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Marshall Herskovitz isn't exactly a household name, yet he has produced some very impressive films the past few years including "Blood Diamond," "The Last Samurai" and "I Am Sam." Yet, it is his directorial efforts that shine through in "Dangerous Beauty."
Released in 1998, "Dangerous Beauty" is based on the writings of Veronica Franco, the most famous courtesan of the 16th century. Her fate was sealed at an early age. According to her mother (Jacqueline Bisset - in one of her strongest roles), a young woman of no means had one of two choices - be a nun or a courtesan. Franco (Catherine McCormack) chose the latter. Interest in her stunning beauty by men from all walks of life was further enhanced by her quick wit and intellect, characteristics not often cultivated in women of that time.
A romance with Marco Venier (Rufus Sewell) interfered with her line of work and with his duty to wife and country. Jealousy rears its ugly head on all fronts, the wives, the church, the heretics, and yet Franco stands strong.
Stellar performances by McCormack, Sewell, Bisset, Oliver Platt, Fred Ward and Naomi Watts add to the intrigue, but the script keeps "Dangerous Beauty" on a lively track. Based on the book "The Honest Courtesan" by Margaret Rosenthal and adapted for the screen by Jeannine Dominy, one wonders why we haven't heard/read more from these writers?
"Dangerous Beauty" is truly a "Hidden Gem." Don't miss it.
"Rich and Famous"
In a town where talented people have trouble getting work if they are even close to AARP membership at 50, George Cukor took over the direction of "Rich & Famous" and got excellent performances from two actresses who, in their respective careers, rarely have lived up to their big-screen potential.
"Rich & Famous" is a bit wordy, a fact that seems appropriate since it depicts two authors (Jacqueline Bisset and Candace Bergen) struggling in the writing world. But the fun in watching this DVD is seeing them actually use their minds to get by.
The secret to Liz's (Bisset) survival through the years may be the consumption of good Scotch and/or casual sex. It's a lifestyle to which some writers may aspire, if in the end, they would be assured of looking that gorgeous while ensconced in front of a fireplace in a cozy hideaway in Connecticut.
Using her Southern childhood memories to write trashy and financially rewarding novels, Bergen's character, Merry Noel, is like the smell of gasoline - the first whiff is intoxicating but continued inhalation induces nausea.
"Rich and Famous" is fun for emotional roller coaster junkies. The women, under Cukor's guidance, make the ride more than worth a bowl of popcorn. You can catch a very young Meg Ryan as Bergen's teenager and Steven Hill (for "Law & Order" junkies) saying different words than "Cut a deal." Standards in 1981 were a little more stringent than today, thus the questionable "R" rating.
"The Other Boleyn Girl"
Drama, intrigue, romance, treachery, betrayal, passion, greed and self-indulgence are a few adjectives that come to mind if you're a regular viewer of soap operas. These descriptives (and more) also apply to "The Other Boleyn Girl."
Seeing young film stars Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson appropriately coifed and gowned in this lavish period piece takes a moment to get used to but the script wastes no time in establishing the relationship between the two sisters, Anne and Mary. Complicated by the arrival of Henry VIII (Eric Bana) at the family estate, the politics of the day prove far more intriguing than, say, what today's bride imagines in her future.
Based on the fictional novel by Philippa Gregory and directed by Justin Chadwick, who previously directed "Bleak House" for Masterpiece Theatre, "The Other Boleyn Girl" offers a glossy portrayal of life in the 16th century. If you want to escape today's world for a bit and aren't too fussy about historical accuracy, than this film might do the trick.
Rebecca Redshaw worked in the film industry in Los Angeles for 25 years. A novelist and playwright, she has published in numerous magazines and newspapers in addition to teaching fiction. She is the Arts & Entertainment critic for the international entertainment Web site NotesFromHollywood.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.