Film Review: The King (dir by David Michod)


Imagine a version of Shakespeare’s Henry V where Prince Hal is a lot less regal but a lot more whiny.  Also imagine a version where Falstaff is never publicly rejected by Henry but instead becomes one of his leading generals.  Furthermore, imagine that Robert Pattinson shows ups and does his best imitation of the obnoxious Frenchmen from Monty Python and The Holy Grail.  Also, finally, imagine a film that’s based on three of Shakespeare’s most popular plays but which does’t include any lines from those plays.  Imagine all of that and you’ve got The King.

Yes, The King is an odd film indeed.  It’s also a very long film.  You might expect that from a film based on three Shakespearean plays but, then again, since the film actually doesn’t feature any of Shakespeare’s celebrated language, you have to kind of wonder if it can actually claim to be a Shakespearean adaptation.  For instance, if I made a film about a sullen prince named Hamlet but totally leave out “To be or not to be” or the part where he sees his father’s ghost, am I truly adapting Shakespeare or am I just making a film about a guy named Hamlet?  Interestingly enough, while The King isn’t faithful to Shakespeare, it’s also not faithful to actual historical records.  It’s not Shakespeare and, despite using the name of actual kings and nobles from the 15th Century, it’s not really historical.  It could just as easily be about King Kevin and his struggle to lead the Land of Homily to victory over Possum Kingdom.  It’s hard to really understand what the point of this film is.

Timothee Chalamet plays Prince Hal, who will eventually become King Henry V.  Considering just how acclaimed Chalamet’s previous work has been (including receiving an Oscar nomination for Call Me By Your Name and probably coming close to getting a second one for Beautiful Boy as well), it’s a bit strange just how dull Chalamet is in this film.  As played by Chalamet, the future King of England is alternatively petulant and whiny.  He’s not happy about becoming king.  He’s even less happy about having to behead those who have been accused of conspiring against him.  He hopes to avoid war, even after the King of France taunts him by giving him a ball as an coronation present.  Chalamet wanders through the film with an eternally glum expression on his face.  When he has to rally the troops, he is unpleasantly shrill in a way that will remind viewers of one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s lesser performances.

Joel Edgerton, who also co-wrote the script, is a bit more convincing in the role of Falstaff.  Instead of the cowardly (but wise) buffoon who appeared in Shakespeare’s plays, The King portrays Falstaff as being a great warrior who merely likes to drink too much.  This, of course, means that Hal doesn’t have to publicly rebuke Falstaff or any of his friends but it also makes Falstaff a bit of a pointless character.  In Shakespeare’s plays, both the rebuke of Falstaff and the subsequent hanging of Bardolph were meant to show that the once irresponsible Hal was now placing his role of king above all else.  By removing that aspect of the tale, The King also removes the entire heart of the narrative.  That said, Edgerton is at least convincing as a warrior.

As usually happens when it comes to British historical epics, the film leads up to an eventual battle between the British and the French.  Robert Pattinson plays The Dauphin and gives one of the most brilliantly strange performances of 2019.  Wearing a blonde wig and speaking in an exaggerated French accent, Pattison gets all of the dirtiest lines and he has fun with them.  (“You have zee big balls,” The Dauphin says at one point, “and zee little cock!”)  In fact, Robert Pattinson seems to be the only person in the film having any fun whatsoever.  Chalamet looks miserable.  Edgerton comes across like a professional.  But Pattinson appears to be having the time of his life and you’re happy to see him if just because he provides a (too brief) respite from the film’s otherwise dour atmosphere.

As I said, The King is a strange film.  I’m not really sure what the point of it was.  The battle scenes are effectively bloody and the sets are all convincingly 15th century.  But otherwise, this movie is too pointless and too long.  Just because it’s about the 100 Years War doesn’t mean that film has to feel like a 100 hours.

Film Review: Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (dir by Christopher McQuarrie)


Rebecca FergusonEarlier tonight, Jeff and I saw Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation and now I’m pretty sure that I’m developing huge girl crush on actress Rebecca Ferguson.

She plays Ilsa Faust, a former operative for M.I.6. who is now somehow involved with a shadowy terrorist organization known as The Syndicate.  And while Ilsa may only be a supporting character (because, after all, this is a Mission Impossible film and therefore, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is unquestionably the star), she dominates every scene that she’s in.  Whether she’s escape the scene of an attempted assassination while wearing a dress that is simply to die for or rescuing Ethan Hunt from certain death, Ilsa Faust is a woman who kicks ass, takes no prisoners, and looks great while she’s doing it.  As much as I love Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, Ilsa Faust is my new espionage role model.

The movie attempts to suggest that there’s some sexual chemistry between Ilsa and Ethan.  Oddly enough, there’s not.  Tom Cruise looks good and he gives a confident and likable performance but, as a character, Ethan comes across as being almost asexual.  He seems to be attracted to only intrigue and danger.  And yet, that lack of authentic romantic chemistry actually works to the film’s advantage.  Ilsa is never reduced to merely being a love interest.  Instead, she’s an equal to Ethan throughout the entire film.

Of course, Ilsa has secrets of her own.  Everyone in Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation has a secret.  The film opens with the IMF being disbanded and its operatives being absorbed into the CIA.  When the CIA director (Alec Baldwin, in full jerk mode) orders Ethan to stop investigating the Syndicate, Ethan goes underground and continues his activities in secret.  His allies (Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames, and the great Simon Pegg) can only help him in secret.  The origins of the Syndicate turn out to be the biggest secret of all.  There are so many secrets in Rogue Nation that it’s sometimes hard to keep track of them all but, again, that works to the film’s advantage.  It keeps the audience off-balance.  You never know when someone’s going to suddenly pull out a gun and start shooting or rip off a mask and reveal themselves to be someone else.

Rogue Nation is an entertaining action film.  The stunts are spectacular and the set pieces are exciting and enjoyably over the top.  (There’s a scene where Ethan Hunt has to change out a security card while holding his breath underwater and I literally watched it through my fingers.)  I wouldn’t suggest trying to read too much into the film and yet, at the same time, Rogue Nation does capture the paranoid times in which we live. The film manages to both condemn the excesses of government while celebrating the toys that make those excesses possible.  The average film goer may not be able to do all of the things that Ilsa and Ethan can do but we all know what it’s like not to trust authority.

That’s what makes Solomon Lane, the main villain played by Sean Harris, such an interesting character.  I know that some reviewers have complained that Lane’s role was underwritten but I have to disagree.  Lane may not be as verbose as the typical spy movie villain but I appreciated the fact that he remained somewhat enigmatic up to the conclusion of the film.  He never made the mistake of over explaining his evil plan and accidentally giving the IMF team extra time in which to defeat him.  (Solomon Lane obviously learned his lesson from watching countless would-be world conquerors accidentally allow James Bond to get the better of them.)  Lane may be ruthless and evil but he’s also a revolutionary who is outraged by some of the same things that the rest of us are outraged by.  This brings a welcome hint of ambiguity to the film.

Though it never quite reaches the lunatic highs of either Kingsman or Furious Seven, Rogue Nation is still an enjoyable and effective action movie.  Undoubtedly, Ethan and the IMF team will return in another installment.  Here’s hoping that Ilsa Faust gets a spin-off of her very own.

 

 

MacBeth Trailer Is Dark And Full Of Terrors


MacBeth1

Every year there’s always going to be that one filmmaker who takes on the challenge of putting their personal take on one of William Shakespeare’s classic dramas. It’s been going on since the advent of motion pictures and I don’t see it ending anytime soon.

This year it looks like we may have a winner with the latest adaptation of Shakespeare’s MacBeth. The film stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as Lord and Lady MacBeth with Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel in the director’s chair.

MacBeth has been getting such advance rave reviews due to it’s screening at this year’s Cannes Film Festival where it entered for competition for the Palme d’Or. The film itself just judging from the trailer below looks like a visual feast that one’s up the dark, gritty aesthetic of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

There’s still no announced release date for MacBeth for the North American market but with the critical buzz surrounding the film after Cannes it won’t be too long til it get one.

Film Review: Deliver Us From Evil (dir by Scott Derrickson)


Deliver_Us_from_Evil_(2014_film)_posterI had high hopes for Deliver Us From Evil, largely because it was directed by Scott Derrickson who, in 2012, gave us the wonderfully atmospheric and disturbing Sinister.  Unfortunately, having now seen Deliver Us From Evil, I can only call it the anti-Sinister.  Whereas Sinister took the viewers by surprise, Deliver Us From Evil is predictable.  Whereas Sinister was full of genuinely disturbing moments, Deliver Us From Evil is full of jump scenes that are scary for a few seconds but then swiftly vanish from the memory.  Whereas Sinister was fascinating for featuring a morally ambiguous hero, Deliver Us From Evil features a hero who is so mundanely heroic that you find yourself hoping that he’ll fail just as punishment for his smug hubris.

Perhaps the only way that Deliver Us From Evil tops Sinisteris that it features none other than the King of Television Snark, Joel McHale.  As someone who loves both The Soup and Community, I’m always happy to see Joel but he’s oddly cast here, playing a muscle-bound, adrenaline junkie cop.  It’s not that Joel does a bad job.  In fact, he’s probably the most likable and compelling character in the entire film.  It’s just that you can’t look at him on screen without asking, “Joel, why are you here!?”

Anyway, Deliver Us From Evil is pretty much your standard demonic possession/cop thriller hybrid.  Mysterious murders are being committed.  The murderers speak in a weird language and, it soon turns out, all of them are linked both to the discovery of ancient tomb in Iraq and to a painting company that was started by a group of returning veterans.  It’s up to cops Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) and Parker (Joel McHale – why, Joel, why!?) to solve the crime.  Helping them along the way is a former drug addict priest named Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez).  If you’re guessing that the whole thing leads to a violent exorcism on a stormy night – well, you’re definitely on the right track.

Scott Derrickson does the best that he can with the material but he’s hampered by the fact that the film is based on a book that was written by the real-life Ralph Sarchie.  Perhaps as a result, the film’s Ralph is such an upright and moral hero (though he does yell at his daughter in one unpleasant moment but even that is excused as simply being evidence of how personally Ralph takes his job) that he’s also not that interesting of a character.  Eric Bana, who is actually a pretty good comedic actor, struggles to find some sort of depth to Ralph but ultimately, it’s just not there.  And since 90% of horror is psychological, Deliver Us From Evil cannot recover from revolving around such a flat protagonist.

As a result, Derrickson has little option but to fill the film with standard horror movie scenes.  The scenes, as themselves, work well enough but the story is so predictable that they don’t make much of an impact.  The end result is a film that you’ve seen a hundred times before.

The only difference, of course, is that this version features Joel McHale dancing around with a knife.

Trailer: Prometheus (International Launch)


We get what could be the definitive trailer for Ridley Scott’s prequel to his Alien film.

This latest trailer is the international launch trailer and runs just a shade under 3 minutes. We definitely get a sense of what the film is about but not so much that it spoils the film’s entire story. Some have been anticipating this film since it was first announced and with each release of production stills and teasers the hype just continues to build. Then there are those who hate this film without even seeing it because they see it as either a cash grab or an attempt by a filmmaker to break a string of sub-par films.

I stand pretty much between these two camps. While I’ve always enjoyed Ridley Scott’s work even those he whiffs badly on I’m also hesitant to fully embrace this prequel as a can’t-miss without having seen it. So much about the Alien franchise has been ruined by badly made sequels and mash-ups that it’s going to take something momentous to have me put unquestioned faith back into the franchise.

Maybe Scott returning to something he’s familiar with and having had learned more about filmmaking since the first film means he’ll bring something new to the franchise and help bring it back from the brink of mediocrity. Here’s to hoping that is the case. One thing I’m sure of is that he’s got an all-star cast to work with.

Prometheus is set for a June 8, 2012 release date.

Trailer: Prometheus (dir. Ridley Scott)


This week leading up to the Christmas weekend has surely been quite a busy one for film fans everywhere. Earlier in the week we got to see the new trailer for The Dark Knight Rises (and to a lesser extent the trailer for Wrath of the Titans). That was soon followed a day later by the first teaser trailer for Peter Jackson’s upcoming return to the world of Middle-Earth with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Now we reach the triumvirate of awesome film trailers for the week with the release of the first official trailer for Ridley Scott’s return to the film franchise which made him a household name and helped redefined sci-fi (especially of the horror variety) films.

The trailer for Prometheus looks beautiful especially when viewed on 720p/1080p HD. It still doesn’t explain just exactly what the plot of the film is, but it does show some interesting imagery which harkens back to the original Alien from 1979. We even get to see a glimpse of the pilot chair where the “space jockey” sits and the very ship itself found by Ripley and the crew of the Nostromo from the first film. Even the trailer pays major homage to the original film by slowly revealing the film’s title one section at a time.

Scott has been saying that Prometheus is not a prequel to Alien and that it’s a film that could stand on it’s own without people needing to see the films in the franchise. So far, we haven’t glimpsed any of the typical xenomorphswhich defines the franchise. Time to see if they make an appearance when the film finally comes out on June 8. 2012.

Song of the Day: Am I Evil? (by Diamond Head)


Since I have been in a metal state of mind since finding out that The Big 4 of thrash metal would be appearing together on-stage this coming April 23 at Indio, CA I just had to pick a metal song for the latest “Song of the Day”. The song picked was an easy choice. It was Diamond Head’s classic metal track, “Am I Evil?”, from their 1980 debut album Lightning to the Nations.

Taking inspiration from the openings of both Black Sabbath’s “Symphony of the Universe” and Gustav Holst’s “Mars, the bringer of war”, the beginning of Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?” has become one of the most recognizable and beloved of all metal songs. Right from the start the song just oozes an aura of heavy evil and the lyrics of a young boy who witnesses his mother’s witch-burning and his quest to avenge that death just adds to the doom and gloom of the song.

Diamond Head was part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWBHM for short) bands which bridged the Atlantic from the mid-to-late 70’s all the way into the early part of the 80’s. While they were not as successful as other groups who came out of the NWBHM scene like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Def Leppard they were a huge influence on another growing subgenre of metal that was about to give birth in the U.S.

I speak of the rise of thrash metal and how it’s four horsemen (Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth) would look to Diamond Head as one of the NWBHM bands which influenced their sound with all four looking at Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?” as one of those songs which taught them what heavy metal really meant.

It’s no surprise that during the concert tour season of 2010 these four giants of thrash metal would tour together and do seven shows with the show in Sofia, Bulgaria ending with three of the four bands sharing the stage to cover this Diamond Head classic.

Whether played by Diamond Head, Metallica or the Big 4 just listening to “Am I Evil?” definitely makes one feel like their soul just got darker and their heart colder. Just the way heavy metal should affect anyone and be glad that it does.

Am I Evil?

My mother was a witch, she was burned alive
Thankless little bitch, for the tears I cried
Take her down now, don’t wanna see her face
Blistered and burnt, can’t hide my disgrace

27 every one was nice, gotta see them,
Make them pay the price
See their bodies out on the ice, take my time

Am I evil, yes I am
Am I evil, I am man

As I watched my Mother die, I lost my head
Revenge now I sought, to break with my bread
Takin’ no chances, you come with me
I’ll split you to the bone
Help set you free.

27 every one was nice, gotta see them,
Make them pay the price
See their bodies out on the ice, take my time

Am I evil, yes I am
Am I evil, I am man

On with the action now, I’ll strip your pride
I’ll spread your blood around, I’ll see you ride
Your face is scarred with steel, wounds deep and neat
Like a double dozen before you, smell so sweet.

27 every one was nice, gotta see them,
Make them pay the price
See their bodies out on the ice, take my time

Am I evil, yes I am
Am I evil, I am man

I’ll make my residence, I’ll watch your fire
You can come with me, sweet desire
My face is long forgotten, my face not my own
Sweet and timely whore, take me home