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"Apocalypse Now Redux"; "Hardball"; "Greenfingers" 

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!B! "Apocalypse Now Redux"!B! "Hardball"!B! "Greenfingers"

Movies are rated out of a possible 5 popcorns.


"Apocalypse Now Redux" — Though you may be enticed into seeing any of the current spate of movies promising titillation or mindless entertainment, I promise you this: You won't see any film this year as beautiful, as resonant, or as plainly thrilling as "Apocalypse Now Redux." This expanded version of the 1979 masterpiece has been reedited by director and co-writer Coppola and co-editor Walter Murch to include more than 50 minutes of footage excised from the original because of time constraints. The main story line, however, remains the same. We sit enthralled as a Special Forces captain named Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent up river to assassinate a supposedly insane American colonel (Marlon Brando). Most notable among the additional footage are two sex scenes, one with Sheen's crew and some stranded Playboy Playmates, the other between Sheen and a young French widow. One adds little to Coppola's masterpiece, the other bogs this new version down a bit, but offers a much-needed historical perspective to the conflict that was missing from the original. "Apocalypse Now Redux" is a lengthier and often richer experience. Still breathtaking at times, still mysterious, but always flirting with sheer brilliance.






"Hardball" — While cork may make up the insides of a regulation hardball, it's plain, ol' corn that fills this "Bad News Bears" retake. Keanu Reeves stars as Conor O'Neill, a wastrel hooked on sports betting who finds himself stuck coaching a youth league baseball team as a way to pay off his gambling debts to some shady, kneecap-busting bookies. But like every other Cinderella sports tale, "Hardball" soon slips into tear-jerker mode. Because the movie has nothing more in mind than being the usual flight of fancy into pure Hollywood sentiment, "Hardball" refuses to explore honestly the theme of race relations, despite having chosen the Chicago projects as its setting. Oh well, at least the kids are charming and precocious, and, in truth, create more believable characters than Reeves.






"Greenfingers" — If the thought of muscular guys pruning roses brings a smile to your lips, then you'll want to plant yourself in the theater showing this gently sappy British comedy about gardening. Colin Briggs is man who's given up on life. Nearing the end of a long sentence for manslaughter, he finds himself transferred to an "experimental," open prison where he discovers he has something of a green thumb. The next thing you know, Briggs and some other rough 'n' ready convicts are knee-deep in dirt, turning their stark prison landscape into a charming, flowering bounty. Things get really interesting when flamboyant gardening expert Georgina Woodhouse (the marvelous Helen Mirren doing a cross between Martha Stewart and the Queen Mum) sees what the gang has done. Next thing you know, there's a second chance at life for Colin, a new love for Georgina's shy daughter, and a chance for the convicts to show that beauty and inspiration can take seed even behind bars.

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