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Things I finally caught up with on video (and on airplanes)...
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last update 9.Jul.01

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DINOSAUR
dir Eric Leighton, Ralph Zondag scr John Harrison, Robert Nelson Jacobs Disney 00/US 1h22 ***

Astonishing animation is the primary attraction to this otherwise fairly average Disney flick about a pack of dinosaurs (and a few monkeys) trekking through the arid wasteland in the aftermath of a meteor shower, complete with villains, infighting and dreams of reaching their comfy nesting grounds. The story is very simplistic; we're only kept interested by the visual magic, blending computer-generated creatures with gorgeous, real backgrounds. Virtually every shot surprises us with its lush imagery. Decent voice work from the likes of DB Sweeney, Alfre Woodard, Julianna Margulies and Joan Plowright helps, but the combination of modern-day politics, humour and movie formulae with this prehistoric epic journey doesn't work. We never remotely consider the plight of the dinosaurs, since they're much more human than animal. Which kind of undermines the point of it all, really. [PG--themes, violence] 22.Jun.01

READER REVIEW: "Amazing special effects wasted on a not-so-amazing story. I think that I have a hard time when realistic looking dinosaurs are thinking and acting with a humanistic set of values. I am sure that kids love it, though." --Kathy M, Los Angeles. back to the top


GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE
dir Sam Weisman scr Dana Olsen, Audrey Wells Disney 97/US 1h32 ***

The tone of this Tarzan spoof was copied exactly in the less-successful screen adaptation of another of Jay Ward's inspired characters, Rocky & Bullwinkle. Cheeky narration and cartoonish visuals combine cheerfully to tell a very silly story. Here though the film benefits hugely from Brendan Frasier's clever turn in the title role as a bumbling jungle hero who falls in love with gorgeous anthropologist Ursula (Leslie Mann) and then takes a trip to civilisation before returning to rescue his best pal Ape (voice of John Cleese) from the bumbling bad guys (Thomas Haden Church, Abraham Benrubi). The supreme goofiness is offset by some inspired gags that will keep adults chuckling while the kids laugh at the poo and fart jokes. And the hilarious Holland Taylor (as Ursula's society-obsessed mother) is always welcome. [U--vulgarity, comic violence] 5.Jul.01
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LEFT BEHIND
dir Victor Sarin scr John Bishop, Joe Goodman, Paul Lalonde, Alan B McElroy Cloud Ten 00/Canada 1h35 **

Decent production values are undermined by a fragmented narrative in this apocalyptic tale of the End Times, centring on the Biblical rapture (when all the Christians disappear--here only the devout and fundamental are taken) and the rise of the Antichrist (a Russkie played by Gordon Currie). Kirk Cameron isn't half bad as a journalist on the trail of the real story, teaming up with an airline pilot (Brad Johnson) and a stewardess-turned-UN official (Chelsea Noble) along the way. Yes, the story drifts into the preposterous, while it jumps around and fails to properly introduce or develop most of the characters and plot points. But the story itself is OK, even though the political intrigue never comes together. And the characters are at least engaging, even if the acting is fairly awful (the principals are fine). The religious message couldn't be any more heavy-handed, and even some Christians will find the theology very out to lunch. But the real surprise is how it feels like the pilot for a TV series, complete with an open-ended, 7-year-storyline conclusion. [themes, some violence] 28.Jun.01

READER REVIEW: "Yuck! I'm embarrassed! Watered down, rearranged plots; bad writing, and poor special effects. Even with the well-known actors (who I would have expected better of) this movie left me highly disappointed, if not disgusted. If someone watched this movie first, they'd have no desire whatsoever to read the very well-written series of books at all. I found myself having to explain missed information, fill in the blanks, rearrange how people met and who met whom first, where things actually happened and what the history was behind certain relationships that were supposed to work in the movie but didn't because you didn't know why they were there. The movie was more of a disaster than the disaster it was attempting to portray. It was awkward and embarrassingly badly done. The seriousness with which the actors took their roles was almost laughable - instead of the depth you could sense in the books, the movie was merely a bit more religious Bible-thumping hocus-pocus and froth. Kurt Cameron's embarrassing 'Let's get the message out to Hollywood...' commentary, attached to the end, is trying to tell us to enthusiastically endorse and push a pathetic venture in 'Christian' movies as if it were remotely comparable to what's out there (which it's not). Where this series of books could very well have been made into an effective and indeed riveting movie (or series of movies or even TV series) Cloud Ten's sad attempt fails the Left Behind series of books as well as the 'Christian' film industry miserably. Left Behind: The Movie is going to be left WAY behind in the theaters ... pretty sad, considering the superb movie potential in the books (which I highly recommend). Two thumbs down ... and fingers and toes too!" --Donna C, Michigan. back to the top


MONKEYBONE
dir Henry Selick scr Sam Hamm Fox 01/US 1h33 **

This one went straight to video in the UK, which is a shame because the otherworldly visuals would have been fantastic on a big screen. Otherwise the film struggles to find its voice--dithering between dark comedy, touching romance and madcap slapstick. It never comes together at all. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the main problem is the script, which resolutely refuses to play on the story's strengths (it's based on Kaja Blackley's graphic novel Dark Town), instead opting for stupid movie conventions. Brendan Frasier stars as Stu, a struggling cartoonist on the verge of huge success when a car accident leaves him comatose. His subconscious takes him to Downtown, a land of nightmares in which he must confront his alter-ego Monkeybone (voiced by John Turturro) and bargain with Death (an irritatingly smirky Whoopi Goldberg) to return topside to propose to his girlfriend (Bridget Fonda) before his sister (Megan Mullally) pulls the life-support plug. Then Monkeybone conspires with a hellish jailer (Giancarlo Esposito) to take over Stu's body, and Stu has to enter an organ donor (Chris Kattan) to save the day. The nutty mayhem isn't nearly as hilarious as the filmmakers obviously thought it was--they would have been wiser to stick with the story's darker elements, looking at the creative process, the subconscious and the nature of dreams and nightmares in a blackly funny way instead of trying to go for the family film audience with this mishmash. [12--themes, innuendo] 5.Jul.01
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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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