Saturday, May 6, 2017

Race

Year 9, Day 126 - 5/6/17 - Movie #2,621

BEFORE: Well, I had a movie about a winter Olympian last week, so now it's time for two films about summer Olympians, starting with a film about Jesse Owens that has a not-so-subtle double meaning in its title.

Tim McInnerny carries over from "MI-5", here he plays someone on the U.S. Olympic Committee, which is funny because last week I saw him in "Eddie the Eagle", where he played someone on the U.K. Olympic Committee, in a different year.


THE PLOT: Jesse Owens' quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history thrusts him on to the world stage of the 1936 Olympics, where he faces off against Adolf Hitler's vision of Aryan supremacy.

AFTER: Look, I certainly wasn't around at the 1936 Olympiad, I can barely remember the one in 1980 when the U.S. team refused to go to Moscow, to protest Russia's invasion of Afghanistan.  (This was over two decades before the U.S. invaded Afghanistan too, because there wasn't enough irony in that part of the world.)  And then the Soviet Union wouldn't send their athletes to the 1984 games in Los Angeles, because if there's one thing we've learned about dictators, it's how petty they all are.

So naturally there's an attempt to make the most out of an African-American appearing at the Berlin Games and winning a bunch of medals, surrounded by a Nazi culture that was promoting its supremacy to the world through racist propaganda.  Since the roving camera of a docu-drama can go anywhere, we not only learn that the U.S. Olympic Committee was torn over whether to attend the 1936 games, but we also find out that the guy on the committee who was supposed to get the Nazis to tone the racist stuff down was also involved in a secret deal to fund a bunch of buildings in Washington, DC.  (Or something like that, maybe it was casinos in Dubai - either way, this is starting to sound all too familiar...).

This film sets out with the same good intentions as "Eddie the Eagle", to point out that the important thing is not the winning, but being able to say that you were there, you took part, you played your best.  That message probably would have had more impact if Jesse Owens hadn't won so many gold medals.  But then the focus gets repeatedly taken off of Owens and placed on the head of the NAACP weighing in on the situation, and Avery Brundage meeting with Goebbels, and look, over there, it's Leni Riefenstahl making her documentary!

What's most ironic is the fact that Jesse Owens is shown having trouble concentrating when the crowd was yelling racial slurs, and his coach instructs him to tune all of that out, because the only thing that matters is running the race without any distractions.  If only the film could have told Jesse's story the same way, because honestly, that's the most interesting part.  Maybe they tried to get into the mechanics of long-jumping and hurdles and how one man could do it so much better than the others (and this was before they invented sneakers...) and there just wasn't enough material there?

But this is still important subject matter.  I found it incredibly hypocritical that the U.S. would consider boycotting the Berlin Games over the Nazis' racist policies when the U.S. itself was racially segregated - hell, in many ways we're still racially divided NOW.  So Adolf Hitler was a petty racist with delusions of grandeur and many personal grievances who bragged about his construction projects?  (And if he were alive today, he'd no doubt be involved in Twitter feuds with any number of liberal celebrities?)

So as our own country comes to terms with the fact that we're all living in the land of propaganda under a petty dictator, how exactly are we supposed to handle that - just go about our business, play the sports and try to change things from within?  Something tells we don't have that kind of time.

Also starring Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis (last seen in "What Happens in Vegas"), Jeremy Irons (last seen in "The Pink Panther 2"), Carice van Houten (last seen in "From Time to Time"), William Hurt (last seen in "Captain America: Civil War"), Shanice Banton, David Kross (last seen in "War Horse"), Barnaby Metschurat, Chantel Riley, Glynn Turman (last seen in "Gremlins"), Shamier Anderson, Jonathan Aris (last seen in "Rogue One"), Tony Curran (last seen in "Flight of the Phoenix"), Nicholas Woodeson (last seen in "Mr. Turner"), Giacomo Gianniotti, Eli Goree, Anthony Sherwood, Adrian Zwicker, Jonathan Higgins.

RATING: 6 out of 10 qualifying heats

Friday, May 5, 2017

MI-5

Year 9, Day 125 - 5/5/17 - Movie #2,620

BEFORE: I've got a little over a week until Mother's Day, and about three and a half weeks until Memorial Day - no problem, I'm breathing easy because I've got a chain that gets me to both holidays, to the end of May even, and it also allows me to watch "Guardians of the Galaxy 2" next week.  That's a win-win for me.  But I've still got no clue about what to watch in June, I could start with a few documentaries once my linking runs out, but what then?  I'll have to review the whole remainder of the list in about 2 weeks and really prioritize what's left.  I can't move into back-to-school or October horror films so soon, so where will that leave me?  Maybe I should just borrow the whole pile of Academy screeners I have access to and work my way through it, but that feels a bit like cheating.  As it is, my chain for May includes two films on screeners and two that I'll have to buy on either Amazon or iTunes, just to keep my linking going.

David Harewood carries over from "The Brothers Grimsby", and this is the third and final spy film in this chain, I want to add "Bridge of Spies" (which is running on cable now) to the watchlist, but there's no link there.  It's probably better to save that one for a Tom Hanks chain, with "Sully", "Inferno" and "The 'Burbs", that keeps my options open.  

You might ask, why did I separate this film with Peter Firth from the other two ("Risen" and "Equus")?  Well, I needed to extend the chain, and since that was 18 days ago, I was able to squeeze in a whole lot of films between the Firth films.  So sometimes it makes sense to NOT run one actor's films all together, I have to look at the big picture and see all the paths, which eventually tend to circle back to certain actors again, it's just the way it works.  Same goes for Tim McInnerny, he's back tonight after appearing in "101 Dalmatians" and "Eddie the Eagle" last week, but running all of his films together wouldn't have created the same flow, it would have felt more disjointed to me. 


THE PLOT: When a terrorist escapes custody during a routine handover, Will Holloway must team with disgraced MI-5 Intelligence Chief Harry Pearce to track him down before an imminent attack on London. 

AFTER: So it turns out that "MI-5" the movie is based on "MI-5" the BBC TV series, which is called "Spooks" in the U.K. (a much more horrible title, it could lead someone to think the show is about ghosts) and this film was released in some countries under the title "Spooks: The Greater Good".  Let's face it, "MI-5" is much cooler, and this way some U.S. movie fans might accidentally think that it's part of the "Mission: Impossible" franchise, which could only help.

But the series "Spooks" went on for a long time (10 seasons), it seems to be the British equivalent of our "Law & Order", in that every working actor seems to have appeared on it as a guest-star at some point.  (The "Law & Order" franchise has been running so long, it's rare to find an actor who hasn't been on it at least twice, often playing different roles.)  A quick scan of the cast list for the series reveals a lot of big names: David Oyelowo, Richard Armitage, Matthew Macfadyen, Gemma Jones, and hey, there's Sophia Myles from "Tristan & Isolde", and there's the woman who played the young Mon Mothma in "Rogue One" and...well, you get the idea.

But since the show was on for so long before the movie, and the characters in the movie make some references to things that might have happened on the show, it's now wonder why I was feeling like I'd been dropped into the middle of things.  Maybe I'm wrong, because the ex-MI5 agent was asking the head of Intelligence about how his father died, and that guy must have been an agent like 25 years ago, so those events would have probably pre-dated the TV series, right?

I don't know why there seems to be this competition among spy films to see how can make one that is the most confusing, with the highest concentration of double-agents and double-crosses, so that in the end, you're not sure whom to root for.  I guess all of these smaller films are in competition with the James Bond and Mission: Impossible franchises, so they have to keep upping the ante, and this is the only way they know how.  "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" and "Spectre" both pulled similar "we have to find the traitor within our own ranks" storylines. 

I don't really buy the premise here, the possibility that if MI-5 proves itself to be incompetent or corrupt, that it could get taken over by the C.I.A.  Umm, why would the U.S. want to run British intelligence?  How could they even do that - it makes no sense.  Didn't we fight a war to get away from the British government, wouldn't this be a step backwards?  Why couldn't the U.K. just sack everyone in the organization and bring in more competent spies?  There's no reason to torch the whole system to the ground just because part of it's not up to snuff.

Also starring Peter Firth (last seen in "Equus"), Kit Harington (last heard in "How to Train Your Dragon 2"), Jennifer Ehle (last seen in "The Forger"), Elyes Gabel (last seen in "Interstellar"), Lara Pulver (last seen in "Edge of Tomorrow"), Tim McInnerny (last seen in "Eddie the Eagle"), Hugh Simon, Eleanor Matsuura, Tuppence Middleton (last seen in "The Imitation Game"), Geoffrey Streatfield, Elliot Levey, Michael Wildman, Cosmo Jarvis, Ronan Summers, Amra Mallassi, Dominic Garfield, Derek Horsham, Larissa Kouznetsova.

RATING: 4 out of 10 security cameras

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Brothers Grimsby

Year 9, Day 124 - 5/4/17 - Movie #2,619

BEFORE: Happy Star Wars Day!  Today's film has nothing to do with "Star Wars", but I did recently receive my Blu-Ray copy of "Rogue One" and I may show it to my wife this coming weekend.  I did notice a bunch of "Star Wars" actors appearing in my films last week, like Bruce Spence (Tion Medon from Episode III) who showed up in "Peter Pan", "Gods of Egypt" and "Australia".  "Australia" also included Jack Thompson (Cliegg Lars from Episode II) and Ben Mendelsohn (Orson Krennic from "Rogue One").  Bronson Webb from "Pan" and Matt Rippy from "Eddie the Eagle" also had small roles in "Rogue One", and just yesterday, Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron from Episode VII) turned up in "Body of Lies".

I guess that's about it - but I've got "Unbroken" coming up this weekend, with Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux from Episode VII) and also "Ex Machina" with both Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac.

Mark Strong carries over again from "Body of Lies".


THE PLOT: A new assignment forces a top spy to team up with his football hooligan brother.

AFTER: A young boy gets separated from his brother at a train station, and two decades later, after growing up with adoptive parents, he starts to have flashbacks from his past after a random encounter.  That's nearly the same plotline as "Lion", only in all other ways, this is a vastly different film.  Because here the boy grew up to be a professional secret agent, and his older brother became a lower-class soccer fan, so he never really grew up at all.

NITPICK POINT: How the two men meet up again after so much time apart is very questionable.  Nobby, the lower-class one, has kept hope alive that one day his brother would return, even preserving his bedroom with childhood memories, and then one day, a friend rushes in to the pub to inform him that his brother was just seen, and will be attending a charity event.  So many things wrong with this coincidental occurrence, starting with - how does anyone recognize the adult brother, when the last time they saw him, he was like 10 years old?  No one could predict what he would look like as an adult, like the fact that he would be bald.

OK, maybe they noticed a facial resemblance to Nobby, because the two actors do look a bit alike, but even if I allow this point, where did they spot him?  It's been established that the kid grew up to be a secret agent, who travels all over the world, and has no desire to travel back to anywhere near his home town.  Plus, he's a SECRET agent, so he's probably got a ton of fake names, and would never give out his real name in public.  And even if I allow all of this, he was going to be UNDERCOVER at the charity event, so how the hell did someone who spotted him not only recognize his identity, but also somehow figure out his secret itinerary?  There just HAD to be a better way to get these two characters in contact with each other - even bumping into each other on the street corner would have been preferable.

It would have been easy, for example, to make Nobby a low-level thief who wants to rob the charity event, mistakenly thinking there would be a lot of money there, and at the same time, have Sebastian at the same event to prevent the assassination attempt on the charity's celebrity spokesperson.  See, how hard was that?

But let's move on, because after Nobby re-connects with his spy brother, and things spiral out of control, Sebastian is mistakenly framed for the shooting and the two have to go on the run together.  It's a mismatched buddy film, mixed with a few cases of mistaken identity, wrapped up in a "everything goes wrong" plot as seen in films like "The Hangover" or the TV series "The Detour".  With so many comedy tropes reflected here, this should have been hilarious - and there were parts of it that were quite funny, I did laugh out loud even though I was by myself.

But then there was so much emphasis on low comedy that any chance of being a dignified parody of spy films went right out the window.  Why so many scatalogical jokes about bodily functions, like poop jokes and dick jokes and ejaculations?  They do a riff on the old "I've been bitten by a snake in a sensitive area, you'll have to suck the poison out" bit, but taken to a new high (low?) level.  And then lots of jokes that focus on putting things in body cavities and such - it's just overkill.

It's like someone realized that the funniest part of "Borat" was when the two guys were naked and wrestling, and that was all that people talked about afterwards, so someone got it in his head that there needs to be something like that in every movie, only more over-the-top than last time.  I like Sacha Baron Cohen, but he's better in films that keep it classy, like "Les Miserables" and "Sweeney Todd", and don't all pander to the lowest common denominator.

But perhaps it's a reminder that British culture is very diverse, that it's not all about Shakespeare and Chaucer and such.  The same culture that also gave us The Beatles also gave us (ugh) the Sex Pistols and the Clash.  As comedy goes, the U.K. gave us Monty Python, but also Benny Hill, where everything was scantily-clad women and jokes about sex.

Somehow I thought we were collectively supposed to be more enlightened than this, though, and not make jokes about people with AIDS or show people that are homophobic, so it's a shame that the film chose to descend to this level of humor.  Every time they show someone who is afraid to appear gay, even just a little bit, then that feeds into the culture of oppression and persecution of those who are different.  I just wonder why the film felt the need to make so many jokes on this topic - were they trying to attract the conservative, anti-gay audience, or was someone overcompensating?

Points, however, for making fun of Donald Trump in March 2016, before it was super cool to do that.

Also starring Sacha Baron Cohen (last seen in "The Dictator"), Penelope Cruz (last seen in "Zoolander 2"), Rebel Wilson (last seen in "How to Be Single"), Isla Fisher (also last seen in "The Dictator"), Ian McShane (last seen in "John Wick"), Gabourey Sidibe (last seen in "Seven Psychopaths"), Barked Abdi (last seen in "Captain Phillips"), Scott Adkins (last seen in "Doctor Strange"), Tamsin Egerton (last seen in "Eragon"), Annabelle Wallis (also carrying over from "Body of Lies"), David Harewood (last seen in "The Merchant of Venice"), John Thomson (last seen in "24 Hour Party People"), Johnny Vegas (ditto), Ricky Tomlinson, Sam Hazeldine (last seen in "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason"), Lex Shrapnel (last seen in "K-19: The Widowmaker"), Freddie Crowder, Rory Keenan (last seen in "Ella Enchanted"), Yusuf Hofri.

RATING: 5 out of 10 welfare checks

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Body of Lies

Year 9, Day 123 - 5/3/17 - Movie #2,618

BEFORE: Mark Strong carries over from "Tristan & Isolde", and kicks off a 3-film chain of spy films.  You might ask, "Why didn't I just put this one after "The Revenant" so that Leonardo DiCaprio could carry over?"  Well, it was off-topic and I preferred to put two Western films together and not jump back-and-forth between Westerns and spy films.  Similarly, I could go from this one to "The Nice Guys" with Russell Crowe, but ping-ponging between action films and comedies doesn't really appeal to me either.  (Even though tomorrow's film is a comedy, it's a comedy about spies, so that works better for me.)


THE PLOT: A CIA agent on the ground in Jordan hunts down a powerful terrorist leader while being caught between the unclear intentions of his American supervisors and Jordan Intelligence.

AFTER: I realize this anti-terrorism subject matter is not only relevant, it's (possibly) realistic.  I can't really confirm that, because I don't live in that world.  But it FEELS like it might be realistic, and maybe that's more important.  Does the CIA work this way?  I have no idea.  But it might.

That is, until the big plan to flush out the real terrorist leader by creating a fake one - because we all know that terrorist leaders are just as petty and competitive as teenage girls, right?  Hmm, somehow I don't think so.  I mean, MAYBE by creating a fake attack the CIA could create some chatter, and that COULD cause a terrorist to accidentally reveal his location, but wouldn't ANY situation create that?

Overall I found this very hard to follow, I wish the film could have stayed in one location and focused a bit more, instead we're in Iraq, then we're in Jordan, then we're in Amsterdam and the U.K.  And in the parts where Leo's not hopping around from country to country, there's quite a lot of him talking on the phone with his handler, a clear violation of the "show, don't tell" rule.

Plus, no lie, there's a character named Saleem and another named Salaam.  How am I supposed to keep track of that?  I don't mean to sound racist, I'm just saying that characters need to have distinct names, that's all.

Also starring Leonardo DiCaprio (last seen in "The Revenant"), Russell Crowe (last seen in "Winter's Tale"), Oscar Isaac (last seen in "X-Men: Apocalypse"), Vince Colosimo (last seen in "The Great Gatsby"), Simon McBurney (last seen in "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation"), Ali Suliman (last seen in "Lone Survivor"), Golshifteh Farahani (last seen in "Exodus: Gods and Kings"), Alon Abutbul (last seen in "London Has Fallen"), Mehdi Nebbou (last seen in "Munich"), Michael Gaston (last seen in "The Notorious Bettie Page"), Kais Nashif, Lubna Azaval, Jamil Khoury, Ali Khalil.

RATING: 4 out of 10 rabies shots

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tristan & Isolde

Year 9, Day 122 - 5/2/17 - Movie #2,617

BEFORE: And just like that, my mini-vacation is over.  But we had some fun, ate at the Palm steakhouse and then yesterday we hit two buffets, the breakfast buffet at the Borgata and the dinner buffet at Caesar's.  We'd been to both places before, in fact I think we've now hit every buffet in Atlantic City at least once.  If we keep going back we're going to have to find some new places to eat, or else just keep repeating ourselves, which I'm fine with.

By the end of Sunday I was down $35 from playing the slots, and Monday morning was even worse, by noon I was down $95.  But I hit on both machines I played at Caesar's, and then all four that I played at Bally's, and ended up losing only $26 overall.  That's not bad for 2 days at the slot machines, I've done much worse.  I've also won overall and done much better on past trips.

Rufus Sewell carries over from "Gods of Egypt".


THE PLOT: An affair between the second in line to Britain's throne and the princess of the feuding Irish spells doom for the young lovers.

AFTER: I never knew much about the story of these two lovers before - I know there's an opera or two about them, but that's about it.  Turns out they're like the Celtic version of Romeo and Juliet, if the Montagues were the fractured tribes of Britain and the Capulets were the Irish.  And I guess there's more than a little bit of the King Arthur story here too, especially the love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot.

Before they ever meet, Isolde is promised to a Irish warlord, one who Tristan then conveniently kills in battle, though she doesn't know that for a while.  Then Tristan falls in battle and his body is set adrift on a burning boat, only the Brits aren't great at setting boats on fire with arrows, or determining if a man is really dead or not, for that matter.  And Isolde is conveniently a whiz with potions and such, so she's able to restore him to health when his boat washes up on her shores.  (He was probably just fine, until some idiot hit his boat with a burning arrow...)

To be on the safe side, since they're on different sides of the conflict, she doesn't tell him her real name, which sets up the mistaken identity thing.  Tristan comes to Ireland on behalf of his king to win the right to marry the king's daughter, only he has no idea that the woman who nursed him back to health, whom he fell in love with, is also the king's daughter, Isolde.  Then for about a minute she's happy when she thinks she gets to marry the man she loves, only he's there to win her hand for his lord, the king.  Whoops.

So they both think they can put their personal feelings aside, and do what their sense of honor and duty would suggest - Isolde says she'll be sleeping with King Marke, only she'll be thinking of Tristan, and Tristan says he'll be fine, only he's NOT fine, and this sort of thing never works.  Why Tristan can't just go out and find another girl seems to be the point of contention.  Why he also can't speak up and tell the king about his relationship with Isolde is another question.  The solution seems to be rather simple - just tell the king that the princess is not pure and virginal, since he knows this fact first-hand.  Boom, problem solved, then he can run off with her to someplace else.

But no, this was a different time when people pledged themselves to the service of the king, and Tristan is the king's "second", which is strange because the king has a blood relation, Melot, who doesn't like being skipped over.  So yeah, that's probably going to cause a problem down the line.  Can these crazy kids manage to work things out, and find happiness together?  Not if Wictred and Donnchadh have anything to say about it...

Also starring James Franco (last heard in "Sausage Party"), Sophia Myles (last seen in "Underworld: Evolution"), David O'Hara, Mark Strong (last seen in "Kingsman: The Secret Service"), Henry Cavill (last seen in "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."), Bronagh Gallagher, Ronan Vibert (last seen in "Dracula Untold"), Lucy Russell, Leo Gregory, Dexter Fletcher (last seen in "The Elephant Man"), Richard Dilate (last seen in "Argo"), Graham Mullins, Jamie Thomas King (last seen in "Mr. Turner").

RATING: 5 out of 10 slave caravans

Gods of Egypt

Year 9, Day 121 - 5/1/17 - Movie #2,616

BEFORE: I'm in Atlantic City today, we get these Groupon deals that require a stay from Sunday to Tuesday, which of course is off-peak, most people want to stay Friday to Sunday, so we get a cheaper hotel rate.  All that means is that I have to take Monday off, which is not the worst thing.  This is also the day that trial that picked me for jury duty was scheduled to start, so I'd much rather be playing slot machines and eating at buffets than serving on a jury, that's a no-brainer.  I'm doubly glad that I weaseled out of sitting on that trial, and that we didn't have to re-schedule our little mini-vacation.

It's still too chilly for the beach, but we did see one family out there trying.  The wind was blowing their towels around, there was sand flying everywhere all around them, but darn it, they probably drove 100 miles to get to the beach, and they were going to have their beach day.

Bruce Spence carries over from "Peter Pan", and though he's not Australian, he's really from New Zealned, Bryan Brown is back, and he IS from Australia.


THE PLOT: Mortal hero Bek teams with the god Horus in an alliance against Set, the god of darkness, who has usurped Egypt's throne, plunging the once peaceful empire into chaos and conflict.

AFTER: I may want to tread a little lightly tonight, because I know one of the screenwriters, who also wrote the screenplay for "Dracula Untold", which similarly took characters that were prominent in mythology or folklore, and revised or re-imagined them.  Here he's working through the Egyptian pantheon, but I'm afraid no matter how you slice it, this is six different kinds of ridiculous.

First off, you have to imagine that the Gods of Egypt were, in fact, real, at least at some point.  But of course we have no evidence of this, that they existed in any form besides stories, or heiroglyphic depictions.  Secondly that they made their presence known to Egyptian mortals, and not only walked among them (you can spot the gods because they're a few feet taller than the mortals) but also ruled over them.  Common sense would dictate that the Pharaohs claimed lineage from the gods, but you would expect that to be a bunch of hoeey, unprovable claims that conveniently granted them some kind of dominion or control over everyone else.

Along with this go a whole bunch of rules and regulations that re-define divinity - like the fact that gods can apparently die, or destroy each other, or be injured in ways that lessen their powers, like Horus gets both eyes stolen by Set.  What good is godhood if you can be hurt or killed?  And if one god can take away the eyes or chop off the arm of another, why can't that god regenerate his eyes or grow back his arm?  A god with limited powers isn't really a god, right?  It's more like a superhero.

Or in this case, a Transformer - because the coolest Egyptian gods seem to have the ability to transform into shiny metal birds or fighting tigers, like they're MegaZords or something. (Mega-Lords?)  OK, so the effects are really cool, and the battle scenes are, like epic.  Should I just regard this as a bunch of eye-candy or action-movie fluff or something?

The problem is, I can't do that.  Even if I follow equal-time rules, having watched a few films about the Judeo-Christian God, like "Exodus: Gods and Kings" and "Risen", and state that I'm merely doing a similar investigation into the Egyptian gods by watching this, it's all still bunk, right?  I mean, if you acknowledge that there ARE (or have been) many different religious belief systems on our planet over the centuries, they can't ALL be right, so therefore, logically, none of them are right.  Even though the believers of each faith will tell you that THEIR God (or Gods) is/are the ONLY Gods, I have to, by default, discount them all.

Clearly, someone saw that films like "Clash of the Titans" and "Hercules" were doing big box-office business, and figured they could get the same results by strip-mining the Egyptian god stories instead of the Greek ones.  But they kept in some very Greek mythological things, like minotaurs.  That's very telling - and so is the depiction of elaborate traps within the temples, which seems to be cribbed directly from either the "Lara Croft" or "Indiana Jones" series.

Furthermore, this film ups the ante by depicting the world the way that the Egyptians did - it's flat here, not round, and how does that do anybody in our modern culture any good?  Seriously, if you fall back on the tropes of Greek & Egyptian myths that depict Apollo or Ra dragging the sun across the sky each day via chariot - here we see that the "chariot" is a space-ship in Earth's orbit, and Ra literally drags the sun across the disc-world each day via a giant chain.  Then, when he gets to the edge of the world, his "chariot" goes under the flat disc, he battles the night-demon Apophis with his light-bolts, presumably forcing him around to the other side of the world (where it's now night, duh) and then dragging the sun across the far side of the world.

It's a simple enough solution that fits in with the Egyptian myths, but who does this really help?  Certainly not the kids who are going to go into school and say that the earth is shaped like a big flat cookie, they saw it in a movie.  We know now that the earth is round (OK, an oblate spheroid, whatevs) so this can only lead to more ignorance in the world.  Just because the Egyptian people were ignorant THEN about the way the world worked, it doesn't mean we have to keep their bad ideas alive.

Same goes for all this underworld/afterlife nonsense.  The Egyptians believed that in order to gain access to the afterlife, you had to bring a tribute of gold or jewels with you when you died, to pay for your passage.  (The Greeks had something similar, you had to be buried with some coins to pay Charon, the ferryman on the river Styx, or you'd sit on the banks of the river forever, unable to get to the Elysian Fields.)  So we see part of that "process" here, as a panel of universal judges takes the offerings from each departed soul and places them on a balance, and if the payment is greater than the sins the soul committed, they can pass through to the land beyond.  (Huh, it's funny how the passage of the soul to the good place looks an awful lot like the destruction of the soul if they don't have the proper tribute.  Is the suggestion here that the gods are full of crap, and nobody's really getting through, that it's all one big cosmic scam?)

Again, in our real world, there's just no good that can come from depicting the universe functioning in this way.  We've already got a few religions that say you can commit horrible acts of terrorism and murder in the name of their gods, and a few other religions that say you can sin as much as you want, as long as you repent and ask for forgiveness before you die.  Now along comes this film that says you can also potentially BUY your way into heaven?  Like, haven't we got enough corruption and theft and glorification of wealth in our world already?  Where's the movie that states that you'll only get into heaven if you do good deeds, and you do them sincerely and consistently for your whole life, and you do them because they're the right thing to do, and not just to get into heaven?  Better yet, where's the movie that suggests that maybe there is no heaven, so we've got to be excellent to each other while we're here, because this is all we get?

Also starring Brenton Thwaites (last seen in "Maleficent"), Courtney Eaton (last seen in "Mad Max: Fury Road"), Nikolai Coster-Waldau (last seen in "The Other Woman"), Gerard Butler (last seen in "London Has Fallen"), Bryan Brown (last seen in "Australia"), Geoffrey Rush (last heard in "Minions"), Elodie Yung (last seen in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"), Rufus Sewell (last seen in "The Holiday"), Rachael Blake (last seen in "Truth"), Chadwick Boseman (last seen in "Captain America: Civil War"), Emma Booth, Goran D. Kleut (last seen in "The Great Gatsby"), Alexander England, Abbey Lee (also last seen in "Mad Max: Fury Road"), Kenneth Ransom, Yaya Deng, Robyn Nevin (last seen in "The Matrix Revolutions").

RATING: 4 out of 10 floor plans on scrolls

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Peter Pan (2003)

Year 9, Day 120 - 4/30/17 - Movie #2,615

BEFORE: Before I begin tonight, a shout-out to Steven Mnuchin, who was one of the producers listed on "Pan" - as it turns out, the producer or executive producer of quite a few films that I've watched over the last 2 years.  Sometimes I think producers and EPs just don't get as much credit as they deserve - damn directors hogging the spotlight.  In 2015 I watched 3 films produced by Mnuchin - "The Lego Movie", "This Is Where I Leave You" and "Winter's Tale".  He produced 8 more films I watched in calendar 2016 - "Batman v. Superman", "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.", "Edge of Tomorrow", "American Sniper", "Inherent Vice", "Vacation", "Get Hard" and "Run All Night".  And 8 more films in just the first 4 months of 2017: "The Intern", "How to Be Single", "Suicide Squad", "Midnight Special", "Black Mass", "In the Heart of the Sea", "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Pan".  Whew, that's a track record any producer would kill for - but wait, you say, I've heard that name before.  Yes, it's been in the news because he joined Trump's cabinet as the Secretary of the Treasury - why anyone would throw away a promising Hollywood career like that is beyond me.

An optimist might say, "But hey, most of those films seem quite successful, maybe he's the guy that should be in charge of our country's economy..."  But a pessimist might say, "Yeah, but running a country probably is a lot more complicated than financing a movie - and anyway, the shady accounting practices of Hollywood films could probably do more harm than good in Washington."  I guess we'll all find out together.  And I've still got three Mnuchin-produced films to watch: "The Legend of Tarzan", "Keanu" and "Our Brand Is Crisis".

The characters of Peter Pan, Captain Hook and others carry over from "Pan".  I suppose, in retrospect, I probably could have worked out some actor linking, like maybe if I'd put "Australia" at the end of the Hugh Jackman chain, Bruce Spence would have carried over - but that would have split up the 2 Peter Pan films, and that's what I didn't want to do.  Relying on my new rule was a better plan.


THE PLOT: The Darling children receive a visit from Peter Pan, who takes them to Never Never Land, where an ongoing war with the evil pirate Captain Hook is taking place.

AFTER: No doubt, the difficult dilemma that any filmmaker faces when making a modern adaptation of a literary classic revolves around questions over what gets kept and what gets jettisoned.  Everyone says they want to be "faithful" to the original, but is that really the best way to go?  Are there certain things that resonated with readers or audiences in, say, 1906 that no longer have that appeal?  What's the best tone to strike that will maintain the spirit of the old story, but also put today's kids' asses in the seats?

This 2003 adaptation stayed about as true to the original J.M. Barrie story as it could, only adding one new character, an Aunt Millicent so that the Darling family could have a naysayer, someone who points out that Wendy's turning into a young woman, while the parents can still maintain that they are all merely children.  Because that's what "Peter Pan" is really about, at its essence, the story of a teen's sexual awakening.  Yep, here's the part where I ruin "Peter Pan" for you, just as I ruined "Moby Dick" and several of Shakespeare's plays.  (Don't listen to me if you're still in high school and you still need to get a good grade from your English teacher...)

Certain conventions came about when "Peter Pan" got adapted into a stage play, and one of those was the dual role of Mr. Darling and Captain Hook, played by the same actor.  Perhaps this was a cost-cutting move, because Mr. Darling isn't generally seen once the kids go to Never Land, and with the help of a costume change they could put that actor to better use, keeping him busy in the middle part of the play, then using him again as the father when the kids return.  But there's a deeper meaning that results from the dual role (which this film maintains) because of the Elektra complex, the female version of the Oedipus complex, in which a young girl feels some sort of attraction to her own father, before breaking from him (usually in her teens) and forming an adult romance with another male.

So if Captain Hook is the fantasy-world equivalent of Mr. Darling, it's a game-changer.  You'd expect any father of a teen girl to be naturally protective of her, and to be suspicious of teen boys as rivals for her affection.  So, logically, if Captain Hook kidnaps Wendy to keep her away from Peter Pan, let's say, it's done out of some strange combination of malice and protection, and there's a love triangle of sorts that's formed between the three.  Perhaps a father might have a tough time dealing with the fact that his daughter is growing up and becoming sexually active, and take his frustration out on her suitor, who he might perceive as an immature, wild ruffian - and that's Peter Pan.

A different convention came about when "Peter Pan" was turned into a musical, and that's when Peter was traditionally played by a woman, because the composer wrote Peter's songs for an alto part, which would be nearly impossible for a man to sing.  So for decades some androgyny was injected into the role, with everyone from Mary Martin to Sandy Duncan to Cathy Rigby playing this teen boy, and if you ask me, this added nothing but unnecessary confusion to the story.  Finally logic prevailed over silly conventions, and finally in the new Millennium, Peter Pan can be played by boys, in non-musical productions.  (It's a bullshit convention, anyway, I mean, you can always change the key that any song is sung in.  The right male actor could have pulled it off, but Broadway wouldn't have that.).

So kudos to this film adaptation for figuring out what conventions to keep, and which ones to abandon, in order to get the story back to its essence.  The only annoying things about this adaptation were the horrible, overblown pantomiming done by Tinker Bell and the annoying moony grinning done by Wendy.  The emoting could have been dialed back a bit.

Starring Jeremy Sumpter, Jason Isaacs (last seen in "Fury"), Rachel Hurd-Wood, Olivia Williams (last seen in "Maps to the Stars"), Lynn Redgrave (last seen in "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex"), Richard Briers (last seen in "Cockneys vs. Zombies"), Geoffrey Palmer (last seen in "The Pink Panther 2"), Harry Newell, Freddie Popplewell, Ludivine Sagnier, Carsen Gray, Bruce Spence (last seen in "Australia"), Theodore Chester, Rupert Simonian, George MacKay, Harry Eden, and the voice of Saffron Burrows (last seen in "Frida")

RATING: 5 out of 10 sleeping children