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Rating History

Exodus: Gods and Kings
19 months ago via Flixster

"Exodus" is like a bag of mixed nuts, just as Ridley Scott's career. Not great, not bad. He always favored big-budget, big-cast moviemaking; prioritizing visuals and ambiance over narrative and characterization. His films always do look good, but they don't have much depth at all. So, transforming the Hebrew mythos into $140 million cinema spectacle seems just right up his alley. But once again, no surprises! The result: just another glossy and stylized junk; heavy on style, light on substance.

Cinematically, the movie does rely too much on the CGI crutch. But, I must say that visuals are feast to the eyes, going far beyond Scott's previous epics "Gladiator" & "Kingdom of Heaven" in detail, depth and scale. Ancient Egypt and grandeur of its architecture are recreated beautifully. Panoramic vista of Memphis is spell-binding; indoor/oudoor set pieces are meticulously made. Outfits of all kind are top-notch too. Moody lighting and color grading give the picture a fine-art painting feel. But, visually what I most like is the unleashing of the "Ten Plagues" -especially sequences of giant crocodiles turning the Nile red with blood, swarm of locusts, and plague of hail which pelted the Pharoh's palace-, all rendered in gorgeous digital details.

But, in 21st century CGI-laden moviemaking terms, these are not a big deal! Visuals grabbed my interest for only the first 30 minutes. That's all. From now -another crutch, a much more sturdy one- is needed to too keep the movie fresh, engaging and gripping. But, unfortunately the rest of the movie fails to deliver a memorable retelling of the story of Moses, and in the end, it turns into a messy, stereotypical action flick filled with equally stereotypical character archetypes, and overly distorted plot devices.

The most overwhelming eccentricity is that Moses is portrayed as a sword-wielding warrior, rather than a staff-carrying prophet. He was depicted as a cutthroat liberator rather than a divinely-inspired leader. At first, he was busy with slaughtering the Hittite army like "Leonidas". Then he turned into an insipid mixture of Braveheart & Maximus who waged an armed insurgency and fought a guerilla war with Pharoh's forces, and finally he turns into Spartacus as the years and the hardships pass! Even worse, Christian Bale is a total miscast with his British accent, disappointingly lacklustre performance, zero chemistry with the others on screen; he shows absolutely no believability, credibility and depth as a prophet.

Not finished yet! The choice of "whitewashed" cast is another big oddity. All lead roles; Royal Egyptians, Moses, and petulant 10-year-old God's messenger (Malak) are comprised almost exclusively of white people, while slaves/thieves/servants are all from non-whites. Hold your laughter: John Turturro plays Pharaoh, Sigourney Weaver plays Egyptian queen! Turturro looks far more ridiculous as Pharaoh Seti than his memorable role as Jesus Quintana in Big Lebowski.. All these peculiar choices and the racially discriminatory approach prevalent in the movie is nothing but insulting the viewer's intelligence.

Lots of deviations from the Biblical narratives too. No "baby Moses in a basket in the Nile", no "staff-to-snake" scene, no "God speaking from within the burning bush", no "parting of the Red Sea with the staff".. More amazing is that the movie implies "Ten Plagues" are results of natural phenomena, rather than a Divine interference in the form of miracles and/or mysteries. The very first plague -water into blood- is caused by crocodiles ferociously attacking to the fishermen and feasting on each other. The river running with blood triggers an ecosystem impairment, and other plagues (swarm of frogs, lices, locusts and flies, outbreaks of boils and murrain) follow. Even, the parting of the Red Sea is not a divine splitting of the waters depicted in Biblical accounts per se, but it is due to a quick drainage of sea bed. The following hurricane that brings water in from afar, and drowns all Egypiant charioteers is a result of a tsunami wave spawned by a meteor strike that Moses saw a night ago. Thankfully, the only hint that Scott gives us that the deaths of the Egyptian first-borns is "God's doing" -a favor for the Hebrews- when Moses tells Ramesses that none of the Hebrew children died that night. By demythologizing the sacred texts, Scott -a self-proclaimed agnostic- makes a controversial choice, and it seems he tries to make a murky balance between the demands of devout viewers and tastes of typical Western/American moviegoers. May all these help his box office prospects in the same way "whitewashing" does? Maybe, but I am not sure..

Apart from unfaithfulness with the Judeo-Christian texts, another problem is that the movie focuses mostly on a cutthroat rivalry between Moses and Ramesses, and it doesn't invite anything in the way of his spiritual struggles and emotional challenges. No any single scene about the transitions he went through as a prophet during his life. This makes "Exodus" a superhero-vs-villain sort of fully Hollywoodized, action-filled flick using every possible kind of trite cliches from beginning to end. Let's take the battle scene with the Hittites, during which Moses saves Ramesses' life. Zillion of times we saw such "cheap" formulae to elevate the director's superhero(es). Remember "300" where fearless, valiant and admirable Greeks, led by invulnerable Leonidas, are pitted against freakish, tricksy and evil Persians. In "Exodus", the same applies: Glorious, courageous and invincible Egyptians, led by invulnerable Moses, are pitted against sleazy, ugly and clumsy Hittites. Furthermore, it's quite interesting to see that Scott and his screenwriters dare to degrade the Hittite army to a horde of tribal riffraff, in fact who were the greatest and mightiest military force of its time.

To sum up, "Exodus" is a 'trademark' Ridley Scott movie; fully employing all cinematic tools at its disposal, but lousy treatment of wonderful source material in general. Suffering from a sense of superfluousness from beginning to end, and overly obsessed with boosting box office takings, what's missing in "Exodus" is a sense of sincerity and genuineness. (4.2/10)

Winter Sleep
Winter Sleep (2014)
19 months ago via Flixster

Winner of the Palme D'or in 2014, Turkish Director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Winter's Sleep succeeds on all levels as a cinematic achievement. Just as other movies in his oeuvre, Ceylan again takes a simple story, and combines it with an exquisite cinematography, well-drawn characters, crackling dialogue, stimulating use of image and sound and a well-balanced black humor. The result: a brillant piece of cinema in every aspect.

While the film's central theme seems revolving around never-ending tirades and mind games between protagonist and his family and his tenants; actually the film focuses on a man's internal struggle, an array of moral dilemmas, a clash between value systems, a complex tapestry of relationships, and matters of faith and feeling. Also, the humdrum of remote small-town life in the darkest time of winter is exquisitely reflected. Just like his previous work, Ceylan opts again to keep the running time to a considerable length in order to bring a novelistic effect to his simple yet thought-provoking story. It lasts more than 3 hours and has a slow, measured pace, but no single moment or line feels extraneous. It never drags or gets boring. Definitely, he is a story-teller in the true sense.

Like his previous works (such as "Climates", "Distant" and "Once upon a Time in Anatolia") , Nuri Bilge Ceylan again takes advantage of his background of as a photographer. The picture is gorgeous from the first scene to the last, thanks to the wintry Cappadoccian setting. Ceylan creates an out-of-this-world mood, mesmeric and melancholic, suggesting that his characters are somehow cut off from the realities of the world. The attention to authentic details is impeccable. The hotel, that cut directly into rock, serves as a perfect setting for the movie's gloomy atmosphere. Beautifully lit cave-like chambers, with crackling log fires in the background provide an excellent setting for expansively conceived, circular debates.

Likewise, all characters are well-drawn and well-cast. Incomprehension of another's feelings, and intellectual and emotional dissimilarities of characters are exquisitely portrayed, and reflected into ponderously long, but sharp and crackling dialogue. From cynical, selfish and privileged Ayd?n (Haluk Bilginer) to fragile, oppressed and embattled wife Nihal (Melisa S÷zen), and to confused, depressed and resentful sister Nermin (Demet Akba?), all characters are trapped in their cocoons of emotional loneliness and insipid existences.

G÷khan Tiryaki's cinematography is outstanding in the use of lights, shadows and dark contrasts that enhance the story to such an extent. Majority of scenes starts with a long shot in long take with static cameras. Indoor scenes are intercut with powerful close-ups, all with the flavor of artsy photography; with reverse, changing camera angles and pans and tilts. Sharpness and colors are glorious too.

Last word: Pure, plain and gripping, one of the best films of 2014. This is a kind of movie that makes you think over and over again about the distances inherent to human relationships. (8.4/10)

Inside (└ l'intÚrieur)
2 years ago via Flixster

I'm just saying.... WHOA!!!

Don Jon
Don Jon (2013)
2 years ago via Flixster

one of the sillest, emptiest and most asinine 'thing' ever hit the theaters!!!