Ramblings from the Desert

The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. ~Benjamin Franklin

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Location: New Mexico

Author of the urban fantasy novel, The Music of Chaos, and the paranormal romance, The Canvas Thief.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Unleashed, It Is

War of the Worlds. Kingdom of Heaven. Unleashed.

Crap. Crappy-er. Not bad.

War of the Worlds is like Independence Day* only with half the fun and ten times the angst. Instead of just making a suspense-filled invasion movie, Spielberg decided he wanted to make a drama interspersed with the occasional space alien.

(*Independence Day was stupid, but nevertheless, fun.)

Ray (Tom Cruise) is a divorced father of two. His children Robbie (Justin Chatwin) and Rachel (Dakota Fanning) are staying at his house for the weekend, so Mom and new husband can have some adult time. The first ten minutes of the film meanders along with Ray and his tiresome son snarling at each other, a pattern that continues throughout the movie.

In those instances when War of the Worlds remembers it's an alien invasion movie, it's quite good. The sense of humanity reduced to scuttling, cringing cockroaches in the face of superior technology is strong at times hair raising.

Unfortunately, every other scene must remind us that Ray and spawn aren't a happy family. I got it. Divorce is hell. Been there; done that; bored. Ultimately, I was begging the aliens to vaporize Robbie. Rachel, on the other hand, vacillates between being a cute, world-wise kid and a "If she doesn't stop screaming, I'll kill her myself" brat. Lawd, I hate screaming females.

The movie is effect-heavy but offers nothing new. Spielberg took his huge budget and used it to loot the vaults of Independence Day, dragging out the same, tired, fan-headed aliens.

In the end, the film to a Deus ex Machina solution. Right. An advanced civilization would travel billions of light years, set up a complex invasion and forget to protect against pathogens? Intelligence insulted, much?

In the same vein, Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven is like Gladiator without the characterization, acting and plot. The Orlando Bloom show would be a more apropos title.

Crusader Godfrey, Baron of Something (Liam Neesom) returns from the Holy Land to claim his bastard son, Balian (Orlando Bloom), who is a blacksmith in France. Balian is schmoping because his wife killed herself after their first child died soon after birth. Really now. In those days, every other infant died. Melodrama, too much. The entire film suffered from historical peculiarities.

Godfrey offers Balian a trip to Jerusalem and Balian refuses. Ten minutes later Balian flips out, murders a priest and then runs after Daddy. Although Godfrey has a host of interesting knights in his retinue, the movie sees fit to immediately kill them all off. Except Hospitaller, played by the superciliously charming (David Thewlis). But Hospitaller disappears soon after, only to reappear at the end as a head without a body.

Balian goes to Jerusalem. Daddy dies and Balian inherits his barony. The queen of Jerusalem stops by his estates for an unsexy sex scene. Why? I dunno. To get Bloom's shirt off? It's quite pointless, really. Balian doesn't seem terribly fond of her; she's never in any danger; and her husband doesn't know or care (he already hated Balian.) The husband, a Knight Templar, stirs up the natives and the predictable confrontation over Jerusalem ensues.

The battles are good--unlike the loathsome Alexander, I could tell what was going on--but they are fraught with improbabilities. For instance, although he was just a blacksmith before coming to Jerusalem, overnight Balian becomes a master tactician and engineer. Right.

Pretty, pretty movie, but a muddled mess.

Unleashed has a split personality. On one hand, a quiet film about family, on the other, an ass-kicking action flick.

And it works.

Danny (Jet Li) is a man who has been raised as an attack dog. Literally. Stripped of his humanity, he attacks on command using martial arts instead of teeth. His handler, Bart (Bob Hoskins) a London crime lord, sics him on anyone who doesn't play nice (pay the required protection money.) Li does an admirable job switching between the impassive high-kicking killing machine and gentle boy-man.

Obviously, Bart isn't making many friends. One day, angry rivals pepper his limo with bullets and Danny, thinking his master dead, staggers away, free at last.

He is taken in by the almost absurdly kind Sam (Morgan Freeman) and his step-daughter Victoria (Terry Condon). This is where the movie could have turned into a train wreck. Sam and Victoria are nice; too nice. But instead of dropping platitudes explaining why they are so bloody nice, they just are...nice. They are so comfortable in their kindness, I gave up and quit asking, "Who would do this?" Freeman is on familiar territory here--the wise mentor. It's his shtick. He does it well. There is a suggestion of romance between Victoria and Danny, but rather than creepy, it's rather subtle and sweet.

Obviously, Danny's newfound happiness and chance at a "normal" life will collide with his past. The fight scenes are fan-tab-bu-lous. Awesome choreography.

The squeamish might be put off by the ball-busting fight scenes, but otherwise it's an entertaining movie.

There you have it. Another exciting weekend at Casa de Kirby. Hope your weekend was mah-velous.



Graphics and Content Copyright © Patricia Kirby 2005