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Fahrenheit 9/11Two Brothers

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Fahrenheit 9/11
Reviewed by Russ Simmons

Perhaps we should come up with a new term for the kind of film that Michael Moore makes. The word “documentary” implies that the film deals with its topic objectively, even though they rarely do. What Moore does is muckrake. I suppose that “muckrakeumentary” is a bit too unwieldy.

That brings us to Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore’s controversial take on the Bush administration, terrorism and the war in Iraq. Through clever usage of archive footage, film from embedded journalists in Iraq, ambush journalism and interviews, Moore effectively makes his case that Iraq isn’t the only country occupied by an invading force. America, too, Moore believes, is occupied by a misguided and corrupt administration that has illegally usurped power and is using the “war on terrorism” as an excuse to further its agenda.

An unapologetic liberal, Moore is also a bit of a narcissist, usually making himself the annoying co-subject of his films. In Fahrenheit 9/11, he takes a small step back, giving the grave subject matter center stage. Whether of not you agree with his positions, he uses the documentary format to effectively make his case. He manipulates cinema for the liberal view the way that Rush Limbaugh manipulates talk radio for the conservative view.

Moore exposes the close relationship between the Bush family and the Saudis that has enriched both clans as well as many other prominent Texans. (The special treatment given to the Bin Laden family after 9/11 is particularly interesting.) He also explores atrocities in Iraq, the growing resentment among American troops and the bizarre circumstances surrounding the presidential election. He also comically ambushes members of Congress, seeing if those who voted in favor of the war would be willing to sign up their own sons for a stint in the Marines.

Love him or hate him, you have to give Moore his props. Much of the information he shares in Fahrenheit 9/11 has been reported on before, but it’s doubtful that many people are aware of it. (Moore interviews Craig Unger, author of House of Bush, House of Saud, from which Moore apparently culled much of his information.)

So, what Moore covers is likely to come as a shock to many viewers. If it’s true that the dissemination of information is vital to a democracy, then Moore is providing an important, if uneasy service.

Fahrenheit 9/11 may not be a real documentary, but it’s a fascinating movie. (R) Rating: 4; Posted 6/25/04

Two Brothers
Reviewed by Liz Sweeney

Folks susceptible to the trauma of Bambi may not stomach well director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s, Two Brothers. Having much in common with Annaud’s The Bear, Two Brothers tells the story of twin tiger cubs – one gentle and timid, the other confident and mighty – born among temple ruins in southeast Asia. Separated from their jungle home and each other by the greed of men, the tigers’ survival is tested in harrowing drama. Echoing the central message of The Bear, Two Brothers intends to check little trigger fingers; as Bambi’s mother once warned, man is the most deadly animal around.

Two Brothers makes attempts to avoid Disney-style anthropomorphism, but harkens back to that same old-fashioned kind of animal adventure that uses little language. Annaud does an admirable job of seeming to show wild tigers in the jungle, despite using trained animals and animatronics. The Thai and Cambodian rainforest locations are breathtaking, and the wildness emphasizes the unrestrained nature of the tigers in their natural habitat. Although Two Brothers indulges the temptation to interpret the behavior of the tigers in human terms, there are many moments, especially early in the film, to remind us that these are wild beasts indeed.

Guy Pearce plays Aidan McRory, a fortune hunter who sets out to plunder ancient temple statuary. Occupying the territory of a family of tigers, McRory’s ransacking outfit disturbs the two cubs at play. Killing the parent tiger and capturing the shyer of the two brothers, the raiders carry the dead tiger back to the village as a trophy. The cub Sangha is given to the governor’s young son, who treats him as a beloved playmate. Soon however, Sangha lands in mischief and the family is forced to give him away, this time to a man eager to turn Sangha into a sporting fighter. Meanwhile, bolder brother Kumal is also captured and sold off to a circus, where living in a cage diminishes his stoutheartedness. It is not until they are fully grown that the brothers become reunited in a forced fight designed as spectator sport.

The shenanigans and struggles of the two brothers eventually build up a sense of the tigers’ distinct personalities. The human personalities however, are sometimes a distraction; they serve as context regarding the ecological lessons but one has to wonder about the intended audience. Little ones may be overwhelmed by the harrowing story and oblivious to the political overtones, and media-drenched older children may find the live-action animal premise dull.

Two Brothers, despite the inherent violence, is the wholesome kind of film in which parents wish their children had more interest. In the absence of merchandising, sexual innuendo and splashy effects, the film speaks to the beauty of nature, family bonds and environmentalism: notable characteristics in a summer family film. (PG) Rating: 3; Posted 6/25/04

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