Archive for July, 2010

The Book of Eli (2.5 of 4)

The Book of Eli is a post-apocalyptic movie that doesn’t know to which genre it belongs. The atmosphere ripped causing a global fire which covered the world in ash and rubble and scorched everything and killed most of the planet’s living creatures and vegetation. But this actually is unclear. What we know (for sure) is that there are small pockets of human life that have resorted to extreme violence and cannibalism to survive. Also there is only one copy of the Bible left anywhere.

Denzel Washington plays Eli, a God-fearing yet merciless travelling warrior, who follows the commands of God that he alone audibly hears. What does it tell him? Take the Bible west, where it will be safe. . . at the Alcatraz Island Prison.

This sounds like a fascinating plot to me. If the story would take the above premise and start the movie there  (“Okay, go!”)  it would have been better. But it doesn’t, instead it adds a conflict that makes this action movie into something on the verge of either heretical ideology or poor direction. I hope it’s simply the latter.

The conflict comes in the form of Gary Oldman who plays Carnegie, the power-thirsty leader of a gang of killer post-apocalyptic punk-metal band members. Scary! He wants to get his hands on the Holy Book because he sees it as a tool of manipulation. Carnegie says at one point:

“IT’S NOT A ****ING’ BOOK! IT’S A WEAPON! A weapon aimed right at the hearts and minds of the weak and the desperate. It will give us control of them. If we want to rule more than one small, ****in’ town, we have to have it. People will come from all over, they’ll do exactly what I tell ’em if the words are from the book. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again. All we need is that book.”

Well, there you have it. My frustration with the movie’s story comes from this exact sentiment of Carnegie’s: the Bible’s teachings can be completely disregarded. What it says, means nothing to Carnegie. Only what it can do for him via its spiritual magic. Eli at one point in the film says something like: “I spent so much time protecting the book, that I forgot to live by what it taught.” That’s a bingo, Eli. And that’s the problem that Carnegie had all along too. He apparently “grew up with it.” Therefore knowing its power.  So, both the hero and the villain are learning the same thing? Or just teaching us as an audience the same thing?

I’m not sure.

Mila Kunis also plays as Solara, a sidekick (action movie). And she’s about as important to the film’s story as my mentioning her here. Editing Note: She does provide Eli an opportunity to display his faith through prayer, I’ll give her that. 

The acting credits attached to the film are rather impressive. The two leads are film to film consistently good actors, but are given too little shared screen time. I’ve only seen one other Hughes brothers film, From Hell. Which is the worst Johnny Depp you can find. These two pieces of information bring me to the conclusion that the Hughes brothers, have no idea what they’re doing with their casts. 

The Book of Eli has a good premise, and certainly something to discuss about Carnegie’s understanding of what the Bible is and does, but overall the movie is substandard. The transitions are sloppy, the plot is distracted and the last twist is too big (and unnecessary) a leap of faith for my tastes.    

Best moment silhouette sword fight:

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Bronson (3 of 4)

Netflix Instant Play

Michael Peterson better known as Charles Bronson, England’s most famous prisoner, is serving an indefinite amount of prison time. Why? For fighting. Bronson challenged sanity and rationality as he continued his seemingly pointless expedition of violence and jail-house rage.

That’s basically all you need to know because as far as plot goes there really isn’t one. The story is already told in the premise. Bronson is a character movie. Tom Hardy plays the lead and does an excellent job of capturing the craziness of the character. His thoughtless staring and his sudden changes in mood and demeanor are disturbing and believable.

It seemed the more bizarre Bronson became the more interesting the next scene was. The confusing part was that Bronson never knew what he wanted. The film portrays him as a fame-seeker. It’s his only aspiration actually. And because of that, following the storyline becomes what I imagine a Marilyn Manson concert might be like–shocking, but not intellectually profound.

The acting is superb, but then again I’ve always said crazy is easy.

Oftentimes “based on a true story” films end up providing a new perspective of understanding about the world and why people might have acted a certain way at a certain time. But Bronson, doesn’t do that. I learned some things factually (maybe) but learned little if anything morally. A life of violence is bad and has serious consequences, but we all knew that already.

Technically the movie is strong, and this is where it earns points from me. The lighting of the film consistently sets and changes the mood, and color becomes a tool of the director Refn. (This is the first film of his I’ve seen, although I hear the Pusher series is good.) The images put on-screen are well-controlled and seem thought through thoroughly. Especially Bronson’s prison cells and a theatre stage he creates in his mind to brag his own infamy. Another surprise technically was the makeup. Violence always means blood and cuts and scraps and bruises. Oh, and then, naturally, inside the mind of any psychopath it is colorful and full of mimes. Right?

Don’t expect to have your soul rocked, but there are a few laughs and if you like to “watch them actors go Loony Toons” you found a winner. Be ready for gritty language, violence, lots of male nudity (Bronson liked to oil up and fight naked), and closeups like a 60’s western.

You can’t insult Roger Ebert

This is copy/pasted from Ebert’s blog. I just love to read stuff like this.  Gamer, get owned.

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/07/video_games_13823_huck_finn_80.html

The way you talk about reading books reminds me of David Lynch extolling the virtues of Transcendental Meditation.

“I wanted to form this foundation for enlightenment for the individual and student,” Lynch said. “That’s what education should be: to develop the full potential of the individual and peace on earth. Peace on earth isn’t pie in the sky anymore. Real peace is not the absence of war, it’s the absence of negativity.”

Whether you are transcending and meditating on the void or sitting down and reading Huck Finn, either way you are suckered into sitting and relaxing and wasting your time for hours on end because elitists have told you it’s a better way to improve yourself than playing video games. How are you improved in any way after reading Huck Finn, as opposed to reading a plot summary of the book? I could read that beautiful description of a storm over and over and pontificate about how musical it sounds but it does NOTHING to improve me except in ways that you imagine in your head to justify the huge amount of your life that you’ve wasted reading books.

Ebert: Plot summary? A book is not about what it is about. It’s about how it’s about it.

I suppose this sounds “elitist,” but here goes: Based on your comment, you have never learned to read.