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.

Click on the following link to place a hold:

Gods of Egypt

-Steve

 

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Sing Street

mv5bmjezoda3mdcxml5bml5banbnxkftztgwodgxndk3nze-_v1_sy1000_sx675_al_On the surface Sing Street might seem like a mundane boy-meets-girl story, which everyone has seen a million times. But the setting, cast and music make it much, much more.

Set in Dublin circa 1985, shy and sensitive teenager Conor’s life is in turmoil: his parents are constantly fighting mostly due to poor economy in Ireland and subsequent underemployment/unemployment. To cut costs out of their budget, Conor’s parents take him out of his expensive Jesuit school and put him in a more moderately priced school run by “The Christian Brothers”  located on Syng Street.

Conor  (played by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) copes with the turmoil by writing songs and playing his guitar in his room with the door shut.

On the first day of school, Conor gets bullied, makes a new friend, and meets the girl of his dreams, Raphina (played by Lucy Boynton.) Unfortunately, the girl of his dreams is a year older, very pretty (she says she’s a model) and seems aloof to Conor’s charms. Conor comes up with a plan to win her heart. He tells her he is in a band and would like to have her appear in his video. Except that Conor doesn’t have a band or a song. But that doesn’t deter him. Through his newly made friend (and now band manager), Conor meets another student, Eamon (played by Mark McKenna) who not only has access to a complete setup for a pop band, but also can play most of the instruments. The three easily recruit three other students with musical leanings to fill out their new band, named Sing Street, a play on words using the street where their school is located. Using Raphina as his inspiration, Conor concocts a not-half-bad song with Eamon, called “The Riddle of the Model.” The band plans a video shoot and invites Raphina.

Surprisingly, Raphina does show up for the video shoot but the results are predictably lame. However, Raphina start to see that Conor has potential.

Conor continues to write songs using Raphina as his muse. At the direction of his musically-wiser older brother, Conor begins to use other pop bands of the 1980s for stylistic and musical cues. Conor and his band change their look according to which pop band Conor is taking inspiration from. As Conor’s songs get better, Raphina finds herself falling for him.

Will Conor win Raphina’s heart? Suffice it to say that there are no surprises here. The movie ends as it should.

The cast is excellent. Well cast, Walsh-Peelo and Boynton have palpable chemistry. The high school kids look age-appropriate, not like they should be getting out of grad school.

The real star of Sing Street is the music. Several songs were written for the movie by director Jack Carney and musician/actor Glen Hansard (who collaborated on Once) evoke the musical styles of pop tunes written in the 80s, without being slavish copies.

Finally, music was the only escape for some in mid-80s Dublin, Ireland. With the failing economy, unemployment and the ever-oppressive Catholic Church, sometimes pop music was just the thing to make a grim life just a little brighter.

Worth a look if you get nostalgic about 1980s pop music.

Skip it if you were born in the 1980s; you probably won’t like it.

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Sing Street

-Steve

 

 

 

 

Broadcast News

MV5BMTkxODk0NzExOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjQyODQyNA@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_Broadcast News is the story of a love triangle between a dim-witted but good looking news anchor, Tom Grunick (played by William Hurt), a cynical, smart but average looking reporter, Aaron Altman (played by Albert Brooks) and a flighty, neurotic news producer Jane Craig (played by Holly Hunter).

Tom isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but he has the looks and ability to remain cool and calm on the air, so he is on the fast track to becoming the next big news anchor.

Aaron is smart (even intellectually arrogant) and an accomplished writer, but is average looking and worse, he can’t remain composed on the air. He is also in love with Jane, but lacks the confidence to tell her.

Jane is a neurotic mess;  a driven workaholic which makes her an effective news producer. She falls for Tom because of his looks and charming personality but unfortunately he represents everything she despises about network broadcast news: Tom is mostly style over substance and is none-too-bright.

Although Broadcast News was released in 1987, its central theme of trend of style over substance in the evening news is still timely. Sharp dialog and smart writing make this a wickedly funny movie:

Tom Grunick: What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?

Aaron Altman: Keep it to yourself.

In another wickedly funny scene, Aaron is given a chance to read the nightly news, but fails miserably: he sweats so bad that his viewers call in expressing concern that he might be having a heart attack.

Underlying the comedy is a serious subject: dumbing down the news to the point where flash and style win out over substance, which is done by the gradual but constant eroding of standards bit by bit. This film was a harbinger of what televised news would become.

Worth a look if you like smart, intelligent comedic movies with a timely, serious subject.

Skip it if you are expecting a screwball comedy.

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-Steve

Movies Worth a Look: She’s Funny That Way

MV5BODEyMjYzMjY5Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjYyODQyNjE@._V1_UY268_CR0,0,182,268_AL_She’s Funny That Way is the first theatrical release from director Peter Bogdonovich in nearly 13 years; his previous film, The Cat’s Meow, was released in 2001. While She’s Funny That Way is not a perfect film, it does have its moments and is very funny in spots. It is a welcome return for Peter Bogdonovich.

The story line  of She’s Funny That Way concerns a love triangle between Arnold Albertson (Owen Wilson), a Broadway director, Isabella Paterson (British actress Imogen Poots), a call girl-turned-actress and Delta Simmons (Kathryn Hahn), a Broadway star and Albertson’s wife.

Arnold has the habit of using the services of call girls and then giving them large sum of money to pursue their dreams. This habit is used to comic effect in the movie as several women approach Arnold to thank him for his generous, life-changing gift.

Of course, Isabella turns up on the set to audition for a part in a show directed by Albertson. And much to his chagrin, she is perfect for the part. Hilarity ensues as Arnold tries to keep his trysts with call girls a secret from his wife.

The movie is an homage to the screwball comedies of the 1940s and 1950s. At times it evokes vintage Woody Allen (in a good way.) The writing is sharp and doesn’t depend on unnecessary profanity or gross-out gags to generate humor; the comedy arises from the situations themselves.  Jennifer Aniston is particularly funny as an extremely unsupportive therapist.

One small criticism is Imogen Poots’ atrocious New York accent. She sounds almost as if she’s Eastern European trying to do a caricature of a New York accent. It becomes grating at times.

Look for many well-known actors in small, supporting roles.

Worth a look if you like screwball comedies.

Skip it if wacky comedies aren’t your thing.

-Steve

Holiday Movies: Christmas Vacation

MV5BMTI1OTExNTU4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzIwMzQyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_Another holiday favorite of mine, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation stars Chevy Chase again as hapless Clark Griswald. All he wants is to have a perfect holiday, but events conspire to ruin his Christmas. But in the end, Clark is the eternal optimist and is able to make the best of some very disheartening situations.

Chase displays brilliant comedic timing as the various disasters fall upon him: Cousin Eddie shows up, broke and driving a dilapidated motor home;  an over-done turkey; an ignited Christmas tree nearly burns his house down; waiting on a Christmas bonus which never materializes; and stringing up Christmas tree lights browns out the neighborhood.

Beverly D’Angelo plays Clark’s long suffering wife, Ellen. Johnny Galecki (of Big Bang Theory fame) and Juliette Lewis play his  son and daughter respectively. Randy Quaid is very funny as Cousin Eddie, in fact, stealing every scene he is in.

Click on the following link to place a hold:

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Worth a look if you want to see some poor, miserable sap having a worse holiday than you.

Skip it if slapstick comedies are not your thing.

-Steve

 

 

Fun Movies: Need for Speed

MV5BMTY3NjMyMjc3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTE1MzcwMjE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_Right up front, let me say that Need for Speed is not a great movie. But it is not a bad one either. It’s not going to get nominated for a best picture Oscar, and neither is any of the cast. But it is a fun movie; the highlights being the racing scenes.

Wrongly convicted and imprisoned for a murder he did not commit, Tobey Marshall (played by Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul) gets out of prison and obtains a super-fast Ford Mustang that he and his crew tuned prior to his incarceration. The whole idea is that he will drive the car to California from New York in to compete in an illegal street race against his nemesis, Dino Brewster (played by Dominic Cooper.) The catch is that the race will be in two days, and Marshall needs to drive really fast to get there, avoiding police whenever possible.

The plot, such as it is, is a pretty standard revenge fantasy. There was never any doubt in my mind how the events would unfold.

The real stars of this movie are the cars: there is a “Shelby” Mustang, a Lamborghini Elemento, three Koenigsegg Ageras, and a Bugatti Veyron. The racing is reckless but a whole lot of fun to watch. Apparently, the super car races only used shells, which is nice as I would hate to think they destroyed multimillion dollar cars for movie stunts.

In many ways, the racing is derivative of the Fast & Furious franchise but instead of tuned Asian cars, Euro super cars stand in as substitutes.

Worth a look if you like white-knuckle car races with super-fast cars.

Skip it if you like more cerebral movies.

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Need for Speed

-Steve