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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

It's not Citizen Kane, but it's sure a good time at the movies
To those who complained that PoP wasn't very good, I have to ask -- what movie did you see, and what were you expecting? It's a Bruckheimer production, so one could reasonably expect lots of action, a true blue hero or two, some twists and turns that you may or may not see coming, and in general a rollicking good time. You are NOT going to get Shakespeare! The previews, which were all I had to go on as I know nothing about the video game, promised PoP be a fun two hours of escapism. It promised, and as far as this reviewer is concerned, it delivered admirably on that promise. (Please note -- there may be spoilers from this point on) It gave me a stalwart hero and a lovely heroine, played believably and with good chemistry by Mr. Gyllenhaal and Ms. Arterton. Jake was very impressive with all the physicality of the role (yes, I know wires were involved, but ask any stunt person how tough those can be to work with), and shows his usual excellent range of emotion, going from grinning wisecracks to tongue-tied stammering to broken hearted bereavement without batting an eye. Comic relief came from the ever wonderful Alfred Molina (watch out for those ostriches ...) Sir Ben Kingsley was an excellent choice for the prince who may not be what he seems, and a delightful surprise for me was finding Richard Coyle (Jeff from Coupling, John Ridd from Lorna Doone) in the role of the crown prince, who also may not be quite what he seems. The plot moves along at a decent pace, and my only quibble is that we've seen it before in various forms. This is the only reason I knock off a point. I had a good time, I'd gladly see it again and will be recommending it to my friends -- I can't say that about too many of the 'better' films I've seen lately. Bottom line, it ain't art, but it's fun. Get your popcorn and go have some!


The Bard in the digital age
This is a worthy addition to the ever lengthening list of Shakespearean works on film, either in their original format or done as a reworking for modern sensibilities. They range from terrific to patchy but still enjoyable, and a lot of the enjoyment comes from the wonderful casting for each segment -- you get a who's who of terrific British talent, which is always a treat.

My favorite by far is the Much Ado about Nothing segment -- as someone said in one of the supplements, it is the one of the Bard's works that does indeed seem very modern, a boy-meets-girl, they-hate-each-other, they fall in love at the end story (how many have we seen on the big screen like that?) Damien Lewis, who has been a favorite of mine since The Forsyte Saga, is pitch perfect as Benedick. And thank you to the writers for giving me a Hero that I did NOT want to strangle (sorry, gang, but Shakespeare blew it with her -- Claudio dumps on her not once, but twice, in public, and she still marries him and assures him she's still a 'maid'? come on!!)

"Macbeth" was a bit odd, but once Igot used to the idea of it being set in a restaurant, I went with the flow and found it very well done and very chilling. James McAvoy is fabulous (have to admit, he is why I rented this set in the first place, HUGE fan) and Keeley Hawes is a magnificent 'power behind the throne'. And I did love the idea of the three weird sisters being three mystical bin men -- that's warped enough to be a lot of fun.

"Taming of the Shrew" has never been my favorite of the canon, and I didn't have great expectations for this segment. It worked rather better than I expected, as this Petruchio analog (the wonderful Rufus Sewell) does actually love Kate. However, Shirley Henderson does not make the transition convincing for me, any more than Shakespeare's Kate convinced me. It's probably my modern sensibilities coming into play again, but the idea of browbeating (and worse) a woman into submission doesn't work for me. And this Kate is even more of a witch than the original, something I didn't think was even possible. It has its moments (one of them NOT being the bizarre costume at the wedding), but with the source material what it is, it just did not satisfy.

"Midsummer Night's Dream" was a frolic, as was the original, and there has to be a fantasy element with this story, or it does not work at all. It gets a little crazy at times, but the casting saves it, primarily Bill Paterson and Imelda Staunton as the parents of the would-be bride. I adore the gent playing Puck, whose name I can't now remember, and I can never remember Sharon Small being so gorgeous (I'm used to her from the Inspector Linley mysteries). And it was a surprise to find out that Rupert Evans, late of Hellboy, was a Brit! In all, I enjoyed the entire set, but some stories more than others. It is, however, one I would highly recommend for anyone that likes an alternative view of the Bard.


There is nothing like a Dame (or two....)
I don't know when there has been such a gathering of female talent, of all generations, as this production was blessed with. The Sirs tend to get most of the limelight, but as the song says, there is nothing like a Dame -- in this case Dames Judi Dench (a longtime favorite) and Eileen Atkins (not enough seen on screen, and always a pleasure) These two great ladies provide the linchpin for the adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskill's works, here collectively presented as "Cranford". The town arbiter of decorum and propriety, Miss Deborah (Atkins) seems at first to be a severe stick of a woman, but proves to have more heart than one might expect, and ends up rather lovable in her own way. Miss Matty (Dench), Deborah's sister, is quieter, more timid, and used to being ruled by her elder sister, but possesses more backbone than even she knew she had. Add to this the likes of Imelda Staunton as neighborhood busybody and town crier Miss Pole (hilarious bit near the beginning where the town doctor uses her to disseminate news), Francesca Annis as local aristocrat Lady Ludlow, Julia Salawha as newcomer Jessie Brown (with her own romantic secrets)and Barbara Flynn as affluent (and wants the world to know about it) Miss Jameison, a 'chick flick' doesn't get much better than this. For those who have run out of Jane Austen adaptations, or just if you want a superior costume drama with a liberal dose of comedy and a bit of romance, Cranford is the place to visit.

The Gamers

one of the funniest things I've ever seen!
My brother in law, a gamer, lent me, a non-gamer, a copy of The Gamers. He told me I would either think it was really lame or I would laugh myself silly. As it turned out, he was right on both counts -- I did think it was quite lame (wherein, I think, lay part of the charm) and I did laugh myself silly. It manages to be a both a loving homage to and hilarious sendup of the entire D&D culture. Not being a gamer myself, I am sure there are jokes I missed, but there are a few in it that are nods to other genres, from The Princess Bride to Star Wars, even if it did take me till the second viewing to 'get' the Tusken Raider riff ... It pokes gentle fun at the fizzbin-like rules involved in role playing games, and yet manages to give you a sense of the amount of imagination that goes into creating these multilayered worlds. And it pays court to the world of non-gamers who deal with the enthusiasm of gamers in the real world.

The whole thing was done on a frayed shoestring budget, the camera work is haphazard, and everything looks cheesy, but for some reason, it all works, in a way that defies logic. The writing is entertaining (dearly love the backstabbing with the balista) and at times very witty "Next there will be killing, followed by a light salad ... ") And you will NOT see the ending coming.

If you are a gamer, this is a must see. If you know a gamer, this is a must see. If you are not a gamer, see it with a gamer and have them explain any jokes you miss, but I think you'll have a good time just the same. It's short, but it's well worth the price of the DVD.


Great antidote to the blues!
I had just watched Atonement, and desperately needed a 'happy' fix, so I was glad this came in the mail for me. Absolutely delighted! The songs are good (and well sung), the story is cute (something of a reverse gender take on Miracle on 34th Street), and everyone, but EVERYONE, gets a happy ending! It's worth the price of admission just for James Marsden's Edward, gloriously over the top here as the handsome prince who finds his true love, though not in the way one might expect (this was very nice, as the man seems to have spent a chunk of his career being the guy that didn't get the girl). And that guy has a serious set of pipes! Patrick Dempsey works beautifully as Robert, the very practical man who has lost faith in love and magic discovering it all over again (or perhaps for the first time). Idina Menzel, for my money one of the most gorgeous women on the planet, shines as Nancy, who really really would like to be someone's princess. And Amy Adams (who is making me crazy because she reminds me very much of someone here, and can't think who -- a little Sandy Duncan, perhaps?) pulls out all the adorable stops as Giselle.

Special kudos to a regally witchy Susan Sarandon channeling Maleficent, and to Timothy Spall's lovelorn henchman. And yes, that is the wonderful Julie Andrews narrating.

It works as both a loving homage to and a hilarious parody of all the classic Disney fairy tales, with some nifty special effects thrown in. If you're in need of an emotional pick me up, you can't do much better than this one.


Clerks meets Brimstone
The last time we had a demonic bounty hunter, he was grunge gorgeous, dead serious (no pun intended) and was really good at what he did. That was Brimstone, and I loved that show. Here we have another demonic bounty hunter, but he's a relatively clean cut and sorta cute, a geeky slacker, and does the best he can, usually with hilarious ineptitude. Sam works in a Home Depot analog, and finds out on his 21st birthday that his parents sold his soul to the Devil when he was born. He's now tapped as Scratch's official bounty hunter, returning souls who have escaped from hell. And dire consequences await if he doesn't fulfill his contract. Sounds like it should be serious, shouldn't it? Most of the time, not even close -- it's light, funny, and draws a clear bead on the slacker mentality made famous by Kevin Smith (a consultant and director of the first ep) and the creators of Shaun of the Dead. Sam's parents, his best friend (a cross between Jay and Silent Bob), and the girl of his dreams all play a part in each story, and all are great. The scene stealer is Ray Wise, as a very urbane, charming, and ruthless Lord of Darkness -- he needs to be on screen more! So far, I am looking forward to each new ep, and hopefully it will continue the way it's started.

Better Than Sex

Not sure about better but as much fun!
The only bad thing I can say about this film is the fact that it took nearly four years for it to reach the US. The tag line pretty much sums it up -- what was intended as a one night stand turns into more than the participants expect. Sexy -- definitely (I may never look at wildlife documentaries quite the same way again); funny -- in many places hilarious, especially when examining the Mars/Venus aspect of burgeoning relationships (toilet seats, dressing time); and surprisingly sweet. The stars are charming, attractive and very real, and are ably supported by the rest of the cast, particularly the actress (whose name I now can't remember, my apologies!) who plays the cabbie who doubles as a relationship counselor.

There's a saying that life is what happens when you're busy making plans -- perhaps love is what can happen when you're busy having sex, if you let it. Well worth your time, and share it with a friend.

The Long and Short of It

In a word -- delightful
This is a sweet, compact little film about the way total strangers can impact on each other's lives. Coming in at about four minutes and choreographed to the aria "Che Gelida Manina", it involves a simple but heartfelt story, a touch of humor, and puts forth the notion that everyone can have a role to play in the world -- all they have to do is look for the opportunity. I look forward to more work from Sean behind as well as in front of the camera. LOTR fans will recognize many of the faces here, and for those who have the Two Towers DVD, watch the 'making of' featurette on the short -- it is a riot!

I hope this little film met the criteria for inclusion in the Oscar race -- I would be delighted to cheer this to a win in the spring.

Standing Room Only

Delightful short film
This was great fun to watch -- funny, upbeat and with a twist ending. It was also fun playing 'spot the familiar faces' in the cast Ms. Furness assembled -- it's a pity the woman doesn't have more 'pull' in the artistic community, lol! I look forward to seeing more of her work both behind and in front of the camera -- I've been able to see some of her work from Australia, and she is also a fine actress as well as a writer/director.

If you get a chance to check this out, do so -- it's well worth your time!

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