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Reviews for the week of January 29, 2001.

Tuesday:
Finding Forrester

Finding Forrester
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When you think of Sean Connery, you naturally think of James Bond, super spy. But in Finding Forrester, Connery acts more like the guy Bond was always spying on - a secretive recluse who is actually a famous author.

Interestingly, William Forrester only wrote one infamous novel; he lives alone and rarely ventures out. To the kids in his Bronx neighborhood, he is a legend and fodder for many wild stories. When Jamal, an African-American scholarship student, sneaks into Forrester's apartment on a dare, and leaves his backpack behind as telltale evidence, Forrester discovers the student's talent for writing.

After rewriting the stories in Jamal's backpack, Forrester returns the bag - and its contents. Naturally, Jamal returns to talk to Forrester.

Not that it's easy - Forrester isn't the talkative sort, and he is reluctant to give Jamal the benefit of his experience. Slowly, however, they build a relationship, as Forrester helps Jamal to improve his writing.

Meanwhile, Jamal's prejudiced private school professor gives him a hard time, and his school experience is troubled. However, Forrester continues to encourage him.

Finding Forrester was an original, well-written film - at least until the typical Hollywood ending wrapped things up perfectly. In a way there was too much character development; everything progressed so predictably, that it was blatantly obvious what was going to happen next.

Screenwriters should remember that often the characters that learn the least from their experiences and don't change for the better have the most impact on the story. The plot was unbalanced in that there were too many improvements and too few character mistakes. Yes, the characters do face some opposition, but it seems too easily conquered.

The sole bad character is Jamal's teacher; he gets his and everyone else gets what they want. Although it's "tied up nicely" at the end, both Jamal and Forrester seem to gain more from their relationship than the script would suggest - or explain.

However, the acting was terrific, and the script's flaws are forgivable. Finding Forrester accomplishes more than most so-called dramas. I recommend it as a well-plotted film with great acting.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Thursday:
O Brother, Where Art Thou

O Brother, Where Art Thou would have been better titled, "Oh brother, what a mess". The movie itself is far from being a mess - but the characters keep getting themselves in one sticky situation after another.

George Clooney - who, despite being dirty and decked out in ragged clothes, still looks great - plays the ring leader of three escaped convicts in the 1930's. On their way home to dig up 1.2 million dollars worth of buried treasure, and stop Clooney's wife from remarrying (she divorced him when he landed in jail), they run into trouble.

First, one convict's cousin turns them in for a bounty; they narrowly escape the cops. Then they make some quick money "singing into a can" at a radio station (this turns out to be important later). Finally, they make it home, only to discover that Clooney's wife wants nothing to do with him. In fact, she even told their children that he was hit by a train!

Meanwhile, Clooney is constantly worried about his hair - he wears hair nets, uses lots of pomade, and spends more time fixing his hairdo than most women. This aspect of his character, and other comic bits, prove very amusing.

O Brother, Where Art Thou seems like a very original story, although it was supposedly based on "The Odyssey" by Homer. The fresh, intriguing characters made this movie comical, dramatic, and highly entertaining.

Also, O Brother Where Art Thou is a different kind of role for Clooney, best known for his romantic lead roles, and last year's thriller hit The Perfect Storm. This role has more depth, character development, and action than most of his previous characters combined.

Basically, O Brother, Where Art Thou is a cleverly written and well-cast buddy comedy, romance, and drama. Not a minute of this movie was uninteresting. O Brother Where Art Thou is much different than standard Hollywood fare. There were few special effects, only great characters, scenes, and actors.

This is one of the few movies I would see again.

My Rating = Four Stars

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