Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Movie Of The Day - Gladiator

GLADIATOR (2000) d: Ridley Scott

When someone asks me what kind of movies I would like to make 'Gladiator' is always one that comes up. Not only is it one of my favorite films but it is the epitome of what I would love to do as a filmmaker. Take a simple story but enrich it with characters and texture and take it beyond the means of the genre set piece.

'Gladiator' is basically just a simple revenge story told against a Roman backdrop. The story of Maximus (Russell Crowe in his Academy Award winning role), a Roman General who is told he will become the Emperor of Rome once Caesar (Richard Harris) dies. Only Caesar's son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) is by no means happy with this decision and kills him naming himself as the new Emperor. When Maximus refuses this he is sentenced to death along with his family. He escapes but is too late to save his wife and son. He is then picked up by a traveling slave merchant and sold to become a gladiator. He is so successful that he manages to get back to the great arena in the heart of Rome and get his chance at revenge.

Now in the wrong hands that could be fairly cheesy. Fun but cheesy. Instead it is an astounding epic with such a richness that it was, in my opinion, one of the most deserving of the Best Picture Academy Award in the last decade (along with 'The Lord Of The Rings'). Ridley Scott brings so much to the film with not only the look and feel but he brought on a stellar cast which propels the film out of the usual summer movie fair. And the score is one of my favorite. Hans Zimmer, along with the amazing voice of Lisa Gerard, produced an outstanding and moving musical journey which perfectly matches the film.

Watching it again in the new remastered version I can say the Blu-ray looks incredible.  After the initial release which looked like it was an old HD transfer riddled with DNR this new one (which you can get a replacement for if you have the old one) is just stunning. It is clean but still retains its film-like appearance. Talk about night and day. The old one was pretty bad while this one ranks up with one of the best.

I could go on and on about this film but rest assured it is among my top favorite films and if I could come even remotely close to achieving this in my own career consider my one very happy filmmaker.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Movie Of The Day - Carlito's Way

CARLITO'S WAY (1993) d: Brian DePalma

A movie I have loved since the day I saw it, and one that is one of the influences on my current film 'Dark Light', is Brian DePalma's 'Carlito's Way'. Starring Al Pacino as Carlito Brigante, a former drug smuggler/dealer, who is out of prison and finding things are different than when he went in. His lawyer (Sean Penn) is a cocaine user and gangster wannabe who has troubles of his own having gotten involved with some mobsters. Carlito tries to set his life straight with a dream of escaping to the Carribean and live the simple life with his former love Gail (Penelope Ann Miller) who isn't sure she can trust him after he up and left her before going to jail. But escaping the past and from the surrounding problems proves hard for Carlito as he tries to get away from the bad things except (to borrow a line from 'The Godfather Part III') they pull him back in.

Brian DePalma is at his best here and the film is filled with everything - drama, action, suspense, comedy, and a love story. At the time it was billed as a sort of 'Scarface' follow up and even rip off with the same director and actor trying to rekindle old magic as was stated at the time but it's not. It's actually an outstanding film with fantastic performances and visually wonderful and tightly told. In some ways, although I do love it, I think it's actually a better film than 'Scarface'. A great mix of so many elements and a film I love to revisit from time to time. A truly great film that if you haven't seen it then do yourself a favor and watch it.