'Zorro' action, romance and humor mix well

Monday, October 31, 2005

Of course, he swashhbuckles. But Zorro also somersaults, slashes, soars and, perhaps best of all, he smolders in "The Legend of Zorro."

He is Antonio Banderas in what may well become his signature role, and he smolders with gorgeous Catherine Zeta-Jones, who also plays his wife and the mother of his small son. The son suffers from his father's neglect in the service of the incipient state of California. Dad's identity also has been a secret - a move the parent justifies as a safety measure.

But mom has reached the end of her tether and wants him home, tending to family just as she has done in her retirement. So when duty calls, she serves him with divorce papers, and debauchery ensues until the new state needs him. The enemy is France, and the weapon is new - nitroglycerine.

The derring-do is amazing - Zorro's stallion rearing up atop a train; Zorro swinging from houses; and, when necessary, socking his foes' faces as he abandons his sword and whip.

Banderas has a stunt double, who's terrific, but Banderas is convincing enough in what he does do that the heroic image prevails. He has no stunt double for the smoldering.

Zeta-Jones, as is known from the first film, is no slouch at the rock-'em, sock-'em stuff, which is all the more impressive because of her beauty. Yes, there is room for a sequel at the end, and papa can bring along junior, who is a spitfire in the form of young Adrian Alonso.

Don't forget the horse, which provides much of the comedy, whether it's smoking a pipe or refusing to obey Zorro unless he speaks Spanish.

Martin Campbell directs with a canny eye to the combination of humor, action and romance.

'G' whiz: This 'Gatsby' rip-off is a big mess

Want to see soap opera on a big screen? Try "G," a drama that rips off "The Great Gatsby."

G is Summer G, a hip-hop mogul with a house in the Hamptons, tailor-made suits and enough bling bling to sink the Titanic. But he has never wed, having left behind his college sweetheart on his road to the top. She resurfaces with her husband of a decade. Old feelings flare, and jealousy rears its head.

Off to the side are a couple of the mogul's proteges, also afflicted with women woes. Tensions rise, of course, and a gun is glimpsed in a bedroom drawer.

Violence erupts - a fact moviegoers learn at the top. It is only a matter of which is the dead person. Relieve boredom by playing this guessing game.

Stuck in this mess are Richard T. Jones, who is too laid-back to register as a big player; Blair Underwood, who is more convincing playing fickle than faithful; and a beauty, Chenoa Maxwell.

She survives, unlike the rest, on the class she projects. Underwood and Maxwell are the married couple whose life is upended by the reappearance of Jones' character.

All of "G" is a vanity project from Andrew Lauren, son of mega-designer Ralph Lauren. He co-wrote, acts in and floated the production money.

Joan E. Vadeboncoeur writes for CNY, Weekend and Stars magazine.

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