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Cinema Signal: Not quite a green light but has elements of strong appeal for romance fantasy and action fans.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
(Ultimate Edition)
(Discounted Blu-ray from Amazon)

. "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time"

In this romantic action thriller, the sands weigh heavily toward the action/special effects component, true to its video game origins and designed to the tastes of the fanboy gamer crowd. Somewhere between the "Mummy" series and "The Clash of the Titans," Jake Gyllenhaal seeks his creds as action hero, complete with armor, sword and gorgeous love interest.

He is Dastan, the grown up version of the boy who impressed Persian King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) enough to be adopted into the royal family. But, at this moment in his destiny, a villain is at work to find and appropriate the magic dagger that will allow him to turn time backwards and not only become king but control the universe.

Which plays into the Persian Army invading the quiet, somewhat idyllic stronghold of Alamut wherein resides the hottest babe of the Arabian world (and possibly today's film-casting world), Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton, "Clash of the Titans," "The Disappearance of Alice Creed") who more or less rules the place and protects the magic dagger. The reason behind the invasion is some trumped up intel that dupes the king into thinking he must prevent a calamity. It may not be WMD but holy shades of George Bush in 2002!

His sons are champing at the bit to lead the charge through the gates of the well guarded city and thereby wrap themselves in the cloak of victory. Garsiv (Toby Kebbell), Tus (Richard Coyle) and our boy Dastan assemble around the king in his war room for their assignments in the battle. The King takes the politically wiser course of granting the lead to Barsiv, his presumed heir. Looking on with cheery and sly agreement is the king's brother and chief advisor, Nizam.

Dastan is mortified but adaptable. Learning of a side entrance to the city that will avoid the dangers of a frontal assault, which is pretty much the only strategy these military morons can conceive of, Dastan leads his smaller band and, with guile, panache and acrobatics learned from Damien and Leito in "District 13: Ultimatum," he accomplishes the task of opening the gates for his brothers, robbing a bit of that glory they counted on and undoubtedly sparing many a death in their ranks. He steps aside gallantly, however, when Garsiv is appointed to run the place in a proposed marriage to the princess.

But she ain't having any of that, this fierce and feisty independent woman who'll decide her own destiny, thank you. And, that's going to turn out to be with the brother who not only found a way to penetrate her city's defenses, and found the magic dagger in the bargain, but may be the man who will untimately penetrate the emotional curtain she's opened for no man.

Arterton is both beautiful enough and energetic enough to be a perfect partner, and the film rests largely on the competitive interplay regarding the possession of the dagger and gender issues. The chemistry of a hero who is boyish and a willful and wily femme who is tom-boyish is the formula of forestalled romance in a suspension of fun and frolic as they make their way across the sands to an entirely predictable outcome.

As for that magic dagger (and the subtitle of the film), a device that has the potential of allowing an evil villain to turn time back as a means to destroy all planetary order in a cataclysmic display of CGI inventiveness is as good a maguffin for a sword and sandal escape adventure as a Bruckheimer/Disney production may call for.

Gyllenhaal's athleticism plays a nicely vigorous part of the Jerry Bruckheimer production and blockbuster-director Mike Newell's cuts another notch on his action-fantasy belt. It isn't quite up to "The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: The Perils of Cupid" nor "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," but nothing to apologize for. Production credits are top-notch and the beauty of Morocco is fully exploited.

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  • An unseen world: the making of Prince of Persia
    (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)
  • CineExplore: The Sands of Time ~ Take control of the dagger, uncover 40 segments:
  • "Walking Up Walls"
  • "Filming in Morocco"
  • Ostrich Jockey Tryouts
  • Deleted Scene: The Banquet-Barsiv presents heads
  • Disc 3 - Digital Copy
    The Soundtrack

  • While adventure epics like this are always composed of stock characters, Kingsley can play the cliche' of a stiff, smarmy royal advisor lurking around with goatee and eye-liner and not produce laughs. You want to ask, what opera did they pull this stereotype from? It's a testament to his skill that he can take on a role like this and manage to avoid laughter.

    That this film hasn't rated very highly with the critics may stem primarily from overzealous expectations. It's pretty much what it's designed to be, and reasonably good fun. Gyllenhaal is a better actor than Brendan Fraser and Gemma Arterton is more earthily sensual than Rachel Weisz plays it, so I count this an improvement over the Mummy series. Of course, I realize that my inclination to give it a few good points could also mean that I'm too much of a fanboy.

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                                          ~~  Jules Brenner  

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