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In this episode: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider | Pearl Harbor | Evolution | Disney in 2002

Hi there! Yes, once again, I have been significantly absent from the world of movie reviews (you can choose to read "significantly" as a great loss to humankind or a magnificent blessing that you are chagrined to now learn has taken its course).

But, oh, do I need to catch up. I have a trio of pretty crappy movies to tell you about. Though they've been out a while, I figure I can help to educate people so they may make informed decisions about which wastrel films are worth their time. I'll try and be brief about these so you have time left in your day to poke yourself in the eye with a stick.

 

LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER

Lara in Spooky Place What really disappointed me about this film is that it wasn't a romantic love story. I was waiting for the heroine, Lara Croft, to end up running into a dark and dashing hero in the middle of a tomb, and she and he, named Tom Braider, would fall in love and run off to attempt to be a better and more lasting couple than Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood. Alas, there was no Tom Braider in sight, and Lara ended up dancing the summer action blockbuster tango with two unriveting guys, Manfred Powell (Iain Glen) and Alex Cross (Daniel Craig). Lara herself is riveting, but more because Angelina Jolie's lips take up more screen real estate than the tombs she raids.

No Tom Braider? Fine. Let's turn our attention to colons. I know I went off about titles with colons in them in the Atlantis review, but I have to say something about this one. Why are marketing people allowed? Why are they allowed to do anything? In this case, were they afraid that without "Lara Croft" in the title, fans of Tomb Raider would not understand that this was a Tomb Raider movie? Huh? Were their salaries made up for by the extra 82 suckers they got into the theater because they were drawn in by the name Lara Croft? Are we now in for more sequels with colons and M dashes? Lara Croft: Tomb Raider—The Phantom Lingerie? Make it stop!

So what gives with this movie? It's hokum. I can't deny I was entertained by it, but only in parts. And those parts were mostly entertaining because the audience at the Chinese theater laughed up a storm at every silly-ass moment. There was definitely a turning-point in the movie where the audience gave up trying to buy what they were being shown and instead decided to entertain themselves. The guy next to me was, by the end, laughing very much like you might expect the product of the genetic marriage of a horse and a pig to laugh. He apologized as the credits were rolling, but I didn't mind. It was an honest pighorse laugh.

Is It Cold In Here? Angelina is definitely the perfect human embodiment of Lara Croft. If only her lips weren't so distracting. Really! When Angelina as Lara would be sitting there on the huge screen, pondering in close-up the death of her father (Angelina's real-life dad Jon Voight) or maybe whether she should not button her parka so her hectare of tits can jut freely into the freezing cold tundra air (see example), the immense size of her lips becomes the point of focus. It's weird. Otherwise, Lara does lots of interesting stunts and has some peachy keen guns and seems to be so smart she doesn't need to figure out any puzzles because she just knows what to do automatically. Like a robot or a video game character. Ah!

The story itself is pretty useless, but if it had even an ounce of Raiders of the Lost Ark's real-world sensibility, it would have been a million times more plausible. For instance, I doubt the screenwriters even bothered to check whether a full planetary alignment truly does happen every 5,000 years. I think they pulled that number out of their tushes, frankly. 5,000 is, in galactic time, extremely tiny, and for all nine planets to align perfectly every— Oh, forget it!

But that's small potatoes compared to the other stupid story elements. [Skip ahead if you want to remain in the dark about the plot, which is itself in the dark.] I don't buy that Lara would not have destroyed the first half of the Triangle of Ultimate Power and Influence when she had the chance, even if there was the opportunity to bring her father back from the dead. I also don't buy that her father had made such detailed notes, then completely failed to get anywhere near any of the triangle pieces. I also don't get why the rock creatures come to life after the second piece of the Triangle of Ultimate Power and Influence is in hand. They should have attacked first. Duh. (In Raiders of the Lost Ark, after Indy grabs the idol, the ruin he's in starts to fall apart. Fine. But there's plenty of other deadly booby traps along the way, and the temple falling apart is a final, desperate mechanism to keep the idol from being taken. Am I really discussing this as if it's my doctoral thesis? I am, aren't I? My God.)

The video game setup is annoying, too. I wouldn't pay to go to a theater to watch a 12-year-old play a game of Tom Braider, but that's how the action sequences for the movie are set up. The characters blow away tons of supernatural enemies using mostly guns. Shoot them enough and they fall apart. Afterward, you know you ain't done 'cause the BIG ASS monster comes out next! Pretty silly. And boring. Playing House of the Dead is worth $10 at GameWorks, but watching Tom Braider is not worth $9 at the theater.

As for the other characters, Lara has two sidekicks who serve no purpose in the story and so aren't worth mentioning. So I won't. And the Alex guy Lara had a thing for, he's also useless, even in the end when (skip this if you want to) she fights to bring him back to life. We have been given nothing but vague B.S. about their past, and now we are expected to root for Lara to save him? As I would say to a telemarketer, "No thanks!"

Simon West directed this movie. He also did Con Air. You can see now why I weep openly that he'll be helming the movie version of The Prisoner. It will suck. Unless it's brilliantly written...

If you can't tell by now, Tom Braider suffers mostly from crappy writing. Like just about everything else these days. CRAPPY WRITING. This town is filled with people who have good ideas and who know how to create something unique. Unfortunately, it's also filled with people who know nothing other than how to make money, and there's nothing creative about that. Money always wins out. (Oh, okay, not always. There's Moulin Rouge, isn't there?)

 

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PEARL HARBOR

History? KABLOW! Talk about money winning out! While Pearl Harbor wasn't as bombastic and poorly shot and edited as Mr. Michael Bay's last fantastic film, Armageddon (note the tone of kiddingness), it still suffers from Michael's being a complete hack. The man needs to stick to TV commercials, where two-dimensional characters and chocolaty-smooth film images are welcomed with open arms. Pearl Harbor looks great and is interesting enough to watch, but after movies like Saving Private Ryan and even The Thin Red Line, which are at once huge spectacles yet gritty enough to impart some emotional impact, this flick looks like nothing more than a propagandistic bamboozle. My friend Marcy said when she saw it, some of the older people in the audience who'd lived through the war had tears in their eyes. I understand that this movie might have reminded people of a painful past. I get that. Additionally in this case, Pearl Harbor has a glossy, antiseptically dramatic sheen about it that recalls movies of a bygone era. Though those bygone movies can still hold up today, they need to be strong in other ways. Singin' In the Rain? Looks fantastically dated, but it's still an awesome film. Pearl Harbor will not be considered an awesome film in 50 years. A movie has to have something different, has to have a strong center including story and character and craft. Pearl Harbor may have amazing effects and may look beautiful on the screen, but it ain't enough. Right, Lara?

I was just thinking I should invite Simon West and Michael Bay to my apartment for a party. Wouldn't that be fun?

 

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EVOLUTION

A Comedy of Errirs I laughed. Yeah, I did. Mostly because David Duchovny has such a subtle sense of comic timing, and also because the movie is set right near Lake Powell, which is where I spent Memorial Day. Lake Powell! To imagine an alien infestation happening there amuses me. Next time I'm there and the dark night spits out howls from unseen creatures, I'll think fondly of this movie.

Not too fondly, of course. It was still pretty ridiculous. I can't hate it, since it's really just an innocent piece of fluff, but I can't call it a comedic surprise in the tradition of Galaxy Quest. Oh, not by a long shot. However, the cast was fun (I'm surprised I liked Orlando Jones and Julianne Moore in this!), and the monsters were silly. So I enjoyed it overall. Maybe I'm exaggerating, too, but this movie made more sense than Tom Braider. I mean, when a light-hearted (and light-headed) comedy like this cuts a few corners, it's all kind of part of the humor, especially when it's called out in the movie itself. Since Tom Braider took itself so seriously, cutting plot corners was a huge flaw.

This might be something to rent on DVD one night, but I wouldn't bother seeing it in the theater. Go see Moulin Rouge instead.

 

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Disney's Bright Future

I could get fired if I say to much in this next section, so let me be vague: Get ready to enjoy Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet. These are next year's Disney animated features, and, combined with November's Monsters, Inc. by Pixar, they demonstrate that this Atlantis fiasco is not the new Disney norm.

I saw Lilo last week, and it wasn't finished, but it was so cute and funny it didn't matter. I hope this will be a hit, because it's so deserving. [NOTE: I'd say a little animated movie that almost beats Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg at the box office on its opening weekend is already a hit! —6/27/02]

I only saw the first two acts of Treasure Planet, with lots left to be finished. But what was finished was beautiful. And since it's based on a solid story (you may have heard of "Treasure Island"?), it works better than Atlantis does.

And that is all I can say. I'd be happy to tell you more one-on-one if you are so interested, but just know that both of these movies are, so far, very good.

 

—Steve

6/27/01

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©2001 Steven Lekowicz except
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider photos ©2001 Paramount Pictures;
Pearl Harbor photo ©2001 Touchstone Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc.;
and Evolution photo ©2001 DreamWorks LLC.