Volume 96, Issue 56
Thursday, January 9, 2003

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It's a Ho Ho Ho-liday Movie Extravaganza!

Catch Me If You Can
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken
Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Gazette file photo

If some guy walked into your class and started lecturing, you would assume he was your professor, right?

That, in a nutshell, is the premise of Catch Me If You Can, – the lesson is that if you can talk the talk, nobody will even question if you can walk the walk.

Inspired by true events, Catch is the story of Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio), a teenage con man who stole millions of dollars during the 1960s. He did so by assuming various identities as an airline pilot, a doctor and a lawyer, forging cheques and documents along the way. Frank is pursued by FBI agent Carl Handratty (Tom Hanks), a fraud specialist whose nerdy determination provides the perfect contrast to Frank's charm.

The brilliance of the film is how easily Frank is able to pull all of this off. Other than the skill involved in making the forgeries, all Frank really needs to do is rent a suit, learn a few key words and all of a sudden he can become a pilot. He even fools Carl at one point by simply pretending to be a federal agent.

DiCaprio, Hanks and Christopher Walken, as Frank Sr., all give performances that deserve Oscar nominations, and Steven Spielberg deserves some credit for directing both this film and the equally great Minority Report in the same year.

–Mark Polishuk

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper
Directed by: Spike Jonze

Gazette file photo

Explaining the plot of this movie would be like attempting to build a house for a family of four out of popsicle sticks: time consuming and useless.

Cage plays both real-life, manic, anti-social, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich), who is hired by a major film studio to adapt real-life author Susan Orlean's book The Orchid Thief into a screenplay, as well as his fictional, lazy, twin brother Donald.

Like a J.D. Salinger novel, Adaptation is a number of directly intertwined stories, situated in both "the real world" and Kaufman's screenplay, that come together to form a poignant narrative, which is at once tragic and hilarious.

Orlean is brilliantly played by movie goddess Meryl Streep, while relatively unknown actor Chris Cooper (American Beauty) is ingenious as John Laroche, the main character of Orlean's book.

The story spins out of control in the second half in an over-the-top fashion, leaving the viewer wondering what is fact and what has suddenly become fiction.

The greatest achievement of this film is its fiery uniqueness. Love it or hate it, you'll have to admit that you've never seen anything like it.

–Maggie Wrobel

About Schmidt
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Kathy Bates, Dermot Mulroney
Directed by: Alexander Payne

Getting old is inevitable, but few do it with as much grace and wit as Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) in Alexander Payne's latest film, About Schmidt.

Director Payne (Citizen Ruth, Election) perfectly blends the humour and heartache of aging into the story of one man's post-retirement journey.

Nicholson truly shines in this film with his eloquent portrayal of the cranky, eccentric and always opinionated Warren Schmidt. Faced with retirement, the sudden death of his spouse and the impending marriage of his daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) to the goofy but good-hearted salesman Randall Hertzel (Dermot Mulroney), Schmidt is forced to re-evaluate his true purpose in life.

Kathy Bates is the perfect choice to play Roberta Hertzel, the mother of the groom. Throughout the film, the ever-engaging Bates delivers a stunning and lively performance as she attempts to deal with her own failed marriage while preparing for her son's wedding.

At times depressing, while at others hilariously accurate, About Schmidt is a classic tale of growing old in a modern world.

–Megan O'Toole

Gangs of New York
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Jim Broadbent
Directed by: Martin Scorsese

If Gangs of New York can be summarized by a single symbol, it's blood.

Blood is everywhere, cloaking the city in death. An early shot portrays a snowy town square covered in blood after a gang fight. The camera pulls back further and further until the square stands out like a heart in the middle of the city.

The film's basic thesis is that violence is in many ways the heart of American society. This is a controversial post 9/11 theme, but Martin Scorsese has never been a director to shy away from disturbing subjects.

The central character is Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio), out to avenge the murder of his father (Liam Neeson) at the hands of gangleader Bill "The Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis).

Their feud is set in New York City during the 1860s, as civil unrest brews over the Civil War draft. "Native" Americans such as Bill the Butcher have nothing but disdain for immigrant groups such as the Irish, and resort to violence to keep them in line.

One surprise, given this is a Scorsese film, is that at times, it drags.

Though DiCaprio is technically the lead, the movie really belongs to Day-Lewis. Despite the fact that he plays Bill the Butcher as a cross between Al Pacino and pro wrestler Mick Foley, his character comes across as surprisingly sympathetic for a homicidal maniac.

DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz, both of whom can barely manage the Irish accent, fair much worse. Diaz's character is little more than the clichéd prostitute with a heart of gold.

Gangs doesn't measure up to some of Scorsese's past masterpieces, but it is still an excellent film.

–Mark Polishuk

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Austin
Directed by: Peter Jackson

Gazette file photo

The most anticipated movie and sequel of the year delivered what was promised to audiences in terms of both action and money, seizing control of the box office.

The second installment of Lord of the Rings advances the plot of the first film, basing the majority of the story around mankind's struggle to protect the kingdom of Rohan from a massive invading army.

Other stories are intertwined around this battle, including Sam and Frodo's continuing struggle to reach the top of the dreaded, fiery Mount Doom in order to destroy the ring of power.

The creative Gollum provides the film's most impressive visual effect, as his skin and facial expressions are extremely convincing and life-like.

Slight alterations from the novel may aggravate avid Tolkien readers, and the drawn-out love story takes too much camera time. Beyond that, there is little to complain about as The Two Towers is a fantastical adventure into Tolkien's vivid imagination.

Epic battle scenes, an intense storyline and great acting help to give this trilogy the attention it deserves. Unfortunately, at the end of the three hours, you are again left with the feeling that you have to wait one more year for any real closure.

–Dale Wyatt


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