Reviews
E-mail

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King:

gen x review lord_of_the_rings_the_return_of_the_king.jpg
All good things must come to an end, but some go peacefully while others drag their feet, scream and dig in like the last winter tick on young Fido. The journey of a thousand steps began more than 10 hours and two movies ago, and the final installment of the Lord of the Ring franchise is one hell of a long film.


How Long? Well, long enough to absorb a battalion of characters and sub-plots, esoteric rhetoric concerning the nature of life, death and time, battle scenes pitting war mammoths against horsemen, inter-species love scenes, social commentary about the middle class, metaphors of fascism and addiction…


I’m sorry, what we were talking about again?


Ah, yes, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is epic in the profoundest sense of the word.


Long, complex and often difficult to understand The Return of the King is as dense and ambitious as the bible. Although often simplistic, the story conceals the self-important zeal of a Jack Chick pamphlet and the obsessive desire to prove itself monumental.


God knows that the movie isn’t boring or dull. It isn’t even confusing, though I had to keep reminding myself that it seemed clear to me when I read the series at 12 and stoned hippies could groove on its message, man. The scenery is awesome, the acting brilliant and the direction first-rate. It really does raise the bar so high that it’s difficult to imagine another blockbuster series emerging to better it.


Then why does it seem so predictable?


The third Lord of the Rings film finds all our characters marching toward their destinies: Some toward Mount Doom, where they will try to destroy a powerful, cursed ring, some toward battles or political intrigue. The fellowship of the ring still binds them to one another and the larger epic which is unfolding around them.


The presence of absolute and uncontested evil – in the form of Sauron and his army of trolls, orcs, goblins and other things that go bump in the night – allows the characters to stand out in bold relief. The world of man might be confusing, with many shades of gray, but when contrasted against the darkness of Modor even the darkest bureaucrat seems impeccably pure.


Frodo’s (Elijah Wood) mission to infiltrate the enemy’s stronghold and destroy Sauron’s master ring shows the inner strength of the middle-class Hobbit while Aragorn’s (Viggo Mortensen) ascension to the thrown of Gondor will unify all the tribes of men against the evil hordes. The personal, political and military history of Middle Earth converge on the lives of an ex-ranger and outlaw seeking his birth rite and an unassuming halfling.


Director / writer Peter Jackson has kept so faithful to the fantasy trilogy written by J.R.R. Tolkien that I’m tempted to say if there are any warts in the movie they come from the original books, and not the screenplay or production company… ((This space reserved for polite hissing.)) There’s something sinister in the films’ racism, camouflaged in the books, that pits a multi-species army of white guys against a horde of multi-ethnic, multi-colored half-breeds, and the Hobbits’ utopian middle-class value system looks a bit hokey on the big screen as well.


But the film as film is simply brilliant. Any one of the Lord of the Rings series surpasses the complete Star Wars trilogy in terms of acting, direction, cinematography and script, and I would rank Return of the King higher than the Two Towers.


That said, it’s difficult to describe how deflated I felt after this film. Maybe I’m just spoiled. I’ve seen things that would make gods shudder at the movies, and Return of the King feels more like an extension of the first two films of the series than their bombastic conclusion – a postscript to Jackson’s first attempt, as though all the energy was expelled at the moment of inception and we’ve been coasting ever since.


This certainly doesn’t make Return of the King a bad film, but somehow I expected the movie would astound me with the unknown. I expected magic from the Middle Earth like when I first imagined a Hobbit with a little help from Tolkien years ago. I wanted that new thing back; that creature pulled from the deep unknown, slick with possibility and wonder. What I got was just one heck of a movie, what I wanted was something precious.

 
E-mail

Bad Santa

Gen X Review of Bad SantaPublic service announcement: Bad Santa is not a family film. I usually withhold moral warning like this due to my nihilist background, but this is one movie I wouldn’t bring my nephews or nieces to and most of them are in their late-teens and early 20s. Be advised.

Don’t believe the stories. Billy Bob Thornton don’t need to be loved.

 

Arguably the seediest-looking Hollywood star working today, Thornton has chewed his way through every role put before him. With crude Popeye sex appeal and the desperate look of a half-starved rat, old Billy Bob has played every downtrodden loser and lowlife imaginable. Tom Hanks he isn’t – and thank god for that – because only Thornton could pull off Bad Santa, this season’s surprise comedy.


Bad Santa is a character study of a loser so disgusting and unrepentantly ugly that he gives bad taste a bad name. Willie T. Stokes (Thornton) is a man who isn’t afraid to fart in a crowded elevator or relieve himself while still in official Santa gear. An alcoholic, thief and con man, Stokes and his partner Marcus (Tony Cox) pose as a Santa and elf team in order to infiltrate department stores the day after Christmas, emptying their safes and stealing high-end merchandise.


Christmas comes early to a dirty department store in Phoenix when the pair breeze into town. It looks like any other job until Stokes meets Sue (Lauren Graham), a barmaid with a Santa fetish, and a young child who appears to want more than a feel-good ride on Santa’s lap. The eight-year-old (Brett Kelly) is fat and dull with a strange unblinking honesty that disarms Stokes, but doesn’t necessarily win him over.


When he discovers the boy’s father is in jail, Stokes moves into the home, steals the family car and drinks their supply of vodka and wine.


Stokes is one of the most miserable SOBs ever to grace the silver screen. Stumbling into work drunk, his false beard contains the stringy remains of too many rough nights holding up the bar. “What do you want?” he asks child after child. A new bike! “Oh, that’s a new one! God, kid, just go away!” Stokes comes from a world where nothing was ever given away for free, and no one would be a less convincing Kris Cringle. He snarls his holiday cheer in a voice that sounds like it’s been dragged through the gutter on the way to the bathroom.


He scopes out young girls at the mall, begins his morning with a stiff glass of vodka, and does ugly things with ugly people in their, um, most ugly places.


This isn’t your mother’s Christmas story and if you’re waiting for the classic redemption scene, you will be disappointed. Bad Santa is one of the most uncompromisingly dark comedies ever made, and the film’s beauty is the way it’s delivered: Cold, hard and without any sweeteners. Dementia of this level is unusual, because most filmmakers usually don’t have the nerve to deliver it deadpan, preferring to spice things up with irony or smug narrative devices.


Bad Santa is raw in the tradition of the best dirty joke you’ve heard, disarmingly bad, so raunchy that almost every line spoken elicits laughs. When Marcus tells Stokes “every single thing about you is ugly,” we agree (and god help the man who identifies with this scumworm), but the movie doesn’t make us feel warm and tingly at his expense. The world is seriously screwed up and Stokes is as much a symptom as a disease.


It’s difficult to know which is uglier, Stokes or the commercialization of Christmas that has led to this Santa assembly line where parents feed their kids to strangers just to get a shot of them for the family album. In the most superficial display of holiday cheer, it’s only the ritual that’s important and kids are taught to want rather than give. They sit on Stokes’ lap expecting to be given anything they want, blissfully unaware that another Bad Santa is being born in the poor part of town.


The entire cast is good, but Billy Bob is devastatingly funny. Stokes knows that he’s disgusting, but he’s unable to control himself or find a moral reason to behave differently, and Thornton doesn’t pull any punches in a role that would have other actors scurrying for some dramatic technique to insulate themselves from their performance. This is the comedic equivalent to James Mason’s pedophilic dandy Humbert Humbert in Kubric’s Lolita.


Billy Bob Thornton is quickly becoming one of the gutsiest actors this side of Steve McQueen. Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters can say what they want: This guy has got jingle balls of steel.

 
<< Start < Prev 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 Next > End >>

Page 50 of 69

Want another opinion? Roger Ebert is one of my favorite reviewers and a personal hero.

Interested in hearing more? Download the eBook bound to change your life for $2.50 by clicking here!

Buy Now