Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings

ExodusGodsAndKings Ridley Scott’s take on the famous biblical story of Moses is an attempt at bringing stories of old into the mainstream audience's purview. Known for such prolific period pieces as Kingdom of Heaven and Gladiator, Scott fails to impress here on just about every level. Exodus: Gods and Kings is the biblical story of Moses and his flight from Egypt. The original story is one of controversy in modern times due to its fantastical claims. In a film setting these things can be easily overlooked with the advent of computer graphics and such. However, the main crux of the issues of the movie come from the very bizarre nature of the story itself. Frankly, the narrative isn’t compelling enough to make for an interesting two and half hour movie.

The story follows Moses (Christian Bale) and his brother Ramesses II (Joel Edgerton) through their adult lives as they receive a prophecy that one day a man who saves someone will become a leader of his people. During a battle, Moses saves his brother’s life and panic besets Ramesses. As the next in line to become king, Ramesses believes that now Moses will usurp him and so he has Moses and his family banished from Egypt. While in exile, Moses begins seeing visions of God and has several conversations with him. He accepts that his people are in fact the enslaved Jews of Egypt, and he works to set them free. At this point in our story things begin to fall apart at an insane rate. Practically in real time we see Moses walk back and forth to Egypt in an attempt to understand his newly found religion and save his people. Before anything interesting happens we are subjected to seemingly 45 minutes of absolute nothing and then finally God begins to give Moses instructions. When God tells Moses to sit back and “watch this” we are shown all of the infamous biblical plagues on the big screen. While that sounds thrilling it really fails to impress. Considering that its incredibly repetitive makes for a sense of urgency to get past it and move on with the story.

In the end, Exodus: Gods and Kings ends on a whimper. A film by a director who is known for such larger than life period pieces just comes up short. All and all, the film feels pointless and a general waste of everyone's time. Christian Bale gives the Moses role his all per usual and is a bright spot in an otherwise tedious adventure. He brings gravitas to the character much like Russell Crowe did for Noah earlier this year. Joel Edgerton as Ramesses is a mediocre performance. Edgerton is given little to work with here and comes off as very flat and uninteresting. Ridley Scott has done some amazing films that are unforgettable in the mind of the modern and not so modern cinephile, however, Exodus: Gods and Kings is not one of them.

[easyreview title= "Review of Exodus: Gods and Kings" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="2.0" overall= false]

Review: American Hustle

american-hustle-posters-sony I love movies that run you through a series of emotions and aren't afraid to bring humor to thrilling drama. I love movies that seem like the roles were written for the people who ended up casted in them, a great combination of smart writing and stellar acting. I love movies who blur the lines between heroes and villains and have you completely invested in the story from start to finish. American Hustle does all of these things and does them in expert fashion. It's a terrific movie and is a wonderful coda for cinema in 2013. American Hustle is directed by David O. Russell of The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook fame. It tells a tale (loosely based on a true story; as it says at the beginning of the film: "Some of this stuff actually happened.") of two low-level con artists loving life in New York in the late 1970's. Things are going great for Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his mistress Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) until they get pinched by Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper): an ambitious FBI agent looking to make a name for himself. DiMaso's grand plan is to use the couple to help take down a New Jersey mayor (Jeremy Renner) desperately trying to revitalize Atlantic City. The three quickly find themselves over their heads and struggling to keep control of the unraveling events, the least of which isn't helped by Irving's estranged wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) who gets roped into the plot and becomes its biggest wild card.

The first thing that has to be said about American Hustle is that Russell and co-writer Eric Singer do a wonderful job at developing these characters. All of the principal characters are firmly anti-heroic, yet you find yourself feeling a great amount of sympathy for them throughout the film. A great example of this comes in the portrayal of Richie DiMaso: a guy that is meant to come off as an asshole, yet there is a scene in the movie that explains in about 2 minutes his motivations and immediately changes how you feel about him, even if just for a brief period of time. The dynamic between Rosenfeld, his mistress, and his wife, which doesn't even really get delved into until the latter half of the movie, is pulled off in such an impressive manner by the actors involved. It's quite ironic that the most noble character (relatively speaking) in the movie, Renner, is the one you end up feeling the least amount of desire to see succeed. Lawrence in particular deserves special mention for the job she did. Her ability as an actress has never been questioned, and it's a cliché to say something along the lines of "this role is like you've never seen Jennifer Lawrence before!", but there is truth to that sentiment here as she delivers in a role as complex as she has ever had to play (note: I do say this having not seen Silver Linings Playbook, which I have heard she is equally excellent in).

Much needs to be said also about the intangibles in the film, which is another area where Russell excels. The cinematography is dynamic and adds so much to the source material. Equally great is the soundtrack selection which seems perfectly tailored to the film. It felt very Tarantino-esque. I love when directors pay so much attention to the little things, and seeing American Hustle makes me want to run out immediately and watch Russell's other directorial endeavors. There are also a couple of really fun cameos here that I won't spoil, Richie DiMaso's boss at the bureau especially (don't cheat by looking on IMDb!), that were unexpected and actually added a lot to the movie. My only real criticism of the movie is the fact that is was a slow starter. It was a necessary evil to really give the exposition needed to understand the relationship between Bale and Adams' characters, but it drags on a bit especially when compared to the breakneck pace of the latter two-thirds of the film.

All in all, American Hustle was just fantastic. Whether or not you are a fan of Russell's other films, it's just such a well-done movie that you owe it to yourself not to miss it.

[easyreview title= "Review of American Hustle" cat1title="Brad's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.5" overall= false]

Review: Out of the Furnace

Out of the Furnace Out of the Furnace paints a good picture of a forgotten town, but leaves little to remember after you have left the theatre. It gives impressive performances throughout by Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, and an always entertaining Woody Harrelson, but somehow towards the middle, you start to wonder what this movie is trying to explain to you. I don't want to give too much away from people who have not yet seen this ,but I will start by saying the movie is far different from what the trailer made it out to be. The movie's hero is Russell Baze (Christian Bale) who is your typical small town steel-worker who leads the simple life. He wakes up next to his sexy girlfriend (Zoe Saldana), goes to work at the mill, goes to the bar, goes home then does it all over again. He has one concern in his life, and that is his little brother, Rodney (Casey Affleck), who cannot seem to stay out of trouble.

Rodney is lucky to have his brother bail him out when he's in too deep with all the unnecessary debts he has to pay with all of his gambling problems. He can't seem to control himself, but believes otherwise. One night Russell drives home from a normal night at the bar, he gets into a tragic accident. This obviously earns him some jail time so he spends years in there having to endure the news from time to time of life moving on. His girlfriend moves on, his brother goes overseas to fight in Iraq, and he handles the elements around him with reservation and acceptance. Christian Bale gives possibly his most modest performance to date. He plays an everyday hero who knows who he is and knows he's not anything more than a man working in his small town. As soon as he gets out, one thing has changed and one thing hasn't changed. The thing that has changed is that his old flame is now dating a cop and the thing that hasn't changed is that his brother is still being an asshole. He is now doing unlicensed underground fighting and he's exceptionally tough, but stubborn. His manager keeps telling him to lose fights, but just won't listen.

A series of fights eventually leads to him to Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson) who is pretty much pure evil at its most basic form. Woody Harrelson has given a lot of entertaining performances, but I'll be damned if anyone doesn't have a smile on their face whenever he comes onscreen. All eyes are on him. You know he will fuck somebody up. So Rodney's manager is able to arrange a fight where Harlan, go figure, instructs him to lose the fight.

I will state that I was not pleased with how the events went down in the final act and it seemed like it took way too long to get there. Midway through I was beginning to question the plot I derived from the trailer. When it came to the conclusion, I thought wow this is a totally different movie. But I will say this, the performances by Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson are worth enough the price of admission if you want to see top-notch acting. Just watch Russell hold back his emotions and slowly break down when he finally reunites with his ex-girlfriend. After that scene was over, I leaned over to the right and said to my brother, "God damn that is some good acting!" My brother said he was literally about to say the same exact thing.

[easyreview title= "Review of Out of the Furnace" cat1title="Brady's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="2.5" overall= false]