Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Director: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Writer(s): Tab Murphy, Gary Trousdale (story), Joss Whedon (treatment), Kirk Wise (story), Bryce Zabel (story), Jackie Zabel (story)
Starring: Michael J. Fox, James Garner, John Mahoney, Leonard Nimoy
The legend of Atlantis and the animated powerhouse of Disney... unbeatable combination, right? Er... no. What should have been one of the great animated films of the early 21st century was little more than a muddled, jumbled, confusing mess. Given the number of "writers" involved, it's no accident that the plot was all over the place. The set up was too fast (and way too reminiscent of Stargate), the characters were too cliché, the coherent portion of the plot (which wasn't much) was too predictable, and... well, I could go on, but it pains me to to do so.
Verdict: SKIP it. I hate writing that for a Disney Animated Feature, but I must.
Director: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Writer(s): Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Willem DaFoe, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan
The world is run by vampires and humans are farmed for blood. Slight problem: there aren't enough humans left to sustain the population. Worse problem: starving vampires devolve into even stranger creatures. No problem: there's a cure for vampirism. Admittedly, I find the concept of the film rather interesting, though the film itself isn't, really. Sure, it's well-acted, and everyone seems to have fun with it, but it's ultimately just another example of Hollywood writers concocting a great premise and slapping it on a relatively shallow action film. All that aside, I enjoyed it.
Verdict: SEE it. It's not overly good, but it's an interesting twist in vampire lore.
Director: Jim Henson
Writer(s): Terry Jones, Dennis Lee (story), Jim Henson (story)
Starring: David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly
Because I recently watched The Dark Crystal again, I felt the need to rewatch Labyrinth. One of the great fantasy films, and certainly one of the best genre films of the 80s (which so painfully lacked quality fantasy), this one holds up well. The result of an unprecedented gathering of talent (Jim Henson from Muppets fame directing, George Lucas executive producing, Terry Jones of Monty Python writing, Brian Froud designing, and David Bowie composing and performing), all that was missing is uber-wonder puppet master Frank Oz. Oh, wait... he contributed, as well. I won't explain the plot because, chances are, you've already seen it yourself. If you haven't, you should.
Verdict: SEE it.
Ninja Assassin (2009)
Director: James McTeigue
Writer(s): Matthew Sand, J. Michael Straczynski
Starring: Rain, Naomie Harris
Take every connotation Americans attribute to ninjas in pop culture, then write a movie about it. For some, such a movie will sound ridiculously cool. For others, such a movie will sound... well, ridiculous. This is, unfortunately, the latter. A by-the-numbers action movie with a banal rendition of an across-the-tracks love story, you've all seen this garbage before. The last big movie like this was Romeo Must Die, and despite that film's ridiculousness, it was much, much better. Not that I really mind, but why is there a propensity in Hollywood to match hip-hop culture with Asian culture? At any rate, the effects were pretty lame, and the combat skills of the protagonists and antagonists changed depending on whether or not the scene required them to win or lose. I could say more about Ninja Assassin, but it's all bad, so why bother?
Verdict: SKIP it. Bleh.
Director: Hirotsugu Kawasaki
Writer(s): Yasutaka Itô, Hirotsugu Kawasaki
Starring: A bunch of Japanese voice actors you've never heard of.
A "spriggan," according to Wikipedia, is some sort of mischievous faerie from Cornish myth. They often serve as bodyguards, which I'm assuming is where the title of this Japanese animated film comes from. Because, you know, the main character is a 17-year-old product of American military development and is a bad ass. The Japanese are obsessed with Western myth and religion, and this particular story centers around the discover of Noah's Ark. Part science fiction, part fantasy, and all action film, you get what you expect with this one. Certainly not one of the great examples of Japanese animation, but definitely better than most of the crap that fat kids wearing DragonballZ t-shirts convince American companies to import.
Verdict: SEE it, if you're a genre fan.