Exodus – Gods and Kings

I went to see Exodus: Gods and Kings in the theater recently

Exodus

 

Exodus: Gods and KingsĀ (2014) – Rated PG-13

The defiant leader Moses rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.”

Follow me and you will be free. Stay and you will perish.” – Moses (doesn’t this sound just like the classic Terminator line, “Come with me if you want to live”?)

I love Ridley Scott. He makes three kinds of movies: classics, absolutely fascinating missteps, and the occasional forgettable film. His classics are Alien (spawning five sequels and a prequel), Blade Runner (an incredible adaptation of film noir sensibilities to a science fiction setting), Black Hawk Down (still the best movie ever made about modern post-WW2 combat and a true story to boot), and Thelma & Louise (still a feminist hoot).

Unfortunately, Exodus falls in the forgettable category. It is not that Exodus is bad but it does not gel very well at all. Scott tries to ground everything in realism, which is an interesting approach for a tale full of miracles. Moses’ visions are certainly open to interpretation in the movie.

Part of the reason the movie doesn’t gel well is the need to cram too many ideas into two hours and twenty minutes of film. The showpiece, the parting of the Red Sea and the crossing, is given plenty of time to breathe. The special effects are wonderful and the scene is very well-handled but it takes a large chunk out of the running time. The plagues are all jumbled together into what practically amounts to a montage sequence.

The movie comes across as a mixture of Exodus highlights together with what are supposed to be personal moments but the personal moments don’t really work. The characters are not very fleshed out and some of the roles are poorly cast, particularly Sigourney Weaver (who I normally like). On the other hand I suppose I can’t complain about casting when The Ten Commandments had Vincent Price and Edward G. Robinson as Egyptian overseers.

First, I have a bone to pick with two very stupid moments in Exodus. One of the moments has a group of Hebrews trying to light a fire. They lay a line of flammable liquid and then strike tinder to some straw and touch the burning straw to the liquid. This would be all well and good but at least three of the Hebrews are carrying LIT torches.

The second is a shot of the Sphinx without a nose. There are several main theories as to when the Sphinx lost its nose. There is a hoary old chestnut about Napoleon’s artillery gunners shooting the nose off. Weather and gradual erosion may have taken it. There are also several other martial candidates who may have defaced the monument as there is quite a bit of evidence that the damage existed prior to Napoleon’s time. However all of the theories agree that the damage occurred between 1200 and 1801.

I am glad I got to see Exodus on the big screen, especially the parting of the Red Sea, but there was no emotional investment and I doubt I would revisit this film again.

Black Hawk Down – Special Forces Week

Black Hawk Down is currently available on instant Netflix

Black Hawk DownBlack Hawk Down (2001) – Rated R

“Based on a true story, U.S. Rangers and an elite Delta Force team attempt to kidnap two underlings of a Somali warlord, their Black Hawk helicopters are shot down, and the Americans face intense combat with the militia on the ground.”

No one gets left behind, you know that.”

My bone of the day to pick is this. The Hurt Locker was a very good film but not only were Up in the Air, Up, Inglourious Basterds and District 9 (all nominees) better films but, as a modern portrait of war (post World War II), you simply cannot beat Black Hawk Down.

I agree that it was long overdue for a female director to win and Kathryn Bigelow is certainly a good one but it really cheapens the prize when you start to think that the award was not actually given for Best Film but to redress a wrong or perhaps for being topical.

I guess my real gripe is that the best post-World War II war film, Black Hawk Down, was not even nominated for Best Picture and lost Best Director to Ron Howard for A Beautiful Mind.

Black Hawk Down did win Best Oscars for Editing (amazing and well-deserved) and Sound (if you have good speakers, you can almost feel the bullets hitting). It was also nominated for Best Cinematography (again well-deserved – Best Cinematography does not always have to be pretty) and the aforementioned Best Director for Ridley Scott.

Poor Ridley Scott. In 1979, he made one of my all-time favorite horror movies, Alien. In 1982, he made one of my all-time favorite science fiction movies, Blade Runner.

He finally got his first Oscar nomination for Thelma & Louise, THE female buddy flick but lost to The Silence of the Lambs. He got his next one for Gladiator but lost to Traffic (seriously? he lost to a remake of a BBC miniseries where the miniseries was better than the movie.). He lost the Best Director nod on Black Hawk to A Beautiful Mind.

So to sum up my favorites: Ridley Scott made Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, and Black Hawk Down. The best director films for those years were Kramer vs. Kramer, Gandhi, Traffic, and A Beautiful Mind. Which set of films are still watched today? I have to give you that Silence of the Lambs was better directed than Thelma & Louise.

Well I guess I have used up all my room to rant. I better quickly run down why you should see this film.

Part of the reason Black Hawk Down is so good is the incredible attention to detail. The black hawks and little birds are real black hawks and little birds. Real Rangers do the rope scenes. The satellite maps behind Garrison are some of the real scenes from that battle.

Ken Nolan did an incredible job of trimming down the unbelievably detailed book by Mark Bowden. Most of what is trimmed out are pre- and post-raid events, an examination of the drug khat, and some Somali points of view (from what I remember).

While I deride Tony Scott for his unnecessary jump-cutting, bleached out cinematography, and sped-up and slowed down scenes, here Ridley Scott uses all of these to great effect. If I had to use one word to describe Black Hawk Down, it would be intense.

I am going to be brief about the acting. There are a number of name actors in this film but also many unknowns. I found all the performances to be spot-on. Josh Hartnett is the lead but this is really an ensemble film. Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana, Ewen Bremner, William Fichtner, Sam Shepard and more all put in fine performances.

I really love that there is no one hero – these are all heroes. I defy you not to tear up the first time you hear the snipers volunteer to go to the downed chopper.

As if you could not tell, I whole-heartedly recommend this incredibly intense film. The only reason not to see it is if you are extremely averse to realistic warfare.

Interestingly while this is a right-wing favorite (it is actually a personal favorite of George W. Bush), it is also a favorite of the Somalis (although for quite different reasons). Regardless of ideology this is one humdinger of a true story. By the way “skinnies” is not a malnutrition reference, it comes from “Starship Troopers” by Robert Heinlein.

People Watch: Yes that is Legolas (Orlando Bloom) tumbling from the helicopter that starts the disaster rolling.

Black Hawk Down – Help! We are Surrounded week

This is Help! We are Surrounded week. Black Hawk Down is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Black Hawk Down – Rated R for intense, realistic, graphic war violence and for language.

When U.S. Rangers and an elite Delta Force team attempt to kidnap two underlings of a Somali warlord, their Black Hawk helicopters are shot down, and the Americans suffer heavy casualties, facing intense fighting from the militia on the ground. Director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) captures the brutal, incessant battle scenes with powerful and intimidating framework and pace in this military drama based on a true story”

“No one gets left behind, you know that.”

My bone of the day to pick is this. The Hurt Locker was a very good film but not only were Up in the Air, Up, Inglourious Basterds and District 9 (all nominees) better films but, as a modern portrait of war (post World War II), you simply cannot beat Black Hawk Down.

I agree that it was long overdue for a female director to win and Kathryn Bigelow is certainly a good one but it really cheapens the prize when you start to think that the award was not actually given for Best Film but to redress a wrong or perhaps for being topical.

I guess my real gripe is that the best post-World War II war film, Black Hawk Down, was not even nominated for Best Picture and lost Best Director to Ron Howard for A Beautiful Mind.

Black Hawk Down did win Best Oscars for Editing (amazing and well-deserved) and Sound (if you have good speakers, you can almost feel the bullets hitting). It was also nominated for Best Cinematography (again well-deserved – Best Cinematography does not always have to be pretty) and the aforementioned Best Director for Ridley Scott.

Poor Ridley Scott. In 1979, he made one of my all-time favorite horror movies, Alien. In 1982, he made one of my all-time favorite science fiction movies, Blade Runner.

He finally got his first Oscar nomination for Thelma & Louise, THE female buddy flick but lost to The Silence of the Lambs. He got his next one for Gladiator but lost to Traffic (seriously? he lost to a remake of a BBC miniseries where the miniseries was better than the movie.). He lost the Best Director nod on Black Hawk to A Beautiful Mind.

So to sum up my favorites: Ridley Scott made Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, and Black Hawk Down. The best director films for those years were Kramer vs. Kramer, Gandhi, Traffic, and A Beautiful Mind. Which set of films are still watched today? I have to give you that Silence of the Lambs was better directed than Thelma & Louise.

Well I guess I have used up all my room to rant. I better quickly run down why you should see this film.

As with Zulu yesterday, part of the reason Black Hawk Down is so good is the incredible attention to detail. The black hawks and little birds are real black hawks and little birds. Real Rangers do the rope scenes. The satellite maps behind Garrison are some of the real scenes from that battle.

Ken Nolan did an incredible job of trimming down the unbelievably detailed book by Mark Bowden. Most of what is trimmed out are pre- and post-raid events, an examination of the drug khat, and some Somali points of view (from what I remember).

While I deride Tony Scott for his unnecessary jump-cutting, bleached out cinematography, and sped-up and slowed down scenes, here Ridley Scott uses all of these to great effect. If I had to use one word to describe Black Hawk Down, it would be intense.

I am going to be brief about the acting. There are a number of name actors in this film but also many unknowns. I found all the performances to be spot-on. Josh Hartnett is the lead but this is really an ensemble film. Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana, Ewen Bremner, William Fichtner, Sam Shepard and more all put in fine performances.

I really love that there is no one hero – these are all heroes. I defy you not to tear up the first time you hear the snipers volunteer to go to the downed chopper.

As if you could not tell I whole-heartedly recommend this incredibly intense film. The only reason not to see it is if you are extremely averse to realistic warfare.

Interestingly while this is a right-wing favorite (it is actually a personal favorite of George W. Bush), it is also a favorite of the Somalis (although for quite different reasons). Regardless of ideology this is one humdinger of a true story. By the way “skinnies” is not malnutrition reference, it comes from “Starship Troopers” by Robert Heinlein.

People Watch: Yes that is Legolas (Orlando Bloom) tumbling from the helicopter that starts the disaster rolling.