Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Hughes Brothers' -Book Of Eli-

Here's a movie that doesn't hide behind a wall and comes out with a message that is universal and incredibly strong. Now, what went wrong? The Book Of Eli (2.5/5) is an interesting and gritty effort from The Hughes Brothers but it doesn't shine with the greatness it seeks out to achieve and has a confused finale that demands a second viewing. Denzel Washington plays Eli, a bible holding wanderer that -in a post apocalyptic, bible free world- wants to go out west to preach the Bible to a population that has completely forgotten about it. I guess that automatically turns off all atheist moviegoers. For the rest of us, The Book Of Eli -out this Tuesday on DVD- is an interesting and ambitious journey into a darkened world where mercy from human beings does not exist.

Albert and Allan Hughes rarely make movies these days- so it a breath of fresh air to see them back at the scheme of things. Then you start to realize that these brothers have never topped their 1993 debut Menace 2 Society- a raw look at South Central's street gangs. The Book Of Eli is their 4th directorial effort in fiction and they almost pull it off with a curious, bleak look at apocalyptic decay but their ambitions are too high and the script too forced to ever achieve purpose. They shoot the picture with grittiness and low lighting- focusing on a sun that never shines and dessert roads that never end but they don't put a personal stamp on a movie that feels as impersonal as their last effort way back in 2001 From Hell.

The twist @ first takes the viewer back and leaves one to reflect on everything that just came before . For some it will make total sense and for others -me included- it really does not add up as a whole. It is however, gratifying to watch a movie with this many ideas and this much chutzpah in a Hollywood system that churns out less and less of them in the dog days of spring and summer. The Hughes Brothers are not going out there to entertain or to give you a good time- they want to provoke and cause debate & it seems like they have achieved that with their latest feature. I'm looking forward to their next messy vision.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

RIP Dennis Hopper

If only Dennis Hopper was like most of us, then maybe he would have gotten the appreciation & status that he truly deserved in the industry. I was truly saddened by the -albeit unexpected- death of Hopper on Saturday from a cancer he had been battling for a while. At 74 years of age the actor's life stopped but not without a slew of writers remembering the memories he gave us in what was a unique and unforgettable acting career.

He acted and directed in Easy Rider -a seminal movie that launched the rebellious madness of filmmakers in the 70's. He single handily stole the show in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now as a journalist gone completely mad in the far reaching jungles of Vietnam, he was highly delusional/brilliant as a paranoid druggie in River's Edge & -don't ever forget it- he was the highlight of Speed playing a brilliant albeit madly insane bad guy who just wants to terrorize for the fun of it (a Hopper specialty)

Hopper's best acting role was also his most controversial in David Lynch's 1986 masterwork Blue Velvet (also his best movie). Hopper played THE psychopath to end all psychopaths in American Cinema- as the notorious Frank Booth Hopper defied all cliches his way to turn a role that was so maddening and shocking into a brilliant showcase of his talents. His Frank raped Isabella Rosellini and inhaled gas at the same time- he bullied with words but also with actions, which is what made him so scary and so unique in a movie world that was going nowhere and -just like music in the decade- was turning into glam and plastic.

It is by no stretch of the imagination that I'd refer to Hopper as one of the few acting rebels to come out of the studio system in the past 30 years. He was fearless and intimate and exciting and unique. Very unique. The characters he played actually felt very real, no matter how disturbed they might have been & it is by no stretch of the imagination that Hopper invested something very personal in them. He was once quoted as saying that he wanted to play Frank Booth because he "was Frank Booth"- Hopper was many things but a genius is most definitely one of them, he will be very missed.

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