Monthly Archives: May 2000

Mission: Impossible II (2000)

John Woo’s loud and flashy sequel to DePalma’s overwrought Mission: Impossible comes with both guns blazing — and doves flying. Since EVERYONE from the show, minus Tom Cruise, was killed in the first movie, the series starts off with a fresh cast complete with weak villain. Dougray Scott plays the rouge MI agent who steals a virus and its subsequent antidote to only release the super virus onto the world and make a super steady pharmaceutical profit from the the antidote. One wonders what the MI agency does except create rogue operatives for movie plotlines. Oval-faced, glass-eyed beauty Thandie Newton, who was last seen croaking and spitting river water in Beloved, plays Cruise’s new love interest. Her role isn’t really fleshed out but she provides the sparkle and charm, not to mention plenty of spice, that is necessary. The real problem MI:2 has is the action. Now Woo is a marvelous choreographer of action, his visions are poetry — but they all seem so cliche now that most of the action came across as hollow and just empty noise. There are moments of excitement but they are few and far between a hackneyed lumbering plot. Still, in a summer wishing for fireworks you can’t fault MI:2 for delivering.

Nate’s Grade: B-

Battlefield Earth (2000)

I don’t have enough time nor the patience to actually write down a full review for this “movie” so instead I’m going to just list things that make this movie the toilet paper it is.

1) It’s based on a 1000+ page novel that even sci-fi purists regard as corny. Writer/Religious founder L. Ron Hubbarb certainly hasn’t found any grail in writing. The film of his novel only covers half of the book with the other half Travolta had planned for a sequel. Let me tell ya, you’d have to be a really REALLY devout Scientologist to believe that a sequel’s on its way here. There’s more of a chance that Howard’s End will be granted a sequel then Battlefield Earth.

2) Travolta has never been more nasal-voiced annoying before in his life. He’s the snarling Security head of the vastly “advanced” alien species that has enslaved Earth yet he knows nothing about his prisoners. Doesn’t sound like the person (or alien) you want in charge of… security now does it?

3) Why are the aliens 9-feet tall? Why do they have nose tubes? Why do they have long tongues — except for a really awful overt oral sex joke? Why do they do and look like anything if nothing happens? All they are is tall and that’s it. So form a basketball team out of them and tell them to watch their heads. Nothing makes sense, it’s all just added for the sake of being added – with the consistency of chicken broth.

4) Travolta hatches a plan to steal gold from the planet. My God, did we just fall into a Western? Because of course gold is worth the same amount and value on a distant alien home world as it is here. Makes total sense. This part I actually hit myself in the head over.

5) The human survivors dupe Travolta with gold bars they find at Ft. Knox — just stumbling onto it 1000 years later. Man who needs any sense of direction in a post apocalyptic war-world?

6) The humans counter the aliens in the end by flying 1000 year old ARMY aircraft. These fighter planes are spic and span and fully mobile after 1000 years of rust and mildew Cascade couldn’t touch?

7) Everything is shot tilted, I mean EVERY single shot in the damn movie — EVERYONE! You’ll come out with a stiff neck to compensate. It’s like the camera man fell asleep and nobody had the heart to wake him up during the whole picture. I know I’d want to get away.

8) The aliens figure man to be incompetent and no threat despite the fact that he was highly civilized beforehand with plenty of weapons accessible. Go fig.

9) Every action sequence in this movie is either a blithe series of close-ups or slow mo shots. And don’t forget the slanted pictures.

10) Travolta is so annoying, even his action figure I saw on a clearance sale is just as annoying, he gets mentioned twice. How the hell did he think this movie would sell I’ll never know?

11) There’s only one hot girl in the entire scavenged world and she has to end up being Barry Pepper’s love interest, probably because he is given his “knowledge” back which means he also is now only interested in hot girls. And what is her fate? Only to be eventually held hostage later… of course!

12) Travolta’s character is the greatest moron in the universe! No person would even have them in charge of anything except a cafeteria lunch line.

13) The effects are really cheesy.

14) The dialogue is BEYOND the realm of cheese.

15) Battlefield Earth tried to brainwash me into a 9-foot tall Scientologist with a thirst for gold and a requisite for calling those around me “rat brain” to mask my own insecurities and nasal voice.

I think The Washington Post said it best when they said “A million monkeys with a million crayons in a million years could write something better then Battlefield Earth,” and I’d have to agree.

Nate’s Grade: F

Gladiator (2000)

Director Ridley Scott has given the world of cinema some of its most unforgettable visual experiences. But can Scott breath new life into a genre whose heyday was when a badly dubbed Steve Reeves oiled his chest and wrestled loincloth-clad extras in the 1950s?

The year is roughly 180 AD and Rome is just finishing up its long-standing assault on anything that moves in the European continent. General Maximus (Russell Crowe) merely wants to retire back to his loving family and get away from the doom and war that has plagued his life. This is made all the more difficult when the ailing Emperor bypasses his treacherous son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) and decides to crown Maximus as the Defender of Rome. Because of this Commodus rises to power through bloody circumstances and has Maximus assigned to execution and his family crucified. You’d think crucifixion would be so passé by now. Maximus escapes only to be sold into slavery and bought by a dirt-run gladiator training school. As he advances up the chain and learns the tricks of the primal sport he seeks but vengeance for his fallen family.

Gladiator is an absorbing and sweeping spectacle of carnage and first-rate entertainment. The action is swift and ruthlessly visceral. The first movie in a long time to literally have me poised on the edge of my seat. The blood spills in the gallons and life and limb go flying enough your theater owner may consider setting down a tarp.

What Gladiator doesn’t sacrifice to the muscle of effects and action is storytelling. Are you listening George Lucas? Gladiator may unleash the beast when the rousing action is loose, but this is coupled with compelling drama and complex characters. Phoenix may at first seem like a snotty brat with an unhealthy eye for his sister (Connie Nielsen), but the further Gladiator continues the more you see in his eyes the troubled youth who just wants the love of his father that was never bestowed to him. Maximus is a devoted family man who regularly kisses clay statues of his family while away, and must ceremoniously dust himself with the earth before any battle.

The acting matches every sword blow and chariot race toe-for-toe. Russell Crowe marks a first-rate staple of heroism. Every calculating glare he exhibits shows the compassion and ferocity of this warrior. He becomes a rare breed – an action hero who can think and actually act. Oliver Reed, in what sadly was his last role, turns in a splendid and charismatic turn as the head of the gladiator school of Fine Arts and Carnage. Mysteriously everyone carries a British accent closer to them then a toga two sizes too small. Even Crowe who is nicknamed “The Spaniard” speaks like he walked out of Masterpiece Theater.

The effects and visuals are a sumptuous feast. The aerial shots of Rome and the Coliseum are simply breath taking. Gladiator rivals American Beauty for the most rose petals used in a movie, except in this one they don’t shoot out of Mena Suvari’s breasts.

Ridley Scott’s track record may be hit or miss but Gladiator is definitely one sorely not to be missed.

Nate’s Grade: A-

Reviewed 20 years later as part of the “Reviews Re-View: 2000” article.

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