Saturday, June 26, 2010

Elizabeth (a Man's Man's Man's Movie)

Lets me be honest, I hate period pieces. It’s not like they are poorly made but because they are unbelievably bombastic. They always have these costumes that look pretty but look they were not practical even by 15th century standards. The films are always longer than the average battle on “Dragon Ball Z” and everyone has so much make up on that they look like the band Kiss or Boy George.

So I was skeptical about watching a movie based on the early years of Queen Elizabeth. But instead of watching the melodramatic fashion show based on a Jane Austen novel, I see three people get scalped and burned at the stake, because they were Protestant. Holy shit “Lord of the Rings” was not this hardcore. What makes this film even more surprising is that after this execution, it never holds back. As soon as execution ends, Elizabeth sent to The Tower to be interrogated, Bloody Mary dies, Liz becomes queen and now everyone hates her, even the Vatican and they are suppose to keepers of the peace. Joking aside, Elizabeth was caught between a rock and hard place as soon as she becomes Queen. She fights her way around the ruckus with her wit and with the help of her advisor Francis Walsingham (played by a terrifying Geoffrey Rush). In the end she wins back her people but sacrifices her innocence, which is a catalyst for the Virgin Queen persona.

The highlight of this film is definitely the acting and the characters. Not a single character feels irrelevant to the plot. It helps that each actor, including minor actors, are acting like it’s the last performance of their life. Daniel Craig plays John Ballard like he was James Bond’s ancestor. Joseph Fiennes somehow manages to give a man-whore some actual complexity. But the best performance is without a doubt Cate Blanchett as The Virgin Queen. It’s not because Cate plays Elizabeth well, it’s because she is Elizabeth. She finds the innocence and humor of a character that has yet to become a legend, and when she does, it’s probably the only time in movie history that a reincarnation feels tragic.

“Elizabeth” is a great film because disobeys rules of it owns genre to tell a thrilling story. If you are a fan of “Lord of the Rings” then this feature might surprise you. If on the other hand you prefer to watch “Becoming Jane” you should probably wait 3 years. 5 angry priests outta 5.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Cook (I'm PMSing again)

I'm not in the mood to review a movie this week, I mean Christ it's summer. So as collateral for this weekend I'm showing you for the first time (if you are not my parents) the incomplete short film I made for a college course. Unfortunately I can't show it on this site because it's too damn big. Even on YouTube I had to convert it to AVI so that it could fit in the site. Hold on... I found a loophole.

So here's the film, watch and laugh at it lameness.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Gunga Din (well look at the time)

After watching the psychotic’s wet dream that was “Battle Royale” I had to watch something that was simpler. Nothing Oscar worthy, any deep thought will make me want to punch kittens, just a good vs. evil adventure. I need a film that has a feeling of escapism, something epic and most of all something optimistic. But unfortunately “Star Wars” was not available on Netflix, so I went for the next best thing, but my “Raiders of the Lost Ark” DVD has a crack so I just watched “Gunga Din” instead. “Gunga Din” is a black and white adventure movie made back in the late 30’s that takes place in 1880 British India.

According the movie (because it’s based on historical “facts”) there is a growing murder cult in India known as the Thuggee. For the love their goddess Kali, they are destroying villages and strangling soldiers. So when the cult starts tampering with wire communications, it’s up to three sergeants, Cutter, Mac and Ballantine (played by Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. respectively) to find this cult. Too bad these guys are not most competent soldiers in world. Cutter would rather search for lost treasure than fight a cult. Mac really treats elephants like little kids but worst of all Ballantine is getting married… and going into the tea business. And to the horror of his companions, Ballatine’s fiancĂ© is visiting their base.

So then there is this large subplot about Cutter and Mac trying to make Ballantine reenlist in the army again. While Mac tries to convince him through words, Cutter goes for the less sane route. Cutter spikes the punch with elephant medicine at Ballatine’s party, which nearly puts one sergeant into a coma and instantly kills a bouquet of flowers. He also tries to convince both them to on one last temple raid together, but unfortunately the person who wants to go is their water carrier Gunga Din who… I better stop before I spoil the ending.

The film is really entertaining action movie in a surprisingly restraint manner. The mood of the film is always somewhere between positive and goofy. The camera moves smoothly through each battle scene. Actually for those use to watching stuff like “Rambo” or “Band of Brothers” to tears by the film’s relaxed pacing and political incorrect depictions of war and India. As fun as “Gunga Din” is, it is difficult to recommend it because the Indian people in the film were not actually Indian. They were mostly Italian actors in brown makeup.

But what can anyone expect from a movie made in the 30’s, taking place in a foreign country? Martin Luther King Jr. was only 9 years old when this movie was in theaters. Yet the ending of the film ironically bashes racism thanks to the title character’s bravery (I won’t tell you what he does). This film is if anything, a time capsule of a moment when Hollywood was about to become culturally smarter than it was in past. It is not politically correct, but it still entertaining film that has good intentions… for its time of course.

4 drugged elephants, outta 5 and a sad face, :(