Jan 222010
 

The Book of Eli Movie PosterIn the not-too-distant future, some 30 years after the final war, a solitary man walks across the wasteland that was once America. Empty cities, broken highways, seared earth–all around him, the marks of catastrophic destruction. There is no civilization here, no law. The roads belong to gangs that would murder a man for his shoes, an ounce of water… or for nothing at all.

But they’re no match for this traveler.  A warrior not by choice but necessity, Eli seeks only peace but, if challenged, will cut his attackers down before they realize their fatal mistake. It’s not his life he guards so fiercely but his hope for the future; a hope he has carried and protected for 30 years and is determined to realize. Driven by this commitment and guided by his belief in something greater than himself, Eli does what he must to survive–and continue.

But neither will find it easy to deter him. Nothing–and no one–can stand in his way. Eli must keep moving to fulfill his destiny and bring help to a ravaged humanity.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Science Fiction; Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min.; Release Date: January 15th, 2010 (wide); MPAA Rating: R for some brutal violence and language.

Cast: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals,

Directed By: Albert Hughes & Allen Hughes

This was Lay’s choice for this past weekend, but I wanted to see the movie also.

The movie takes place sometime in the future 30 years after “the big flash” seems to have destroyed most of the world. It’s shot in a Sepia tone, and primarily follows Denzel Washington’s character, Eli, as he makes his way towards the west coast to deliver a book that will somehow help renew humanity.

Ultimately, Eli comes across a rough western town run by Carnegie (Gary Oldman of “True Romance”) who is desperately searching for the Bible. He wants the book for the power that comes with it that he plans to exploit for his own selfish gain. He has been sending amoral ruffians out to scour the earth for a Bible. Ironically, the very book–the Bible–that Eli has been led to preserve for posterity was burned. He tells us in one scene that many people blamed the Bible for the destruction of society. Nothing remains of a once affluent society that had too much for its own good and obliterated it because it could not come to terms with religion. The survivors of the war destroyed Bibles because they felt that religion triggered the catastrophe. When Carnegie discovers Eli has the Bible, he resolves to take it away from him.

The cinematography is very good, and sets the motif well for the movie. A stark and forbidding landscape is portrayed well, and frankly, it made me feel dry. The acting was good with Denzel playing a typical character for him as the quiet but explosive hero. Oldman carries the movie coming across as sinister yet portraying an appropriately strange sense of humor. Kunis’ character is mainly meaningless and provides only an excuse for Eli to explain his mission. Her acting is overdone.

Frankly, the film severely over-inflates the influence of the Bible, especially in light of how it’s treated at the end of the movie.

Overall, this movie is probably worth watching, but wait until it is out on video.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 10)
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Jan 172010
 

In early afternoon, four armed men hijack a subway train in Manhattan. They stop on a slight incline, decoupling the first car to let the rest of the train coast back. Their leader is Ryder; he connects by phone with Walter Garber, the dispatcher watching that line. Garber is a supervisor temporarily demoted while being investigated for bribery. Ryder demands $10 million within an hour, or he’ll start shooting hostages. He’ll deal only with Garber. The mayor okays the payoff, the news of the hostage situation sends the stock market tumbling, and it’s unclear what Ryder really wants or if Garber is part of the deal.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Thriller, Crime/Gangster and Remake; Release Date: July 24th, 2009 (wide)

Starring: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, James Gandolfini, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Brian Haley

Directed by: Tony Scott

I’m behind on writing reviews. We watched this on DVD a couple of weekends ago. We never saw this in the theater. I wasn’t expecting much from this remake of the original, especially with Travolta in a starring role, and because it was a remake by an explosion-happy director (Tony Scott). But, it was actually not too bad, with some nice plot twists.

Of course, the biggest reason the movie succeeds is Denzel Washington. Washington plays a disgraced (investigation pending) transit executive who’s currently slumming as the control chief. On his shift, naturally, a 1:23 train out of Pelham (New York City) suddenly stops in the middle of its run, and a hijacker demands $10 million to be delivered in exactly one hour, or passengers start dying unnaturally.

What makes this a little more than your typical cat-and-mouse game is the undercurrent of what’s gotten Washington’s character into hot water, as well as Travolta’s character’s actual motives.

Washington and Travolta play off each other very nicely, with Washington’s flawless portrayal of a flawed man far more convincing than Travolta’s garden-variety unhinged wacko. Essentially, Washington was good enough to counterbalance Travolta’s overacting.  Washington’s Walter Garber is unsure of himself, an actual Everyman thrust into a madman’s master plan.

There are some changes from the original, true, but they don’t seem contrived; for example, Walter Matthau was a transit cop in the 1974 version, not some under-investigation suit.

The action is tense throughout, especially since you assume that the hijackers are going to have to murder someone at some point (otherwise, why have a deadline?) Somehow, the movie manages to be gripping and realistic without being over the top. There are some minor bouts of nonsense, and maybe in the final 20 minutes or so it’s a little by the numbers in its approach to action, but overall it’s not bad at all. It’s certainly a lot better than I’d expect a John Travolta movie to be, but maybe that’s because he’s the bad guy here, and they’re expected to be over the top.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 10)
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American Gangster

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Nov 062007
 

American GangsterNobody used to notice Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), the quiet driver to one of the inner city’s leading black crime bosses. But when his boss suddenly dies, Frank exploits the opening in the power structure to build his own empire and create his own version of the American Dream. He comes to rule the inner-city drug trade, flooding the streets with a purer product at a better price. Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) is an outcast cop close enough to the streets to feel a shift of control in the drug underworld. Roberts believes someone is climbing the rungs above the known Mafia families and starts to suspect that a black power player has come from nowhere to dominate the scene.

Director:
Ridley Scott

Genre:
Crime, Drama, Thriller

Cast:
Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, Lymari Nadal, Ted Levine, Roger Guenveur Smith, John Hawkes, RZA, Yul Vazquez, Malcolm Goodwin, Ruby Dee

Lay and I went to set “We Own the Night” Sunday night at Westshore. We arrived to find the parking lot nearly empty, so we rightly assumed that American Gangster might not be packed. So that’s what we watched.

This movie was long, but Anyone who has every seen a Ridley Scott film will know that his films are long. (Blade Runner, A Good Year, Matchstick Men, Hannibal, Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, all ran for at least two hours or more.) Scott didn’t set out to film another scarface, he set out to tell a story not just about Frank Lucas but rather a tale of corruption and how pervasive it is. There were a number of subplots, but they all played to the overarching theme of the movie. I never felt tired or bored, and the movie moved along at a nice clip.

This was a great biopic of New York gangster Frank Lucas, who I knew nothing about. The film shows Lucas’s relationship with the Italian Mafia perfectly, giving you almost a two way view of the city’s underworld. Denzel Washington excels at the part as Lucas, and Russell Crowe as the cop out to get him is excellent. Crowe does well portraying a cop out to just do his job but can’t do it for the corruption all around him. It’s a film about Lucas’ rise to fame in New York’s Heroin business, and his fall due to both Crowe and police persistence.

With many gangster films, you are always put off by either the acting or the story. But here this is not the case with this story. You have a true story that does not mask Lucas’s violent life but rather portrays it as a life of both murder and violence. It does not glamorize his life, and the story is and characters are well-developed but understated, despite the over-the-top lifestyles that had to be sometimes depicted. Crowe and Washington play well off each other.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (2 votes, average: 9.00 out of 10)
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