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Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2008 03:03 pm

Bolt delivers in-your-lap entertainment

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Bolt Running Time 1:36 Rated PG ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

If the reaction by the youngsters in the audience at last Saturday night’s preview of Disney’s Bolt is any indication, the new digital 3-D process that was used to make this feature is here to stay. “Oohs” and “aahs” filled the theater as did the sight of young hands reaching towards the screen, trying to grab the many pixeled pictures that floated before them. Without question, this is not your grandfather’s 3-D, as this new technique lends a depth of field to the screen that’s astonishing and the illusion that fireballs or helicopters are breaking the fourth wall is as real as it gets, making this one of the most significant advancements in motion pictures in the last 20 years.

Thankfully, the story these effects are used to bring to life is worthwhile as well. Bolt (voice by John Travolta) is a television superstar, a normal canine who believes that he has the many superpowers that his on-screen counterpart possesses. His owner and the co-star of the show, Penny (Miley Cyrus), worries about her dog’s well-being, as he’s never allowed off the set and remains convinced that his super speed and super bark are the real deal. However, circumstances arise that find Bolt inadvertently sealed up in a packing crate and accidentally shipped to New York City, where he finds himself alone on the streets, desperate to get back to Penny, who he believes has been kidnapped by the bad guys on their show.

The cross-country journey Bolt embarks on is a long one and the film stumbles by not compressing it more than it does. Our canine star is accompanied by Mittens (Susie Essman), a reluctant cat hostage and Rhino (Mark Walton), an overzealous hamster. This pair provides some genuine laughs (a scene where they beg for food at a trailer park) and thrills (hopping a fast-moving freight train). There’s just the right amount of action sequences, as one more would have run the risk of repetition. In the end, it’s a sense of poignancy that makes Bolt worthwhile, as the film effectively reiterates that it’s all right to just be yourself. Then again, those scenes where the dogs look like they’re going to land in your lap are pretty cool too.

Quantum of Solace Running Time 1:46 Rated PG-13 ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

The neatest thing in the latest James Bond thriller, Quantum of Solace, is a digital briefing table in the headquarters of MI-6 in which photos and film providing information on international bad guys can be manipulated by hand and pushed across its surface and onto a projection screen. Nifty stuff and if this is available I want one now.

The reason I say this is the coolest thing in the film is because it is one of the few objects our eyes are allowed to rest upon unbroken for more than three seconds. Prolonged action sequences are theses film’s bread-and-butter and while Solace is full of them, they are all nearly incomprehensible. Director Mark Forster, an action film novice, and editors Matt Chesse and Richard Pearson follow in the footsteps of the last Bourne film and have cut together the various fights and chases so rapidly that headaches rather than thrills are induced. This film’s not for those who easily become motion sick.

These moments prove an unnecessary distraction to what is a rather solid story as Bond (Daniel Craig) sets out to uncover who’s behind the Solace group, a band of eco-terrorists out to control the water rights of the world, starting in Bolivia. It’s a timely plot, tautly told and 007’s ally in his pursuit, the revenge-driven Camille (Olga Kurylenko) is a worthy cohort as her motivations are honest and plausible. She holds her own throughout, especially in the film’s final action sequence in a hotel that is inexplicably built in the middle of a desert. Craig continues to impress with his smoldering, violent take on the character and this segment’s bad guy, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), though not physically imposing, oozes menace and deceit.

The best thing about the film is the effort by Forster and his writers to make Bond’s newest adventures relevant to modern international political concerns. This is a wise step towards making the series timely. Next time, I just hope I’m able to see how Bond escapes the many traps set for him so I understand how he manages to keep himself relevant.

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