In a clear echo of Frozen, this Disney animated adventure centres on a fiercely independent young woman who doesn't follow the rules, doesn't need a man and sings songs of empowerment. But this story is set in the lush South Pacific, with deep blue seas, verdant rainforests and fiery volcanoes. And that gives it a fresh blast of energy and culture that more than makes up for the lack of proper tension in the rather formulaic story.
On a remote island, Moana (voiced by Auli'i Carvalho) is the daughter of the pragmatic chief (Temuera Morrison) and his sensitive wife (Nicole Scherzinger). Feeling like the sea is beckoning her, Moana is always in trouble, because the islanders are terrified of the dangers in the ocean beyond the reef. But Moana's grandmother (Rachel House) encourages her to follow her yearnings, revealing that Moana is the promised one who will travel to find the exiled demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) and return the Heart of Te Fiti to its rightful place, restoring life to the islands. Even though she feels inadequate, she heads off on her quest. And when she meets up with the arrogant Maui, she realises that this is going to be even harder than she thought.
Continue reading: Moana Review
After five long years, the Clone Wars are still raging across the galaxy. Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), the Separatist leader and his minion, General Grievous, have captured the Chancellor of the Galactic Republic. Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) are tasked with his rescue. Once the chancellor is saved and Dooku is defeated, the location of General Grievous is discovered. If the Jedi can send a strike force to capture or kill Grievous, then they will be able to end the war entirely. But there is a darkness growing within Anakin, and the Jedi Order are slowly starting to become aware of it. But as the power of the Chancellor continues to grow, and his hold over Anakin grows too, leading to a revelation which will forever change the galaxy, and lead to a greater, more destructive war.
Continue: Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith Trailer
For millions of years, the universe has been watched over by a group of noble custodians, sworn to keep peace in the universe, these mighty beings are called The Green Lantern Corps. Hailing from all sides of the universe, each chosen keeper wears a ring that harnesses true willpower and allows them to gain super powers.
Continue: Green Lantern Trailer
What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? is the somewhat unnecessary sequel, picking up the story of the shattered Heke family a few years after the first film. Violent wife beater Jake (the overpowering Temuera Morrison) is now divorced from his long-suffering wife Beth (Rena Owen), the emotional core of the first film. Their teenage daughter is already a suicide victim, and as this film opens, their eldest son, Nig (Julian Arahanga), a gang member, is shot dead in a gang fight. How awful to see Beth agonize through another funeral when the film is only five minutes old! Give the poor lady a break!
Continue reading: What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted? 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.
With only the thinnest thread of a tether anchoring its mountain climbing action in reality, "Vertical Limit" takes suspension of disbelief to new extremes for a film that goes out of its way to seem credible.
Celebrated Everest-conqueror Ed Viesturs has a multiple-scene cameo in this adventure about a climber trying to rescue his sister from a huge crevasse near the top of K-2, the world's highest mountain.
But the stunts are so far-fetched you don't even have to own a pair of hiking boots to find them laughable. Even more hilarious, it's pathetically obvious that much of the movie was shot on a soundstage with cheap mountainside scrims in the background.
Continue reading: Vertical Limit Review
The climactic lightsaber duel in "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" has to be seen to be believed. It puts the awesome Darth Maul/Obi-Wan fight in "The Phantom Menace" to shame, and it's one of the big pluses in a mixed blessing of a movie that is a vast improvement over its immediate predecessor, but sometimes in fits and starts.
Any fan will have the same reaction to this showdown: As it's about to begin, you'll laugh, because with the characters involved the idea seems almost absurd. Then you'll cheer, because George Lucas knows you're laughing, and plays into it beautifully. Then your mouth will drop open in amazement. How did he pull this off? This is so cool!
Suffice it to say, this scene -- and the huge battle that surrounds it as the fabled Clone War begins -- is worth the price of admission all by itself.
Continue reading: Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones Review
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