New releasesNew releases
atlantis: the lost empire (2001, Disney), dir. Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise w/ voices of Michael J. Fox, James Garner. It's really interesting to hear directors Trousdale and Wise (Beauty And The Beast) go over in detail all the inspiration and development work that went into the creation of this action adventure story. The behind-the-scene work is so intensive and interesting, it's a shame the story itself doesn't work better. The problem is that the Indiana Jones-type story of exploration and derring-do doesn't suit the anime-esque visuals; the mystical climax reminds me more of Akira than of previous big Disney animations. The film has a great look, though, and excellent character voice work from Fox, Garner, Cree Summer, David Ogden Stiers and Phil Morris. The rating is for the package as a whole rather than the movie alone. extras Atlantis is available in two editions. The single-disc edition comes with both the full-frame and wide-screen versions, audio commentary, a deleted scene, a text history of Atlantis mythology, a guide to speaking Atlantean and "tours" of the computer-generated models. The two-disc "collector's edition" has all that plus a two-hour documentary on the making of the film, its art direction and character designs and a behind-the-scenes "visual commentary" using the "seamless branching" capability of the CD to show alternate storyboard scenes. NNNN
Big-screen rating: The A-team squad of supporting characters makes the movie very watchable. NNN (IR)
harlem nights (1989, Paramount), dir. Eddie Murphy w/ Murphy, Richard Pryor. Paramount is issuing a group of discs from its Eddie Murphy catalogue this week, centring on the Beverly Hills Cop films. After Beverly Hills Cop I, with its entertaining director's commentary, Harlem Nights is the prize in this crackerjack box. Released in 1989 amidst the Murphy backlash, and critically dismissed, it's his first and only film as a director, and ferociously ambitious. Harlem Nights is a period piece, a gangster movie and a tribute to a long-gone era of African-American culture. It also manages to put Murphy, Pryor and Redd Foxx in scenes together, and offers an unparalleled feel for its performers' rhythms. This may be Richard Pryor's best film performance, period, and as a bonus it offers the wicked thrill of hearing Della "Touched By An Angel" Reese calling people "motherfucker." A lot of the plot was lifted from The Sting, and it's not a great film, but Harlem Nights is highly entertaining. Good wide-screen transfer. extras Theatrical trailer, English subtitles. NNNN
Big-screen rating: N/A
hardball (2001, Paramount), dir. Brian Robbins w/ Keanu Reeves, Diane Lane. This is The Bad News Bears with kids from the Chicago projects instead of the dysfunctional SoCal suburbs, and with Reeves as the burned-out coach instead of Walter Matthau. However, the theme of a team of loser kids and a self-hating coach transformed by their contact with each other remains timeless. Hardball falls into the "not nearly as bad as you'd expect" category. The kids are very appealing, and Reeves is surprisingly effective as a compulsive gambler hitting bottom when he takes the gig to put a dent in his debts.
Director Brian Robbins and writer John Gatins are sports movie specialists. Robbins is responsible for the superior high-school football drama Varsity Blues and the exceedingly odd wrestling movie Ready To Rumble, while Gatins wrote the minor-league baseball romance Summer Catch. But it's hard to figure out who Hardball's intended audience is. Kids who might enjoy the inspirational sports story will probably not enjoy the gambling subplot or the romance between Reeves and Lane.
extras Commentary with Gatins and Robbins, deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, music video featuring rap stars Lil' Bow Wow and Lil Zane, theatrical trailer, English subtitles, French dub. NN
Big-screen rating: The film is a dud (Kia Kotsanis)
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