Antwone Fisher; Pirates of the Caribbean; Legally Blonde 2

 Antwone Fisher

It is difficult to dramatise goodness. Far easier to deal with conflict and evil - and more absorbing for audiences.

This is very much the case with Antwone Fisher, only a moderate success at the American box-office and looked at with something of disdain by non-Americans who dismissed it as being too 'worthy' or that the ending was too clean-cut for an otherwise stately and thought-provoking movie. Yet, Antwone Fisher survived his past, wrote this screenplay as well as a fuller memoir after the filming. And, perhaps, the ending is not quite as clean as all that because Antwone, while he finds his mother, does not relate lovingly to her and there is no indication that he will return to see her, no matter how much the audience wants this to happen.

Derek Luke was working at the Sony studio's gift shop and by chance met Antwone Fisher. He went for the part, his first, and acquits himself admirably. On screen for virtually the whole film, he takes the audience through the difficulties of his life in the navy, his reluctance to underto the obligatory psychological sessions, his gradual change, his hesitance in committing himself to a relationship. We share his discovering love. We share the tragedy of his birth, abuse by carers, the death of his best friend. We finally share his discovery of mother and family.

Denzel Washington makes his directorial debut and has a substantial role as the navy psychiatrist. The screenplay gives some substance to Dr Davenport's story outside his office, tensions as he and his wife are unable to have children, his personal edginess, his seeing Antwone as a surrogate son, his own healing by the trust Antwone places in him.

Not exciting or action-packed but a portrait of a man and his healing of memories.

Pirates of the Carinnean: Curse of the Black Pearl

In the early decades of the 20th century, Douglas Fairbanks Sr and Douglas Fairbanks Jr along with Errol Flynn cornered the market on pirates with Black Swans, Sinbad, Captain Blood. Robert Newton was both Long John Silver and Blackbeard. Tyrone Power and Burt Lancaster also had their chances. However, in recent times, it is said that pirate movies do not succeed at the box office. Roman Polanski's Pirates was a case in point as well as Cutthroat Island.

That may all be over now as the Pirates of the Caribbean sail on to our screens. Based loosely on the ride in Disneyland, the project has been written by the authors of Shrek, Aladdin and The Mark of Zorro and produced by the ace of big action shows, Jerry Bruckheimer. And audiences have enjoyed it.

Set in the early 18th century, it has all the popular ingredients of sea battles, abductions of heroines, sturdy fighting heroes, an array of cutlass-armed sailors and prissy British authorities. It has a new element in so far as the pirates are under a curse and cannot die until the blood of one of their colleagues is spilt on some gold medallions. This enables the special effects crew to have the pirates look normal until the moonlight shines on them and we see them as skeletons. Since they are led by Geoffrey Rush as Captain Borbosa, they are formidable opponents.

The surprise of the film is Johnny Depp as the laissez faire Captain Jack Sparrow whose ship has been stolen by Borbosa. He escapes the island where he has been marooned and steps into all kinds of trouble in the port. Depp sports a made-up dreadlock style with a swaggering, slightly alcoholic accent, giving the wink to many of the old pirate conventions.

Orlando Bloom (Legolas in The Lord of the Rings) is the blacksmith hero and Keira Knightly quite a fiesty heroine with Jonathan Pryce as the governer, her father.

It is quite long but enough going on and the performances good enough to keep us attentive.

Legally Blonde 2

Reese Witherspoon was such a success in the original as Elle Wood, the seeming Barbie doll incarnate who confounded everyone by getting into Harvard and then winning her legal cases with a mixture of ingenuous charm and luck, that she has returned. The first film was such a surprise, that it is hard to re-capture its freshness. However, the film-makers have had a pleasing stab at it that will have the critics saying that initial success cannot be repeated and audiences saying that, while it is not startling, it is an enjoyable show.

Elle now takes on Washington after she hires a private detective to find out the lineage of her dog - and, horror or horrors, mother is part of an animal testing company. What better than have anti cruelty to animals legislation (which, while funny in its singlemindedness on a single issue, makes one wonder why animal rights get more sentimental support than human rights). Elle is thwarted by those who want the status quo. She is undermined by her heroine, a Congresswoman played by Sally Field. However, she wins over crusty politicians from both parties, exudes innocently shrewd sweetness, is helped by kindly doorman, Bob Newhart, and follows James Stewart's footsteps (as Goldie Hawn did in Protocol) like Mr Smith Goes to Washington.

There are some daffy situations and quite a lot of well-delivered one-liners that keep a smile on the face as one watches Reese Witherspoon's ultra self-confidence in disbelief.
LONDON - 18 September 2003 - 800 words

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