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Film Clips: 'Cowboy Bepop, The Movie', 'Intacto', 'Pokemon Heroes'

A roundup of new releases

Friday, June 06, 2003

'Cowboy Bepop: The Movie'

RATING: R for some violent images.

DIRECTOR: Shinichiro Watanabe.

"Cowboy Bebop: The Movie" assumes that viewers are familiar with its back story. That's no problem for the hordes of teenage and other fans who have devoured the TV series version of this Japanese anime. The rest of us get the idea quickly enough.

The tale unfolds on Mars in the year 2071 (my daughter, who insisted on watching with me so I would have a clue, informs me Earth has been rendered uninhabitable). A bioterrorist sets off an explosion in Alba City, releasing a weapon that kills 500 people.

The government offers a huge reward, capturing the interest of the bounty hunters (whom civilians refer to as cowboys) aboard the spaceship Bebop. Spike Spiegel is jaded on the outside and wistful on the inside, a loner who chooses to ride with a crew. Jet Black is the "old man" of the group -- he's in his 30s. Faye Valentine (Wendee Lee) is a joyriding gambling addict who favors tight vinyl blouses. Edward Wong (who is female) is a red-haired idiot savant with the social skills of a 5-year-old but the computer-hacking ability of Bill Gates' worst nightmare.

Each of them chases leads that lead them to a tall, dark and gloomy Armageddon monger named Vincent, whose motivations for destroying humanity are about as murky as his thought processes. Just wait until he tries to explain himself in the kind of pretentious monotone that, well, almost every other character in the film uses when one of them gets philosophical. Like the movie, which lasts 110 minutes, they run on too long.

But if the movie and its characters are rather too full of themselves, director Shinichiro Watanabe and his animation crew compensate by creating a great-looking film. "Cowboy Bebop" offers realistic visuals with mostly subdued colors except for the deep blue of the Martian sea and sky (I forgot to ask my daughter about those) and rich detail, especially in its streetscapes. You could lose yourself in these cities -- but I suppose that's why they have bounty hunters.

-- Ron Weiskind

'Intacto'

RATING: R for language, some violence

and brief nudity.

STARRING: Leonardo Sbaraglia, Eusebio Poncela, Monica Lopez, Max Von Sydow.

DIRECTOR: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo.

How lucky can you get? Actually, the Spanish movie "Intacto" suggests luck is a gift you are born with. But others can siphon it off from you if you're not careful, and vice versa.

If you're really lucky, you can go to a casino in the desert and play for the highest stakes of all against Sam (Max Von Sydow). Put five bullets in a gun and leave the sixth chamber open. Spin the cylinder, point the barrel in his face and pull the trigger. Let's put it this way: Sam's still playing. His opponents aren't. So maybe being really lucky isn't such a good thing.

"Intacto" runs on such conundrums. Another one is the way in which certain people are saved from death (or might have been) because someone tells them, "I don't love you anymore." What a cold, painful little world director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and his co-writer, Andres M. Koppel, have created.

Another of the film's "gifted" inhabitants is Federico (Eusebio Poncela), who works at Sam's casino but decides to leave when he realizes Sam isn't dying anytime soon. Sam lets him go, but not before stealing his luck away.

Federico spends years looking for a protege who might be able to take on Sam. He finds one in Tomas (Leonardo Sbaraglia), the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed 273 people. He introduces Tomas to an underground gambling circuit where people bet the luck of other people in bizarre games of chance. Whose head will a cricket land on? Who will be the last man or woman standing after a blindfolded run through a dense forest?

The film's fatalism stems more from Fresnadillo's moody direction and the circumstantial plot than from the characters themselves, including a policewoman (Monica Lopez) on Tomas' trail whose luck saved her in a car accident in which her husband and child died. Some luck. See if you feel lucky after watching "Intacto" and whether luck is all it's cracked up to be.

-- Ron Weiskind

'Pokemon Heroes'

RATING: G.

Kids who love Pokemon movies are no doubt going to see "Pokemon Heroes," and they'll have a blast watching it. They'll meet two new characters, Latias and Latios, who will seem adorable to them. They should enjoy it while they can. Very soon they will become older and more sensible and understand how terrible these movies are.

If they were older, for instance, they would block their ears at the terrible screeching noises made by these weird bird-like beings, and would cringe at this fifth installment of the ridiculously successful Pokemon series, which has a zestless story set in a city on water.

But for now, they will enjoy the exploits of Ash, Pikachu (who says "Pikachu" so many times per minute, it's a wonder the other characters don't stone him) and the other poke-types.

This one's for kids and no one else.

-- Desson Howe, Washington Post

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