(Peter is the London-based president of SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communication)
CHARLIE'S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE
Full Throttle is as apt a title as any for this sequel to the popular action show, Charlie's Angels, and tribute to the popular television series of the 1970s. (Part of the tribute is in still using John Forsythe's voice for Charlie and having Jaclyn Smith appear to Drew Barrymore, like a guardian angel, to urge her to have faith in herself). Otherwise, this film is definitely of the 21st century, fast, flip, full of action, humour, tongue-in-cheek, just like a music video in its editing and pace as well as its offbeat glamour, the specialties of its director, McG).
The Angels themselves are given stronger personalities this time, a bit of family background and some boyfriends. They still have time to disguise themselves every few minutes (from exotic club dancers to nuns) and to enjoy themselves as they go into action to save the American Justice system from criminals who have stolen rings with the coded identities and addresses of everyone in the Witness Program protection system (including Dylan) and want to sell the information to the highest bidder. Would any government rely on two rings for this data!!
Drew Barrymore is the earthier angel, Lucy Liu the more educated and accomplished angel and Cameron Diaz simply holds centre screen whenever she is on, glamorous, singing and dancing and doing funny impersonations. The men play second fiddle, with Bernie Mac as one of the least effective of the Bosleys, the go-between for Charlie and the Angels There are some boyfriends, including Matt Leblanc taking time off from Friends to do a parody (or repeat) of his Friends' persona, with a few jokes at the expense of Mission Impossible 2.
It is surprising to see Demi Moore looking so fit. But she is at the stage of her career where she plays villain in this kind of film. Other guest spots include John Cleese, Bruce Willis and Luke Wilson.
There are two traditions of translating Charles Dickens' well-loved and mammoth novels to the screen. There is the David Lean tradition of making quite dark interpretations, very serious and revealing the evils of what has become known as Dickensian London. Lean's Great Expectations and Oliver Twist are outstanding examples of this kind of film-making. The other tradition is to go for colour, for light and to offer an outline of the plot, a touch like the Readers' Digest condensed book, and have an array of character actors to bring the characters to life. It can be done as a musical like Oliver or like a television movie. There have been several Christmas Carols and Great Expectations.
This version of Nicholas Nickleby seems intended as a more serious adaptation but comes across more like the condensed book. It is attractively photographed, sometimes prettily like a postcard. It has more than enough actors to satisfy an appetite for celebrities. But, some of the dialogue and the righteous and indignant behaviour sound so rhetorically 19th century that it makes the film seem a touch antiquated.
The best thing in the film is Christopher Plummer's performance as Nicholas' greedy and manipulative uncle. (Very akin to Scrooge, but without finding his redemption.) He illustrates just how much there is in Dickens that reveals the dark side of human nature. Other distinguished actors don't have so much screen time and come across as caricatures, for instance, Jim Broadbent and Juliet Stevenson as Mr and Mrs Squeers, although Nathan Lane does well as the travelling theatre manager. (And that is Barry Humphries as Edna Everage playing his wife.) Charlie Hunnam and Romola Garai are nice and proper as Nicholas and his sister, but not more and Jamie Bell tags along as Smike.
This is not to say that the film will not give a great deal of pleasure to audiences who enjoy a comfortable version of the classic.
Alex de la Iglesia is a Spanish director who has a talent for the offbeat and the comically grotesque. He made one of the ugliest road films, Perdita Durango. In La Communidad, he brings his wild ideas and style under more control - or, he focuses them better. This means that La Communidad is truly an original.
Carmen Maura is a larger than life Spanish star who has appeared in several of Almodovar's films. She is intense and dominating. Here she plays a woman working for an estate agent who decides to move into one of the apartments she is trying to sell. She has no idea of what she has let herself in for. Neither do we, the audience. So, we follow the crazy happenings in the building (much of which is in a state of collapse, very handy for some of the chases and dangers to come) as she finds a corpse and a huge amount of money. As she tries to get away with it, she learns something of what community solidarity is like. Everyone in the building has a claim - and they take it very seriously. Maura finds herself pursued in lifts, up and down stairs, swinging from buildings, leaping over roofs with various greed driven characters in pursuit. It is all rather breathless, filmed in flamboyant style to show us how a Spanish black comedy can be made.
LONDON - 10 July 2003 - 895 words