Saturday, July 26, 2003

Weapons of Mass Redaction: It's nice when the New York Times writes my blog entries for me...

Friday, July 25, 2003

Okay, not saying that Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life is a great movie, or even a good one, but damn, did I enjoy it. I was in a lousy mood when I left the house to go see it, but by the time I exited the theater, I had pretty much forgotten all about the whole "brand new email address from Cox Communications Complete With Fifty Brand-New Pieces of Spam Sent to An Address I've Never Given Out Ever" thing. And it was way better than the first Tomb Raider movie.

The cardinal sin most of these movies commit is way too much plot, way too many complications heaped on top of complications, just to prove that they're so much more sophisticated than the typical adventure movie or their video game source material. The result? A frelling mess. Look at the Street Fighter movie, which takes place in a James Bond villain's headquarters and is almost totally devoid of street fighting. Or Mortal Kombat, devoted to way too many details about some universe-saving something-or-other and nowhere near enough mortal combat. Sometimes, simplicity and clarity of plot is better. I mean, I can tell you what the goals were in each of the three Indiana Jones movies, but I can't for the life of me remember what happened in the first Tomb Raider flick.

Fortunately, this sequel has learned from the first's mistakes. The plot is straightforward and elegant. The complications arise organically and naturally, rather than being grafted on. We don't get sequences shoehorned in because they come from the games, or because they look cool. The movie doesn't stop dead for ten minutes while Basil Exposition fills us in on information that should have been emerging from the story as it went along. The movie doesn't stop dead to shoehorn in romantic scenes just because there's a male and female lead. (There's a romantic subplot, but it's kept confined to its proper place within the overall story, instead of feeling like it's there to prove that Lara Croft isn't a lesbian.)

Best of all, Angelina Jolie is great. This is the second movie I can think of this summer featuring an Oscar winner playing an action heroine (the first being Halle Berry in X-Men 2), and she proves that she's really trying. It's the opposite of Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man playing Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever playing Jack Nicholson in Batman, apparently believing that he doesn't have to really try since he's in a comic book movie. Jolie sells Lara Croft as a real, full-blooded, three-dimensional human being, and that goes a long way to making the movie work for me.

It should be obvious, from this and the other movies I've written about this summer, that this is a season of escapism for me, and I'm not going to make excuses for that. True-life thought-provoking works of drama that illuminate the human condition have their place, but that place isn't on my cinematic agenda right now. The big, action-packed explodey, special-effectsy, stunt-filled spectacles do, and that's what I'm interested in seeing. The quiet, human dramas... that's for television, for shows like Red Cap and Spooks, and for the books I read. Cradle of Life managed to completely deliver exactly what I asked of it, and better than I had expected. And, considering that this week's other choices included surer bets like Pirates of the Caribbean, Seabiscuit, and Spy Kids 3-D, that's a good thing.
Lacking the energy to write something this morning, I instead post this bit of email wackiness...

Time Killers at WalMart

Fifteen Things to do at WalMart while your spouse/shopping partner is taking their sweet time:

1. Get 24 boxes of condoms & randomly put them in peoples carts when they aren't looking.

2. Set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at 5 minute

3. Make a trail of tomato juice on the floor leading to the restrooms.

4. Walk up to an employee and tell him/her in an official tone, "Code 3 in housewares"...and see what happens.

5. Go to the Service Desk and ask to put a bag of M&M's on layaway.

6. Move a 'CAUTION - WET FLOOR' sign to a carpeted area.

7. Set up a tent in the camping department and tell other shoppers
you'll invite them in if they bring pillows from the bedding department.

8. When a clerk asks if they can help you, begin to cry and ask 'Why can't you people just leave me alone?

9. Look right into the security camera, use it as a mirror and pick your nose.

10. While handling guns in the hunting department, ask the clerk if he knows where the anti-depressants are.

11. Dart around the store suspiciously while loudly humming the theme from 'Mission Impossible.'

12. In the auto department, practice your "Madonna look" using different size funnels.

13. Hide in a clothing rack and when people browse through, say "PICK ME! PICK ME!"

14. When an announcement comes over the loud speaker, assume the fetal position and scream "NO! NO! It's those voices again!!!"

And last but not least:

15. Go into a fitting room, shut the door and wait a while and then yell loudly "Hey! You're out of toilet paper in here!!"