Triple Bill at the Roxy
In order to prepare for this unique movie-going experience, I empty out my purse and then fill it up with cookies and bottled water. On the way to the theatre we discuss and MGB with a V8 engine and how there really is no substitute for cubic inches. I state that I would like to take the giant old blue and white 1982 Mercury Cougar currently rusting on my Grampaís farm, not change the bodywork, drop in a really powerful engine, and challenge slammed Civics at intersections. I totally run a red light looking for a parking spot, but eventually we find one, get our tickets taken, and find a seat. The Roxy is an old converted Quonset hut which still kind of smells like gasoline, and at various points during the evening we will debate whether the staff are hot-boxing the projection room. We strike up a conversation with the aging-boomer couple behind us - Owen talks to the guy about cars while I debate with the woman the guy taking tickets at the door - I think itís totally obvious heís gay, she thinks heís just a ďnightcrawlerĒ, whatever that is.
The Fast and the Furious
This is the first feature shown. It starts with a semi-jacking by three slammed black Honda Civics, then switches to something more wholesome. The protagonist, driving a bright green car with a preposterous spoiler and stickers that make him go fast, fails to reach the speed he was hoping for and is consoling himself with lunch at a dodgy cafť when four more cars, of varying colors, with preposterous spoilers and stickers that make them go fast, pull up, and the drivers of said cars pick a fight with the protagonist. Hereinafter, all of the vehicles seen in this movie, excepting the police cars, semis, and 3 black Civics, but including the red Ford F150 delivery truck, have preposterous spoilers and stickers that make them go fast. Every vehicle in this movie has at least one container of Nitrous Oxide attached to the intake manifold.
Our protagonist works in a high performance auto parts store and wants to break into the world of street racing. In order to do this he must first worm his way into the good graces of one of the leading members of the street racing community. I think this in itself would make a fine premise for a movie about cars with stickers to make them go fast. Thereís a really good street race scene near the beginning of the movie with interesting camera shots taking you through the engine of the car as itís firing up. I hoped the whole movie would be like this.
However, for a movie allegedly about street racing, there is only the one street race in the movie. Our protagonist turns out to be an undercover cop trying to bust up the Honda Civic gang. There are a bunch of Asian immigrant neíer-do-wells on crotch rockets and involvement by the FBI. What-ever!
If this movie had stuck to the street racing and not brought in undercover cops, semi-jacking, motorcycle gangs, and the FBI, it would have been a much better bad movie. As it was, it was kind of silly, with an unsatisfying ending. It had no actual tits or explosions*, though it had hints of both, and it contained just about every racial stereotype known to North America. Oh, but one of the street racers was a girl, so at least I donít feel under-represented.
AI (Artificial Intelligence)
The second feature of the night took a really, really long time for the projectionists to load, and when it finally did, there was about 3 minutes of movie before the film got caught in the projector and part of it burned. This was the projectorís way of saying, "No, really. You donít want to watch this movie."
There were no tits or explosions. The theme of the movie was stated baldly in the opening sequence. There was a walking, talking teddy bear. Scenes that were probably supposed to be poignant were downright eerie. I could tell that everything that happened in the movie was a bad idea from the start.
Iím not saying this movie didnít raise social issues that arenít worth thinking about. For perspective, Iím the one who felt, while reading Star Wars novels, that druids were being totally and unfairly oppressed, treated as little better than possessions or slaves when really they were as much thinking, feeling beings as any of the rest of the characters. AI raised questions for me about humans and androids interact with one another, what rights and privileges humans have towards androids, and really, given the reaction of the humans towards the androids in this movie, whether we have the right to create them at all (see also Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. No, donít watch the movie. Read the book). Steven Spielberg could have developed any of these themes into a more compelling movie. Okay, maybe not, but Stanley Kubrick could have. Instead, he tries to turn it into an updated version of Pinocchio, but itís painful, stodgy, and the allusions to Pinocchio are way too heavy-handed to be in any way clever or meaningful.
The ending just didnít work for me. I thought the movie could have ended with Haley Joel Osmentís character sitting down to wait for the Blue Fairy, and just waiting, and waiting, and waitingÖ. Instead it went for a Titanic-style happy/sad ending (that dragged on for another 45 minutes), in which the characters kind of get what they want, but at a really high cost.
This was one of those movies where, given the subject matter, although I personally could not have done a better job (those who canít, criticize) I think the director or the screenwriters or somebody could have done a much better job by taking it in any number of different directions other than the one it took. I was disappointed. I think of all the themes this movie could have explored, it chose exactly the wrong one.
One half pint - for the scenes with Jude Law in them. No, itís not because Iím a huge Jude Law fan or something, itís because I thought they represented a step in the direction this movie should have taken.
Lara Croft, Tomb Raider
Lara Croft is what you might call an eccentric. She seems to own a giant stately home right in the middle of London, one wing of which has been turned into the Xtreme sports version of a climbing wall, where she can battle mecha and keep in practice for tomb raiding. She attaches herself by bungee cords to the mezzanine and indulges in aerobatics before going to bed, primarily as a setup for a reasonable Hong Kong wirework-style action sequence which, while contrived, was more palatable to me than the apparently gratuitous wirework in Charlieís Angels. I just donít think North American action movies are ready for wirework action sequences yet, unless they can be explained away by some gimmick like in-home bungee jumping or there not being any spoon.
Lara Croft finds a clock ticking under the stairs on the first night of a planetary alignment. (Small nitpick: at one point the planets are actually shown aligning in space, but a planetary alignment is actually just an optical illusion - when the planets appear to line up from Earth, they are actually not lined up in space. Boy, am I a geek or what?) The clock contains a piece which, along with two other pieces and trips to Cambodia and Siberia to raid tombs, will allow either Lara Croft or the Illuminati to control space and time when the planetary alignment is complete.
Some people (professional movie reviewers, mostly) found the plot of this movie totally incomprehensible. I donít know why - itís pretty formulaic. The protagonist must acquire the important object before the bad guys can acquire it and use it to take over the world. There were three Indiana Jones movies that used this plot.
I really liked this movie. There were really good action sequences. Lara Croft kicked some serious butt. Here sidekicks were appropriately comical. The villains were appropriately suave and villainous and associated with an appropriately evil secret society. The attempts to give Lara Croft a human side didnít overshadow here main function of looking sexy and kicking butt. Unlike Final Fantasy, the movie version of Tomb Raider actually had something to do with the game.
To sum up my moviegoing experience, I sat through one dumb, one disappointing, and one pretty cool movie. My butt got pretty sore, and the cookies totally turned to mush, but overall I definitely got my moneyís worth.
*ĒWas it a good movie? No. Did it have tits and explosions? Yes!Ē - Malcolm MacRae