Monday, October 31, 2005

Zorro Rides Again

Because I enjoy movies mostly for the escapist entertainment they provide, “The Legend of Zorro” gives me much to cheer about. Superb action, adventure, romance and comedy combine to make this sequel a fitting follow-up to “The Mask of Zorro.” Antonio Banderas brings his unique flair to the role of the heroic masked swordsman again, and gorgeous Catherine Zeta-Jones, as Mrs. Zorro, matches him once more with a charisma of her own. Adding to the fun is Adrian Alonso, an endearing young actor playing their precocious 11-year-old son.

In this rollicking sequel, Zorro has promised his wife to spend more time with her and their son than in doing heroic deeds, but he can’t resist the call for help from Californians trying to obtain statehood. Some very bad men stand in the way of this important goal and must be dealt with. Risking his relationship with wife and son, Alejandro dons Zorro’s dramatic black costume, takes up his sword and mounts his black steed Tornado for another dangerous adventure. After Elena (Zeta-Jones) files for divorce, our hero descends into a period of depression – but soon decides to woo her away from Armand (Rufus Sewell), a former flame using all the riches at his command to win Elena’s heart.

Banderas always takes my breath away with his performances. He projects the magnetism of an old-time movie star, and his expressive face reflects multiple emotions without the help of any dialogue. As Alejandro de la Vega/Zorro, he manages to be both dashing and funny at the same time. In his love/hate interactions with Zeta-Jones, he changes from tender to tyrannical with seamless perfection.

Thanks to director Martin Campbell, this exciting film moves along at a swift pace. It also boasts incredible stunts and set pieces. The scene showing Zorro astride his beautiful black horse galloping atop a speeding train emerges as one of the most impressive action shots of the year. Speaking of Zorro’s horse, other scenes featuring Tornado are quite amusing; they remind me of my favorite Western comedy, “Cat Ballou.” (Remember a drunken Lee Marvin on a horse with its legs crossed leaning against a building?)

After seeing so many downer movies lately, including "The Weather Man" and "North Country," I applaud “The Legend of Zorro” for bringing old-fashioned escapist entertainment back to the silver screen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Goodbye, Rosa

I felt honored to be involved in planning an 80th birthday party for Rosa Parks back in San Diego twelve years ago. The Mesa College Humanities Institute sponsored this community event, and school children from all over the city were bussed into the college stadium to celebrate with her. She spoke to them in a quiet, dignified manner about the importance of treating each other with respect. What impressed me most about Ms. Parks that memorable day was her unpretentious manner for someone so important to a nation’s history. She was indeed a national treasure, and her contributions will not be forgotten. May she rest in peace.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Reviving the Hollywood Musical

Good news for fans of Hollywood musicals! The October 6th issue of “Variety” reports that Walt Disney Studios plans to craft musicals “that will utilize the singing and dancing skills Hugh Jackman displayed in his Tony-winning turn in ‘The Boy from Oz.’” The goal of these films is to help reinvent the movie musical.

First up will be an adaptation of Cecilia Ahern’s novel, “If You Could See Me Now.” Jackman’s role would be that of a lonely 6-year-old boy’s imaginary friend who suddenly becomes visible to the child’s aunt – with romance ensuing.

Way to go, Disney! If anyone can reinvent the Hollywood musical, it’s the multi-talented Mr. Jackman.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Another Acting Award for Susan Sarandon

Congratulations to Susan Sarandon for being named Supporting Actress of the Year by the Hollywood Film Festival, an important showbiz event scheduled from October 18 --24. Sarandon, selected for her poignant and amusing performance in “Elizabethtown” plus her remarkable body of work, will be honored along with other winners at a special Awards Gala held during the festival.

Having just seen “Elizabethtown,” I can see why the talented Oscar-winning actress (for "Dead Man Walking") deserves this award. Sarandon's show-stopping monologue and tap dance routine at a memorial for her character’s dead husband steals the show!

To read my review of this movie, go to Also, please check out my book about this talented actress, “Susan Sarandon: A True Maverick," available at, Barnes&, and by special order from your favorite local bookstore.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Man's Best Friend

If everyone had a dog like the one in “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” the world would be a happier place. Gromit watches over his owner Wallace with bemused care and is always there to help the naïve inventor out of difficult situations he gets himself into. But his time, Gromit must work extra hard to defeat a creature Wallace has created in an experiment gone terribly wrong. The creature in question is a huge rabbit capable of devouring all the vegetables scheduled to be entered in Lady Tottington’s upcoming annual giant vegetables contest.

Filmed in claymation, this amusing British full-length cartoon, features characters who look quite bizarre. Gromit doesn’t have a mouth, so he never utters a word. But his eyes, brow and body language are as effective in communicating his thoughts and emotions as those of any silent movie star. Wallace’s enormous mouth makes up for his partner’s missing one; Lady Tottington (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter) appears to have a fuzzy red anvil for hair; and the goofy giant were-rabbit, frightening only because of his size, looks very funny in a scene parodying “King Kong.”

Although a bit slow-moving at first and not as hilarious as co-director Nick Park’s previous film (“Chicken Run”), “The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” offers fun for the whole family. WARNING: If you don’t have a dog, you’ll want to rush out and get one after watching this movie.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Online Classes Still Open

Classes began this week for many of the new Long Story Short School of Writing online courses, and director Denise Cassino says that rave reviews are already coming in from students. She also reports that the following classes still have openings: Beginning Writing; Creating Unforgettable Characters; Setting the Hook; Writing the Non-Fiction Book; Write Like a Lover; Novel-Building; Soul-Building; The Path of the Self-Published Book; Creating Hype for the Self-Published Book; Talking Heads: Whose Life Is It Anyway; What To Do When Assignments Stop Coming; How To Handle Another Success; and So You Want To Be a Ghostwriter.

For more information, go to

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Revenge Served Hot

Revenge may be a meal served best cold – as William Shakespeare advised -- but in “A History of Violence” it’s dished out hot and heavy. And, where movies of this kind are concerned, that’s not a bad thing. Most of us can’t help enjoying a well-made film where evildoers get their comeuppance.

Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), a quiet man who loves his family and gets satisfaction from serving customers at his diner in a small town, becomes a hero when he kills two thugs who terrorize his establishment one evening. The publicity Tom receives backfires, and his past catches up with him. This “quiet man” is soon forced to take more drastic action to protect his family and himself.

Directed by David Cronenberg (“Spider”), “A History of Violence” emerges as a riveting character study of a man who has reinvented himself in order to live a normal life, but who suddenly faces a situation that requires his old violent way of responding. Mortensen (“Hidalgo”) is marvelous in this lead role. He’s completely convincing as gentle, average Tom, and then -- with unexpected flashes of brutal action -- he makes us believe he’s someone else entirely. Providing outstanding support are Maria Bello (“The Cooler”) as Tom’s confused wife, Ashton Holmes (“A Million Miles to Sunshine”) as his intelligent but wary son, Ed Harris (“The Hours”) as a disfigured man from his past, and William Hurt (“The Village”) in a brilliant cameo you won’t be able to forget.

Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone (“The Godfather III”) complained, “Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in.” Could such be the fate of anyone with a history of violence? Maybe not, but this disturbing and spellbinding film (based on John Wagner and Vince Locke’s impressive graphic novel) makes one wonder.