Archive for the 'Movies' 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.

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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.

23
Jan
09

Repost: The Patriot

I claimed that I’d do a review of four films before I realized I’d already reviewed The Patriot, which is one of them. So here’s a repost. 

 

Let me start and say I loved the movie. It was the first movie I’ve seen with Heath Ledger besides The Dark Knight. And Mel Gibson did a fantastic job as a concerned parent. But let’s get into the themes of the movie. There was definitely a respect for parents. Unlike some movies, where parents are shown to be annoying, dumb, uncool, and indecisive, Mel Gibson’s Benjamin Martin was portrayed as smart and decisive. Heath Ledger’s Gabriel Martin is also a good example of how a young man might mature. Many 14-16 year olds (and younger and maybe older) don’t think much of their parents. At first, Gabriel considers his father to make terrible decisions. But as the movie goes on, you can see the respect in his eyes. Now for the theological themes. In one scene, a church service is interrupted by Gabriel, who is recruiting for the army. The scene gives you the feeling that worshipping God is good, but doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t willing to back it up. I think that this is an excellent scene. I’m not saying in any way that churchgoers are lazy and cowardly. No, instead I think that this is a great way to say that Christians shouldn’t hide behind the Scripture. Christians should be prepared to back up what they say, whether it be fighting for our independence (which I doubt any of us will be doing soon) or evangelizing at county fairs.

I would recommend The Patriot for any one 14 or older. The movie has an R rating, but it’s for violence. I think most 14 year olds would be able to handle the violence in te movie, although some scenes are pretty graphic (a hatchet being embedded into a man’s head, a cannonball taking off a man’s leg)

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.

26
Dec
08

Movie Review: Song of the South

Really, it’s a shame that this movie never made it to DVD. It’s definitely one of Disney’s biggest mistakes. If there were a list of “Worst Mistakes Made in the History of the World,” I’d probably put this one at number 15. (Although, of course, it could be argued that nothing is a mistake, since it’s all in God’s control.) But, this movie really should be dug back up from Disney’s storage rooms. It should be digitally remastered. It’s such a beautiful film. Let me give you the history of it. 

Joel Chandler Harris, a writer in the mid-to-late 1800s and very early 1900s, wrote several stories about the exploits of ‘Brer Rabbit.’ (Trivia: ‘Brer’ is a shortened version of ‘Brother.’) Brer Rabbit could be called the first Bugs Bunny. He constantly tricked his enemies, chief among them Brer Wolf and Brer Fox. The stories were told from the perspective of a Negro slave named Uncle Remus. In the ’40s, Walt Disney finally found a way to adapt the stories to film while using live actors. The film blended cartoon animation with living actors. Unfortunately, soon after it was released, it came under fire from civil rights groups who claimed that it represented Negroes in a bad light. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll wonder just what those civil rights people were smoking at the time. They couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

Uncle Remus is basically an ‘Uncle Tom’ kind of character. He’s virtuous, wise, kind, and hard-working. He simply tells a little white boy some stories about Brer Rabbit. These stories have morals, and the little boy tries to follow those morals. His mother and grandmother see them in a different light however; they forbid him from going to see Uncle Remus again. They’re wrong to do so, but they boy is also wrong in that he disobeys them and goes back to Uncle Remus. Uncle Remus tells the boy another Brer Rabbit story, this time to try to induce the boy into following his mother’s instructions. 

Disney has never produced such a heart warming picture before, and it probably won’t ever again, given a look at the crap they’re coming out with now. “Follow your heart,” and all that stuff. 10 out of 10 stars for the magnificent redemptive story of Song of the South.

13
Dec
08

The Return of Me

Wow! I’ve been gone way too long. This new setup is freakishly amazing. Downright awesome. Makes me want to use WordPress a lot more. You know I’ve noticed a lot of sites making differences. Goodreads (for all that use Goodreads) has become infinitely easier to use and Facebook is constantly making changes. I just wish the domain name wouldn’t always be ‘new.facebook.’ Fairly annoying, but hey.

Well, I’ve returned from cyberdeath to let you all know that I am still alive and kicking, and that the blog will be having some changes. I’ve decided to depart from the ‘movies only’ policy, and make this a true, bona fide blog. I’ll still review movies, spotlight directors, and talk about actors and their constant mishaps, but I’ll also write plenty of other stuff. 

No really. I promise.

26
Oct
08

The Top Five Greatest Animated Films of All Time

There’s a part of everyone that still cherishes their childhood (yes, everyone.) And everyone had a favorite movie, whether it was Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, or Pinocchio. Here’s my Top 5.

The Lion King Definitely one of Disney’s finest animated films. Memorable characters, catchy tunes, an excellent storyline, and jokes that are still hilarious make this film an all-time classic. I dare anyone to argue with me.

The Land Before Time Now, statistically, The Lion King is probably better than The Land Before Time, but in my book, there is no better animated film this one. Perhaps my opinion is slightly biased as I watched this film all the time when I was younger. But, of all the films that I have seen, this one is absolutely flawless. What could be better than little dinosaurs that team up to reach the Great Valley?

The Sword in the Stone Back in Disney’s heyday, they made some really good movies. All-time classics. Now they make stupid Disney princess sequels that tell little girls to “follow their hearts,” whatever in a pink dress that means. But the Sword in the Stone is an excellent film, a superb animated adaption to a wonderful book. It was also just recently released on DVD for the first time ever.

The Jungle Book Ah, yes. Who has not seen this movie? If you haven’t, you are very deprived. No, I’m kidding. You’ve just missed a huge chunk of childhood. Every kid I know loves and adores this movie.

Robin Hood Disney had a knack for making talking animals believable (a skill that they have exercised with the Chronicles of Narnia films). Robin Hood is no exception. Disney was also very good at bringing classic books to the screen in a-made-for-kids fashion. But who says older people can’t enjoy them also?




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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