Hey, I've been busy/lazy. So here they are:
It's been nearly a year since I first saw the trailer for "Apocalypto" before "The New World" (my favorite film of 2005). I was incredibly excited. Mayan with English subtitles? The downfall of an ancient civilization? Mel Gibson, a director with an incredible gift for visual storytelling? Let's rock! Sadly however, "Apocalypto" has gone from one of my most anticipated movies of 2006, to the year's biggest disappointment.
"Apocalypto" is exceedingly violent. Now anyone who has seen "Braveheart" or "The Passion of the Christ" could tell you that this is no surprise. The problem with the violence in "Apocalypto" isn't the fact that it's there. The problem is that unlike his previous efforts, it seems empty and without purpose. Still, no amount of relentless gore, not even the POV shot from a freshly severed head is anywhere near as revolting as the film's digital cinematography. It is absolutely abhorrent. Massive grain, particularly in night shots, as well as constant smearing anytime someone runs or merely walks quickly. This is especially a problem for this movie as it's essentially a two hour long chase scene. "Miami Vice" is the only other movie this year to look worse. A movie this unpleasant to look at has to work even harder to engage an audience. Who knows? Maybe Gibson wanted that kind of challenge. After all as I mentioned, he did shoot it in Mayan (with a cast of non-actors).
"Apocalypto" does have it's good points. Most of the performances are good and it's actually pretty well paced. It doesn't feel its 2 hour and 15 minute length, but in spite of its speed, it never feels as if it's going anywhere.
I'm a definite fan of Gibson the director. His first film, 1993's "The Man Without a Face" remains highly underrated, and "Braveheart" and "The Passion" are outstanding films. Say what you will about him as a person, but his second and third directorial efforts are not only great movies, but thumbs in both of Hollywood's eyes. "Apocalypto" has a decidedly politically incorrect point of view, particularly at film's end. That is something that is always exciting to me. Unfortunately however, that is virtually the only exciting thing about "Apocalypto." Now if you'll excuse me, I need to finish washing out my eyes. 4.5/10
...Okay, so that's done. Here's a quick look at the other movies I've seen lately:
Blood Diamond- Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent in this otherwise disappointing film from Edward Zwick ("Glory"). Imagine "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" remade as one of the current crop of African awareness movies and you have some idea of what Zwick is going for. I couldn't help but feel that "Blood Diamond" would have been more interesting if the sub-plot involving Djimon Hounsou's son being moulded into a murderous guerilla had been the main storyline. Zwick's only real achievement here is that he keeps it moving. Not that great, but see it if you're a DiCaprio fan. 6.5/10
The Holiday- A Christmastime romantic comedy from Nancy Meyers ("What Women Want," "Something's Gotta Give") that is as predictable and light as you would expect. That's not saying that that's a bad thing. Like it's cast, "The Holiday" is agreeable. Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz play two high strung women who switch houses and countries in an attempt at rejuvenation. Winslet pulls this off wonderfully, while Diaz has trouble with it. With her it seems forced, which makes her storyline less enjoyable. Jude Law raises it up however. I hope he gets more roles in romantic comedies because he's the closest thing this generation has to Cary Grant. Still, Winslet's storyline is the much more entertaining one, thanks in no small part to Jack Black. We're used to seeing Black playing the slacker, often with a mean streak. He's the quintessential nice guy here, something that he proves surprisingly good at. In the pantheon of Christmas-themed romcoms it's no "Love Actually," but it's a pretty good time, and Eli Wallach in a supporting role is worth the price of admission. 6.5/10