Archive for November, 2011

Review: “Immortals”

Director Tarsem Singh isn’t someone you’ve probably heard of. You may have heard of his films, or maybe even seen one of them (most likely the one with J-Lo), but his name isn’t as ubiquitous as someone like Steven Spielberg. The last film he directed was 2006’s The Fall, a beautiful period drama that, like all his other films, focus on style over substance. But he’s no Michael Bay — Singh’s films aren’t exactly filled with explosions. They’ve got vivid colors, wonderfully composed shots, and beautiful cinematography. It was a little surprising to me when I learned he was going to direct a sand-and-sandals epic focused around Greek mythology.

But then I thought to myself, “What would Wolfgang Peterson’s Troy look like if directed by Tarsem Singh?” At the very least, it would be a gorgeous film with buckets of blood.

I’m in.

Immortals takes a little bit of Greek mythology, namely the stories centering around Theseus and the Minotaur and the Titanomachy (the war between the Titans and the Olympians), and changes them around a bit to create a new tale. King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) declares war on the gods of Olympus and sets out with his army in search of the legendary Epirus Bow, a weapon that could help him win a war against the gods.

Zeus (Luke Evans) foresees the coming war and chooses a mortal, Theseus (Henry Cavill), to lead the  rest of the mortals against Hyperion’s army. Holding fast to the old laws that govern their universe, Zeus forbids any Olympian god to directly affect the events on earth (though he himself is obviously bending the rules quite a bit). Instead, Theseus joins a motley crew of adventurers to get to the Epirus Bow before Hyperion does.

For better or for worse, Immortals plays like your typical adventure movie like Clash of the Titans (the original), any of the Sinbad movies, or even more recent stuff like The Lord of the Rings. I guess that’s why Immortals has been getting a bad rep from critics — there’s really nothing new here. Sure, it looks great. Scratch that, this movie can look gorgeous at times. I did see the movie in 3D, and Tarsem Singh and cinematographer Brendan Galvin know how to take full advantage of that extra dimension of depth. There’s also a few cool transitions that the editors employ.

But that’s kind of it.

Immortals isn’t a bad movie to me. In fact, I quite enjoyed it. There’s action, lots of violence, hot women (I don’t think Freida Pinto has ever looked hotter than she did here), and even some crazy ninja fight scenes when the Olympians have to step in and kick some ass. All these things are enough to entertain me at the theatre. But why would I not consider Immortals a new adventure classic?

I’d like to compare this to another stylized Greek action-adventure movie: 300. Visually, Immortals and Zack Snyder’s movie are very similar. But that’s where the similarities end. I’d say 300 is the superior movie for one reason: it’s trying to say something. Maybe I’m reading too much into Snyder’s film adaptation of the graphic novel, but the reason why I love 300 so much is because it’s making a statement on masculinity, on what it means to be a man.

In 300, real men fought for the things they cared about. It also wasn’t just about violence, though. Men had to be passionate lovers who cared so much for their family and their country that they’re willing to die for them. There’s something awe-inspiring about the notion of three hundred warriors standing toe-to-toe against a vastly superior force (a million-man Persian army, according to the movie). They weren’t tricked into going to battle; the soldiers new exactly what they were doing. They did it because they had to. If there was even the slightest chance of victory, they were going to take it, even if it that meant failure brought death.

Now, back to Immortals. Yes, there’s a moment in the film when Theseus makes a rousing speech to rally the troops because they’re outnumbered and about to get their asses handed to them. But I didn’t feel it earned that moment. The whole movie felt slightly empty to me. Again, I want to make it clear that I enjoyed the movie. But I wasn’t “wowed” by it. I’m sure Immortals would look fantastic on Blu-ray, I just don’t think it deserves a spot on my shelf next to the classic films it’s clearly inspired by.


November 27, 2011 at 8:40 pm Leave a comment

Review: “J. Edgar”

I haven’t always been a Clint Eastwood fan. I’d seen a few of his Westerns, some of his cop movies, and even part of the one where he hangs out with a orangutan. It wasn’t until I saw him in Gran Torino when I really started to respect him as a filmmaker. Sure, everybody praises Unforgiven (great film, btw), but I connected with Gran Torino more and really respected the choices he made from behind the camera (except for hiring non-professional actors to play the supporting roles). So it goes without saying that I went into J. Edgar with some high hopes.

The biopic about the founder and director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is at times slow-moving, and even a bit confusing about its message, but it kept me engaged. Leonardo DiCaprio single-handedly keeps this movie afloat. He’s the kind of actor that keeps getting better with each movie. DiCaprio brings to the screen a flawed, but driven individual. His Hoover is intelligent and determined, but becomes increasingly paranoid and his hiding of his homosexuality forces Hoover to  constantly betray himself.

The story of the film spans several decades through which we see the rise of the FBI and criminal science. J. Edgar Hoover has a hand in all of it, turning the small subsidiary of the Justice Department to an effective national police force. Unfortunately, by the end of the movie, it left me feeling a bit empty. I couldn’t see where Clint Eastwood was going with this movie. I learned a lot about Hoover and a little bit about the post-World War II America that the movie is set in, but that was kind of about it. Maybe I was thinking about it too much, and maybe there isn’t some kind of morality tale buried underneath all the layers of make-up. Maybe Eastwood just wanted to make an effective biopic about J. Edgar Hoover.

Speaking of make-up, some of the aging effects on the actors looked phenomenal. Naomi Watts looked great as Hoover’s secretary, Helen Gandy, and at times so did DiCaprio. Armie Hammer, who plays Hoover’s right-hand-man (and possible lover) Clyde Tolson, however, didn’t look so convincing as an old man. His face looked stiff and, well, fake.

History buffs will no doubt find this movie interesting and could spend days discussing Hoover, his policies, and what the movie got right or wrong. I’m no expert on Hoover, so I can’t attest to this movie’s historical accuracy, but I’m assuming that screenwriter Dustin Lance Black did his research and the story only takes a few liberties for dramatic purposes. With that said, I can say that I found this movie entertaining overall. No doubt we’ll here more about this movie as awards season comes around — this movie has Oscar bait written all over it.


November 22, 2011 at 10:06 pm Leave a comment

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