Gods of Egypt

March 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites
Directed by: Alex Proyas (“Knowing”)
Written by: Matt Sazama (“The Last Witch Hunter”) and Burk Sharpless (“The Last Witch Hunter”)

With the #OscarsSoWhite controversy still fresh on people’s minds and the lack of diversity in Hollywood at a fever pitch, there is probably no worse time for a film like “Gods of Egypt.” With a cast of white, European actors playing Egyptian gods, it isn’t exactly working hard to combat the so-called “white washing” of the film industry. But can the quality of the film be enough to overcome its diversity issues? Spoiler alert: no it can’t.

As Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is set to become the new King of Egypt, Set (Gerard Butler) usurps the crown, stripping Horus of his eyes, and taking reign. In an effort to try to save the one he loves, mortal Bek (Brenton Thwaites) teams up with Horus to try and take the crown back from the merciless Set.

It is difficult to find a good place to start with the issues that plague “Gods of Egypt,” but one may start with the atrocious CGI. Right off the bat, the size differential between the Gods and the mortals look ridiculous, as if actors are playing in dollhouses. Beyond that, a lot of green screen rendering looks awful, and much of the design of computer graphics generated characters looks unfinished, fake, and unpolished. Simply put, “Gods of Egypt” features some of the worst CGI for a big budget movie in recent memory.

The actors of the film cannot be blamed for its terribleness, though they certainly didn’t do anything to elevate the material. Coster-Waldau continues to search for a film role that matches the greatness achieved by his performance in “Game of Thrones” and Thwaites is merely fine. Much of the blame should be shouldered by a really mediocre script that can’t decide what it wants to be or where it wants to go. In some scenes, it feels like a comedy, while in others the theme of love is hammered home with zero subtlety. The tone of the film also suffers, with many scenes playing as goofy, immature comedy which not only seems anachronistic, but corny as well.

Even though the movie is terrible in virtually every facet, it all seems to come back down to the core issue of a diversity problem. Where something like Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” featured white actors wearing make up to look like Egyptians, “Gods of Egypt” doesn’t even try to make it seem like their Gods are anything other than white, mostly British men. It’s a decision that feels almost equally as offensive. In fact, even Chadwick Boseman, one of the few racially diverse cast members, has a phony British accent slapped on.

Opinions of diversity (or lack their of) aside, “Gods of Egypt” is just a bad movie. It’s lame, boring, pointless, and difficult to follow. It would be one thing if there was some engaging visuals to look at, but they couldn’t even get that right. All in all, there isn’t a single quality of the film that keeps “Gods of Egypt” from being God-awful.

Brenton Thwaites & Odeya Rush – The Giver

August 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the sci-fi drama “The Giver,” which is based on the young-adult novel by author Lois Lowry, actors Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush play Jonas and Fiona, two teenagers who begin to learn there is more to life than the uniformity they have been taught in their utopian community. After being given the pre-determined jobs they will work at for the rest of their lives, Jonas, who is chosen to manage all past memories of a world that no longer exists, realizes the world he lives in is void of history and human emotions, including love.

During an interview with me, Thwaites and Rush talked about how “The Giver” is different from other recent dystopian movies targeted at teens and young adults and what they’d miss the most if they lived in a society as static as the one in the film.

With as many dystopian-themed films that have come out over the last few years where there is a central teenage character like in “The Hunger Games,” “Divergent,” and “Never Let Me Go,” what makes something like “The Giver” so different? Some people might argue this genre is getting a bit diluted.

Odeya Rush: I think a lot of those movies are different. Some have violence and action. [“The Giver”] is a really deep story and something really thought provoking. The book is considered a young-adult book, but I don’t see it as a young-adult film. It can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Brenton Thwaites: I think the film focuses on the characters’ reactions to the world as opposed to the consequences of the world towards the characters. I feel like people will be able to connect with these characters and the story.

Talk about the love story in this film. I think a lot of moviegoers who are not familiar with the book might go in thinking there is going to be this grand romance between your characters. But it’s not like that at all.

BT: You can tell them, “Sorry, but this isn’t a love story.” It’s about people that are depressed and are experience all these things, including love, but also pain and laughter and war and color. There is a multitude of different things that have been kept from our characters. This is a story about finding the truth and searching for what’s right. Still, one of the reasons Jonas fights for what’s right and for the truth is because of his love and his passion for Fiona.

Since this novel has such a strong following, what kind of conversations did you have with director Phillip Noyce about why scenarios would change in the film and what the thought process was behind those changes?

BT: Well, I have to say it wasn’t really our decision. Those were decision by [author] Lois [Lowry] and Phillip and the producers and Jeff Bridges, who was also a producer. They had conversations about how to bring as much of the book into the film as possible while making it an entertaining movie. There were things left out like how the young [characters] interact with the old [characters]. There were story plots left out that people might be disappointed with, but the main ideas were still brought to the screen.

One of those big changes was making the characters about six years older than they are in the book. What do you think a decision like that does for the film?

OR: I think making the characters older allows Jonas to discover his emotions on a deeper level. You’re only capable of so many emotions at the age of 12. You look at the world through different eyes. When you’re older and discover something like love, you can really expand on that in a movie. It makes the community around him seem harsher because you see that all the people are being deprived of such a strong, beautiful feeling.

Author Lois Lowry said in a recent interview that the film “stays true to the spirit of the book.” Was that something you feel was a major goal of this film, or were you looking at the project as something that could standalone cinematically?

BT: We had to stay true to the story in order to capture and bring in the people who read the book. That includes the original ideas and the beginning and the end. We even incorporated a lack of color to the start of the movie. If you read the book, the experience of Jonas finding the color red is a shock.

If this society that “The Giver” is set in was something you lived in today, what do you think you’d miss most about your life now?

OR: I think I would miss my freedom. I’m so fortunate I’m able to do what I want to do. It’s something that some people don’t have in this world today, but I feel for these characters because everything has been decided for them. There’s no way to grow or develop. Everything is out of their hands.

BT: The greatest memory I have of this film is discovering new music. That was so important to me. Now I can’t imagine a world without it.

Odeya, since this story is based in a society where uniformity and sameness is advocated, was it a challenge to allow yourself some flexibility with your character and not stay so static all the time?

OR: Yeah, it was a challenge, but Phillip allowed us to approach every scene in a variety of ways. There are takes where I would have to keep [all my emotions] inside. Then sometimes he would tell me to look at Jonas with love or with anger. I am a little more static and calm at the beginning, but it wasn’t like that through the entire filming process.

“Precision of language” is a phrase that is said a lot in the film. Do you think it’s something that will be trending on Twitter soon?

BT: (Laughs) I think that’s definitely something that should be said to me more often.

OR: I agree with that statement.

BT: (Laughs)

OR: No, it would be great. That would be funny if it started trending on Twitter.

BT: Precision of language. I meant “Fuck off!” not “Fudge off.”

OR: It’s a trending topic now!

 

The Giver

August 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites
Directed by: Phillip Noyce (“Salt”)
Written by: Michael Mitnick (debut) and Robert B. Weide (“How to Lose Friends and Alienate People”)

As we become more and more removed from our days in the classroom, the passage of time withers away and degrades our sense of detail and we’re left with general remembrances of our learning experiences. A dozen years ago in 7th grade, I read the dystopian young adult novel “The Giver.” I can recall enjoying the book, but reflecting back on my days in middle school and especially walking into the theater to see the film adaptation, I remember nothing about the plot or content. I can only hope that the movie is just as easily forgettable.

In a seemingly utopian society, everyone is given pre-determined jobs and their place within a family. Unbeknownst to the citizens, they also live in a society without feelings, emotions, or even color. The only connection to the previous world is a man known as “The Giver” (Jeff Bridges), who has memories of life in the past. As he is on the precipice of becoming an adult, 16-year-old Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is selected to be “The Receiver” and have the memories transferred to him. But when what starts out as discovering a whole new life turns into something different as Jonas discovers the darker parts of society he decides that everyone needs to know.

Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but in order to buy into “The Giver,” you have to ignore a plethora of absurd plot holes, most of them big enough to ride a standard issue futuristic-looking bike through. Details about climate, injections, and a general sense of how the citizens are stifled are completely murky and hard to follow.

The citizens of this buttoned-down and manipulated community are meant to be lacking in feelings and emotions, which gives it some leeway in the sense of almost vacant performances. The problem is, the line delivery in “The Giver” is so bad that one might think that the teenagers in the film accidentally stumbled onto the set after filming an infomercial. Equal blame should be put on the screenwriters whose pedestrian and simple screenplay contains a lot of dialogue in the form of questions in a way that would make Alex Trebek proud. It’s extremely difficult to keep a straight face as a character, with complete seriousness and no irony poorly delivers the line “what is love?”

The character design is also particularly awful. Thwaites as a lead has nearly negative charisma and if you’re going to introduce a character as the funny guy who could always make everyone laugh, you might want to have him say something remotely funny a minimum of once in the film, or at least make him more personable than a bag of hammers. Bridges and Meryl Streep are pretty much the only members of the cast who show any semblance of acting, though they seem generally disinterested throughout.

Loyalties to the source material aside, the premise is only mildly intriguing, with exactly one truly interesting plot line and image that is quickly done away with and wasted. Everything else feels completely trite, as director Philip Noyce searches to find deeper meaning and a way to tap into emotions and finds nothing. The one saving grace of “The Giver” is that at times it is so bad that you can have some laughs at its expense. Whether it is faithful to the book or not seems to be a moot point as “The Giver” is a completely unmemorable slog with no personality, no interesting characters, and no real reason to exist.

Oculus

April 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff
Directed by: Mike Flanagan (“Absentia”)
Written by: Mike Flanagan (“Absentia”) and Jeff Howard (debut)

For a solid two minutes in “Oculus,” it seems like the filmmakers are about to turn the possessed-object-terrorizes-a-family formula on its ear, offering up a plotline wherein one character nearly convinces us that the protagonist has actually fabricated a reality in which the destruction of her childhood was caused by a haunted mirror and not, in fact, that special brand of extraordinary human misery that sometimes tears people apart. It’s always an exciting little zap when horror movies find new ways to tell a story and subvert clichés but, no, it’s a haunted mirror after all. This doesn’t make it bad, really, just more of the same.

The haunted mirror in question was once in the childhood home of Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites), an antique brought in by their father (Rory Cochrane) to class up his office. The mirror’s arrival is followed by increasingly strange and deadly occurrences in the house. Plants die, the family dog succumbs to a mystery illness, and their mother (Katee Sackhoff) begins to lose her mind after staring blankly at the mirror for hours. The paranormal activity comes to a crescendo with Kaylie and Tim fleeing their possessed mother and father, both of whom end up shot to death; their mother by their father, and their father by Tim. Kaylie ends up in foster care, Tim ends up in the back of a police car.

Eleven years later, Tim is scheduled for release from the mental institution he’s been confined to since the shooting, while Kaylie has spent years tracking down the evil mirror on a mission to kill it. She brings Tim to their childhood home with an elaborate plan including cameras, computers, and a boat anchor meant to destroy the mirror once and for all. But the mirror has other plans, and starts to fight back.

The two plotlines of “Oculus” unfold almost at the same time, jumping from present day to flashbacks for the entirety of the film, eventually co-mingling the timelines to a most confusing effect. The climax in particular is a labyrinth of flashbacks and editing tricks that doesn’t earn its shocking ending; instead it feels like someone jamming a bunch of Final Cut Pro sequences together until they get to the part that goes splat. And storytelling tricks aside, the film can’t escape the fact it’s borrowing from predecessors like “The Shining,” “Friday the 13th” and “Paranormal Activity.” Still, though, “Oculus,” produced in part by the WWE, is solid enough for a decent Saturday night scare and mercifully wrestler-free.