Saturday, June 4, 2016

Gods of Egypt (2016)

         A pantheon is the particular set of all gods in mythology and traditions. Usually this term is intertwined with polytheistic religions such as ancient Greek, Mayan, Chinese, or Egyptian. In Egyptian mythology, like many other supreme beings; each entity is associated with a certain lifestyle, natural occurrence, or concept. For example, Anubis is the god of the afterlife while Ra is the sun god according to ancient Egyptians. I first saw Gods of Egypt on opening night in February (alongside paying forty-four dollars for a set of four tickets); and I even preordered a copy online. Unlike the heavily overused Greek pantheon (i.e. Clash of the Titans, Wrath of the Titans, The Odyssey, Jason and the Argonauts, and even Disney's HerculesGods of Egypt brought forth the first true Egyptian pantheon film alongside how the Egyptians believed how the world was created. This film is indeed a mythological creation film such as how The Ten Commandments, or Risen are "creationist" Christianity films. Gods of Egypt is about how an impossible thief (Brenton Thwaites) teams up with the exiled god of the air (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) to defeat the god of the desert (Gerald Butler) known as Set.

       The casting for this film was alright for the main characters. The mortal Bek (Brenton Thwaites, Maleficent) and his girlfriend Zaya (Courtney Eaton, Mad Max: Fury Road) were truly the stars of the entire film. Even though this film is based off of the Egyptian pantheon; these two were indeed the primary focus. I actually enjoyed them on screen: Bek the 'Average Joe' of ancient Egypt, and the very beautiful Zaya. Horus, the god of the air, was portrayed by actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) as an egotistical heir to the supreme god Osiris' (Bryan Brown) kingdom. The goddess of love (and Horus' lover) Hathor (Elodie Yung, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) was truly irresistable while at the same time 'untouchable'. Actor Gerald Butler (300) played the evil Set, a god hellbent on ruling the entire world (of only Egypt). All three of the main gods and goddess were truly unbelievably well done in their performances; and the character development between the three were pretty entertaining. Aside from these three gods, the others included Brown's Osiris, Rachel Blake's Isis, Emma Booth's Nephthys, Chadwick Boseman's Thoth, Goran D. Kleut's Anubis; and Pirates of the Caribbean star Geoffrey Rush as Ra. The only downfall between these seven beings, I felt that Boseman's Thoth was remotely annoying. Thoth, the god of knowledge, was a true letdown to me in the film (no hard feelings though). Aside from the gods, mortal architect Urshu (Rufus Sewell, The Illusionist) was the main mortal villain for the mortal thief-turned-hero Bek to conquer. Out of all of these amazing actors and actresses; my two favorites have to be the Snake Riders: Astarte (Yaya Deng; the melanistic cobra's rider) and Anat (Abbey Lee; the leucistic cobra's rider). Both truly sexy while being deadly at the same time.

        As you could already guessed it from either reading earlier posts or from the introduction, I like mythology. Since Gods of Egypt is a mythological film, you could imagine that I've already done my research to see if the film followed its story correctly. Even though a few of the things that occurred in the film is either inaccurate (i.e. the taking of both of Horus' eyes), or prolonged to introduce more action; Gods of Egypt follows the Egyptian myth on how Horus regain Egypt from the jealous Set whom murdered his father. I for one was surprised that this film almost exactly followed Horus' story. Aside from that, this film was a very good adventure film even though it seemed to have taken longer than it should. Halfway through the movie, it gets a little boring and seems to be dragging on but, at least the epic showdown is worth the wait. The storyline and character developments were perfect while the CGI seemed pretty buggy at times (examples could include some fight sequences, and ancient Egypt overall). The suits of armor the gods could transform into were extremely admiring but, I was disappointed that they weren't in the entire film itself. The two cobras, the sphinx (voiced by Kenneth Ransom), and the chaos beast Apophis were extremely well done for creature animation in my opinion.

         Before I go into my favorite scenes, I have to point out to the people that were not really giving this film a chance. First off, after reading up in social media; Egypt isn't composed of neither Arabs or Africans. Egyptians may live on the continent of Africa but, they themselves are a totally different group of people. You couldn't imagine how many people were complaining about this. All these complaints were due to the actors' nationalities from people whom weren't even Egyptian. Its not by the actor's skin but, on how well they play the part. Second, this film is about Egyptian mythology not Egypt as we all know it through history. Like I said earlier, this film is a creation myth composed into a cinematic feature. Literally the entire world was ancient Egypt while at the same time mythical creatures such as the sphinx and gigantic scarabs were living there. Not to mention that, since only Egypt was created; I didn't mind that most of the mortals (or gods) were a mix of races. When you think about, it makes perfect sense that maybe there were differences in skin to aid the expansion of the world if only Ra chooses to expand it outside of Egypt. I do apologize if I offend anyone, or I seem passionate but, some people don't have the brain power to analyze a film aside from 'whitewashing' or 'inaccuracy'. Aside from that little rant, my favorite scenes composed of the first fight between Horus and Set; when the cobra riders attack our wandering heroes; when Set merged all the gods' abilities into himself (i.e. Thoth's brain, Horus' eye, etc.), and of course the final showdown. Literally whenever the gods morphed into their armored forms made it on my favorites list.

        My rating for Gods of Egypt is a 4.5 out of 5. The film itself was quite entertaining and had something I enjoyed but, its length of over two hours seemed too long for this type of film. Yes its an adventure film like that of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, or George Lucas' Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope but, personally; it seemed to drag on with some slow parts in-between action sequences. Also lets be thankful that they ended this film without any hopes of a sequel, or a film series. Gods of Egypt did an excellent job with the story of Horus but, honestly we don't need a story for Thoth, or even Ra. Aside from that, the movie was really good for the price I paid for on opening night. I enjoyed the armored suits they transformed into (main reason why I wanted to watch it); the storyline was well played out yet longish; the characters and creature effects were amazing, and the entire concept of the film was pure genius if you're a mythology lover. If you haven't already seen it, please do so because you're missing out. I would advise watching it either out of boredom, or for a family/or friends movie night. You won't be disappointed.                           

"From this moment on, the Afterlife must be earned, not with gold, but by good deeds, compassion, and generosity. What we do, how we act in this life matters."

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

   Who doesn't love spy films? Since the thirties, espionage films had affected world culture with memorable characters; interesting villains, unbelievable gadgets, exotic locations, and of course; the womanizing. Even though espionage movies started in the early 1930's, they did become popular during the 1960's thanks to the help of Ian Fleming's fictional M16 agent, James Bond. As a charming British spy, James Bond (Sean Connery) was a complete inspiration for spy films that followed his 1962 debut in Dr. No. Either it be the wackiness of Austin Powers or the action packed Jason Bourne, OO7 played some sort of role in the success for each spy since then. While most spy films were featured as motion pictures, they also had achieved in television shows. From Get Smart to The Avengers, television spies carried on the legacy of espionage. While the British released another James Bond film (Goldfinger) in 1964, the United States had released The Man from U.N.C.L.E. on television. The United Network Command for Law Enforcement, an acronym for UNCLE; was created as an fictional arm for the United Nations, based in New York City. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was heavily influenced by Ian Fleming (thanks to co-creator Norman Felton), and became a hit after the introduction of an unlikely duo (Russian and the United States). Personally I don't know a lot about the original television series but, after watching this film; I wouldn't mind getting into it (or the book series).

    The casting in this film was truly superb. Napoleon Solo, a sixties CIA agent; was portrayed by actor Henry Cavill (Man of Steel). Cavill did an outstanding job as Napoleon Solo (no relation to Han) rather than Clark Kent in my opinion. It seemed that Cavill actually enjoyed playing Solo, and after watching his performance on both small and big screen; I personally feel that he was born to play this role. Aside from the actor, Napoleon was actually more of an American James Bond with the exception of a few flaws in his character. Being blackmailed by the CIA to become an effective spy rather than rotting in jail due to war crimes (theft) doesn't sound fun in the first place especially when you have a over-the-shoulder type of boss (Sanders; Jared Harris). On the other side of the iron curtain though, Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer; The Lone Ranger) was indeed a worthy adversary and partner. As a KGB agent whom has lots of family demons and built up rage; I truly enjoyed how he kept his accent all the way through the film alongside his overpowering Russian heritage. Aside from Napoleon and Illya, Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina) was truly an overpowering female role especially when you find out her secret later on through the film. Vikander's performance too was aspiring as well as truly remarkable. A daughter of an "ex-Nazi" whom had connections to knowing how to make a nuclear bomb, and an outstanding mechanic/driver; Gaby was truly unbelievable. Not to mention the love tension between her and Illya also made it interesting (West Berlin girl meets KGB's top agent). The main villainess, Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki, The Great Gatsby), was truly twisted while at the same time very seductive. Also lets not forget about Alexander Waverly (Hugh Grant, The Lair of the White Worm), the British creator of UNCLE and the one whom got the team together.

     The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is truly an unique historical fiction film. From the separation of Berlin after World War II to the beginning of the Cold War, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. shares its realism with other films like Miracle and even X-Men: First Class. Even the '60's feeling was kept throughout the film via photographs and camera; making it seem as though you were actually there. I also enjoyed how it changed locations throughout Europe. One minute you're in Germany trying to rescue someone from Western Berlin to killing the bad guys in Rome; this film had a wide array of beautifully set locations. I also enjoyed the subtitling as well, especially when its used for a feeling of realism. The most unique subtitling was probably when Gaby was riding in the car with her Uncle Rudi (Sylvester Groth) to lunch. My reasoning is that, even though you could hear bits and pieces; you could read the entire conversation without not knowing what's happening. Also the entire theme of the film, espionage, was carried throughout perfectly. One second you think somebody is on your team but then you get the order to kill your new partner; or not knowing if someone is indeed a double agent of sorts. The guessing and the flashbacks for Napoleon's antics had the film even better throughout it. I actually enjoyed how the film takes place in 1963 (a year before the original television show airs) makes it more into an origin story than an average approach to remakes.The credits also were helpful as you learn more about the four main characters in bios.

     There are so many favorite scenes that its hard to choose which is my all-time favorite. The beginning with the entire rescue by Solo was amazingly well done, while the Italian mountain chase was also quite entertaining. If I had to choose one scene though, it'll have to be when Cowboy (Solo) and Peril (Illya) first go on a "secret mission" together at the satellite factory. From start to finish, it was truly a highlight for the film as you begin to see a friendship forming. The best part also has to be when Solo falls into the water; gets into a nearby truck, and begins to eat while playing classical Italian music as he watches Illya try to escape an enemy boat. That's another thing I like too; the use of music throughout the film. Aside from the score, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. had an interesting set of music playing throughout the film; mainly in Italian. This film is indeed an all-time favorite. Also lets not forget to mention that the Lone Ranger kicks Superman's ass in that bathroom brawl.

    My rating for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a definite 5 out of 5. After seeing it again and again (plus finally writing a review on it), this film is truly a masterpiece. The director did an outstanding job with realism and historical standpoints throughout while telling a truly thrilling story. The story itself is truly unbelievable while the cinematography is professionally well done. For example, after shooting at Illya's vehicle in Berlin before the flashback with the briefing; how the camera zooms into Solo's face with light forming underneath his eyes while everything begins to dark around him. That right there is the best use of a camera I had ever seen. Its truly remarkable and inspiring. The character development, action sequences, and the dialogue were too perfect for this film. Aside from my off tangent "fangirling", if you haven't seen this film than you are truly missing out on life. You need to see this film. You must watch it. This is the first film in years that I actually love watching again and again (aside from Deadpool). Please, do yourself a favor and either buy it, rent it, or stream it. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a true spy film gold mine.

"For a special agent, you're not having a very special day, are you?"