The British Comedy Connosieurs A Lunch Community devoted to British Comedy! <![CDATA[ My favorite film of all time.]]> Mon, 3 Jun 2013 22:55:49 +0000 <![CDATA[ "You touched me. Nobody touches me."]]>
Apparently, some people actually doubt the genius of Terry Gilliam. Here we have one of the most obviously imaginative minds working in the film industry of today and yesteryear, and people literally have the nerve to challenge his brilliance. Maybe they find themselves turned off by what he's been directing recently (which really isn't all that bad, with the exception of the tedious and boring "Tideland"), although that alone shouldn't be good enough reason for them to shut him out completely. Perhaps those people should go back and watch his earlier films. I don't know where I'd start. Maybe at the beginning. Or maybe at arguably his most famous work next to his debut - which was "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" - which would have to be 1985's "Brazil".

The year of release for this film is beyond ironic. It is an Orwellian comic fantasy that sees Gilliam using an over-the-top near-futuristic scenario as his canvas of choice. As far as films go, they don't get much more imaginative, funny, and entertaining as this. It appeals not only to my recently-developed fascination with big-scale futuristic storytelling, but also my admiration for absurdist humor, social satire, and artistic expression through visual indulgence. It's sort of like a gonzo roller-coaster ride. It is twisty, perplexing, multi-layered, exciting, ambitious, and particularly emotive. Simply put, I absolutely adore it. And even though I've seen most of Gilliam's films, I've never seen anything quite like this. He almost always brings something new to every film.

The story takes place in the future; where everything is overly complicated save for restaurant menus. It starts with a fly, which is swatted and then ends up in a nearby printer, screwing up a file that was currently printing. The file concerned the interrogation and death of the suspected terrorist Archibald Tuttle, although the misprint caused the name Buttle to appear instead. There is indeed an Archibald Buttle, and he is taken away from his family on Christmas Eve shortly. A young man by the name of Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is assigned by his boss Mr. Kurtzmann (Ian Holm) to look into the situation and in turn fix what he can of it. Sam is a privileged but unhappy fellow who finds solace only in dreams, where he is a knight in shining armor (with wings) who seeks to save a beautiful maiden.

When Sam goes to the home of Mrs. Buttle, he spots her neighbor Jill Layton (Kim Greist). This woman intrigues Sam because she is quite literally the girl he's been seeing in his dreams all along. He follows her, tries to make contact; all without being aware that she's currently being considered as a reference or a friend of Tuttle (Robert De Niro), who is now a rogue air conditioner repairman (air conditioning is very important in this future). To get more information about Jill, Sam must accept his mother's promotion to Information Retrieval, where he will have access to her files. His mother, Ida (Katherine Helmond) is thrilled that her son is finally showing signs of ambition, but is nonetheless still lost in the world of plastic surgery addiction.

And so the romantic conquest is set in motion. Sam breaks the rules so that he may be with Jill, albeit only for a single night. In the end, it's a sweet and touching love story; although not only a love story. "Brazil" is, above all, a film that satirizes bureaucracy (since if you know the film's history and Gilliam's own, as a filmmaker, you'll know how much he must hate the very concept). Futuristic films are often kind of frightening in what is realized - what we could become - although Gilliam is easy on the audience and provides us with something that is certainly dark underneath it all but comedic enough to also be sort of light-hearted. It's most obvious inspiration is "1984", hence the earlier mention of George Orwell. But "Brazil" itself inspired a lot of fellow artists and straight-up people; so Gilliam himself has his own legacy to claim.

This film has some of the most bizarre images ever committed to celluloid. Some of the most famous in "Brazil" include the scene with the plastic surgeon (Jim Broadbent) who pulls Sam's mother's face like taffy, the baby-like masks worn by the monsters that appear in the dream sequences, and then the dream sequences themselves, which celebrate the power of dreams and often involve Sam fighting off monsters, with his maiden in a cage that floats in the air, grounded only by ropes that are often loose. The imagery is both nightmarish and playful at the same time; Gilliam seeks to entertain, but you also get the sense that these things mean a lot to him. Even though the production had its share of problems, I think Terry got what he wanted (which is more than I can say for two of his more recent outings, if you know what I mean) and the visual style is 100% Gilliam.

This is one of those films that inspires me to want to become a filmmaker that pays extreme attention to even the most subtle of details in every little shot. This is one of those films that makes me want to be the most imaginative man I can be in life. It's so beautiful, so magnificent; so unforgettable. Watching it is an ecstatic experience that I personally react very strongly to. Every time I enter this world through the clouds, set to Geoff Muldaur's "Aquarela do Brasil", I'm in a state that can only be described as sheer heaven. So with that, I would say "Brazil" is an essential film. But know that it's not fulfilling to watch it simply once. If that notion annoys or perplexes you, it would either be wise to turn back or watch it anyways knowing you have been warned by yours truly. Over and out; my complicated had a complication.]]> Sun, 16 Sep 2012 19:16:39 +0000
<![CDATA[Notting Hill Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Mon, 21 May 2012 08:47:25 +0000 <![CDATA[ You've got red on you.]]>
Edgar Wright is the kind of guy who I would best describe as nice. A director of comedy films - always has, always will be, I hope - , it's surprising that one of the genre's greatest minds working today does not succumb to the universal demands of the folks overseas. A filmmaker working primarily in his homeland United Kingdom, Wright isn't one to rely on gross-out gags or excessively crude humor. He does however seem to like blood a whole lot. But that's one of the simple pleasures of a great many artists. Wright achieved fame in his native country with his television program "Spaced", although it wasn't until he made "Shaun of the Dead" that the modern comic genius made his debut into worldwide sensationalism. This was the film that put him on the map, as a name to look out for in the future; his name was a selling point in itself for all his other directorial (and non-directorial) features to follow. Nevertheless, I like to think of this as the one that started it all; the madness, the hilarity, the ingenuity, the blood and the ice-cream. You know what I mean.

The titular hero, Shaun (Simon Pegg), is an almost fascinatingly lazy and hopelessly clueless man. He's a slacker, shares a flat in London with his best friend Ed (Nick Frost) - who's admittedly a bit of a useless turd himself - and goes through life day by day with a rinse-repeat philosophy on his mind, or not. He's able to uphold a decent job at a retail shop with indecent people, but he's not so lucky in his love life. Not too long after the story opens, Shaun's girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) breaks up with the hero, finding him to be incompetent. She believes that if they remain partners, they'll both end up drowning their sorrow and boredom in alcohol at the local pub - The Winchester - for the rest of their lives. She's probably right, even if Shaun has no complaints or regrets.

Things are not looking all too well for Shaun. He plans to get drunk with Ed for the next few days - and probably lie around the house a little - to try and get the breakup off his mind. These plans are interrupted when people start falling unconscious on the streets at random, old men start eating pigeons in the park, and seemingly drunk convenience store clerks are mysteriously ending up in Sean's backyard. It soon becomes clear that this is not just rapid public drunkenness; the newscaster on the television explains that this is the start of a full-fledged zombie apocalypse. After realizing that they aren't quite safe at all where they stand, both Shaun and Ed devise a plan to round up Liz, her roommates Dianne (Lucy Davis) and David (Dylan Moran), and Shaun's mom (Penelope Wilton) so that they can ensure a chance at survival. Shaun just hopes he won't have to take his stepfather (Bill Nighy) - whom he passionately loathes - along with them for the trip.

The first half of the film is devoted to build-up. The opening titles sequence depicts an almost emotionally desolate London in which life is forever repetitive, contrived, and almost robotic; people are essentially zombie-like even without the craving for human flesh. Shaun is no different, and there are two prolonged scenes - almost identical in visual style - in which he leaves the house, picks up a beer at the supermarket, and plops back down on the couch again. Then...there's panic on the streets of London. Now, the second half of the film is set after the group that Shaun has gotten together avoids the "panic". They set up camp in the Winchester for a while, hoping that they will be safe, even though a window has been shattered. They should be fine; they've got food, alcohol, and look, even a shotgun over the bar that gave the pub its name.

"Shaun of the Dead" is my payoff for all those countless days, hours, and weeks spent watching or just THINKING about zombie movies. The title itself is of course a play on a certain George Romero genre classic, and there are little in-jokes and clever references to past zombie flicks scattered throughout this one. So if you know your stuff about the genre, look out for those; and you'll have an even better time than what is already guaranteed. Even without the references, there are enough laugh-out-loud moments and jokes to more than keep the film afloat. Wright seems to enjoy visual gags the most; which is apparent in scenes like the one where the group walks through London to get to the pub disguised as the undead (they try their hand at convincing moaning noises and jolted bodily movements), as well as another where Shaun and Ed go to town on some bloodthirsty zombies hanging around their throwing Shaun's entire LP record collection in their general direction.

It's ultraviolent, bloody, and you'd better bet that it's sometimes quite profane (one of my favorite scenes is a non-stop barrage of four-letter words). But it's also one of the more absorbing comedies out there. I cannot simply count how many times I've seen and thoroughly enjoyed the film but I can tell you right now that it's been a while. I'm glad I finally revisited the film; for it's one of those special viewings where you feel like you're revisiting every last location presented in the actual movie. From the Winchester to Shaun's flat, to the individual scenes of humor that take place in between and within them; everything felt familiar, but in a good way. If I already know and anticipate the joke(s), but they still manage to make me laugh until it hurts, you know a movie has been taken completely to heart. It's one of the few comedies that completely immersed me in its universe. You remember the names of the smaller characters long after you've survived Z-day.

Case in point, the film has not changed on bit from the last time I saw it until now. "Shaun of the Dead" remains a bloody good time at the movies; the kind of flick that will someday (deservingly) spawn some sort of cult following (it already has, somewhat). If you are in need of a very fine introduction to Wright's hilarious and wholly impressive body of work, this would be the movie to get you started. It may not be loved by all, but you'd have to be a sourpuss to reject it completely. After all, one should know how to accurately distinguish a good homage/genre spoof from a bad one. What I like most about the film is that it mixes genuine atmosphere, scares, and drama with brilliant comedy that ranges from physical to dialogue-driven antics. If it had tried any harder, it might have failed; but then again, why let the thought even cross my mind in the first place?]]> Wed, 11 Apr 2012 21:13:47 +0000
<![CDATA[ A marvelous re-creation of mid-Victorian music halls, with Tommy Trinder. "Hit Him on the Boko"]]> Champagne Charlie, a valentine from Ealing Studios and Alberto Cavalcanti to English music halls.
Ostensibly, it's the story of George Leybourne (Tommy Trinder) and his rivalry with Alfred Vance, the Great Vance (Stanley Holloway), in the music halls of mid-Victorian England. The music halls hadn't yet become the more respectable theaters of England, from which they lasted in full glory until television appeared. In the 1860s they usually were big ale houses, unsophisticated drinking and singing establishments for the working man and his lady. In this movie's view, they were often rambunctious, loud, jolly and great fun, where the swells often showed up to see the latest entertainment, which included young dancers, and everyone joined in the songs. There's a smattering of a plot beyond the rivalry (which includes a ludicrous duel at one point between the equally nervous Leybourne and Vance) involving attempts to close the music halls down. The wisp of a romance involves a duke's son and the daughter of Bessie Bellwood (Betty Warren), a music hall owner and singer who employs Leybourne.
The pleasure is in the the story of Leybourne, who becomes Champagne Charlie. He's played with enthusiasm and great cheer by Tommy Trinder, who was a hugely popular stage and later radio entertainer in the Thirties, Forties and Fifties. Trinder was a tall Cockney with a long face, round eyes, a lot of teeth and personality to spare. The first 50 minutes of the movie, in fact, is largely Trinder and Holloway performing song after song in the gas-lit music halls, always strutting their best stuff as they try to out-perform each other with drinking songs and stage power. It's a grand show, with the ale flowing, the smoky atmosphere, crowds of warm bodies having a great's good cheer all around even with the plot. Hearing and seeing Trinder prance about performing Champagne Charlie; Hit Him on the Boko; Ale Old Ale; Burgundy, Claret and Port; I'm One of the Brandy and Seltzer Boys; and Everything Will Be Lovely...or hearing and seeing Holloway sell Strolling in the Park; I Do Like a Little Drop of Gin; Rum, Rum, Rum; A Glass of Sherry Wine; and Hunting After to wish you were back there, too, downing a pint and singing with them.
If it had been possible in war-time Britain for this movie to have been made in Technicolor, Champagne Charlie would not be the forgotten museum piece it has become. The settings in the music halls cry out for lush color. For those who love English music halls, search out Lost Empires. It's a multi-part TV miniseries from 1986 based on the novel by J. B. Priestly. It tells the story of Richard Herndon, played by Colin Firth, who joins his uncle for a year of touring on the Empire music hall circuit before WWI starts. Lawrence Olivier in his next to last theatrical appearance plays an aging song-and-dance man long past his prime. Lost Empires is a fine drama which expertly recreates the atmosphere and the acts.]]> Sun, 2 Oct 2011 01:01:27 +0000
<![CDATA[ Kenneth More does his best, and so do all those great British character actors]]> Brandy for the Parson, filmed in 1952, tries hard to be a member of that group, doesn't quite make it, but still has much to appreciate.
A young couple, Bill Harper and Petronilla Brand (James Donald and Jean Lodge), out for a boating holiday, manage to hit and sink Tony Rackman's boat. They wind up conned into taking Tony (Kenneth More) to a French port where he says he was going to pick up a few things. It turns out the "things" are 12 barrels of prized and illegal brandy. By the time our couple and Tony get the barrels back to England, the custom's inspectors are after them. Bill and Petronilla reluctantly feel they must help Tony. After all, they sank his boat, it's not much brandy and, with the inspectors after all of them, they don't have much choice. So now we're off on a series of improbable adventures involving everything and everyone from a Boy Scout troop, trained circus ponies, the Lascombe Steam Laundry van and its delivery driver, George Crumb (Charles Hawtrey), shady pub owners, effete wine merchants, a gentleman farmer who knows too well the price of brandy and an assortment of some very capable, pungent British character actors.
But, oh, is the pace leisurely. Individual scenes are amusing, but the movie at times just slogs along. Adding to the problem of pace is that we see too little of that confident and charismatic extrovert, Kenneth More, and too much of the uncharismatic and often dour James Donald. More, after years as a strong second lead, crashed into major stardom as Ambrose Claverhouse with his next movie, Genevieve. He brings conniving good cheer to the movie, but he disappears for a good deal of the middle. James Donald, on the other hand, was a fine actor in secondary roles. You might remember him as the major who cries "Madness! Madness!" in The Bridge on the River Kwai. He was the kind of humorless, thoughtful actor who telegraphs how hard he's acting when he has to smile. Still, the character actors, some just briefly seen, keep giving us pleasant and women like Alfie Bass, Reginald Beckwith, Arthur Wonter, Frank Tickle, Patience Rintoul and so many others. Almost every small role is a gem. How does Britain cultivate these people? America seems to have nothing like them. Especially, there is Charles Hawtrey as the Lascombe laundryman who winds up as a more-or-less innocent accomplice to Tony, Bill and Pretronilla.
Hawtrey was a small, thin, bespectacled man who, as part of the Carry On gang from 1959 to 1972, raised mincing about to an art form. He looked a little like a cross between a small Clifton Webb (without the waspish superiority) and a young Ernest Thesiger. While discreet in his personal relationships and activities (homosexuality at this time was a crime in Britain) he made no effort to be anything than who he was. As the years moved on Hawtrey became a passionate alcoholic, an enthusiastic collector of brass headboards and teenagers, and a flamboyant greeter of sailors. He quit the Carry On series in a dispute over billing and refused all entreaties to return. He seemed to have no close friends and often alienated the unclose ones. He was 73 when his doctors discovered the arteries in his legs were hopelessly diseased. When they told him his legs had to be amputated or he would die, he categorically refused. He supposedly told them he preferred to die with his boots on. He did, a month later. I doubt if I'd have wanted to spend much time with Hawtrey, but I can't help liking him. He was uproariously shameless flouncing about in all those Carry On movies.]]> Fri, 12 Aug 2011 21:55:28 +0000
<![CDATA[ "Scary biscuits!" says a character after a murder in a bath tub. Thank goodness we have Diana Rigg.]]>
That's Mrs. Adela Bradley speaking. The mystery is titled Speedy Death, the first of five in The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries Set. The place is an English country manor home. The time is the 1920s. And the who include an old friend of Mrs. Bradley, the wealthy Alastair Bing; his daughter Eleanor, who is Mrs. Bradley's god-daughter, confined to a wheelchair since an auto accident two years earlier and who will come into a fortune when she marries; Eleanor's fiancee, Everard Mountjoy; Bing's son, Garde; Garde's best friend (who was driving when Eleanor was crippled), Bertie Philipson; and Garde's house guest, Dorothy Manners. Of course, there are assorted servants as well as Mrs. Bradley's chauffeur, George Moody (Neil Dudgeon). George is big, capable man who dislikes boredom as much as Mrs. Bradley does.
Adela Bradley (Diana Rigg) is a wealthy woman of a certain age, a divorcee, a psychoanalyst, a catcher of criminals, a woman who drives about in a Rolls Royce, enjoys cocktails, is skeptical about many things, especially love and husbands, and who some might say is, in one of the great descriptive words of the Twenties, louche. "I'm never entirely sure if I'm famous or notorious," she confides to us in one of her asides spoken into the camera. "Someone once said famous is to live in poverty and end up as a statue. Naturally, I prefer to be notorious."
Little does Mrs. Bradley realize that during her weekend at the Bing estate, where Eleanor's engagement to Mountjoy will be formally announced, she will encounter murder. That's in addition to calculated emotional manipulation, pre-planned adultery, psychotic obsession and a shocking discovery that takes place in a bath tub. Several people also wind up getting happily married, a state that neither we nor Mrs. Bradley expect to last for long.
In addition to the 90-minute Speedy Death, the set includes the four 60-minute stories that made up Mrs. Bradley's second (and last) season. We have Death at the Opera, where a person at a posh finishing school for proper young ladies is finished off properly and permanently; The Rising of the Moon, which involves a traveling circus; Laurels Are Poison, where a haunted house may include too many ghosts from WWI; and The Worsted Viper, a tale of ritual murder in a cozy coastal village which involves the daughter of Mrs. Bradley's chauffeur, George.
Does this all sound a bit over the top? Or just "Scary biscuits!" as one character says in Speedy Death? While the mysteries are variable, the series are a good deal of fun, thanks to Diana Rigg. She brings to the role authority and skeptical amusement. One or two of the stories become a bit too serious for their own good, but Mrs. Bradley soldiers on.
Diana Rigg was 60 when she made Speedy Death. She's a first-rate actress to begin with; she looks a knock-out in some almost outlandishly sleek Twenties dresses and hats; and she doesn't hesitate to show us the character, meaning herself, without make-up. If you like stylish mysteries, made with wry humor and a certain cynicism about human behavior, you'll most likely enjoy these. ]]> Fri, 17 Jun 2011 20:50:51 +0000
<![CDATA[ A merciless satire of British class snobbery and Oxbridge traditions]]> Porterhouse Blue. That is, of a stroke brought on by overindulgence. Long tradition insists that the masters of Porterhouse College name their successors, and that is to be the last man named by a dying master. Porterhouse, a very traditional college in the Cambridge mode of English privileged education, depends on all of its complacent traditions.
"You know my view," says the Dean of Porterhouse, "if a little learning is a dangerous thing, just think what harm a lot of it can do."
The college is so traditional, in fact, that its rights and privileges haven't changed in centuries. The deans and tutors seem just as ancient. However, the dying master did not name a successor. With no successor, the Prime Minister steps in and chooses a new one...Sir Godber Evans (Ian Richardson), a weak but sly fox of a politician with a wife, Lady Mary (Barbara Jeffords), who is as strong-willed and zealous as an executioner's axe. Sir Godber, however, is about to come up against two bastions of self-satisfied tradition, the Dean (Paul Rogers) and the Senior Tutor (John Woodnutt). But not even in Sir Godber's worst dreamings could he envisage the real defender of Porterhouse tradition...Skullion (David Jason), the head porter, a man who has been a fixture at Porterhouse for 45 years, who knows all the secrets and who keeps lists. Skullion is not a man to be trifled with.
Sir Godber and Lady Mary are determined to haul Porterhouse into the Twentieth Century. Finding that the college is in debt by a million pounds -- it maintains a fine cellar and chef for the High Table -- doesn't seem upsetting to those who have the long view. Take the college Feast, a magnificent affair with cooked, stuffed swans with all their feathers replaced, with the great ox cooked on a spit, whose dripping, roasted corpse is festively paraded about the dining hall to the cheers of all.
"Don't you find this a little indulgent? Particularly in the present economic circumstances." says Sir Godber.
"Oh, we never bother with 'present economic circumstances'." says the Dean.
Chimes in the Senior Tutor, "We find that they tend to go away after fifty years or so."
As Sir Godber and his wife set out to bring women into the college, bring financial order to the budget and bring contraceptive vending machines to the student restrooms, The Dean, the Senior Tutor and the other Fellows plot...and Skullion is just about to have a fit. He knows a gentleman when he sees one, and Sir Godber is not doing what a gentleman does. He embarks on a campaign to see that Porterhouse traditions will be protected and that he'll be able to keep his job. In this vicious, amusing satire on class snobbery and England's Oxbridge ways, no one is spared and a few even die. In fact, one of the funniest turns of the knife depends at the conclusion on another episode of a Porterhouse Blue.
The program was adapted from the novel by Tom Sharpe, an author who specializes in novels which skewer class pretensions. If you like Evelyn Waugh, you'll probably find Porterhouse Blue a rip. David Jason and Ian Richardson are in great form. And only Britain could come up with such a collection of fine actors able to play the aging protectors of tradition and fine wines. I remember years ago seeing Our Man in Havana and being impressed by Paul Rogers, a man I'd never heard of before, playing a key role amidst the star power of Alec Guinness, Ernie Kovacs, Noel Coward and Ralph Richardson. At 70, Rogers plays the Dean of Porterhouse with great, self-serving style and sly humor. He is one of the many actors in Porterhouse Blue who are, as they say, spot on.]]> Sat, 21 May 2011 22:55:28 +0000
<![CDATA[ And on a book shelf, Fromage to Eternity]]> The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is one of the funniest, slyest and most innocent comedies around, and one of the most action-filled, too.
Wallace and Gromit run a pest control business. People have hired them to catch all the bunnies that are chomping up their vegetables. This is vital because the annual veggie contest and fair given by Lady Tottingham is only days away. Through indescribable circumstances a bunny is turned into a giant were-rabbit and Wallace and Gromit are on the case. But then, in an amazing twist, the were-rabbit is...but you’ll get no spoilers from me.
Believe me, while children will love the film, this is a movie, just as Chicken Run was, for adults of all ages. The inventions are so rococo they probably need to be seen twice to be really appreciated. Allusions to horror movies and their stars, from King Kong to Lon Chaney, Jr. to Ernest Thesiger, are scattered all over the place. The puns and visual gags fly fast and loose. In the Wensleydale-loving Wallace's library are just briefly seen copies of, among other fine books, East of Edam and Fromage to Eternity. When Wallace loses his clothes and has only a cardboard produce box to protect his modesty from Lady Tottingham, you have to be quick to catch a glimpse of a small warning label glued on the box, "May contain nuts." And when Lady Tottingham invites Wallace to her private garden and shows him her prize melons.... But don't frown; it's all smile-inducing innocence.
Gromit may be silent, but everyone else speaks and the actors voicing the parts are exceptional. Peter Sallis, now 90, continues to be the voice of Wallace. Helena Bonham Carter does Lady Tottingham. Ralph Fiennes does Victor Quartermaine and is completely unexpected. Anyone who can only picture Fiennes as primarily a serious actor who isn't too funny, as I have, needs to see this movie. Quartermaine is an upper-class twit, loud, dense, eager to hunt down and blow away the were-rabbit and anything else. Fiennes is funny and nails the character. If you didn't know it was him you'd swear the voice belonged to some awful caricature of upper-class British oafdom.
This is a clever, funny movie.]]> Sat, 14 May 2011 03:26:13 +0000
<![CDATA[ Social pretensions and sly undertakings]]>  
Mapp & Lucia, a British television series, is an acquired taste. The only sensible people seem to be the servants. The social set which revolves around Lucia and Mapp are all largely unlikable, yet they gradually become endearing and amusing. There's Major Flint, ramrod straight even when he's downed too much liquid, which is often. Quaint Irene Coles is a free spirit who does what she likes, smokes a pipe and paints unconventional pictures, usually of female nudes. Mrs. Susan Wylie is a formidable and condescendingly gracious lady who, her bowing husband often points out, received an MBE from the King himself. Lucia, played by McEwan, is like a sly cat, very satisfied with herself and plotting not-so-subtle social victories over Mapp. And if Lucia is a cat, Mapp is more like a flummoxed but stubborn pug.
This is a program of high manners, of exaggerated and merciless social pretensions. If you stay with it, it's also very funny. The leads, Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales and Nigel Hawthorne, do marvelous jobs of creating characters so odd and self-involved that you can't help starting to like them.
Mapp is so clueless you at times root for her. Lucia is so sly it's rather nice to realize she would never slide the social knife in too far...well, not unless she had to. And Georgie, so ineffectual without his servants, so fey, so devoted to Lucia and so utterly lightweight. He's actually a nice fellow if you can manage to make enough inconsequential small talk to get to know him.]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2011 02:49:20 +0000
<![CDATA[ Sidney Stratton and his superior suits]]> "Now that calm and sanity have returned to the textile industry, I find it my duty to reveal something of the true story behind the recent crisis...a story which we were happily able to keep out of the newspapers at the time." –Alan Birnley
"Why can't you scientists leave things alone? What about my bit of washing when there's no washing to do?" –Mrs. Watson
The Man in the White Suit starts with the first quote and almost, but not quite, ends with the second. In between is one of the funniest and best-made of comedies.
In post-war Britain, Sidney Stratton is a young man with a passion for chemistry and an obsession with creating his "long molecule." With this he'll be able to create a fabric that is indestructible and will never need cleaning. It will be a blessing for humanity. But Stratton keeps getting fired from his jobs, which always are at places where he can secretly set up his chemical experiments. At last, through wonderful confusions, he finds himself running a giant laboratory at Birnley Mills; he has the support of the delicious daughter (Joan Greenwood) of the owner; and he succeeds in creating his fabric. At first the mill's owner, Alan Birnley, can barely suppress his glee. His mills will turn out fabric that everyone will want. Then the workers and the other mill owners realize there's a problem. With a fabric that will never wear out and never needs cleaning...what happens to their mills and what happens to their jobs?
What happens is that labor and capital join forces to suppress Sidney's invention. The movie takes on all comers with sly dialogue, chases and kidnappings, some sharp-elbowed pokes at the self interest of both unions and management, and some fine comic acting. Through it all Alec Guinness, playing the sweet-natured and obsessed Sidney Stratton, dominates the film with a sly, gentle performance. Near the end, when Sidney is left standing in his shorts and shirt with everyone laughing at him, the movie also is poignant. But then, at the end of the movie, we realize that we just may not have seen the last of Sidney Stratton.
The movie features a number of wonderful British actors who couldn't be touched in their era (or ours, in my opinion) for their skills in playing sophisticated comedy: Joan Greenwood, Cecil Parker, Michael Gough and Ernest Thesiger. Thesiger, looking as aged and dry as an old twig, steals his scenes.
Of the comedies Guinness made in this period -- The Lavender Hill Mob, Kind Hearts and Coronets, etc -- this one is my favorite.]]> Sun, 24 Apr 2011 03:14:27 +0000
<![CDATA[ Murder, a brass monkey and a teen who plays Flight of the Bumble Bee on her accordion]]>  
The plot of Brass Monkey is a thin idea that's used to feature a popular British radio personality, Carroll Levis playing himself, and his program of talented discoveries. Long, long ago three monkeys were made of what was much later discovered to be brass. They disappeared ages in the past, but then were rediscovered, separated, lost again and now, individually, are worth a lot of money. Two have been "collected." Reuniting them with the third will bring out the worst in both comedy and murder. And all because, after hanky panky at British dockside customs, the third monkey is misplaced in Carroll Levis' office by his ditzy secretary.
Brass Monkey uses this plot to showcase the spirit and heart of show business, with crooks and killings thrown in for contrast. We see a lot of that spirit and heart, and odd talent, amongst those trying out for Levis' radio program. Levis' live broadcast of his show is where everything comes together. The murderer will be discovered, but only after we witness with open mouth two of the worst comedy songs I suspect Terry-Thomas ever performed, as well as that teenager, her accordion and her bumble bee, a geezer with his musical saw who is madly applauded when he tells us how many children and grandchildren he has, and a contortionist who aims her leotard-covered crotch directly at the camera while Terry-Thomas sings of his love of show business people.
There's Avril Anger who uses her own name to play the secretary. She was a talented and versatile performer, skilled at raucous songs. She does a fine job with one here. Anger was a well-known performer in Britain. She was one of the first female stand-up comedians, a comic actress who could sing, dance and handle serious roles. For someone who meets her for the first time in this movie, she's a bit like Gracie Allen in the ditzy department as the secretary and Betty Hutton knocking about when she sings. Terry-Thomas, who could be so good at times (just watch him in School for Scoundrels: "Oh, hard cheese, old chap!"), tries so hard playing Terry-Thomas that it's both painful and endearing. Herbert Lom gives us a sinister villain determined to find the missing monkey. Best of all is the emaciated Ernest Thesiger as an elderly and single-minded collector.
And then there's Carole Landis. Anyone could have played her part as Kay Sheldon, an American songstress Levis discovered five years earlier. Now Sheldon is a big-time singer, come back as the featured star on Levis' show. This was her last movie. She was a troubled woman who made bad choices in her men. Landis, in my opinion, was no great shakes as an actress, but she was blond and attractive. That's always enough for Hollywood until the bloom wears off. By the time she made this British movie she was on the skids. She soon committed suicide, some say because of an unhappy relationship with the married Rex Harrison. For most of the movie Landis is simply acting by the numbers. Her one attempt at deliberate overacting is embarrassing.
Don't misunderstand me. Brass Monkey is a comedy murder mystery that is harmless and good-natured. If you can find a copy, why not watch? It’s got to better than Superman XII: The Secret of Lois’ Lane.]]> Tue, 19 Apr 2011 21:52:19 +0000
<![CDATA[ "Come come, Matron. Surely you've seen a temperature taken like this before?"]]>  
Carry On Nurse was the second in the Carry On stream of British comedies that began with Carry On Sergeant. The series lasted for nearly 20 years. You'll either love 'em or you'll hate 'em.
You'll love Carry On Nurse, or at least feel a warm, gentle glow of nostalgia break out over you like a rash, if naughty humor based on bedpans, buxom nurses, buttock massages and bunions make you smile. We're in a hospital ward where the male patients are ruled by Matron and where almost every nurse is a knock-out. Naturally, the nurses innocently cause acute adjustment problems for the men who are away from wives and girlfriends.
The Carry On gang is represented here by Kenneth Connor as an anxious but well-meaning boxer; Kenneth Williams, all intellectual condescension; Terence Longdon, the good-looking observer; Charles Hawtrey, who made mincing about an art form; Hattie Jacques as the iron-willed Matron; and a number of others, including a solo appearance by Wilfred Hyde-White as a demanding patient who winds up in the best joke of the movie. It involves that daffodil. Among the nurses is Shirley Eaton, guaranteed to disturb any man's dreams.
The story, such as it is, is even slighter than Carry On Sergeant. Carry On Nurse is a series of episodic vignettes and jokes, leading up to Hawtrey swishing about in a nurse's uniform, Williams brandishing knives and preparing to remove a bunion while reading how to do it, Connor administering the anesthetic which turns out to be laughing gas, and poor Lesley Phillips, who just wanted his bunion fixed so he could get on with a bit of snogging he'd arranged for the next day. 
By the gross-out standards of today's movie humor, Carry On Nurse is about as raunchy as Pollyanna. It's vulgar, silly and a lot of fun. Just like the use that daffodil is put to.]]> Tue, 12 Apr 2011 03:23:29 +0000
<![CDATA[Upstairs Downstairs Quick Tip by katknit]]>]]> Mon, 4 Apr 2011 15:32:59 +0000 <![CDATA[ One of the charming Ealing comedies, where the star is the old Thunderbolt steam engine]]> The Titfield Thunderbolt. There's no hero, no heroine, no romantic shenanigans and not even dominant players. After two generations of dumbing-down humor where the height of hilarity now usually centers on bedtime performance anxiety and flatulence, The Titfield Thunderbolt seems ever more clever, funny, and above all else, charming. Passion there is aplenty...all directed at old steam engines.
When British Rail announces that it's shutting down the Titfield-Mallington branch rail line, the Titfield villagers aren't having it. They organize, (politely, of course) to make the case that they can run the line even if British Rail won't. They get their chance, but have only a month to prove they can turn a profit and be on time. Waiting in the wings are two scheming bus line operators who are planning to make sure the villagers fail. The problems are daunting. They have the engine and the passenger cars, but they must raise ten thousand quid. Vicar Sam Weech, who loves God, his parishioners and steam engines, not necessarily in that order, suggests a raffle, a bake sale and a charity performance of The Mikado.
By now we've met many of the villagers, and we love them all. There's the Vicar (George Relph), aging and determined; the young squire, Gordon Chesterford (John Gregson); the wealthy and happy quaffer of spirits, wine and ale, Walter Valentine (Stanley Holloway); the drunk old former railroad man, Dan Taylor (Hugh Griffith), who lives in a crumbling, ancient passenger car; Harry Hawkins (Sid James), who operates a road roller and likes few people; and on we go.
It looks like the villagers might prevail...but the bus company strikes back. The duel on the tracks between the steamroller operated by the tough Hawkins and the steam engine with the elderly vicar at the throttle is, as Jack Black fans so often say, awesome. Even so, with their engine sent down a gully it looks finally that disaster has struck...and then the villagers remember the Titfield Thunderbolt. This old steam engine is so out of date it's been in the Titfield museum for years. It must be watered, fueled and run across country to the tracks if there is a hope of success. Well, there'll be more than a hope.
Charles Crichton, the director, keeps this movie moving with such briskness we might forget how skillful he is. Within five minutes he's given us the set-up. Within ten minutes he's introduced most of the characters. He places time-delay second takes in the movie so that we find one situation amusing and charming, then 20 minutes later it comes into play again in a different way that makes us smile even more broadly. If you want to see skillful comedy planning, keep an eye on Dan Taylor's hovel of a home.
Crichton let's us know these people much more by what they do than by what they say. The Titfield Thunderbolt is so good, so charming and so gentle because we see just how indomitable these people are going to be. They are faced with problem after problem. With ingenuity, perseverance, good cheer and astonishing improvisation, they overcome. When Crichton sends the people of Titfield and other nearby villages running across fields and dales to give the Thunderbolt a push up hill, it's grand. It takes a village to raise a steam engine. (And while the village of Titfield is fictitious, the movie was shot near the village of Limpley Stoke, an equally fine English name, which is not.)
Crichton was a maker of gems. You'll be rewarded if you track down and watch Hue and Cry (1947), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), and The Battle of the Sexes (1959). He fell out of fashion and spent years in television. John Cleese rescued him for a last, victorious hurrah when he was 78 to co-write and direct A Fish Called Wanda.]]> Mon, 4 Apr 2011 04:06:13 +0000
<![CDATA[Sir Alec Guinness Quick Tip by Count_Orlok_22]]> Alec Guinness, born April 2, 1914, was one of the great English actors of the 20th century both on stage and in films. His diverse characters ranged from comedic villains to retired spies to WWII colonel to Arab prince to Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. Guinness was capable of working within any genre and his versatility is best exemplified in the early Ealing Studios comedies, especially the darkly humorous Kind Heart and Coronets in which he plays eight (yes, that's actually an 8) different members of an aristocratic family that get knocked off one by one. If you're only familiar with Guinness through his roles in Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars, do yourself a favor and check out his wonderful films... I highly recommend The Ladykillers and The Lavendar Hill Mob, both of which are comedic crime capers about inept criminals.
Happy birthday, Sir Alec Guinness!]]> Sun, 3 Apr 2011 00:32:37 +0000
<![CDATA[ "That's Dr. Ellingham, if you please, and what's all this moaning about a little diarrhea?"]]>  
Dr. Ellingham ("Martin or Dr. Ellingham, please. Not `Doc Martin!'"), during one simple operation, found himself overwhelmed and unable to continue. The sight of blood suddenly sickened him, not a good thing for a surgeon. It stopped his career cold. He retrained and accepted the job of Portwenn's GP, far away from London and from the people who'd learned of his phobia.
But Doc Mar...Dr. Ellingham...seems to have a gene missing in his make-up. He is all too frank, oblivious to human courtesies, awkward, means well but has one of the worst bed-side manners in miles. If you're a young boy who has sprained an arm, an elderly gentleman whose wife is using too much hormone cream, a well-intentioned busy-body who stops by for tea or a worried cancer patient, don't expect much from the doctor by way of chit chat or hand holding.
Even with an actor as good as Clunes, Doc Martin could be a tiresome one-joke premise. Portwenn, however, has a classic collection of idiosyncratic residents, all played by some skilled British actors. There's Doc Martin's aunt, Joan Norton, played by the fine Stephanie Cole, so good in Waiting for God. Joan is an elderly, brisk, no-nonsense woman (wise, too, of course) who wrings a chicken's neck to prepare it for dinner. She lives by herself competently on her farm. There's Bert Large, played by the equally fine Ian McNeice. Bert is Portwenn's handyman and plumber. He's a short man so fat he prefers to give the orders while he sits and trains his son to do all the work. There's the town's policeman who is big, competent, young, shy and concerned about...ah...size. The town's schoolteacher, who cannot understand how Doc Martin can be so obtuse, is about Doc Martin's age, not married and... we'll have to see. Maybe something will happen. It certainly didn't look like romance when, at the end of season one, Doc Martin helpfully mentions to her the possible causes of bad breath right after she unexpectedly kisses him. There's an assortment of small town biddies, blokes and giggling teenage girls who all love a bit of gossip. Periodically showing up for one-time parts are such established actors as Richard Johnson, Celia Imrie and John Alderton.
Doc Martin finds that in Portwenn he has to deal with human nature as often as he has to deal with diarrhea. But with human nature he hasn't a clue. Still, when he suspects something is wrong with a patient, he's not only usually right but he'll do whatever it takes whoever he offends to get good care for the person.
Because the quality of the writing is so high, the installments are amusing and satisfying. Good actors make Portwenn's residents more like odd but possibly real people than the usual cut-out yokels. Portwenn itself is a star, too. The town is right on the Cornish coast, picturesque as all get out, with a friendly pub, sea air and easy jaunts down country roads to some beautiful scenery.
Most of all this British comedy series has Martin Clunes as Dr. Ellingham. Clunes is a big man with a large head, large ears and a wide mouth. He's not handsome. Clunes, however, is a fine actor who can dominate a scene. He also can effortlessly project cluelessness, umbrage and impatience...and do so while he also makes us realize Doc Martin is almost an innocent when it comes to human interactions and school teachers.]]> Tue, 29 Mar 2011 17:54:32 +0000
<![CDATA[ I. Carmichael at his most innocent; T-Thomas at his most unctuous; A. Sim at his most simish]]>  
School for Scoundrels, that cheery, malicious British comedy of one-upmanship, was based on Stephen Potter's classic of underhanded winning, Gamesmanship - Or How To Win Without Really Cheating, and its follow-up, Lifemanship. (Potter wrote several others, too.) What is lifemanship? "Well, gentlemen," says the avuncular head of school played by Alastair Sim to a new class, "lifemanship is the science of being one up on your opponents at all times. It's the art of making him feel that somewhere, some how, he's become less that you. He who is not one up, is one down."
Getting ready to sign up for the courses is Henry Palfrey (Ian Carmichael), so nice, so pleasant, so helpful that he usually finds himself either ignored, taken advantage of or walked all over. His employees pay him little attention. He meets April Smith (Janette Scott), an attractive young woman, and invites her to dinner, only to see himself turned into the extra man while that bounder, Raymond Delauney (Terry-Thomas) moves in and takes over. He decides to buy a car to impress April and winds up with a moveable piece of smoking, chugging, wheezing metal courtesy of two smarmy used car salesmen, Dunstan (Dennis Price) and Dudley (Peter Jones) Dorchester. And when he agrees to play tennis at the club with Raymond while April watches them...oh, my. Raymond reduces Henry to an impotent lamb in front of April. "Hard cheese," says Raymond sympathetically, every time he maneuvers Henry into looking foolish and losing a point.
The worm strikes back, however, when Henry signs up for courses at Mr. Potter's College of Lifemanship. There Henry learns all the little gambits that will put him one up...the cough just as his opponent begins to strike the ball at snooker, hearing a joke about a cripple then standing and limping out of the room, the spilled drink on the dress that leads to a bit of solicitous dress drying after the girl takes it off, the apparently well-meaning delays that drive a competitor to distraction, and on. With Professor S. Potter's help, Henry becomes a one-upsman to be proud of. He learns to make his employees nervous, how to deal with used car salesmen, ways to innocently seduce young women, and how to deal with Raymond Delauney. The person who has to grind his teeth and hear "Oh, hard cheese" is now Delauney. It's almost as satisfying as eating a double portion of sticky toffee pudding. Henry's final tennis match with that cad Delauney is the funniest, most satisfying game of tennis I've seen since Billie Jean King slowly dismembered Bobby Riggs.
Is there a lesson for us in all this? Yes, but fortunately it's saved for the very last. And that lesson Henry learns while gazing lovingly at April and telling her he loves her. "We're witnessing the birth of a new gambit," Professor Potter says proudly. No, we're witnessing the moment when love, and the person we love, requires sincerity.
All the one-upman gambits are so outrageous and so familiar, and served up with such good-natured manipulation, that all we can do is sit back and smile. School for Scandal is a witty, almost innocent and sweet-natured movie with a fine, dry script, credited to Patricia Moyes and the producer, Hal Chester. In fact it was written by Peter Ustinov and the blacklisted American writer, Frank Tarloff. Robert Hamer, the director of Kind Hearts and Coronets, is credited with directing. When Hamer, an alcoholic, fell off the wagon half way through, however, the producer immediately fired him, brought in another director, Cyril Frank, and the two of them finished the movie unbilled.
In addition to the script, of course, what makes this movie so funny and memorable are the performances. Terry-Thomas was never better as the unctuous cad who finally gets his. Ian Carmichael plays another innocent with great ineffectual likeability, and then comes through for us. And Alastair Sim as Professor S. Potter is a joy. Watching Professor Potter introduce Henry Palfrey to one-upmanship during their first meeting is to watch one of the cleverest examples of Sim's timing and expression you'd ever hope to see. The only sad spot is seeing Dennis Price in a decidedly secondary role and not looking all that healthy.
For many of us, this is a movie to watch while taking notes.]]> Tue, 29 Mar 2011 05:26:29 +0000
<![CDATA[ The definitive collection of one of the funniest sitcoms of all time.]]> Everybody loved Lucy in the 1950s. There can be no denying that Lucille Ball was a master at her craft  and the preeminent physical comedienne of her day.  I was quite certain that we would never see the likes of her again. That was until I was introduced to the work of Patricia Routledge in the hilarious 1990's British sitcom "Keeping Up Appearances" which debuted on many PBS stations around America in the latter part of that decade.  I quickly concluded that Lucy Ricardo had met her match.  What I found to be even more remarkable was that Patricia Routledge was in her early 60's when she portrayed the insufferably snobbish Hyacinth Bucket (she insists it is pronounced "Bouquet") on this show.  And being that she was a rather large woman to boot made the incredible physical prowess she displayed on this series all the more remarkable.  Given the grueling demands of her role it is no wonder that only about 8 episodes per season were shot during its five year run and that Patricia Routledge decided to call it quits after the 1995 season.  Only 40 regular episodes and 4 additional specials were made.  "Keeping Up Appearances:  The Full Bouquet/Special Edition" offers up every single one of these memorable episodes along with a boatload of extra features.  Longtime fans of the show are certainly going to want to get their hands on this incredible collection while it is still available.  To me it was worth every penny!

While Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth was without a doubt the star of the show "Keeping Up Appearances" also featured an incredibly talented supporting ensemble.  Clive Swift was just perfect as Hyacinth's henpecked husband RichardRichard was a rather unassuming guy who just happened to to married to a woman positively obsessed with social status Just about everything Richard does is wrong in Hyacinth's eyes. Your heart would go out to him in each and every episode.  Ditto for the Bucket's next door neighbors Elizabeth (Josephine Tewson) and her recently divorced brother Emmet (David Griffin)Hyacinth had an uncanny ability to make these two otherwise normal human beings quake in their boots at the mere sight of her.  Although the scene was repeated with a number of slight variations time and again during the course of the series Hyacinth's seemingly innocous invitation to Elizabeth to join her for a cup of coffee and biscuits would invariably end in disaster for her well meaning neighbor.  Each encounter would prove to be nerve-wracking for Elizabeth and always ended with some kind of calamity.  And it was always funny....very funny!   And then there is Hyacinth's family,  You would be hard pressed to find a more disheveled group of individuals anywhere.  Most prominent among this group is her sister Daisy (Judy Cornwell) and her chronically unemployed husband Onslow (Geoffrey Hughes) who is if nothing else the consummate slob.  Seems like every time Hyacinth is trying to impress someone these two show up unexpectedly to throw a monkey wrench into her plans.  Poor Hyacinth!   She tries so hard!

As I indicated earlier "Keeping Up Appearances:  The Full Bouquet/Special Edition" is a 9 DVD set that features all 40 regular season episodes along with three Christmas specials.  As an added treat there is a newly produced feature entitled "Life's Lessons From Onslow".  You will also find some very funny outtakes and interviews with cast members Patricia Routledge, Clive Swift and Judy Cornwell.  At the end of the day I would have to rank "Keeping Up Appearances" at or near the top of my list of all-time favorite sitcoms.  I simply never get tired of watching these shows.  This is a collection that I will cherish for the rest of my life.      Very highly recommended!

]]> Sun, 27 Feb 2011 01:22:01 +0000
<![CDATA[Posh Nosh Quick Tip by katknit]]> ]]> Tue, 22 Feb 2011 01:48:41 +0000 <![CDATA[ The funniest funeral I've been to.]]>
I'm not one for lists. Rounding up films and placing them on a "Top Ten" or "Top 5" list is just too much for me. I decidedly don't make lists often, and prefer to merely assign films to my "Favorites" or "Genre Favorites". While watching "Death at a Funeral", the hilarious Frank Oz-directed British funeral satire, I sort of did this. I plan to regard Oz's film as one of the best comedies of the 2000's. It's smart, hilarious, ironic, and also quite honest. Aside from being consistently hilarious, "Death at a Funeral" is also sort of touching. It's a film about the importance of family and how we can tear each other apart as well as help each other at times. Yes, many comedies do this. Many comedies try to have a soft side, but Frank Oz's latest is the most (recently) successful one at doing so. The genius of the film is that it's a nice blend of pure satire, pure wit, pure slapstick, and often times pure silliness. I think the best you can do is sit back, perhaps with more than one person, and just watch the darned thing. It's a film that I could recommend to just about anyone; especially those who remember the Funeral experience. I know that at first, I did not appreciate "Death at a Funeral" as much as I should have, and it's only now that I realize just how much I love it. There's comedic genius to be found here, and it's the kind that I simply wish we got more of these days. And of course the entire cast is British, those crafty, funny-as-hell bastards. Since it's so doggone funny, "Death for a Funeral" makes up for nearly all of its flaws. Sure, it doesn't have an extremely amazing story going on, but as a comedy that doesn't even try to have on, it doesn't need any of the like. I think that it does just about everything that it could do; and on miraculously new levels of fun. It's a well-acted ensemble comedy with some of the most memorably funny moments and gags that I've seen in a long, long time. There's a lot to look at here, and it makes me consider that maybe, just maybe, comedy films can be art too. There is craft in comedy, but there's also craft in filmmaking. Frank Oz's "Death at a Funeral" combines both into a truly hilarious, uproariously amusing British farce. There's some real funny stuff to be found here, and it's nothing more or less than one of the finest comedies of the 2000's, as well as one of the best films of 2007. You won't want to miss it.

For a comedy, the story being told in "Death at a Funeral" is surprisingly less sluggish than it probably should be. I think it's not so much the telling of the story that matters; but rather the characters and memorable gags that run throughout the film's 90 Minute running time. "Death at a Funeral" of course takes place during the time of a funeral. The funeral is for the father of two boys; Robert and Daniel. Robert has grown up to be a successful writer while Daniel is suffering from writer's block and thus isn't doing too much to give his boring life the extra boost. But they'll have to put their differences and past aside to cooperate at this particular funeral, although they soon learn that chaos is always around the corner. "Death at a Funeral" exists to show just how much can go wrong at a funeral; thus it is a satire. If you've been to a funeral, then you'll probably relate to Oz's film on some level. Most of the characters are endearing and most of the gags revolve around each individual. For instance, one of the characters mistook a bottle of high-powered acid pills for a bottle of valium. The acid makes his hallucinate. This is surprisingly hilarious whenever a new sort of hallucination comes up. It finally pushes him too far and he considers taking dangerous risks while under the influence. Even though it's funny, we can feel his pain (at least somewhat). But this film is not about feeling for the characters. It's about laughing while their exploits unfold, and being grateful for the fact that our families aren't this dysfunctional. The film goes by pretty fast because it's consistently amusing and freaking hilarious. I loved watching it; and I love thinking about it. I think the more I see it, the more I appreciate it. "Death at a Funeral" took me three watches for me to feel like reviewing it and seeing it for the hilarious film that it is. I'm glad that Oz is genuinely good as assembling a good comedy with quirky characters and a mix of screw-ball humor and crazy-as-hell antics. It's as fun and hilarious as I wanted it to be. And that's what I loved about it.

Matthew Macfadyen leads the cast as the somewhat timid first son of the deceased. The other son is played by Rupert Graves, who I know from "V for Vendetta". The friends of the deceased are played by Andy Nyman (Howard), Ewen Bremner (Justin), and Kris Marshall (Troy). One other acquaintance of the deceased is Peter, played by Peter Dinklage. May I be one to say that I absolutely loved Dinklage in this film. He was an absolute hoot whenever he was on. Sometimes, it might have been charm that did the trick rather than humor. Nevertheless, he's still the number one dwarf in Hollywood (for me at least). I could go on and on about the cast, but I think it would be easier just to say that every actor, major or minor, was entertaining to watch. Especially Peter Vaughan as Uncle Alfie, the foul-mouthed wheel-chair bound elder. You're bound to have a good laugh with these people leading the way.

"Death at a Funeral" has been said to be a satire. In many ways, I agree when most people call it this. However, the film is a mix of many different kinds of humor, to meet the different preferences of certain people. There's satire, there's silliness, there's slapstick, and then there's the oddball charm of this rousingly funny farce. You're bound to find at least one aspect to be funny. I found every single on of them to be. "Death at a Funeral" had me laughing non-stop. It's a comedy so good that perhaps it deserves to go down in history as one of my personal favorite comedies of the 2000's. Seldom are we treated to a good laugh and while some comedies are triumphant in being just plain awesome overall, few can surpass Frank Oz's latest romp. It's a delightful film that's never immature when it's making jokes; even if it's silly. If you're like me, you'll laugh. There's maybe a five second intermission in which there are few laughs, but this hardly counts for anything. Perhaps the biggest flaw of the film is that it ends, but I'm not quite done talking about it yet (if that is what the former implies). I'd like to applaud the opening credits sequence, which is absolutely amusing. It's just a moving animation of a coffin making its way to the house of the deceased. It's pretty amusing despite its simplicity, and the music occupying the sequence was absolutely marvelous. Come to think of it, I liked the music present in this flick throughout. While a lot of it was repetitive, that doesn't really matter to me as long as it's catchy. And believe me; it's pretty damn catchy. So if you're looking for a crafty bastard of a comedy, then look no further. "Death at a Funeral" is a bloody good time, although some may not enjoy it. It's not for everyone; both the humor and the pacing just may not agree with everyone. I personally decided that I should care less and just enjoy the darned movie. That's what I did and that's probably why I liked it so much. I approached it in the way that it should be approached. I can only hope that you, reader, will too.

If you see "Death at a Funeral" for what it is, then I expect you will find it to be very funny. Perhaps I like it more than I should, but then again I originally liked it LESS than I should have. This film deserves more recognition than it's gotten, but then again I don't blame it for dividing critics and audiences alike. I don't know if it'll ever get the cult status that Frank Oz may have been hoping for, but it's good enough (in my book) to rival "Hot Fuzz" and "Shaun of the Dead" as some of the great, modern British comedies. It's not as good as those two films, but this film is good enough for me. If being consistently funny and sporadically amusing doesn't make a comedy awesome, then people are even more confusing than I though they were. I can certainly understand one for not liking "Death at a Funeral", but some have called it "immature", "childish", and "stupid". I disagree, as I found it to be fairly mature. After all, good comedies need a sense of maturity. I felt that "Death at a Funeral" had more than enough of the former to pass me as "awesome". It's funny, touching, well-acted, and memorable. I assure you that you'll have much trouble finding a better British comedy (aside from "Hot Fuzz") in 2007. It's one of the best that I've seen. But just because I loved watching it does not mean that everyone will. I expect that everyone will have their opinion to just how good "Death at a Funeral" is. My opinion is that it's pretty damn good, and just about every funny element and every running gag helps to hold it together when it should have fallen down. Nevertheless, it's an extremely clever film. I'd recommend it to many people; but as always, with a little caution.]]> Mon, 17 Jan 2011 20:26:27 +0000
<![CDATA[Brazil (movie) Quick Tip by cyclone_march]]> Thu, 7 Oct 2010 23:36:50 +0000 <![CDATA[Wallace & Gromit Quick Tip by AprilBraswell]]> Thu, 30 Sep 2010 20:43:19 +0000 <![CDATA[ "You can leave your hat on."]]>
This absolutely charming comedy has many touching moments, thanks to the well-developed and sympathetic characters we come to know: One is a divorced dad (Robert Carlyle) who needs to raise child support money, one is an overweight and depressed husband (Mark Addy), one cares for his aging mum, and one (Tom Wilkinson) hasn't had the nerve to tell his credit card-happy wife that he's been unemployed for six months. All of the actors are perfectly cast and it's worth the price just to see the venerable Wilkinson bump and grind to "Hot Stuff."

Gritty location photography and a lively, Oscar-winning disco soundtrack help create the mood of despair giving way to hope. The North country accents and slang are sometimes unintelligible, but that in no way detracts from the fun. This fast-paced and sweet film made with a tiny budget went on to break UK box office records. Highly recommended.

Robert Carlyle is the likable star of the show.
]]> Sat, 4 Sep 2010 05:34:03 +0000
<![CDATA[Notting Hill Quick Tip by dgwithrow062405]]> Thu, 26 Aug 2010 02:33:17 +0000 <![CDATA[ All kinds of love]]>

This winning film starts out with the premise that, contrary to popular belief, the world is full of love, not hatred. By watching the lives of 8 different pairs of people in London, England, some of the many different types of love are explored. There's platonic, seen in the relationship of an aging rock star and his manager, and puppy love, as a young boy develops a crush on a classmate. There's unrequited, when Mark's best friend marries the woman he wants for himself, and the specter of infidelity, when a husband's eye is caught by his secretary. Throw in a couple of cases of loving from a distance, and a junket to Milwaukee to hook up with some of those hot American girls, and there's all sorts of mistakes and magic going on. The finale, though relying heavily on coincidence, is fascinating as all the main characters are brought together at a school Christmas pageant. No deep philosophy here, just good, engaging entertainment provided by a stellar cast and witty director/writer. A bit too racy for children.

]]> Sat, 21 Aug 2010 01:20:53 +0000
<![CDATA[Bottom (TV show) Quick Tip by BigToughGully]]> Tue, 17 Aug 2010 16:48:39 +0000 <![CDATA[Keeping Up Appearances Quick Tip by BigToughGully]]> Tue, 17 Aug 2010 16:31:38 +0000 <![CDATA[Shaun of the Dead Quick Tip by vampire_eyez]]> Tue, 27 Jul 2010 03:21:51 +0000 <![CDATA[Shaun of the Dead Quick Tip by pauldidiego]]> Thu, 22 Jul 2010 20:52:20 +0000 <![CDATA[Shaun of the Dead Quick Tip by JaseSea]]> Tue, 20 Jul 2010 22:57:59 +0000 <![CDATA[ One to Watch More Than Once]]> This movie more than succeeds in doing what so many movies try to do: weave together the stories of a number of unlikely characters who run into each other in various ways throughout the film. The stories here are all over the maps - from young to old, to new love to affairs, to family relationships and the death of lovers.. The characters, each well developed and played by a slew of well known established actors, as well as new faces, were distinct and carefully crafted - something that other movies of this type tend to lack. As a comparison - Valentine's Day (2010) should have been another Love Actually - with a great cast and a witty intertwining of relationships, but it fell flat (except, in my opinion, for the Bradley Cooper/Julia Roberts dynamic and character paths, but that's for another review!).
The timing of the film is interesting - it starts 5 weeks before Christmas and counts down week by week, so the viewer is quite aware of how much time is passing between events - something that can be lost in other films. And I believe the timing to be appropriate - not much seemed to move too fast or too slow.

Love Actually, while not tied up with a bow at the end, is a feel good film, that is great for the winter holidays (as this is when the movie is set), but the love in the film is of course, good all year long!


]]> Sun, 11 Jul 2010 04:47:40 +0000
<![CDATA[ One to Watch More Than Once]]> This movie more than succeeds in doing what so many movies try to do: weave together the stories of a number of unlikely characters who run into each other in various ways throughout the film. The stories here are all over the maps - from young to old, to new love to affairs, to family relationships and the death of lovers.. The characters, each well developed and played by a slew of well known established actors, as well as new faces, were distinct and carefully crafted - something that other movies of this type tend to lack. As a comparison - Valentine's Day (2010) should have been another Love Actually - with a great cast and a witty intertwining of relationships, but it fell flat (except, in my opinion, for the Bradley Cooper/Julia Roberts dynamic and character paths, but that's for another review!).
The timing of the film is interesting - it starts 5 weeks before Christmas and counts down week by week, so the viewer is quite aware of how much time is passing between events - something that can be lost in other films. And I believe the timing to be appropriate - not much seemed to move too fast or too slow.

Love Actually, while not tied up with a bow at the end, is a feel good film, that is great for the winter holidays (as this is when the movie is set), but the love in the film is of course, good all year long!


]]> Sun, 11 Jul 2010 04:47:40 +0000
<![CDATA[Shaun of the Dead Quick Tip by IrishAdin]]> Sat, 10 Jul 2010 18:08:58 +0000 <![CDATA[Death at a Funeral Quick Tip by megmeg]]> Tue, 6 Jul 2010 18:06:53 +0000 <![CDATA[ The Holy Grail's migrating coconut]]> Tue, 8 Jun 2010 01:08:01 +0000 <![CDATA[ Marvellously Outrageous]]>
Joanna Lumley, though, is the star of the show. Being familiar with her history and her off screen personality, she would appear to be the last person that would consider playing the Patsy role. However, when she gets into the role, you come to the realisation that nobody; and I mean, nobody could play this better than Lumley. One of the main reasons I love this show is that it reminds me so much of my mother and her best friend when they go out to a party as they constantly sit with a cigarette and a glass of wine and talk absolute nonsense. Perhaps this is the appeal of the show in the respect that there is a character within that you can associate yourself with. Whether it be that you recognise one of your family members as being like one of the characters, or whether you see the similarities between you and Saffy for instance.

Either way, it's just a true marvel of British comedy and one that all cannot fail to enjoy.]]> Sat, 22 May 2010 21:37:42 +0000
<![CDATA[ Some Hilarious Moments and Some Good Musical Numbers]]>
The added musical numbers did nothing to detract from the show and would only help to attract the average Broadway play attendee.  The jokes were delivered effectively whether it be the castle keeper throughing down a stuffed cow on King Arthur's knights, Arthur traveling on fake horses (throught the sound of coconut shells used like castanets) or the Knights who say neet asking to be delivered a "shrubbery."

Right now the show has ceased its run in New York and I am not sure if it is available anywhere.  Perhaps there may be a DVD available of the show.  If you are able to find this show, you should definately see it.]]> Thu, 13 May 2010 15:36:47 +0000
<![CDATA[ Brilliantly funny]]> About a Boy is really about two boys: Hugh Grant, a rich, lazy heir, and Nicholas Hoult, the son of a suicidal single mom. It has its serious moments, but overall it's a great laugh. I love the way the movie reads into the minds of Grant and Hoult - it adds a whole new layer of comedy, allowing the characters to add sarcasm to the scene without making the movie unrealistic. The script is great. Hugh Grant's lines seem perfectly suited for the moment. My favorite is when Hugh Grant's character learns the value of of charity: "I made an unhappy boy temporarily happy. And there wasn't anything in it for me at all - I didn't even want to shag his mom." Brilliant!]]> Mon, 29 Mar 2010 12:00:00 +0000 <![CDATA[ Spamlot: Run Away!!!!]]> Spamalot sorely disappointed. Maybe my standards were too high because I adore all of these things too much; the fact of the matter is that I simply expected more from this show.

The set was fantastical, the costumes fun and the actors a talented bunch, but the story and the score for this show were nowhere near strong-enough. I adore John DuPrez and Eric Idle, but think that for this project, they should have perhaps brought in a few Broadway pros to help them bring their lovely antics to the stage - because as we've seen with many many adaptations - what works on screen, does not always play well on stage. This isn't to say that the script/score was too small for a stage (could the Monty Python crew ever produce anything small?!) but rather, that in blowing it up for stage proportions, the characters lost a lot of what makes them lovable and funny - and simply became two-dementional charactures of the brillant originals.

The audience seemed to most enjoy the sections of the show which were taken directly from the movie (the french taunting scene and the knights who say "ni"). The added musical theatre bits, like Lancelot's YMC-gay number and self-reflecting musical theatre numbers like "You Won't Succeed on Broadway," failed completely. Unlike The Producers and Urinetown, shows whose sole purpose is  self-mockery, Spamalot acted like a split-personality patient - one minute doing a stage-version of the movie and the next attempting a witty musical about musicals. In the end, the show succeeded in neither arena, because it couldn't commit to one.

I so wanted this to be a brilliant production, and to this day can't understand how it beat out The Light in the Piazza, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee for for the Best Musical Tony Award.]]> Wed, 24 Feb 2010 21:49:22 +0000
<![CDATA[Death at a Funeral Quick Tip by Count_Orlok_22]]> Mon, 1 Feb 2010 18:25:03 +0000 <![CDATA[ Quick Tip by Count_Orlok_22]]> Mon, 28 Sep 2009 23:33:18 +0000 <![CDATA[Monty Python and the Holy Grail (2-disc Special Edition DVD) Quick Tip by Count_Orlok_22]]> Wed, 26 Aug 2009 22:36:06 +0000 <![CDATA[ A complication that has a complication]]> Pros: Themes, imagery, very engaging set/scenery. 

Cons: Acting is weak.  Story will be too esoteric for many.

The Bottom Line: Terry Gilliam and Tom Stoppard are masters of the absurd "limits" of humanity.  Brazil is what happens when they get together.  Yea for some, nay for many (unfortunately).

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is not for everyone; let’s face it, the more esoteric something is the fewer people will be entertained by it.  I’ve never seen a study but I think it’s safe to say that the relationship to bizarreness and audience is almost inversely proportional.

Mine is essentially the 50th review of the film.  However, there are a subset of movies, plays, books, pieces of music, anything with a plot or at least a narrator/narrative that can withstand scores of views. They inspire a sort of nagging confusion that is just soft enough to puzzle over it rather than being just too harsh enough to make it totally frustrating and ultimately meaningless.  Brazil fits this self described genre.

Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) lives in an overcrowded, undefined area that has been under assault from terrorists for 13 years.  Sam is content in his low-level job in the Records Department in the heavily bureaucratic Ministry of Information.  His cosmetic surgery fiend of a mother, Ida (Katherine Helmond) is influential and keeps getting the Minister to promote her son, each one he turns down until . . .

Sam dreams of being a sort of angelic knight who’s in love with a gossamer surrounded lady and, as any angelic knight would, he does all he can to defend her from all manner of hazards.

Sam accidentally runs into the lady’s body-double in the form of a rough blue-collar woman, Jill (Kim Greist).  She is making inquiries about a neighbor who had been arrested by mistake—a computer glitch.  Sam knows the only way to get the information he wants is to accept the promotion to Information Retrieval (the top security posts).

From here the film moves from what was often just a comedy of errors to some seriously dark satire.

That’s the plot.  The last fifteen minutes are overflowing with speed and stimulation that if I say anymore . . .

This review relies on the Criterion release of the “final cut” of the film.  The original release was half an hour shorter.  The Criterion release is far darker than the original and makes a little more sense—I say a little because the final cut is still so strange that it requires enormous amounts of attention.  I believe that Brazil as Mr. Gilliam wanted it is worth the effort.

The original title for it was 1984 ½ so it is pretty obvious that the Ministry of Information is the Ministry of Truth from Orwell’s horrific classic 1984.  There are, also, obvious connections to recent events, and ongoing events within much of the West but America primarily.  There is always a Big Brother (the “man” who watched/monitored the lives of everyone in “Oceania” under a constant threat from essentially unseen enemies) sense in government, so while current events (2002-2009 so far) seem to make the film more relevant, they are just the latest of many like them over the 2 plus decades since the release of the film.

The screen play was written by Tom Stoppard whose brilliance for satire and use of the absurd creates a vicious and droll world.  The film is somewhat funny but not laugh out loud funny at any point.  The best example I have of this is that the Ministry of Information requires the people arrested pay for their own interrogation.  This is, perhaps, hysterical out of context; inside it reinforces the deep oppression.

In Orwell’s world, paper was limited because men like Winston Smith were re-writing history by taking words out or changing their meaning in a way to limit the language, the more, unedited, paper the harder to control.  Like it or not, the Big Brother idea of removing words and changing meaning made controlling people easier.  Sam’s world is the total opposite.  In his world, paperwork drives nearly every aspect of life.  Paper.  Computers aside (and they are made out to be very finicky), his world becomes uncontrollable because paper takes so long to do anything.  Winston’s world is one of control by dictate; Sam’s is a world attempting to control by confusion.

The film carries a perfect braiding of images to support this.  Ida uses one technique of cosmetic surgery (a slightly grosser version that we have used for decades), and Ms. Alma Terrain whose option is “acid” based.   Ida’s surgery makes her younger and younger until she is younger looking than her son.  Alma’s treatments leave her wrapped in more and more gauze.  Ida’s going back in time is absurd.  Alma’s deterioration into goo is darkly awful.  To me, she is the person who says the line summing up her situation in specific but the entire theme of the film: “My complication had a complication.”

One final word.  Mr. Gilliam is a Rube Goldberg making enormously complicated sets that are as often as not, pretty.  The problem, were I a set designer or engineer, is that so much of these sets of all levels of attraction are blown totally apart.  However, whatever lunatics he hires know how to build something that looks totally real and to scale and yet know that their beautiful work will last for only a few minutes.  Maybe they are the Buddhist monks who make the beautiful mandalas  that can take weeks to finish but who know when it is finished, the colored sand will be wiped into a bag and dumped in the nearest body of water.  I think I would be suicidal.


]]> Mon, 9 Mar 2009 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ If nothing else is handy]]> Pros: Small twist on an over used plot

Cons: Over used plot

The Bottom Line: Not terrible. And really not much of anything, but it didn't totally suck. If it comes on as you flip through, it's worth watching.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

About a Boy at first flush seems like a fluff film that isn’t even really a chick-flick. I had it sent because of Toni Collette. I have a list of favorite actors/actresses (more of the female variety usually) and I add their films to my Netflix list pretty much without regard to what it is. I had some pause before adding About a Boy because 1) at first flush it is a fluff film and 2) Hugh Grant is in it. (As an example of something very rare for me, I couldn’t finish Love Actually specifically because of Hugh Grant. So I gritted my metaphorical and real teeth and pushed play.

I didn’t hate it.

I’m ashamed.

Cineastes, I think by and large, are viewed as a pretentious lot. I think this is true of all of us at one time or another (by this I mean everyone, but you can point to cineastes in particular if you like). We eschew the predictable unless there is or are some truly great performances or other compelling reason. One of us going to About a Boy would look about the same as the men who used to go with upturned camel hair collars into the so-called “art films.”

Yes the film is predictable. Yes Hugh Grant is the usual fop. Other than that, the film takes a different tack and it is just different enough to rescue it from any trash bin.

The aptly named Will Freeman (Mr. Grant) lives entirely off the royalties of a schmaltzy Christmas song his father had written decades previously. He does literally nothing. He divides his desultory days into units of 30 minutes so that he can feel that he is doing something. He is a vacuous one-night-stand expert. He realizes, soon and by accident that single women with children are starved for all sorts of attention, so he invents a child and starts wooing just such a woman. In the meantime he meets Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) who is a misfit to the point that event the misfits shun him. Upon returning Marcus home, Will sees that Marcus’s mother Fiona (Ms. Collette) has attempted suicide. Literally for entirely invented reasons, Marcus insinuates himself into Will’s days. This continues on and on in a relatively predictable way throughout the remainder of the film.

The question is whether it is worth the 100 minutes. The answer is a qualified yes. The analysis will explain the reasons for caution.

First, Will narrates his inner thoughts; Marcus narrates his own. I have always considered this to be weak writing and/or acting. Mr. Hoult plays the almost hyper-vigilant never fit in kid which is the butter to this story; Mr. Grant provides the predictable toast for this story. I’ve never been a fan of the “show don’t tell” command given writers (there are far too many decent and great authors who dispense with this rule altogether); however, for movies you have the option of allowing the actors to indicate what is going on without the intrusive narration. One or two voices-overs are fine, but throughout . . .? It is consistent, but that is the best that can be said.

Mr. Hoult plays a poor analog of Haley Joe Osment (interestingly enough, Marcus mentions him in one of Marcus’s early scenes). He, like Mr. Osment is trying either to care for or behave in a way that is un-childlike for their mother (played by Ms. Collette in both films). This is just another piece of “seen it before.” The difference here is that Fiona is not Lynn. Lynn was trying to understand her son where Fiona is lost in deep depression and Marcus is the one doing all the work (not just some as with The Sixth Sense). Despite not having the strength of Mr. Osment, Mr. Hoult does not totally disappoint.

Mr. Grant . . . Fop, I think, was a word waiting for one person to point to; once Hugh Grant started being a fop, the word needed look no further for a poster boy. The oblivious and blinking mostly fool is the same here as in all other movies (minus Impromptu unless my memory fails me there). He is rescued by the performances of those around him.

Even still, it is not a bad feel-good movie. If you can handle a mostly predictable plot, what I think is excessive narration, and Hugh Grant, you won’t be disappointed. I still have to wonder whether you will be more than just mildly entertained.


]]> Thu, 27 Mar 2008 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Full Monty changed the language]]> The story line is crowded with the usual film tropes: relationships with family and friends are strained and tested. The men, initially overwhelmed by the decay of the industry that's been their livelihood gain strength as they take arms (and legs and torsos) against their sea of troubles. The men themselves are charming and their story is inspiring.
It is worth noting that "FULLY EXPOSED EDITION" is a canard. The ending reminds us just how daring their plan really is-it was too shocking to be shown on film.

Lynn Hoffman, author of the totally revealing

bang BANG: A Novel]]> Mon, 28 Jan 2008 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Amusing--But Should Be PG]]>
Some parts are a bit slow, but if you hang to the end, you'll find a surprisingly tight plot. I love how they tied it all together at the end (and Willem Dafoe was a marvelous sport!)

However, there was some cussing in the DVD, as well as scenes of faux war--including guns blazing. I'm not a prude--don't mind violence and language normally. HOWEVER, this movie is supposedly rated G, and so I figured there wouldn't be ANYTHING remotely objectionable about this I let my 9 year old son watch it. I didn't appreciate that those elements were in the movie; it should have been PG.

If you're a fan of visual comedy and the simpleminded wonderment of Mr. Bean, you'll likely enjoy this holiday movie. If it wasn't for the language and gun fights, I'd buy it for my son/the family--but quite frankly, I'm still undecided if it's worth the purchase.]]> Mon, 3 Dec 2007 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Something for everyone]]> Mon, 20 Aug 2007 12:00:00 +0000 <![CDATA[ Funny Clay Animation Movie for All Ages]]> Pros: Great clay animation movie with funny scenes that the whole family can enjoy

Cons: May be a little scary for younger kids

The Bottom Line: Great movie for the whole family despite a few scenes that may slightly scare young kids. Full of humor for all.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

This movie is great for all ages, especially for young kids and parents to watch together, although it can get a little scary at moments for young kids, however there are still man funny scenes for them to enjoy. The movie's main characters are Wallace and his dog, Gromit. Together they have their own humane pest control company, Anti-Pesto. Wallace has created all sorts of inventions. The scenes with his inventions used to get him out of bed and to the table for breakfast and his suction machine are the funniest in my opinion. His inventions include a sophisticated security system to protect his clients’ vegetables, but can he protect them from the Were Rabbit that has started to damage all their vegetables before the festival. His big rabbit trap, which literally is a giant lady rabbit controlled by Gromit, is one of his attempts to capture it. There are some great twists to this movie that make it interesting to watch all the way to the end. I love this movie for one because it has a good flowing plot and great humor (you will be laughing a lot). Secondly, I love this movie because the clay animation is done extremely well allowing you to realize how much work (literally over half a decade) went into making this full-length movie that can be enjoyed by the whole family.


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children up Ages 8

]]> Sun, 18 Mar 2007 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ A Mature Christmas Classic!]]>
Yeah, it's complicated by a whole raft of story lines, subplots and an incredibly large cast. But it works, with the type of charm that most movies can only hint at. True to it's premise, Love Actually highlights love in so many varied ways that it's difficult to fully appreciate it with only a single viewing. This is a DVD that deserves to be purchased, kept and watched year after year.

If there is such a thing as an R-rated Christmas classic, this is it. Yes, there is some nudity, language and a lot of adult themes sprinkled around, so Love Actually isn't the type of movie that you want to break out after the family finishes opening gifts (unless your elderly aunt has fallen asleep in the barcalounger and the younger set is too busy with their new GameBoys to be aware of anything else).

Besides having the common thread of "love", all of the stories feature characters with direct, tenuous or happenstance connections that manage to hold everything together. There is the aged rock star (Bill Nighy) promoting his trashy treacle of a Christmas song, along with his long-suffering manager.

Meanwhile, after discovering his girlfriend's infidelity, mystery writer Jamie (Colin Firth) retreats to France where he falls under the spell of his housekeeper Aurelia (the soulful LĂșcia Moniz). Their budding connection is highlighted by the subtitled dialog since he speaks only English and she speaks Portuguese.

Liam Neeson is newly widowed, coping with his grief while helping his stepson Sam (a kid named Thomas Sangster who will make the pulse of every 12 year old girl race, and every mother's heart melt).

Then there is Emma Thompson, the sister of the newly elected Prime Minister, balancing children in the Christmas Pageant case - her daughter is the "first lobster" - with her attentions to her husband, Alan Rickman who is the target of a predatory seductress. And her brother the PM (Hugh Grant) has eyes for the new domestic employee at Number 10 Downing Street (Martine McCutcheon). Of course, Billy Bob Thornton as the US President has more lascivious thoughts regarding her, so that might complicate things a little.

But that's not all! Laura Linney pines over her coworker (they both work for Rickman) Keira Knightley plays a lovely newlywed who isn't aware that her husbands best friend is head over heels in love with her himself. Oh, and lest I forget, there is the actor and actress that meet while filming a porn movie (told you there was nudity). And a young man frustrated by his inability to hit it off with the local women, pursues his dream of meeting uninhibited American women by flying off to Milwaukee!

Rowan Atkinson also provides two brief but critically important scenes as a jewelry salesman with a decidedly unhurried manner. And for the shallow-minded males of the family, there are cameo appearances by Claudia Schiffer, Elisha Cuthbert, Denise Richards and Shannon Elizabeth.

Is that enough for you? It darn well should be! There are a few construction flaws in the whole thing, primarily with the timeline of events being artificially compacted into the five weeks before Christmas, but the overall charm and the collection of winning performances cancel any complaints you might have in that regard.

One final note. If you don't buy the DVD, at least buy the soundtrack! The music is wonderful!]]> Tue, 19 Dec 2006 12:00:00 +0000