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BY John Prizer
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Monsters, Inc. is based on a clever reversal: a universe in which monsters are as scared of kids as the little ones are of them. The reason monsters leap out of closets to frighten children, see, is to collect their screams — which are the energy sources for their hometown, Monstropolis. But kids are becoming harder to scare, and there's a scream shortage. Monstropolis faces a power crisis with rolling blackouts.
Coming to the rescue are a big blue monster named Sully (voice of John Goodman) and his buddy Wazowski (Billy Crystal), a green eyeball with arms and legs. However, the crab-like Henry J. Waternoose (James Coburn) and the snake-like Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi) are working against them for their own villainous reasons. All this is complicated when a human child, Boo (Mary Gibbs), inserts herself into the monster world.
By Way of the Stars (1992)
The Wild West was both an idea and a geographic location, and it's easy to forget that these two notions had as much appeal to 19th-century Europeans as to Americans. By Way of the Stars, a TV miniseries based on a novel by German author Willi Fahrman, is an exciting coming-of-age story that exemplifies this point of view. A young boy growing up in the civilized environment of 19th-century Prussia sets out to find his long-lost father. The quest leads him across Europe and post-civil war America to the wildest parts of the Canadian frontier.
Along the way the boy, Lukas, meets up with the snooty Ursula von Knabig, the rough Ben Davis and a variety of other picturesque characters. Director Allan King and screen-writer Marlene Matthews create an epic canvas for Lukas' adventures. Intricate plot twists are punctuated by psychological insights, social observations and moving personal moments.
Wee Willie Winkie (1937)
Hidden among the melodramatic women's pictures and high-powered romances of Hollywood's Golden Age are little gems like Wee Willie Winkie, in which Shirley Temple marches with the British Imperial Army and makes peace between the colonialists and a tribe of unhappy subjects.
Director John Ford masterfully adapts Rudyard Kipling's popular story set in India in the 1890s. An American widow moves with her preteen daughter, Priscilla (Temple) into the home of her father-in-law, who's in charge of a remote British army camp. Priscilla befriends the tough Sgt. MacDuff (Victor McLaglen) and the notorious rebel chieftain, Khoda Khan (Cesar Romero), who's imprisoned there. When Khan's tribe attacks the camp, the colonel believes his granddaughter has been kidnapped. Only Priscilla's quick wit and courage prevent a bloody slaughter.
BY Jim Cosgrove
Artful adaptation of Jane Austen's 1818 novel about an upper-class English-woman (Amanda Root) who secretly regrets having rejected an impoverished seaman (Ciaran Hinds) years earlier, just as he is too proud to admit his feelings for her now that he is prosperous and ready to settle down. Director Roger Michell captures the look of the era and its rigid class distinctions while delicately exploring the repressed yearnings of the would-be lovers. Romantic complications and a few accident-related injuries.
Where the Lilies Bloom (1975)
Four sturdy Appalachian children keep the death of their widowed father a secret so the state won't take them away to an orphan's home and provide for themselves out of the profits of “wildcrafting” (collecting and preparing certain herbs and wild flowers prized for their medicinal qualities). The Robert B. Radnitz production directed by William A. G raham tells its story of youngsters learning to care for themselves in the adult world with warm humor and genuine sensitivity for the conditions of life for the rural poor.
Shot on-location in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the film is an uplifting account of survival and unity in the face of a hostile environment. A rare and satisfying entertainment for the entire family.
Sink the Bismarck! (1960)
Stirring dramatization of the 1941 British naval victory over the TITLE German battleship after it slips into the North Atlantic, easily defeats the first British warships encountered, then becomes a sitting duck when its rudder is disabled by a carrier plane's torpedo. Directed by Lewis Gilbert, the sea action is intercut with the personal drama involving the Admiralty's director of operations (Kenneth More) his assistant (Dana Wynter), the officers of the ships following his orders and the Nazi admiral (Karel Stepanek) commanding the “Bismarck.” Wartime violence.
Video reviews from the Office of Film and Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. John Prizer will return next week.