Henry V

Kenneth Branagh’s superb 1989 version of the Shakespeare play, which he directed and adapted as well as stars in, is distinctly different from Laurence Olivier’s 1944 movie. The earlier film was intended to whip up patriotic sentiment, but Branagh’s version has a much darker view of England’s defeat of France, more relevant in certain respects to World War I. (The climactic battle is muddy, gory, and marked by the looting of corpses, and after it’s over, Henry’s face is streaked with blood and grime like a Jackson Pollock painting.) Olivier’s vantage point seems more that of the Renaissance, while Branagh’s, like Orson Welles’s in Chimes at Midnight (1966)an obvious influence and reference pointis closer to the Middle Ages. The castincluding Derek Jacobi as the modern-dress chorus, Paul Scofield, Judi Dench, Ian Holm, Emma Thompson, and Robbie Coltrane in an effective cameo as Falstaffis uniformly fine without any grandstanding. 137 min. (JR)

Published on 29 Sep 2004 in Featured Texts, by admin

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The Last Shot

Screenwriter Jeff Nathanson (The Terminal) makes his directing debut with this unfunny and instantly forgettable comedy about an FBI agent (Alec Baldwin) who poses as a movie producer in order to bust a mob boss. Joan Cusack, in a small part, gets to be hilarious, but other members of the talented castMatthew Broderick, Toni Collette, Tony Shalhoub, and Calista Flockhartprove less lucky. R, 93 min. (JR)

Published on 24 Sep 2004 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Ticket To Jerusalem

An itinerant Palestinian projectionist, living with his wife near Ramallah and screening cartoons for children in refugee camps, resolves to hold an outdoor screening in Jerusalem despite it being illegal for him to enter the city. The hero, who suggests a stocky George Clooney, is a memorable figure, and in some ways his project recalls Susan Sontag’s 1993 staging of Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo. Directed by Rashid Masharawi, this touching Palestinian feature (2002) is shaped and inflected at every turn by its locations; much of the absorbing narrative is concerned with the nitty-gritty of passing checkpoints and repairing a rickety projector. In Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles. 85 min. (JR)

Published on 24 Sep 2004 in Featured Texts, by admin

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When Will I Be Loved

Writer-director James Toback (The Pick-up Artist) tries his hand at soft-core porn in this comedy-drama revolving around Neve Campbell as a rich kid in a swank new loft, which makes it a tad more visually interesting than his usual. I suspect he thinks his story about various interacting Manhattan hustlersincluding himself as a Columbia professor, Fred Weller as a would-be pimp and movie producer, Dominic Chianese as an Italian count and billionaire, and the conniving Campbell character herselfis more profoundly motivated. But the slapdash plot, paper-thin characters, misogynist undertones, and mechanical crosscutting are all soft-core standbys, and the philosophical platitude of everybody being a hustler (just like Toback himself while pitching movies like this one) actually seems closer to Russ Meyer than to Dostoyevsky. Mike Tyson and Lori Singer contribute cameos as themselves. R, 81 min. (JR)

Published on 24 Sep 2004 in Featured Texts, by admin

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