Although most Holocaust-themed works present the Jews as victims this true story shows there were small bands who did manage to fight back no matter how difficult the challenge. Starting near the beginning of World War II the film focuses on three Jewish brothers who lead a small but effective resistance against the surging Nazi presence in the forests of Belarussia. Eldest brother Tuvia Bielski (Daniel Craig) returns home to find most of his family murdered. His only surviving siblings are his wild quick-tempered brother Zus (Liev Schreiber) prone to shoot first and ask questions later and his youngest brother Asael (Jamie Bell) whose gentle nature allows to him to act as a buffer between his two older siblings. Crux of the film is the conflict between Zus’ quest for revenge at any cost and Tuvia’s more measured desire to save lives. As they round up more and more Jewish outcasts the Bielskis form a community deep in the woods. But soon Tuvia must rise to the occasion and lead the 1 200 strong group deeper into hiding in order to survive the winter and the lurking Nazi threat. Daniel Craig gets back to his acting roots after two high-profile outings as 007. He’s strong resilient and complex as a man with a criminal past whose mettle is tested when he chooses to become an advocate for life over the prospect of turning into a killing machine. Schreiber is superb as well as the toughest of the brothers -- at least on the outside. His primal urge to survive at all costs by using whatever preemptive force is necessary is apparent throughout his well-detailed portrayal. And finally Bell who more than holds his own as the most innocent of the bunch and the one with the most to learn. Alexa Davalos Iben Hjejle and Mia Wasikowska add needed warmth and emotion as the three very different women or “forest wives ” with whom the brothers romantically bond during their years in hiding. Stand out in the enormous meticulously chosen cast is Mark Feuerstein as an intellectual and Viktor Panchenko as Isyyanov the leader of the People’s Army. Edward Zwick is known for intelligent historically based films like Glory The Last Samurai and Blood Diamond. Defiance follows suit shot on a rather large scale with lots of impressive action sequences buffering an intimate story. Zwick’s co-writer Clayton Frohman stumbled upon the Bielskis’ story while reading a newspaper obituary on one of them. Armed with exhaustive research and an unerring eye for authenticity the director does not present any of these characters as saints. They were flawed conflicted human beings caught up in a extraordinary situation which only highlights their indomitable determination and fortitude to walk out of that forest alive. James Newton Howard’s brilliant score with haunting violin solos from Joshua Bell deserve special mention among the talented artists who made Defiance come to life. This is a must-see movie and another towering cinematic achievement for Zwick his best since Glory.
Shedding many of those trappings that make a James Bond movie well a James Bond movie Quantum of Solace is really the first sequel ever in the long-running series. While it’s always exciting something gets seriously shaken and stirred in the translation. Picking up exactly where the brilliant Casino Royale left off we see Bond (Daniel Craig) trying to get to the bottom of why his love Vesper Lynd had to die jumping right into the first of many MANY chases as he traverses six countries. Still on rogue patrol Bond then inadvertently meets the crafty and gorgeous Camille (Olga Kurylenko) who introduces Bond to the evil Dominic Green (Mathieu Amalric) the head of an eco-phony stealth operation angling for some prime desert land while financing a crooked Bolivian general’s planned coup. With the ever resourceful M (Judi Dench) trying to keep him in line at all times Bond must put his revenge plans on hold as he crosses paths not only with Greene and his fake pro-environment front but also the intriguing and mysterious group known as Quantum. In this outing Daniel Craig -- leaner and meaner than any previous Bond -- really becomes a man of single-minded determination and grit. He’s less like the James Bond we know and love and more a humorless killing machine like Jason Bourne (those two should really get together). Still Craig is such a compelling actor that we are with him all the way even if he doesn’t go for the suave Bond moves. Olga Kurylenko is a great foil but not totally in the tradition of a Bond girl. A later encounter with Gemma Arterton as a British agent in Bolivia does however briefly recall the heyday of Goldfinger. Judi Dench has taken the perfunctory role of M and turned it into a full-blown supporting role. Her dry wit and take-no-prisoners attitude is welcomed every time she shows up on screen. French star Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) doesn’t really pull off his villainous alter-ego ecologist while Jeffrey Wright is pretty much wasted as U.S. agent Felix Leiter. At least Giancarlo Giannini returns for some nice moments with his Craig. Although they usually leave the challenging job of steering the Bond ship to an English director oddly this time the baton was handed to Marc Forster known more for his intimate dramas such as Finding Neverland and Monster's Ball. His grip on the action sequences is secure but he never really seems to have a handle on what distinguishes this legendary movie spy from everyone else. There’s a reason Bond has survived as a screen icon for almost half a century but the sort of workman-like filmmaking Forster displays here does not represent 007’s finest hour. It’s almost like the producers had a checklist: car chase on winding roads; boat chase; airplane chase; rooftop chase -- all check. Quantum of Solace is definitely worth checking out however. I mean it IS Bond and we wait for these movies on bated breath. Just maybe next time a little less Bourne please.
August 03, 2004 10:44am EST
Schwarzenegger sells $18 million compound
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and wife, Maria Shriver, have sold three properties in their Pacific Palisades residential compound in California, while a fourth lot is in escrow, The Associated Press reports. Los Angeles Times reported Sunday the couple has not lived on the 5.3-acre property, which is valued at about $18 million, since they bought a new home in nearby Brentwood two years ago for about $11.9 million. The four lots in the compound were offered as three separate homes. One of the buyers is Matthew Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy and a cousin of Shriver, who bought one of the homes for $3.4 million. According to The Times, Schwarzenegger purchased that home, which boasts a pool and tennis court, for Shriver in 2001 as a Valentine's Day gift. The two other homes in the compound were sold as one estate for a reported $7.9 million. So how does Schwarzenegger measure up in his first gubernatorial year in office? The former action star stuck to his promise to avoid new taxes but signed a $105 billion spending package that, like those of past administrations, uses money borrowed through bond sales to help pay this year's bills as well as past years' debts.
Illinois newspaper wants apology from Michael Moore
The Pantagraph newspaper in Bloomington, Ill., is demanding a letter of apology from Fahrenheit 9/11 director Michael Moore and the film's distributor, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., for using what it calls an altered front page in his documentary. According to the AP, an early scene in the film shows newspaper headlines related to the contested 2000 presidential election, including a shot of Pantagraph's Dec. 19, 2001, front page with the headline: "Latest Florida recount shows Gore won election." The newspaper says that headline didn't appeared on that day but in a Dec. 5, 2001, edition in smaller type above a letter to the editor, which the paper says reflects "only the opinions of the letter writer." The paper is seeking $1 in damages. Neither Lions Gate nor Moore were immediately available for comment Sunday, the AP reports.
Celebs thank Prime Minister Tony Blair
Bono, Jude Law and Bob Geldof are just some of the celebrities that signed an open letter thanking Prime Minister Tony Blair's government for its promise to boost aid to poor countries, the AP reports. "It's unfashionable to congratulate politicians in public but we're going to do it anyway, to say thanks for increasing the funds available to tackle world poverty now and for committing to reach the U.N. aid-giving target by 2013 at the latest," the letter, which was published in Monday's Independent newspaper, said. "Thousands of people campaigned, and you responded, and lives in the poorest parts of the world will be transformed as a result." Others signing the letter included Minnie Driver, Helen Mirren, Roger Moore, Colin Firth and Joseph Fiennes and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin.
Little House actor Edwards dies
Character actor Sam Edwards, who made scores of appearances on such TV shows as Gunsmoke, Barnaby Jones and Happy Days, as well as the town banker on Little House on the Prairie, dies Wednesday in Los Angeles after suffering a heart attack, the AP reports. He was 89. Born into a show business family in Macon, Ga., Edwards first appeared on radio with his family in the 1930s. He moved on to TV in the 1950s and worked regularly into the 1980s, appearing on shows such as The Dukes of Hazzard, Wonder Woman, Dragnet and Adam-12. His film credits included Hello, Dolly! and The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Spike TV in The Club
Spike TV is launching The Club, a reality series that will chronicle the goings-on at ICE, a club that is seeking to compete with clubs/casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. As part of the series' storyline, ICE owner Ed Williams will give the club a makeover and bring in D.J. Paul Oakenfold and Hollywood party planner Allison Melnick. Ben Silverman, the show's creator and executive producer, told The Hollywood Reporter the show will also feature the real-life stories of all the clubgoers who come to ICE. "The bachelors, the bachelorettes, the newlyweds--all these great archetypal stories will play out in The Club," he said. The 10-episode series is scheduled to premiere on the men's cable channel Oct. 12 in the 10 p.m. time slot.
Estefan looking forward to retirement
Gloria Estefan, who kicked off her final concert tour in Texas on July 30, said she can't wait to spend more time with her family when it's all over. "Although I feel very energetic and I'm really in great shape, it's like boot camp, being on the road, singing live," Estefan, 46, told the AP. The Cuban-American singer's Live and Re-Wrapped tour wraps Sept. 25 in Miami, where she lives with her husband, producer Emilio Estefan.
Italian actress Laura Betti dies
Italian actress Laura Betti, who worked with many of Italy's best-known directors, died Saturday in Rome, Reuters reports. She was 70. Betti, whose real surname was Trombetti, was a close friend of the late director Pier Paolo Pasolini, who chose her for several of his films, including 1972's Canterbury Tales. The actress also starred in Federico Fellini's classic 1960 dramedy La Dolce Vita and Bernardo Bertolucci's 1972 romance Last Tango in Paris. In 2001, Betti made a documentary about Pasolini, a homosexual who was killed in mysterious circumstances on a beach near Rome in 1975.
CBS prepping disaster miniseries
The disaster miniseries genre is gaining popularity once again, thanks in part to NBC's earthquake saga 10.5, which delivered blockbuster ratings last season. Now CBS is cashing in on the trend with an as-yet-unidentified disaster-themed miniseries the network is quietly putting together for next season. According to The Hollywood Reporter, thesps Brian Dennehy, Dianne Wiest, Randy Quaid, Nancy McKeon and Thomas Gibson are set to star in the untitled miniseries.