Jeffrey Caine

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Exodus: Gods and Kings Review


OK

Aside from impressive 21st century digital effects, this new take on the Moses story pales in comparison to Cecil B. DeMille's iconic 1956 version, The Ten Commandments, which is far more resonant and intensely dramatic. Biblical epics are tricky to get right, and Ridley Scott certainly knows how to make them look and feel terrific (see Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven), but his films are generally about the spectacle rather than the human emotion. So this version of the biblical story will only appeal to viewers who have never seen a better one.

It's set in 1300 BC, when the Israelites have been in captivity in Egypt for 400 years. Now rumours of liberation are circling, centring on Moses (Christian Bale), the adopted son of Pharaoh Seti (John Turturro), raised as a brother alongside the future Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton). When it emerges that Moses is actually a Hebrew, he is sent into exile in the desert, where he finds a new calling as a shepherd and marries his new boss' sexy daughter Sefora (Maria Valverde). Moses also has a run-in with the Jewish God, who appears in the form of a young boy (Isaac Andrews), challenging Moses to free the Israelites. As Moses attempts to spark a slave revolt, God sends seven horrific plagues to convince Ramses to let his people go.

The script struggles to have its cake and eat it too, finding rational explanations for the plagues and miracles while still maintaining God's supernatural intervention. It's a rather odd mix that demonstrates just how compromised the movie is: it's a big blockbuster rather than a story about people. Several elements work well, such as depicting God as a boy, although the screenplay never manages to make much of the female characters. And only Ben Mendelsohn manages to inject any proper personality as the weaselly overseer of the slaves. Bale and Edgerton both catch the complexity of their characters' situations, privilege mixed with personal revelations. But Scott is more interested in parting the Red Sea than taking them anywhere very interesting.

Continue reading: Exodus: Gods and Kings Review

GoldenEye Review


Good
After six years in the freezer, Bond is back. Any 007 fan worth his salt will be aware of the fact that Timothy Dalton is out, and Pierce Brosnan is in as the U.K.'s ultimate spy. Out is Bond's Aston Martin. In is a new BMW. Out with another actor playing "M." In with Judi Dench, the first female to take the role of Bond's crusty boss.

But some things remain the same. Desmond Llewelyn seems unstoppable at reprising his role of "Q." Bondian gadgets still abound. The vodka martinis are still served shaken, not stirred. And what would 007 be without a parade of girls, girls, girls!?

Continue reading: GoldenEye Review

The Constant Gardener Review


Terrible
She's a bleeding heart radical who opposes the Iraq war and feels terrible about poor HIV-inflicted Kenyans. He's a stodgy establishment lackey working for the British High Commission who loves to mind his own business and tend to his gardens. Together, Tessa (Rachel Weisz) and Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) uncover an insidious plot orchestrated by pharmaceutical conglomerates in Fernando Meirelles' The Constant Gardener, a hybrid of '70s-era thrillers like The Parallax View and this year's pro-U.N. fiasco The Interpreter. Adapted from John le Carré's novel, Meirelles' follow-up to his critically overpraised City of God is a concoction of paranoia-drenched conspiracy theories and white liberal guilt over Africa that purports to sympathize with the plight of impoverished Kenyans, but whose real agenda is the vilification of evil Western corporations and the celebration of Africa-loving white martyrs. Infested with mournful close-ups of smiling indigenous kids, Meirelles' film demands that we feel both sorrow over Africa's burgeoning AIDS crisis and fury over the superpowers' sinister refusal to truly help. Primarily, however, his film cares no more about Africa than do the story's evil villains at make-believe drug company FDH.

Collaborating with his City of God cinematographer César Charlone, Meirellas once again fetishistically focuses on destitution and suffering, shooting his squalid Kenyan locations in grimy, slightly overexposed colors and with expressionistic camera angles, turning the beautiful landscape into a harsh pit of fluorescent yellows, rotting greens, stark blacks, and blooming whites. It's a phony-baloney (if striking) visual aesthetic that, when married to the director's rollercoaster-ish hand-held cinematography, provides a sense of both immediacy and self-conscious artistry. Yet no amount of stylistic showing-off can offset the ludicrousness of a love scene between Justin and Tessa - shot in downy hues, it looks like a L'Oreal commercial with excessive zooms - or the preposterousness of Jeffrey Caine's clunky, preachy script, which gussies up its straightforward mystery with numerous flashbacks but fails to confront its central issues of African poverty and corporate malfeasance with anything approaching a rational mind.

Continue reading: The Constant Gardener Review

GoldenEye Review


Good
After six years in the freezer, Bond is back. Any 007 fan worth his salt will be aware of the fact that Timothy Dalton is out, and Pierce Brosnan is in as the U.K.'s ultimate spy. Out is Bond's Aston Martin. In is a new BMW. Out with another actor playing "M." In with Judi Dench, the first female to take the role of Bond's crusty boss.

But some things remain the same. Desmond Llewelyn seems unstoppable at reprising his role of "Q." Bondian gadgets still abound. The vodka martinis are still served shaken, not stirred. And what would 007 be without a parade of girls, girls, girls!?

Continue reading: GoldenEye Review

Rory O'Shea Was Here Review


Weak
One way to deal with disability is courageously but, as this film and its principal character demonstrate, when splashy bravura is used to mask anger, pain and unacceptance, courage may not be what's being expressed. Of course, one can always point out that the fully-abled are in no position to know or to judge the cries for help that come from being confined for life to a wheelchair. That aside, the title character of the drama takes self-assertion dangerously close to the realm of self-destruction.

The assisted living home in Dublin, known as the Carrigmore Home for the Disabled, contains a cross-section of impairments, from mild to the barely functional. In the case of Michael Connolly (Steven Robertson), who has grown up there, his cerebral palsy binds him to a wheelchair and to a speech impediment that makes verbal communication all but impossible.

Continue reading: Rory O'Shea Was Here Review

Jeffrey Caine

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