Posts Tagged ‘Keira Knightley’

Enter Jar Jar, Anakin and stereotypes: Revisiting ‘Star Wars: The Phantom Menace’

September 27, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 26, 2016

In January, I excoriated the The Star Wars Holiday Special, the worst feature-length production in that fantastically popular science-fiction franchise. Today, I come to examine what is widely agreed to be the property’s second-worst movie. I write, of course, about the much-loathed 1999 release that kicked off the prequel trilogy: Star Wars: The Phantom Menance. (Disclaimer: Completists ought to stick “Episode I” in the middle of that title; feel free to punctuate it to your pleasure.)

Until this past weekend, I’d seen The Phantom Menace once and once only: Shortly after its initial theatrical release, some 16 years after the debut of Return of the Jedi, which had capped the original Star Wars trilogy. At the time, anticipation for the film ran high, thanks not only to the years-long interregnum but to a marketing blitz that included oodles and oodles of — well, stuff. (Mel Brooks, it would seem, got it exactly right in this clip from his 1987 film Spaceballs.)

In case you don’t remember the merchandising onslaught, I direct you to this passage that Libby Brooks wrote for The Guardian in June 1999, a month before The Phantom Menace opened in British movie theaters:

Devotees can choose from over 375 different products. The range offers talking figures of the key characters, including Jedi knight Obi Wan-Kenobi and his foe Darth Maul, double-handed light sabres, computer accessories and costumes, as well as the new Lego Star Wars collection.

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Turing’s tests: ‘The Imitation Game’ is a superior but tragic biopic about a brilliant but lonely intellectual

December 31, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 31, 2014

What makes life worth living? Why should society — why should anyone — value a man’s existence and accomplishments?

Those are some of the questions Norwegian director Morten Tyldum poses with his new feature, The Imitation Game, which examines the life and work of pioneering British computer scientist Alan Turing.

The movie has three interwoven narratives. The shortest, but arguably the most heart-wrenching, shows a roughly 15-year-old Turing at boarding school in the 1920s. Turing, played with touching vulnerability by Alex Lawther, is bullied mercilessly by his classmates — all but one, Christopher Morcom (Jack Bannon), who shows appreciation for Turing’s quirky personality as well as his impressive intellect.

The grown-up Turing whom we see throughout the rest of the movie is less vulnerable — at least superficially. Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s ongoing 21st-century update of the character and Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness) portrays the main character as he first strives to crack Nazi German cryptography in World War II and then, in the early 1950s, tries to deflect the inquiries of an overenthusiastic Manchester detective who suspects Turing of spying for the Soviet Union. (To avoid spoilers, I’ll confine most of my commentary to the movie’s World War II narrative.)

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Captivating ‘Atonement’ turns on a tragic mistake

October 4, 2012

About half of the film Atonement is set on a posh English country estate during a scorching 1930s day. The estate, which belongs to the Tallis family, is being visited by the Quincey children, a teenaged girl and her two younger brothers, who are cousins of the Tallises, and by two young men.

One of those men is Robbie Turner. Like middle child Cecilia Tallis, he has just graduated from university. In truth, he lives on the family estate; his late father was and his mother is a longtime household servant. In the fashion of virtually every love story involving upper-crust Britons, Turner and Cecilia must fight to acknowledge their feelings for one another.

As the youngest Tallis child, 13-year-old Briony, watches Turner and Cecilia over the course of the day, she becomes convinced that he is a sex maniac.

That night, what should be an ordinary dinner party is disrupted when everyone abruptly realizes that the two Quincey boys have run away. During a chaotic search, Briony runs across Lola Quincey being raped. Neither she nor Lola see the face of the rapist, but Briony is a girl of fierce conviction. She accuses Turner.

Cut to the French countryside some years later. The Nazis have routed the English expeditionary force; Turner and two fellow soldiers make their way to the coast to await rescue by the British navy. But that turns out to be no sure thing: The Luftwaffe is bombing troop carriers in the Channel, and thousands of men are now trapped between the water and the advancing Nazi war machine.

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