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Moulin Rouge! (2001)

The show must go on, Satine. We’re creatures of the underworld. We can’t afford to love.

– Zidler

It wasn’t my intention of doing a Ewan McGregor double feature, but Moulin Rouge! was starts on Logo when I finished watching The Ghost Writer. I thought why the hell not. This is one of those movies that everybody saw when it came out, but I didn’t. A movie set in the turn of the 20th century with music ranging from Elton John to Gloria Estefan to LaBelle to Madonna. How the hell would that work?

I saw the film later that year when Nicole Kidman was getting a lot of Oscar buzz for her lead performance. The movie landed her an Oscar nomination and won two for the beautiful set design and the lush costumes. This is a gay movie through and through. It has gorgeous lead actors, recognizable pop songs and vibrant costumes. What more could you want in a film?

A penniless writer, Christian (McGregor) sits at his typewriter banging away at the keys. He re-tells the past year of his life. His time at the infamous Paris nightspot, the Moulin Rouge, a dance hall and bordello. He tells about the great love of his life, the “Sparkling Diamond”, Satine (Kidman), who is the star of the Moulin Rouge.

Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent) has an idea of turning the club into a reputable theater. To do so, they need the help of a financier named The Duke (Richard Roxburgh). The Bohemians behind the show: Audrey (David Wenham), Satie (Matthew Whittet), The Doctor (Garry McDonald),  Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo) and the Argentinian (Jacek Koman) are trying to put on a pitch for their show, “Spectacular, Spectacular”. They need Chrisitan’s help to do it.

During the performance of Satine’s entrance number, Satine mistakes Christian for The Duke because they have a similar tux on. In her private Arabian elephant boudoir, Satine seduces Christian, but Christian thinks that he is audition to be the writer of the show. Christian woos her with his rendition of “Your Song” and she falls instantly in love with him. Satine realizes that she seduced the wrong man and hilarity ensues when The Duke comes to her elephant for their love session.

The main characters try to distract The Duke for finding out the love between Christian and Satine by pitching the plot of “Spectacular, Spectacular.” The Duke is impressed by it and decides to invest. The others didn’t realize that Satine had bewitched The Duke by delivering the same song that wooed her, making The Duke fall in love with her. The most unlikely of love triangles.

Whenever I see this movie, I have a big smile on my face. I am following along with the dialogue, the dance moves and the journey that the characters go on. Director Baz Luhrmann had the ability to turn a conventional genre on its head like he did with the rest of his Red Curtain trilogy with Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet. I was surprised that he wasn’t nominated for Best Director at the Oscars.

I am not saying that this movie is flawless. There were a couple of gaps that had me scratching my head like why didn’t The Duke pulls Satine aside when she was shaking her tail feathers at Christian? He was right next to him. Or when Satine was delivering her “smoldering temptress” look with the red dress who Satine thinks is the Duke, she arrives in a black night gown and has the same dress on after the pitch section?

I don’t like the “Like a Virgin” moment of the film. I know that it’s supposed to be comedic, but I was cringing at the thought of it.

Judgment: How could you not have fun with this movie?

Rating: 8.5/10

Gangs of New York (2002)

I took the father, now I’ll take the son.

– Bill the Butcher

I have been meaning to watch Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, but I didn’t want to devote the time to it. When I saw the “Top Five Irish Films” on Matt’s site, CyniCritics, I thought I would visit this movie. It stirred up controversy when it was campaign to pick up any of its ten Oscar nominations in 2002 when it something happened to make it shut out in every single category. I felt bad that it went home empty-handed. Looking at it now, I kinda see why.

Taking place during Civil War era New York City, the film focuses on Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man returning back to his old stomping ground at the Five Points. where sixteen years earlier, he witnessed his father, Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson), the leader of the Dead Rabbits get killed by a rival gang leader, the head of the Natives, William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis).

An old friend of his, Johnny (Henry Thomas) tells about the disintegration of the city. The name “Dead Rabbits” was never spoken of again. The members of the Dead Rabbits integrated into the Natives. The city has been divided with no clear leader to rise up against Bill and his regime. The climate of the city is ripe with tension from the Natives having boatloads of Irishman coming to the city, blacks being somewhat free and Abraham Lincoln being vilified as a traitor.

After the duo loots a house where rival fire bridges are fighting to see who would put out the fire, they bump into Bill. Bill doesn’t know anything about the son of Priest Vallon coming back, even though his gang sent him away to Hellgate: House of Reform. Every year, Bill pays tribute to the anniversary of killing Priest in a ritual every year, which he relays to his new protégé, Amsterdam that he lets him run his shady dealings.

Amsterdam tries to live out the adage, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” As an assassin tried to kill Bill, Amsterdam stops him for succeeding in what he wanted to do. They become closer. When an ally betrays Amsterdam, he is forced to regroup the old gang to rise up against Bill.

I know that Scorsese wanted to make a movie that chronicle the shaping of New York City the way that is today. I get it, but I thought this movie did not get the point across. I did not care about any of the characters. It was a typical revenge story set in the 19th century. I spent almost three hours of buildup to get premature ejaculation. What I mean by that is that I thought the big showdown was anti-climatic. Shit. It was literally two minutes. What a disappointment.

Judgment: Have you read my last paragraph?

Rating: **1/2

The Damned United (2009)

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Things are going to be a little different around here… without Don.

– Brian Clough

The Damned United was not on my radar whatsoever. I never heard of the film until Mike from Big Mike’s Movie Blog reviewed it. I heard that people were digging this movie. Typically, I don’t like sports films, especially soccer. This movie tries to delve into the genius of England’s greatest soccer coach, Brian Clough, but it barely scratches the surface.

In July 1974, Leeds United fail to make the World Cup that year. The most successful manager of the club’s history, Don Revie (Colm Meaney) leaves his post to manage English National Football Team. His successor is the opinionated Brian Clough (Michael Sheen), who has some choice words about Leeds in the past. His new team does not like the new guy.

The action flashes back six years earlier, the days that he was with a fledging team of Derby County with his assistant manager Pete Taylor (Timothy Spall). During random drawing of which teams would square off, second division Derby is selected to play first division Leeds. The Derby team is humiliated by a loss when Leeds team implements dirty tactics to win their games.

This begins a rivalry between the two clubs. If Derby wants to be the best, they have to beat the best by any means necessary. Brian wants to have a player that could help them reach the top of the second division. The management goes with the over the hill, Dave Mackay (Brian McCardie). This swift action causes strife with chairman of the team, Sam Longson (Jim Broadbent).

His new strategy works as the club move up the second division to capture the cup. The nation takes notice about his accomplishment. Revie wants to humiliate Clough as much as he can.

Michael Sheen gave a very good performance in this movie. Some parts of the movie were very good with the self-realization that we good. I wish that the movie focused more on that. It mainly focused on Clough’s obsession with getting back at Revie. When the movie was over, I thought, “That’s it.” It felt like a hanging chad.

Judgment: There is a good movie here. You have to fish for it.

Rating: ***1/2

Hot Fuzz (2007)

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Sergeant Butterman, the little hand says it’s time to rock and roll!

– Nicholas Angel

Hot Fuzz is my first foray into the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost/Edgar Wright type of movie. I remembered seeing the end of this movie and loving the over the top violence. Watching the whole movie, however, I’d rather watch the ending on its own.

The story centers on type “A”, overachieving London police officer, Nicholas Angel (Pegg) who is forcibly transferred to a village named Sandford, when he is promoted Sargent. His impeccable record of accomplishment made the other officers look bad.

His new department colleagues do not share the same intensity of job as he does. He is partnered with an inept stooge, Danny (Frost) that wants to take his job seriously, but is too lazy to do so.

Nicholas tries to apply the same tactics on the townspeople as if he did in London, but the police are blazé about the potential crimes have been committed. Nicholas becomes increasingly agitated with everyone that he comes to contact. Over time, he begins to learn that not be a stickler for the law all the time and enjoy himself in the company of other people.

I thought this movie was supposed to be satire of all those cops over the past twenty. There is a moment in this movie where the action a turn into WTF territory. It completely lost me with the ludicrous plot dealing with a cloaked serial killer that stalks the town. Nicholas wants to find who did it before another person is murdered.

The quick cuts wore down on your eyesight. The jokes were done before. The tone of the movie was supposedly “comedic” one minute and slasher movie the next. There is nothing new, nothing fresh in the film to enjoy it on a visceral level.

Judgment: Just watch the kick ass ending. There’s nothing else to see here.

Rating: **

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