Tuesday, July 24, 2001

A.I. - Artificial Intelligence / ***1/2 (2001)

There aren't many movies that require repeat viewings to gain a full perspective of what's going on, but Steven Spielberg's "A.I. - Artificial Intelligence" falls under that category without a moment's hesitation. The film is immediately an extraordinary visual spectacle, but its story dwells somewhere between brilliant and mediocre, so much so that a second viewing would likely serve as the only way to make a well-mounted response. Needless to say, the result will be different for everyone, but for this particular critic, that answer eventually became an overwhelmingly positive one. That doesn't make it a flawless film, but awfully darn close.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire / *** (2001)

It’s always hard to assume anything when it comes to Disney animation, but the department’s latest feature, “Atlantis: The Lost Empire,” takes such a tremendous departure from the studio’s routine method of storytelling, not even those who knew of its existence could have foreseen it. Stretching the fabric to a rim only reached once before by “The Black Cauldron,” the movie is an intense risk of subject matter, challenging and fresh, with little to no focus on cutesy characters and catchy songs and more of a direct concern with narrative intricacies and human drama. Children could be easily turned off by hearing a description about the Disney film, but this really isn’t solely intended for little tykes, anyway. The elusive “PG” rating attatched to the film, only the second time a Disney cartoon has ever received one, might even turn parents on to an increasingly popular theory: no one, not even the mouse house, can ignore animations’ new-found maturity.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within / ***1/2 (2001)

The future of our cinema rides on an endless debate that flesh and blood human actors may one day may not be necessary in filmmaking--that they will be ultimately replaced by the evolution of computers and digital effects, and that movie budgets will be reduced dramatically because CGI thespians don't require the meaty paychecks that real ones do. That argument, however, has left a dry taste in the mouth of many because there has so far been no distinct evidence supporting or denouncing the concept. Technology, after all, may have advanced greatly in the recent past, but not enough to match the natural detail of ordinary human beings.

The Homeboy / *** (2001)

It is said that fame is like a drug, addictive from the very beginning and coveted by those under its influence, but those who say so tend to overlook one very significant factor behind the statement: like some substances, it can also bring you down just as fast as it lifted you up. The situation is no more apparent than in the music business, a venue in which any aspiring person can release a catchy tune, acquire a massive following, get showered in awards and praise, and then quickly fade out after a deafening commercial collapse.

Jurassic Park III / ***1/2 (2001)

He who said that third times are a charm sure said a mouthful. That, at least, would excuse the reason why I found myself completely enthralled by "Jurassic Park III," the latest installment in an obligatory franchise about genetically engineered prehistoric giants. Much less science-driven narrative and more of a brainless action adventure than either of its two predecessors, the film has classic symptoms of B-movie status, something that, frankly, the series could have used from the very beginning. Though the original endeavors--both "Jurassic Park" and "The Lost World"--effectively used special effects to generate creatures that had died out millions of years before man, the writers failed to realize the full potential of their stories, thus ending up in mediocre payoffs. Here, they've finally gotten things right--the dinosaurs are as realistic as ever, the characters are intelligent, and the story is such nonstop silly entertainment that, by the end, the only complaint we have is that it all ends too soon.