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Sequels Continue to Arrive as 'Mamma Mia 2', 'Equalizer 2' and 'Unfriended 2' Hit Theaters
SATURDAY AM UPDATE: With an estimated $14.7 million, Universal's Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again led the way, heading toward what could be a $40 million opening weekend, well ahead of the $27.7 million opening for the original. The film received an "A-" CinemaScore from opening day audiences. Internationally, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again opened in 41 markets this weekend including major markets U.K. & Ireland, Germany, Australia, Sweden and Spain. The film has so far grossed $2...

Sequels Dominate as Denzel's 'Equalizer 2' Edges Out 'Mamma Mia!' Sequel at Top of Box Office
A different kind of record was set this weekend in that it was the first weekend ever where eight of the top ten films at the weekend box office were sequels. Of those eight, two of the weekend's new follow-up films are locked in a tight race at the top with Sony's The Equalizer 2 pulling off a surprise upset, edging out Universal's Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, which looked as if it might top $40 million at one point over the weekend, but settled down well below that mark. Overall, the wee...

It's a Good Star Wars Movie
A review of Star Wars : Episode I -- The Phantom Menace
by J. D. Rummel

This was one movie that I was not going to review in a hurry. Why? Well, for one thing, nobody was waiting on my opinion. As the most hotly anticipated film in years (in the history of film?), this one was not going to have a shortage of expressed ideas and emotions.

Director: George Lucas

Stars: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Frank Oz, Samuel L. Jackson

Rating: PG

Release: 05-19-1999

Time: 133 minutes

Buy Movie at Now, about six weeks after the release of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, millions have seen the film that no review could harm, and thousands of opinions have been shared. What follows are some of my thoughts on SW:TPM.

I should start off by saying I am sort of Star Wars neutral. I understand its place in film and cultural history, but I am not a major fan. I like the series, and was overjoyed by the first film and how its impact forced filmmakers to take science fantasy seriously. However, I don't think any part of the Star Wars universe is genius, or even very original. To some, that probably makes me the enemy.

Like all of the other Star Wars films TPM is a working unit that must be judged on its own terms. SW:TPM is a good Star Wars movie. It is clearly Lucas' vision both good and bad. Good in that it does visuals really well. Indeed the special effects are without equal. Scenes with human and digital creations flow as though Lucas hired real aliens. TPM benefits from the FX revolution that Star War started 20 years ago. In terms of the established reality that is the whole Star Wars universe, the film has some fine moments. For instance, it is finally established (for me anyway) just why the Jedi Knights are revered as such formidable figures, the knights in Menace are impressive, fighting evil with calm, superlative skill, super-speed and assurance that are the best at what they do. The best part is that that Lucas creates a truly magical place for children. Watching young people around me in the theater I was thrilled that this work is out there--it is a classic fairy tale. Unlike Cinderella, or the works of the Brothers Grimm, TPM is not some hoary tale handed down, it is a brand new classic--freshly minted out of the tools of technology.

What is wrong with the film? Within its own reality, Lucas undermines much that we have come to believe (Darth Vader created C3PO? The Force can be defined via blood tests?). Also, emotion and dialogue are often positively laughable. Witness young Anakin Skywalker's departure from his mother. Due to the writing, much of how the Anakin material fails terribly. Prime examples are the writer's inability to give us hints as to the fears and darkness that sends the Chosen One to the dark side, or the failure to have us observe the force guiding the young boy as he beats an entire army. The writing prevents this from being anything more than a Star Wars movie. Indeed, because of the writing, no Star Wars movie has ever been more than a pretty picture. There is never depth. These are never real people doing anything. These are action figures being moved around within simple (but really long) stories.

Ultimately, it's limited by the fact that it is a Star Wars movie. I admire Lucas as a business man; he is a capitalist terror, but as an artist I do not envy him his burden. This thing carried a LOT of baggage. The first films are much more than a series of adventure flicks (like say the James Bond collection). These films are a touchstone for millions of people. The trilogy has had twenty years to be absorbed by the public. It is apparent that many people feel they have a better grasp on the Star Wars mythology than its creator does. It also seems to me that much of the criticism leveled against the new film is simply the price for this huge success. No artist can meet the expectations of everyone in the audience.

But the bottom line is this: Lucas owns and controls that universe, he can do whatever he wants with it--he owes us nothing but his best efforts, and I have no doubt we got them in this film.