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Tim Roth is at the heart of this quirky film, as Ted the Bellboy, working his first night at Hotel Mon Signor, on New Years Eve. However, the guests in four different rooms mean that his first night is eventful, exciting, scary and sexy.

The film is cut into four separate tales, a couple of which do interlock slightly – each segment has a different director and a different cast.

In the first tale, ‘The Missing Ingredient’, a coven of witches meet in the honeymoon suite, to resurrect their dead leader Diana. Ted is called upon to make a most unexpected contribution to the ceremony.

The second tale, ‘The Wrong Man’ Ted arrives at a hotel room having received a request for some ice. When he gets there, he finds a woman tied up and gagged, and her furious husband apparently convinced that she has had an affair with Ted. And that’s before things get even stranger.

The third segment, ‘The Misbehavers’ – and for me, the funniest – features a couple who go out for the evening and leave their children in their room, with instructions to Ted to keep an eye on them and make sure that they don’t misbehave. Predictably things go awry, to disturbing and hilarious effect.

Finally, there is ‘The Man from Hollywood’, where Ted is called to the Presidential Suite and meets a Hollywood producer named Chester Rush, and various members of his entourage. Rush and one of his friends, named Norman, have made a bet – if Norman wins, Rush will give him his car. If Norman loses the bet, he will also lose part of his anatomy (no, it’s not what you’re thinking).

This film was widely panned by both critics and audiences, and I do feel that it is a bit of a shame, because it actually has a lot to offer. It’s unfortunate that the first story is easily the weakest of the four. Featuring Madonna, Alicia Witt, Ione Skye and Sammi Davis, it perhaps asks the audience to suspend their disbelief a little too early into the movie – nonetheless, there were still moments which made me laugh out loud.

The second segment had a couple of genuinely hilarious moments, as the arguing couple, played by Jennifer Beals (who would later feature as the ex-wife of Roth’s character Cal Lightman, in tv show Lie To Me) and David Proval draw Ted into their own drama.

The Misbehavers was worth the proverbial ticket price alone. Banderas hams it up as the strict father, but the real kudos in this scene must go to Roth, as well as Lana McKissack and Danny Verduzco as the two children. There is one really surprising moment, and Ted’s reaction to it is so funny that when I think about it now, I still get the giggles.

Finally, The Man from Hollywood features Quentin Tarantino as the titular character, along with an uncredited Bruce Willis as one of his entourage. There is an homage to an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode (The Man from the South, although Chester Rush wrongly mentions a different episode) which in turn was based on a Roald Dahl short story. The ending of this managed to mix predictability and surprise to such a degree that it was disturbingly funny.

Roth shines throughout – but then again Tim Roth makes literally anything worth watching – and I adored his quirky mannerisms as Ted’s patience and credulity is stretched further and further. The supporting cast vary widely in terms of acting – neither Madonna nor Tarantino will ever be brilliant actors, but they work well enough here; Banderas by contrast is terrific.

Overall, I would say that this is a thoroughly enjoyable film – the disjointedness may put some people off, and certainly the various quirks will not be to everyone’s taste. It’s an interesting attempt at something a bit different, and for me anyway, it largely worked.

I think I’d be careful about who I recommended this too, but it’s a film that I personally will watch again.

Year of release: 1995

Directors: Allison Anders (The Missing Ingredient), Alexandre Rockwell (The Wrong Man), Robert Rodriguez (The Misbehavers), Quentin Tarantino (The Man from Hollywood)

Producers: Lawrence Bender, Quentin Tarantino, Alexandre Rockwell, Paul Hellerman, Scott Lambert, Heidi Vogel

Writers: Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino

Main cast: Tim Roth, Madonna, Ione Skye, Valeria Golino, Lili Taylor, Alicia Witt, Jennifer Beals, David Proval, Antonio Banderas, Lana McKissack, Danny Verduzco, Paul Calderon, Quentin Tarantino, Bruce Willis,

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Well, it worked for Baz Luhrmann, when he updated Romeo and Juliet to a modern day setting.  In this film, director Michael Almereyda updates Hamlet and shifts the action to corporate New York in 2000.  Hamlet (Ethan Hawke) is mourning the loss of his father, who was the CEO of The Denmark Corporation.  He believes that his father was in fact murdered by his Uncle Claudius (Kyle McLachlan) who has gone on to marry Hamlet’s mother Gertrude (Diane Verona) in distasteful haste, and is also the new CEO of the corporation.

Hamlet is determined to avenge his father’s death.  Meanwhile, he struggles with his own loose grip on sanity, as does his former girlfriend Ophelia (Julia Stiles).

I’m not completely sure what to make of this adaptation.  I like the idea – I like Shakespeare’s plays in their own settings, but I do like to see them in new and unfamiliar settings, which may entice other people to try them out.  This version comes in just shy of two hours, which is pretty short, considering that Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest play (the very faithful Kenneth Branagh adaptation is four hours long).  Certain parts have been cut out, but the essence of the story remains intact, and Shakespeare’s original language is used throughout, although not in its entirety.  The cast overall were strong – Ethan Hawke is an under-rated actor, and he captures Hamlet’s fine line between grief and insanity very well.  I also liked Julia Stiles and Liev Schreiber as Ophelia and Laertes respectively.  Kyle MacLachlan did a fine job as Claudius, while Diane Verona was excellent as Gertrude, and really captured the character.  Hamlet’s ‘friends’ (if you have seen the play, you will understand why I use the term loosely) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are played by Steve Zahn and Dechen Thurman – who is the brother of Ethan Hawke’s then wife Uma Thurman – and Zahn in particular shone in his role.  I also really liked Karl Geary as Horatio, Hamlet’s true friend until the end.

The cast was not perfect however – unfortunately, the usually excellent Bill Murray seemed lost as Polonius.  I’ve seen Murray in straight roles before and he is normally great in them, but I didn’t think he suited this particular character at all, and just seemed to be reading his lines with no inflection or meaning whatsoever.  It’s a shame – Polonius could have been great with a different actor, but overall this did not detract from my enjoyment of the film.

What did occur to me however was that if I didn’t know the story of Hamlet, I think I would have had trouble following what was happening.  It’s not the language; it was more that scenes seemed particularly disjointed from one another, and it seemed to me that it was jumping about a bit – first concentrating on this, then concentrating on that.  On that basis, I would definitely recommend that anyone planning on watching this familiarises themselves with the story first.

On a positive note, New York City is actually a very good backdrop for the story…aesthetically it looks perfect, and I also loved the music.  I’m not sure that I can forgive the famous To Be Or Not To Be soliloquy being recited in voice-over while our hero roams a Blockbuster video store.  There was probably some symbolism there, but it escaped me.

Overall, if you are looking for an adaptation of Hamlet, this is not the best one to start with.  However, if you are a fan of the play and want to see this version for that reason, you might find more to enjoy than you expect.

Year of release: 2000

Director: Michael Almereyda

Producers: Jason Blum, John Sloss, Andrew Fierberg, Amy Hobby, Callum Greene

Writers: William Shakespeare (play), Michael Almereyda

Main cast: Ethan Hawke, Kyle MacLachlan, Diane Verona, Bill Murray, Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Karl Geary, Steve Zahn, Dechen Thurman

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Click here for my review of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2013 production of Hamlet.

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This movie spans the years of 1981 – 1989, and focuses on a group of gay men in Los Angeles, during the emergence of devastating effects of AIDS.  The film begins with the friends learning about a new disease which seems to affect gay men, and they speculate on whether it could be caused by drugs (poppers) or other factors.  As the years go by – each one depicted in a vignette, updating the viewer on what is now going on with the character’s lives – several of the group grow sick and die, while the others have to learn to cope with the loss and the implications for themselves.

I admit that I really wanted to see this because the always excellent Campbell Scott is in it.  I had thought that he was a supporting character, but in actual fact, he is one of the biggest parts, and he is wonderful in it.  He plays the part of Willy, a man who has to watch as he loses good friends to this awful cruel disease, but he also has to confront his own prejudices (a scene where he visits one friend in hospital, and goes to the bathroom to frantically wash every part of himself that the friend has touched during a hug is particularly uncomfortable, especially now that people know that AIDS of course cannot be transmitted by touch – but this scene is set at a time when people were still unsure of how you could ‘catch’ the illness, and paranoia had set in).

Bruce Davison was also excellent – heartbreakingly so – as a man who has to watch his lover’s worst fears come true.  Davison was nominated for an Oscar for his role, and deservedly so.

Other members of the uniformly wonderful cast include Patrick Cassidy, John Dossett, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephen Caffrey, Mark Lamos and Dermot Mulroney.

Speaking for myself, I was only young – maybe 12 or 13 – when we first learned about this scary new disease called AIDS.  This meant that growing up, my generation was always aware of this spectre, and it was therefore always something to think about.  I guess that makes us luckier than those who were some years older, and only learned about AIDS when they may have already been exposed to it.  I think this film perfectly captured the terror and confusion that surrounded AIDS, as well as the prejudices that came with it.

It is a beautifully made, wonderfully acted, incredibly moving film about a disease that changed everything.  I highly, highly recommend it.

Year of release: 1989

Director: Norman René

Producers: Lydia Dean Pilcher, Lindsay Law, Stan Wlodkowski

Writer: Craig Lucas

Main cast: Campbell Scott, Patrick Cassidy, John Dossett, Bruce Davison, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephen Caffrey, Dermot Mulroney, Mark Lamos

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This film is an adaptation of the first half of Alexandre Dumas’ novel (the sequel, The Four Musketeers deals with the second half of the novel).  It stars Michael York as the young D’Artagnan, and Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay and Richard Chamberlain, as Athos, Porthos and Aramis respectively.  Milady DeWinter is played by Faye Dunaway, Constance de Bonacieus is played by Raquel Welch, and the villains Cardinal Richelieu and Rochefort are played by Charlton Heston and Christopher Lee.  There is a also a splendid supporting cast including Spike Milligan, Roy Kenner and Simon Ward.

The plot revolves around the D’Artagnan being tasked by Constance to retrieve some diamonds which Queen Anne (Geraldine Chaplin) has given to the Duke of Buckingham (Ward) before King Louis XIII (Jean Pierre Cassel) realises that they are missing.  It is of course, all part of the Cardinal’s plan to get rid of Anne.  D’Artagnan enlists the help of his three friends, and they run into all sorts of obstacles on the way.

This film was an excellent adaptation, and thoroughly enjoyable, thanks in no small part to George MacDonald’s excellent screenplay.  There was plenty of action, but also lots of humour – including some of the slapstick variety, and some which wouldn’t seem out of place in a Carry On film – and I really enjoyed watching it.  I literally laughed out loud on several occasions (watch out for the chess match, with dogs playing all the chess pieces)! The acting was also terrific.  Before watching, Michael York seemed (to me) to be an odd choice to play D’Artagnan, but he fitted into the role perfectly, blending the character’s enthusiasm and hotheadness to great effect.  Richard Chamberlain was very good as Aramis, and Frank Finlay was a wonderful Porthos, but for my money, Oliver Reed stole almost every scene he was in, with his excellent portrayal of the melancholy drunkard Athos.

Staying true to the book, the actual Musketeers themselves are sometimes not on screen for longish periods of time – despite the title, this is really D’Artagnan’s story, and accordingly, York is the main actor, and he carries the responsibility very well.

If you are a fan of the book, or indeed a fan of comedy, please give this film a look.  I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Year of release: 1973

Director: Richard Lester

Producers: Alexander Salkind, Ilya Salkind, Michael Salkind, Wolfdieter von Stein

Writers: Alexandre Dumas (novel), George MacDonald Fraser

Main cast: Michael York, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, Frank Finlay, Faye Dunaway, Raquel Welch, Spike Milligan, Roy Kinnear, Jean Pierre Cassel, Geraldine Chaplin, Charlton Heston, Christopher Lee

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Click here for my review of the novel.

Click here for my review of the 1993 film adaptation.

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Full disclosure: The first time (and only time until now) that I watched this film was when it first came out in 1991, at the cinema.  At that time, it resonated strongly with me, because I was head-over-heels in (unrequited) love with a young man, who was very ill and was receiving chemotherapy.

So 23 years later, in entirely different circumstances, I was not sure if I would enjoy it as much as I did previously.  It did however have the advantage of starring Campbell Scott, who is an actor I always enjoy watching.  He plays Victor Geddes, a 28 year old man who has had Leukemia for 10 years.  He hires Hilary (Julia Roberts) as a carer, to help him with the debilitating effects of his treatment.  They end up falling in love when Victor is in remission, but when he becomes ill again, their relationship is put under tremendous strain.

As it turned out, I did enjoy watching this film again.  Admittedly, it is flawed in places, and the Hilary character in particular is a bundle of cliches, but despite this, it is still a very moving and emotional story.  Campbell Scott was always a perfect choice to play Victor, and he did an excellent job at portraying the young man’s frustration and anger, as well as his determination to enjoy whatever time he has left.  He has a beautiful fragility and gentleness about him, and it is easy to understand how he and Hilary – who come from entirely different backgrounds, and initially struggle to understand each other – end up falling in love.  At one point, he decides that he is no longer going to receive treatment for his disease, and is going to let things play out as they will.  His feelings are entirely reasonable, but so are those of Hilary and his father, who don’t want him to give up.

Overall, I would say that this is a film well worth seeing, but make sure you have tissues handy, because you will cry.

Year of release: 1991

Director: Joel Schumacher

Producers: Sally Field, Mauri Syd Gayton, Duncan Henderson, Kevin McCormick

Writers: Marti Leimbacj (novel), Richard Friedenberg

Main cast: Campbell Scott, Julia Roberts, Vincent D’Onofrio, Colleen Dewhurst

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The ever reliable Rob Lowe plays Rob Harlan, a happily married man who, after losing his job writes a book which becomes a best seller – turning Rob into a literary phenomenon.  However, as his fame spreads and his success grows, he starts to take his family for granted, and loses sight of what is important in his life.

This film was made for cable television, and is not one of Rob Lowe’s better known films, but it is definitely worth catching if you get chance.  Lowe is of course perfect in the lead role, and although Rob (Harlan)’s behaviour became frustrating, Lowe just about kept the audience on his side (or this viewer at least), in that I wanted him to open his eyes and see what he was in danger of losing.  Paget Brewster was great as his wife Allyson, who watches in dismay as her loving husband grows further away from here, and Frances Conroy is also very good as Rob’s agent and friend Camille.  Christopher Lloyd takes a small but pivotal role as a mysterious man who pops up several times and always unexpectedly, to warn Rob of what he is putting at risk by his behaviour.

The only thing that annoyed me about this film was the ending.  It’s an adaptation of a book – which I haven’t read, but which apparently the film remains pretty faithful to – and therefore, any disappointment at the ending is not really the fault of the film-makers.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers, and if I told the ending, it would be a BIG spoiler, but suffice to say that it was not what I was expecting, and I don’t mean that in a good way.  I mean it in a a kind of “what the heck were they going for there?” kind of way.  But for a film of an hour and  a half, at least an hour and a quarter of it is very enjoyable, and on that basis, I would recommend it.

Year of release: 2003

Director: Peter Levin

Producers: Stephanie Germain, Sunta Izzicupo, Frances Croke Page, Kimberley C. Anderson, Malcolm Petal, Judy Cairo

Writers: Richard Paul Evans (novel), Joyce Eliason

Main cast: Rob Lowe, Paget Brewster, Frances Conroy, Christopher Lloyd, Jude Ciccolella

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In this political dramedy, Peter Boyle plays Marvin Lucas, a political election specialist.  He needs a democratic candidate to run for Senator in California against the incumbent Republican Crocker Jarmon, and selects Bill McKay (Robert Redford), the son of a former Governor.  McKay sees the opportunities to voice his ethics and values, and as Jarmon is fully expected to win, McKay feels able to be honest what he would like to do in the position of Senator, because he knows that realistically nothing he says is going to affect the result of the vote.

However, when predictions show that McKay is not only likely to lose, but to be completely humiliated, Lucas decides to tweak McKay’s message, and to manipulate his words and actions, so that the candidate is more palatable to voters.  As the campaign continues, McKay finds his loyalties and morals compromised, and realises that his message is getting lost in a sea of buzzwords and platitudes.

This film is now 42 years old, but the message is as relevant as ever.  I hesitate to call it satire, as I suspect that a lot of it is actually very close to the truth, and at the root of the film is the question, how much are you prepared to sacrifice what you believe in order to get what you want?

Robert Redford is perfect as Bill McKay – he has the enthusiasm and energy that his campaign plays on, in comparison to the older and stuffier Jarmon (Don Porter).  However, you see the character becoming weary of the machinations of such a campaign, losing his keen-ness and perhaps forgetting what he wanted to run for in the first place.  All of this is perfectly portrayed by Redford.  Also excellent is Peter Boyle as campaign manager Lucas – he doesn’t over play his role, but portrays the tightrope that someone in his position has to walk – between wanting to stay true to the candidate’s values, and wanting to do whatever is necessary to win.

Great support is provided by Melvyn Douglas, as the candidate’s father, and Don Porter as Jarmon.

If you are a fan of political films, or have an interest in politics, then I would highly recommend this film.

Year of release: 1972

Director: Michael Ritchie

Producers: Robert Redford, Nelson Rising, Walter Coblenz

Writer: Jeremy Larner

Main cast: Robert Redford, Peter Boyle, Melvyn Douglas, Don Porter, Karen Carlson

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