why doesn't everybody just love this movie? It is one of most delightful comedies that I have ever seen. I saw it when it first came out in the cinema and watched it three times that first week and at least four times since.

It is a very stylized movie, with an introductory narration right out of the 1920's. The style carries right through the film, with wonderful vaudeville routines. The "girls" are not particularly beautiful and are, by current standards a little overweight. Also they seem to be going through the motions with a variety of personalities. They do not have beautiful singing voices and they do not dance in perfect synchronization but nobody, especially them, seems to care. Burlesque is, after all, light entertainment. The comedy skits are very simple and unintelligent but they are performed with great panache. Sir Norman Wisdom (born 1915), the great British stage and screen clown of the Charlie Chaplin ilk, and Jason Robards Jr., the dapper Oscar-winning, American actor of the classic stage are the two central male characters and are both attracted to the beautiful Amish girl who has left home to dance stories from the Bible on stage. Wisdom is a master clown and can move in ways that are magically humorous. Burlesque has two meanings, with two spellings: - a humorous and provocative stage show featuring slapstick humour, comic skits, bawdy songs, striptease acts, and a scantily clad female chorus. (Burlesk) - an artistic composition, especially literary or dramatic, that, for the sake of laughter, vulgarizes lofty material or treats ordinary material with mock dignity. (Burlesque) The movie is a burlesque about burlesk. It also makes fun of religion, stage performances, censorship, prudery, friendship, business, fraud, crime, police, audience intelligence, class distinction, love, seduction, hypocrisy, etc. The mood is intense from start to finish, with several collages of scenes from the past and the movie's present. When I was not laughing out loud, I was laughing inside. The comedy on the stage is very elementary but the comedy in the story is often quite subtle and intelligent. Back to the initial question — I think that the movie may be too stylized for many people to enjoy, especially since the style has long been almost extinct. But if one accepts the style and allows oneself to become immersed in it and flow with it, the movie can be great.
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6/10
Mostly not good, but some parts are great.
25 August 2006
I loved four of the eleven vignettes: "Cousins", "Jack Shows Meg His Tesla Coil", "Cousins?" and "Champagne". I got nothing from the other seven vignettes. I feel that the film would have been splendid if those seven had been deleted. I would rate the whole movie at 60% but those four vignettes, alone, at 90%.

The best vignette, in my opinion, is "Cousins"; Cate and her cousin Shelley have nothing in common but, since they are cousins, they try to make meaningful conversation. It is a great study in motivation; each time I see it, I understand more about why the characters do and say what they do and say, as well as how they do and say it.

"Jack Shows Meg His Tesla Coil" portrays a naive, almost childlike, young man who believes that he is very knowledgeable about technical matters, but everyone else seems to know more than he does. He cannot even keep his wagon wheels from squeaking.

"Cousins?" shows two semi-famous men, one of whom is very excited about his discovery that they are cousins; the other could not care less but tries, very ineptly, not to show it. His sleaziness and vanity create an ironic twist at the end.

"Champagne" is simply a delightful, rambling, sometimes surreal conversation about many topics, one of those topics being my own personal favourite song. It is a perfect ending for a very unique film.

The acting and scripts for these four vignettes are brilliant and subtle. I would recommend that you rent the movie and watch just those four vignettes first, to guarantee a very positive experience. Then watch the whole movie to see if there are any other parts that you enjoy and to see the four great vignettes again; I believe that you will see greater depths in them on the second viewing.
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Cold Comfort Farm (1995 TV Movie)
10/10
A totally charming comedy which can be enjoyed repeatedly.
29 April 2006
Set in the late 1920s, this totally charming comedy alludes to many other films, sometimes subtly and sometimes obviously. A Gilbert and Sullivan mood is set up quickly and the film proceeds to a typical Gilbert and Sullivan ending. A young English lady, Flora Poste (Kate Beckinsale), was recently orphaned. Having an allowance of only £156 per year and no interest in work, she moves in with poor, depressed relatives. The family are convinced that there is a curse on them and their belief is self-fulfilling. The dwellers on the farm are similar to the Addams family without the humour. Flora's manipulations and positive thinking, change all of their lives for the better. This is a very charming and funny movie, with the fun being driven by exaggeration and positive change. It is good for many delightful viewings. PS: Look for allusions to Pollyanna, Gone with the Wind, Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations etc. Every time I see it I notice more.
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Lone Star (1996)
9/10
Days later you could still be thinking about some of the moral issues.
29 April 2006
I first saw the fascinating film, Lone Star, at the QFA showing in October of 1996. I enjoyed the film but I did not fully understand it. The film is constructed like a jigsaw puzzle. The information comes in random order and we must connect the pieces. The second time I saw it was with a group of people. Each time a person made a connection, it was spoken out loud so that all would get it. We even stopped the tape occasionally to clarify our knowledge. By the time that the film was over, we had it all straightened out. One of the main problems was that the film ran in two time frames: the current time and the events leading up to the killing and we must learn to recognize some characters in both time frames. Another problem was that there were many people involved and we had to figure out their relationships. Also there were many subplots that had to be connected. If viewing it alone, taking notes would be a great help. Also, many times, there were many moral issues that had to be considered. The film moves on at a pace too fast to absorb everything, a problem that disappears when a tape can be paused.

The story begins with the discovery of a skeleton in the desert. The sheriff suspects that it was that of an evil predecessor, Charlie Wade, and that the killer might have been his own deceased father, a deputy sheriff and local hero, Buddy Deeds. Anything else that I tell you would spoil the film. Learn these three names and note all of the other names and relationships as you hear them, in your head or on paper. A second viewing would really clarify the story; the film is good enough for multiple viewings. Days later you could still be thinking about some of the moral issues.
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8/10
A slice of life in an understanding, loving family.
29 April 2006
A thoroughly gripping family drama by the Merchant-Ivory team. An American writer, Bill Willis, and his wife, Marcella, and daughter, Channe (Leelee Sobieski in her debut), live in Paris in the 1960's & 70s. In a role-reversal, the mother is weak and has difficulty communicating with her children, whereas the father is understanding and approachable. They adopt a boy from his mother, not quite legally.

Channe's best friend is an impetuous, rebellious and arrogant boy soprano, Francis Fortescue, who aspires to be an opera singer; his character brings originality to the film. Years later the family moves back to the USA and the children have great difficulty adapting to the new cultural environment. There is little plot, just a slice of life in an understanding, loving family. These are wonderfully developed characters that one can really care about.
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Earth (1998)
9/10
Friends forever, or at least as long as the world remains sane.
28 April 2006
Torontonian director, Deepa Mehta, planned to make three films, Fire, Earth and Water, all set and filmed in India, her native land. The first film was very controversial in India, reviled by Hindu extremists of the fundamentalist, right-wing Shiv Sena sect, who rioted, tore down posters and even burned one of the movie theatres that was showing it, all because the film showed wives disobeying their husbands and a lesbian relationship. There was great concern when Earth was made but little happened. However, when the third film, Water was being made, renewed rioting caused the Indian government to order the filming stopped and the film was never made.

Earth concerns a small group of students in what is now Lahore, Pakistan but was then part of India. They represented several religions: Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Parsee and Christian. They are willing to accept each other despite their religious differences. When India is partitioned into India and Pakistan, there is a massive movement of people in both directions. Some fanatics started attacking those of different religions and the violence escalated to massacres. The friends, who thought that they would always be friends, found that destiny would not allow it.
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9/10
A wonderful, unconventional and unpredictable example of intelligent comedy.
26 April 2006
Being John Malkovich is a wonderful example of intelligent comedy. It is a very unconventional and unpredictable film. Craig Schwartz works on a floor in an office building where the distance from the floor to the ceiling is only four feet. He discovers a portal, hidden behind a filing cabinet, that causes anyone who passes through it to live in John Malkovich's brain and observe the world through his senses, for fifteen minutes. They are then dumped by the edge of a highway. Craig's wife, Lotte, tries it when Malkovich is making love to Maxine, a girl whom Craig is crazy about, and so Craig's wife decides that she must really be bisexual. Craig and Maxine charge people to use the portal but a problem arises when John Malkovich also lines up for the opportunity.
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9/10
What happens when we lose our senses.
26 April 2006
Three groups of people in three unrelated stories occasionally intersect in a trivial manner. There is a massage therapist who cannot touch her daughter, an eye doctor who is going deaf, a prostitute with a deaf daughter, a baker with little sense of taste whose boyfriend cannot talk English, a gay man who is obsessed with odours and who believes that he can smell love. The film also bathes the audience in sights and sounds. The plot is minimal, just sufficient to propel us through three days of their lives. A central occurrence that runs through the three stories is the disappearance of a 3-year-old girl from one of the stories. The pace is slow and the mood is entirely captivating. This is a very unique film.
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10/10
This is one of the greatest films I have ever seen.
26 April 2006
This is one of the greatest films I have ever seen: I glowed inside throughout the whole film. The music and cinematography held the spell when little was happening on screen. The slow pace was set by the mode of travel (a riding lawn mower with a big trailer) and was maintained by the background sights and sounds and the slow-paced lives of the other characters.

The story actually happened; Alvin Straight died in 1996 at the age of 76. There was no acting; everything was completely real, as if the actors had actually transformed into the characters. Sissy Spacek gave a poignant performance as a somewhat disabled daughter who had suffered much but forged ahead, always wanting to do the right thing. Richard Farnsworth was cast perfectly and he beautifully became Alvin Straight, a stubborn but loving elderly man who treks across Iowa to visit his estranged brother, Lyle, who has had a stroke. Alvin had learned much wisdom during his life and that seemed to bring out the best in the people that he encountered along the way.

The film underscores the importance of family to this man and, hopefully, to all of us. I eagerly anticipate seeing it again, and again. Directed by David Lynch, this films proves his directorial skill. Farnsworth was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor; at 79, he was the oldest nominee ever for that award.
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Topsy-Turvy (1999)
9/10
Gilbert and Sullivan at their best.
26 April 2006
A great film that goes into great detail about the lives of Gilbert and Sullivan and about what goes into the production of "The Mikado". We see the people and activities that occur backstage, as well as the work on stage. Sullivan has tired of Gilbert's formulaic librettos and decides to retire. Gilbert is inspired by a Japanese exhibit that was visiting London and conceives "The Mikado". Sullivan loves this new libretto and the pair of comic geniuses are back at it again. The magnificent, joyous music is an amazing driving force for the film. A general reaction, after the two-hour-and-forty-minute-long film was "Why did it have to end so soon."
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The Cup (1999)
8/10
TV in the Monastery
26 April 2006
The setting is a Tibetan-Buddhist-monastery-in-exile in India, to which Tibetan families smuggle their boys to be trained in Buddhism. The boys love to play around at soccer-type games. One of them convinces the others monks and the leaders of the monastery to rent a TV and satellite dish so that they can watch the World Cup game.

The film gives a fascinating glimpse at a totally alien lifestyle, which is starting to feel the pressures of westernization and modernization. What we would consider to be the simple act of renting a television set is, for them, a very complex procedure. Then the act of just getting it to work is difficult.
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Best in Show (2000)
10/10
When I was not laughing, I was at the edge of laughter.
26 April 2006
Best in Show is a delightful comedy, a pseudo-documentary about dog lovers and their dogs. The characters themselves are delightful, both human and canine. The comedy varies from very subtle to obvious but never becomes ridiculous. Many things will not be noticed on the first viewing. This is one of those films that can be trotted out frequently and still be as funny as ever. The film was written by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy who also star in it; Guest directed it. They and much of the cast were also in Waiting for Guffman. The cast consists predominantly of improv comedians from Second City, National Lampoon and Saturday Night Live. The scene concepts were planned but there were no rehearsals; the actors improvised the dialogue, resulting in very spontaneous interaction between the characters. The actors could plan things that they wanted their characters to say but they might not get the chance to use much of what they planned; it all depended on what the other characters would say. Different takes of the same scene could be completely different. Over sixty hours of film were taken and the editing took about eight months. The film culminates in the big Mayflower Dog Show in Philadelphia. There are two commentators: one, Trevor Beckwith (British actor Jim Piddock, who was required to study everything that he could about dogs and dog shows), is an expert on dogs and the local, Buck Laughlin (Fred Willard, who was instructed to learn nothing about dogs), obviously knows nothing about dogs except, perhaps, that they have four legs and two genders; they interacted with great hilarity. Three of the five dog show judges were actually show dog judges; the other two were actors. Most of the dog handlers in the show were not actors. The film is one of the funniest that I have ever seen; when I was not laughing, I was at the edge of laughter.
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