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Warpath: Jurassic Park (1999)
A very enjoyable and innovative game
Warpath: Jurassic Park has to be one of the most innovative beat-ups ever. Instead of the usual martial arts or magic, fireballs and flashes of light for every punch, you have realistic dinosaurs feuding in a plausibly vicious manner. The novelty of fighting as dinosaurs gives Warpath an edge over, say, Tekken or the newer Dragonball Z fighters, that feature humans.
The graphics are incredible considering the age and platform. I didn't think the PSOne could manage the look this game features. The realism is fine, except for the scale. No matter how tremendous the dinosaur, no human (or sheep, or dog, or goat, or cow... you can eat practically anything) ever looks that small. I mean, an adult male Homo sapiens is bigger than a tyrannosaur's head, let alone its tooth! Instead of being intimidating, the exaggeration of their size instead seems ridiculous. Speaking of dinosaurs, there are tons of them that the movies never featured, including an extremely inaccurate (but VERY ferocious) reconstruction of Spinosaurus, a good Suchomimus and Albertosaurus. Many unlockable dinosaurs I only got to see by waiting for a demo to start up. It just takes too much time to unlock the majority of dinosaurs. Seriously, you need to finish one for unlockable no. 1, twice for no. 2, thrice for no. 3, and so on! There are something like 8 or 9 new dinosaurs to unlock, and the game doesn't allow you to save your progress. How can you play for 12 or 13 hours just to unlock a tremendously cool dinosaur, and have no energy left to play with it? That's just indecent!
If you never watch a demo and don't see all the cool dinosaurs that can be unlocked (they can be unlocked, at least by untiring robots), which means you don't know about them and will be perfectly happy to play with your default roster. The bloody, violent fights are replayable and fun, until you've played for three or four weeks, get bored, and only revisit it every now and then. I was disappointed upon finding that there is NO Create-A-Dino mode. It would be a pretty good idea to include such a feature if they decide to make a Warpath 2, or something for PS2 or other next-gen platforms. For today's gamers, who may not be totally happy no matter how many polygons developers throw at them, Warpath is probably doomed to gathering dust in an old, battered CD case.
Brother Bear (2003)
One of Disney's last gasps retains most of what made the studio great.
Sadly, Disney Feature Animation closes down after "Home on the Range." I'm waiting for Disney's last cartoon on DVD, but the subject of this review is "Brother Bear." This is the second last traditional Disney animated feature.
"Brother Bear" is a good story of love, sin, understanding, forgiveness and brotherhood, as the title suggests. It's set in Alaska in the time of the Inuit and the mammoth. Sitka, Denahi and Kenai are brothers (eldest first). After Sitka is killed by a bear, Kenai sets out to kill the bear, whilst Denahi doesn't blame the bear. Kenai kills the "monster," but Sitka, now a powerful spirit, turns Kenai into a bear to take the other's place and atone for his wrongdoing. Denahi thinks the bear has killed his other brother as well, and vows to track down Kenai and kill him. It is different from most other stories. The message is clear, the story straightforward, not muddled by subplots and separate story lines. The film tells a story that is just a fable. Fortunately, that's all it needs to be.
The animation isn't all that gorgeous, yet remains high quality. The bears are realistically depicted, all the animals are their true forms but for the caricature of their funniest features and habits. The forest, which is CG, is beautiful. The color and the realism of it is magnificent. But again, some of the computer effects don't work. The film was clearly trying to aim for something like the DreamWorks half-and-half pictures, with hand-drawn characters acting in photo-realistic environments and effects (i.e. "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" and "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas"). The water in "Brother Bear," in its early stages, looks nearly as bad as that in "The Jungle Book 2." It's flat, with a bit of shine, unlike the fast-flowing, moving torrents of other films. It just looks lame. Don't get me wrong, this is a minor mishap. The Cg layout looks fantastic.
Phil Collins did the score for this! What a surprise! NOT! The soundtrack for "Tarzan" was inspirational: the soundtrack for "Brother Bear" is varying and lackluster. The opening Tina Turner number is decent at best. Collins' songs, which form the bulk of the music in the film, have stupid lyrics, although his great voice saves it from being totally painful. The best song by far was sung by a Bolivian women's chorus, written by Colins. The lyrics for this song were better than the other songs', not bothering to include idiotic rhymes since the English words are never heard. The words were translated into Inuit. When at last the grand performance is over, you whisper: "Wow."
The characters are funny and not at all one-dimensional. Of the brotherhood, Sitka, who plays such a pivotal role, is the weakest. His character is no deeper than enough to make it clear he is brave, wise and self-sacrificing. Everyone's dream big brother to beat up the bad guys. Denahi and Kenai are have much more to them. They, of course, are the typical siblings that incessantly antagonize each other, their battles being a good source of comic relief. "Brother Bear" may have fallen flat on its face without the two distinctly Canadian moose brothers (notice the number of brothers in the film) that are by far the funniest of Disney's recent creations. They get cramps from eating grass and need to do yoga before starting, and spar to practice for the rutting season. Kenai reluctantly allows a young bear cub separated from his mother. This cub is Koda. Correction: The moose are the funniest SIDEKICKS from Disney in recent times. Koda is a lead player. He's funny, exceedingly better equipped to survive than his older chum, and most importantly: extremely cute.
So, does "Brother Bear" live up to the classics of old? Honestly, no, it doesn't. On the other hand, it doesn't exactly make it impossible for them to show their faces in public again. All in all, Disney hasn't ended a creative vacuum. But if you think about it, would Walt have approved? No. He wouldn't have. But what matters isn't how "Brother Bear" compares to other Disney films, but how much you enjoy it in a single viewing. Admittedly, it's funnier than any of than many older films. "Brother Bear" rating: 8/10
An enjoyable film, nothing special.
It seems Crichton book-to-screen adaptations have gone downhill since "Sphere," and although "Timeline" continues the trend, it remains a highly watchable story about time travel and fourteenth century Europe. Unlike the usual "time machine" of most other films, "Timeline"'s contraption is instead a fax machine that destroys objects and reunites them at a different point. This contraption reminiscent of a 50s Duck Dodgers cartoon, messes up big time and opens a "wormhole" to 1357 Castlegard, France. An archeologist who studies Castlegard goes back in time and is lost. A group of his students and son time travel to 1357 to recover him.
One major flaw in the screenplay is the doing away with of the parallel universes idea that Crichton exploited. The theory goes that the past, present and future are all occurring at the same time, each infitesimal span of time is its own little universe, except universes can't contact each other. Other times are floating all around us. This has been revealed through molecular studies. With a quantum computer of impossible size, you fax objects and people to other times. This is exactly what Robert Doniger and ITC have accomplished. This complex theory has been entirely done away with, leaving only the insignificant wormhole to fourteenth century France.
Even such heinous distortion of source material isn't enough to kill the film. One of its strengths is the manner in which events from the book are brought to screen: the gore level is upped, the precision of a beheading maximized, the death of a character made all the more cool and fun to watch. Yes. That's one of the better things about the picture. Morbidity. Back to story. There is an undue amount of distortion of the story for no apparent reason whatsoever. Why do you have to make Chris the professor's son? Worse, why keep mentioning their kinship AGAIN and AGAIN. We KNOW Chris is the professor's son! You said it ten times before!
"Timeline" is the kind of film that doesn't stumble in altogether too many places to kill it, yet it never manages to fly instead of a steady walk. "Jurassic Park" may have had as many flaws as "Timeline," but when "Jurassic Park" doesn't stumble, it soars. "Timeline" rating: 7/10
Finding Nemo (2003)
A perfect comedy, well-timed, well-written, and a magnificent feast for the eyes.
'Finding Nemo' is a Pixar film that upholds the studio's great tradition: terrorizing the rest of the industry with the quality of their films, leaving others at a loss as to how they can compete. The story is simple and straightforward: an overprotective father clownfish traverses the ocean that petrifies him in search of his son, who has been relocated to a seaside dentist's office by divers and kept in an aquarium. The film may not have succeeded so blatantly as it did if Nemo hadn't been landed amongst a plethora of comical roommates, while Marlin's pleasantly forgetful companion, Dory, miraculously manages to be funnier than any of them.
'Nemo' abounds with characters as colorful as the reef itself, brilliantly realized. The simplicity of the story is countered by the obstacles Marlin faces, from deep-sea anglerfish that gives little kids the heebie-jeebies to titanic but likable sharks, trying to defeat their 'addiction' to seafood. The visual effects are spectacular. Never has water, lighting, color, texture, and photorealism been so convincing, let alone all these milestones being achieved in the 95-minute running time of a single picture. 'Finding Nemo' is truly special in this, and although Pixar's self-produced Marionette software has already won an Academy Award, I think it should win again, as the AMPAS can't possibly have foreseen the heights it would reach. Long live Pixar! (10/10)
An excellent animated film, another in a long line of masterstrokes from Don Bluth.
'Anastasia' is the story of the last hope of the Romanov family, the Grand Duchess Anastasia. This orphan has no knowledge of her royal heritage. The film chronicles her attempts to find her true family, hindered by an undead enemy of the family, Rasputin. Enter a couple of con men intent on collecting the reward for the finding of the Duchess, and you have a ray of hope for the princess. Needless to say, one of the men is Dimitri, a young man who inevitably falls in love with the princess.
The animation is spectacular, creating a classical feel that has been absent for a long time, but has never left Don Bluth's films over twenty years. The introduction of 3D animation for props and effects is more of a curse than a blessing, since the technology isn't advanced enough to achieve believabilty. Add to that superimposition that looks pasted terrible when a character handles a CG object, and the result is a film that isn't so visually ravishing as the purely traditional ways of past Bluth films. The story is based on a true story, but is completely distorted to create a happy ending. The filmmakers may not have had much choice, since the amazingly successful Disney films never end in tears. Contradicting this is the outstanding quality of Bluth's older 'All Dogs Go to Heaven', which features an ending anything but happy.
Despite this, most of the film is particularly anti-Disney. It's characteristically dark, dull and in places frightening. The contrasts are stark but fitting, as Anastasia dreams of a heavenly time with her family, whilst a cut to reality shows her in a precarious position on a ship in a storm. This is spectacularly successful, pulling off the same atompshere and feel as Chernabog from 'Fantasia', so incredibly long ago. Somehow, this 'Anastasia' sequence is even more frightening than the 'Fantasia' finale, since Anya's family's smiling faces have an eerie, menacing quality behind them, although the actul expressions are perfectly joyous and welcoming. Somehow, the atmosphere tells you: *Don't believe them. Don't go any closer*.
'Anastasia' is another film undoubtedly destined to be a classic, a throwback to the glory days of Bluth animation, those first four films: 'The Secret of NIMH', 'An American Tail', 'The Land Before Time' and 'All Dogs Go to Heaven'. The inbetweens may be high quality, but the Bluth cartoon reached its zenith in the eighties. Let's hope for more of the same.
All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)
"All Dogs Go to Heaven" is... different (minor spoilers)
A look at the cover gives you the impression: "All Dogs Go to Heaven" is another Disney rip-off that is fun, cheery, and basically the "G" symbol is a warning sign for parents who would rather not die of boredom while their kids watch. Isn't it? No. It is NOT. "All Dogs" is an original movie with a story-line completely unlike anything Disney would do. This is pretty much a cartoon tragedy, about a starring character who isn't even a nice guy. "Robin Hood" (1973) starred a thieving character, but he was a nice guy, risking life and limb to help the poor. Charlie (marvelous voice of Burt Reynolds) is a thief who would like to help himself to some pizza and a run of success in gambling.
"All Dogs" is a sad story that depicts the canine underworld, a dog-eat-dog world of exploitation, lies and murder. Charlie is, as the rest of the dogs say, a dog with "a record." In fact, Charlie gets run over... and this not being a Wile E. Coyote cartoon, he dies. But, of course, if he didn't miraculously return, this would be a short featurette. The way he returns is so original, and so dominant in what happens later on, you simply can't see how the writers ever dreamed it up.
The story is spectacular and certainly a strong point, but that's not where it ends. The animation is mindblowing. Although not like "The Secret of NIMH," it is still breathtaking, beautifully drawn and moves smoothly. The characters look like they're talking more than in many Disney cartoons. The effects, all hand-drawn, must have been extremely tedious to work on, what with sparks, explosions, powerful electrical charges, nightmarish visions of Hell reminiscent of "Fantasia"'s Chernabog character.
The characters, too, are unlike others. The usual story of an animated movie (actually, any movie) would be the righteous hero versus the evil villain. Sometimes, the hero isn't all he seems, but he comes round soon enough. In "All Dogs," the battle isn't hero-vs.-villain, it's villain-vs.-villain, thief-vs.-thief, except we're supposed to sympathize with one of the combatants. We eventually do come to root for Charlie, and boo Carface. In such movies, the hero/thief is a nasty guy who's frosty at the surface but a good soul at heart. Charlie, by contrast, although not as evil as his partner-later-to-be-enemy Carface, is a bad guy who stays bad even after he's been betrayed. He deceives little Anne-Marie to get some money. Instead of the hero inside surfacing at last, Charlie's is a wholesale transformation from bad-at-heart to good-at-heart. That is extraordinary, and special. Plus, he has a wide assortment of friends, from a small but courageous dog to an opera-singing alligator, always helped along by a bunch of faithful dogs unlike Carface's thugs. These friends, however, rip off "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" (1961) by acting exactly like the dogs in that Disney movie's Twilight Bark. This isn't a genuine act of idea robbery; how the hell WOULD the dogs communicate, by mail?
"All Dogs Go to Heaven" is one of the more complex animated movies. It involves stuff that will fly right over the head of little ones or traumatize them, like being eaten alive by bloodthirsty fish. It's more adult-oriented in its true theme and its true meaning, but kids will love it for the funny sidekicks, but they will also cry till their eyes are dry over the ending, that is one of the most emotionally powerful tragedies you've ever seen. Or is it? After all, all dogs go to Heaven.
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
A movie that beautifully combines witty comedy, a great story, marvelous visual effects and a ton of action and drama.
If there is a reason the year 2004 will be remembered in movie history, it might be known as the year sequels struck back. After the amazing "Shrek 2," "Spider-Man 2" is another film that outdoes it predecessor. Even the greatest (or worst) nitpickers will find few flaws.
"Spider-Man" was a movie that showed just how advantageous being a superhero could be. It meant easy money, superspeed pizza delivery and the ability to save lots and lots of lives. The theme was evident throughout the movie. By contrast, "Spider-Man 2" buries the theme, showing just how problematic being blessed with superpowers can be. Instead of superspeed pizza delivery, our hero is too busy to even arrive on time to the pizza parlor. There's no time to make money either. There's no time for ANYTHING, which doesn't help human relations. Yeah. It SUCKS. The story is much more complex in "Spider-Man 2." There's a lot more going on, and a lot more Peter Parker (Toby Maguire) has to deal with. While The Green Goblin (Willem Defoe) from the first film possessed a hoverboard, he was still a weak villain totally devoid of coolness. Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), by contrast, is a supervillain deserving of the title.
The visual effects on Doc Ock are amazing. The menacing tentacles are robotic versions -- even their vocalizations and actions -- of the velociraptors from "Jurassic Park." It's clear that anything reminiscent of something so cool can't be anything other than an improvement. Where did these demon appendages come from? I'll explain.
Dr. Otto Octavius is a famous scientist who has discovered a new form of clean energy that will change the world. He creates a machine, which is revealed publicly. Octavius wears four tentacles that are semi-intelligent, which he needs to operate the machine. However, the machine proves unstable, and the arms are forever welded onto Octavius. The tentacles control him, and he becomes Doc Ock, on a mission to reconstruct a bigger and badder contraption. For this he needs funding. The only possible source is Harry Osborn, who has been trying to avenge his father's death at the hands of Spider-Man. Doc Ock can bring Osborn Spider-Man in return for titium. Parker and Spidey have all this to contend with, as well as Parker's personal problems.
The web-slinging antics of Spider-Man in "Spider-Man" were technologically impressive, but in "Spider-Man 2," they are awe-inspiring. You feel yourself swing with the bug as the camera swoops as the superhero swings in a great arc, and then again. The camera follows people plummeting for what seems like a minute. The thrilling climax is an unimaginable showcase of modern digital effects. Expect the unexpected, and you'll still be taken aback.
"Spider-Man" was almost completely seen through Parker's eyes, besides the occasional switch to the villain explaining his next diabolical scheme to himself. This time, Mary Jane Watson plays a much bigger part. In the first movie, the emotion springs from Parker's love of Mary Jane and the death of his uncle. In "Spider-Man 2," both M.J. and Peter are lost and confused. Peter struggles with telling Aunt May the truth about Uncle Ben's death. So, the solving of all these problems is all the more satisfying, and what makes it better is the way they are solved.
Final word: "Spider-Man" was a very good movie. "Spider-Man 2" is an excellent one, a gem, and something that hints at how good "Spider-Man 3" might be, now the crew have proven themselves.
One of the best CG films ever
There's a good chance you're deliberately trying to kill Disney if you put together countless fairy tale marvels and then mash them to pulp. 'Shrek' is a fairy tale story from DreamWorks, starring Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow. Shrek (Myers) is an ogre who lives in a swamp, not wanting to meet anyone, and dispatching the occasional band of torch-bearing villagers with consummate ease. Until a bunch of fairy tale creatures are relocated to his land by Lord Farquaad (Lithgow), a vertically-challenged tyrant who wants to cleanse his land of the magical creatures. When Shrek and Donkey (Murphy), a fast-talking jackass who tags along with the ogre to lead him to the kingdom, reach Farquaad's realm of DuLoc, they defeat all his knights. The Lord strikes a bargain with Shrek: if Shrek and Donkey can rescue Princess Fiona (Diaz) from her dragon-guarded castle, he will give Shrek his swamp back. So the duo set off. 'Shrek' is unlike any other animated film before. Instead of the righteous, heroic protagonist of traditional Disney fare, the star here is a temperamental, rather unlikable fellow, it being his inclination to be hostile as he correctly thinks everybody hates him. Donkey is his only real friend, the one who forgives Shrek for his despicable behavior, as he is even astier to Donkey than he is to most others. Fiona is the typical high-strung princess, not taking kindly anyone who compromises her dignity, and a true believer in true love, something Shrek scoffs at. The animation is revolutionary, looking more realistic than anything before. However, in three years, 'Shrek 2' and 'Finding Nemo' have surpassed it. 'Shrek' is something for all ages, except for the overprotective parents who mind the occasional rude joke. On the whole, the comedy of the film is what makes it timeless. 'Shrek' is a must-watch for anyone.
Shrek 2 (2004)
One of the better films of the past few years
DreamWorks did the impossible in 2001...it beat Pixar! Andrew Adamson's revolutionary animated film, "Shrek", nabbed the Oscar from under "Monsters, Inc."'s ominous shadow. I couldn't agree with the Academy more (and I mostly don't). "Shrek 2" is a significantly better film than the original, but with competition like "The Incredibles", "Shark Tale" and "Home on the Range", repeating the feat may be hard. "Shrek 2" is the continuing story of two ogres (Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz) who aren't quite living as happily ever after as they expected. After a perfect honeymoon, they are summoned to Fiona's parents' (John Cleese and Julie Andrews) kingdom, along with Donkey (Eddie Murphy) but King Harold isn't too happy with his daughter's choice, as she was supposed to marry the prince *he* had picked for her. This Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) is the son of a Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) who helped the king once, and is using her past good deed to blackmail the ruler into getting rid of Shrek so Charming can marry the princess and be the eventual king. The assassin the king hires is none other than a Zorro spoof, a cute kitty called Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas). The animation of "Shrek" was *revolutionary*, while the animation of "Shrek 2" is *evolutionary*. This doesn't stop it from looking much better than the first film, the humans looking like they are *actually* talking. The story is much more complicated and twists, turns and twists again in a shorter running time than the original. Three dominating factors: 1) Hilarity that never lets up (you can be sure that an emotional moment will be rudely interrupted by a sidesplitting joke); 2) Puss in Boots; 3) Lots and lots of songs. There are a lot of songs borrowed from other films and artists. The songs are excellent, and this time around the characters themselves sing a lot more. The highlights are "Ever Fallen In Love" and the spectacular Eddie Murphy/Antonio Banderas duet, "Livin' La Vida Loca". Speaking of Puss, Donkey has a right to be jealous, as this adorable kitty is a consistent show-stealer, and Banderas' brilliant performance overshadows most of the others most of the time. The film spoofs traditional fairy tales and a lot more modern stuff, like Julie Andrews, "Zorro", "The Lord of the Rings" and "Spider-Man". "Shrek 2" is one film that very few can beat. Magnificent. (9.5/10)
A great film
'Dinosaur' is a Disney CG film that was made without the help of Pixar, and its success reminds one that Disney may have fallen from grace, but the House of Mouse can still produce something special every now and then. That said, this is no Pixar film, and can't seriously challenge Pixar's ascending product. A certain watch for everyone who's ever liked a Disney film, since this should be watchable at least for anyone who's been enchanted by a Disney classic.
Unlike most other films, 'Dinosaur' doesn't revolve around a single-layer story line. Usually, the plot centres around a hero-beats-bad-guy-and-falls-in-love-with-heroine theme. In 'Dinosaur', the two themes are present, but are interwoven carefully and pulls it off with near-perfection. The computer effects are ground-breaking, if just a level below the stuff these days. One complaint is the lack of attention given minor characters. The nameless lemurs have static fur and look like stuffed toys rather than real animals. The major characters, by contrast, are meticulously designed with realistic fur, seemingly produced strand by strand. The best (or worst) example of this is when Suri sits at the top of a tree surrounded by random lemurs. She looks magnificently real, but the animators' accomplishment with Suri is overshadowed by the absolutely unrealistic characters surrounding her.
Besides the occasional laziness, the visuals are spectacular. The meteor shower sequence is one of the best examples of technical wizardry in films. The menacing beauty of it will imprint itself upon your mind. The characterization is satisfying on the whole, with a more extensive use of side-kicks than usual. The characters of Eema, Balene, Yar and the rest of the lemurs isn't just for laughs; the characters also feature in emotional scenes, key sequences in the film's structure.
Another example of laziness in 'Dinosaur' is the robbery of scenes from Don Bluth's masterpiece, 'The Land Before Time'. Some shots are almost exact duplicates of the traditionally animated film. Some of the themes are repeated as well. Even though 'Dinosaur' is a great film by modern standards, it cannot beat 'The Land Before Time', as 'Dinosaur' just isn't a classic. It will not stay with you forever like the old films. It will enchant you every time you watch it, but you won't think of it that much when you're not watching it. That's why I'm writing this at the moment. My 'Dinosaur' DVD is playing right now. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to write this kind of review, because with 'Dinosaur', you forget all but the best of it.