'Monte Cristo' and 'Sam'
offer action, drama
The Count of Monte Cristo
Buena Vista Pictures
With a story as ageless as The Count of
Monte Cristo, all director Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld) had to do was tell
it; in volumes, Alexandre Dumas' novel continues to speak for itself.
In Hollywood's latest adaptation of the
novel, Reynolds does just that, making this film an excellent portrayal
of revenge, jealousy and an
array of other emotions.
Photo courtesy of New Line
From left, Sean Penn and
Dakota Fanning star as father and daughter in the new drama I Am Sam, now
Accommodated by a rich script from Jay
Wolpert and solid performances from the cast, Reynolds propels action and
the film. While Reynolds' past films,
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Waterworld, didn't allow him the credit
he deserved because they
never reached their full potential at
the box office, Count is another story.
For one, Kevin Costner isn't starring in
it. This doesn't mean Costner films are bad, but as far as most critics
are concerned, anything he
stars in has to win more Oscars than Dances
with Wolves in order to be appreciated. Fortunately, Reynolds doesn't have
to worry about
meeting that standard with Count.
Screenwriter Wolpert does his fair share
of entertaining with a clever script that has characters whipping out a
few lines that are more
similar to this era. Wolpert's attention
to dialogue also keeps the adaptation from becoming flat and uninteresting.
Another reason the film deserves to do
well is the acting efforts put forth by James Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Richard
Harris and Luis
Guzman. No, this isn't just a list of
the cast; the performances by these actors are more than mentionable, as
they entertain by
appropriately filling Dumas' lively characters.
In the beginning, Caviezel, who has the
characteristics of an "everyman" type of character, walks around with the
vulnerability of a child.
But as his character, Edmund Dantes, learns
from his mistakes after being imprisoned, Caviezel does an amazing turnaround
in the middle
of the film. From the hapless sailor to
the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo, Caviezel makes the best of his time
As always, Pearce is worth seeing, even
as a bad guy. Pearce, whose impressive résumé includes performances
in L.A. Confidential, Rules
of Engagement and this year's Memento,
adds yet another worthy performance to his credentials.
As audiences' hatred towards Pearce's character,
Fernand Mondego, grows from the time his eyes shine with envy to live Dantes'
the moments in which the villain is just
nasty, the confrontations between Caviezel's Dantes and Pearce's Mondego
are much anticipated.
Also, Harris' performance as Faria, Dante's
newfound friend in the prison, does more than his part to entertain as
he garners a handful of
laughs with his optimistic approach to
escaping. An important character in the story, the veteran actor's presence
also helps to give Faria
a sense of respect.
Luis Guzman's character epitomizes what
writers and directors are doing more with period pieces. There are some
moments in which
Guzman's character, Dantes' right-hand
man Jacopi, talks and acts like he's from this time. While a film purist
may not find Guzman, a fine
character actor, too appealing in Count,
others will note the flair of entertainment such a character adds.
The drama also stars Dagmara Dominiczyk,
James Frain, Michael Wincott and Albie Woodington.
— Geronimo Rodriguez
Daily Cougar Staff
I Am Sam
New Line Cinema
I Am Sam is an emotional roller coaster
with a new story to tell and admirable acting to appreciate. With the constant
throughout the film, the audience doesn't
know whether to laugh or cry or both. Either way, the movie appeals to
the innate goodness of
the human consciousness.
We should be grateful to whoever came up
with such a fresh, new idea. Forget the typical, formulated plot. It's
not a glimpse of Sam's life
as a mentally challenged adult that is
new to anybody. It is the thought-provoking debate on whether Sam should
be allowed to raise a child
of normal intelligence — are love and
nurturing what a child most needs from a parent, or the ability to teach
The dramatic effect is quickly achieved
when the audience comes to despise the child services worker, garners hope
for the self-indulgent
lawyer and, beyond all reasonable thought,
considers the possibility of a mentally retarded man raising a little girl.
There is a point, however, when no more
tears could possibly be shed; yet the movie continues to draw out the sentimentality,
audience yearning for some closure. (He
should get the kid back. Now he shouldn't. Now he should. Just tell me
how it ends, please.)
Believe it or not, Sean Penn can actually
act. His performance as a mentally disabled father in a nasty custody battle
is far beyond the
pot-smoking teenager of yesteryear he
played in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Penn's facial distortions and decelerated
completely believable and freakishly realistic.
Penn's depiction of the mentally challenged
is also exceptional because of his character's development. Just as the
audience learns more
about the struggles of the disabled, so
does Sam. It says a lot when an actor can take the audience on the same
journey his character
experiences. The confusion, excitement
and pain of Sam's battles are sure to pull each tearful heartstring.
Michelle Pfeiffer is another big name starring
in the movie. You'd think Pfeiffer could share the spotlight with Penn
or even outshine him,
but it is only her immense amount of crying
that is worth mentioning. Besides, all the tears in the world can't hide
the fact that Penn
completely overshadows her in this film.
Supporting no-name actors provide sidesplitting
comic relief, even in the most dire of cinematic situations.
Four men in the film may likely be a mix
of actors and actual mentally challenged people. Their blundering mishaps
with answering machines
and funny comebacks are priceless comedy.
The soundtrack for I Am Sam is worth listening
to in itself.
The majority of the film plays covers of
classic Beatles songs in the background. This fits perfectly since Sam
references to the band and compares life's
little turmoils to the rise and fall of the Beatles.
In some twisted way, it makes you feel
we could also make life's choices in direct correlation with our favorite
— Heather L. Nicholson
Daily Cougar Staff
A Walk to Remember
When the minister's daughter falls in love
with the bad boy in school, their lives are forever changed.
Based on a book by Nicholas Sparks, which
is based on a true story, A Walk to Remember is not your typical teenage
What separates it from movies like Ten
Things I Hate About You and Can't Hardly Wait is that the characters are
credible as teenagers.
Most movies in this genre are composed
of over-the-top characters coming from extravagant homes whose biggest
dilemma is who
they're going to go to the dance with.
Instead of shameless caricatures, the characters
in A Walk to Remember are just normal teenagers from Beaufort, N.C.
They're real people with real problems.
Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore) is a bookish,
introverted Baptist who can only afford one sweater.
Landon Carter (Shane West) runs with troublemakers
and couldn't care less about school.
The two are unexpectedly thrown together
after Carter gets in trouble.
As punishment, he must participate in the
school play. When they start to like each other, the trouble really starts.
A Walk to Remember mixes, in equal parts,
the charm and the quirkiness of small-town life.
In spite of the good story line, the cinematography
is extremely amateur and a few parts of the movie are borderline cheesy.
There is only one part of the movie in
which Moore's musical talent is unapologetically flaunted — during the
school play, she stands up and
sings a love song. The movie dwells on
this scene just a little too long.
Otherwise, A Walk to Remember is pretty
The movie is also kid-safe: It doesn't
glamorize sex, drugs and alcohol like its contemporaries.
— Kristin Buchanan
Daily Cougar Staff