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7/10
The second half is a great movie
24 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The film opens with a big space battle - fair enough. Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor are on a mission to rescue Ian McDiarmid from Christopher Lee in what we presume is a put-up job, although it's never made clear. Lee is killed off pretty swiftly in a scene that is very effective if you've seen Return Of The Jedi, but not to worry - he's in cahoots with the leader of the Seperatists, a half-droid creature called General Greivous. Yes, that is his name.

Two problems with the film present themselves here. One is that, as always the politics are interminable. The other is Greivous. He's an entirely CGI-character, not as bad as Jar Jar by any means, but the problem is that he just doesn't work. The character fails to be either impressive or interesting and as he takes up much of the first half of the movie, we suffer. Still, Lucas has now reduced Jar Jar to two appearances and one line in the whole movie, so it's not all bad news. Ahmed Best's name in the end credits is clearly a cruel joke.

Mcgergor's Obi Wan Kenobi, searching for something to do, goes after Greivous and finds himself in a battle sequence that feels like it's in a Pixar movie. Meanwhile, Christensen's Anakin becomes closer and closer to Palpatine and more and more estranged from Sam Jackson and the rest of the Jedi Council. Oh, and his wife is pregnant. Portman gets almost nothing to do this time around.

The film really picks up at about the half-way stage. McDiarmid reveals his true nature and is allowed a light-sabre duel with half the Jedi Council. He uses the Force-lightning from "Jedi", which backfires and causes his face to look, well, like the Emperor. Jackson buys it only when Anakin finally chooses a side and chops his hand off, leaving Palpatine to finish the job. This film's obsessed with limbs being chopped off! Turned to the dark side, Anakin is dubbed "Darth Vader". No explanation is given. He is then sent off to kill the Jedi in the "Temple". When it gets there, it turns out they're children. He does indeed kill them all - off-screen. But the scene is spoilt by a kid who makes Phantom Menace's Jake Lloyd seem like Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver - after this moppet speaks, you WANT Vader to wipe them out! Meanwhile, the clone warriors turn on the Jedi in a very effective montage sequence that sees all the Jedi wiped out. Sole survivors, of course, are McGregor and Yoda. Yoda has been hanging out on the planet of the Wookkies for NO REASON WHATSOEVER! We get to see Chewbacca give the green fella a piggy-back, but his inclusion in the film is never more than tokenistic.

So things begin to spiral towards the inevitable conclusion. Palpatine dispatches Anakin to a volcano planet named Mustafar (er, James Earl Jones's character in The Lion King) followed by Padme, unable to believe what he has done, with Obi Wan as a stowaway. Oh, C3PO goes too. I can now safely say that 3PO too has NO ROLE in ANY of the prequels and is only here to satisfy fans. R2 at least gets some action (if a little silly).

Palpatine gets into a fight with Yoda. Ooh, boy. Some real good stuff here - the two of them fight in the Republic's council chamber, a very satisfying payoff to having put up with talky scenes on that set for three films now. It does give rise, however, to some unbelievable dialogue. Yoda speaks like a parody of Yoda - he actually says "Not if anything to do with it I have!" I expected him to follow it up with "Feel lucky punk do you? Mmm? Ahead you go - my day make!" On Mustafar, Anakin gets angry at Padme's rejection and strangles her a la Darth Vader in film 1. Obi Wan stops him and them duel. Yes, it is a very good duel, but somehow it doesn't have the sense of occasion that other duels have had. This is fine, though, because at the end we get to see Anakin burning up horribly - this scene probably the sole reason behind the PG-13 cert.

So Palpatine rescues Anakin and puts him into the Vader suit. We get to see Vader walk and hear him talk - briefly. I'd have liked a bit more, personally. Padme gives birth to Luke and Leia and promptly dies. The film ends with a million loose ends hurriedly tied up. A pretty bad lapse sees Yoda inform Obi Wan that Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson's character in Phantom Menace) has returned to tell him how to survive death - but we never see Jinn nor is this built upon. It's the thinnest possible excuse for why Alec Guinness becomes a ghost in the original film. Anyway, ROTS ends with, well Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru staring into the Tatooine suns-set with a baby in their arms.

There's a lot of criticism here. But I'm a Star Wars fan, and this is still a 7/10 film. There are loads of good moments, mainly involving deaths, light-sabres or both. Christensen is absolutely fine, McDarmid is fantastic and the otehrs pass muster. McGregor finally gets to show real emotion when yelling at the dying Anakin. And it does feel like the motion picture event it should be. It could have been better and the first half is a waste of time. But I'm glad I saw it.
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7/10
Not as good as it could have been but pretty good
3 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
DOLPHINS

Not sure what was wrong with the TV series' opening to the story, but if it was to be changed then this way is fine by me. The "So Long" song was bizarre, true, but I was able to relax into it and accept it.

STEPHEN FRY

Fry's voice was perfectly acceptable and non-intrusive as the Book, but I felt that they didn't really know how to treat the book, just throwing Fry in wherever it suited them. The visuals were fine, however.

MARTIN FREEMAN

As always suspected, they could hardly have done better.

EARLY SCENES

After the dolphins, they really wanted to keep the diehards onside. Prosser and the bulldozer - check. The pub - check, with dialogue almost unaltered.

Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz - check. It would go on to alter existing plot lines rather more, but this is a familiar and successful start to the film.

MOS DEF

Mm. he just didn't work for me. I thought he's be good, but I felt he just didn't quite have a handle on the character. he's not just a slightly odd person with a towel fixation.

DESIGN

Now this is where, for me, the film really scored. Vogon ships? Marvin? Zooming around Magrathea? The Heart of Gold? This film is the most visually perfect film I have seen in a while, and deserves awards of some sort.

THE DESTRUCTION OF EARTH

Oh yes. How good was that!

ZOOEY DESCHANEL

I was really pleased with her. Never heard of her before, but she was just right. A bit alien-esquire, a bit human, a bit cute. A great piece of casting. Unlike...

SAM ROCKWELL

Eurgh. The film's major failing for me. He was just too goddamn zany. I think this role should be played as a wannabe-cool Hollywood star (Nic Cage for example) which Rockwell could have done, but instead we got Jim Carrey on acid. The two-heads gimmick didn't work for me, sorry. I felt Zaphod ruined almost every scene he was in.

MARVIN

As already mentioned, I thought he looked tremendous. Alan Rickman did a good job, too, but I did pine for Stephen Moore a bit. Oh, that reminds me...

QUESTULAR

Anna Chancellor pops in from period drama-land to play the vice-President of the Galaxy, who apparently fancies Zaphod. Er, why, exactly? This whole role felt to me like a remnant from an earlier script. She had nothing to do except react in a startled way to Vogons and the films could have managed quite well without her.

HUMMA KAVULA

And the same goes for this guy.

I think the main problem with HHG the movie is this. It's adapted from a book that was adapted from four half-hour radio shows. It's already therefore crammed with quite enough incident - Earth destroyed, Vogon poetry, the Heart of Gold, Magrathea, Deep Thought, mice - without sticking more in! Inserting the scenes on Viltvodle and Vogsphere did nothing but extend the running time and make it more and more confusing. I could happily skip these tracks on the DVD. Especially the rather odd planet of the fly swatters.

MAGRATHEA

The scenes on Magrathea, especially those with Slartibartfast, were a definite highlight for me. Nighy portrays Slarti as a somewhat harassed and ineffectual civil servant and it's a great performance. The effects sequences as Arthur and Slarti shoot around the new Earth are quite staggeringly wonderful. Ending the whole thing at Arthur's house is inspired and very filmic but a little forced perhaps.

LUNKWILL AND FOOK

The Deep Thought scenes - visually, much better than on TV. I love the crowds. I love the idea of using children as computer programmers and I love that they look like mice. I miss Majikthise and Vroomfondel, but you can't have everything. Similarly, it makes total sense to use Vogons for the final shootout instead of Shooty and Bang Bang.

IS SHE THE ONE?

I felt that the predictable romantic subplot was one of the film's weaker elements. Include it, fine, but don't do it in such a yuchy way. Ooh, that reminds me of a scene I really did like...

THE POINT OF VIEW GUN

This could have been a really hokey and pointless concept, but when Trillian turned it on Zaphod it worked really well. Zaphod is forced to exposit all of Trillian's inner turmoil and the look on Deschanel's face says it all. A great piece of writing and acting.

MARVIN SAVES THE DAY!

Well, why not.

All told, then. Yes, I liked it. It's not as good as the radio series, the TV series or the book (although the "Restaurant at the other end of the Universe" joke is a better ending than the book had). But it's still pretty good. As good an adaptation as I could have expected, really.

I'll give it 7/10.
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8/10
Stylish and not wacky
11 May 2004
I've been looking forward to the release of this film for some time. Although the cinema trailers prepared me for the basic concepts, I have to say the structure of the movie took me slightly by surprise. The idea of your lead characters spending most of the movie in one of their heads is intriguing, and it's hard to think of anyone other than Charlie Kaufman who could have pulled it off.

So let's start from the beginning. We witness what appears to be Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine's (Kate Winslet) first meeting, which all goes very well. Then, as we're settling into the movie, the opening titles finally play and we're into their break-up. The concept of Lacuna Inc is introduced – it transpires that their science-fiction tinged services have allowed Clementine to completely erase Joel from her memories. Pained by this, Joel agrees to undergo the procedure too. This occurs at his flat that night. As he sleeps, Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood plug him into their machine and begin to delete. The only trouble is, trapped in his own unconscious, Joel has changed his mind, and is desperately trying to keep hold of Clementine in whatever way he can.

Although the attention-grabbing bit of this movie takes place in Jim Carrey's head, there are nice moments beyond it too. The Lacuna team are well-represented, and the sheer moral discomfort we get from seeing Dunst and Ruffalo frolic in their undies around Carrey's corpse-like form heightens Kaufman's dark vision. Dunst, in particular, is very good, and it's always nice to see Tom Wilkinson in a film. More curious is Elijah Wood, completing the foursome. It's good to report that, after all this time, it didn't seem odd to see Frodo as a human, but one has to wonder why he took the part as he has very little to do. Nonetheless, the moments he does have are very nice, and more or less set him up as the unexpected villain of the piece.

So to the stars. Everyone's been enthusing about Kate Winslet's performance. She is good, and I don't think I've seen this character from her before, but then I always knew she was a good actress. Jim Carrey, however, makes the film his own. You know how every role he does is more or less a riff on the Carrey/Ventura persona? How, even in Truman Show, his `good afternoon, good evening and good night' schtick is still there? Well, it's not here. There is nothing of Carrey the wacky comedian in here. This is surely the performance of his career, and probably my favourite performance of the year so far.

I really liked Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I can't help but feel that the central concept isn't fully explored – does no-one think that people might want to erase memories not connected with bad love affairs? This doesn't matter, so long as you take it as another in the chain of high-concept magic realism love stories that have been sprinkling smiled into our multiplexes over the past few years. Michael Gondry's direction, though showy, is slightly less flashy than Spike Jonze's in Being John Malkovich, and all the better for it. On this evidence, Kaufman is likely to remain the most important writer in America for the foreseeable future.

8/10
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9/10
Cream of the crop
20 February 2004
The psycho-in-my-life genre threw up many classics during the 1990s, and I'm sure a sociologist could come up with reasons why. This is one of the very best, despite blatant implausibilities in its plot. A teacher, obsessed with terrorism since his FBI agent wife died in a terrorist attack, is teaching a course on, well, terrorism. He then decides that his new neighbours might be terrorists. Are they? Well, watch the film. The reason this film is so good, aside from the top-notch performances from some of Hollywood's finest character actors, is the ending, which is about a million miles above what I normally expect from these psycho movies. Hurrah.
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Brassed Off (1996)
9/10
stirring
20 February 2004
Dismissed by many as The Full Monty without the stripping, this is in fact a far more thoughtful work. In a town ripped apart by mining redundancies, one man struggles to keep the colliery band going in the face of much apathy. Tension comes from the appearance of a brass instrument-playing pretty girl from `the enemy', and her relationship with one of the band, but the most memorable character is a part-time clown who spirals further and further into depression and self-loathing. The speech in the final scene is one of the most stirring moments in British cinema. You don't have to like trumpets to like this.
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9/10
Funny and exciting
20 February 2004
John Spartan is a cop in the near future whose apparent accidental killing of a building full of hostages sees him cryogenically frozen alongside his nemesis, Simon Phoenix. Both re-awake many years later to find an America where crime is unknown, all restaurants are Taco Bell, commercial themes are respected music and toilet paper has (somehow) been replaced by three seashells. This is, simultaneously, a decent action movie, an interesting science fiction premise and a raspberry to the theory that Stallone cannot do comedy. With a supporting cast to die for, this is a forgotten piece of early 90s heaven.
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9/10
Murphy - still funny
20 February 2004
`The royal penis is clean, your highness.' Prince Akeem, a man who has rose petals constantly strewn at his feet whenever he moves, goes to Queens to find his queen. Chased by his father, King Jaffe Joffer, and accompanied by his ever-harrassed sidekick, Akeem gets a job at a MacDonald's clone, meets a woman and falls in love – but must keep up the pretence of poverty. A film with many highlights, including a passing man who worships Akeem, the obligatory 80s subway scene and `you sweat from a baboon's balls.'
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9/10
Comedy Trek
20 February 2004
This is the one where Kirk and co. go back in time to the 1980s and collect a pair of humpback whales. Never mind the ecological theme, it's the funniest Star Trek ever got, with classic lines like `I'm from Iowa, I only work in Outer Space', `Everybody remember where we parked' and, of course, `Can you tell me where to find the nuclear wessels?' McCoy cures a woman on kidney dialysis with a pill, and Spock takes up profanity. And bookending it all is a much more serious plotline involving a very impressive Probe. The last gasp of the old crew, before they got crap.
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9/10
Overlooked
20 February 2004
This is such a classic piece of mystery drama, it's inconceivable that it's not better known. A late seventies film starring the cream of cinema from 20 years earlier, this follows a Nazi plot (in the present day) and the efforts of a Nazi hunter to put the pieces together. The elements include a number of apparently unrelated children, a decades-old plot, a series of murders, Josef Mengele, and a short appearance by one `Steven' Guttenberg, in an early film role. When you finally realise what has been going on, it ups the stakes dramatically. Well worth seeking out.
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9/10
Now that's what I'm talking about
17 February 2004
I first saw The Color Of Money without knowing it was a sort-of sequel to The Hustler, and I still haven't seen the earlier film, and I still think Scorsese's is great. I have seen and loved The Conversation – but its resemblance to Enemy of the State is minimal. Hackman's character is similar, but the two films couldn't be more different. This is a big, brash Will Smith action vehicle, yet comes across as more thoughtful and intelligent than most of the breed. Maybe it's the canny casting of some of Hollywood's brightest young indie stars in supporting roles. Maybe it's the paranoid direction by one of the best and most underrated action directors around. Maybe it's that Smith only gets down to his pants once. But this is enjoyable from start to finish, and contains a masterful double-bluff around half way through when Gabriel Byrne turns up.
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