February 5, 2010 |
Like Reservoir Dogs with a Cockney bark - but without Quentin Tarantino's filmmaking chops - the British entry 44 Inch Chest offers a tough-talking meditation on jealousy and marital betrayal. Its cast is stellar - Stephen Dillane, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Tom Wilkinson, and, at the center of it all, a broke-down bad man, Ray Winstone. But its script, from David Scinto and Louis Mellis, the cowriters of Sexy Beast , is nothing more than a heavy rotation of expletives and redundant riffing.
October 31, 2008 |
Guy Ritchie makes movies that zoom. The gangland Britspeak is pumped up, profane. The action flashes forward, then roars into reverse. All parties concerned appear to be having a gas - even as bullets fly, bad guys (and good) are beaten to a pulp, and suckers get taken for every cent. The problem with Ritchie - recently exed from a certain one-named pop diva - is that he keeps making the same movie. Like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels , Ritchie's RocknRolla is set in the London underworld.
September 20, 2003 |
The idea for Michael Ogborn's Caf? Puttanesca springs from a supposed custom of Italian prostitutes, who would gather together after a busy working night. Each is supposed to bring some leftovers to toss into a simmering pot for a late meal. Ogborn's show, which is set in a cafe in Amsterdam three years after the end of World War II, takes much the same approach, and the results aren't particularly appetizing. The period after the war, when so many lost souls scrambled to survive by any means possible, deserves more substantial exploration in fictional genres.
June 30, 2002 |
He was the top hair gun - on the cutting edge of hairstyling for women and (gasp!) men in the early '70s. The same ad man who coined the famous "Philadelphia isn't as bad as Philadelphians say it is" slogan literally made the haute-stylist's name: "Barry Leonard, Crimper. " What was a "crimper"? Who knew, but darling, everybody who was anybody was getting crimped! It was an era in which the hippest hairdressers were elevated to pop-culture icons (remember Warren Beatty in Shampoo?
July 21, 2001 |
Soon after I wrote an enthusiastic review of Sexy Beast, the letters, e-mail and phone calls began. But they weren't the usual protests of "Did we see the same movie?" Instead, the questions were "Did we hear the same movie?" and "Why didn't you say it needed subtitles?" Jonathan Glazer's brilliant directing debut is a black-humored, often brutal Brit gangster picture with a paint-peeling performance by Ben Kingsley - yes, Gandhi - as a psychopathic thug. And it's in English.
October 8, 1999 |
Despite F. Scott Fitzgerald's maxim, some lives are blessed with a rewarding second act, and that can be especially true for actors. Two of the more gratifying career comebacks of the '90s continue with the inspired pairing of Peter Fonda and Terence Stamp in The Limey. Steven Soderbergh, whose own up-and-down career righted itself triumphantly with last year's Out of Sight, exploits the richly contrasted styles and movie associations of Fonda and Stamp to the hilt. The result is that two performers who became screen icons in the '60s - and who have now reached the apt age of 60 - lift what is essentially a standard '90s revenge drama far above the routine.
October 6, 1999 |
There are flashbacks, and then there are flashbacks. In golden, olden days, rippling waves on the screen signaled a trip down Memory Lane, accompanied by spooky music and echo-chamber voice-overs going "I remember when. . . . " Now, maybe there's a polite dissolve, and some kid on the soundtrack reflecting about his coming-of-age. But in one of the most innovative applications of that hoary ol' narrative technique, Steven Soderbergh's The Limey deploys footage of its star, Terence Stamp, lifted from a 32-year-old film.
April 9, 1999 |
The downtrodden characters in Among Giants have the endless and messy task of climbing high above the Yorkshire countryside to paint electric transmission towers. As an unabashed attempt to reach the dizzying heights of the international smash hit The Fully Monty, the movie makes it halfway. If the setting (the gritty city of Sheffield) and the core of Among Giants, which features the camaraderie of an engaging bunch of down-on-their-luck guys, seem familiar, there's a very good explanation.
April 7, 1998 |
In Pygmalion George Bernard Shaw proposes that how one speaks determines one's place in society. Similarly, how the actors speak determines, to a large extent, the success of a production of the play. In Shaw's 1914 comedy, later adapted into My Fair Lady, a linguistics expert bets he can transform a common Cockney flower girl into a lady by teaching her to speak upper-class English. For the play to be convincing, the English accents, especially in the key roles of the linguist, Professor Henry Higgins, and the flower girl, Eliza Dolittle, must be spot-on.
October 10, 1997 |
America and Britain truly are two cultures "separated by a common language," as Winston Churchill once observed, but Jerry Seinfeld's explorations of British slanguage are a bit of a barney. In fact, the British slang has some U.S viewers tearing out their Barnett Fair. Here's a cheat sheet for the American Express commercials that open with Jerry before a London audience, bombing with the punchline: "So I got off the elevator, cut in line, and said, 'What is this, the seventh-inning stretch?