Monthly Archives: March 2002

Metropolis (2002)

It has the screenplay penned by Katsuhiro Ôtomo, writer/director of Akira. The director is Tarô Rin, director of numerous anime including X. And it’s based upon a classic manga by the same name. If you understood any of this, especially if you successfully identified anyone, then you are a prime candidate for Metropolis.

Metropolis is a future wonderland of a city, with the coronation of Duke Red’s gigantic Ziggurat building, to which he plans to rule the world. He’s evil. Detective Shunsaku Ban and his nephew Kenichi have been hired from Japan to find an illegal organ trader who they believe has some connection to Duke Red. Sure enough, with his help the duke is building the most powerful robot named Tima who also happens to look pristine like his deceased daughter. His adopted son Rock takes offense, kills the organ trader, and chases Kenichi and Tima through the subterranean bowels of the city. Then there’s some chase scenes. And… um… the disaster montage ending. There’s your story folks.

Time for an anime checklist. Androgynous heroes? Check. Sprite looking females with super duper powers? Check. Bad guys with snozes like Toucan Sam? Check. Robots, robots, robots? Check. A story that bites off more than it can chew? Check. Gratuitous nudity and grotesque gore? Nope. Well this is a PG-13 movie.

Metropolis is without a doubt one of the most beautiful animated films I have ever seen. The dazzling vistas of the city are a wonder to behold. Metropolis is an amazing movie to watch. To say it is candy for the eyes is an understatement; it’s Girl Scout cookies for the eyes. The visuals are astonishing but the story lacks any character development. The script borrows heavily from Blade Runner, Brazil and the original Fritz Lang silent masterpiece Metropolis. There’s also a rather dumbfounding sequence where the montage of destruction, including the annihilation of the Ziggurat, set to Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

For anime fans it all won’t matter. The film is a sight to behold. It’s gorgeous but flaccid in its thinking and plotting.

Nate’s Grade: B-

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Kissing Jessica Stein (2002)

Kissing Jessica Stein stars Jennifer Westfeldt as the perfectionist title heroine searching for true love in the Big Apple. She answers a personal ad sent by Helen (Heather Juergensen), an art gallery manager trying her hand at women for the first time. What begins in comedic awkwardness turns to the fires of passion. Which leads to much more awkwardness as Jessica attempts to keep her secrets and the true identity of her “friend” from her mother.

Juergensen and Westfeldt wrote the script based on characters they have nurtured for several years, and their comfort level with the material shows. Each gives a wry and charismatic performance, with Westfeldt proving herself an acting revelation. It must be nice for her to have something else to her résumé than being one of the “girls” in Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place.

Kissing Jessica Stein tiptoes a fine line with some characters possibly becoming gay or Jewish stereotypes; however, they never do fall into the abyss of Caricature Land. Tovah Feldshuh, playing Jessica’s mother, might make you wince at the thought that she’d be mired as a Mike Myers “Coffee Talk” portrait. But she has scenes where she shows real tenderness that is very affective.

At times the movie feels a bit too wrapped up in its own precocious-ness. There’s even a standard montage of bad dates that becomes annoying much sooner than it ends. Those looking for deep lesbian issues needn’t apply here. Kissing Jessica Stein hits its targets on a surface level, which can be deemed appropriate for an innocuous romantic comedy. The downer closing 10 minutes seems to come from nowhere and betray the feel of the movie.

The film plays by conventional rules for the most part but these don’t diminish the healthy humor in the least. Kissing Jessica Stein is a charming and fun experience and would serve as a good date movie for prospective couples.

Nate’s Grade: B

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