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Movie of the Day: Stardust (2007)

“A philosopher once asked, "Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?" Pointless, really...”Do the stars gaze back?" Now *that's* a question.”
I went into Stardust today expecting a decent, entertaining movie, but if I am very honest I wasn't expecting a masterpiece. The trailers looks fun, the storyline sounded interesting and the big names in the case obviously made me a bit more excited. But as I sat down, I was expecting just a light, easy movie. And that is what I got, a light, easygoing movie. Its a nice movie, its a movie with magic, evil villains, dashing heroes, heroins in need of rescue and all that other traditional stuff. This is a fantasy movie that is just so enchanting that I guarantee you cannot help but leave the cinema with a huge smile on your face. Sure there is a bit at the three quarter mark the quality sags slightly, but the ending more than redeems things and the rest of the movie beforehand is as perfect as you could ever hope for. The movie works so well because its a perfect blend of fantasy, romance, action and comedy all into one. In many ways I can see this as a new Pirates of the Caribbean, it has the exact same mode, and believe it or not there is a new pirate threatening to steals Johnny Depp's thunder. And that man is Robert DeNiro, in his best performance in ages! The effects might not be to the big Hollywood standards, but they are passable, and besides the scenery is so beautiful you don't actually care. I never though that England could look as good as New Zealand until today!
So first on with the cast, and there are some big names to mention here. But first there is the newcomer, Charlie Cox taking on leading man duties. I expected Cox to flounder to be honest, most newcomers when put on the screen with the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert DeNiro are shunned aside and just there to propel the plot. However, Cox actually proves he has a huge amount of talent and is a very likable person. Of course he's overshadowed when the greats are on the screen, but he more than holds his own for the majority of the time. Also he does comedy with great aplomb, and in general he seems just a great talent that I hope to see in more movies. Claire Danes does a pretty decent job as the actual Star from the title. At first she doesn't seem to be that great, her character seems a little bit irritating to be honest, but towards the end she does really grow on you, and its surprising to find that you actually care for her. However, the real star of the movie for me has to be Michelle Pfeiffer as the evil witch Lania. I thought she was impressive in Hairspray, however her villain performance in that seems more preparation for Stardust than anything else. She literally chews the scenery and spits out her lines with a real venom. This is one of her best performances and she is a true joy to watch. Another big surprise is just how good Robert DeNiro is in this movie, and what's better is just how surprising his character is. I don't want to ruin his character as its just too much fun, and he definitely has the best scene in the movie. Mark Strong plays the role of Prince Septimus very well and has a few great moments, especially a very good bit near the end. Special mentions must go the Ian Mckellen who narrates, Sienna Miller and Peter O'Toole.
The key however to Stardust's perfection is the storyline and comedy really. The storyline itself is a bit more multi-layered than I expected. In many ways it follows three plots at once. Firstly there is Tristan and Yvaine's story to get back to The Wall, secondly there is the princes story and finally there is Larnia's quest to find the star to restore her eternal youth. Along the way their stories coincide and they meet interesting and bizarre characters. This storyline, while pretty simplistic and kid friendly, just works because of its simplicity, its just nice and easy to follow. The nice blend of comedy to lighten proceedings makes things all the better, in fact there are many surprisingly funny moments in the movie. Also, to be honest I am amazed this got a PG rating, there are some pretty violent moments for kids, especially towards the ending, and also some of the jokes might be a bit raunchy for the little kids. But that's a mere quibble. There are a couple of pretty impressive action set pieces to balance the humour. A very impressive sequence involves Larnia's trap in an inn, that scene is superbly executed, and the final big battle there are various parts to the battle, all of which are perfect.
So any flaws? As I've mentions the movie does sag a bit at the three quarters bit, unsurprisingly enough its the bit when we see the least of Larnia. But when the movie threatens to drag thankfully the ending comes in sight and the superb ending arrives to save the movie. In terms of entertainment this is the best movie I have seen all year. Funny, action packed and entertaining. This is about as perfect a movie for Half Term you could ever wish for. Do you like fantasy movies? Then you must to see this movie as it truly is a magical experience... 9/10


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