If you have any questions or comments about this column, actors, directors or movies in general, or if you'd like an actor's filmography, e-mail me at scoles@rose.ocn.ne.jp.



STALKERS: When leading men follow (Feb. 20, 2003, #32)

Love Movies! (Dec. 20, #31)

Good cop. Bad cop. Funny cop. (Oct. 20, #30)

Jolly Good Shows (Aug. 2002)

Box Office Bodyslammers (June 2002)

Nice Score (Apr. 2002)

Magical Fantasy Tour (Feb., 2002)

Dazzling Baz (Dec., 2001)

Rev It Up! (Oct., 2001)

Talk to the Animals

What is It About Italy? (April, 2001)

Movies for anyone thinking of becoming a teacher (Feb., 2001)

Why We Still Go to the Movies (Dec, 2000)

Ever Heard of The "Six Degrees of Separation" Rule? (Oct., 2000)

Gladiator, Mission: Impossible II, Shaft and Chicken Run (Aug., 2000)

Mission to Mars, Galazy Quest, Me Myself I and Frequency (June, 2000)

The Talented Mr. Ripley & Others (April 2000)

Being John Malkovich & Toy Story 2 (Feb. 1, 2000)

Classics (Dec. 1999)

The Blair Witch Project and Others (Oct. 1999)

I'm not an easy person to please (Aug. 1999)

Protest (June 1999)

Videos from the Vault (April 1999)

Videos to Leave Japan By (Feb. 1999)

Lighten Up for God's Sake! (Oct. 1998)

Hollywood's Hottest Screenwriter (June 1998)

One Tough Momma! (April 1998)

So You Think Your Family is Dysfunctional? (Dec. 1997)




STALKERS: When leading men follow (Feb. 20, 2003, #32)

By Vanessa Fortyn

We often hear of famous people being followed or given unwanted attention by overzealous fans. Being under the public gaze makes celebrities easy targets for such behavior. Good looks, movie personas, wealth and public charm make stars desirable, while photographs and information about their private lives are easily available in magazines or on the 'Net, and can give fans the mistaken belief that they "know" their idols. The reality is that stalkers are creepy and frightening, and since fear is an important element in thrillers and suspense movies, it's not surprising that stalkers commonly appear in films. This month, Scene It went out in search of movies featuring stalkers, and found some real chillers.
The Fan (1996) stars Robert DeNiro as Gil Renard, an alienated knife salesman with an anger-management problem, whose only solace is watching baseball. For many years, he has followed the career of baseball superstar Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes). When Rayburn has a batting slump, Renard sets out to "help" his hero, with disturbing results. Ah yes, Robert DeNiro always plays a convincing psychopath. In Cape Fear (1991) he plays a heavily tattooed ex-con newly released from prison, who stalks the attorney (Nick Nolte) who didn't defend him properly in his rape trial 14 years earlier. Directed by Martin Scorsese, Cape Fear maintains a suspenseful atmosphere, and DeNiro's menacing performance is cushion-wrenchingly scary.
Scorsese and DeNiro also worked together on The King of Comedy (1982), a dark and ironic look at the obsessive behavior of fans. DeNiro is Rupert Pupkin, a pathetic 34-year old wannabe comedian who idolizes the famous comic Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). Pupkin joins forces with another obsessed fan (Sandra Bernhard - who plays a great crazy bitch!) and begins to hound Langford in the hope that he'll be given a spot on the comic's show. The King of Comedy is an excellent movie that cleverly addresses fame and fan worship.
Not such an excellent movie, but included here out of respect for those partial to Kevin Costner or Whitney Houston, is The Bodyguard (1992). Starring Whitney and Kev, it is about the relationship that develops between a famous singer-turned-actress and her bodyguard. Fueling the relationship is her need for protection from a crazed fan.
Of course, stalking is not limited to the rich and famous. Fatal Attraction (1987) is about an ordinary man (Michael Douglas) who has a one-night stand with a woman (Glenn Close) while his wife is away. What he considers to be a mere fling, she thinks is true love, and her refusal to accept his rejection spirals into bitterness, harassment, violence andĀc. bunny-boiling. (You'll have to watch the video if you're not sure what that means.) Fatal Attraction was one of the biggest box office hits back in 1987, and supposedly made many potentially adulterous husbands think twice about having a fling.
Showing now is One Hour Photo (2002) (Stalker in Japan). Robin Williams is a lonely one-hour photo lab manager who follows the lives of his customers through the film they drop off for developing. He starts to fantasize about joining a particular family, and his unwelcome advances have terrible consequences. Of course, we're so used to seeing Robin Williams as a good guy, that his recent forays into baddie roles - in One Hour Photo and Insomnia (2001) - are quite chilling. However, chilling is what movies with stalkers are all about. If you feel like feeling afraid, get out and see some of these flicks.



Love Movies! (Dec. 20, #31)

By Vanessa Fortyn

It's winter, and on a cold Sapporo night there's nothing like snuggling up with your significant other in front of an ember-glowing log fire. If your reality, however, is snuggling up to a lonely Asahi Dry in front of a carcinogenic, smoke-burping kerosene heater, then at least you can live vicariously through movies. Movies offer us love and romance, and Scene It has a few recommendations that will make you feel either all warm and fuzzy, or the need for a few more Asahi Drys.
The best romance movies will bring a smile to your face, or tears to your eyes, but won't make you gag. Ghost (1990), which stars Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, is about a woman whose life is shattered when her boyfriend is murdered. His spirit returns, still desperately in love with her and seeking to bring his killer to justice. Thankfully, the tragic premise of the movie is well balanced with the hilarious antics of Whoopie Goldberg as the phony psychic through whom the two can communicate. Even so, be sure to have a box of tissues nearby when you rent this video.
Along a similar vein is Truly, Madly, Deeply (1992). Alan Rickman, who plays Snape in the Harry Potter movies, is the ghost who moves back in with his girlfriend just as she is trying to get her life back together after his untimely death. Although they loved each other truly, madly, deeply, things aren't quite the same as before. And then she meets an interesting guyĀc. (More tissues, please!)
Truly, Madly, Deeply was director Anthony Minghella's first film. And if you're in the mood for more tears, we recommend another of his films, The English Patient (1996). The story is set in the latter stages of WWII in a field hospital where a nurse tends to a severely burned, unidentified patient. The mystery surrounding his injuries is gradually revealed in flashbacks. The movie was shot in Italy and Tunisia, and while you're blubbering over the torrid and tragic love story, you should dry your eyes long enough to take in the magnificent scenery.
Map of the Human Heart (1992) is a beautiful romantic epic that can hardly be done justice in a few sentences. Basically, the story begins in the Arctic Circle in the early 1930s, and follows the life of a half-Inuit man from boyhood to old age. As a child he meets a girl who is half-native Canadian, and although they rarely see each other, she is the one and only love of his life. There are many complicating factors in their relationship -- war, distance, racism, other people -- yet his feelings never change. *Sigh*
For those who prefer romance with a bit of a laugh, grab When Harry Met Sally (1989). It poses the question: Can a man and a woman be close friends without sex getting in the way? Starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, this feisty flick offers an amusing insight into male and female views on friendship, relationships and sex. This is the kind of film that makes you wonder whether the guy or girl you love chatting, laughing and having a beer with could be your perfect match. Hmmm, time to get him or her over for a few Asahi Drys!
If you want to catch a new release, Gangs of New York opens from December 21. Set in crime-ridden Manhattan in the mid-1800s, this Scorsese-directed gangster flick stars romantic staple Leonardo DiCaprio. We can't guarantee it will warm the cockles of your heart this winter, but it might be entertaining.



Good cop. Bad cop. Funny cop. (Oct. 20, #30)
by Vanessa Fortyn

Police officers' working lives seem pretty interesting. While so many people with regular jobs lead a mundane existence shuffling paper, staring vacuously at computer screens, or listening to tedious monologues, cops are there on the streets confronting danger, making life or death decisions, and living out the battle of good versus evil on a day-to-day basis. At least that's my impression, and everything I know about police is gleaned from the movies and television (and maybe the couple of times I've been pulled over). Police are so often the subject of movies, but although policing is serious business, there is a humorous side to almost everything.
Back in the days when girls weren't cool if they didn't have huge bouffant hair and thin leather ties were the height of male fashion, Eddie Murphy headlined Beverly Hills Cop (1984), one of the most popular movies of the decade. A cop from the rough streets of Detroit moves to the wealthy avenues of Beverly Hills to track the killer of his best mate. Lots of action, comedy and that classic '80s synthesizer soundtrack make it a great flick. The added bonus: If you love Beverly Hills Cop, you can also pick up the sequels, Beverly Hills Cop 2 (1987) and Beverly Hills Cop 3 (1994), and while away a whole afternoon.
Speaking of sequels, the highly successful Lethal Weapon (1987) spawned three more. This explosive police action-comedy stars Danny Glover as detective and family man, and Mel Gibson as detective and loose cannon, who work together to bust an international drug ring. Incidentally, there may not be any more Lethal Weapons in the pipeline, but Gibson has reportedly signed up to do Mad Max 4.
Meanwhile, HK action star Jackie Chan recently announced that he would be making Rush Hour 3. The original Rush Hour (1998), with Chan and motor mouth Chris Tucker, is about the culture-clashing alliance of an LAPD cop and a Hong Kong detective sent to the U.S. to investigate the kidnapping of the daughter of the Chinese consul. The combination of Chan's silent but deadly demeanor and Tucker's constant yammering made Rush Hour a box office hit.
If the adolescent in you is yearning for visual gags of the slap and tickle, bums and farts variety, the original Police Academy (1984) might be the movie to rent. It's the story of what happens when a mayor tries to increase numbers of police officers by dropping all entry requirements to the police academy. The resulting intake of misfits, zealots and weirdoes sends the force into chaos.
Along similar humor lines is the hilarious Naked Gun (1988), starring Leslie Neilsen as the straight-faced yet imbecilic Lieutenant Frank Drebin who causes pandemonium wherever he goes. Pricilla Presley (ex-wife of Elvis) plays the lieutenant's love interest, while the now infamous O.J. Simpson plays fellow officer, Nordberg. The third Naked Gun movie, Naked Gun 33 1/3, was released in Spring1994, around the same time that Simpson was arrested for the murder of his ex-wife and her friend.
Coming soon to Japan is Showtime (2002), starring Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy. After angrily shooting the camera of a TV news crew in the wake of a botched drug bust, a hardboiled detective (De Niro) is forced to make amends by appearing on a reality-TV show. Chosen as his partner is an incompetent LAPD cop and wannabe actor (Murphy), and basically it's all downhill from there (for the audience too).
There are lots of funny cop movies to check out, so get down the video store and have a laugh.



Jolly Good Shows (Aug. 2002)
by Vanessa Fortyn

In case you weren't aware, 2002 is the Golden Jubilee year of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. And since we all know how much Her Royal Highness loves a good chuckle, this Scene It is dedicated to British movies of the jocular variety. So it's time to sing a few bars of "Rule Britannia", make a nice cuppa tea and a chip buttie, and take in some of these fabulous flicks.
For classic British humor, there's Monty Python's The Life of Brian (1979), set in Roman-occupied ancient Palestine. It's the story of a young idealistic man who wants to rebel against the Roman dictatorship, but ends up being unwillingly revered as a messiah. Python aficionados can quote huge chunks of the hilarious dialogue, and the song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", sung by Eric Idle at the end of the film, is hard not to whistle along with.
John Cleese (of Python fame) wrote the screenplay for A Fish Called Wanda (1988). It stars Jamie Lee Curtis, and Kevin Kline in his funniest role ever, as a moronic, psychotic hit man. Cleese and Michael Palin (another ex-Python) also star in this movie about the complex machinations of partners to a jewelry heist. The film has many highlights, from tragicomic attempts by Palin (playing a stuttering animal-lover) to murder a key witness, to Kline's more successful attempts to drive Curtis wild with desire by raunchily bellowing out Italian menus under the pretense that he speaks the language.
For more recent films, rent The Full Monty (1997). It's about six unemployed steelworkers who decide to take up stripping as a means of earning money. Underlying this amusing (and sexy!) flick, are the catastrophic effects of industry closure on a town and its people.
Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) is a frank and funny story about an ordinary thirty-something woman, and all her foibles. It's a bit of a chick-flick, but highly recommended for any blokes who want some true "warts-and-all" insights into women. The casting of Renee Zellweger, a Texan, in the lead role caused rather a stir, but her pommy accent sounds good to me, and the movie also stars Hugh Grant, a Brit-film staple.
You can also catch Hugh Grant in About A Boy (2002), a movie adaptation of the Nick Hornby book, due for release in Japan in September. Grant plays a shallow, wealthy Londoner living an extended adolescence. He creates an imaginary son for himself in order to pick up women at single parents' meetings, and ends up meeting an eccentric and troubled twelve-year- old boy who basically helps him to grow up.
Swept Away is the latest movie by director Guy Ritchie. Starring his missus, Madonna, and due for release in the States in October, it is billed as a comedy-romance about a wealthy socialite who gets stranded on a Mediterranean island with a communist sailor. It is based on an Italian film, the full translated title of which is "Swept Away... by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August." (Blimey!) Ritchie shot to fame with his first film, Lock, Stock and Two Smokin' Barrels (1998), an exciting black comedy about gangsters, geezers and dodgy dealings in London's East End. LS&2SB's constant twists and plot developments are riveting, while the cockney-rhyming slang will leave your head in a spin.
Speaking of cockney rhyming slang, stop sitting around on your Khyber Pass and go and take a butcher's at some of these Stevie Nicks. You will be doing yourself a cheesy quaver!



Box Office Bodyslammers (June 2002)
by Vanessa Fortyn

Recently the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) agreed to change its name to WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) at the legal behest of the other WWF, the World Wildlife Fund. One of the main reasons was that when WWF is typed into the WWW, it brings up sites about pile-drivin', canvas-bitin', muscle-flexin' "rasslin'" stars, rather than sites that inform the public on such mundane issues as the conservation of nature or the protection of endangered species. To mark this decision, Scene It is devoting this space to wrestling superstars who make the transition from the ring to the big screen -- and in some cases even further.
Back in the 1980's, Hulk Hogan gave wrestling its first mainstream superstar. Available in your video store is Mr. Nanny (1993) (Mr. Babysitter in Japan), about an ex-wrestler who is hired as the bodyguard of some attention-seeking rich kids. The previous nanny quits after the kids convert her hair dryer into a flame-shooter, and "The Hulkster" reluctantly assumes her role. The movie contains lots of visual gags with the kids subjecting Hogan to various tortures. There's also a psychopathic baddie, and a moral message about parenting.
Jesse "The Body" Ventura, wrestling star and commentator, became the Governor of Minnesota in 1998. It was a surprise victory for the moderate independent who has proved himself quite capable in the role. You can catch Ventura in another role in the film Predator (1997). It is the story of a squadron of commandos sent into the South American jungle to get rid of a gunrunning camp, but who are picked off one-by-one by an alien hunter. The movie stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the unit's leader, while "The Body" appears as one of the commandos. Needless to say, he dies an untimely and gruesome death. Incidentally, Ventura hasn't announced whether he will run for gubernatorial re-election later this year, but his supporters are touting the possibility of financing his campaign through the sale of Jesse Ventura bobblehead dolls, which are apparently taking Minnesota by storm.
"Andre the Giant" was a 7-foot 4-inch (224-cm), 500-pound (227-kg) wrestling star who passed away in 1993. He suffered from a disorder in which his body overproduced growth hormones. To give an idea of his immense size, Andre's wrists were almost a foot (76 cm) in circumference, about average for an adult male western lowland gorilla. He was rumoured to have polished off 117 bottles of beer one night on the town, and he used to amuse himself by physically moving his mates' cars while they were at restaurants or parties. He plays a not-too-bright strongman in the delightful The Princess Bride (1987), partly a classic fairytale, partly a parody that will leave you feeling amused, fuzzy and satisfied.
Hugely popular amongst wrestling fans is "The People's Champion", The Rock (Dwayne Johnson, in less aggressive circles). The Rock plays the lead in the adventure-fantasy The Scorpion King, set in ancient Egypt and now showing in Japan. The Scorpion Kiou'd expect from a film with a WWE star in the main role. However, doubtlessly we will see The Rock kick some more "roody poo candy ass" on the big screen again in the future.
Enjoy these movies, but don't forget to keep July 10 to 14 free to watch the Short Shorts Film Festival. Details are in the "Calendar" section.



Nice Score (Apr. 2002)
by Vanessa Fortyn

Uh-oh, the World Cup is soon to be played on our doorstep, and you're from one of the few nations in the world where soccer is "soccer," not football. Your curiosity is piqued by this sport, but try as you might, you haven't quite become an obsessive worshipper of the round ball just yet. In fact, you're getting bored with perfecting 'the wave' in your living room, and your Ole, Ole Ole-ing is disturbing the neighbours. You need to go that one step further, and perhaps Scene It can help you with a selection of soccer films that may well bring out the football fan in you.
An absolute must-see is Escape to Victory, starring the winning combination of Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone and Pele. Football fans rave about this film, and even though some of the best acting in it earns a free kick, it has achieved 'classic' status. Set in a P.O.W. camp during World War II, this film sees the Allied prisoners play football against a crack Nazi team. The story itself is highly implausible (especially when Sly becomes goalkeeper) but alongside the portly Michael Caine, who captains the Allied team, is a host of international footballing greats. Watching them play the big game at the end of the movie makes the first eye-rolling three-quarters totally worthwhile.
Purely Belter (Season Ticket in Japan) is the story of a couple of working-class boys who undertake a quest for season tickets to watch their beloved Newcastle United. The "Newcastlese" is a little hard to follow, but luckily the movie Web site (http://www.virgin.net/purelybelter) has a lexicon that provides confused non-Geordies with translatory pearls such as "Man -- purposeless but obligatory word often used at the end of a sentence. A Newcastle person might refer to the English midfielder as Steve Macmanaman-man."
Shaolin Soccer (katakanized as Shohrin Sakkaa) is due out next month in Japan. If you understand Cantonese or can read Japanese subtitles, you might want to check it out. This HK comedy-action movie is about an underdog football team who use the martial arts skills taught them by Shaolin monks to rise to glory on the football field. The movie is due for release in the States next year as Kung-Fu Soccer. The change is because not many people know what Shaolin is, and distributors were worried that some people might confuse the film with all those extremely violent martial arts films with Shaolin in their titles.
Currently playing overseas is Mean Machine, a remake of the Burt Reynolds flick, The Longest Yard, about a group of prisoners playing American football against their brutal guards. In Mean Machine, the sport is soccer and in the lead is the quintessential football thug, Vinnie Jones, Wimbledon F.C. midfielder-turned-actor. Jones attained movie fame after his hitman roles in Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smokin' Barrels, and Snatch; on the football field he will always be remembered for "that photograph" of him calmly reaching back to wrench Paul "Gazza" Gascoigne's packet. Mean Machine, indeed.
Movies are great, but there's nothing like the real thing. So come June, if you don't have tickets to any of the matches, make sure you have your satellite connected, buy a few beers, and plant yourself in front of the tele. The World Cup is huge, and we're going to be right in the middle of it.



Magical Fantasy Tour
by Vanessa Fortyn

For pure escapism, there's nothing like losing yourself in a world far removed from your own. Think verdant forests filled with fairies and elves, or misty mountains and caves populated with goblins, dragons, and dwarves. Magic and Fantasy movies are a feast for the imagination, and fans of the genre can really treat themselves this winter with some great new cinema and rental releases.
A great one to pick up at the video store is Dragonslayer (1981). It's about an evil dragon that preys on a kingdom, and is only appeased by the regular offer of young maidens as sacrifices. A youthful sorcerer comes to the kingdom in order to destroy the serpent; however, he is met by opposition from some. The film is intriguing because it doesn't conform to the fairytale norm. It is often quite cynical, and deals with some interesting side issues apart from the central struggle against the dragon.
For more dragons, get Dragonheart (1996), the story of a good dragon and a disenchanted knight. They pair up to rid the land of the nasty king whose life was saved when the dragon agreed to heal him. The story is a bit convoluted, but the special effects used to create the dragon are fantastic, and Sean Connery's melodious brogue really brings the giant reptile to life.
Legend (1985) is a typical tale of good versus evil. Starring a very young Tom Cruise, it is a humdrum flick saved only by the charismatic Tim Curry as the demonic Prince of Darkness.
As for new movies, you can't go wrong with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. It has thrilled audiences everywhere, and is well on the way to pipping out Titanic as the highest-grossing movie ever. The film is quite true to the book, although if you watch it with any kids in tow, they'll be sure to tell you every part that differs from the novel. The next movie in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, is due out in November, 2002. Rumor has it that book five, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", will hit bookstores this July.
Speaking of release dates, The Lord of the Rings is due out in Japan on March 2. If you grew up with the stories of J.R.R. Tolkien and spent many a summer day reconstructing Middle Earth in your backyard, you will be thrilled by Peter Jackson's adaptation. The movie runs for three hours and maintains the sense of urgency of the book. Furthermore, it is pure period drama - no postmodern twists, nor twenty-first century allusions. All three parts of The Lord of the Rings were filmed at the same time, and the remaining two movies will be released around Christmas for the next two years. They were shot in Jackson's native New Zealand, and not surprisingly, his fellow Kiwis are looking to cash in on the film's success. Proclaiming itself Home of Middle Earth, the country is hoping that the film's breathtaking scenery will boost tourism.
Magic and Fantasy films provide us with marvelous worlds to retreat into. While the snow is still swirling outside, your nose is running, and you yearn to be elsewhere, Xene recommends getting out to the cinema or video store and allowing yourself to be enchanted.



Dazzling Baz (Dec., 2001)
by Vanessa Fortyn

Baz Luhrmann's movies are an assault on the senses. The Australian director's work puts to shame notions of Australian cultural output being limited to suburban soap operas, sport-worship, and tales from the Aussie outback. His latest film, Moulin Rouge, is a romantic extravaganza of song and dance set in the club of the same name, in fin-de-siecle Paris. The sets stunningly recreate the decadent world of the infamous entertainment venue, while the over-the-top story vacillates between the ridiculous and the sublime. See this film and you're bound to fall in love with either Ewan McGregor, who plays the young Bohemian poet, Christian, or Nicole Kidman, as Satine, the most desired courtesan in Paris. Indeed, one could get quite distracted daydreaming about the smouldering Nicole, or imagining Ewan crooning in that mellifluous voice of his.
Mmm, now where was I? If Moulin Rouge puts you in the mood for more Ewan McGregor action, you won't have to wait long. His next movie, Black Hawk Down, directed by Ridley Scott, is set for release in the U.S. in January. It is based upon the true story of an attempt by the U.S. Army's elite forces to abduct two lieutenants of a Somalian warlord from Mogadishu in 1993, and the battle that ensued. Going from soldier to Jedi knight, Ewan will have his hand on his light sabre once again as Obi Wan Kenobi in the new Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which is due out next spring.
As for Nicole Kidman, you will be able to see her soon enough, too, as the neurotic mother of two in the spooky tale, The Others. Set in an old house in post-war Britain, this ghost thriller is due in Japan this winter.
But actors aside, if you're taken with the cinematography, humour and story of Moulin Rouge, you might want to see some of Luhrmann's other movies. His first feature film, Strictly Ballroom (1992; released as Dancing Hero in Japan) is a flamboyant parody of the cut-throat world of ballroom dancing. With a cast of outrageously made-up women and oddly-toupeed men, its wild colors, swirling ballroom scenes and in-yer-face close-ups don't detract from its underlying moral message: follow your dream, do what you want to do, be what you want to be. Furthermore, the dancing is quite cool, the costumes are divine, and the music is an eclectic mix of classical and modern. Watch this movie and you may be inspired to invest in taffeta or a tux and take up a new hobby.
Romeo + Juliet (1996) is a wildly modern, fast-paced and very loud interpretation of the Shakespeare classic. It was Luhrmann's aim to create a film that was "rambunctious, violent and entertaining," which was how he imagined the bard may have made a movie had the technology been available 500 years or so ago. Romeo + Juliet proves that Shakespeare is not the intellectual property of an erudite elite; it has youthful appeal, and fittingly stars two heart-throbs, Leonardo Di Caprio and Clare Danes as the star-crossed duo. You can listen to the great soundtrack on the Web site www.romeoandjuliet.com. It also has some funky images of Montague and Capulet fashions, which are pretty far removed from the panty-hose encased male characters of earlier Romeo and Juliet productions.
At the moment Luhrmann is working on a stage production of the Puccini opera La Boheme for Broadway. There may be quite a wait until his next movie, but chances are it'll be worth it.



Rev It Up! (Oct., 2001)
by Vanessa Fortyn

Been meaning to buy a car but it's too much hassle? Grumbling about the high cost of parking and shaken inspection. Considering getting rid of your car? Maybe you need to be reminded just how fundamental cars are to modern society - and not just as people-movers. Freedom, wealth, personality, masculinity (or lack thereof): Cars mean such different things to different people. They provide us with life experiences, from the Jack and Diane foggy-windowed variety to the adrenaline-pumping sensation of rapid acceleration. This Scene It is dedicated to cars, and if you're feeling ambivalent towards them, get down to the video store for a bit of motor action that may inspire you to hit the car yards. Or if you already have a vehicle, get the polish out!
High on the list of car-loving flicks would have to be Grease, the highest-grossing musical ever. Who hasn't tell me more, tell me more'd along with the gang from Rydell High? For more sing-along fun you can't beat Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It offers a useful piece of onscreen advice, from Dick Van Dyke in the lead role of Caractacus Potts: "You'll find a slight squeeze on the hooter an excellent safety precaution." That's motoring advice, of course.
Mad Max. Now there's a car movie. A young Mel Gibson at the wheel of a growling V8 wreaks vengeance upon the bikie gang responsible for killing his wife, child and best mate. Filmed on the outskirts of Melbourne, this low-budget movie, replete with local talent, has achieved a cult following throughout the world.
If you like car races, go for Cannonball Run, the comic tale of a coast-to-coast motor race across America in the vein of the Hanna Barbera cartoon Wacky Races, conceived a decade earlier. Although Dick Dastardly and his wheezing cohort, Muttley, are not there to keep you amused, Cannonball Run has an all-star cast of seventies and eighties favorites: Burt Reynolds, Farrah Fawcett, Roger Moore, Dom Deluise, and Jackie Chan.
For more serious race action, try Days of Thunder, about NASCAR racing. This was the movie that brought together Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, whose ten-year union ended in divorce court this year. Also, there is the recent release Driven, about CART racing - that's CART as in Championship Auto Racing Teams, not the thing you push your veggies around in the supermarket. Anyway, Driven not only has some spectacular PlayStationesque crashes, but also a synchronized swimming scene that caused an abrupt show of interest from the mostly male theater audience. Truly a movie with everything, from the pen of that literary maestro Sly Stallone, who may well have conceived the idea while pushing his veggies around a supermarket. Now showing is The Fast and the Furious ("Wild Speed" in Japan) with the aptly named Vin Diesel in the lead. Expect rubber-burning street racing in souped-up vehicles, lots of action, sleek machines, and beautiful babes.
If speed is not your thing and you're one of those people who 75-year-old grannies in their neat little Fords overtake with a honk, a tsk, and a shake of their blue rinses, then maybe you'd prefer the more sedate Driving Miss Daisy. Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy star in this touching film about the long relationship between a Southern lady and her chauffeur.
Fact of the matter is, there are so many movies that feature cars. But don't take my word for it, put yer pedal to the metal and get down to the theatre or video store to check'em out!



Talk to the Animals

by Vanessa Fortyn

Animals are weird and wonderful things. Do goldfish really have a memory span of ten seconds? What is the reason behind lemmings flinging their furry little bodies off cliff tops? And what kind of logic is it that decrees that dogs have cold wet noses when they're always firmly planting them you-know-where! Perhaps these and the myriad other questions that humans would like to pose members of the animal kingdom could be answered if animals could only speak. Of course, in Hollywood they can, and have done so for a long time. However, gone are the days of Mister Ed, the talking horse, who was fed peanut butter by the handful to get his jaws moving as if he were speaking. These days computer graphics and animatronics - lifelike computerized animal puppets - provide animals with a wide range of movements, expressions and emotions.
The original version of Doctor Dolittle (1967) required trainers to use various tricks of the trade to get the animals to look like they were talking. Apparently if you breathe peppermint on a goat it will give you its undivided attention, as goats love that minty smell – a good thing to remember next time you're conversing with a cloven-hoofed buddy. Doctor Dolittle also had a couple of blokes dressed up in a furry ensemble as Pushmi-Pullyu, the two-headed Llama. Hmph! Blokes in an animal suit, how passé! The new Dr Dolittle and its recent sequel, Dr Dolittle 2, used real animals and high-tech computer animation to get their mouths to appear as if they were talking. Of course trainers still played a fundamental role. They saw to it that Tank, the two-meter-tall, 360-kg bear who plays the circus-bear, Archie, didn't devour the film-crew. (According to his trainer, Tank is a "lovable, easygoing, kick-back kind of bear.")
Trainers brought order to the 700 or so farm animals for Babe and its sequel Babe: Pig in the City. Each species of animal was trained to react to a specific sound. Pigs responded to a clicker, sheep to a whistle, ducks to a buzzer and dogs to their master's voice. Imagine the racket when all the animals worked together. Imagine also how the poor studio cleaners felt every night. A whopping 80% of the talking in Babe was done by the animals, but rather than bring out the peanut butter, computer graphics and sophisticated animatronics brought the barnyard discussions to life. There was no training to be done of Stuart Little, the plaid-clad mouse from the film of the same name. He was completely computer-generated down to his half a million hairs. Some of the animators even took tailoring lessons to get the crease and crinkle of Stuart's clothes just right.
Cats and Dogs, a new talking animal movie set for release soon in Japan, is about cats evilly plotting to take over the world. It's up to man's best friend to save humans from these conniving felines. Expect to see pooches and pussies engaged in mortal combat including some martial arts scenes. The movie was originally intended as an animated piece, but with the latest technology it was possible to turn Jack Russells into Jackie Chans. Of course the biggest talking-animal film this summer is Planet of the Apes. Although the costumes are amazing and the film uses computer-generated special effects, it just goes to show that at the end of the day nothing beats a bloke in an animal suit.



What is It About Italy?
(and for those teachers wondering why they did)
By Helen Webb

What is it about Italy? Is it the food, the wine, the art, the fashion? Why are so many scriptwriters and moviemakers inspired by Italy? Could it be the romance?
Even the word romance is built on the word Roman, which makes me think of the Audrey Hepburn classic, Roman Holiday, a forerunner to so many love stories set in Italy. A naive girl arrives in the land of paparazzi and, presto, she is eating gelato in front of every historically impressive building that can be found. Of course there is the obligatory studio hunk in tow (in this case, Gregory Peck). Shot in black and white and packed with 1950s humor, it is both simple and sophisticated. Keep a look out for the ultra-high technology (go-go gadget lighter cam and mega flashlight).
For a more highbrow (but slower-paced) take on the same theme, try A Room with a View. If you want to escape the monochrome dullness of Sapporo and can't afford to go to Lake Shikotsu, rent this movie. The Tuscany landscape is a feast for the eyes and a tonic for the soul. Again it is about a naive girl who comes to Italy and discovers her passionate soul, but this time in Florence. It is based on a wonderful story by E.M. Forster, and superbly acted by the cream of thespians, including Judy Dench and Daniel Day Lewis.
Italy is more than just a romantic setting, however. As the home of both the Roman Empire and the mafia, it has the added raw attractions of authority, influence and senseless violence. It's no wonder that some of Hollywood's most dramatic films, including the Godfather trilogy (no interest), Ben Hur (too long) and Gladiator (love Russell Crowe, but too violent and not enough laughs), not to mention countless other mafia films, have been set in Sicily or its environs.
Is it just the passion and the power that attracts us to Italy? Do we not all secretly desire la dolce vita, the carefree, slow-food, big-family, eat-pizza-with-your-fingers, sun-dried-tomato lifestyle? Do we just want to live life to the fullest, love earnestly and be passionate? Or perhaps we just want to feel free to gesticulate when we talk.
All of this is captured in Rosseanna's Grave. Despite the morbid title, this engaging film uses comedy and a series of twists to tell a story of love, death, commitment and letting go. Starring Jean Reno and Mercedes Ruehl, this is a must-see film for lovers of Italy.
The interest in things Italian is such that there is actually a multitude of films that have a whiff of an Italian fragrance without even being set in Italy. Looking for Alibrandi, starring Gretta Scacchi, is a unique Australian film that presents the perspective of a girl of Italian descent struggling with her cultural identity. It is a delightful look at an old theme through new eyes. Return to Me and The Wings of the Dove are both romances centered on ill women who want to escape to Italy. If you like this theme, see them both.
However, Hollywood can only vaguely capture that which is truly Italian. We cannot look at Italy without looking at Italian films. Life is Beautiful, for example, is simply not to be missed. This highly acclaimed and wonderfully acted film had me so engrossed I forgot I couldn't speak Italian. Watch out for Cinema Paradiso and Il Postino, although unless you enjoy reading Japanese subtitles, you may have to wait until you are homeside to enjoy these films.
What is it about Italy? Just because a movie features a patriarchal family, foot-stomped wine and beautiful scenery, it does not necessarily reflect everything we know and love about the place. So what is it about Italy? To tell you the truth, I don't know. I feel the only fair thing is to go to Italy myself and find out. So until next time, arrivederci!



Movies for anyone thinking of becoming a teacher
(and for those teachers wondering why they did)
By Jeff Hil

I have been a movie fan all my life but, as Omar Sharif says in Doctor Zhivago about being a poet, being a film critic "is as much a profession as having good health." To eat, I am a teacher.
Movies about the teaching arena can be put into three categories. Films in the "vicissitudes" category follow the ups and downs of a (usually fictional) character over either an academic year or a lifetime. He or she must overcome minimal pay, insufficient school supplies, hostile parents, and a student body which has become offensively disrespectful because they feel betrayed and beaten by the establishment. Said establishment is usually exemplified by a cynical, out-of-touch school administration which is also constantly reminding our main character that his or her unorthodox approaches - while winning the love and academic excellence of students who could never before read or write - are against the rules and therefore, reasons for dismissal.
But in the end, our teacher realizes it is all worth it. The final scene is intended to coax tears from the audience, and overflows with expressions of love and appreciation from grateful students. Movies such as Goodbye Mister Chips (made at least twice), Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941), and Mister Holland's Opus (1995) span generations and culminate in the appearance of former "loser" students who have been influenced by the teacher. These former students have since gone on to become successful scientists, business leaders, war heroes, and even a state governor.
Vicissitudes films spanning only one academic year include Blackboard Jungle (1955), Up the Down Staircase (1967), To Sir With Love (1967), To Sir With Love II (1997), Dead Poets Society (1989) and Dangerous Minds (1995), which was based on real-life teacher Louanne Johnson's book, "My Posse Don't Do Homework." Some actors even found a career in these movies. Sidney Poitier, before graduating to become the teacher in To Sir With Love and TSWL II, was the supportive student who helped beleaguered teacher Glenn Ford physically disarm and defeat gang leader Vic Morrow in Blackboard Jungle (1955).
Next is the "fighting for your life" category of teacher movie, of which 187 (1997, with Samuel L. Jackson) is but one example. According to The Substitute (1996, with Tom Berenger) and The Substitute II (1998, Treat Williams), essential qualifications for would-be high school teachers include martial arts skills and expertise with small arms. I am not even going to discuss films in which the teachers are actually homicidal robots.
Which brings us to my third category of teacher films: "tough love". In these films, the hero recognizes he or she isn't going to reach everyone, only those who want to learn to survive. In Hoosiers (1986), Gene Hackman's first act as the new basketball coach is to kick two disrespectful players off of the team. In Lean On Me (1989), new high school principal "Crazy Joe" Clark (Morgan Freeman) holds an assembly, where he calls a large number of rowdy kids up on stage, publicly labels them as incorrigible, and expels them from school. Forever.
But my favorite "teacher" of all time is John Wayne in Hondo (1953), whose attitude toward the learning process is "Partly they learn and partly they die." This motto is a general approach to life and includes things such as surviving in the desert, using knives, lances, pistols and rifles to fight Apaches, and throwing a six-year-old boy into a river to teach him to swim.
One piece of advice: don't try that in your classes.



Why We Still Go to the Movies (Dec., 2000)
By Jeff Hil

What gets people to commute to a theater and pay exorbitant prices to see films they can see much cheaper in the comfort of their own homes? What can the viewers get in a movie theater that they can't get at home?  Movie makers and movie marketers have been asking themselves these questions since The Great Train Robbery thrilled audiences across America in 1903. A Western made in New Jersey, The Great Train Robbery begins with a cowboy shooting at the audience and contains scenes of a locomotive rolling right into the audience.  At this silent movie the audience felt no hesitancy about screaming at the action and yelling at the characters, and no hesitancy about shouting, "Show it again!" when the film was over.
From the1920's through the 1940's movies competed with radio.  Radio gave the audience voices.  The movies gave the audience faces.   As silent screen star Gloria Swanson puts it in the talkie, Sunset Boulevard, "We didn't need voices.  We had faces."
Once the actors started talking, in 1927, the theater audience taught itself to be quiet.  For about a decade audiences hissed  "Shush!" at each other to develop the silent, passive audience.
During the 1950's movie theaters had to compete with television, a medium of voices as well as faces.  And it was free.  But in the 1950's almost everyone's television was small and black and white.  So the theaters started showing movies in Cinemascope and in color - sometimes even in 3-D.  In the 1953 western Hondo, a 3-D John Wayne fought the Apaches in theaters all across America.
By 1966 American home television sets were rapidly becoming quite large and receiving color broadcasts. But in 1966 you couldn't swear or show nudity or blood on television.  So movies in the late 1960's and early 1970's became thick with blood, bare bodies and foul language.
As we meet the millennium, we can get all the violence, blood, nudity, sex, and salty language we want on video.  So what is still bringing us to the theaters? Basically, it is the same thing that drew audiences to the theaters in 1903: special effects thrills and a sense of being part of something. When homes started to get VCR's in the early 1980's, theaters started showing relatively silly but immensely popular in-theater movies such as Ghostbusters, because laughing and screaming as part of a movie theater audience is a lot more fun than watching look-a-likes for The Three Stooges on a television set at home.  Ditto for Home Alone.
Seen in a theater, Titanic was an experience.  We had a wonderful time engrossing ourselves in the panoramic drama at a magnificent theater with digital sound.  Afterwards, we loved crying over each other's shoulders in the lobby. On video, Titanic is a soap opera.
Over the past few years, we have recognized that certain movies don't have much in terms of story or character development, but they "feel" great in a theater with a good sound system: The Mummy, Gladiator, U-571.
In the coming century as our home entertainment systems become more and more sophisticated with features such as virtual reality, I suspect the satisfaction and the joy of real human contact will keep us commuting to movie theaters to stand in line, buy the tickets, and experience the movies with one-another.



Ever Heard of The "Six Degrees of Separation" Rule? (Oct., 2000)

Apparently, any one person in the world is only six people removed from eny other person. Tenuous though these links may be, they are supposed to exist. Jimi Hendrix and Alanis Morissette are in my "six degrees" and now - like it or not - they're in yours, too!
The reason I brought this up is because it reminds of me of the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game that movie buffs (or is it just me?) sometimes play. Name a movie and it can be linked to Kevin Bacon. From now on, that's the "Scene it?" challenge: I name the movie and whoever links it to Kevin Bacon wins. To give you some ammunition, let's look at some Kevin Bacon gems.
One of my favorites is Tremors. Sure it's a little old, and the special effects are somewhat...'80s, but it's got everything the sci-fi fan could want: an underdog hero, a crusty sidekick, flesh-eating underground worms and a lot of humor. It's about a small town in the middle of the desert, which comes suddenly under attack from three burrowing worm-things. They eat a few people, destroy lots of stuff, and Kevin Bacon gets to be the good guy and save the day. Oh yeah, there's also lots of dynamite. That's pretty much it, but despite the simple plot, there is a great deal more character depth than you might find in most other movies.
Like Flatliners, for example. It was a typical "vehicle" movie for Julia Roberts, along with her then-boyfriend Kiefer Sutherland. A group of medical students experiment with death, stopping their hearts in order to experience firsthand the mysteries of the other side. The mystery turns out to be nothing more than a scary little kid who follows Kiefer around and looks like Chucky from Child's Play. At the time, it was said to be a landmark movie, so maybe there's something to it. If you haven't yet seen it, get it on video and watch it with someone who's easily scared. It'll be worth it!
Backtracking a little, you might remember Footloose. For a long time after seeing this movie, I wanted to grow up and be just like Kevin. Chock-full of '80s music, it follows city boy Ren (Kevin) as he finds himself at a new school, in a new town where rock music and dancing have been banned. He sets out to change things and in the process hooks up with Ariel (Lori Singer), the daughter of the town minister. He falls for her, she falls for him, all to a soundtrack of classic '80s tunes. The highlight of this movie for me is the "chicken" scene, with Ren and a local bully facing off on tractors. Absolutely brilliant! If you like '80s music and Kevin Bacon (or Lori Singer), watch it!
As for serious roles, Bacon excelled in Murder in the First, playing Henry Young, a petty criminal sent to Alcatraz, where he ends up in solitary confinement for some years. His lawyer (Christian Slater) tries to help him out, but who cares...Christian Slater sucks. This is Kevin's movie and it is stunning. Gary Oldman plays the cruel warden of the prison, pushing Henry to the brink of madness. This movie is almost a brother to The Shawshank Redemption, in that it shows the strength of hope and determination in the face of overwhelming opposition. Watch this movie and cry. You will believe Kevin can act.
If you really hate him and wish he would go away, well, say no more. Just go and see Hollow Man. I can't really go into details about the plot. It's too complicated (featuring a man who is... er... invisible), but the special effects are stunning, and worth the price of admission (or renting) alone. I saw it with a friend who usually hates this sort of movie, but she loved it. It is a typical suspense/horror movie and very predictable, but a far better experience than most other films out now.
OK. Time for "The Kevin Challenge". Link him to the movie Midnight Run and win! Last issue's winner was Helen George. She pulled out a great Russell Crowe (a fellow New Zealander!) movie, Mystery, Alaska. Congrats!



Gladiator, Mission: Impossible II, Shaft and Chicken Run (Aug., 2000)

Usually Australian actors in Hollywood movies make me cringe. Maybe it's the out-of-place accent, or body language. It's great however, to see a foreign actor fit comfortably into the lead role of a big movie.
Ridley Scott's Gladiator was a little brave in casting Russell Crowe, an Australian, as the hero, but it worked brilliantly. This movie is one of the best I have seen this year, with amazing effects, fantastic action and stunning camera work.
Crowe plays Maximus, a general who gains the favour of Rome's Caesar (Richard Harris), incurring the jealousy of Caesar's son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Commodus discovers that he is not trusted enough to take over the empire after his father's death. He kills his father and orders the deaths of Maximus and his family.
Maximus escapes, but is captured by slavers and ends up fighting in an arena in Egypt. There's lots more to tell, but I won't spoil it for you. It is pretty gory in places, but then again real life would have been a lot worse. Great story and even better acting make this one a definite buy for my collection!
A more disappointing representation from Australia is Mission: Impossible II. I was so looking forward to this movie. The trailers looked good, and one of my favourite directors (John Woo) seemed like a good mix.
Unfortunately it's nothing new. Slow story, not a lot of action, same slow-motion setting of pigeons and doves flying make this a very boring movie.
It seems Hollywood has a fascination with Australiana, and MI:2 obliged, arbitrarily including shots of kangaroos, sheep, the Opera house, and of course an Australian saying, "G'day mate".
Ving Rhames and Anthony Hopkins were totally wasted in this movie. Their salaries would have been better spent on a storyline. You know why Hollywood likes making movies in Sydney? It's cheap.
The next tenuous link to Australia is the remake of Shaft. Toni Collette is in here somewhere, but it's really Samuel L. Jackson's show. He plays John Shaft, a New York detective fighting to stay alive as a rich kid psychopath runs around spending daddy's money and killing people.
Forget the original, this is a great movie with loads of action, violence and cool one-liners. It isn't going to break any records in terms of attendance or box office takings, but it's a good escapist movie which should please action fans everywhere.
One of the biggest names in Australian cinema (although he is actually from America) is Mel Gibson. His latest role is a far cry from his action and drama roles, and sees him playing the voice of a chicken.
Nick Park (creator of Wallace and Gromit) has made his first full-length feature called Chicken Run. It is to escape movies what Galaxy Quest is to sci-fi. Absolutely brilliant.
Mel's voice is Rocky, a rooster determined to escape from Coop 17 in a chicken camp where the only way out is as pie filling. He is a bit like Steve McQueen's character in The Great Escape, and indeed there are quite a few tongue-in-cheek references to this and other movies of the same genre.
Forget commercial, marketing-driven movies like Dinosaur (actually not a bad movie, but don't take the kids...they will want you to buy the books, toys, videos, etc., etc.) and other Disney kid traps. Chicken Run is one of the funniest, action-packed movies I have seen this year. Typical Aardman style in the same vein as A Close Shave and The Wrong Trousers, this is one movie which will entertain all ages. Just don't expect to feel good about eating chicken after watching it.
If you have any questions or comments about this column, actors, directors or movies in general, e-mail me at: s.coles@one.net.auThis issue's challenge:
Name three Russell Crowe movies.
Last issue's quiz winner was Kaz. Congrats and your prize is on the way.



Mission to Mars, Galazy Quest, Me Myself I and Frequency (June, 2000)

On a brighter note than last issue, there have been some impressive and generally good movies released recently. Consequently, I am pleased to be able to present a selection here, starting with Mission to Mars.
I personally like Gary Sinese and Tim Robbins, so it's good to see them together and acting quite well. They play astronauts on a mission to see if there are any survivors after a 'mishap' breaks contact with a base on Mars.
The rescue team encounters problems of their own, and they end up on Mars with no ship, no extra air, etc. They find out that the source of the previous disaster was a defence mechanism protecting what X-Files fans would know as 'the Cydonian Head'.
It's a long movie, and I found myself a little bored in between the special effects bursts. The end was also a bit abrupt... kinda like they ran over budget and had to pack up and finish. Overall though, it's an excellent movie and should keep any sci-fi fan very happy.
Another sci-fi movie, Galaxy Quest, runs in an entirely different vein. Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear's voice from Toy Story) plays a Kirk-like figure in a T.V. series of the same name. Eighteen years on and the show has been axed, so the crew make a living attending conventions and opening stores.
Enter an alien race who had been receiving the show's broadcasts and, thinking that they were historical records, built a replica of the Galaxy Quest spaceship in the hope that the crew would help them defend themselves against an evil oppressor.
The whole movie is just like an episode of... well... you name it. Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Deep Space Nine. There's a LOT of comedy and some truly great takes of the sci-fi genre as a whole. Even people who don't like or know sci-fi will love this slick movie. It does for space what Austin Powers does for spies. Watch it!
Let's leave S/F for now and get into an Australian movie - Me Myself I. This is just brilliant. Rachel Griffiths plays a single journalist in search of love. She's typical of the breed: smokes and drinks too much, is hard nosed and very cynical.
One day in her rush to escape a street preacher, she's hit by a car and finds herself face to face with herself. She ends up in a reality where her one true love, whom she has always regretted leaving, is now her husband of 15 years.
Initially overjoyed at having her dream man, she soon realizes that her alter-ego is less than satisfied with the situation. She discovers a lot about what it means to be happy, and the sacrifices that need to be made in a relationship. It's a touching comedy, and if you have not yet seen an Australian movie (no, Mad Max or Crocodile Dundee do NOT count) you must go and see this. Also buy the soundtrack. There's some really nice music!
OK. Let's quickly round up with Frequency. It's corny but it works. Dennis Quaid plays a man who accidentally finds a frequency on his short wave radio enabling him to talk to his now dead father, thirty-something years in the past.
There is a typical crazy bad guy plot around the edges of this central theme, but that's not important or really interesting. The best part of this movie is the interaction between the two men, and how they manage to outsmart the pretty spooky criminal guy.
It isn't art by any means and it won't win any prizes, but it's got some great new touches to the idea of time travel, and it certainly is moving!



The Talented Mr. Ripley & Others (April 2000)


Ever have one of those days which starts off badly and gets worse? Welcome to my year. To celebrate, I'm going to look at some movies which will bring you down, depress you and generally leave you feeling empty.
Let's start with The Talented Mr. Ripley. Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) is mistaken for the friend of a wealthy industrialist's son. The rich guy wants Ripley to go to Italy and persuade his errant son Dickie (Jude Law) to return to New York.
He gets to Italy and finds Dickie having a great time with girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow) just lying around in the sun and relaxing. For some sick reason he lies and takes on other people's identities, ingratiating himself with them and sharing their lifestyles. He's a leech, but harmless enough until 'the love that cannot be spoken' rears up and things get way out of hand.
It's a very smooth drama, well shot and nicely scripted, but a little too slow at times. Overall though, it's spooky with a lot of sexual and class tension. I was frustrated at the stupidity of Dickie's father.
Next there's a pathetic attempt by a poor comedian (Jim Carrey) to move into 'mainstream' cinema. Man on the Moon, the story of Andy Kaufman, could have been really special for me if I had known who this person was. Apparantly he was a comedian.
Pity the film wasn't funny. Or interesting. I think Americans might like it. They like this sort of movie usually.
Snow Falling on Cedars is not so bland; it's dreamy and Kubrick-esque. Set just after World War II, it follows the trial of a Japanese-American war hero (Rick Yune) who has been arrested for the murder of a white fisherman. The film shifts around in time, however, as protagonist Ishmael (Ethan Hawke) recalls his youthful love for the woman (Yuki Kudo) who is now married to the accused man.
Although interesting, some things about this film left me feeling cheated -- Ishmael's surprise turnaround to his former lover, for one; and also the long sequences which really just show off the cinematography rather than tell a story.
It's a beautiful film, sure, but a bit like a National Geographic special written by John Grisham.
Last, let's look at another poor Bruce Willis effort, The Whole Nine Yards. Made worse by the fact that Matthew Perry is in it, this is meant to be a romantic comedy but ends up trying to fit in too many plot developments and being nothing.
Perry plays Nick, a dentist living in his own personal hell -- in debt thanks to his deadbeat father-in-law, trapped in a loveless marriage to Sophie (Rosanna Arquette) and living with her equally nasty mother (Carmen Ferland).
Then the mob moves in next door, and all sorts of zany plans are made to avoid getting killed, to kill someone else, and to get $10 million.
Pulp Fiction meets War of the Roses.
Look forward next issue to lots of smiles, happy thoughts and cool movies, especially Frequency and Mission to Mars, two winners for sure. Watch out for them.