Picofarad #1 Movie reviews

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Kaena: The Prophecy (2004)

Kirsten Dunst, Richard Harris, Anjelica Huston
Director: Chris Delaporte
Running time: 91 minutes

It seems to be a law of nature that the last movie of an actor with a long and stellar career must be absolutely terrible. Maybe it's being in a movie that bad that kills them. Richard Harris's swan song is Kaena: The Prophecy, another fine entry in this long and hallowed tradition.

Kaena's setting is a huge floating forest, inhabited by a tribe which gathers the sap of the trees and offers it to their gods, lest something terrible befall them. The sap has been drying up of late, and the sap gods are understandably annoyed. Kaena (Kirsten Dunst) is a rebellious teenager with a special connection to another mysterious power, one that the sap gods have been fighting for centuries. Soon she offends the gods, runs away, and falls in with a friendly alien named Opaz (Harris), who has been watching her for some time, because naturally she is the chosen one, the one who will fulfill, um, erm...

Well, okay, despite the title, there isn't a prophecy, or anything particular that Kaena needs to do. In retrospect, it appears that everything could have worked itself out at any given time, but the various dei ex machina know that they need to wait until the audience has had its fill of Kaena performing acrobatics in a series of ever more improbable outfits.

At least there is no mistaking the intended audience. Kaena never misses a chance to pander to the adolescent boy demographic: the heroine shows that she is a confident, powerful woman by starting off wearing a bikini bottom that is at least two sizes too small; the villain is a nasty crone who is defeated by what amounts to a gang-rape; and everyone below the age of senility talks like an annoyed 13-year-old.

Kaena is billed as the first computer-animated film ever produced in France, and the animators duly show off their new toy by waving all the different effects they can think of at the viewer. Now that the newness has had a chance to wear off, perhaps they will feel that viewers need a better reason to see the next one.

Code 46 (2003)

Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Running time: 92 minutes

Code 46 starts off with a strict numbered and sub-numbered display of its namesake, a law defining incest on a purely genetic basis, which makes two things about the upcoming movie abundantly clear:

  1. Someone is going to have sex.
  2. This is going to turn out to have been a really bad idea.

The trouble begins when William (Tim Robbins), an investigator aided by an "empathy virus" which gives him the ability to read minds and possibly some precognition, is called to Singapore to uncover the source of forged travel documents. In this future, travel is restricted to those who can get permission from Big Brother, who in this case is known as The Sphinx, in the form of "papelles".

The forger is Maria (Samantha Morton), but William instead fingers another worker and goes out with Maria. As they are drawn together by a passion tangible only the scriptwriter, the offending act is committed in Maria's apartment. William goes home, is called back to Singapore, discovers Maria has vanished, and goes looking for her.

The most effective part of Code 46 is the presence of the future world-- stylish the way movie futures are, but also cramped, lived-in, bustling with colorful, living background characters-- but it upstages the story, giving the impression that any other person who appears on the screen would have a far more interesting story to tell than the two people the movie chooses to focus on. In the end, it's not quite clear what the point was anyway. I wanted there to be something more to justify all this cinematic effort than just a middle-aged guy's fantasy about having an extramarital fling, but that may just be it.

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