Apocalypto – Mel Gibson made the news not too long ago for his anti-Semitic comments to a pair of California police officers. Apocalypto will bring him more international attention, but for a much different reason. The movie portrays the Mayan world, at a time in history when many believe the empire fell into decline. There is a great quote to start off the movie on how civilizations destroy themselves from within. However, the story told by the village elder at the end of the day is just as appropriate, and it is about why man will never be satisfied. The movie could have easily been about how the Maya living in the city forgot their values and all the really important things life is supposed to be about. The film’s main character, Jaguar Paw, is played by Rudy Youngblood, who is of mixed Native American ancestry (Comanche, Cree and Yaqui.) He does a great job of captivating us with the journey he takes from hearing the sage lessons his father has to teach him, to actually learning them from his experiences as the world around him erupts in chaos. Although one might take offence, especially if you are of Mayan descent, with the portrayal of the people living in the city, it seemed to speculate solely on negative aspects of the civilization. What about the Mayans’ remarkable achievements? Further, there were some events which were a bit out of order such as smallpox preceding Contact. This aside, the scenery was incredible, and the story as it unfolds in the rainforest is amazing. The dialogue is delivered well. Although it is all in modern-day Yucatec (the language of the Yucatan Indians, descendants of the Mayans), it speaks volumes to the audience. The direction is good as well. This movie could be classified as Oscar worthy, especially with awards season just around the corner. The movie is two-and-a-half hours long, but I would have stayed longer if there were more scenes of Jaguar Paw’s life on the land. Its familiarity will resonate with other Indigenous peoples even in modern times. This movie is not only a holiday treat, it is one of the better movies of 2006.

The Holiday – The movie is best described as a romantic drama. The movie stars Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet as two women who have realized that their love was not being reciprocated in their respective relationships. In fact, their partners seem to have found other partners while still clinging to them for other reasons. In desperation they decide to try a house swap, in which they trade their houses for the holiday season in hopes of leaving their problems behind. Cameron Diaz plays a successful movie trailer editor, and has a luxurious house in Beverly Hills. Kate Winslet’s character is a writer for a newsmagazine, and has a small cottage in the English countryside. Both decide to escape their lives, but on their holidays they find confidence and themselves. It is along the lines of Love Actually, a nice feel-good movie for the season. The movie is directed by Nancy Meyers, who also directed Something’s Gotta Give and What Women Want. It is a date movie, and will not appeal to all audiences.

FOR YOUR Consideration

For Your Consideration – This movie was written by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy. Much like The Mighty Wind, the movie makes fun of an aspect of the entertainment world. In this case, actors shooting a small independent film have their lives turned upside down when there is talk about Oscar nominations for their performances. The parody of the Entertainment Tonight-style of Hollywood news shows is funny, and at times the lines are pure genius for the hosts. This said, it does not achieve the level of fun and laughs that A Mighty Wind or Best in Show or Waiting for Guffman generated for the same director, Christopher Guest. While the actors and dialogue is good, the plot does not deliver enough to put it into a class of entertainment that it could have attained. Perhaps this was left on the editing floor. One could not help but feel there was something missing. It was an hour and 38 minutes. Another 20 minutes might have made the movie better.

National Lampoon’s Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj – Some movie sequels are not meant to be made, although there are always exceptions. The Rise of Taj would not fit into the exceptions category. The original, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, had the star attraction of a young new comedy actor, Ryan Reynolds, and the already-established Tara Reid as the leading lady. This sequel has a supporting character actor trying to carry a movie. Instead of returning to India, Taj (played by Kal Penn of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle), heads to a prestigious university in England to teach people the lessons he learned from Van, i.e., how to party and enjoy life. Taj is not Van, and cannot deliver the same level of entertainment. The over-the-top scenes, usually present in the National Lampoon’s films, are surprisingly absent. There are some laughs throughout the movie but the plot is weak, and the characters are not up to the task.