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February 2005

And the winner is...

It's Oscars time—here are some hits and misses to look out for


It may have a promising title and be the closest thing out there to give the Harry Potter franchise a run for its money, but Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Indeed, the narrator himself tells us at the beginning that “the movie you are about to watch is extremely unpleasant.” Of course, he’s in fact talking about the plight of the protagonists rather than the film itself. Although the movie is not entirely terrible, neither is it terribly exciting or engaging. The film begins with the author, played by Jude Law (Cold Mountain), commenting on how this film is not for the weak-hearted, and actually offers the viewer a last chance to leave the theater, living room or airplane if he or she so chooses. It’s almost as if the voice-over narration was added afterwards to give the film a bit more impending doom. But the movie never conveys the sense of danger or surprise that the narrator warns us of. The story revolves around the lives of the three Baudelaire orphans and a mysterious family secret. The children are Violet, who enjoys inventing, Klaus, who enjoys reading, and the youngest, yet no less brilliant, Sunny, who very much enjoys biting things. After the death of their parents in an unexplained fire, the children are sent off to their closest living relative, the villainous Count Olaf, who is more interested in the children’s inheritance than in giving parental love and affection. In the role, Jim Carrey (Bruce Almighty) gets to play his usual silly, elastic self, and since his character is also an actor in the movie, he gets to play several other roles as well, all in the pursuit of the children and their fortune. But he never poses enough of a serious threat to make you really worry about the children’s fate. The two lead children’s acting seems stiff and cold, and even Academy Award favorite Meryl Streep, playing Aunt Josephine, can’t lift the movie.

German Release Date (subject to change) January 27. US rated PG


Paul Giamatti (American Splendor) and Thomas Haden Church (George of the Jungle)—the current stars of the independent film world—can be seen in this latest offering from director Alexander Payne (About Schmidt). Nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards, including best picture, director, screenplay, lead actor, supporting actor, supporting actress (Virginia Madsen) and score, this is the film to be crossing your fingers for around Oscars time (February 27). The story follows two old college friends, Miles (Giamatti) and Jack (Church), as they travel north through California for a week of wine-tasting before Jack gets married. Miles is a depressive and an unrecovered divorcé who has pinned all his hopes on publishing a novel, and whose only remaining passion is the taste of the grape. Jack, on the other hand, is a superficial television actor who’s focused on having one last big party before he’s tied down. He’s a man who can fall in love in 24 hours and has great difficulty understanding the difference between love and sex, still clinging desperately to his impulsive immaturity in the face of serious commitment. Ultimately it’s a redeeming film about real people whom audiences can relate to, not pretty faces in fancy places. And it’s about love, what people consider to be love, the deceptions of love and the difference between saying I love you and meaning it.

German Release Date (subject to change) February 3. US rated R

New release on DVD

Advertised as “the provocative new thriller” of Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons) with an image showing lead actress Audrey Tautou (Amélie) apparently naked, Dirty Pretty Things is a classic example of the difference between film content and film marketing. The simple story follows the illegal immigrant Okwe, a kind-hearted Nigerian doctor who works during the day as a taxi driver and at night at a West London hotel. During the few hours each day when he should be sleeping he crashes on the couch of Senay (Tautou), a Turkish cleaning lady who works at the same hotel. A complex friendship develops, and between running from immigration officials and uncovering a sinister secret in the hotel, things get even more complicated, thus bringing the two even closer together. Okwe is brilliantly played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (Love Actually), who brings to his character a weight and seriousness that would seem to belie his 29 years of age. Audrey Tautou, the French actress who was simply divine as Amélie, seems to have a bit more difficulty playing a Turkish woman speaking English with a French accent. It’s sometimes difficult to understand all the accents (Nigerian, Turkish, Russian, Spanish) but it’ll help to put on the DVD subtitles. And, if you can hold out until the end, there is a beautifully subtle emotional climax well worth the wait.

German Release Date (subject to change) February 17. US rated R <<<

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