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This week's premieres

photo: Tatrafilm

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World(Kapitán a prvý dôstojník) - Action/Drama by Peter Weir. Australian-born director Weir (Gallipoli, Dead Poets Society) returns with his first film since 1998's The Truman Show. Master and Commander, which has been consistently praised for overcoming the mundane trappings of the big-budget action/drama genre. Stars controversial Aussie Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey ("Lucky Jack"), the commander of a British naval vessel employed to prevent a French warship from attacking Great Britain during the Napoleonic Wars. The film reportedly has spectacular battle sequences, but Weir's career-spanning concern with people in adverse situations ensures that it will be grounded in human experiences and emotions.

How to Deal (Láskou buchnutá) - Comedy/Drama by Clare Kilner. Mandy Moore has always been a second-tier teen pop star. Despite sharing Britney Spears' (initial) pretty girl-next-door persona, she lacks the barely contained sexual energy that has made Spears so marketable and tabloid-worthy.

photo: Continental Film

Like Spears, she does not have the incredible voice of Christina Aguilera, who has easily eclipsed all her teen-pop peers in over-the-top sexuality. At this point, it is obvious Aguilera has by far the most musical talent and therefore, hopefully, the most musical staying power that would allow her to mature artistically. Less publicly, Moore has proven herself to be the most deserving of the chance to mature as an actor. Though her proper acting debut, A Walk to Remember, was hardly a masterpiece, this was due more to a hollow, overly sappy story than to Moore, whose surprisingly intelligent performance made the film watchable for more than the mere cringe and curiosity factors, something that cannot be said about Spears' debut in the train wreck that was Crossroads. In How to Deal, her second leading role, Moore plays a cynical girl who refuses to believe love actually exists - until a tragic event makes her start to believe otherwise. Is it brilliant? Probably not, but just as Aguliera's musical career and Spears' tabloid career are worth following, Moore's acting career is worth more than a dismissive glance.

Other movies playing

photo: SPI international

Far From Heaven (Ďaleko do neba)- Drama by Todd Haynes. With the onset of Nazism, many of German cinema's best flocked to Hollywood and revolutionized American film. This was most consistently evident in film noir and horror, but two directors - Douglas Sirk and Max Ophuls - took a slightly brighter, but equally critical take on what was then contemporary America. Taking melodrama to its glorious extreme, the two directors, in the late 1940s and the 1950s, perfected what came to be unfairly and shortsightedly known as "women's pictures" or "weepies" - films that focused primarily on the difficult and often tragic lives of suburban American women. Using highly exaggerated emotions, sweeping music, and (in some cases) vibrant, otherworldly colour, Sirk and Ophuls hinted at the sexism, homophobia, and racism simmering underneath mainstream America's supposed picture-perfectness. Todd Haynes, one of contemporary cinema's very best, consciously made Far From Heaven in the style of these films. Though it directly addresses the critiques that the originals could only hint at, Haynes' film remains a most lovingly crafted tribute - right down to every lavender scarf, misty eye, string crescendo, and beautifully decaying leaf.

Whale Rider(Pán veľrýb) - Drama by Niki Caro. A nearly tone-perfect feminist coming-of-age story, this beautiful New Zealand film is worthy of the recognition it has received since its award-collecting debut on the film-festival circuit late last year. Caro's thoughtful direction makes one want to further explore the Maori culture it depicts and marks her as a director to watch. Similarly, barely adolescent star Keisha Castle-Hughes, whose next scheduled appearance is in Star Wars: Episode III in 2005, may have a successful career ahead of her, which will hopefully contain more small films such as this one.

Prepared by Jonathan Knapp

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