Years after Earth is destroyed by a hostile alien race (when aren't they
hostile?) a strapping young buck named Cale (Matt Damon) is recruited
for a mission to locate a spaceship that holds the key to human
survival. With the alien baddies on their tail Cale and company are in
a race against time to secure a new home for the Earthlings who have
been left homeless by the Drej.
This brilliant animated sci-fi adventure has the added benefit of a
stellar cast. Other than John Leguizamo who renders a whimsical voice
for the nonhuman navigator Gune the cast refrains from altering their
normal voices instead injecting their regular speech with the type of
emotion sincerity and charm you'd expect from a live-action feature. In
addition to Damon Drew Barrymore is Akima the pilot who catches Cale's
eye; Bill Pullman is the authoritative captain; Nathan Lane is the
suspicious first mate; and Janeane Garofalo is a weapons specialist with
(surprise!) a bad attitude.
In addition to producing "Anastasia " veteran animators Don Bluth and
Gary Goldman are known for creating some of the most popular laser disc
interactive video games and it shows in "Titan A.E." The brilliant
graphics and sophisticated animation here will prompt more than one
double take as you wonder whether what you're seeing is real or
animated. The tapestry that surrounds the characters -- particularly in
the final moments of Earth -- is nothing short of the best animation
ever to hit the big screen. Just one question: What's up with Cale's
naked butt scene and Akima's shower sequence? We haven't seen this much
animated skin since Shelley Winters evacuated the Poseidon.
Already the most-talked-about film at the Cannes Film Festival, DreamWorks' animated Shrek is opening in New York and Los Angeles Wednesday to some impressive accolades by critics in those cities. Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News predicts that "this exuberantly irreverent cartoon ... will be minting green all summer long, and not just from an audience too short to get on the rides. Among the many reasons why Shrek is such heady entertainment is that it represents a leap in computer animation, and the 'wow' factor is extraordinary." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post adds: "The incredibly detailed computer animation is a breakthrough that makes such past efforts as Antz and even Toy Story look almost primitive. But it's old-fashioned, solid storytelling that will have audiences on their feet for this instant classic, whose characters are far more involving than those of most live-action movies these days." Elvis Mitchell in the New York Times calls it "a giggly cocktail, though it's more foam than drink, a return to the frothy riffing on pop culture that started back on Bugs Bunny's watch in the Vitaphone days." And Kenneth Turan, in the Los Angeles Times concludes that the film "not only knows there's no substitute for clever writing, it also has the confidence to take that information straight to the bank." Nevertheless, Shrek does not come to the screen, gripe-free. "Don't hurt your brain bothering to look for a plot," writes Christy Lemire for the Associated Press. "What little story the film offers is merely an excuse for the animation."
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 9, 2000 -- Watch out, "Charlie's Angels." Here come "Josie and the Pussycats."
According to today's Hollywood Reporter, Rachael Leigh Cook, the pan-wielding grrl from those get-tough "Just Say No" ads, has signed on to play the title character in a live-action "Josie" film.
As announced last year, "Can't Hardly Wait's" Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan will direct.
The Universal picture is scheduled to begin shooting this summer. Marc Platt and Riverdale Prods., which own the rights to the toon, are the producers. Mogul Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and wife Tracey are in talks to provide the music through their Edmonds Entertainment.
For those not up on their schlocky cartoon history, "Josie and the Pussycats," inspired by the 1960s-era comic book, was originally produced for Saturday morning purposes from 1970-72. Cousins to "The Archies," the Pussycats were a bubblegum precursor of, say, the Go-Gos. Their all-girl band lineup consisted of Melody, Valerie and, yes, Josie. (A pre-"Charlie's Angels" Cheryl Ladd provided Melody's singing voice.) In 1972, the Pussycats were blasted into orbit -- hence the title of their next (and, alas, final) TV toon: "Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space" (1972-74).
Cook, 20, is best known for her star turn in last year's surprise hit "She's All That".
HUNGRY FOR A SCOOBY SNACK? In other movie-toon news, the word from the New York Daily News is that Jennifer Love Hewitt could be up for the shagadelic role of Daphne in Mike Myers' planned live-action version of the canine cartoon "Scooby Doo."
KLEIN LACES UP FOR 'BALL': "American Pie" star Chris Klein is set to show off his skating skills in a remake of the 1970s cult hit "Rollerball." The Reporter notes that Klein is in final negotiations to star in the John McTiernan-helmed sci-fi actioner. The MGM/UA production could be the studio's major release for 2001.
Klein takes over a role originated by James Caan in 1975. The original futuristic pic, directed by Norman Jewison, featured Caan as the veteran star of a sport where groups of warriors in roller skates and on motorcycles battled to the death for corporate sponsors.
No word on the changes in scripter John Pogue's ("The Skulls") latest draft, but sources report that Jewison could be involved in bringing the new version to the screen.
IN 'MOTION': Reese Witherspoon, a Golden Globe nominee for her sharp work in the hilarious "Election," switches gears as the producer and star of the drama "Slow Motion." The Reporter notes that Witherspoon is set to work on the Sony-based Phoenix Pictures production, which is based on Dani Shapiro's 1992 novel "Playing With Fire."
The film's about a college student who is seduced by her roommate's father. According to the Reporter, it's a story about an "abusive relationship between two people blinded by love."
GOING TO 'TOWNIES'? Director Mike Figgis and Brad Pitt might be heading downtown on the project "Urban Townies." The Reporter has the filmmaker scheduled to meet with Pitt about the film, which the actor has been considering for a while.
The drama, produced by Barry Levinson and Paula Weinstein, has to do with a man from the Midwest who returns to New York City to find his old girlfriend involved with his best friend.
The Academy Awards take note: An award show can be a lot of fun, without spending a lot of money.
At least, that was the feeling at the 16th Annual Independent Spirit Awards this Saturday. The ceremony, hosted by the cult director John Waters, was held under a tent at a Santa Monica beach, and attendees ate a California cuisine lunch out of cardboard boxes. Last year's winner for best actress, Hilary Swank (Boys Don't Cry), and her husband Chad Lowe arrived on matching mountain bikes. Designer gowns were decidedly absent.
Well-deserved awards were bestowed on the best in non-studio productions and talent, even as the lines between big studio productions and independent films are becoming increasingly blurred. This was most evident in the number of Spirit Award nominees who are also nominated for Academy Awards.
The night's top winner was the Taiwanese martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, winning best feature; best director, Ang Lee; and best supporting actress, Zhang Ziyi, who was a surprise winner over favorite Marcia Gay Harden for Pollock.
In his understated fashion, Lee was extremely appreciative, even though he was perplexed about what "independent" represented. "I don't really know what independent really means," he said. "I'm very confused. Nobody can really be independent in making movies; we all rely on each other. It is truly a collaborative process." Asked if he thinks he will win the Oscar, he replied to Reuters, "Why not?" Lee has already won the Golden Globe and the Directors Guild of America award for best director.
The award for best actor went to Spanish actor and Oscar nominee Javier Bardem for his intense portrayal of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas in Before Night Falls. Bardem thanked the portly director of his movie, Julian Schnabel, saying that "his heart was as big as his body," but added that the statuette in his hand was really for "Reinaldo Arenas, who gave his life for freedom."
Acting great Ellen Burstyn won for her gritty turn as a lonely and drug-addicted mother in Requiem for a Dream. After a standing ovation, the actress made an emotional speech. "I just can't tell you how much I wanted this," she said. "Thank you [director] Darren Aronofsky for your genius and for giving me the part of my career. I love my profession. It's an honor to reflect the spirit of humanity back into what we do."
Rounding out the list, writer/director Kenneth Lonergan won for best first feature and best original screenplay for his intimate sibling drama You Can Count on Me. Willem Dafoe won best supporting actor for his vampire with a sly sense of humor in Shadow of the Vampire.
First-time actress Michelle Rodriguez, who did not attend, won best debut performance for her portrayal of an angry young boxer in Girlfight. Best first screenplay went to director/writer Gina Prince-Bythewood for Love & Basketball, and best feature under $500,000 went to Miguel Arteta's Chuck and Buck.
The West Coast branch of the Independent Feature Project, a nonprofit support group for independent filmmakers, put on the Independent Spirit Awards, and a ballot of the group's 9,000 members nationwide determined the winners.