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Apocalypto

Dec. 26th, 2006 | 11:06 pm
posted by: the_easy_reader in amoviescript

Title: Apocalypto
Year: 2006
MPAA: 18A
Dir: Mel Gibson
Cast: Rudy Youngblood, Dalia Hernandez, Morris Yellowbirdhead
Rating: 3.5 of 5

It's films like this one that make me dread the moment when I have to decide the rating to put at the top of the text-box. I give Apocalypto a 3.5 of a potential 5 and I feel I've copped out; the film is skillfully directed, entertaining, wonderful to look at and an incredibly visceral experience. Yet it does not garner a perfect score because of my own indecision, and having just arrived home from the theatre I don't feel as satisfied with the film as I'd like.

The basics first. Apocalypto is a story about an ancient civilization, the Mayans I'm told, and the internal warfare that was a result of an attempt to appease the gods and reverse a plague that had decimated the crops. Whether the Mayans were a naturally violent people or the bloodshed seen here was simply a result of dire circumstances isn't revealed, though the carnal nature of the fighting indicates that they were probably experienced in killing. The point, or perhaps the main thought at the center of the film, is given to us from the get-go with a quote. I forget the writer or the exact wording (I should be making notes) but the idea follows that a civilization will only succumb to outside pressures once it has sufficiently destroyed itself from the inside. That is, one society will not fall so long as the center holds; any failure equally lays blame with the society itself.

The film follows a small village that is beseiged and captured by violent ranks of...I want to say hunters but they're more like soldiers. At the center is Jaguar Paw, son of the village's chief, and a family man. During a leisurely morning hunt with his fellows (and if that sounds trite it's only because the hunt is a scene of jokes and laughter that is the film's most cliched Hollywood moment) the men come upon a group of lost people travelling through the forest, apparently a neighbouring village that was scattered by an unspeakable violence. It of course follows that the same violence will soon be visited upon Jaguar Paw's village. The pillage of the town, not to mention the graphic rape, is shocking in its brutality, in the same way that Gibson's previous Passion of the Christ did not flinch from blood and gore. We follow Jaguar Paw and his hunting group, now captives, through the jungle and into the heart of the Mayan civilization, where ritual slaughters are taking place under the aupices of sacrifice.

I'll leave it there and spare you any more revealing details. Apocalypto is gorgeously shot on digital film, which enhances the color and lushness of the jungle (and blood) and lends it a forboding quality. The music is industry standard for any film that takes place amoung an ancient civilization: lots of thumping tribal drums, odd squeaks and buzzings from didgeriedoos, and vocal chantings that sound faintly African. The acting is good but not spectacular; some of the actors, speaking only in what I assume is ancient Mayan, have an odd wooden quality that works pretty well in expressing the shock at the horror that befalls them in only two days. It is not the individual parts but rather the whole that left an impression on me. The film is LARGE: the landscapes feel massive and jungle feels endless. The strength of the film lies in Gibson's ability to capture a kind of universality that surrounds fear, violence, tradition and social ritual; though it's likely that none of us have seen a beheading it's just as likely that men like Jaguar Paw have never seen one up close either, and this is THEIR world. What is shocking stays shocking for the most part, perhaps not the actual violent acts but the fact that humans have the capacity for such animalism at all, even a genius for it. The film's scope is massive despite it's (comparatively) average running time at just over 2 hours. What I also deeply appreciated was Gibson's effort to keep from romanticizing too much the figure of the "noble savage," that oft-recurring archetype that Hollywood loves: the Native who is intuned with the ancients or the earth, or the mighty warrior whose first code is that of honor. The people here are alternately as brutally violent and lovingly tender as one would expect to find. These are not "movie" natives (for the most part; there are one or two slips, but nothing unforgivable to my mind). What left me wanting more was my inability to really care for the main character, Jaguar Paw. I would've preferred an overarching look at the whole civilization, not just the story of one man. But that's really only due to the fascinating glimpses we get of the Mayan city, and the village life that left me wishing the story would leave its hero and simply stroll through the streets.

I'll get back to my odd disquiet with the film by describing a strange moment in the Mayan temples that made me question Gibson's motives in making this movie NOW. During a sacrificial scene, a moment of crafty manipulation takes place involving a solar eclipse, presided over by the high priest. With any recent film that involves: A) warring societies, B) social codes upheld by fighting, or C) the dominance of one group over another, more often than not it is a metaphor for the current political situation between the Western world and it's values (i.e. the US) and some other "oppressed" group (take your pick, we have any minority group, the situation in the Middle East, the theory of American imperialism, etc etc). What I wonder is if the high priest's moment of crowd control (which I refuse to describe too fully for fear of divulging what some may consider important plot points) is supposed to be akin to what many regard as a tendency of Big Government to manipulate the public into a mindset most beneficial to the administration's ends.

You can see where I'm going with this. I don't pretend to draw any conclusions regarding what the film "actually means," I'm only offering one possible interpretation of a moment that made me think. What I question further is Gibson's personal intention; he strikes me as a director who is perfectly capable of telling a story that can be both current and ultimately cyclical in its historical roots (see the fall of Rome, the rise of Nazism and Facism, the sad case of Africa after Imperialism, etc etc). Perhaps that is the point, that tone of universality that I mentioned before. But then, it's very vogue these days to be anti-American, anti-Iraq, anti-Bush, so I wonder if there isn't a more malicious hidden agenda somewhere in Apocalypto. Again, that's simply an option. In any case, it's another unexpected success, and an uncomprimising one at that, from a man who was once voted Sexiest Man Alive. At least Gibson is able to remove himself from his directorial efforts and leave the audience options when considering his motives; something a ham-handed celebrity-turned-director like George Clooney is unable, or unwilling, to do.

Post Script

On second thought, if anyone wants a description of the eclipse "Manipulation Scene" to get a better sense of what I mean, ask for it and I'll describe it fully in a Comment. That way anyone who would like to see the film for themselves without my opinions or ideas getting in the way can simply scroll past it.

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Casino Royale

Dec. 3rd, 2006 | 01:23 am
posted by: the_easy_reader in amoviescript

Title: Casino Royale
Genre: Action/Drama
Dir: Martin Campbell
Year: 2006
Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench
MPAA: 14A
Rating: 4.5 of 5

Bond (after having been bested by the enemy in a card gamble): Vodka martini.
Barman: Shaken or stirred, sir?
Bond: Do I look like I give a damn?

And there it is folks, what the new millenium's Bond should've been, what we SHOULD'VE been offered in Die Another Day we now get in Martin Campbell's new Casino Royale Gone, or at least minimalized, are many of the Bond conventions: the gizmos and gadgets, the rapid one-liners and double entendres, and climactic and extravangant bad-guy death scene. And the new Bond flick is all the better for having left them behind, now sparse and stoic.

Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed Die Another Day when it wasn't thrusting Halle Berry in my face, and the few previous Bond movies have all been fun and easy to watch. They were full of what guys like best, and the Bonds movies have always found their market in exactly my demographic - the young teenage men who want the familiarity of the Bond formula, complete with beautiful women and a kickass car.

Thankfully, Casino Royale chose to leave those elements in, and they definitely don't disappoint. But this isn't the Bond we're used to, much in the same way Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins was a departure from formula. Daniel Craig plays a Bond of brawn who has a certain sadness. He is an excellent killer and has the determination of a pack of wild dogs, but only seems somewhat content when he's REALLY bested an enemy. Otherwise, as in the opening credits, one can see the anxiety on his face as he makes what is supposed to be Bond's first ever kill.

If this sounds a bit too heavy, that's because the move IS. It's relentless; the action is non-stop and the deaths are far gorier than what any Bond junkie may be used to. But that's the refreshing part. In the film's attempt to follow Bond's rise into the 007 we know, it made the right move in making him completely new. The plot isn't important; something to do with Bond having to win a high-stakes poker game in order to de-finance terrorist activity. Yes, the center of the movie is a card game, not a dash into the middle of a high-tech fortress to defuse a massive satellite or what-have-you. But I dare you keep your eyes off of the card game. It's paced and plotted with such intensity that it's just as exciting as any of the previous explosion-packed hijinks.

What's also enjoyable about the film is its attention to detail. Perhaps the reason we love the gorgeous women and fast cars is not for the sex or speed, but for the sheer luxury of the series, and this film has that in spades. The weight given to such little items as Bond's choice of martini or the ease with which he seats himself in fine linens and pleasure yachts left me just as satisfied as his cheeky foreplay with co-star (the gorgeous) Eva Green or his first step into the Aston Martin. The film reeks of decadance coupled with danger, and it's made all the more valuable by the brutal fight scenes that are stunningly explosive. Bond has risen by taking chances and pushing himself, and knows that the finer things he's enjoying (like winning an Aston Martin in a poker game) are coming with a dear price, and may be short-lived.

Speaking of short-lived, the film isn't. It clocks in at nearly 2.5 hours, but thankfully feels nowhere near that. It never falters in keeping ones attention firmly where it needs to be. This is mostly due to the strength of the new Bond, Daniel Craig. I had my misgivings at first: I felt he would be too physical, too intense and too serious to handle the role's lighter moments. He is certainly all these things, but they fit the mood of Casino Royale pretty well. When Bond is hurt now, he's actually hurt, and not able to dust his suit off and carry on as easily. When he goes after the bad guy, one can see that there is actually something riding on his catching said bad guy, and it's not always granted that he will on the first try. It's a good role for Craig, though I wonder how well he'll be suited for another film. He seems to have been put there to revive the series, not carry it on his back.

I'll say this for the director; he knows what he's doing with Bond. He had a touch in GoldenEye that was perfect for the Pierce Brosnan take, and here he also knows what to do with Craig. When we get our final glimpse of Bond and he utters his trademark line with a little grin on his lips, we seem to have come full circle.

And it doesn't hurt that his final suit is actually a navy-blue version of the one Connery wore in Goldfinger, the first REAL Bond in my opinion. It's a wonderful touch.
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Jackass Number Two

Sep. 26th, 2006 | 12:24 pm
posted by: the_easy_reader in amoviescript

Title: Jackass Number Two
Cast: The usual Jackass Crew
MPAA: 18A
Director: Jeff Tremaine
Year: 2006
Rating: 4 of 5

What I find so endearing about the Jackass films is that, for all their detractors who thump their pulpits and proclaim them to be in bad taste and the antithesis to all that true cinema stands for, they actually come closer to exactly what movies are supposed to be than almost any of the pulp that Hollywood, or indeed much of the independant scene, is able to churn out, even with budgets large enough to sink a small country.

Because Jackass I & II offer up exactly what is promised. You're going to see a bunch of former social miscreants who really should know better get hurt in spectacular ways and somehow survive. There are no strings, no stuntmen standing by to switch at the last second, no squibs are elaborate safety precautions, and usually only enough body padding to keep the volunteer from getting killed (sometimes not even that). Even then, the armour is in plain view. If it's not close to enough to cinema verite as you'd like, at least examine it as an incredibly effective documentary. They claim to show you something that a particular niche (mainly teenage boys and college kids) finds hilarious and emotionally gratifying. Then, without a hint of agenda or flagrant bias, they do exactly that, with themselves as the guinea pigs.

This is reality in its truest form, which often is claimed to be the apotheosis for filmmakers, to achieve a kind of "truth". If films are to show us ourselves and make us question our human condition, who can deny that the men in Jackass do exactly that? It's a competition of one-upmanship, each actor is to do something a little more dastardly than the man before him. Show me any man or woman who doesn't engage in this kind of behaviour in a million different ways during the day. When you primp yourself up to go outside, when you buy a slightly bigger car, when you cheat death by riding motorcycles or smoking, you're participating in this on-going social game.

I was reading a review of Jackass II, I think it was written by Richard Roeper, which said that the Jackass boys are essentially using the world as their playground. Which in a way is kind of wonderful. They really hurt nobody but themselves, and they are all willing participants in the gamble. Call it posturing, call it immature behaviour on the level of school boys or Neanderthals, but the Jackass crew are showing their audience something that they truly want to be a part of. Maybe we don't want to be hit by 1800-lb yaks or attach leeches to our eyeballs, but clearly we want to see it, and to see the men on screen come out alright. And I don't think we can be condemned for calling this entertainment, becuase audiences would just as soon shell out big dollars for action films or torrid romances, where a character will inevitably be hurt (either physically or emotionally). But that's alright, because it's fiction.

The actors in Jackass will allow themselves as full an extent of reality as they can without killing themselves or injuring anyone who does not want a part of it. Many critics lauded Ong Bak: Thai Warrior for Tony Jaa's ability to perform the stunts he did without doubles or elaborate safety nets, but consider how much training and preparation went into those stunts. Close, but no cigar.

At one point, one of the men in the film wail "Please God, don't let there be a Jackass III." We know that there probably will be, and I cannot ignore the fact that one of them will probably be maimed beyond repair. But if nothing else, and I have enormous respect for them in this regard, the Jackass crew will nobody to blame but themselves, and they seem ok with that. Who knew such a valuable life lesson could come from a guy who allows his genitals to be bitten by an angry snake?
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Moulin Rouge!

Sep. 25th, 2006 | 01:06 pm
posted by: friskymisky in amoviescript

Title: Moulin Rouge!
Genre: Musical
OFRB Rating: PG
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Rating: 5 out of 5!
Lead Cast: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor

I know I know this is an older movie, from 2001! But we all need to use this community more anyway. I know a view people who have seen this and absolutely hated it saying it was too hard to follow, didn't make sense, and had an unoriginal plot. Here is what I say to that bitches!
This is the most passionate, dramatic, and powerful movie within the musical/drama/comedy cross category that I have every seen, haha. It isn't hard to follow if you pay attention to details like dramas need people to do. It makes a hell of a lot of sense if you don't read into it too much, people love eachother, their lifestyle doesn't allow them to long eachother blah blah blah.
As far as the random phrases, costumes, "cooky characters" they don't need to make sense and thats why they work for the movie's bohemian vibe. As for an unoriginal plot I totally agree, its a complete romeo & julliet style rip off. It has the key features of a romantic tragedy. There are like 50 songs in the music, the score and two performance songs being the only original pieces. But my argument is that works completely! It's the pure talent of Baz Luhrmann as a movie producer and writer that makes it work. The lyrics become the lines which express the emotion of each character! They are backed by singing it which pushes more power into expressing the lines. But that is what musicals are right. I dont think it is fair to put this music into the musical category because it has just as many acting scenes as musical ones if not more and it can be called a drama too. I think Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor have incredible performances, definitely the best I have seen them do? Maybe just because their voices are showcased. The climax scene which involves and very intense "Roxanne Tango" is absoltuely amazing.
I try and give myself cred. for such evaluation because I have been an intense musical and broadway performance fan my whole life as well as studied at dance and theatre academies. But this music has such great art direction that I am jealous I am not a theatre performer and was not in this or part of it somehow. The cinematography, costume/set design, and choerography are practically perfect. It is very easy to pay attention to this whole movie even though it is long.
Yes there are some corny parts that are lame, like dancing amongst the clouds in paris and the gun flying out of the theatre and hitting the eiffel tower, but you just have to laugh! haha, just as you laugh at the little person in a foam sitar costume, and the narcolepic spanish frenchman, or the absinthe fairy played by Kylie Minogue. This movie is a strong love story that has so much passion you can get seirously involved in it until you see a wildly drunk character with over the top make up hanging from the inside of a gold elephant and you remember its not real. As I was watching it I had a whole bunch of ideas for writing this review but of course I don't think I have said them.

Watch it? or watch it again! I just think this is such a beautiful and tragic
movie and I love it so much. It is so colourful and crazy that makes you want
to lean dangerously out a window singing at the top of your lungs!

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John Tucker Must Die

Aug. 13th, 2006 | 01:10 am
posted by: mattxmayhem in amoviescript

Title: John Tucker Must Die
Dir: Betty Thomas
Cast: Jesse Metcalfe, Brittany Snow, Ashanti, Sophia Bush, ArieOH GOD MY EYES - MY EYES THEY BURN.
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