Director: W. Finn, J. Sanford
In many ways this cartoon seems more like a straight-to-video flick than a large-scale, grandiose Disney venture. It's an entirely forgettable, totally functional movie with incredibly unimaginative animation, and a story to suit. The filmmakers have stuck to safe-choice storytelling and uninspired, two-dimensional characters. In recent years Pixar has proved it is possible, through a sharp script and exciting characters, to make cartoons that are highly entertaining for kids and adults alike. But there's little chance this wannabe comedy will make anyone laugh, and it should come with a "For under 6-years-old only" warning, since that's the only age range that might actually appreciate this piece of worthless celluloid garbage.
This reviewer couldn't decide whether to laugh or to cry during this extremely old-fashioned kiddie cartoon. Starting in 1937 with "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" Walt Disney Studios animated features were made in a traditional two-dimensional style. "Home on the Range" is to be the 44th as well as the last film to be meticulously drawn by hand. Future productions will be totally generated by computer, similar to "Finding Nemo." The story is a bit preposterous as a trio of cows tries to save "the farm" from evil villains. The soundtrack is perky enough, featuring k.d.lang, Bonnie Raitt and original music composed by Alan Menken ("Beauty and the Beast"). Small kids will most probably scream and enjoy it, while loving adults will have to grin and bear it.
Laimons Juris G
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
After the phenomenal "The Sixth Sense," it seems that director M. Night Shyamalan's films have steadily decreased in quality, and this one is a clear misfire. For a supposed-to-be frightener, it's really dull. This is possibly because the big final twist can be figured out within the first 20 minutes, and knowing what hides in the dark, the movie is no longer spooky. "The Village" has an absence of emotional depth that not even the expert cast can compensate for, and the film as a whole fails to engage because of its flawed execution. The psychological element and the political message are interesting but are presented to us in a vague and largely unsuccessful manner. There is a good movie hidden in "The Village," but it never shows its face.
Not knowing anything whatsoever about the so-called "surprise" ending doesn't mean a thing. The first guess off the top of your head will most likely be the correct one. "The Village" is chock full of name talent from Sigourney Weaver and Joaquin Phoenix to Oscar-winners William Hurt and Adrian Brody. However, it's newcomer Bryce Dallas Howard who really startles and makes this picture her own. The daughter of director Ron Howard is the only reason to see this pretentious, over-talkative bore. Director M. Night Shyamalan has had three blockbusters, which made him a bundle of loot ("The Sixth Sense," "Unbreakable" and "Signs"). But viewer beware, this script is so inept that the actors have nothing of substance to work with. For unexpected thrills, check out "11:14" instead.
Laimons Juris G
Director: Greg Marcks
One evening at 11:14 p.m., a number of disturbing events take place. Though they seem unrelated at first, they intertwine and change the lives of about a dozen people. This drama/thriller's labyrinthlike narrative is cleverly put together, but it all becomes tediously formulaic pretty quickly. And although this isn't an especially long picture, it feels like it is. The movie is so focused on the apparent brilliance of its story that it forgets about the people in it. But there are too many characters - too stereotypical and weakly acted - for us to be drawn into their individual stories. Some particular situations are refreshingly witty, but in terms of structure, character and cinematography this movie offers nothing particularly original. "11:14" isn't exactly bad, it's just rather dull.
In his debut feature film writer/director Greg Marcks presents a marvelous black comedy saturated in satire. Made on a super low budget of $6 million, "11:14" is an authentic revelation. Similar to a Chinese puzzle this movie unfolds one segment at a time, until the complete picture becomes crystal clear. It's an elegant slapstick of apparently unrelated incidents, which intricately intertwine for a smile-provoking conclusion. It turns out to be the ultimate car crash, topping the entire spectrum of car crashes ever depicted in the history of motion pictures. An outstanding cast, including Hilary Swank, Patrick Swayze, Barbara Hershey and Shawn Hatosy supply credence to the unusual chain of events. It's not often that a thriller is packed to the brim with originality, plus a straightforward sense of humor.
Laimons Juris G