Friday, January 27, 2006


In French with English subtitles.

Daniel Auteuil: Georges Laurent, the host of a literary TV talk show
Juliette Binoche: his wife Anne, an editor with a major publisher in Paris
Lester Makedonsky: their teen aged son, Pierrot
Daniel Duval: Anne's boss Pierre

This is a very unusual film in that much time is devoted to watching surveillance tapes of people’s daily lives. The acting is great, especially by Binoche who comes across as so real. Certainly a thought-provoking movie, the ending will leave many unsatisfied.

for one brief scene of violence.

For a clue to figuring out the mystery, during the final video surveillance tape watch what goes on in the top corner on the left-hand side of the screen.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Historical drama

Colin Farrell: Captain John Smith
Christopher Plummer: the expedition leader, Captain Newport
August Schellenberg: the old chief Powhatan, king of the Native American Indians
Q'orianka Kilcher: his favourite child, Pocahontas
Christian Bale: tobacco farmer, John Rolfe

The movie is about the first permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 during the reign of King James. As you would expect from any movie that runs two hours and thirty minutes, it is slow, ponderous, and at times downright boring in part because too much time is spent with the camera lingering over beautiful scenery that does nothing to advance the story.

However, with all this time on his hands, it is surprising the Director chooses to have so many loose ends. For example, one of the settlers shoots a Native American Indian then the movie fades to black and when it reappears instead of the expected retribution and battle, you see the two of them in a canoe paddling down a river: like what happened during the fade to black that we don’t get to see?

Some of the acting is not all that good. In fact it is hardly acting at all when all you have to do is scowl a lot and mumble something occasionally which is what Captain Smith is called upon to do. Maybe he has good reason to be so sad and glum but we are never told why.

for some intense battle sequences.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Fact based sports drama

Josh Lucas: Don Haskins, coach of the Texas Western University Miners basketball team
Red West: his senior assistant, Ross
Evan Jones: his younger bespectacled assistant, Moe
Derek Luke: the team’s most talented player (and lady’s man), Bobby Joe Hill
Mehcad Brooks: Harry Flournoy, wanting to do well to make his “momma” proud
Damaine Radcliff: Willie "Scoops" Cager, playing despite a medical condition
Al Shearer: Nevil Shed, struggling with his own self doubts
Sam Jones II: Willie Worsley, the team’s shortest player at 5’7”
Jon Voight: Adolph Rupp, legendary winningest coach of the conference leader Kentucky Wildcats

Predictable in terms of the outcome of the game, the movie brings to mind issues that have been previously glossed over. At the same time, it shows how one man changed the game of basketball back in the mid-sixties by not accepting the "informal rules" regarding black players.

for racial issues including violence and epithets, and momentary language.

While walking off the court, Bobby Joe Hill stops abruptly when Coach Haskins calls his name. He turns around to face the Coach and he is midway between the free throw circle and the centre circle. He remains immobile while they are talking. But when the camera pulls back, we see now he is somehow almost completely inside the free throw circle.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Fact based drama\comedy

The theatre opened as the Palais de Luxe Cinema in December 1909 in the city’s East End with a tiny corner entrance leading to the underground auditorium. In 1931 architect Edward Jones made alterations to the building to convert it into a live theatre. A new facade was added in the style of a windmill with turrets and balconies carried out in a traditional style. The interior design was by Mrs Laura Henderson in tones of beige and brown. It opened as the Windmill Theatre in June 1931 with the play "Inquest" by Michael Barringer. Unfortunately 'legit' theatre was not all that popular and in the autumn of 1931 it returned to screening art house films.
Then Mrs Laura Henderson introduced London to a new kind of show along the lines of those seen in Paris. The show drew large crowds and became one of London's must see attractions. Opening on February 4, 1932 the show ran daily until October 1964.

Judi Dench: Laura Henderson, wealthy widow
Thelma Barlow: her friend Margo, better known as Lady Conway
Bob Hoskins: veteran producer Vivian Van Damm
Christopher Guest: High Commissioner Lord Cromer, Chief Censor
Will Young: Bertie, the Windmill’s singing male emcee
Kelly Reilley: Maureen, the show's star attraction

A very entertaining movie with lots of glitter, comedy, song and dance. In typical British fashion, the dialogue is often hilarious, as are some of the situations. Great acting by the principals adds to the enjoyment.

for nudity and some language

Among the group milling around outside the theatre are some soldiers wearing officer’s caps but none of them have the requisite shoulder epaulets indicating their rank.



Nathan Lane: Max Bialystock, Broadway producer and con-man
Matthew Broderick: his naïve accountant Leo Bloom
Uma Thurman: Ulla, a Swedish secretary with limited talent
Will Ferrell: Franz Liebkind, author of the musical “Springtime for Hitler
Gary Beach: Roger DeBris, famous musical director
Roger Bart: his assistant and companion, Carmen Ghia

The story is about two unscrupulous people who collaborate to produce a really awful Broadway play. The result is a really awful movie.

Only loyal fans of the old-fashioned musical theatre will like it, provided they are not offended by the glorification of Hitler, they do not take offence with the ruthless stereotypical portrayal of homosexuals or are unfazed by the irreverent depiction of little old ladies with walkers and who get a kick out of crude off-colour sexist jokes.

Not meeting any of these criteria, I did not.

for sexual humor and references.

When Hitler is singing a solo, in the close-ups his hair is hanging down over his eyes but in each long shot it’s neatly combed.

Apparently it runs more than two hours. I wouldn’t know: I walked out after an hour. But I was not the first to go. Five or six people got up and left before I did.

Sunday, January 15, 2006



Ballet began 500 years ago in Italy as a form of court entertainment and later spread to France. The first full-scale ballet was staged in Paris on October 15, 1581. Written for the court of Henry III of France, this lavish entertainment included songs, speeches, mimes, and dances and lasted almost six hours! Today ballets are much shorter.

The Artistic Director of a company is in charge of staging a ballet. The Dance Master is the main choreographer who arranges a ballet's dance movements and teaches them to the dancers.

There are four levels of dancers in a ballet company. At the bottom is the largest group, called the corps de ballet, which performs as one dancing unit. Next are the corphees who lead the corps de ballet and sometimes dance the ballet's smaller parts. Above them are the soloists, who dance alone. At the very top are the principals who dance the lead roles. Great principal ballerinas are often referred to as prima ballerinas; great male dancers are called premier danseurs.

The so-called “Baby Ballerinas”: Atiana Riabouchinska, Irina Baronova, and Tamara Toumanova all of whom are principal ballerinas
Frederic Franklin, a premier danseur

This is a history of two ballet companies, both using the Ballet Russe in their names (thus the reason the movie title is plural) that dominated the world of ballet during most of the 20th Century from 1932 to 1962. The archival footage is kept to a minimum, presumably so those who are not devotees of ballet do not become bored. The story is told from the perspective of the many dancers who took part with an update on their current involvement with dance.




Felicity Huffman: Sabrina 'Bree' Osbourne, a dishwasher in a family-run LA Mexican restaurant
Elizabeth Pena: her counselor Margaret
Kevin Zegers: Toby, a seventeen-year-old New York City street hustler
Graham Greene: Calvin Manygoats, a Native American good Samaritan
Fionnula Flanagan: Bree’s mother Elizabeth
Burt Young: Bree’s dad Murray

This transamerica road trip (from New York City to Los Angeles) is both funny and touching. An excellent performance by Huffman is coupled with a well-written story about misadventures.

for sexual content, nudity, language and drug use.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Fact based thriller

Eric Bana: Avner, former bodyguard to the Prime Minister of Israel
Ayelet Zurer: his pregnant wife Daphna
Lynn Cohen: Golda Meir, the Prime Minister of Israel
Geoffrey Rush: Ephraim, Mission Controller with Mossad
Mathieu Kassovitz: Robert, former toy-maker turned bomb-maker
Mathieu Amalric: Louis, able to provide information for a price
Michael Lonsdale: his father “Papa”, leader of the international intelligence network

Despite being a little too long at 2 hours and 45 minutes, there is enough going on to keep your attention. Generally things are well explained, apart from the unplanned encounter with the PLO when Louis double books the safe house, and the action sequences are not too drawn out. The acting throughout is excellent.

for strong graphic violence, some sexual content, nudity and language.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Fact based war drama
original title Joyeux Noël
in French and German with English subtitles

After the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, the world was plunged into war. Although the Germans had made a strong offensive into France, the combined French, Belgian, and British forces were able to halt them. Since they were unable to push the Germans out of France, there was a stalemate and both sides dug into the earth creating a large network of trenches. The trenches were only a few hundred feet apart, buffered by a relatively flat area known as "No Man's Land."

Though World War I had been raging for only four months when Christmas came around, it was already proving to be one of the bloodiest wars in history. Soldiers on both sides were trapped in the trenches, exposed to the cold and wet winter weather, covered in mud, and extremely careful of sniper shots. Machine guns had proven their worth in war, bringing new meaning to the word "slaughter." It was not where they wanted to be.

Benno Fürmann: Nikolaus Sprink, a famous German tenor
Diane Krüger: his lover Anna Sörensen, a Danish soprano
Gary Lewis: Palmer, a minister with the 6th Gordon Highlanders regiment
Guillaume Canet: French Lieutenant Audebert
Dany Boon: Ponchel, Audebert’s aide-de-camp
Daniel Brühl: a German officer, Horstmayer

Although war is generally regarded in a very negative fashion, sometimes the human spirit prevails. This heart-warming movie is about just such an occasion. The movie is sometimes amusing, often poignant. The acting is first-rate but the lip-syncing is not.

for some war violence and a brief scene of sexuality/nudity.
The events that took place were never again repeated.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006



The word geisha means "artist" in Japanese. Geisha are professional hostesses who entertain guests in teahouses called O-chaya. They are not prostitutes. A geisha will have a patron (“danna”), with whom she is involved emotionally, economically, and sexually. Unpaid romances as a geisha are strictly forbidden and if she gets married she must quit. Geisha do not prepare or serve food. They also never have a one-night stand.

To become a geisha, you either had to be the daughter of a geisha or more often, a beautiful little girl from a poverty stricken family and sold to an O-chaya by relatives. The okamisan ("mother") runs the house and oversees the girls. They perform various chores until their mid-teens when they become "maikos", geisha apprentices. A maiko accompanies a geisha on her appointments to learn and become accustomed to the job. Around the age of 20, a maiko decides if she wants to continue her training to become a geisha.

Geisha are trained in a number of traditional skills such as ancient dance, singing, the playing of instruments, flower arrangement, the tea ceremony, calligraphy, the serving of alcohol, how to engage in conversation and more. The initiation ceremony used to revolve around the girls losing her virginity to the highest bidder. This does not take place anymore.

Geisha women are not perceived as a threat to a marriage in Japanese culture. Traditionally, the wife and geisha have completely separate roles in society. Usually, the relationship between a man and his geisha is not based on love and is not meant to disrupt the marriage between a husband and wife.

Wives usually know whom their husbands geisha are, and in fact, there are some times when their paths cross. For example, during the Obon Festival and during the New Year's celebration, geisha will typically visit the homes of important customers and bring gifts to their wives. Because a Japanese wife is not allowed to influence her husband, she may at times request that the geisha try to persuade her husband to do something that may be in the best interest of the family. In addition to acting on the wife's behalf, a geisha may also offer business advice to her danna, as she is likely to hear the details of important business deals while performing or serving the tea house customers.

Suzuka Ohgo: Chiyo, a poor fisherman’s 9-year-old daughter, sold as an unpaid servant
Kaori Momoi: cigarette-smoking Mother, head of the geisha house where Chiyo works
Gong Li: Hatsumomo, Mother’s number one geisha
Youki Kudoh: Pumpkin, another novice who becomes Chiyo’s best friend
Ken Watanabe: The Chairman, a wealthy businessman
Michellle Yeoh: Mameha, head of a classier geisha house, who buys and trains the teenage Chiyo following The Chairman’s suggestion
Ziyi Zhang: Sayuri, Chiyo’s name when she becomes a geisha
Kôji Yakusho: Nobu, The Chairman’s disfigured colleague

The story is simple, but the movie isn’t. Adapted from a best-selling novel, for anyone who has not read the book it requires a serious rewrite to clear up several areas of confusion. Some attempt to clarify the situation has been made above in describing the principal cast members but questions remain. The acting often seems forced and unnatural because the dialog is entirely in English, which is the second language of the cast. It is also too long at 2½ hours.
Nevertheless the movie does provide us with an insight to the world of the geisha and has some beautiful moments.

for mature subject matter and some sexual content.