Love, whales and naked women
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Date: 20 February, 2004
Steve Couch reviews his choice of the best film releases on DVD.
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A feast of British acting talent on display, in more ways than one. Julie Walters and Helen Mirren are joined by a number of familiar faces in a movie that doesn't just provide good parts for women, it shows those parts off too.
The story, for anyone who doesn't already know,
is that of the real life Yorkshire Women's Institute who decided
to raise money by selling a nude calendar.
The sentiment that inspired the calendar is perhaps
what makes the first half of the film work so well. For the ladies,
the calendar is more than just a bit of a giggle, it has a serious
purpose too. Where the film doesn't hold up quite as well is the
second half, where the explosion of publicity brings conflict between
the ladies and within their families.
The extras are good as far as they go, but don't
amount to the most generous selection you will ever see. The deleted
scenes are enjoyable enough to make you wish for a slightly longer
running time so that they need not have been cut in the first place.
Despite the reservations about unresolved conflicts and the miserly array of extras, this is well worth watching - by turns funny, intelligent and moving. The biggest downside to this thoroughly enjoyable film is that it will probably further delay the return of fully clothed charity calendars. But maybe some would see that as a good thing.
A brave attempt to revive the 50s and 60s comedies
that kept Doris Day and Rock Hudson gainfully employed in the battle
of the sexes.
The film amuses and entertains for most of its
duration, but loses its way in the final act. Arguably, the battle-of-the-sexes
comedies that work best dramatically are the ones that end up with
one gender or the other getting their comeuppance. In the 60s women
were 'put in their place', and in the 80s men had to take their
medicine like, well, men.
The extras are nothing special. If you watch
all of them, some clips from cast and crew interviews crop up more
than once, and you will get tired of hearing one crew member after
another claim that they were 'born to make this film'. The blooper
reel is genuinely entertaining (an accolade seldom given by this
Like Down With Love, Whale Rider presents the
age-old battle of the sexes, but with more resolve and less playing
By now you have probably heard about the compelling,
Oscar nominated, performance from 12 year-old Castle-Hughes. Although
praise for the film is perhaps slightly overplayed, she deserves
all the individual plaudits coming her way. She stands out, even
when surrounded by other well judged performances, and undeniably
carries the movie.
This is a film that has been described as beautiful
and enchanting as well as harrowing and even as propaganda. The
last claim is a little harsh, but I can understand where it comes
from. In a film of such serious intent as this, it's a shame that
only one side of the coin is presented.
The extras contain a lot of filler material -
I never thought I would sit and listen to radio adverts when I bought
my DVD player, particularly ones with virtually identical sound
bites as the TV ad that precede them on the disc. But there is some
good material as well - a commentary track, a couple of documentaries,
deleted scenes (with, happily, the option of directors commentary)
as well as Keisha Castle-Hughes' tearstained screen test.
More a psychological thriller than a straight
out horror movie. The premise is the stock one of a group of strangers
stranded together in a remote location, only to realise that they
are gradually being killed one by one.
The major plot revelation (which I won't spoil) is an inventive one, and there is plenty of life (and death) in the film even after it has been delivered. The hints and clues as to the killers identity serve both to enlighten and to throw you off course. In terms of fright, what you don't see is more important than what is actually shown.
Sadly, Identity completes a disappointing month for extras in this column. The commentaries offer some insight but are nothing special. There are deleted scenes, interview footage and the other usual suspects, but there is nothing here to get too excited about.
Is it a good film? That depends what you are
looking for. This isn't for those who like their horror slasher-style
with buckets of blood, and it isn't for those who need a film to
present a great message. But if you enjoy the tension that comes
from a filmmaker first engaging your imagination then playing with
it, this is worth a look.