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'Australia" *** (out of four): Baz Luhrmann's epic story of love and adventure isn't quite the classic it hopes to be, but it paints a vivid portrait of the titular continent on the brink of World War II.

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Fans of Baz Luhrmann know what to expect from his movies. Playfully sweeping cameras, big, heartfelt emotions, and lots of spectacular spectacle. Subtlety, not so much. The multi-hyphenate director doesn't release a film often (his last was 2001's fab musical potpourri "Moulin Rouge!"), so when he does it's usually something to look out for. "Australia" is his first crack at a true epic - a film in the tradition of "Lawrence of Arabia", and a clear love story to his homeland, set against the backdrop of World War II. While it isn't quite the classic it hopes to be, "Australia" paints a vivid portrait of the titular continent during an important period of history, and it tells a good (if mostly familiar) story along the way.

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