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The Book of Eli, 2010 – Movie Review

Posted by LiveFor on January 14, 2010

Director: The Hughes Brothers
Starring: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Tom Waits, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Frances de la Tour, Michael Gambon

This great review by the good people of CBR – spoilers ahead.

The film opens on nuked-out forest, with Eli (Denzel Washington) hunting his dinner – a hairless cat – as he wanders a post-nuclear event Western U.S. After scavenging the wasteland for a new pair of shoes and having an encounter with a group of highwaymen, Eli finds himself nearing a settlement. But before he arrives, he notices another group of men harassing some refugees, simply because they have books.

Once in the town, Eli trades with a tinkerer, played by Tom Waits. The exchange reveals some of the specifics of this world. Currency is anything that functions from the old world, with Chapstick in particular being a major form of payment. Across the road, Eli enters a tavern where he meets up with the crew who harassed the people with books outside of town. A fight ensues and Eli is stopped from killing them by Solara (Mila Kunis), the tavern girl.

Eli is then brought before the man in charge of the crew — and the town — Carnegie (Gary Oldman). After witnessing the fight, Carnegie believes Eli to be the man capable of finding a book he desperately needs to consolidate his power. Carnegie controls access to the clean water in the local area, but requires a very special book to unite the area. Little does Carnegie realize, Eli already has the book, but he can also tell that this town is not the tome’s proper final destination.

Eli spends the night as Carnegie’s guest. Solara is offered to him, but rather than have a carnal encounter, the two simply talk. She is intrigued by the stranger and his odd ways and, during the course of their conversation, Solara learns how to pray. The next morning, Solara tries to teach the prayer to her blind mother (Jennifer Beals) and Carnegie learns that Eli has the book he so desperately seeks.

Thus begins the chase, with the book as the ultimate prize.

The book, as it turns out, is The Bible. After Eli’s departure from Carnegie’s bar, Solara runs after him and learns that he has wandered the country for thirty years, all the while searching for a place where the book might be safe. Meanwhile, Carnegie informs his right hand man (Ray Stevenson) that “it’s not just a book, it’s a weapon.”

The first major surprise of the film is just how willing it is to accept the existence of The Bible, especially since one of the key features of popular science fiction is the genre’s general atheism. The various politics aside, sci-fi actioners of this scale rarely enter these theological waters. At the same time, the film is fairly even-handed in its spirituality. Events can just as easily be explained in sober, rational ways as they can be interpreted as acts of God. Eli’s faith, for example, is a power that only armors himself and does not necessarily offer others the same protection.

In Denzel Washington, Eli comes off as a fairly sober, rational person. Despite claiming to hear voices, the audience never perceives Eli as being crazy. This is entirely due to Washington’s screen persona and the actor’s sheer conviction in the role. Whether he is about to decapitate a cannibal or tell Solara about the world before it ended, you never doubt the character. There is a twist to the character, however, and it’s one that Washington gives subtle hints at throughout the film, resulting in an ultimate reveal that is completely rewarding.

As Carnegie , Gary Oldman is an effective antagonist. The actor portrays the villain ass soft-spoken for the most part and fairly naturalistic. He explodes only two or three times in the film, and the first of these is terrifying. Unlike the Oldman baddies of old, Carnegie does not need to prove his lethal force with every movement. He can afford to be affable because everyone in his town understands exactly what he can do. Carnegie is not a simple villain, either. In one memorable scene, he leans in to Eli and asks of the titular character, “Pray for me.” It is a sincere request, and Oldman’s eyes reveal just how much of Carnegie’s soul has been lost because he had to be the boss.

All of the film’s powerhouse acting is aided by some great action set-pieces. The film opens with a confrontation between Eli and the group of highwaymen that are revealed to be cannibals. The scene, tightly choreographed and edited, is played in shadow, and Eli reveals a ferocity and talent that is as mysterious as the book itself. The film’s centerpiece sequence is a raid of a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere where Eli and Solara are aided by a gentle, elderly couple. With inventive camera tricks, escalating levels of firepower and even a good dose of humor, the sequence plays extremely well.

In addition to the quality of the action, the Hughes Brothers — the film’s co-directors — bring a sense of reality to the proceedings. Although post-apocalyptic settings are pretty standard sci-fi movie fare after twenty years of “Mad Max” rip-offs, you never really question the situation in “The Book of Eli.” In similar films, there is often the sense of the present day just off screen. In the cheapest of these sorts of films, you will even see working highways and people not involved with the film going about their daily lives. Shot in New Mexico, “The Book of Eli” feels vast yet isolated. When the characters arrive in the ruins of a recognizable city, it’s much of a shock to the viewer as it is to Solara, a character who has grown up with no concept of cities.

The film does, however, take its time in getting to the plot. Eli’s initial walk to the town takes twenty minutes or so, and the ruins of the world are at times a little obvious. That luxurious opening could grate on those well-versed in the genre who are itching to see things move along, but once Washington begins to interact with others, the slow speed is replaced by the tension between two points of view on the book, represented by Washington and Oldman.

While there are several twists in “The Book of Eli,” the film’s most surprising effect is the way the premise will haunt the viewer. The film invites those that watch it to put themselves in Eli’s well-worn shoes, asking of them the question, given the last copy of the knowledge found in The Bible, what would you do with it? Destroy it? Cloister it away? Perhaps use it to form a new nation under your “careful” guidance? Maybe even preserve it? While the film never takes sides or presents the audience with an answer, it allows for a consideration of all of those viewpoints and leaves the audience with an intriguing puzzle: a mind game as entertaining as the film.

Posted in Action, Film, Review, Sci-Fi | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

“Spacious Thoughts,” featuring Tom Waits & Kool Keith

Posted by LiveFor on November 19, 2009

A music video from the N.A.S.A project: “Spacious Thoughts,” featuring Tom Waits & Kool Keith, directed by Fluorescent Hill.

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus‎, 2009 – Movie Review

Posted by LiveFor on October 19, 2009

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Director: Terry Gilliam
Starring: Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Andrew Garfield, Heath Ledger, Verne Troyer, Tom Waits, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell

Score: 7 / 10

This review by me.

First things first. With this film there is an elephant in the room and let us get that out the way shall we.

Heath Ledger passed away during the making of this film so sadly this was his last film. He was great as The Joker in The Dark Knight. He was not so good in this as a character called Tony. I am not saying he was bad, he just seemed to be coasting in it. I would go so far as to say that Heath was the weakest link in the cast (well after Verne Troyer) and the fact his accent comes and goes doesn’t help the proceedings, but he does a perfectly acceptable job. Plus, despite what you may have read, this is not Heath Ledger’s film. This is Terry Gilliam’s through and through.

Like all of his films the main characters seem to exist in their own bubble of bizarreness slightly askew from the real world. In this case the real world is London and its environs. Into that world we see a strange horse drawn cart (a fantastic vehicle full of nooks and crannies) that carries the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole), Percy (Verne Troyer) and Anton (a brilliant Andrew Garfield) who is in love with Valentina.

In these first few scenes with the family / troupe all of the actors are fantastic including the model Lily Cole. They all do what they are supposed to do and inhabit their characters so well you are soon drawn into their life, squabbles and dramas as they play to people in back alleys, Homebase car parks and ruined warehouses.

We soon learn that Parnassus made a deal with the Devil or Mr Nick (Tom Waits) for immortality and youth but there was a price. It is this price that is the plot for the film as they make another deal to get out of it.

Plummer and Waits are great together. You get a sense that over the centuries they have become almost wary friends as they are the one constant they have. You see how they first met and I would have loved to have seen more of their interactions throughout the years. Mr Nick is an excellent version of the Devil. Whenever he is around you hear the buzzing of flies and Tom Waits’ gravel toned voice suits him down to the ground (I’ve just remembered he played Renfield in Coppola’s Dracula so the fly thing is mildly ironic). I also loved his reaction when….oh I’ll leave that part out.

On their journey Dr Parnassus and co find Tony (Ledger) hanging by the neck under a bridge on the Thames. They save him, but his memory is lost and we find out bits and bobs as the film progresses.

He also falls for Valentina so conflict ensues between Tony and Anton. I really must say how good Andrew Garfield (Anton) is as Anton. You really feel for the guy as he tries to keep things they same as everything changes. Lily Cole is also a revelation. I always thought she was the ginger haired model with the really young looking face, but she sure can act and looks so much better moving around then in a photograph. Like any child coming of age she wants to spread her wings and get away, but she is stuck in a position and doesn’t realise just how perilous it can be.

Then of course we have the Imaginarium itself. This is what people enter and their imagination shapes it until they are either purified by the good Doctor or taken by Mr Nick depending upon what choices they make.

It is here that Terry Gilliam’s imagination truly takes flight. Like his animated creations from the Monty Python days he basically just goes to town and the CGI fits rather well. From forests full of beer cans, cities made of sweets, endless deserts and infinitely high mountains we get some stunning imagery. We also get a very pythonesque musical number involving policemen and a Zardoz style Parnassus head.

During the film Tony enters the Imaginarium on three occasions and on each occasion we see a different aspect of his personality and learn a bit more of his past. As you no doubt know these scenes where filmed after Heath Ledger had passed away so Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell stepped in.

To be honest it works wonderfully and I feel it is a lot better this way than if Ledger had filmed those scenes. All three of the alternate Tony’s are brilliant with Depp being my favourite, but also having the shortest screen time of the three. In fact I would probably have preferred to see Depp play Tony throughout the film as it almost felt that Ledger was channelling Depp in a few scenes, a slight Jack Sparrow feel to his delivery. That could just be me though.

I do feel that Christopher Plummer is the true star of the film. He is a fantastic actor and the panic, terror, joy and knowledge he brings throughout the film are great. He is a legend.

The main trouble with the film, expecially in the first third, is that I felt my concentration going now and again. Little things kept pulling me out such as seeing the singer Paloma Faith or that bloke from the bank adverts, but that will be because there are lots of English actors in it from the TV so it was bound to happen. However, the main story is told in bits and pieces at the start. That’s usually a good thing as I hate it when you are told everything without having to think, but it could have done with being a little tighter and I think 10 or 15 minutes could have been shaved off the running time.

All in all I enjoyed it and it is always great to see a Gilliam movie with all that Gilliam flights of fancy. Just don’t go and see it to see Heath Ledgers last film. That’s no reason to see it. Go to watch it for the strangeness, the weirdness and quality acting from all of the cast.

Of course everything I have just seen could all be the senile ramblings of an old man wandering the streets of London who thinks he is Doctor Parnassus and Percy is his Jiminy Cricket.

I went to see it with Jinja, Andy M and Del who scored it as follows:

Jinja – 5 / 10
Andy M – 5.5 / 10
Del – 7 /10

Have you seen it? What did you think of it?

Posted in Comedy, Fantasy, Film, news, Review | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – New French Poster

Posted by LiveFor on October 18, 2009

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Featurette – Behind the Mirror

Posted by LiveFor on October 16, 2009

A behind the scenes look at The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus where the cast of the film talk about the characters they play.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


From the excellent Trailer Addict

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The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus – New Poster

Posted by LiveFor on October 15, 2009

parnassusbig
Source: /Film

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One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur – Trailer for Documentary about the writer

Posted by LiveFor on October 10, 2009

smjack-kerouac201I hadn’t heard of Curt Worden’s documentary until now even though it has been knocking around since last year. It doesn’t look like it has had a general release and is not yet out on DVD. Even if you are not a fan of Kerouac’s writing it still looks like a fascinating documentary.

He was called the vibrant new voice of his generation — the avatar of the Beat movement. In 1957, on the heels of the triumphant debut of his groundbreaking novel, On The Road, Jack Kerouac was a literary rock star, lionized by his fans and devotees. But along with sudden fame and media hype came his unraveling, and, by 1960, Kerouac was a jaded cynic, disaffected from the Beat culture he helped create and tortured by self-doubt, addiction and depression.

He secretly retreats to Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s rustic cabin in the Big Sur woods. But his plan is foiled by his own inner demons, and what ensues that summer becomes the basis for Kerouac’s gritty, yet lyrically told, semi-autobiographical novel, Big Sur.

The story unfolds through the narrative arc of Kerouac’s prose, told in voice-over by actor and Kerouac interpreter, John Ventimiglia (of HBO’s The Sopranos); through first-hand accounts and recollections of Kerouac’s contemporaries, whom many of the characters in the book are based on such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Carolyn Cassady and Michael McClure; by the interpretations and reflections of writers, poets, actors and musicians who have been deeply influenced by Kerouac’s unique gifts like Tom Waits, Sam Shepard, Patti Smith, Aram Saroyan and Donal Logue.

Source: Quiet Earth

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – Lots of new Character Posters

Posted by LiveFor on October 9, 2009

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Some excellent French character posters for Terry Gilliam’s new film. Christopher Plummer (above) plays the titular Doctor and Tom Waits (below) plays the Devil who is after the soul of Parnassus’ daughter played by Lily Cole (bottom)
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Below we see the late Heath Ledger as Tony and Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp and Jude Law as different incarnations of Tony whenever he enters the Imaginarium. I think we also get a glimpse of what aspect of his character the different actors will be playing.
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Source: IMP

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – New Trailer

Posted by LiveFor on October 8, 2009

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a fantastical morality tale, set in the present day. It tells the story of Dr Parnassus and his extraordinary ‘Imaginarium’, a traveling show where members of the audience get an irresistible opportunity to choose between light and joy or darkness and gloom. Blessed with the extraordinary gift of guiding the imaginations of others, Dr Parnassus is cursed with a dark secret. Long ago he made a bet with the devil, Mr Nick, in which he won immortality. Many centuries later, on meeting his one true love, Dr Parnassus made another deal with the devil, trading his immortality for youth, on condition that when his first-born reached its 16th birthday he or she would become the property of Mr Nick.

Valentina is now rapidly approaching this ‘coming of age’ milestone and Dr Parnassus is desperate to protect her from her impending fate. Mr Nick arrives to collect but, always keen to make a bet, renegotiates the wager. Now the winner of Valentina will be determined by whoever seduces the first five souls. Enlisting a series of wild, comical and compelling characters in his journey, Dr Parnassus promises his daughter’s hand in marriage to the man that helps him win. In this captivating, explosive and wonderfully imaginative race against time, Dr Parnassus must fight to save his daughter in a never-ending landscape of surreal obstacles – and undo the mistakes of his past once and for all.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – Excellent Spanish Poster for Terry Gilliam’s new film

Posted by LiveFor on September 16, 2009

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Posted in Fantasy, Film, Poster | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »