Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace REVIEW
Director – George Lucas
Cast – Liam Neesom, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid
— followed by Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
If there ever was a hotly debated, critically divisive movie, THIS is it. Fanboys have a frikin field day over this. And I believe, they do so without reason.
This movie (chronologically) starts off George Lucas’ science fiction, space fantasy series. It chronicles the discovery of a certain person called Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader). The parallel storyline is a war the Trade Federation is waging against the Naboo planet. Anakin and Friends of course, get involved in that as well.
Friends include Qui-Gon Jinn, played by Liam Neesom, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, played by Ewan McGregor. Jar Jar Binks (a character either liked or despised, depending which camp you belong to), a Naboo native, tags along for the movie. Yoda makes an appearance of course, voiced by Frank Oz as usual. Mace Windu makes his first appearance, played by Samuel Jackson.
Now in my opinion, this film is great. Sure the dialogue sucks (it sucks in the original trilogy too). Sure Jar Jar is a bit annoying to some (Ewoks anyone?). Theres lots to hate in both this and the original trilogy. But there is also lots to love. I defy you to call the podrace anything other than exciting and original. The closing dual between Obi, Qui Gon, and Darth Maul is in my opinion the second best fight in the whole series (topped only by Anikan vs. Obi Wan in Episode III). The fights are undeniably better in the Prequel Trilogy. All you have to do is compare Yoda vs. Sidious (Prequel Trilogy, Episode II) to Obi Wan vs. Darth Vader (Original Trilogy, Episode IV.) Prequel wins, no contest.
The prequel trilogy has been criticized for its complicated story line. Buswah, I cry. Ridiculous, say I. I’d take a storyline involving political manipulations, trade embargoes, etc. over “Hey, let’s blow up a space station real good.”
As I write this I realize my sympathies are seeping through, and I must admit, I like the Prequel Trilogy. Possibily as much as the Original Trilogy. Sorry. The fights are better (undeniably) the visuals are great (also undeniably) and I’m sorry, Return of the Jedi blew. Random karaoke rock songs, Ewoks beating up highly trained storm troopers, blablabla. Sorry, not my thing.
I realize I’m ranting. Sorry.
Ignore what you’ve heard about the latest Star Wars movies, (this one in particular) and watch them for yourself. If you go in with an open mind, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And the Darth Maul fight is sweet.
“Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace” on other websites:
Director – Danny Boyle
Cast – Cliff Curtis, Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Chipo Chung, Michelle Yeoh, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rose Byrne, Benedict Wong, Troy Garity
Danny Boyle has quite a wide portfolio of genres under his belt. His biggest movies include the recent massively-hyped underdog story Slumdog Millionare, classic drug movie Trainspotting, and even zombie horror with 28 Days Later.
Now with Sunshine he attempts the sci-fi genre, and what we get is certainly interesting. The plot follows the crew of a spaceship (Icarus II) who are sent to re-ignite the sun, which has somehow started to lose its power by being infected with a ” Q-Ball” (apparently somewhat scientifically accurate). The movie deals with the interactions among the crew members as they deal with the journey to their destination and the weight of their responsibility.
The first major plot point comes as the crew realizes that another ship (the Icarus I, which had bent sent previous to their own mission, and which had thought to have been destroyed, along with her crew) is in fact still intact and sending out a distress beacon. The physicist on board (played by Cillian Murphy) decides to alter their course to go to the ship, reasoning that as they didn’t exactly know if their own payload (used to re-ignite the sun) would work, if they had two the chances would be higher one would work.
Some characters disagree with him, and tension intrudes. A couple characters die due to this decision. People are, to put it simply, not happy.
Matters take a turn for the worst when they realize that one of the crew of Icarus I (the captain, Pinbacker) is still alive, and is hell bent on letting the sun destroy itself, and letting humanity die, citing it as God’s will.
Here is where the movie unfortunately loses ground. While the movie up to this point has been a contemplative sci-fi drama (along the lines of an Asimov story) with wonderful visuals, here it turns into a stalker/horror movie. Pinbacker is horribly scarred, and instead of just showing us that, Boyle for some reason decides to amp up the scars to a zombie-like level, and whenever Pinbacker is on screen a streaking/fog effect is used on him. It just doesn’t quite work.
It reminded me of I Am Legend in a way. Both that movie and Sunshine have a quiet and tense first two acts, and then abruptly finish with a somewhat generic ending. However, while I Am Legend always had a bit of action/whizzbang in the beginning (i.e. Will Smith speeding through the streets of New York in a pristine Mustang), Sunshine is really at heart a drama. Thus I Am Legend can be excused a little easier than this film.
However, having said that, the last ten minutes of this film are great. The acting is great all round, with Chris Evans and Cillian Murphy standing out in my opinion. Of course, their characters were very prominent, but their acting was very good. Chris Evans in particular is very good; he has a scene where he emerges himself into freezing cold coolant that he nails out the ballpark.
Overall, it is just the design of one character with which I had a problem. The movie is still good; however it could have been as good as say, Soderbergh’s Solaris. It isn’t, but it comes extremely close. The best parts will dazzle and intrigue you, the worst will at least offer good solid entertainment. Recommended for fans of classic, serious sci-fi; and also for those just looking for a good movie. A good film all around.
“Sunshine” on other websites:
Director – Zack Snyder
Cast – Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson
It seems that every time we turn around these days we see a new massively hyped film targeted to the young male/comic book fans/”nerds”. In recent memory there have been Cloverfield (which was succesful largely due to a huge internet ad blitz), Iron Man, The Dark Knight, The Incredible Hulk, etc etc. And now we have… Watchmen.
Now I personally have not read the book. Had I done so (I am told) I would most likely have joined in the hype myself. The trailers were very good, and the tone promised was very interesting. The idea of superheroes treated as flawed, even down right bad people peeked my interest.
And then I saw the movie.
Now don’t get me wrong, alot of it was good. Some of it was even awesome. (What comes to my mind first is the opening sequence where the Comedian is killed. You can rarely go wrong with slow motion carnage set to a melancholy 30’s jazz tune.) But some of it was pretty bad. One of the big things for me was Dr. Manhattan. And no, I’m not complaining about the rather nonchalant treatment of his nakedness. I thought that was done in a rather mature manner. It was his lines that were horrible. The first scene we see him in is absolute cringe-inducing, he rants and randomly extends into a treatise on life and the nature of the universe that make him sound like some 2 bit yoga instructor. The scene essentially is “Hi Dr. Manhattan.” “Hello.” “How DO you see the universe?” “The universe my dear is an extended psycho bable-babble babble babble…..” he drones on, the meantime the other character looks absolutly awed by this man she has known for years, as if he is totally new to her.
Then towards the end of the movie he essentially dooms the human race through his disinterest in their affairs, and ships his bags and moves to Mars. Silk Spectre tries to convince him to save Earth. He says no. Then she slams her hands into a massive glass sculpture he created. It cracks and shatters, and ALL OF A SUDDEN he does an utter about face, a total 180 degree turn, and starts spouting philosophically about how he realizes (in the 10 seconds it took for her to destroy his sculpture, apparently) that humanity is amazing, blablabla, that she is amazing, blablabla. It didn’t feel real to me, not in the slightest.
I’m not even going to talk about the sex scene. Set to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Enough said.
Now I shouldn‘t have started with the bad stuff, I really shouldn’t. Beccause there is alot good about this movie. The character design is great, and the acting good for the most part. The best part in my opinion is a short scene involving Night Owl II (Patrick Wilson) and the original Night Owl. They are sitting in a small, dimly lit apartment talking about their past. It said everything that the big visuals and pop music couldn’t, about the time they lived in. About their feelings about growing extinct, about not being wanted, etc.
Rorschach is a great character as well, although his voice started to grate on me, much in the same way Christian Bale’s Batman voice tends to do. But when the mask comes off, you really feel that this man could do the stuff we have seen him do. While Batman puts on a new character when he puts on the suit, Rorschach’s mask is already his character. And at the end Rorschach has a scene that will knock you out your seats. The look on his face is absolutely heart breaking. If you’ve seen the film you know what I mean.
There’s definitely worse movies out there. I recommend you watch this (if you don’t mind a bit of weirdness, which I like), just because what it does right, it REALLY does right. Just… try to ignore what it does wrong. Don’t get yourself worked up to see a masterpiece. Just try not to think of Watchmen sex next time you hear Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
“Watchmen” on other websites:
Son of Lassie REVIEW
Director – S. Sylvan Simon
Cast – Peter Lawford, Donald Crisp, June Lockhart, Nigel Bruce
“Son of Lassie?” I can hear you think. “What the hell?” I can hear you say. But there it is. Son of Lassie. But please, don’t let the title (which makes the movie sound like a corny, ridiculously contrived “sequel-for-the-point-of-a-sequel”) scare you off. While the title is in hindsight not the best, this movie is great family fare.
This sequel to 1943’s Lassie Come Home is just as good as the original (an under-seen classic), but it does differ enough to make it interesting. As in all the best sequels, it is darker than the first. While the obstacles in the first one amounted to at most thugs with sticks, this film throws Lassie and owner Joe Carraclough (now THERE’S a last name to be proud of) against none other than the Nazi’s themselves. And not absurd caricatures of Nazi’s either (which is unexpected, as this was made in the dying years of WW II) but decent portrayals of Nazi’s.
Yes, Nazi’s. That’s typical of this film. It is at heart a dog movie, it’s a warm family movie, but it shoots higher than average films of its ilk. The bad guys are Nazi’s who Joe tries to avoid after he is forced to parachute from a burning reconnaissance plane into the heart of Norway. (Yes, Norway.) Throughout the movie we meet English POW’s, and Norwegian resistance fighters. We watch a peaceful mountain village get the crap bombed out of it, and, what is more astonishing, we see the aftermath. People crushed under rock carts, etc. (In a Lassie movie? Yes, in a Lassie movie.) This movie treats it’s WW II subject matter JUST as seriously as The Great Escape for example, maybe even more so. The crowning touch is that the theme played throughout is an adaptation of Edvard Greig’s (a Norwegian) most famous piece, the Piano Concerto in A Minor, a great piece which suits the scenery and the action wonderfully.
One sequence in particular deserves special mention, and that is the final chase sequence. Joe and Lassie are running away from a prisoner work camp with a couple dozen of German soldiers in pursuit. They run pell-mell through beautiful Norwegian hills, rocks, and trees (actually filmed in Northern Canada). They hide under rocks, Joe smashes a soldiers head in and returns fire at the Germans. They run and run, until they find themselves on a large wooden bridge with Nazi’s at both ends. With nowhere else to go, Joe grabs Lassie in his arms and jumps the approx. 30 feet down to the raging water below. He falls down small waterfalls and battles rapids, all the way to a friendly fisherman’s house. It is a spectacular scene, guaranteed to leave you breathless (if you’re a kid) or at the very least interested (if you’re a cynical adult).
This is a great movie that happens to be aimed for the family demographic. It can, I believe, be watched and enjoyed by pretty much anyone. Definitely recommended.
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