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Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Maybe movies based on video games can be good. Maybe someday Guy Ritchie will make a three-hour version of Frogger and it will be friggin' brilliant. Who's to say? But until somebody actually finds a way to miscegenate theatrical films and electronic entertainment, video-game movies are doomed to be little more than high-concept marketing gimmicks, as there's little room for thematic depth but they offer two things Hollywood bean-counters desire the most: established branding and a built-in audience. That's why, in the summer of 2001, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was unleashed on the masses. It's also why we can expect more of the same whenever summer rolls around. Staring Academy Award-winner Angelina Jolie as the (ahem) tit-ular character Lara Croft, and directed by Jerry Bruckheimer protégé Simon West (Con Air, The General's Daughter) LCTR looked to be the sharpest joystick movie yet, but instead ended up being one of the worst (that is, if it's possible to be worse than Super Mario Brothers). The film follows the adventures of Ms. Croft, a wealthy, bored heiress with a hankering for trouble, and who pines for her long-absent father (played by Jolie's real-life pappy Jon Voight). The viewers must guess that she's into archeology, as she's known as a "tomb raider," but very little in the way of academia informs her work. The plot gets underway when Lara finds herself involved with the Illuminati after a clock is found under the stairs of Croft Manor — a timepiece that is the key to unlocking a machine that will somehow give God-like power to whomever controls it, if they are in the right place when all the planets are in alignment, and if they find two parts of a mysterious triangle, which are located at different corners of the world. Lara is challenged by Powell (Ian Glen), a leading member of the Illuminati who's trying to gain control of the clock, and who informs her that her father was once a member of their powerful underground association. It's up to Lara to keep the powers of time out of the hands of these wicked men, even though this power might reunite her with dear ol' dad. What little there is of plot in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is just in service of the relentless techno-scored action scenes that dominate the majority of the 100-minute running-time (or 92 minus credits). Things like character development, motivation, or even a sense of danger are sacrificed to pound the audience over the head with "entertainment." And where good movies seduce your attention so that by the ending you leave satisfied, films like Tomb Raider are too impatient to actually tell a story or give a character to root for, making the experience more numbing than exciting. Jolie — usually an exciting on-screen presence — is relegated to being a prop instead of a performer, more likely to use her kung fu grip and dynamic low-kick + high-punch button combination than emote, and the fey baddie Glenn registers even less of a presence. Director West, trying to be a low-rent Steven Spielberg, comes off as a high-rent Andy Sidaris (except without the R-rating) as the film offers Jolie's D-cup ta-tas in every shot she's in (she even gets a PG-13 shower and wet T-shirt scene). But much like the relentless action, the endless gawking at Jolie's padded bra ultimately takes all the fun out of it. LCTR may be faithful to the video game it's based on — but who wants to watch someone else play a video game on your quarter? Paramount's DVD is loaded, with the film presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), and audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround — audio that could be demo material if it wasn't so annoying. Features include a semi-engaging kiss-kiss commentary by director West, an excess of featurettes — with topics that include the stunts, Jolie's training, the video game, special effects sequences, and more — four deleted scenes, an alternate (longer) title sequence, a still gallery, and a U2 music video. Keep-case.

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