The Crusades were a series of religious wars in which the Christians tried to reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims who had conquered the Middle East in the 7th century. With the battle cry of "God wills it! " thousands of Europeans answered the call and were able to retake the fabled Holy City in the 11th century. Kingdom of Heaven begins in 1186 between the Second and Third Crusades. A fragile peace prevails mostly through the efforts of Jerusalem's enlightened Christian king Baldwin IV (Edward Norton) and the military restraint of the legendary Muslim leader Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). But it's difficult to maintain the peace. There are extremists within the Christian brigades--known as the Knights Templar--who want to wipe every Muslim off the face of the Earth. On top of that King Baldwin's health is failing. Once he's gone war is sure to follow. If ever there was a need for a hero this is the time. Enter the young French blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) who is in deep despair over the loss of his family. He joins the Crusades after the father he never knew Godfrey (Liam Neeson) comes back from Jerusalem and convinces him it's a quest worth fighting for. As Godfrey passes his sword to his son he also passes on that sacred knightly oath: to protect the helpless safeguard the peace and work toward harmony between religions and cultures so that a kingdom of heaven can flourish on earth. No pressure or anything though.
Orlando Bloom carries his first major motion picture very well easily handling the chores of being such a gallant conscientious and morally upstanding knight. As Balian the Troy costar plays the gamut. He broods over his lost wife and child has father-son epiphanies upholds his knightly duties on a regular basis falls in love with a beautiful but troubled princess and finally bravely defends the Holy City from the encroaching Muslim army thus becoming a legend. Not bad for a day's work eh? There are even times especially toward the end when Balian is standing before the denizens of Jerusalem urging them to fight when you swear you can see a little of Bloom's The Lord of the Rings alter-elf Legolas creep in. The supporting cast also does an adequate job painting a picture of some trying times. Chief among them: Jeremy Irons as King Baldwin's right-hand man Tiberias; Marton Csokas (The Bourne Supremacy) as the evil leader of the Knights Templar; Massoud as the great warrior Saladin; and lovely Eva Green (The Dreamers) as Princess Sibylla King Baldwin's sister who captures our hero's heart but makes some bad choices with dire consequences.
Even if these sword-and-armor epics are all blending together you've got to give props to the directors who make them. These films are massive undertakings and Kingdom of
Heaven with the expert Ridley Scott at the helm is no exception. The Oscar-winning director of course has had his fair share of recreating history first with the classic Gladiator and then with the contemporary Black Hawk Down. But in recreating the Crusades Scott faces his toughest challenge to date and takes on the responsibility very seriously. He is painstakingly meticulous with details even as he is building a 12th-century Jerusalem or corralling 2 000 heavily costumed extras for the colossal climactic battle sequences. And it is always a good thing when a historical film can teach you something you may not have known like what the heck the Crusades were really all about. No Kingdom's biggest obstacle is timing. While it certainly has more substance than Alexander it is not nearly as intense and stirring as The Lord of the Rings trilogy or the granddaddy of them all Braveheart. Too many of its ilk has come before and the concept has unfortunately worn thin.
Maybe they should call Carlos Santana "King of the World." Just a few months after his veritable sweep of the Grammy Awards, Santana took three trophies, including the record of the year award for "Corazon Espinado," his duet with Mexican rock band Mana, at the newfangled Latin Grammys on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
"It feels like the first kiss," Santana said after winning. "It feels very natural and divine and human." The guitar god extraordinaire dedicated his awards to Africa, the women of the world, bilingual education and Nelson Mandela.
It was a star-studded event, as they say. Heavyweights such as Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera and 'N Sync were among those trolling down the red carpet, and Ricky Martin opened the ceremony by performing a tribute to the late Tito Puente. The show was hosted by Lopez, Gloria Estefan, Andy Garcia and Jimmy Smits.
The evening's other winners included crooner Luis Miguel (three awards), Shakira (two awards) and Marc Anthony (song of the year).
Here's a complete list of the winners:
Record of the year: "Corazon Espinado," Santana featuring Mana
Album of the Year: "Amarte Es Un Placer," Luis Miguel
Song of the year: "Dimelo (I Need To Know)," Marc Anthony, Robert Blades, Angie Chirino and Cory Rooney (Marc Anthony)
New artist: Ibrahim Ferrer
Male pop vocal performance: "Tu Mirada," Luis Miguel
Female pop vocal performance: "Ojos Asi," Shakira
Pop performance by a duo or group with vocal: "Se Me Olvido Otra Vez," Mana
Pop instrumental performance: "El Farol," Santana
Pop album: Amarte Es Un Placer, Luis Miguel
Rock performance by a duo or group with vocal: "Corazon Espinado," Santana featuring Mana
Male rock vocal performance: "Al Lado Del Camino," Fito Paez
Female rock vocal performance: "Octavo Dia," Shakira
Rock song: "Al Lado Del Camino," Fito Paez (Fito Paez)
Rock album: Reves/Yo Soy, Cafe Tacuba
Salsa performance: "Celia Cruz and Friends: A Night Of Salsa," Celia Cruz
Merengue performance: "Ni Es Lo Mismo Ni Es Igual," Juan Luis Guerra y 440
Ranchero performance: "Mi Verdad," Alejandro Fernandez
Traditional tropical performance: "Mambo Birdland," Tito Puente
Tropical song: "El Niagara En Bicicleta," Juan Luis Guerra (Juan Luis Guerra y 440)
Banda performance: "Lo Mejor De Mi Vida," Banda El Recodo
Grupero performance: "En La Madrugada Se Fue," Los Temerarios
Tejano performance: "Por Eso Te Amo," Los Palominos
Norteno performance: "Herencia De Familia," Los Tigres Del Norte
Folk album: Misa Criolla, Mercedes Sosa
Tango album: Postales Del Alma, Juan Carlos Baglietto & Lito Vitale
Flamenco album: Paris 87, Camaron Con Tomatito
Latin jazz album (two winners): Spain, Michel Camilo & Tomatito; Tropicana Nights, Paquito D'Rivera
Brazilian contemporary pop album: Crooner, Milton Nascimento
Brazilian rock album: Acustico0--MTV, Os Paralamas Do Sucesso
Samba/pagode album: Zeca Pagodinho Ao Vivo, Zeca Pagodinho
MPB (musica popular brasileira) album: Livro, Caetano Veloso
Sertaneja album: Sergio Reis E Convidados, Sergio Reis
Brazilian roots/regional album: Pixinguinha, Paulo Moura e os Batutas
Brazilian song: "Acelerou," Djavan (Djavan)
Latin children's album: A Mis Ninos De 30 Anos, Miliki
Classical album: La Dolores -- Tomas Breton, Tito Beltran, Placido Domingo, Manuel Lanza, Antoni Ros Marba, Elisabete Matos
Engineered album: Ni Es Lo Mismo Ni Es Igual
Producer of the year: Emilio Estefan Jr.
Music video: "No Me Dejes De Querer," Gloria Estefan
Photos courtesy of Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect and Livecast Inc.