Archives for posts with tag: Natalie Portman

Grade B

 

The second of the Thor movies, “Thor: The Dark World” has the Universe threatened by an evil, elf ruler who wants to use something called the Aether (a powerful, energy source).  As Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth) goes from one world to the next to quell wars, as well as sulk because he misses his girlfriend (Natalie Portman), the evil guy and his evil henchmen are on the march to retrieve the Aether and bring destruction to every world he can reach.   Why?  Because he’s evil.

Hemsworth has a plan to destroy the evil elf dude, but it goes against his father’s wishes.   Hemsworth decides to do it anyway with the help of his “brother” Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and a few Earthlings who are in way over their heads.  The plan is risky, and failure means the deaths of gazillions of creatures in many worlds.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Thor: The Dark World” is the scene when ** SPOILER ALERT ** Hiddleston is told that his adopted mother has been killed in combat by the evil elf ruler.   Quiet and calm at first, Hiddleston suddenly destroys his room with his magic.  Earlier in the movie, Hiddleston uttered harsh words toward his adopted mother.

“Thor: The Dark World” was more fun than I thought it would be.  The action sequences were very good, as expected; but the dialogue and how the main characters interacted with each other were done very well, which has become the trademark of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.  Despite the alluring special effects and thrilling action scenes, the characters are the ones we truly connect to.

— M

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“I’ve been dying a little bit each day since you came back to my life.”  “I truly, deeply love you.”  “…being around her is intoxicating.”   If you’re like me, you’ll find these lines in “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack Of The Clones” nauseating.  This is dialogue I expect from a first time screenwriter who is still in Junior High School.

Co-wrote another mediocre screenplay, George Lucas has.   One of my greatest fears is that Lucas writes or co-writes another “Star Wars” screenplay; and my fears came true again with this movie.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.  And so, my fellow “Star Wars” fans, we again suffer through another Episode that had so much promise that went unfulfilled.

Ten years have passed in the “Star Wars” universe since Episode I.  Thousands of solar systems have left the Republic (the Separatist Movement); intergalactic war is imminent.   Hayden Christensen (playing a teen-aged Anakin Skywalker) is now a powerful, Jedi apprentice, learning from Ewan McGregor (playing Obi Wan Kenobi).  Both are tasked with unraveling a mystery as to who is trying to kill Natalie Portman (playing Senator Amidala).  This leads to an awkward, ten year reunion between Christensen and Portman, leading to awkward banter, leading to awkward flirting, leading to a cringeworthy romance.  Let’s get this straight: Christensen and Portman are good actors; but no matter how good your actors are, if they are given a s*#t script, you will get a s*#t performance.   It’s like giving a Ferrari low-grade fuel that’s been sitting around for 5 years.

Anyway, as Portman and Christensen are making kissy faces at each other, McGregor investigates a bounty hunter involved in Portman’s assassination attempt.  This leads him to a planet where a clone army (clearly, the predecessor of Stormtroopers) has been ordered by a Jedi Knight for the use of The Republic.  Who exactly ordered this army, and why?  The overall plot of “Attack Of The Clones” is a good one, with a bit of mystery and a few plot twists; but most of all it contains the evolving relationship between Portman and Christensen, and Christensen’s slow descent into the Dark Side of The Force .  In the hands of a skilled screenwriter, this movie would have soared to new heights that would have approached the level of “The Empire Strikes Back.”  Instead we got Stevie Wonder behind the wheels of a Lamborghini.

Please give me a few moments to suffer in silence as I ponder on what could have been…

Okay.  On to Manny’s memorable, movie moments.  One such moment is the scene when we see jet packs come out of R2-D2’s legs and he starts flying!  That was super cool!  I’m sure we were all geeking out with that scene!

And for my most memorable, movie moment of “Attack Of The Clones”…Yoda’s lightsaber duel with Count Dooku!  I think every “Star Wars” fan yelled out “holy s*@t” when the little dude lit up his green saber and went off on Dooku!  In “Empire Strikes Back” Yoda said “Judge me by my size, do you?  And well you should not.  For my ally is The Force, and a powerful ally, it is.”  He was not kidding.

Nitpicking time.  Wasn’t it nice for the insect army of Geonosis to let Portman keep her utility belt during the execution scene so she could slip out a pin to remove her shackles and escape?  Didn’t you find it odd that McGregor didn’t bother to help out Yoda during his fight with Dooku?  Yes, McGregor was wounded, but he could still wave his hand and move things around.  What about Portman’s decoy (played by Rose Byrne) who was a few feet away from a huge explosion that destroyed a large ship?  A few minutes later into the movie, she’s right as rain.  Yoda mentions early in the movie that it is impossible to see the future.  WTF, George!  In “Empire…” Yoda and Luke saw the future (Han and Chewbacca being tortured in a city in the clouds, Leia being the other hope)!  George Lucas had Yoda say this to cover his ass re: why none of the Jedi Knights — none, none, all these years — foresaw Anakin becoming Darth Vader!  And one doesn’t have to be clairvoyant to see that Anakin Skywalker is a bad egg — just look at his face, his attitude, the things he says, his reckless actions, his disregard for authority.  What about…never mind.   I should know better than to ask when dealing with a writer/director who spends hours finding the right pattern on a piece of clothing for a character that shows up for only two seconds, yet does not put in the time necessary to turn in a script absent silly lines of dialogue and plot holes.

Yes, Maximus, I was entertained, but equally disappointed.  A movie this important to “Star Wars” fans, with a gigantic budget and thousands of people working in it should be as close to perfect as possible.  No excuses are acceptable.  So here are your grades, George Lucas: Special Effects — A; Sound Effects — A; Costumes — A; Sets — A; Direction — B; Screenplay — F-.

Now go home and get your shine box!

— M

 

 

Written and directed by George Lucas — six of the most fearsome words to movie fans, these are.

“The Phantom Menace” is the first part of the prequel trilogy to the “Star Wars” movies.  Lucas goes way back here…before Luke Skywalker was born, before Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, before the dark times, before the Empire.

Senator Palpatine (who would become the Emperor) has created a false threat — a phantom menace — about a growing conflict involving taxation of trade routes and embargos and invasion and war, all to set in motion events that will allow him to rise in power as he promises to bring order throughout the galaxy.   Put into this turmoil are two Jedi Knights — Liam Neeson and his apprentice, Ewan Mcgregor (playing a young, Ben Kenobi) — who, throughout their mission, encounter the droids R2-D2 and C3PO, a young Anakin, and Anakin’s future wife (played by Natalie Portman).

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when we are first introduced to R2-D2.  Portman’s ship is under attack, and her deflector shield has been damaged.  Four Astromech droids are sent outside to mend the broken parts, and three are quickly destroyed by enemy laser beams.  R2-D2 is the last droid standing, and it manages to bypass the thingamajig’s energy particle dilithium crystal thingies to repair the damage.  R2 saves the day, setting a precedent that will last all six episodes.

As most “Star Wars” fans may have guessed, my most memorable, movie moment of “The Phantom Menace” is the lightsaber duel between McGregor and Ray Park (playing Darth Maul).   Whatever problems the movie had — and it had plenty of them — they all went away when Darth Maul emerged and his light staff lit up to fight  Neeson and McGregor.  Unfortunately, when the duel was over, we were again in the world of Lucas’ shortcomings.

I want to be fair to Lucas.  I believe the man is a genius when it comes to filmmaking.  It’s not that he lost that ability, it’s that he lost his focus: instead of focusing on the story and characters, he started focusing on the costumes and special effects and sound effects and action sequences.   There are parts in “Episode 1” that shows his talents: the droid army entering Naboo’s capital is similar to the Nazis entering Paris during WW II; the duel between the Jedi Knights and Darth Maul; and Lucas’ great use of the subject of a government creating threats to instill fear in those they govern, in hopes the people will give the government more power to supposedly provide greater protection for the people.

All of the good things above are crushed by the following: Jar Jar Binks (and his way of talking that sounds like a black buffoon of early movies); horrible dialogue throughout the movie (“Are you an angel?” — I almost throw up every time I hear that line); the Trade Federation who sound like stereotypical, old Jewish men; the character Watto who sounds like a stereotypical Arab man; enemy droids who talk like idiots (“roger roger”); the lack of emotion on Anakin’s mother when Anakin leaves her (was she not capable of acting like a distraught mother who may never see her young son again — in which case it’s Lucas’ fault for not casting someone who was capable of doing so — or did she have the talent to do so but Lucas didn’t see a need for all that drama, in which case it’s Lucas’ fault for lacking the vision to know that the separation scene should have been more emotionally devastating).   Okay, I’ll stop beating a dead horse.

“The Phantom Menace” is light years away from being in the same league as “The Empire Strikes Back,” but it still has to be seen by every “Star Wars” fan because it’s part of the story, whether you like it or not.  We’re stuck with that movie…search your feelings, you know it to be true.

— M

 

 

We are introduced to one of the Avengers in this well-made, fun movie that gives us the background of Thor.  Thor is an immortal warrior of a place called Asgard, where the majority of the warriors dress like they are going to the gay pride parade in Manhattan.  Hey, if you’re going to die in battle, at least have the decency to look fabulous, right?  Give me two snaps up if you agree!  Anyway, Thor is the son of Odin, who is the ruler of Asgard.  Thor, being young and full of piss and vinegar (sounds like the contents of a tampon), commits acts that go against his father’s wishes.  On top of that, he royally insults his father; and Thor winds up being banished to Earth without his powers or his mighty, hammer weapon, Mjolnir.  Loki, Thor’s jealous bro, is left mostly unchecked in Asgard to do evil things that put the universe in danger.

Chris Hemsworth plays Thor, and he does a very good job of doing so.  He looks and acts like the God of Thunder, and his character is very likeable, especially when he does heroic acts as a human, knowing that he can be killed.  Natalie Portman plays Thor’s love interest; and she’s cute and she’s intelligent and she’s a spitfire…and I keep thinking of those lesbian scenes in “Black Swan.” In other words, it’s always a pleasure to see her onscreen.  We also have Kat Dennings, who I think is more adorable than Portman, even though they made Dennings into a geek in this movie.  Her comments about Thor’s looks are enjoyable; and I would love for Dennings to say those things about me.

“Thor” has action, romance, violence, comedy, drama, eye candy for men and women, a solid script and good direction and editing.  What, that’s not enough for you to watch this?  Then you’re just hard to please.  What do you want me to say?

My most memorable, movie moment is the sequence when Mjolnir comes back to Thor after he proves himself worthy of the mighty weapon.  It’s one of those dramatic, heroic moments that by now you all should know really gets to me.

When I was young, I wore a homemade cape, pretending to be a superhero.  I think I would still look good in a cape.  The problem is, I’m short; and most capes are made for tall people.  It’s hard to look heroic when you trip over a cape and your face is mashed against the pavement that is covered by grease, spit, dog doo-doo, discarded food, and thousands of chemicals that will give you dozens of cancers.

I guess I’ll just stick to treating people the way I want people to treat me.  To some that is considered honorable, maybe even heroic.  No cape needed.

M

If you think you know what “Your Highness” is about from the trailers, you’re wrong!  This movie is vile, profane, disgusting, vulgar, hilarious, and violent.  I like it!  I like it a lot!  Make sure you watch the unrated version for the extra filth that even Lysol can’t remove.  James Franco and Danny McBride play royal brothers who, along with Natalie Portman, go on a quest to rescue a damsel in distress who was kidnapped by a wizard who wants to rape the damsel so she can give birth to a dragon.   If “Caligula” was mashed together with “The Princess Bride,” “Your Highness” would be the result.

For those who love crude humor, this movie you should not miss.  Talk like Yoda I just did.  “Your Highness” has one simple job: to make you laugh; and it does it very well.  Movies such as this don’t require emotional depth, but it does manage to give us characters that we can root for.   Franco is the prince who can do no wrong.  Pretty, a good fighter, loved by women; but secretly he feels the pressure of being perfect is too much to handle.   McBride is the younger brother (even though he looks much older) who is a big goofball.  Constantly screwing up, can barely swing a sword, ignored by women, not much to look at; he wishes his brother was gone so he can be the king and get all the adulation, but his love for his brother is greater than his jealousy, and so he risks his life many times to save his brother’s life.

My most memorable, movie moment was the scene where McBride’s servant was being molested by a Minotaur with a big weenie.  I say molested because it was hard to see if there was Minotaur penis to human anus penetration, or if it was just dry humping.   Whatever the case, it was disturbing, shocking and funny all in one!  You know, like the way the government takes away our constitutional rights in the name of keeping us safe.

M

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