After reading Gerald Peary's scathing review earlier this year in his Cannes 2004 report (likening it to the wretched LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL!), I feared the worst for this biopic about the young Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

It's not nearly as reprehensible as Roberto Benigni's feel-good/bad-taste abomination, but it's still not a great film. It has that faux-prestigious"Oscar-Approved" stamp all over it. The obvious parallels to Kerouac's ON THE ROAD highlight how much depth it lacks in comparison. And worst, it occasionally lapses into sentimental mush, especially in a particularly hokey climactic sequence that would be harder to swallow if it didn't come out of the memoir this screenplay is an adaptation of.

As director Walter Salles' CENTRAL STATION was partially redeemed by a grand lead performance from Fernanda Montenegro, for me, this film just squeaks by due to a good one from Gael Garcia Bernal as Guevara. As written, his character is a bit of a saintly cipher, but he manages to inject some life and soul into what he's given. His scenes with Rodrigo De La Serna, who plays sidekick/co-traveler Alberto Granado, are charming and well-done. And I admit their parting at the film's conclusion choked me up a little.

As a Latin American travelogue, this is pretty sublime, with two underdogs roaming from Argentina to the Andes, traveling for the sake of travel. As a social critique and an examination of the issues/conditions that influenced Guevara to become the revolutionary "Che", however, it's not as convincing. In all, the film plays like an inspirational, romanticized, glossy magazine-spread account of a life-changing road trip. Enjoyment of it will depend on how compelling or trite that prospect sounds to you.


YOUNG ADAM features Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton having lots of steamy, hot sex in the repressed 1950s. It's not a skeezy film, nor a really pleasurable one. At least no one pays too dearly for their sins; Ewan's just left with lots of guilt. Not really sure what the director was aiming for with this artfully told but generally boring tale. Anyway, the cinematography was almost as pretty to look at as McGregor.

BARBARELLA is freakishly a cinematic equivalent to The Gobbler. Instantly dated and incessantly trashy, it is a capsule of "the future" filtered through cheapo '68 lenses. Not a horrible film (nor, sadly, a so-bad-it's good film) but an incredibly ridiculous one. Fortunately, the mere presence of star Jane Fonda and her waspy, authoritative voice lends some creepy fascination to the whole enterprise (no, not that one.) It's like something her book-ish character from 9 TO 5 would've hidden away in the deepest, dankest recesses of her closet. No one could ever duplicate it, but it needs to be seen, if only once--perhaps, director/Fonda hubby Roger Vadim really was an alien with absolutely no good taste.

THE EMMY AWARDS were great this year. Highlights included big awards for ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (the best show on network TV), THE SOPRANOS (which I've never been a big fan of, but it was deserving), and ANGELS IN AMERICA, which, like Meryl Streep, is not overrated. Elaine Stritch gave exactly the wired, larger-than-life acceptance speech you'd expect, and the two "real people" unwittingly recruited to present the award for Best Reality TV Show (Yay, THE AMAZING RACE!) was a sweet idea. Garry Shandling? Eh. Awards for David Hyde Pierce and Kelsey Grammer again? At least voters didn't cave in and sentimentally award the late John Ritter for three piddly episodes of 8 SIMPLE RULES...