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Sofa Cinema

The movies selected for review are the choice of the reviewer. Depending on your source for DVDs, they may or may not be available that particular week, so you may want to clip the SOFA CINEMA column for future reference. Suggestions for DVD titles are welcome. Enjoy the movies.



TIME TO GO

TO THE MOVIES

"Australia"

Rated PG-13



"Australia" needs to be seen on the big screen, so unless you have your own home theater, it's time to go to the movies.

Writer/director Baz Luhrmann filmed his epic on location and explores the rugged outback during the late 1930s. Elaborate costumes, expansive cattle drives, blazing battle scenes are woven into a love story. The twist is the love story revolves around Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) and Drover (Hugh Jackman) AND Lady Sarah and Nullah (Brandon Walters), a young boy living on her ranch. The child, son of an Aboriginal worker, is unacknowledged by his father, Fletcher, the Aussie ranch manager.

"Australia" confronts classism and racism on an intimate scale as well as good vs. evil (with the onset of World War II) on a grand scale, but mostly it's old-fashioned Hollywood escapism.

Luhrmann is an excellent storyteller and director. Exceptional performances by his cast, particularly Kidman, keep the audience's attention even with the plot's predictability. Young Walters is innocence and wisdom personified and it's difficult to imagine "Australia" without him.

The more than 2.5 hours of cinematic escapism are enhanced by cinematographer David Hirschfelder and film scorer Mandy Walker.

"Australia" - see it on the big screen.



HIDDEN GEM

"The Painted Veil"

Rated PG-13



Walter and Kitty Fane are a young, married couple living in rural China in the 1920s. Walter (Edward Norton) is a serious, bordering on dull, research physician and Kitty (Naomi Watts) is a frivolous ingénue who marries him to get away from her mother. Not the best way to start a relationship and their marriage goes downhill from there.

When Walter learns of Kitty's infidelity, he accepts a position in a cholera-ravaged village far from any civilized amenities. Thrust together in a strange land, the couple struggles with not only making a marriage where there was barely one in the first place but resisting deadly infection as well.

Filmed entirely on location in China, "The Painted Veil" is based on a 1934 W. Somerset Maugham novel (published the same year as "Of Human Bondage.") Both Watts and Norton are fine actors who manage to practice their craft without annoying publicity ploys or paparazzi.

"The Painted Veil" is a quiet film set in a different time. Living in today's world of quick decisions and multiple marriages, it's interesting to watch how relationships unfolded in a far away place, in another time.



CLASSIC

"A Fish Called Wanda"

Rated R



There are soooo many serious issues in the world, why not escape with some true silliness? "A Fish Called Wanda" was released 20 years ago and, thanks to a clever script and a wonderful cast, it is just as funny now as then.

John Cleese (of "Monty Python" fame) co-wrote the script with Charles Crighton and together they directed Kevin Kline, Michael Palin and Jamie Lee Curtis through a bank robbery like none other.

"A Fish Called Wanda" milks the cliché of stuffy Brits with Archie (Cleese) stuck in a stifling marriage and totally infatuated with a beguiling, supposedly smitten, American law student (Curtis).

Today Curtis is making her mark as a successful author of children's books, but it would be a shame if she left the film world. Her turn as Wanda is sexy and funny - no easy feat.

There is very little politically correctness in this movie, but it is so silly it's best to forgive and forget and laugh your way through the crew's antics.

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 can be reached at r2redshaw@hotmail.com.







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