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PARAMOUNT

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Jan de Bont
Cast:
Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler, Ciarán Hinds, Chris Barrie, Noah Taylor, Djimon Hounsou, Til Schweiger, Simon Yam
Writing Credits:
Steven E. de Souza, James V. Hart, Dean Georgaris

Synopsis:
Lara Croft is back in action and faces her most perilous mission; to recover what ancient civilization believed to be the essence of all evil, Pandora’s Box. She must travel the globe, from Greece to Hong Kong to Kenya and beyond to get to the box before it is found by a maniacal scientist whose plan it is to use it for mass annihilation.

For this adventure Lara recruits her ex-partner, Terry Sheridan, a dangerous mercenary who has previously betrayed Lara and their country. She knows he's the best for the mission, but can she trust him again?

Join her as she races through furious hand-to-hand battles, blazing shoot-outs and breathtaking sky-diving escapes to try to save the ancient artifact ... and mankind’s future.

Box Office:
Budget
$90 million.
Opening Weekend
$21.783 million on 3222 screens.
Domestic Gross
$65.568 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 117 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 11/18/2003

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Jan De Bont
• Deleted/Alternate Scenes with Optional Jan De Bont Commentary
• Five Featurettes
• Gerard Butler’s Screen Test
• Two Music Videos
• Original Theatrical Website Archives


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RELATED REVIEWS


Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 7, 2003)

Many hoped that Lara Croft would develop into a consistent movie franchise character ala Indiana Jones or James Bond. Alas, that now seems exceedingly unlikely. The first Croft flick from 2001 did reasonably well. Its $131 million gross didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but it appeared more than enough to set the wheels for a sequel in motion.

2003 brought that sequel with Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life. Perhaps to protest that awkward title, audiences mostly skipped this one. The second Croft tale managed to nab almost exactly half of the original’s take with a gross of $65 million. In an objective sense, that’s not a terrible tally, but for a mega-budgeted summer blockbuster, it’s pretty rotten. That’s especially true because the days in which studios expected sequels to gross only about two-thirds of the originals are long gone; mega-sequels like The Matrix Reloaded and X2: X-Men United have seen to that.

In Cradle, an earthquake apparently reveals the Luna Temple, the holding place of Alexander the Great’s most prized possessions. Along with many others, Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) hunts for it, but she figures out its secret and gets there first. Unfortunately, some baddies led by Chen Lo (Simon Yam) track her there. They kill her crew and nab the temple’s prize, a special orb. Lara narrowly escapes and then sets off in pursuit of the orb and revenge.

In the meantime, we meet biological weapons inventor Jonathan Reiss (Ciaran Hinds). He offers a special new weapon called “Pandora” for sale. We soon learn that this is literally Pandora’s Box and it will unleash a virulent plague. The orb acts as a map to find the Box in a legendary spot called the Cradle of Life.

The boys at MI6 recruit Lara to act as their agent to stop Reiss. She agrees, but only if they allow her to work with her old partner Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler). An imprisoned traitor, MI6 doesn’t want to do this, but Lara gives them little choice. She and Terry strike up a new partnership as they pursue the orb and try to stop Reiss’ evil plans.

Though the Tomb Raider videogames owed a lot to the Indiana Jones movies, this flick betrays a much stronger connection to the Bond flicks. Lara does a lot more action/adventuring than she does tomb raiding, and while her roster of gadgets doesn’t rival 007’s, she presents a decent set of devices to help her on her quest. Lara goes high-tech with different elements that don’t quite stretch reality ala Bond, but they seem quite cutting edge.

Because the production values of Cradle seem strong, it doesn’t come across like a poor man’s Bond, but it doesn’t live up to the levels of our favorite secret agent. Part of the problem stems from the way the action integrates with the story. A lot of it seems gratuitous and tacked onto the tale. Some of the action fits with the plot adequately, but too much of it appears to occur just to give the flick some punch. The set pieces usually work fine, but I’d like them more if they blended better.

Similar sentiments greet the pairing of Jolie and Butler. They look good together, and separately, they fill their roles fairly well. However, they don’t display much chemistry. Too much of the time they feel like they’re on different pages. Physically, they come across like a real couple, but they don’t really connect in other ways. The script’s lousy attempts at comic banter between the pair don’t work either, and they only accentuate the absence of chemistry.

Jolie remains the best thing about the Raider movies. She possesses the spark to make Lara a strong and dynamic character, and she certainly handles all the physical demands well. Jolie’s no girlie-girl who looks like she worries about breaking a nail; she demonstrates a tough personality that allows Lara to seem like a viable character. There’s a sense of danger and venom behind Jolie that makes her more compelling than she otherwise might have been.

The first Tomb Raider movie didn’t present anything special, and Cradle of Life doesn’t bring new verve to the series. Nonetheless, it offers a reasonably entertaining spectacle. It seems utterly predictable and fails to feature much creativity, but it comes across as generally enjoyable. Don’t expect much and you might have a good time.


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A/ Bonus B

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the disc for the original Tomb Raider movie seemed less than stellar, Cradle provided a consistently solid picture.

Sharpness was excellent. At no time did I notice any signs of softness or fuzziness. Instead, the movie appeared tight and well defined. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and only a little light edge enhancement manifested itself occasionally. As one might expect from such a recent movie, Cradle lacked any sign of source flaws.

Given the movie’s range of settings, it offered a pretty good array of colors. The hues came across as vibrant and dynamic throughout the movie. The film offered rich and concise tones that were well represented. The sequence in Shanghai presented especially lively colors. Blacks also seemed tight and dense, while low-light shots appeared appropriately detailed and accurate. Some moderately funky-looking digitally graded day for night photography gave parts of the final act an odd appearance, but the images remained adequately visible. Ultimately, I found little about which to complain in this generally excellent transfer.

In addition, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life seemed solid. The soundfield offered a consistently lively and engaging experience. From the forward speakers, I heard solid stereo separation for the music, and effects presented a vibrant and active presence. Different elements were neatly localized, and they moved across channels and blended together neatly and cleanly.

The surrounds also contributed a terrific amount of information as they created an encompassing environment. The rear speakers featured solid reinforcement of music throughout the film, and it included a wide variety of effects as well. Virtually every action sequence came across with a fine level of excitement and activity from all around the spectrum. Gunfire, critters, vehicles, and various baddies all popped up from the different speakers, and these allowed the mix to really kick to life nicely.

Audio quality also appeared very solid. Although much of the speech needed to be looped, dialogue always came across as natural and distinct, and I heard no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Music seemed robust and vivid, as the songs and the score demonstrated good fidelity and range. Effects were the stars of the show, however, as they presented excellent clarity and accuracy and also packed a good punch. Bass response seemed deep and rich, and highs were crisp and bright. Cradle didn’t quite live up to the reference-quality audio of two other Jan De Bont flicks - Twister and The Haunting - but it created an excellent impression nonetheless.

Despite the film’s lackluster box office reception, Paramount accorded Cradle a good special edition DVD. It opens with an audio commentary from director Jan De Bont, who offers a running, screen-specific piece. De Bont covers a mix of topics, most of which focus on technical domains. He gets into locations, stunts, visual effects, and the many logistical challenges caused by this sort of massive project. De Bont also occasionally chats about the actors and lets us know a little about casting, improvised lines, and some other issues, but he mostly goes over the nuts and bolts issues. At times De Bont favors too much praise; we always hear how this was fantastic and that was amazing. Nonetheless, he gives us a lot of information and creates a reasonably interesting examination of the movie.

Up next we find seven deleted/alternate scenes. Presented non-anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 audio, these run a total of 11 minutes and 41 seconds. Most of these offer fairly uneventful moments that slightly expand existing concepts and seem inconsequential. One introduces the Djimon Hounsou character earlier in the film, and the alternate ending provides a less effective conclusion to the movie. The latter’s the most interesting to see, as it’s a rare example in which the utilized ending seems more daring than the unused one.

One can view the deleted/alternate scenes with or without commentary from director De Bont. He gives us some notes about each clip and explains why he omitted all of them. The commentary adds nice information about the snippets.

In the Featurettes domain, we locate five programs that cover various aspects of the movie. These include “Training” (eight minutes, 54 seconds), “Vehicles and Weapons” (4:28), “Stunts” (10:54), “Visual Effects” (11:25), and “Scoring” (4:44). These combine movie snippets, behind the scenes images, and interviews. We get comments from director De Bont, stunt coordinator Simon Crane, actors Angelina Jolie, Christopher Barrie, Noah Taylor, Ciaran Hinds and Gerard Butler, story writer James V. Hart, personal trainer Ed Chow, stuntwoman Nicola Berwick, horse trainer Gerard Napliox, action vehicle coordinator Graham Kelly, armorer Richard Hooper, special effects director Chris Corbould, line producer Phillip Lee, visual effects supervisors Steven Begg and Ben Shepard, production designer Kirk M. Petrucelli, and composer Alan Silvestri.

“Training” concentrates on Jolie’s preparation, as we see her learn and execute different physical activities. “Vehicle and Weapons” offers what the title states, though it doesn’t include much depth. Nonetheless, it presents a fun sequence in which Jolie examines all her new toys with Hooper. “Stunts” discusses the scene in which Lara and Terry quickly descend on ropes as well as the high-rise jump. “Visual Effects” looks at the faked underwater photography, the Stealth re-entry pod, and the creatures and setting in the Cradle of Life. Lastly, “Scoring” looks at the movie’s music, its creation and intent. None of these seem outstanding, but all offer some nice moments and collectively give us a pretty decent look at the movie.

A short but cool feature shows up via Gerard Butler’s Screen Test. In this three-minute and 59-second snippet, he performs the scene in which we first meet Terry in jail. It’s quite a good performance; many screen tests seem somewhat artificial, but this one feels like it could go straight into the final flick.

After this we discover two music videos. The disc presents Korn’s “Did My Time” and the Davey Brothers’ “Heart Go Faster”. The former mostly mixes the usual lip-synch and movie elements, but it also attempts some sort of plot and incorporates specially-shot footage of Jolie in character, so it seems a little more interesting than usual. The latter presents no new shots of Jolie and consists of band images and movie bits. However, it’s a little more stylish than most in its genre.

For DVD-ROM users, we can check out an archive from the original theatrical website. Based on the DVD itself – you need no Internet connection – this includes some exclusive footage from the set as well as a mix of downloads, interviews, and text pieces. It’s a decent little collection.

At the start of the disc, you have the option to watch some previews. This includes ads for Paycheck, and The Adventures of Indiana Jones. These also appear as part of the “Special Features” menu. One other note: as usual with Paramount’s releases, most of the extras provide both English and French subtitles.

Without Angelina Jolie, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life would probably be little more than an average action/adventure flick. Actually, with Jolie it rarely seems better than average, but the actress helps give the movie a decent personality. Cradle remains pretty pedestrian, but it nonetheless provides some enjoyable moments. The DVD offers very strong picture and audio plus a reasonably satisfying set of extras. Action fans won’t find anything remarkable in Cradle, but it gives us a moderately enjoyable romp highlighted by its lead actress.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 45
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