Saturday, May 29, 2010

Movie Talk #5 (this time it's two for one)

Shutter Island & The Book of Eli.

So, here is the deal, because I now live in a ‘third world country’ the release dates for the movies are not quite the same as the ones for the states. I also happen to work in a small theater and that means that unless the company that makes the distribution of the pictures has enough number of copies available I don’t get the movie right away. Point in case, last week I was able to see ‘Shutter Island’ and this week it was the turn of ‘The book of Eli’. Just to paint you a better picture, apparently here ‘Where the wild things are’ hasn’t even been released yet, oddly enough ‘Iron man 2’ opened here 1 WEEK before than in the USA.

Anyway, I was more than happy to finally watch the latest Scorsese movie, being that he is a tremendous director and I’m a big fan. Now, what is there to say about a psycho-thriller? That there is going to have suspense? A twist at some point? That it’s going to be scary?
Well, yes, mark all of the above, it’s all there. What we can also say by this point in life is that Scorsese it’s not a writer/director, he’s like Ridley Scott, he takes a book or a play or even another movie from someone else and then remake it/adapt it to make his own vision. In that sense he is in a whole other league than people like Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez and the likes. Of course this doesn’t mean that any of the listed above lack talent or anything like that, just that their M.O. it’s different, hence the final product has a different taste in your mouth.

The story is based on a novel written by Dennis Lehane and it’s set in 1954. With this comes a crime noir sort of style that works as a compliment to the story. An U.S. Marshall (Di Caprio) gets via ferry to an island/prison to investigate the disappearance of an inmate. As soon as he reaches shore he is greeted by looks of mistrust and defiance, that’s never good.
As he starts the investigation we are presented with all sorts of ‘colorful’ characters ranging from inmates, guards, nurses and doctors. The atmosphere there is a mix between Mengele’s lab and Arkham Asylum, as the story unfolds we start thinking about what is real and what’s not, and as we fall into Di Caprio’s shoes we also start to doubt everything about that and those that surround us.

Now to the meat of the whole thing, if you give a tailor sheets you can’t ask him to make a tuxedo for you out of it, now can’t you? With the distinction between director and writer/director I made before I was trying to make a point; Scorsese is clearly a film maker, and a damn good one too, but the story falls short (for my taste, that is). The atmosphere he creates it’s very oppressive, he carefully selects the shots that will help to that end, managing the soundtrack to match and using the lights to convey different emotions (hats off to the photographer too), he knows the tricks on the book, and he has a very good and big book.

The main problem here is on the acting level, there is very little of that in this Island, and if there is some I’m afraid that it isn’t very good. Di Caprio is doing the same character he’s been doing since circa ‘The Aviator’ and I’m extremely sure that is the same character he’s playing in ‘Inception’ after doing something like ‘What’s eating Gilbert Grape’ it’s very sad to see that he became a one trick pony. Ben Kingsley hasn’t done anything even close to remarkable since ‘Ghandi’, so, sorry Sir. And all the rest are just filling gaps here and there.
There is one though, the talented one that gets better and better every time and still has his name out of the marquee; Mark Ruffalo proved once that he can sustain a movie without having the lead role (he did that in Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’) and here he does it again. Eat your heart out Bill Paxton!

Now whether you should or shouldn’t watch this movie it’s as usual entirely up to you. It is a little predictable when it would have been better it wasn’t, the acting is poor but it looks gorgeous. I’ll say that it might work of you want to see it on DVD, and maybe more than once, because as you watch it over and over you start to see things you missed the first time and now they make all the sense in the world and in this twisted game.
Like I said before, a tailor can’t make a tux from sheets, but maybe he can give you some damn good shirts and summer trousers.
I like Scorsese better when he comes sans Di Caprio.

Now for the other one. There is something unexplainable about post-apocalyptic landscapes that I find extremely alluring. Every time I see a movie with this premise I watch in awe and I’m amazed by the sheer beauty of total desolation and utter destruction. What doctor? I’ll be right wit’cha.
I mean, I as an artist believe that it takes twice the effort to create destruction than it takes to create something nice and perfect, but that's just me.

Earlier this year (or close to the end of last) we had two movies set in the same post-apocalyptic future; on one hand we had ‘The Road’ and on the other ‘The book of Eli’. Now, as ‘The Road’ was a sort of ‘reaction’ film ‘The book of Eli’ is an ‘action’ one. Why so?
In the first one the characters did everything they did when they were reacting to what was happening around them, in the second one they take action as a way to make things happen, now THAT’S a difference.

Also, this happens to be an Action flick, with arms, knives and nine ways to blow up stuff ‘till Sunday. The other thing about this movie that I liked is that it ALSO has a story.

Denzel Washington is a man with a mission in more than one way. He is carrying a book, a copy of the last bible in existence (if you couldn’t guess it, then it is a spoiler) trying to take it to the west, where the little voices he hears in his head tell him to go. He comes across a little town run by Gary Oldman, who happens to be on the hunt for a certain book, heh heh, wink, wink.
Now, Mr. Oldman says; I want that book,
Mr. Washington says: well, you can’t have it.

And there you have the conflict. It is very clear that when the world comes to and end the answer is to walk, to walk a lot and as Mr. Walker would say it, keep walking. So Eli (Denzel) does just that. I the way he finds other people, because let’s face it, what would it be of a post-apocalyptic future without people trying to eat each other?
Let me tell you, when the end comes the vegetarians and vegans are gonna regret being the way they are.

Anyway he travels around carrying this book and killing in order to protect it, we see how he eats, lives, moves and ‘showers’ in these desperate times. Somehow he has an ipod, a generation one or two that still works (with the longest battery life in human history) and a little device he uses to charge it (you don’t wanna walk forever without music) and that drives him into the aforementioned town ruled by Carnegie (Olman).

What is the thing that you can’t get easily and the more you have the more you want?
If you said sex, shame on you!! If you said Power, bingo. Oldman is looking for this particular book, a book that gives you the power to make all the ignorant people that survived the last 30+ years do your biddings without asking, the kind of book with the power to transform a group of ignorants into a flock of believers, you catch my drift?

So they exchange wits and gun shots all thought the movie. The directors are the Hughes brothers (Albert and Allen), the same ones that raped and mutilated ‘From Hell’ back in 2001, but this time they seem to have learned something and they use it in this movie. There is a clear influence from the “Michael-Bay-school-of-blowing-stuff-up-adorning-it-with-fancy-camera-moves” but there is also a lot of road movie, pardon me, good road movie. They made such an improvement on their work that today they are making the kind of action movie that I’m sure people like Paul W.S. Anderson or Roland Emmerich would like to do themselves (If they had any trace of talent).

The religious tone of the movie is not that bad, at least not as bad as to make me want to ignore it, and although it is ‘preachy’ it never gets to the point of getting annoying.

All in all it’s fun to watch, and it also has a message, not necessarily the one you might think at first but still a valid one. In fact I think that depending from what standpoint you decide to see it it might actually have more than one. I choose to take this one: “there is hope even when there isn’t”
Totally worth having it on DVD, not a masterpiece but at least entertaining, and with a lot more acting on it that ‘Shutter Island’.

Here I leave you with my favorite line of the whole movie. It comes from an exchange between Carnegie and his right hand man, Redridge:

Carnegie: To his men "Search for them"
Redridge: For a fucking book?

Up next: Robin Hood by Ridley Scott (I hope)


Jesse said...

I have to agree on Shutter Island being a great movie, but disagree about the acting. I thought DiCaprio was excellent, even if it was his standard fair, and even though Kingsley maybe was the least interesting he did fine. Ruffalo, I have to agree, was awesome.

I really didn't have a lot to complain about when I saw Shutter Island, it quickly became one of my favorite movies of all time. In retrospect I should have seen the twist from a mile away but happily I was caught off guard and it really knocked me back in my seat. It's definitely one of those movies I'll buy, and I rarely buy or re-watch movies.

Great reviews by the way, and can't wait to see more comics!

Nicolás Britos said...

Lisandro! Todos los directores del mundo toman novelas o películas antiguas y les dan su propia visión! son contados con los dedos de la mano -y mucho más hoy en día- los directores que trabajan con guiones originales, y aún muchísimos menos los que trabajan con guiones propios. A no ser que haya entendido mal lo que quisiste decir.

Ya que estamos, a mi Shutter Island no me gustó nada. DiCaprio me parece que está bien, pero el tema de "ohdiosmioquesorpresaincreible" del final es un recurso que ya un año después de Sexto Sentido se había quedado viejo. Sobre todo cuando no es una historia compleja e interesante que de pronto al final tiene un vuelco (como, digamos, Witness for the prosecution, la de Wilder), sino cuando toda la película es una serie de escenas inconexas que viajan hacia ese punchline final, sin el cual la película pierde sentido.

La otra no la vi, pero le tengo ganas. Denzel Washington a veces me gusta mucho (viste la de Spike Lee donde Denzel roba un banco? es buenisima)

Lisandro Di Pasquale said...

Niko, lo entendiste bien pero lo aplicaste mal. Es eso lo que digo de los guionistas/directores, que cuando hacen algo bien o mal es por merito propio, pero cuando el material original es masomenos, bueno, no se pueden hacer milagros. A mi la pelicula me sigue pareciendo floja. Angel-A de Besson me parece 10 veces mas peliculon que esta, a morir.