EPIC DPAMA THE BARBER OF SIBERIA (12) 1 70 MINS 000
When inventor McCracken (Richard Harris) brings his new wood cutting machine to Tsarist Russia to help the forest clearances. he also brings his alleged niece Jane (Julia OrrnOnd) along in order to drum up business by seducing the top commissmning military Generals. Unfortunately for McCracken, while in transit Jane has fallen in love with cadet Tolstoy (Oleg Menshikov). Director Mikhalkov (Burnt By The Sun) serves up a latterday Dr Zhi'vago as he drags Our young lovers across a country on the brink of cataclysmic change. Beautifully photographed. horrendously overlong and full of inspired moments of slapstick. this is worth the journey. (Fox £15.99) (Paul Dale)
COMEDY DRAMA BILLY ELLIOT (15) 111 mins 0... r’extras OO
It should be grim up north in a film about a dancing boy set in bleak Yorkshire during the miner's strike of the 80s. His Dad wants him to Stick in with the boxing training, but young Billy (charismatic Jamie Bell) finds himself drawn to the
rrorld of pircuettes instead. In the hands of the wrong filmmaker this could have been as cheesy as an old lump of tilton, but former Royal COurt director Stephen Daldry inJects enOugh humour and porgnancy to raise the standard of Lee Hall's SCript. A high- calibre cast including Julie Walters as the determined teacher and Gary LeWis and the near- to-breaking-pomt father combine With energetic dance sequences and an infectious T-Rex-filled soundtrack to give this feelgood mOVie extra flair. Extras on DVD are disappOinting thOugh. unless you're into awful American-v0iced over ‘making of' documentaries. (Universal rental; $19.99 on DVD) (Louisa Pearson)
(15) 133 mins 00.. Golden boy Steven Soderbergh's drama based on a true st0ry gets a second lease of life surrounding the recent Oscar attention. Julia Roberts gives a remarkable performance as plucky unemployed single mother Brockovich. who shoehorns her way into a filing clerk position with Albert Finney‘s California law firm. There she accidentally uncovers a conspiracy to conceal the poisoning of the local community. which leads to the largest direct action lawswt in American history. This might sound like cliched TV movie material. but it's all true. and Soderbergh's direction is faultless. Together director and star prove that mainstream American
SCBE‘.‘.’BALL COMES « O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
(12) 103 mins so...
The Coen brothers really are geniuses. They start off with the slimmest of conceits, wanting to make the movie-within-a-movie from Preston Sturges’ 40$ screwball classic Sullivan’s Travels (in
George Clooney’s escaped cons don’t have a clue, but the Coen brothers do
that film Joel McCrea’s disillusioned filmmaker wants to make a film with a social message called 0 Brother, Where Art Thou?). They love early country music, so they set their film in America‘s Deep South to provide it with a superb, authentic soundtrack.
For their plot, Joel and Ethan adapt Homer’s The Odyssey, replacing that epic poem’s mighty Greek warrior with escaped convict Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney doing a hilarious impersonation of smooth Clark Gable), who leads his chain gang pals John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson across 305 Mississippi in search of a) buried treasure and b) wife Holly Hunter.
And the Coens reinterpret Homer; the cyclops becomes bible salesman John Goodman, the blind seer an old railroad worker. Furthermore, they work in numerous American myths: bankrobber ‘Babyface’ Nelson, Tommy Johnson, the bluesman who sold his soul at a crossroads. There's more: the filmmakers can’t help referencing their favourite films in the cheekiest way: a Ku Klux Klan
lynching becomes a song and dance number reminiscent of The Wizard Of 02.
If the way to be original in our post-postmodern times lies in the skilful mix of what’s come before, the Coen brothers have hit the nail on the head with 0 Brother, Where Art Thou?. As usual for them, every moment and detail of the film is perfection. All that and they’ve faithfully reproduced the wonderful zany, manic spirit of Sturges, too. (Miles Fielder)
Cinema can be something truly great. (Columbia $313.99) (Alan Smithee)
EPIC BIOPIC LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
(12) 227 mins 0... extras .0.
It is hard not to be awed by the sweeping desert spectacle and Peter O'Toole‘s earnest ponrayal of TE. Lawrence. If anyone directed this film now it would be full of phoney digital images. But in 1961-62, DaVid Lean apparently even made his A-list actors ride through the desert in the panoramic scenes while cameras rolled miles away. Lean wanted them to grasp the BedOuin life. and after some interminable scenes of Lawrence and co trudging through the sand we. too. begin to get a bloody good sense of what it's like.
Appropriately, the double DVD comes With loads of extras. In an 'exclusive' interVIew, a greying yet remarkably boyish Steven Spielberg expresses his love for the film. concluding that Robert Bolt's screenplay was 'maybe the greatest screenplay ever wntten.‘ (Bolt was the DaVid Mamet of his day; his dialogue is terse and sharp.) Best of the added features. though. is a documentary made when the mowe was ‘restored' 25 years after initial release. (Columbia $24.99 on DVD) (Barry Shelby)
CHILDREN'S FANTASY THE LITTLE VAMPIRE
(U) 91 mins 00
Pity poor yOLing Tony. Prised away from his Californian home and relocated in rural Scotland. a place where (as we all knOW) speech IS unintelligible. Children
Cult Kids Classics
I Available to rent on Video and buy on Momentum DVD (f? (9.99) from Mon 9 April.
are thuggish letits and adults are hapless half- Wits. Or so anybody watching The Little Vampire weiild believe: but then there's nothing like a stereotype to bring in the laughs. Unfortunately, they're a bit thin On the ground
here, largely due to some
pretty poor acting from the young cast. The storyline (BOO-year-olrl vampires attempting to break an eVil curse, is interesting enough, but unless you find variipiric cows funny. there's little
to sink your tee?" " (Warner iii/9’9. : "' ' on DVD) (Keri. 2"): 'l'
MAR r IN rill is ROMEO MUST DIE
(15) 110 mins 00
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102 THE LIST 29 Mar—l2 Apr 2001