I had not seen a new Mel Gibson film since he went off the deep end a few years ago, but because I was such a big fan of his, I could not pass up the $7.50 Blu-Ray offer at Wal-Mart for his latest flick, the action-packed Get the Gringo. Very rarely do I buy movies that I have never seen, but this was well worth the risk as I found myself enjoying it from start to finish. Before I get into a summary of the film, let’s just say that this seemed like an 80′s action movie, meaning it was completely unrealistic in premise, yet entertaining as all hell. If I had to make a comparison, I would say it was like Payback meets Lethal Weapon meets Taken, considering the different plot twists and level of violence present. It is hard to believe this was a straight-to-video release in the United States, given the extremely high production value and $20 million budget that had the special effects of a present-day Hollywood blockbuster. The fact that this movie is so little-known and un-advertised is proof positive at how far down Mel Gibson’s career has fallen due to his outbursts and tirades over the years. Had he been in good standing with Hollywood, and had production companies and distributors not been afraid to touch any of his products, this would have easily been smash hit, no doubt pulling in at least $100 million. But alas, here we are, and even all these years later, Gibson’s penance in staying away from roles has not been enough. Say what you want about him, though, this was him at his action-thriller finest, bringing back the good old days when he was on top of the world.
In celebration of Easter weekend, I thought I would give you my favorite religious movies, and believe me, they are more than wide-ranging. Even though I have come to be weary of all religion, my own included, how can we not love a good religious epic from the 50′s and 60′s, the decades that spawned some of the best? If only for some good action scenes and maybe some inspiration, religious movies have a place in cinematic history, and below are my favorites, in no particular order.
Life of Brian
(1979; Directed by Terry Jones) Some call it blasphemous, I call it absolute genius. A true man of religion should be able to step back and make fun of himself every now and then, and this Monty Python spectacle, to which they actually received death threats, does an excellent job at that. Paralleling the life of Jesus Christ with a man named Brian, who is mistakenly thought of to be the messiah, and actually crucified in his stead, this film mocks anything and everything to do with religion. Okay, so the final “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” scene may have overdone it, but this is still a great film that should be enjoyed by all, fanatics aside. The only movie this team of British comedians did better was Holy Grail, but somehow, that does not leave a lasting impression like this one does. And of course, do not forget, “Blessed are the cheese-makers!”. 7/10 stars.
The Ten Commandments
(1956; Directed by Cecil B. DeMille) In a world where television does not accommodate religious themed movies, this epic film finds a way to be screened annually on ABC every Easter Saturday. Not many films from that time period age well, but this is an exception. Aside from Charlton Heston being one of my favorite actors, and Yul Brynner nailing the role of Ramses, the supporting cast of this film is even better. Vincent Price, who I always thought of as typecast, was able to morph his horror/science fiction personality into the role of Baka, while Edward G. Robinson is absolutely superb in the role of Dathan, the slave overseer. And one still cannot watch the parting of the Red Sea scene without wide eyes, even more than fifty years later. 8/10 stars.
(1959; Directed by William Wyler) This film is not one of my favorite religious movies of all time. It is one of my favorite any movies of all time. Period. In the dictionary, next to the term “epic”, you would expect to see this film’s poster. Winning 11 Oscars, this film has everything you could ever want—outstanding performances, breathtaking scenery, and of course, first-class action by way of a naval battle and one of the most exciting scenes ever filmed, the famous chariot race. This film also indirectly follows the life of Jesus through the life of Ben-Hur, as they cross paths several times, including at the crucifixion. The one thing about this movie that always stood out is the fact that the audience never sees Jesus’ face. It is either a shot from the back or from the front at a distance. This was done by the director intentionally, so that the audience could have in their own minds what Jesus looks like, and Wyler felt that he could not do it justice by personifying him. The same thing went for when this was a play, before the film was made—the character of Jesus was represented by a beam of light, that shone down on the stage. 9/10 stars.
The Greatest Story Ever Told
(1965; Directed by George Stevens) I always loved this movie, despite what most of the critics said, who ripped it apart when it first came out. I do understand their concerns, because one is pretty much spot on, and that is the director taking every big name actor he could find, and stuffing them into this movie in some way. That includes John Wayne, whose Midwestern drawl nearly ruins the climactic scene in the film, when Jesus dies on the cross. Nevertheless, if you can get past that, you can see what a beautiful movie this is. Max Von Sydow does an excellent job as Jesus, and gets plenty of supporting help from the likes of Charlton Heston (again!) as John the Baptist, Claude Rains as King Herod, Telly Savalas as Pilate, Sidney Poitier as Symon, and Donald Pleasance as Satan—you could make a who’s who guessing game out of a viewing of this movie. The music is also very good, and for years, I wondered what music was playing as Jesus was carrying his cross through the streets. I searched all over the place, even for the soundtrack of this film, and found nothing. Then one night, I was listening to Verdi’s Requiem, and sure enough, that was it (the opening Kyrie movement)—a truly haunting and appropriate piece 0f music. Every year, I try to watch this film on Good Friday, or at least the ending. That’s my tradition. 8/10 stars.
The Passion of the Christ
(2004; Directed by Mel Gibson) Say what you want about Gibson’s politics and his overuse of violence in this film, but it is still one of the most accurate movies ever made having to do with Jesus. Though I must admit, when I first saw this when I was 13, I was sick to my stomach and never wanted to watch it again. But then I rented it a few years later, and developed an appreciation for it. James Caviezel breathes a breath of fresh air into the Jesus character, as finally we have someone who comes close to looking like him. He is very tan, has long, dark brown hair, and digitized brown eyes—a far cry from the blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus that early Hollywood liked to show off. What gets my attention in this movie is not the endless scourging scene, one that makes you want to get up and leave the room, but the opening scene of the agony in the garden. There is such an intensity to this quiet, unassuming scene that gets the film started on the right foot. There is also one more, a little bit later on in the film, where Jesus flashbacks to himself building a table and talking with his mother, who he splashes water on as a joke. This is probably the most humanized Jesus has ever been shown. I only wish we could have seen more of that instead of the violence. 8/10 stars.
The Gospel According to St. Matthew
(1964; Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini) Out of all the films on this list, this is probably the only one where you are going, “I never heard of it.” Filmed in Italian by the legendary and controversial Pasolini, who gave us shocking and depraved films such as Salo, this is probably the most down-to-earth film about Jesus that you will ever see. Filmed using a massive cast of locals and people who had never acted a day in their lives, Pasolini is able to accomplish sheer brilliance. Jesus, played by Enrique Irazoqui, for the first time, is seen as a simple man and not an all-knowing robot. The dialogue is taken directly out of the King James version of the bible, which can lead to some boring lapses over the stretch of this two-hour plus film, but if you can get past the sermon on the mount scene, you are in for a treat. Pasolini even cast his own mother as Mary, because he loved her so much that he equated her to such a high level of standing. Over the years, the Vatican has gone out of their way to support this movie, citing how spiritual it is. At the end, you will sit in amazement at how beautiful a film this is. Then you can amaze yourself further when you learn that Pasolini was actually an atheist. 8/10 stars.
Kingdom of Heaven
(2005; Directed by Ridley Scott) The only film to crack this list where Jesus is not a character, though he is the focal point of the story. Set more than a thousand years after his death, in the middle of the Crusades, we have a fantastic film that examines the life of Templar knights and their allegiance to their religion…and their own conscience. The reason why this film does make the list is because it aligns with my ever-changing view-point of religion. Throughout the film, we are showed these God-fearing knights doing un-Godly things, such as murder, and how those around them react. Balian, played by Orlando Bloom, struggles with his inner longing of wanting to be the perfect knight. In a world where we are surrounded by religious fanaticism, both Christian and Muslim, this is an important film to see. My favorite quotes comes from Hospitaler, played by David Thewlis, when he says, “I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of god. I have seen too much religion in the eyes of too many murderers. Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness.” Sound familiar? We also have a star-studded cast that includes Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons, and Ed Norton. The cinematography and battle scenes are some of the best, and along with the theme of Bloom’s character just wanting to do good for God, even if it means going against his own religion, will really hit home with many viewers. It also tries very hard to show how Christians and Muslims can coexist in peace after all. Perhaps someday, that will be more than just wishful thinking. 10/10 stars.
As an honorable mention, I will throw in the Franco Zeffirelli mini-series “Jesus of Nazareth” as well. I remember the days when the History Channel used to play it every Saturday before Easter, but those days are long-gone. I hope everyone here has a very Happy Easter!
It took only ten minutes for me to realize that this movie was a monumental piece of garbage, and another twenty to shut off the television. This will be the first time I have ever reviewed a movie without having seen the end, and if the next 90 minutes were anything like the first 30, I am glad I didn’t. What we have here is a promising looking film on the Revolutionary War, a genre that has never really been tackled with complexity, unless you count The Patriot as being historically accurate; after all, the director insulted us by not even spelling the villain’s name right: Colonel William Tavington’s real name was Banastre Tarleton, but anyway, that is exactly how I felt while watching Revolution—insulted.
As someone who loves the American Revolution and obviously appreciates historical accuracy in films, I realize that the movies cannot mimic real life. Poetic license must be taken by the director when telling a story, I understand that, but the few errors I noticed in just the first twenty minutes should make anybody cringe.
Right off the bat, when the main character, Al Pacino, enlists in the “American” Army (it would have been called “Continental” in 1776), the officer who signs him up says, “Welcome to the United States Army”. I didn’t notice this for a few seconds, but then I had to go back and ask, “Did he really say that?” Not only did we not have a national army at the time, but we weren’t even the United States. Ever hear of the thirteen colonies? Apparently director Hugh Hudson did not. The enlistment in question happens when Pacino’s son enlists under false pretenses, and his father only signs up to be in the army with him. This is eerily reminiscent of The Patriot, when a father who wants no part of the war, Mel Gibson, only joins in the fighting because his son joined, again, without permission. Since Roland Emmerich is quite possibly one of the worst directors of our generation, I think it is safe to say that crap imitates crap. That said, The Patriot is still an excellent action movie and light years ahead of this dud.
Later on in the film, and by later I mean ten minutes, we see stacks of ammunition crates labeled “USA”. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. It was then I knew I had to turn it off, but since I knew a big battle scene was coming up shortly, I decided to give it another few minutes of my life that I will sadly not get back. For the sake of the director, I will overlook this error, but I cannot overlook the fact that there was no national supplier of ammunition at that time, especially for a militia which is what Pacino’s group of men seem to represent, though it is never mentioned. Soldiers often brought or made their own musket balls out of lead, something that is depicted accurately in The Patriot, with the character of Benjamin Martin melting down his late-son’s toy soldiers into a cast for musket balls.
Now to Pacino, I wonder why he even chose this role. If he looked at the script, he could see it was a fragmented piece of trash loaded with discrepancies, and this coming at what was arguably the height of his career, as his previous film was the box office success Scarface. The accent he speaks makes his voice hard to understand. Because he chooses to speak very low, the part Cuban (still stuck in his head, I guess), part British, part Brooklyn (odd, I know) combination makes him almost inaudible. Part of me is expecting Pacino to start talking like Tony Montana, “Say hello to my little flintlock!”
Donald Sutherland also finds himself in the cast as a British officer, who leads his troops into battle in a charge against United States Army soldiers who are barricaded behind rocks and felled trees. He does not have a sword or a gun, but a long wooden pike with a metal blade at the end. This would be accurate, given his rank, but the fact that the blade bends every time he stabs someone and no blood can be seen, hidden behind a slew of cringe-inducing scream and slash sound effects, makes this “dramatic” moment comical. The same can be said of Pacino’s bayonet, as the top is nearly curved as he is putting it on the barrel of his musket. All this could have been avoided, though, because militia were not issued bayonets at all. And one more thing about the battle: random women and children can be seen running on the battlefield during the American retreat, screaming and tripping over one another.
As for the supporting cast, I thankfully did not see much of it. Nastassja Kinski is brutally awful in her few moments because of her German accent. Whether she was supposed to be a native colonist or a British transplant, the obvious accent cannot be ignored. Richard O’Brien, of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame makes his way in as well, though I did not get to see him—part of me is grateful for that.
Lastly, the opening mob in the streets of New York was downright pitiful. The colonists, for no reason, jump into Al Pacino’s small boat to steal it, even though they are all on the same side. A woman can be seen barking the orders to repossess the boat, but at the risk of sounding like a chauvinist pig, a woman would not have been ordering men to do anything in 1776.
As for what my rating will be, it is probably the toughest decision I have ever had to make. I don’t give negative numbers and hate giving something a zero, so I suppose a 1 out of 10 will have to do, just to serve as a place holder. Maybe one day, years from now, if I have some time to kill (literally) I will pick up where I left off and finish this deplorable piece of refuse, but hopefully that day won’t be coming any time soon. This film was nominated for four Razzies for a reason—please, if you trust me and value your time, stay far, far away from this nonsense.
The director whose status was on the level of iconic, after his release of The Sixth Sense in 1999, has now been lowered to laughable. No director has ever put out such quality work, only to follow it with utter garbage.
The Sixth Sense was one of the most creative, original, and downright scariest films I had ever seen. Everyone in my age group saw it, and we were all mesmerized by what a great movie, and twist ending it had. From then on out, fans would look forward to that signature Shyamalan twist.
Then came Unbreakable, which I did not care for, but in retrospect, it looks like a masterpiece compared to his last four films.
A personal favorite of mine is Signs, even though it was panned by the critics. Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix had great chemistry, and although it lacked action and a twist, I still found it entertaining. But then would come the film that marked the beginning of his downfall.
Like most, I could not wait for the release of The Village, and I found myself enjoying it halfheartedly up until the very end. The twist ending which he was known for was not what I, or anyone else, was expecting, nor did I find it fitting for the movie. I then had to go back and think about the rest of it, and I found the whole storyline simply stupid. The film was also a massive waste of talent, that saw small appearances by Joaquin Phoenix and Adrien Brody, though they were billed as major characters. The movie also contained William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver, another two whose talents were sucked up and spit out.
An actress who no one ever heard of, and one that annoys me to no end, Bryce Dallas Howard, then became the main character, whose major scenes entailed her walking through the forest as a blind woman, hitting trees with a stick. Just the thought of seeing her face makes me want to punch something.
If that was not bad enough, he then cast Howard in what I consider the worst and most boring movie ever made, Lady in the Water. I don’t know why I even saw it, to be honest. The premise was not interesting, and I already did not care for the actors. Nevertheless, I sat through it, counting down the minutes until I could run out of the theater. As bad as The Village was, there was at least a twist ending, but Lady in the Water had none of that– or maybe it did, I cannot really remember. I ran out of the theater so fast, no one would have even known I was in there.
Two years later, it seemed he would redeem himself with The Happening, which was advertised as “Shyamalan’s First R-Rated Film”. This was a big deal, as he never went over PG-13. The film also boasted some intense and “cool” death scenes, which ended up being the only worthwhile parts of the movie.
For 91 minutes of my life, which I will never get back, we watch Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel run around like a chicken without a head, being chased by an invisible enemy, which we would later find out was chemicals released by angry plants. Yes, that’s right, angry planets. Need I go on?
I won’t even bother seeing The Last Air Bender, as I am not a fan of the fantasy genre. It currently holds a 4.3 rating on IMDB, so if I trust the voters, this one is no good either. It was also way out of his element, as every movie he had done before was written by himself, and an original idea. This film allowed him no chance at creativity, or a chance to place a twist ending.
He now has another movie coming out this September, called Devil, which he is not directing, just writing and producing. My friend, who saw Inception last week, said that during the coming attractions, when this film’s trailer was showed, people started laughing out loud when the voice-over announced, “From the mind of M. Knight Shyamalan.” This film’s synopsis is five people trapped in an elevator, with an apparent “evil” on-board. If the whole film takes place in that one room, I think I will have to shoot myself.
I plan on seeing this film, to see if he can reclaim his past glory. But this will be the last chance I give him, and if he cannot nail this, and ends up giving us another stale cookie like Lady in the Water, God help us, and RIP to his career.
I was once a huge fan of Mel Gibson. I considered him to be my favorite actor at one point. In a way, I still am a fan of his movies, but this latest spell of trouble he has been in has got me thinking twice about the star of one of the most popular cop movie-series of all-time, Lethal Weapon.
Long gone are those days, where he played the young, suicidal cop, or where he got his first start in Mad Max. Long gone are the days where he turned to directing, and put forth one of the best pieces of cinema, ever, in Braveheart. And now, long gone are the days of his later career, where he turned away from acting to give us The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto, both stunning pieces of film achievement.
But what happened to Mel Gibson?
The actor had for a long time a struggle with alcohol, and if people were not aware of it, they found out in 2006, when Gibson went on a drunken, anti-Semitic tirade blaming the Jews for all the problems in the world (among saying other things). The devout Catholic Gibson promptly apologized and set himself on a path of rehabilitation, both for alcohol and his anger. For the next four years, everything was under control.
He did, however, end up divorcing his wife of nearly thirty years, whom he had seven children with, but in Hollywood, a marriage that long is an achievement, even when it comes to an end. So Mel then started seeing another woman, Oksana Grigorieva, which was highly publicized. But still, Gibson was free of negativity.
Edge of Darkness then hit the market earlier this year, being the first time he had starred in a role since Signs in 2002.
But then, all hell broke loose. Just last week, Gibson found himself in hot water yet again, when another angry tirade was released. This time, it was on the phone with his girlfriend, a conversation that can be heard in its explicit, uncensored entirety here (warning, it is extremely offensive).
This latest little rant would not have really opened many eyes, except this time, he used the N-word, a word powerful enough to end a career.
I am a strong believer in what a person does in their private life should stay private. But this is now public, and I have to ask, just what the hell happened, Mel? You went from being on top of the world to now being viewed as lower than dirt.
But now the question is, will his career recover? That’s exactly what people asked after his incident in 2006. It did, and Apocalypto was a success at the box office. But with Gibson directing, perhaps people felt distant from him, not having to actually see his face on camera.
Gibson now has two movies coming out, both of which he is acting in. The first is The Beaver, which is slated to come out this year. And a release next year is scheduled for How I Spent My Summer Vacation, which is just in pre-production.
Obviously, since The Beaver has been completed, it will be released, but what about his future ventures? Will financiers put their money up to an actor people now view as a racist scumbag? It is definitely a long road ahead for Gibson, and such a fall from the early 90′s when he was in the prime of his acting career.
According to PopEater:
“The Hollywood Reporter is currently reporting that Gibson’s talent agency dumped him earlier this week in light of all the allegations. Gibson was repped by William Morris Endeavor Entertainment for several decades, specifically by longtime agent Ed Limato. Limato died last week leaving WME partner Ari Emanuel to cut ties with the actor, something he’d wanted to do since Gibson’s anti-Semitic tirade in 2006.”
This may just be the end of the once great career of actor/director Mel Gibson.
I will still watch his movies, though, because for the most part, I find them entertaining and action packed. But this has taught myself and everyone else a lesson, and that is to be wary of what people are like. You just never know what someone’s true motives are off camera.
Mel Gibson will undoubtedly issue another public apology, but will he truly mean it? After 2006, maybe, maybe not. There is an old saying that goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Gibson has fooled us twice now, and how many more times are coming?