REVIEW: Carlos

Carlos
Directed by: Olivier Assayas
Written by: Olivier Assayas & Dan Franck (screenplay)
Starring: Edgar Ramírez, Nora von Waldstätten, Alexander Scheer, and Ahmad Kaabour

Five-and-a-half hours in the shoes of a terrorist that most people have forgotten about isn’t somewhere most people would want to spend their time.  Yet Carlos, the expansive epic from French director Olivier Assayas, moves through its unheard of length with enough energy to fuel five American action classics.  That fuel isn’t powered by explosions and gunfire, but by the sheer intrigue of the story and the mythic figure being deconstructed at its center.

Carlos The Jackal, a native Venezuelan, began as Ilich Ramírez Sánchez before he decided to revolt against Israel as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).  He moves from minor assassinations to bombings to bossing rather quickly.

One big surprise in Carlos is how the director shows us how many of these terrorist attacks were botched.  It becomes clear early on, when the murders are up close and more complicated than a gunshot, that Assayas isn’t idolizing his criminal.  Carlos may think he’s Scarface, clutching his testicles in front of a mirror after pulling off an attack, but his constant failures and the desperate way Edgar Ramirez portrays him show otherwise.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens (screenplay), J.R.R Tolkien (novel)
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, and Andy Serkis

An epic by any standard and a finale to this behemoth of an undertaking, LOTR: Return of the King continues the evolution of Peter Jackson’s vision.  Bigger battles, higher stakes, and a conclusion drenched in emotion wrought the team behind this movie 11 Oscars, including Best Picture.   Does this make it the best one of the trilogy?  Not by a long shot.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to call Return of the King a disappointment, it is the weakest film of the three.  Though it is still excellent in many ways, most notably the battle sequences, it is held back by Jackson’s refusal to end it.  It essentially has an ending for each Oscar it won, also putting it in contention for the longest denouement in film history.  One of the biggest strengths of the Lord of the Rings movies was Jackson’s willingness to skim it down and make it fit a movie.  The last 45 minutes of this one are almost painful even if it is shorter than in the book.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens (screenplay), J.R.R Tolkien (novel)
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, and Sean Astin

Empire Strikes BackThe Godfather Part IITerminator II.  These are all great middle entries in a trilogy, either on par or better than the first entry.  Add to that list The Two Towers.  With the quest(s) set up and the characters introduced, it’s time to have some fun.

Though this trilogy is one of the greatest literary adaptations, what really makes Lord of the Rings immortal is how it redefined special effects in movies.  While you may be taken on a largely character driven adventure across beautiful scenery in the first one, in this entry Jackson gets to show us even more of his new toys.  The Battle at Helm’s Deep, the giant Ents of the forest, and, of course, Gollum.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: Gangs of New York

Gangs of New York
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: Jay Cocks
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, John C. Reilly

In its early ages, New York City was a dirty, filthy, muddled mess, sprawling over an untamable piece of land, controlled nothing more than the violent, greedy people who were trying to civilize it. With immigration and war on the rise, it was growing faster than ever, more torn that ever and more important than ever. Despite the bloodshed, it bloomed with the nation, undertaking a rapid transformation that would summarize America’s birth and stay in the world. In more ways than one, Gangs of New York is just like the city.

The film is often one that is most hacked by critics and Scorsese fans, mostly for its historical inaccuracy, length and muddled narrative. But just like the violent mess the city was, the movie follows suit, becoming a grand, grotesque but truthful epic tale of how a city and a nation were born.

Scorsese incorporates similar themes to his other famous works. There are the power struggles with men and women, violence as a substitution for sex, violence within class, nationality and religion. This movie hits them all, and it hits them with brute force. Continue reading