Go on, you'll like it when you get there

`Notting Hill', `The Phantom Menace', `Austin Powers II' - there's something for everyone this summer, but what if you end up at the wrong movie? We sent a lad to the chick flick, a girly to `Star Wars', a nerd to the lad pic...
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Indy Lifestyle Online

IT'S SUNDAY morning, 9 o'clock, and I'm blinking in the New York sunshine wondering why, why am I here? I'm feeling jumpy and nauseous from last night's tequilas and I want to be in bed, in my hotel room, watching back-to-back interviews with Julia and Hugh who are everywhere here, plugging Notting Hill. No I don't, I want to be watching Notting Hill itself, coaxed gently to laugh and cry in turn until I feel better. Instead I'm balancing a Coke in one hand and a camera in another, taking a picture of a middle- aged couple who are posing in front of a poster, grinning widely, their thumbs in the air. "Thanks, little lady, and what planet are you from?" says the man as he takes his camera back.

I'm in the queue to see Star Wars. Yes I know what it is, I had a boyfriend once who locked me in the house, shut all the curtains and made me sit through one of them. And now I'm here, in New York, with two men who've come thousands of miles just for this. We settle in our seats and I look across at them. Their faces are drawn. "Are you OK?" I whisper to Matt. He looks at me blankly, as though he doesn't even recognise me, and then he speaks. "I've waited 15 years for this," he says.

We're off. STAR WARS fills the screen in mile-high letters and even I feel a tingle down my spine. Then we get the background story, in script, disappearing like a scroll into infinity, and I find myself grinning. Cool!

And the next 131 minutes? Well, I can put a face to R2D2 now, but what on earth they've done to Ewan's hair I don't know (and the same applies to Liam although I don't really care about him). And there's not a hint of a snog from beginning to end. Politically, it's interesting though - good use of the limitations of democracy as a plot device, boys. And there's some excellent moral footwork - watch out for the individual who follows his heart against the will of the community and turns out to be wrong! - very un-Hollywood, very subtle. Deeply scary android soldiers as well. In fact we have highs, we have lows, we have laughter, we have tears...

The lights come up and I turn almost enthusiastically to the boys. "That was good!" I say surprised. Russell's eyes are glistening with emotion - "fantastic," he nods, "fantastic". Matt is glazed. Matt? Are you with us? He turns. "I was ..." He stammers to a halt. Yes Matt? "I was ... bored." He looks at me, with bewilderment. "Fifteen years and I was bored."

Tee hee - that'll be Notting Hill next time, then...


"It's not funny," sneers the Natural Blonde.

"You just don't understand it, that's all," I say.

"Austin Powers is a boy's film."

"No, it isn't, I know plenty of girls who love it."

"You probably do but the first one was terrible and the new one... what's it called?"

"Er... The Spy Who Shagged Me."

"... (heavily pregnant pause)... I just don't want to go to see it."

"What do you want to see?"

"Notting Hill."

"Notting Hill? Jesus Christ, woman, what's the matter with you? You practically live in Notting Hill and now you want to go and see a film about it. It's a good job there isn't a film called Our Bedroom, you'd probably want to go and see that as well."

"Not really. To be honest, I prefer a film where something exciting actually happens every now and then."

"Very droll."

And so, after a tetchy 20- minute sulk, a compromise is reached. We will decide which film to see when we get to the cinema. The cinema is the Coronet in... have a guess. Yup, Notting Hill. And, not only is this cinema featured in the film, Notting Hill is also the only bastard thing they are currently showing and time does not allow for a change of venue. Cue sweet smile from the distaff side of the partnership and thoughts of a very dark nature from the other. The phrase, "done up like a kipper" (whatever that means) comes to my mind.

It is not so much the name of the film, although I defy anyone to come up with two words which so completely sum up the odious condition of smug London New Labour middle-class complacency, and it's not the tired, unremarkable premise of the thing or even the ad nauseam shots of the cast drinking a modest little Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon here and an exceptional Chiraz from Australia there.

The problem is Hugh Grant and the creeping contagion of a notion that the Natural Blonde might actually fancy him. An unpalatable idea given unnecessary substance by the fact that the pair of tickets she bought included one for the precise seat in which Grant was filmed watching Julia Roberts on the screen.

She denies it all, of course, but could you imagine the humiliation? Usurped by a posh Uncle Tom who says things like "oh bugger", "fancy a cup of tea?" and, in this film, both "sod a dog" and "whoops-a daisy".

In the circle seats at the mid-week evening showing at the Coronet were three couples, a few pockets of female friends and a sprinkling of sad female librarians no doubt whiling away the dreary hours before they had to return to their empty Notting Hill flats. And I promise you that they all cried at the end. Especially the Natural Blonde.

If you have to see one film this year, make sure that it is not Notting Hill. Put that slogan on your poster. Let's face it, it is not shagadelic, it is not groovy and it is very much not OK, baby.

Bill Borrows is editor-at-large at `Loaded'.


APART FROM the sight of Heather Graham in a mini-skirt there isn't much to get excited about in the new Austin Powers film. How many people even knew there was a sequel on the way? How many people have been paying to see films they've never heard of to see a trailer for The Spy Who Shagged Me? And how many adults spend their evenings constructing Lego models of Mike Myers and his `Shaguar' car? All right, perhaps I'm in the minority with my Lego models of Anakin's Podracer but the fact is, Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace is an event movie like nothing that has gone before it.

Against all expectation, Austin Powers usurped it at the American box office last week but that is precisely because so few people have any expectations of it. If the first Austin Powers film had meant anything to me I'm sure I wouldn't have been disappointed with the sequel. But that's because it aims so low and achieves all it sets out to be: colourful and ironic but disposable comedy, based on catchphrases, double-entendres and cheap jokes at the expense of midgets and fat people.

I can't deny it had some funny moments (more precisely, two), nor can I deny Myers has a talent for catchy catchphrases. But just as "Party on!" or "I'm not worthy" are now deeply uncool things to say, in five years' time it's unlikely we'll be greeting each other with "Groovy, baby" and describing things as "Shagadelic". Now "May the force be with you" on the other hand - it's part of the language, isn't it?

As I sat surrounded by people who think a man with a hairy chest and bad teeth is the funniest thing since - well, probably since the first Austin Powers film, I felt conned. Having successfully spoofed the Bond movies, couldn't Mr Myers have moved on? Was I naive to expect so rudimentary a thing as plot development? So when, near the end of the film, Dr Evil does a near-blasphemous Darth Vader impression, my thoughts turned to where I wanted to be: in the audience of the new Star Wars film. Of course, I'm going to be disappointed by The Phantom Menace. It has a lot to live up to and as hard as I try to pretend otherwise, I'm no longer eight. But I'll still be the first in the queue to find out how Anakin got tempted by the Dark Side because it's a question that's been with me for 15 years. And that's 14 years and 51-and-a-half weeks longer than The Spy Who Shagged Me has remained in my memory.