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Movie review

  • 2007-02-28
Notes on a Scandal
Ghost Rider

Notes on a Scandal
In "Notes on a Scandal" Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) is a new school teacher who risks marriage and career when she begins an illicit love affair with a teenage pupil. An older colleague, Barbara Covett (Judi Dench), harbors secret desires for Sheba's attentions. Once Barbara discovers the affair, she attempts to manipulate the situation to her advantage and draw Sheba into her spidery web. "Notes on a Scandal" is a lovely little film about the overwhelming desires of two very different women. Sheba's desires remained unchecked, while Barbara's are repressed and subsumed into an elaborate fantasy life. I found both these actresses wonderful to watch. Blanchett is very good as the misguided wife, although why she repeatedly cheats on her perfectly decent husband remains a bit of a mystery. But the film really belongs to Dench, and director Richard Eyre patiently reveals Barbara's personality to us in small slices. As Dench's voice narrates Barbara's diary entries early on, we see how terribly judgmental she is. Later, we sense a delusional and manipulative nature and are given subtle hints of the grandiose and unrealistic expectations she has of love and of Sheba. In the end, her portrait is one of stark loneliness, and Dench's portrait is memorable and haunting.
( Sherwin Das )

"Notes on a Scandal" is a real joy to watch thanks to outstanding performances from the two female leads and a deliciously dark and salacious story. When Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) takes up a teaching position at a grim north London comprehensive school, all eyes are turned towards her. Attractive and amenable, she quickly becomes the object of admiration from colleagues and pupils alike. Barbara Covett (Judi Dench), a bitter and lonely old colleague, takes a special interest in her which soon turns into an ominous obsession. Dench is simply excellent as the scathing Barbara. Her character is at once malicious, pathetic, deranged and touching, while Blanchett is every bit as impressive as the emotionally vulnerable and confused Sheba. The story manages to combine shrewd social commentary with astute psychological insights in riveting style. As Sheba's life dramatically falls apart following an affair with one of her teenage pupils, we can only helplessly squirm at the inevitability of it all. "Notes on a Scandal" is especially refreshing for its relentless, brutal honesty. The hysterical ending is slightly over-the-top but even that is a welcome dig at the tabloid media and its disgustingly prurient and hypocritical attitude towards sex. I didn't want it to end. 
( Tim Ochser )

Ghost Rider
In "Ghost Rider" Nicolas Cage plays Johnny Blaze, a daredevil stunt motorcyclist who has an uncanny ability to cheat death. It turns out that Johnny sold his soul to the devil when he was a lad, and now the devil (played by Peter Fonda, most famous for the original motorcycle diary, "Easy Rider") is making him an offer he can't refuse: he can have his soul back if he becomes the Ghost Rider, a spectral dude with a leather jacket and flaming skull who by night rides a fiery motorcycle up and down streets and buildings battling, in this case, the devil's usurping son Blackheart. "Ghost Rider" is probably one of the worst films I've had the dishonor to review, which is a shame because I like Nicolas Cage. Adapted from a Marvel comic, it attempts to be a hip horror film, but it's neither cool nor scary. And it's certainly not smart. I found this movie mostly lousy and laughable, and some of the acting just unwatchable. The plot too is unnecessarily convoluted. There I sat, not-so-spellbound, trying to work out the details of the story as Mr. Roasting Potato Head howled on screen like a banshee. "Ghost Rider" is one hell of a fiery mess.
( Sherwin Das )

Without mincing my words, I will state straight out that "Ghost Rider" is one of the worst films I have seen in a long time. It's not just bad - it's brain-hurtingly awful. It's actually enough to make you think the world has finally gone mad. Johnny Blaze (Nicholas Cage) is a small-time motorcycle stuntman who sells his soul to the devil in order to save his father from cancer. But his father dies the next day in a motorcycle accident anyway. Cut to the future. Johnny is now a hugely successful stuntman who does death-defying leaps for a living. At night, however, Johnny turns into the ghost rider, a flaming skeleton dressed in tacky biker gear who drives around the city on a flaming motorbike. Needless to say, these are the bare bones of the story. There's a love interest, a feud between the devil and his son, and plenty of vigilante-style justice from the ghost rider. The story may be based on a comic book, but that doesn't excuse it. "Ghost Rider" left me feeling angry, dazed and abused. If this is what passes for entertainment these days, then God help us. This is idiocy on a superhuman scale. 
 ( Tim Ochser )

 

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