Friday, January 25, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 79



'Monte Cristo' and 'Sam' offer action, drama

The Count of Monte Cristo
Buena Vista Pictures
Rated R


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 Cinema

From left, Sean Penn and Dakota Fanning star as father and daughter in the new drama I Am Sam, now in theaters.

Accommodated by a rich script from Jay Wolpert and solid performances from the cast, Reynolds propels action and intrigue throughout
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 onscreen.

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' life to
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

Rated PG-13


I Am Sam is an emotional roller coaster with a new story to tell and admirable acting to appreciate. With the constant mood changes
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 and mentor?

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, leaving the
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 behavior are
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 continuously makes
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 pop sensation.

Heather L. Nicholson

Daily Cougar Staff

A Walk to Remember

Warner Brothers

Rated PG


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 movie.

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 entertaining. 

The movie is also kid-safe: It doesn't glamorize sex, drugs and alcohol like its contemporaries.

Kristin Buchanan

Daily Cougar Staff

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