Louis D Esposito, Tom Hiddleston, Alan Taylor, Natalie Portman, Chris Hemsworth and Kevin Feige - German premiere of 'Thor - The Dark Kingdom' at Cinestar am Potsdamer Platz movie theater. - Berlin, Germany - Sunday 27th October 2013
Lily Collins will star in the movie adaptation of the mash-up novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Lily Collins is attached to the movie adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's mash-up novel 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.' The movie was originally set up at Lionsgate with Oscar winner Natalie Portman to star, though the studio went through a revolving door of directors including David O'Russell, Mike White and Craig Gillespie before the project seemingly fell apart.
Following Portman's exit as the star, Scarlett Johansson, Mia Wasikowska and Anne Hathaway flirted with starring in it, though Lily Collins appears to have snagged the role. The producers - which include Portman - have chosen '17 Again' director Burr Steers to helm the adaptation.
Panorama will produce and finance the movie, which they intend to sell at the Cannes Film Festival, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The 2009 book is a mash-up of Jane Austen's classic 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice with elements of modern zombie fiction, crediting Austen as a co-author. The story follows the plot of the original book, but places it in an alternative universe version of the Regency-era of Britain, where zombies, skunks and chipmunks roam the countryside.
Jane Got A Gun gets Gavin O'Connor to direct
Gavin O’Connor will fill the boots of the absent Lynne Ramsey on the western drama, Jane Got A Gun, starring Natalie Portman, Deadline report.
Best known for his work on MMA drama Warrior, O’Connor will have to work quickly to get up to speed, considering the way in which Ramsey left the show (a rather unceremonious ‘not showing up on day one of shooting’ routine, if you didn’t remember). O’Connor – also the writer-director of Pride And Glory, Miracle and Tumbleweeds – will get the show back on the road on Thursday. “I have millions of dollars invested, we’re ready to shoot, we have a great script, crew and cast,” Scott Steindorff – producer and financier of the show - told Deadline of Ramsey’s sudden departure: “I’m shocked and so disappointed someone would do this to 150 crew members who devoted so much time, energy, commitment and loyalty to a project, and then have the director not show up. It is insane somebody would do this to other people. I feel more for the crew and their families, but we are keeping the show going on, directors are flying in, and a replacement is imminent."
Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millipied
Continue reading: Gavin O’Connor Directing 'Jane Got A Gun' After Lynne Ramsay's No-Show
Benjamin Millepied became something of a household name when he choreographed the Oscar winning Natalie Portman / Mila Kunis movie, Black Swan. It was there that he first met Portman, and three years later they are married with a child. Life continues to move quickly for the talented couple as, in what has been described as a 'surprising move' been given the job of 'Director of the Paris Opera Ballet', meaning he and the family are relocating to the the most romantic city in the world, Paris, in 2014.
As Sarah Crompton, from the Telegraph, says, it was expected that someone already working at the company would fulfil the role. However, clearly no one is as good as Millepied so the role has been offered to him instead. The Paris Opera Ballet is one of the oldest and most esteemed of its kind in the world.
Speaking to the New York Times he was clearly as surprised (if not more so) as the rest of us: "I certainly knew about the position, but I also knew that there were candidates from within the company," he said. "I was surprised, but I felt very quickly that the artistic dialogue between us was an exciting one. After a while I did feel there was a really good chance I might get the position. Which made my head spin."
Natalie Portman’s husband Benjamin Millepied has been named as the new director of the Paris Opera Ballet.
Millepied was the choreographer on Black Swan, the 2011 movie that won Natalie an Oscar. Millepied helped the actress to develop her role, for the obsessive, paranoid ballerina and eventually then went on to marry her, last year. The couple also have a son together.
Millepied, now 35, was formerly one of the principal dancers with the New York City Ballet. He left in 2011, in order to create his own dance company in Los Angeles, named the LA Dance Project. His role at the Paris ballet begins in October 2014, New York Post have reported, to take over from the current director Brigitte Lefevre, who will be retiring. There’s no word as yet whether or not Natalie and Benjamin will be moving permanently to Paris with their son Aleph Portman-Millepied.
Forbes has released their most bankable Hollywood stars list for 2012, and topping the list is Natalie Portman.
Portman brings back $42.70 for every $1 she's paid which makes her a very lucrative investment for any film maker. Her first movie was Leon: The Professional way back in 1994, which was not only successful at the time but has gained something of a cult status. Her roles since have been diverse and interesting, including V for Vendetta, the Star Wars prequel trilogy and the multi-award winning Black Swan. However, as Forbes notes, it's that she's simply not being paid enough for her talents and appeal that push her to the top of the table. To put her numbers in perspective, the most overpaid actor in Hollywood is Eddie Murphy who brings back just $2.30 for every $1 he's paid.
Following close behind in second place is Kristen Stewart largely for her starring role in the Twilight Saga, she makes film companies $40.60 for every dollar paid. In third is Shia LaBoeuf, perhaps a little surprising, but his roles in The Transformers movies - enormous summer blockbusters that have never failed to make millions upon millions of dollars- have pushed him into the top 5. He'll probably not be seen here again having said that he'll not be appearing in anymore movies of the franchise.
Continue reading: Men Dominate Most Bankable Stars List, But Topped By Women.
A Natalie Portman advert, which features the star selling some Christian Dior mascara, has been pulled off the airways for exaggerating the effect of the product on her lashes, Sky News reports.
The ad-breaks are full of them; beauty adverts and yogurt adverts full of what sound like made up chemicals and tests. One day, there will be a chemical in a product that will simply be called: moreofhappiness, if this current trend continues. There’s a fine line between making something sound better than it actually is, with a deceiving grip of the English language and the guile of some marketing exec, who would rather trick hungry consumers than show self respect and tact, and bare faced lying. Christian Dior are reportedly guilty of the latter, but it’s anyone’s guess how much of the former they were attempting. "The miracle of a nano brush for an unrivalled lash creator effect. It delivers spectacular volume-multiplying effect, lash by lash,” said the advert, which to be fair to it, sounds like very other make up advert out there. However, The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated the ad after rival cosmetics firm L'Oréal complained that it misleadingly exaggerated the likely effects of the product.
Dior, while admitted some photoshopping had been done to Portman’s eyelashes, defended their ad campaign, saying the retouching was "primarily used to separate/increase the length and curve of a number of her lashes and to replace/fill a number of missing or damaged lashes". Anyway, it's been taken off the air and isn't allowed back on.
For years now many critics have complained about the way women are portrayed in the media, particularly in magazines. While women are still represented in images of them that have been 'retouched' or even heavily edited, to make them slimmer, smoother, curvier, more toned and generally more attractive, the same treatment is given to eyelashes, to equal scrutiny and as a result Dior have had their 'DIORSHOW' mascara campaign banned.
The campaign was fronted by Oscar winning Black Swan actress, Natalie Portman. Her lashes appear full, long and thick- the lashes all women are after, and are accompanied by the words; "Lash-multiplying effect volume and care mascara... It delivers spectacular volume-multiplying effect, lash by lash." However, L'Oreal noticed that the photograph had been retouched to make them appear fuller, longer and thicker. They made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), reports Sky News, which followed up the complaint with an investigation.
Dior admitted to altering the images, which was "primarily used to separate/increase the length and curve of a number of her lashes and to replace/fill a number of missing or damaged lashes". However, Dior still defended the ad, arguing that no customers have complained, and as the Independent reports, Dior considers consumers aware that the ad is "stylised" and "aspirational". Nevertheless, the ASA weren't impressed, no matter how sweetly Dior batted their eyelashes and smiled, and ruled that the advert may not be reproduced further in its current form. Other brands have had a similar treatment including Special K, American Apparel, Ryan Air and original complainant L'Oreal have all had adverts banned by ASA this year. The question remains though, if it's not okay for Dior to apply 'minor retouches' to lashes, then why are so many magazines allowed to alter images of women to an unrealistic level?
Will Lindsay Lohan really vote for Mitt Romney at the U.S. Presidential Elections in three weeks’ time? Granted, it’s probably not the question on everyone’s lips at the moment, though we thought we’d ask it anyway: just for the hell of it.
The troubled actress raised a couple of eyebrows last week when she revealed Mitt Romney was likely to get her vote at the election. During a frenzied red-carpet appearance, Lohan was asked everything from her current relationship status to her hair color, though it was her answer to a fairly innocuous question about the elections that made the headlines. No doubt the reporter anticipated that Lohan would pledge her allegiance to Obama and be done with it, though – shock horror – she threw her support behind Romney. Her reasons? “I just think unemployment is really important, so as of now I think it's Mitt Romney…As of now,” she said. So it looks as though there’s still time for President Obama to twist Lindsay’s arm, though we’re not sure if he’ll be too bothered. According to the New York Daily News, the actress isn’t even a registered voter, with Angie Comer of the Los Angeles County Registrar saying, “Her status is inactive. She did not vote. Her records would be there…She could go to her old voting place if she wants to vote in this election or there's an option to update her registration online.” So that’s that then.
President Obama seems to have the backing of pretty much everyone else in Hollywood – Brad Pitt, Eva Longoria, Jamie Foxx, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, you name it – though the election is likely to go down to the wire.
This boisterous comic book movie benefits hugely from Branagh's steady hand as a director. Even though it's over-designed and far too loud, the characters are strong enough to hold our interest.
In the mythical realm of Asgard, King Odin (Hopkins) is about to hand his throne to cocky son Thor (Hemsworth). But Thor recklessly ignites a war with an old enemy, so is banished to earth without his powers. He adjusts to New Mexico life with help from scientists Jane and Erik (Portman and Skarsgard). As they fend off interest from SHIELD agent Coulson (Gregg), Thor's mischievous younger brother Loki (Hiddleston) is making moves to take over the kingdom. Then Thor's pals (Alexander, Stevenson, Asano and Dallas) arrive on earth to help.
Frankly this is more like a video game than a movie, as virtually every scene is painted extensively with digital trickery. But nothing looks lived in, from Asgard's shimmery bronze towers to the plasticky battle armour. At least New Mexico feels real until a giant killer robot appears. All of this looks extremely whizzy (the 3D is sharp but unnecessary), and will please fans of the genre, but the spectacle continually distracts us from a good story.
That said, the plot's complexities are continually ironed out, as the narrative must jump through various hoops to set things up for both a sequel and Marvel's Avengers movie. So a lot of this film feels requisite, establishing relationships, grudges and so on. Fortunately, Branagh brings a terrific sense of humour to the film, with offhanded moments that make us laugh and give us insights into the characters.
Hemsworth is terrific in the central role, using his imposing physicality and sunny personality to maximum effect. It's not difficult to see why Jane falls for him, although Portman doesn't get much to do beyond bat her eyes and say sciency things every now and then to remind us that she's not a bimbo. Many of the other actors are unrecognisable under layers of armour, hair or effects, although they do get moments to shine. And even if the film isn't hugely satisfying, at least it leaves us wanting more.
Thadeous (McBride) is the second son of the King (Dance), living in the shadow of his golden boy big brother Fabious (Franco), who has just returned from a quest with a bride, Belladonna (Deschanel). But on their wedding day, the evil wizard Leezar (Theroux) kidnaps her to complete his nefarious world-conquering plan. So Fabius and his loyal knights, along with Thadeuos and his esquire (Hardiker), set off to rescue her. Along the way they face treachery from within their ranks and team up with the fierce Isabel (Portman).
Continue reading: Your Highness Review
Adam (Kutcher) and Emma (Portman) have spent 15 years flirting at the random points where their lives have crossed. Now living in Los Angeles, they meet again and decide what they really need is sex without a relationship. Adam's pals (Bridges and Johnson) are jealous, while Emma's colleague (Lawson) believes he's the right man for her instead. But things start getting complicated when Adam's ex (Lovibond) moves in with his star-writer dad (Kline), and Emma starts thinking about relationships as her sister (Thirlby) gets married.
Continue reading: No Strings Attached Review
All of these stories take place in Manhattan, with only one or two brief forays into other boroughs, and they all centre around relatively well-off people, mainly white or Asian. They're also quite serious and emotional, with only brief moments of humour dotted here and there, although some make us smile more than others. Each is about a male-female relationship--marriages, brief encounters, possibilities, life-long companionship. Most have a somewhat gimmicky twist, and a few are intriguingly oblique.
Continue reading: New York, I Love You Review
In a noted ballet company, Nina (Portman) is a rising star who's up for the lead in a new production of Swan Lake. She's fiercely aware of the fact that the previous lead ballerina (Ryder) has been casually discarded while younger newcomer Lilly (Kunis) is already threatening Nina's position. Or is Nina just being paranoid? As opening night approaches, Nina begins to clash with everyone around her, from Lilly to her mercurial director (Cassel) and domineering mother (Hershey). And reality starts slipping out of her grasp.
Continue reading: Black Swan Review
Nina has always strived to be the best dancer in the New York City ballet company she belongs to, driven by the company director and her mother, Nina starts to feel like she's moving in the right direction. When the company decide they're going to perform Swan Lake, the director, Thomas Leroy, must choose a girl to play the innocent White Swan and one to play the Black Swan who's an altogether darker character.
Continue: Black Swan Trailer
Sam Cahill (Maguire) is a loyal Marine getting ready to head back to Afghanistan with his men. His wife Grace (Portman) is trying to be strong for their young daughters (Madison and Geare), but his stern father (Shepard) couldn't be prouder. Just before he ships out, Sam's black-sheep brother Tommy (Gyllenhaal) gets out of prison and, when Sam is reported killed in action, he rises to the challenge to help care for Grace and the girls. But several months later Sam is found, and what he experienced has left him dangerously paranoid.
Continue reading: Brothers Review
An odd road movie of sorts that spends most of its time hanging around in diners, bars, and casinos (and precious little of it on the road), My Blueberry Nights will be noted in many quarters for it being the feature film-acting debut of jazz chanteuse Norah Jones. To put it briefly: No actress is she. Playing a lovelorn young woman named Elizabeth, she first shows up in a Brooklyn diner run by Jeremy, a charming Manchester immigrant played with the expected lighthearted dash by Jude Law. In the middle of a breakup, Elizabeth moons about the café, eating the excellent pie (best in the city!) and chatting with Jeremy, winning his heart even as hers is breaking over somebody else. Then Elizabeth ups and skips out, landing next in Memphis, where she waitresses at a café and a bar, telling everyone she's working two jobs to save up for a car.
Continue reading: My Blueberry Nights Review
With his Queen unable to bear him a son, Henry VIII (Eric Bana) seeks solace in the beds of local noblewomen. When the Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey) learns of this proclivity, he attempts to exploit it for his family's benefit. Calling on brother Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) and his wife, Lady Elizabeth (Kristin Scott Thomas), they come up with a devious plan. They will invite the King to their estate, and then parade daughter Anne (Natalie Portman) before him. Of course, his Majesty has his own designs, and after a hunting accident, he takes a fancy to the fairer, more compassionate Boleyn girl Mary (Scarlett Johansson). Immediately becoming his concubine, the entire family is whisked off to court. But Anne will not be vanquished, and will do anything to claim her royal reward.
Continue reading: The Other Boleyn Girl Review
Zach Helm, a gifted writer and director, unearths enough of those visual wizards for his debut picture Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, a production designer's dream that is wondrously stuffed with the type of creativity usually reserved for children's literature. Helm proved he can write whimsically with his clever Stranger than Fiction script, where tax agent Will Ferrell ignored a narrators running commentary in his head. Now Helm's charming Emporium shows he's able to construct whimsy on screen, as well.
Continue reading: Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium Review
Director Wes Anderson brings us, The Darjeeling Limited, starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman, is an emotional comedy about three brothers re-forging family bonds. The eldest, played by Wilson, hopes to reconnect with his two younger siblings by taking them on a train trip across the vibrant and sensual landscape of India.
Continue: The Darjeeling Limited Trailer
Forman, the Czech madman, began his career with sublime studies in New Wave dynamics, most memorably with 1965's Loves of a Blonde and 1967's sublime The Fireman's Ball. Now, after Cuckoo's Nest, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and that ridiculous role in Keeping the Faith, Forman seems to have jettisoned over to the other side of the spectrum. While most of Forman's American fare at the very least holds the faintest whiff of provocation, Goya's Ghosts seems shackled to a supremely-uninteresting story without even a glimmer of spontaneity. Seriously, hasn't it already been proven that all art is inspired by women and all women are evil? Isn't it time to move on? Not according to Forman.
Continue reading: Goya's Ghosts Review
Project overseers Emmanuel Benbihy and Tristan Carné wanted to create a cinematic map of Paris, with each short film representing one of the city's 20 arrondissements (neighborhoods). They ended up with 18 films, none of them more than a few minutes long and directed by a glittering, international roster of filmmakers. While none of the films here are anything approaching masterpieces, hardly a one is in any way a chore to sit through, which has to be some sort of an accomplishment.
Continue reading: Paris, Je T'aime Review
Garden State, an auspicious writing and directing debut from Braff (of TV's charming Scrubs), is about Largeman's return to his New Jersey hometown, and like Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, it's more about mood and moments than telling a single story (and like that film, it's about an actor feeling numb to the "real" world). Indeed, the plot feels very much out of short fiction -- and, we can't help but notice, possible autobiography; Braff is a young actor from Jersey, too.
Continue reading: Garden State Review
For a while, Hollywood had returned to the conspiracy-theory vibe of the 1970s, when political dialect and public paranoia drove plot lines and inspired the creative minds of Francis Ford Coppola, Alan J. Pakula, and Sidney Lumet. I'm happy to report that the conversations prompted by Gaghan and Clooney are carrying over into 2006 with James McTeigue's V for Vendetta, an open rebellion against society's close-mindedness that's based on Alan Moore's incendiary graphic novel (though the irritable author has renounced any cinematic version of his work).
Continue reading: V For Vendetta Review
This opus about the power of love and the redemption of family follows the tragic, and I mean tragic, life of Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman). Hitting the road with her hick, guitar-playing boyfriend in a rusted-out GM, Novalee dreams of the blue skies of Bakersfield and sipping chocolate milk beneath a plastic umbrella with her unborn baby, due in a month.
Continue reading: Where The Heart Is Review
If this were any other movie, it would have had the most horrible, over-long, dumb-sounding title in history. If this were any other movie, I'd have been laughing at all the wrong places. If this were any other movie... well, this isn't any other movie, is it? Far from it. The most anticipated movie, some say, since Gone With the Wind, and when a screen of blue text reading "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." gets enormous applause, that's hard not to believe.
Continue reading: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace Review
Minghella tells Mountain in two parts that fail to complement each other. In one, wounded Civil War soldier Inman (Jude Law) reaches his breaking point on Virginia's blood-soaked battlefields and decides he can't spend another day without his true love, Ada (Nicole Kidman). So he puts down his rifle and begins the long walk back to Cold Mountain, N.C. Meanwhile, back home, Ada struggles to maintain her father's house after the man passes away in a disgustingly symbolic rainstorm. She accepts help from the town tomboy (Renée Zellweger) and learns a thing or two about patience, hope, and independence in the face of danger.
Continue reading: Cold Mountain Review
And so we're faced with the third Star Wars prequel, Revenge of the Sith, simultaneously the most anticipated and dreaded film of the summer. Nearly a decade of hype, dashed expectations, and Jar-Jar Binks jokes have finally come down to this, Lucas's third Star Wars prequel and, by all accounts, the last Star Wars movie that will ever be made.
Continue reading: Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith Review
The setup holds promise: Four characters in dreary London couple and de-couple, falling in and out of relationships over a four year span. The story is told piecemeal, as it focuses on brief events in the couples' lives, separated by months or years. It begins as American stripper Alice (Natalie Portman) meets British obituary writer Dan (Jude Law) by happenstance. A year later, Dan encounters photographer Anna (Julia Roberts), whom he immediately begins to lust after. Later, Dan plays an internet prank on dermatologist Larry (Clive Owen), which unexpectedly sends him into the arms of Anna. They marry, and Anna promptly starts an affair with Dan. Dan confesses to Alice, she becomes a stripper again. Anna confesses to Larry, and she leaves him, sending Dan to Alice for the first time. And round and round we go until everyone's had a shot at everyone else.
Continue reading: Closer Review
After a witty lead like that, at this point in the movie review, I usually launch into a brief plot synopsis. So here goes: A down-to-earth teenage girl hates her crazy mother.
Continue reading: Anywhere But Here Review
The DVD release of the original international version of Luc Besson's 1995 masterpiece The Professional, which is known as Léon around the world, is a prime example of how a good film can become an instant classic as a director's cut. For years, I have heard of an "international" version available only in laserdisc format, which has eluded me for years. I even bought a laserdisc player from my uncle Don for 100 bucks just to watch certain directors' cuts - including Léon. But after countless searches in laserdisc stores, I could never find it. Until now.
Continue reading: Léon (The Professional) Review
The film is Mars Attacks!, and with it Tim Burton serves up the worst production of his once-blossoming career, a movie wherein he indulges every excess of his demented psyche, pays no attention to entertaining the audience, and recycles every joke he can get his hands on.
Continue reading: Mars Attacks! Review
For one to understand this musical phenomenon, the new documentary Better Living Through Circuitry is a solid foundation for converting the facelessness of its subculture to a human level of understanding. The documentary focuses upon many aspects of the scene - the participants, the promoters, the DJs, and the techno-artists/producers. The film provides insightful, candid interviews that clearly translate the determination and the passion of these individuals. And I was equally impressed by the collection of artists included in the production: Crystal Method, Moby, DJ Spooky, Carl Cox, Electric Skychurch, Wolfgang Flur of Kraftwerk, Frankie Bones, Meat Beat Manifesto, Juno Reactor, BT, Scanner, Atomic Babies, Roni Size, Superstar DJ Keoki, Lords of Acid, System 7, Death in Vegas.
Continue reading: Better Living Through Circuitry 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.
The cunning dexterity and gravitas with which George Lucas snaps into place every remaining puzzle piece in his epic 30-year storyarc is remarkable. The talent of Hayden Christensen will surprise his detractors as he portrays a complex, compounding crisis of conflicting loyalties thattear Anakin Skywalker apart, leading him to slip ever more rapidly toward the Dark Side of the Force. The potent sensations of betrayal and inevitabilitythat fuel the climactic duel between the young Jedi knight and his former master Obi-Wan Kenobi are positively goosepimpling, even though every "StarWars" fan knows the outcome and has been waiting for this moment for years.
These elements, coupled with much improved dialogue, far fewer scenes transparently designed to foster inevitable tie-in video games,and genuinely compelling emotions make up for the myriad of shortcomings that plagued the previoustwo"Star Wars" prequels.
Opening in the midst the Clone Wars between the crumbling galactic republic and an alliance of separatists that is really a frontfor the evil Sith Lords (all those villains called "Darth This" and "Darth That"), "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge ofthe Sith" is surprisingly character-driven. The plot revolves around the volatile, brash young Anakin being appointed by the increasingly powerfulChancellor Palpatine (soon to be revealed as Darth Sidious) to be his personal representative on the Jedi Council, which has for centuries tried to maintainpeace in this galaxy far, far away.
Continue reading: Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith Review
From the very first words of its opening voice-over, inwhich a detectable trace of Aussie inflection invades Nicole Kidman's affectedSouthern accent, there's something amiss with "Cold Mountain,"a two-and-a-half-hour Civil War epic built around a lackluster love story,written and directed by an Englishman, starring half a dozen British actorsand shot in Romania.
Sweeping in scope, the picture's earnest intentions, periodatmosphere and cinematic beauty are above reproach as it portrays brutal,bloody, brother-against-brother battlefields and a North Carolina home-fronthamlet where prim, city-bred newcomer Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) waitsfor the return of her soldier sweetheart while struggling to survive onher dead father's farm.
And yet, the emotional investment in the characters issomething less than sweeping. The passionless decorum of Ada's first-reelcourtship by the adoring but reticent Inman (Jude Law), the declarationof war which cuts short their time together, and the questionable castingof Kidman -- who at 36 is too old to be credible as a bashful unmarriedbelle in 1864 Dixie -- result in a lack of validity and vitality that isn'tremedied until the invigorating second-act arrival of Renee Zellweger.
Continue reading: Cold Mountain Review
With any lesser actresses than Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman in the lead roles, the turbulent mother-daughter relationship at the center of "Anywhere But Here" might be little more than fodder for another Lifetime Channel movie -- especially with such a pathetic title.
In fact, I can't imagine what drew director Wayne Wang ("Smoke," "The Joy Luck Club") to what on paper must have looked like a rather prosaic project about a middle-aged woman, desperate for a fresh start, dragging her inimical teenager from Wisconsin to Los Angeles in the hopes of creating a fulfilling and glamorous new life.
But Wang's ability to extract vitality and depth from even the most obvious female roles (a hooker in his "Chinese Box" became a symbol of Hong Kong at the end of English rule) begets such effortlessly extraordinary performances from his stars that this seemingly pedestrian story will ring true for anyone who is now or has ever been a teenage girl embarrassed and imposed upon by her mother. (Frankly, there isn't much here for guys, I'm afraid.)
Continue reading: Anywhere But Here Review
A sexually charged drama of cross-pollinating infidelity from director Mike Nichols -- whose best work has always tapped into such raw and sensitive areas of the human psyche -- "Closer" derives all its fascination from the nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty character nuances brought to life with discomforting veracity by its foursome of fine actors.
Julia Roberts (as Anna, an aloof but respected photographer), Clive Owen (as Larry, a smarmy doctor), Jude Law (as Dan, an obituary writer and failed novelist) and Natalie Portman (as Alice, a punkette-lite stripper who blows with the wind) are all strangers as the film opens in modern-day London. But as the story leaps forward to pivotal episodes over several years, a series of dates, marriages, illicit liaisons, break-ups and jealous traps shape their boomeranging romantic lives.
The cunning direction of Nichols ("The Graduate," "Carnal Knowledge," "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf") viscerally plugs into the emotional voltage of these edgy, passionate, dishonest, desperate, sometimes sweet but often brutally frank relationships in almost every scene. But the film begins deceptively like a romantic comedy as Dan charms the alluringly unfettered Alice on her first day in London, coming to her aid when she's hit by a taxi. "Please remember our traffic tends to come from the right," he glints with all this English panache after realizing her injuries aren't life-threatening.
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"The fashion industry has been behind every major assassination in the last 200 years," says a bearded and scruffy, conspiracy-mad David Duchovny in Ben Stiller's ludicrously amusing "Zoolander" -- and only the world's most vapid male model can break his brainwashing and to put a stop to it all.
No, not Fabio. "Too smart," says the Karl Lagerfeld-like leader of a shadowy international syndicate of couture designers, while picking "a beautiful self-absorbed simpleton who can be molded like Jell-O" to kill the prime minister of Malaysia. I mean, the man plans to end slave wages for sweatshop garment workers in his country. He simply must be stopped!
Enter pouty, super-superficial mannequin man Derek Zoolander (Stiller). Desperate to rescue his career after losing the Male Model of the Year Award (insert oh-so-VH-1 ceremony here) to his up-and-coming rival, the dreaded, sexy surfer stud Hansel (Owen Wilson), Derek is ripe for reprogramming. Hired by the industry's designer de jour -- played by Will Ferrell in a poodle wig, charcoal eyeliner and a leather corset -- Derek is brainwashed to snap at a runway show for a new line of homeless bum-inspired ready-to-wear, called Derelicte (that's derelict with an "e" on the end). Ferrell has invited the Third World leader to sit in the front row.
Continue reading: Zoolander Review
Cast anyone but actress savant Natalie Portman as the pregnant, white trash teenager axis of "Where the Heart Is," and this warm-fuzzy soap opera of stock crises and Hallmark card moments would be pretty close to insufferable.
Propelled to the big screen only on the momentum of the novel's Oprah Winfrey book club endorsement, even with Portman -- who by carrying this movie proves absolutely her astounding talent -- in the lead, this low-impact unwed motherhood epic never gets any deeper than a pebble skipping across a pond.
That pebble is Novalee Nation (Portman), a near-illiterate 17-year-old abandon in the parking lot of a Sequoyah, Oklahoma, WalMart by her rat bastard boyfriend when they were supposed to be moving to California together in his $80 car.
Continue reading: Where The Heart Is Review
Affectionately wry yet disarmingly poignant, hilariously insightful yet accessibly awkward, infinitely quotable yet organic and unassuming, "Garden State" is a quarter-life-crisis comedy that may just be "The Graduate" for the arrested-development generation.
This merrily ironic tale of looming-maturity malaise has all the consternation of Mike Nichols' definitive touchstone of late-1960s coming-of-age. But in a surprise, triple-threat outburst of unforeseen talent and imagination, the film's writer, director and star -- Zach Braff from TV's "Scrubs" -- truly nails the psychological complexity and raised-on-MTV coercion that has pushed the pause button on coming to grips with adulthood. "Garden State" is, in part, a simile for how people in their 20s now try to extend the age of no responsibilities into their early 30s.
Braff gives a vulnerably acerbic performance as Andrew Largeman ("Large" to his friends), a droll, aimless Everymensch and long-frustrated actor (and sushi-bar waiter by day), who is taking two simultaneous big steps in his life: returning home to New Jersey after nine years to attend his mother's funeral, and doing so without his extensive private pharmacy of sense-dulling psychotropics.
Continue reading: Garden State Review
Date of birth
9th June, 1981
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