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Exodus: Gods and Kings

Following fast on the heels of other recent spiritual/faith-based movies such as ‘Noah’, ‘God is not Dead’ and ‘Heaven is for Real’, ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ is the most ambitious with a $140m budget but in my view the least successful of them.

Directed by Sir Ridley Scott (best known for ‘Alien’  ‘Blade Runner’ & ‘Gladiator’) the film starts with Moses (a less than convincing Christian Bale) being a full adult, a member of Pharaoh Rameses’ (Joel Edgerton) family and an Army General none the less, armed with sword. Moses fights the Hittites and in the battle saves the life of Rameses who at that stage he thinks is his Brother.

Now I am sure we all know well the story of Exodus (Moses learns that not only is he not a Brother of the Egyptian leader but is a Hebrew saved by his Mother, Moses is expelled by Rameses who then gets married, God communes with him to set the Hebrew people free, the ten plagues then arrive when Rameses refuses, there is much death and destruction and Moses leads his people across the Red Sea to liberty where God hands down The Ten Commandments and the Ark of the Covenant).

It is fair to say that ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ plays fast and loose with the biblical text in a number of important respects which may irritate- Moses is shown initially as an Army General with sword (and not staff), his encounters with God are given a ‘make over’ in that whilst there is a burning bush, from Moses point of view he is talking to God as a 10 year old boy but to an onlooker the impression is given that in fact Moses is talking to nobody- I suspect this is to appeal to both religious and atheist audiences but this sitting on a fence does not work .

Equally a ‘natural’ explanation for the parting of the Red Sea is suggested which although incredibly impressive to watch seems too convenient for the film makers.

That said, the film is substantive as it runs for 150 minutes, the photography of Egypt and its architecture, the exodus itself and the desert are sublime and it is a feast on the eyes- be warned though the plagues as filmed are very gory and not easy to watch.

In essence, I think Ridley Scott has made the wrong film as it is dedicated to his brother and fellow film maker Tony Scott who killed himself recently and it is really less about the story of the Exodus but about the bond between two ‘Brothers’. I would still say that the films does work in the sense that modern audiences who may have little knowledge of the Exodus story, of Moses and God will at least come face to face with some of the biblical story and any encounter with the faith story has to be good but the film is only a partial success.

'Take 2' - Not as bad as they say ...

I have a soft spot for movies that get awful reviews- and I have found that a good number like ‘The Pirate Movie’, ‘Jake Speed’, and ‘Mammia Mia!’ to count just a few are underserving of the bad press that they got. Now part of that may well be down to the criticism to begin with , because if a film gets slated badly, then your expectations of it are low and more often then not, you come out of it saying something like “It wasn’t that bad!” or “What are the critics going on about?”.

‘Taken 2’ also falls into this category having received very lame reviews but that has not stopped its audience appeal. It has already grossed around $280 million and counting. If you did not see the original 2008 ‘Taken’, this sequel follows on from the episode where Liam Neeson plays an ex CIA Operative Brian Mills who still acts as a ‘minder’ or ‘Security Consultant’ for the wealthy, but his mind is set on putting back together the pieces of his broken relationships with his estranged wife (Famke Janssen) and daughter (Maggie Grace).

In the original ‘Taken’, Grace was kidnapped by people smugglers in France. Here, Mills makes a rare mistake by inviting his family to holiday in Istanbul, where, yes you’ve guessed it, they get kidnapped –this time by the family of the men that Mills wiped out in the first film, thus, the scene is set for Mills to do his Bourne/Bond/Rambo thing and recover them again.

This all sounds very predictable and as you might expect, you will not get surprised by any complicated plot twists, but what you do get is a superior action movie- it rises to a level above what you normally could expect by some strong performances by the trio of actors especially Liam Neeson. Yes, it is easy to say that he must be slumming it here again. Granted that ‘Taken 2’ is a long, long way from his roles in ‘Kinsey’ and ‘Schindlers List’, but you are charmed by him the playing of his character and there is subtle about his intense passion to protect his family.

Like Bond films of old, you are never in doubt as to who the bad guys are and that makes for a straight forward ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ epic. The film is violent, it is reminiscent of the Charles Bronson ‘Death Wish’ films with a very strong leading man leading his fight to the front line demolishing pretty much whoever gets in his way. But it still makes for some very good sub-James Bond entertainment that should satisfy you ahead of the real thing…  

'Taken 2' - Not as bad as they say ...

I have a soft spot for movies that get awful reviews- and I have found that a good number like ‘The Pirate Movie’, ‘Jake Speed’, and ‘Mammia Mia!’ to count just a few are underserving of the bad press that they got. Now part of that may well be down to the criticism to begin with , because if a film gets slated badly, then your expectations of it are low and more often then not, you come out of it saying something like “It wasn’t that bad!” or “What are the critics going on about?”.

‘Taken 2’ also falls into this category having received very lame reviews but that has not stopped its audience appeal. It has already grossed around $280 million and counting. If you did not see the original 2008 ‘Taken’, this sequel follows on from the episode where Liam Neeson plays an ex CIA Operative Brian Mills who still acts as a ‘minder’ or ‘Security Consultant’ for the wealthy, but his mind is set on putting back together the pieces of his broken relationships with his estranged wife (Famke Janssen) and daughter (Maggie Grace).

In the original ‘Taken’, Grace was kidnapped by people smugglers in France. Here, Mills makes a rare mistake by inviting his family to holiday in Istanbul, where, yes you’ve guessed it, they get kidnapped –this time by the family of the men that Mills wiped out in the first film, thus, the scene is set for Mills to do his Bourne/Bond/Rambo thing and recover them again.

This all sounds very predictable and as you might expect, you will not get surprised by any complicated plot twists, but what you do get is a superior action movie- it rises to a level above what you normally could expect by some strong performances by the trio of actors especially Liam Neeson. Yes, it is easy to say that he must be slumming it here again. Granted that ‘Taken 2’ is a long, long way from his roles in ‘Kinsey’ and ‘Schindlers List’, but you are charmed by him the playing of his character and there is subtle about his intense passion to protect his family.

Like Bond films of old, you are never in doubt as to who the bad guys are and that makes for a straight forward ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ epic. The film is violent, it is reminiscent of the Charles Bronson ‘Death Wish’ films with a very strong leading man leading his fight to the front line demolishing pretty much whoever gets in his way. But it still makes for some very good sub-James Bond entertainment that should satisfy you ahead of the real thing…  

'Everything or Nothing' - the 'Official' James Bond ...

Those of you who can’t wait for the latest and 23rd James Bond film –‘Skyfall’ have only two more days to wait but if even that is too far away, you can get some solace by watching a surprising good documentary on the Bond series ‘Everything or Nothing’- named after the film production company (shortened to EON) set up by Bond pioneers ‘Cubby’ Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

As the documentary is made by the company it is about you could easily think it would be the corporate love letter suggested but it is far, far better than that- even better then the DVD Extra that Radio 5 Live’s Mark Kermode had also suggested.

It’s really aimed at the James Bond fan as it goes through the entire Bond history from Ian Fleming’s original penning of the character and novel,  the various legal battles over the years about who owned copyright to the character and stories, the difficulties with Sean Connery, the truth about George Lazenby to its rebirth under Pierce Brosnan and carried forward to the present day with Daniel Craig- thereby celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Although it’s subtitle is ‘The Untold Story of 007’, much of it is familiar to us all but where it wins is in the breadth of contributor especially from the Ian Fleming era. You have Christopher Lee who was Fleming’s Step Cousin as well as playing Scaramanga in ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’, the actress Lucy Fleming his Niece, and Fleming’s assistant who could vouch for his ‘way with women’. Some of the most interesting elements in the whole story revolves around  the depression that Fleming suffered and how he came alive with his Caribbean hideaway named ‘Goldeneye’ and his creation of Bond himself.

As with many successful creations, Bond had various false starts before it hit the big time with ‘Dr No’ in 1962 but the film  does convey that Bond has had to justify itself when times changed- when the Berlin Wall came down, just who was the enemy? When Bond’s antics were out of step with contemporary living, what was his role?

‘Everything or Nothing’- depending on your take- is either harsh on Connery or just realistic. Despite making him the superstar he became, the film says he felt under appreciated and under paid and he does not provide any input to the documentary –the only Bond to do so. Ultimately the film charts the sad fall out between Connery and Cubby Broccoli in particular and it is only towards the end of the latter’s life that they make peace together.

It is an enthralling documentary and the contributions of Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan are especially insightful and funny. The weakness of the film though is that there are no objective views of Bond or the films. We could have done with a non partisan view of the series- its highpoints and failures and an assessment of where it stands now –especially as it has recently been overtaken by the Harry Potter films as the most successful series of films.

But this is a minor consideration in what is as good an official history of James Bond as you will ever get. Well worth catching if you can find it before seeing 'Skyfall'.