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October 2001

In the Raw

Pain, suffering and Nicole-- Hollywood lets it all hang out

Crazy/Beautiful**** (rated PG-13, 95 mins.) Two high school students, Nicole (Kirsten Dunst) and Carlos (Jay Hernandez), fall in love while she’s on a beach-cleaning assignment for community service. He’s a poor kid from inner city L.A. She’s the daughter of a wealthy congressman. He’s a scholastic achiever, she’s a party animal. He’s working toward a future at the naval academy, she’s a flunky working toward her next pink slip. And, that’s what the story is all about. She’s crazy. He’s beautiful. This movie pushes aside any teenage fluff and cuts to the chase. Bruce Davison (Nicole’s dad) does an excellent portrayal of the angst-ridden parent who only wants the best for his child. Dunst plays the perfect dopey teen who almost manages to side-step her role in life for the real, underdog hero, Carlos. Don’t expect another MTV-type, music-filled, flashy teen flick. This is far from last year’s sappy She’s All That. A compelling coming-of-age drama—delivered by actors who make it believable—Crazy/Beautiful is no fairy tale. The themes of suicide, divorce and alcohol abuse dealt with here are as raw as real life.

Moulin Rouge*** (rated PG-13, 126 mins.) From the moment the red curtain opens and the orchestra plays, the spanking-naughty ride that is Moulin Rouge races over the big screen like a Broadway/burlesque show. A cross between Phantom of the Opera and West Side Story—full of puns, poetry and irony—it is the story of a feisty temptress of a can-can girl, Satine (Nicole Kidman), who strives to become a famous actress. One day opportunity knocks in the form of a Duke (Richard Roxburgh). Enter Christian (Ewan McGregor), a passionate scribe who writes the play in which the Duke will invest. (The play becomes a story within the story, paralleling what’s really going on in the movie.) Torn between the two and encouraged by Satine’s teacher/mentor Zidler (Jim Broadbent), who convinces her that the show must go on, Satine kicks into rocket mode. Kidman delivers her vamp role with so much energy you’ll need a nap from keeping up with her sexual and playful antics. Despite a few overly dramatic scenes, the Bohemian ideals of truth, beauty and freedom told through song and dance certainly entertain. Each male protagonist stops at nothing short of a marathon pace in suffocating Satine with the knowledge that the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved. For any diehard romantic fool or drama queen, this is your movie.

Apocalypse Now Redux **** (rated R, 197 mins.) If you sat through it once, can you sit through all 197 minutes of the director’s cut version of this 22-year-old classic? Following the journey of intelligence officer Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) into Cambodia, Francis Ford Coppola revamps his masterpiece in Apocalypse Now Redux, an epic that explores the horrors of the Vietnam War. Redux includes an additional 49 minutes of never-before-seen footage, including the much-discussed “French plantation dinner scene,” as well as an expanded Playboy Playmates sequence, more footage of Martin Sheen and his crewmates on their voyage and a new Marlon Brando scene. More than two decades ago, Coppola ventured into the jungles of the Philippines to shoot Apocalyse Now—an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness—in which he re-creates the turmoil and fury of the unnecessary war. For the original film Coppola assembled an impressive cast of well-known actors who were kids then. Laurence Fishburne, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper and the great Marlon Brando, a renegade Green Beret gone insane, claiming to be the God of a Cambodian tribe. It was up to Captain Willard to carry out the mission of locating him. When it all ended it seemed just to begin, with eight Academy Award nominations and two wins. Redux isn’t an improvement on the original release, but more an expansion of perfection.

The Pledge*** (rated R, 120 mins.) Jack Nicholson is soon-to-retire police detective Jerry Black. Partying with coworkers on the night before he’s supposed to be “gone fishin’” for life, he winds up fishing for clues in the case of a young girl who has been brutally raped and killed. Promising the young girl’s bereaved mother that he will find the murderer, Nicholson takes on the long and laborious case that grows ever-more depressing. What saves the disturbingly gruesome film are superb performances by a cast including Helen Mirren, Aaron Eckhart, Benicio Del Toro and director Sean Penn’s wife, Robin Wright Penn. Confusing plot lines and predictability plague this morbid thriller, but it can be said that Sean Penn works magic behind a camera and should stick to directing. This is one of Nicholson’s better performances as he manages to move through the film with a calmness and passion based on self-control. Beautiful outdoor scenery belies the tragedy of the film, which satisfies and sickens simultaneously.

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