I, ROBOT (12A) 115 min 000

Spoonerisms and rild wobots

As technology rockets us into the future, its brain-scorching afterburn ignites a growing technophobia, ranging from a mundane suspicion of computers to a paranoid fear that machines will one day take over the world. Fond memories of benign old Robby the Robot from The Forbidden Planet have been supplanted by nightmare images of the Skynet computers which unleash nuclear Armageddon, Schwarzenegger’s unstoppable cyborg in The Terminator. Or, perhaps, the creepy cyber-child of Spielberg’s AI. It was inevitable, therefore, that filmmakers would rediscover and plunder the source of most modern robot lore, Isaac Asimov’s 1950 short story collection I, Robot.

It was in I, Robot that Asimov expounded his Three Laws of Robotics: one, no robot may injure a human being; two, robots must obey human beings except where this would conflict with the first law; three, that a robot must protect itself except where this conflicts with laws one and two. In exploring the logical contradictions inherent in, and the dilemmas resulting from, these laws, Alex Proyas’s sci-fi thriller aspires to be a thinking person’s summer blockbuster. Sadly, its admirable intellectual ambitions are largely unfulfilled. The robots in this futuristic thriller have skeletal limbs and see-through breastplates, which reveal their inner workings. The same could be said of Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman’s script which, despite raising some intriguing ideas about artificial intelligence and free will, ultimately succumbs to transparent plot mechanics.

Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) distrusts all robots. So when the father of US Robotics’, Dr Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), is murdered by his latest creation, the affectionately named Sonny, Spooner immediately decides that slimy corporate boss, Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood), is involved in a cover up. After all, their latest domestic robot is about to be delivered to millions of American homes. To unravel the murder mystery, Spooner pounds the clean, mean streets of 2035 Chicago with slender nerd Dr Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), whose job is to make robots seem ‘more human’, as his sceptical side-kick. But not even the paranoid Spooner can visualise the scale of the problem. We’re not talking one renegade robot; we’re talking robot revolution.

Will Smith’s likeable, wisecracking persona has a harsher edge than usual, but he is still a lightweight movie star rather than a heavyweight actor. More damagingly, Dark City director Proyas soon abandons the philosophical conundrum of how to control evolving robots which have developed basic human emotions and nascent free will. Instead, we get car chases, punch-ups, and cliched confrontations between Spooner and his hard-ass boss, Lt John Bergin (Chi McBride). So, in lieu of a cogent, challenging examination of the fascinating issues raised, we get too many robots, too much frantic, ant-like activity, and way too much cynical product placement. (Nigel Floyd)

I General release from Fri (5 Aug.


One twist after the other

i>olu l chL (JONSl’lltACY mnll LtR SPA TAN (15) 106min 000

The president's daughter (Kristen Bell) is kidnapped during the American election campaign. Special Ops agent Robert Scott (Val Kllmerl is assigned to find her. But he soon realises that there are people who don't want the girl found and would prefer him dead. With rookie Curtis (Derek Lukel as his sidekick. Scott sets out to find her.

Even though Mamet's list of screenplays is t]r()‘.’/l.".§}, his even longer career as a plays/right still shines through as he presents us wrth this three act drama. The curtains go up (‘0 credits or ntusic. Just the lllll‘ title- and the fast paced action begins. So does the (inlfamous 'Mamet talk' which. witl‘ continents like 'l'm gonna /(}i‘()

you out' or ‘You wanna gossip or you vlranna shoot somebody?" pull you straight Out of the illusron in a Brechtian fashion.

The true allegiance of the characters is unclear and the audience is kept guessing all the way through the plot, which reveals one twist after the other. The main character gives no guidance. not being sure himself who to trust. This gives the audience an Interesting challenge. but simultaneously creates a barrier that leaves you caring little for what happens to Scott.

That said. if you can bare the occasional naff line. there is plenty of action and suspense in this thriller that will keep your brain ticking. but it's unlikely to linger in your consciousness for too long. (Adele Craciun)

I General release from Fri (5 Aug.


Rumoured to be Disney's final hand- drawn cartoon. Home on the Range is a traditional tale of the old West that follows the adventures of three mismatched “bovine bounty hunters': Maggie (voiced by Rosanne Barr), Mrs Talloway (Judi Bench) and Grace (Jennifer Tilly), who set out to track down a cattle rustler, collect some reward money and save their farm from foreclosure.

They're assisted by the usual gallery of anthromorphic supporting characters. including a one legged rabbit and an irritable goat (just in case younger minds have time to wander).

Animal Farm with added cancan dancing and yodelling

While any film narrated by a cow deserves applause, with lively set pieces including a bar-room brawl, mud-wrestling with cancan dancers and an extended psychedelic yodelling seguence. there's little in either the skittish comic characters or the bland prairie backdrops to create much enthusiasm for the passing of this well-worn genre. The most resonant images in Home on the Range. of the animals being packed up and sold oft as the farm goes under, suggest as much about the state of Disney as the Old West; a suitcase full of cute yellow chicks under a ‘For Sale' notice serves as a makeshift epitaph for the glory days of hand-drawn animation.

(Eddie Harrison) I General release from Fri 6 Aug.

5—12 Aug 2004 me LIST 1s