The Others 

This week in the movies: a princess, aliens, and Mormons.

It s hard to believe that 14 years have passed and the spirit of Pretty Woman is still very much alive and well. Beloved by audiences, liked by critics, and reviled by many sociologists, Pretty Woman endures as a very specific but widely held fantasy by many men and women: that if she can look right and talk right and eat right and walk right, that if she changes sufficiently, then she can find her Prince Charming.
Social messages aside, Pretty Woman is a superlative romantic comedy. It s funny, charming, well-acted, and well-directed, and it introduced Julia Roberts as America s sweetheart while re-introducing Richard Gere as one of its most appealing, if pensive, leading men. But beneath the veneer of romance and love at first bite, Roberts character was a prostitute, and Gere s character fell in love with a woman he initially paid to have sex with him. That she blossomed into a woman of carriage and propriety is almost beside the point. It s damningly irresponsible to market a movie to teenage girls that makes hooking look like a great way to land a handsome and rich husband.
Director Garry Marshall, who must have a thing for princess stories, brings much of the Pretty Woman joie de vivre to his set of teen fantasies, The Princess Diaries and its sequel, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. Both Pretty Woman and Princess Diaries feature classy Hector Elizondo as a discreet watchdog who maintains appearances while gently bolstering the self-esteem of the female lead. Both feature comedian Larry Miller in a funny cameo as a fabulous stylist. And both Pretty Woman and Princess Diaries relay the message that a young girl must change who and what she is to deserve riches, respect, and, in the case of Princess Diaries, royalty. Never mind that Mia, played by comely Anne Hathaway, is intelligent and interesting and neat in her own way. In Princess Diaries 1, she still must have her eyebrows plucked and her posture adjusted if she is to be granted the company of her own grandmother. In short, it is insufficient for a neat and talented girl to be herself. She must be a princess. How unfortunate that there aren t more movies like Shrek, which sends the message that it s okay to be weird and green so long as you ve got a good heart.
Anyway, let me catch you up: In the first, 2001 installment of The Princess Diaries, awkward 15-year-old Mia Thermopolis is visited by her long-lost grandmother Clarisse (Julie Andrews), who turns out to be queen of a small but beautiful country called Genovia. (We are told that it is nestled snugly between Spain and France.) This makes Mia a princess, and in order to take her rightful place at the throne, Mia undergoes a transformation from, well, herself, into a more glamorous, better groomed young-model type. Now, in the next Princess Diaries, it is five years later. Mia has just finished four years of collegiate political science in her preparation to govern Genovia when her grandmother steps down (which, according to Genovian tradition, is imminent).
Genovia is a curious little country that looks like I imagine Dollywood to be if you threw in Pepperidge Farm, the Swiss Colony, and the It s a Small World ride at Disneyland. Its citizens are every color imaginable and sport accents from France, England, the U.S., and a number of in-betweens. They are also a town of broad slapsticks. People in Genovia fall down a lot, and I can t quite tell if they are all very clumsy or if they overwax their floors. In any case, there is a great deal of pratfalling going on, and the fact that Princess Mia is enormously clumsy herself should make her perfectly qualified to rule.
But there is trouble afoot. A greedy parliamentarian, the Viscount Mabrey (John Rhys-Davies, the dwarf in Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones fez-topped pal) has a plot to get his nephew onto the throne instead of Mia. Seems that there is an obscure Genovian law that dictates that in order to be queen, Mia must marry. The dreamboat nephew, Nicholas (Chris Pine) goes along with this reluctantly but finds that while Mia tries to beat the clock and marry a princely type fast, he actually cares for her.
Like Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries 2 is a handsome fairy tale given comic legs by talented young comedienne Hathaway and a true queenly radiance by the astonishingly beautiful Andrews. But this unnecessary and sloppy-looking sequel tarnishes the charm of the first, even while its message sexism is bad is worthier than that of the first: Princesses are pretty.
Call me new-fashioned, but shouldn t everyone be able to be a princess?

Bo List

The video-gaming forum is just enough under the pop-culture radar screen to allow for outlandish fantasy without affecting our understanding of the icons. However, while Alien vs. Predator has been a successful video game since 1999, now that the movie is out, the stories and traditions of both worlds are irrevocably entwined. Drat!
There is no reason to revisit these stories except for crass moneymaking. Or, rather, whatever interesting things that could have been done with either story have been squandered on the combination. What made Alien great 25 years ago was the original look of the most terrifying monster in recent memory the phallic, vulvic, mechanical/organic nightmare alien and the film s Jaws-like employment of suspense. Aliens, the 1986 sequel, was great for its action and for Sigourney Weaver s indelible reprise as the pumped-up powerhouse Ellen Ripley. The next two, 1992 s Alien 3 and 1997 s Alien: Resurrection, are not great and are even considered heretical by some.
Predator, from 1987, was extraordinary because of its visceral, heart-pounding, primal terror the zenith of xenophobia, combining a war in a foreign jungle and the invasion of a hunter/alien. (Also extraordinary about Predator: It featured two men who would, against all expectations in 1987, be American governors in the next century: Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger). The follow-up, 1990 s Predator 2, isn t great, but it s interesting and is anchored by the unconventional but effective replacement of Das Arnold by Danny Glover.
Alien vs. Predator is neither great nor interesting.
Picture it: 2004. A crack team of scientists and adventurers has been assembled by billionaire Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) to investigate a newly discovered pyramid beneath the ice in Antarctica. Among them: Scottish techie Graeme (Ewen Bremner), ancient-cultures specialist Sebastian (Raoul Bova), and team leader Alexa (Sanaa Lathan), a seasoned climber/mountaineer. The discovery of evidence of an ancient civilization on Antarctica is enough to make the terminally ill Weyland famous for all time, but there s more to be found in the pyramid than just a place in history. There s history itself.
It seems that three different civilizations started there: the Cambodians, the Aztecs, and the Egyptians. (Basically, the societies that built pyramids.) But why would all three have been located here? Because they were slaves! Slaves to a master race of Predators that once ruled the earth! And, being hunters, the Predators would breed Aliens (who incubate in, and then erupt from, the chests of host victims, in case you didn t see what happened to poor John Hurt in Alien) to practice their predation. This would happen once every 100 years, and the last time such a battle royal occurred was, you guessed it, 1904. Get ready to rumble! Unfortunately, the Dream Team of Puny Humans has been lured here for the incubation part, and now they must somehow avoid getting bred, stop the Predators, kill the Aliens, and make sure this never happens again, all while stuck in a mousetrap of a pyramid that reconfigures its internal shape every 10 minutes (since, you see, the ancients used metric time).
Shame Number One: It s PG-13. This stylistic dud would have gone over like the last Police Academy movie if its core audience of video-gaming adolescent boys couldn t see it. So, the violence is muted down from adult level but still way more gruesome than should be seen by young teens. Shame Number Two: Only Henriksen is around from the previous incarnations of either film. (He was the android Bishop in Aliens, and his character here is implied as the prototype.) He s a welcome sight, but it would have been nice to have at least a cameo from Sigourney or Arnold to lend some extra gravitas. No such luck. Lathan heads the way here but without their panache or vim.
Regardless, fans of the video game who don t care about gravitas, panache, or vim won t be disappointed. There s plenty of punch to go around for the under-17 set. BL

I used to laugh when I d pass them on the street. I d think, Silly missionaries with your three-piece suits in the sweltering summer heat. I m so much cooler than you in my tank-top and flip-flops. And while that seems completely insensitive of me, I ve got friends who have done much worse. One friend gave a missionary who knocked on his door a list of his responsibilities as a loyal servant to Satan. And the saddest part is, this irreverence happens to missionaries all the time. Even when they do mission work in foreign countries.
The Best Two Years, a film that depicts four American Mormon missionaries serving in Holland, is probably good medicine for people like me and my friend. After watching this film, it s hard not to gain an appreciation for their passion and commitment to their work. Whether you agree with their message or not, it can t be denied that these guys put themselves through hell on a daily basis in order to help others get into (their) heaven.
The film features four American guys Elders Rogers, Calhoun, Johnson, and Van Pelt living together in a Holland flat and trying desperately to convert people to Mormonism. Calhoun, the newest missionary in the pack, is a bumbling nerd-type, whose overzealous passion for his work inspires the burned-out Rogers. Meanwhile, Johnson and Van Pelt bicker like a married couple.
Originally written as a play based on writer/director Scott Anderson s real-life mission work in Holland, The Best Two Years serves as a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of missionaries. No scandalous sex scenes or hardcore boozing here. These characters are good Christian boys, even when the doors of their flat are closed. Besides a little pining over girlfriends back home and the occasional use of the word flip (Elder Johnson s substitute for fuck ), these guys could wear wings and halos. It s the same difference.
Much of the film takes place in the apartment, but the scenic shots of Haarlem are absolutely breathtaking. Since it was originally written as a play, the outdoor shots had to be added to the script, and I would like to have seen more. It s hard not to feel a little stir-crazy during parts of the film where apartment scenes drag on and on. Nonetheless, the film s worth watching, whether you re trying to open your mind to new things or just looking for lovely shots of tulips and windmills. ; Bianca Phillips

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