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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Hey! Mole's a stinker!, 20 June 2001

Perhaps nothing is as exciting as the discovery of a new world populated by unique, affable peoples whose cultures are so drastically simpler than ours that they are capable of enjoying the sensuous pleasures of everyday life without a moment's hesitation. Disney has a notoriety for creating such worlds, and with the exception of their last couple years' work, they have always been some of the most apt at the trade.

Unfortunately, Disney also has a notoriety for blatantly plagiarizing from eastern works, and "Atlantis" is no exception. It's easy enough finding comparisons out there without the aid of a well-learned fan, so it should suffice to say that the creators of this movie probably spent a couple weeks watching anime and playing RPGs, and then took all the ideas they must have thought looked cool and applied them to this movie without understanding the principles that made them work in the first place.

The primary story is simple enough: Milo Thatch, a bookworm who aspires to discover the city of Atlantis, heads out on his search after being handed a journal with vital clues in regards to the lost city's whereabouts. Along the way he befriends any crew member he can find who is not an Anglo-Saxon American, and falls madly in love with the Atlantean princess once he reaches the city. After a day's stay, the crew commander, along with his storm troopers (all as non-descript as the 30-some-odd white crew members whom Milo never befriended), busts out some heavy-fire artillery and proceeds to steal the Atlanteans' primary life-source, his sole purpose being a meager profit and a place in the history books.

The political undertones of "Atlantis" remind me of a Japanese RPG by the name of "Xenogears." Just as from the work that inspired it, it featured innumerable religious references that were so preposterously out of place that you couldn't help but laugh whenever the narrative made a religious comment, for it seemed as though the writer had simply opened up to a random page of the Bible for inspiration whenever he was stuck. Though "Atlantis" contains very few religious references, the political ones appear to fit this vein; you'd be hard-pressed to find a more inappropriate format for a writer to express his other-worldly understanding of the problems that plague society.

If this were the only problem with "Atlantis," it'd be a forgivable trait that probably wouldn't hinder the overall presentation. But since Disney decided to take a more adventurous approach that includes more action than comedy, the movie also fails in a narrative sense. Everything, from Milo's inspiration, to the journey to Atlantis, to the discovery of its culture, is handled with such breakneck speed that it's impossible to associate with either the characters or the situations.

Obviously, you're going to have to retain a young child's interest when it comes to this type of movie, so a quick narrative is an almost unavoidable device. But it's not acceptable to include every social stereotype that a child has grown up with in this country as a substitute for characterization. Ignoring the fact that it's historically inaccurate considering the time period that the story transpires in to begin with, the stereotypes that are presented are a bad enough influence to be considered "politically incorrect."

The paradoxical, or even hypocritical nature of this movie will no doubt sail over the target audience's head. So I'm certainly going to sleep soundly knowing that the leading child's entertainment company is continuing the American government's plot to brainwash its populace into becoming blubbering idiots. If you like to live in a bucket, it's perfectly fine by me.

The only thing bothering me is this: what the hell is Mole? Knowing the profoundly insightful messages that are to be found in "Atlantis," it's possibly something much more idiotic than a commentary on the French's hygiene habits.


0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Elating and exasperating; a peculiar combination., 18 June 2001

There have always been movies that have spawned countless hours of debate and controversy, be it for their subject matter or presentation. "Moulin Rouge," like Baz Lhurmann's previous endeavor, "Romeo + Juliet," is the type of movie that is argued over because of its presentation. Unlike "Romeo + Juliet," however, "Moulin Rouge" is not the type of film that should have never come into existence. It's not without its fair share of problems, but unlike most other movies today, it displays heart and is not self-conscious enough to concern itself with what people think about it; it is what it is, and doesn't seem to be pretentious enough to laud its own sense of creativity.

The story centers around Christian (Ewan McGregor), an aspiring writer who wishes to write about truth, beauty, freedom, and above all things, love. The only problem is that he's never been in love himself. As he realizes this while he's typing in a hotel room in Paris, a random chain of characters and events lead him to the helm of a stage musical called "Spectacular, Spectacular," whose script is to be presented to the resident courtesan and performer of the Moulin Rouge, Satine (played by Nicole Kidman with the calculating air of a businesswoman and the charming, seductive type of quality that makes it possible for a man to become completely infatuated with a woman upon first sight).

The Moulin Rouge, despite its consistently packed house, is in financial shambles, so the owner introduces the Duke of Monroth (Richard Roxburgh) to Satine in what in her business one would consider a formal meeting. After a somewhat coincidental rendezvous with the writer of the new musical, the Duke agrees to finance the club, the only condition being that he possess all the rights--business and personal--to Satine. Christian and Satine then fall in love and strive to keep the affair a secret, and the movie follows the established formula that leads to the Duke's discovery of the affair and the final winner-take-all confrontation.

Narratively, the film fails in two aspects. From the very beginning, we're told that Satine died and Christian never got to follow the relationship through to its desired point; it renders the main conflict of the movie a little useless, though it strives to pull all the right strings in an effort to make the movie a poignant experience for the viewer. The second problem? In order to do this correctly, you'd have to make the viewer be able to relate to both of the lovers personally. Christian's nature is discussed just fine, but Satine is presented as nothing more than what her business requires her to be. We see her go through the motions, but by the end, we really don't care too much for her character; Christian is the one whom we pity, and that only makes the movie half the success that it could be in this aspect.

In terms of presentation, the louder numbers tend to be a little distracting and offsetting in comparison to the rest of the movie. The opening scene gives the movie somewhat of a grim prospect, so it's a little surprising when Christian and Satine first burst into a full-out love song. It all quickly becomes second nature, though, and by the time that the characters burst out into songs from this point forward, just like in any good musical, it couldn't seem more natural. Most of the songs do an exceptionally good job of letting the viewer know what the characters are feeling, but they feel a little contrived. Case in point: Satine and Christian's revelation of their love for one another. A medley of all the possible songs you could hear in contemporary soft radio stations, it ought to tell us something about the society that we're living in. Either we're primarily concerned with making money at the expense of honesty, or we're incapable of truly describing how we innately feel, thus the quoting of every possible song in the world into a single number.

Despite the blatant commercialization, though, the movie succeeds in a somewhat paradoxical sense: it feels very, -very- honest. How could this be? It's difficult to describe, but it appears as though this was Baz Luhrmann's primary intention, and somehow he managed to see it through to the end. Perhaps it was the sheer potency of certain numbers, like the tango-esque "Roxanne," which wove all the feelings of the movie into a tight little ball and had them explode in an aurally and visually overwhelming manner. If as much care had gone into the characterization, I'm certain that this would have received a lot more critical acclaim. As it is, you're possibly in for a bit of exasperation, elation, and the type of wonderment that's elicited when you see something completely, utterly new. In today's world, that's somewhat of a rare accomplishment; it's always better to savor it before it's emulated and commercialized, as ironic as it may sound.


Evolution (2001)
X marks the hole., 9 June 2001

Depending on the degree of a viewer's intelligence, you may find certain words to be included in an opinion of this movie. In a descending order, they are:

- Proctologist

- Flatulence

- Ass

Constipation may also fit somewhere in there.

"Evolution" is a movie that prompts us to question the mentality of the movie-making process. I figure that there could have been two possible scenarios when the producers were preparing for this movie. The first one must have involved the idea of rapidly-evolving extraterrestrial lifeforms invading earth; after the idea was realized, perhaps somebody decided to include a bunch of ass jokes. Or, scenario number 2:

"I want to make a movie with a lot of ass jokes. What scenario could we develop to fit these jokes into?"

"How about aliens invading earth? The king alien could have a really huge ass and blow everything to smithereens with sheer willpower. We could then have a couple scientists attempt to clog up the problem."

"I like it!"

Fortunately, somewhere along the line somebody decided to make it tasteful, or either PG-13 friendly, so what we get here is nowhere near as crass as most of today's R-rated comedies. But it still leaves a little something to be desired when jokes revolve in and out around the same idea.

Sometimes, the performances of the main characters are enough to salvage a film; in the case of "Evolution," the main roles give the movie a type of innocent air that luckily makes it both enjoyable and exciting. David Duchovny plays Ira Kane, a former government scientist who after an unfortunate turn of events became a community college biology professor. Along with Harry Block (Orlando Jones), one of the other resident "scientists" of the college, they set out to investigate a peculiar meteor crash out in the Arizona desert.

After taking a few samples, they realize that the cells retrieved from the meteor are multiplying at an alarming rate, completing an evolutionary process that would normally take aeons in just a few hours. They then go back to the meteor crash to pursue their findings, only to find the military involved and casting them out of the project. So, along with an aspiring firefighter (Wayne Green) and the military's head scientist (Julianne Moore), they head out to expunge the aliens from their planet, no questions asked.

The chemistry between Duchovny and Jones is what makes the movie shine, keeping it continuously fresh despite its inherent banality. There are a few missed opportunities that in the end truly detracted from the overall grade, however. The first is that during potentially funny situations, absolutely nothing was done to lighten the mood of the narrative; the first thirty minutes of the film can very well lead you to believe that you're going to be watching a drama if you don't know what the movie is about in the first place. The second missed opportunity comes in the form of the aliens. Though featured in more than a couple of scenes, they never managed to constitute a sensation of dread. Jump-out-of-your-seat scenes, yes; but there never really was an established danger to humanity to justify wiping them out in the manner that the movie's characters do, unless you consider flying reptiles taking young girls for a stroll in the mall a grave danger.

In the end, "Evolution" misses the target by a couple of meters. Nevermind that the characters involved are all caricatures; it's what this type of movie mandates, and manages to work in really well. Forget about the cheesy special effects or the lame reactions to the CG extraterrestrials. The problem here is that in order to work in a few good bellylaughs, the story sets up for them in a ho-hum fashion that incorporates any type of bathroom humor conceivable. It's enjoyable, but considering how much the stars improved this picture to begin with, a good screenplay could have worked marvels.


Blade (1998)
An above-average comic book movie., 9 June 2001

Not being the least bit familiar with the characters from the comic book series, I expected this film to merely accomplish the basic: introduce me to the characters and their inherent characteristics, present a plot, and end with the destruction of the main adversary and perhaps hint at the possibility of a sequel. And that's exactly what this movie happens to deliver.

However, unlike with most other comic book movies, I felt that this one did it with a bit of class. Risking a more limited audience with strong language and graphic fight scenes, "Blade" presents a very modern, believable and dismal world whose little nuances effectively managed to elicit a sense of dread--as minor as it may have been--from a viewer who rarely ever becomes involved in a story unless an emotional (i.e., sappy) aspect is concerned.

Yes, the movie has innumerable plotholes, and preposterously unrealistic situations such as a standard female doctor being astute enough to contrive what no one else has been able to for several thousand years. But when you have an enemy as cool as the one in this movie, and fight scenes with involving and exciting camera cuts and special effects such as this, what else matters? It may run a little long, but for what it sets out to do, "Blade" stands out in sharp relief among most other movies in this genre.

Shine (1996)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Not quite classic., 2 June 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Potential spoilers are afoot.


"Shine" chronicles the life struggle of an Australian pianist named David Helfgott, whose exigent, abusive father drives him to the brink of insanity. From the earliest years of his life, David is taught that when something is attempted, one must succeed at it; his father teaches him how to play chess and piano at an early age, and castigates David whenever he doesn't excel at what he's doing. He often tells a story of how when he was a child, he bought a violin with his own money and his father broke it. Day in and day out, he demands that David repeat the following line: "I am a lucky boy." Father knows best, after all.

Throughout all of David's childhood he attempts to get him to play a particularly difficult piece of music, although David's instructor argues against it since such a release of emotion requires expertly handled manipulation of the piano, as well as the self. David, after winning countless tournaments, is eventually offered a scholarship to study in an American music institution, and it is his father's reluctance to let him go that sparks the rivalry that draws them apart. After being offered another scholarship to a university in England, David is ostracized from the family when he disobeys his father's command and runs away.

"Shine" is reminiscent of a 30-ton truck running full-speed into a brick wall. The wall definitely doesn't hold back the truck, but neither does the truck continue on its path unscathed.

"Shine" is also reminiscent of a Dodge Viper running full-speed into a brick wall; there's not much left after the wall has had its fun.

One could argue that the truck parallels the journey of David Helfgott's life. The Viper parallels the insipid turn of the narrative once that David finally plays the piece his father tried to get him to learn all his life. Both are a marvel to gaze at until the decisive point, but unlike the 30-ton truck, the narrative appears to be a little too self-conscious to be caught limping. In the span of ten minutes, David makes peace with his father, earns the love of a woman, and makes his appearance in the spotlight once again. What should have been the most poignant portion of the movie falls prey to either a trigger-happy editor or a lethargic, inebriated director.

It's maddening when a movie has the potential to be a truly inspirational experience, but falls three steps short due to an ill-conceived execution. When a story seeks to chronicle the plight of the human spirit, one would think consistency to be of the utmost importance. The consistency of a narrative, in a medium such as film, accounts for the consistency of emotion. Without the former, all one can ever hope to achieve is mediocrity.


Unbelievably entertaining!, 2 June 2001

It's a relief to know that despite the inherent triteness of the root-for-the-underdog genre, there is still something out there that can be applied to give these movies a new, fancier, hard-hitting edge. In the case of "A Knight's Tale," the new edge comes in the form of anachronistic elements: a classic rock soundtrack, a decidedly flashy presentation and a motley crew of streamlined characters all contribute to the general campiness of the bread-and-butter-natured subject matter.

Heath Ledger plays the role of William, a young squire who by a twist of fate is granted his lifelong yearning--to compete in the national jousting tournaments. Along for the journey come the unbelievably hackneyed companions: Roland, the dependable one in the group, who follows and supports unconditionally; Wat, the zany, but down-to-earth childhood friend who is the only one who thinks in a rational line of thought; Chaucer, a writer who provides most of the movie's witty dialogue and can't seem to keep his clothes on for more than a minute; and Kate, the blacksmith, which by the very nature of her profession is construed to be a feminist.

After a couple seconds of jousting, the movie dictates that William should fall madly in love with Lady Jocelyn, played by Shannyn Sossamon with unnerving conviction (as a local newspaper review so eloquently put it, "Jocelyn is a gorgeous prop with considerably less personality than the horses"). Lo and behold, however, another gentleman by the name of Count Adhemar has decided to joust for the lovely lady as well, and an epic rivalry entrenches itself into the storyline, developing as formulaically as night turning into day.

This initial setup makes any type of prospect for the film incredibly grim; thankfully, it's the film's very own innovations that salvage it from mediocrity and create something spectacularly entertaining. Medieval crowds at a jousting tournament do the wave, armors are branded with a Nike logo to signify who its maker is, crowds scurry to catch helmets that fly towards them in a fashion not unlike that of foul balls, and William is so unbelievably (and modernly) naive that at one point he uses the water in a cathedral to slick back his hair. It all sounds very corny, to be certain, but the film executes all of this with an air of innocence which carries through to the viewer remarkably well. In the initial minutes of the movie the lighthearted aspects immediately make themselves felt in a way that says, "This is natural. You will take it. You will like it. You will be amused by it."

This film doesn't attempt to be profound at all. In fact, subjects such as good vs. evil and love, even though they play a role in the film, are never discussed. Love emerges because of raw physical attraction, and good and evil are delineated by either good looks or an evil stare. Shades of grey are represented by--well, they don't exist. Everything is as clear-cut as the fact that this is mind-numbing entertainment, but its execution reminds us all that it's not a sin to have fun once in a while. Too many people in this age are concerned with the underlying messages of just about everything in order to give a meaning to today's materialistic world. "A Knight's Tale" simply reminds us that there's still a possibility for anything.


2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A true delight., 28 May 2001

It's always a simple task to relegate a movie or piece of work to a niche in the wall, claiming that it borrows or steals from one thing or another. In the case of "Girl, Interrupted," it's very easy to say "It's a 'Cuckoo's Nest' with girls." Looking at things on such a superficial level, one could argue that every story steals from all those before it. But the truth of the matter is that certain ideas are so fundamental, so classical, that they have applied to us for as long as anybody can remember. If basing a movie on a mental institution and its patients concocts triteness, then basing a movie on love is as much of a sin.

"Girl, Interrupted" places us in the eyes of Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder), a teenage girl who suffers from depression and is signed into the custody of a psychiatric hospital after a failed attempt at suicide. Like most young people who suffer from this state, Susanna is unable to acknowledge the disorder that affects her. Seeing things from a practical point of view--believing in cause and effect--makes it difficult for her to understand what she suffers from when she doesn't understand what caused the condition to begin with.

Enter Lisa, faultlessly played by Angelina Jolie. Beautiful, savage, defiant, and extremely charismatic, she introduces Susanna to a new line of thought: it's the world that's screwed up, not them. The world is afraid of aberrations such as themselves--people who create a dissonance in the perfect balance of their ideal society. Thus, they lock them up in mental institutions, and rejoice once that the problem is taken up by the hands of others after the exchange of a sizable amount of cash.

Susanna, needless to say, is enthralled by her new friend; Lisa is somebody who knows the inner workings of the world, someone to latch onto. And when one latches onto somebody else in such a manner, either individually or in a group, self-expression and individuality are more often than not sacrificed. Susanna, who was once overwhelmed by the number of choices that confronted her in life, is now ecstatic at the simplicity of her new life in the ward, revolting with Lisa against an unfair system, an unfair world.

At the heart of this film, however, lies a much more fundamental, classical idea: friendship--what causes it, how it can invigorate us in the worst of times, and its short and long-term effects. With a beautiful poetic grace, the movie states that it's not the duration of a relationship that matters, but who it is that you befriend, and the place that they earn in your heart while it lasts. Every relationship in our life is short-lived, as we're continually moving forward in our journey towards a fulfilled existence; time does not stand still, and the film makes a conscious effort to constantly accentuate this point.

For a movie that was almost entirely shot in a hospital ward, the cinematography is exceptionally good. While it's mostly a character-driven piece, there are a number of interesting shots and tricks that truly place us in the eyes of Susanna, and a few montages that are propelled by what I would consider a perfect soundtrack. At the forefront, of course, are the actresses themselves, and no words could describe what they've accomplished here. It's simply astounding.

Though the light that "Girl, Interrupted" attempts to place on mentally unstable people is a little questionable at times, it does a nice, subtle job of exposing the puerile nature of a profession which we could nowadays consider an industry. They're delicate subjects to touch upon, sure. But in the end, the journey is definitely worth taking. When I asked myself why I found the manner in which the story was handled so endearing, I recalled one of Winona's most insightful lines: "Crazy isn't being broken or swallowing a dark secret. It's you or me...amplified."


0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Unbelievably cheesy, and yet quite worthwhile., 28 May 2001

Face it: nobody watches Jackie Chan movies for the plot, and the preposterously bad acting never intrudes with what the film attempts to do. But somehow, somewhere, the production team faltered so badly with this movie that I couldn't help but laugh throughout all the more "emotional" parts. It's difficult to know whether the actors were attempting to make certain parts truly dramatic or as cheesy as possible, but this goes beyond bad. I'd easily consider it the worst I've ever seen.

The plot basically commands Jackie to rescue his friend's girlfriend and steal some priceless pieces of armor from a cult professing to be nothing more than your average religious sect. Along for the trip comes a young woman, the daughter of a wealthy relic collector who has stipulated that she go with them to make certain that they complete their task. It's nothing that we haven't seen before, and as I've said, it's ridiculously bad this time around. In an average movie, it would be enough for me to award it a negative score.

A little surprisingly, the one thing that pulls this movie out of the slumps are the action scenes. Ranking among some of the best that Chan has yet done, they include a fight against four leather-clad indignant women and a fantastic car chase through an arid farming village. Everything looks to be so imperiling that you can imagine that there were more than your average number of injuries at the end of the filming. It's enough to warrant a look at a film which contains the most insulting, tepid narrative I have ever seen in my life. Only Jackie could prompt me to watch something of such horrible proportions.


Quills (2000)
Almost perfect., 24 May 2001

Unless you have been living in a bucket for all of your life, the Marquis de Sade needs no proper introduction. But chances are that if you're an American, you've been living quite comfortably in your bucket. So along comes this period film to enlighten you--a film so comical and entertaining, that it's difficult to believe that it deals with such morbid subject matter.

Billed the "father of sadism," the Marquis lived in a time when new ideas were the driving force behind society. During this intellectual revolution, however, certain ideas were deemed far too dangerous among government officials--say, for example, pornographic novels such as those written by the infamous Marquis himself.

We are first introduced to de Sade (Geoffrey Rush) in an asylum for the mentally insane, run by Abbe Coulmier (and perfectly played by Joaquin Phoenix, no less). An idealist at heart, he urges the Marquis to purge his wicked thoughts on paper, believing this will ultimately cure him of his obsession with his creations. Little does he know, however, that the chambermaid (Kate Winslet) has been smuggling out his work and giving it to a publisher, negating the very purpose of the Marquis's stay at the asylum.

These novels, which are considered as much of a horror today as they were then, prompt the government to arms, and in its ever-savvy line of actions, it sends Dr. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine), a self-righteous, hypocritical son of a bitch, to deal with the Marquis on his own terms in order to "cure" him.

The film, with its astoundingly theatrical presentation, is at times downright hysterical; its script's savage wit is constantly accentuated by the Marquis's snide remarks. At one point, he offers Coulmier some wine, along with the following insight: "Conversation, like certain portions of the anatomy, always runs more smoothly when lubricated." It's difficult not to crack a smile at sardonic remarks like these, especially when one considers Rush's remarkably innocent portrayal of his character.

In fact, the movie appears to paint him in this light throughout its first half, in order to develop a genuine pathos for the character as various incidents cause his life to spiral quickly downward. Only at the end is the Marquis shown in a truer light, when actual sadism creeps into his stories as opposed to petty, mischievous sexual desire. It works rather well in the end, however, as it's used as a device to adequately develop and round out the Marquis's character.

Equally enthralling are the various themes the movies discusses. Whether it be politics or religion, all themes in this movie point to a single truth: we are what we are, and any attempt to act otherwise results in either hypocrisy or self-delusion. "I didn't create this world of ours! I merely recorded it!" the Marquis exclaims when he begins to lose everything, including his sanity. And in all honesty, it's this type of thought process that the movie embraces, as sickening as it may be. All the residents of the asylum are fascinated by the ideals of the Marquis; they embrace his prose like none other, despite the fact that they may not personally understand all of it. Its essence is what drives them, as it sates a primal hunger that is hardly acknowledged outside of the intimacy of a bed.

Unfortunately, to make everything more accessible to the audience, the film centers a bit more on the "freedom of speech" aspect than the actual content of the work; scenes such as the one between Phoenix and Winslet at the end are what truly would have made this a spectacular film had they been used more often. Yet as it stands, this piece of work remains a highly entertaining, enlightening vision that discusses themes that have been of the utmost importance to us as a society since the beginning of time. It's not perfect, but it comes pretty damn close.


Angel Eyes (2001)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
An exercise in mediocrity., 22 May 2001

With romantic comedies being as ubiquitous as computers running on Windows software, it takes a very short time for moviegoing couples to desire a more dramatic, poignant, and stylized experience to help strengthen the bond within one another. And while these types of movies are not released at the rate of one every three and a half hours, they're often just as clichéd--they're nothing more than ho-hum expressions of mediocrity which provide as much excitement as picking scabs from your toes.

Jennifer Lopez plays a hard-boiled cop who has a much stronger penchant for pummeling down crooks than listening to common sense. By a twist of fate, or a disappointingly imperious plot point, she is rescued from death by James Caviezel, a passerby who simply calls himself Catch. Catch likes to be benevolent towards people: he turns off the lights of parked cars, alerts neighbors when they leave their keys in the door, and delivers groceries to incapacitated ladies. Officer Lopez, on the other hand, likes to shout out expletives during the most comical or romantic scenes of the movie.

The two find that they have something in common: they don't like talking to people, and they prefer leaving messages on the answering machine rather than speaking to one another face to face. By hiding behind this veil of anonymity, it becomes quickly apparent that they both have problematic inner demons to contend with, and the movie's focus is split between the romantic affair and said dissonance.

Unlike the majority of all romance movies, "Angel Eyes" attempts to add its own idiosyncratic intellectual property by switching from one to two major problems that interfere with the relationship. But these problems are so ineptly handled at the end, thanks in part to the incredulously colorless acting, that it shatters all the previous efforts of the movie. The characterization, the metaphors--all are rendered useless when the film decides to mire in its own melodrama.

It's at this point that you begin to shift in your seat and feel the eyes on your back accusing you of being a fool for expecting anything more than mediocrity.


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