Friday, March 22, 2002

Blade II / *** (2002)

The audience owes a certain amount of respect to movie vampires, who were born in Hollywood's golden age and have managed to survive in a time when their essence has veered from original to routine. Few big-screen creatures can claim the distinction of persisting as long, and though we tend to dismiss the mighty bloodsuckers as walking clichés as of late, we still find ourselves embracing their existence, ignoring potential forewarnings in the often-misguided hopes that they can recapture their inventive potency.

We Were Soldiers / ** (2002)

As hard as it may seem, the big budget Hollywood war film is on an unfortunate fast track to becoming the latest casualty of overexposure, joining the ranks of gross-out comedies and teen slashers as a once-elusive idea that rapidly settles in as a cliché. What's most unsettling about this conclusion is the fact that unlike other genres suffering from overkill, the war movie is timely and valuable to our society as a whole, representing the immediate wounds inflicted by gut-wrenching battle that, in ways, can be more damaging than rewarding to the nations who engage in it. Countless major movie studios, alas, now only see the financial potential of ideas like this, and are undermining the essence of it all with endeavors watered down to a routine level.

Friday, March 15, 2002

Oscars 2002: From The Director's Chair...

March 15, 2002

Hollywood's biggest night of the year is slowly but surely creeping up on us movie fans, fueling lengthy discussions about not just the year's most recognized motion picture achievements, but movies, awards and celebrities in general. It is a time of widespread anxiety for the film industry, clouded by uncertain outcomes and saturated with speculation. And those who have the potential of being called into the spotlight to accept an Oscar no doubt quiver with fear and excitement.

Oscars 2002: Winner Predictions

March 15, 2002

Any avid moviegoer will tell you how the attempt to make predictions of Oscar victors has become a coveted American pastime, but few of them will be able to express in words how addictive, frustrating and time consuming it actually is. That concept has never been more apparent than this year, as a careful look over the 74th Academy Awards voting ballot is an instant invitation to hours of piercing headaches.

The elaborate guessing game that tends to befuddle even the most successful predictors is even more of an obstacle this time around than it has been in years past. In recent memory, viewers, critics and analysts could at least depend on "weak spots" (or nominees who seemed susceptible to being forgotten) in major categories to help narrow their predictions down. Now, in a year when five seemingly invulnerable pictures have been grouped in the ceremony's most coveted category, the opportunity to close the gap has become much more difficult.

Collateral Damage / *1/2 (2002)

The subject of terrorism has been an immensely demanding subject on our minds ever since two commercial flights crashed into the World Trade Center last September, tearing an open wound into the foundation of the American dream and pulling the nation in to a widespread fire that has plagued this Earth for hundreds of years. In the time since that tragedy, many of us have tried hard to understand the warped logic behind those associated with such heinous attacks: what motivates them, what are their long-term goals, and most importantly, what do they gain from acting out so violently. Of course, the answers are nowhere near simple, and though the government has set itself the goal of crumbling the intricate terrorist networks in the Middle East, chances are these kinds of catastrophic attacks on humanity will go on long after most of us are gone.

Resident Evil / *1/2 (2002)

The adaptations of popular video games to major motion pictures is one of the biggest transitional curses of the modern cinema, and effort that is incessantly crushed by the fact that that screenwriters are too afraid to expand on ideas that the games themselves barely scratch the surface of. Consider last summer's ambitious retelling of the "Tomb Raider" computer game craze; it was flashy, ambitious and sometimes amusing, but the small plot, as with the source material itself, was simply an excuse to throw us in to countless sequences in which creatures are shot up and the hero of the story moves on to the next level, waiting for new dangers. At least with video games, we at least have control of the action. When it comes to the cinematic equivalent, it feels like we're simply observers of players who visit the same levels over and over again without making any progress.

Snow Dogs / 1/2* (2002)

When the lights go down in the theater that is showing "Snow Dogs," the mind is immediately flooded with prospects of "Cats and Dogs"-style animal effects, in which normal four-legged pets are effortlessly warped into english-speaking intellects with an edge on cunning behavior and witty reasoning. Such a perspective has been used as the primary advertising tool behind this live action Disney vehicle, but like so many campaigns of the recent past from the infamous Mouse House, the delivery is more deceitful than valid. In fact, the movie contains only one major scene featuring animals engaging in human discussion, and it's strictly a dream sequence, lifted from a story centered on not charm or amusement, but cringe-worthy standards and feel-good tones that could pass off as leftover treats from Disney's recent past live action endeavors. No, this isn't even a movie we can enjoy as mild escapism; it is one in which fear and frustration are provoked to intolerable levels.