Movie Review – Shaft


Directed by John Singleton

Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Christian Bale, Jeffery Wright, Vanessa Williams, Toni Collette, and Richard Roundtree.

Another year older, another year wiser, and another traditional birthday movie. When it comes to the big-time action films of this summer, two were kind of sticking out: Gone In 60 Seconds, and Shaft. Shaft just seemed so much more…cool to me that I knew I had to see it. So, when asked what film to see on my birthday, I ran through the list of what’s been out the longest that I still want to see, and Shaft was at the top of the list. I had a hunch that even my Dad would like, being the kind of old-fashioned detective movie (i.e. Dirty Harry) that he grew up with.

Samuel L. Jackson plays Det. John Shaft, one of the finest on the NYPD. One wintry Christmas, he’s called out to investigate the murder of young black kid by a racist punk/spoiled white kid Walter Wade (Bale). Wade makes bail and skips the country for two long years, while Shaft waits for him to return. When Wade does return, Shaft promptly arrests him and hauls him downtown, where Wade meets up with Peoples Hernandez (Wright), a small-time drug dealer and another nemesis of Shaft’s. When Wade makes bail again, Shaft quits the force in disgust to go after Wade “his own way.” There is one way to bring in Wade once and for all: waitress Diane Palmieri (Collette) saw the whole thing, and only her testimony can put away Wade. But, she was frightened into submission and has been in hiding for the last two years. Wade, then, soon pays of Hernandez to silence Diane permanently, and the race is on between Shaft and Hernandez to find Diane. Of course, Shaft gets help from his former parner, Carmen Vasquez (Williams), and his uncle, the original Shaft (Roundtree).

This movie is…cool. Jackson, as Shaft, just oozes the kind of coolness required for a man to be on the lone pursuit of justice. We’ve got the right blend of typical action-hero one-liners and just plain attitude that makes a great action hero. And I feel that my plot summary does a dis-service to the villain of Hernandez. Hernandez is just so slimy and evil, that when Wade does deal with him, it’s essentially a deal with the devil. For most of the film, it is Hernandez who is the villain, and he’s so good at it. And the film is just so fast-moving! I hardly realized that the whole hour and 45 minutes had gone by! All in all, a very cool summer flick. (And if I say cool one more time, you can do ungodly things to me.)

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Titan A.E.

Titan A.E.

Directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman

Starring the voices of Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman, Nathan Lane, John Leguazamo, and Jeannine Garofalo.

I’m sure, that like myself, your first exposure to Titan A.E. came during Episode I. Titan A.E. was lucky enough to have it’s teaser attached to Episode I. When we heard Matt Damon’s voice talking about how man had conquered space, and then the animation of Earth being destoyed, we all scratched our heads and went “What the hell was that?” Well, here we are, a year later, and we get to find out.

It’s the dawn of the 31st Century. Earth has been destroyed by an alien race called the Drej, because the Drej determined that humans were on the verge of becoming a threat. The surviving humans now live in giant starships called drifter colonies, are treated like second class citizens of the galaxy, and being hunted by the Drej. We soon meet Cale (Damon). He’s a young, rebellious sort, working in a salvage yard and thinking that there’s not much more to life. But he soon meets a space pirate by the name of Korso (Pullman), who needs Cale. Seems that Cale’s father was in charge of the Titan project, something which could save the human race. Only Cale’s genetic code can read the map to where his father hid the Titan. So, Cale joins Korso’s crew: babealicious pilot Akima (Barrymore), slimy navigator Preed (Lane), nerdy engineer Gune (Leguizamo), and weapons expert Stith (Garofalo), who gets just a touch of the bloodlust in battle. With the Drej hot in pursuit, they go off to find the Titan! Can they do it? Or is there a betrayer in their midst?

This film is something I’ve wanted to see American animators attempt: a hard-core sci-fi. For the most part, it succeeds. There’s this scene on a planet with hydrogen trees, and bat-like aliens that could only be pulled off in a live-action film with a gazilion dollars. And, there’s this game of cat-and-mouse in a planet’s ice rings, which is just beautifully animated. And I must give kudos to Nathan Lane. He’s played a lot of “flamboyant” characters, and he surprised me here by convincingly voicing a slimeball. But…. I found that the characters seemed a little hollow. When the betrayer is revealed, it just kind of came out of left field. The Iron Giant has become the gold standard for which I rate animated films, and compared with that, Titan A.E. just left me wanting more. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good, but I so wanted it to be great. Oh, and I love that final joke.

2.5 Nibs