Films

We often go and see films while we're over here. Because they're cheap, they're convenient, and we get to see them when they are first released. Some are good and some are bad. Here's a list of what we've seen, and what we think of them. Plus some opposing views.

I comment

Philip reviews

Rating Meaning
1 A real stinker. Not worth seeing at all.
2 A poor film. Don't see it again.
3 Adequate.
4 Better than average. Worth seeing again if it comes to TV.
5 The best. An absolute classic. Worth seeing many times, even if you have to pay money to do it.

The Last Of The Blonde Bombshells

13th May 2001

Finally caught up with this film. What a stunning film. I'm starting to believe that any film starring Judi Dench is a winner. Great music, except the punk contrast near the end. Anne and I had tears in our eyes through most of the film, even sobbing at all the funny and happy bits. This was a great film. And it was great to see some of the older actors like Joan Sims again (Just the one...) and great to hear Cleo Laine still going strong.

I need films like this to get a grip on how to behave when I get old and disreputable. I learnt some great new lines to add to the ones learnt from Victor Meldrew. I'll eagerly go and see this film a few more times.

Rating: 4.5

The Mummy Returns

6th May 2001

We loved the Mummy. It was a high class camp comedy. We weren't so rapt in this film. It had lots of good stuff, but it was missing a plot. Even a hint of a plot would have been good.

The Return of the Mummy took all the gee whiz effects from the Mummy, expanded on them, and left it at that. "Sorry about forgetting we had to write a plot. Couldn't you just infer a plot from the effects?" It was okay. We enjoyed it, but about a tenth of our enjoyment of the Mummy. A plot would have been nice. There were lots of things they could have done to improve it. The fight scenes between the two women could have been expanded and that would have been very good. And the animated Scorpion King should have been slower moving. A huge animated character that moves really really fast is worthless, because you can't see the quality of the animation because it's moving too fast. There was no empathy with the characters, they were all too annoying or too glib. Except for the final scene where we all felt really sorry for Imhotep.

Rating: 3

Hannibal

18th February 2001

We had mixed feelings about this film. We had both read the book and found the book pretty horrific, even if the ending sucked a bit. The film was almost there. It followed the book very well, except they changed the ending completely. The film ending was much worse than the book ending. It was stupid.

The film was moody and moved well. The actress playing Clarice Starling was great. Much better than Jodie Foster. The scenery of Florence was really good. The action was okay, but when they tried to do the really gory bits, it turned into a comedy. When Hannibal dropped the detective out the window and his intestines hit the ground, we laughed. They tried so hard to be disgusting and simply made it funny. Likewise the scene with the brain-eating.

All in all, you would be better to read the book and not see the film. See a travel documentary on Florence instead of watching the film. And if you want to see the American scenery, come over and see Virginia.

Rating: 3

Mission Impossible 2

27th May 2000

We have mixed reactions to this film. On the one hand it was great to see so many shots of Sydney and Australia. On the other, the action was pretty amazing. On the other other hand, all that action doesn't make it a Mission Impossible film.

The opening scenes were pretty unbelievable, climbing up the mountainside. I heard later that Tom Cruise did most of us stunts in the film, including the climbing bits and the motorcycle bits. If that's true, I am amazed and I stand in awe. It seemed that the rest of the film was shot in Australia. This is good for homesick ex-pats. But every water shot didn't really need the Bridge or the Opera House in it.

The action scenes were pretty good. The viewing audience must be getting blase these days, because they really had to go to bizarre lengths to make the action interesting and amazing. They succeeded. And if Tom did his stunts on the motorcycles, as I haerd he did, more power to him. Those bike scenes were wild.

The problem I have is the title. Mission Impossible. I remember those old black and white Mission Impossible series as 45 minutes of quietly setting up an operation, and then 10 minutes of executing a bizarre set of events, getting away with the desired result with a minimum of violence, noise or action. This film had nothing but violence, noise and action. Maybe it should have been called something more appropriate, like Mission Violent.

Anne liked it because of the action and the Australian scenery. I sort of liked the action, but I very much liked the Australian scenery. Maybe we should go see a travelogue or a documentary on Australia and be done with it.

Rating: 3

Shanghai Noon

27th May 2000

Another Jackie Chan film. Set in the Wild West. If you saw the TV ads, you saw all the best bits. It was okay. A lot of laughs, spoiled by constant repetition in the ads. The storyline was weak, the stunts were not the usual unbelievably amazing stunts I expect from Jackie Chan, but it was okay. Probably best to wait till it gets to video.

Rating: 3

Battlefield Earth

12th May 2000

This film was preceded by lots of ads on TV too. I had high expectations. I even read the book again, just before the film so I had it fresh in my mind.

I am quickly coming to the conclusion that films made from books will always be crap.

The film assumes that you know the book. The film ends halfway through the book. It is expected that there will be a sequel to finish the book. The book is huge in size and huge in scope. To get the main storyline into the film, they shot many extremely short scenes. The film jumps like crazy, moving forward very, very quickly. Unles syou know the book, you will probably be floundering. They changed the story a bit. The book had Jonnie Goodboy Tyler building weapons from scratch to destroy the Psychlos. The film had him find an arsenal of weapons left over from a 1,000 years ago, and using that. I am doubtful that a fleet of 1,000 year old Harrier Jump Jets would be capable of flying, let alone have fuel.

There were really only three actors - Terl, Ker and Jonnie Goodboy Tyler. Jonnie did interesting monkey impersonations. I kept expecting to flashback to Planet of the Apes. Ker was like a large stuffed doll wandering through the film wondering what he was doing. Terl was great. Travolta did a very good job with Terl and I was impressed. Terl was the only good part of the film.

I won't bother seeing this again. I probably won't be bothered seeing the sequel. The book was great. The book was a happy, rollicking romp of a space opera. Shame about the film.

Rating: 2

Gladiator

5th May 2000

After enough ads on TV to whet our appetite, we saw this on opening night at the very late showing. It's a long film, about 2.5 hours, but well worth it.

It's basically an action film, a gladiator film, sort of like Spartacus. The storyline is thin. It didn't have any complexity. No side issues, no politics, no history, just a focus on this very thin story. That wasn't too bad. They used some real characters from history but "modified" it for the story. The film tells the sory of Commodus' succession from Marcus Aurelis, and how the succession had problems due to a general called Maximus. I've done a bit of research and the story is extremely loosely based on history. The names of Commodus and Marcus Aurelius are right, but the rest appears to be fantasy. Marcus Aurelius really did announce to the troops that Commodus was to succeed him. Commodus lived another 12 years before he was strangled in the bath by his male sex-slave. Commodus did have a fascination for the gladiators. The rumour was that he was sired by a gladiator that took the Empress' fancy. He nurtured this rumour and spent a lot of time in the arena, fighting. He was reputed to have gone in one day, and used 100 arrows to kill 100 tigers. What an appalling waste of tigers.

Discounting the fiction, it was a good film. The opening battle scene in Germania was a ball-tearer. I hadn't realised just how advanced battle had become by 180 AD. While researching the history for the film, I read that by 80 AD, Rome was industrialised to a level that was not surpassed till the 19th century. I was amazed at that, and it was interesting to see some of that in the first battle scene. The first few gladiator fights were really good. By the time it got to the tigers, it was ho-hum.

Best of all was the chance to see incredible old actors like Richard Harris, Oliver Reed and Derek Jacobi (what Roman senator had a beard, for Christ sake?) performing their hearts out. They gave tremendous performances and their scenes gave the film a quality that I wasn't expecting. Russell Crowe has a good chance of becoming a Richard Burton. Great looks, great voice, good acting. I was ever so pleased that he was allowed to keep his Australian accent and didn't have to water it down for the American audience.

I will go to see this film again on the big screen a couple more times, but I'll probably leave half way through when the action stops. I really want to get the video so that I can freeze frame the violent scenes and see how they did some of the stuff. I loved the violence. I've been asked this question several times: if gladiatorial shows came back, would I go see them to see real men fight and bleed and die. My answer is yes. Initially. I would definitely go see it. I'm not in favour of seeing animals fighting, but man to man, or woman to woman, or man to woman, that's fine by me. Killing and death, yes, as long as I had a front row seat and could see all the action.

Rating: 4

Beyond The Mat

3rd April 2000

This is a documentary about the wrestling industry. It briefly covers a couple of young wrestlers looking to get into the big league. It spends most of the time examining the careers of two older wrestlers, one who won't retire despite the body damage, and one who has major emotional and drug problems. Then it has a look at Mick Foley and the events leading to his recent retirement. This is obviously a film for someone who enjoys watching the wrestling. Everyone else should avoid it. Lots of action, but not enough. Lots of violence - real violence - and the subsequent stitching and mopping. I enjoyed it, but then I enjoy watching 2 hours of wrestling every Monday and Thursday nights. I enjoyed it, and learnt a lot from it, but once is enough.

Rating: 3

Erin Brockovich

31st March 2000

I normally loathe films with Julia Roberts. This one isn't too bad. David versus Goliath type of film. Unemployed mum barges into a legal job, gets involved, and takes on a huge corporation. A bit of social conscience, typical pollution and abuse, how the legal system works in the USA. It moves rapidly, and doesn't waste much time with the love mush, so we can be thankful about that. Loosely based on a true story, as much as any film can approach a "true story", and it appears that the real Erin Brockovich has a bit part in the film as a waitress. Not bad. See it once and forget it. Never trust large corporations because they will rape you.

Rating: 3.5

Stir of Echoes

28th March 2000

A ghost story. Intense and scary. Quite scary in parts. We also saw it on video which gave us a chance to play the white blur scenes frame-by-frame and see what was really happening.

Also very disturbing to consider that parents and kids could do something like that, then cover it, and be prepared to kill to keep it covered up.

One large discontinuity when the wife consults a psychic policeman who gives advice, then there's no more about that at all. Afetr that you don't have much sympathy for wife, because she could have avoided a lot of crap if she had told the husband about the policeman.

Not brilliant, but entertaining. It kept me disturbed for a few days after seeing it.

Rating: 3

The Mummy

10th March 2000

We finally got to see this film. It's a fine, fine comedy. Some really good effects, some gross stuff (but that's to be expected as it's supposed to be a horror film). Worth seeing. Good fun.

Rating: 4

Philip says about The Mummy

The Mummy is, as my father used to say, an entertainment. There are holes in the plot large enough to fly a biplane through, but then so did Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Mummy managed to keep the basic plot of the Boris Karloff film while throwing in references to a good many other horror films as well as things like The Lost Patrol and Beau Geste. (Don't worry, they do eventually explain what the Legion Etrangere is doing in British controlled Egypt.) I liked the film's cheerfulness in the face of improbability, the special effects and the sense of this being a homage rather than a ripoff to Boris Karloff and Gary Cooper. My 11 year old Egyptologist daughter loved every minute of it and was absorbed enough to not give me a running commentary on Egyptian burial practices. The hero was dashing, the heroine beautiful and the villain is like Peter Lorre playing Gollum. I saw it twice, which is a pretty good sign that I enjoyed the film. I also saved the day when the film got caught in the projector and started melting. I was the only person in the theatre who knew what was happening, surrounded as I was by an audience which only knows about videotape. So I dashed downstairs and suggested the projectionist get back into the booth before everything melted. As a a reward I was solemnly presented with the 24 frames they had cut out of the reel. Hooray for me. Anyway, I thought The Mummy was great fun, I loved the biplane scene (they appeared to be using the same re-jigged Tiger Moth that stood in for a Bucker Jungmann in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) and generally had a great time.

Pitch Black

5th March 2000

This is a great SF film. It's got elements of Asimov's Nightfall in it, plus a bit of Aliens and a bit of Hannibal Lecter. It's fast paced, exciting, brutal and really good. I'll see this film a few more times.

It's another of these films made in Australia. Filmed in Coober Pedy, so the landscape is pretty amazing. Aussie actors in it, plus the British actress from Farscape. The language is brutal, the acting is great, the story is clean and believable.

There was a TV doco about Pitch Black, and the film might be the start of a TV series. Should be good if it makes it.

Rating: 4.5

Galaxy Quest

26th December 1999

This is a comedy, a parody of the Star Trek phenomena. It's really funny, but only if you've watched enough Star Trek to get all the in-jokes. If you haven't seen them, then don't bother going to see this, because you might laugh once or twice only. If you are familiar with Star Trek and it isn't your religion, then Galaxy Quest is side-splittingly funny. It gently pokes fun at the show, the actors and the cult following. A good humoured romp. Tim Allen finally does something funny, Sigourney Weaver shows she has tits, morons are funny, alien sex is good for several laughs, and geeks save the day. I loved it.

Rating: 4

End of Days

26th December 1999

Arnold Schwarzenegger fights Satan and beats him through sacrifice. This isn't a very good film. Lots of effects, lots of fights, but the basic premise is flawed. Rosemary's Baby dragged into Y2K, with far too many story flaws. May as well skip this film.

Rating: 3

Thirteenth Warrior

10th September 1999

This is based on Michael Crichton's book Eaters of the Dead. They changed the story a bit for the film, but it's still a very good film. To get the most out of the film, read the book. It retells the story of Beowulf and Grendel, but Grendel is a left-over tribe of Neanderthals. We both enjoyed this film a lot, but we had both read the book just before seeing the film.

Some bits turned my stomach, like the early-morning washing ritual. On the other hand, some bits I really enjoyed like the guy whose head was torn from his body. That was really well done. Some good gory bits.

I'll see this film again a few times, but I'll close my eyes in the morning washing scene. Yuck.

Rating: 4

An Ideal Husband

23rd August 1999

A beautiful version of the classic Oscar Wilde play. Superb acting and a classic play. It's worth seeing many times.

Rating: 4

7th August 1999

Sixth Sense

7th August 1999

This was a slow film with some very scary moments. There were 2 main actors - Bruce Willis and some little kid. Bruce Willis plays a very tender role, and he's pretty good at it. The little kid was really good and played his role very well. There were two other actors - Toni Collette (Muriel's Wedding) and the wife. Both were done pretty well, although the roles were pretty minimal. There were other people in the film but they were walk-ons, and glide-ons.

The film irritated me a bit while it was on, but when the final twist came and it all made sense, the irritation went away and it was replaced with a sense of amazement. I didn't see the twist coming, but I'm sure that a chorus of smartarses will pipe up with "I could see it coming a mile away". I thought there was one inconsistency with what the kid was yelling at his teacher. How would he know that? But maybe I need to see it again and check if that really was an inconsistency or not. I have to see this film again. There were some scenes like the anniversary dinner, where I watched it and thought I understood it, but with the revealing of the twist at the end, it reads a completely different way, and I want to watch that again and see just how well they did that.

Now that I know what the twist is, I want to see it all again, because it reads completely differently. This film kept us talking about it for two weeks, worrying over the plot and working out what was happening. For a film to keep our attention for so long, and to keep us thinking about it, is unusual. So I recommend it.

Rating: 4

Wild Wild West

1st August 1999

We went and saw Wild Wild West because Anne used to enjoy the TV series and the previews looked interesting. It was nothing like the TV series, and all the funny bits in the previews ran out in the first few minutes. Then it got tedious. Then very boring. Then it ended. Don't bother going to see it.

I wonder what is going wrong with Kenneth Branagh's career that he has to stoop so low as to make a film this poor. The only interesting thing was the technology that showed him without legs.

Rating: 2

Eyes Wide Shut

16th July 1999

This was over-hyped before the event. Kubrick's last film. Kidman and Cruise nude. Problems with censorship. We saw it the day it was released. All the hype faded as the film started.

Okay, there's lots of nudity. Kidman on the toilet, but hey, that was done in the 70s by Jane Fonda with just as much shock value. So much casual nudity that it didn't register after a while. The film was slow. It was over three hours, and it moved with the glacial slowness of a French art flic. Plot development was very slow. Near the end of the film, Kidman says "At least we're awake now." One wag in the audience said "The audience isn't". Although it moved very slowly, it maintained interest. It was an intense film, and you had to concentrate, but it did maintain your interest. The photography was superb, but then Kubrick is well noted for this.

The music was irritating. A lot of the soundtrack consisted of a pianist who used one finger to repeatedly strike one piano key. As the volume was turned up way too loud, as in all modern films, the percussive effect of the single piano key was painful.

The plot was silly. Husband and wife get stoned, wife tells him of a fantasy she had, he gets called out into the night and has a series of strange sexual episodes. He gets confused and upset, but comes back to his wife still pure (physically). There is a very clear moral to this film - lies are more important than truth in a marriage. And also - don't tell your spouse your fantasies, unless the spouse is very strong and secure.

It seemed to be discussing married life. We build our lives with someone else, but we never ever really know what the other person is thinking about. He got a shock about her fantasy. She got a shock when he told her about his fevered night on the town. Another thing that interested me was the episode with the prostitute. He stopped and talked to her, he went inside with her, he was going to do it, but stopped when his wife rang on the mobile phone, and he even paid the prostitute. To my way of thinking, he was as guilty as if he had sex with the prostitute. The intent was there, so the act was irrelevant. The marriage on the screen mirrored a lot of operas - weak husband, strong wife. I confess to finding these gormless, weak, introspective men very irritating.

One of the core scenes in the film was the orgy. Cruise gatecrashes an orgy, held in ultra-secrecy by a bunch of very, very rich people. The orgy starts with a lengthy preliminary involving black cloaks, horror-movie organ music, boring rituals, banging of staves on stone. As there weren't enough prostitutes to go round, only a few lucky people got to actually have sex, and the rest just stood around and watched. If I was a rich person organising an orgy, I would make sure that there were enough prostitutes to go round, and there would be more time spent having sex and less time spent standing around wondering who was going to get the girls.

I thought the mask in the bed was a nice throwback to the Godfather film with the horse's head.

One very irritating thing about the film was that it was censored for the American market. Australians will get to see it as is. Europeans too. But Americans are deemed to be so child-like and so easily affected by scenes of sex that they can't be shown the film as is. Never mind the great amounts of fake violence that is shown uncut. Americans believe they have so much freedom, yet most of their freedoms have been taken away from them and they haven't even noticed. They showed some technological enterprise with their censorship. During the orgy scene, when the camera cut to the shots of the old in-out, figures in black cloaks were inserted right in front of the action. Nothing was cut, but large black bits were added.

All in all, I enjoyed it. Anne and I kept talking about it for days, arguing about things. It got into our minds and kept us thinking about it. It irritated us enough to keep thinking about it. I'll see it again, but I'll wait for the video, so I can mute that damned piano key.

Rating: 3

Red Violin

10th July 1999

This film had great previews. It had a great soundtrack. But it didn't quite stay at the level of intensity that the previews promised.

It used a few tricks that proved interesting. There was a starting point with a Tarot reading, and an ending point with a violin auction. The film whipsawed between the two events. It would come back to the Tarot reading, so we could hear a little more of the future, and then that future would be played out, and then we would be at the auction seeing it from a different viewpoint. I enjoyed that constant whipping backwards and forwards.

The episode with the the little boy who died was supposed to be very sad. I confess to laughing when the child just keeled over and died at the most significant point of his life. The episode with the hedonistic English violinist was supposed to be sensual and lush, and it proved to be tawdry and silly. I think the gymnastics required for the violinist to play, would produce a very poor performance in both arenas.

The Chinese interlude was very interesting. That's an area of history that I know very little about, and the film stimulated me to learn more about it. I shall do some reading. I thought the saddest moment of the film was the death of the Chinese teacher, who had devoted his life to collecting and preserving so many instruments, then dying before he could see them safe.

The end of the auction was a little strange. What was his purpose? Why would he be a better owner than the others? A bit of a let down.

The soundtrack was great. John Corigliano wrote it, and it was performed by a top violinist, whose name I have forgotten. I shall buy the soundtrack, after hearing it played in full on WHRO.

Rating: 4

Tea With Mussolini

3rd July 1999

This is a delightful film, one of those quirky English bittersweet nostalgia films. Set in Florence, before and during the Second World War, it tells the story of a young Italian bastard adopted by the eccentric English art community living in Florence. They helped him in his childhood, and he helped them during their internment. He later wrote a book about those days, and it was made into this film. It had some great English names, like Maggie Smith and Judi Dench. Cher too, and for once I liked her performance. I don't normally like her films.

It was a wonderful little film, and I heartily recommend it to everyone.

Rating: 4

Star Wars: Phantom Menace

6th June 1999

I had seen the first three Star War films. I enjoyed the first one, Episode 4. It had a storyline and wasn't bloated with excessive cuteness. The next two irritated me greatly. Excessive cuteness and lack of story were the main reasons. I don't know why people recently got all heated up about the mixed up episodes. Way back in the 1970s, when Star Wars was released, George Lucas said that it was Episode 4 and that he would do the middle three, then go back and make the first three and then make the last three. He set out his game plan right in the beginning. After he made the middle three films, I didn't think he would make any more because the time gaps were getting too long and I thought he would probably die before he got around to it.

The Phantom Menace was irritating for many reasons. I shall describe the things that irritated me, then describe the bits I liked.

In the first scene, we see a spaceship go roaring past us making a huge noise (designed to demonstrate the sound effects). I couldn't help but think How is that sound travelling in space? Funny. I thought space was pretty much empty and there was nothing for sound waves to travel through. My mistake.

The film starts with the best example of bigotry I have ever seen. Aggressor nation decides to invade small and peaceful nation. Agressor nationals speak and look like Japanese from the propaganda films of 40s and 50s. Peaceful nation of weak and effeminate people speak and act and dress Chinese. Underwater nation is black American from the Amos and Andy days. Their speech is pretty much like modern black American speech. I couldn't understand much of the Gungan speech, and I can't understand much black speech here in the USA. I am surprised that George Lucas hasn't been sued or attacked for his racist view of the world, and archaic stereotypes.

I was appalled at the deliberate rip-off of Ben Hur's chariot race. The pod race matched the chariot race scene for scene, including how the brave young Anakin defeated the horrible Sebulba. Hawk, spit. Scene for scene and second for second, the Ben Hur chariot race was far more exciting, had far more tension, had far more believability than the virtual and plastic race. Lucas is happy to proclaim that he honoured Ben Hur by copying the chariot race. I think Ben Hur stands on its own and doesn't need such honouring.

Phantom Menace looks like the result of a committee which reviewed every scene. In the (imaginary) review meetings, George Lucas said "Will this scene contribute to my stance as the greatest film-maker of all time?". A child-exploitation specialist said "This scene could be made much more cute if you put a small animal doing something cute like picking it's noses in a corner." The marketing person said "Yes, but make it a new animal so we can make another plastic model to sell after the film." It was a blatant marketing exercise. The first film to make a vast profit before opening night. Okay, I know the target audience was children, but it targeted them directly as consumers, not as small minds to be entertained and entranced.

Liam Neeson was great. He dominated the film. I never realised how physically large he was. Euan MacGregor was pretty good too, even though he had a fairly subordinate part. I enjoyed Trainspotting, so I am willing to cut him a lot of slack. He is now set for life. They chose a young actor, so that over the next 20 years when they make Episodes 2 and 3, he will grow into Obi Wan Kenobi, and then in the next 30 years when they make Episodes 7, 8 and 9, he will still be around to make them, posthumously and ghostly. He is bankable for life.

Now that I have seen the rest of the Jedi knights, I am extremely glad that most of them got killed by the time of Star Wars Episode 4. Especially Samuel L. Jackson who makes an appalling Jedi knight, as well as the pencil-necked geek Jedi knight. Now I know what Jedi knights really are. They are moderately normal people with excessive egos who have been infected by a symbiotic microbial parasite. This gives them powers which they practise in order to subvert the normal government of the galaxies. They are an arrogant, aristocratic, elitist, meddling group who believe they are above all others. They need to be exterminated and I hope that they are completely extinct by the time of Episode 9.

Oh yes, I had forgotten how much I hated Yoda and his pathetic speech mannerisms. Please, please, can we have him brough back to life again, so he can be killed very messily all over again? On the other hand, Darth Maul was pretty good. He had enough lines to demonstrate that he was a pretty good athlete and fighter. Great make-up too. Pity he died in the end, as it would have been fun to have him running amok in the next few episodes. He added a splash of colour to the film. And I particularly liked the body split when he died and felldown.

I loathe child actors usually. And I loathed this one more than most. He was wooden. He was slow. He was colourless and forgettable.

So after I've griped so much about the film, I have to say that I am glad I saw Phantom Menace. It helps fill in some of the gaps in the storyline. I am glad I have seen it, but I didn't enjoy it much. Too many things made me cringe, or irritated me throughout the film. There's better films out there. Filling a film with gee-whiz whizz-bang effects does not make a good film. Turning a film into one giant advertisement to help sell merchandise does not make a good film.

Rating: 2

Philip says about Phantom Menace:

I have written about this before, but let me recap. I thought this was an adult film, written and directed with far more subtlety than is at first obvious. That this is a film for adults rather than children is made clear by the opening credits, which speak about a trade war. Adults fight over resources and trading rights, not magic talismans. There are clear resonances here with the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. The accents are a giveaway of course, but I liked the way Lucas grounded this conflict in a galaxy in which the villains set out to literally capture a market while the do gooders at home dither. Has anybody noticed that the older Jedi has the same name as the mystical sect which upset the Chinese government so much? There has been some criticism of the film on the grounds that it is racist. Nonsense. If the Sino-Japanese war is the correct parallel for this film, then it is only accurate to depict the "Japanese" as murderous, vicious, consciousless scum in that context. And then there's Jar Jar Binks. I didn't find him annoying. Some of the rotoscoping could have been better and as an amphibian he would have shrivelled up and died on Tattooine, but otherwise I had not problems. I believe there has been some cavilling that his character was racist. Well, if he had been called "Eat 'n' Sleep" and shuffled about saying "Lawdy massa, ah sure loves watermelon," I might have had some some problems. The trouble is that Binks's speech and that of the other amphibians is pretty much what you would expect from a people having limited contact with the people for whom the language is indigenous. I am sure there are some scenes in which the Gungans speak their own language. It is simply par for the course for people in the Gungan's situation to develop a pidginised version of the dominant language or at best a trade patois.* Lucas is simply being accurate here. Now, enough of the adult stuff. Yes, the pod race was fun. However, the last time I saw Ben Hur was at 3am at your place on the morning I left Townsville to move to Brisbane, so I don't have a clear memory of it. The spaceship fight at the end was pretty perfunctory, but I enjoyed it none the less. I really liked the way that in The Phantom menace everybody thinks they know what they are doing - Obi Wan, Princess Armadillo, Yoda etc when in fact they are all heading for disaster. There are many issues to be resolved, not the least of which is when the 10 year old Anakin and Princess Armadillo (who, I'm told, is supposed to be 14) produce Luke and Leia. And how? I have only seen this twice because I had to go to Paris for a holiday instead of spending every night in the Regent, but I will certainly see it again.

The Matrix

5th June 1999

When I see a new film, my brain is juggling two things simultaneously. In front of me is a new film and I am open and absorbing and accepting the spectacle. At the back of my mind, I am comparing what I see with books I have read and films I have seen and magazine articles, and history and my experiences. The back of my mind helps to put the new images into perspectives and interpret them. I can still enjoy a film while analysing it. When the analysis takes over from the simple pleasure of viewing a film, that usually means that a film is poor and derivative. When the analysis stops and I am overwhelmed with the spectacle, it means the film is powerful and transcends its history. In between these two extremes lie most films that I see. The Matrix is on the side of the overwhelming spectacle. Phantom Menace is closer to the Poor Side.

I really enjoyed The Matrix. It was a well constructed film, where the story was not spoonfed. It took time to work out what was really happening, and there were a few large mental jumps to make. It was a complex story and I had to work hard to keep up with what was happening. It also had internal consistency.

It also had some of the best kung fu fight scenes since Bruce Lee graced the screen. The film-makers brought a team of Hong Kong kung fuers over to do the action shots. The film was made in Australia. My memory, often faulty, tells me that the last time a Hong Kong team of kung fuers came to Australia to help make a film was with The Man From Hong Kong, a brutal and enjoyable film from the 1970s.

Yes, the film was made in Australia. About 15 minutes into the film, Anne got this puzzled look on her face and then said "That's Martin Place". I was already getting a deja vu feeling with street signs and buildings that I recognised, and seeing cars driving and parking on the left side of the road. The fight scene with the helicopter made me homesick with all the shots of those buildings in the Sydney CBD. Before I left Australia, I remember reading about Keanu Reeves running around Sydney and having fun while making a film. I never connected that memory with the matrix until I recognised locations in the film.

It was good to see Australians getting bit parts too. And a major role, played by Hugo Weaving. He was excellent. He played an agent, a computer program and not a human. When we got home, I pointed out to Anne a book I am working through while trying to build a spider that will check all the links on my Web page, and she laughed. It's called Internet Agents. That's effectively what Hugo Weaving was.

The Matrix seems to have a large cult following among the techno-geeks, which is where I class myself. I don't know if it would appeal to a mainstream audience. A science fiction audience, yes, because they are mostly hooked into computers these day anyway.

There was a scene in the film from Philip Jose Farmer's To Your Scattered Bodies Go, where Richard Burton wakes up and looks out of his coffin pod and sees millions and millions like him, up and down the pillars. And the concept of the world and everything being a giant computer program came out of Jack Chalker's Midnight At the Well of Souls series. Chalker often used the expression The Matrix to describe the world in those books. There's a few other concepts that came from good science fiction novels, so it's no wonder that it turned out to be an intelligent film.

The ending needs a second viewing to make sense. It allows for a sequel. I have since found out that they plan on making two sequels, both to be filmed in Australia. They will either be two sequels, or a prequel and a sequel, but whichever they are, they will be filmed together and released within months of each other. I am eagerly awaiting this.

The Matrix has drawn the ire of those upset by the Columbine High School massacre. There is one very violent scene where the two main actors dress in black trenchcoats which conceal a mind-boggling array of heavy-duty weaponry. The fire-fights is spectalar and extremely exciting.

I thought that The Matrix was a very good film and I highly recommend it.

Rating: 4

Philip says about the Matrix:

The Matrix is a loud, stupid, violent, pointless and doubtless very expensive film. Why actors of even moderate talent become involved in this kind of drivel is beyond me. Denzel Washington starred in a perfectly dreadful film about a policeman being sent into a virtual world some years ago that was not worth the admission price to the Phoenix in Suva and that must have been all of F$2. The Matrix attempts to breathe life into a very old plot, the one in which they have have taken over the world and are walking among us in human form, only we don't know it and only a fearless band of freedom fighters can wake us up and free us from the threat of the hideous Gqwleeerx. John Carpenter had a crack at this about 10 years ago and it wasn't very good either. The only good thing about The Matrix is that it was shot in Sydney so you get to see (a) some genuine Sydney roof tops (b) a Sydney double decker train (Don't laugh: If you come from Queensland a double decker train is really impressive) and (c) very briefly, right at the end, when Keanu Reeves is making a phone call you can see one end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Ah yes, the phone call. The characters in this noisy drivel spend an inordinate amount of time looking for telephones so they can dial themselves back to reality. Ever hear of mobile phones? Of course if they had carried mobile phones then they would have defeated the aliens even before the film began and we would have been spared this whole unsightly mess.