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:

Shrek 2 (reviewed further down by our Christine K. Rex) and Farenheit 9-11 which is a documentary by Michael Moore.

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

Shrek 2 the Movie

Starring Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Jennifer Saunders

Directed by Andrew Adamson, Conrad Vernon, Kelly Asbury
Produced by John H. Williams, David Lipman, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Aron Warner

There is nothing like a good laugh to make one feel on top of the world and forget the troubles of the day. In the world of movie entertainment the recent release of Shrek 2 is one such movie that fills the theater with laughter and lets the audience forget the world outside. The film is full of action and slapstick humor. The fairytale land of “Far Far Away” is the setting of Pheona and Shrek’s adventure that tests the love they have for one another. Shrek and Pheona are married and are enjoying their honeymoon at Hansel's Honeymoon Hideaway. They eat together and bathe in the same mud puddle together.Play in the surf together as in the movie “From Here to Eternity.” Yeah, their new lives together were nothing short of romantic. Soon they return home to the swamp where Donkey has done a poor job of minding the house while they were gone. Suddenly a royal messenger appeared, presenting an invitation to Shrek and Pheona from Pheona 's parents inviting them to their kingdom of Far, Far Away to attend a ball. The king and queen were anxious to meet Fiona's new beau, but they had no idea it was an ogre. Shrek did not wish to attend. He even put his foot down. So they loaded Cinderella's coach and headed for Far Far Away. Shrek invited Donkey along because his relationship with the dragon was sagging. Kingdom Far Far Away was 700 miles away and during the entire trip, Donkey talked. And talked. And talked. And talked. And talked. And talked. It drove Shrek crazy. Finally they arrive in Far Far Away and pull right up to the castle. The king and queen are speechless when they see Shrek and Pheona as ogres! Dinner was an unpleasant event, especially when Shrek and King Harold get in a fight.

After dinner, while Shrek and Pheona fight, King Harold slips out to a seedy part of town, to the Poison Apple night club. He was to find a ruthless bounty hunter to dispose of Shrek. He was under orders from evil Fairy Godmother Dana Fortuna. She had planned to set Fiona up with her son, Prince Charming, who was too late to rescue Pheona from her tower. So Fairy Godmother told King Harold to get rid of Shrek so Charming would end up with Pheona. The king hired a bounty hunter then arranged a phony bonding hunt for he and Shrek. The next day when Shrek and Donkey entered the woods, they found no king, but a ruthless bounty hunter, Puss N. Boots. He proved to be a bad fighter, so he decided to become Shrek's ally. The three visit Fairy Godmother's cottage/factory to find a solution for Shrek and Pheona 's problem. Fairy Godmother was busy, so they visit the Potion Room. Puss finds a potion, Happily Ever After, that just might help the romantic problem. They evade angry guards and head back to Far Far Away. En route, Shrek and Donkey taste the potion and pass out. It begins to rain. Pheona passes out too and when the three awaken, they had taken all new forms. Shrek and Pheona were human while Donkey had become a white horse. Shrek, Puss and Donkey return to the castle, but Fairy Godmother was there already. She trapped Shrek while having Prince Charming disguise himself as Shrek and went to Pheona

Shrek left sadly, but vowed to return. He, Donkey and Puss made their way back to the castle, but were captured by knight police. Back at the swamp, Three Blind Mice, Pinocchio, Gingerbread Man, Three Little Pigs and Big Bad Wolf saw Shrek and the gang in trouble so they raced to Far Far Away and released Shrek, Donkey and Puss, then they set out to Drury Lane to find the Muffin Man. Shrek had a plan. That night, a big royal gala ball was held for Pheona and "Shrek". Suddenly the party is crashed. Literally. By a 60 foot tall Gingerbread Man. Sadly it's taken out by gallons of milk. Shrek, Puss and Donkey proceed on foot. But the evil Fairy Godmother was there. She tried to stop the heroes. Pheona also discovers Prince Charming was not Shrek. Fairy Godmother tries to destroy Shrek, but luckily her magic beam reflected off King Harold's armor, affecting him, and going right back to Fairy Godmother, destroying her. The magic apparently turned King Harold back to his former self: a frog. Suddenly, it was midnight. Shrek and Pheona turned back to ogres while Donkey became a donkey again. In short, they all lived happily ever after.

The satirical images used in the picture were what made this picture better than the first Shrek movie. Characters and other movie sequences are used to see if the audience recognizes the human image being portrayed. Like Joan Rivers is an announcer at the ball. And the rain sequence from Splash dance is used at the end of the movie. The fairy God Mother’s stop at a fast food place is one sequence that give credence to all American fast food habits. All in all this was a movie worth seeing by young and old. It is a refreshing change from all the gore; swear words and blood and guts types that come across the big screen of late.

I recommend seeing this one more than once as I did just to laugh at the antics of our favorite Green Ogre and his many friends. By the way don’t miss the part where Pinocchio is busted about his underwear. (Thong!)
-- Christine K. Rex

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

DIRECTOR: Pete Hewitt. CAST: Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt. RATING: PG, for brief mild language.

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
Director: Michael Anderson
Screenplay: John Farrow, James Poe, S.J. Perelman
Art Direction: James Sullivan
Cinematography: Lionel Lindon
Costume Design: Miles White
Film Editing: Gene Ruggiero, Paul Weatherwax
Original Music: Victor Young
Prologue Narration: Edward R. Murrow
Principal Cast: David Niven (Phileas Fogg), Cantinflas (Passepartout), Robert Newton (Mr. Fix), Shirley MacLaine (Princess Aouda), Charles Boyer (Monsieur Gasse).
Cameos by Robert Morley, Noel Coward, John Gielgud, Martine Carol, Fernandel, Evelyn Keyes, Jose Greco, Gilbert Roland, Cesar Romero, Cedric Hardwicke, Ronald Colman, Peter Lorre, Beatrice Lillie, Victor McLaglen, Joe E. Brown, Buster Keaton, Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Red Skelton, George Raft, John Carradine, Glynis Johns, John Mills, Andy Devine, Hermione Gingold, Jack Oakie. George Raft, Charles Coburn.

Available from on DVD (ASIN: B0001US8F8)

Cold Mountain

Released on DVD

I am an avid Civil War enthusiast and I was excited to see this movie come out on DVD as I had missed it in the theaters. The film is based on a very popular novel written by Charles Frazier.

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.

Parental Guides:

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.

Cast: Jude Law .... Inman
Nicole Kidman .... Ada Monroe
Renée Zellweger .... Ruby Thewes
Eileen Atkins .... Maddy
Brendan Gleeson .... Stobrod Thewes
Philip Seymour Hoffman .... Reverend Veasey
Natalie Portman .... Sara
Giovanni Ribisi .... Junior
Donald Sutherland .... Reverend Monroe
Ray Winstone .... Teague
Kathy Baker .... Sally Swanger
James Gammon .... Esco Swanger
Charlie Hunnam .... Bosie
Jack White .... Georgia
Ethan Suplee .... Pangle
Runtime: 152 min

==Christine K. Rex

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