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July 1999

The A-List: George Lucas loses the Star Wars

New movies inMunich for the months of July and August

Bulworth*** Warren on the verge of a nervous breakdown When we first meet incumbent Senator Jay Bulworth (Warren Beatty) he is quietly having a breakdown, while watching his latest re-election commercial. Wracked by lies and sleepless nights on the campaign trail, the suicidal Bulworth hires a hit man (Richard Sarafian), to assassinate him during the final campaign weekend, after making a deal with a corrupt lobbyist (Paul Sorvino) for $10 million in life insurance money. Since he’ll be dead in a matter of days, Bulworth reasons, why keep up his glossy campaign persona? The conservative senator takes up with ghetto girls, adopts a gangsta wardrobe and starts rapping to his constituents. He stabs his big-business contributors in the back, sending his campaign strategist (Oliver Platt) into frantic spin control. But his new-found freedom, and the beautiful, intelligent Nina (Halle Berry), rekindles his will to live. Now, how to stop the contract he’s put out on himself? Director, co-writer and star Beatty pushes the envelope for 107 minutes of foul-mouthed, wickedly funny, political chaos. Berry is terribly underused and comic actress Christine Baranski (“Marianne” of television’s Cybill) as the senator’s wife is disappointingly flat. Clearly it is Beatty’s ego trip, but it is also a miracle this film got made — you can feel the hypocritical Hollywood honchos squirming in their seats. Mark your ballot for Bulworth, you have to see it to believe it. Notting hill*** Much ado about Notting Hollywood star Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) is one of the most recognizable pretty women in the world. On the coattails of fame and fortune trail paparazzi resulting in the loss of the starlet’s privacy. Englishman William Thacker (Hugh Grant) runs a tiny travel bookstore in Notting Hill, London, not frequented by the celebrity set. While on a break between shooting blockbusters, Anna breezes into William’s shop and the sparks immediately fly between the two. Notting Hill is the love story of these two opposites, and the obstacles they must overcome to be together. For such a simple plot, director Robert Mitchell (Persuasion) gives us a smart, lithesome and well-acted charmer that ranks high on the romantic comedy scale. Roberts and Grant are perfect for this film — two dynamic personalities who work well together. The one-liners and sincere discourse from writer-producer Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral) have many of the usual trappings of great romantic comedy, but the celebrity-meets-commoner angle is freshly presented. Curtis has an affinity for offbeat characters like William’s roommate, Spike (Rhys Ifans), an unemployed Welshman with no great regard for personal hygiene. The only miss is the sing-what-the-characters-are-doing soundtrack, which is a bit annoying, but forgivable. Notting Hill is reminiscent of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pretty Woman, and Roman Holiday, but might best be called An Englishman That Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Box Office Hit. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace** The empire strikes out In Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, Jedi Knights Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) go on a diplomatic mission to resolve a dispute between the powerful Trade Federation and the planet Naboo. When it becomes clear the Federation’s trade blockade is part of a more sinister plan, the Jedi flee Naboo with the planet’s Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) and tag-along Jar-Jar Binks (Ahmet Best). A repair stop on the planet Tatooine introduces us to young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), a slave boy whom Qui-Gon believes is the Chosen One, destined to bring balance to the mystical Force. Director George Lucas has skimped on exposition, confusing even fans of the original trilogy. Sadly, the film is devoid of personality, filled with wooden characters, who never inspire any true emotion. Young Jake Lloyd brings little depth to the character who will become the cornerstone of the galactic series. Jar-Jar’s comic relief is nearly unintelligible. Worse, many in the media are roasting Lucas as racist for some questionable stereotyping. The Phantom Menace lacks the unifying, hissable bad guy that makes for great archetypal conflict, relying instead on visual effects. Lucas is guilty of believing his own hype. He has delivered a triumph of technology and art direction, but a mediocre story, geared toward 10-year-old boys who will nag their parents for Star Wars toys. The result is an adventure that feels…forced. <<<

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