MOUNTAIN (L, R): In July 1864, Union troops tunnel under
Confederate lines at Petersburg, Virginia, to lay explosives. Many
soldiers from Cold Mountain, North Carolina, are wounded in the
terrible battle that follows, including Inman (Jude Law). When he
has healed enough, Inman leaves the Army hospital and heads home.
Before the war, Inman became attracted to Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman),
who moved from Charleston to Cold Mountain with her preacher father
(Donald Sutherland). When Inman joins the Confederate army in 1861,
Ada promises to wait for him.
Back in Cold Mountain, Ada does a poor job tending to
their small farm after her father’s death. Then one day, Ruby Thewes
(Renée Zellweger) shows up to help—as an equal, not as a servant.
Her rustic, earthy ways make Ada come alive again. She yearns for
Among the difficulties the two women face is a man named
Teague (Ray Winstone), who wants Ada’s land. He is the leader of
the Home Guard and hunts for deserters.
During Inman’s odyssey home, he encounters traitors
in addition to kind people. This man of integrity is tired of war
and death. Like Ada, he lives in courage and hope.
Cold Mountain was written and directed by Anthony Minghella,
based on the 1997 novel by Charles Frazier. This visual masterpiece
was filmed in exquisite, visceral detail that evokes a whole range
of emotions from the viewer.
Similar to Minghella’s The English Patient in
the telling, Mountain is more accessible to the audience.
It starts in the middle of the tale, then loops back and forth gently
between Inman’s and Ada’s stories.
Although I didn’t care for Nicole’s black pantsuit costume,
this is a convincing anti-war film dressed up by a very moving and
effective love story. A true cinematic experience with ideas
and heart; intense war violence and sexuality.
BY THE DOZEN (A-2, PG): The Baker family lives in
rural Midland, Illinois. The parents are Tom (Steve Martin), a college
football coach, and Kate (Bonnie Hunt), who is just finishing a
book about raising their 12 children. These parents are not happy
that their eldest daughter, Nora (Piper Perabo), lives with her
actor boyfriend, Hank (Ashton Kutcher).
Tom accepts an offer of a prestigious job coaching football
at his old college. This means the family will have to move, which
the children protest.
When Kate heads to New York to begin a promotional tour
of her book, she leaves Tom in charge of the household. But he is
busy coaching, so Nora and Hank come to help. Family unity begins
to suffer as the children engage in various capers, and Dad’s patience
is sorely tried.
Cheaper is based on the original 1950 book
by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr., and his sister Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.
A movie was made the same year, starring Clifton Webb and Jeanne
Crain as the parents.
The new version resembles the original only in
broad strokes, so some viewers may be disappointed. The Bakers are
a thoroughly modern family, albeit a large one. They face the challenges
of dual careers and raising lively, growing children.
Ashton Kutcher as the clueless Hank is the funniest,
and Forrest Landis as the lonely son, Mark, is touching. An entertaining
enough film that will appeal to a wide audience; some problem language
and rough behavior.
AMERICA (A-3, PG-13): Johnny (Paddy Considine), Sarah
(Samantha Morton) and their two young daughters, Christy (Sarah
Bolger) and Ariel (Emma Bolger) immigrate from Ireland to the United
States in the 1980s. They are grieving the death of their youngest
The family settles in a run-down Manhattan tenement,
where their neighbors are drug addicts and an African immigrant
named Mateo (Djimon Hounsou). Mateo, a “man who screams,” is dying.
At first, the Irish family is wary of him, but he turns out to be
their true friend.
Johnny is an unemployed actor and Sarah works as a waitress.
Their children are enrolled at a Catholic school. As the family
struggles to adjust and exist, they are haunted by Frankie’s death.
Director Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father)
co-wrote the screenplay with his daughters, Naomi and Kirsten. It
is loosely based on their own experience.
This poignant film showcases some wonderful talent by
all the principal characters. The Bolger sisters as Ariel and Christy
are natural and very effective. Ariel is a delightful, chatty sprite
for most of the film. Christy narrates the story but speaks little,
using a camcorder as a way to remember.
The line that moved me the most was when Johnny tries
to comfort Christy and she answers, “Don’t little-girl me. I’ve
been carrying this family on my back for over a year now.” In
America joins Whale Rider, Bend It Like Beckham
and The Station Agent as one of the most memorable films
of 2003. Adult themes; full of heart, hope and insight into poverty,
illness, death and sorrow.
JUDAS (ABC, March 8): Judas still remains
an enigmatic figure forever linked to the passion and death of Jesus.
In this thoughtful prime-time drama from Paulist Productions, viewers
are invited to consider Judas from a contemporary psychological
and theological perspective and seek to answer these questions:
Why did Judas betray Jesus? Can a person be intrinsically evil?
Who was Judas?
Executive producer Father Frank Desiderio, successor
to Father Ellwood (Bud) Kieser (Romero, Entertaining Angels),
describes the film as a 21st-century midrash, that is, a
contemplative story written about a biblical figure or event.
Judas also offers us a Jesus who is not portrayed in the usual
It stars Johnathon Schaech, Jonathan Scarfe, Tim Matheson
and Bob Gunton. Judas was written by Tom Fontana (Oz)
and directed by Charles Robert Carner.
Judas is a different kind of Lenten film that
will interest people who use this medium to contemplate what it
might have been like to live when Jesus did.
PATRICK (Hallmark Channel, March 14): Just
in time for St. Patrick’s Day comes this graceful, hourlong docudrama
about the fifth-century missionary saint whose life and writings
continue to influence the Church, the world and spirituality.
Patrick was a man who knew slavery, rejection and deep
depression. He survived because of his faithful relationship with
God. His beloved Irish people accepted him and converted from paganism
to Christ because Patrick knew how “to insinuate new ideas into
an existing culture” and taught them in their own language.
Patrick was created by Pamela Mason Wagner and
Dyanna Taylor, the same team that produced Reluctant Saint: Francis
of Assisi. Filmed on location in Galway, it is narrated by Liam
Neeson. Gabriel Byrne is the voice of St. Patrick. In addition,
Frank McCourt and experts in Irish folklore and history provide
THE APPRENTICE (NBC, Thursdays): It’s men against women
as two teams of eight compete for a top job in the world of big
business. At the end of 15 weeks, the winner will become president
of one of Donald Trump’s companies for a year.
The show is a huge reality check for young people who seek to enter
this ambitious world of high-stakes finance and real estate while
retaining their dignity and integrity. There are many themes to
unpack and values to explore through conversation.