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Red Chrysanthemum: A Thriller (Sano Ichiro Novels)
Red Chrysanthemum: A Thriller (Sano Ichiro Novels)
by Laura Joh Rowland
Edition: Hardcover
104 used & new from $0.01

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sano Jumps the Shark, May 16, 2007
I have been a long-time fan of this series and own all the books. I eagerly await each new Sano Ichiro release. The great cover on this latest installment had me all pumped up to read it . . .and I came away quite disappointed. Great cover or no, this is the first book in the series that I won't be purchasing. Rowland's period detail is, as always, spot-on, but I felt that both the action and the character development suffered this time around. This outing feels very rushed, almost like a Cliffs Notes version of a more well-rounded Rowland thriller. I think the author has painted herself into a corner with Sano's promotion to Chamberlain. Compared to his former post of Sosokan-sama, Sano finds himself with very little to do except tedious court appearances, and it's a real stretch to get him involved in cases with anything like his old verve. Reiko-san, too, has suffered in her elevation to esteemed court matron. Most of her spunk and seemingly all of her intelligence has disappeared. Sano was never a very warm or accessible character, but his deeply-felt relationships with his wife and with his loyal retainer, Hirata, gave him some humanity. The relationship Sano had with Hirata was the centerpiece of past books; now with Sano's promotion and Hirata occupying his master's former post, they hardly see one another. A subplot involving Hirata's secret study of a deadly, mystical martial-arts form is vague and uninvolving. Rowland seems to hint, with one brief chapter, that things will get shaken up in the next book, with the escape from his island prison of the nefarious Yanagisawa. But the chapter dedicated to him in this book reads more like an outline of the more fully fleshed-out chapter she should have written. It's pretty insulting to the readers' intelligence, and I'm hoping against hope that Rowland is not pulling a Patricia Cornwell on us, and letting the air go out of a long-established series because she's tired and/or under deadline pressure. This is definitively not up to the high standard of her previous books. I would rather see Sano commit seppuku than to go out with a whimper. Let's hope Rowland finds the means to re-enegize this series with her next effort.

Children of Men
Children of Men
DVD ~ Clive Owen
Price: $8.49
355 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Clive Owen deserves to be the Next Big Thing!, May 15, 2007
This review is from: Children of Men (DVD)
Disclosure: I did not rent this movie because I am a big fan of the futurama drama genre. Normally, grim apocalyptic fables do not draw me because "bleak" and "depressing" don't constitute my idea of entertainment. However, most bleak, depressing, apocalyptic fables do not star Clive Owen. I would sit through the driest of actuarial company training videos if it were delivered by Mr. Owen, so I was willing to give this a try. According to various rumor mills, Mr. Owen was either passed over for the role of 007 in "Casino Royale" or turned it down due to his commitment to this project. He does good work as another kind of reluctant action hero here, and not unlike Bond, the fate of the world rests on the success of his mission. Owen will not achieve Bond-like status on the basis of this movie or any other, but the autonomy to choose a wide range of disparate roles is its own reward. With his trademark underplayed style of acting, he has been compared to such laconic American icons as Gary Cooper & Steve McQueen, but in this movie he reminded me of no one so much as James Stewart. A similar Hitchcockian Everyman-in-a-bad-fix dynamic is at work as Owen's depressed protaganist Theo, made passive by drink and by the sorrowful events surrounding him, is suddenly thrust into action against his will and discovers the hero within. If you like shoot-em-up, crash 'em-up futuristic thrillers like "Mad Max" or "Blade Runner", you'll find plenty to like here. Even if you don't, you won't be able to take your eyes off Clive. Let's hope someone gives him a shot at comedy one of these days. I think, like Stewart or Tom Hanks, he would excel at any role he tries.

DVD ~ Sigourney Weaver
Price: $5.97
115 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like Bubbles in a Glass of Champagne, April 24, 2007
This review is from: Infamous (DVD)
"Infamous" will forever after be compared (unfavorably by most) to its immediate predecessor, "Capote". Without dissing the earlier movie, or Philip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar-winning perfomance, and having seen both, in the same weekend, I much prefer this one. "Capote" may be the more "important" film, if self-consciousness & a complete lack of humor are virtues. I feel quite certain that Toby Jones will not get a call from Oscar for this role. The Academy prefers to pass out statues for acting only when heavy lifting is involved, and evident to all watching. Mr. Jones is a dead-ringer for Capote in build and coloring, and so effortlessly does he inhabit the diminutive shoes of the writer, you forget that this is an actor playing a role, and that you aren't actually being regaled by Truman himself. You could never say the same for Hoffman, who wisely opted for restraint in his portrayal, given that he is twice the real Capote's size. Not so Jones, who pulls out all the stops in giving us Capote's outrageous dress & flamboyant manner in a way that Capote's contemporaries might have viewed him. And he gets away with it. What might have appeared cruel camp on a larger man rests easily on Jones' narrow shoulders. Whereas "Capote" is more effective at giving us the interior deterioration of Capote, "Infamous" is superior at painting the complicated and agonized relationship between the writer and Perry Smith, aided by an outstanding performance by Daniel Craig as Smith. Both films are outstanding in their production design, but unlike "Capote"'s elegiac, almost Homer-like landscapes, "Infamous" excels at giving us the Technicolor glitz of the late '50s, and making us feel that sense of (often cheesy) place, accompanied by some great Rat-Pack style tunes. And the film is redolent with humor, usually tied to Truman's penchant for women's outerwear and the flustered locals of Holcomb addressing him as 'ma'am'. This film gives us more of sense of how much joie de vivre Capote had, and how much fun he could be until things went off the rails. It is not the complete story by any means, but it gives us Truman as others saw him. The Hoffman version gave us Truman as he perhaps saw himself. This is an affectionate portrayal of a character who will never be duplicated, but Toby Jones comes as close, perhaps, as another guy can get. I think both versions can be enjoyed on their own merits, but whether you adored "Capote" or were nonplussed with it, "Infamous" deserves a look.

Super Size Me [DVD]
Super Size Me [DVD]
DVD ~ John Banzhaf
Price: $6.59
156 used & new from $0.01

9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars McTrain Wreck, September 20, 2006
This review is from: Super Size Me [DVD] (DVD)
Watching "Super Size Me" is kind of like watching the proverbial train wreck--sickening, but you can't tear your eyes away. Although it's essentially worthless as a piece of solid scientific research, it makes for weirdly compelling viewing. Who knew that there were 4 McDonald's per square mile in Manhattan, or that there is actually a guy in America who eats nothing but 3 or 4 Big Macs a day & has a cholesterol level of 140? Or that an order of McD's french fries will not show any signs of rot after sitting in a glass jar for 10 weeks? (This was actually one of the more disturbing elements for me, seeing as I had eaten an order of their fries shortly before watching this DVD. They are probably still in there!) As other reviewers have pointed out, Mr. Spurlock went to ridiculous extremes with his food choices & his activity level went to zero after being very active before. He is shown during only one meal having salad, and the only chicken we see him consume is McNuggets covered in sauce. Even though he set out to sample everything from the McDonald's menu during the month, he did not HAVE to choose the extra-large fries or the double burger sandwiches twice a day. He makes no attempt whatsoever not to overeat ridiculous quantities until he memorably pukes out of the window of his car. A more worthwhile experiment would have been to consume a couple of Extra Value meals a week (an average American amount of fast-food consumption) over the course of a year and track what happened, but then, of course, he wouldn't have had a film that won him a Sundance award. To give his experiment a whiff of scientific objectivity, Mr. Spurlock consults three doctors & a nutritionist over the course of the 30 days; they express shock over his final numbers, which indicate a massive health crisis on a par with lifelong alcoholic's. Are they being truthful, or have the results been skewed for shock value? Hard to tell. It took Spurlock a year to undo the damage this little stunt did to his body, but the fact is, he goes way overboard in his quest to skewer McDonald's. Curtis Mayfield's song "Your Pusher" playing in the background as Ronald McDonald prances on the screen sums up his agenda. After this film generated so much buzz, the Today show offered a rebuttal of sorts by having a woman on who actually LOST weight on a diet of McDonald's for 30 days. She did it by choosing the smallest hamburgers & eating a lot of salads. Imagine that.

DVD ~ Clancy Brown
Price: $6.95
19 used & new from $2.95

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In Search of Normal, January 9, 2006
This review is from: Normal (DVD)
"Normal" attempts to tackle a highly complex issue in the space of a feature-length movie, and this limitation makes it not a wholly successful effort. The sheer complexity of transgender issues warrants a miniseries treatment such asn HBO did for AIDS in the gay community with "Angels in America", and if "Normal" has a weakness, it's that it tried to cram too much into too brief a space. However, as the first serious dramatic treatment of a transgendered person's unique challenges, "Normal" deserves kudos, not the least for the brave performances from Tom Wilkinson & Jessica Lange. Ms. Lange in particular has a very difficult role, perched on the razor's edge between feelings of love & betrayal, and she captures this inner war brilliantly. Her face reflects all the conflicting emotions of anger, grief, bewilderment & pain, leavened with flashes of wry amusement at the ridiculousness of her situation, with grace & never, ever overacting or seeming to try too hard. Even though Tom Wilkinson's character, Roy, is the one facing the biggest outward changes, Lange reminds us that internal changes can be just as transforming, though not as evident. Her performance is the centerpiece of the film. She has gotten even more luminously beautiful over the years; we reason that if she, as his wife, can't make Roy glad he's a man, then he must really be serious.

As Roy, the catalyst for all this family trauma, Tom Wilkinson has more of a one-note performance; it seems that having made up his mind, despite 50-odd years of cultural conditioning to the contrary, Roy never looks back or even feels a twinge of doubt or regret over what he's about to do. We feel sympathy for Roy, but not nearly as much as we do for his wife, if only because we don't feel we know him as well. Our sympathy springs less from identification with his plight as it does from knowing that Roy could hardly have engineered more difficult circumstances for himself to realize his dream. His determination verges on delusion, such as when he wears perfume and earrings to work, and is surprised that his tough factory-worker colleagues slam his head into a locker. The movie ends just prior to Roy's surgery, but the odds seem stacked against him for making a successful transition; how can he, without therapy, support groups, fashion sense or seemingly any plan in place for 'after'? Does he really suppose that he'll be able to continue his life in all its outward particulars--living in the same house, working at the same job--as he did 'before'? Indeed, he seems aghast that anyone else in his life should have the gall to have a problem adjusting to his new lifestyle. These issues are not addressed satisfactorily; nor is the the problem of Roy's sex life after he becomes Ruth. Despite all of Mr. Wilkinson's best efforts, he remains a very masculine-looking man, with only the very subtlest of feminizing changes to his look or his body language. He radiates sincerety in his belief that he can become feminine, but the rest of us remain doubtful. I would've been tempted to dismiss Mr. Wilkinson's Roy as a completely unrealistic portrayal had I not recently seen a cable documentary about a MTF transsexual very like Roy: a middle-aged, burly man from the heartland with a butch job and strained family relations, whose only concession to femininity prior to his operation was bleaching his longish hair. In all other particulars of dress and manner, he was still extremely masculine. So perhaps Roy isn't as far out of the 'norm' of sexual reassignment seekers as it might seem at first blush.

Roy's family, and his life as a whole seems like a construct of TV Screenwriting 101. He's got two children, a son and a daughter, who function merely as plot conveniences and an audience for Daddy's experiment. The middle-school-aged daughter, who is coping with her own body changes provides a counterpoint to her father's concurrent body issues. To be sure the audience understands this, we are provided helpful shorthand: Patty Ann favors men's shirts, hates wearing bras & stands outside her parents' bedroom saying helpful things like "Is Daddy in drag? Can I see?" While it is not out of the realm of possibility that a teenage daughter might be able to eventually accept a transgendered parent with a minimum of trauma, it is NOT likely that she would be as glib about it as Patty Ann. Would a 13-year-old girl really be swapping makeup and waxing tips around the pool with her erstwhile dad, painting his toenails with easy familiarity like he was some kind of cool life-size Barbie, and not the person who was turning her life upside down and making her an object of ridicule among all her peers? Likewise, the opposition of the older son has the same forced glibness. Would it occur to a young man, no matter how opposed he was to the operation, to call his father a "c***" at Thanksgiving dinner? Perhaps a slew of other pejorative names, but not that one, surely. Nor would this exchange of insults culminating in a broken nose be likely to be the balm that mends the rift in their rocky relationship either, but the movie seems to suggest that after one altercation, things are all better now and the son has come around to the father's point of view. Roy's fellow townspeople, predictably, react to this metamorphosis of Roy's none too favorably. There is the locker incident. Someone writes "You are not normal" in the dirt on his truck. He is given the cold shoulder when he comes to church in a dress. However, Roy gets off very lightly, considering that his story could have an ending like "Boys Don't Cry" or "The Matthew Shepard Story". This movie was afraid to pull those kinds of punches . . .or maybe it just ran out of time.

"Normal" is a good start to a nationwide dialogue about transgendered issues, and helped pave the way for Felicity Huffman's probable Oscar nomination for "Transamerica". Despite its flaws, it depicts a transgendered individual's personal war to achieve what feels "Normal" to him, rather than being just a freak show. Better to be considered a freak show on the the outside than to feel like one on the inside, it seems to say.

Matchstick Men (Widescreen Edition) (Snap Case)
Matchstick Men (Widescreen Edition) (Snap Case)
DVD ~ Nicolas Cage
Price: $4.98
344 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nicolas Cage is "Matchless", November 8, 2005
Once again, Nicolas Cage demonstrates that he is not only one of the most versatile actors working today, but one of the best in Ridley Scott's "Matchstick Men". Cage gives a master class in acting with his portrayal of Roy, a small-time L.A. con man with no life outside his 'work', and some Issues with a capital 'I'. Roy suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which manifests itself in a fetish for cleanliness and various repetitive actions and physical twitches and tics. Roy feels safest indoors, and when he's at home, gives free reign to all his idiosyncratic behaviors. On the job, he's managed to master his condition well enough to build a very successful 'business', complete with his own junior partner (Sam Rockwell). Roy's micro-managed life is thrown a curveball in the form of a 14-year-old girl named Angela (a dazzling turn by Alison Lohman of 'White Oleander', convincing as a young teen even though she was 22 at the time) . . .the daughter Roy has never met, since he split with her mom before Angela was born. The burgeoning relationship between Roy and Angela forces Roy to confront the the moral dilemmas posed by his profession that are the true cause of his illness. There's a lot of entertaining caper business along the way, but this father-daughter relationship is the heart of the film. Cage embodies Roy with a decency and humanity that makes him likeable despite the bad things he does for a living. In lesser hands, Roy's mannerisms might have overshadowed the character and pushed him into parody, but Cage applies them with restraint & consistency so that we get the feeling that inside and out, he IS Roy, as a man with this condition might actually exist. When he pulls out all the stops to show Roy in the throes of a major meltdown, it's humorous, and yet shows the pathos of OCD in a way that wouldn't be possible if he were over the top all the time.

Shot on location around Los Angeles, the movie has a breezy, upbeat feel that is purposely at odds with the darker events happening to Roy at the center. The irony of a character who is afraid to go outside, staying inside behind closed blinds, when outside L.A. is glaringly bright and spacious highlights the loneliness of Roy's inner world. The retro soundtrack, infused with Sinatra and other Rat-Pack classics is also 'instrumental' in creating a sunny mood at odds with Roy's darker reality. It's not really correct to classify this movie as a comedy; though there are humorous moments throughout, this is a complex, multilayered film that transcends mere comedy. In this way, it is similar in tone and style to Stephen Spielberg's 'Catch Me if You Can'. Almost as enjoyable as the film is the feature making-of documentary that follows director Ridley Scott & his stellar cast and crew through the year-long process of bringing 'Matchstick Men' to the screen. A solid addition to any DVD collection.

The Mothman Prophecies
The Mothman Prophecies
DVD ~ Richard Gere
Price: $9.37
309 used & new from $0.01

4 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dazed and Confused, November 7, 2005
This review is from: The Mothman Prophecies (DVD)
This film has several things going for it--a moody, atmospheric look and feel; the star power of Richard Gere; solid supporting perfomances by the always-reliable Will Patton & Laura Linney. But these strengths ultimately fail to elevate "The Mothman Prophecies" into a first-rate thriller. After an intriguing start it becomes increasingly self-important & ridiculous, and closing credits arrive with a sense of relief.

Richard Gere does good work in his first supernatural thriller, as a grieving widower who grows increasingly frantic that he may be losing his sanity. The bulk of the action is set on the West Virginia-Ohio border in winter, and the bleakness of the landscape mirrors the wintry bleakness that Gere's John Klein feels in his soul. I could swear that many of the same exterior shots were used in "Silence of the Lambs"--the production design has a very familiar look. In order to accept the action of this film as plausible rather than incredulous, however, one has to be able to accept the basic premise--that a giant moth-like creature exists & is able to predict the future. I had a really hard time doing this, despite the claims that this film was based on actual events that occurred some 40 years ago. Whether 'Point Pleasant' West Virginia actually exists is easy enough to verify, but unless you are a dedicated believer in the paranormal already, this movie will do nothing to make the existence of such beings more plausible. Something that is never established satisfactorily: are the Mothman's intentions toward humans good or ill? Does he, er, 'it' warn of impeding disaster or cause it? If its intentions toward man are benign, why does it have such a satanic aspect that causes people to have car accidents or go insane? Why would a supernatural creature outside of space and time feel the need to communicate through a telephone?

"Mothman Prophecies" was released the same year as Richard Gere's triumphant performance in "Chicago". Hard to believe. This movie is a frozen wasteland removed from any Oscar-worthiness, that's for sure. If a supernatural thriller involving bugs is what you're after, "Mimic" delivers a much more satisfactory chill-fest. After "Mothman", "Mimic" practically seems realistic, and I never thought I'd find myself saying that!

Stage Beauty
Stage Beauty
DVD ~ Billy Crudup
Offered by Super Fast DVDs
Price: $6.29
104 used & new from $0.01

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 'Compleatly' Wonderful Film!, November 1, 2005
This review is from: Stage Beauty (DVD)
Whether you're a Shakespeare buff, or a fan of the theatre in any period, you can't afford to miss this one! Comparisons to Shakespeare in Love are inevitable, down to the framework of a Shakespearian play-within-a-play, and the central role of an appealing blonde actress struggling against societal mores to claim her dream of taking the stage. I am not in accord with those reviewers who regard Stage Beauty as Shakespeare in Love-lite, however. It's `compleatly' the other way around . . .with its darker tone & far more complex screenplay, Stage Beauty tackles ground which the earlier film dreamt not of. Whereas Shakespeare in Love was rather like a jolly Disney ride through Shakespearian London, Stage Beauty reflects a much grittier, often unflinching, portrait of what life was like in the thespian milieu, circa 1660.

`Stage Beauty is set some 60-odd years after the action of Shakespeare in Love-the Bard, long gone, is a voice in the film only through his play Othello. Billy Crudup (in a tour-de-force performance) is Edward `Ned' Kynaston, the reigning `leading lady' of the London stage. Bringing the house down night after night as Desdemona, Ned revels in his life as the top celebrity diva in town. He is attended by his faithful dresser, Maria (Claire Danes), who longs to act herself, and has memorized his performance as she watches every night from the wings. Ned and Maria have a complicated relationship; he treats her like a servant, yet seems to have more tender feelings for her as well, feelings which she secretly shares. Further complicating matters is Ned's homosexual relationship with the Duke of Buckingham (Ben Chaplin). Even though Ned has sex with men, and has been trained from boyhood to project a feminine demeanor, he can't live his life offstage as a woman. And even though a `manly' mode of being feels unnatural, his underlying masculinity is always showing through his mask of painstakingly cultivated femininity. The world `pansexual' could have been coined for him. One of the strengths of the film is how it captures the fluidity of sexuality prevalent at the time . . .Ned is a man who plays women, yet women respond to the person under the costume. Ned sleeps with a man who rejects him for a `real' woman, and yet at the same time, Ned finds himself attracted to his female dresser. At this time, dressing in drag was thought to be the height of hilarity, and even the King could wear a dress to the vast entertainment of his guests. In this overheated atmosphere of sexual confusion, and blurring of gender identity labels, this time seems not a great deal different than our own.

Ned tumbles from the pinnacle of success to the dregs of society almost overnight as a number of misfortunes pile up at once: Maria's performance as the first female Desdemona in an underground theatre production catches the attention of the Court, leading the King to grant permission for women to perform on stage. When Ned inadvertently insults the King's mistress, this leniency hardens into a ban against male actors playing any women's parts. Suddenly unemployable in the only field he knows, Ned is severely beaten by thugs hired by Maria's patron, and starts to slip into alcoholism. Rejected by the stage for not being a `real' woman, he is rejected by his noble lover for the same crime. When he has reached bottom, redemption comes from an unexpected quarter-an opportunity to return to the stage in Othello, this time playing the man's part . . . opposite the woman who stole his livelihood, and in his eyes, his very life. Once again the lines between stage and reality blur, as the Moor and Ned have both been wounded deeply by women they love, and both have `cause' for revenge. The scene where Maria & Ned are reunited on stage is as breathlessly compelling for us as it must have been for the first audiences witnessing naturalistic performances on the stage.

I really can't rave about this film enough. Billy Crudup carries the film in a multifaceted and grueling part. He does make a pretty girl, too, though I prefer him as a guy. Claire Danes hits the right note as Maria . . .low-key and in the background when that is called for, and then radiant or petulant by turns when that is called for. She does not swan about self-assuredly like the lady of noble birth slumming on the boards like Gwneth Paltrow's Lady Viola in Shakespeare in Love; Maria is a commoner, someone who has had to survive a hardscrabble existence by hard work, her wits and by her loyalty to her employer. When she betrays that loyalty and sets the events of the movie in motion, it is for her deeply-felt conviction that acting is more than a lark or a hobby, it is something she must do, even if she does it badly. An all-star cast lends support, including Hugh Bonneville as an endearingly befuddled Samuel Pepys, perpetual diarist (One of my favorite lines is when Ben Chaplin as the Duke of Buckingham tells Ned: `If two mice were in a nutshell screwing, Pepys would find a way to squeeze in and write it down'), and Rupert Everett, in a wry, campy performance as Charles II, looking rather like he wandered over from the Three Musketeers set, but having a wonderful time. Tom Wilkinson plays Mr. Betterton, the owner of Ned's theatre and his co-star, an enthusiastically bad Othello. Also deserving mention is newcomer Zoe Tropper, who is a delightfully bawdy and pulchritudinous Nell Gwynn. Asked about her parentage, Nell responds, cheerfully, "Me mum was a whore; me dad was in the Navy . . .that's why I don't do sailors!"

If watching Stage Beauty isn't as addictive as chocolate (I watched it twice in two days), and if it doesn't make you want to go out immediately and get your local library's copy of Othello so you can revisit Desdemona's death scene, then tack a mustache on me and call me a boy!

Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre
DVD ~ William Hurt
Offered by Two Thumbs Up
Price: $18.69
29 used & new from $2.49

17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gothic Chill, October 28, 2005
This review is from: Jane Eyre (DVD)
I had avoided watching this version of Jane Eyre for almost 10 years for one compelling reason: the thought of William Hurt as Rochester gave me a physical pain. I couldn't imagine a blond and pasty Rochester with a tendency to squint and whine. Mr. Hurt's American-ness also seemed like a colossal drawback in portraying a staple character of English literature, particularly as he was the only American in the cast. I had visions of another laughable outing ala Kevin Costner as Robin Hood. Having finally viewed it on a night with nothing better to do, I'm pleasantly surprised-He didn't bollocks it up! I saw the classic version long ago with Orson Welles, and while his portrayal is hazy in my memory, he remains my image of Rochester as he was physically depicted in the novel. However, with Hurt's blond hair darkened & sporting unflattering mutton-chop sideburns, he is transformed into a much rougher-looking version of his usual somewhat effete self, and so his interpretation of Rochester is not as ridiculous as first imagined. To his credit he did not attempt a British accent; Bronte's dialog is quite stilted enough in a straight reading and that would've only made things much worse. Paired with Charlotte Gainsbourg, he makes a surprisingly effective, if unconventional, Rochester. His habitual pained expression actually serves the part. Charlotte Gainsbourg steps into the part of Jane with a near-perfect fit. She embodies Bronte's heroine in every detail but one: her distinct French accent is rather jarring in this most English of English girls. She is most effective when she is still, and the camera lingers on her austere yet compelling face. She lacks the spirit of Anna Paquin as young Jane, who is excellent in her all-too-brief role, but she nails Jane's solemn watchfulness & pride. The transition between the two actresses is cleverly and plausibly handled as they suggest one another physically, even if they don't look exactly alike. Gainsbourg and Hurt manage an awkward chemistry together which is appropriate, though they fail to solve one of the greatest mysteries of English literature: Why exactly is 20-year-old Jane, whip-smart & nobody's fool, so drawn to this moody, brusque lout who is old enough to be her father? Bronte never really explains it, so a movie adaptation can hardly hope to. The movie, as the book, ends with Jane in the arms of her scarred, misanthropic boss, and we cheer, I guess . . .even though the smart move for Jane would have been to take her newly-inherited money & move to the Riviera or some other less-gloomy place. Director Zeffirelli has assembled an all-star cast of heavy hitters to lend support, including Joan Plowright as Mrs. Fairfax, John Wood as the cruel & Dickensian master of Lowood School, Geraldine Chaplin playing against type as a cruel headmistress & Maria Schneider, in a tiny & essentially non-speaking part, as the crazy wife in the attic. She is notable for just how changed she looks from her ingenue days in 'Last Tango in Paris'. Also deserving mention is the charming little French actress who plays Adele. All in all, a successful rendering, even Mr. Rochester..
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 12, 2011 12:39 AM PDT

Twisted (Special Collector's Edition)
Twisted (Special Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Ashley Judd
Offered by Shop Zoombie
Price: $7.99
283 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wasted, September 23, 2005
That should have been the title of this movie as it describes the use that the talents of a high-profile cast & normally respectable director are put to. Another possible title is "It's All About the Groceries", 'cause I'm hard-pressed to think of a reason, other than money, why anybody involved would've signed on to this project.

It starts promisingly, with atmospheric shots of the Golden Gate Bridge rising through fog over San Francisco. The camera plunges through the fog to hone in on the image of a knife being held to a woman's throat. Once again, Ashley Judd is a victim in jeopardy . . .so it seems. Then the 'victim' proceeds to open a can of whoop-a** all over the perpetrator and beats him to a bloody pulp. One starts to think that this might be getting good, especially after Ashley's apparently super-competent police detective is revealed to have anger issues, a pretty hefty drinking problem, a propensity for picking up strangers in bars & having rough sex with them . . .and some grisly skeletons in her closet. I was interested to see what Judd would do with this opportunity to play a character with a dark side instead of her usual noble victim. Unfortunately, not enough. Ms. Judd is a luminously beautiful actress, even with a severe short haircut meant to make her look tough, I suppose. It is not hard to believe that men would be drawn to her like bugs to a flame. She has not developed the range of emotion to really carry a complex character like Jessica, though, playing it distressingly one-note. Is she ecstatic? Depressed? In a drug-induced stupor? The way Judd plays it, it could be any, or all, of the above. I like Ashley Judd, but she is in danger of turning into the female version of Richard Gere--a performer with real potential who keeps choosing flashy junk-food roles that do not challenge her talent. "Kiss the Girls" was the high-water mark & each subsequent film has been weaker than the last.

This movie is worth the price of a rental, but I'd take a pass on purchasing it. For a better treatment of female-cop-with-dark-secrets-and-Issues, & a stronger movie all-around, I recommend "Murder by Numbers" with Sandra Bullock.

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