Tag Archives: Natalie Portman

The Set of 400: #310 – My Favorite Weaponized Slim Whitman Tune

Today! Because if the Martians land, they’re going to need a place to stay, just like everybody else –

Mars Attacks! (1996)

Directed by Tim Burton

Starring Jack Nicholson (x2), Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Danny DeVito (x2), Pierce Brosnan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox (x2), Martin Short, Rod Steiger, Lukas Haas, Tom Jones, Jim Brown, Natalie Portman (x3), Lisa Marie, Sylvia Sidney, Pam Grier, Paul Winfield, Jack Black (x3), Joe Don Baker (x2), Ray J, Christina Applegate, Barbet Schroeder (x2), Willie Garson (x2), Rance Howard (x3), O-Lan Jones, Brian Haley

I know some people were really turned off by Tim Burton’s trading card adaptation global invasion sci-fi comedy, but I really dug it in that epic winter of 1996. Ah, ’96! This is already the sixth movie from that landmark, okay-ish year for films! Coming a few months after Independence Day, I guess everyone really wanted a wild action comedy of international destruction, but Tim Burton is not that director. He can give you quirky odd-ballery, but as for fight scenes or action sequences, well, look at that track record. His Batman movies are far more mood and atmosphere than slam-bang thrills. Sleepy Hollow – better, I guess, what with Ray Park as the Headless Horseman, but the staging didn’t vastly improve. Planet of the Apes – come on. So really, anyone wanting more out of Mars Attacks! was probably kidding themselves a bit too much.

What you get is a pretty fun, funny, throwback spoof of cheesy alien flicks, which quickly devolves into a cheesy alien flick itself, blurring that parody line until it basically disappears. I was really amped for this film come my senior year of high school – figure, you’ve got Nicholson playing wacky duel roles, in a roundabout nod to Dr. Strangelove’s end-of-the-world grapplings, as the president and a huckster casino owner, plus it reunited him with his Batman director, never mind the all-star cast reminiscent of ’70s disaster films, including a James Bond, a Teen Wolf, Foxy Brown, Ed Grimley, and the Penguin.

Never mind Carrie Bradshaw’s terrific work as this dog

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #319 – My Favorite Meal Ordering

Today! Because I don’t know about his face, but I think his brain might be pretty traumatized –

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Directed Wes Anderson

Starring Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman (x2), Adrien Brody, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray (x2), Kumar Pallana, Waris Ahluwalia, Amara Karan, Irrfan Khan, Barbet Schroeder, Natalie Portman (x2)

In many ways the forgotten Wes Anderson movie, The Darjeeling Limited is a terrific little character study of brothers Peter, Francis, and Jack on a spiritual journey across India that turns out to be much more. As it unfolds, the struggle each brother has gone through in the year since their father’s death gets magnified and fleshed out, building toward a reunion with their mother, played by a wonderful Angelica Huston.

In ’07 this movie had a decent run, for an Anderson film, and had a bit of attention from critics at year end, but it tends to get swallowed in any discussion of the director’s films, largely I feel because of the size of it. Even though it’s the rare sweeping travelogue film in his universe, Darjeeling is a relatively small movie, focusing largely just on the brothers (all giving tremendous performances, with Wilson’s frantic, shattered Francis standing out) and not a litany of movie stars in minor roles, like virtually all other Anderson vehicles. It also occupies the chronological spot between Life Aquatic (more talked about, considering it first followed Rushmore and Tenenbaums), and Fantastic Mr. Fox (Anderson’s first foray into animation), leaving it as the less remarkable middle film. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #332 – My Favorite Door Melting

Today! Because yud say boom de gasser, den crashin der bosses heyblibber, den banished –

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Directed by George Lucas

Starring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Ahmed Best, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Brian Blessed, Terence Stamp, Ray Park, Warwick Davis, Pernella August, Samuel L. Jackson, Dominic West, Sofia Coppola, Keira Knightley, Greg Proops (x2), Oliver Ford Davies, Hugh Quarshie

Let me just start by saying SHUT UP. I know, I’m not exactly in the majority for my enjoyment of this film. And rest assured, I recognize the amount of ridiculous bullshit that’s in it. Why did I use a Jar Jar Binks quote at the top? Because I’m owning it, and I want you to know I’m not overlooking the crammed in nonsense that ruins this movie for people. And perhaps I’m projecting backward onto this film – because I largely haven’t enjoyed the Star Wars things that have come since 1999 – but I think this is a hugely underappreciated movie, with a lot to like. So just shut up.

Let focus on the big things – the lightsaber battle at the end is the best lightsaber fight in any Star Wars movie. Hell, it might be the best swordfight in the history of film. John Williams score for this movie is my favorite of the series. The pod racing scene stands up with any sequence in any Star Wars. Ewan McGregor was a terrific choice to carry the prequels, and is always excellent as Obi-Wan. Darth Maul is a terrifically cool villain. Mace Windu is pretty cool, too. Plus it cannot be overstated how eagerly anticipated this movie was in ’99, to the point that I can’t believe it could’ve been warmly accepted no matter how it turned out. Look at The Force Awakens – the only reason people fell all over themselves in love with that thing is because the prequels were so hated. The logic – let’s just straight remake A New Hope and pray no one notices – worked great, as things got so out of hand by Episode III that fans just wanted anything resembling the original movies, no matter how derivative.

Groan!

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies