Archive for the 'Directors' Category

02
Jan
10

Sherlock Holmes

“I have a request. Someone I want to see. Sherlock Holmes.”

Sherlock Holmes is, undoubtedly, one of the most, if not the, most famous detective character of literature. He’s so popular he’s spilled over into cinema and TV. From Basil Rathbone to Jeremy Brett, the world’s most famous detective has had every aspect of himself discussed and debated, from his stature to his cocaine addiction to his sexuality (he’s straight, folks). His partner, Watson, has, for some strange, inexplicable reason, always been portrayed as no more than a bumbling sidekick who happens to show up at the right time with his pistol. Indeed, one has to wonder where in the world all the traditional elements of Holmes originated, especially that ridiculous deerstalker cap (really, who else in the world do you know that has ever worn one, outside of a costume?).

Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels; Snatch) brings us a fairly faithful adaptation of Holmes. Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man, The Soloist) plays the detective, probably marking the first time an American has portrayed the markedly English character. And play it he does. One may argue as to the amount of explosives and modernity the film has been infused with. What one cannot argue with is the fact that he played the character to a T. Granted, a Holmes purist (and I don’t only mean by the books) might find complaints here and there, but such complaints would appear to only be nitpicking to the casual, even the dedicated, moviegoer. Jude Law (AI: Artificial Intelligence)  portrays Holmes’ dedicated friend, Dr. Watson. I breathe a sigh of relief as I write that Law’s performance brings Watson to an equal of Holmes. Surely, he lacks Holmes weirdness and proficiency as a detective, but he isn’t the idiotic sidekick anymore. He’s Holmes’ friend.

Supporting characters include Holmes’ love interest Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), the evil Lord Blackwood (not Andy Garcia but Mark Strong), and Holmes’ reluctant colleague Inspector Lestrade (a competent performance from Eddie Marsan). The story itself is not an original work of Conan Doyle, but is based upon a Holmes’ graphic novel. Surprisingly, it works admirably well. I won’t give much away, but supernatural aspects run throughout the film. I’m glad to report that the end pays great homage to detective films and literature of old: Holmes explains his theories ala Encyclopedia Brown, revealing all to the hapless audience.

I know that the portrayal of Holmes is something long discussed. For those who really do not care, go see the movie. You’ll love it. For those who do, consider that things are always going to be reinvented. For something so superficial as a literature character, it isn’t much to let go of for a while. The film succeeds on its own, without being a Sherlock Holmes film. If it really matters that much, substitute different names.

4/5 for 2009’s Sherlock Holmes. Here’s to a Happy New Year and the hope that Brad Pitt is announced as Moriarty in the next film.

20
Dec
09

Avatar

“Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world and in here is the dream.”

And in this quote is presented everything about my feelings for Avatar. Jake Sully (played by blockbuster newcomer Sam Worthington), a paraplegic Marine, is called in to Pandora, a planet chock full of biotic and abiotic wonders, to fill in for his brother. His brother had spent many years training in the Avatar program, a US military program designed to allow Marines and scientists to inhabit the bodies of Na’vi, the indigenous beings of Pandora. The program is used to study and interact with the Na’vi, in order to relocate them to allow the US to gain access to a copious supply of Unobtainium, a mineral that is extremely valuable for some reason. Jake “gets lost in the woods,” or “twitterpated,” falling in love with Neytiri (well portrayed by Zoe Saldana, who made her debut earlier this year in Star Trek), the daughter of the Na’vi chief. And so we see the unfolding of faith and flesh versus greed and iron.

James Cameron stays true to his reputation, bringing us a pretentious film that presents a LOT of wonders to discuss, but leaves us hanging as far as story goes. Really, a robot traveling through time in order to kill the mother of the future leader of revolution is ingenious… but why not travel back right as the boy is being born? And why not send the shapeshifting Terminator first? And why does a movie about a sinking ship need to be over an hour and a half? I’ll be sincere: Avatar is a spectacle. It really is. You know how science fiction/space movies show us completely new planets but then populate them with only one specific type of species and they all act the same (the Star Wars prequels and later episodes of Star Trek are particularly sadly guilty of this)? Yeah Avatar does nothing of that. Cameron takes the Tolkien route and completely creates a new world. The Na’vi coexist with six-legged horses, six-legged panthers, six-legged rhinoceros type beasts (yeah, they are six-legged, which would actually make sense from an evolutionary point of view), dragon-like beasts of burden, and monstrous hammer-headed leather-bodied eagle things. There’s also a nifty chameleon/dragonfly creature that flies on multi-colored whirligig wings. That aspect of the movie is certainly not lacking; Cameron really does show you a new world, as predicted.

And yet, the story feels… somewhat recycled. Is this not what Spanish conquistadors did to Aztecs? Didn’t American cowboys fight this one out with Native Indians? Is this not… what we are doing now to rainforests etc? Naturally, 14% of the earth’s surface is rainforest. We’ve cut that down to 7%. And it could be argued that what conquistadors and cowboys did to Aztecs and Indians was wrong. While these could be virtuous ideas (we are stewards), Avatar is a different beast.

Pantheistic beliefs run rampant. The Tree of Souls, the primary place of worship for the Na’vi, is linked by root systems to all the other trees, and they are sentient ala Grandmother Willow. The Na’vi chant and sing to the trees. They can even attach their tails to the trees and hear the voices of the ancestors. Neytiri even sings “Can You Paint With All the Colors of the Wind” to Jake. (Alright, well I made that one up.) But it wouldn’t be amiss. It’s the same idea. Gold is hard to get, somewhat ‘unobtainable,’ right? Yep.

Avatar does not suffer from stereotypes, as some would have you believe. And yet, its story is fairly old. So while the effects are amazing, groundbreaking, even, and the score is one of the absolute best I’ve heard in a long time, agendas, political correctness, and recycled storylines are truly present in this film. Three out of five stars.

However, I would love to see Jake descending upon that red bird one more time.

21
Jan
09

Gladiator

Now for the first of the “quadrilogical” reviews. Yes, I just made that word up. Yes, it’s pretty clever, I know. Gladiator comes first because chronologically speaking, it’s set before the other three. 

This film is fast becoming my favorite film of all time. (If you socialize with me on other sites, you probably know that by now. Follow me on Twitter: MaximDecimus) I’ve maintained before that my favorite genre of film is Sci-Fi, but I’ve recently realized that all my favorite movies would fall under the “Action” category. So I’ve officially changed favorite genres. Gladiator is, IMO, on a level higher than most action films: the story is fantastic. Perhaps slightly cliched and a bit predictable, but as far as action films go, this one’s pretty good. The dialogue is fantastic, the actors give perhaps their greatest performances ever…it’s a great film.

Almost from the start of the movie, we see that the main character, Maximus, is a man of faith. He prays to his little gods (which, no, I’m not encouraging idolatry, but it’d probably be helpful to our nation if our generals prayed to God before a battle) and he’s true to his wife and son. He doesn’t want to give them up, even for being the most powerful man on earth. He’s also a virtuous man, having the chance to enter into other relationships but turning them down. Joaquin Phoenix as the evil emperor Commodus gives a good performance also, playing an extremely believable and creepy villain. I’d say that the only themes that are glorified in the film are positive themes, with no grey areas. The good is good and the bad is bad, and that’s the way it should be. 

All in all, a definite 10 out of 10 for Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ridley Scott.

29
Dec
08

Indiana Jones: The Complete Soundtrack Collection

 

indianajonessoundtracks

If you know me, you probably know that I’m obsessed with Indiana Jones. I even argue for the quality of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (*gasp*). No, it’s not as good as the other ones, but it’s still a worthy addition to the series. Anyway, I’ll get to the topic of the post.

This Christmas I received the Indiana Jones Complete Soundtrack Collection. It’s packaged quite nicely, with a faux leather case and gold Indiana Jones accents embossed on the sides. It includes all three original movie soundtracks with never before released music. Since 1989, the first three film soundtracks have not been available. They probably wouldn’t have been either, if not for the release of KotCS. The collection also includes extra music and exclusive interviews from George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and John Williams. 

The Temple of Doom soundtrack is my personal favorite. (What a coincidence, considering Temple of Doom is my favorite film.) Short Round’s Theme is a fantastic composition, as is the ‘trek music.’ And, of course, the End Credits. There never was a better theme song than Raider’s March. (Although Moby’s ‘Extreme Ways’ for the Bourne films is up there.)

So if you’re into Indiana Jones, this a definite must have.

12
Oct
08

Director Spotlights: Spike Lee

I decided to add a new category to the posts I shall make: Director Spotlights. In these posts I will talk about a specific director. In this one, I shall (obviously) talk about Spike Lee. for those of you who aren’t familiar with him, he’s an African-American director. Most (actually, all) of his movies have African-American themes. He used to be a very respected director. Note I said ‘used’ to be. Now, I respect every director out there (save for maybe Uwe Boll) but Lee I respect the least. Why? He’s incredibly racist. Ridiculously so. Perhaps you heard of his little spat with actor-turned director Clint Eastwood. Eastwood made two World War II films: Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima. These two films were centered around the raising of the flag in Iwo Jima, especially the first one. What was Lee’s trouble with it? It didn’t give African-American soldiers their due. He claimed that it showed no African-American soldiers whatsoever. First of all, the films did show African-American soldiers. Second of all, there were no Afican-American soldiers in the group that raised the flag. Lee subsequently called Eastwood racist, and Eastwood, in Western cowboy-type attitude, fired back that Lee needs to “shut his face.” Now, most recently, Lee has made a film called Miracle at St. Anna’s, which tells the story of a massacre in Italy. The only problem is, he shows African-American soldiers in the film where, historically, there were no African-American soldiers of any kind. When the modern day citizens responded (many of whom lost loved ones in the massacre) with things like “you are rewriting our history” Lee told them they “need to come to grips with their history.” So he’s making up history! He’s probably the most racist person in Hollywood. Not to mention probably one of the most arrogant. He tried to sue Spike TV because they were “capitalizing on his fame” by using his name. He also thinks that his passion for Knicks baseball has cost him Oscars before, because the Oscar voters are usually Los Angeles based. “That’s definite bias right there,” he claims. Face it, Spike. You missed Oscars because your films aren’t good enough.




Quote of the Amount of Time I Want to Leave it Up Here

"I've... seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've seen C-Beams... glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost... like tears... in rain. Time... to die." ~Roy Batty (Blade Runner)
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