At the movies


Published: Thursday, January 12, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 12, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.

Last Holiday

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When Queen Latifah is diagnosed with a terminal illness, she embarks on a lavish European vacation in "Last Holiday."

Paramount Pictures
RATED: PG-13 STARS: Queen Latifah THEATERS: Butler Plaza, Cinema 90 (Lake City)
eee Queen Latifah proves she can do something different in "Last Holiday" and, now that she has proved it, I kinda hope she never proves it again.
Latifah subdues her effervescent, outsized personality to play a shy, repressed Louisianan in "Last Holiday," and it feels as if she's acting with one emotion tied behind her back. Latifah plays Georgia. Told that she's dying, Georgia decides to blow her savings on a trip to a snowy postcard of a ski resort in the Czech Republic, where she - and this is going to be a huge surprise to you - starts to live for the very first time.
Another thing that's not going to be a huge surprise to you, given that "Last Holiday" is a comedy, is that there's a chance she may not really be dying. Also not surprising: She charms everyone she meets in Europe. And she fulfills all her dreams. And the guy she secretly loved at home (LL Cool J) also secretly loves her.
This isn't the sort of movie that's meant to surprise, but it is a movie that gets better as it goes. Partly, that's because Latifah finally loosens up. And, partly, that's because director Wayne Wang ("Because of Winn-Dixie") pays attention to the complexities of human behavior, bringing warmth to even the most artificial, predictable situations.
"Last Holiday" takes the position that there is goodness and beauty everywhere if, like Georgia, you're willing to open your eyes and look.
- Chris Hewitt St. Paul Pioneer Press

Tristan & Isolde

RATED: PG-13 STARS: James Franco, Sophia Myles THEATERS: Gator Cinemas, Royal Park eee Before Romeo climbed that rosebush for Juliet, before Guinevere cheated on Arthur, before Fox had a 20th Century, Tristan loved Isolde.
Literature's original doomed romance earns a rigorous and period-detail-obsessed retelling from the director of "Waterworld." It has passion and pathos and some pretty serious sword-on-sword combat. And despite all the liberties taken with the story, its themes of love, honor, betrayal and a redemptive death remain.
James Franco makes an athletic and stoic Tristan, and gorgeous newcomer Sophia Myles is a very Kate Winslet-ish Isolde. Their eyes lock. And she finds all sorts of medical excuses to run her hands - and body - all over the boy.
The romantic and political intrigues are tricky to follow, but the splendid swordfights and makeout sessions under the palace bridge aren't. Isolde still can't keep her hands off Tristan, even though she's married to a guy who lost his hand saving Tristan as a boy. She recites poems to him and he slips her bracelets behind King Marke's back.
Those who are suckers for any decent movie set in the Dark or Middle Ages will enjoy the beautiful sense of the time and place. The Irish seascapes are breathtaking.
But this tale hasn't endured a thousand years because the poets painted glorious word pictures. They made us cry. The movie should, too.
- Roger Moore The Orlando Sentinel

Glory Road

RATED: PG STARS: Josh Lucas, Jon Voight THEATERS: Royal Park, Cinema 90 (Lake City)
eeee Give Disney its due. "Glory Road" joins "The Rookie," "Miracle," "Remember the Titans" and "The Greatest Game Ever Played" in the "Disney Wide World of Sports Movies." It's an embracing tale of the day in 1966 when race and basketball met in the NCAA Final Four, and America's Other Pastime changed forever.
But for all that "message" and historic significance, "Glory" is a movie that is adorably light on its feet. It's history, yes, history slightly distorted to make points about America in the '60s, and college basketball in the sports-mad South. It's also very funny, making the most of a cast willing to cut up and a script overfilled with team-sports hijinx.
Josh Lucas stars as Don Haskins, a successful high-school girls' coach lured to tiny, cut-rated Texas Western (now the University of Texas at El Paso).
How to win down there? He can't lure blue-chip stars. But how about young black men who can't get into the nation's big, racially exclusive basketball powers?
First-time director James Gartner rarely lets things turn too serious for too long. It's a formula picture, with the same simplistic strategy and off-court skirt-chasing hijinks as 100 other sports dramas.
But when a movie this corny still can manage to inspire, "feel good" feels just right. Stay through the credits, when the "real" coach and players talk, and you'll see the real "Glory" in this tale.
- Roger Moore The Orlando Sentinel

Paradise Now

RATED: PG-13 STARS: Kais Nashef, Ali Suliman THEATERS: Hippodrome Cinema eeee Director Hany Abu-Assad puts a human face on the unwieldy subject of Israeli-Palestinian violence with "Paradise Now," the intimate story of two lifelong best friends living in the West Bank city of Nablus who are sent to perform a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.
Abu-Assad, a Palestinian living in the Netherlands who co-wrote the script with Bero Beyer, doesn't judge his characters and doesn't validate their activities, either. In a stripped-down way, refreshingly free of melodrama, he simply shows us: This is who they are, and why they do what they do.
It's a marvel of perseverance and creativity that Abu-Assad and his crew were able to do what they did. Suspicious Israelis and Palestinians, missile attacks and land mines were prevalent throughout the shoot, and the location manager was kidnapped - but later released with the help of Yasser Arafat.
Said (Kais Nashef) and Khaled (Ali Suliman) could be youths of any nationality, their hopeless slackerdom is so familiar. Not exactly conscientious about their work as auto mechanics, they're far more interested in spending their afternoons smoking a hookah, drinking tea, listening to music and talking about women.
Then Jamal (Amer Hlehel), an older member of an unnamed Palestinian faction, informs Said that he and Khaled have been chosen for an assignment the next day.
He and his childhood friend simply view this as their fate. Their mission gives them purpose, but at varying times in their final hours together, it also gives them understandable pause.
When their plan goes awry and they become separated, it's up to the far more gung-ho Khaled to defend his friend and track him down before the organizers perceive him as a traitor.
The ending is a bit abrupt - but don't worry, we won't tell you what happened. That's partly because it's not entirely clear. Abu-Assad had enough faith in us to determine for ourselves what we think occurred in those final moments, and enough confidence in himself as a filmmaker.
- Christy Lemire The Associated Press

Hoodwinked

RATED: PG STARS: Voices of Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, Andy Dick
THEATERS: Royal Park, Gator Cinemas, Florida Twin Theatre (Starke)
ee Like a poor man's "Shrek," the fractured fairy tale "Hoodwinked" is waiting for you in theaters with big ears, big eyes and big teeth, but little bite.
Yet another product of three-dimensional, computer-generated animation, "Hoodwinked" takes the story of Little Red Riding Hood and overstuffs it with smart-alecky humor and contemporary pop culture references.
Besides "Shrek," it also borrows heavily from "Fletch," featuring a Big Bad Wolf who's really an undercover investigative reporter with fake names and a Lakers jersey, and an electronic score that sounds like something Harold Faltermeyer pounded out.
"Hoodwinked" doesn't have an original idea in its head. Kids might be entertained by the colorful aesthetics and nonstop energy; there's an overcaffeinated squirrel, appropriately named Twitchy, who serves as the Wolf's overzealous photographer. But adults, clearly the script's real target, will see the film for what it really is: hackneyed, inferior and irrelevant.
And that's too bad, because "Hoodwinked" brings together a talented vocal cast, including Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, Andy Dick, David Ogden Stiers and voiceover veteran Patrick Warburton.
What critics think doesn't matter, though, when it comes to family films. If Mom and Dad and the kids can all see a movie together, they do. And the makers of "Hoodwinked" know it, as evidenced by this little dig: Wolf gets stuck underground while investigating the Goody Bandit and utters to his buddy the squirrel: "Why couldn't I write movie reviews?"
Hey, it ain't all fairy-tale endings on this end either, pal.
- Christy Lemire The Associated Press

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