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Movie reviews - 2004-08-12

  • 2004-08-12
This week:- The Stepford Wives- Ned Kelly- Hellboy

The Stepford Wives
Director: Frank Oz
As with so many Hollywood movies, "The Stepford Wives" starts off with some vigor and courage, but later, it can't help becoming preachy and gutless. Joanna (Nicole Kidman, who owns this movie through and through) moves with her family to the wonderful town of Stepford, where people are so happy and wives are so perfect, it's unnatural. The town's dark secret is actually quite horrifying, but the movie fails to really dig into this. In general, the film doesn't fully know what purpose it serves: If it's a rough social comment or if it just wants to make us giggle a little. The outcome is something rather indecisive. Though this movie sometimes works as a comedy, it could have done with a little more sting and a lot more focus. **
Julie Vinten

This qualifies as one of the strangest remakes made to date. While the original 1975 movie was a creepy thriller, this version is simply a silly batch of fluff. Nicole Kidman and Glenn Close are especially noteworthy in this absurd sci-fi comedy. As much as this reviewer likes Bette Midler, she's somewhat of an irritation here, though not as much as Jon Lovitz is. Most likely it's the result of overzealous miscasting. Christopher Walken is ideally sinister and Matthew Broderick is, well, Matthew Broderick. Despite inconsistencies, goofs and illogical moments lurking in this oddball motion picture, director Frank Oz (once the voice of Miss Piggy) provides reliable entertainment as he never fails to: "Little Shop of Horrors," "The Indian in the Cupboard," "Bowfinger" among others. ***
Laimonis Juris G

Ned Kelly
Director: Gregor Jordan
In his attempt to chronicle the life of Australian 1870's outlaw and legend Ned Kelly, director Gregor Jordan has gotten very little out of a lot. With good story material and good actors at hand, this movie could have been much more than the poor product we see on screen. "Ned Kelly" illustrates an unmistakable lack of credibility, neither managing to follow a firm narrative nor thoroughly establishing any of its characters. The movie's only compelling factor is its haunting images of the Australian landscape. However, this is a story which demands more than picturesque views, and sadly, there isn't much mythical greatness present here. It's difficult to believe that a non-Australian audience will care one bit about the legend of Ned Kelly after watching this disappointingly average movie. **
Julie Vinten

There's been a tenacious fascination with the Australian Robin Hood since 1906, when a silent film was made about Ned Kelly and his gang. In 1970 rock 'n' roll legend Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones portrayed the infamous bushranger. Almost 35 years later Heath Ledger presents his version of the down-under bandit. Despite a fine cast, this melodramatic pot broiler is an exaggerated account of Kelly's brief life. The movie is full of historical inaccuracies - some the size of black holes in space. Occasionally the dialogue is difficult to understand because of the Aussie accent and the slow-motion acting comes across as stilted and poorly staged. However, Naomi Watts pumps up the energy for a few lively moments in her electric miniperformance. Ned Kelly's definitely not for everybody. ** 3/4
Laimonis Juris G

Hellboy
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Now this is an entertaining and well-made comic-book adaptation. "Hellboy" is a rare Hollywood superhero movie, which manages to avoid the syrupy sentimentality and jingoistic cliches that have ruined many a movie in this genre. While not dumbing itself down to please the popcorn audience at every turn, it has enough fights and explosions to satisfy any action junkie. Hellboy, a demon child from hell, is raised by an English scientist to fight for the cause of good. Although it's pure comic-book regarding story, style and characters, the filmmakers manage to make this weird, red creature with horns and a tail a three-dimensional character that we accept as real. Director Guillermo del Toro has created a movie with just the right amounts of brains, heart and ass-kicking. ****
Julie Vinten
Recently, it seems that as one superhero darts away from our local movie screens, another comic book adaptation flashes right in. Chock full of action, humor and pathos, "Hellboy" sweeps you into its surrealistic world and delivers a solid edge-of-your-seat diversion. There is a lot to enjoy in this professionally fashioned flick - much more than expected. An engaging storyline hurdles all the obstacles at a clip pace. And faster than you can mumble "superhero" under your breath, you're hooked. It is more than obvious that Ron Pearlman (in the title role) was born to play this particular part. It's difficult to imagine that anyone else could do it better. He's a Rasputin-conjured demon who becomes a likable defender against the forces of darkness and evil. What a cartoon thrill! ****
Laimonis Juris G