PETER PAN (A-2, PG): Young Wendy Darling (Rachel
Hurd-Wood) tells stories about pirates to her younger brothers,
John (Harry Newell) and Michael (Freddie Popplewell) every night
in London. While watching the children act out the stories, their
parents (Jason Isaacs, Olivia Williams) start to make plans for
A young boy named Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter) travels
far to listen to Wendy’s stories from outside. One night he sneaks
through the window with a jealous fairy named Tinkerbell (Ludivine
Sagnier) and loses his shadow. After Wendy sews the shadow back
on for him, Peter invites her and her brothers to his home, Neverland,
where no one has to grow up.
Off they fly over London’s rooftops, free from adult rules. What
they get are a group of Lost Boys and friendly Indians on the light
side and great adventures with scary mermaids and a gigantic crocodile
with a time problem. There’s also a decidedly unpleasant and grumpy
pirate with a steel claw for his hand, Captain Hook (also played
by Jason Isaacs), and his unsavory band of sword-wielding pirates.
Wendy must decide if she wants to grow up or not, to stay in Neverland
or go home.
Australian director P.J. Hogan and Michael Goldenberg
co-wrote the script and based it closely on the original play by
J. M. Barrie. This year marks the centenary of its first stage production
in London. For the first time a young boy has been cast in the role
of Peter Pan, rather than a middle-aged woman or an animated character.
Director Hogan says that he wanted to make this real-life
version because it is “thematically rich and psychologically profound.”
This film is more like a traditional fairy tale than more recent
Disney animated productions (e.g., mermaids and the Sirens of Greek
mythology had a lot in common—they lured sailors to their death).
This story, however, provides a safe space for parents and children
to talk about some important life issues, including fears for the
future, which will vary by family and children’s ages.
I have always believed in fairies. Do you? Adventure action sequences and peril. This version may be the best so far, despite Peter’s American accent.
BIG FISH (A-2, PG-13): As a child, Edward Bloom sees the
manner of his death in the glass eye of a witch. He then spends
years confined to bed because of an odd growth spurt. “If goldfish
are kept in a small bowl, they will remain small. With more space,
the fish can double, triple or quadruple its size,” he reads from
the encyclopedia. Edward lives in his imagination and we wonder
throughout the film if he becomes the fish he has read about.
When he is 18, Edward (Ewan McGregor, played by Albert
Finney as he grows older) wrestles a huge fish, meets a friendly
giant, visits a mythical town with its suspiciously numinous characters,
joins a very odd circus and meets the love of his life, Sandra (Alison
Lohman, played by Jessica Lange as she grows older). Edward greets
each encounter with generosity and humanity.
As Edward nears death, his only son, Will (Billy
Crudup), challenges him to “tell the truth” because he thinks his
father has told him only lies. Edward always answers questions with
a story, which irritates his son. Alas. Will, a reporter, doesn’t
have a clue about the nature of his father’s stories and how they
This incredibly fantastical tale falls right in the
tradition, visual and fairy-tale style of director Tim Burton (Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands)
with hints of Forrest Gump
and even The Princess Bride.
Watch it through a faith lens that sees Christian imagery (whether
the writers and Burton intended it or not) from churches, to the
sacramental signs woven throughout: the river and baptism, fidelity
to marriage and the wedding ring, fire, confirmation and adulthood,
reconciliation, eucharist in the sharing of food, community as church,
the fish and so on.
This is the story of a father’s life. “It doesn’t make
sense and most probably never happened.” Maybe, but it’s never boring!
Rich imagery; a fight scene; some images of
THE LAST SAMURAI (A-3, R): Set in San Francisco in 1876,
a washed-out U.S. Cavalry man who fought Indians, Nathan Algren
(Tom Cruise), his former commanding officer, Col. Bagley (Tony Goldwyn)
and a sergeant, Zebulon Gant (Billy Connolly), are offered non-combatant
jobs by a greedy political emissary from Japan, Omura (Masato Harada).
They are to modernize the emperor’s army: The Japanese soldiers
will have to change from fighting with swords to fighting with guns.
Algren hates Bagley because of his cruel behavior in the Indian
wars. Algren hates himself even more for his own dishonorable actions.
After they arrive in Japan, Col. Bagley orders Algren to lead the
men into battle against a group of insurgent samurai led by one of the
emperor’s ministers, Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). These samurai believe they are
fighting on the emperor’s side against the customs and greed of Westernization
that the other imperial ministers support. In battle, the new Japanese army is
unprepared and Algren is captured.
As Algren recovers in the almost idyllic haven of the samurai and
their families, he and Katsumoto become friends. Algren wonders about these
samurai who “devote themselves utterly to a set of moral principles.” The
cherry blossoms symbolize life and the hereafter.
This first-rate film will evoke comparisons with westerns, from
the classic The Magnificent Seven to
more contemporary releases such as Dances
With Wolves. The tense early relationship between Algren and Katsumoto
models the struggle within that traditional culture over gains and losses by
letting in outside influences.
Even though the film shows the Japan of the 1870s dealing with
the violent force of war rather than political process as the way to social
change, current affairs play in our consciousness. We may legitimately ask why
the cost of Westernizing the world continues to be high if it is such a good
thing; why is the world always at war; and what is the role that economics play
in this never-ending tragedy of globalization without guidance? The difference
between the film and real life is, of course, that the movie finds some
resolution. Deserves to be an Oscar
contender; some battle violence and cruelty.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (A-3, PG-13):
“I cannot carry the Ring, Mr. Frodo, but I can carry you,” Sam tells
his friend. These are words that may go down in cinema history because
they represent the entire tale of friends who set out to save the
world against immense odds.
The hobbits Frodo and Sam, along with the complex and
conflicted Gollum, are almost at the Crack of Doom. Aragorn embraces
his kingship, more battles are fought and won, they overcome a giant
spider and their epic journey reaches its climax.
The tale comes full circle when the fellowship starts
a new life after the members return from their great adventure.
New Zealand director Peter Jackson’s concluding film of this literate
literary trilogy, based on the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, is its heart.
Well worth the 200 minutes.
MY WIFE AND KIDS (ABC, Wednesdays): Damon Wayans plays the
role of Michael, an old-fashioned, pseudo-macho husband and father
with three kids who handles contemporary issues with humorous angst.
Though not all viewers will be comfortable with the situations or
agree with the solutions, it can be very funny getting there.
(ABC, Fridays): George is a manufacturing-plant manager whose home
life, with wife Angie, daughter Carmen and son Max, is complicated
by the interference of his tactless mom. Now in its second season,
this is the only primetime network comedy series about a Latino
family. Mom grates at times, but the show can be amusing.
HACK (CBS, Saturdays): This second-season crime drama is
about Mike Olshansky (David Morse), a Philadelphia cop turned cab
driver who goes about helping people solve personal problems and
crimes in order to redeem himself. Basically a good man, Mike has
lost his wife and son because of his fall from grace.