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FILM:September 2006

To finish off the school summer holidays we have MONSTER HOUSE (cert. PG 1hr.30mins.), an animated feature film,created using the 3d animation processs utilising motion capture with children who look realistic and a really scary story.Led by a 12 year-old called DJ, 3 children enter a monster house that gobbles up people and toys, moves and later follows them down the street.

Monster House

Youngsters need to be mature enough to understand the difference between reality and fantasy in order to avoid getting nightmares. The voices of Kathleen Turner as the house, Steve Buscemi as Nebbercracker, the old man who frightens the children at first and then becomes a sympathetic character are fine.

Nina's Heavelny delights

We can now return to more adult films. Coming out in September is NINA'S HEAVENLY DELIGHTS (cert.15 1hr. 36mins.). A well-made, short film (have you noticed how films seem to be getting longer and plays shorter!) directed by - a new name to me - Pratibha Parmar, who is also the producer and writer. A rather strange mixture of a film it is in English, although set in Glasgow and stars Shelley Conn as Scottish Asian Nina who returns to the family owned Indian restaurant after her father's death. She meets up with childhood friends and forms a new relationship of an unusual kind - to her family anyway.

Finding that her father had gambling debts forces her to try and save her family's restaurant. Art Malik puts in an appearance as the owner of a rival restaurant. Along with mouth-watering food on show, the film mixes naturalism with Bollywood spectacle. It's enjoyable but perhaps a bit over the top: you will want an Indian meal at the end!

Also coming out this month is LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (cert. 15 1hr 41mins.). Much more realistic than the similarly set Robin Williams film "RV", the plot revolves around a family who are determined to get their young daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant and take a cross-country trip in their VW bus. It is very well acted by Gregg Kinnear as father, Toni Collette as mother and Alan Arkin as a go-getting, rebellious grandfather.

litttle miss sunshine

The mother's suicidal brother also joins in the family trip. It is only when they arrive that the family realises that their natural, normal-bodied daughter is very different from the "plastic" children on parade. It is a very humorous film with darker moments. Recommended.

Innocent Voices

Still on view is the very moving and instructive INNOCENT VOICES (cert. 12A 2hrs.). Based on screenwriter Oscar Torres' own story, it tells how 11 year-old Chava (Carlos Padilla) is forced to deal with his own survival in the war-torn land that is El Salvador in the 1980s. His mother (Leonor Varela) also battles to keep her family safe now that her husband has abandoned them. Effective but not overly sentimental performances and direction by Luis Mandoki along with good photography and appropriate music make this a really interesting film. I would have liked to have more about the background and politics of the civil war, but that is, perhaps, for another film.

I do hope that AKEELAH AND THE BEE (cert.12A 1hr. 42mins.) comes to the Ritz - it is a delightful film about an 11 year-old girl from a deprived area in south Los Angeles who is at first pushed into participating in spelling bees and then finds she has a real gift and is supported by family and friends.

The little girl (Keke Palmer) is a great find and her mother is the always excellent actress, Angela Bassett. Akeelah's father has died but Dr. Larabee, an academic with a secret in his own past, coaches her and helps her grow as a person. It is very moving at times and always riveting. Although sometimes veering into the sentimental, it is good to have a film with no violence or huge effects.

Also worth catching is RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR (cert.15 1hr.36mins.) in which writer and first-time director Chris Gorak shows the impact of a sudden attack in Los Angeles. We are seen how this impacts on one couple-Lexi, a professional woman who works downtown (Mary McCormack) and her husband Brad (Rory Cochrane), an out-of-work musician. Seeming all too plausible in today's world, at the onset of the attack there is fear, panic, despair, disorientation and poor judgment.

Right at your door

However, as the reality of the situation settles in, a survival instinct emerges, a certain calculating rationality. And finally, Brad and Lexi must face the many moral conflicts that can plague us in times of limited resources, dangerous conditions and life and death decisions. It's an exciting film, and, although not realistic, seems to be so while one is watching it!

The Sentinel

Finally, the Michael Douglas produced film THE SENTINEL (cert. 12A 1hr.38mins.) is an exciting action film with intellectual content. Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas) is a Secret Service agent who finds himself under suspicion of planning to assassinate the President who he is supposed to guarding. He races around, sometimes accompanied by David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland) and a new Agent (Eva Longoria). Douglas looks great for 61 - or, indeed, any other age! At his press conference he said he was enjoying his new bride and young family and he certainly looked well.and handsome.

Theatre Tip : September 2006

If you can stand for 2 hours (you can sit during the interval) and want a cheap ticket for a most enjoyable Shakespearean play, then head to Shakespeare's Globe where you can watch THE COMEDY OF ERRORS for 5.

This tale of two sets of twins - masters and servants - and the mix up when they are mistaken for each other by the people of Ephesus, including the wife of one of the twins, who are both called Antipholus, is full of humour. A very good cast and excellent direction by Christopher Luscombe ensure that the comic potential is realised to its full, with groups of actors chasing around the stage and beautifully timed comic business.

Comedy of errors

Carlie Newman

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