‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ Review

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Dir: Ridley Scott

Cast: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, Maria Valverde, Sigourney Weaver and Sir Ben Kingsley

Synopsis: 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

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review*

*Reviewer Note #2: I know I’ve been gone for a bit. I have been watching movies but I’ve been busy with school which has kept me from writing reviews. Sorry*

 

 

Before I start reviewing the movie I want to talk about the “White Washing” Controversy that is surrounding this movie, and has even caused many people to boycott it. This obviously is not the first time people have been trying to boycott a movie due to ethic casting. The other biblical film that came out this year Noah had some boycotts due to the casting and “changes” to the well-know story. Other occasions are Rooney Mara being cast as Tiger Lilly in the new Peter Pan film Pan, Idris Elba playing Heimdall in Thor and Thor: The Dark World got some people talking even though Marvel went the other way of the ethnic casting. Finally, the one I remember the most was M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender which caused an uproar by all the fans.

 

The thing I want to say about the ethnic casting is for me, it doesn’t matter. I can see both sides of the argument, but at the end of day we should judge a movie by its quality aka if it’s good or bad. Again, I see both sides of the situation and depending on the adaptation I do feel Hollywood should go the way of the “source material.” But, for the most part let the acting justify if the role should have been played by someone else.

 

Now, getting into Exodus: Gods and Kings, the movie doesn’t start with the usual baby Moses getting picked up from the river in a basket. Director Ridley Scott gives us a full grown Moses (Bale) and Ramses (Edgerton) who are generals in Ramses’ father, Pharaoh Seti (Turturro). The two go into battle and something happens that starts to cause a bit of a rift between the two that have been raised as brothers. Years later when Ramses is now Pharaoh, Moses finds out that he is not who he thinks he is by Nun (Kingsley), an elder slave, and is exiled for it when it gets back to Ramses.

 

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Moses finds peace in a small village where he marries Zipporah (Valverde) and has a son. Of course if you know the story, Moses is called upon by God and tells him he must help his people (aka the slaves) and set them free, even if it means going to war with someone he thought of as a brother.

 

We all know the story of Moses and Ramses, so when the story starts to jump around in major gaps of time you don’t feel immediately lost, and even if you don’t know the story you’ll be okay too. But, with the run time being around two and a half hours long, the movie still feels like there is some stuff missing, which is a shame because the supporting cast is completely underused. Even Joel Edgerton who plays, arguably the villain of the movie Ramses is a bit used, which is a shame since he gets second billing and is the other important character of the story.

 

The movie does belong to Christian Bale. It’s not a bad thing either, he does try to humanize Moses to some extent – as does Edgerton with Ramses – but this Moses isn’t the normal Moses we know from the story. Obviously, he’s a general in the beginning of the movie, so this Moses knows how to fight and once he is put on his mission from God, he goes back to what he knows and starts to go on guerilla warfare type missions. This Moses is also not afraid to talk back to God and question him, God in this movie looks to be portrayed by a child that shows up at random times to talk to Moses.

 

I love Ridley Scott, as most people do, and while the war scene at the beginning is great to see, knowing he had a four hour cut of the movie first doesn’t surprise me. But, there is a lot that he cut out that I feel could have added to the story. Like I said, the supporting characters are really underused or not use at all. John Turturro as the Pharaoh has about five minutes of screentime before he passes away, Ben Kinglsey who feels like he would serve a greater purpose is just there, Aaron Paul who is almost unrecognizable really serves no purpose and could have been given an unknown actor if that’s how they were going to treat the character. Finally, Sigourney Weaver surprisingly only has about five lines in the movie and disappears after the first half hour, it nice to see the reunion of Scott and Weaver but it didn’t go anywhere. Maria Valverde might be the only one that gets some good material going but is a bit underwritten.

 

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The relationship between Moses and Ramses is also a bit on and off. One minute you can believe the dynamic between them and the next you can’t. It is a bit distracting and frustrating as Scott is going in a different direction with the story and there are moments where you can clearly see that but Scott and the writers go into a somewhat generic by-the-books way of going with Moses and the film.

 

This isn’t to say Exodus: Gods and Kings isn’t a descent film. The plagues sequence is one of the major, if not the major highlight of the film. Although it comes into well into the middle of the movie so you have to wait around to see that. The CGI also looks pretty impressive with the heavily promoted Red Sea sequence. The other great part about the movie is the score, which is done by Alberto Iglesias, whom I’ve never heard of (even though I saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).

 

All in all, Exodus: Gods and Kings isn’t entirely the same story we all known and the changes really don’t go anywhere or they completely change the dynamic of the story. Bale does a good job of bringing Moses to life and Edgerton has his moments to shine as Ramses. The great supporting cast is underused but is saved a bit by the score and Bale’s performance.

 

 

Exodus: Gods and Kings

3 out of 5

 

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‘Fury’ Review

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Dir: David Ayer

Cast: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal, Jim Parrack, Brad William Henke, Kevin Vance, Xavier Samuel and Jason Isaacs

Synopsis: April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Out-numbered, out-gunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review*

 

 

Unlike most wars movies, David Ayer’s Fury sets the action near the end of World War II. The Allied forces are moving into Germany, troops are starting to break down, and the tank forces are down to only a few. The film follows one particular tank, “Fury” which is lead by Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Pitt) and his crew Boyd “Bible” Swan (LaBeouf), Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Pena), and Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Bernthal). We find out that they have just lost someone in the crew and has been replaced with new recruit and typist Norman Ellison (Lerman), who is completely out of his element. The crew is then sent out and have survive not just the war but each other, which is easier said than done.

 

We quickly learn who our main characters are. Pitt’s “Wardaddy” is the tough no nonsense sergeant, Pena’s “Gordo” is a hard drinking wise-ass driver, Bernthal’s Grady is the loader and is more “beast than man” as someone points out to him and “Bible” is religious – hence the name – and is the tank’s gunner. The group isn’t perfect. They have their little arguments and fight here and there, but the next minute they would be willing to die for each other. However, the group dynamics really show you how war can break a man and what happens when you do it for a long time.

 

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While we get to know the crew of “Fury,” the story could really be about Wardaddy and Norman. Both men are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to war. One being a seasoned fighter and the other is desperately trying to survive after being thrown in hell. One understands that you need to let the urge to kill off and it’s a kill or be killed world – which he shows him the hard way. The other is still trying to keep his innocence and acts as a surrogate for the audience to show us that these men might be far too gone.

 

This is driven more home by a scene that involves the whole group in a home with two German women (played by Anamaria Marinca and Alicia von Rittberg). The difference is light and day. Although I will admit the scene is a bit long but it does serve its purpose and builds up a lot of tension.

 

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The movie is brutal. Pitt’s Wardaddy even makes a statement that sums it up pretty nicely, “ideals are peaceful, history is violent.” Fury doesn’t hold back on the violence, at all. The first death comes within the first two minutes of the film and it gives you an idea on how violent and brutal the movie is going to be – also the fact that it’s a war movie should give you a good impression too.

 

Of course the movie is about a tank crew, so you can guess there is some a pretty good amount of tank action. The action is pretty great and you get a good feel that these characters have been doing this for a while. They all have their part of play and play it well. They can’t afford to not by in sync because everything needs to be lined up just right. One standout tank sequence comes near the end of the film where it’s a three-on-one tank battle. It’s got great tension, cinematography, and well action.

 

As you can probably assume, the cast is great here. Pitt is obviously good at barking orders, and does have moments where he cuts loose on the action. But it’s also his performance when he’s not being a leader, those moments when it looks like he’s trying to keep a grasp of some humanity. Lerman holds his own against the rest of the seasoned cast and shares most of his scenes with Pitt, and it shows that he stepped up his game to be on that same level of talent.

 

Bernthal is basically the bully and most unhinged of the group, but has his reasons. LaBeouf has his moments and one standout moment near the end but along with Pena doesn’t get much to do and get thrown a bit in the backburner. Jason Isaacs also shows up as a commander that gives “Fury” its order but is nothing more than just a very small role.

 

All in all, Fury is a brutal, action drama that shows us that sometimes heroes are not always perfect and have to cross into the grey area to survive. There are some problems here and there, but the great performances and tank action make the film easy to seat through.

 

Brad Pitt in Fury

 

Fury

4 out of 5

‘Noah’ Review

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Dir: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, and Anthony Hopkins
Synopsis: A man is chosen by God to undertake a momentous mission of rescue before an apocalyptic flood destroys the world.

 
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review of this interruption of the biblical tale.*

 
Whatever your faith or how much you believe or don’t believe in the story itself, the tale of Noah is inherently a tough one – this is a story involving just about all of humanity wiped out, all at once. And this film doesn’t shy away from that at all, both in the grand scale of those killed by the floods and also in smaller, more intimate and, arguably, more disturbing ways. There is one scene in particular where Noah makes a choice that is frankly shocking to see. Director Darren Aronofsky and Russell Crowe walk a delicate line here with audience sympathy, yet manage to convey that this is a man doing what he truly believes must be done, no matter how difficult it is to comprehend at face value. According to Aronofsky, and something I come to see as well, Noah is person that suffers from the ultimate survivor’s guilt. This movie touches on that but also asks another question, what happens when you give a man an extremely life changing mission?

 

The opening (including some text onscreen that, essentially, gives you the grand scale of things with some cool Aronosfky visuals) establishes that God, here called “The Creator”, is certainly believed in by everyone, but also has gone so long that it’s assumed he long abandoned or moved on from the people he put on the Earth. The exception to this, of course, is Noah (Crowe) who begins to have visions sent to him by the Creator, warning that thanks to humanity’s misdeeds, the end is coming, in the form of a great flood.

 

With the aid of his grandfather, Methuselah (Hopkins, although he is only referred to as Grandfather by everyone in Noah’s family and Noah himself), Noah realizes he is meant to build a massive Ark, which will hold animals and Noah’s own family, all of whom will be the key to re-starting society all over again. Although Noah takes pride in his task at the outset, he starts to doubt if anyone, including his family, is worthy of being saved

 

Noah is assisted by his family from the start, including his wife, Naameh (Connelly) and his sons, the oldest Shem (Booth), the middle child Ham (Lerman) and the youngest Japheth (McHugh Carroll). And then there’s Ila (Watson), who they saved as a little girl and raise among their family – where she and Shem are romantically involved.

 

This version of Noah is obviously a different interpretation told than before. Besides Noah’s family, Noah is helped by others in the form of the Watchers, angels that are envisioned as giant rock creatures trapped in their current form as a punishment by the Creator. The Watchers have an angelic light inside them that makes their eyes and mouth glow, making them feel like something out of Lord of the Rings. The design is interesting as they’re so massive they kind of just lunge around but when its time to take action and protect the Ark, they become one of the highlights of the film, even though we never really get to know their names expect for Og (voiced by Frank Langella) and Samyaza (voiced by Nick Nolte).

 

The cast for the most part really works. Crowe can convey toughness and determination and is, for this interpretation, the right guy to play someone as focused as Noah is, who will not let anything get in his way. He also gets to show some other pretty intense emotions as the film continues and Noah begins to believe that perhaps the Creator’s intentions are even more difficult than it seemed, on a personal level. He’s also a bit of a badass. We see Noah early on defend himself from three attackers and when the Ark is under attack from Tubal-cain (the always reliable Ray Winestone) and his army, he does what he has to do to complete his mission.

 

As for the other men in the film, Lerman who plays Ham is the most conflicted amongst Noah’s sons, and has some understandable concerns and jealousies. Ham’s conflict brings him into the growing struggle between Noah and Tubal-cain, a villain who also has a unique position in the film. He does do awful things but he says things in such away you almost feel wrong agreeing with him. Douglas Booth’s Shem, the oldest son, isn’t given a lot to do but protect Watson’s Ila. Finally, Anthony Hopkins for the short amount of screen time he has does his usual best

 

But beside Crowe and Winstone, the women really do take center stage here. More specifically Emma Watson as Ila. Thanks to being attacked as a child she is unable to have children – something that is a concern to her given that she is the future of mankind. Watson holds her own with Crowe and have some great chemistry together, especially near the end. But, Watson is excellent at conveying Ila feelings as she looks at her place in this family. Jennifer Connelly’s Naameh, doesn’t have much to do at first, but Connelly stands out in one particular scene near the end as Naameh stands up to Noah; for the first time believing her husband, who she has supported for so long, is the wrong about a decision he’s making.

 

Not shockingly, Aronofsky’s visuals are gorgeous, highlighted by a sequence in which we see the Creation Story play out in a dynamic, thrilling manner, that expertly mixes time-lapse photography with special effects.

 

There are some iffy CGI at points (mostly with the animals but considering the scale of this project it’s kind of okay) and, despite its huge scale, Noah does have some moments where it hits some bumps. As I mentioned earlier, the promotional material surprisingly hasn’t given away much. We actually see and spend a good chuck of time in the Ark. Here is where the movie slows down a bit, but with great acting scenes and the dilemmas the characters, mostly Noah, have to make it adds some tense and emotional sequences that make the time in the Ark worth while.

 

All in all, Noah will, obviously, play very differently depending on how you interpret the Bible or even care about religion. Some will probably find it boring or uninteresting, which is fine, but given the bold approach that Aronofsky takes I hope people appreciate the movie just for what it is (I know, that’s asking a lot).

 

Noah
4 out of 5