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Chris Van Allsberg deservedly won the 1986 Caldecott award for his book,
The Polar Express, because his simple quasi-realistic illustrations
captured the nature of dreams. His images were simple enough to be accessible,
and yet complex enough to induce daydreams. The charming story about children
who travel to the North Pole by train is magical and comforting to children,
much like a good dream.
Looking for someone to play the part of a charming and sophisticated jewel thief?
Well, David Niven, Jean Servais, Steve McQueen and Charles Boyer are
long gone. So how about Pierce Brosnan?
In After the Sunset, a comic caper flick from director Brett Ratner
(Red Dragon), Brosnan plays Max Burdett, a thief of unparalleled
skill and style. He can execute a heist or pick out Bordeaux with equal
He and his accomplice/lover Lola (the unfailingly sexy Salma Hayek) have
just completed their last burglary and have retired to a life
of luxury in the Bahamas. Although often bored and sometimes tempted,
theyve vowed to leave their life of crime behind them.
A vengeful FBI agent named Stan Lloyd (Woody Harrelson) has other plans,
however. Max and Lola, you see, repeatedly humiliated Stan as they successfully
made off with valuables that Stan was dutifully guarding. Having tracked
them down at their island retreat, he hopes to tempt them with a chance
to boost one more big diamond, and then nab them in the act.
To be fair...although After the Sunset is very predictable and about as realistic as Rush Limbaugh excuses, it has its simple pleasures. An hour and a half in the Bahamas with Salma Hayek cant be all bad. (PG-13) Rating: 2.5; Posted 11/12/04
In the middle of the aptly titled Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,
Bridgets former boyfriend, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), tells Bridget
why he likes her. One reason is that she makes him laugh (at her, he says,
not with her). With that revelation he sums up why this movie will be
enjoyable for many.
Most adults have experienced the euphoria of new love, the disappointment
of eventually realizing that the developing relationship has glaring flaws,
and the subsequent desire to orb back to an old love that looks more attractive
across the gulf of time. But Bridget deals with these occurrences with
the dramatic emotional responses of a naïve teen.
At the beginning of the film, Bridget meets Mark Darcy (Colin Firth)
at a holiday party. Hes wearing a silly sweater with a snowman whose
knit scarf protrudes from the front of the shirt. Bridgets wearing
a similar sweater and bang its love.
The next scene dramatizes Bridgets fantasy about Mark. Shes running through a green field in slow motion. The camera cuts to the other side of the field. Mark is running toward her, also in slow motion.
Thus begins the journey into Bridgets latest adventure, and her
wild daydreams, and her crazy ideations, which the camera captures, sometimes
in a blur, sometimes with a concrete symbol of her emotions. For instance,
when her relationship with Mark seems to be falling apart, she envisions
a tombstone that reads Bridget Jones, Spinster, 1975-2050.
In one scene Bridget is high on mushrooms and wades out into the ocean.
The camera captures her high with blurred images. The soundtrack catches
the slow bass of Daniels distorted voice as he calls to her from
the shore. Back on the shore, Bridget reaches out to Daniel, miscalculates
and winds up hugging herself, tipping over and falling face-first into
If anyone can pull off such wackiness, its Renee Zellweger (who plays Bridget). Shes mastered the clueless look of an eternally hopeful underdog, and shes fun to watch. We want to cheer for her when she falls down or walks into a roomful of prominent businessmen with "schmutz" on her face. The male supporting actors are simply the straight men for her shenanigans. Hugh Grant and Colin Firth manage these one-note roles well, Grant playing a buffoonish playboy and Firth the good but uptight boyfriend.
Both men are handsome enough that watching them eat paste would be treat enough for some viewers. Though the plot of this film journeys to the treacherous edge of reason, the attractive and likeable actors, a good chunk of the dialogue, and the wacky visuals, make the trip worth the time and the price of a ticket. (R) Rating: 3; Posted 11/12/04
The children of neighboring towns would sing the derisive chant, Zelary-celery,
chicken sh smellery. In other words, Zelary, a tiny village
in rural Czechoslovakia is not exactly a tourist destination.
The narrative involves a beautiful young medical student from Prague
named Eliska, played by Anna Geislerova (Let Us Sing a Song). When
the Nazis shut down the universities, Eliska takes work as a nurse in
a city hospital.
As a sideline, Eliska and her surgeon lover also work in the resistance.
When the Nazis catch on, the doctor flees the country and Eliska must
find a place to hide. Her fellow resistance members arrange for her to
take refuge with one of her patients. Joza, played by Hungarian actor
Gyorgy Cserhalmi (Mephisto), was injured in a logging accident
and was saved by a transfusion from Eliska, the only person with a matching
To escape the pesky Krauts, Eliska must assume a new identity, marry
Joza and relocate to his remote mountain cabin near Zelary. Trouble is,
Joza is twice Eliskas age and is an uneducated and uncultured hick.
In addition, she may have to stay with him for years and hope that no
one gets wise to her true identity.
Although Eliska initially suffers from culture shock and reluctance to
share a bed with the uncouth Joza, she warms to him over time. Joza proves
to be a kind-hearted gentle giant who takes her under his wing and ultimately
wins her affection.
Naturally, things are hardly perfect. There are brutish village men who
want to take advantage of the new young beauty in their midst. The war
intrudes even in this rural area, and the villagers have reason to fear
soldiers on both sides. Eliskas medical expertise comes in very
handy in this harsh locale.
The chemistry between Geislerova and Cserhalmi evolves in a realistic fashion, and their mutual dependence provides the film with its heart. Although Zelary is part of an avalanche of WWII era films, its honest sentiment sets it apart. (R) Rating: 3.5; Posted 11/12/04
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