Classic entertainment, cutting-edge animation

Everyone had a monster hiding in their room. You never quite saw it, but it was there, lurking beneath the bed. Where they came from was always a bit of a mystery, but Disney, as usual, have the answer.

Their latest collaboration with Pixar (Toy Story, A Bug’s Life) is set largely in Monstropolis, a city inhabited by the foulest beasts known to man or child. The monsters power their city by sending ‘scarers’ through doors which teleport them into children’s rooms. Once there, they pull faces at the kids, producing shrieks of terror, which are bottled back in Monstropolis and used as a source of energy.

It’s a neat idea, and while the exact mechanics are never explained, Monsters, Inc bounds along with enough vigour to make you unlikely to quibble too much. Sulley (voiced by John Goodman) is the top scarer, but when he accidentally takes a small girl named 800 back to Monstropolis with him, things go a bit pear-shaped. The child turns out to be a tool in a plot by Randall 80995 (a suitably sinister Steve

Buscemi), a leering eight-foot tall chameleon, and Sulley’s biggest rival.

Cue comedy as Sulley and his friend Mike (Billy Crystal) attempt to entertain Boo, tension as they attempt to thwart Boggs’ evil plans and romance as Mike attempts to keep his relationship with cyclops/medusa crossbreed Celia (Jennifer Tilly) alive.

The film apparently used more than twice the number of rendermarks (a measure of computing power) used in Toy Story 2, and it shows. Monsters, Inc is a visual feast of colour and texture that makes its predecessors look as dated as Jaws’ timber and polythene shark. What really lifts it out of the ordinary, though, is the sense of fun that pervades the whole movie. The film is self-conscious enough to pastiche other films, and playful enough to finish with a glorious selection of fake out-takes, but there’s nothing ironic about it. And the decision not too spend too much time being clever means it can go straight for

the jugular.

This mix of classic entertainment and cutting edge animation is the key to the film‘s success. And while you can certainly be critical (its central idea that fear and laughter are commodities that can be mass-produced is a pretty cynical one for a movie-making conglomerate to espouse), its entertainment value is impossible to deny. (James Smart)

I Genera/ re/ease from Frr 8 Feb. See feature. pages 7()~ .’ 7.

GOTHIC THRlLLER FROM HELL (18) 121 mins .0.

Disappointingly lightweight

As a Gothic thriller in the Hammer mOuld. From He// works just fine. A stalwart British cast (Robbie Coltrane. lan Holm. lan Richardson) back up handsome leads Johnny Depp and Heather Graham. Blood is splattered about with the enthusiasm of an abattoir attendant. and there's not an opponunity missed to wreath scenes in mist and shroud them

in shadow. Howexer. as an investigation of the Jack the Ripper murders that horrified and obsessed Victorian London during the autumn of 1888. From He// is a disapr)ointment. It brings nothing new to the plethora of conspiracy theories surrounding the brutal slaying of five Whitechapel prostitutes.

But then it was always going to be a tall order. adapting Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's graphic-novel investigation into the crimes. Their book is as thick as an encyclopaedia and packed with more annotations than an Oxbridge scholar would care to sift through. The peculiar genius of Moore was to take each element of the murder case and

trace it to its conclusion. Thus. for

example. the involvement of the Freemasons prompts Moore to unearth the dark spiritual heart of their city of London.

The problem for directors Allen and Albert Hughes and their

sci‘iptwr‘itei‘s Terry Hayes and Rafael YgleSias is how to transfer this massive bqu of fact and suppos‘ition to the big screen within a two hour timeslot. Then answer is to stick to the thriller elements of the story and leave aside such ‘extrant-zous material" as the l‘)ackgrounds of the murder Victims or the looming significance of the churches of Nicholas Hawksmoor.

Depp's passable as lnspecter Abbeline ialthough his Cockney accent disti‘actsi. but Graham stinks. In an early establishing shot her Irish prostitute. Man Kelly. walks through the streets of Whitechapel. but Graham simply doesn't have the presence to hold the screen. The Brit old guard give their very best as always. but even they can't give this lightweight entertainment the gravatas the subject matter deserves. (Miles Fielderi I General release from Fri 8 Feb. See pr'evrew. page 2-1.



The Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery at the centre of Gosford Park is the least compelling part of Robert Altman '3 otherwise finely-observed period piece. Set in November 1932 over a few days during a shooting party at the eponymous country estate of Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambonl and Lady Sylvia McCordle (Kristin Scott Thomas). Gosford Park details the relationship between the filthy rich upper class and their put upon servants. And what detail. Altman. who came up with the idea for the film with actor Bob Balaban and then got Julian Fellowes to write the script. manages to flesh out the characters of all 25 or so members of the excellent ensemble cast. along with their own individual stories. That's no easy trick in two hours.

Triumphant upstairs] downstairs drama

There's a beautiful moment around the half way mark. shortly before the murder throws Gosford Park into chaos. when the McCordle's most famous guest. the matinee star Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam). woos the entire household by singing love songs at the piano. The posh guests react variously the snobby Countess of Trentham (Maggie Smith) asks others not to enCOurage him or he'll simply play more but the servants gather. outsrde doors. in darkened rooms. at the bottom of stairwells. in utter rapture. The sequence speaks volumes about those upstairs and those downstairs. Altman's film is full of these kind of telling observations.

The drama goes off the rails with the arrival of the police after the crime is discovered. Altman '3 surer joking when Inspector Thompson bumbles out of the dark and rainy night. pipe in mouth, in the form of Stephen Fry. Indeed. Balaban's character. Morris Weissman. is a Hollywood film producer at Gosford to research his next Charlie Chan film . . . which concerns a murder at a COuntry estate.

All very blindingly obvious. but Altman does manage to reSCue his film from the farce it almost becomes during the murder investigation. As it becomes clear he is using the murder merely as a devrce to reveal secrets between the classes. Gosford Park comes to a triumphant close.

(Miles Fielder) I GFI'. Glasgow; Film/rouse, Edinburgh from Fri 7 Feb.

of! Jan-l1 Feb 2002 THE LIST 25