Jun 242003
 
Authors: Christopher J. Ortiz

Finding Nemo, Disney/Pixar Pictures

From the always-dependable computer animation company, Pixar’s gamble on its first summer release seems to have paid off. The movie captures you with its breathtaking and almost surreal animation but where most summer movies end, Pixar does not rely solely on special affects; the script and the acting carries the movie.

Clownfish Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) must search the depths of the ocean for his only son Nemo who got lost after proving on his first day of school that he is not afraid of everything wet like his dad. On his quest, Marlin runs into Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a fish with a little problem with her short-term memory. In the typical Pixar plot, the two mismatched characters join efforts in finding the title character.

On the way, they run into Bruce (Barry Humphries), a killer white shark who is taking a 12-step program to stop from eating other fish and other shark stereotypes. Meanwhile Nemo ends up in a dentist’s fish tank where he meets pet fish who have been preparing to escape under the leadership of veteran fish Gill (Willem Dafoe).

Though predictable and at some points in the film I asked myself if I have seen parts of this movie in previous Pixar productions (Toy Story, A Bug’s Life), the movie shines with brilliant and first-rate animation backed up with marvelous and outstanding voice performances.

B+

Matrix Reload, Warner Brother Pictures

The most anticipated sequel in recent memory, Matrix Reloaded leaves the audience with more questions to ponder than reasons to applaud. Starting off right after the first Matrix (viewers who haven’t seen the first one will be lost, Reloaded doesn’t start with a prelude) left off. Neo (Keanu Reeves) and his crew of renegade fighters, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) continue fighting the machines and freeing humans from the Matrix illusion.

After being blown to bytes in the first movie, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) returns with the powers to reduplicate himself in the Matrix with the goal to destroy Neo and those who wish to destroy the Matrix computer program.

The movie comes with highs and lows in the special affects and the plot. After smashing and defining special effects in the original with its “bullet-time” shots and gravity defining fighting scenes, the filmmakers felt they had to take the special affects a notch up. Unfortunately, they weren’t perfect and if you are the Matrix, and your special affects are not flawless, you might as well not do them.

In the scene when Neo first meets up with Smith, the hero finds himself fighting against dozens and dozens of Smiths. The filmmakers invented away to duplicate an actor on screen over and over again, except the rendering on the shots made the film look like a really cool videogame and/or a really fake movie. The movie and filmmakers redeem themselves in the car scene that required a stretch of highway to be built specifically for the movie. The characters find themselves driving in and out of highway traffic (and at one point driving against traffic). When the scene is finally finished, don’t be surprised if you’re out of breath.

The plot as well has it highs and lows. Because the final movie of this trilogy comes out seven months later, the filmmakers had to make sure they had enough story to make another movie and it seems this movie suffers because of that by trying to fill two hours of film with about 90 minutes of storyline.

B-

The Italian Job, Paramount Pictures

A remake from the original 1969 film of the same name, the movie concerns itself with a bunch of professional thieves, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Statham, Seth Green and Mos Def, who are out to get the guy who backstabbed them with the help of the always-gorgeous Charlize Theron who plays Stella, a lock picker who decides to join the crew to get revenge on the guy who murdered her father (Donald Sutherland). Heard this plot a dozen times in movies? Probably, but what makes the movie memorable is the excitement watching this team carry out their scheme.

In a breakout role, Seth Green plays Lyle, a computer whiz claims that he was the guy who invented the mp3-swapping program Napster. Statham and Def also stand out in their roles as a dashing get-to-guy Rob and a half-deaf explosions expert Left-Ear, respectively. In fact, the entire casts shines including Theron who steals every scene she is in and even Edward Norton (who I argue is THE actor of this generation) does the most he can playing a generic greedy bad guy, Steve, who did not even want to do this movie but was forced to in order to fulfill a contract. Everyone shines except leading man Wahlberg who I forgot half the time what he was doing in this movie. The crew could have easily pulled off the mission without his flat lines and meager acting. The romance between him and Theron is flatline throughout every attempt but don’t let it get you down, you’ll be enjoying yourself getting caught up in all the excitement the rest of the characters are having in their super-cool BMW Mini’s.

In a summer of car movies which use computer generated images in every shot and depend on blue screens and ILM to carry the movie, Italian Job said “no” and shot the entire movie without CGI, just like they did in the old days, and it shows.

B

Hollywood Homicide

Sony Pictures

The most profitable actor of all time, Harrison Ford, teams up with heartthrob, Josh Hartnett, in this cop-buddy flick but instead of mixing up the buddy-cop formula, Homicide simply plays by the dull rules of mismatched, polar-opposite cops who try throughout the whole movie to understand and identify each other.

Ford plays a veteran Hollywood detective, Joe Gavilian, who is paying off three ex-wives and is trying to make it a day without his car being repossessed and trying to close a real estate deal between Master P and Martin Landau.

Hartnett plays K.C. Calden, a rookie (no way!) who has aspirations to become an actor, a move Harrison’s character doesn’t “get”. When they are not busy with real estate deals, rehearsing script lines or making out with beautiful women, they’re suppose to be on the case of the murder of four rappers who got shot or something….doesn’t matter, they might as well be chasing down a group of guys selling donuts without charging for extra sprinkles, the point of the movie is to laugh at the absurdity between the two main characters, it works at times but usually I found myself finishing the punch lines before Harrison or Hartnett had the chance to.

The movie’s best scenes are when Harrison plays against his typical typecast, instead of the dashing hero who is never seen without his hat and always looks dashing when saving the day, the audience gets to see Harrison play a character down on his luck, drinking scotch home alone and answering his cell phone when it rings an old-school Motown jingle… since when does Indiana Jones carry a cell phone? As for Hartnett, well, in every scene his hair looks like he just walked through a wind tunnel but he holds his own to the great Harrison.

Homicide hopes people will be satisfied seeing Harrison and Harnett on the screen together at the same time, and for the most part it’s enough, but would it hurt to mix up the old cop-buddy formula?

C+

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