• 2004-03-18
Calendar Girls
Director: Nigel Cole

This feel-good comedy is a warm and charming celebration of the beauty and power of the mature woman. Based on a true story, the film evolves around a bunch of aging women who decide to do fundraising by posing (almost) naked for their Women's Institute calendar. All of this gets them in trouble with stiff upper lip society. The whole set-up is "The Full Monty" for women. It is impossible not to compare these two films-and unfortunately "The Full Monty" is a lot better. It is a shame that what could have been a great film turns out merely good because of a weak script packed with cliches. The brilliant and experienced actresses, with Helen Mirren and Julie Walters playing leading roles, bring life to the screen and are - quite frankly - far better than the film they are in. III
julIE Vinten

Who would have thought that a film about a dozen older British ladies posing in the nude could actually be entertaining? Could "The Full Monty" be the source of its inspiration? Believe it or not, this particular motion picture is based on a true story. Without a doubt, Helen Mirren is always good in any role she portrays. However, in "Calendar Girls" Mirren adequately demonstrates the zenith of excellence she can achieve. This quaint little flick turns out to be sassy, rather than sexy. It could easily be a family film, as there is nothing foul, offensive or immoral in this upbeat, charming and wholly British tale. IIII
Laimons Juris G

The Missing
Director: Ron Howard
Ron Howard takes a shot at the Western genre with "The Missing," a story about single mother Maggie (Cate Blanchett) whose oldest daughter gets kidnapped by Indians, and her journey over the frontier to get her back. Though the film desires to portray the crude life on the frontier, it still has a polished Hollywood stile where things never get truly rough. What Ron Howard ever really wants is to entertain, and he can't, for the life of him, bear to trouble his audience with too much danger or distress. As a result, he delivers a somewhat toothless and predictable film. On the other hand, there is nothing half-hearted about "The Missing." In the end, Blanchett's wonderful acting and the stunning images of untouched nature make the film worth your while. III
julIE Vinten

Wow. This has to be one of the most brutally negative films this reviewer has ever seen. If you enjoy having your emotions soundly raked over the coals, then look no further. "The Missing" presents a plot so extremely absurd and packed with numerous mishaps that it leaves you utterly frustrated. Moreover, it's full of negative stereotypes to boot. This movie is determined to be a downer. Oddly enough, it's the devastatingly intense acting by Cate Blanchett (supported vigilantly by Tommy Lee Jones) that just barely manages to salvage this bizarre concoction from completely falling apart. Nevertheless, the only thing really missing is a screw in director Ron Howard's head for thinking it was necessary to make such a depressing film. II 3/4
Laimons Juris G

House of Sand and Fog
Director: Vadim Perelman
This film is about good people with a tremendous amount of bad luck, and about their struggle for one house that symbolizes the life they once had and now wish to recover. Jennifer Connelly plays a former addict who gets evicted from the house her father left her and Ben Kingsley stars as the exiled Iranian colonel who buys the house, setting off a bitter strife between the two of them. "House of Sand and Fog" is an exceptional Hollywood production because it doesn't take sides and refuses to judge its characters. No one is entirely good or bad. The film's strongest quality is the way it makes us care for and understand these decent and flawed characters. Both Kingsley and Connelly act with depth and vigor to make this an incredibly powerful experience. IIII
julIE Vinten

Based on the best-selling novel by Andre Dubus III, this could easily have been a maudlin and badly overdone soap opera. Instead it's a lovely ensemble piece, which offers moviegoers the rare and absorbing experience of watching good actors doing what they do best - acting. Ben Kingsley is positively brilliant. As a matter of fact, the Oscar-winning actor was born to play this part. Jennifer Connelly, another Oscar winner, has never been better, while Shohreh Aghdashloo, a newcomer to major American films, gently sizzles. Actor Ron Eldard's xenophobic sheriff initiates the conflict as this emotionally packed psychological thriller takes off. Kudos to Vadim Perelman, the Kiev-born director's debut film is an engaging and accomplished bit of filmmaking that will have you glued to your seat. This is tragedy worthy of Shakespeare. IIII
Laimons Juris G

Ben there, done that
Ben Affleck is yet again facing a post-breakup release of a film staring himself and an ex-girlfriend (remember when "Bounce" hit the screens after he and Gwyneth Paltrow split?) as "Jersey Girl" opens at the end of March. The actor claims that he feels no awkwardness about the fact that his ex-fiance, Jennifer Lopez, appears in the film. Affleck admits that he's not the brightest in timing his breakups. "You'd think I'd learn my lesson," he said. J. Lo, meanwhile, is already singing a different tune. She may be cast alongside Nicole Kidman in the film "American Darlings," which is about a radically integrated female swing band during World War II.
u u u
Sean "P. Diddy" Combs will sing the swan song of his rapping career on his next album, which he says will be his last. The music mogul-who is preparing for his Broadway debut in "A Raisin in the Sun"-has decided that there isn't enough time in the day to rap, act, design clothes and live a life of luxury.


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