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The Legend of Zorro

Decent follow up is at least old-school cool
As a more than passing fan of the Zorro movies that span the decades, I had been waiting since 1998 for a sequel to Martin Campbell's 'Mask of Zorro.' That movie took much (though not everything) of the best of the various Zorro films, serials, and series and then stole from other sources (such as Dumas 'Monte Cristo', etc) to concoct a sexy, swashbuckling action adventure that had great pacing and strengths, with high production values and actors. Mr. Campbell and those high standards at last return to the story begun, and we now follow our heroes and their son as California fights to join a struggling Union. Zorro's character is not quite so impulsive and cool as he once was, but simply comfortable and ultra-capable, while his wife Elena complains that the man behind the mask knows not who their son is growing up to be. None of these character 'upgrades' felt wrong to me; it was natural extensions of them from the first film, despite how adventurous Elena claims to still be (and for the most part isn't), but it does make the first act of this movie a bit tiresome after the initial (awesome) action sequence. This time, though, as the story and its many plot-points begin to move, the writers borrow heavily from Hitchcock to keep things interesting. It doesn't always work, as there's a lot going on but never QUITE coming perfectly, cohesively together, but ultimately it makes sense and spins a good yarn for the fighting to take over. Meanwhile the stunt coordinators take what has already been done in the best Zorro flicks and then go wild with it, giving us stunts and action of old-school-cool caliber, such as stage-coaches, leaps and horses jumping on to explosive-laden locomotives. Unfortunately there is not quite enough action, and while I do like the over-all story - with its subtle bits of murk and dirty grays underneath the battle of white and black hats - it doesn't actually pace perfectly, giving us bickering Vega family exploits and Zorro failures for a rather large portion of the picture. The sword fights are fewer and more far-between than I would have liked, sometimes degrading to fisticuffs instead of proper dicing, but then the explosions almost make up for it all. The humor is a bit silly, provided mostly by the horse(!!) and the sometimes-annoying kid, but the audience ate it up. The villains are good, if never entirely fleshed out, and the themes are handled well. It's the lag caused by the idea (which I never understood) that 'once a couple gets together they're not interesting anymore' that slows things. Regardless of my small issues, the movie DOES deliver as a Zorro film, (with a good ending, for certain) and while it doesn't completely live up to its predecessor, it is a worthy sequel - just not entirely the direction I would have gone.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

The Circle is now complete...
Quite amazed.... The production was a wonderful triumph, including both the visuals and the story/performances. Everything I wanted to know was included, filling the gaps while giving me - in spite of what I already knew of the Star Wars back story and mythos - a completely new perspective of the SW Universe.... Amazing. Anakin's transformation into Darth Vader is heartrending, particularly because he is so much a likable hero at the beginning of this film than he has been in the other prequels. He knows something is wrong, and he always wants more, but it isn't simply power or riches that turn him to the dark side... ultimately it is love. And the final events that complete his transition, both in to Darth Vader and into the Mask, are quite horrific. And the events end up horrific for Anakin as well - the look on his face as the Mask is finally placed is of a man becoming something Else. He is now the classic SF movie monster - a being changed both by evil and by misguided ideals, and so classic is that moment, it literally pays homage to Karloff's Frankenstein. Fantastic.

Treasure Planet

Disney's visually stunning foray into high adventure
Disney's latest animated feature is whole-hearted fun and adventure. When are people going to remember that animation has always been around to do what can't be done in real life, and not always just a comedy... I loved Lilo & Stitch, but I loved Atlantis too, and I think this flick has 'em both beat, visually and on an entertainment scale. So its not 'Shrek' (and thank God for that), or 'Beauty and the Beast'; its FUN! Fun fun fun... The character designs are great, especially Silver, and the excess of 'Treasure Planet's' universe are breathtaking. This is what animation is all about, so much more than just another computer generated comedy, but the modern mix of stunning CG with hand-crafted beautiful animation in the form of a scifi, if not wholly original (but what is, these days?), retelling of the Stevenson classic. Get off your high-horses, grab the whole family from ages 10 to 100 and go see what a real, non-stop animated adventure is all about.

The Time Machine

Those not taking the time to see this are missing out...
With all the advertising for this film there really wasn't a LOT of people in the theatre tonight when I finally got to see the new film version of H.G. Wells 'The Time Machine' (we saw the actual time machine prop and many design and behind the scenes pics last AUGUST of 2001 at the San Diego ComiCon), and anyone who ignored those ads missed out; this movie was a lot of fun and had some very engaging themes and ideas to boot. While it may fall short a tad on some levels it still had some great sci fi ideals seasoned in here and there, and the themes running through it were strong. It is typical of modern blockbusters in its adventure, but then it also has touching moments of reflection (Alexandre, the time traveler's, "what if" moment where he 'puts aside' designs for the Time Machine to be with a family) or startling imagery that is either beautiful (the Eloi homes) or disturbing (the cracked moon). And it all begins with some gorgeous and insightful victoriana. The morlocks, which looked all-too CGI in the trailers were instead mostly quite creepy Stan Winston animatronics, and Jeremy Irons as the ubermorlock was cold and freaky. The themes that carry along in the film are pushed home by a wonderful score, Guy Pearce is cool as always, Samantha Mumba is hot, and Simon Wells (H.G.'s great grandson) direction is visually driven by the design and effects work. There are some cool George Pal (Original TM film version director, as well as War or The Worlds) nods, and some interesting ideas and characters, notably the Computer Librarian Hologram, as played by Orlando Jones, who reflects on 800,000 years of solitude to a man who simply zipped right through it in his machine. You almost wish you could have seen more of the machine, or the travels, or the characters here and there, but for what this version is trying to be, I think it works throughout, and that H.G. would be proud.

The Count of Monte Cristo

Excellent - Dramatic and Powerful. Revenge served Cold.
Seeing an advance Screening of 'The Count of Monte Cristo', and having only seen one advertising TV spot before hand, I really did not know what I was going into this time. I vaguely recalled it being an Alexander Dumas book, and former film/TV versions featuring rather depressing prison scenes with men tunneling to the freedom of the Sea. Indeed, despite its wonderful locations and details, once the afore-mentioned prison scenes of this version presented themselves I was set to be depressed again and wondered where the story was going. And then several wonderful things happened; A whole new group of characters were introduced to our rather whiney protagonist - some good, some very bad. And by the time said Protagonist had escaped the Prison, he too had become wonderfully evoked and dynamic, and I wanted to see him get everything he wanted and deserved: REVENGE. From then on this film was a barrage of wonderful scripting (the adaption being perfect in its pacing and wit), characters, acting, events, costumes, action, suspense and romance. The audience laughed with genuine awe as each new moment or detail was revealed to us in the plans of the main character's (played perfectly, from his innocent beginnings to his scheming later years)steps towards that end. This movie was amazing, with very cool performances from Guy Pearce and the rest of the supporting cast, each figure getting his or her share of good lines. The tale of vengeance is well-balanced with tales of friendship, questing and plotting, and romance, and all of the implications each relationship holds, be it good or bad. At times the theater openly applauded twists or returning characters. It is perfectly timed and written, with powerful moments and style, and I would recommend it to ANYONE.

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