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SRhodes's reviews view profile

A poetic picture  
12345678910
on July 14, 2003 - 5:47 PM PDT
  of The Business of Fancydancing (2002)
5 out of 5 members found this review helpful
 



While Sherman Alexie's directoral debut is uneven, it is one of the best portrayals of poetry in film (well, actually well-used digital video). Alexie self-distributed it which meant it didn't play in many theaters or for long, so hopefully more people will discover it on DVD.
"Mystery" finally comes home  
12345678910
on March 14, 2003 - 3:06 PM PST
  of Skinwalkers (2002)
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful
 



This originally appeared on TVBarn in November 2002 when Skinwalkers aired on Mystery on PBS.

Tony Hillerman's "Skinwalkers" is the first program in 22 years of "Mystery" to take place in United States. Edward Gorey's opening sequence gets some added flags and other red, white and blue elements, but the important thing is the film lives up to the high expectations for the series.

Hillerman wrote three mysteries featuring Joe Leaphorn, an older cop skeptical of traditional Navajo culture, and three featuring Jim Chee, a young officer who is also training to be traditional healer, before bringing them together in "Skinwalkers." There are major changes from the book. Some involve updating it. There were no cell phones or search engines when it was published in 1986. But many change the characters and plot. Still, the culture and the contrast between the two cops remain.

Hillerman says in an interview, "I was trying to impress on him [screenwriter Jamie Redford] that to make a movie out of a novel, you had to kind of kill the novel, so to speak, and take pieces out of it. It's such a different art form." There a section on the website which compares two sections of the novel to the screenplay. It doesn't say that the first scene compared opened the book, but is in the middle of the film (it would be best to read it after watching the film).

Hillerman had had experience with Hollywood before. In his memoir "Seldom Disappointed," he describes his frustration when he met with NBC in the 70s about a possible series based on Leaphorn. The many changes they wanted ranged from a more upbeat ending for the book the pilot would be based on to moving Leaphorn to the city because "a handful of city yuppies was worth more than half the elderly farmers in Iowa to the marketing people."

Robert Redford who later bought the rights to the series also was frustrated in his efforts to make films of the books for years (a film of "A Dark Wind" directed by Errol Morris with Lou Diamond Phillips as Chee and Fred Ward as Leaphorn was released in Europe in 1991, but went straight to video here). Though Redford was full of praise for PBS at their annual conference in San Francisco during the summer of 2002.

Chris Eyre who developed "Smoke Signals" at Sundance is the director. Adam Beach plays Chee was also in "Smoke Signals." Wes Studi plays Leaphorn. They give excellent performances and hopefully will be able to return to the roles in future films based on Hillerman's novels for "Mystery." (PBS has since ordered a second film)
Good intro  
12345678910
on March 7, 2003 - 4:22 PM PST
  of Plymptoons: The Complete Works of Bill Plympton (1990)
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
 



This hour long collection of Bill Plympton's work is a good introduction. Many of the shorts on this DVD can be watched in his section at AtomFilms, but they are much better on DVD.

It might be best to click on menu after you see the brief intro to skip a cut out animation student film, Lucas, the Ear of Corn.

The next cartoon is the real find. Boomtownis a look at the economy, the military, and high tech written by Jules Feiffer is only dated because of references to the Soviet Union.

It also includes the classic shorts 25 Ways to Quit Smoking, How to Kiss, Drawing Lesson #2, and Your Face plus some work for MTV and a Peter Himmelman music video.

Love in the Fast Lane, a minimally animated concept for a sit-com is the only other short besides the corn film not worth watching.
Pedestrian doc still is interesting  
12345678910
on July 16, 2002 - 12:04 AM PDT
  of The Directors Series: John Frankenheimer (1997)
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
 



It is too bad this isn't a better documentary. It is good to see the interviews with Frankenheimer and people he has worked with.

But the DVD only contains the hour long documentary. It seems they could have included interviews that were cut from the documentary and other material.

Watch the original  
12345678910
on May 24, 2002 - 1:23 PM PDT
  of Insomnia (Criterion Collection) (1997)
6 out of 8 members found this review helpful
 


I saw the original version of Insomnia on DVD a few months ago and have also seen the US remake which opens today (May 24th).

Both are well worth seeing. It is particularly interesting to contrast how Stellan Skarsgaard and Al Pacino play the detective and Bjorn Floberg and Robin Williams play the writer. In the original version, both characters are more sexual - particularly the detective.

Andy Klein does a good job of comparing the two in his review of Christopher Nolan's version as does John Powers in an essay for LA Weekly (both contain some spoilers).

Excellent modern adaptation  
12345678910
on May 21, 2002 - 11:36 PM PDT
  of Othello (2001)
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
 


I wrote this for the TVBarn website when this originally aired on PBS in January of 2002 (all links still work as of May 2002):

"Masterpiece Theater" presents a modern version of "Othello" on most PBS stations tonight. It covers some of the same issues as last week's "The Murder of Stephen Lawrence" in a way that is different, but just as compelling.

John Othello becomes police commissioner of London after police kill an innocent black man. Ben Jago, his mentor, is overlooked for the promotion and seeks revenge.

Eamonn Walker who plays Kareem Said on "Oz" gives a powerful performance as Othello. Jago (Christopher Eccleston) is charming and evil as he addresses the audience directly.

Because it is presented as a police story and in conversational language by screenwriter Andrew Davies, it might reach people who haven't read Shakespeare since high school.

The website has a section showing how one scene was adapted from the play and other features. The film is a co-production between WGBH, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and ITV which aired it in England in December of 2001.

Clever dialogue  
12345678910
on May 16, 2002 - 12:22 PM PDT
  of The Spanish Prisoner (1997)
5 out of 6 members found this review helpful
 



Some people hate the clipped back and forth of David Mamet's dialogue. While it works better on the stage, I would listen to it anytime.

As with most of his films, there are a lot of twists and turns (along with Ricky Jay).

The DVD only has the movie and the trailer. A commentary and making of documentary could have helped reveal how Mamet performs some of his magic.

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