Friday, December 28, 2012

Wrath of the Titans Movie Review

Back in 1981, a special effects move was released called Clash of the Titans. It featured some fairly impressive stop-motion animation coupled with live actors. It's a cheesy classic that few people seem to remember. In 2010 was a cutting-edge remake that was basically a special effects fest. It was pretty fun, but couldn't be taken very seriously. Box office successes deserve sequels, right? So Wrath of the Titans (2012), a sequel of a remake of a old cheesy movie, was made. Why did they think this was a good idea?
A decade after his heroic defeat of the monstrous Kraken, Perseus (Sam Worthington) the demigod son of Zeus (Liam Neeson) is trying to live quieter life as a village fisherman as the only parent of his 10-year-old son Helius (John Bell). Meanwhile, a struggle for supremacy rages between the gods and Titans. Dangerously weakened by humanity's lack of devotion, the gods are losing control of the imprisoned Titans and their ferocious leader, Kronos, father of the long-ruling brothers Zeus, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), and Poseidon (Danny Huston). Their unity had overthrown their powerful father long ago, leaving him to rot in the abyss of Tartarus, a dungeon that lies deep within the cavernous underworld. Perseus cannot ignore his true calling when Hades along with Zeus's godly son, Ares (Edgar Ramirez) switch loyalty and make a deal with Kronos to capture Zeus. The Titan Kronos' strength grows stronger as Zeus' remaining godly powers are siphoned. If Kronos is able to escape Tartarus, it will mean the end of the world.
The cast that appears in this movie had to have been contractually obligated to take up these roles again for this sequel. Liam Neeson is known for some outstanding roles; Oskar Schindler in Schindler's List, Henri Ducard in Batman Begins, even some of the lousy movies he's appeared in like Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and Battleship were made slightly better just because he's in them. One of the best reasons to watch the 2010 Clash of the Titans was to hear him say, “Release the Kraken!” Then there is Ralph Fiennes reprising his role as Hades. He's a stellar actor who will likely be remembered forever as Lord Voldemort. Bill Nighy even appears for a short while. All these actors are exceptional, but given the terrible script and and sloppy story, I can't imagine why they would consent to appear in this movie. Sam Worthington's acting hasn't improved, and the only real change we see in the character is he now has a stupid-looking haircut.
The script in Wrath of the Titans is ridiculous to say the least. Right from the opening character introductions, the dialogue is awkward, forced, and corny. One of the villagers in Perseus' community approaches him and basically says, “Well, hi there! You are Perseus. You defeated the Kraken exactly ten years ago. You are the son of Zeus. You fight good. Now everyone knows what happened in the last movie. I will now remind you that you have a son who will probably fight as well as you did. For the sake of the audience I'll also remind you that I have asked you before, but do you intend to teach your son to fight?” I'm exaggerating only a little bit. No one causally walks up to someone and reminds them of their personal history and reputation as if it was a conversation starter. Sadly, it doesn't get any better after that. Fortunately, later on there's too much action for us to notice much of the laughable dialogue the characters are shouting at one another.
Like its predecessor, Wrath of the Titans is a special effects fest. The CGI artwork was actually quite good. Lots of fireballs, exploding mountains, ugly monsters, and moving labyrinth walls. The scene that has Perseus and company braving the labyrinth that surrounds Tartarus is an intricate one. The walls moved constantly; halls became dead ends, narrow corridors crushed in on our heroes, and floors withdrew themselves from underfoot. It's was like a gigantic stone clockwork device that could sense where the human-size gods were and tried to destroy them. The monsters and titans were fairly detailed and well animated for the most part. That has to be the most pathetic excuse for a minotaur I've ever seen, though; it looked more like an ugly human with horns. The minotaur scene was so short, I'm not even sure why they bothered including it.
There have been movies made where the excellent implementation of special effects are what made the movie worth watching. Wrath of the Titans is not one of those movies. The special effects and CGI work was excellent, even if the scale and spacing was vague. The characters were shallow and uninteresting, the script was laughable and poorly written, and the story was murky and incomprehensible. That significantly weakened my ability to enjoy the special effects and action. The production itself was way below the talents of most of the actors involved, but I'll excuse them on the grounds that they were probably under contract. Wrath of the Titans was not a good movie; it was not even a decent sequel. If you really want to see some fun Grecian gods clash, just stick with Clash of the Titans. It's silly and over the top, but it's fun. Don't bother with Wrath of the Titans, it's just not worth the money to even rent it.

Do you have a favorite "Greek Epic?" I thought Ben Hur was pretty good. What's your favorite? Comment below and tell me all about it!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Les Misérables Movie Review

Les Misérables is a story that has been told through the medium of film many times before. It's a classic novel by Victor Hugo and has had at least two film adaptations per decade since 1907. But the 2012 version is the fist film adaptation of the stage production. Les Misérables brought all the power and emotion of the longest running Broadway Musical ever to the big screen.
After 19 years in prison (five for stealing bread for his starving sister and her family, and the rest for trying to escape), Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released on parole by the policeman Javert (Russell Crow). After a merciful Bishop (Colm Wilkinson, who famously played Valjean on stage) gives Valjean some precious silver to sell for money, Valjean turns his life around and makes himself a wealthy factory owner and mayor of a town in France. Javert is still hunting for Valjean since he did not meet parole. One of his workers, Fantine (Anne Hathaway), has a fight when the other workers discover she is sending money to her secret illegitimate daughter. When Valjean discovers that Fantine has resorted to prostitution to care for her daughter, Valjean swears to the dying mother that he will rescue and care for the girl himself. Valjean takes the young Cosette away from The Thénardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen & Helena Bonham Carter), and she grows into a fine young woman (Amanda Seyfried). Later Cosette falls in love with a young man named Marius (Eddie Redmayne) who is deeply involved in the French Revolution. It is through Marius's friend, Éponine (Samantha Barks) that Marius discovers Cosette. In the interest of keeping Marius alive for the sake of Cosette, Valjean aids the young rebels in their revolt while being ever vigilant to avoid Javert who remains hot on his trail.
When you see Les Misérables on stage you're watching singers act; but in this movie you're seeing actors sing. Several of the actors had some musical background, while others clearly did not. Russell Crow is a great actor, but not much of a singer. He sounds like he stifling a yawn while singing; but given his lack of vocal training, he hit the notes right and did a descent job. Eddie Redmayne's singing sounded nasal, and you could see his jaw and neck trembling with his vibrato. That's not necessarily bad, but it was distracting and an indicator of lack of vocal training. Hugh Jackman was phenomenal! He has Broadway experience and he did a great job singing this iconic role. I think the best performance was from Anne Hathaway. She did very well singing, but her emotional delivery simply blew me away.
Fans of the Broadway play will be head over heels in love with this movie version. As mentioned above, this is actors singing. The classic Broadway music is secondary to the story; the opposite of what happens on stage. I've heard these songs countless times before, but seeing an actual context for them made them much more poignant. In Les Misérables, we are shown close up images of the emotions and pain the characters are experiencing as the story progresses. I've heard “I Dreamed a Dream” before, but Hathaway's delivery made you really think about the lyrics and the pain the words are portraying. That whole song was filmed in one take; the camera doesn't move from her as she weeps and sings of broken dreams and abandoned love. It was powerful, and brought me to tears.
Possibly one of the things that made Les Misérables so good was that is was recorded live. Normally for a filmed musical, the individual actors sing the parts ahead of time in a studio before gathering together to film the scenes and lip-syncing to their own recorded voices. This causes the actors to have to make any acting decisions months before ever seeing their costars face to face. That removes some potential for the actors to act off of each other and generate emotional depth and realism in their delivery. For Les Misérables, the actors sung their lines as if it were the script and later had the music added. This allowed the actors to create a real sense of emotion and projection with their characters that has not been done before in a musical movie like this.
The sets were numerous and gorgeous. The bigger sets were probably enhanced with computer graphic additions, but it was so seamless. We got a feel for the French locations with sweeping exterior shots; it didn't feel confined to a stage. The historic costumes were so detailed and believable. The muskets fired at the barricade looked authentic and even the foley art was excellent.
There was very little actual spoken dialogue; the whole script was dependent upon the songs from the Broadway play. This made the interactions between characters seem unrealistic from time to time. The shots between songs were rushed; for example, one song ends and we see two or three short shots of the unconscious Marius being taken to a hospital, a doctor tending him, Marius walking again, and then suddenly he's at the old tavern where he and his friends used to hang out before starting in on his next song. That should take a lot of time, but we're thrown a couple of shots to suggest the passing of time in a matter of seconds to lead into the next song. While it's clear what has happened, it made the flow of the movie a bit choppy and rushed.
If you enjoy musicals, you will enjoy Les Misérables a lot. This was a powerful rendition of the Broadway classic, and it brings the story and characters to life on a level of reality that cannot be done on a stage. It's a classic story of broken dreams, unrequited love, passion, sacrifice, redemption, and the survival of the human spirit. I've never seen Les Misérables on stage, but this version does the story and music justice. If you don't enjoy musicals much on general principle, you'll likely be waving a white flag of exhausted defeat well before rebels wave the French tricolors. I think this was a beautiful movie and easily one of the best films of 2012. Not many movies can cause me to tear up multiple times, and Les Misérables certainly did. Go see it in theaters while you can. I recommend that you consider buying a copy for your home collection as well.

What is a Broadway Musical that you would love to see made into a major motion picture? Comment below and tell me why!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Big Fish Movie Review

Tim Burton films are kind of hit or miss. In recent years he's been doing little more than directing unnecessary remakes. These have served little purpose other than showcasing his unique and weird art style. Tim Burton isn't a bad director; his remakes are enjoyable enough, but have seemed uninspired lately. He's written and directed several films of his own design that were very good; Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice come to mind. Big Fish (2003) is much more grounded than his other recent films, and doesn't feature his signature art style as much.
William Bloom (Billy Crudup) never really knew his father, Edward (Albert Finney) outside of the tall tales he told Will about growing up, making his way in the world, and meeting his mother (Alison Lohman as a young woman, and Jessica Lange in older age). Will and his young wife, Josephine (Marion Cotillard), are summoned from their home in Paris to Will's old home in Alabama after Edward's health takes a turn for the worse. He's not expected to live much longer, so William and Josephine hold bedside vigil as the old man recollects elaborate tales of his youth (in which he is played by Ewan McGregor). Still doubting all the legend and folklore he heard growing up, William makes a journey to meet a mysterious woman (Helena Bonham Carter) from whom Edward had bought property. Even as Will meets people from his father's past, it's still impossible for him to separate fact from myth, and Will fears losing his father without ever really knowing him.
Tim Burton likes telling stories that play on creepiness coupled with cuteness. The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride come to mind; they feature spindly characters with huge, sunken eyes; the sets are strewn with hard angles, spirals, and stripes. Even in live action films, these visuals appear regularly and are Tim Burton's signature style. Big Fish doesn't have this kind of style, and indeed, classic “Tim-Burton-isms” don't manifest very strongly in Big Fish. It almost seems like he was going in a new direction with Big Fish, though he quickly reverted back to his old style once Charlie and the Chocolate Factory came out. This refreshing change of pace gave the movie a much more grounded feel, in spite of the surreal visuals used in Edward's many tall tales.
Big Fish draws inspiration from a lot of fairy tale and myth. Not specifically stories you may have heard before, but similar enough to evoke thoughts of bedtime stories you may have heard as a child. This film helps us understand how important myths can be in our lives. They bring fun, adventure, and romance into our lives where it might otherwise not exist, and makes things more memorable and enjoyable. Particularly in the case of Big Fish, it shows us how as we approach the end of our lives, we depend on the legends we leave behind to give those lives meaning. We tell these stories not only to others, but to ourselves. Certainly there is truth in them, but the way our stories are told makes them special.
Burton weaves a very heartfelt story that will likely make us swoon along with the romance, and move us to the edge of our seats as Edward relates one of his stories. Burton likes to tell stories with visual effects, and he uses Edward's bizarre tales as a segue into visually rich flashbacks. They involve a witch whose glass eye reflects the way her visitors will die, and a circus run by a zany ringleader (Danny DeVito), making friends with Karl the Giant (Matthew McGrory), a catfish the size of a shark, and the time he parachutes onto the stage of a Red Army talent show in China where he meets Ping and Jing, a conjoined vocal duo sharing two legs. The visual effects are fantastic to behold, but they don't detract from the sweetness and sentimentality of the story.
Big Fish is a compelling look at father-son relationships, and the child coming to terms with the parent's mortality. As they try to make peace with one another, Edward instills the value of a good story in his son, and Will learns how myth makes life worth living. Edward is the kind of Grandpa you'd want to have tell tall tales to your children. The characters are so believable and even though they are at odds with one another, it is easy to relate to them.
Big Fish concludes with a touching tear-and-a-smile quality. You'll laugh and likely be choked up as the story unfolds. It's romantic, humorous, touching, sad, and happy. It's a new direction from Burton since he relies on powerful familial emotions rather than wacky visual splendor to sell the movie; he treads closer to the real world in Big Fish than he has in any of his other films. I would really like to see Burton do more movies like this one. I really feel that Burton allowed himself to shine with Big Fish since he goes out on a limb to do something he typically doesn't do. As a red flag to parents, there are a few brief scenes of nudity which are used artistically rather than sexually. I don't think it necessarily needs to be kept from younger viewers; especially since the intelligent way it is written wouldn't insult kid or adult audiences. Big Fish is a very good movie, I still get choked up every time I see it. This one is worth owning and seeing again and again.

What's your favorite Tim Burton movie? Why do you like it so much? Comment below and tell me why!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Movie Review

I'm sure most of us could tell some stories about rallying up friends to see the memorable Lord of the Rings movies. I hosted several all-day events where all three of the extended Lord of the Rings movies were watched in one day. They were great journeys that we, as movie goers, took to Middle-Earth. Finally we all get to make a whole new journey to Middle-Earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), and it was well worth it!
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is swept into a quest to reclaim the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, and Sorcerers. Although their goal lies to the East in wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, they must first escape the goblin tunnels where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever ... Gollum (Andy Serkis). Here, alone with Gollum on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even himself, but he also gains possession of Gollum's "precious" ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities.
As a long time fan of Tolkien's stories and of The Lord of the Rings, I was chomping at the bit to see The Hobbit. Peter Jackson returned to direct this movie with every bit as much love and detail as The Lord of the Rings. It really felt like we were taking a new journey to Middle-Earth, and it was just as captivating as it was before. We revisit some key locations that we had seen in the previous films, and they looked just as detailed and beautiful as they did before. We saw familiar and new rooms in both Bagend (Bilbo's home) and Rivendell. We get to see familiar characters as they were before Lord of the Rings, which included some unexpected cameos, and plenty of new characters.
One of the most endearing things about Lord of the Rings is that they were perfectly spot on to how we imagined them from reading the books. The Hobbit does this, too, especially the scene where Bilbo is confronted by Gollum. If you've ever seen a movie based on a book that did such a perfect job depicting the story you read, you'll know what kind of a euphoric feeling it is to see it depicted just right on the screen. The Hobbit has several moments like this.
On the other hand, it's also got several scenes that were completely new to me. Peter Jackson obtained the rights to film material that only existed as J.R.R. Tolkien's notes. This expanded the story quite a lot, and made us aware of The Dark Lord Sauron's presence in this story and how events in The Hobbit set into motion events that lead up to The Lord of the Rings. It makes The Hobbit much more meaningful as part of a much bigger epic. However, I think this is also a weak point. I think the peripheral story points sometimes felt like red herrings that drew us away from the main story which gave the movie a kind of uneven and sometimes vaguely confusing quality. But "All good stories," as Gandalf intones, "deserve embellishment." These odd back stories were usually pertinent to the overall story; they weren't simply thrown in to pad the length of the movie. I still feel like some were unnecessary, but I have faith that as more of the story unfolds in future instalments, their purpose will become more clear.
The characters were spot on. Bilbo was a lovable, scared, and very reserved character that we got to see grow and become a hero. He's far from the stuff of legend yet, but he's getting there. Gandalf is still the wise sage with meaningful advice that even I took to heart. Gollum is just as wacky, bizarre, creepy, funny, and tragic as he was before. Thorin Oakenshield was an amazing character who had a strong presence and some interesting personality flaws with which he struggles. Nevertheless, he was an outstanding character whom I would follow on epic adventures given the chance.
I think part of what made The Lord of the Rings so memorable was the music. When a certain melody begins, who can help but think of the quaint and peaceful Shire where the Hobbits live? Or the ominous string instruments that permeate scenes where characters are tempted by The One Ring? We get a whole new set of music in The Hobbit, and it is gorgeous and feels as iconic and memorable as the music from The Lord of the Rings. Right from the opening credits I couldn't help but think that this is what Middle-Earth sounds like. The Dwarven company sings songs of their lost kingdom with great reverence that sounds like ancient hymns that would have been sung by druids of old; it sounds beautiful.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a really good first course in a whole new trilogy. The characters were great, the script was good, the sets were beautiful, and the special effects where fantastic! The pacing is a bit slow at the beginning, but picks up as soon as they leave The Shire. This is a really good adventure story that features some great characters who develop and grow. It ends on a positive note, but we absolutely get the feeling that bigger and greater things lie ahead for our new heroes. I'm anxiously looking forward to the next installment of The Hobbit trilogy. I highly recommend catching this in theaters while you can. I have a feeling this will be as big a cinema event as The Lord of the Rings trilogy was; you shouldn't miss out on it. It will be worth buying on Blu-Ray, but I recommend holding out for the extended edition. I enjoyed this so much, I want to get a copy of the soundtrack in addition to the extended edition Blu-Ray!

What scenes are you particularly looking forward to in the next two Hobbit movies? Comment below and tell me all about it!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Red Dawn Movie Review

When I was about 9 or 10 years old I watched my first PG-13 movie; the 1984 Red Dawn. I don’t remember much of it, but it was a bit too violent for my tastes back then.  A lot has happened in the world since 1984, and I could see why someone thought making a remake might be a good idea. Incidentally, they didn’t really do a very good job with the new Red Dawn (2012).
US Marine Jed Eckhert (Chris Hemsworth) is on leave from his military duties and returns to his hometown of Spokane, Washington. He reunites with his Police Sergeant father (Brett Cullen) and high school football star brother, Matt (Josh Peck). After a mysterious power outage, Jed and Matt are shocked to wake up in the morning to North Korean paratroopers that are invading the neighborhood. They escape to the Eckhart family’s cabin in the woods along with some of Matt’s schoolmates, including Robert Morris (Josh Hutcherson) and Daryl Jenkins (Conner Cruise), the mayor’s son.  Jed announces that he intends to fight for freedom and the others join him, calling themselves the Wolverines after their school mascot. Jed trains the teenagers to become guerrillas to fight against the North Korean commander, Capt. Cho (Will Yun Lee), and take back their land and freedom.
So, the world has changed a lot since the 1980’s; the Soviet Union (invading country in the original Red Dawn) has fallen, dictators have also fallen, the United States has been involved in several conflicts, and we are currently in a state of war. The United States has gained new allies and new enemies. In light of post-9/11 America, the idea of the US being invaded is a lot more plausible than it was in 1984. Indeed the scenes where Matt and Jed wake up in their safe suburban home to the sight of fighter jets and paratroopers above their neighborhood is a daunting and frightening sight that doesn’t seem as unrealistic a concept in the year 2012.
However, we needn’t worry too much. Red Dawn assures us that an invading communist country can be subjugated by a team of high school kids and their girlfriends using mostly automatic weapons stolen from the North Koreans themselves. I thought Red Dawn was a timely remake that was full of plot holes. How does  North Korea with a population around 25 million, raise enough invaders to attack the United States which has a population of about 513 million, even with some assistance from Russia? The story’s time frame is pretty vague; how long does it take North Korea to invade, import heavy weapons and vehicles, enlist the local traitors, and start running things? Why are they traveling over so many other countries and an ocean just to attack the US specifically? How long does it take one Marine to train a dozen teenagers to fight and use weaponry they’ve never handled before?
Focusing on the characters in one particular resistance group was fine, provided it featured interesting characters. Red Dawn didn’t actually do that. There was very little dialogue in the movie apart from cautionary advice, victory cries, and comments from enemy leaders  eavesdropped to the subjugated population. Yeah, Matt and Jed are at odds with one another and bicker with one another. Conflict gives characters depth, but I don’t even know why they are arguing other than the fact that they aren’t particularly fond of each other. Really? You’re country is being invaded! Get over yourselves and fight the enemy together! The other characters were given barely any dialogue, so in the rare case when someone dies, you don’t really feel sorry for their loss; you even need Jed to remind you what the name of the dead character is. Dialogue was mostly limited to, “Take that, screaming North Koreans with no agenda!”
Apart from Chris Hemswroth, the acting wasn’t very good. Josh Peck was not cut out for action or dramatic roles. Peck started out as a painfully juvenile comedy actor for Nickelodeon, I’m glad he’s moving on to bigger and better things, but he just wasn’t good in Red Dawn. Most of the other actors did pretty lame job, this was probably their first acting gig and it really shows.
Red Dawn really wasn’t a very well written or acted movie. It’s almost seems like someone woke up one morning with the idea to do an unnecessary remake of a cult classic, and about a week later they finished production. I appreciate what it was trying to do: communicate that the idea of a war on American soil isn’t a far-fetched idea anymore, and to make us question whether or not we would fight to protect the freedoms we inherited from our forefathers. That was a great idea to get the audience to think about. Red Dawn didn’t really do a good job of it, though. It was more of a pro-America action movie with lots of gun fights and explosions and very little plot for a war movie. Given the amount of gunplay, the carnage is far from graphic. There are a few rousingly patriotic moments in the movie that I really appreciated. You’re not going to be missing anything if you don’t see Red Dawn, but I enjoyed it for the message that wasn’t well expressed. If you even want to bother with it, I recommend borrowing from a friend. It’s barely worth the money to rent it.

Did you see this Red Dawn? In your opinion how did it measure up to the original? Were there parts they did better or worse than the 1984 version? Comment below and let me know if the remake did justice to the original.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gangs of New York Movie Review

Historical films can be really interesting when they show you an obscure bit of history that typically isn’t covered in the usual history class. These films are especially interesting when the historical events are still affecting modern society. Gangs of New York (2002) showed us how gang warfare was prevalent even in mid-1800 and how even in those days Americans were leery and unwelcoming of immigrants.
In 1846, as waves of Irish immigrants poured into the New York neighborhood of Five Points, a number of citizens of British and Dutch heritage who were born in the United States began making an open display of their resentment toward the new arrivals. William Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), better known as “Bill the Butcher” for his deadly skill with a knife, bands his fellow “Native Americans” into a gang to take on the Irish immigrants. The immigrants in turn form a gang of their own, “The Dead Rabbits,” organized by Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson). After an especially bloody clash between the Natives and the Rabbits which leaves Vallon dead, his son goes missing; the boy ends up in a brutal reform school before returning to the Five Points in 1862 by the name Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio). Now a strapping adult who has learned how to fight, Amsterdam has come to seek vengeance against Bill the Butcher, whose underworld control of the Five Points through violence and intimidation has merged with the open corruption of New York politician William “Boss” Tweed (Jim Broadbent). Amsterdam gradually penetrates Bill the Butcher’s inner circle, and soon becomes his trusted assistant. Amsterdam also finds himself falling for Jenny Everdeane (Cameron Diaz), a beautiful street-smart thief who was once involved with Bill. Amsterdam learns a great deal from Bill, but before he can turn the tables on the man who killed his father, his true identity is exposed even though he has concealed it from nearly everyone, including Jenny. With more Irish immigrants pouring in by the day, Amsterdam soon has an army to overthrow the rival gang. Before long, an all out turf war breaks out in all areas of New York City.
Honestly, I didn’t realize that gangs and street warfare were around in the mid-1800’s. I guess I (and presumably others) have this idea of relatively quaint and peaceful times until the Civil War broke out. That’s probably because history classes talk about politics and wars and less about social issues, culture, and other interesting things. No wonder these true events tend to fall through the cracks in our history books.
Gangs of New York is an interesting crime drama. Usually crime dramas are reserved for gangsters of the prohibition era of the 1920’s or modern underworld dealings. The fact that Gangs of New York challenges our notion of a crime drama makes it all the more interesting. It still has all the basic components that a crime story would have; gangs fighting, backstabbing one another, gaining power through intimidation and murder, and loose women as part of their spoils after victory. It will still remind you of modern underworld dealings that you see in contemporary movies or even in the news.
As a film, I wasn’t all that impressed with it. The movie makes some great political statements and commentary on the culture of its day that is still applicable to our day, such as how we treat immigrants. We might welcome them to our country but only give them the worst that our country has to offer; Irish immigrants were promised citizenship on the condition that they sign up to fight in the Civil War on the front lines.
One of the better parts of Gangs of New York was the colorful characters, which included a hired club named Monk (Brendan Gleeson) and a shopkeeper named Happy Jack (John C. Reilly). But easily the best character was Bill the Butcher, one of the best villains in modern film. He has strangely elaborate diction, a choked accent, and a tendency to combine ruthlessness with philosophy. He is disturbing with this uncanny use of blades and meat cleavers. While the cast was impressive, Daniel Day-Lewis really stole the show and made the movie worth seeing.
Gangs of New York is not one of Martin Scorsese’s greatest films, but even so it’s a good movie. There are a couple of scenes that are truly impressive and the tension is palpable. There’s amazing camera work with long moving camera shots. The sets and costumes are amazingly convincing. The movie seems longer than what I thought was necessary; there were a few times I was starting to get bored, but you will not be disappointed if you stick with the film. I recommend seeing it, but I personally wasn’t so taken with the movie as to go out and get my own copy to watch again and again. It’s an above average renter that I think should be watched at least once.

Is there an obscure bit of history that you would love to see made into a movie? I think a movie about the story of Alan Turing would be fascinating, but tragic. Comment below and tell me what kind of obscure historical event or figure you'd like to see a movie made about.