It’s been 400 years since a virus wiped out most of the planet. All that’s remains is a small walled-in community of sorts Bregna run by the Goodchild Regime. Most of the citizens have no choice but to put up with their quasi-Totalitarianism. But Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron) a top operative of the underground Monican rebellion has had enough and seeks revenge on the government she believes destroyed her life. At the behest of the Handler (Frances McDormand) who gives out the orders to the few do-gooders of Bregna she aims to sabotage the Regime. Little does Aeon know however that there is already unrest within the Goodchild clan between brothers Trevor (Marton Csokas) and Oren (Jonny Lee Miller). When Aeon arrives to carry out her revenge she unlocks a number of secrets and finds out who’s really on her side. There are a heap of objectionable themes in Aeon Flux but the real shame is that these actors willingly took part in this film. Granted Theron looks stunning steely and sultry all at once but we thought her Monster Oscar would afford her more meaningful roles so her looks wouldn’t be the focal point. Her acting is hard to gauge here because her stark beauty is accentuated. It’s a step back for her even if taking the role must have padded her wallet. McDormand--who was so good just months ago in North Country with Theron--looks like Tim Burton’s twin sister in Flux with her outlandish makeover. It is only slightly more ridiculous than the robot-like character she’s supposed to be playing. And Sophie Okonedo who plays Aeon’s partner-in-crime is worthy of praise but after her Oscar-nominated performance in Hotel Rwanda you have to wonder what made her do Flux. Aeon Flux just might do in director Karyn Kusama whose only other credit is the 2000 indie darling Girlfight. Most directors work a lifetime to get a big-budget monster like this but unfortunately for Kusama she can’t quite carry the torch. The film looks like Tomb Raider’s jealous younger sibling who still has much to learn. There’s non-stop action in exotic locales smoldering lead actress in skin-tight wardrobes etc. but it leaves you feeling dizzy more than anything else especially since the death-defying action is constantly cutting back and forth between Theron and her stunt double. And everything is only grossly accentuated by awful dialogue that sounds like a satire of an over-acted heavy drama. The film’s set design is spectacularly elaborate and breathtaking but it unfortunately can’t redeem the rest of the film.
It's graduation day for Scotty (Scott Mechlowicz) but the celebration comes to an abrupt end when his girlfriend Fiona (Kristin Kreuk) dumps him by blatantly announcing she has been unfaithful to him--over and over again. At a graduation party that night Fiona makes her point by jumping on stage during rockers Lustra's performance of "Scotty Doesn't Know " which goes something like this: "Scotty doesn't know that Fiona and me do it in my van every Sunday..." Dumbfounded Scotty gets drunk and goes home to confide in his Berlin-based computer pen pal Mieke (Jessica Boerhs) who suggests coming to America for a "rendezvous." Scott rudely rebuffs him (and that's putting it mildly) not aware that Mieke is not a guy but actually a really hot high school girl. He tries to make amends but Mieke won't read his e-mails so his pal Cooper (Jacob Pitts) convinces him to go to Berlin and meet her face-to-face. Short on cash they take a cheap courier flight to London where they meet up with twin pals Jenny (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Jamie (Travis Wester) before hopscotching to Amsterdam Bratislava Rome Vatican City and finally Berlin. Of course the chase is always better than the kill and Eurotrip is no different: Whether Scotty gets Mieke is beside the point; the amusement is all in the journey there. Who knew for example that you could spend the night in a five star hotel and partake in a night of clubbing in Eastern Europe on $1.87 U.S.-and still have 27 cents left over when it's all over?
Newcomer Mechlowicz is perfectly cast as the lead here playing a character that is simple-minded daring sympathetic and charming. But it's Mechlowicz's personal spin--his bewildered expressions--that really nails the role for him whether he is witnessing the twins accidentally making out on the dance floor in a drunken stupor or waking up to find a strange passenger cozying up to him on a train. As his buddy Cooper Pitts (K-19: The Widowmaker) plays the wisecracker of the bunch and although he doesn't go over the top with the crassness there is a little too much David Spade influence in his delivery (and the similar haircuts don't help the matter either). Like the rest of the cast Wester is careful not to typecast his character Jamie a meticulous planner who can't travel without Frommer's by loosening him up slightly. Jamie for example knows when it's time do drop the book and experiment even if it means nude sunbathing. Trachtenberg (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer) also infuses her twin character Jenny with the perfect blend of sexuality and innocence. The result is a cast of mishmash characters that are just so darn likeable. Look for a surprise cameo from Matt Damon as well as small but hilarious performances from Vinnie Jones as Mad Maynard a Manchester United soccer hooligan; Lucy Lawless as S&M mistress Madame Vandersexxx; and Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen credited as "the creepy Italian guy."
Jeff Schaffer makes his directorial debut here from a screenplay co-written with his longtime partners scribes Alec Berg and David Mandel. And ads touting it as a comedy "from producers of Road Trip and Old School " may be exactly what Eurotrip a comedy starring relative unknowns needs to draw the coveted teen crowd. After all Ivan Reitman the producer responsible for catapulting low budget comedies into box-office gold territory has secured quite a following--and fans won't be let down with this latest offering. Unlike its predecessors Eurotrip isn't afraid to be crass and while the characters are sweet the storyline is anything but. In this Euro-centric tale writing trio Schaffer Berg and Mandel proudly embrace every stereotype imaginable but do so at the expense of the inexperienced foursome which makes the material funny rather than offensive. Nude beaches the young Americans discover aren't necessarily packed with hot gorgeous women and Amsterdam's sex industry isn't exactly the stuff young male fantasies are made of. With one hilarious gag after another as well as funky map graphics with dotted lines that transport viewers from city to city the film maintains its fast-moving pace throughout. Surprisingly the film was shot entirely on location in the Czech Republic with Prague doubling as London Paris Berlin Amsterdam Rome Vatican City Bratislava--and even Hudson Ohio with landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower the Coliseum and Big Ben added using CGI. Accompanied by an awesome soundtrack featuring Lutsra's "Scotty Doesn't Know " Chapeaumelon's "My Generation" and The Salads "Get Loose " this film succeeds on all levels.
December 20, 2002 6:26am EST
The Wild Thornberrys Movie is based on Nickelodeon's Saturday morning cartoon but don't fret if you've never seen it. Before plunging into this Tanzanian tale the film provides some background about the characters and the story. The heroine is Eliza Thornberry (Lacey Chabert) a 12-year-old girl who travels the world with her family--which consists of her pet chimpanzee Darwin (Tom Kane) her teenage sister Debbie (Danielle Harris) her doting parents Nigel (Tim Curry) and Marianne (Jodi Carlisle) and Donnie (Flea the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers) an orangutan orphan the family found in the Congo--as they shoot their nature television show Nigel Thornberry's Animal World. Unbeknownst to her family Eliza inherited the gift to talk to animals from an African shaman--a power she will lose if it's revealed. While settled in Africa's Serengeti Plains Eliza discovers that poachers have hatched a sinister plot to kill a herd of elephants with an electrified fence and she must use her power to stop the slaughter before it's too late.
Although Chabert has a few features under her belt including the role of Penny in Lost in Space she is probably best known as Claudia Salinger on the '90s series Party of Five. Her little-girl voice makes this 20-year-old actress a perfect fit for the voice of Eliza Thornberry a bright and articulate young girl with an admirable sense of adventure. Kane who voices Eliza's primate companion Darwin also voiced Professor Utonium in The Powerpuff Girls Movie and he gives Darwin's character brains without being too cocky. Harris voices Eliza's older sister Debbie who isn't always enamored with life in the wilderness; she especially misses her teen magazines. Harris creates a character who speaks with a valley girl accent but isn't a typical flaky teen; she complains about her environment yet she feels very comfortable in it. Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist Flea as Donnie the orangutan is a little annoying and probably the least interesting of the bunch but his penchant for running amuck helps create extraordinary situations for the family.
Directors Jeff McGrath and Cathy Malkasian have delivered a lively animated movie complete with worldly settings including London's congested underground rail system a crowded Nairobi market and the expansive Serengeti Desert. The film has plenty of action sequences showing the lionhearted Eliza putting the lives of animals before her own. In one scene for example Eliza throws caution to the wind and jumps out of a moving train to save a rhino that has been shot by poachers. (Perhaps this is why the MPAA rates this film PG "for some adventure peril.") Kate Boutilier's wonderful screenplay which could easily have gone hideously wrong by stereotyping the African characters instead is devoid of such generalities. Boutilier also steers clear of all things syrupy and cute: there is no annoying baby talk and the animals and their habitat are portrayed realistically including a scene where a cheetah hunts its prey.
Psychiatric nurse Maggie O'Connor (Kim Basinger) raises her drug-addicted sister's baby who grows up to be a girl with "special" gifts like the ability to rock a dead bird back to life. When Cody turns 6 her mother returns to claim her. The trouble is mom is now married to Eric Stark (Rufus Sewell) leader of a Satanic cult masquerading as a self-help group. Stark wants Cody to use her powers for the "dark side " and will kill her if she refuses. Aunt Maggie enlists the aid of FBI agent John Travis (Jimmy Smits) to help her track down and save Cody.
Basinger 's passive bearing and scrubbed-down glamour seem out of place in the dingy New York settings. When Stark's snarling teenage-runaway groupies attack her they seem as angry at her smooth blond coif as anything else. Sewell does what he can with lines like "death would be a kinder fate" and "she will be ours" (this last line uttered while practically shaking his fist at the heavens). Vastly underused is Smits whose all-talk-and-no-action FBI agent wouldn't have lasted a day in "NYPD Blue's" precinct.
Although director Chuck Russell captures a rich textured look and lays on the ghoulish special effects (a river of red-eyed rats ominous whispers wraithlike demons) "Bless the Child" doesn't generate any real chill. It's not helped by the script which throws in every clich‚ possible about angels demons hellfire and brimstone. There's no avoiding comparison with "The Sixth Sense " the success of which surely must have put some heat under this project. Unfortunately it's a little too cooked.