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Australia
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Review by Tony Sheppard

A lonely, prudish upper class English woman sets off to Australia to help settle the business affairs of her wayward husband, getting caught along the way in the beginnings of WWII in the Pacific theater. Directed by Baz Luhrmann ("Romeo + Juliet," "Moulin Rouge"), "Australia" comes with the grand imagery and extended running time of epic cinema. But it does so with a splash of styles that make it to be hard to describe or connect to.

It felt like more than one movie competing for attention-reminiscent of "Pearl Harbor," and not just for the subject matter but in the way that that movie tried to blend both action and love story while doing neither very well. The adult action/drama runs alongside scenes that play more like a kid's fairy tale, complete with painted backdrops. The entire story is narrated, periodically, through the eyes of a child, which contributes to the simplistic tone.

I had a hard time rolling with the incongruities, perhaps because I had an inaccurate expectation of a straight period drama. I found myself pondering the irony of casting Nicole Kidman in a movie set in Australia and still having her fake an English accent throughout the entire film. I've been on the love side of the love/hate dichotomy for Luhrmann's earlier work, but this time I sat mentally cataloging films I was reminded of along the way. If an unlikely blend of "Walkabout," "The Cowboys," "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "Gangs of New York," "The Lion King," "Tall Tale," and the aforementioned "Pearl Harbor" seems appealing to you, then I heartily recommend "Australia."

The Secret Life of Bees
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood
Review by Sarah Kay Hannon

Based off of the debut novel by author Sue Monk Kidd, the film version of "The Secret Life of Bees" is a tear-jerker and carries the reputation of "chick flick." But don't let that stand in the way of you and the big screen if you are male.

Set during the Civil Rights Era in 1962 South Carolina, 14-year-old Caucasian Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) is living with many unanswered questions about her late mother's passing. After many failed attempts at receiving answers from her unloving father, T. Ray Owens (Paul Bettany), she ends up on the run with the family's African-American maid Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson). They soon find hospitality with African-American sisters May (Sophie Okonedo), June (Alicia Keys) and August (Queen Latifah) Boatwright at their well-known honey farm. But there is much more that Lily learns during her stay than she ever anticipated as truths about her past unfold through the stories of others around her.

The casting is done well, and you may find yourself caught up in the movie within the first few minutes – feeling as though you are living the story yourself. This is the second feature film for Fanning (Lily Owens) this year alone, the prior being "Winged Creatures", directed by Rowan Woods. Queen Latifah plays the motherly role as August who more than openly welcomes Owens into her home. And chances are you will never be able to see Keys (June) look so stern from here on out as her character is more of the strong-willed, independent type.

The film does a great job of portraying it's time and place. The cinematography and costume design both contribute, while the soundtrack also plays a huge role in creating the feel that you are alongside Lily and Rosaleen's journey the entire way.
Whether or not you are having a girl's night out or are a family with teenagers, you should give this movie a fair chance. There is not much bad to be said about the film, though you might be left wondering at times how much bad stuff could possibly go wrong to the same people. But through the bad there is also good, and through the "chick flick" there is enough intensity to have anyone – of either gender – on the edge of their seat.

A Girl Cut in Two
Directed by Claude Chabrol
Review by Malcolm Maclachlan

Anyone who wants to disprove the myth of French cultural superiority should see this film. The preposterous plot involving boring, self-absorbed people exchanging dumb dialogue easily stands up to the worst of American pop culture. While normally I like French films, and much of what shows at The Crest, this is best compared to what Paris dog owners famously fail to clean up.

The premise takes the French obsession with older men and younger women to ridiculous extreme. Beautiful, fresh-faced TV weather girl Gabrielle (Ludivine Sagnier) falls in love for no apparent reason with Charles (François Berléand), a man more than twice her age. Such May-December romances certainly happen, and Charles is a famous writer-but he's also frumpy, homely and charmless. The third angle of the love triangle is Paul, a spoiled little rich boy obsessed with Gabrielle. It's not actor Benoît Magimel's fault, but Paul is perhaps the least interesting tortured anti-hero I've ever seen-the kind of role where you keep hoping "please be a minor character" despite all the screen-time he's getting.

I couldn't leave because I was with three other people (who all later said they would have left if someone had suggested it). Instead I got out my iPod and took in some "Fresh Air" and "It's All Politics," occasionally glancing up at the excellent cinematography and parade of pretty women. Any film that manages to make sexual betrayal so stultifying is an accomplishment, but I confess I stopped reading the subtitles halfway through.


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