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In this episode: Our Short 'n' Sweet Issue! Chicken Run | Shaft | Titan A.E.

Yes, once again, I'm behind in my reviewing. But I have an excuse: I didn't get to it! Let me make these reviews short and sweet. I'll never write them otherwise.

CHICKEN RUN

If you like Nick Park and his style of stop-motion animation, used to sublime effect in the three Wallace and Gromit movies, you'll also like Chicken Run. It's wonderfully clever, and though it suffers from some movie script clichés, it's too well done in all other respects to be anything but a success. The voices are wonderful, the characters are rich, and the animation flawless. The movie is also filled with some fun homages, most surprisingly from the Star Wars, Star Trek, and Indiana Jones movies. These little clay creations have more life and spunk than a lot of live actors. Or bad 2-D animation (yes, I'm talking about Titan A.E.--see below). The adventure in the pie machine, Fowler's confession on the plane, and Miranda Richardson's cold and heartless Mrs. Tweedy are themselves worth the admission price.

"Oooo! What kind of pies?"

"Apple."

Heh heh!

 

 

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SHAFT

Chalk this up as another surprise. I had a lot of fun in this movie, mostly thanks to the snappy writing and the very good (and sometimes hammy!) acting by Samuel L. Jackson, Christian Bale, and Toni Collette. Most worthy of praise is Jeffrey Wright's performance as Peoples Hernandez. He's spooky, evil, funny, smooth, sleazy, and a complete dork, all at the same time. A very worthy opponent for Sam's John Shaft.

Now, I didn't see the original, though it's hovering in the DVD case at home, so I can't make a comparison, but I'm doubting the original Shaft was this much fun, even in its day. Unfortunately, I'll never have the privilege of viewing the original as anything other than dated. As Sven said, this new Shaft will look dated, too, in 19 years. But for now, I'll take it.

 

 

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TITAN A.E.

What a mish-mash of crap. The story is lousy, the writing and plot are shoddy and amateurish, and the music is all wrong. And then there's that lovely Don Bluth animation. If you remember my review of Anastasia—don't worry, I'm not expecting anyone to—I had problems with the rotoscoping and the over-exaggerated mouth movements. They're back here but are in the company of poorly-matched CG and ineffective character expression (gestures, facial movements, etc.). Cheers to the folks doing the CG for their amazing renderings of the ice rings and the hydrogen trees, but boo to Don for plopping such mediocre 2-D work on top of these gorgeous visuals. Maybe on the DVD version, you can choose the option to strip off these annoying celluloid nothings and enjoy the 3-D world beneath them. Note, though, that even the backgrounds are inconsistent! Some are extremely detailed 3-D, others look scribbled in crayon by raccoons. Another example of the slipshod work: Cale's tattoo, added later by computer, slides all over his arm. Very bad tracking!

I wouldn't blame the really bad box office this movie's gotten on bad marketing... I'd blame the fact that the movie blows.

 

--Steve

6/28/00

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©2000 Steven Lekowicz except
Chicken Run picture ©1999 DreamWorks LLC, Aardman Chicken Run, and Pathé
Shaft photo ©2000 Paramount Pictures
Original Titan A.E. artwork ©Fox