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DO NOT SEE "AUSTRALIA"
Avoid Australia--not the continent, the movie. To see why, go to this link on Rotten Tomatoes and read all the negative reviews--something I did not do before wasting 3 hours of my life. They summarize quite well how bad this film is. My two favorite lines are these: "Within five minutes, Australia seems headed for trouble. It gets there and stays there." & "Really, you don't want to sit through this." As usual, you can count on the opposite of Roger Ebert's opinions being the case. I hope whatever the other positive reviewers were smoking is legalized soon. On that idea, see Ethan Nadelmann's op-ed, Let's End Drug Prohibition, in today's Wall Street Journal.

/rant
NatSecLawGuy:
Cheers! While examining the original documents in D.C., the Security Guard on watch was quizzing the audience. He turned to me and inquired my favorite amendment. Knowing full well the answers he commonly gets (lame ones like 1st, or 14th j/k), I with full throat stated the true answer, "The 21st cause thats when they let me drink again." Told me it made his day.
12.5.2008 3:48pm
Steve:
Interesting. One of my friends who is usually spot-on with his reviews told me it was a fantastic movie, so I guess we can say it's polarizing.
12.5.2008 3:56pm
Anderson (mail):
The word "Baz" in close proximity to the word "Luhrman" should be all the warning that anyone needs.

I hope whatever the other positive reviewers were smoking is legalized soon.

Au contraire -- anything that so severely impairs aesthetic judgment is a danger to the republic.
12.5.2008 4:06pm
Norman Bates (mail):
If you like old-fashioned, big-screen movies and can stay through the first thirty minutes, I thought it wound up being a little better than just okay. I find that I almost always agree with Ebert's reviews. Like me he enjoys movies qua movies.
12.5.2008 4:11pm
Cornellian (mail):
I almost never go to a movie without checking reviews first. Not that I always agree with reviews, but if a large number and wide range of people all think the movie is awful, I'm not inclined to take the chance that I will like it. So I will not be seeing Australia. The movie that is - I'd quite like to see the continent some day.

Instead I plan to see "Let the Right One In" and "Milk."
12.5.2008 4:16pm
Mike G (mail):
Finally someone who agrees, this may have been the worse movie I'd ever seen in my entire life. After seeing it I went looking for a dull spoon to gouge my eyes out and destroy all the bad images from my mind.

Who would have thought that with all the beautiful scenery in Australia, so many of the outside scenes would be filmed on a studio stage.
12.5.2008 4:18pm
MGoblueWolverine:
Randy:

I wish you had posted this review sooner! I saw it last Friday, and yes, it was bad. And long.

It was pretty obvious from the intro child naration that it was going to be bad. I just wish I had known it would have been 3 hours bad.
12.5.2008 4:19pm
timd:
It is indeed *horrible*. A failure in pretty much every regard. You gotta admire his balls though....Degree of difficulty was very high for something like this.
12.5.2008 4:21pm
wph:
Besides Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic is a very good summary of critics' opinions.

Your comment about Rogert Ebert reminds me of the website I would like to see someone do. The idea is that you would grade a set of movies, say, on a score of 1-10. The site would then tell you the 3-5 movie (or music, book or tv) critics whose judgment is most like one's own.
12.5.2008 4:26pm
Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk (www):
I'm surprised by the degree of distaste for Australia. Given Baz Luhrmann's oeuvre, I was prepared to hate this film, and I saw it solely because the missus insisted. But I thought it ended up being watchable. Of course, I saw it at a theater that serves beer, which does tend to improve the watchability of films somewhat.
12.5.2008 4:32pm
Virginian:

I almost never go to a movie without checking reviews first. Not that I always agree with reviews, but if a large number and wide range of people all think the movie is awful, I'm not inclined to take the chance that I will like it.


I rarely go to the theater to see a movie, but rent instead. When I am in Blockbuster trying to choose, I rely on the reviews quoted on the jacket. Not for actual content, but to see the "stature" of the quoted reviewer. If the best quote they can come up with is from the East Cupcake Weekly Shopper, then I will pass on that movie.
12.5.2008 4:59pm
Lawyer (mail):
I'm having an English Patient flashback.
12.5.2008 5:04pm
Cornellian (mail):

I rarely go to the theater to see a movie, but rent instead.


Movies that look sort of interesting but not enough to justify movie tickets go on my Netflix list.
12.5.2008 5:22pm
Elliot123 (mail):
It's a great movie, in the tradition of a Saturday afternoon double feature matinee. We've all seen it before. Wife/daughter journeys to wild west and finds husband/father killed by evil big rancher. Wife/daughter swears to keep this ranch running, damn it! Ronin cowboy reluctantly lends a hand, revealing internal purity of spirit. Evil big rancher is thwarted. Wife/daughter settles down with Ronin cowboy. Sun sets in west. Lights come on. Guy with broom comes down aisle...
12.5.2008 5:53pm
whit:

almost never go to a movie without checking reviews first. Not that I always agree with reviews, but if a large number and wide range of people all think the movie is awful, I'm not inclined to take the chance that I will like it.


i agree. i have a relative who just gets in the car and goes to a movie w.o checking reviews. this is incomprehenisble to me. i want to create market incentives - give my money to the people making the good movies, and not to the people making the bad movies. plus, i don't want to waste my money on bad movies.

i find that i can often tell i will probably like a movie based on why certain reviewers hate it. pauline kael was particularly useful in this regards.
12.5.2008 6:02pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
I liked it. Not a great movie, but enjoyable for some things if you don't expect too much. Bunch of Aussies having fun making a campy parody, call it a "kangaroo western". I liked the scenery and the performance of the kid, even if his character's knowledge of English was implausibly limited. What it really lacked was a good soundtrack theme, like the Spaghetti westerns that Clint Eastwood used to do.

Anyway, what else is on that's good? My favorite for the year so far is Changling. I'd give Jolie the Oscar for best actress for that one.
12.5.2008 6:16pm
Carolina:

Your comment about Rogert Ebert reminds me of the website I would like to see someone do. The idea is that you would grade a set of movies, say, on a score of 1-10. The site would then tell you the 3-5 movie (or music, book or tv) critics whose judgment is most like one's own.



I do a sort of ersatz version of this using the movie The Thin Red Line as my test case. That movie remains the only movie where I have actually walked out of the theater during the movie after buying a ticket. Any critic who liked that movie has very, very different tastes in movies than I do and I'm going to view their recommendations with a skeptical eye.
12.5.2008 6:22pm
Robber Goose:
Was planning on passing, now I may not even add it to my Netflix queue.

'Slumdog Millionaire' is getting wide consideration for best movie of the year.
I desperately want to see it.
It is playing, for one more week, at the artsy theater down the street from me.
....I have a deep, hacking cough chest cold.

Guess I'll be waiting for DVD for that one too.
12.5.2008 6:25pm
Crunchy Frog:
How about falling asleep in the theater as a baseline? I did that once about 10 minutes into the Mel Gibson/Sissy Spacek crapfest The River.
12.5.2008 6:29pm
Bob White (mail):
The English Patient was what came to my mind when I read Randy's review; glad I'm not the only one that thought that.

I remember in a Slate dialogue at the end of some year, a movie critic (A.O. Scott of the NYT, IIRC) expressed with some degree of surprise that what people looked for in a review was whether or not they would like the movie, not whether the movie critic liked the movie. It's quite right that people (myself included) do this, though. The problem with movie critics is they watch too many movies that are poorly-made (a quality distinct from bad) and thus enjoy well-made movies, whether or not they are good. The best critic (viz., Stephen Hunter) is one who gives me the best idea of whether or not I would like the movie.
12.5.2008 6:58pm
NicholasV (mail):
I'm sorry for the bad time had by some.

Visit the country and I can pretty much guarantee you will have a good time! The exchange rate is reasonably good right now: US$0.65 for AU$1.00 and you can celebrate Christmas with a nice sunny day at the beach if you so desire.
12.5.2008 7:30pm
NR:
Even worse than the English Patient, and in my opinion the most overrated movie of all time: the inexcusable Titanic.
12.5.2008 8:29pm
sbron:
I'll wait till its on HBO or whatever, but it sounds like a partial remake of a WWII film "The Overlanders," same idea, Japanese advancing on Australia, cattle drive. As I recall the acting was quite good in the latter film. An actor named "Chips Rafferty" can't be bad.

I don't think The Overlanders can be shown today as the opening credits depict a coarse caricature of a Japanese soldier leering over a map of Australia.
12.5.2008 9:03pm
Semper Why (mail):
Your comment about Rogert Ebert reminds me of the website I would like to see someone do. The idea is that you would grade a set of movies, say, on a score of 1-10. The site would then tell you the 3-5 movie (or music, book or tv) critics whose judgment is most like one's own.

WPH, Netflix has a system very much like this, if you aren't aware of it. As you rate movies, it compares your ratings with other members' and predicts how you will rate movies you haven't seen yet based on how you compare to other viewers. Additionally, people who write the member reviews are ranked as to how closely they rate movies as you do. Netflix really has some effective algorithms at work on its website.
12.6.2008 12:34am
SATA_Interface:
I enjoyed the English Patient. It was long but I thought was a well-told story. I thought the characters were well-defined and human, the plot was interesting, the dialogue sharp and significant. This movie was terrible. I thought Wings of the Dove was pretty awful - that one had me fall asleep in the theatre.
12.6.2008 12:40am
pvd (mail):
Semper Why: The Netflix system works well but our family managed to confuse the heck out of it. I'm the only male, 3 females, one of them a science nerd college girl/athlete, one young teenager, and my wife.

Since we don't have t.v. per se, we watch shows on Netflix - Heroes, 24, Lost (1st season and if it does develop a plot versus a tease pretty quick I'm going to drop it), Numbers (13 y.o's favorite) and a pretty wide range of movies, mostly older since we can usually agree on something with Jimmy Stewart or made by Mel Brooks - which could be a clue on how we have the rating system confused, too.

All said though, they don't do badly with the recommendations except on foreign films and I think that's my inconsistency.
12.6.2008 1:15am
neurodoc:
Question: if one finds the movie they are watching insufferably bad, why do they stick it out until the end, especially when it is 3 hours long? The person they are with is enjoying it? They want to see if it can get still worse? They want to get their money's worth?! Anal compulsivity to finish what was started?

Re Australia, the country: pretty extraordinary decline in value of the Australian dollar in a short time from about .98 to .65 $USD. Should make ground arrangements Down Under considerably cheaper, though weren't that bad before in $USD. Too bad airfares to OZ aren't similarly decreased with fall in exchange rate. Sydney harbor is breathtakingly beautiful, IMHO, and the boat tours will point out Nicole Kidman's impressive waterfront home.
12.6.2008 2:19am
neurodoc:
Question: if one finds the movie they are watching insufferably bad, why do they stick it out until the end, especially when it is 3 hours long? The person they are with is enjoying it? They want to see if it can get still worse? They want to get their money's worth?! Anal compulsivity to finish what was started?

Re Australia, the country: pretty extraordinary decline in value of the Australian dollar in a short time from about .98 to .65 $USD. Should make ground arrangements Down Under considerably cheaper, though weren't that bad before in $USD. Too bad airfares to OZ aren't similarly decreased with fall in exchange rate. Sydney harbor is breathtakingly beautiful, IMHO, and the boat tours will point out Nicole Kidman's impressive waterfront home.
12.6.2008 2:19am
AlanP (mail):
A friend from first year law school left to go to graduate school at Northwestern for Journalism. He came back to intern on the local paper and was then writing movie reviews. At a party we were talking about a movie "Westworld" if I'm not mistaken, but I noted that it had gotten a poor review. He had written the review.

From that point on I have tried to remember that a reviewer's opinion is just that, his opinion and really no better than that of a friend.

By the way, that friend is now a music, theater and sometimes movie critic for the same paper in Chicago that Roger Ebert wrote for.
12.6.2008 9:22am
Preston Earle (mail) (www):
I saw Australia without benefit of a critic's review, and greatly enjoyed it: "Gone With The Wind with kangaroos". Well, not exactly, but certainly worth the time and $5. I particularly enjoyed the scope of the cinematography and the magnificent matte-painted Darwin harbor scenes.
12.6.2008 11:53am