Prizer's Picks

Ever After (1998)

Some classic tales are indestructible no matter what Hollywood tries to do to them. Ever After is a politically correct reworking of the Cinderella story in which the 16th-century heroine (Drew Barrymore) rises from rags to riches on her own without help from a sappy creature waving a magic wand. Like most post-feminist protagonists, she's a liberated young woman who refuses to wait passively for Prince Charming (Dougray Scott) to make his move. Her favorite book is Sir Thomas More's Utopia, which she uses to lecture the prince on a variety of subjects. At times she seems almost too good for him.

The movie retains a convincing wicked stepmother (Anjelica Huston) who treats the heroine like a servant. Also as in the original tale, only the prince recognizes Cinderella's beauty and virtue and makes a special effort to win her heart. The trappings may be trendy, but we wind up rooting for her to find true love.

The Bear (1989)

Contrary to Hollywood conventions, wild animals are not warm and cuddly in their natural habitats, and their behavior doesn’t resemble that of humans. Nature can be cruel, and even the fittest don’t always survive. The Bear, based on James Oliver Kurwood's 1917 novel, vividly dramatizes these facts. The action begins in 1885 with the birth of a young bear cub whose mother dies in a rock slide, forcing him to survive on his own. He's adopted by an adult male grizzly who teaches him to fish for trout and how to protect himself from a puma. Each bear develops his own distinct personality, as consistent with the realities of animal life.

The grizzlies' most deadly nemesis is man, and French director Jean-Jacques Annaud (Quest for Fire) persuades us to take their side when two hunters (Jack Wallace and Tcheky Karys), enter their wilderness, eager to collect pelts. The suspenseful confrontation that follows is framed by Canadian mountains and forests of breathtaking beauty.

Arts & Culture correspondent John Prizer writes from Los Angeles.