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.

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Review: Fight Church

FightChurch A documentary about two seemingly obvious opposing topics, Christianity and Mixed Martial Arts, Fight Church takes on the herculean task of showing these two worlds melding together. For full disclosure, I am a fan of the sport but I am not a religious person. Directors Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel do a great job of presenting the subject matter objectively the vast majority of the time. Fight Church is certainly the type of subject matter that will garner strong reactions on either side of the debate. The film follows several men of the cloth as they pursue an interest in Mixed Martial Arts, otherwise known as cage fighting. Undeniably a brutal sport, but finding its way into more and more homes every week. Combining wrestling, traditional boxing, jiu jitsu, muay thai boxing, and a whole host of other martial arts together for a gladiator type sport. The main focus of the documentary is Paul Burress, a pastor who doubles as a well trained MMA guy. Teaching his techniques to the men and women of his congregation who want to learn is a real passion for Paul. He takes things seriously both at the pulpit and in the ring. He is a solid choice for the main focus as he is easily the most stable of characters we have the pleasure of meeting. We also meet a handful of other pastors who practice the same balance between both worlds, some even wish to go professional in the fight careers. A strange balance is attempted to be struck that comes off genuine but misguided to me. In a documentary like this its very difficult to not let your personal opinions of the subject matter influence how you see the film. While I didn’t agree with such moments of young children (approximately 8 years old) doing full contact cage fighting, the documentary presents them with a sense of neutrality that I appreciate. Allowing the audience to garner its own joy, rage, or something in between towards what it saw.

The film works to show another side of the religiosity of its subject matter that early on was being conveniently ignored. There is a moment when one of the film’s subjects goes on a rant about how “mainstream Christianity has effeminized men.” This is a highly important moment to the entirety of the subject matter. Up until this point the men being filmed all were being shown in a pure positive light. The directors made a seemingly concession effort to show you the darker side of the issue, and it was very effective. Had this gentleman not been in the film I would have felt a very serious, and frankly frustrating, agenda was trying to be portrayed. There is however a so called villain in the movie, but he isn’t the gun-totting-at-church-anti-effeminizing guy, but rather a Catholic priest. Father John Duffell is a priest hoping to keep MMA illegal in the entirety of New York State. He sees the sport as too violent and anti-Christian. These views aren’t particularly shocking, but juxtaposed to the pastors who are fighting one another during a cage match and proselytizing afterwards to the crowd plays particularly well.

In the end, Fight Church might change some minds or it might not but what it will do is spark interesting and likely heated debate. Fitting religion into neat modern day boxes will cause conflicts to arise. I found myself shaking my head at the manipulation of the meaning of biblical text, but at the same time the arguments to ban the sport in New York were shallow and completely misguided. The film does a good job of keeping you going back and forth to each side of the argument. Any documentary worth it’s salt will spark an intelligent conversation between filmgoers, Fight Church did just that.

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