The Elite Opinion Triple-Header
November was a big month for movies in 2006. Of course that's a relative statement because on a whole this year's films have been about as entertaining as rectal surgery with a rusty crowbar and a broken chainsaw.
And yet within the context of this year's cinematic holocaust this was to be a good month. And so Elite Opinion committed itself to delivering the reviews of three films to you.
Of these three movies the latter two were released in all major theaters in the U.S., but the other was actually pulled from what we refer to as "The Global Grab-Bag of Shit You Don't Want to Pay For" or "The Internet" for short.
So please, enjoy the following reviews and remember, hobos are usually near starvation and accordingly they will eat just about ANYTHING you give them.
So make it something funny.
If you were a contemporary artist you could marvel at its striking composition and post-comic visual prose.
And if you were a film student you could grapple with the relevance of the monochrome presentation in the context of the film’s near-future dysfunctionalism.
And if you were simply a film buff, you could revel in the piece’s classic detective noir form and flow.
But what if you’re none of those things, what then is Renaissance to you?
Who cares. Here’s a ticket to Deck the Halls. Try not to eat your hand while your shoveling the cardboard popcorn down your throat.
Now, for the rest of us Renaissance is an intriguing film – even if it is a bit obvious and derived.
And there's no point in disputing that its visuals really are quite impressive.
Yes, the black and white, Sin City-esque portrayal really IS merely a gimmick to cover what is, underneath the hip inky veneer, an old, old, old storyline. And sure, at times it’s obvious the director is new to the black and white format and has given us scenes that only really work in full color – but that’s okay. Because when the thick moody monochrome matches the dark brooding nature of its host scene- you can’t help but think, Christ, this is Noir to the bone. No this film isn’t covering any new ground with its sci-fi meets hard-boiled pet dick story, but it doesn’t need to. Because no one makes movies like this anymore, and sometimes the old standard is good enough, especially with a good gimmick.
Oh, and if you watch the dubbed version of this and not the original subtitled version, you should be taken to a wall and shot. The French surrendered this flick to the internet in record time, even for a nation of cowards. You have no excuse.*
* Not entirely true, it took me 3 hours to get the subs to work, and even then, they were shitty. What do you expect, it’s ze French.
So, Casino Royale didn't exactly have big shoes to fill. Actually, if Daniel Craig had spent the entire 2-hour movie on the toilet battling a villain named Bhal Movement, the world would have hailed the film as a modern triumph and a return to form.
And 15 minutes into Casino Royale, don't be surprised to find yourself wishing that you were watching Craig take a shit, instead of feeding you shit, because Craig and Co. are serving it by the truck-load.
Here's a quick breakdown of the opening scene:
Strike 1: Bond's agent partner blows their cover by continually touching his ear piece every time they radio back and forth. Apparently McDonalds has a more comprehensive training program than Her Majesty's Secret Service.
Strike 2: Bond yells to his partner, "I need him alive," when the man attempts to kill their target. Seven minutes later, Bond tries to knock their target off of a 15 story crane by whipping an empty gun at the man's head. And then, 7 minutes after that, Bond kills their target.
Strike 3: In the movie, the man that James' is so intent on taking barely-alive is a terrorist bomb maker; however, in actuality the actor is one of those French street-acrobats (A Traceu), and the man engages in an endless collection of death-defying idiocies that seem a bit out of place for an African Terrorist.
Strike 4: The agile terrorist has a gun and uses it to shoot everyone he sees – everyone EXCEPT JAMES BOND – even when Mr. Bond is only inches away. OH, no wait, after the bomber shoots so many bystanders that he actually runs out of ammo –THEN, he tries to shoot our hero. Clearly, the man is a proficient and ruthless killing machine.
Strike 15: Every. Other. Single. Chance the terrorist has to kill James – he ignores. Once, when Bond is hanging over the before mentioned 15 story crane- hanging literally by the tips of his fingers the terrorist is standing directly above him and instead of stepping on Bond's fingers or spitting on him or breathing on him... the bomber RUNS AWAY!
I actually took off my jacket, bundled it up, closed my eyes and took a nap during this scene. And when I woke up 10 minutes later – it was still going on. And, that's not even a joke.
At that point, *I* was ready to kill James Bond.
Now, it's easy to accuse this sort of nay-saying for rampant nit-picking, but hear this:
Casino Royale cost nearly $130,000,000 to make.
Just in case you missed a few of those zeros, because there are a lot of them, here is that number again:
Now, if I pay $13,000 for a brand new Kia Rio, I expect quirks, I expect issues. The car's finish might be lacking and poorly fitted. The drive train will have reoccurring problems and breakdowns.
But that's okay. I paid $13,000 for it, new.
However, if I pay $175,000 for a Bentley Continental GT,
..I expect a car that that will not only run longer than the moon will orbit the earth, but also fellate me on command.
And at that price, that's reasonable.
The same applies for film. If Space Marines 6: Return to Death Planet costs $2 million to make and the script writing was done by the director's ex-porn star wife and the special effects are done in their backyard and the boom mic is visible in every shot – that's okay. I expect that. That's reasonable.
For $130,000,000 million, I expect Casino Royale to at least make a decent effort at being a reasonable film.
And, it just isn't.
Honestly, the creators of Royale could pay some migrant worker 40k a year to sit in a room and watch the flick on repeat, spotting errors and simple faults, and he would call them gods and in his undying gratitude the Mexican-proof-viewer would name his first born son Martin Campbell.
But, for $130 mill, no one should be able to nit-pick this film. It should be impregnable. A small army of movie makers erected this glitch ridden monolith, and none of them could forge the film into a work that is anywhere NEAR reasonable.
And that's such a shame, because aside from its infestation of continuity and logistical errors, Craig is a solid Bond. And the franchise has turned its back on the over-the-top gadgets and one-liners that spoiled Royale's predecessors with camp, and the result is, without a doubt, a more serious and effective bond.
But ultimately Casino Royal still doesn't hold a candle to other quality spy movies, such as the Bourne series or even Pitt/Redford's Spy Game. And at such a steep price, we shouldn't expect a candle; we should be demanding a flame thrower.
Craig is helming the 007 films into new and better waters, but there is still too much chop in the sea to make this sailing the brilliant success it should be.
Maybe next time Bond. Maybe next time.
The Fountain opened nationally on November 22nd. And in the short time since its release, it has taken an absolutely savage beating at the hands of critics across the U.S. Almost every publication in the country has taken turns pummeling the 96 minute film by director Darren Aronofsky.
Which is actually convenient…
Because if you compile of all these noxious reviews, you'll find yourself with a who's-who-list of halfwit, jackass journalists who shouldn't be trusted to report on a high school basketball game, let alone a movie for grownups.
And guess what, we've compiled that list of halfwit, jackass journalists who shouldn't be trusted to report on a high school basketball game, let alone a movie for grownups!
ELITE OPINION'S LIST OF HALFWIT, JACKASS JOURNALISTS WHO SHOULDN'T BE TRUSTED TO REPORT ON A HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL GAME, LET ALONE A MOVIE FOR GROWNUPS:
Jack Mathews of The New York Daily News
Chris Kaltenbach of The Baltimore Sun
William Arnold of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Kyle Smith of The New York Post
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone
James Berardinelli of ReelViews
Michael Wilmington of The Chicago Tribune
Ty Burr of The Boston Globe
Lawrence Toppman of The Charlotte Observer
Rene Rodriguez of The Miami Herald
Scott Foundas of The LA Weekly
Anthony Lane of The The New Yorker
Dana Stevens of Slate
Liam Lacey of The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Pete Vonder Haar of Film Threat
Carina Chocano of The Los Angeles Times
A.O. Scott of The New York Times
David Edelstein of New York Magazine
Maitland McDonagh of TV Guide
Ray Bennett of The Hollywood Reporter
Leslie Felperin of Variety
J. Hoberman of The Village Voice
Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post
Claudia Puig of USA Today
Peter Rainer of The Christian Science Monitor
Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal
Meredith Brody of The Chicago Reader
Ruthe Stein of The San Francisco Chronicle
Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer
Marjorie Baumgarten of The Austin Chronicle
And so on and so forth…
Congratulations, you morons, you've all missed the boat. Your collective publications should be ashamed of themselves for staffing such gross incompetence. Idiots.
As you may have inferred by now, despite the media's overwhelming disapproval, The Fountain is in fact a breathtaking and revolutionary cinematic achievement.
But unfortunately, this isn't the first time that a groundbreaking work of art has been gratuitously maligned by critics. Throughout history artists have crafted masterpieces that have been misunderstood and viciously disparaged by contemporaries, only to be recognized and hailed years later as the magnificent and form changing works that they always were. The Fountain is a perfect embodiment of that classic tragedy. But, this movie is getting trashed for a simple reason:
The Fountain is different.
The Fountain asks questions that it doesn't answer. So no, the movie does not reconcile its three interwoven time lines. And no, the film does not explain its far-future, space-traveling protagonist's destination or his intent. And no, The Fountain does not stoop to illuminate which scenes are character-fantasy and which are reality. Ultimately, the Fountain is willing, ready and able to leave you scratching your big empty head.
It would seem this movie just doesn't care.
But that's not quite true. There are answers hidden deep within this gorgeous, time-warping tapestry. But none of these answers are spoon fed to you. And this is because The Fountain is very much like a dream and accordingly, definitive interpretations are elusive.
The good news is that this film is a product of Darren Aronofsky- not your subconscious and so there is a method to the seeming madness.
But it is important to understand that The Fountain is unabashedly reminiscent of a dream in nearly every consideration. It obviously LOOKS ethereal and fantastic, but beyond that, the movie's flow and form are distinctly dream-like. The normal confines of time and space are irrelevant.
Traditional movies use emotions as an excuse to indulge in the characters and events that are the true focus of the story.
In The Fountain, emotions are the true focus of the story, and everything else; the characters and events, are merely a backdrop for the epic scope of one man's love.
And using this love as a common thread, The Fountain's storyline is propelled through the fabric of our universe so recklessly that reality is left muddled and warped in its awesome wake.
The visuals, the music, the writing, the acting- they've all been plied in both subtle and endlessly grand brushes strokes resulting in a picture that is both alien and mysterious but also intensely- almost excruciatingly intimate and familiar.
There is a point in your life when you will be overwhelmed by your emotions. Your feelings will take hold of you, and in that moment, you will wish that you could push yourself beyond human limitations to satisfy whatever howling desires roar deep inside of you.
Darren Aronofsky has taken that overwhelming surge of raw emotion, and he's given one man the power to spread its potential across thousands of years and through the endless vastness of space.
And because The Fountain is a story about a man whose ability stretches as far as the drive of his emotions, and because emotions are virtually boundless, this film doesn't concern itself with any cinematic restrictions.
Ironically, The Fountain suffers critically and commercially for the very same reason that it succeeds brilliantly as a work of film. Put simply, this movie demands that its audience invests both emotionally and intellectually. Unfortunately, mainstream American viewers are utterly bankrupt of those two resources.
But that does not diminish the triumph of this film.
Through unparalleled dedication, ingenuity and integrity, Darren Aronofsky has created a work that is almost incomprehensible in its range and vision; the man has filmed love itself- in all of its matchless and unceasingly brilliance.
If you are not massively and irreversibly moved by this movie, than you are certainly not a true film lover, and what's worse, you may be woefully lacking the breadth of emotions that make us human.
For additional reading on both The Fountain and its writer/director click HERE