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Alexander (2004)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Don't waste your time and money on this., 16 November 2004

This was the most wretchedly boring, insulting, and heavy handed hunk of three hour filth that I am likely to see this year. This is the kind of film which ruins careers and bankrupts movie studios. In a theater of 250 people, all of whom got in free, I heard not one single positive comment... I would rather tear out my own eyes and use them as earplugs than watch this film again. And I get the feeling 249 people would agree with me. We're deep into "Manos: the Hands of Fate" territory with this one. Bad, bad, and bad some more.

To be more specific, for the first 45 minutes to an hour we get non-stop exposition. First Ptolemy (who is, for some reason, in his late 60s despite the fact that the caption card says "40 years later") wanders around his terrace (giving us approximately two brief glimpses of an expensively digitally created Greek coastline) dictating his memoirs to a scribe. We listen to this for quite a while as he gushes about Alexander the god-among-men. Basically saying "If you (the viewer) don't love this man, you are wretched..."

Then we get to see Alexander's birth, his mother's near rape by her husband, King Philip (who, for some reason, is characterized as a drunken brute to make Alexander's golden curly locks look all the more godly...), and Alex growing up. Far too much of Alex growing up actually. And, let us not forget the overblown and endless dialogue which he speaks to the horse. "Your shadow is just a trick of the sun. Ride with me." And on and on and on...

Oh, and we get to hit the homosexual thing early on too. But I won't bother going into detail with that, because it's so hamfisted and crowbarred into the story that I've actually blocked it out of my mind...

After the hour which we waste watching Alexander grown up, we cut back to Ptolemy who proceeds to narrate most of the scenes which the people in the theater have come to see. No battle at the Granicus River. No battle of Issus. No scene of Alexander being told he is a god at an Egyptian temple... None of it. (By this point I had already wanted to walk out at least once, but I stayed on the off chance that the film would "redeem" itself with some mindless action. [this from a man who loathes mindless action.] And now even the action is taken away from me.)

Apparently because we're more concerned with the man than the action. But by this point, the examination of Alexander the man had already gone horribly awry.

Finally we get to see the battle of Gaugamela. But we may as well not have seen it. Someone got a bit carried away with the idea that "an army battle in the middle east would stir up a lot of dust" and much of the sequence is too cloudy to make out. What you can see is a lot of blood and Alexander apparently riding his personal squad way out to the right. (Even though the caption card calls it his "left" wing.) Apparently he's trying to take advantage of a hole in Darius' battle line, but the whole scene makes no real sense. Mercifully, it is over by the 75 minute point in the film.

And, since we've now bored everyone to tears with an hour of talking, followed by some of the least entertaining mindless gore in cinema history... bring on the floppy breasts.

That's right kiddies... Now Alexander gets to have a near rape scene, and, as a "reward" for making it this far into the film without walking out, we get to see his Queen's nice rack jiggle around for a while... Hooray for the objectification of women...

After this, pretty much everyone gives up on the film... Including the filmmakers themselves. I have to mention the "brilliant" slow-motion-rain-of-flower-petals shot which was so corny that it made everyone laugh. And the nonsensical plot point of being met at the gates of Babylon by a million cheering citizens and yet saying "as long as Darius has not been found he will always be the ruler here..." And then some more objectification of women. And some shots of sexy gay boys as well. (Let's not forget our gay theme.) But then some more women, because we don't want to offend anyone. (Never have I seen a film which dealt with homosexuality with so little courage... It claims that Alexander and Hephaistion were lovers for their entire lives and yet they never kiss in the film... There is only one male on male kiss in the entire film and it's done from a distance... And yet breasts are shown in all their glory...)

And we can't forget the door slam/orgasm thing which made everyone laugh (unintentionally). And then there's the "monkeys" thing. And some more "hail Alexander, for he is the messiah of freedom and all who oppose him are simply racists..." And some more horrendously botched battle footage. And lots of slow motion. And endless amounts of overwrought and stupid dialogue. (Hephaistion's death scene being particularly excruciating. I actually shouted "CUT" in the theater.)

And, finally, after all is said and done (two full hours after we should've all walked out) we get to go back to Ptolemy who reiterates how wondrous Alexander was, and how he was a force for good, and how if we don't love him, we're all wicked and evil. Basically recapping with a "there you have it; if you didn't like that film then there's something wrong with you."

And then the credits shamefully appeared.

And I shouted "Boo." Very loudly.

Shame on everyone involved in this film.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
One of the more interesting political statements this year., 17 October 2004

On the one hand, "Team America" was inarguably brilliant. Trey and Matt's ability to take any and all positions/belief systems/personalities and pummel them mercilessly has never been in finer form. (A film which goes right ahead and picks on liberal actors for their pacifism and shows them getting used by a murderous dictator, and then goes on to have the right wing rely on an actor to get the same result, is a film that's working on a far deeper level of satire than most are willing to admit...) Likewise, absolutely everything is done correctly so that the film works as a satire of just about everything which appears within it: it flays action films alive by using over the top gore in combination with puppets, by including a gratuitous puppet sex scene, and by showing the "valorous army of freedom" destroying entire cities in order to save the city from terrorists; it tears into modern politics by playing up the extremist image of both sides; it is one of the most beautiful puppet animated films ever made (while, again, satirizing puppet films with blood, sex, and vomit); and it even pokes fun at itself from the opening shot, which starts with a badly made puppet in front of a badly drawn picture of the Eiffel tower, making everyone laugh at the "it's from the creators of crappy South Park animation" gag.

The music is wonderful, the pacing is perfect, and the jokes are very funny and gleefully un-politically correct...

However, all that being said, the film does have one major flaw. By making a satire of the current situation in which the typical criticisms of each side are magnified to an astonishing degree (Liberals are shown as militantly-pacifist actors who are called pussies and f.a.g.s, and Michael Moore is actually a terrorist; while conservatives are completely oblivious to friendly fire in their militant quest to "get the bad guy" and flag waving nonsense like the "Where were You" song is parodied with a song which claims "Freedom isn't free; freedom costs a buck o' five."), the tendency is for it to reinforce current nitpicking and ideological stereotypes. I am amazed at how many reviews of this film on the IMDb actually claim to agree with its anti-"liberal actors" message, while being completely oblivious to its criticism of the idea of being "World Police." (One of the reviewers even goes so far as to claim "you will enjoy seeing cities like Paris getting destroyed" while agreeing whole heartedly with the derision aimed at the liberals; missing the point entirely...)

The film IS equal opportunity in its bashing, but for some reason (probably the fact that the "hero" is on the Team America squad, and the 'moral' of the story is "if you don't let us f**k this a**hole, we're all going to get s**t on"), liberals and pacifists seem to come off worse. Don't get me wrong. This is NOT a right wing, flag waving, pro-Bush film... But it doesn't quite play fairly with its political satire... I would imagine that the problem here is this: since the film magnifies the currently standard insults (pacifist pussies vs militant dicks) as satire, and since it is and always has been easier to insult a pacifist than a war-monger (because pacifists will say "yes maybe I am stupid" and war mongers will say "oh yeah, f**k you" and start a brawl), and since, in an action film, the militants are going to naturally look like the ones with the right idea (because if you're already seeing blood and guts, your natural urge is to support the guys who are fighting back), then the film, by doing nothing more clever with its political satire than magnification, leans to the right simply by accident...

Not to mention that the left wingers in the film are all real people (Michael Moore, Alec Baldwin, Tim Robbins, etc...) and the right wingers are not. There is not a single real life conservative in the film (despite the fact that it would've been easy to satirize Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, etc...); real life conservatives are only obliquely referenced in lines and song parodies, which makes the message even easier to miss...

It's a bit disturbing actually. I don't mean to say that it offended me. I can take some good natured ribbing. Especially when it's flying out in all directions. But I think that the film is actually going to be far more popular with right wingers than with those who are in the middle. I suppose what it comes down to is the old South Park paradox: how do you make a film which insults everything, and yet have an "I learned something today ending"? In the case of most social issues, South Park succeeds with that problem by giving simple home spun advice: religious tolerance, homosexual tolerance, etc. are all good because tolerance and kindness are good... Perfectly fine. But somehow, when they make the transition to the political ideology behind warfare, and then do it in a puppet based action film, the "moral of the story" starts to sound much more sinister...

I don't really know what to say. I liked it, but the more I think about it, the more its message worries me. I have to wonder if it's not, in fact, dangerous waters for Matt and Trey to wander into... Is there really anyone who is capable of being objectively cynical about all politics? Or do Matt and Trey let their own beliefs show through in the choices they make?

Highly recommended. But I do say that with a great deal of caution. Watch it with a critical eye. Because its political ideology is very difficult to fully grasp... (Claiming to thrash everyone equally yet still choosing a side...) And it's actually a great deal of fun to try to find Matt and Trey's own politics buried in a film which tries to oppose all politics...

One way or the other, this is one of the most thought provoking political statements one will see in a theater all year.

Careful (1992)
7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Would've made a brilliant short film..., 11 October 2004

This is the second Guy Maddin film that I've seen (the other being "Twilight of the Ice Nymphs") and in both cases, the films wore out their welcome about half an hour in.

I enjoy the offbeat style of the humor, the intentional visual stylization patterned after early silent films (this one reminded me particularly of the work of Melies), and I have no problem with the flat acting style (which is an honest homage to early film acting) or the coloring (which, again, is based in films of yesteryear). Where Maddin's films run into trouble is, as soon as the novelty has worn off and the character based introductory jokes have played out, there is simply nothing beneath it all for the film to fall back on.

The story is actually very simple, yet it is so relentlessly bizarre that it borders on surrealism. So, either there is no deeper meaning to the story, or it's so far buried that it eludes me during the actual viewing of the piece. (Not that one can't come up with various things after the fact; I simply doubt that the director intended them or had any control over them if I can only interpret the vaguest elements of the story.)

The concept of Oedipal lust and such simply aren't enough to sustain a film of this length. Not in the way that they are handled anyway. The film is absolutely brilliant up until Johann dies. It then withers quickly, as the last real belly laugh comes in the first few minutes of "Part Two." The remaining hour or so limps along to a decent though unsatisfying end.

Guy Maddin is without doubt a clever and unique director, and I look forward to the day when I can say that I've seen him at his best. But he's far from it in this film in my opinion.

Endless homages to early films aren't enough to last 100 minutes... And perversity caused by child rearing needs to be handled more cleverly to take up the slack...

8 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Dangerously and unapologetically angry documentary in these times, 26 September 2004

I hate to say this, but one need do nothing more than read the other reviews of this film to see just what kind of film it is.

This is a film about a terrorist event made with the sole intention of showing the event in an arrogant and accusatory way. The descriptions one can find on the IMDb for this film astound me. Things such as "shows the Palestinians for what they are; happy to kill Israelis" and "shows the nature of good and evil." All of which is exactly what most people tend to do in situations such as these: personalize and humanize the victims while demonizing the proponents.

The film fills in backstory on the German government. Just enough back story, that is, to make one angry at the German government for being "criminally negligent" (despite the fact that this assumes they had any reason to suspect that such an event would take place at the Olympics). It also goes to great lengths to show the Palestinian celebration of the dead men upon their return home, but makes no effort to show what could drive men to such acts... Again, assuming the presence of evil, rather than a logical motive. And the film focuses its efforts on one victim and his widow; clumsily humanizing the story in a way which makes it even more ghastly, yet, as was previously mentioned, by the time the film reaches it's conclusion, we feel absolutely no remorse about the deaths of the terrorists.

This is the kind of film that proposes eye for an eye in regards to terrorism, and inflames hatred of Arabs in the eyes of those who do not understand the motives and do not wish to.

It is blame wrapped up in a convincing package. Using a human tragedy as ammunition to incite anger at the terrorists rather than intelligent reflection on the horror of the action.

It is possible to loathe the action without seeing the perpetrators as inhuman... But you won't find it in this film.