BROTHERS (not yet rated, PG): In the jungles of Southeast
Asia before World War I, twin male tigers are born in the ruins
of an ancient temple. Before long, however, their sanctuary is disturbed
by an expedition that is looting the country for art treasures to
be sold in Europe.
Aiden McRory (Guy Pearce) kills the father tiger when
it attacks someone. The tigress escapes with one cub; Aiden finds
the other and names him Kumal.
When the tigress follows the truck carrying her cub,
the driver shoots her through the ear and leaves her for dead. When
Aiden arrives in the city, he is arrested (for stealing) and Kumal
is sold to a circus.
Aiden is released from prison to lead a group that includes
the French governor, Normandin (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), and his family
on a tiger hunt. Normandin’s son, Raoul (Freddie Highmore), discovers
the other cub in a cave and takes him home as a pet.
Raoul and Aiden parallel the dignity and brotherhood
of humankind with that of the animals of the created universe. How
the two captive brother cubs mature and discover their kinship is
the dramatic turning point of this amazing and visually stunning
motion picture by Jean-Jacques Annaud, director of The Bear,
nominated in 1990 for an Oscar (best film editing).
In Two Brothers, Annaud returns to his nature
theme: “The greatest thrill of all is not to kill but to let live.”
Viewers of both films will find much to compare between their themes
and cinematic style. Some tense scenes; deliberately paced and
beautiful; recommended for families and wild animal lovers willing
to contemplate and compare how the human story is reflected in God’s
HELLBOY (L, PG-13): At the end of World War II, the Nazis
open a portal to the dark side in a final effort to win the war.
They are stopped by the arrival of the U.S. troops and President
Roosevelt’s personal psychic advisor, Professor Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm
The only being to pass through the portal is a little
red creature with horns and a tail. Professor Bruttenholm calls
him Hellboy, brings him to the States, raises him as his son and
superhero in the fight against evil. At the same time,
the Nazi psychic expert, Grigori
Rasputin (Karel Roden) is sucked through the portal to hell.
Fast forward to the present: The U.S. government’s Bureau
for Paranormal Research and Defense is located in Newark, New Jersey,
where Hellboy (Ron Perlman) lives with the professor and his F.B.I.
companions. A new G-man, John (Rupert Evans), arrives to make sure
Hellboy stays under the radar as he thwarts the returning evil beings,
Rasputin and Ilsa (Biddy Hodson), who are determined to cause the
apocalypse that the professor and the U.S. Army prevented 60 years
This enjoyable comic-book-made-into-a-movie has
similar elements to X2 and Daredevil, all rich in
Catholic imagery (for example, the crucifix and the rosary). Hellboy,
in particular, draws on the opposing themes of religion and the
occult: You can get theological if you want.
Like the Dracula classic, evil tries to reverse
and replace the roles of God and the redeemer in the world. But
those who are chosen will lay down their lives to prevent this.
The film also considers the question of what makes a person human:
Is it nature or nurture? Is it one’s origins or the choices one
I could follow the plot most of the time. But in the
final analysis, it gets confusing and doesn’t matter very much.
A film to be enjoyed if this is your style; some comic-book violence.
GOOD BYE, LENIN! (not yet rated, R): Communist Party
member Christiane (Kathrin Sass) has a heart attack near the Berlin
Wall as it collapses in 1989. She is in a coma for six months, not
knowing what has happened to Berlin or Communism. When she wakes,
the doctor tells her son, Alex (Daniel Brühl), and daughter, Ariane
(Maria Simon), that if their mom has any surprises or shocks she
will have another heart attack and die.
Meanwhile, the world has changed. The children have
thrown out all the old furnishings and upgraded the apartment. But
Alex cannot bear that his mother might die of a shock, so he goes
scrounging for the cast-off furniture and turns the apartment back
to the way it was. He and a friend create a daily news program on
video so Christiane will think that the Eastern bloc life and politics
are the same.
In one of the funniest scenes Alex hires former members
of the Communist Youth to dress in their old uniforms and come and
sing songs for his mother. But the façade starts to crumble when
Christiane sees a helicopter carrying a statue of Lenin and then
a banner for Coca-Cola hanging from a large building.
This film has become one of Germany’s most commercially
successful ones yet. Awards include a Blue Angel at the Berlin Film
Festival in 2003, where I was present as a member of the ecumenical
jury. Even with subtitles, Lenin is laugh-out-loud funny.
Similar to In America, this film has heart, humor
and humanity. Inspiring and satisfying movie; some problem language
FAREWELL TO FRIENDS AND FRASIER: The
final episodes of Friends and Frasier aired
during the May 2004 ratings sweeps. But comedy aficionados of the
shows will not weep for long as one of the most elegant baby-boomer
comedies of all time, Frasier, and one of the most Gen-X
shows of prime time, Friends, pass into broadcast and cable
syndication for TV eternity. (Friends commanded $2 million
for 30 seconds of commercial time on the final episode, reported
The Baltimore Sun: That’s a record for a non-Super Bowl broadcast.)
Both shows suffered from casting that was homogeneously
white and lacking in the kind of cultural diversity for which broadcast
television is starving. On the other hand, the older ones among
us laughed at the guys and gals on Frasier (even though we
never saw Niles’s first wife, Maris) because their psychological
foibles relentlessly surprised us.
Friends had perhaps a wider audience because
of its appeal to the younger generation for whom loyalty is the
epitome of what relationships are all about. Viewers opened their
homes to the six very funny young adults and their intermingled
lives (and often morally ambiguous ’90s life-style), and became
their best friends from the very first night.
Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the English writer and
arbiter of good taste in the arts, could have been talking about
Frasier and Friends when he wrote that comedy is “a
dramatic representation of the lighter faults of mankind.”
The best comedy makes us laugh at ourselves. Really
good comedy invites us to think and talk about what really does
matter by making us laugh about what doesn’t. What’s next, NBC?
THE WAY HOME (May 23, Hallmark Channel): Three stories,
narrated by Glenn Close, chronicle the transforming power of people
who struggle to reconcile. I especially recommend viewing for religious
educators and pastoral ministers.
THE OTHER HOLY LAND (June 6, Hallmark Channel): This one-hour
documentary explores Turkey as the cradle of Christianity, where
Paul preached to the Ephesians, John the Evangelist is said to have
written his Gospel and Mary, the mother of Jesus, is thought to
have lived out her last years. Written and directed by award-winning
television producer Frank Frost (Bernardin; Thérèse:
Living on Love), this is an informative commentary on early
Church history and the origins of Eastern Orthodoxy.