Cannes Film Festival Spawns Mega Hits
Without a doubt the most important competitive film festival in the world, each year at Cannes in La Croisette, France, the movie industry shows off their best wears. Not the best bunch of mindless entertainment, but the most meaningful films made by a given country or studio. A lot of the films shown at Cannes and even many winners will never get seen on the big screen in the United States, except at some small art house in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. A lot of the films are foreign language offerings or short films that simply can't find a major U.S. distributor. This year, however, two of the most talked about and biggest grossing films did it big-time at Cannes:
Documentaries usually never fare well with the public, but this year two of them did really great. The first was Supersize Me the saga of life in the fast food lane, specifically McDonald's restaraunt chain and how the filmmaker grew super size with reduced health by eating three meals there each day for a month and documenting it all on film!
The big Cannes winner, Farenheit 9-11 is all about President Bush and Iraq, from past award winning filmmaker Michael Moore (pictured at right) whose Bowling For Colimbine generated shock waves last year.
This new winner from Michael Moore (now playing in limited release) examines what happened to the United States after September 11; and how the Bush Administration used the tragic event to push its agenda. It's a documentary that will trace why the U.S. has become a target for hatred and terrorism. It will also depict alleged dealings between two generations of the Bush and Bin Laden clans that led to George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden becoming mortal enemies.
Certainly an important film and worthy of showcase at the Cannes festival, but Shrek 2? Also of merit. A film that talks about people being what they are and not wishing to be something else. It's about love of yourself and others. It's about being yourself and not some shinning superstar. It's also quite entertainment as our Christine Rex will tell you!
Now Playing In Theaters
Around the World in 80 Days
DIRECTOR: Frank Coraci.
CAST: Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cécile de France.
And a cameo part with Arnold Schwarzenegger
RATING: PG, for action violence, some crude humor and mild profanity.
This Jules Verne story has been remade over and over and each time scenes and places get a new twist. Just the day after seeing this film in the theater I was lucky enough to see the 1956 version starring David Niven as Phileas Fogg on TCM. It was just the thing I needed to make a complete comparison of then and now. Jackie Chan (Lau Xing, a Chinese kung fu master) makes a good Passepartout and plays the part much like Cantinflas (Mexico's premier comedian) in the latter film except that Chan always plays a kung fu master in all his movies. That is most likely why the plot is changed from the 1956 version. Lau is also a bank robber wanted by the London police who goes to work for Fogg to avoid arrest. When they meet, Fogg is trying to set a land-speed record - on a circular track. Passepartout is a flighty, unstable klutz who keeps the interest of the audience with his silly mistakes and strong fighting spirit, while Philias Fogg is a calm orderly type with one direction in his scientifically spearheaded mind. In each version the film drags a bit in the interim between destinations. Except for little kids and relatives of the cast, there's not much appeal to this deadening remake, which is based on the Jules Verne novel about Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan), a 19th century English inventor who tries to circumnavigate the globe.
Lau sees his chance to get away from Scotland Yard for the bank robbery in which he stole back a religious statue that was taken from his village when the pompous head of the Royal Academy of Science (Jim Broadbent) challenges Fogg to prove his claim that he can travel around the world in, well, you know . . .. Trailed by assassins and the Yard's Inspector Fix (Ewen Bremner), Fogg and Lau head to Paris, meeting some Impressionist painters and literally picking up Monique (Cécile de France). The adventure leads the troop into completely different countries and scenery than the 1956 version and is not as spectacular as in the previous film. Except for a few Chan-choreographed fight scenes, the movie seems more like 80 years than 80 days. It adheres to a simple rule of comedy: It is funny when people fall down, and even funnier when it involves the Statue of Liberty's nostrils. Even though some parts are quite boring at times the film has some exciting factors about it. I would not see it twice.
What parents should know:
There are several violent though bloodless martial-arts battles that include fearsome-looking weapons. A man unzips his pants as if to urinate in public. Mild flirting in a hot tub.
-- Christine K. Rex
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Working on his anger issues, Harry leaves the Dursley's house after inflating the mean and nasty Aunt Marge, sister to his uncle, like a large balloon. With trunk and owl he catches a ride on the Knight Bus, a triple-decker bus that has beds in it for night travelers. It speeds him to the Leaky Cauldron, an inn, where he spends the remaining weeks before his third year at Hogwarts.
He hears about someone who escapes Azkaban, Sirius Black, who supposedly betrayed Harry's parents. Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) is his godfather, but now he seems to be after Harry to exact revenge for Voldermort's possible death. The guards at the prison, Dementors, dissolve happy thoughts from everyone that come near them, and they really affect Harry who has too many sad thoughts and cause him to faint.
When the hippogriff is sentenced to death after injures Draco, it helps those, Draco's father, who oppose the headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) to find a way to be rid of him. Harry and his friends must find a way to save the hippogriff and Dumbledore, while at the same time avoid the Dementors and Black.
This movie has tons of special effects and lots of action. The suspense is enough to keep you glued to your seat. I would suggest that you buy two buckets of popcorn because you will not want to stop and get more. You might miss something!
This movie is well worth the popcorn and soda!
-- Lance Vermont
Garfield: The Movie
Everyone’s favorite Sunday paper cartoon cat has finally hit the big screen in a hilarious show of egotism and simple cat antics. Garfield has come into the 21st century by learning Salsa dancing and Reggae boogying. From their safe haven living with Jon on a cul-de-sac in suburbia, Garfield and Odie flow into a stream of danger and adventure.. It's a lot like the comic strip, just living reality beyond belief. Jim Davis, Garfield’s creator would be inspired by the actions of his now famous cartoon cat.
Garfield is the only animated character in the film. But his actions are typical Garfield personality. The characterization of Odie would have been better if he had also cast in animation and given the movie more credibility. The voice of Garfield it is said is not the same quality of the TV cartoon character most viewers are used to. The film is rated PG for brief mild language. In this CGI film of the classic comic book cat known as Garfield, whose life is great. He eats, and sleeps, and that’s all. Now, his owner, Jon Arbuckle, just got a lovable pooch named Odie. Garfield's life spirals out of control now that Odie is in the same household as him. One night, Odie is kidnapped, and Garfield feels that he is the blame for what happened. Garfield sets off to find the crook, and get Odie back. The story quite reminds me of Disney’s “101 Dalmatians” in that there is a story of love in a home environment, a villain, and an adventure to solve the dilemma. It is a old standard for telling the story of a hero, villain, and the damsel in distress. It is a movie suitable for families to see but parents should be aware that Garfield: The Movie features a couple of scenes involving an electric collar that shocks the dog wearing it. There's also slapstick violence involving Garfield, who falls and runs into things without hurting himself.
-- Christine K. Rex
On TV, DVD and VHS
Around The World In 80 Days
Producer: Michael Todd
Cold Mountain is the story of a young woman who comes to Cold Mountain, a town in the mountains of North Carolina, just before the start of the civil war in 1861 between the states. Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), arrives with Reverend Monroe her ailing father (Donald Sutherland), who has purchased one of the biggest and best farms in the area. Ada is a true southern belle in the true sense of the word, she has had no domestic training what so ever. Ada Monroe and her father meet Inman the parentless carpenter, while he was working on the roof of the new church the community was building for the new pastor. She immediately falls for this strong quiet type and here is where the story starts to unfold. War is declared and all the young men in the town go off to join the army including Inman who leaves her with a passionate kiss promising to come back to her and she promises to wait for him. A typical war romantic scene played out in many movies over the past century. Each time one sees this scene it gets more and more heated. But no one wants to see two people standing in the sweltering heat of the south swapping spit. Let’s get to the real juice of the story.
The two main characters begin their own part to the tale and Inman’s, (Jude Law), part opens in the heat of battle with the Union troops digging tunnels under the trenches of the Rebel troops and filling the tunnels with barrels of gun powder. After the passageways are heavily armed the North sets lights a fuse and sets off the explosives in a spectacular blob of mud and fire that buries most of the Rebel troops in the Battle of the Crater scene. The hole left by the explosion leaves a deep trench in the ground just ahead of the Rebel troops. The Union troops lay in wait till the explosives are detonated. The charge is sounded. The Union troops, who I am wondering where they all came from considering that most of them were buried in the explosion, run toward the Rebel troops and are trapped in their own device, the deep crevice left by the underground explosion. The northern troops are left to the mercy of the southern troops in what is termed as “a turkey shoot.” I found this scene just too inconceivable since the south won very few battles. The North had better training and better leaders. The rebel army was not too well equipped and the north had cut off all supplies to the south during the Civil War. The writers of Cold Mountain did very little research into the historical facts in this film. There were two battles in the area of Petersburg North Carolina but none was fought in this manner and both times the South lost. The artistic license taken in this film is too inconceivable to the trained scholar and Civil War buff. I would like to know what the re-enactors of the war would think about this film. I can venture a guess that it wouldn’t be too favorable. The battle scenes didn’t hold my interest and were not as vivid as in The Patriot with Mel Gibson.
Back on the home front the home guard terrorizes the citizens of Cold Mountain. The leader of the group Teague (Ray Winstone), uses his position to kill and maim the townsfolk for his own gains. Ada Monroe ‘s land is his goal and she almost starves to death trying to keep herself and the farm from falling into Thewes ‘s hands. Her father had died and she was left alone to fend for herself. The only way she survives the first part of the war is due to the kindness of the congregation and their contributions of food and fuel. She doesn’t know how to cook, and clean let alone knowing how to milk a cow.
A neighbor (Kathy Baker) sends over the no-nonsense Ruby (Renée Zellweger) to help Ada take care of things. Zellweger delivers the scene-stealingest performance of the year as the heavily animated, hard-working list-maker and test-giver (and a pre-militant feminist's feminist). Before long, Ruby has Ada, learning the simple life, milking cows and mending fences.
Then, a blast out of Ruby's past shows up in the form of her long estranged father, Stobrod (Brendan Gleeson), a happy go luck fiddler who shirks any real responsibility. He and his good-natured but dim partner Pangle (Ethan Suplee) are being hunted by Teague and his killer henchman, Bosie (Charlie Hunnman), exercising vigilante justice whenever they want. These physical and symbolic journeys come to a head when Inman and Ada get together once again after years apart. Their reunion is steeped in hope and tragedy.
Inman is one of those wounded in the Battle of the Crater, shot through the neck and, when he can walk, packs up and walks away from the army, heading home. Along the way he meets a bevy of remarkable people - some good and some very bad.
Anthony Minghella changed the story into a series of vignettes showing good people as good and bad people as bad with little shading.
Movies today can’t seem to do without the sexual angle to make the story believable. The sex scenes leave very little to imagination and really have nothing to do with the story. The best part of the movie to my estimation was the ending after the war and everyone is living better and Ada has become the country lady with the child of her love the night before he died. Otherwise the whole story has very little solidity to it and drags in the scenes with Inman and his trek home to her. I think I would like to read the book since the original stories have more meat to them than the film.
Rated R, The film contains violence, sex, and language.
Goofs Found in the Film Cold Mountain
· In the scene where Ruby and Ada are looking at the stars, you can see an airplane flash among the stars. There were no airplanes in 1864.
· Toward the end of the movie, Stobrod Thewes is sitting in front of his campfire singing "I'm sitting on top of the world" to himself. This song was written in 1925 or 1926, depending on which source you believe.
· When Ada is turkey hunting and meets Inman, she fires the right-hand barrel of her double-barreled shot-gun to kill a turkey. Without reloading, she then fires the same barrel in an attempt to frighten Inman away.
Jude Law .... Inman