Reviewed by Uri Lessing
Pixar truly is a wonder. Not only did this company invent and revolutionize
the computer-animated film, they continue to transcend the medium again
and again. Every Pixar film is beautiful and visually exciting, but the
real secret to Pixars greatness lies not in the animation, but in
their wonderful choice of stories that appeal to both children and parents.
The Incredibles is Pixars third consecutive film to examine
the adult/child relationship. Monsters Inc. explored the
unconditional love toddlers offer and the protection and care we give
in return. Finding Nemo looked at the paradox of keeping our children
safe while giving them independence. Now, The Incredibles beautifully
compares the freedoms adults sacrifice to be in a family and the incredible
strength families provide in return.
Bob Parr is a mild-mannered insurance claim agent. He hates his boss,
his car is too small, and his kids fight too much. Oh...and he used to
be the worlds greatest superhero, Mr. Incredible. Along with his
wife, Elastigirl, he was forced into hiding when frivolous lawsuits against
superheroes hit an all-time high.
Now, his family is forced to hide their special powers for fear of being
discovered. Ironically, their superpowers only come into play when they
are in the midst of a family argument. Elastigirl uses her stretching
abilities to keep her kids apart. Their son, Dash, races around his sister
Violet to annoy her, while she uses invisibility and force shields to
keep others from noticing or bothering her. Its no wonder Bobs
super-strength is now just a way he vents his anger. Superpowers and a
mundane life just do not mix.
This is a dilemma anyone can relate to. Despite our obvious lack of superpowers,
we desire to fit in, long to be unique, and we love our children and want
them to be special. Yet too often, we succumb to societys pressures
and drive them to be ordinary.
Fortunately, a series of events draws the family out of the closet and
compels them to fight an evil force bent on making the world more ordinary.
No, its not the Bush administration, but a Superhero wannabe bent
on world domination.
The Incredibles action sequences are imaginative. Director
Brad Bird (Iron Giant) takes advantage of every superheros
powers creating clever escapes, scary cliffhangers and ferocious battles.
Pixar doesnt fall into the Shark Tale trap. It casts actors
for their voices not for their name recognition. Holly Hunter and Craig
T. Nelson give nuanced performances that evoke superheroes and normal
This movies running time is two hours. Yet my five-year-old son
was engrossed for every single minute. The Incredibles is a wonderful
childrens film that shows us what a unique and incredible company
Pixar has become. (PG-13) Rating: 4; Posted 11/5/04
in the Shell 2: Innocence
Reviewed by Deborah Young
In the opening sequences of Ghost in the Shell 2, viewers witness
the suicide of a beautiful, life-size female doll, her face white, her
dark hair accented by a large colorful flower. She rips open her chest,
exposing and releasing her mechanical parts, the cold and artless metal
that provides a striking contrast to her artful human exterior. She ends
her life if shes ever had a life according to the human definition.
The new anime feature from Go Fish Pictures, a division of Dreamworks,
is a 99-minute musing on the significance and obsessions of humanity.
It addresses philosophical questions like why do humans have a need to
create dolls and machines in their images? What differentiates humans
In the year 2032, humans and machines have become equals in many ways.
Cyborgs such as Batou, the main character in Ghost in the Shell 2,
have mechanical bodies but retain their human brains.
Cyborg detective Batou and his human partner Togusa, are asked by the
anti-terrorist section of a government police force, Public Security Section
9, to investigate a recent spate of murders by robots. The mystery is
that the robots have murdered their masters yet none of the families involved
have chosen to sue the company that makes the robots.
While investigating the case, the two detectives encounter mobsters,
a philosophizing police investigator and a reclusive ghost of a man. All
of the characters serve as vehicles for philosophies that range from the
words of Milton to biblical quotes.
Characters in this film make allusions to great thinkers in the same way
that characters from recent American animated films make allusions to
pop culture past and present. At one point, Batou and Togusa discuss the
philosopher Descartes and how he supposedly created a doll in memory of
his deceased daughter and how he didnt differentiate between humanity
The film also relies on contrasts of color and music to illustrate its
points. The cyborgs and robots in the film are pale as ghosts, the humans
flesh-toned, and the world about them brightly colored. A chanting Japanese
choral music plays throughout most of the film, adding an ominous tone.
But in a scene, in which Batou bonds with his dog, a smooth, sentimental
jazz tunes plays in the background, emphasizing the characters underlying
Ultimately, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence is more about talk
than action. The talk is interesting, but if youre looking for space-out
entertainment, this one isnt for you. (PG-13) Rating: 2.5; Posted
Reviewed by Russ Simmons
In England in the 1600s, women were not allowed to participate in theatrical
productions. As a result, men played all of the female parts and a few
men, like Ned Kynaston, became stars by perfecting a feminine mystique.
Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher scored a theatrical hit recently with a fictionalized
comic drama about Kynastons life called Compleat Female Stage
Director Richard Eyre (Iris) has adapted Hatchers play into
a realistic costumer that offers some meaty roles to a couple of American
actors, Billy Crudup and Claire Danes.
Crudup (Big Fish) plays Kynaston, who is enjoying an acclaimed
run as Desdemona in Shakespeares Othello. Maria, his costume
assistant played by Danes, (Terminator 3) is secretly borrowing
his costumes so that she can play the part in a clandestine competing
Things take a major turn when the kings mistress, a cockney scamp
named Nell Gwynn (Zoë Tapper), thinks its time for a change.
When she discovers Marias ruse, she persuades King Charles II (Rupert
Everett) to change the law so that Maria can legally perform.
The king goes one step further, making it illegal for men to portray women.
This poses a major problem for Ned, who has worked so hard to achieve
an artificial female persona that he no longer knows how to act like a
In spite of their competition and the machinations of some of the social
elite who work to thwart Neds career, he and Maria begin an unlikely
Crudup gives an extraordinary performance and is especially compelling
in a scene where he is commanded by the king to perform a male role, and
he finds the task nearly impossible. Danes is fine, too, and the romantic
chemistry between the actors is genuine. (The duo began a well-publicized
affair while filming the movie.)
Eyre had the good sense to surround Danes and Crudup with a fine ensemble
of stalwart British actors, including Tom Wilkinson, Ben Chaplin, Richard
Griffiths and Edward Fox. The production values are first-rate, too, with
the costumes and scenery helping to establish a believable period atmosphere.
Although the film builds to a compelling climax, most of Stage Beauty
moves at a pace that many will find a bit too languid. Others may have
a bit of trouble accepting these upstart Americans in these very British
In the final analysis, Stage Beauty is an impressive acting exercise
that should appeal mainly to theatre buffs. (R) Rating: 3; Posted 11/5/04
Reviewed by Uri Lessing
Alfie is a remake of a Michael Caine classic that is loaded with
contradictions. Its a sex film that vilifies sex. Its a film
that revels in glitziness, style and fashion while criticizing todays
bright young things for being to shallow and materialistic. The movie
even glorifies the main characters behavior while simultaneously
punishing him at every turn for being immoral. In short, what we have
here is a good old-fashioned exploitation flick disguised as high art.
Alfie (Jude Law) is this really horny British guy who lives in New York.
He works as a chauffeur, lives in a tiny apartment, sleeps around with
a lot of women and talks to us incessantly about his life. His stable
includes a single mother (Marisa Tomei), a powerful businesswoman (Susan
Sarandon), a psychotic party animal (Sienna Miller), his best-friends
girl (Nia Long), and a married frustrated housewife (Jane Krakowski).
The film loves to point out how wrong Alfie is for treating the women
in his life like objects. Yet Alfie doesnt develop the female
characters past their hang-ups. The women are presented as shallow, horny,
stupid, well dressed, sexy and contemptuous: not exactly a feminist view
of women. We also get to watch women degrade themselves by shedding their
panties, participating in ménage a trois and gossiping about Alfies
Jude Law is a superb actor, whose performances are always meticulous and
clever, and he works hard at injecting likeability into the character
of Alfie. But its just not enough. One moment Laws Alfie is
cheerful and pleasantly shallow. The next moment hes doe eyed and
depressed. His monologues to the viewer are well acted and sincere but
rarely memorable, and as the consequences of his sexual adventures start
hitting home, the character becomes more hollow and wooden. Look for more
entertaining performances from Law in Sky Captain and the World of
Tomorrow and I (Heart) Huckabees.
Ultimately, its not stupidity or shallowness that sinks Alfie,
but boredom. The movie tries to overcome a paper-thin message and underdeveloped
characters by infusing Mick Jagger songs into the mix and adding flashy
visuals, but these tactics are as effective as placing a red ribbon on
a dung heap. (R) Rating: 1; Posted 11/5/04