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The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Today and tomorrow I cast out demons and work cures. On the third day, I will be perfected.

— Jesus

 

After the rapture did not happen last week, I wanted to see the controversial Martin Scorsese film, The Last Temptation of Christ. The only thing that I have heard is the controversy of having Jesus portrayed as a flawed mortal and not the savior most people know. I didn’t realize that it received the Criterion treatment, but I knew that it was nominated for a single Oscar for Best Director. I think that I would have had a strong reaction back then instead of now.

Based on the 1960 Nikos Kazantzakis novel, the movie is a fictionalized account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth (Willem Dafoe). Jesus is a mortal living his life as a carpenter living with his mother, Mary (Verna Bloom). He is haunted by bouts of fainting spells, widespread pain all over his body and the voices he hears. He doesn’t know if it’s God or the Devil talking to him.

His best friend, Judas (Harvey Keitel) visits him to ask him why is he building crosses for Roman so they could crucify his fellow Jews. Jesus takes pity on the people that he has sent on the cross. The villagers think that he is a traitor and should be killed for his actions. Whenever he walks across the town with the cross, people throw rocks at him. He is spat upon by Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey), the local prostitute.

Jesus continues to hear the voices speaking to him. He is conflicted because he doesn’t want to be the messiah. Jesus tries to make God hate him so he could make another person the messiah. He is afraid of every aspect of his life.

He wants to seek forgiveness from Mary Magdalene before Jesus sets off on his journey for absolution. She doesn’t understand why he couldn’t love her and she does for him. While he was purified on his sins, he tries to preach the word of God, but he is not the best speaker to deliver God’s message.

Meanwhile, Judas is sent to kill Jesus, but he doesn’t. He decides to join him on his ultimate mission with the apostles to preach God’s message to the people of Jerusalem. Jesus makes some selfish decisions that could ultimately effected the course of his purpose on Earth.

My first thoughts of this movie are that , why is Harvey Keitel in this movie? He has his regular accent in B.C. Israel. Say what? Ever heard of a dialect coach? I felt like the story was not intriguing enough for me to invest my time with it. Let me tell you, it was a lot of time. The movie is 2 1/2 hours long. I did not feeling anything with the movie. If you have been a regular reader of my blog, then you know that I am not a religious person. Organized religion bothers me that I have to be this person and not myself.

I wish that the movie would have provoked a response, but I think that people are not as easily offended today then they were twenty years ago.

Judgment: This movie should have been dumped into the Dead Sea where it belongs.

Rating: 3/10

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The Piano (1993)

Jane Campion’s The Piano is one of my favorite movies of all time. I regretted not having reviewed this for the LAMBs in the Director’s Chair with her and Kathryn Bigelow a couple of months ago. The movie won Oscars for Best Actress, Supporting Actress and Original Screenplay. Watching the film again made me marvel at the subtle poetry displayed onscreen.

Ada McGrath (Hunter) is a mute that has not spoken since she was six years old. She is set to be married to Alisdair Stewart (Sam Neill) who she had never seen. She has to move across the sea to New Zealand with her daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin) in tow. The boat she is traveling in is packed with crates of clothes, household items and her cherished piano.

When the ladies arrive on the beach, they have to wait for Mr. Stewart to come and take them to their new home. They had to camp out on the beach overnight until Stewart came with a party of Māori tribe members with his guide, George Baines (Harvey Keitel). Stewart learns right then and there that Ada is mute and only her daughter could interpret the words that she says in sign language.

Stewart wants to take everything on the beach, except for the piano because it would have been too much of a burden to carry. Ada insists on taking the piano with them. It is her only prized possession. It is her way of communicating what she is feeling to the world. Eventually, she realizes that she has to leave the piano behind for the time being.

The marriage is not joyous. There is not love there at all. Ada does not show any affection to Stewart. It really bothers him. When Stewart leaves for a quick trip, Ada and Flora come knocking on the door of Baines to ask to go get the piano. In exchange for getting her piano back into her possession, Baines asks her to teach him how to play. The catch is that he doesn’t want to play, he wants to see Ada plays. Their lessons become increasingly awkward as Baines slowly seduces her.

This movie is beautiful to watch. It’s very moody with the blue wash, the torrential rain and the wonderful score by Michael Nyman. The acting in this movie make it what it is. You think that you are not going to like the love story that is happening, but you are strangely drawn to it. The piano plays a major part of why I love this movie. I have this theory that when a person plays a piano, they win an Oscar. Think about it. Adrien Brody is The Pianist, Jaime Foxx in Ray, Ellen Bustryn in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Geoffrey Rush in Shine, the list goes on.

The one thing that bothers me about this movie is the Sam Neill character. I know that he is supposed to be the other guy, but I wish I could have how did he fall in love with Ada to make him do some of the things he did in the movie.

Judgment: A beautiful movie to watch and marvel.

Rating: 8.5/10

National Treasure (2004)

If there’s something wrong, those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action.

— Ben Gates

National Treasure is a movie that I was intending to see when it came out 2004. I haven’t had to the chance to until now. People were saying that it was a good action/adventure film. I would agree with that.

Descending from a family of treasure hunters, Ben (Nicolas Cage) continues the quest that was told by his grandfather (Christopher Plummer) to find a long lost treasure that were left behind by a secret organization the Free Masons centuries before. His father, Patrick (Jon Voight) tries to dissuade Ben for pursuing the treasure further. The fame and the glory become intoxicating for him.

The story that his grandpa told him years before life with the phrase “the secret lies with Charlotte” brings him to Antarctica with Ben’s sidekick, Riley (Justin Bartha) and his boss, Ian (Sean Bean) to find the Charlotte. They discovered that it is a shipwreck buried under the ice. The team investigates the wreckage to discover a usual pipe hidden inside a barrel of gunpowder. It has a ridden written on it

Ben’s brain deciphers that the invisible map to the ultimate treasure on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Ian wants that document by any means necessary. Ben doesn’t want to steal the Declaration, but Ian has others ideas. He double crosses Ben and leaves him and Riley behind to die there. At the last minute, they escape; their new mission is to stop Ian for getting to the Declaration first.

In Washington DC, the duo tries to warn various government officials about the future theft. They are not hearing it, because they are confident that nothing will happen to the document with it’s high security. The twosome heads over the National Archives where Ben assumes an identity of Paul Brown, because his family has horrible reputation to meet Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger). Ben tells her about the plan. She doesn’t believe that there is an invisible map on the back of the document.

Ben is tired of getting resistance and sideways glances about the plot. Ben decides to steal the Declaration himself. Riley is uneasy about it. Their plan is steal the document when it is treated in the Preservation Room when the National Archives when they are having their 70th anniversary gala.

That night, Ben has a subtle way in by sneaking in as Paul Brown. His boss, Ian wants to go in guns blazing. Ben gets the document first, which is a chase for Ian to get the document back. When Abigail realizes that Paul Brown was not on the guest list, she confronts him. He blindly gives the Declaration to her and Ian kidnaps her. Ian gets the Declaration. Now, that they have to have a plan to get it back from Ian.

This movie is a cross between Ocean’s Eleven, The DaVinci Code and Night at the Museum. This is a film takes the audience on an adventure, but can also open up the viewer’s mind on history told in a fun way. It was nice to see Nicolas be decent in movie, instead of his schizophrenic acting he does now. I personally did not get the tacked on love story between Ben and Abigail. It was atypical that the leads would hook up. I don’t understand that rationale.

Judgment: A nice, tight action/adventure film for the entire family to enjoy.

Rating: ****

Taxi Driver (1976)

Thank God for the rain to wash the trash off the sidewalk.

— Travis Bickle

Taxi Driver is probably one of Martin Scorsese’s top films that he has helmed. I have to confess that I have never seen the movie. Shame on me. There are some other classics of his that I have not had the chance to see yet, but I won’t name them because I might be whacked. I am making up for it by watching this film. After watching the film, I think I might have reconsidered the #39 Movie of All-Time on IMDb.

A Vietnam vet, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) three years discharged from the Marines comes back to the States to an unknown world. He is troubled by the memories of the war. He is a raging insomniac. He spends nights wandering the streets or riding on the subways. Travis seeks a job at a local NYC cab company.

Travis has an internal monologue with himself to cope with dealing with being back in civilian life. He writes his thoughts down on scraps of paper. He doesn’t like what he sees. He wants to get rid of the “scum on the streets”.

A volunteer, Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) that works for a presidential campaign for Sen. Palantine (Leonard Harris), infatuates him. Her co-worker Tom (Albert Brooks) is weary when Travis parks outside of the office and stares at her. Later, he wants to volunteer for the campaign so he could be with her more. His true intention is to ask her out.

At a local hangout, he hangs out with Wizard (Peter Boyle), Doughboy (Harry Northup), and Charlie T (Norman Matlock). They talk about the taxicab confessions about what happens in their cabs or on the radio as they drive around. One of the guys ask if he has a gun, Travis doesn’t want to have anything to do with guns since his time in Vietnam.

The more that Travis does not sleep, the more his mind begins to give way. All of his relationships are affected until he snaps. He becomes a solider is his own right: changing his drinking, eating habits and fitness regimen. He buys a couple of guns to wreak havoc on the scum of the earth.

The world of Taxi Driver is steeped in filth as it took place in 1970s. The locations to the score by Bernard Hermann evoke sleaziness. Travis Bickle is a walking contradiction that he wants to rid the scum of the earth, but he wants to save an underage prostitute, Iris (Jodie Foster) from her pimp, Sport (Harvey Keitel).

I think I had too many expectations for this film, because it is held in such high esteem. I thought the pacing was a detriment to the quality of the movie. I found myself essentially bored with it. Another moment that ruined the movie for me was when Martin Scorsese was in front of the camera. That scene in the back of Travis’ cab completely took me out.

Judgment: Ultimately, I wish that I could see more of Travis’ decent into madness. I felt that it was cut out.

Rating: ***1/2

Pulp Fiction (1994)

pulp_fiction

I’m prepared to scour the the Earth for that motherfucker. If Butch goes to Indochina, I want a nigger waiting in a bowl of rice ready to pop a cap in his ass.

–Marsellus

It has been fifteen years since the release of Pulp Fiction, which ushered Quentin Tarantino in the mainstream. The movie has been heavily quoted since its release. It did win for Best Original Screenplay. That’s says a lot. It was also nominated for seven Oscars. It’s currently #5 on the Top 250 of All Time on IMDb. It belongs there.

I owned the VHS of this movie and played it repeatedly. I could quote almost every line from the film. It sucked that my brother’s former girlfriend took the tape with her when they broke up.

It been awhile since I have seen this. After watching Inglourious Basterds, I wanted to see this movie again. I still enjoy the dialogue, the classic music and most of the performances. This fringe movie bent the rules of the Academy. It deserved a lot more acclaim.

If you don’t know the plot of the story – shame on you – revolves around multiple narrative that intercept and become jumbled up. It starts with a pair of robbers, Ringo and Yolanda (Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer) holding up a restaurant where two hit men who had a interesting day on the job, Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield (John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson).

In his signature broken narrative, there is also stories about Vincent taking his boss’s wife, Mia (Uma Thurman) on a night on the town, dealing with a skuzzy drug dealer, (Eric Stolz). The boss, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) dealing with an aging boxer, Butch (Bruce Willis) to throw a fight.

Tarantino is known for his long, drawn out dialogue scenes with some sprinklings of violence. One sequence still bothers me to this day. It’s the moment about the origin of “the gold watch”. It didn’t make any sense to me. Why was that in the movie? Why was that the motivation to Butch?

Judgment: If you haven’t seen this movie, return your movie snob card immediately.

Rating: ****1/2

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