Jack Thompson and Ita Buttrose - Jack Thompson and Ita Buttrose Sydney, Australia - The Australian premiere of 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' at the Greater Union Cinema - Arrivals Wednesday 21st May 2008
A kindred spirit of Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle ("God's lonely man") with politics, instead of prostitution, on his mind, Bicke fervently believes in honesty, upright morals, and a sense of decency and fairness. Unfortunately, his uncompromising idealism functions as a straightjacket, preventing him from performing the casual deceptions necessitated by his job as a furniture salesman or accepting the fact that his estranged wife Marie (Naomi Watts) must don a short miniskirt and tolerate customers' gropes to earn a living as a waitress. He resents the success of his tire salesman brother Julius, longs for the happy stability of living with his wife and three kids (who seem to fear him), sports fanciful dreams of starting his own tire business with an African-American friend (Don Cheadle's Bonny) and longs to join the Black Panthers (who he believes can relate to his supposed persecution). To Bicke, the world has been corrupted, and the only effective response - after sending Leonard Bernstein (a "pure and honest" man) his tape-recorded memoirs - is to orchestrate an attack on the White House via hijacked airplane that will, he imagines, awaken the world to American injustice.
Continue reading: The Assassination Of Richard Nixon Review
Heavy stuff, and though most of the based-on-a-play Morant plays out in holding cells and the courtroom, as a court martial determines the guilt of Morant and two of his compatriots (including Brian Brown in an early role), it's still compelling and fascinating stuff. Morant is a genuine bastard, but he's just following orders and trying to win a war. It's the same argument that we'd see in umpteen Nazi films (and understanding the intricacies of the Boer conflict is probably a fool's errand), but Woodward's Morant makes for a troubling and complex anti-hero. He's aided amicably by Jack Thompson, playing the three lieutenants' good-hearted but ultimately ineffective attorney. (Also of note, this film was director Bruce Beresford's big break. He'd come to Hollywood shortly after Morant hit.)
Continue reading: 'Breaker' Morant Review
Spider-Man's hype and box office may have stolen some of Episode II's thunder, but Attack of the Clones finally arrives, three years after its predecessor, The Phantom Menace, and picking up the story 10 years after that installment let off.
The story is considerably more convoluted this time out. Former Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) is now a senator in the Republic, and nefarious parties are repeatedly attempting to have her assassinated. Assigned to protect her are Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and a growing-up Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), now Obi-Wan's apprentice. Soon, Jedi bosses Yoda and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) split the two up: Obi-Wan is tasked with tracking down the bounty hunter who tried to kill Amidala (which turns out to be Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), father/clone of young Boba Fett). Anakin is tasked with serving as Amidala's bodyguard.
Obi-Wan scours a "secret" watery planet (there discovering a massing clone army allegedly purchased for the Republic ten years ago), and then tracks Jango to another planet, where he finds the opposition led by (try not to snicker) Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), who is amassing a droid army for war against the Republic.
Meanwhile, Amidala and Anakin fall in love (awwwwwwwwwwwww), but since she's a politician and he's a Jedi (bound to supress emotion -- which just ain't takin'), they have to keep their romance a secret (just like in The Bodyguard!).
Side stories galore take characters all over the galaxy far, far away... including the inevitable stop on Tatooine to help Anakin's mother and long spells on Coruscant, the 100%-urban capital planet.
On to the nagging questions: Foremost, Jar-Jar is back, and his part is not insubstantial; the character is as grating as ever. But all eyes are on Christensen, and he fills the shoes of Skywalker admirably, though he has apparently been given the sole direction to act like a really bratty teenager.
The use of CGI is on overload, and while many of the sets (real or digital) are quite successful, many of the backdrops are not -- notably the cheesy oceans on the clone planet and an especially flat cathedral-like hallway Yoda scoots through. When the CGI interacts with real-world elements (like when Anakin rides a fat sheep-like creature), the effect is about as believable as Barney being a real dinosaur.
Also out of place is the movie's silly patriotism, with frequent pontification about loving democracy (and this from a former queen -- albeit an "elected" queen... uh, okay) and the Republic. One speech actually includes the earnestly corny line, "The day we stop believing in democracy is the day we lose it!" I say the day Star Wars becomes nothing more than a political platform is the day we lose it.
At 2 1/2 hours in length, this installment is a bit long-winded and bladder-challenging (compared to 2:13 for Episode I and a little over 2 hours for A New Hope), but the decision to go "epic" at least makes room for lots of action when Amidala and Anakin aren't busy smooching. The action starts right at the beginning, with an impressive skycar chase through Coruscant, and ends with an equally smashing "big battle scene" that easily outdoes the one in Menace. Best of all, though, is the already famous Yoda light-saber battle, which is as funny as it is thrilling. That said, the pod race in Phantom is still probably the best action sequence in the series so far.
Less impressive are the talky parts, which haltingly attempt to create a romance between Amidala and Anakin. The love story just doesn't work and it's very awkward, maybe because George Lucas is simply out of touch with the realities of youthful romance, or maybe because the leads didn't have chemistry. I don't know for sure. I do know, however, that if Anakin Skywalker is going to play the cool outcast he shouldn't act like a baby around his would-be girlfriend. And Amidala's 11th hour confession of love comes completely out of left field, a necessary plot point because we know she has to eventually bear two kids by the guy.
In fact, much of Episode II feels like it's ticking off items to make sure we get to the appropriate state of the galaxy by the end of 2005's Episode III. There's still a long way to go -- Anakin has to turn evil and disfigured; Amidala has to have two kids, split them up, and have one become the princess of a planet still not introduced in the series; Yoda and Obi-Wan have to become hermits; and then there's the matter of the Death Star, which has to be built. Episode III is either going to be a complete disaster or a work of genius.
Altogether, the movie is enjoyable despite its nagging script inadequacies and crummy "down" scenes. The action is fun, the acting is good enough, and the direction is capable, if not inspired. If you're a die-hard Star Wars fan, you will like this better than Episode I (though I grade them roughly equal), but it still won't hold a candle to the earlier films.
But chances are when it's said and done, you aren't going to be talking about Episode II for its good things. An impromptu conversation with another filmcritic.com staffer set us off on a number of incongruities and simply baffling moments that might be pointing to Lucas's senility. For example: When did R2-D2 become able to fly? When did Obi-Wan become afraid of flying (or afraid of anything for that matter)? What's with Jimmy Smits and his Elizabethan collar? Since when does a Jedi Knight have to go to a library to figure out where a planet is? And why didn't Lucas get the hint about Jar-Jar Binks the first time around?
Mysteries of the universe, I tell ya.
The DVD answers few of these mysteries, with eight deleted scenes (see Natalie Portman lose her accent!) and various effects-oriented documentaries. There's even a trailer for a mockumentary about R2-D2. Amusing.
Teddy bears' picnic.
A by-the-book bodice-ripper set in 1890s Cuba, it's the steamy, sweaty story of a good man (Antonio Banderas) ruined by his love for a bad woman (Angelina Jolie), who takes him for everything he's worth and he still comes crawling back for more.
Jolie plays a Machiavellian seductress who passes herself off as the mail order bride for wealthy coffee baron Banderas, a man who apparently has trouble getting chicks in spite of being loaded, absurdly chivalrous and, well, Antonio Banderas. They marry only hours after she disembarks from the steam liner that brought her to Havana, and Banderas is soon surprised to find himself passionately in love with this sultry, ambrosial woman -- who subsequently absconds with the contents of his bank account after a few seemingly blissful weeks.
The same day a vaguely sleazy gentleman dandy of a private eye (Thomas Jane, "Deep Blue Sea") shows up investigating the disappearance of the real mail order bride. Incensed, Banderas begins a hunt for his wayward wife that has an unexpected result: When he finds her -- seducing another rich man in another Cuban city -- he's once again overwhelmed by desire. She breaks down, spinning a sob story about being forced into a partnership with a crooked man from her past -- hmmm, who could that be? -- and soon they're on the run together from the detective. Or so Banderas thinks. The truth is a fluid thing in "Original Sin."
Continue reading: Original Sin Review
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