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More than a superhero action flic...
I know it's only a Comic Book Superhero Action movie, but I'm going to have some critique fun with it. And why not? After forcing me to sit through 151 minutes of Comic Book Superhero Action of the dark kind, I'm entitled to draw my own conclusions to what the hell lies under the capes of this superhero spectacle. It was the only way I could entertain myself while watching this with a two-year-old child beside me who was more interested in his popcorn and dirtying his nappy! (Not my child, belonged to some inconsiderate parents.)
On the surface it's all about Good verses Evil, and the perception of what is good and what is evil. That is the comic book analysis in a nutshell. Now, in my little demented world of analysis, this deliciously dark film is about the current state of our crazy political world in total chaos. As I see it, Batman and Superman are symbols of political and religious factions. So here it goes---
Batman is politically to the Right. A rich boy who is subconsciously out to revenge his parents death through his battle with crime. He is angry, as the Right tend to be because of all this political correctness gone mad and other social issues that has given rise to dangerous deluded leaders of the wrong kind. (Hang in there, this rant is going somewhere!) Superman is a Lefty. Raised on a farm, but he is not from this planet (a refugee?), who is a do-gooder, mostly saving people of all race and persuasion. Batman does not like Superman, because Superman cannot be trusted after what he did in his last bloody battle (taking out thousands of innocent civilians in friendly fire). And Superman is not from this world, therefore this refugee cannot be trusted by the Right.
Between them is Lex Luther, a ruthless wealthy megalomaniac, out to get rid of the superheroes so as to control the world. So how does he do it? Get them to turn on each other. He wants to be more powerful than they are, and it irks him that these superheroes are seen as Gods (a very valid point made by my son). Like Lex said, "If man won't kill God, the Devil will do it!" Lex is the Devil, ready to take out the Godly superheroes. The wealth and control of his evil corporation gives him the power to achieve that by manipulating the superheroes. But who does Lex Luther represent (besides the Devil)? At first I thought he was a symbol of the Government. But democratic governments are not wealthy enough to achieve anything alone (not unless you are a very ruthless corrupt government that suppresses its own people). Then I saw him as the Media Empire, who manipulate both political factions for their own financial gain. And then it eventually dawned on me that Lex Luther is, Rupert Murdoch! (Have I lost you yet?)
Now how the hell did I come to this conclusion? The opening titles display the corporate logo from Warner Brothers. Now Rupert wanted to buy some of Warner's shares, but the board knew of his craziness and cried, "NO WAY, JOSE'!" And Warner Brothers allows their filmmakers to express their own opinion, and maybe are happy for them to take a swipe at the old Grinch. Another crazy notion I have is that Lex worked overtime to create a distraction for the superheroes to combat each other, just like Rupert has distracted the population with political keyboard warfare. So while the fools (the Left and the Right) are battling each other, Rupert is at work making billions. And at some lavish library fund raising function, Lex makes a speech about philanthropists and the like, adding that, "Books are knowledge and knowledge is power. The bittersweet pain among men is having knowledge with no power!" And there lies the problem when wanna-be politicians with plenty of money behind them spring up with crazy notions to make the World a better place with dangerous ideas, and fools jump in to give a helping hand. These fools don't have the knowledge, but those that do then don't have the power, and can only standby the muddy ocean banks watching the sinking ships. (The attack on the newspapers publishing fluffy pieces and leaving out the real juicy stories that matter was also a nice little sly attack.)
Thrown into the elements of political pandemonium is the Feminist touch in the guise of Wonder Woman. She was a late entry, but added that extra political punch, ready for the next installment in this series. She helped the male ego driven superheroes take on the ever so powerful Super monster created by Lex. The more you blasted this Monster, the powerful it got, thriving on every explosion thrown its way. Just like Rupert continues to feed misinformation to the monsters, trolls and every other angry mob who want to lap it up to justify their ideology. Lex's supreme evil power and his monster could only be destroyed when the superheroes joined forces. Same case scenario in the world of reality, if both the main political ideologies joined forces they could rid of the powers-that-be who manipulate and destroy society to benefit itself. Then only can a decent conversation be held without misinformation and shouting matches.
I can go on, but I'm sure I've already lost most of my readers after the first few paragraphs (maybe the first sentence). But my actual take on the movie? It's comic book action fluff, and it didn't need to be overlong. But loved the darkness of it, enjoyed the pain the superheroes carried around, and the battle sequences where enthralling enough.
Okay, silly rant over, now back to reality
Gods of Egypt (2016)
One for the Gamers and lovers of spectacular action scenes.
For some strange reason I was wishing for a big budget over the top version of Land of the Pharaohs (1955), with a bit of Cleopatra (1963) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963) thrown in. And true to form, it came pretty close to the campiness of those films! Apart from the storyline, this spectacular action adventure sure delivers in the CGI department and creative sound design. It's one for the big screen and thumping speakers, insulting your senses in a most pleasurable masochist way.
Director Alex Proyas mostly delves in dark films where "The End Is Nigh". These dark themes were noticeable in Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds (1989), The Crow (1994) and Dark City (1998). They even had it's moments in the Hollywood blockbusters I, Robot (2004) along with The Knowing (2009). With Gods of Egypt, it almost felt like it wasn't an Alex Proyas film. Maybe a bit too spectacular for his style, but he managed to fit moments in where he got to play with his dark-side, mostly evident in the "Afterlife" scenes. In this film, Alex got to create his vision with perfection, thanks to today's technology. Hopefully he'll be able to use that on his next project, maybe something a little darker, a bit more Proyas than Hollywood.
What saved this film from its own corniness is the talent it attracted. Gerard Butler is perfect as Gerard Butler the brute! Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau gets to play around with his Game Of Thrones character, Jamie, by adding a little more manliness to it. The surprise of the lot was the mortal, Bek, played by the Aussie cutie, Brenton Thwaites. He supplied the wit and charm desperately needed in this. Even the Aussie icons, Bryan Brown and Geoffrey Rush came along for the ride. What they both managed to do was play it perfectly straight, in a theatrical way, that suited the style of this film. You noticed the tone of the film changed when Rush was on screen with Butler or Nikolaj. The level went up a notch, and it was momentarily intriguing. (And see if you can spot another Aussie icon, Bruce Spence:)
The true winner of this epic film is the "Gamer". This film has all the elements a Gamer would love. It has dangerous mazes our heroes have to get through, and thrilling combating scenes captured by frantic maneuvering cameras. If the film does well at the box office I'm sure there will be a game following hot on its heels.
I must admit I was surprised how entertaining this film was. Maybe because I saw it on the big screen and was distracted by the incredible CGI and sound design. The story was pleasing enough, it has the Game Of Thrones element where characters you least expected to perish did. There was the Lord Of The Rings journey and a bit of everything else you might have seen if you love your big action adventure films. And not to forget the romantic element which played heavily in our heroe's destination. I think the studio executives got ever audience angle covered.
The 33rd Wedding (2015)
How not to make a film...
Just viewed this Australian feature on Vimeo, and it was a muddled piece of nothingness. I wish it was so bad that it was good fun, just like an Edward D. Wood Jr. movie, or a work of trash art, just like an Andy Warhol production. Unfortunately it was just pretty bland with self-centered characters going, BLAH, BLAH ,BLAH!
I love classic movies with rapid machine gun dialogue that worked so brilliantly in Howard Hawks' HIS GIRL Friday (1940), but in this film the machine gun dialogue was just shooting blanks with a bad sense of timing and nothing of interest to say. There were times when it slowed down and the actors seemed more comfortable, enabling the audience to make some connection with the characters. But that never lasted long, and it was a shame, because deep down I'm sure this film had something to say about love, sharing and understanding.
I noticed that this is the director's directorial debut, and they have never made a short film, just jumped straight into the deep end of the sewer. The direction was too theatrical, and lacked any creative flare. And then it seemed it was just thrown together in the edit, with no image grading, and without even a decent sound mix. Maybe this would be perfect for the stage, but a painful cringing experience on the screen.
Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
Still happens today, but to other religions as well...
I always admired Kazan's bravado in the face of Hollywood. He was brave in creating real adult dramas that took us to the edge. From revolutions to Unions and adultery, he didn't shy away. Gentleman's Agreement would have to be his most adventurous politically, but with time it seems a bit lame, maybe a little too preachy.
The main fault falls on the screenplay. It took forever to set up the angle the journalist was to take. Once it kicked in, it was intriguing, but then lost its momentum midway through when it became repetitive and too dialogue driven.
Peck was charming, but not too convincing as a hard-nose journalist. I believe this roll was a precursor for To Kill A Mocking Bird. The surprise was John Garfield, who knew how to work a campy drama. When together in scenes, they had your attention and lit up the screen, compared to the love interest which was weak, typically standard for its time.
The movie was made almost 70 years ago, and still is relevant to today's current political climate.
Riding in Cars with Boys (2001)
Soapy approach to a tough young life...
This was the perfect vehicle for Drew Barrymore, who with her looks was able to play a role ranging from a teenager to a mature woman. Her main strength was playing the role of the young struggling mother with great conviction, while her performance as a teenage was a little annoying (a real teenager would have given it more conviction). As the young mother with a late teenage son, she was a little aloof. I'm not sure if that was meant to be her character, but it didn't seem right after giving it plenty of heart and soul in the earlier scenes as the very young mother.
The real stars where the child actors, specially the young Beverly who was hilarious in the bra scene with her father the police office (played to perfection by James Wood). The young Jason was another standout and it saved the film, as did Steve Zahn, who gave a heartfelt performance and supplied the humour.
Penny Marshall seemed to handle the subject well, sometimes just taking a little dip into the Soap Opera territory, but then able to pull back in time, allowing us to to take a ride through Beverly D'Onofrio's interesting passage in life.
L'albero degli zoccoli (1978)
The cinematic magic of Olmi...
What else would you expect from a director whose past had depth in documentary filmmaking? With that vast experience, Olmi creates a fine work of filmmaking that leaves the audience believing that they are watching a piece of reality. Olmi is the classic "observational" type director who is brave enough to use amateur actors (in this he used the local villages of a peasant town). If it was professional actors you would have called it an amazing ensemble cast, but alias it is a cast of unknowns who just simply entice you into their world of everyday living on a communal farmland where two-thirds of the produce goes to the landlord who just sits back and counts the bucks.
At first you search for a story or some protagonist to hang onto for the journey of this movie, but with this ensemble piece, you just become the observer and watch how it all simply evolves over the course of an emotional year where each season brings on a challenge to these poor farmers.
Olmi's earlier films were small in scale, and a little simpler, but yet effective. This film is his epic, a masterpiece of a different kind.
Soldiers of the church...
Could director and writer McDonagh gone one better after the brilliance of The Guard (2011)? I think he did, and all this once again with Gleeson's superb performance as Father James, who seems to bear the cross for the morally corrupt and evil doings of the church.
A small Irish coastal town implodes with the good Priest caught up in the whirlwind of all the guilt and the lost souls. He attempts to make sense of it all, even when he knows deep down of the horrors his own church has created. How he deals with all the situations and the locals is the brilliance of the script.
It is not only a comment on the Church's ignorance in Ireland, but a world wide problem we have all been affected by, with each character representing a bit of us that have been affected by it in one way or another.
Running with Scissors (2006)
Hit and miss magic...
Wes Anderson could have turned this quirky, bizarre, surreal and sometime heartfelt story into a little treat. Not that is was that bad, but it wasn't that great either. All the elements were there, but I just couldn't get into the strangeness of it all, even if it was all true. It just needed someone that little bit twisted to tell a truly weird and wonderful tale.
Annette Bening perfectly got into the quirkiness, as did Joseph Fiennes and most of the cast. The main lead Joseph Cross almost delivered the goods, but fell short and I guess that's all got to do with the messy script that didn't know what genre it wanted to be. (But it did make me want to read the book.)
With all the perfect elements in the book and the cast, it just didn't quiet deliver the goods in the celluloid form, which was a shame because the potential was there.
Bé omid é didar (2011)
Your freedom within someone else's boundaries...
A young intelligent Iranian woman prepares herself for the next phase in life, and that is to escape the political and social boundaries around her put up by the authorities of her country. Director Rasoulof was brave enough to tell this story because he himself was attempting to do the same thing, but ended up in prison for showing the hardships of life in a tyranny religious country.
The beauty of this slow moving film is that it doesn't state the obvious by ramming dramatic scenes down your throat. The story unravels a thin layer at a time, with scenes that have no more than a few shots, and sometimes only one lingering shot. This allows the viewer to observe the protagonist and the lonely fight she has to combat. With patience, you begin to make an emotional connection, feeling every frustration and moral outrage.
Leyla Zareh is simply amazing to observe. The low lit photography of Arastoo Givi heightens Leyla's sad features, even more so when she wears the hijab (headscarf) slightly over her face, creating shadows on her angelic features.
An interesting film showing the plight of the Iranian people who go about their lives, trying to make sense of it all.
Brutal and honest...
A remarkable feature debut from director McQueen. It was only after I had seen, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, that I tracked down this film, and I was not disappointed. McQueen is a thinking persons director, he is not a director that makes every scene so blatantly obvious. You have to work for it and the rewards are rich in pure mental stimulation. What is also rewarding is the performances. Not only is Fassbender outstanding, but the support cast as well. The acting is paramount as it brings realism to the hideous conditions in a world we all fear, that of the Irish Maze Prison during the civil conflict. McQueen does not shy away from the politics that tore a nation apart, nor does he tone down the harrowing violence within the faeces smeared walls. Be patient, and the film will reward you. If you are looking for entertainment, then please go elsewhere. Now time to track down McQueen's 2011 movie, SHAME.