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The Bible (2013)
The Retelling Of The Bible Could Have Been Better
The Bible is a ten-part mini-series that retells the biblical stories from Genesis to Revelations.It has an ensemble of international and diverse cast led by Diogo Morgado,a Portuguese actor who portrays Jesus.This was produced by the husband-and-wife team of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey,who herself portrayed Mary,the mother of Jesus.
There are many great things about this mini-series.First,I think that the CGI scenes were spectacular.Also,the sound and the cinematography was also worth mentioning.As for the performances,I think that it was good enough overall expect that for Greg Hicks,who portrayed Pontius Pilate which I believe was truly exceptional and worth commending.Also,it was a great idea that the cast are mostly unknown here in the United States.That allowed the viewer to focus on the stories and the Biblical characters rather than the actor or actress who is playing the part.But most of all,the stories were told with a lot of energy and in an engaging fashion.
As for the negatives,there were a lot as well.First is the fact that the introduction wherein we are reminded of the previous episodes took a lot of time.I felt that the second up to the last episodes would start reminding us from the time of Adam and Eve up to the previous one.I think that it would have been better if it reminded the viewer the previous one and not the start of the mini-series considering that most of the viewers are Christians that are familiar with the biblical stories.Also,the conclusion wherein the viewer were reminded of the up- and-coming episodes also took too much time from each episode.If they minimized both,then definitely more biblical stories would have been covered in 10 episodes.Too bad that some important stories like that of Isaac,Jacob and Joseph would have not been skipped if the recap and the portion of what's coming was minimized.
Aside from that,there were many artistic license taken by the writers in almost all stories that did not fit well.Although the producers reminded the viewers that they have revised many stories but keep up with the so- called "Spirit of the Bible",I felt that there were many stories that were somewhat out of place and lacking credibility.Among them is having Samson and Satan portrayed by black actors.This spurred a lot of controversy particularly with the President Obama look-alike actor who portrayed Satan.But this is not about race or the controversy mentioned in the previous sentence.I just felt that some of the characters are far from the people we know as told from the Bible.One that really stood out was Samson.I think that the mini-series portrayed more of a wild and violent man instead of someone who is given by God with an enormous strength.As for Jesus,many of the event from the scriptures were somewhat cherry-picked and lacked cohesion with the exception of the Passion and Death of Jesus.In five episodes that based from the Gospels,it looked like more of a collection of many teachings and miracles from his life instead of telling his story in one continuous fashion.Also,most of Jesus' dialogues are far from being written in the scriptures.Although I am not someone who complained about this,some Christians may find this not good as well.Finally,I also felt that Mary Magdalene is somewhat treated as one of the twelve apostles rather than one of Jesus' many disciples.Was there an issue of feminism? I think that it would have been better if she wasn't portrayed like an apostle.In summary,many of the changes in retelling the stories just did not fit well.
But overall,I still find this mini-series great to watch and entertaining inspite of the negatives I have stated above.If only the negatives I have mentioned were not present or at least minimized particularly the many creative license put into the stories,it would have been a really excellent retelling of the Bible.I could have given it a 10/10 instead of 9/10.
The Bible: Exodus (2013)
Moses And Joshua
Exodus is the second episode of The Bible.In it,we are treated to stories taken from the books of Exodus,Deuteronomy and Joshua.
It starts when Moses talks to God on the burning bush asking him to go back to Egypt to free the Israelite people.He returns and looks for his brother,Aaron.Both talk to that Pharaoh and asked him to set the Israelites free.Due to the Pharaoh's stubbornness,Egypt suffered ten plagues.Israelites were finally set free after the tenth plague wherein the Pharaoh's son dies.But he later changed his mind and led chariots of soldiers to chase Moses and his people.Unfortunately,the Israelites managed to evade them during the parting of the Red Sea as the pursuing Egyptians drowned upon chasing them.Later,we witness Moses receive the ten commandments from God.At the end of the episode,Joshua takes over Moses upon his death and prepares them for the Battle Of Jericho as they camp outside of the city and asked his soldiers as spies.
Just like the previous episode,I felt that this same episode suffers from unevenness particularly while telling the story of Moses and the exodus of the Israelite people.The ten plagues are somewhat told in passing as well as the story of the first Passover.Also,the experience of the Israelites in their journey to the Promise Land was barely told.In fact,after the Ten Commandments were given to Moses,it jumps into the story of Joshua.The Battle Of Jericho was given a lot of attention for will be a lot of action-packed scenes ahead which will definitely entertain the viewer just like the magnificent parting of the Red Sea.Too bad that it did not dwell upon the struggles of the Israelites during their Exodus like their disobedience towards God and the provisions that the Lord sent them in times of trials and distress.Nevertheless,one will never fall short of entertainment especially with the magnificence of great CGI scenes particularly the parting of the Red Sea.In summary,the episode tries to overwhelm the viewer with technology rather than what the lessons that the stories of Moses,Exodus and Joshua provide will provide to the viewer.
The Bible: In the Beginning (2013)
Genesis And Early Chapters Of Exodus Retold In Beginnings
Beginnings is the first of ten episodes of the epic mini-series,The Bible.It is based from the Book Of Genesis and the early chapters of Exodus.
It starts when Noah tells the story of Creation,Adam and Eve,their exodus from the Garden Of Eden and the murder of Abel of his brother,Cain inside the Ark during The Great Flood.Then,we are introduced to the first patriarch of the Israelite people in Abraham.The narrative gets into detail as it tells about the Covenant or God's promise to him that his descendants will be a numerous as the stars in the sky;the birth of Ishmael through his maid Hagar;the birth of Isaac through his wife,Sarah; and the test of his faith when God asked him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.Added to that,we also witness the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and how Lot's wife was killed by looking back during their escape from Sodom.The episode concludes with the story of Moses particularly when he got to know his roots and when he murdered an Egyptian soldier that led to his escape from Egypt.
This episode and the mini-series as a whole suffers from unevenness and lack of cohesion as it tries to compress too many stories from Genesis and the early chapters of Exodus into 50 minutes.Aside from that,some important stories aren't being given that much attention or are being told in passing like the fall of Adam and Eve as well as Cain and Able while other not-so-important stories are given too much attention and details like the Battle of the Vale of Siddim.What's worse is the fact that the story of Isaac as a young man and Jacob aren't being narrated at all.The producers - Mark Burnett and Roma Downey - should have not missed that considering that both Patriarchs of the Israelite People together with Abraham.Too bad that the introduction of the mini-series that includes the quotes relating to God from Martin Luther King,JFK,Winston Churchhill and President Barack Obama as well as glimpses of things to come at the start and the end of each episode eats up a lot of unnecessary episode time which could have been used in telling the story of Isaac and Jacob and maybe even Joseph.
But despite of the flaws stated above,the first episode and the mini- series as a whole definitely avoids to preachy.Also,we get to witness great CGI scenes like the Creation and The Great Flood.As for the creative license taken by the episode so far,I haven't seen anything that I did not like so far in Beginnings.But that does not mean that there won't be any in my future reviews of the the succeeding episodes. Overall,this manages to be entertaining and will definitely delight Christian viewers who like to see a modern re-telling of the Bible.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
It Is A Remarkable Film
Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic comedy-drama that was adapted from the novel of the same title by Matthew Quick. It stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.Robert De Niro,Chris Tucker and Julia Stiles co-stars.It was written and directed by David O' Russell.It tells the story of Patrizio Solatano, Jr.,who is has bipolar disorder.
Pat was recently released from a psychiatric hospital after eight months of stay and moves back with his parents.To rebuild his life,he tries to win back his estranged wife,who apparently has moved on with her life just like some of his friends.His parents want him to share with their obsession with football particularly the Philadelphia Eagles. But things get complicated when he meets Tiffany Maxwell,a widow who also happens to have issues of her own.As they become closer,they become close friends which later results in a relationships and discuss their problems with one another as well as their how they deal and cope with them.
The movie works very well due to the chemistry between its lead stars - Cooper and Lawrence.Both provided an interesting and heartwarming performance that we deeply care for their characters and the issues that they are dealing with.Aside from that,both are charming and likable despite of their flaws and imperfections.Most of all,we get to see the film handle serious issues such as bipolar disorder,family issues,early death,the quest for self-improvement,football and father-son relationship with both humor and compassion that the viewer will certainly be drawn to the film.Finally,Russell's screenplay is full of realism from beginning to end that we are not certainly engaged in contrivances and clichés that is normally present in movies of this genre.That is why Silver Linings Playbook is definitely one remarkable film.
Girl in Progress (2012)
Skipping Into Adulthood
Girl in Progress is a film feature that stars Eva Mendes and Cierra Ramirez together with Matthew Modine and Patricia Arquette.It is about the coming-of-age into maturity of a young woman who is taught interestingly by her teen-age daughter.Patricia Riggen directs.
Grace is an immature single mom who is consumed by her occupation to pay the bills and to provide for her daughter,Ansiedad as well as her affair with a married man in the person of Dr.Hartford.But when Ansiedad's English teacher, Ms. Armstrong introduces her students to classic coming-of-age stories, Ansiedad is inspired to skip adolescence and jump-start her life to rebel against her mother due to the lack of attention she receives from her. She enlists the help of her loyal friend, Tavita to plot her shortcut to become an adult immediately.She designs a flow chart to remind her to indulge in a wide range of bad behavior such as drinking, stealing, failing tests, losing her virginity in a one-night stand and cruelly taunting her best friend.Her ultimate goal becomes to run away from home and move to New York on her own.But later,Ms.Armstrong takes her to the Principal's Office wherein Grace meets her daughter.After an argument,we get to see Ansiedad once again goes back and act as a teen-ager once again and Grace decides to change for the better for her daughter's sake.
Although the film has an interesting premise,it was definitely contrived and does go far away from clichés.Aside from that,it does not give us any reason to care for the characters from they are far from being heartwarming.It could have been a better film if it wasn't implausible and if the story has never been used over and over again.Added to that,we also get limited humor and it fails to elicit laughter from most of its comedic scenes.The only positives in the film is Mendes' likability as Grace and Ramirez's portrayal of Ansiedad.
American Hustle (2013)
An Engaging And Energetic Crime Film
American Hustle is a comedy-drama of a crime genre that is loosely based on the FBI ABSCAM operation of the 1970's and 1980's.It features two interesting actor/actress pair - Amy Adams and Christian Bale - together with another pair - Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper - that worked together in previously in Academy Award nominated films The Fighter and Silver Lining Playback respectively.The story is about two con artists that were forced to work with an FBI agent to capture a sting operation. David O. Russell directs.
During the 70's and the 80's,a ring of crooked deals were captured on video by the FBI at the backdrop of New Jersey.That led to almost a dozen arrests of U.S. senators, members of the U.S. House of Representatives and other politicians.Ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso forces the aid of the a con artists pair:Irving Rosenfeld, a small-time criminal who deals in stolen and faked art as well as fake loan scams; and his seductive British partner Sydney Prosser,who is also known as Lady Edith Greensly. The pair are forced to assist the FBI in nabbing other con artists and crooks in the area after being caught in one of his cons by DiMaso. When a chain of evidence mounts that leads towards corruption in the office of Mayor Carmine Polito, DiMaso concocts a scam that will ultimately bring down many politicians that includes Polito himself.Disgusted by their forced employment with DiMaso after he discovers mob ties that may ultimately lead to his own death,Irving and his partner make a ploy to begin a scheme of their own to get out from it.What makes matters worse is the fact that Irving's wife,Rosalyn tries desperately to retain Irving's affection and attention by constantly interfering with him.
This is definitely one of the best films during its year of release.The performances of Bale,Adams,Cooper and most especially Lawrence are definitely great and memorable.They played their characters interestingly and passionately as they were able to switch from comedy to drama with ease.Also,they obviously researched their characters very well.No wonder that all of them were nominated for an Oscar.Added to that,the movie has lots of fun and energy as it was engaging from beginning to end.Added to that,the killer 70's soundtrack definitely made it enjoyable as well.Despite lacking intelligence and the unevenness of the story,the viewer will definitely get their money's worth with the heartwarming performances of the lead stars alone.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Leonardo Di Caprio's Best Character Driven Film
The Wolf Of Wall Street is the fifth collaboration between actor Leonardo Di Caprio and director Martin Scorsese.It a black comedy and a character-driven film based on the memoir of Jordan Belfort,a New York stockbroker who ran a firm that is involved in securities fraud and corruption at Wall Street during the 1990's.Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie and Matthew McConaughey co-stars.
The film is similar to many of Scorsese's genre of gangster films such as Goodfellas and The Departed.But this time,we get to see the anti-hero Belfort,played charismatically and excellently by DiCaprio dumping fake stocks that are worth nothing instead of killing and murdering people.Aside from that,it explores Belfort's character,a young Jewish broker from New York looking to make his way in Wall Street.He starts off at J F Rothstein and he is quickly taken into an understudy by lead broker Mark Hanna,who teaches him how to make money without morals and integrity.He then finds himself trading penny stocks and sets up his own operation.As his business grows exponentially,he tries to make it into the legit business which goes awry as they soon find themselves conning thousands of businessmen out of their cash.This leads to an FBI investigation on his part.Aside from his business that consists of greed and scams,we get to see Belfort's lifestyle that is characterized by excess that includes sex,drugs,parties and orgies.
Despite the fact that it is 180-minutes long,one will surely enjoy the ride of watching this film.DiCaprio and Scorsese makes it a point to make it interesting and entertaining.Despite the controversy it has made due to its themes of moral ambiguity and having a lot of amoral characters that are involved in a lot of sex and drugs as well as the constant use of vulgar language,it definitely epitomizes fraud and corruption in Wall Street during the 90's.Although many viewers have seen this film as it somewhat glamorizes Jordan Belfort and his lifestyle,it certainly is one great movie.In the end,this is one great film that will surely be enjoyed by many people.
The Internship (2013)
A Google Advertisement
The Internship is a comedy that stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.It tells a story about two men who lost their jobs as a salesmen and were hired as interns at Google.The film was shot at real-life headquarters of Google at Mountain View,California.
Billy McMahon and Nick Campbell seek employment after being laid off from their positions.They apply for an internship at Google and they were surprisingly accepted due to their unexpected answers that pleased the job interviewer.Unfortunately,they are the only interns that are not of College age.They join with other interns that are considered rejects such as Stuart,Yo-Yo and Neha.They form a team that will compete for guaranteed jobs with the company.During the competition against other tech-savvy groups,both Vaughn and Wilson work on their comedic skills and charm to elicit laughter to the viewers.Then guess what?In the end,every viewer knows who among the groups will be will get the coveted job at Google.
Obviously,the film is predictable and generic.Too bad that both Vaughn and Wilson do not generate that much interest to the viewer especially when most of their comedic scenes fall short of laughter unlike in their previous movies - Starsky And Hutch and The Wedding Crashers.Also,it drags a lot and I considered it overlong.Overall,it just served as a 120-minute Google commercial and nothing more.But if you are a fan of both actors,this film is definitely for you.
The Frozen Ground (2013)
A Tribute To Hansen's Victims
The Frozen Ground is a thriller based on the real-life hunt for serial killer Robert Hansen at Alaska during the 1980's.It was reported that the said serial killer has stalked and murdered between seventeen to twenty- one young women.Apparently,he would kidnap them and take them out to the wilderness where he shot and buried them.It stars Nicolas Cage as Sgt. Jack Halcombe,which was based on the character of Alaskan detective that captured the killer,Glenn Flothe; and John Cusack as Hansen himself.Vanessa Hudgens, Katherine LaNasa, Radha Mitchell and 50 Cent co- stars.
This is a well-paced and engaging film feature.Despite the fact that the movie is something that we have already seen before in other thrillers and that it is far from being refreshing and original,we get to see great performances from both Cage and Cusack.It is also worth mentioning that it is a solid film and it will definitely provide a lot of thrills and entertainment to the viewer especially during Halcombe's investigation of the murders.But inspite of it,it falls short as there were a lot of plot holes like a character analysis of Hansen on his motive of committing those crimes as well as the other victims apart from Paulson.Too bad that it could have been better since this is obviously made as a lasting tribute to the victims of Hansen.
August: Osage County (2013)
An Acting Extravaganza
August: Osage County is a black comedy-drama written by Tracy Letts that was based on his Pulitzer Prizewinning play of the same title.The ensemble cast is led by Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts together with Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis,Margo Martindale,Dermot Mulroney,Julianne Nicholson and Sam Shepard.
This film features tells a touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family.They get together when a member of the family passed away.During the gathering,we get to see verbal sparring among family members and we get to realize how the dysfunction among each one of them.This happens particularly in an awkward dinner Violet's starts a conversation among each member of the family which she calls "truth telling".It results with Barbara jumping at her mother.Later in the movie,we learn more about secrets and character flaws that each member possesses.
This film would probably still work better on stage than on screen.Too bad that Tracy Letts did not make the necessary adjustments to make it suit as a film feature.The story does not offer that much as nothing much goes on in it.Also,the viewer would probably not care for each dysfunctional character in the film as the writer does not provide a variety of reasons to do so.
But inspite of the flaws that I have stated about it,what makes this film stand out is the fact that we are definitely treated to an acting extravaganza from a talented ensemble cast.We get to see three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep surely put her A game as always portraying the spiteful and hateful Violet Weston.And of course,we Julia Roberts show a great performance as Violet's daugther,Barbara Weston.This is probably one of the best I have seen her since winning an Oscar in Erin Brokovich.No wonder both got a well-deserved Academy Award nominations.As for the rest of the cast,they do not disappoint as well.The actors and actresses involved brought in their acting chops to make their dysfunctional characters interesting and worth watching.In summary,see the film not to get entertained nor to get to see a great story but for overwhelming acting talent involved in it.