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The Polar Express

See the 3-D version...
An amazing film -- when you see it on an IMAX screen in 3-D.

Though the film is somewhat lacking in story and not nearly as good as the book (by the same author as "Jumanji"), there are certainly elements of the original story that are faithful to the original theme.

Peter Scolari is resurrected from the 'Bosom Buddies' days of Mr. Hanks' legacy -- though the character he portrays is a dead ringer for Eric Per Sullivan from 'Malcolm in the Middle.'

In the end credits Michael Jeter is the second person listed -- though he died over a year ago -- yet he had only a secondary part so listing him right after Tom Hanks was an homage to who he was; not what he contributed to the film.

From very nearly the first scene in movie (at least in the 3-D version) you will be astounded.

Everyone will have a favorite scene in which the special effects reign; for me it was not the train ride or the slide, it was all the elves ... how the animator could keep them all so individual yet so real.

However, there is too much schmaltz and an obvious striving for a "message" that gets in the way.

"Peter Pan" and other films have done it better: Believe and it will happen.

It has been done and said before -- in better and more entertaining ways.

Not horrible -- but definitely a children's movie.


Intelligent bio-pic for the thinking person.
Cary Grant played Cole Porter in the first filmed biography of the life of Cole Porter with Alexis Smith as his loving wife, Linda in the film `Night and Day.'

With no disrespect to Mr. Grant and Ms Smith, Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd are far superior in this account of the trying life and turbulent times of Cole and Linda.

A novel approach was used to film this clever movie… The ever talented and under appreciated Jonathan Pryce plays a character named Gabe that acts much like a Greek chorus; he comes to Cole Porter shortly before his demise and escorts him through the events of his life.

The film looks unflinchingly at Mr. Porter's bisexuality, his drinking and his self-doubts; and also at the unflagging mutual love and affection Cole and Linda had in their unconventional marriage. One historical inaccuracy in this film is that Linda was considerably older than Cole.

The music is handled and staged magnificently with everyone from Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette to Elvis Costello and Natalie Cole performing his songs in appropriate settings.

The costumes (Janty Yates) and settings (Eve Stewart, Production Design and John Bush, Set Decoration) are perfect -- completely evoking the time and milieu in which the film is set. The jewelry worn by Ms Judd as Linda is spectacular.

Special kudos to Sarah Monzani for her makeup design. Both Mr. Kline and Ms Judd age dramatically throughout the film and their makeup is flawless.

While this is certainly a romanticized depiction of a complex genius this film does much to enlighten the audience as to the multifaceted brilliance of a man that lived for fun and for music.

This is not a film for everyone -- but for someone that wants something other than special effects laden nonsense this may be the film for you.

Latter Days

The best independent film I have seen is a long time.
This is the basic love story but with a twist: can a young Mormon on his church mandated mission survive unchanged in Los Angeles.

In the first few minutes of the film when Elder Aaron Davis -- the young Mormon on the mission, superbly played by newcomer Steve Sandvoss -- is in a cab on his way to his new home there is a person with a placard by the side of the road with the inscription `Entering Hell.' It may be true.

It turns out that Elder Davis' next door neighbor is a very attractive gay party animal named Christian. How's that for irony?

Christian works as a waiter at one of those trendy LA bistros named `Lila's' -- owned by Lila Montagne -- the superb Jacqueline Bisset who has one of the best lines in the whole film; she is talking to Aaron when she says `Your church doesn't like alcohol or homosexuals. Hmm. Well, I definitely won't be joining. Can't imagine Heaven without both.'

After having many doors slammed in their faces Elder Davis and his mission partner, Elder Paul Ryder -- brilliantly acted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Third Rock from the Sun) -- encounter Lila who needs a sympathetic ear.

As Lila says at one point `I don't believe in coincidence.'

Eric Palladino (ER) is unrecognizable as an AIDS patient -- you will not believe it is he.

Through a series of twists of fate Christian discovers that Aaron is the man he has been waiting for and goes to great lengths to ensure that they will be together.

Mary Kay Place is the Mother From Hell to Aaron -- she is at her most unsympathetic best.

There are many plot twists and turns and quite a bit of suspense when you are uncertain of the fate of Aaron.

But the film does end on a satisfying note.

I saw this film with a friend that just happens to be a gay Mormon -- and while the Mormon Church no longer excommunicates people for their sexual orientation -- most of the rest of the situation was pretty much true to life.

This is an excellent film with superb music that helps to develop the story and move the plot to a final conclusion.

You really should see it.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Oh Brad, Oh Janet!
I was lucky enough to see this film in a test audience WAY back when it was first released...

I loved it then and I love it now.

I knew that it was a filmed version of a stage play and that made it all the more fascinating; simply because filming something that has been on the stage and making it work is always a challenge and is very rarely successful... but it certainly worked this time.

No one knew who Susan Sarandon or Barry Bostwick were; now of course they are both major forces in film and television.

I wonder if now they are embarrassed by this small but important film.

Even to this day, when I hear or see "Rocky" I am impelled to get up and dance or sing along with the film -- something that did not happen when I first viewed it. But shortly after my first viewing -- when it was still a fairly unknown film -- people started reacting to what they saw on the screen...

The first hint that this was a very special film came when a woman in the audience clicked finger cymbals together at an entirely appropriate moment -- I was enchanted and amazed -- this was audience participation on a level I had never experienced before.

As time went one -- as it seems to do -- audience participation grew and grew; until what was happening in front of the screen was as important was what was actually on the screen.

This is probably the first film where audience participation grew to be as important as the film itself.

I must admit that I do miss the quiet nights where a person could sit in the dark and just watch an amazing film without someone with a squirt gun or toast or cards is compelled to 'add' to an already brilliant film.

See this one at home and be amazed -- then see it in a public venue and be even more amazed.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Beyond epic.
Faithful to the original book(s) by J.R.R. Tolkien this is an amazing achievement by director Peter Jackson and a crew of thousands -- well, at least hundreds.

Visually stunning and amazingly photographed this film is a complete visual treat. Much of the credit has to go to the dazzling editing -- seamlessly fitting several stories into one thematic whole.

Much of what the viewer sees has been laid out in the books -- but it takes genius to realize the ideas and imagination and follow it so faithfully.

While there are endless battle scenes, Director Jackson has a way of personalizing the struggles of the individual. Because of this ability to personalize the, at times, overwhelming and seemingly endless scenes of battle are put in a more individual scale and makes them more accessible to the audience.

This is a story of how absolute power corrupts absolutely -- and how even the desire of absolute power can corrupt. This is also a story of how an individual can make a difference and how friendship, self-sacrifice and brotherhood will persevere.

Composer Howard Shore does an exemplary job of making the music fit the scene; using individual instruments to play upon emotions and the brilliant use of the human voice as an instrument.

The `Wizard of Oz' came to mind a couple of times both visually and thematically. I could almost hear `I am the great and powerful Oz!'

Miranda Otto does an outstanding job as Eowyn; remember: when you want a job done right send a woman to do it.

Elijah Wood is exceptional as Frodo; showing the inner turmoil and obsession with possessing The Ring.

Andy Serkis as Gollum/Smeagal is superb -- he embodies the power that The Ring has over the individual and how it possesses them body and soul.

Even though this film is 3 hours and 21 minutes long the audience is always completely caught up in the action and adventure -- a stunning achievement.

There are not enough superlatives to accurately convey the brilliance of this film -- it is one that will live forever in the hearts of all that see it.

Intolerable Cruelty

Enjoyable, clever and, at times, witty romp attempting to capture the screwball comedies of the 30's and 40's.

George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones do not have the chemistry of Hepburn and Tracy but it is not for lack of effort. They are sharp in their recreations of the charm that Katharine and Spencer portrayed oh-so-effortlessly but the charisma that the afore-mentioned actors had is somewhat lacking.

This is a completely enjoyable film -- with some very good laugh-out-loud set-ups -- at least the audience did have some good guffaws.

Ms Zeta-Jones is an amazingly attractive woman. Mr Clooney is as striking as she is; this goes a long way in making the audience like them -- as actors -- if not as Marilyn Rexroth and Miles Massey.

The `screwball comedies' of an earlier era at least attempted to make some kind of social statement (Dinner at Eight, My Man Godfrey and even Ninotchka); this film, while entertaining, only comments on the greed and avarice of a particular character.

You will know how it ends before it does.

While certainly not the best of this season's films -- it is not a waste of the price of admission and should be seen for the piece of fluff that it is.

I did enjoy it.

Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde

Ms Woods Goes to Washington
This is a much better film than people are willing to give credit for.

Audiences saw the first "Legally Blonde" and wanted a repeat -- well this is not a formulaic repeat but instead a sequel that hopefully will make viewers think.

There was a very strong message here: how does the legislative branch of American Government work? And more important how does it not work?

The ever-idealistic Elle Woods goes to Washington, DC, to make a point and, at first, fails miserably. But the right shall win out!

Sally Field plays her nemesis -- always seeming to support -- but is she really? Quite an interesting departure from the "goody-two-shoes" that Ms Field usually plays: "I'll get you and your little doggie too."

Jennifer Coolidge reprises her original role -- and is painfully reduced to a bit part rather than the hilarious character that should have been written.

When Elle visits the Lincoln Monument there is an evocation of the greatest of dumb blond films -- "Born Yesterday" -- for which Judy Holliday won the Best Actress Oscar. I am not willing to say that Ms Witherspoon's performance is on a par with Judy Holliday's; but the mise-en-scene and the overall feel of the moment are exactly right.

The photography of Washington, DC, was probably the best I have ever seen... We have all seen pictures of the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial -- but not in the vision that they were photographed for this film. They took on the otherworldly image that they should always be imbued with -- they became more real than real -- if possible.

Do not sell this film short just because it is different from the first... Viewers made that mistake with "The Thin Man" films too... This is (or should be) a long-running franchise that will continue to entertain for years to come.

The Italian Job

Stylish. Classy. Clever.
No one can play a slimy character as well as Edward Norton and he pulls this heist off better than ever before – he is able to make the viewer admire him and even envy him, yet be utterly happy that they are NOT him.

This re-make of the 1969 film of the same name with Michael Caine and Noel Coward is far superior to the original – rare in this day of endless copies and re-makes.

Mark Wahlberg plays the character that Michael Caine originally acted – and while Wahlberg is certainly not an actor of the same ilk as Caine is he is certainly more entertaining in this role than Mr. Caine was. He is written as intelligent, witty, charming and, even though Michael Caine epitomizes class, far more elegant and sophisticated than Mr. Caine was able to achieve in the initial film; kudos to Mr. Wahlberg.

Charlize Theron is what I would want Cameron Diaz to be if I were ever lucky enough to wake up next to her – sexy, intelligent and just immoral enough to make her a truly fun romp. I totally approve.

The supporting cast of crooks (Mos Def, Seth Green (!), Jason Statham and a woefully brief appearance by Donald Sutherland) is just delightfully fiendish enough to completely inveigle and entice the viewer to be completely caught up in their wicked, wicked ways.

Whenever a film starts with a catchy and compelling opening sequence I am always wary – all too often it is a way of hiding the woefully inadequate film that is to come. Fortunately, even though `The Italian Job' started out on a high note, this time it did not let me down. It started cleverly and did not disappoint.

The sound track was an absolute delight – hitting all the right elemental notes in all the right places – with themes that the viewer will recognize (in all the proper spots) mixed with new music that was completely appropriate to the action on the screen.

Action is the key word. This was a film full of encounters and excitement – with never a slow moment or a let down.

The use of the Minis as get away cars was a stroke of genius – where many screen writers or directors would have used a car a la James Bond the utilization of the not-so-exciting Minis gave an enormous sense of fun and exhilaration to the chase scenes.

`The Italian Job' is the best time I have had at the movies so far this year and I highly recommend it to any and everyone that is looking for a good time replete with action, humour, romance and wit.

Door to Door

One of the most powerful films you will ever have the privilege of viewing.
William H. Macy is Bill Porter – the door-to-door salesman for the Watkins Company deemed unemployable because of his cerebral palsy.

His performance is an actor's dream – or nightmare – depending on the actor's abilities and heart. And Mr. Macy proves he has the heart to play a difficult role with all the heart needed to make the viewer care deeply for this man who overcomes his disability to gain his own independence and sense of self.

Of course the script – co-written by Mr. Macy with director Steven Schachter – has a lot to do with his performance. But the real life story of Bill Porter is so compelling that it would be difficult to do it poorly.

While the audience is being manipulated (to a certain extent) to feel the inherent greatness that Mr. Porter has in his character the script does not shy away from his foibles and inability – and subsequent anger -- to accept what he considers to be charity.

The soundtrack was used incredibly effectively to highlight the various moods and temperaments of the action in the film – it was outstanding.

Kyra Sedgwick as Shelley Brady was outstanding as the woman he allows into his life to help him in his business; their relationship is sometimes volatile but the underlying love and respect for each other shines like a beacon.

This is an amazing film and should be required family viewing to help everyone understand that though people are all different we are all still the same.


Reinvention of the American Movie Musical
Completely prepared to not like this film (‘Moulin Rouge' being the big over-rated stinker of last year) I was astounded by the artistry and sheer spectacle of what has to be one of the best films of the year.

While Catherine Zeta-Jones has been the primary focus of the adverts, the show really belongs to Renée Zellweger. She proves she can dance, sing and act.

Ms Zellweger has a certain `Marilyn' aspect to her performance – not only in her vocal skills but in her look as well.

While Queen Latifah is granted only one big musical number on her own she astounds with a characterization of Mae West that will drop your jaw. She is more than her ‘rap' persona will ever consent to – she rocks!

There is incredible interplay of colour in this film – hot pink contrasting with cool blue to send a message of what is right and what is wrong – theoretically.

The music by Fred Ebb and John Kander is timeless – true classics – though contemporary composer Danny Elfman (`Rugrats' amongst many other titles) provides his own sense of artistry.

Everyone (providing none of the singing voices were dubbed) can sing his or her heart out… While Ms Zellweger is not the greatest vocalist ever she certainly knows how to sell a song and make you believe that she is the ‘woman wronged.'

The ‘Greek chorus' of the ‘women behind bars' is absolutely astounding – providing not just a couple of great musical numbers but also supplying a story line that helps to move everything along… They can also dance like no one else I have ever seen.

Richard Gere is utilized as much as his talent allows – not a lot – but enough to make the story work.

My primary concern before I saw this film was `Please, don't wreck the story.' Not only was the story ‘not wrecked' this is one of the best films I have seen this year.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Epic film making at its most spectacular.
Director Peter Jackson has taken an `un-filmable' story and produced a true epic rich in the fantasy and myth that are inherent in the J.R.R. Tolkien books. There are naysayers out there that complain that the film doesn't follow the books – but it does – allowing for the vast scope and panorama of the original stories.

The characters look and act exactly as I remember them from the books and the settings and scenes are far greater than what my poor imagination was ever able to conjure up.

I was entirely prepared to not like this film; I was not completely sold on the first one. But Peter Jackson (director) and his wife Frances Walsh (screenwriter) have obviously poured their hearts and souls into this project – not to mention years of their lives and the effort shows.

There are so many sub-plots and interconnected stories that it is near impossible to keep them all straight – but the tightly woven screenplay and the brilliant editing make it all work marvelously. There is not a miss-step or false note in the entire film.

There were a couple of scenes that looked as if they could have been lifted right out of that other modern fairy tale: `The Wizard of Oz' but for the most part everything seemed original and fresh.

Howard Shore's original score adds greatly to the overall feel of the film. It rises spectacularly at peak moments with a ‘chorus of thousands' lending their talents and subsides quietly at moments of peace and tenderness.

The Production Design and Art Direction (Grant Major and Peter Joe Bleakley, respectively) add to the grandeur and range that the film reaches for. The luminous cinematography by Andrew Lesnie (not to mention the spectacular New Zealand settings) enhances the mystical and ‘other-worldly' quality that the films strives for and achieves.

This is a tightly woven piece of modern film making that should inspire filmmakers everywhere to strive for the best and hopefully, achieve it.

Two Weeks Notice

No real surprises ...
but that doesn't make this a bad film -- it is a typical romantic comedy and should be viewed with that in mind.

Sandra Bullock seems to have found her forte in comedy – this small movie with an obviously large budget was produced by her and has many of the same elements of her other hit production `Miss Congeniality' – including the same writer: Marc Lawrence (who also directed this time around).

Since the character that Hugh Grant plays is multi-millionaire there would be an obvious need for expensive production values: the beautiful apartment in New York City, limousines and a private helicopter. However, they do not overwhelm – they are there because they should be.

It is nice the Sandra Bullock's character is not in awe of all the trappings of the ultra-wealthy but instead falls for the man and not the money.

This is Sandra and Hugh's film – they are in every scene and mostly together. However the film could probably have used another comic foil along the lines of Michael Caine's ‘Mr Vic' in `Miss Congeniality' to relieve the pressure a bit.

The music was especially good – with old standards being re-recorded and used extremely effectively.

Ms Bullock and Mr Grant do have good screen chemistry together – not as great as William Powell and Myrna Loy in the `Thin Man' films or Tracy and Hepburn in their many films together – but it does work and since this is their first outing together maybe the chemistry will continue to grow if they make more films together.

Star Trek: Nemesis

Darkest of "The Next Generation" films.
This, the latest in the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" series of films, is the darkest and least humorous of the films that have come out of 'The Next Generation' – and probably the entire "Star Trek" franchise.

It does open warm, fuzzy and funny but it very quickly slides into a dark and violent situation with overtones of the `Mad Max' films.

While Tom Hardy does a superb job as Praetor Shinzon it takes quite a stretch of the imagination to believe that he is who he says he is.

Whoopi Goldberg reprises her `Guinan' character for all too brief a scene – it would have been great to see more of her.

Marina Sirtis turns in what is probably her best acting job in any of the films or the television show from which her character arose.

While the art direction and special effects are better than in any previous `Star Trek' film the over all look is dark and ominous – but that is the theme of this film – so it works.

All of the primaries of the television series (with the exception of Patrick Stewart once again as Captain Jean-Luc Picard) are pretty much under-utilized, do not have very strong story lines and are there primarily because they would be missed if they were not.

This is a gripping and compelling story with real moments of edge-of-your seat dread – but I hope it is not the last of what is, for the most part, a great series of films; it would be a pretty sad way to end the franchise

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Not a sequel -- but a continuation.
Just as exciting as the first film this episode adds more humour and darkness to the story.

With most of the same actors as the first film this latest edition of the `Harry Potter' franchise is just as visually exciting -- if not more so.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint reprise their roles as the talented young magicians enrolled at the Hogwart School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman and David Bradley return as the professors and staff at the school and are just as good as they were in the first -- though more of the focus of this episode is on the characters of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.

Kenneth Branaugh is a delightful addition to the cast as the egotistical and very inept Gilderoy Lockhart.

The overall look and visual appeal is different -- though just as brilliantly executed as the first film.

Once again the genius of John Williams provides the superb score that underlies the action and mood of the film.

It was nice to see the film open with the very unsympathetic characters of Harry's Uncle, Aunt and cousin -- they added a strong link to the first film that would have been sorely missed were it not there.

Christopher Columbus would seem to be a marvelous director of children's films -- apparently he understands the awe and amazement that a child would have if they were in situations similar to the ones that our heroes are in.

This installment of the franchise is much darker and a great deal scarier than the first -- just as the book was. I am not sure if it is suitable for all children; but if your children are mature enough to realize that this is just a film and they will not wake up screaming with visions of giant spiders and snakes -- then it will be appropriate for them.

Punch-Drunk Love

Punch drunk...

One of these days I will learn why Adam Sandler is able to make truly bad movies and actually get paid for them.

This is a movie -- certainly not a ‘film' -- that has no redeeming qualities.

It would be polite to describe the photography as amateurish; but I find that I am not that polite.

The soundtrack is grating, annoying and does nothing to help this poorly conceived piece of tripe have any kind of redeeming value.

The characters are beyond redemption and are unforgivable in their loathsomeness.

Even the `story' -- such as it is -- is absolute rubbish.

Save your money -- or even better -- as I was walking out of my local theater they just refunded my admission price for the pain and suffering I went through.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

It's all about family.
Love it, hate it or just accept it, we are all members of a family, be it large or small.

Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos, who also wrote the screenplay) is a member of a large extended family -- one that marries, makes babies and eats. That is after all the raison d'etre of a Greek family -- at least according to Ms Vardalos -- to breed and eat.

There is an undeniable understatement of love in her big, fat, Greek family. In spite of how much they may make her uncomfortable (as an `Americanized' Greek) they -- and she -- share unconditional love.

This is exemplified by her support of her brother in his search for a life outside the family restaurant business and her desire for a relationship with a ‘xeno' (non-Greek or a foreigner to her father).

John Corbett, in his best role yet, as the ‘xeno,' is destined to fulfill both her needs and his. Their first meeting when she is still `slump girl' is a meeting that should go down in film history.

Ms. Vardalos deserves an award for her transformation from `schlump' to royalty (ugly duckling to swan princess). Never before have I seen an actor transition from such an unattractive personality into a character with such beauty and grace.

This is a near-flawless film: every character is brilliantly cast, the photography is evocative of an earlier age of filmmaking and the score is a treasure of sounds seldom heard by most audiences.

The casting of Andrea Martin, Lainie Kazan, Michael Constantine, and yes, even Joey Fatone (of the boy band ‘NSync) is unparalleled genius.

The history behind how this film was produced and made is as fascinating as the film itself -- miracles do still happen in Hollywood.

This is going to be the best film of this year because it tells a wonderful, honest story about people and their relationships to each other -- with a great deal of love and family values woven in to make it far above the norm. In other words... See It!

Austin Powers in Goldmember

Utterly lacking in charm, wit or humour.
While I certainly don't expect sophistication from Mike Myers the tiniest bit of wit or charm would have been appreciated.

With endless pratfalls and jokes that I stopped laughing at when I was still in grade school this mess has to be one of the worst films I have ever seen.

The Austin Powers franchise has definitely been played out and deserves to be buried -- deep.

There are innumerable cameos by good actors that really should have known better.

It amazed me how a fat paycheck will allow actors to permit themselves to be humiliated beyond belief.

One surprising bright spot was Beyoncé Knowles as Foxy Cleopatra bringing, at least, beauty and sly humour to an otherwise thankless part.

There was a second bright spot -- when `The End' flashed on the screen.

Stuart Little 2

"Put a little love in your heart..."
... is the song that opens this, the newest film in the Stewart Little franchise... and the ‘little' part is entirely intentional.

While not quite as enchanting as the first in the series it has its own unique appeal.

Michael J Fox, Geena Davis, Jonathan Lipnicki and the incomparable Hugh Laurie are reprised as the Little family. They live in an anachronistic single-family dwelling in the heart of New York City -- fixed in a time warp of an unknown, enchanting era. The appliances and furnishings in their charmingly out-of-date dwelling are perfect for that time-out-of-space feeling that is necessary to appreciate this film.

The entire score is perfectly suited to the action on screen -- always enhancing the story and the exploits that are occurring.

Nathan Lane is back as the voice of Snowbell, the cat and a new addition is James Woods as the Falcon. Melanie Griffith is adequate as the little-bird-lost ‘Margalo.'

There are times in this version when Stuart looks somewhat more like a rodent than in the past -- not something that is particularly agreeable in a character that the audience is supposed to feel a connection to; however, the overall look of the computer generated image/puppet will evoke the warm fuzzies in most everyone.

There is some adult humour and quite a bit of slapstick -- so this film should appeal to everyone in the audience.

The chase scene between Falcon and Stewart when he is in his airplane is somewhat reminiscent of the Steve McQueen film `Bullitt' -- though, of course, on a much lighter level.

This really is an enjoyable summer film -- pure escapism and a lot of fun.

Lilo & Stitch

Ohana: family.
If you choose to believe in the Disney tradition of family and all that it stands for, then this is THE film to see this year.

Clever, charming, funny and witty are just pieces of what makes this film so good. The other parts are brilliant animation, superb background work and a sound track that is second to none.

Not since the Disney film `Dumbo' has watercolour been used as background -- and never more effectively.

The use of watercolour goes beyond effective -- it is magnificent. The backgrounds of the scenes envelop and surround the viewer with warmth and familiarity -- even if you have never been to Hawai'i.

The voice casting is surprising -- yet so appropriate: Tia Carrere as Nani, Kevin McDonald as Pleakley, David Ogden Stiers as Jumba and the incomparable Ving Rhames as Cobra Bubbles ‘the enforcer' are all completely correct. As a film watcher you could not ask for anything more. The only credit missing is Daveigh Chase as Lilo -- the heart and soul of this great film.

There is much to praise here: the story, the animation, the soundtrack and all that makes a truly good film but suffice it to say that this if a film that you really do need to see. It will bring laughs to both children and adults and tears to anyone that has ever had an emotion.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Southern Fried Insanity.
With a superb cast and an outstanding novel on which to base this marvelous film how could anything possibly go wrong?

All Girl Productions, Bette Midler's production company, doesn't exactly have an stupendous track record with films like `For the Boys,' `That Old Feeling' and `Man of the House.' The one lone big winner was `Beaches.' AGP also produced Ms Midler's short-lived television show, ‘Bette' which really never took off. But they have another great film in `Divine Secrets...'

Casting was the key to making this film work on the level that the novel achieved. Sandra Bullock and James Garner look like they belong together; their onscreen chemistry was incredible. It was easy to believe they were father and daughter.

Ellen Burstyn as Sidilee's (Sandra Bullock) mother was a study in elegant, insane alcoholism with Ashley Judd playing her younger self. Both were incredible.

Maggie Smith was splendid as the oxygen tank-toting Caro. She had some of the funniest and most incisive lines.

The soundtrack (for the most part) added to the Southern ambience with one Zydeco number being particularly exceptional at evoking the entire Southern Experience.

The photography was excellent -- the settings and locales were used to the utmost.

Since the supporting story is told in a series of flashbacks there are times that people in the audience were a bit confused at to exactly what was going on... Maybe they should go back and see it again.

This is a true ensemble film and the Four Sisters of the Ya-Ya were completely believable as being friends from childhood. They were all great together and individually.

This may not be a film for everyone -- but it is for anyone that has ever had a mother that they didn't really understand.

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

If you have any desire to see this film -- see it in a theater.
This film is just too huge to wait to see at home -- even with the best home theater system.

The panoramas, the sets, the scope, the battles and especially the SOUND will just not work anywhere but in a theater. So see it in a theater and hopefully, in a state-of-the-art theater with a digital projector and all the sound equipment that the amazing score by John Williams deserves.

This is the film that clarifies many of the plot points in the other films in the Star Wars franchise -- to date it is the most important film as far as explaining what happened long ago in that `galaxy far, far away.'

Since this film attempts to shed light on some of the gaps that left the audience wondering -- especially in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, there is quite a bit of lengthy exposition. However, not all of it is necessary; a bit of judicious cutting would have been helpful.

There is an obvious attempt to exonerate the pitiful character of Jar-Jar Binks -- he has little screen time and when he does appear he is much less annoying and more effective as a plot device.

Christopher Lee is his spooky best as Count Dooku, the Jedi that has fallen to the dark side. He can always be relied on for an outstanding performance.

Natalie Portman (now Senator Padmé Amidala) has grown -- both as an actress and a character. She is surprisingly athletic and very easy to watch.

Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) continues to develop into who Sir Alec Guinness became in the 1977 Star Wars film that introduced the franchise.

Unfortunately the only thing that Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker) has going for him is his look. He is not an actor -- yet. He was the weakest element in the film.

This is a huge, glorious film that will become just one piece in the Lucas Masterwork. I can't wait for the completed totality.

Ice Age

Great fun for everyone that has a sense of humour.
With a relatively small budget for an animated film of only $60 million the people at Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios have done an incredible job.

They have combined state-of-the-art digital animation, the perfectly cast voice talents of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Dennis Leary (among many others) to create a highly entertaining, family film with a strong message about cooperation, friendship and caring for your fellow herd members. And how sometimes it takes many different creatures to make up a herd.

While watching this film I got a strong political message about getting along with the people that share your space -- maybe it should be required viewing for all world leaders!

David Newman -- yet another member of the Newman family of Hollywood composers -- provides a superb score that is not intrusive yet serves to move the action along and, at times, is positively toe tapping.

The overall look of the film is incredible; an intensely coloured, strangely believable fantasyland of snow, geysers, mud, rocks and ice. The individual characters were delightfully believable too, with the facial expressions of Ray Romano's ‘Manfred' being a particular treat.

The entire sequence with the DoDos will leave no doubt as to where the expression `Dumb as a DoDo comes from.'

This is a good family film that keeps the things that could alarm or frighten children pretty much sanitized -- but real nonetheless.

It would be a great movie to see in the theater and to buy for home.


The sequel is already in the works.
Peter Parker is supposed to be -- at least pre-spider bite -- a nerdy wallflower with little personality. That being the case Tobey McGuire was casting genius.

I wanted very much to like the big-screen adaptation of the Marvel Comics hero `Spider-Man.' I'm not sure why but I was disappointed.

The score by Danny Elfman was good -- but only in places.

The script was entertaining -- but not consistently so.

The photography was sometimes great -- but again, only at times.

I believe that is why `Spider-Man' didn't win me over: It was inconsistent.

The action scenes -- particularly when Spidey was flying through the air with the help of his self-generated webs -- moved too fast, taking away some of the Gee-Whiz factor.

James Franco -- the son of the Green Goblin/Norman Osborn, played by Willem Dafoe -- though up to the part was probably cast because of his cheekbones, making him actually look like he could be Mr. Dafoe's progeny.

Kirsten Dunst was the best thing in the movie. Not to put too fine a point on things but especially for the scene in the rain and that sweater.

There was lots of violence with a message that violence, in and of itself, can solve problems; not something I would want to teach a child.

The movie seemed longer than its official run time of 121 minutes -- not a good sign.

Not everything about this movie was bad. Watching Peter Parker discover his new body and how he fumbled with learning to use his new powers was entertaining and the nice update of a genetically enhanced spider (from a radioactive spider in the comic book) was a good touch. The animation sequences were wonderful with the touch of the genius that is Stan Lee.

If you are going to see this movie you should probably see it on the big screen -- or in the very least on a widescreen DVD -- the action is not going to fit on a small television set.

Six Feet Under

Arguably the best hour on television.
From the haunting opening strains of the incredible theme music by Thomas Newman (part of The Fabulous Newman Boys, Alfred, Lionel, Emil, David and Oscar-winner Randy -- probably the most talented Hollywood musical family ever) to the scene of the death that will be this week's ‘client' of the Fisher family funeral home you know that you are in for a different type of viewing experience.

The amazing Alan Ball has put together a staggering ensemble of actors, directors, writers, photographers and editors that, without fail, present one of the finest hours on television. The make-up department deserves a special commendation for the work they do on the sometimes horribly mutilated ‘corpses' of the ‘clients.'

Peter Krause (Nate Fisher) who did such an excellent job in `Sports Night' and worked with Mr. Ball before in `Cybill' is the reluctant head of the family mortuary business. He carries the huge burden of having a potentially deadly problem with the vascular system in his brain -- and like all the Fishers -- is reluctant to share the information with the people in his life that most need to know...

Specifically his fiancée, Brenda Chenowith, Golden Globe winner Rachel Griffiths, who most Americans were introduced to in the Australian film `Muriel's Wedding.' Brenda has her own secrets -- not the least of which is the effect that one of her massage clients -- a prostitute -- seems to be having on her.

Lauren Ambrose (Claire Fisher) continues to grow weekly as a character. She is fiercely independent and just as unwilling to share her life with her family as the rest of the Fisher clan. Her bitingly satirical look at the world she grew up in comes out in her language and her on-line screen name: ICDeddPeople. (There actually is an AOL profile for that screen name which adds to the verisimilitude of her character.)

Which of course brings us to David (Michael C. Hall) the gay son and real heart of the family. David has his own demons. Occasional drug use, unsafe sex and the need to be loved for who he is -- of course following in the family trait of not telling anyone about who he really is and what consumes him.

These myriad pieces, strong characters and outstanding production values all come together brilliantly under the firm hand of Mr. Ball and provide a fascinating look into a life that we all know exists but most of us have never explored.

The tag line says it all: `Your whole life is leading up to this...'

Southern Comfort

The seasons of a man's death.
Set in the verdant yet somehow stark landscape of rural Georgia this film opens with the female-to-male transgendered subject of the film, Robert Eades, stating: `This is Bubba country.' And he is SO accurate.

This powerful film profiles transgendered people in very poor and very rural Georgia. Most of them are faced with poor or non-existent medical care by `professionals' that are, more often than not, embarrassed by their patients. These are people that are just trying to find a little happiness for themselves and receive what should be basic human rights -- and time and again they are denied those rights.

While the name of the film is "Southern Comfort," that is also the name of the annual transgender conference/convention held in Georgia. The subjects of this film survive from one day to the next for the few days each year when they know that they are not alone. As Robert states: `For once we outnumber THEM.'

Robert is in the nearly unbelievable position of being a man dying of ovarian cancer. He was unable to receive proper medical care because of the ignorance and uncaring of the doctors that were available to him. They all seemed to feel that he would be an embarrassment to their ‘medical practices.'

There are horrific examples of surgical horror stories and botched operations -- with the ghastly scars to prove it.

The interviews with the families of the subjects of the films are especially revealing:

The son of Robert Eades (from when he was a woman) can't quite keep straight whether to refer to him as a man or as his `mom.' But it is clear that he loves him deeply.

The father of Robert says: `I had a dream that my daughter would marry a man that would be President of the United States.' Never imagining for a moment that his daughter could be president. Because in his narrow and limited mind women cannot be president just as women cannot be men. He refused to have his face shown when he was interviewed.

What shines out above all else in this transcendent film about a man's life is the wisdom, wit, humour and charm of a man who the system failed. Remarkably, a man that showed no overt bitterness right up to his death in a hospice.

Lola Cola -- Roberts partner and a male-to-female transgendered person -- closes the film by saying: `Nature delights in diversity ... why can't human beings?'

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