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Mumbles spreads the word on COLD MOUNTAIN, and JERSEY GIRL

Father Geek here... ol' Mumbles Modine has whispered the following about a couple of New Jersey test screenings in Father Geek's cyber ear... I'm really interested in Cold Mountain and its "Battle of the Crater" styled climax. When I was a pretty young kid LIFE Magazine published a series of very graphic full page oil paintings on Civil War battles and the one in The Crater really fired my imagination and for years I couldn't shake the imagery... It will be nice to see this filmic version of that painting brought to life after soooo many years...

Now here's Mumbles' thoughts...

In the past 2 weeks I've been to 2 test screenings over in Jersey. Cold Mountain and Jersey Girl. If you're interested here's a few notes about each... with a few spoilers:

Cold Mountain

A romantic Civil War drama starring Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, Renee Zellweger, Natalie Portman, Donald Sutherland, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The Good: Nicole Kidman was fantastic and not to mention stunningly beautiful. Her character went from pampered Southern Bell, to frightened shut-in, to a hardened farmer with dirt under her nails, skinning sheep and shooting wild turkey. Fabulous, Oscar-worthy performance.

Renee Zellweger's entrance was outstanding and a breath of fresh air. Her tough-as-nails farmer girl provided some much needed comic relief and lightened the mood considerably. Another Oscar-worthy performance.

Jude Law was fine but a bit too hard for me. His performance reminded me of Ralph Fiennes in “The English Patient.” The acting was good but I just didn’t love the guy.

The entire story hinged upon the love of Nicole and Jude and it was a bit much to swallow. I believed they were in love, but when Jude went off to war they barley spoke 10 words to each other and had one passionate kiss. Is that memory enough to keep you alive on a journey through hell and back? And when I say hell I mean it HELL… Jude Law was shot, beaten, dragged, rained on, hunted, you name it and it happened to the poor guy. I just wish there was more romance in the beginning.

The Bad: A bit overlong coming in a just over 3 hours. And Philip Seymour’s brief role was so over-the-top and out-of-place. His awful slapstick comedy should be edited way down before the final release. I see the need for comic relief in such a weighty drama, but Renee provides enough, in the right tone, for the entire film. And Ray Winstone and Charlie Hunnam played the “bad guys” who hunt army deserters and had little motivation for their awful behavior. These two characters need to be fleshed-out further. They were interesting but I just didn’t buy it.

The Ugly: This movie is brutal, violent and unforgiving. This is a side of the Civil War no one has seen on the screen before. Many scenes reminded me of Platoon when they raided the village and murdered the innocent civilians. Definitely Rated R.

Major Spoiler Below...

The most outstanding scene was in the beginning just after the Union army blew a monstrous hole in the Confederate trench lines. All the Union soldiers rose-up and charged through the falling dirt and debris only to run smack into a huge crater wall. Thousands of soldiers were trapped and began piling up like Holocaust victims in a gas chamber gasping for air. The camera craned overhead and the remaining Confederates appear over the wall’s edge and began to slaughter the desperate soldiers. The Union army was massacred in a scene that puts Saving Private Ryan’s Normandy invasion to shame. Absolutely gut-wrenching!

Jersey Girl

I believe you’re already familiar with this one so I’ll just skip to it.

I liked it, but I had my reservations. The Ben and J. Lo stuff in the beginning was awful… so god-awful that I almost left the screening. BUT… Raquel Castro, who plays Ben’s 7-year-old daughter, completely redeemed the film. This little girl was brilliant! I can’t say enough about her. Her and Ben had fantastic chemistry and brought the film back from the grave. Liv Tyler was fantastic as a graduate student doing research on men and their fascination with porn. Good stuff, classic Kevin Smith comedy. There were far too many scenes edited over pop music that just didn’t work and George Carlin had way too many jokes that missed their mark.

The ending was awfully close to “About a Boy”. Right down to the race-to-get-to-the-school-play so-everything-will-be-alright-with-bad-singing. Basically, the ending was pure Hollywood cheese that should be re-edited before release. But it all works due to the magnetic performance of Raquel. Keep your eye on this one… she’s going places.

Mumbles Out.

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