Movie Review: Green Zone

Green Zone is a 2010 action thriller centered around the war in Iraq.  Starring Matt Damon of The Bourne Identity/Conspiracy/Ultimatum, it brings much of the same look and feel of the Bourne movies to the war in Iraq.  The movie takes its name from the Green Zone, a specially secured area in the center of Baghdad which included Saddam Hussein’s palaces and the government buildings.

Damon plays a US Army officer who smells a rat when his unit’s search for weapons of mass destruction comes up empty.  Believing his information to be based on faulty intelligence, he strikes out on his own in a search for the truth.

Green Zone did not do very well in the theaters.  It just missed making enough to cover the costs of production, and for all the publicity it got, it might as well have gone straight to DVD.

While the movie is an action thriller, it nevertheless manages to take an honest look at many unsavory aspects of the war in Iraq.  Much of the story is fictionalized, but the basic elements are quite recognizable and true to reality:  faulty intelligence driving the search for weapons of mass destruction, high-ranking Pentagon officials closing their eyes to reality in order to make the case for war, and an anti-Baathist purge in the Iraqi military that made the conflict far more costly and complicated than it had to be.  The most powerful aspect of this film is that it provides a ground-level view of these things through the eyes of soldiers on the field over in Iraq.

Because of this film’s honest portrayal of the war in Iraq, it has generated a great deal of political controversy.  If you are a supporter of Bush and/or the war in Iraq, then you will probably not like it very much.  But if you like Matt Damon and the Bourne movies, then you will probably like this one.

My Thoughts on Les Miserables (the 1998 film)

With Valjean and Cosette situated safely in the Petit-Picpus convent, we are at a natural dividing point in the story’s action, so I thought we would take a little break.

I recently had the opportunity to watch one of the many film adaptations of Les Miserables.  This one was the 1998 version, which was directed by Bille August and which starred Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean, Geoffrey Rush as Javert, Uma Thurman as Fantine, and Claire Danes as Cosette.  Those of you who are familiar with the various film adaptations of Les Miserables that are running around out there, I would love to know your thoughts on this version and on which version is the best/most faithful to the text/whatever.

Here are my thoughts:

Liam Neeson delivers a strong performance as Valjean.  This is everything which you would expect from an actor of his stature.  Javert is well portrayed; we don’t see him as an arch-villain so much as someone who struggles with his own inner demons but fails to overcome them.

As for this film being faithful to the text, I give it low marks.  It is faithful to the text, if by that you mean that Bille August doesn’t replace Victor Hugo’s time-honored storyline with something like this:  “Jean Valjean and Cosette are the proprieters of a summer camp in the Transylvania mountains.  One summer this camp is terrorized by a serial killer, initially believed to be the psychopath Angela Baker who had terrorized a nearby summer camp several years before, but revealed in a shocking cinematic twist to be Joel Osteen.  Chief inspector Javert is called in to investigate, but when Jimmy Hoffa’s body is found among the victims he slits Valjean’s nostrils open, saws his legs off, nails Cosette’s head to the floor, and takes them both to an Atlanta Thrashers game.”

But there have been some significant changes to the story.  Some of the names have been changed:  the old man Fauchelevent is called Lafitte, and the town of Montreuil-sur-mer is called Vigau.  Presumably these changes were made for ease of pronunciation.  Marius is portrayed as the leader of the student insurrection; in the book and the musical Enjolras was the leader and Marius was merely a reluctant participant.  In the book and the musical Thenardier has a huge role in the story throughout Valjean and Cosette’s time in Paris; the movie cuts Thenardier out completely after Valjean fetches Cosette.  Also, the love triangle between Cosette, Marius, and Eponine receives no play at all because Eponine does not appear in the movie at all (except when she and Azelma are very briefly shown playing together at the inn during the scene where Valjean comes to fetch Cosette).

I get that shrinking a 1500-page novel down to fit into a two-hour film is a huge undertaking, and that some things had to be cut.  But in my view, the makers of this film cut out some pretty significant plot elements.

Those of you who have seen movie adaptations of Les Miserables, I would love to hear your thoughts.  What are your thoughts on this version (if you have seen it)?  Which version do you like the best?

Movie Review: Quantum of Solace

This is going to be review week here at Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion, because I have a number of books, CDs, and other things that I want to review before the new year.  Deal with it.

Quantum of Solace is the latest James Bond movie; it came out back in November.  This movie is intended as a sequel to Casino Royale and features James Bond working at breakneck speed to put the brakes on a nefarious, world-threatening plot to…take over the water supply of Bolivia???  Man, please.

If you watch this movie, you will see that James Bond has definitely gone down over the years.  Instead of the James Bond that we all knew and loved from the vintage Bond movies of old, with his deathly hilarious wit and amazing high-tech gadgetry and cool savoir-faire, we get a workaday version of Bond who just grits his way through this one, not to mention a boatload of the usual liberal conspiracy theories about the U. S. propping up crazy right-wing dictators in South America.

High points of the movie include James Bond breaking up a teleconference which is taking place at the opera Tosca, with all the villains scattered throughout the stadium and communicating via Bluetooth-type earpieces, blowing up an eco-friendly hotel in the Bolivian desert which was so hideous that it needed to be blown up anyway, and leaving the villain out in the middle of the Bolivian desert with nothing but a can of motor oil–in a couple of days he would be found dead with his stomach full of motor oil.

Honestly, I don’t think that leaving the producers of this movie out in the middle of the Bolivian desert with nothing but a can of motor oil to drink would be such a bad idea.

Movie Review: 300

300 is billed as the next Braveheart or Gladiator.  I’m not entirely sure that it lives up to that billing, but I did think it was a good film.

300 is based on Frank Miller’s comic book and graphic novel of the same name, which came out in the late 1990s and which depict the Battle of Thermopylae, in which King Leonidas and a detachment of 300 Spartan soldiers held an army of over a million Persians at bay for several days. Continue reading “Movie Review: 300”

Movie Review: The Illusionist

The Illusionist is one of the best movies in all of 2006, one which, unfortunately, will probably not get the props it deserves.

The movie is set in turn-of-the-century Vienna.  It begins with a show by a traveling magician named Eisenheim being shut down by the chief of police.  We then flash back to Eisenheim’s adolescence, when he is in love with the woman of his dreams.  But his love is forbidden on account of the huge class difference between his family and hers.

So Eisenheim sets out to see the world.  In the process he becomes a masterful magician.  Fifteen years later he returns to Vienna and performs a show.  Austrian Crown Prince Leopold is in attendance, and when Eisenheim asks for a volunteer who is not afraid of death for his next trick, Leopold volunteers his fiancee.  (Don’t you just love a man like that?)  Leopold’s fiancee turns out to be Eisenheim’s long-lost lover, and this puts the two men on a collision course. Continue reading “Movie Review: The Illusionist”

Movie Review: The Da Vinci Code

Well, it took a few weeks but I finally got around to seeing this movie.

This review by Michael Spencer put me in the right frame of mind to see and appreciate this movie, and I was not disappointed.  “Dumb cops, weird intellectuals, and a 354th cousin of Jesus” certainly seemed to be an accurate description of all that this movie was about.

When I saw the movie there were about 30 other people in the theater with me.  In light of all the negative reviews that this movie got, it was actually somewhat surprising to me that there were that many people there.

I must say that the camera work was quite interesting, with the camera seeming to move in a circle around whatever it was looking at.  By the time I left the movie, I was feeling quite dizzy.

Lots of disconnected bits of movie all thrown together; one moment you’re seeing a wild car chase through downtown Paris and the next you’re seeing two people standing and talking calmly somewhere.  (Speaking of car chases, that bubble car that Sophie was driving was a hoot.)

Folks, if this sorry excuse for a movie is enough to make you abandon your faith in Christ in favor of the new age Jesus and the sacred feminine, then good riddance.  There may be plenty of people out there who believe this stuff, but then there are also plenty of people who believe in Sasquatch, alien abductions, and other such things.  And I would do better writing about those things than devoting any more attention to this movie.

Oh well.  At least it wasn’t as bad as this movie.