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A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Andrei Tarkovsky |||
Andrei Tarkovsky

Tarkovsky's contemplative, metaphysical films, more experienced than watched, are perhaps best described in the director's own words: sculptures in time.

In the post-apocalypse, a writer and scientist hire a "stalker" to guide them into The Zone, a mysterious and restricted wasteland with fabled, alien properties. Their journey, captured by Tarkovsky as a succession of incredible images, has, since, been read as political commentary, religious allegory, and Chernobyl prophesized.

Tarkovsky's visionary biography of the 15th-century icon painter is one of cinema's most majestic and solemn experiences. In some way, it will change you.

An adaptation of Stanis?aw Lem's novel of the same name, Tarkovsky's genre-less sci-fi film, which is set mostly aboard a space station hovering off a strange planet, tangles with issues of identity, death and reality in a way that will leave you agape, in the full meaning.

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Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties

By BrianOrndorf

June 15th, 2006

Garfield returns to the big screen in “Tail of Two Kitties,” and potential audiences wince nationwide. Marginally better than the 2004 original, the new Garfield still manages to waltz into tedium through unimaginative screenwriting and a bizarre sustained belief that a CG cat in a practical world is comedy gold.

Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties

As Jon Arbuckle (Breckin Meyer) prepares to propose to his girlfriend Liz (an unexpectedly perky Jennifer Love Hewitt), he learns that she’s being quickly sent off to the U.K. for a last minute conference. Hoping to surprise her, Jon heads to London, unintentionally bringing along his cat Garfield (voiced by Bill Murray) and dog Odie for the ride. Set loose in the city, Garfield is promptly mistaken for a royal cat named Prince (Tim Curry), who has been named heir to a fortune. Enjoying the pampered life, Garfield soon becomes a target for a jealous servant (Billy Connolly) who is next in line for the inheritance.

It comes as some relief that this sequel to the 2004 abomination “Garfield” is a faintly more assured production. I’m wouldn’t go so far as to say this film is worthwhile, but instead of eliciting anger like the last film did, this installment merely bores. That’s progress to me.

At this point the strange approach to a Garfield feature film has been solidified – he’s still a CG creation in a practical world. For the follow-up, “Two Kitties” steals copiously from the sweet little pig flick “Babe,” the 1995 family film masterpiece, to widen the limited scope behind the technology. Opening with narration from Roscoe Lee Brown, the film even focuses on a group of Prince’s talking barnyard animal subjects, worried about their place in the world.

Hey, if you must shamelessly pinch, “Babe” is a great film to take from.

The rest of this mild adventure (barely 70 minutes long) rolls along on known quantities, again playing up the feline’s love for lasagna, his hatred of Mondays, and ambivalence towards pal Odie. Once again the energetic voicework from Bill Murray certainly saves the picture, even though none of his comic riffing manages to strike gold. He’s working up a sweat with tepid material and he’s knows it.

However, one has to feel awful for Brecken Meyer. I can’t imagine the actor pictured his career would eventually involve a franchise of movies playing second banana to an imaginary obese cat that eats too much lasagna. Poor guy.

Moving the action to “London” lightens up the film some with a fresh location (it still looks like L.A. to me). Having a fun bunch of English talent providing voices to Garfield’s new barnyard friends helps (including Bob Hoskins, Rhys Ifans, Vinnie Jones, and Richard E. Grant), and Billy Connolly is correctly bombastic as he tries to kill Garfield with increasingly tired “Home Alone” results. There’s a little more air to breathe in this sequel, but that’s quickly stifled when the obligatory use of belching, farting, and animal urine jokes come calling.

One creative decision that continues to drive me crazy is Odie. Again played by a real dog, Odie still isn’t allowed any of the cartoonish attributes that made him a fan favorite in Jim Davis’s original comic strip. “Two Kitties” allows every other animal in the frame a chance to speak, or in Garfield’s case, to dance and sing as well, but not dear Odie. Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise. By muting his voice and robbing him of his sweet, oblivious nature, Odie remains the only agreeable character in the franchise.

My rating: D+