Posts Tagged ‘Terence Stamp’

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

September 27, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
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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Soderbergh’s eccentric ‘The Limey’ explores fatherhood from the perspective of a bereaved veteran criminal

August 22, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 22, 2015

The Limey, the 1999 crime drama directed by the prolific Steven Soderbergh, is a quirky movie about a British criminal who visits Los Angeles to investigate the death of his daughter.

Terence Stamp stars as Wilson, who flies to the States fresh off a nine-year prison stint for armed robbery. He initially enlists the aid of fellow ex-con Eduardo (Luis Guzmán), who met Jenny Wilson (Melissa George) in an acting class. Later, Wilson ingratiates himself with Elaine (Lesley Ann Warren), the acting coach who became Jenny’s surrogate mother, due in no small part to her own mother having died when Jenny was a child.

This story could have played out as a straightforward revenge tale, and Wilson certainly isn’t above getting his hands dirty as he pushes for answers about just how and why Jenny died. But Soderbergh and the British screenwriter Lem Dobbs (the screenwriter of the well-regarded science fiction mind-bender Dark City) have a different agenda in mind. What initially seems to be a simple film narrative actually turns out to be a flashback: The entire story is framed as Wilson’s reminiscing as he flies back to England.

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‘Red Planet’ is an outer-space expedition that ultimately goes nowhere

July 8, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 8, 2015

Fifteen years ago, two big red cinematic bombs were unleashed upon the movie-going public. The marginally superior of these two films was Mission to Mars, a Brian De Palma helmed effort that debuted in March 2000 and starred Gary Sinise, Don Cheadle and Tim Robbins. The other Mars movie was Red Planet, a November release headlined by Val Kilmer, Carrie-Anne Moss and Tom Sizemore.

Mission to Mars was an ideas movie with action, an attempt by a great director to make a successor to 2001: A Space Odyssey. By contrast, Red Planet was an action movie with ideas — an effort to replicate the original Jurassic Park in a science fiction milieu. By this I mean not that Red Planet is a monster movie, as Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster is, but that, like the earlier movie, Red Planet attempts to envelop its candy-coated center with a veneer of scientific concepts.

There are plenty of differences between the two movies, of course, one of them being that Jurassic Park had an excellent script. Red Planet can’t claim the same, unfortunately. It was penned by Chuck Pfarrer and Jonathan Lemkin, who between them have no credit more impressive than Navy Seals or The Devil’s Advocate. Which isn’t to say that these movies — or their other outings, such as Virus or Shooter — are bad; it’s just that, like Red Planet, they’re simply not very distinguished.

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