- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Admirers of the seafaring novels of the late Patrick O’Brian may have thought the movies a bit slow to catch up with his tales of the voyages of Capt. Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin. Now the Australian team of director Peter Weir and leading man Russell Crowe makes the wait rewarding in the extreme. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which borrows its title from the first novel in the series and its plot (and subtitle) from the 10th, is a sumptuous and stirring entertainment, probably the best movie ever made about this particular time period — the Napoleonic Wars — and this theater of war. A happily charismatic presence as Aubrey, Mr. Crowe commands an aging frigate called the HMS Surprise on patrol off Brazil, looking for an elusive French warship, the Acheron. The prey, a more modern and powerful vessel, strikes first with nearly devastating impact. Aubrey and crew are kept on the defensive for the duration, confronted by numerous obstacles and challenges apart from the formidable Acheron. Paul Bettany, cast as an imaginary sidekick to Mr. Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind,” plays the very present and provocative Dr. Maturin. A costly spectacle at $135 million, “Master and Commander” is one of the rare examples that achieves optimum pictorial and dramatic value for the price.

— Gary Arnold

The Washington Convention Center Authority unveiled its $4 million Washington Convention Center Art Collection this week with gala receptions for the participant artists and public. It’s the largest public arts program in the country and was three years in the making. Comprising more than 100 paintings, sculptures, photographs, graphics and mixed media, the collection includes works by internationally famous artists Sol LeWitt and Costas Varotsos and local residents Larry Kirkland, Kendall Buster and Sam Gilliam. Tours of the collection may be scheduled by calling the WCCA hot line at 202/249-3218.

— Joanna Shaw-Eagle

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