LONGEST YARD THE WILD PARROTS OF TELEGRAPH
HILL LADIES IN LAVENDER
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After his disastrous remake of Frank Capras tenderhearted classic
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, many film buffs hoped Adam Sandler was
through with movie remakes. No such luck.
Of course, his abysmal update of Mr. Deeds made truckloads of
dough at the box-office. Thats all that really matters, right?
Now Sandlers production shingle offers us a new version of Robert
Aldrichs 1974 hit, The Longest Yard. Saints preserve us.
Granted, Aldrichs The Longest Yard was an audience-pleasing
action comedy and not a sentimental fable like Capras, and therefore
is a more appropriate vehicle for Sandlers talents. Still, this
uneven mess pales in comparison with the original.
Sandler plays Paul Wrecking Crewe, a former star NFL quarterback
who was disgraced in a points-shaving scandal. While on parole, he takes
his girlfriends car and leads police on a drunken, high-speed chase
and winds up in a Texas prison.
He lands in a jail run by a Machiavellian official (James Cromwell) with
eyes on the governors office. The nasty warden manipulated the system
to get Crewe in his institution so that he could lend his expertise to
a semi-pro football team made up of the prison guards.
When Crewe balks at aiding the wardens efforts, he is persuaded
to reconsider. Crewe then comes up with an idea to have a team made up
of convicts play an exhibition game against the guards.
That basic setup is not unlike the first film, but thats where
the similarities end. This version takes place in an alternate movie universe,
a sitcom plane quite different from Aldrichs original. Although
the 1974 version had its share of broad humor, it was rooted in the real
world. One could believe that this confrontation could really happen.
Not so here. All of the attempts at humor are so obvious and over-the-top
that we have to accept it as an Airplane-style satire. When the
movie then tries to take a serious turn (one of the central characters
is murdered), it becomes a train wreck.
Thankfully, Sandler has assembled a game supporting cast that enliven
things considerable, including the ad libbing Chris Rock and a bevy of
former sports stars. Even Burt Reynolds, the original films star,
makes an appearance.
Upon hearing the premise of the new documentary The Wild Parrots
of Telegraph Hill, one might be tempted to dismiss it as the profile
of an eccentric. Youd be partly right to make that assessment.
Judy Irvings film follows a homeless man as he observes
and interacts with a flock of parrots in San Francisco. There is an unexpectedly
poignant element to the film, however, that makes it more than just a
glimpse into the life of a kook.
The fifty-something Mark Bittner, an amiable and portly fellow with a
long ponytail, moved to San Francisco over 25 years ago to become a musician.
He never achieved any success with his musical efforts and has worked
only sporadically in temp positions. As the film shows, Bittner gets many
of his meals through the largess of café owners, and he lived rent-free
in a backyard cottage for years.
But Bittner denies that he is lazy. He simply couldnt find anything
to spark his career interests
until he came upon the wild parrots
of Telegraph Hill, a heavily wooded and upscale residential area of San
Many of the forty-odd birds in this flock are former pets that have been
set free or have escaped from captivity. Some are second generation and
are truly wild, the offspring of birds imported from South America. These
parrots are mostly red-crowned conures, intelligent and brightly colored
Bittner made it his avocation to study, befriend and care for these unusual
creatures, and his efforts made him a local celebrity. His keen observations
demonstrate that the human-like behavior of the colorful birds is more
than just anthropomorphism.
Among the birds we meet are Picasso and his mate, Sophie. This highly
co-dependent couple relied completely on one another, as Picasso was blind
in one eye and Sophie suffered from a nerve disorder resulting from a
Bittners favorite was a blue-crowned conure named Connor. Because
he was of a different species from the others, he could never become too
close to any of them. He, however, was the first to come to the aid of
birds that were in need or were picked on by others in the flock.
Another bird we meet is Mingus, one of the few who preferred life in
Bittners cottage to the wild treetops. As Bittner learned, the differences
between humans and animals are fewer than some of us might like to believe.
Sweet natured and amiable, TheWild Parrots of Telegraph Hill is the profile of a fine-feathered friend. (G) Rating: 3 (posted 5/27/05)
Theres nothing like a dame, and heres a movie offering proof.
Ladies in Lavender stars Dame Judy Dench and Dame Maggie Smith
in a film that serves one simple purpose. It gets them on the screen together.
This adaptation of a short story by William J. Locke is the sort of well-meaning,
stiff-upper lip British drama that has become an art house mainstay.
Stalwart English thespian Charles Dance (Gosford Park) makes his
writing and directing debut, taking Lockes ambiguous story and fleshing
it out into a full-length feature. Padding it out into a full-length
feature might be a better description.
Dench and Smith play elderly sisters who live together in a seaside Cornish
village in the 1930s. Smith is Janet, a WWI widow, and Dench is Ursula,
her spinster sibling. Their quiet lives are turned upside down by the
arrival of a stranger in their midst.
One day, a young, good-looking Polish man named Andrea (Daniel Brühl
from Good Bye, Lenin) washes up on their shore. Exhausted and near
death with a badly broken ankle, Andrea is lovingly nursed back to health
by the ladies and their hard-as-nails housekeeper, Dorcas (Miriam Margolyes.)
For inexplicable reasons, the ladies never question their guest about
how he came to their shore or what he plans to do. Although some villagers
suspect that the man may be a spy (this was the time between the wars,
after all), the only thing we learn is that he is a gifted musician who
plays the violin like Isaac Stern.
But the conflict in the story lies in Ursulas obsession
with the young man. She develops an attachment that borders on the sexual.
She becomes jealous and resentful of others who take up her newfound friends
All of this could have been more compelling, but Dance takes a very low-key
approach that is probably in keeping with the original storys tone.
He eschews real tension in favor of a more relaxed presentation. This
makes some of the leaps in logic even more difficult to dismiss.
So, what we have left is a well-produced period piece that is best appreciated
for its ensemble acting. (The cast also includes David Warner, Freddie
Jones and the stunning Natascha McElhone.)
Luckily, Smith and Dench are a joy to watch. With a demonstration of acting subtlety worthy of classroom discussion, they make the movie worthwhile. These are two really classy dames. (PG-13) Rating: 3 (posted 5/27/05)
What would the world be like if animals acted like people? Thats
a scary thought if you dive beneath the surface of it. Imagine sly cats
slinking through the halls of Congress, somber beavers mulling over tax
returns many of them driven primarily by ego and social politics.
But in entertainment, the concept of nonhumans acting human appears to
be a popular one. If you dont believe it, just consider movies such
as E.T., in which an alien has the personality of an insecure child;
Shrek, in which a donkey and an ogre antagonize each other in the
tradition of human comics such as Laurel and Hardy; and Star Trek,
in which every race of alien seems to be an exaggeration of some human
characteristic. Even non-fiction animal programs on television
often use narrations to project human emotions and motives onto wild animals.
These programs entertain us because we like seeing nonhumans created
or recreated in our image, and Dreamworks latest animated feature,
Madagascar, pokes fun at this human tendency.
Madagascar follows an episode in the lives of Alex the Lion (Ben
Stiller) and his friends Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe
(David Schwimmer) and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith). The four
friends live like pampered stars and New Yorks Central Park Zoo,
where they put on daily shows for their fans. After hours they enjoy spas
and pampering, and the egotistical star Alex gets all the steak he can
But Martys not entirely happy. He dreams of being in his idealized
version of the wild. In the movies opening sequence
we see him running in slow motion across a wide green field as the soundtrack
plays Born Free.
Four penguins turn out to be Martys ticket out of the zoo. Through
a series of unexpected events, Marty and his four friends wind up in the
wild, which isnt exactly as Marty envisioned it. After all, wild
animals live in the wild, and Marty and his comrades are wild only in
the sense of human eccentricity.
Madagascar entertains because it takes our species-centered view
of the world and plays with it. We see animals enjoying captivity, showing
off for zoo visitors in some scenes. In others scenes, we see animals
wanting to eat each other. Some of the animals enjoy the wild, others
dont. Like human desires, theres nothing standard about the
behavior of these characters.
The film also provides a healthy serving of allusions to literature and movies of the past, ranging from The Twilight Zone to Castaway. Its good family-oriented fun that gives us an excuse to laugh at ourselves (under the guise of laughing at cartoon animals). (PG) Rating: 3.5 (posted 5/27/05)
Forget for a moment the huge spectacle that accompanies the Star
Wars franchise. Forget the hype surrounding the release of a new episode.
Forget the long lines and packed theatres. Forget the six preceding episodes
and the cult following. Its not necessary to comprehend or buy into
these accoutrements to enjoy Revenge of the Sith.
Even the uninitiated can enjoy this movie because its more than
just a sequel. The story of a good guy turning evil draws us in, and writer/director
George Lucas has included enough backstory to inform the uninitiated whats
at stake: a mans soul and a societys freedom.
The movies strength lies in the filmmakers ability to tell
a simple story that appeals to our needs to root for the good guys, pity
the conflicted hero and abhor the villains. Plus, Lucas includes enough
compelling action to keep us on the edges of our seats at least part of
the time. Although the characters arent very deep and the dialogue
tends to be brief and shallow (which is typical of the franchise), the
characters childlike seriousness about their very basic philosophies
imbue them with naïve charm.
At least four of the films quirky characters have the uncanny ability
to leave a lasting impression. At the top of the list is the wise little
green creature known as Yoda (voice of Frank Oz) with his odd habit of
twisting sentence structure (known as Yoda, he is). Then there are the
droids R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) with their beeps,
squeals and good-natured ribbing of each other. And last and most memorable,
the conflicted hero Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen).
Anakin wins us over with his loyalty and bravery from the start, but
his ambivalence about walking toward the light is just beneath his boyish
surface. His slow but complete turn to the dark side is the films
main attraction, not special effects, which have become a cinematic staple.
Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith has its slow moments (mostly the first 30 minutes), and you can spot the foreshadowing a mile away. The characters are as uncomplicated as Ward and June Cleaver, and the plot can be easily summarized as a fight between good and evil. But those facts and the hype aside, the movie does what good films do: it gives viewers enough information, enough conflict and emotion to kick-start empathy and ire. Even people who dont get caught up in the Star Wars hype might be pleasantly surprised and entertained by this latest installment. (PG-13) Rating: 4 (posted 5/20/05)
In the opening sequence of the showbiz satire Jiminy Glick in La
La Wood, comedian Martin Short appears in heavy makeup as director
David Lynch. His impression of the eccentric filmmaker is dead on.
This begs the question: Who is this movie for? Just how many people are
going to appreciate Shorts impersonation? Is this a film that is
exclusively for hardcore movie buffs and showbiz insiders? The answer
is, probably, yes.
Jiminy Glick in La La Wood is based upon the character from Shorts
Comedy Central series, Primetime Glick. One cant help but
think that the character was created by Short strictly to amuse his friends.
Shorts showbiz pals are subjected to press junkets that are organized
to promote their films. The celebs must endure an endless parade of interviewers
who often ask insipid and repetitive questions. Glick is an amalgamation
of the worst traits of these so-called junket whores.
Representing a TV outlet in Butte, MT, Glick is an obnoxious, portly
and utterly shallow fellow. He often doesnt bother to see the film
hes discussing with the stars and is far more interested in snooping
into their personal lives.
The film deals with Glicks trip to Canada for the Toronto Film
Festival. With his gassy wife Dixie (fellow Saturday Night Live
alum Jan Hooks) and tubby twin sons in tow, Glick drives to the movie
celebration and promptly finds himself involved in a murder mystery that
closely mirrors the famous Lana Turner scandal of the 1950s.
Elizabeth Perkins (The Ring 2) plays alcoholic star Miranda Coolidge,
whose daughter Natalie (Scooby Doos Linda Cardellini), may
or may not have stabbed Perkins ostentatious manager/lover, Andre
Devine (John Michael Higgins from A Mighty Wind.)
Because of a strange set of coincidences, Jiminy lands an interview with
elusive star, Ben DiCarlo (Corey Pearson in a funny send up of Hollywood
bad boy, Colin Farrell.) Now in demand, Jiminy gets to converse with (and
annoy) A-list stars like Steve Martin, Kurt Russell and Susan Sarandon.
Short serves as writer for this entry, and much of the dialogue is improvised.
The films best moments involve his interview sessions, where he
and the stars banter about cursory topics and attempt to keep a straight
face. (The closing credits include some amusing outtakes.)
Jiminy Glick in La La Wood will NOT appeal to everyone. If youre the type to tunes in regularly to Entertainment Tonight or one of its many imitators, this may be right up your alley others, beware. (R) Rating: 3 (posted 5/20/05)
Jane Fonda has been missing from movie screens for fifteen years. The
internationally famous cinema star, activist and fitness guru still carries
too much political baggage for some, but shes still a formidable
So, how does the two-time Oscar-winner return to the big screen after
spending way too much time as Mrs. Ted Turner? Sad to say, its by
lending her ample supply of star power to a third-rate sitcom script.
Monster-In-Law stars Fonda as Viola Fields, a Barbara Walters-type
TV interviewer who is bumped from her network in favor of a sweet young
thing. After having a nervous breakdown (a comic moment in this type of
film), she settles into unwilling retirement. Thankfully, she has her
only son to lean on.
Problem is, her physician son Kevin (Michael Vartan from TVs Alias)
has taken up with a temp. The comely object of his affection
is Charlie Cantilini (Jennifer Lopez), and he pops the question to her
right in front of his exasperated mom.
So, Viola is a stone-cold bitch who doesnt believe that Charlie
is good enough for Kevin. With plenty of newfound time on her hands, Viola
decides to derail the engagement in any way possible.
The rest of the movie is made up of a series of incidents in which we
are given the chance to see Viola and Charlie do battle. They spar over
wedding details, food, travel
you name it. Faking illness, Viola
moves in with Kevin and Viola in an all-out attempt to drive Charlie nuts.
The movie comes sporadically to life, but you cant credit Any Kochoffs
mediocre script or the pedestrian direction by Robert Luketic (Legally
Blonde.) Comic Wanda Sykes, playing Fondas no-nonsense assistant,
helps a lot, providing some ad lib asides that add some desperately needed
zip to the proceedings.
In an all-to-brief moment, stage veteran Elaine Stritch shows up in the
role of Violas corrosive mother-in-law
and abruptly steals
the picture. Her presence (and Violas reaction to it) nearly provides
enough character background for us to make some sense of Violas
neuroses. Had this plot element been developed, we might have been able
to understand why this long-successful journalist suddenly became a raving
But the act of bringing this sitcom back from the dead rests squarely on the shoulders of Fonda, and shes almost up to the task. Its nearly worth sitting through this nonsense to see her try to make a silk purse out of a sows ear. (PG-13) Rating: 2.5 (posted 5/13/05)
The tagline for this movie lets us know that Phil Weston (Will Ferrell)
has spent his whole life dreaming of being on a winning team. Now his
time has come.
Phil's time may have come, but viewers' time in the theatre will drag
through a stream of lukewarm jokes.
However, Phils not only looking out for his sons interests.
Hes also seeking a way to beat his father, whos always upstaged
him, in sports and in life. We learn through flashbacks that Buck told
Phil about his plans to marry a much younger woman on the day Phil planned
to announce his wedding plans, and Buck beat Phil to the punch. Later,
the aging Buck becomes a father again on the same day Phils wife
The two men constantly compete with each other, which makes them seem
more like rivaling siblings than father and son. Unfortunately, the competitive
episodes arent usually funny. Phil usually winds up hurt and bruised
while Buck chuckles and gloats.
Youve probably noticed by now that I havent mentioned anything
about the kids in this movie. Thats because the children served
little function besides providing a vehicle for Phil and Bucks shenanigans.
The filmmakers show us little of the kids personalities. About all
they tell us is that two of the boys are butchers apprentices who
play great soccer, one enjoys cracking wise (or so he thinks), and one
is shy and has lesbian mothers.
The main attractions are Ferrell (who ends up running amok on a coffee
buzz throughout much of the film), Duvall (whos given little to
do but seems to be enjoying himself), and Mike Ditka (who plays himself
as Bucks cranky neighbor and a reluctant assistant coach to Phil).
Kicking & Screaming offers few surprises, except that the children dont excrete any gross substances as I recall. Basically, its as harmless as it is inane. Kids under the age of 10 might even get a big kick out of seeing a grown man act younger than they act. (PG) Rating: 1.5 (posted 5/13/05)
One has to wonder what kind of relationship filmmaker Rebecca Miller
(Personal Velocity) had with her late father, playwright Arthur
Miller (The Death of a Salesman.)
People will certainly be reading a lot into the younger Millers
latest film, The Ballad of Jack and Rose. It is a father-daughter
drama that seethes with familial conflict.
Millers real-life husband, actor Daniel Day-Lewis (The Gangs
of New York) stars as Jack Slavin, the last of the hippie movement.
He lives on an isolated East Coast island with his 16-year-old daughter,
Rose (newcomer Camilla Bell.)
Their home is a former commune where Jack had hoped to develop an eco-friendly
society free from materialism. Jacks wife abandoned him (as did
all of the other commune dwellers), and he raised young Rose on his own,
home schooling her and living off the land.
Problem is, Rose is coming into sexual maturity and has a complete fixation
on her dad, one of the few people shes had contact with. Jack, who
is having severe health problems, realizes that hes got to change
things before their relationship goes too far.
He invites his mainland girlfriend, Kathleen (The Interpreters
Catherine Keener) and her two sons to come live with them. Rose sees this
intrusion as a slap in the face and an utter violation of their relationship.
The presence of these newcomers sets off a series of incidents that eventually
lead to tragedy.
Not only is Jack pre-occupied with the encroaching housing development
promoted by businessman Beau Bridges, he is also increasingly concerned
with his declining health and his daughters erratic behavior.
Day-Lewis is, as always, excellent, and there is some genuine intrigue
in this uniformly well acted drama. (Ryan McDonald as Kathleens
kind-hearted teenage son is particularly memorable.)
But there are some notable flaws, too. In one sequence, Rose says to
her father, If you die, then Im going to die. If you die,
there will have been no point to my living. (Hows that for
But the films strange conclusion seems to dismiss that foreshadowing.
The unsatisfying denouement seems contrived when compared to the careful
composition of the rest of the film. (Many have speculated that the ending
may have been changed after screenings with test audiences. This is probably
untrue given Millers fierce independence, but it seems odd just
What were left with is an intelligent and well-intentioned near miss. One wonders what the elder Miller would have to say about it. (R) Rating: 2.5 (posted 5/13/05)
The documentary Paperclips is as paradoxical as human nature.
The film tells a story that alternates between narrow and expansive, between
self-absorbed and compassionate.
The story takes place in Whitwell, TN, population of approximately 1,600.
In the early moments of the movie, middle school principal Linda Hooper
explains that the students of the Whitwell Middle School are all alike,
for the most part. They're white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, with the exception
of five black students and two Hispanic.
In 1998, the principal decided to broaden her students' world by teaching
about the evils of intolerance. She chose the Holocaust as her vehicle.
When Hooper explained that six million Jews had been killed during the
Holocaust, one student mentioned that six million is a hard number to
imagine. Long story short: the students decided to collect six million
paperclips, which would stand for their opposition to bias and intolerance.
The project started slow at first, but then East Coast journalists got
involved. After the publicity, millions of paperclips started rolling
in. Along with the paperclips came letters from Holocaust survivors and
those who knew people who'd died during the Holocaust or lived through
After that, the project seemed to take on a life of its own. Holocaust
survivors visited the town and touched town residents with their stories
of pain and abuse. The camera recorded bits of the survivors stories,
some of the students' reactions and the comments of one male teacher who
admitted being prejudiced. He said he'd been a stereotypical southerner
but that the project had changed him, made him a better father.
At times, the lessons of the Holocaust seemed to get lost in the trivial
chores related to collecting the paperclips. But that's the way human
nature works. One moment we're doing God's work, the next
we're caught up in trivial pursuits.
But this human tendency doesn't render Paperclips any less touching and inspirational. The movie is shot as simply as a home movie, nothing spectacular. What makes it special is the story, the people, and the underlying message of tolerance and respect despite differences of any kind. No MPAA Rating. Rating: 4 (posted 5/13/05)
Consider the case of Paris Hilton. The hotel heiress has all the money
in the world. Shes had a best-selling book. She stars in a hit TV
reality series. She has a chain of nightclubs, her own perfume and is
working on a CD.
Naturally, shes ready for a major film role. So, what does such
a wealthy, successful woman (one who could easily finance her own movie
about any subject under the sun) chose to do? Why not a striptease in
a sleazy slasher film?
Hilton is one of a group of attractive youths who are menaced by homicidal
maniacs in House of Wax. (When I recently asked her why people
should see this movie, she replied, Everyone in it is good looking.
This may be a sign of the Apocalypse.)
House of Wax is an in-name-only updating of the classic 1953 Vincent
Price horror film that was screened in 3-D. Here, the gimmick is Hilton
it isnt enough.
The story involves a group of young people on a road trip. (Sound familiar?)
They stumble upon some creepy folks in an isolated rural area. (Getting
déjà vu?) Crazed maniacs terrorize them and several of them
end up being killed in ultra gory ways. (Stop me if youve seen it.)
Elisha Cuthbert (The Girl Next Door) gets top billing as a lovely
miss who, along with five friends, travel by car to see a college football
game. When they pull over to camp out for the night
well, you know.
The only real difference in this picture and a dozen like it is the elaborate
house of wax attraction, where the exhibits are life-like for a reason.
Theyre really wax-covered corpses.
In fairness to first-time director Jaume Serra, the film has a few well-executed
scares. But it is in the final ten minutes that the movie kicks into high
Thanks to the skilled production crew (who created the whole town as
a set on an Australian back lot), the movie has an unusually gripping
finale. Unlike the 1953 House of Wax, this entire edifice is made
of wax. When a fire is sparked, our kids in peril not only have to flee
the killers, but they must escape from a melting museum!
Aside from the finale, the only attraction in House of Wax is the guessing game. Who will get killed and how? When one character is impaled through the forehead, the audience erupts in applause. Guess who plays that part. (R) Rating: 2 (posted 5/6/05)
Just what is the cause of racial prejudice? If Paul Haggis vision
is correct, then it is fueled by misunderstanding and fear.
In the compelling new drama Crash, writer/director Haggis employs
a terrific ensemble cast to focus on race relations in contemporary Los
Angeles. The picture is not a pretty one.
Kansas City native Don Cheadle (who also serves as producer) leads the
cast as a haggard police detective who investigates an automobile accident.
Through a series of flashbacks, several intersecting stories are told
that explain the events leading up to the crash.
Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock play the LA district attorney and his
petulant, nagging wife. Theyre carjacked at gunpoint by two African-American
thieves, played by Lorenz Tate and rapper Ludacris.
Their story is told simultaneously with that of an affluent African-American
couple (Terrance Howard and Thandie Newton) who are pulled over by a racist
cop (Matt Dillon) and his naïve partner (Ryan Phillippe.) When Dillon
goes way beyond acceptable limits by frisking Newton, the
rookie cop, who desperately wants to do the right thing, simply watches
Another story involves a Hispanic locksmith (Michael Pena) who has a
misunderstanding with a shopkeeper of Middle Eastern descent. Their confrontation
nearly leads to tragedy.
Haggis, best known for his Million Dollar Baby screenplay, takes
a page out of the Robert Altman manual by weaving the various stories
together into a satisfying whole. Although the screenplay for Crash,
which he wrote along with Bobby Moresco, may have a few too many coincidences,
it is essentially realistic and gripping.
Cheadle brings a quiet dignity to his role as the put-upon cop, and Bullock
gives the performance of her career in a rare unsympathetic role. Dillon,
who hasnt had a great part in years, gives us a fully fleshed-out
villain. Even though his racism is abhorrent, we ultimately realize that
hes not all bad.
But the acting honors go to Howard. He is riveting as a black man whose
dignity is gradually stripped away by the torrent of pervasive racism
surrounding him. This is an actor to reckon with.
Although bleak, the movie offers us a glimmer of hope. Some of these
hapless characters actually rediscover their humanity.
But Haggis isnt interested in offering solutions. His intent is to encourage discussion. Like the best cinema, Crash will generate plenty of post-movie coffee talk. In that respect, it is a resounding success. (R) Rating: 4.5(posted 5/6/05)
The producers of Kingdom of Heaven surely must have puzzled over
just how to make an action movie about the Crusades without seeming insensitive
to the current state of affairs in the Middle East. Their answer was to
layer their pathetic popcorn flick with a heaping helping of pretension
so a storyline that serves only to set up scene after glorified scene
of Christians and Muslims slaughtering one another still somehow tries
to come across as a diatribe on religious tolerance.
Director Ridley Scott was brought on board to recreate the success of
his Oscar winning period piece, Gladiator, undoubtedly the most
overrated film in the history of the moving image. Scott does imbue Kingdom
of Heaven with the same gritty intensity as Gladiator, and
the films costumes and set designs are lavish and spectacular. But
the sprawling battle scenes aspire to the same massive scale as the Lord
of the Rings (the current benchmark when it comes to killing people
in colossal numbers) without capturing any of that landmark trilogys
magic or grandeur.
The story follows the murderous, atheist, illegitimate son of a noble
(played by pretty boy Orlando Bloom) whos a simple blacksmith one
day and the next all that stands between the city of Jerusalem and 200,000
angry Islamic warriors. While Blooms career, which basically consists
of one sword-swinging blockbuster after another, has hardly been a challenge
of his acting skills, his performance here is a definite improvement over
his turn in 2003s Pirates of the Caribbean, when he seemed
to be carved out of wood compared to Johnny Depp.
Kingdom of Heavens supporting cast features plenty of capable actors including Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons, but the clumsy, contrived script makes poor use of them. Some of the characters are randomly dispatched with, others simply disappear and none of them ever achieve any sense of resolution. Instead, theyre merely paraded through an endless orgy of macho posturing, stirring speeches that fail to stir and epic battles that muster significant body counts but negligible emotion. (R) Rating: 1(posted 5/6/05)
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