Computer Movies: Antitrust (2001)

After a lengthy discussion with some friends on Facebook about the merits of Hackers as opposed to The Net and other computer movies, my buddy from way back in the 5th grade Geof suggested I check out Antitrust. I immediately added it to the top-ish of my queue, but didn’t get around to watching it until the other day. Glad I did as it’s a fun mix of crazy computer stuff and fairly decent dramatic action. Kinda.

Here’s the deal: Ryan Phillippe’s a genius computer kid who gets hired by Tim Robbins’ giant Microsoft-like company, but one of his fellow genius computer programmers stays home to work out of his garage in his own start up company. Phillippe’s got a girlfriend in Claire Forlani who moves there with him. He also meets Rachel Lee Cook, a fellow programmer, and Tyler Labine (the bigger guy from Reaper and now Sons of Tucson) who seems to just show people around. As the movie progresses, Phillippe realizes this might be the most perfect job in the world as he starts suspecting Robbins and company of shady practices as he randomly pops up with pieces of code for Phillippe to use in his program.

Welcome to SPOILER country, taste the flavor! Turns out, of course, that things are WAY more devious. Robbins has goons like Labine kill programmers to steal their code, including Phillippe’s friend who staid home. Once he connects the dots, Phillippe hatches a plan with Cook to bring Robbins and company down. He chooses her because he discovers that Forlani is actually working for Robbins. Now that I think about it, this movie reminds me a lot of The Skulls with tons of betrayal and more twists and turns than you can easily keep track of.

Unlike some of the other Computer Movies, I can’t find any fault with the actual computer stuff in this movie, again, not that I’m any kind of expert, but it all seemed to play true. Plus, I watched a special feature on the DVD which had a woman talking about how she put the code together. I didn’t understand it, but no big deal there. What made me laugh is the idea that not only does Robbins’ company steal code from and spy on seemingly everyone with some talent, but also goes so far as to murder people and cover everything up. PLUS, he set Forlani up as a mole with Phillippe well in advance. We’re getting into spy/supervillain territory here. Now, I get that this came out around Bill Gates’ Microsoft antitrust case and there has always been corporate paranoia, but I just kept thinking of guys like Gates and Apple’s Steve Jobs and just laughing at the thought of them trying to kill someone. My outsiders view of the computer industry is that there are definitely some shady business practices, but I just can’t see it getting into murder territory. Just doesn’t seem to hold water for that particular industry.

Ah well, all in all, this was a good suggestion, thanks Geof! Oh, I also wanted to note how funny the sets are, especially in Robbins’ company. There are huge bouncy balls everywhere, tables made out of giant puzzle pieces and a kid’s area made completely out of Legos. No idea if that’s how things were back in the heyday of late 90s/early 00s computer companies, but it made me laugh. Even Grandma’s Boy didn’t go that far.

Josie and the Pussycats: The Movie!

I know there’s been a lot of talk about Josie and the Pussycats (2001) on the internet lately (well, Jim mentioned the soundtrack over on Enemy of Peanuts and also watched it last night at the same time I was and Kiel‘s been telling me to watch it for years). Well I finally checked it out and it was definitely surprising.

Did you fall for the hook? I hope so, because I loved this movie way more than I thought I would. Sure, I love Can’t Hardly Wait, which was written and directed by the same team as Josie (Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont), but this is a movie based on an Archie comic. That would seem to limit the comedic potential, right?

Fortunately no. First of all, I was surprised with how many “bitches” and “shits” we got at the end of the movie, but nowhere near as much as in the beginning when Tara Reid’s character causes a car crash by holding up a sign that, at first glance, reads “Honk if you love pussy.” She pulls the sign out from behind something to reveal that it actually says “pussycats,” but I was still surprised that joke made it into the movie. You always hear horror stories about really funny ideas being nixed because parent companies are worried about how it’ll make their property look. Apparently Archie Comics is pretty cool, or just weren’t paying attention.

The basic plot is that Alan Cumming (who I thought was Paul Reubens at first, sorry Alan) is a manager for a big record company looking for a new band to replace with the boy band whose plane he let crash (code “Put the Chevy to the levy”). He stumbles across Josie and the Pussycats and signs them, but it later turns out that Parker Posey, who runs the record company, has been encrypting subliminal messages in the music for various reasons. It’s a really goofy plot, exactly the kind you’d expect for a movie like this, but there are enough winks to the audience and tongues in cheek to let you in on the joke that the writers are making fun of movies just like this. It’s oddly subversive.

In honor of the marketing-to-kids theme/satirization, the filmmakers do quite a few things that I liked. First off, anytime the Pussycats are out in public, everyone else is where the “it” color of the moment (starting with pink, then orange and on and on). I noticed it before it was explained (the record company is controlling fashion and slang though these impressionable kids with tons of disposable income, as explained by Eugene Levy playing himself in a filmstrip), which made the reveal all the more satisfying. There’s also enough product placement to make Michael Bay jealous. According to IMDb, they didn’t actually receive any money for all the shout-outs as they were, again, there to show how crazy intense the marketing towards kids can be.

Josie also works as a strange kind of time capsule. TRL and Carson Daly play a somewhat important role in the movie. Daly and Reid have some screen time together and, as anyone who’s anyone will remember, they dated for some time (though I couldn’t remember when that happened or when they broke up, which made the scene both funny and awkward, like watching episodes of Newleyweds after Nick and Jessica got divorced). We also get glimpses of Behind the Music (a show they should really bring back along with Pop Up Video) and Serena Altschul of MTV News fame. If you were a way-too-avid watched of MTV in the late 90s, you’ll remember Serena, if not, she’ll just be another face on the screen, but man, that was a fun little flashback.

Lastly, I’ve got to talk about the cast. First up, you’ve got the Pussycats played by the aforementioned Reid, Rachel Leigh Cook (what is she doing nowadays?) and Rosario Dawson (I had no idea she was in this until the credits rolled). They’re all very serviceable in their roles, but they’re significantly outshined in my opinion by the members of Du Jour, the boy band (another 90s flashback now that I think about it) from the beginning of the movie consisting of Breckin Meyer, Seth Green Donald Faison and a guy named Alexander Martin who played the foreign exchange student in Can’t Hardly Wait. Now CHW fans will remember that Faison and Meyer played two members of the band at the party. I’d like to think that they ditched the other two guys, grabbed Green’s Kenny, taught the foreign kid to speak English and blew up on the boy band scene. These guys are hilarious from the very first moment they’re on screen to their inevitable plane crash.

After a quick look at the Robot Chicken IMDb page, I wonder if this is where Green met Meyer and Cook, both of whom who have regularly contributed voices along with tons of other late 90s “teen” actors. Maybe they can get a good script together and give us a new movie with all those familiar faces dealing with being in their late 20s/early 30s. I could go for that, how about you guys?