Thursday, May 15, 2003

The Matrix Reloaded / **** (2003)

There is a certain fondness to be felt during trips to the local multiplex lately, especially when passing through those front lobbies where studios tend to tease their upcoming releases like fishermen showing off fancy new lures. In the far corner of this shameless promotional gallery is a poster for "The Matrix Reloaded," one of two sequels arriving in theaters this year to a now-infamous sci-fi masterpiece, with an enigmatic tag-line that reads at the bottom, almost frivolously, "How far down does the rabbit hole go?" Ah, but if the answer was obvious, would that still have warranted anyone from devising follow-ups to this now-legendary sci-fi adventure? Surely not. Here is a world with so much left unanswered, so many things left unexplored, it has never really escaped our consciousness. It is all around us. It has pulled you into its web of complexity almost without even trying. This Matrix hasn't merely recaptured you—it has never left you.

Friday, May 9, 2003

Daddy Day Care / *1/2 (2003)

Ask the average man about raising a child, and chances are he will redirect your inquiries to a woman. If that's the sort of generalization that most of today's male population still happily embrace, then it's unlikely that any of them will find a shred of appeal in "Daddy Day Care," a film in which fathers decide to watch and manage the kids of strangers before realizing how lackluster their parenting skills are with their own youngsters. Indeed, as asked during an important dialogue exchange during the early half of the picture, "are men not capable of taking care of a kid the same way a woman can?" Perhaps so, perhaps not. In either case, the answer is probably too simple to even deserve the focus of an entire movie, especially one containing the likes of Anjelica Houston and Eddie Murphy in front of the camera.

Holes / *** (2003)

He who said you should not judge a piece of work based on its title sure said a mouthful. Andrew Davis' "Holes" is a movie that comes scurrying off the screen with one of the single most childish and unpleasant names in recent memory, outdoing even the horrendous stupidity of such endeavors as "Piglet's Big Movie" and "Bulletproof Monk" without even seeming to try as hard. The knee-jerk reaction to hearing it is to assume the worst of the product itself, and yet as the movie is being absorbed, suddenly we're forgetting all about our initial reservations and actually enjoying ourselves. Disney has not generally been a studio to leave pleasant surprises for audiences in the form of live action book adaptations (think for a moment about that horrendous "Tuck Everlasting' debacle last fall), but here they have broken the mold with what is perhaps one of the most interesting and amusing family adventures of the recent past. Holes may dominate the events of the plot, but the final product is far from being one itself.

X2: X-Men United / **1/2 (2003)

The stories of the X-Men and their intricate adventures in a world with instinctive to fear and hate them have always been a source of constant fascination in the ever-changing comic book market, but even more fascinating has been Hollywood's challenge of filtering that rich 40-year history of the series into a collection of two-hour action films aimed squarely at casual moviegoers. For those of us more familiar with the material than, say, the average theater attendee, the questions often outweigh the anticipation: who, for instance, decides what plots get covered in these endeavors? Who decides what characters to include and how to introduce them? Who or what doesn't quite make the cut? The answers maybe simple, but the brains behind Twentieth Century Fox's inevitably-ongoing franchise aren't immediately thinking about the cravings of hardcore series purists. No, these movie mutants are not a homage to those comic buffs who have waited patiently for years to see these plots and players make the leap to the big screen; they are colorful summer blockbusters designed to appeal to an audience that doesn't expect to know a thing about the source material.