Fri, Mar 26, 2010 - Page 16 News List


By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER


Thomas and Friends: Hero of the Rails

Thomas the Tank engine is going to have a very tough time against this week’s big release How to Train Your Dragon, and is likely to appeal only to the very, very young. Little seems to have been done to upgrade the presentation from its action model animation television incarnation. The main difference is that while it features Michael Brandon, one of the TV program’s original US narrators, there are other voices as well, providing a more dramatic quality. This is something that the venerable program, which dates back to 1984, is only just beginning to do now in its 13th series, for which Hero of the Rails seems to be little more than a big-screen teaser.

Bandage (Bandeiji)

Japanese teen music flick that harks back to the music scene of the 1990s when forming a band was, supposedly, every young Japanese student’s dream. The film is a directing debut for Takeshi Kobayashi, primarily a composer with credits that include the score for the minor 2001 hit All About Lily Chou-Chou (Riri Shushu no subete) and contributions to Kill Bill Vol. 1. The film was adapted for the screen by Shunji Iwai, who may be known to Western audiences through this participation as a director in last year’s cinematic collage New York, I Love You. Bandage follows the life of Asako and Miharu who, looking for a way out from problems at home, ingratiate themselves into an indie-rock band. Romance and rousing rock numbers follow.

Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji (Kaiji: Jinsei Gyakuten Gemu)

There seems to be no end to manga adaptations coming out of Japan, though this one seems sillier than most, despite some credibility deriving from star Tatsuya Fujiwara, who featured in past manga classics such as Death Note (2006). This time Fujiwara is salaryman Kaiji who is offered the ultimate chance to escape his dead-end existence at the gambling table. The risks for losing are no less than an eternity of torment. The original comic books aim at some deep social commentary about how a plutocracy keeps the common man enslaved, but this theme seems to have rather lost out to some entertaining gambling set pieces in which the fates of the lead characters are decided.

Remember Me

Romantic drama that might be described as Greek tragedy for the tween generation. It stars Robert Pattinson, who is making a foray out from the world of the undead (just before his Twilight persona gets another airing in Eclipse, the third segment of that saga), who is doing his best to look dissipated if very much alive. Individual performances, particularly that of Pierce Brosnan, have received praise from no less a source than Roger Ebert, but even this most gracious of critics accepts that there is good reason for the hailstorm of one-star or less reviews across the media at what is variously regarded as a movie that is adolescent, contrived, tasteless, or all three. The harshness of the critical response almost makes this film worth a peek.

Dear John

Another movie about love and war that ultimately has not much to do with either, Dear John is a romantic drama about the transcendent potential of the human soul to overcome loss and people’s ability to act in noble ways with the aid of pre-written dialogue. Based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, who is also responsible for the books Message in a Bottle (1999) and The Notebook (2004), both of which were turned into films, Dear John exists in a world that real people rarely ever visit. There are beautiful people, in this case Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, who fall in love, and then find that topical issues, 9/11 and Asperger syndrome in this case, pull them apart. They rise to the challenge. An inoffensive way of getting through a box of tissues.

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