Monday, July 28, 2003

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman / * (2003)

Only halfway into the summer of 2003, and the most dreadful studio blockbuster of the year finally reaches the multiplexes. "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" tramples across the screen like a stampede of destructive elephants, wrecking everything in its ferocious path without necessarily intending to do so in the process. And that's a sad prospect, because when the movie opens, the intriguing premise suggests that there is, indeed, a valuable product hidden beneath the coarse exteriors. But then without hesitation, the movie goes nuts and becomes this giant web of chaos, sometimes even at points when we least expect it to. In this league's "extraordinary" universe, there is no rule book, no presence of logic, and no factor of intelligence whatsoever; it exists merely on its own plane of stupidity, feeding off ineptitude at such an alarming pace that it's a wonder any kind of filmmaker could salvage a product worthy of a wide theatrical release.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl / *** (2003)

"Pirates of the Caribbean" is probably the most ambitious B-movie ever made, a rollicking spectacle of color and adventure that strives continuously to be more than what it could ordinarily get away with. In a few ways, that pitch of energy makes the experience so much more enjoyable than anticipated; in others, it simply keeps the film moving on longer than it has to. In fact, by the time the movie passes the ever-dreaded 2-hour mark, it no longer becomes a question as to how the movie will end, but when it will end. Sword fights, treasure hunting and pirate lingo exist here as visual pleasures that don't know when to cease; they simply move on and on without a regard to time or fuel. The fact that the name Jerry Bruckheimer precedes the credits as executive producer is only the first clue to this distracting misfortune.

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas / ** (2003)

The generations that were raised on 2D feature animation have long since dissipated into the age of CGI, leaving behind a medium still so pervaded with promising ideas that it's discouraging to see most of them go almost completely ignored at the box office. Consider Disney's last traditional feature cartoon "Treasure Planet," a dazzling adventure with visual spectacles outside of the studio's norm—produced on a budget estimated to be between 140 and 150 million, the film took in a measly 30 million dollars during its initial theatrical run last fall, making it one of the genre's biggest commercial disasters of the recent past. Meanwhile, the current animated champ, the PIXAR-produced computer cartoon "Finding Nemo," looks about ready to upset "The Lion King" as the most successful of all time in feature animation, a feat that seemed impossible even to the CGI giants like "Shrek" and "Toy Story."

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines / ***1/2 (2003)

During the opening moments of "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," the voice of our hero John Connor informs the audience, somewhat reluctantly, that the "future is not yet written." This, however, is not the voice of the same John Connor who has accepted a past plagued by memories of time-traveling machines both sent to protect and destroy him; this is the mentality of a full-grown man detached from reality, hopping from one location to the next with minimal social contact in hopes that denial will make all the trauma of his rocky life disappear. But try as he might, those dark times still follow him around like glaring physical scars, and the fact that he tries so hard to hide them only prevents him from leading the life he so clearly hopes is not ordained by any specific destiny.