Gods of Egypt

gods-of-egyptGods of Egypt is a train wreck of a movie. It’s one of those movies which is so bad it’s fun to watch, viewed in the right frame of mind.

Things are prosperous in ancient Egypt. When the god Osiris (played by Bryan Brown) abdicates his throne to give to his son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) the evil god Set (Gerard Butler) kills Osiris and takes the throne for himself. Set blinds Horus by stealing his eyes which subsequently deprives him of his powers. Set casts him out to wallow in self-pity. Set begins his reign of terror by conquering all the areas surrounding Egypt.

In a parallel story line, a lowly mortal thief, Bek (Brenton Thwaites) loses his true love, Zaya (Courtney Eaton) after Set’s temple builder, Urshu (Rufus Sewell) kills her. The two story lines converge when Bek seeks out Horus with the hope that the god can bring Zaya back from the dead. In turn, Bek promises to help Horus by getting his eyes back so that he can regain his powers and ultimately defeat Set before the world is plunged into chaos.

One big problem with the movie is that most of the major roles are played by white actors of Northern European descent. Brenton Thwaites and Bryan Brown are Australian; Rufus Sewell is English; Gerard Butler is Scottish; and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is Danish. So right off the bat, there are lots of white guys playing characters from Northern Africa. Gerard Butler’s heavy Scottish accent is troublesome as well. It seems as though he’s from the Scottish section of Egypt.

The CGI is mostly good, but does look unfinished and hurried in some scenes. But to be fair, the backdrop of ancient Egypt is stunningly rendered in CGI; it’s apparent that a lot of the CGI budget was spent on this.

Despite its flaws, God’s of Egypt is an entertaining movie. The action sequences are well done and the CGI makes the Egyptian gods look larger than the mortals. The storyline is a creative re-imagining of the ancient Egyptian myths.

Gods of Egypt is best viewed for what it is: disposable entertainment in which you don’t have to think to hard. If you can just let the movie wash over you, it can be highly entertaining.

Worth a look if you can overlook some of the more glaring flaws and/or you like ancient Egyptian mythology.

Skip it if the at-times-cheesy CGI or white guys playing Northern Africans would annoy you.

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Gods of Egypt

-Steve

 

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Quirky Movies: The Trust

mv5bmta4nje3otk1mzdeqtjeqwpwz15bbwu4mdmwmtk1mjgx-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_The Trust is a quirky caper movie in which Nicholas Cage gives one his patented over-the-top performances. Sometimes this can be very annoying but Cage’s performance works well for this movie.

Cage plays Stone, a Las Vegas cop who works in the evidence room.  He collects evidence from crime scenes to be taken back, cataloged and stored. Elijah Wood plays Waters, Stone’s partner. Stone is confident, methodical and calculating. Waters is a twitchy stoner who avails the services of prostitutes.

Stone discovers a bail receipt which was paid in cash to the amount of $200K. This gets him thinking that nobody pays $200k in cash to bail out a low-life criminal. He follows the money and makes a startling discovery: a hidden vault where one should not be. Stone decides to break in to rob the vault of its contents. He hatches a plan and gets his partner, Waters, involved.

It becomes apparent in the beginning, that these two are in way over their heads. They constantly forget small details which come back to haunt them later. When they do discover what is in the vault, they realize that they are stealing from people they most definitely shouldn’t be.

The movie starts out slow and it is confusing as to what is going on. Some of the scenes are played for laughs and it almost seems as though this movie is going to be a cop-buddy comedy. Once Stone discovers the vault, the movie takes a dark, serious turn.

Worth a look if you like quirky crime capers.

Skip it if Cage’s over-the-top antics annoy you.

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The Trust

-Steve

 

 

 

 

Camp X-Ray

mv5bmtu5nji1mjewmv5bml5banbnxkftztgwnjc2mzc3mje-_v1_sy1000_sx675_al_Camp X-Ray is the story of the “detainees” at Guantanamo Bay. As the film opens Ali (played by Peyman Moaadi), a Muslim, is praying. Almost immediately a black bag is forced onto his head and he is dragged away. So begins a very dark and unsettling movie.

The main story concerns Cole (played by Kristen Stewart), a young United States Army soldier fresh out of MP school. Hoping to go to Iraq to escape her tiny and miserable home town, she is instead sent to “Gitmo” (Guantanamo Bay) to guard the detainees. Since they are not prisoners of war (POWs), they are not subject to the treaties set forth by the Geneva Convention.

At first Cole is harassed and abused by the detainees. But as she settles into the boring, routine drudgery of her post, she slowly she develops an odd bond with Ali, although this is strictly against the rules. As it turns out, Ali is guilty of nothing, but must be kept at Gitmo as no other country will have him due to his detainee status.

It seems that no one at Gitmo is excluded from abuse. The guards abuse the detainees, the detainees abuse the guards. Those in command abuse their subordinates. This self-perpetuating cycle continues day in and day out without respite.

A thought provoking movie, Camp X-Ray explores one facet of the aftermath of terrorism on the modern, post 9/11 world. The movie doesn’t seem to take a stand one way or the other, leaving it up to the viewer what to think about a thoroughly untenable, indefensible situation.

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Camp X-Ray

-Steve

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blindspot

MV5BMTkxNDc1MTk5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTM4MTc1OTE@._V1_Blindspot starts with an intriguing premise:  a naked woman (portrayed by Jaime Alexander), covered in tattoos, is found stuffed in a duffel bag in the middle of Times Square. It seems as though the woman has amnesia and can’t remember anything about her life prior to being found. Nicknamed “Jane Doe,” the woman is turned over to a crack FBI team headed by Kurt Weller (portrayed by Sullivan Stapleton) after the police find Weller’s name tattooed on Jane’s back.

The tattoos all have symbolic meanings which point to crimes or criminal activities. So the basis for the show is that each week the FBI team deciphers a tattoo with Jane’s help and prevents a crime (also with Jane’s help). Jane quickly demonstrates that she has had extensive training in weapons/shooting, hand-to-hand combat, lock picking, demolitions, foreign languages, etc. Weller is quick to add her to his team but it soon becomes apparent that Jane may be working against the interests of the FBI and even the US Government. As the FBI team and Jane continue to search for information about her identity, the truth is slowly revealed about Jane’s origins.

Blindspot has a lot going for it: Jaime Alexander is excellent as Jane Doe. She brings raw physicality to the role but there is also an undercurrent of vulnerability due to her character’s memory loss. Also good is actress Ashley Johnson as Patterson, a FBI techie/hacker who helps the FBI team navigate the cyber/digital world. In most shows like this, there is the temptation to put her character in glasses to make her look smart, but the writers have opted to write her smart instead; kudos to them. Finally, the action happens at breakneck speed and is fast and furious.

However there are some problems. The writing seems lazy at times: there is nothing novel and the show seems to be a mash up of The Bourne Identity, Memento, 24, The X-Files, The Blacklist, Salt, et al. It defies logic to have a 5′ 9″,  110 lb. woman throw around 6′ tall, 200+ lb. men around like rag dolls, no matter how well trained she is. It also seems that the FBI would not allow an outsider like Jane to join and FBI team, much less give her a firearm and allow her to assist at active crime scenes. To enjoy this show, suspension of disbelief is a necessity.

Worth a look if you like fast-paced action-adventure TV shows with a compelling protagonist.

Skip it if logical inconsistencies and/or lazy writing drive you nuts.

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Blindspot

-Steve

 

 

10 Cloverfield Lane

MV5BMjEzMjczOTIxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTUwMjI3NzE@._V1_SX675_CR0,0,675,999_AL_10 Cloverfield Lane starts with a great setup: a woman , Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) abruptly leaves her boyfriend. As she is driving away she gets into a traffic accident. She wakes up in a windowless room with an IV drip in her arm and is handcuffed to the wall. Her captor, Howard (played by John Goodman) informs her that she is in an underground bunker and that he saved her from certain death as the above world is now poisoned due to an unspecified apocalyptic attack. Also in he bunker is a young man, Emmett (played by John Gallagher, Jr. ) At first it seems as though Howard has both of his captives’ best interests in mind, but it quickly be comes apparent that his actions indicate otherwise. This tension between what Howard says and what he does drives the story and creates a palpable sense of foreboding.

The strength of the film is that the film makers never really let the audience know what is actually happening until the very end. Howard is clearly unhinged, but is he wrong about his conspiracy theories? Some of what he says seems to be somewhat consistent with the truth but his penchant for severe overreactions makes him truly frightening; he carries a holstered revolver on his hip, despite the fact that neither Michelle nor Emmett are a physical threat to him. His erratic behavior makes him unreliable, but doesn’t necessarily make him wrong. John Goodman is a standout in his role in this film, turning in a chilling but nuanced performance.

Winstead portrays Michelle as a survivor: smart and resourceful. It’s nice to see a female character portrayed in this way rather as some shrinking violet who needs a man to save her. Michelle soon realizes that staying with Howard might be much more dangerous than anything she might face outside the bunker. She formulates a plan to escape which results in unintended, deadly consequences.

It isn’t until the last 10 or 15 minutes that the film makers let the audience in on what is really happening. At this point there is a huge relief of tension but overall there is no real resolution.

This film does not fit neatly into any one category. It is part psychological thriller, part monster movie, part horror film, and part kidnap movie. All these elements are combined to good effect, making it one of the better films which has come out this year.

Worth a look if you like taut, genre-defying psychological thrillers.

Skip it if disaster films set in bunkers make you claustrophobic.

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10 Cloverfield Lane

  • Steve

Quirky Movies: Mr. Right

mr rightMr. Right is a quirky movie, sometimes self-consciously so, but the strength of the two leads, Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick make for an eminently enjoyable viewing experience. The writing is crisp and witty and at just over an hour and a half run time, the action never lets up. Kudos to the writer, who remained on point and didn’t waste any time on unnecessary sub plots.

Sam Rockwell (in fine form as always) plays Mr. Right/Francis, a hit man who is on the run from his employers. It seems he has developed a conscience and no longer wants to kill people for a living, except those who have hired him. He becomes sort of a “reverse hit man.”

Anna Kendrick plays Martha, a woman who has just recently gone through a painful breakup. Martha is flighty, even exhibiting Manic Pixie Dream Girl(TM) tendencies. Martha meets Francis and they hit it off; she seems to think that he is the “perfect” guy. Of course his fatal flaw is that he is a hit man (albeit a remorseful one) but once she finds out his secret, she decides that what they have is real and wants to make it work. When Francis jokes about killing people it isn’t clear whether Martha just doesn’t believe him or just doesn’t care.  Of course, Francis’ past catches up with him in the form of Tim Roth, a former partner and current hit man with unclear allegiances. Roth turns in a fine performance.

One criticism is that there is  17-year age gap between Martha and Francis. However, the chemistry between the two actors is so palpable it never feels creepy or inappropriate. The cutesy dialog would have been unbearable had it been delivered by lesser actors but astonishingly, Rockwell and Kendrick make it work.

Although it is a fairly violent movie, most of the violence is played for laughs. Rockwell’s patented dance moves are incorporated into the movie as a bizarre unarmed hand-to-hand combat style.  Because Francis is a hit man, there is a fair amount of shooting and killing.

Worth a look if you like offbeat, quirky rom-coms about offbeat, quirky characters.

Skip it if quirky Manic Pixie Dream Girls(TM) are not your thing.

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Mr. Right

  • Steve

 

 

 

Breaker Morant

81RW8yyHS5L._SY606_Breaker Morant is the story of three Australian soldiers serving in the British army during the Boer War in South Africa at the turn of the 20th Century.

Acting under orders from British army command, Lieutenant Harry “Breaker” Morant (played by British actor Edward Woodward), Lieutenant Peter Handcock (played by veteran Aussie actor Bryan Brown) and Lieutenant George Ramsdale Witton (played by Lewis Fitz-Gerald) track down and execute  Boer guerrillas. The Boer War was one of the he first wars where uniformed soldiers (British) fought against civilian-clad guerrillas;  the rules of warfare were changing rapidly.

As the war wound down and the British command was looking for scapegoats to appease the opposition.  Morant, Handcock and Witton were court-martialed for war crimes by the very same British army command, who were responsible for issuing the orders in the first place. In order to obtain a quick and easy conviction, the British command stacked the deck against Morant and his comrades: the court appointed a lawyer for the three only a day before the trial who specialized in “land conveyancing and wills” not criminal defense. The court dismissed much of the testimony given for the defense as irrelevant and therefore inadmissible.

The defense hinged on that they were “only following orders.” Four and a half decades later, many of the defeated Nazis would use the same defense.

Breaker Morant is an compelling look into the changing nature of warfare in the 20th Century. The guerrilla conflict of the Boer War was a harbinger of what warfare was to become.

As a bonus, MDE’s copy is a new release from the Criterion Collection

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Breaker Morant

Worth a look if you like legal thrillers or movies about the military.

Skip it if courtroom dramas leave you cold.

  • Steve