Films: Christina's Crits

Christina Byrne (Jim's mother) - published poet and film critique has, after a bit of persuading, agreed to put her talents to use on the Web site with Christina's Film Crits. Looks like we are a dynasty!

Latest Crits - 24th September, 2003

Confidence (15)

The action opens with a scene where Jake is about to be killed by a gunman, then flashes back to an incident in a bar where a man has been shot. It is later revealed that the shooting was a setup to incriminate a bagman and acquire the money the man was supposed to deliver to big time gangster, the King. There are two crooked cops involved in the scam. The characters of Jake and his associates are operating a confidence trick, but don't know they are robbing the King.

To recover his money the King sets Jake the task of running the same type of trick on Morgan Price, a wealthy but crooked businessman. Jake recruits a team, including female pickpocket Lily (Rachel Weisz) and puts the plan in motion. Things go wrong, it looks as if the whole thing is going to fail, and Jake is being betrayed by Lily his accomplice and lover.

A further complication is that he is being pursued by a Federal Agent (Andy Garcia) who is on his trail for previous scam.
The movie is played as a series of flashbacks and is more than a bit confusing. If you go to see it, be prepared to concentrate or you will not get the gist of the story.

Jake is played by Ed Burns, The King by Dustin Hoffman and the director is James Foley

I found the film elaborate and laboured in parts but somehow picked up the clues that allowed me to guess the twist in the tail. Perhaps you will too.

Black Ball (15)

I know, who wants to go see a film about a bowling club? Blazer lapels weighed down with rows of badges, strict adherence to protocol and parish pump politics. There is also the scenario of ?us and them? based on a scruffy run-down housing scheme and the middle class residences of the bowling fraternity.

But step forward boy wonder in the person of Cliff Starkey (Paul Kay) to compete in the county championship. Naturally he wins but insults the former champion and is barred from bowls for fifteen years. In the meantime he has also bowled over the above champion's daughter.

Since his style is brash showmanship, in your face cheek and utter contempt for the petty restrictions of the rulebook, he rattles everyone's cage. All except a snazzy American sports agent who sees money in him and begins to promote him as the bad boy of bowls - Black Ball. But like many big names in sport, Cliff gets above himself and you can guess what happens.

The film is loosely based on the story of bowler Griff Sanders Black Ball has a well-worn plot and stereotypical characters but director Mel Smith's effort probably falls into the category of a feel-good movie. Not too bad really, if there's nothing on telly.

Latest Crits - 15th September, 2003

Legally Blonde2, Red, White and Blonde (PG)

Reece Witherspoon is Elle, a newly qualified lawyer, about to be married to Harvard professor Emmett (Luke Wilson.) She thinks her wedding day will not be complete unless her dog Bruiser tracks down his mother and has her at the wedding. Unfortunately, said mama is presently incarcerated in a laboratory where cosmetics for dumb humans are tested on dumb animals.

Elle sets out to change the law that allows makeup to be tested on animals. To do this she has to take her case to Washington where she finds that there is much backstabbing and doing deals. Not a good advert for American politics. She enlists the help of Senator Victoria Rudd (Sally Field) to help get the bill passed but the senator lets her down. However, as in all romantic comedies things work out in the end.

Sadly the comedy is missing and there's not much romance either.
This sequel to the original movie had a new director in Charles Herman-Wurmfield so maybe it was all his fault.

What does a cinema audience expect? A good story, interesting characters, some point to the movie? What they did get was mush, slush, frivol and drivel.

Pirates of the Caribbean. The Curse of the Black Pearl(12A)

The days of the old style movie have returned, where the clash of steel decides the fate of fair maidens. I expected to see Alan Ladd himself dashing forward to give the swordsmen a few pointers. (OK I know you've never heard of him.)

Children Elizabeth (Kiera Knightley) and Will (Orlando Bloom) meet when he is rescued from a ship sunk by pirates. The boy is wearing a pirate medallion, which she takes from him and conceals. She is the governor's daughter, he grows up to become a humble blacksmith, turning out swords as a sideline. Alas, she is a lass from a different class so their love can never be.

Enter Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow of the Black Pearl, bereft of his ship and a castaway on a remote island. His mission is to recover the Black Pearl from evil captain Barbossa. The ugly crew of the ship are actually walking dead, having been cursed forever because they sank an Inca treasure ship and stole all its gold.

Elizabeth is captured by the villains and taken to the pirates' lair. Captain Sparrow who seems confused as to which side he is on leads Will and the other goodies to her rescue. There follows fast and furious action before the plot resolves and Elizabeth and Will become a happy couple.

Note to director Gore Verbinski. I know you are brilliant and the film is excellent, but I found it a wee bit too long. The fight scenes are exciting, dramatic and often hilarious but there are just too many. Still, I enjoyed a good old-fashioned action movie. Roll on the sequel.

Latest Crits - 15th August, 2003

Bruce Almighty (12A)

Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) is a TV news reporter who is always sent to the frivolous oddball events. His ambition is to report on the serious stuff and eventually get to be anchor man on the news programme. When the post becomes vacant Bruce thinks he will get the job.
He is given the chance to do a live news story but during filming finds out that the anchor job has gone to a rival reporter. Frustration and resentment causes him to mess up the item and he is sacked. He is convinced that God has a grudge against him. His pager keeps ringing with the message to phone a certain number and when he does so, is told to go to an address where he meets God masquerading as a janitor (Morgan Freeman). God tells him he can do anything he wants, and of course, Bruce gives himself the anchor job.

He grants everyone's prayer of winning the lottery, but the prize is divided between too many people and riots break out in the town. He begins to think that God doesn't have such an easy job after all, especially when Grace, (his girlfriend) leaves him and he can't make her come back. Grace is played by Jennifer Aniston but her role is minor.

Jim Carrey is not my favourite actor and I didn't expect to like the movie. I can't say it is brilliant but it's better than I expected. If you like childish schoolboy humour, go see it.
Bruce Almighty is directed by Tom Shadyac

Daddy Day Care (PG)

Charlie (Eddie Murphy) works in an advertising agency, dreaming up campaigns to promote the latest food fad. He is unlucky to be landed with the job of persuading the public to buy more fresh fruit and vegetables. The children testing the product for the TV ad don't seem to like the veggie option, the campaign is axed and Charlie and his mate Phil (Jeff Garlin) are out of a job.

Wife Kim (Regina King) goes back to work, placing son Ben in an up-market educational day care centre that eventually proves to be too expensive. Charlie decides to set up his own centre - a recipe for disaster since neither he nor Phil know anything about looking after children.

Despite the contrived humour and clichéd situations of director Steve Carr's movie, it is actually very funny and well worth seeing. Every maladjusted and dysfunctional child in the neighbourhood (including Ben who had difficulty making friends) turns up for day care. Anjelica Huston excels as Miss Harridan, owner of the rival centre, plotting and scheming to have Daddy Day Care closed.

Veronica Guerin (18)

Loosely based on the story of Irish journalist Veronica Guerin, gunned down by heroin dealers in 1996, this film is a must-see. Granted there are gaps and glitches in the plot, not everything is explained away at the end but it is gripping and full of tension. There are some very raw and violent scenes but they convey what was going on in Dublin at the time.

Cate Blanchett is excellent as Veronica Guerin who feels she is safe even after being beaten up and threatened. Because she is so well known she thinks her fame will protect her.

Ciaran Hinds as 'Coach' Traynor and Gerard McSorley as chief villain Gilligan, have just the right amount of menace to send chills through you and there is a surprise appearance of Colin Farrell, shown in the credits as 'tattooed boy'.

As a result of Veronica Guerin's investigation and reporting, Southern Ireland's tax laws were changed. Previously, provided money was declared and taxes paid on it, there was no need to disclose the source of income so drug money was virtually legal.
Another good film by Director Joel Schumacher

Latest Crits - 22nd June, 2003

Basic (15)

Take a plot with too many twists and turns. Throw in a cast of characters who all look alike because they are in camouflage gear with their faces blacked up. Shoot half of the scenes in a driving rain and hurricane winds, the rest in darkness. It's not surprising you get confused. If John Travolta has lost the plot, he's not the only one. Director John McTiernan lost it along with the audience.

Travolta plays Tom Hardy an Army Ranger suspended on suspicion of accepting bribes. His ex-buddy calls him in to help investigate the deaths of four Rangers killed on a training mission. Julia (Connie Neilson) is the official investigator and Tom is asked to work with her. Sergeant West (Samuel L Jackson) had been the bullying leader of the group and was apparently the first to die.

The two soldiers who survived the mission are under suspicion. One is unharmed, the other is injured and is in hospital. Tom's job is to question them, but both give differing accounts of what happened. The film is crammed with flashbacks and re-enactment of the incident and by the time it was halfway through, frankly I didn't give a damn who dunnit.

The ending, when it finally came (yawn) explained it all. So who cares?

Identity (15)

Violent storms sweep the countryside, the river floods and roads are closed off. Due to the weather a group of people find themselves in a remote motel. One woman has been badly injured in a road accident. Ed (John Cusack), the driver of the car that ran her down takes his actress passenger, the injured woman and her husband and son to the motel. A policeman who is escorting a murderer to another prison also lands in the hotel, as does a prostitute named Paris and a pair of young newly-weds.

From then on it is like a murder countdown from ten as the cast are picked off one by one. Suspecting some sort of a link between themselves, the group discovers they share the same birthday. But that's not all they share.

Sit through this creepy movie to find out the real story. It is full of horror and suspense and you will enjoy it, although I found it a tiny bit of a cheat in some ways.
Directed by James Mangold, the film also stars Ray Liotta as the policeman and Amanda Peet as Paris.

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (12A)

Full throttle it is and it's non-stop action from start to finish. If you are a fan, it is a feast of shapely beauties in hand-to-hand combat scenes that are choreographed every step of the way. Flying motor cycles, army lorries that turn into helicopters, fast cars, dead villains and en ex-Angel (Demi Moore), whizz through the movie, hardly giving you time to register what you are seeing.

There is a plot - sort of. It involves two gold rings that carry government secrets, but there are also a couple of mini stories, one concerning Dylan (Drew Barrymore) whose ex-con boyfriend from her previous life has sworn revenge against her.
John Cleese appears in a cameo role as Alex's (Lucy Liu) father who thinks she really works as a nurse.
As I said, fans of Charlie's Angels will love this film. I thought it was rubbish.

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Latest Crits - 2nd July, 2003

Bringing down the house - (12A)

Steve Martin stars as divorced lawyer Peter Sanderson, in this comedy where most of his troubles start when he finds new romance through the internet. He works for a firm that is trying to secure business from a multimillionaire client. His marriage had broken up because he was wedded to his job.

He invites his cyber girlfriend for a meal, thinking she is a slim blonde but the reality is anything but slim or blonde. Charlene, a brash black woman who is actually an escaped convict claiming innocence, arrives at his house and tries to get him to act for her and prove that she was framed. She embarrasses him so much that he agrees to help.

In one scene he invites the millionaire client for dinner and Charlene poses as the maid. Joan Plowright patronises and insults her by reminiscing about the Negro servants the family had when she was a child in the deep South.

Queen Latifah plays Charlene, the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
Wife Kate is played by Jean Smart.
Despite the contrived situations this is a very funny movie, well worth seeing.

Adam Shankman is the director.

Anger Management - (15)

As a kid Dave (Adam Sandler), was always the one who got picked on. Despite that he looked for the best in people, made excuses for them. His job is to design clothing for fat cats - (how many vacancies for that in Maryhill Jobcentre?). The company uses all his ideas but he is continually being passed over when it comes to promotion. On a plane trip he asks for a set of headphones to listen to the movie but he is ignored. When he tries to get the stewardess's attention by touching her sleeve he is accused of assaulting her. In court he is found guilty and sentenced to 20 hours of 'anger management'.

In another incident he accidentally injures a waitress, and the next court appearance sees him facing a year in jail or anger management on a one-to-one basis. Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson) is the doctor who delivers the therapy and insists on being with him 24/7, living in his house and accompanying him to work.</p.

Various well-known faces including Woody Harrelson and John MacEnroe pop up in cameo roles. Marisa Tomei is Linda the girlfriend, fed up with his lack of confidence and inability to stand up for himself. Although the laughs are predictable, this is a really funny film.
Director Peter Segal has a winner.

Ripley's Game - (15)

Imagine you are dying of leukaemia. You are asked to kill someone for a payment of $50,000, allowing you to leave a nest egg for your family. That is the situation facing Jonothan Trevanny (Dougray Scott.)

A former 'colleague' of Tom Ripley is having trouble with a rival criminal in Berlin and he asks Ripley (John Malcovich) to do the dirty deed. Ripley, now rich and well-respected, turns it down but suggests Jonothan. Initially Jonothan refuses but the temptation of the money convinces him. He does the killing and thinks that is the end of it. However, he is forced into another murder, this time to be carried out on a train. Surprise, surprise, Tom Ripley appears to help out.
Of course the murdered man has friends who track down the deadly duo to their sleepy little Italian village.

So what happens then?
You won't know unless you see the film but I promise you it is full of drama, tension and excitement - a real thriller.
Directed by veteran Liliana Cavani, it is also stars Ray Winstone and Lena Headey.

More May crits

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (12A)

Andie Anderson is a feature writer in a magazine. She offers to write a piece on how to make a man fall in love with her, then dump her all in the space of 10 days. Usually, her magazine gives advice on how to keep a man but she intends to reverse the process. Having settled on her subject Ben (Matthew McConaughey) she is clingy, tearful, demanding, possessive. She constantly phones him, interrupts meetings, takes over his poker nights with his mates and does everything to make him fall out with her but nothing works. The reason is that Ben, who works in advertising, has made a bet that he can get a girl to fall in love with him, also in 10 days.

The movie is supposed to be a romantic comedy but the romance aspect is dull and boring, the comic situations few and far between. Kate Hudson plays Andie, a fresh-faced, wide-eyed blonde - just too wholesome for the part. Matthew McConaughey is totally unconvincing and not my idea of a romantic lead.

Sorry, but this movie is a dud. I'm sure Kate only got the part because of her famous mother Goldie Hawn.

The director is Donald Petrie.

Welcome to Collinwood (15)

A small town movie where George Clooney is billed as the star. He appears in it for about five minutes in the role of an expert safe-cracker confined to a wheelchair. The plot is that four would-be robbers break in to a jewellry shop. They plan to cut through a wall, break open the safe and get away with the spoils. Clooney gives a lesson on how to open the safe, but he not actually one of the gang. Of course it all goes wrong.

I think this was supposed to be a comedy but there was not much to laugh at. Everything is based on the stupidity of the four and when there is humour it is predictable.

Thumbs down for this one and no Oscars for writer and director brothers Anthony and Joe Russo.

Hope Springs (12A)

Artist Colin Ware (Colin Firth) receives and invitation to a wedding. Naturally he is upset since the bride is his fiancée. In an effort to forget her he crosses the Atlantic to the small town of Hope Springs. There he divides his time between drawing portraits of local characters and mending his broken heart in the company of Mandy (Heather Graham).

Surprise, surprise the former girlfriend Vera (Minnie Driver), turns up, confesses that the wedding invitation was a joke and tries to get him to go back to England with her. By this time he has fallen for Mandy.

I found this movie tedious. It feels much longer that its advertised 90 odd minutes and is really not worth wasting time on. Sorry Mr Mark Herman director, it's not my choice of the week.

The Actors (15)

Michael Caine plays Anthony O'Malley, a fading thespian who thinks life hasn't given him what he is due. After treading the boards for many years he is still in the category of struggling actor with a salary to match. Whilst 'researching' for the starring role in a modern version of Richard 111 he frequents a Dublin pub where he meets the daughter of a local gangster. He finds out that the man owes a large sum of money to an English crook. He drafts a plan to collect the money, based on the fact that debtor and creditor had never met. Tom (Dylan Moran) is also in the cast of the play and O'Malley gets him involved. Tom then finds himself in a dilemma when he falls for the daughter (Lena Headley).

A lot of the humour in the film stems from the exaggerated stereotypes, especially the character of Irish so-called gangster Barreller (Michael Gambon). There are some very funny scenes and I enjoyed it well enough.

The Actors is directed by Conor McPherson.

Latest crits - May, 2003

Phone Booth (15)

Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) earns a living as a publicity man, setting up meetings and interviews for aspiring showbiz people. He takes a young man under his wing, promising him he will teach him how to be a successful publicist but is really only getting him to work for nothing.

He makes a call from a phone booth to a young actress, trying to persuade her to meet him at a hotel but she refuses. As he is about to leave the booth, the phone rings and he answers it. The caller tells him that there is a gun trained on him and that if he hangs up he will be shot.

The booth is a contact number for three prostitutes who try to make him leave and when he refuses, their minder is killed. By this time the police and TV reporters have been alerted and Stu is forced to confess in public that not only had he intended being unfaithful to his wife but that his business and his whole life is built on lies and deception.

For much of the film the action is tense and dramatic. However since it relies on one incident few of the other characters have any depth. I had looked forward to director Joel Schumacher's movie but was just a little disappointed.

Shanghai Knights (12A)

Chon Wang, pronounced John Wayne (Jackie Chan) has left home to seek his fortune in America and is the sheriff of a small town. Meanwhile back at the ancestral home his father and sister have the job of guarding the Imperial Seal in what looks like the Forbidden City. They are attacked, his father is killed and his sister sets out to find her father's killer. The trail leads to America where she meets up with her long lost brother and his sidekick Roy O'Bannon.

The trio follow the killer to England where Queen Victoria is on the throne. They find that he is an English aristocrat who intends to do away with the royal family and become king.

The film is one long saga of fights and slapstick comedy and is O K if you are in to that type of humour, but after a while it gets tedious. It's just as well co-star Roy (Owen Wilson) had come into acting after working as a stuntman. Some of the out-takes (shown at the end of the movie) are funnier than the bits left in.

Not laugh a minute but a passable movie. It is a sequel to Shanghai Noon and the word is that director David Dobkin is working on Shanghai Dawn.

Johnny English (PG)

Johnny English aka Rowan Atkinson is the type of movie you would expect from the former Mr Bean. He appears to be the only special agent left alive after all the rest of them have been bumped off due to a little mistake in the admin office where he works.

Nothing for it but to send him on a mission, so he is given the task of recovering the crown jewels that have been stolen by Sauvage (John Malkovich). Sauvage has a mad plan to take over Britain, have himself crowned king and turn the island into a huge jail.

As you would expect, most of the humour is predictable but still enjoyable. There is an unlikely 'romance' between Lorna (Natalie Imbruglia) who is another agent assigned to the same mission. Even if you don't like the Mr Bean character I guarantee you will get a laugh at Johnny English.

The film is directed by Peter Howitt.

Latest crits - April, 2003

Evelyn (PG)

Looking for a man to slap a coat of paint on your wall, or put up a few rolls of wallpaper? This is Pierce Brosnan as you've never seen him - a rough-shaven Irish painter and decorator, Desmond Doyle by name, just trying to earn a bob or two to keep his kids out of an institution. Doyle's wife had run off, leaving him to cope with the children. He fails miserably resulting in them being taken into care. The movie is set in 1953, when Irish law at that time prevents him getting them back unless the two parents apply to the court. Since he cannot get in touch with the wife it looks as if he has to accept defeat. But the man enlists the help of lawyers to fight the court's decision. So was it a fairytale ending? Well, pardon me but the whole film is so twee I expected to see a couple of leprechauns sitting in the courtroom. If anything Brosnan is too much the stereotypical Irishman. Sure he even sings a few bars of an Irish song whilst holding a glass of the black stuff. Aye, I know he was born there but he doesn't need to send it up.

Good performances from Steven Rea, Aidan Quinn and the child Sophie Vavasseur who plays daughter Evelyn but Julianna Margulies was not convincing as the colleen who falls for Desmond.
Director Bruce Beresford has filmed a story which is billed as - heartwarming? but it left me cold.

The Recruit (12A)

If you were thinking of becoming a spy this is the film to see. Step by step we follow the training programme for would-be secret agents of the U S Government. James Clayton (Colin Farrell), a wizard on the PC, has lost his father in a mystery plane crash. When he is approached by Walter Burke (Al Pacino) to be signed up, he convinces himself that his dad had been an under cover agent and agrees to be recruited. At the training camp known as The Farm, he gets involved with fellow student Layla (Bridget Moynahan).

The recruits are placed in various test situations and James is selected to be one of the special secret agents, known as NOCs i.e. non-official cover agents. His first task is to spy on Layla who is suspected of being a double agent and find out how she smuggles information from C I A Headquarters. Every ingredient of a spy movie is crammed in.

From then on the plot takes so many devious twists that it becomes hard to keep up with and of course, all is not as it seems. Despite the clichés the movie is non-stop action-packed and gripping and I liked it.
The Recruit is directed by Roger Donaldson.

Latest crits - April, 2003

Maid in Manhattan (PG)

In another take on the Cinderella story, poor single parent Marisa (Jennifer Lopez) earns her crusts as a maid at the Beresford five star hotel. Enter Prince Charming in the shape of Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes), who mistakes Marisa for five star socialite Caroline Lane, played by over-the-top Natasha Richardson. Marisa had been cleaning Caroline's room and was persuaded to try on a couture outfit that just happened to be hanging in the wardrobe. It also just happened to be a perfect fit, despite J.Lo's big bum.

Naturally Christopher and Marisa fall for each other right away but because he is a political public figure, they are hounded by reporters and photographers. Inevitably Marisa's secret is found out.
What is intended to be a light romantic comedy misses out somewhere.

All I can say is the film is passable and worth a look but don't worry if you miss it. It is directed by Wayne Wang and the story is supposed to have been written specially for Ms Lopez.

The Hours (12A)

At least three quarters of director Stephen Daltry's movie is totally confusing, jumping from character to character in a time range of approximately seventy years. Virginia Wolff's novel, 'Mrs. Dalloway' is the thread that connects them and events in the novel are replicated in the lives of Virginia Wolff, Laura Brown and Clarissa Vaughan. Scenes are named e.g. 'the visit' or 'the flowers' and each scene is enacted three times.

The action is so slow the question is - what exactly is going on and the answers is - nothing. There are a few dramatic moments but they are few and far between.

However, if the plot fails, the acting succeeds with fantastic performances from Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep, not to mention Ed Harris as AIDS victim Richard Brown. Kidman (playing Virginia Wolff) has been rewarded, first with a Bafta, now an Oscar for best actress but my own favourite is Meryl Streep as Clarissa. If you are a fan of the actresses or of Stephen Daltry you won't want to miss the film but remember the title. Perhaps is should be re-named The Really Long Hours

Christina's Crits - March, 2003

About Schmidt (15)

You have worked all your life for the same company, think you are indispensable, then comes the day when you retire. Your exit hardly causes a ripple, as if you had never been there. Warren Schmidt had been in insurance since he graduated and knows nothing else. Soon after his leaving party, his wife dies. Even though his marriage had been humdrum he misses her if only for her cooking, washing and cleaning. Trying to fill the gap he sets off to visit his daughter, who is about to be married. He disapproves of her boyfriend and his family, thinking she could have done better for herself.

Jack Nicolson's portrayal of Schmidt is excellent. His daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) and Dermot Mulroney as boyfriend Randall are both convincing. Kathie Bates flashes more than her bosom as Randall's mother.

About Schmidt had been promoted as a kind of comedy/drama. There is little to amuse and a lot of sadness in the film and frankly director Alexander Payne's production feels too long. If Nicolson gets an Oscar it will be well-deserved but sorry, for me the movie was a drag.

Two Weeks Notice (12A)

Hugh Grant plays George Wade the front man for the Wade Corporation, a huge property development company. His company has plans to knock down a well-patronized community centre in the locality where Lucy Kelson (Sandra Bullock) had grown up. Lucy has strong objections to the plan and tries to persuade him to spare the centre. Finding out that she is a graduate of Harvard law school he promises to shelve the plan if she goes to work for him. It turns out that he is more in need of someone to manage his life and expects Lucy to be on call 24 hours a day. She decides to leave the job and gives two weeks notice.

The situations are amusing and predictable but no-one looks for anything new in romantic comedy anyway so you are not disappointed. It seems that Marc D Lawrence wrote the screenplay as well as directing the film. I'm sure it didn't tax him too much. As you would expect there's not a lot of depth to the movie but it is good fun.

The Magdelene Sisters (15)

Not much fun in this film. Set in Ireland in 1964 and based on real events, it tells the stories of three girls who were sent to work in the Magdelene Laundry. The laundry is situated in the convent of the Sisters of Mercy and the girls are virtual prisoners, enduring both physical and mental abuse at the hands of the nuns.

Apparently the idea is that they are doing penance on earth to atone for sins of the flesh? and when they are released they will be cleansed. The truth is that few of them are ever released. One girl runs away only to have her father bring her back and beat her. The nuns punish her further by cutting off all her hair.
Geraldine McEwan gives an excellent performance as the sadistic mother superior.

The girls - Rose, Margaret and Bernadette are played by Dorothy Duffy, Anne Marie Duff and Nora Jane Noone. Rose is an unmarried mother, seen as almost a crime in the sixties. Margaret had been raped by her cousin and Bernadette had come to the convent straight from an orphanage. Director Peter Mullan appears briefly as the bullying father who returns his daughter to the laundry.

Despite the harsh reality and brutal scenes that make you wince time and time again, The Magdelene Sisters is compulsive viewing. Don't miss it.

Christina's Crits - February, 2003

Chicago (12A)

Take a successful stage musical, get director Rob Marshall to transfer it to film and you get a successful stage musical. O K Richard Gere as lawyer Billy Flynn, Renee Zellweger (Roxie) and Catherine Zeta Jones (Velma Kelly) played the parts well, the music was great, the dancing superb but the film was like tinsel - decorative, useless and forgettable.

Velma and Roxie land in prison, Velma because she bumped off her hubby and her sister, Roxie because she shot the lover who had promised to get her into showbusiness. Billy Flynn is the man who can get them off with his special brand of theatrical courtroom antics.

I enjoyed the film but felt there was something missing. Could it have been a gripping plot? Of course the powers that be proved there was nothing missing and dished out awards to Richard and Renee so I must have been wrong again.
But I've seen good musicals that involved the audience to the extent that they cared what happened to the performers. In this movie the only one who tugged at the heartstrings was Amos the wronged husband. As for the principals, frankly I didn't give a damn.
But that's showbiz.

Catch Me If You Can (12A)

Now there's a movie. Based on a true story, this film has everything. For once the great Tom Hanks was eclipsed by another actor, in this case Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays young Frank Abagnale. When the boy's parents split up he runs away, living on his wits and a rash of forged cheques.

Of course he is caught and sent home since he hasn't quite got the hang of this forgery lark. Then he graduates to being a real criminal when he turns himself into an airline pilot and manages to cash counterfeit Pan-Am cheques.
From there he becomes a doctor then a lawyer, amassing a fortune along the way.

Tom Hanks is Carl Hanratty, FBI bank fraud investigator sent to solve the dud cheque scam, but he is always just one step behind in the cat and mouse game.

Catch Me If You Can is a fun movie with enough to keep you interested and intrigued. Another Steven Spielberg success that you can't afford to miss.

More January Crits -

Deathwatch (15)

The First World War in all its horror - or so it seems. After a bloody battle, a group of soldiers stumble on a deserted German trench in which they find a French prisoner. The company soon realize they have exchanged one horror for another as rotting corpses appear to come alive and attack them. The atmosphere is one of menace and doom and one by one the men are affected by it. Eventually they begin to attack each other.

Most of the action takes place in darkness and this helps add a spooky feel to the film. However Director Michael Bassett failed to impress me with this film. Pardon my sense of humour but I found some of the supposedly horrific scenes were so corny and overdone that they were hilarious.Take every horror movie ever made, mix well and the result is Deathwatch.

The main character, young Charlie Shakespeare is played by Jamie Bell but don't expect another Billy Elliott. The rest of the cast is made up of familiar faces from T V dramas and include Matthew Rhys, Hugo Spear and Andy Serkis.
If you fancy being bored to death, go and see Deathwatch.

Gangs of New York

Set in the time of the American Civil War, when casualties were so high the North proposed to draft civilians in to the army, the events of the film are violence on a grand scale, but the action does not take place on the battlefield. The venue for battles between the Gangs of New York is the Five Points, an area where five streets converge.</p.

As a child Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) had seen his father killed by Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day Lewis.) Amsterdam determines to avenge his father's death, a situation which is the staple of the cowboy film - 'searching for the man who shot my paw'. However, he soon finds himself in the role of the Butcher's protégée - even on one occasion saving his life.

Amsterdam gets it together with pickpocket Jenny (Cameron Diaz), who is also involved with the Butcher. When his true identity is discovered the Butcher attacks him and he almost dies. He re-forms his father's 'Dead Rabbits' gang and challenges the Butcher to a final confrontation.

The movie runs for over two hours but never flags. It appears to have a cast of thousands with familiar faces appearing in various cameo roles and must have cost a lot.
It certainly keeps you glued to your seat. It also impressed the powers that be, giving Martin Scorsese the Golden Globe for best director, not to mention the award for best song 'The Hands that Built America'.

Latest Crits - January, 2003

Die Another Day (PG)

Stunts, car chases, explosions, gimmicky gadgets, beautiful women. Just an ordinary week in the life of 007. Die Another Day is full of the everyday adventures of secret agent James Bond and we have seen it all before. So why dash along to our local film-house and sit enthralled by the performances? Well, doesn't every male have a secret yen to live the life, doesn't every woman dream of being swept off her feet by a gallant knight in a tuxedo?

Like all Bond films the plot is deep and convoluted, this time involving diamond smuggling, DNA transplants and plastic surgery, a new 'sun' in the form of a satellite, power struggles and a double agent.

From Korea where Bond is captured and imprisoned, he moves to Hong Kong then to Britain where he is disowned by MI6 for betraying secrets. Knowing that he hadn't cracked under torture, he goes to Cuba in search of the agent who had passed on the information. There he meets up with Jinx (Halle Berry) in the now famous re-run of the Ursulla Andress scene when she emerges from the sea wearing a bikini and carrying a knife. Throughout the film there are references to that first Bond movie - Dr.No - made forty years ago.

Perhaps the most electrifying and dramatic action is in Iceland in a fantastic ice palace where Jinx gets captured, the identity of the double agent is revealed and at least one of the baddies is bumped off by a laser. Oh, and the ice melts due to reflections from the new sun and Bond is involved in a spectacular fight with his arch enemy - but I won't spoil it by telling you who he is.

However it doesn't end there. There is a lot more fighting to go until our hero wins the day.

Director Lee Tamahori has his license to thrill. Go see and enjoy.

Changing Lanes (15)

Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) is a whiz-kid lawyer on his way to a court hearing to lodge papers proving his law firm controls a deceased client's assets. Driving on the freeway he literally bumps into Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson), also headed for a courtroom to stop his wife gaining sole custody of his two sons. Gipson intends to buy a house in the hope that she will allow him access to them. Instead of exchanging insurance details and doing things by the book, Banek hands Gipson a cheque and drives off. However, in his rush to get away he fails to notice that the vital documents had fallen from the car and are left behind. Gipson's car is damaged and has a flat tyre. By the time he reaches court the hearing is over and his wife has control of the children. Thinking the papers were unimportant, he bins them. When Banek contacts him, he realizes their value and retrieves them.

Banek attempts to force Gipson to return them. This involves a computer hacker systematically blocking Gipson's credit cards, clearing out his bank account and virtually bankrupting him.

At first the sympathy is with Gipson but gradually we see that Banek is not the out and out bad character he first appears to be. Ben Affleck is convincing in the role and Samuel L. Jackson gives his usual excellent performance.

Changing Lanes is directed by Roger Mitchell. I stayed awake all through so it must have been an O K film.

Sweet Home Alabama (P G)

Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) had married her high-school boyfriend but young love soon died. She runs away to New York where she becomes a successful fashion designer and the fiancée of an up and coming politician. Trouble is, the wedding can't take place until the little matter of the husband is sor ted. Armed with divorce papers she goes back to her home town but hubby (Josh Lucas) won't sign. The locals think she has got a bit above herself and are not exactly welcoming.

The New York fiancee pays a surprise visit and finds that Melanie's background is not quite as she had led him to believe. Far from being one of the rich Southern families with a big mansion, Melanie's home is pretty downmarket, her parents out and out working class.

Of course the spark between the childhood sweethearts looks set to be rekindled but Melanie is something of a material girl and goes ahead with the wedding arrangements.

The film is a romantic comedy and there is certainly romance and comedy but perhaps it is a little too sweet for some tastes. Also for a character who was supposed to be a fashion designer Ms Witherspoon's outfits were frumpy and that's putting it kindly.

Still, director Andy Tennant's movie is worth seeing.

Latest Crits - December, 2002

Road to Perdition (15)

Just another gangster movie? Not when the stars are Tom Hanks and Paul Newman.
Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks,) like any good husband and father goes out to work to support his wife and family. The job is slightly unusual in that he makes a living as a killer, in the business run by John Rooney (Paul Newman.) With Rooney's son Connor, Michael is sent to 'talk to' a troublesome employee whose brother had been suspected of pocketing money belonging to the organization. The discussion ends in a bloodbath, witnessed by Michael's son who had stowed away in the car out of curiosity about his father's occupation. When Connor (Daniel Craig) discovers that the boy had seen the massacre, he kills Michael's wife and other son. Michael knows he is the next target so sets off to appeal to the big boss of Capone's empire who is unwilling to interfere.

Deciding that the only way to hurt the organization is to cut off its money supply, Michael and Michael junior embark on a spate of bank robberies to clear out the group's funds. By this time he is being pursued by hit-man Maguire, played by Jude Law.

On the road to Perdition there is plenty of fast action and nail-biting tension which keeps the audience enthralled from start to finish.

Another success for director Sam Mendes.

Sweet Sixteen (18)

For Scottish cinemagoers the dialogue is true to life but for the rest of the world there is talk of subtitles. Rubbish! Everyone understands profanity. Sweet Sixteen is so full of sweary words that after a while you just don't notice.

Director Ken Loach has a winner in this story of the everyday folk of Greenock, going about their business of dealing drugs, selling knocked off gear and punting cheap fags. The plot involves Liam (Martin Compston) trying to earn enough money to get his jailbird mum a wee place in the country, far away from her lousy boyfriend and her drug habit. His entrepreneurial skills lead him into the job of sub-contractor to the local Mr Big of the drug world and things look good for a while. He buys his mother a swanky mobile home and looks forward to her release day.

Sod's law ensures that the plan goes awry - but who wants to watch a film where the action is predictable?
You really have to see this movie. It has humour, horror and hard-hitting realism. Many of the cast are young unknown actors but the performances are excellent, especially Liam's mate Pinball(William Ruane) and sister Chantelle (AnnMarie Fulton).

Latest Crits - October, 2002

Things (12 A)

Any film starring Mel Gibson is assured of box-office success but "Things" may be the exception. There is certainly tension and sudden loud noises to give the filmgoer a wee fright now and then, but the clichés detract from the entertainment.

Take a handful of sci-fi movies, jumble them up and the result is "Things"
Mel Gibson plays Rev. Graham, a cleric whose wife has been killed in a horror accident. Feeling badly let down by his God and his religion, he loses his faith, bins the dog collar and settles to the job of bringing up his two kids. No quite your stereotypical single parent. He enlists the help of his brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), formerly a star baseball player.

The story is based on the phenomenon of crop circles, set in an odd pattern and simultaneously occurring worldwide. Of course it has to be liens invading the earth but the resulting action veers more towards comic farce than spine-chilling, heart-stopping drama.

"Thngs" will either make you laugh out loud or tremble with fear at the prospect of what may lie ahead in the event of an alien invasion. You might enjoy it but it's not my cup of tea.

The film is directed by M Night Shyamalan, who manages to get himself on screen in a bit part. Following in Hitchcock's footsteps?

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (PG)

It's the old story. Plain and dowdy Tuala is 30, unmarried and waiting for her prince. With no sign of a man on the horizon, the family panic at the prospect of being landed with an ageing spinster.

Tuala (played by Nia Vardalos, who wrote the story based on her own experiences), works in "Zorba's" the family restaurant. She is about to be packed off to Greece in a last desperate attempt to get her hitched when she decides to take a look at the outside world. Enrolling for a college course, she blossoms, gets away from the restaurant and starts work in another family business ? a travel agency owned by her aunt. She meets Ian (John Corbett) they fall in love and decide to get married.

The big problem is , Ian is not Greek. We follow his initiation into the family, his meeting with hundreds of relatives, all living in each other's pockets. Tuala is introduced to his parents, conventional, stuffy and overwhelmed by the boisterous rabble their son has become involved with.

Everything is predicable, the ghas ancient, the situations contrived but the film does make you laugh along with it.

Director Joel Zwick has come up with a light comedy, more than a tad old-fashioned but worth seeing.

The Bourne Identity

A French fishing boat picks up what appears to be a dead body with two bullet wounds in its back. However the man (Matt Damon) is still alive and when one of the crew removes the bullets he finds a metal tube with the number of a Swiss bank account.

When the injured man recovers he has no memory. He goes to Switzerland, and in the safe deposit box finds several passports, money in various currencies and a gun. One of the passports is in the name of Jason Bourne and has a Paris address.

Deciding to make for Paris he discovers that he is being followed and goes in to the American Embassy. Still being pursued he escapes from there, meets up with Maria (Franka Potente) and bribes her to drive him to Paris.

When he is attacked in his apartment he begins to realize that his past is violent and some kind of organization is try8ing to kill him.

There is nothing new in this kind of spy movie but it is full of excitement and intrigue.
As the story unfolds the action is fast and furious, involving the CIA, an American senator and a troublesome black politician, who claims to have been the subject of a failed assassination attempt. There is also a brilliant car chase, the most thrilling since Steve McQueen's in 'Bullitt'.

This latest movie by director Doug Liman is one you shouldn't miss.

Latest crits: August, 2002

Minority Report (12)

Fast forward to 2054 when the police department in Washington DC has a novel way of keeping law and order. Using information from three humans (known as 'pre-cogs' due to their highly tuned ESP and ability to see the future), crimes are detected even before they are committed. About-t--be murderers are banged up for life in a hi-tech prison where each inmate is neatly contained in a made to measure glass tube - O K I know it sounds daft. Trouble is, these "nearly" criminals didn't actually do anything to merit the punishment. A whole new slant to the 'I was framed' scenario.

Top cop John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is a firm believer in the system. Several years previously his son had been abducted and the crime had never been solved. He sees his mission as preventing others suffering the effects of crime.

Whilst interpreting the information from the 'pre-cogs' he is shocked to see himself as a future killer and goes on the run, pursued by his former colleagues.

He eventually contacts the person whose work had led to the development of the system and discovers that the 'pre-cogs' always have an alternative vision but it is suppressed. The alternative outcome is the Minority Report.

This action thriller of a movie is fast and furious and so much is going on it is difficult to keep up with events. It seems almost sacrilege to criticize Steven Spielberg but some of the futuristic technology is so gimmicky and slick it becomes tiresome

As ever, Cruise's performance draws us in. We forget he is playing a role and become involved with his character. Colin Farrell is excellent as F B I agent Danny who finds out too much for his own good.

Despite the far-fetched story line and daft gadgetry, I found Minority Report gripping and enjoyable. Well worth the ticket price.

Murder By Numbers (15)

Sandra Bullock plays Cassie, a dedicated homicide detective, in this fast-paced thriller that throws up a few surprising twists. A young woman is murdered and the clues lead to the arrest of a sleazy drug dealer. But the suspect fits the psychological profile just too well and our smart cop sets out to probe under the surface. Every shred of evidence is dissected, every hunch followed, until the trail leads to the real killers, two high school kids who had planned to commit the perfect murder.

But Cassie has a secret of her own, an incident in her past which left her with a damaged personality, virtually unable to form or sustain relationships. Colleague Sam (Ben Chaplin) tries to get close but finds himself used and rejected. Sound familiar? Ryan Gosling as Richard the poor little rich kid, is perfect in the role, bored with everything and seeking new thrills. His partner in crime, misfit Justin (Michael Pitt), lives in his shadow.

The film is directed by Barbet Schroeder and certainly has more than a few tense moments.

Don't expect a load of laughs in this movie but I guarantee you will enjoy it.

Latest Film Crits - 22nd July, 2002

Star Wars Episode 2 Attack of the Clones (PG)

This is definitely one for the fans ? no-one else would be bothered trying to find out who's who in the galaxy. Not having seen the first prequel, I found I had lost the plot a little although I did remember R2D2 and C-3PO.

I know I ought to be rootin? for the good guys and I will - soon as I find out who they are. Anakin Skywalker (heart-stop handsome Hayden Cristensen) is one of them of course, or is he? This trainee Jedi is like every other apprentice, thinks he knows better than the master Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor).

There is more than one major story-line but the main plot involves a giant breeding programme in a far off planet, said factory churning out cloned soldiers. However there seems to be another production line elsewhere producing its own clones. With so many fighting fit specimens on the scene, what else could happen but a big scrap?

Most of the 'heroes' get captured, most of the Jedi get roughed up, most of the villains get vanquished. Young love triumphs but there is a hint of what is to come in the next prequel.

George Lucas was not only producer and director, but did the screenplay as well - a man of many talents.

Love it or loathe it, the movie probably lives up to the Hollywood hype and it does have its moments.

Monster's Ball (15)

Billy Bob Thornton plays Hank, a prison officer, steeped in the racial prejudice instilled in him by his father Buck, who had also been employed in the prison. Sonny (Heath Ledger) is Hank's son, who also works there but does not share their views.

A black man is to be executed for murder and Hank and Sonny are part of the team who will carry out the execution - the "Monster's Ball" of the title. Sonny is unable to cope with the trauma, is taunted by his grandfather and takes his own life.

The film is set in the Deep South where black people are often still treated as second class citizens. On the surface, racism is the issue. But look deeper.

Three generations of a family share the same attitude. To Hank, Buck and Sonny, women are to be used and abused.

Laticia (Halle Berry), widow of the dead killer, appeals to Hank for help when her son is involved in an accident. A relationship develops between her and Hank.
Billy Bob Thornton is excellent in the role as the emotionally repressed Hank, unable to reveal even the slightest shred of feeling as he buries his son, but despite the fact that Halle Berry won the Oscar for her performance as Laticia, I felt she was unconvincing in the part.

To be frank "Monster?s Ball" is not my kind of movie. My stomach heaved at the graphic horror of the electric chair scene showing smoke emitting from the dying man. Director Marc Forster may have his fans but I?m not one of them.

Latest crits. 25th June, 2002

Snow Dogs (PG)

Ted Brooks (Cuba Gooding Junior,) a successful dentist making megabucks, is suddenly confronted with the knowledge that his Mom and Dad ain't his parents. His real mother, a saloon-keeper in deepest Alaska, snuffs it, leaving him her worldy goods in the shape of a team of huskies.

Whilst the doughty dentist is collecting his legacy he takes the chance to find his paw, but father and son hate each other on sight.

Naturally there has to be a romance somewhere in the script so Ted takes up with gal-next-door look-alike Barb (Joanna Bacalso.)

A film in the true tradition of Walt Disney. No gritty realism here, just syrupy slush where every character is a goodie, even Ted's dad, big bad Thunder Jack played with ham-actor menace by James Coburn.

Expect a fairly pleasant movie that jogs along with no surprises. My vote for best actor is Demon - mad, bad and blue-eyed, the lead dog of the pack.

SNOW DOGS is directed by Brian Levant and is billed as a family comedy adventure.

Unfaithful (15)

Edward Sumner (Richard Gere) is happily married to Connie (Diane Lane) when a sudden windstorm carries her off her feet, slap into the arms of a young sexy Frenchman. Gallant rescuer Paul (Olivier Martinez) invites her to his flat for coffee and we know what that means. She becomes infatuated with him, taking every opportunity to leap into his bed and their couplings take up most of the first hour of the film. Voyeuristic.

The action only becomes interesting when Edward begins to suspect his wife is unfaithful and the drama builds from there. When violence flares, it is sudden and fatal.

Diane Lane is convincing as the obsessed wife, risking all for lust. Gere has just the right mix of bewilderment, pain and anger, invoking sympathy as the wronged husband. And Olivier Martinez? He's only there for the one thing, isn't he?

On the whole I liked the movie, except for the surfeit of sex and bare buff. One feels a dirty raincoat may be 'de rigueur' when buying a ticket.

'Unfaithful' is a remake of 1968 French film 'La Femme Infidele' and is produced and directed by Adrian Lyne.

Latest Crits - June, 2002

There are many cinemas within easy reach of the West End and you will find the Grosvenor Cinema in Ashton Lane in Hillhead - a cosy little cinema with two screens and friendly staff. Walking out of the Cinema after the film has finished into the good natured crowds who populate the lane always gives me a good feeling. There are lots of good pubs and restaurants located within yards of the cinema doors to satisfy your pre or post film appetite.