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Review of the day for the week of May 17, 1999.

Monday:
Notting Hill

Notting Hill
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Notting Hill is a terrifically funny movie starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, along with some impressive British actors in supporting roles.

Grant plays the owner of a very unsuccessful travel bookstore. One day, incredibly famous actress Anna Scott (Roberts) walks into his store, and later she even agrees to go out with him.

Quite obviously this isn't your average romance. Their relationship is complicated by the hounding press, and by the fact that Grant is nobody while Anna is a huge celebrity. She also has a big movie star boyfriend (Alec Baldwin, who appears to be playing himself since he isn't referred to by any name). It looks as if Grant doesn't stand a chance with Anna.

Notting Hill isn't flawless. At several points, I knew exactly what the characters were going to do or say next, yet Notting Hill was so wonderfully jocular, originally plotted, and well-acted that it really didn't matter - it was tremendously enjoyable.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Friday:
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
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I have a feeling that I'm about to make the worst mistake of my movie-reviewing career. I'm about to trash Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, a long-awaited, eagerly anticipated super blockbuster which will rake in the money for years to come. Just like the original three Star Wars movies, which people have been devoutly renting and re-renting since the seventies.

I tried to like this movie. I really did. Despite my feelings about the earlier films, I tried to watch this one with an open mind.

But I just don't get it. It's not that I don't like space movies; I love the Star Trek movies. But Star Wars is just so stupid and pointless.

In your typical story of evil versus good, the good guys and the bad guys fight it out in outer space. Queen Amadalla from the planet Naboo (where do they get these names?) wants to help her people by ending a trade blockade. She sends two Jedis to the blockade to negotiate but instead they just get in a laser-sword fight. And so it goes.

And let's not forget the weird imaginary creatures that look like Jurassic Park rejects and detract even more credibility from the film.

Let's be honest people: Star Wars is a fairy tale with lasers.

Which brings me to another point: several long laser sword-fighting sequences are included for apparently no reason. Obi-Wan Kenobi and his master (I'm not even going to try to spell that guy's name) go up against a bad guy in a laser fight.

First of all, that's not a fair fight. The bad guy is outnumbered, of course he's going to lose!

Yet it takes twenty minutes for the fight to end and one of the Jedi's gets killed.

And if they had to resolve their personal differences with a fight, why couldn't they just punch each other's lights out? It would take a lot less time for a fistfight to end, and the audience wouldn't have to watch all that silly laser-clashing. It appears that these characters were more interested in playing with their laser toys than anything else.

I also thought there should have been a female Jedi knight. Someone to kick Obi-Wan's butt when he does something stupid. (Which is often.)

And I really hated to see Samuel L. Jackson, quite possibly the only decent actor in this film, in such a pathetic waste of a movie. It's an insult to his acting ability.

The characters, as well as the rest of the film, are immature and juvenile. Moviegoers who appreciate a good film will avoid the ridiculous lines for this one.

Okay, I think I'm getting to the end of my tirade. I just want to thank those of you who made it this far - I'm sure most of the people reading this review stopped near the beginning to send me a hate-letter.

My Rating = One Star

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For a completely different take on this movie, see Roger Davidson's review of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
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