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The Black Stallion

It was a winner right out of the starting gate, an instant classic that's still a pleasure for the eyes and ears. Carroll Ballard and Caleb Deschanel's marvel of a storybook movie has yet to be surpassed, with a boy-horse story that seems to be taking place in The Garden of Eden. The Black Stallion Blu-ray The Criterion Collection 765 1979 / Color / 1:85 widescreen / 117 min. / Street Date July 14, 2015 / 39.95 Starring Kelly Reno, Mickey Rooney, Teri Garr, Clarence Muse, Hoyt Axton, Michael Higgins, Ed McNamara, Doghmi Larbi, John Karlsen, Leopoldo Trieste, Marne Maitland, Cass-Olé. Cinematography Caleb Deschanel Film Editor Robert Dalva Supervising Sound Editor Alan Splet Original Music Carmine Coppola Written by Melissa Mathison, Jeanne Rosenberg, William D. Wittliff from the novel by Walter Farley Produced by Fred Roos, Tom Sternberg Directed by Carroll Ballard

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Francis Coppola divided audiences with his war epic Apocalypse Now, but in the same
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Two Friends

Medusa Films

"Two Friends" is an oddball confection about a thoroughly mismatched pair who forge a strong friendship for no apparent reason other than the determination of the film's two actor-directors that this should happen.

Based on a play by Spiro Scimone (who adapts it for the screen), the film smoothly opens up the story so that it has a visual flow backed by a lush, mostly classical musical score by Andrea Morricone. But this debut feature by stage veterans Scimone and Francesco Sframeli depends too much on quirkiness and improbable characters to take on any real life of its own. Festival slots seem the only likely future for the low-budget Italian indie.

Scimone and Sframeli deliver sound performances as the misfits -- two southern Italians in a chilly, alienating northern city. Nunzio (Sframeli) is a hapless, dimwitted laborer who works in a paint factory that has given him a chronic, debilitating cough. Unaccountably, he shares a spacious flat with Pino (Scimone), a furtive character who slips in and out of town by train, always careful to pack a gun in his overnight case. Apparently a Mafia hit man, Pino gets his instructions from a fishmonger who leaves deliveries of fish at his doorstep.

When Nunzio's illness prevents him from working and a hospital visit leaves the impression that he is fatally stricken -- this film loves to withhold information -- Pino suddenly drops an attitude of total indifference toward his roommate to help Nunzio woo a pretty woman and then to escape the city for good even at risk to his own safety.

The filmmakers try to squeeze droll humor from the obsessions and repetitive behavior of the eccentric characters. Nunzio is obsessed by food. Pino is, understandably, obsessed by secrecy. Their landlord is obsessed with finding out who broke the doorbell rather than collecting his overdue rent. At a nearby tavern Pino frequents, the bartender endlessly calls in song dedications to a radio station while two old customers obsess over the daily crossword puzzle. Nunzio's co-workers at the factory commute to work daily in a car with a faulty ignition no one bothers to repair.

In this and other ways, "Two Friends" has a bad case of the "cutes." The film, both sentimental and melancholy, earns occasional laughs but mostly at the expense of solid characterization and fluid storytelling.infuses her often-volatile character with a surprising degree of sympathy.

The episodic story line loses steam along the way, and not all of the plot elements -- such as Cleopatra's poignant reunion with an old lover -- are as well developed as they should be. But most filmgoers will be more than happy that they went along for the ride.the movie's climax.

As one can see from this synopsis, characters and story are woefully thin. Even the villains (Gerard Rudolf, Ali Al Ameri) do little more than furrow their brows. The movie exists for its splendid vistas and the final horse race. These elements do justify "Stallion", but if the Mouse wants to pursue Imax features, much more dramatic meat will have to go into the storytelling.

Young Tamini, who has ridden horses virtually all her life, makes a credible heroine even though little is asked of her as an actress. The other actors are stranded by the weak dramatic material.

Production designer Paul Peters and costume designer Jo Katsaras give the film a Moroccan feel. William Ross' score also is a plus, though it contains more than a hint of Maurice Jarre's musical themes from "Lawrence of Arabia".

THE YOUNG BLACK STALLION

Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures

Credits:

Director: Simon Wincer

Screenwriter: Jeanne Rosenberg

Based on the book by: Walter Farley and Steven Farley

Producers: Fred Roos, Frank Marshall

Executive producers: Jeanne Rosenberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Director of photography: Reed Smoot

Production designer: Paul Peters

Music: William Ross

Costume designer: Jo Katsaras

Editors: Bud Smith, Terry Blythe

Cast:

Neera: Biana G. Tamimi

Ben Ishak: Richard Romanus

Aden: Patrick Elyas

Rhamon: Gerard Rudolf

Mansoor: Ali Al Ameri

Kadir: Andries Rossouw

MPAA rating: G

Running time -- 51 minutesG-13>Emma: Dina Waters

Michael: Marc John Jefferies

Megan: Aree Davis

Running time -- 88 minutes

MPAA rating: PG

Children of Love

Fobic Films

NEW YORK -- The devastating effects of divorce upon children is explored in this Belgian film, with its country of origin being particularly appropriate because of its 60% divorce rate, the highest in Europe. First conceived as a documentary, this debut feature from Geoffrey Enthoven betrays its origins via its naturalistic, raw style and occasionally suffers from aimlessness and poor pacing. Nonetheless, the highly effective performances, particularly from the three children in its cast, often give the film a bracing power. "Children of Love" is receiving its American premiere at New York's Film Forum.

The film chronicles the emotional and physical dislocation suffered over the course of a single weekend by the three children of Nathalie (Nathalie Stas), a young, two-time divorcee unwilling to let their demands completely inhibit her lifestyle. Her weekends spent bar-hopping with her female friends, Nathalie parcels out her kids to their respective fathers. Twelve-year-old Michael (Michael Philpott) and 9-year-old Winnie (Winnifred Vigilante) go with their father, Olivier (Olivier Ythier), a garage owner prone to violent temper tantrums over such issues Winnie taking too many napkins at a restaurant. Meanwhile, 5-year-old Aurelie Fauve De Loof) spends time with her father, Renaud (Jean-Louis Leclercq), a nebbishy demolition expert who unaccountably has a much younger, sexier girlfriend with whom he is naturally preoccupied.

The film depicts in casual fashion the various interactions that take place over the apparently typical weekend, with the older children's resentments and the fathers' inability to deal with their emotional needs the primary focus. Utilizing hand-held camerawork and seemingly improvised dialogue, the filmmaker gives a documentary feel to the proceedings, and while the results are convincing, the lack of cohesiveness is sometimes off-putting. Nonetheless, there are individual moments that are emotionally resonant, and the child actors deliver amazingly convincing performances that make their characters' emotional travails haunting.cal of anime -- like a whimsical garden full of mechanical windmills -- occasionally soften the edge but are few and far between.fective in the scenes in which she talks directly to the camera, well demonstrating her ability to establish a rapport with the audience. The beautiful Oreiro, clearly enjoying her co-star's comedic antics, manages to hold her own and infuses her often-volatile character with a surprising degree of sympathy.

The episodic story line loses steam along the way, and not all of the plot elements -- such as Cleopatra's poignant reunion with an old lover -- are as well developed as they should be. But most filmgoers will be more than happy that they went along for the ride.the movie's climax.

As one can see from this synopsis, characters and story are woefully thin. Even the villains (Gerard Rudolf, Ali Al Ameri) do little more than furrow their brows. The movie exists for its splendid vistas and the final horse race. These elements do justify "Stallion", but if the Mouse wants to pursue Imax features, much more dramatic meat will have to go into the storytelling.

Young Tamini, who has ridden horses virtually all her life, makes a credible heroine even though little is asked of her as an actress. The other actors are stranded by the weak dramatic material.

Production designer Paul Peters and costume designer Jo Katsaras give the film a Moroccan feel. William Ross' score also is a plus, though it contains more than a hint of Maurice Jarre's musical themes from "Lawrence of Arabia".

THE YOUNG BLACK STALLION

Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures

Credits:

Director: Simon Wincer

Screenwriter: Jeanne Rosenberg

Based on the book by: Walter Farley and Steven Farley

Producers: Fred Roos, Frank Marshall

Executive producers: Jeanne Rosenberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Director of photography: Reed Smoot

Production designer: Paul Peters

Music: William Ross

Costume designer: Jo Katsaras

Editors: Bud Smith, Terry Blythe

Cast:

Neera: Biana G. Tamimi

Ben Ishak: Richard Romanus

Aden: Patrick Elyas

Rhamon: Gerard Rudolf

Mansoor: Ali Al Ameri

Kadir: Andries Rossouw

MPAA rating: G

Running time -- 51 minutesG-13>Emma: Dina Waters

Michael: Marc John Jefferies

Megan: Aree Davis

Running time -- 88 minutes

MPAA rating: PG

Cleopatra

Cleopatra
Pantagonik Film Group

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The magnificent Norma Aleandro plays the title character in this feel-good Argentine road movie that will be particularly appealing to female audiences. As Cleopatra, a dissatisfied older woman who embarks on a life-changing drive from Buenos Aires to the Andes in the company of a younger soap opera actress, Aleandro gives an atypically buoyant performance that is as endearing as it is often hysterically funny. A huge hit in its native country, "Cleopatra" recently received a rousing reception at is U.S. unveiling at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.

Cleopatra, so named because her father ran a repertory theater company and was in love with the classics, is a retired schoolteacher whose 37-year marriage to her unemployed, depressed husband (Hector Alterio) has hit a definite rut. Now selling cosmetics door-to-door, Cleopatra has long given up her dreams of being an actress, but when the chance comes up to audition for a soap opera, she impulsively grabs it, only to disastrously freeze like a stone in the process.

She does, however, meet the gorgeous Sandra (Argentine soap star Natalia Oreiro), who is at a similar crossroads in her life. Her career micro-managed by her domineering husband (Boy Olmi), Sandra is fed up with the demands of stardom and longs for anonymity. Striking up a quick friendship with Cleopatra, she impulsively cuts her trademark luxurious hair and sets out on a road trip with the older woman. This results in a series of predictable but entertaining adventures, most notably Sandra's budding romantic relationship with a hunky cattleman who has no idea of her fame.

While the screenplay (co-written by director Eduardo Mignogna and Silvina Chague) is fairly rudimentary in its themes, it does provide a marvelous vehicle for the two actresses, who play beautifully off each other. Aleandro, best known in the U.S. for her harrowing Oscar-nominated role in "The Official Story", is a delight as Cleopatra, her most priceless moment being a lengthy single-take scene in which she delivers hilarious body language while joyfully singing along with the car radio. She's also particularly effective in the scenes in which she talks directly to the camera, well demonstrating her ability to establish a rapport with the audience. The beautiful Oreiro, clearly enjoying her co-star's comedic antics, manages to hold her own and infuses her often-volatile character with a surprising degree of sympathy.

The episodic story line loses steam along the way, and not all of the plot elements -- such as Cleopatra's poignant reunion with an old lover -- are as well developed as they should be. But most filmgoers will be more than happy that they went along for the ride.the movie's climax.

As one can see from this synopsis, characters and story are woefully thin. Even the villains (Gerard Rudolf, Ali Al Ameri) do little more than furrow their brows. The movie exists for its splendid vistas and the final horse race. These elements do justify "Stallion", but if the Mouse wants to pursue Imax features, much more dramatic meat will have to go into the storytelling.

Young Tamini, who has ridden horses virtually all her life, makes a credible heroine even though little is asked of her as an actress. The other actors are stranded by the weak dramatic material.

Production designer Paul Peters and costume designer Jo Katsaras give the film a Moroccan feel. William Ross' score also is a plus, though it contains more than a hint of Maurice Jarre's musical themes from "Lawrence of Arabia".

THE YOUNG BLACK STALLION

Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures

Credits:

Director: Simon Wincer

Screenwriter: Jeanne Rosenberg

Based on the book by: Walter Farley and Steven Farley

Producers: Fred Roos, Frank Marshall

Executive producers: Jeanne Rosenberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Director of photography: Reed Smoot

Production designer: Paul Peters

Music: William Ross

Costume designer: Jo Katsaras

Editors: Bud Smith, Terry Blythe

Cast:

Neera: Biana G. Tamimi

Ben Ishak: Richard Romanus

Aden: Patrick Elyas

Rhamon: Gerard Rudolf

Mansoor: Ali Al Ameri

Kadir: Andries Rossouw

MPAA rating: G

Running time -- 51 minutesG-13>Emma: Dina Waters

Michael: Marc John Jefferies

Megan: Aree Davis

Running time -- 88 minutes

MPAA rating: PG

Small Voices

Small Voices
NEW YORK -- A Filipino variation on such Hollywood films about noble teachers as "To Sir, With Love", "Dead Poets' Society" and "Voices From the Heart", this unassuming feature by independent director Gil M. Portes is unfamiliar and exotic only in its setting and language.

But the film manages to recycle its cliches in an appealing fashion, and this tale of a young schoolteacher trying to rally her students by entering them in a singing competition is ultimately a low-key charmer. "Small Voices" is the official Philippine submission to the 2003 Academy Awards and Golden Globes.

it turns out that the family doesn't have enough money for two uniforms.

In an effort to motivate her charges, Melinda enlists them in a regional singing contest, despite general opposition from both her co-workers and the parents. Needless to say, everyone eventually rallies to the cause, with the children ultimately discovering their self-worth through the competition.

Despite its inherent predictability, the film nonetheless succeeds in its modest aims, thanks in large part to the director's fresh approach to his timeworn themes and to de Rossi's engaging performance as the committed teacher. Unlike many of its inspirations, "Small Voices" also manages to inject some social commentary into the proceedings, with the result that it displays intelligence as well as schmaltz. ere.

Noiret is a highly credible as the lovable rogue Rene. He shuffles and shambles through the action scenes, throwing in the odd wry comment where needed. L'Hermitte is excellent as the uptight Francois, who seems lost without his inscrutable partner of years gone by.the end of World War II, a young girl named Neera (Biana G. Tamimi) gets separated from her caravan when it is set upon by raiders. (Who these raiders are and what happens to the rest of the caravan are never explained.) The same raiding party then goes after a mare and her newborn colt. The colt escapes and is discovered wandering alone in the desert by Neera.

She names the horse Shetan, and without too much difficulty the two "orphans" somehow find their way to the casbah of Neera's grandfather (Richard Romanus). How do they find their way? What do they eat? How is Neera able to make a fire? The filmmakers show no interest in the story of their survival.

Once Neera reaches her grandfather's place, Shetan runs off only to return a year later as a magnificent stallion. Without even a moment to break in the stallion, Neera simply climbs on Shetan's back and gallops off. Within a matter of minutes and against her grandfather's wishes, she enters Shetan into a desert horse race against several powerful mares that furnishes the movie's climax.

As one can see from this synopsis, characters and story are woefully thin. Even the villains (Gerard Rudolf, Ali Al Ameri) do little more than furrow their brows. The movie exists for its splendid vistas and the final horse race. These elements do justify "Stallion", but if the Mouse wants to pursue Imax features, much more dramatic meat will have to go into the storytelling.

Young Tamini, who has ridden horses virtually all her life, makes a credible heroine even though little is asked of her as an actress. The other actors are stranded by the weak dramatic material.

Production designer Paul Peters and costume designer Jo Katsaras give the film a Moroccan feel. William Ross' score also is a plus, though it contains more than a hint of Maurice Jarre's musical themes from "Lawrence of Arabia".

THE YOUNG BLACK STALLION

Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures

Credits:

Director: Simon Wincer

Screenwriter: Jeanne Rosenberg

Based on the book by: Walter Farley and Steven Farley

Producers: Fred Roos, Frank Marshall

Executive producers: Jeanne Rosenberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Director of photography: Reed Smoot

Production designer: Paul Peters

Music: William Ross

Costume designer: Jo Katsaras

Editors: Bud Smith, Terry Blythe

Cast:

Neera: Biana G. Tamimi

Ben Ishak: Richard Romanus

Aden: Patrick Elyas

Rhamon: Gerard Rudolf

Mansoor: Ali Al Ameri

Kadir: Andries Rossouw

MPAA rating: G

Running time -- 51 minutesG-13>Emma: Dina Waters

Michael: Marc John Jefferies

Megan: Aree Davis

Running time -- 88 minutes

MPAA rating: PG

Les Ripoux3

Gaumont Buena Vista International

PARIS -- "Les Ripoux3" is the latest in a series of films that director Claude Zidi began shooting back in the early 1980s. The first two films were a great success in France, but it's difficult to see how this one, which amounts to an old-fashioned cop film, will appeal to anyone other than hard-core fans.

Philippe Noiret picks up his role as Rene Boirond, a corrupt, retired police officer who spends his days betting on horses and avoiding creditors. His former partner Francois (Thierry Lhermitte)' has been promoted to head of the anti-crime squad in Paris. The two ex-colleagues have not seen each other for years until Rene becomes involved with the Chinese mafia under surveillance by Francois' squad. The two are now on opposite sides of the fence, and Francois must choose between helping his old friend out of a tight spot or remaining on the right side of the law.

What starts as a simple story is muddied by a string of subplots and secondary characters. Mistaken identity, a long-lost daughter and a drawn-out bank heist stretch the action too thinly. The main characters never have the chance to dig into their roles as the film flicks from one scene to another. This is a real loss as the relationship between Rene and Francois is the true heart of the film. Instead, the plot laboriously twists and turns, and the comedy wrung from the first two movies is sadly lacking here.

Noiret is a highly credible as the lovable rogue Rene. He shuffles and shambles through the action scenes, throwing in the odd wry comment where needed. L'Hermitte is excellent as the uptight Francois, who seems lost without his inscrutable partner of years gone by.the end of World War II, a young girl named Neera (Biana G. Tamimi) gets separated from her caravan when it is set upon by raiders. (Who these raiders are and what happens to the rest of the caravan are never explained.) The same raiding party then goes after a mare and her newborn colt. The colt escapes and is discovered wandering alone in the desert by Neera.

She names the horse Shetan, and without too much difficulty the two "orphans" somehow find their way to the casbah of Neera's grandfather (Richard Romanus). How do they find their way? What do they eat? How is Neera able to make a fire? The filmmakers show no interest in the story of their survival.

Once Neera reaches her grandfather's place, Shetan runs off only to return a year later as a magnificent stallion. Without even a moment to break in the stallion, Neera simply climbs on Shetan's back and gallops off. Within a matter of minutes and against her grandfather's wishes, she enters Shetan into a desert horse race against several powerful mares that furnishes the movie's climax.

As one can see from this synopsis, characters and story are woefully thin. Even the villains (Gerard Rudolf, Ali Al Ameri) do little more than furrow their brows. The movie exists for its splendid vistas and the final horse race. These elements do justify "Stallion", but if the Mouse wants to pursue Imax features, much more dramatic meat will have to go into the storytelling.

Young Tamini, who has ridden horses virtually all her life, makes a credible heroine even though little is asked of her as an actress. The other actors are stranded by the weak dramatic material.

Production designer Paul Peters and costume designer Jo Katsaras give the film a Moroccan feel. William Ross' score also is a plus, though it contains more than a hint of Maurice Jarre's musical themes from "Lawrence of Arabia".

THE YOUNG BLACK STALLION

Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures

Credits:

Director: Simon Wincer

Screenwriter: Jeanne Rosenberg

Based on the book by: Walter Farley and Steven Farley

Producers: Fred Roos, Frank Marshall

Executive producers: Jeanne Rosenberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Director of photography: Reed Smoot

Production designer: Paul Peters

Music: William Ross

Costume designer: Jo Katsaras

Editors: Bud Smith, Terry Blythe

Cast:

Neera: Biana G. Tamimi

Ben Ishak: Richard Romanus

Aden: Patrick Elyas

Rhamon: Gerard Rudolf

Mansoor: Ali Al Ameri

Kadir: Andries Rossouw

MPAA rating: G

Running time -- 51 minutesG-13>Emma: Dina Waters

Michael: Marc John Jefferies

Megan: Aree Davis

Running time -- 88 minutes

MPAA rating: PG

The Young Black Stallion

Opens

Thursday, Dec. 25


"The Young Black Stallion" represents the Walt Disney Co.'s first dramatic movie made expressly for Imax's giant screens. While the movie helps advance the case for more large-screen dramatic films, it weighs in at a mere 51 minutes, making it a throwback to the B-movie programrs of the '30s and '40s that usually ran an hour or so. "Stallion" is designed to maximize the visual opportunities for Imax's cameras even as it minimizes the dramatic conflicts that make for a satisfying moviegoing experience.

The project was created by the writer and producer of the 1979 classic film "The Black Stallion", Jeanne Rosenberg and Fred Roos (along with producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy), from the final book of Walter Farley's "Black Stallion" series, which told about the horse's days in Arabia as a colt. This was then entrusted to director Simon Wincer, himself no stranger to horse movies, having helmed "Lonesome Dove", "Phar Lap" and "The Lighthorsemen".

Veteran Imax cinematographer Reed Smoot gets the most out of the spectacular African locations along the Namibian Skeleton Coast, the Spitzkoppe and South Africa's Drakensberg mountain range with tracking and helicopter shots that make this very much a motion picture. Sometimes the sheer size of the screen almost defeats the movie's dramatic purpose. In one shot where a young girl must climb an outlook and gaze at the colt in the distance, it takes awhile for a viewer to pick out the two figures in so vast a landscape.

Whatever Farley's original story was -- it was completed by his son Stephen following his death -- not much winds up in this sketchy movie. In North Africa at the end of World War II, a young girl named Neera (Biana G. Tamimi) gets separated from her caravan when it is set upon by raiders. (Who these raiders are and what happens to the rest of the caravan are never explained.) The same raiding party then goes after a mare and her newborn colt. The colt escapes and is discovered wandering alone in the desert by Neera.

She names the horse Shetan, and without too much difficulty the two "orphans" somehow find their way to the casbah of Neera's grandfather (Richard Romanus). How do they find their way? What do they eat? How is Neera able to make a fire? The filmmakers show no interest in the story of their survival.

Once Neera reaches her grandfather's place, Shetan runs off only to return a year later as a magnificent stallion. Without even a moment to break in the stallion, Neera simply climbs on Shetan's back and gallops off. Within a matter of minutes and against her grandfather's wishes, she enters Shetan into a desert horse race against several powerful mares that furnishes the movie's climax.

As one can see from this synopsis, characters and story are woefully thin. Even the villains (Gerard Rudolf, Ali Al Ameri) do little more than furrow their brows. The movie exists for its splendid vistas and the final horse race. These elements do justify "Stallion", but if the Mouse wants to pursue Imax features, much more dramatic meat will have to go into the storytelling.

Young Tamini, who has ridden horses virtually all her life, makes a credible heroine even though little is asked of her as an actress. The other actors are stranded by the weak dramatic material.

Production designer Paul Peters and costume designer Jo Katsaras give the film a Moroccan feel. William Ross' score also is a plus, though it contains more than a hint of Maurice Jarre's musical themes from "Lawrence of Arabia".

THE YOUNG BLACK STALLION

Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures

Credits:

Director: Simon Wincer

Screenwriter: Jeanne Rosenberg

Based on the book by: Walter Farley and Steven Farley

Producers: Fred Roos, Frank Marshall

Executive producers: Jeanne Rosenberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Director of photography: Reed Smoot

Production designer: Paul Peters

Music: William Ross

Costume designer: Jo Katsaras

Editors: Bud Smith, Terry Blythe

Cast:

Neera: Biana G. Tamimi

Ben Ishak: Richard Romanus

Aden: Patrick Elyas

Rhamon: Gerard Rudolf

Mansoor: Ali Al Ameri

Kadir: Andries Rossouw

MPAA rating: G

Running time -- 51 minutesG-13>Emma: Dina Waters

Michael: Marc John Jefferies

Megan: Aree Davis

Running time -- 88 minutes

MPAA rating: PG

Two Friends

Medusa Films

"Two Friends" is an oddball confection about a thoroughly mismatched pair who forge a strong friendship for no apparent reason other than the determination of the film's two actor-directors that this should happen.

Based on a play by Spiro Scimone (who adapts it for the screen), the film smoothly opens up the story so that it has a visual flow backed by a lush, mostly classical musical score by Andrea Morricone. But this debut feature by stage veterans Scimone and Francesco Sframeli depends too much on quirkiness and improbable characters to take on any real life of its own. Festival slots seem the only likely future for the low-budget Italian indie.

Scimone and Sframeli deliver sound performances as the misfits -- two southern Italians in a chilly, alienating northern city. Nunzio (Sframeli) is a hapless, dimwitted laborer who works in a paint factory that has given him a chronic, debilitating cough. Unaccountably, he shares a spacious flat with Pino (Scimone), a furtive character who slips in and out of town by train, always careful to pack a gun in his overnight case. Apparently a Mafia hit man, Pino gets his instructions from a fishmonger who leaves deliveries of fish at his doorstep.

When Nunzio's illness prevents him from working and a hospital visit leaves the impression that he is fatally stricken -- this film loves to withhold information -- Pino suddenly drops an attitude of total indifference toward his roommate to help Nunzio woo a pretty woman and then to escape the city for good even at risk to his own safety.

The filmmakers try to squeeze droll humor from the obsessions and repetitive behavior of the eccentric characters. Nunzio is obsessed by food. Pino is, understandably, obsessed by secrecy. Their landlord is obsessed with finding out who broke the doorbell rather than collecting his overdue rent. At a nearby tavern Pino frequents, the bartender endlessly calls in song dedications to a radio station while two old customers obsess over the daily crossword puzzle. Nunzio's co-workers at the factory commute to work daily in a car with a faulty ignition no one bothers to repair.

In this and other ways, "Two Friends" has a bad case of the "cutes." The film, both sentimental and melancholy, earns occasional laughs but mostly at the expense of solid characterization and fluid storytelling.infuses her often-volatile character with a surprising degree of sympathy.

The episodic story line loses steam along the way, and not all of the plot elements -- such as Cleopatra's poignant reunion with an old lover -- are as well developed as they should be. But most filmgoers will be more than happy that they went along for the ride.the movie's climax.

As one can see from this synopsis, characters and story are woefully thin. Even the villains (Gerard Rudolf, Ali Al Ameri) do little more than furrow their brows. The movie exists for its splendid vistas and the final horse race. These elements do justify "Stallion", but if the Mouse wants to pursue Imax features, much more dramatic meat will have to go into the storytelling.

Young Tamini, who has ridden horses virtually all her life, makes a credible heroine even though little is asked of her as an actress. The other actors are stranded by the weak dramatic material.

Production designer Paul Peters and costume designer Jo Katsaras give the film a Moroccan feel. William Ross' score also is a plus, though it contains more than a hint of Maurice Jarre's musical themes from "Lawrence of Arabia".

THE YOUNG BLACK STALLION

Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures

Credits:

Director: Simon Wincer

Screenwriter: Jeanne Rosenberg

Based on the book by: Walter Farley and Steven Farley

Producers: Fred Roos, Frank Marshall

Executive producers: Jeanne Rosenberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Director of photography: Reed Smoot

Production designer: Paul Peters

Music: William Ross

Costume designer: Jo Katsaras

Editors: Bud Smith, Terry Blythe

Cast:

Neera: Biana G. Tamimi

Ben Ishak: Richard Romanus

Aden: Patrick Elyas

Rhamon: Gerard Rudolf

Mansoor: Ali Al Ameri

Kadir: Andries Rossouw

MPAA rating: G

Running time -- 51 minutesG-13>Emma: Dina Waters

Michael: Marc John Jefferies

Megan: Aree Davis

Running time -- 88 minutes

MPAA rating: PG

Children of Love

Fobic Films

NEW YORK -- The devastating effects of divorce upon children is explored in this Belgian film, with its country of origin being particularly appropriate because of its 60% divorce rate, the highest in Europe. First conceived as a documentary, this debut feature from Geoffrey Enthoven betrays its origins via its naturalistic, raw style and occasionally suffers from aimlessness and poor pacing. Nonetheless, the highly effective performances, particularly from the three children in its cast, often give the film a bracing power. "Children of Love" is receiving its American premiere at New York's Film Forum.

The film chronicles the emotional and physical dislocation suffered over the course of a single weekend by the three children of Nathalie (Nathalie Stas), a young, two-time divorcee unwilling to let their demands completely inhibit her lifestyle. Her weekends spent bar-hopping with her female friends, Nathalie parcels out her kids to their respective fathers. Twelve-year-old Michael (Michael Philpott) and 9-year-old Winnie (Winnifred Vigilante) go with their father, Olivier (Olivier Ythier), a garage owner prone to violent temper tantrums over such issues Winnie taking too many napkins at a restaurant. Meanwhile, 5-year-old Aurelie Fauve De Loof) spends time with her father, Renaud (Jean-Louis Leclercq), a nebbishy demolition expert who unaccountably has a much younger, sexier girlfriend with whom he is naturally preoccupied.

The film depicts in casual fashion the various interactions that take place over the apparently typical weekend, with the older children's resentments and the fathers' inability to deal with their emotional needs the primary focus. Utilizing hand-held camerawork and seemingly improvised dialogue, the filmmaker gives a documentary feel to the proceedings, and while the results are convincing, the lack of cohesiveness is sometimes off-putting. Nonetheless, there are individual moments that are emotionally resonant, and the child actors deliver amazingly convincing performances that make their characters' emotional travails haunting.cal of anime -- like a whimsical garden full of mechanical windmills -- occasionally soften the edge but are few and far between.fective in the scenes in which she talks directly to the camera, well demonstrating her ability to establish a rapport with the audience. The beautiful Oreiro, clearly enjoying her co-star's comedic antics, manages to hold her own and infuses her often-volatile character with a surprising degree of sympathy.

The episodic story line loses steam along the way, and not all of the plot elements -- such as Cleopatra's poignant reunion with an old lover -- are as well developed as they should be. But most filmgoers will be more than happy that they went along for the ride.the movie's climax.

As one can see from this synopsis, characters and story are woefully thin. Even the villains (Gerard Rudolf, Ali Al Ameri) do little more than furrow their brows. The movie exists for its splendid vistas and the final horse race. These elements do justify "Stallion", but if the Mouse wants to pursue Imax features, much more dramatic meat will have to go into the storytelling.

Young Tamini, who has ridden horses virtually all her life, makes a credible heroine even though little is asked of her as an actress. The other actors are stranded by the weak dramatic material.

Production designer Paul Peters and costume designer Jo Katsaras give the film a Moroccan feel. William Ross' score also is a plus, though it contains more than a hint of Maurice Jarre's musical themes from "Lawrence of Arabia".

THE YOUNG BLACK STALLION

Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures

Credits:

Director: Simon Wincer

Screenwriter: Jeanne Rosenberg

Based on the book by: Walter Farley and Steven Farley

Producers: Fred Roos, Frank Marshall

Executive producers: Jeanne Rosenberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Director of photography: Reed Smoot

Production designer: Paul Peters

Music: William Ross

Costume designer: Jo Katsaras

Editors: Bud Smith, Terry Blythe

Cast:

Neera: Biana G. Tamimi

Ben Ishak: Richard Romanus

Aden: Patrick Elyas

Rhamon: Gerard Rudolf

Mansoor: Ali Al Ameri

Kadir: Andries Rossouw

MPAA rating: G

Running time -- 51 minutesG-13>Emma: Dina Waters

Michael: Marc John Jefferies

Megan: Aree Davis

Running time -- 88 minutes

MPAA rating: PG

Cleopatra

Cleopatra
Pantagonik Film Group

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The magnificent Norma Aleandro plays the title character in this feel-good Argentine road movie that will be particularly appealing to female audiences. As Cleopatra, a dissatisfied older woman who embarks on a life-changing drive from Buenos Aires to the Andes in the company of a younger soap opera actress, Aleandro gives an atypically buoyant performance that is as endearing as it is often hysterically funny. A huge hit in its native country, "Cleopatra" recently received a rousing reception at is U.S. unveiling at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.

Cleopatra, so named because her father ran a repertory theater company and was in love with the classics, is a retired schoolteacher whose 37-year marriage to her unemployed, depressed husband (Hector Alterio) has hit a definite rut. Now selling cosmetics door-to-door, Cleopatra has long given up her dreams of being an actress, but when the chance comes up to audition for a soap opera, she impulsively grabs it, only to disastrously freeze like a stone in the process.

She does, however, meet the gorgeous Sandra (Argentine soap star Natalia Oreiro), who is at a similar crossroads in her life. Her career micro-managed by her domineering husband (Boy Olmi), Sandra is fed up with the demands of stardom and longs for anonymity. Striking up a quick friendship with Cleopatra, she impulsively cuts her trademark luxurious hair and sets out on a road trip with the older woman. This results in a series of predictable but entertaining adventures, most notably Sandra's budding romantic relationship with a hunky cattleman who has no idea of her fame.

While the screenplay (co-written by director Eduardo Mignogna and Silvina Chague) is fairly rudimentary in its themes, it does provide a marvelous vehicle for the two actresses, who play beautifully off each other. Aleandro, best known in the U.S. for her harrowing Oscar-nominated role in "The Official Story", is a delight as Cleopatra, her most priceless moment being a lengthy single-take scene in which she delivers hilarious body language while joyfully singing along with the car radio. She's also particularly effective in the scenes in which she talks directly to the camera, well demonstrating her ability to establish a rapport with the audience. The beautiful Oreiro, clearly enjoying her co-star's comedic antics, manages to hold her own and infuses her often-volatile character with a surprising degree of sympathy.

The episodic story line loses steam along the way, and not all of the plot elements -- such as Cleopatra's poignant reunion with an old lover -- are as well developed as they should be. But most filmgoers will be more than happy that they went along for the ride.the movie's climax.

As one can see from this synopsis, characters and story are woefully thin. Even the villains (Gerard Rudolf, Ali Al Ameri) do little more than furrow their brows. The movie exists for its splendid vistas and the final horse race. These elements do justify "Stallion", but if the Mouse wants to pursue Imax features, much more dramatic meat will have to go into the storytelling.

Young Tamini, who has ridden horses virtually all her life, makes a credible heroine even though little is asked of her as an actress. The other actors are stranded by the weak dramatic material.

Production designer Paul Peters and costume designer Jo Katsaras give the film a Moroccan feel. William Ross' score also is a plus, though it contains more than a hint of Maurice Jarre's musical themes from "Lawrence of Arabia".

THE YOUNG BLACK STALLION

Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures

Credits:

Director: Simon Wincer

Screenwriter: Jeanne Rosenberg

Based on the book by: Walter Farley and Steven Farley

Producers: Fred Roos, Frank Marshall

Executive producers: Jeanne Rosenberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Director of photography: Reed Smoot

Production designer: Paul Peters

Music: William Ross

Costume designer: Jo Katsaras

Editors: Bud Smith, Terry Blythe

Cast:

Neera: Biana G. Tamimi

Ben Ishak: Richard Romanus

Aden: Patrick Elyas

Rhamon: Gerard Rudolf

Mansoor: Ali Al Ameri

Kadir: Andries Rossouw

MPAA rating: G

Running time -- 51 minutesG-13>Emma: Dina Waters

Michael: Marc John Jefferies

Megan: Aree Davis

Running time -- 88 minutes

MPAA rating: PG

Small Voices

Small Voices
NEW YORK -- A Filipino variation on such Hollywood films about noble teachers as "To Sir, With Love", "Dead Poets' Society" and "Voices From the Heart", this unassuming feature by independent director Gil M. Portes is unfamiliar and exotic only in its setting and language.

But the film manages to recycle its cliches in an appealing fashion, and this tale of a young schoolteacher trying to rally her students by entering them in a singing competition is ultimately a low-key charmer. "Small Voices" is the official Philippine submission to the 2003 Academy Awards and Golden Globes.

it turns out that the family doesn't have enough money for two uniforms.

In an effort to motivate her charges, Melinda enlists them in a regional singing contest, despite general opposition from both her co-workers and the parents. Needless to say, everyone eventually rallies to the cause, with the children ultimately discovering their self-worth through the competition.

Despite its inherent predictability, the film nonetheless succeeds in its modest aims, thanks in large part to the director's fresh approach to his timeworn themes and to de Rossi's engaging performance as the committed teacher. Unlike many of its inspirations, "Small Voices" also manages to inject some social commentary into the proceedings, with the result that it displays intelligence as well as schmaltz. ere.

Noiret is a highly credible as the lovable rogue Rene. He shuffles and shambles through the action scenes, throwing in the odd wry comment where needed. L'Hermitte is excellent as the uptight Francois, who seems lost without his inscrutable partner of years gone by.the end of World War II, a young girl named Neera (Biana G. Tamimi) gets separated from her caravan when it is set upon by raiders. (Who these raiders are and what happens to the rest of the caravan are never explained.) The same raiding party then goes after a mare and her newborn colt. The colt escapes and is discovered wandering alone in the desert by Neera.

She names the horse Shetan, and without too much difficulty the two "orphans" somehow find their way to the casbah of Neera's grandfather (Richard Romanus). How do they find their way? What do they eat? How is Neera able to make a fire? The filmmakers show no interest in the story of their survival.

Once Neera reaches her grandfather's place, Shetan runs off only to return a year later as a magnificent stallion. Without even a moment to break in the stallion, Neera simply climbs on Shetan's back and gallops off. Within a matter of minutes and against her grandfather's wishes, she enters Shetan into a desert horse race against several powerful mares that furnishes the movie's climax.

As one can see from this synopsis, characters and story are woefully thin. Even the villains (Gerard Rudolf, Ali Al Ameri) do little more than furrow their brows. The movie exists for its splendid vistas and the final horse race. These elements do justify "Stallion", but if the Mouse wants to pursue Imax features, much more dramatic meat will have to go into the storytelling.

Young Tamini, who has ridden horses virtually all her life, makes a credible heroine even though little is asked of her as an actress. The other actors are stranded by the weak dramatic material.

Production designer Paul Peters and costume designer Jo Katsaras give the film a Moroccan feel. William Ross' score also is a plus, though it contains more than a hint of Maurice Jarre's musical themes from "Lawrence of Arabia".

THE YOUNG BLACK STALLION

Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures

Credits:

Director: Simon Wincer

Screenwriter: Jeanne Rosenberg

Based on the book by: Walter Farley and Steven Farley

Producers: Fred Roos, Frank Marshall

Executive producers: Jeanne Rosenberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Director of photography: Reed Smoot

Production designer: Paul Peters

Music: William Ross

Costume designer: Jo Katsaras

Editors: Bud Smith, Terry Blythe

Cast:

Neera: Biana G. Tamimi

Ben Ishak: Richard Romanus

Aden: Patrick Elyas

Rhamon: Gerard Rudolf

Mansoor: Ali Al Ameri

Kadir: Andries Rossouw

MPAA rating: G

Running time -- 51 minutesG-13>Emma: Dina Waters

Michael: Marc John Jefferies

Megan: Aree Davis

Running time -- 88 minutes

MPAA rating: PG

Les Ripoux3

Gaumont Buena Vista International

PARIS -- "Les Ripoux3" is the latest in a series of films that director Claude Zidi began shooting back in the early 1980s. The first two films were a great success in France, but it's difficult to see how this one, which amounts to an old-fashioned cop film, will appeal to anyone other than hard-core fans.

Philippe Noiret picks up his role as Rene Boirond, a corrupt, retired police officer who spends his days betting on horses and avoiding creditors. His former partner Francois (Thierry Lhermitte)' has been promoted to head of the anti-crime squad in Paris. The two ex-colleagues have not seen each other for years until Rene becomes involved with the Chinese mafia under surveillance by Francois' squad. The two are now on opposite sides of the fence, and Francois must choose between helping his old friend out of a tight spot or remaining on the right side of the law.

What starts as a simple story is muddied by a string of subplots and secondary characters. Mistaken identity, a long-lost daughter and a drawn-out bank heist stretch the action too thinly. The main characters never have the chance to dig into their roles as the film flicks from one scene to another. This is a real loss as the relationship between Rene and Francois is the true heart of the film. Instead, the plot laboriously twists and turns, and the comedy wrung from the first two movies is sadly lacking here.

Noiret is a highly credible as the lovable rogue Rene. He shuffles and shambles through the action scenes, throwing in the odd wry comment where needed. L'Hermitte is excellent as the uptight Francois, who seems lost without his inscrutable partner of years gone by.the end of World War II, a young girl named Neera (Biana G. Tamimi) gets separated from her caravan when it is set upon by raiders. (Who these raiders are and what happens to the rest of the caravan are never explained.) The same raiding party then goes after a mare and her newborn colt. The colt escapes and is discovered wandering alone in the desert by Neera.

She names the horse Shetan, and without too much difficulty the two "orphans" somehow find their way to the casbah of Neera's grandfather (Richard Romanus). How do they find their way? What do they eat? How is Neera able to make a fire? The filmmakers show no interest in the story of their survival.

Once Neera reaches her grandfather's place, Shetan runs off only to return a year later as a magnificent stallion. Without even a moment to break in the stallion, Neera simply climbs on Shetan's back and gallops off. Within a matter of minutes and against her grandfather's wishes, she enters Shetan into a desert horse race against several powerful mares that furnishes the movie's climax.

As one can see from this synopsis, characters and story are woefully thin. Even the villains (Gerard Rudolf, Ali Al Ameri) do little more than furrow their brows. The movie exists for its splendid vistas and the final horse race. These elements do justify "Stallion", but if the Mouse wants to pursue Imax features, much more dramatic meat will have to go into the storytelling.

Young Tamini, who has ridden horses virtually all her life, makes a credible heroine even though little is asked of her as an actress. The other actors are stranded by the weak dramatic material.

Production designer Paul Peters and costume designer Jo Katsaras give the film a Moroccan feel. William Ross' score also is a plus, though it contains more than a hint of Maurice Jarre's musical themes from "Lawrence of Arabia".

THE YOUNG BLACK STALLION

Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures

Credits:

Director: Simon Wincer

Screenwriter: Jeanne Rosenberg

Based on the book by: Walter Farley and Steven Farley

Producers: Fred Roos, Frank Marshall

Executive producers: Jeanne Rosenberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Director of photography: Reed Smoot

Production designer: Paul Peters

Music: William Ross

Costume designer: Jo Katsaras

Editors: Bud Smith, Terry Blythe

Cast:

Neera: Biana G. Tamimi

Ben Ishak: Richard Romanus

Aden: Patrick Elyas

Rhamon: Gerard Rudolf

Mansoor: Ali Al Ameri

Kadir: Andries Rossouw

MPAA rating: G

Running time -- 51 minutesG-13>Emma: Dina Waters

Michael: Marc John Jefferies

Megan: Aree Davis

Running time -- 88 minutes

MPAA rating: PG

The Young Black Stallion

Opens

Thursday, Dec. 25


"The Young Black Stallion" represents the Walt Disney Co.'s first dramatic movie made expressly for Imax's giant screens. While the movie helps advance the case for more large-screen dramatic films, it weighs in at a mere 51 minutes, making it a throwback to the B-movie programrs of the '30s and '40s that usually ran an hour or so. "Stallion" is designed to maximize the visual opportunities for Imax's cameras even as it minimizes the dramatic conflicts that make for a satisfying moviegoing experience.

The project was created by the writer and producer of the 1979 classic film "The Black Stallion", Jeanne Rosenberg and Fred Roos (along with producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy), from the final book of Walter Farley's "Black Stallion" series, which told about the horse's days in Arabia as a colt. This was then entrusted to director Simon Wincer, himself no stranger to horse movies, having helmed "Lonesome Dove", "Phar Lap" and "The Lighthorsemen".

Veteran Imax cinematographer Reed Smoot gets the most out of the spectacular African locations along the Namibian Skeleton Coast, the Spitzkoppe and South Africa's Drakensberg mountain range with tracking and helicopter shots that make this very much a motion picture. Sometimes the sheer size of the screen almost defeats the movie's dramatic purpose. In one shot where a young girl must climb an outlook and gaze at the colt in the distance, it takes awhile for a viewer to pick out the two figures in so vast a landscape.

Whatever Farley's original story was -- it was completed by his son Stephen following his death -- not much winds up in this sketchy movie. In North Africa at the end of World War II, a young girl named Neera (Biana G. Tamimi) gets separated from her caravan when it is set upon by raiders. (Who these raiders are and what happens to the rest of the caravan are never explained.) The same raiding party then goes after a mare and her newborn colt. The colt escapes and is discovered wandering alone in the desert by Neera.

She names the horse Shetan, and without too much difficulty the two "orphans" somehow find their way to the casbah of Neera's grandfather (Richard Romanus). How do they find their way? What do they eat? How is Neera able to make a fire? The filmmakers show no interest in the story of their survival.

Once Neera reaches her grandfather's place, Shetan runs off only to return a year later as a magnificent stallion. Without even a moment to break in the stallion, Neera simply climbs on Shetan's back and gallops off. Within a matter of minutes and against her grandfather's wishes, she enters Shetan into a desert horse race against several powerful mares that furnishes the movie's climax.

As one can see from this synopsis, characters and story are woefully thin. Even the villains (Gerard Rudolf, Ali Al Ameri) do little more than furrow their brows. The movie exists for its splendid vistas and the final horse race. These elements do justify "Stallion", but if the Mouse wants to pursue Imax features, much more dramatic meat will have to go into the storytelling.

Young Tamini, who has ridden horses virtually all her life, makes a credible heroine even though little is asked of her as an actress. The other actors are stranded by the weak dramatic material.

Production designer Paul Peters and costume designer Jo Katsaras give the film a Moroccan feel. William Ross' score also is a plus, though it contains more than a hint of Maurice Jarre's musical themes from "Lawrence of Arabia".

THE YOUNG BLACK STALLION

Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures

Credits:

Director: Simon Wincer

Screenwriter: Jeanne Rosenberg

Based on the book by: Walter Farley and Steven Farley

Producers: Fred Roos, Frank Marshall

Executive producers: Jeanne Rosenberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Director of photography: Reed Smoot

Production designer: Paul Peters

Music: William Ross

Costume designer: Jo Katsaras

Editors: Bud Smith, Terry Blythe

Cast:

Neera: Biana G. Tamimi

Ben Ishak: Richard Romanus

Aden: Patrick Elyas

Rhamon: Gerard Rudolf

Mansoor: Ali Al Ameri

Kadir: Andries Rossouw

MPAA rating: G

Running time -- 51 minutesG-13>Emma: Dina Waters

Michael: Marc John Jefferies

Megan: Aree Davis

Running time -- 88 minutes

MPAA rating: PG

NL, Rosenberg rope 'Scamper'

New Line Cinema is gearing up to bring to the big screen the true story of the most successful female rodeo rider in history. The studio is developing Scamper, a feature film about the life of champion rider Charmayne James. Jeanne Rosenberg, who has penned several successful horse-related films, including the 1979 classic The Black Stallion, will pen the script. Titled for the name of James Champion' horse, Scamper will revolve around the relationship between James and her horse and culminate with her being crowned World Champion Barrel Racer for the first time in 1985 at age 15. The story will focus on how Scamper was considered an unridable horse until trained by James, who then went on to win 11 championships, including nine straight on Scamper. There are no producers attached to the project, which is being overseen by New Line production executives Chris Godsick and Mark Kaufman. In addition to penning The Black Stallion, Rosenberg recently scripted the large-format prequel The Young Black Stallion for the Walt Disney Co. and has written such features as White Fang and The Journey of Natty Gann. Rosenberg is repped by the Gersh Agency.

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