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Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered; there is only an error to be exposed. -- H.L. Menken

The Rating System

Kex Liked It:
It Sucked:
It Really Sucked:
It Sucked as bad as Eyes Wide Shut:

It Sucked badly enough to bring the world to the brink of apocalypse:


Dances With Wolves

This Week: A Kex Classic Review: Dances With Wolves:

The principle reason this movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture way back in 1990 was sheer force of inertia. It more or less bowled over the competition by overpowering mass, most of which was essentially contrived: I think many members of the academy were simply astonished that Kevin Costner and crew could do such a remarkable job of parlaying what was effectively a 90 minute story into a movie with a running time of nearly 3 hours.

Some sort of bizzare curse must have befallen Costner almost immediately after making this film, since his previous 3 or 4 efforts were all respectable films, and almost everything that followed during the decade of the 90's amounted to nearly unspeakable garbage. Or maybe it was just a sort of overpowering ego trip that isn't uncommon in Hollywood, where directors or actors suddenly have a run of success, and decide that they can eat frozen burritos 3 times a day for a month and fart roses. I'm not sure which explanation best suits the facts, but as exhibits A-Z, we offer Robin Hood, J.F.K, Waterworld, The Postman....well, you get the idea.

Its pretty clear that if Costner hadn't made movies like Field Of Dreams prior to Dances With Wolves, and skipped instead straight into the lame productions that followed, his best rehearsed line these days would be something like, "Would you like fries with that sir?" Yeah, the guy is pretty good looking, even still; and I know the women are wild for him. But looks will only take you so far, right? Well, then again, maybe not. After all, one does not have to watch many Costner movies, even the good ones, to realize that the guy couldn't earn a lead role in a Bad Buffet Playhouse production if he had to rely on his acting ability alone.

Dances With Wolves is the story of a Civil War hero who leads his men to victory after an unlikely act of heroism, thus he is granted his own command at the post of his choice. Somehow there is a distant, resonant memory chiming away here: I think I've heard that one before...let me see, how did that series jingle go? "The end of the Civil War was near when quite accidentally, a hero who sneezed, and prompty (something or other) reversed into Victory!"

Yup, this movie is just sort of a 90's politically correct version of the old TV series F-Troop. Kevin Costner, Ken Berry...both unlikely Civil War heros who end up with their own command at an out-of-the-way outpost. Both befriend the local Natives, who seem to be a bit unpretentious, to say the least. Both end up with a love interest who seem a great deal more competent than their male counterparts.

Kevin Costner's love interest is Stands With Fist (Mary McDonnell) whom Costner befriends when he finds her badly injured out in the wilderness. It is through her contact that he is able to befriend and communicate with the tribe. You see, Stands is not herself Native American, but was captured by the natives as a young child. She remembers just enough english to enable her to converse with Costner. Ultimately, the two fall in love and end up making more renegade babies in the midst of their newly adopted tribe: Well, there goes the neighborhood.

Graham Greene portrays Kicking Bird, the tribe's principle holy man. Greene has made a pretty good career for himself portraying Native Americans in period pieces and at this point, I have to admit that I have no idea whether he truly has any Amer-Indian heritage or not. I tend to be skeptical of such matters, mostly because as an occasional listener to the Art Bell weird late-night radio show, I'm familiar to the personage of one Robert Ghostwolf, who is always making bizzare predictions based upon Native American legends. The interesting fact of the matter is that Ghostwolf is actually an Italian guy who originally made no claim to Native heritage, but somehow morphed into the linneage after a few guest appearances.

I think that the most significant criticism that can be aimed at Dances With Wolves is that the entire movie bleeds of politically correct feel-goodness. The Native Americans were oooh so good, and the white guys were oooh so bad. So this is one of those movies that gives us all the opportunity to go be pounded on the head by guilt for three solid hours. Sometimes maybe we need that. On the other hand, maybe we haven't done all that badly. I don't recall seeing any Comanche spacecraft landing on the moon this century, so perhaps we did all right afterall.

The really unbelievable aspect to this movie is that Major Dunbar (Costner) became a Civil War hero, and was given the opportunity to take pretty much any job in the army he wanted. So what did he ask for? This guy steps up to the plate and says, "Hey, would you please send me to some piece of shit little fort in North Dakota?" Yeah, I guess that could happen, assuming the guy had never been there, didn't know anyone who had been there, and never heard of anyone who had actually been there, or had a serious head injury. But that wasn't the case. To this day I continue to wonder why we bothered to take it away from the natives.

Well, actually I know. Somebody had some real foresight back in those days, and figured that if humanity ever designed any really terrible weapons of mass destruction, North Dakota would be a pretty good place to keep them. As it turns out, that is exactly what we used it for. If North Dakota ever declared itself an independent country, it would rank behind only the U.S. and Russia for possessing the most nuclear weapons.

I'm personally a little nervous about that planning, because if Canada ever decides to invade, they could take over most of North Dakota before anyone ever noticed, and have control over a lot of terrible weapons. Just think about a considerable portion of the Canadian army pouring across the border some weekend disquised as shoppers heading for Minot, and it becomes a feasable plot. Hell, they could overrun the state in a matter of hours. In fact, it might take weeks before we figured out it even happened.

Wasn't I reviewing a movie here? Oh yeah, Dances With Wolves. Its kind of sappy, and Costner's droning monotone can make the eyelids go heavy after 20 minutes: You have to deal with three hours here. Nonetheless, I liked this movie a lot. If you've never seen it rent it. If you have seen it, you haven't watched it in awhile, now have you? Treat yourself and take another look. This is one of only two movies I'm personally aware of that has a character named Sgt. Pepper (Tom Everett) and the other one sucked canal water.

Last Week: John Q:

WARNING! WARNING! THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS: I'm considerate enough to the loyal Kexkateers and other readers who drift in weekly to announce significant information like that when its relevant. Even the blood suckers who sell tobacco products have succumbed to government pressure and warn the poor souls who use their products that their hopeless addiction is ultimately going to cause them to die in horrible ways. So why aren't movies like John Q required to come with a warning, something like this: "WARNING!: VIEWERS ARE STRONGLY CAUTIONED THAT WATCHING THIS MOVIE WILL RESULT IN EXCESSIVE EMOTIONAL MANIPULATION AND YOUR BRAINS WILL PROBABLY TURN INTO JELLO."

That isn't my most sigificant problem with this film, by any measure. Just to put it as bluntly as possible, I think this film could potentially do more harm to American society than a pack of pissed off fanatic Moslems in command of a dozen fully loaded 747s. At the point where a director can start trying to assign heroic attributes to a guy who takes over a Chicago E.R. at gunpoint, it gets a little hard for me to acknowledge whatever truth there may be in his message. Then again, here in the good old U.S. of A, there seems to be a razor thin line between the wailing cries of "My God, what is happening to us?" and "Wow, isn't THAT cool!"

If we are collectively interested in doing something to promote the common good, and security of our fragile social structure into perpetuity, the best first step we could probably make would be to make sure that director Nick Cassavettes is never again allowed within a continent of a Poloroid One Step, let alone a motion picture camera. Maybe a permanent gig on one of those survivor shows as a guaranteed finalist would keep him adequately and appropriately busy for a lifetime. Or, even better, just drop him off on that island Tom Hanks had to live on for 10 years in Castaway. I'll spring for the volleyball.

There were a lot of stupid things in this movie that got under my skin to such a degree that I walked out of the theater wanting to shave kittens. We could start off with the scene early in the film where the story attempts to establish that John Q (Denzel Washington attempting to pick up a paycheck before Oscar night) and his wife, Denise (Kimberly Elise) are seriously struggling financially. Denise's car gets repossessed, and we find out that John is only working 20 hours per week at his factory due to cutbacks. Okay, so they couldn't make the car payment on the stationwagon. Apparently his $40,000 pickup truck was already free and clear though.

Then there are a series of intellectual assaults near the end of the film but in order to put them in context, I'll briefly summarize the plot. While playing a Little League game, John's son falls seriously ill due to a heart defect. He needs a transplant to save his life, but John can't pay for it due to cutbacks in his benefits, and he isn't on welfare so he can't get any sort of government financial aid. The hospital won't put John's son on the receipent list, because John can't pay up front.

Now, while the movie is attempting to expose certain very real flaws in the current state of health care in America, this film is obviously set in an alternate reality where there is no such thing as "money grubbing attorneys" who would descend upon a case like this like a swarm of flies to the Mt. Everest of Shit. Curiously, the word "attorney" was never once mentioned in the entire film, and the word "lawsuit" never popped up until the last 10 minutes or so.

John takes matters into his own hands, and takes over the hospital E.R., which has about as many people attending it as a lighthouse at shift change. The ER also only has about 3 doors in or out, and no windows from which anyone inside could escape . So John is able to take over with surprisingly little effort, and his plight immediately becomes a cause celebre throughout Chicago. Half the city appears to be milling around outside cheering on John, and mocking the police who are trying to keep anyone from getting killed by a stressed Bozo with a gun. Remember a few weeks ago when we all started actually looking up to policemen?

Ultimately John decides that the only way out of the situation is to kill himself, and allow the hospital's heart surgeon, Dr. Turner (James Woods) to put his heart into his son. Turner is apparently an incredibly talented surgeon, because during the course of John's holding the ER under siege, he saves the life of a gunshot victim without even wrinkling his tie. Its very impressive.

Turner ultimately agrees to utilize John's heart, so John prepares to committ suicide by turning his gun on himself. Recall here that he is in an E.R. where there must be enough lethal substances to give a chemical warfare terrorist a wet dream, but it doesn't seem to occur to anyone to simply allow him to use one of those instead of painting the walls with his brains.

Not to worry, a heart donor of the right bloodtype is found just in time, and John doesn't have to go through with the suicide. We never find out how he learned about the donor, which is another stupid aspect of the plot. We also have to endure a long and painful speech from John about how he has been tested up the wazoo and has been determined to be the perfect donor, only to step aside in favor of a woman's heart which meets the compatibility qualifications only because she happened to be the proper bloodtype. It doesn't make a damned bit of sense.

To put it all into perspective, this is the kind of movie that makes me somewhat ashamed of my own political and social views. Not because I've come to think they are wrong in any sense, but only because of the realization that they can be so casually appropriated by someone who blatantly wears them on his sleeve like Cassavettes, obviously without taking 5 minutes worth of effort to attempt to think them logically through. As soon as some lunatic takes over a hospital E.R. at gunpoint, we'll have this moron to thank for it.

I guess I now understand a little how thoughtful conservatives must feel when imbeciles like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh blowoff their mouths. Yes, I think it is possible to be intelligent, and still come to the confused conclusion that the universe exists for the purposes of one person selfishly accumulating as much stuff as possible no matter how uncomfortable other people may be as a result. Humans have had stupider, and even more selfish ideas. What is tragic is when a guy can be effectively correct in such an intellectually blind fashion that he ends up discrediting important truths in society.

Last Week: How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days:

If there were such a thing as truth in advertising, this movie might well have been entitled How To Lose An Audience in 10 Minutes. That was pretty much the net effect, but a title like that probably would have discouraged ticket sales. This movie clearly alienated nearly 50% of the population just from the previews. That was wildly obvious just walking into the theater.

If I live to be a hundred, I'll never forget the moment of horror one of the poor guys who wandered into the theater experienced. He was herded in tow by his date, who obviously didn't clue him in as to what they were seeing until they were seated. Then she handed to poor sap the ticket stubs.

I watched the poor guy read them, and sit there for a moment in stunned silence. That was followed by his coloration going pale and a blood curdling scream. It was really a heart rending moment. The other 4 guys in the packed theater and I felt his pain. At least the other 3 guys knew what they were in for, and they were pulled into the theater with a look on their collective faces that probably resembles the look of resignation cattle adorn when herded toward slaughter.

Curiously, when the men left the theater, the look had changed to one more inquisitive. It was sort of like they were pondering the question of where the line for slaughter was. This is really a movie that sort of answers its own rhetorical theme. If a girl wants to lose a guy in 10 days, this is the movie to take him to on the proverbial 10th day.

This is a movie about two utterly reprehensible people, Andie (Kate Hudson) and Ben (Matthew McConaughey) who meet, fall in love, and presumbaly get married and have 2.5 reprehensible kids. But before that, we have to sit through one of the most trite plots in the overworked book of recycled Hollywood plots. They are two people who have no business meeting and falling in love, but they do anyway. Its not like we have a doubt from moment one how this movie is ultimately going to end. The only question is how painful the journey will be to get there, and if I could actually sit through it again without having to run out to hork.

Andie is a writer for a Cosmopolitan style magazine. She wants to write heady articles about politics and religion, but her editor insists that she writes lots of sappy how to articles, probably like how to change your kitty litter box,how to make a meatloaf that won't end up growing fungus on the left-over portions while in your refrigerator, how to lose 20 pounds on a Twinkie diet, stuff like that. So she gets stuck writing an article about how to lose a guy in 10 days. That is in response to the real life tribulations of her best friend, who constantly strikes out with guys.

Meanwhile, Ben is an advertising executive who is trying to be the lead man for a diamond ad campaign his company has just landed. But he is competing to win the job with two female counterparts. He makes a bet that he can meet a woman and make her fall in love with him before a big company party, which just happens to be 10 days away.

As it turns out, the ad campaign is going to run in Andie's magazine, and Ben's female cohorts arrange to have Ben meet Andie. They figure it is a sure way to make Ben lose the bet. So while we have Ben playing games with Andie to make her fall for him, Andie is doing everything possible to make him think she is a clingy psycho bitch and drive him away. Surprise! They fall for each other, but when they mutually learn about the cross purpose they other has been following, the inevitable blowout occurs.

Of course, they manage to reconcile and get together in the end. That isn't a plot spoiler. If you aren't aware going into this theater exactly how its going to end, you probably believe that we are preparing to go to war with Iraq because of something to do with their ties to terrorism. Yeah, only if you spell t*e*r*r*o*r*i*s*m, o*i*l. Nonetheless, the women in the audience, which was 98% of the house did seem to enjoy it. The men were mostly reading articles about the preparation of Jonestown Kool-Aid.

There were a few interesting gaffs in this movie. One of the major plot points involves an NBA championship series between the New York Knicks and the Sacramento Kings. Apart from the fact that the Knicks are about a century away from serious title contention, this movie also must take place in an alternate universe where the Kings agree to play all of the games in New York City. Clearly games one and two are in New York. Curiously, however, Andie tells Ben that she also has tickets for the third game. In reality, she takes him to a Celine Dionne concert just to piss him off. But game three would have been held in Sacramento anyway. She didn't mention anything about airline tickets.

Watching this movie was a lot like a Whitman's Sampler of every annoying chick flick ever made. Incidentally, the major thing I learned watching the movie is that Kate Hudson has no boobs. She could have played the Renee Zellweger role in Chicago. I've never quite figured out what it is that attracts women to Matthew McConaughey either. Hell, I still think the guy looks just like Woody Harrelson, and he hasn't ever exactly made the people magazine "hottest guys" list. So what was the whole moral of the story? I don't know. Maybe its just "never trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn't die."

Last Week: Against the Ropes:

The only thing I despise more than boxing is any movie ever made about boxing. I find boxing to be utterly barbarian. I find any director who makes a film about boxing that I have to sit through to be six levels below barbarian. That puts him down around Bush family level. Maybe even below that.

The absolute worst movie that ever won the Oscar for Best Picture was Rocky. Not only must the Academy voters have suffered some gross mass brain fart to have ever picked that movie over the other competitors that year, but they unleased a crime against humanity that should haunt them all until the day they die. They made Sylvestor Stallone a "bona fide" movie star, and they opened the door for all of those Rocky sequels as well Rambo and all of the other cinematic diarrhea that Stalone was to spue forth.

Word is that Stallone is even now considering yet another Rocky sequel. I'm not sure what the plot of this one is going to be. Maybe Rocky Balboa, now renicknamed Kidney Stone Balboa will battle Wheelchair Willie for the AARP heavyweight championship. Readers take careful note here. That may well be the last AARP joke ever posted on this website, because for some reason or another, they aren't as funny as they used to be.

In Against the Ropes, Jackie Kallen (Meg Ryan) is the secretary to a boxing promoter in the undisputed boxing capitol of the world, Cleveland. I will honestly admit at this point that I didn't know that boxing was particularly big in Cleveland, but what I know about boxing could fit in my navel, and have more room to move around than a dust mote in Donald Rumsfeld's skull caveran.

Jackie has been around boxing since she was knee high to a hamster. Apparently her dad was a boxing manager, and her uncle was a prize fighter, whom she idolized. We learn that her uncle died young, but we are never told exactly how. The guess here is that he got his brains pounded out of his ears by about the second guy he ever fought. Early in the film, there is a scene in which we get to watch one of his sparring sessions. The guy looks so pathetic that we'd bet that Jackie could floor him in 16 seconds.

Jackie is only appreciated in the male dominated world of boxing for her hot little bod, and she gets tired of the sexist men she has to endure on a daily basis. Gee, Jackie, you think that if you had chosen a profession where testosterone isn't confused with cologne, that maybe you wouldn't have that problem? Fifteen minutes into this film, we already hate our heroine, just because we know she is a moron.

During a confrontation with a rival boxing manager, Larocca (Tony Shalhoub), Jackie manages to buy the contract of a washed up boxer for a dollar. When she goes to visit him, she discovers that he is a hopeless crack addict. But one of his neighbors, Luther Shaw (Omar Epps) catches her attention during a brawl. Jackie gets the notion that she can tranform Luther from a street hoodlum into the next middleweight champion of the world.

Luther demonstrates that Jackie's confidence is well placed, and he starts winning a lot of fights. But as his fame grows, more attention is being focused on her, as a boxing manager. Since female boxing managers are virtually unheard of, Luther has to live in Jackie's shadow. Naturally that doesn't sit well, and he eventually decides to dump publicity hungry Jackie in favor of Larocca.

Jackie turns over Luther's contract to Larocca, on the grounds that he gets a legitimate shot at the championship, which is held by one of Larocca's other fighters. Larocca agrees, but double crosses Jackie by forcing Luther to fight the champion with only 3 week's notice. That spells certain disaster for Luther, because the consensus is that there is no way that he can be ready in that short of a period of time.

The fight must go on though, and Jackie can't even be around to help Luther out. So he gets his brains beat in for about two rounds, until Jackie manages to sneak into a sold-out Cleveland Coliseum, and inspires Luther to come around and win the fight. Boxing movies have no shortage of scenes drowning in bathos, but the sight of Jackie waltzing confidently across the ring between rounds to inspire Luther is among the most potentially brain draining scenes ever put on film.

Austensibly, this is a true story, or at least based somewhat on fact. I haven't been able to find anything about the career of Luther Shaw on the internet, which is a bit curious. I do know that Jackie Kallen really did become a successful boxing manager, and eventually became commissioner of some women's boxing organization. I'd have been more impressed if she had just rubbed Larocca out with a tommy-gun. Watching this movie left me feeling as if I had been beaten against the ropes for 12 rounds.

One curious footnote about this film: It was originally scheduled for release almost a year ago, but it was delayed for some reason which, according to the producers, involved the war in Iraq. Just what we need these days: Something worse to think about.

Last Week: Robots (IMAX Version):

As a kid, I probably would have loved this movie. As an adult, I liked it quite a bit. Its rare to find an animated film that is not only incredibly appealing visually, but hits pretty solid along the joke line as well. The criticism that this film seems to be receiving revolves around its formulated plot: True, but afterall, its a kids film.

I'll hand it to the writers for not missing an obvious joke, and they managed to get in a few pretty good send ups on other films and entertainment icons that certainly went over the heads of the children, and quite a few of the adults. I had more than a few good belly laughs out of it though. I guess some of the other adults were a little slower on the draw.

The other criticism I saw of this film was the difficulty warming up to "metalheaded" characters. That particular line was written by a metalheaded reviewer whom I will allow to remain nameless. Oh, wait, no I won't. Take that, Liz Braun, of Jam! Movies, probably the lamest movie review medium in the universe. Sometimes all you have to do is consider the source. Liz probably missed most of the jokes too.

I saw this film in IMAX format, but I don't think it will be considerably less entertaining on the regular sized screen. It truly is visually stunning. Probably the only added benefit of seeing it in IMAX is the increased thrill attendant to some of the action sequences. And for the real thrill seekers, it'll lighten your wallet by a couple of extra bucks as well, so you can really feel the increased intensity of the experience.

You have to give the folks at Blue Sky and 20th Century Fox some credit. Realizing that they don't have the marketing oomph of Disney or Pixar behind them, they are doing everything they can to make people love this film. At the theater we went to, they had Robot statues guarding the lobby. Prior to the screening, there was a brief lecture and demonstration by some local robotics experts. Then they had a drawing for Robots toys and movie posters. We missed winning one by 8 numbers. As they audience left, they were handing out gummy candy.

In other words, as opposed to tying their marketing strategies into cheap toys at fast food chains, they were actually providing the audience with a chance to win some pretty good stuff. I guess considering the extravagant prices associated with an IMAX screening, its only fair, but they didn't have to do it, and hats off to them for the effort.

The story involves a young robot, Rodney (Ewan McGregor), who dreams of escaping his humble roots, and going of to the metropolis of Robot City to seek his fortune. He dreams of going to work for his hero, the robotic corporate giant Bigweld (Mel Brooks). But Bigweld has been displaced in his company by an evil robot, Rachet (Greg Kinnear) and Rodney seeks to help Bigweld regain control with the help of a few friends he meets along the way. Among those are a group of standard animated robotic misfits, Fender (Robin Williams), Piper (Amanda Bynes), Crank (Drew Carrey) and the beautiful Cappy (Halle Berry).

Some other personalities of significant note achieve voice credits in this film, including the likes of Terry Bradshaw, Al Roker, Jay Leno and Natashia Lyonne. One assumes that the cast parties had to be almost as big of a kick as the movie itself.

Drawbacks? Well, the plot was a bit thin, but the scripted and site gags kept things moving along quite nicely, so I don't think adults will be bored with it. Most children will be entralled, and its reasonably suitable for all ages, despite a rather puzzling PG rating. Most foriegn markets where it has opened have given it a much more apt G rating. There is some slightly off color humor, mostly involving bodily functions, but not done in a way that would require the stricter PG rating.

The only other concern that might center on this film is that Roger Ebert actually gave it a favorable review, only the second one he has given a movie this year. But then again, this is a man who favorably reviewed The Stepford Wives Welcome To Mooseport and The Day After Tomorrow, so its hard to blame the movie going public if they are becoming leary of going to see movies he reviews favorably. But take my word, and not Ebert's on this one. You'll enjoy Robots.

Last Week: The Wild:

I have a question. By reputation, Disney movies are supposed to be the industry standard for wholesome family values. So can anyone explain to me why we never see anything like a functioning family unit in a Disney film?

Think about it for a moment. If there is a father and son in a Disney movie, be they humans, or lions or whatever, mom is absent/dead. In all probability, she met some horrible ending defending her offspring, or is simply never even referred to, as if dear old dad found his offspring under a cabbage leaf. In all probability, Pops never looked under any other cabbage leaves after that, because there are typically no siblings around.

On the other hand, if there is a mother and daughter, Dad is gone. Often as not he was some irresponsible lout who simply took off one day and was never heard from again. You can bet that the older daughter isn't the only sibling. Typically she will have a younger brother who is so obnoxiously bratty that we just know he will grow up to impregnate some unwitting woman, run off, and initiate a whole new generation Disney family.

The Wild is no exception to the Disney family formula. Sampson the lion has a young son who he is trying to teach to roar magnificently like a true wild lion. The only problem is that the pair live in a zoo, and evidently young male zoo lions don't develop their roar quite as early as they do running free in Africa. Sampson tries to encourage his young son daily, but the poor lad is growing increasingly frustrated, and wants to return to the wild to develop his roar.

It would seem that in the zoos of New York City, animals are more or less free to come and go as they wish. I know that because it was the standard in this movie, as well as Madagascar, which was released just under a year ago. The similarities between the two movies certainly don't end there, and if you saw Madagascar, there really isn't all that much point in taking yourself to see this film. The Wild is essentially the same movie, with just a little bit of Ice Age 2 sprinkled in.

Disney has made something of a practice the past few years of doing remakes of some of their early films, or at least sequels. The suspicion here is that no one wanted to go to the full blown effort of actually revamping something done a few decades ago, so they just remade a more recent film. There is a lot less effort involved. And there we have the entire justification for The Wild, a movie that screams "direct to video" but somehow got hijacked and redirected on the way to Blockbuster.

As we have established, Sampson's young son wants to learn his roar, and plots to stow away on one of the mysterious green crates that will lead him back to the freedom of the wild. But Sampson attempts to deter him, pointing out that they lead a cushy life in the zoo. Undetered, the lad stows away, but quickly realizes he doesn't want to go. Sampson and his zoo friends have to attempt a rescue.

Unfortunately, they miss the boat that the young lion is loaded on, but as good fortune would have it, they find themselves on the only nuclear powered tugboat in the world, and are able to chase the larger ship to Africa. We know its a nuclear powered tug because its able to make the entire journey to Africa and back without having to refuel. Even better still, animals are able to figure out how to navigate it.

Upon arriving in Africa, Sampson and his friends not only have to track down the younger lion, but contend with an evil group of Wildebeasts that have decided to convert their lifestyle and become carnivores. The Wildebeasts have grown weary of being on the bottom of the foodchain, and have decided that the only way they can make the change is to eat a lion. Logic isn't exactly the hallmark of Disney animated films.

It should come as no surprise, and it shouldn't be a plot spoiler to note that all ends well, and Sampson finds his son. The film ends with father, son and friends heading back to America, with the newly befriended herd of Wildebeasts making the journey with them. The zoo where Sampson lives must not only be liberal in their attitudes toward the comings and goings of their specimens, but must be willing to take in large quantities of new animals as well. Somehow, I doubt that. There really isn't much point in seeing The Wild. If you saw Madasgar, you've already seen it.

Last Week: Pan's Labyrinth:

I know many of you are stopping by this week to see a review of Harry Potter Retires to Phoenix or whatever the title of the latest film is. Sorry Charlie. I'm done with Harry. I guess it was all the blather going on right now about what is going to happen in the 7th Harry book which has completely overshadowed the 5th Harry movie, and there is just too much Harry around right now for my tastes.

You know what folks: I just don't give crap one about what ends up happening to Harry Potter. I'll tell you all something else too; Harry isn't going to die.For one thing, Ms. Rowling isn't that stupid. Just what do you think would happen to the box-office numbers for this, and the final two films if she kills off Harry. Not to mention that the single stupidest thing anyone can do in this life is to kill off the goose that lays the golden egg.

I think there is every probability that if Ms. Rowling keeps Harry alive, she might write a whole new series of books or short stores somewhere down the line. She probably is fully aware of the possibilites too. So bet on it; Harry isn't buying the farm.

Now that we have cleared all that up, we can talk about the movie I AM reviewing this week. I had intened to get around to doing a review of Pan's Labyrinth for quite some time. There just hadn't been a good opportunity. Geez Louise, was this movie ever a serious disappointment. I had heard so many wonderful things about the creativity and how it was destined to become a children's classic. Whoever came up with that notion must spend a crapload of time pulling wings off flies.

This movie is set in Spain in 1944, during the course of the Spanish Civil War. As we all know, Spain couldn't really decide who to get behind during WWII, so rather than get involved in the big game, the Spaniards just chose up sides and had their own intramural contest. Seventy years later, France is still pissed off at their neighbors to the south because they didn't think of it first.

A young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is carted off by her pregnant widowed mom Carmen (Ariadna Gil) to meet the man she is going to marry. He is the one who knocked Carmen up, although he is such a brutal murdering bastard that we wonder how he ever got time away from torturing and murdering suspected revolutionaries to pork Carmen. It quickly becomes pretty clear that "The Captain," as everyone calls him because of his rank, doesn't particularly care for Carmen. He just wants to leave behind a son in case he dies in battle like his dear old dad did. The guess here is that pops was a brutal S.O.B. too.

Ofelia is pretty depressed about the whole situation, but the guess here is that if gold bricks started falling out of the sky, Ofelia would start whining about having to step over them. She evidently spends a lot of her time reading, and as such, is prone to flights of fantasy. Naturally, her depression over her mother's impending marriage sends her off into a fantasy world where she is the princess of some imaginary underground kingdom where she must complete 3 tasks in order to return and reclaim her throne.

The tasks she must complete are spelled out for her by a creature named Pan, who looks like a reject from a classier fantasy film like Lord of the Rings or Narnia or Big Top PeeWee.One way or another, Pan just wasn't a creature we would want to run into in a dark labyrinth. For that matter, there were a whole host of pretty scary characters in this film, although the top four or five were human rather than from the fantasy world. Not exactly a good formula for a classic children's film.

The film keeps popping back and forth between Ofelia's nightmarish struggles in the real world, and her nightmarish struggles in her fantasy world which effectively means we are simultaneously watching two really depressing and sucky movies at the same time. I'm glad I only had to pay one rental fee. If anyone from Blockbuster is reading this, they will probably double their rental rates tomorrow.

To put it mildy, this movie contains a lot of graphic violence, a brutal plot and it's Spanish subtitled. HOw anyone can imagine that this is not only appropriate but even sublime fodder for a children's classic escapes me. Harry is starting to look pretty good afterall. In a lot of ways, this isn't really a bad film, but if you are renting it expecting it to be something worthwhile for your children, think again. This one could produce two week's worth of nightmares and 6 years on the therapist's couch. Don't go out and rent this for the kiddies.

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