Sunday, January 21, 2018

Last Days in the Desert

If you want to see a low budget gem of a movie, watch "Last Days in the Desert" where Ewan McGregor plays both Jesus and Satan. There is something compelling about watching a man on a journey, especially on a journey to find himself. Actually this is not a very religious movie. There are no miracles. The question of Jesus' divinity is left up to the viewer to decide. He could just be a crazy man wandering the desert. The final scene feels out of place, because the movie goes straight from the Crucifixion to modern day tourists taking snapshots of the same desert Jesus supposedly wandered in. Had they given us a hint of resurrection, even a slight stirring under the burial cloth, it would have given the movie a religious meaning. Such an ending, regardless of if you believe or not, would be a satisfying conclusion to the story, because it would have shown that everything that went before it served a purpose. Instead, the story is ambiguous.

Rating: * * * .5

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Darkest Hour


If you knew nothing about Winston Churchill, hadn't listened to his speeches, and hadn't watched other shows and documentaries about him, then you might conclude that Darkest Hour is a great inspirational movie about the man.  The problem is that it is not historically accurate, but instead revisionist, portraying Churchill as an indecisive, slightly befuddled old man, who only made up his mind to continue to fight against the Nazis, and not surrender, after an inspirational, but completely fictional ride in the subway.  This distortion of history I think is inexcusable.

The one thing that defined Churchill was his decisiveness and his resolve. 

Gary Oldman in his layers of makeup is not totally convincing to me as Churchill.

However, Oldman's performance is strong enough to make you feel like you are watching the real thing.

The movie gets some mileage out of Churchill's speeches, but only three of them, and the ones in the movie are greatly abbreviated.  Had they given the full speeches, it might have bored some people, but it would have given the audience more of a historical context, and felt more like you were there witnessing these things for the first time.  The movie finishes with his "Never Surrender" speech, which in the film is delivered like an inspirational call to battle, like a Saint Crispin's day speech.  However, if you listen to Churchill's actual delivery, it is much more somber.  Another problem with the way the movie portrayed this speech is that it shows it being broadcast on the radio at the same time that it was being delivered to Parliament.  Actually, Churchill gave the speech on the radio to the British people the day after he delivered it to Parliament.

Since the movie only covers a 30 day period, from May 1940, to June 1940, which was probably one of the most critical months in England's history, I feel that there was so much more that they could have given us about Churchill and the remainder of the war.  There are other shows and documentaries that have been far move informative, such as Into The Storm.  Even Netflix's The Crown has some interesting things to say about Churchill.

It is not a complete trainwreck of a movie.  The story of Churchill is inspiring in any context, and Oldman's performance is noteworthy and might even win an Oscar.  Much of the movie centers on how Churchill's own cabinet and even the king opposed him, thus giving us a story worth watching.

The film ties in well with the movie Dunkirk, which is far better, since the events of both films take place during the same period.

Rating:  * * * 



Friday, January 5, 2018

More The Last Jedi comments.



In response to this second video, I made the following comment ...

"Let me make an analogy with Spider Man 3.  The last 25 to 30 minutes of that movie were pretty terrible, but the first 90 minutes I found very entertaining.  Overall, to me the movie felt like it was worth watching, despite an obvious flaw.  

With both Star Wars movies in this trilogy, I notice some major plot holes, more so in The Last Jedi, and what feels like missing information.  There is still way too much that hasn't been explained.  

However, The Last Jedi seems to be designed to defy all our expectations as a form of entertainment.  They seem to be deliberately withholding information, like the backstory of all the major characters, so as to more easily surprise us.  Part of this is because the structure of the film crams too much stuff in it, so there isn't room for a lot of exposition.  This makes it feel compressed, but that is part of why it is entertaining.   The structure of the film feels like it is experimental, because they are not following any normal path.  You could attribute this to bad story telling, or corporate boardroom shenanigans where they tried to put too much in the movie, or maybe it is secretly brilliant.

Regardless, even if parts of the movie are bad, there is way too much stuff in the film that I like.  I think that there is a lot going on under the surface that I hope gets explained later, and I noticed way more detail on my second viewing."