Name: Roger

Most Recent Reviews by Roger

Corpse Bride

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Reviewed by Roger

What it is often most appealing about animated films is that despite, or perhaps because of, the infinite pains and almost superhuman attention to detail that go into making them, they are fast-paced, fun, and not a minute longer than necessary.

Making use of the stop-motion technique of animation he first employed in The Nightmare before Christmas, the technical proficiency of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride is even more spectacular than in the previous film.

Corpse Bride springs from a dark period in Russian history when mobs, in fits of anti-Semitic frenzy, would descend on Jewish weddings, murder the brides and bury them in their wedding dresses.

Corpse Bride, though dark, macabre and imbued with Burton's trademark black humour, is a far cry from the horrors that inspired it.

The story is set in a small, 19 th century town on the edge of a forest, and centres around mild-mannered, nervous Victor van Dort (Johnny Depp) the son of nouveau riche fish merchants (Tracey Ullman and Paul Whitehead), who is to be married to the eminently Victorian Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson), daughter of a pair of land-rich, but dirt poor, aristocrats (Joanna Lumley and Albert Finney).

Victor botches his vows during the wedding rehearsal, and ends up in a forest glade to get his act together.

Realising he has feelings for Victoria, he finally manages to say his vows perfectly, and places the ring in his pocket on a dead branch, only to realise that he has inadvertently proposed to a bride long buried (Helena Bonham-Carter) … who accepts and carries him off to the quirkily psychedelic land of the dead.

From the hectoring tones of Absolutely Fabulous’ Joanna Lumley as the mother-in-law from hell, complete with outrageously bouffant hairdo, and Richard E Grant as the insanely murderous Lord Barkis Bittern, there is more than enough to keep both children and grownups entertained. All in all, the film makes it easy to believe that being dead couldn’t be all that bad … in fact, quite a lot of fun.



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American Gangster

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Reviewed by Roger

Directed by veteran director Ridley Scott, American Gangster is based on the real-life story of notorious New York drug lord Frank Lucas, who rose from humble North Carolina beginnings to rule over a drug empire totalling hundreds of millions of dollars.

As the disastrous war in Vietnam dragged on and public outcry against the butchering of American soldiers overseas reached a fever pitch, the subsequent corruption in government and the army, and general anarchy on the streets gave men such as Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington) the perfect window of opportunity to make a fortune.

Having chosen to become a gangster, however, one’s biggest problem is not necessarily building a fortune or an empire - it’s the headache of living happily ever after, legitimately holding on to that trophy wife and country estate. A wish honest, ambitious cops such Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) would sooner die than grant.

From the steaming jungles of Vietnam to the Harlem ghetto, Ridley Scott’s semi-epic American Gangster is close to seamless, and although it never attains the greatness of Martin Scorsese’s The Departed or Raging Bull, it is good, solid entertainment.


Denzel Washington’s sleek and quietly conservative Frank Lucas, with his chilling, unexpected flashes of murderous violence, lacks the range of Oscar winner Forest Whitaker’s Idi Amin in the Last King of Scotland, but not the depth. Both performances share a valuable distinction: they make the story on screen immediate and spellbindingly real.



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Evening

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Reviewed by Roger

As Ann Lord (Vanessa Redgrave) lies dying in her Cambridge Massachusetts home in 1998, she relives a life-defining weekend in 1954 when she was invited by her best friend Lila (Mamie Gummer) to be maid of honour at her Newport Rhode Island society wedding.

During the weekend the young Ann (Claire Danes) falls for Harris (Patrick Wilson), the son of the housekeeper and now a doctor, but their affair has disastrous consequences for Lila’s alcoholic brother Buddy (Hugh Dancy).

Most of the film takes place in flashbacks, and as we jump from the sombre present to the golden past and back again, the mysterious circumstances surrounding the weekend unfold for Ann’s daughters Constance (Natasha Richardson) and Nina (Toni Collette), who are also at crossroads in their lives.

Based on the 1998 bestseller by Susan Minot, scripted by Michael Cunningham (The Hours) and directed by Lajos Koltai, and with a cast including some of the biggest female names in Hollywood, including Glenn Close and Eileen Atkins, Evening somehow manages to add up to much, much less than the sum of its parts.




It’s basically soap opera stuff, but beautifully made. If you were a sobbing mess after watching The Hours, The Notebook and The Bridges of Madison County, you should enjoy this movie. If not, it’s maybe not such a good idea to make an evening out of it.

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The Jane Austen Book Club

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Reviewed by Roger

When an unsuspecting Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) learns that her husband of 20 years (Jimmy Smits) is leaving her for another woman, her best friends, middle-aged, multi-divorced Bernadette (Kathy Baker) and obstinately single dog-breeder Jocelyn (Maria Bello), decide to start a book club to distract her from her loss.

Once the two have decided on “All Jane Austen, all the time”, the other members of the club fall quickly into place: Allegra (Maggie Grace), Sylvia’s thrill-seeking lesbian daughter, the aptly named Prudie (Emily Blunt), an unhappily married French teacher with a roving eye, and software geek and sci-fi nut Grigg (Hugh Dancy), the only guy in the group.

As the six meet over the course of six months to discuss Jane Austen’s six novels, their lives start mirroring those of Austen’s characters as they deal with each other and with their private affairs.

Events in the movie are sometimes too obviously manipulated to suit the central idea, namely to celebrate Jane Austen’s work and explore its relevance to the lives of modern-day women.




Despite this, the sentimental, frivolous nature of this comedy/drama is a lot of fun to watch, and will make a lot of people eager to reach for an Austen novel.

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The Spiderwick Chronicles

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Reviewed by Roger

Based on the bestselling novel by the same name, the Spiderwick Chronicles is about a single mom who moves her three children to a decrepit old mansion in the country to rebuild their lives after a nasty separation.

When one of the boys, played by a slightly older and angrier Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), stumbles upon a mysterious book of spells written by a previous occupant of the house (David Strathairn), he unwittingly unleashes the fury of a shape-shifting ogre with an eye on world domination (Nick Nolte).

The special effects in the movie are great, as we’ve come to expect, and the action sequences are gripping, but this does not hide the fact that it’s a movie made almost exclusively for ten-year-olds.

If you have one, take him or her to see it. The backyard will be littered with wooden swords and the kitchen bare of tomato sauce, salt and honey for at least the next month.



That said, the producers almost certainly grasped the movie’s limited appeal to a wider audience and in an effort to up box office sales advertised it as the next best thing after Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, which it decidedly isn’t.

They say only a fool learns from his own mistakes, so take this bit of advice: don’t brave this one without a kid in tow. By the time the end credits started to roll, this rather shame-faced reviewer was already about three-quarters of the way to the nearest exit.

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