Finally, Something We All Can Get Behind

A small band of online consumer advocates is attempting to turn this Friday the 13th into a nightmare for exhibitors and movie studios. The activist group, calling itself WeCanDoThis.com, is spreading its message via e-mail and its Web site pleading that consumers not see a movie Friday in order to protest the high price of tickets. It’s calling the effort the National Ticket Picket. WeCanDoThis.com expected its site to be up and running by Tuesday; its online home has been at IdeaTown.com. “”Thousands and thousands visited the site in the past 24 hours,”” said spokesman Mark Jonathan Davis, and hundreds of e-mails were sent asking that recipients pass the word along to boycott movies Friday.

Drew Barrymore and Tom Green wed – Who Cares?

This time, they say it’s for real. “”Charlie’s Angels”” star Drew Barrymore formally married actor-comedian Tom Green in a small outdoor ceremony last weekend, her publicist said Tuesday. “”It was a more formal ceremony, something they wanted to do for close friends and family,”” said Eddie Michaels. “”It was a beautiful, low-key event. They wanted to keep everything as private as possible.””

The couple has routinely joked about being married on talk shows and during other public appearances in recent months. Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu, Barrymore’s co-stars from “”Charlie’s Angels,”” attended the reception after the Saturday wedding, along with Barrymore’s mother, Jaid. Green’s parents flew in from Ottawa. Barrymore, 26, and Green, 29, were engaged in July 2000. Green said in April that they had eloped in March. It was Green’s first marriage and Barrymore’s second.

Final Fantasy Review – By Sean O’Connell

Who would have thought, after last year’s “”Battlefield Earth”” wrestled the designation of “”Worst Film Ever”” from 1987’s “”Ishtar”” that it would only hold the distinguished title for just over 14 months?

A tough act to top (or bottom), “”Earth”” massacred the traditional sci fi genre and practically buried John Travolta’s career under a pile of detestable dialogue. But that cinematic mess resembles George Lucas’ original “”Star Wars”” when compared to Hironobu Sakaguchi’s futuristic flop, “”Final Fantasy.”” Based on a popular video game series, the computer-animated “”Fantasy”” has already turned several heads with its eye-popping visual style that deftly creates palpable digital characters and lets them loose in dazzling alien worlds. Set in the year 2065, “”Fantasy”” follows Dr. Aki Ross (the voice of Ming-Na), a buff female scientist who’s plagued by recurring nightmares of a phantom invasion that decimated the Earth in 2031. Now Ross and her partner, Dr. Sid (the voice of Donald Sutherland), search the planet’s ruins for eight spirits, each of them contributing to a greater life force called “”Gaya”” that powers extraterrestrial entities. It’s on one of these recovery missions that Ross encounters Grey Edwards (the voice of Alec Baldwin), a muscle-bound acquaintance and potential love interest who tags along for the adventure. Only there is no adventure. Save for the film’s stunning visuals – and at times the film does indeed look fantastic – there is absolutely nothing else to extract from “”Final Fantasy.”” The life-like characters are artistic contradictions. Their designers go to great lengths to achieve authenticity. Characters have wrinkles, scars and facial blemishes, and Dr. Ross’ bouncy hair appears to have been recently shampooed and conditioned. But then the character’s mouths don’t match the dialogue, and the fantasy is ruined. My theory is that even digitally animated characters would hesitate to recite such pitiful dialogue, hence the glaring discrepancy. Packed with macho dialogue stolen directly from a 1980’s Stallone or Schwarzenegger vehicle, “”Fantasy”” hasn’t met a bit of bravado it didn’t cherish. It almost helps that most of the horrendous lines are uttered by the likes of James Woods and Baldwin, who’s gravely voice is tailored for such cheesy verses. All of this can be overlooked if “”Fantasy”” only made sense. It doesn’t. Approximately one hour into it, the film reaches the first of its three climaxes. This one involved our heroes escaping from what I think was a space station as the evil phantoms (who aren’t evil) plucked off the gun-totting team one by one. But Ross, Dr. Sid and Grey barely escaped, and I thought we were almost finished. We weren’t. A second, less-involving and jumbled mission began. Characters that were thought dead returned from nowhere without explanation, and the film plodded along for another excruciating 45 minutes. By this point my fantasy involved having the projector break or seeing the theater lights come back on. Neither happened. Watching “”Final Fantasy,”” you can’t help but wonder why the filmmakers spent so much time on the visuals and absoultely no time cleaning up the convoluted plot or ridiculous dialogue. Sure it’s cool that the entire film is animated, and the digital techniques look great, but was it necessary? The film does nothing extraordinary that would require it to be animated. In fact, it moves a good deal slower than any feature that uses human actors. I salivate to think what Ridley Scott or James Cameron could have done with “”Fantasy.”” The movie borrows crucial elements from Cameron classics like “”The Abyss,”” “”T2″” and “”Aliens”” anyway. Since “”Fantasy”” started as a game, it should come as no surprise that the feature length film feels like you’re watching a game. However, you’re not playing, so it’s not nearly as fun. But at least when you’re playing the game, you always have the option of turning the Playstation system off and walking away. Final Grade: D- Review by Sean O’Connell

New Spiderman Trailer Debuts in Theater

Columbia Pictures surprised Final Fantasy preview audiences throughout the country, by giving us all a look at the new trailer for Spiderman and it kicks ass. The early reports are that audiences at several different screenings applauded and cheered when they realized what movie the trailer was for. Then imagine the let down when it said, “”Coming, May 2002″”. We want Spiderman now! It’s the only thing that can save this dismal, dreary summer at the movies.

DVD REVIEW – The Last Dragon, By Sean O’Connell

“”The Last Dragon,”” Berry Gordy’s kung-fu/R&B hybrid, dared to combine two worlds that rarely mixed to create the story of yet another rarity, a black action hero.

THE MOVIE:Saturday afternoons in our house were spent in front of the television ingesting Godzilla flicks and Bruce Lee features. My desire to be as cool (or at least as fast) as the fleet-footed hero inspired approximately 11 months of karate lessons and a world of bruises. Much to my chagrin, I never did perfect the roundhouse kick, but it didn’t stop me from loving Lee’s films and the knockoffs that followed.By 1985, other kids my age (11 at the time) had already adopted their own hero: “”The Karate Kid”” himself, Daniel Larusso. But strip away his crane technique and affinity for Elisabeth Shue, and you’re still left with Ralph Macchio. Not the typical cloth heroes are cut from. No, I had someone else in mind. Someone who earned the title “”The Master,”” someone who scored with chicks like Vanity, and someone who knew about “”The Glow.”” and that person was Bruce Leroy.””The Last Dragon,”” Berry Gordy’s kung-fu/R&B hybrid, dared to combine two worlds that rarely mixed to create the story of yet another rarity, a black action hero. The film’s star, Taimak, is perfectly cast as “”Bruce”” Leroy Green, a martial arts student from the ghettos of New York City who, according to his instructor, has reached the final level. His last mission, which he must complete on his own, involves finding an unnamed “”master”” and achieving a legendary “”glow.”” Leroy set out, but his heart of filled with anxiety and trepidation.It doesn’t help that Leroy has made an enemy, a bruiser named Sho Nuff who struts his stuff as the self-proclaimed “”Shogun of Harlem.”” Apparently Mr. Nuff can’t swallow the fact that he might not be the “”baddest”” fighter in the borough, and he demands that Leroy fight him to prove his worth. Always the better man, Leroy takes the high road, choosing instead to find the “”master”” and woo the beautiful Laura Charles, a gorgeous video host with her own problems. When Charles’ problems miraculously become Sho Nuff’s problems, Leroy is drawn into a web of deceit, and the only way out for the master and his girl is through the snarling Nuff.Watching “”Last Dragon”” years later, I’m reminded just how musical it is. That should come as no surprise, as it’s produced by R&B legend Berry Gordy. While I focused on the many fight scenes as a kid, the silky smooth soundtrack, peppered with hits by Stevie Wonder, The Temptations and DeBarge, stood out this time through. Very few scenes play out without an R&B accompaniment, and it adds to the film’s flavor.I’m happy to report that, in the age of Jet Li and even Chuck Norris’ “”Walker Texas Ranger,”” the fight scenes hold up. The choreography hilariously includes several breakdancing steps, which seemed so natural at the time. And the special effects, particularly the infamous “”glow”” that surrounds the heroes, still look cool. Cheesy as all hell broke loose? Oh, no doubt. But its also giddy fun, and in some warped way, “”Dragon”” provides a window to an era (the ’80s) while honoring the films of a different decade (the ’70s) that Bruce Lee dominated.Grade: BTHE EXTRAS:We should consider it special that Columbia TriStar released “”The Last Dragon”” on DVD at all. The film itself, digitally enhanced but still a bit grainy, looks fine, and as mentioned, the special effects look decent. What’s most surprising is the director’s commentary, provided by Michael Schultz. I knew Schultz’s body of work included “”Car Wash”” and the Fat Boys’ phat jam “”Disorderlies”” (as turns out, Schultz still does a lot of TV work on David E. Kelley shows like “”Ally McBeal”” and “”Boston Public””), and I found his comments about the film’s history and impact interesting. The DVD also includes bonus trailers for CTHV releases and filmographies that explain what stars like Vanity and Taimak went on to do (which I won’t reveal here!).GRADE: B-OVERALL EXPERIENCE:As a fan, I am very excited that “”Dragon”” is out on DVD. It deserves credit for staying true to so many genres – urban comedy, kung fu kicker, R&B drama – and never losing its sense of humor. Karate fans, and Prince junkies who can’t get enough Vanity, will eat it up.FINAL GRADE: B+

DVD REVIEW – The John Singleton Collection

It’s hard to believe it’s only been 10 years since John Singleton released his groundbreaking “”Boyz N the Hood.”” Maybe because it has automatically ingrained itself in the public’s mindset as the quintessential tour of L.A.’s toughest neighborhoods, or because so many films since then have begged, borrowed or stolen from it, but it just seems like we’ve been talking about “”Hood”” for decades.

THE MOVIES:It’s hard to believe it’s only been 10 years since John Singleton released his groundbreaking “”Boyz N the Hood.”” Maybe because it has automatically ingrained itself in the public’s mindset as the quintessential tour of L.A.’s toughest neighborhoods, or because so many films since then have begged, borrowed or stolen from it, but it just seems like we’ve been talking about “”Hood”” for decades. What’s more surprising is that since then, Singleton has only completed 5 other films, and not one has made even a sliver of the impact “”Hood”” did. Not that Singleton hasn’t been working. He’s turned out a film every two years, transitioning from “”Hood”” to the musical road trip “”Poetic Justice”” and then hitting the campus in the controversial but heavy-handed “”Higher Learning.”” Now, Columbia TriStar has gathered Singleton’s three earliest works into one box set, allowing you to witness the birth of a semi-relevant filmmaker. The three films share various viewpoints, but tend to approach them from completely different angles. “”Hood,”” set in L.A.’s infamous South Central, follows several youths who work toward different ends in the ghetto. Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) dreams of a better life outside of the hood, while the tough-as-steel Doughboy (Ice Cube) works with what he has, wallowing in the lucrative drug trade. For his second feature, Singleton cast Janet Jackson as the dreamy Justice, who shares a ride up the California coast with opinionated thug Lucky (the late Tupac Shakur). The two opposites attract, of course, but the relationship meets immediate hardship when they reach their destination. And in “”Higher Learning,”” Singleton takes his radical views to the birthplace of controversy, the college campus. Omar Epps, Kristy Swanson, Ice Cube and Michael Rapaport play freshman who receive a crash course in racism and sexuality in a charged (yet exaggerated) college environment.These films have their own messages – “”Justice”” tackles tough relationships and senseless street violence in Oakland, “”Learning”” discusses everything from segregation and racial hate crimes to sexual experimentation in school – but “”Hood,”” which practically picked you up by the short hairs and shook you around, remains the director’s most accomplished work. “”Poetic”” was ambitious, “”Learning”” convoluted. After “”Hood,”” Singleton’s work progressively slipped downhill. His films remained interesting to a point, until he released the senselessly violent and bombastic “”Shaft”” remake in 2000. Though I haven’t seen “”Baby Boy,”” early word says it too misses the mark established by “”Hood”” a decade ago. Singleton has talent and a distinct viewpoint. These films, and not his later works, prove it.Grade: B-THE EXTRAS:Considering this box set uses the “”Director’s Signature Series”” name, you’d expect special treatment from said director. Yet only two of the three films come with commentaries, and the one that’s missing is the most sough after: “”Boyz N the Hood.”” Could it be that Singleton grew tired of talking about his most celebrated film? Does he feel that everything that needs to be said has been said? Or does he just want the film to stand on its own? Considering how insightful he is on the tracks for “”Learning”” and “”Justice,”” I’d hoped he would do one for “”Boyz,”” but now such luck. In fact, save for the trailer, “”Hood”” comes with no extras. It’s disappointing. The “”Learning”” disc and the “”Justice”” disc both feature commentaries, though neither appear recorded just for this collection. They also feature trailers, bios and filmographies, but little else. For a “”Signature Series,”” this collection seems to have gotten very little help from the director. One can only assume that Singleton was busy with his recent “”Baby Boy,”” but considering how important these films are to Singleton’s reputation and legacy, you’d think he’d give them a little more attention.Visually the three films look great, having been digitally mastered. The lack of valuable extras does hurt, though.Grade: C-OVERALL EXPERIENCE:Of his 6 movies, these are Singleton’s best. In fact, the decision the leave out “”Rosewood”” and “”Shaft”” makes this collection all the more valuable. Fans of the director should be happy to pick up these decent movie on DVD, especially the fantastic “”Hood,”” but anyone hoping to learn more about Singleton and what makes him tick may have to look elsewhere.Final Grade: C

Crazy/Beautiful Film Review – By Sean O’Connell

Rich, spoiled, party girl Nicole (Kirsten Dunst) meets responsible Hispanic boy Carlos (Jay Hernandez) as she completes community service on the beaches of Santa Monica. Given his casual good looks and success on the high school football field, she’s immediately smitten. He, on the other hand, is prompted by a domineering mother tostay focused on work, school and his future at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

But eventually the natural opposites date, forging a passionate relationship that tests the patience of their parents and friends. As things heat up, Nicole’s erratic behavior clashes with Carlos’ priorities, jeopardizing the very different futures they have planned.Unlike the progressively crass and insulting teen comedies that shoot down the pipe, “”crazy/beautiful”” works wellon multiple levels. Dunst, a proven talent, finds an emotional equal in relative newcomer Hernandez, who injects a calming sense of reality into the pair’s labored coupling. What starts as a contrived interracial romance melts into an acceptably difficult bond between teens who are rightfully unfamiliar with such a level of love. One scene, where Nicole uses her finances to fund Carlos’ first flight, rings particularly true. You can almost feel the young couple’s happiness.Phil Hay’s script takes risks, daring the audience and his leads to advance one giant step further. He forces the characters he’s developed to face undeniable problems before they can ride off into the sunset. It’s a dose of reality rarely seen in teen fare. Young adults hitting theaters can do much worse this summer than swallow the lesson””crazy/beautiful”” preaches. Final Grade: B

SCARY MOVIE II – By Sean O’Connell

Last summer, the Wayans brothers snuck their witless horror spoof “”Scary Movie”” into theaters in the shadow of studio blockbusters like “”The Patriot”” and “”The Perfect Storm.”” To the dismay of analysts, critics and executives, the little comedy that could broke box office records and entertained audiences with gross out jokes that would gaga Farrelly brother.

After the first “”Scary Movie”” converted its $19M budget to a whopping $156.9M gross, Dimension Studios fell over themselves in an effort to crank out the sequel. Having skewered the teen horror genre made popular by Wes Craven’s “”Scream,”” which itself was a spoof of horror flicks, the Wayans needed a new target. They reportedlyspent months locked up in hotel rooms watching everything from “”The Exorcist”” to “”Charlie’s Angels”” in a no-holds-barred quest for material. Cindy Campbell (Anna Faris), “”Shorty”” Meeks (Marlon Wayans) and Ray Maker (Shawn Wayans) all return. It’s years after the massacre of the first movie, and the three misfits attend Thomas Jefferson University, the setup for acheap joke. Not sure whether it’s borrowing from “”The Haunting”” or “”The House on Haunted Hill,”” “”Scary II”” signs the three up for an experiment run by an underhanded professor (Tim Curry) to spend the weekend in a mysterious castle. Joined by the typical assortment of babes, boneheads and handicapped assistants, the volunteers bumble through dozens of gags that alternately work (a “”Rocky””-style fight between Faris and a black cat) and fall flat on theirfaces (a never-ending hand joke that involves the painfully unfunny Chris Elliott). Dimension’s first mistake occurred when they saddled the unfilmed production with a July 4 release date, forcing the Wayans’ to cut corners to nail the deadline. “”Scary Movie II”” opens practically one year after the original. It shows. With no hint of rhyme nor reason, the comedy skates by on an anorexic setup, transparent spoofs and dull gags. Hints of intelligence or originality that surfaced in the first film are buried under waves of vomit jokes, mounds of poop references and the haze of marijuana smoke that emits from Marlon Wayans’ character. Faris brings nothing new to her character, a bizarre blend of every horror heroine from Heather Langenkamp to Jennifer Love Hewitt. She’s the living setup for every crass joke, and she does it all with her mouth constantly ajar. It’s bizarre. Press notes list Kathleen Robertson’s character as Jamie Lee Curtisto, a funny joke despite the fact that her name is never mentioned in the actual film. The acting in general hovers around “”90210″” level, which is appropriate because the film casts the wooden Tori Spelling in a purposeless role. And James Woods, in a role reserved for Marlon Brando, completely humiliates himself. We now know why Brando bailed out with a cryptic “”illness.”” As a director, Keenan Ivory Wayans does have chops. He accurately copies the likes of John Woo, George Lucas and Alfred Hitchcock. When necessary, his camera pans and zooms like he’s directing a stylish action flick, and his pace is lively. If he can avoid tossing in a bathroom joke every 15 seconds, he might crank out a suitable follow up to “”A Low Down Dirty Shame.”” However, that might be the most we have to look forward to.Final Grade: D

BE THE FIRST TO SEE FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN

THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED! Be The First To See Columbia Picture’s and Square Picture’s Final Fantasy “”The Spirits Within””. The screening will be held in Washington, DC Monday, July 9th, 2001. To qualify to win simply read the story below and register to receive our newsletter. We will notify 50 winners at Random, Friday, July 7th. FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN opens in theatres on Wednesday, July 11th and is Rated PG 13 for Sci-Fi Action Violence. This contest is for Washington, DC Area residents only, or if you happen to be in the DC Area, feel free to sign up. For details read the synopsis. THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED

The StoryThis summer, fantasy becomes reality in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within emerges from its successful interactive game roots to deliver an exciting new breed of motion picture adventure. A fresh, provocative take on the sci-fi genre, the film blends spiritual underpinnings and the universal concerns of man vs. nature with the energy of the digital gaming medium and the scope of the motion picture environment.Final Fantasy game creator Hironobu Sakaguchi’s vision to take the latest in computer graphic technology and the best artists in the world to create a brand new form of entertainment now comes to the big screen-a visual feast of concept, motion, design and imagination with all-new, hyperReal characters embarking on an all-new adventure.””I have always wanted to create a new form of entertainment that fuses the technical wizardry of interactive games with the sensational visual effects of motion pictures,”” says Sakaguchi. “”Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within takes us one step closer to that dream.””With the flexibility of these hyperReal characters,”” Sakaguchi continues, “”it really opens up new doors and a whole new level of ideas and possibilities for feature films and entertainment.””Adds Chris Lee, one of the film’s producers, “”We have created technology to expand the envelope of what is possible for computer-generated human characters.”” Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within represents the continuing evolution of the synergy between video gaming and cinema. It is the next creative step from the trendsetting Final Fantasy game series, which has sold more than 33 million units worldwide and ranks as one of the most popular interactive game franchises of all time. Each game and the film are originated from Final Fantasy’s rich storytelling tradition and underlying themes of love, friendship, dreams, epic adventure, life and death with a spiritual backdrop. The game series is renowned for creating genuinely touching characters and relationships and for always leaving players wanting more. Each installment has started anew with fresh characters and storylines in order to present a self-contained story. “”That’s the philosophy that Sakaguchi brought to the movie as well,”” says Chris Lee.””This is the first time that a film inspired by a video game has been directed by the creator of the game, in the medium of the game,”” he continues. “”What gamers have come to love about Final Fantasy is that Sakaguchi always raises the bar in terms of the images he produces and the storylines he creates. Those are the same standards that were applied to making this movie.””This is a chance to tell a great human story with a completely different medium. Only Sakaguchi would have the vision to take what he had learned in gaming and apply it to the motion picture process,”” says Lee. Yet while capturing the kind of excitement, energy and integrity presented in the phenomenally successful game series, “”the film’s subject matter and plot appeals not just to gamers but to a wide audience of moviegoers.””Columbia Pictures and Square Pictures present Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Hironobu Sakaguchi directs from an original screenplay written by Al Reinert and Jeff Vintar. Story by Sakaguchi. Motonori Sakakibara co-directs. The film features the voices of actors Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Peri Gilpin, Ming-Na, Ving Rhames, Donald Sutherland and James Woods, among others. Sakaguchi, Jun Aida and Chris Lee are producers.The film’s creative team includes director of photography Motonori Sakakibara, animation director Andy Jones, conceptual director Tani Kunitake, character technical director Kevin Ochs, senior animator Roy Sato, VFX supervisor Remo Balcells and composer Elliot Goldenthal. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sci-fi action violence. If you are already a registered member, please drop me an email at contests@eclipsemagazine.com and let us know you want to be entered. All non-registered users, please click below to enter the contest. When you click on the link, it will take you to our member profile page, just create a profile, you will automatically be entered into the FF drawing, and placed on our newsletter list. The weekly newsletter will contain site updates, and info on other future contests.

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