Archives - 1997 

  • Welcome To Sarajevo

    2020-05-06 00:05:26

    Set in the titular city at the height of the Bosnian-Serbian conflict, Michael Winterbottom's compelling docu-drama, adapted by Frank Cottrell Boyce from Michael Nicholson's novel, focuses on a seasoned Brit TV journalist who falls into the maw of a moral and ethical dilemma when he resolves to smuggle a young orphan out the war-torn country to join his family in the UK. Eschewing displays of "war is hell" excesses, Winterbottom's incidental, often verite itinerary of battle-scarred streets and buildings where sudden death is only a sniper's bullet away, bristles with an urgency reminiscent of last year's similarly-themed Pretty Village, Pretty Flame and Prisoner of the Mountain. Apart from Stephen Dillane's focused, low-key performance, Woody Harrelson, Kerry Fox and Goran Visnjic register solid ensemble work. 

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  • The Evening Star

    2017-12-10 00:32:18

    The Evening Star is a belated sequel to Terms Of Endearment, James L. Brooks' sharp-eyed family comedy drama from 1983. Adapted from Larry McMurtry's novel by debuting director Robert Harling, who wrote Steel Magnolias, Soapdish and the recent First Wives Club, this renewed visit with Aurora Greenway (played once again by Shirley MacLaine) is a resolutely dispiriting affair. The premise here revolves around Aurora's determination to keep a promise she made to her late daughter to keep a maternal eye on her three grandchildren. It's a task easier said than done when your charges turn out to be a trio of ne'er-do-wells displaying symptoms of delinquency. With Debra Winger on view only in fleeting bedside portraits (she died in the original film), and in the absence of a Disease of the Week subplot to help kick the emotion barometer into high gear, MacLaine is no longer the fiesty old gal of yore thanks to a script that leaves her dramatically moribund and at the mercy of an uninspired procession of soap opera cliches which even Jack Nicholson's all too brief cameo cannot salvage. Ho-hum. 

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  • Jerry Maguire

    2017-12-09 22:17:57

    When high-powered, wheeling and dealing sports agent Jerry Macguire (Tom Cruise), in a text-book display of cognitive dissonance, writes an inflammatory memo (or mission statement, as he calls it) to his employers condemning the perceived corruption within the sports management business and advocating a policy of fewer clients, better service, he finds himself fired and out on the street without so much as a what-were-you-thinking? With the tacit support of two unlikely allies -  a second grade football player he once barely had time for, and a wistful young single mother who quit her job at the agency in solidarity with him - Jerry's road to reinvention begins with his resolve to put into practice at least some of what his infamous memo dared to preach. Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, a one-time Rolling Stone rock music journalist who branched out into directing in 1982 with a screen adaptation of his own best-seller, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, followed by Say Anything (1989) and Singles (1992), Jerry Maguire is an astute, often hilarious look at the moral and monetary complexities involved in maintaining a happy medium between love, honour and loyalty and the unyielding imperatives of good old fashioned crass commercialism. While Cruise's winning performance has already snared him a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination, as the put-upon footballer who just wants Jerry to "show him the money", the terrific Cuba Gooding Jr. has the best supporting Oscar all sown up. In her breakout role, Renee Zellweger is well cast as the single mom who melts Jerry's fickle heart. 

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  • The Ice Storm

    2017-11-26 23:00:17

    Set in the tony suburbs of New Canaan, Connecticut over a Thanksgiving weekend in 1973, The Ice Storm zeroes in on the behind-closed-doors shenanigans of two disfunctional families treading murky water in the fast-receding back-wash of a sexual revolution that the new decade has all but extinguished. As young sons and daughters grope their partners in post-pubescent uncertainty, wife-swapping has become the preferred past-time of the grown-ups. Deploying the same intuitive foreigner's perspective he brought to Sense And Sensibility, director Ang Lee, working from a screenplay adapted by James Schamus from the novel by Rick Moody, has crafted an intimate, fragmented social tableau distilled through a succession of brittle, unfulfilled relationships cloaked in guilt and self-loathing. In stark contrast to their work in the current In & Out and Alien 4, both Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver are nuance perfect as the adulterous neighbors, while Joan Allen, Christina Ricci and Elijah Wood shine brightly in key supporting roles. A perversely sardonic portrait of moral turpitude chilled numb by the eponymous storm's arrival in the final act.

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  • One Fine Day

    2016-07-09 20:02:08

    Cobbled together on a napkin at some swanky Hollywood restaurant by writers Terry Seltzer and Emily Simon as an excuse to team rising ER (and soon to be Batman) star George Clooney with the doe-eyed Michelle Pfeiffer, One Fine Day is an insipid rom-com that does the belaboured genre no favours. The film charts one day in the life of two divorcees, a hot-shot investigative journalist and a hot-shot architect who meet cute one morning then spend the rest of the day trying not to fall in love whilst ministrating to the demands of their respective pre-school kids and, of course, their high-powered jobs. Touching only perfunctorily on the frustrations facing a single parent trying to juggle a career and a love life, the film quickly cedes to the formulaic contrivances of a kitschy rom-com where the characters' job-related issues are given short shrift in order to focuse primarily on the two photogenic leads and their will they or won't they dilemma. Director Michael Hoffman valiantly struggles to keep the plot strands from fraying but it's a lost cause. Irritating to say the least. 

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  • Blood and Wine

    2016-07-09 19:23:29

    Blood and Wine is a pulpy, noirish thriller featuring Jack Nicholson in his seventh screen collaboration with director Bob Rafelson. Written by Nick Villiers and Alison Cross, the film, touted by the director as the conclusion of an informal trilogy that began with Five Easy Pieces and The King of Marvin Gardens, finds the redoubtable Jack in fine leering form as a duplicitous Miami wine merchant who hopes to remedy his serious financial situation by teaming up with a seedy safecracker to steal and fence a client's pricey diamond necklace. His plans begin to go horribly awry almost immediately after the heist when he is drawn into a violent confrontation with his hard-drinking, neglected wife, his angry, embittered step-son and even his mistress, a comely Cuban immigrant whom the son has been secretly banging on the side. Together these five hapless misfits give new meaning to the word disfunctional as they lurch inexorably to a preordained tragedy largely of their own making. Apart from the always watchable Nicholson in the pivotal role, it's heavyweight co-stars Michael Caine as the consumptive safecracker, Judy Davis as the shrewish wife, Stephen Dorf as the disfunctional son and Jennifer Lopez as the opportunistic mistress that convert this darkly cynical, psychologically murky B picture into A-level entertainment. It's terrific.  

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  • Evita

    2016-07-09 17:55:15

    Debuting in 1976 as a hugely successful concept album, then as a hit West End and Broadway musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Evita has survived its tortuous twenty year flirtation with Hollywood and finally made it to the big screen. Co-written by Oliver Stone and director Alan Parker, the film begins Citizen Kane-like with Eva Peron's death in 1953 at the age of 33, then flashes back to peg out her early years and the circumstances that led her to become Argentina's cult icon. Utilising every inch of its panoramic frame, Parker's sweeping musical itinerary of dusty roads, cheap hotel rooms, smokey dance floors and teeming town squares brings a physical conviction to the social and political forces which shaped and perpetuated the Evita legend. And while Jonathan Pryce, who is a dead ringer for Juan Peron and Antonio Banderas as Che Guavera, the one man Greek chorus that provides a singing commentary on the unfolding events, both display an impressive vocal range, it is, of course, Madonna who really does carry the whole shebang. When she walks out onto that balcony to the familiar and haunting strains of Don't Cry For Me Argentina, it becomes patently obvious that she really was born to play the part. An immersive experience.

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  • The Crucible

    2016-07-09 01:21:11

    In The Crucible, Arthur Miller's classic 1953 play, ostensibly about the infamous 17th century witch-hunts in Salem, Massachusetts, but actually a trenchant indictment of the evils perpetrated by Senator McCarthy's anti-communist witch-hunts of the 1950s, director Nicholas Hytner (The Madness of King George) with imput from Miller himself, has fashioned a relentless, suspenseful, and unnervingly prescient drama of collective evil and personal conscience. As the morally compromised Salem farmer whose life is shattered by the vengeful plotting of his scorned mistress, both Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder etch indelible performances. For the record, the play's only other screen incarnation was a Jean Paul Sartre-penned adaptation which Raymond Rouleau helmed in France in 1957 toplining Yves Montand and Simone Signoret. 

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  • The Portrait of a Lady

    2016-07-09 00:56:56

    By and large, most screen adaptations of Henry James' celebrated novels have fared poorly at the box-office and The Portrait of a Lady, director Jane Campion's much anticipated follow-up to The Piano, is not destined to be the exception to the rule. Written by James in 1881 and adapted here by Laura Jones, the story, set in late 19th century Europe, focuses on one Isabel Archer (Nicole Kidman), a headstrong but naive young American who is forced to confront some of life's harsh realities when she is inveigled into marrying a self-serving and devious dilettante played by John Malcovich. Though crafted to perfection in its exquisite period design, the film ploughs through the dense jungle of James' decorous prose with an air of detachment that, frame for frame, remains every bit as distancing as Kidman's cold impassive gaze. Heartless. 

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