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May 24, 1999 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1999-05-24

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The Festival of New Works
The Festival of New Works brings
University alum and playwright Arthur
Miller to Ann Arbor on June 4th.

ARTS

Monday
May 24, 19998

'Phantom Menace' beats negative hype

By Ed Sholinsky
Daily Arts Editor
A long time a ago, in a galaxy not
so far away (Brooklyn, NY, actually)
my pregnant mother accompanied
my father to a new movie called
"Star Wars."
That was the beginning of a long
love affair with a special trilogy of
films that has a unique place in
American culture and the hearts of
many people of all ages.
So, it's with great anticipation that
the newest film from legend George
Lucas, "Star Wars: Episode I - The
Phantom Menace," hyperdrives into
theaters. And it
doesn't disap-
point.
There are few
Star Wars: films that are as
Episode I special as the
original "Star
Wars" - a
At Bnarwood blend of science
and Showcase fiction, mytholo-
gy and religion.
It's remem-
bered by many
as a movie that
brings pure joy
while instilling a
sense of adventure and pride. The
rebel forces battling the evil empire,
embarking on a journey to free the
galaxy from those who would terror-
ize it.
Not many people will shy away
from the first in the new trilogy of
"Star Wars" movies because of a bad
review. So despite critical attacks on
the film, it will break the bank. And
that's a good thing.
"The Phantcm Menace" leaves
you with the feeling of bubbly
excitement that the first three left
you with, while deftly telling the
story that kicked off the original tril-
ogy.
Centering on a conflict between
the Trade Federation -and the peace-

ful planet Naboo, "The Phantom
Menace" plants the seeds for the
destruction of the Republic and the
genesis of the evil Empire.
Audiences are launched into the
story when two Jedi - Qui-Gon Jinn
(Liam Neeson, "Michael Collins")
and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan
McGregor, "Trainspotting") -
are dispatched to settle the
dispute. But there is some-
thing sinister afoot and the
pair end up, fighting for
their lives.
Beyond that, there is
no point in revealing;
the plot. It would
just ruin a per-
fectly enjoy-
ably movie
going experi-
ence. You
should go into
the te ater as I
did - free of
spoilers and
critical derision.
For fans of the
original three '
films, "The
Phantom Menace,"
holds many special.
moments: Obi-Wan
meeting Anakin
Skywalker, the intro-
duction of C3-PO and
R2-D2 and many other s
treats..
But those not familiar
with the trilogy can also
enjoy the film that works
as any myth or legend
does, with the film's fan-
tastic creatures and
majestically enacted bat-
ties.
There are a few
scenes that stand out
from the rest of the '
film. The pod race
scene on Tatooine is Cortesyo 'o 25t

an intense marvel that will hve your
heart thundering from beginning to
end. And to get your blood racing
just a little faster, the final lightsaber
battle is simply unbelievable.
It's evident that the choreography
of "The Phantom Menace" is light
years ahead of where it was in
"Return of the Jedi."
Ray Parks as Darth Maul
embodies pure terror. It's
possible that as "The
Phantom Menace"'s vil-
lain, Darth Maul is even
more frightening than
Darth Vader.
Additionally, there is a
terrific scene is the
Republic Senate
Chamber that rewards
close siewing. Keep an
eye out for cameo
appearances by a group
of Wookies and a group
of E.T.s.
Though the film is a
joy, it isn't without
. problems. In fact, there
are two glaring prob-
lems that at times iter-
fere with your enjoy-
ment of the film.
Jar Jar Binks (voice of
Ahmed Best) is a comput-
er generated character and
an annoyance. Though you
might stare in wonder at
what a technical marxel the
character is, from the get go
it's hard to bear him on the
screen.
I'm sure Lucas intended him
as some sort of comic relief, but
the whole time you're hopinig he
will be the victim of stray
blaster fire. On the annoyance
scale, he defiitely beats the
Ewoks hands down.
This is compounded by
just how bad Jake Lloyd
hCe't y CaFoy ("Jingle All the Way") is as

/ 4 . a

01

91

Courtesy of 27 hCetcry Fox
in "Star Wars: Episode i- The Phantom Menace," Darth Maul looks on and pre-
pares to show Anakin Skywalker the power of the Dark Side of the Force.

Anakin Skywalker. The kid just can't
act, and brings less range to the part
than Mark Hamill brought to Luke.
It's just good that Anakin will grow
up and Lloyd hopefully won't make a
repeat appearance in "Episode II."
With the exception of Lloyd,
though, the cast is wonderful. Unlike
in the original "Star Wars," Lucas
actually hired real actors for "The
Phantom Menace."
Both Neeson and McGregor give
solid performances as calm and col-
lected Jedi. It will be a pleasure to see
McGregor really develop the role in
"Episode It" when he gets more
screen time and a chance to take more
risks with the character.
As Queen Amidala Natalie Portman
("Mars Attacks!") proves that she's an
actress to keep your eye on. She can
play regal and vulnerable without

missing a beat and is frequently a
scene stealer, giving the film's best
performance.
Other respectable performances are
turned in by Ian McDiarmid as
Senator Palpatine, picking up his role
from "Return of the Jedi," and Ingmar
Bergman favorite Pernilla August as
Shmi Skywalker, Anakin's mother.
With only a few more minor prob-
lems, "The Phantom Menace" is ter-
rific. Though it's impossible not, to
come into the film without expecta-
tions, try to imagine the mindframe in
which you saw "Star Wars." "The
Phantom Menace" is better than
"Return of the Jedi," but not quite as
good as "Star Wars" and "The Empiri
Strikes Back." It's with the purity that
you saw "Star Wars" that you will
best appreciate "The Phantorm
Menace."

Festival of New Works showcases writers

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By Neshe Sarkozy
Dlny Arts Wter

ON
The
Festival of
New Works
Trueblood Theater
Througn June
_.

The Festival
of New Works
began on Friday,
May 21st with
the Showcase
for dramatic
writing.
It kicked off
with "Rock
Garden," a
screenplay by
Beth Winsten,
which was per-
formed at the
F r i e z e
Building's

Trueblood Theater.
Guest keynote speaker, Michael
Weller --who has written over 40
plays and films, including "Hair"
and "Ragtime" for Milos Forman -
discussed writing and his passion for
"great art that pushed. beyond what
can be said."
Frank Gagliano, the artistic direc-
tor of the Festival of New Works,
said in a recent interview with nhe
Michigan Daily that "What is most
important about screenplays is that it
is new, it's here and it is on it's way
to become something."
Gagliano went on to mention that
many screenplays eventually go on
to become films. What is unusual

about these particular screenplays is
that the writer is always present,
enabling a greater sense of the whole
play.
The approach to performing the
screenplay is minimalist. The stage
is decorated with only a few lights
and stools, but for the most part it's a
writer's interaction with his/her
script.
Throughout the play's develop
ment the actors hold the script and.
says Gagliano, "there are often last
minute changes that will take place.'*
Next on the schedule for the
Festival of New Works is "Hearts,"
by Willy Holtzman. Holtzman writes
See WORKS, Page 10

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