REVIEW: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

CAST

Brad Pitt (World War Z)
Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit)
Tilda Swinton (Doctor Strange)
Taraji P. Henson (Date Night)
Julia Ormond (Resistance)
Jason Flemyng (Rob Roy)
Mahershala Ali (Luke Cage)
Phyllis Somerville (Little Children)
Jared Harris (Lincoln)
Elias Koteas (Crash)
Tom Everett (Die Hard 2)
Elle Fanning (Maleficent)
Josh Stewart (No Ordinary Family)

In 2005, elderly Daisy Fuller is on her deathbed in a New Orleans hospital as Hurricane Katrina approaches; she asks her daughter, Caroline, to read aloud from the diary of Benjamin Button.

From the reading, it is revealed that on the evening of November 11, 1918, a boy was born with the appearance and physical maladies of an elderly man. The baby’s mother died after giving birth, and the father, Thomas Button, abandons the infant on the porch of a nursing home. Queenie and Mr. “Tizzy” Weathers, workers at the nursing home, find the baby, and Queenie decides to care for him as her own.

Benjamin learns to walk in 1925; he declares it a miracle, after which he uses crutches in place of a wheelchair. On Thanksgiving 1930, Benjamin meets seven-year-old Daisy, whose grandmother lives in the nursing home. He and Daisy become good friends. Later, he accepts work on a tugboat captained by Mike Clark. Benjamin also meets Thomas Button, who does not reveal that he is Benjamin’s father. In Autumn 1936, Benjamin leaves New Orleans for a long-term work engagement with the tugboat crew; Daisy later is accepted into a dance company in New York City under choreographer George Balanchine. In 1941, Benjamin is in Murmansk, where he begins having an affair with Elizabeth Abbott, wife of the British Trade Minister. That December, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, thrusting the United States into World War II. Mike volunteers the boat for the U.S. Navy; the crew is assigned to salvage duties. During a patrol, the tugboat finds a sunken U.S. transport and the bodies of many American troops. A German submarine surfaces; Mike steers the tugboat full speed towards it while a German gunner fires on the tugboat, killing most of the crew, including Mike. The tugboat rams the submarine, causing it to explode, sinking both vessels. Benjamin and another crewman are rescued by U.S. Navy ships the next day.

In May 1945, Benjamin returns to New Orleans and reunites with Queenie. A few weeks later, he reunites with Daisy; they go out for dinner. Upon failing to seduce him afterward, she departs. Benjamin later reunites with Thomas Button, who, terminally ill, reveals he is Benjamin’s father and wills Benjamin his button company and his estate. In 1947, Benjamin visits Daisy in New York unannounced but departs upon seeing that she has fallen in love with someone else. In 1954, Daisy’s dancing career ends when her leg is crushed in an automobile accident in Paris. When Benjamin visits her, Daisy is amazed by his youthful appearance, but, frustrated by her injuries, she tells him to stay out of her life.

In spring 1962, Daisy returns to New Orleans and reunites with Benjamin. Now of comparable physical age, they fall in love and go sailing together. They return to learn that Queenie has died, then move in together. In 1967, Daisy, who has opened a ballet studio, tells Benjamin that she is pregnant; she gives birth to a girl, Caroline, in the spring of 1968. Believing he can not be a proper father to his daughter due to his reverse aging, Benjamin departs after selling his belongings, leaving a bank account book holding the proceeds behind for Daisy and Caroline; he travels alone during the 1970s. Benjamin returns to Daisy in 1980. Now married, Daisy introduces him, as a family friend, to her husband and daughter. Daisy admits that he was right to leave; she could not have coped otherwise. She later visits Benjamin at his hotel, where they again share their passion for each other, then part once more.

In 1990, widowed Daisy is contacted by social workers who have found Benjamin—now physically a pre-teen. When she arrives, they explain that he was living in a condemned building and was taken to the hospital in poor physical condition, and that they found her name in his diary. The bewildered social workers also say he is displaying early signs of dementia. Daisy moves into the nursing home in 1997 and cares for Benjamin for the rest of his life. In the spring of 2003, Benjamin dies in Daisy’s arms, physically an infant but chronologically 84 years of age. Having finally revealed the story of Caroline’s father to her, Daisy dies as Hurricane Katrina approaches.
It is an extremely graceful depiction of life, love, and the things we lose. After so much anticipation I was certainly not disappointed. This movie is probably not for everyone though. It’s not your average drama that spoon feeds it’s audience their emotions. It is something of awe and astonishment, an absolute gem. What makes our lives memorable are the moments we never seem to grasp long enough before letting go. Life in itself is indeed very, very curious and Benjamin Button is no less of a wonder.

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REVIEW: THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING

 

CAST

Elijah Wood (Sin City)
Ian McKellen (X-Men)
Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises)
Sean Astin (The Goonies)
Liv Tyler (Super)
Cate Blanchett (Babel)
John Rhys-Davies (Beyond The Mask)
Billy Boyd (Seed of Chucky)
Dominic Monaghan (Lost)
Bernard Hill (True Crime)
Orlando Bloom (Kingdom of Heaven)
Christopher Lee (Star Wars Episode II & III)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Miranda Otto (I, Frankenstein)
David Wenham (Van Helsing)
Brad Dourif (Curse of Chucky)
Karl Urban (Dredd)
Andy Serkis (Rise of The Planet of The Apes)
John Noble (Sleepy Hollow)
Ian Holm (Alien)
Marton Csokas (Xena: Warrior Princess)
Bruce Spence (Mad Max 2)
Bruce Hopkins (Power Rangers Ninja Storm)
Ian Hughes (Hercules: TLJ)
Bruce Phillips (Power Rangers RPM)
Joel Tobeck (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Stephen Ure (Xena: Warrior Princess)
Jed Brophy (The Hobbit)
Craig Parker (Reign)

Gandalf leads Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and King Théoden to Isengard where they reunite with Merry and Pippin. With Saruman defeated, Gandalf retrieves Saruman’s palantír. Overcome by curiosity, Pippin steals a glance into the seeing-stone, and suffers a mental attack from Sauron himself. Gandalf deduces that Sauron will attack Gondor’s capital Minas Tirith, so he rides there to warn them, taking Pippin with him because Sauron thinks Pippin is the ring bearer.Meanwhile, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee are led by Gollum to Minas Morgul where they witness the Witch-king of Angmar leading an Orc army to drive Denethor’s younger son Faramir and his men from Osgiliath. At Gollum’s urging, the three begin climbing a precarious stair carved in the cliff face that will take them into Mordor via a ‘secret way’. But having overheard Gollum’s plot to regain the Ring, Sam keeps a suspicious eye on him. In Gondor, Pippin follows Gandalf’s instructions and secretly lights the beacon to signal Théoden to assemble the Rohirrim and come to Gondor’s aid.While helping Théoden gather his forces, Aragorn is approached by Elrond who says Arwen is dying. After seeing a vision of her son she refused to leave Middle Earth. Elrond then gives Aragorn the sword Andúril, Isildur’s sword Narsil reforged, so he can reclaim his birthright while gaining reinforcements from the Dead Men of Dunharrow. Joined by Legolas and Gimli, Aragorn travels to the Paths of the Dead, recruiting the Army of the Dead with the promise to release them from their curse once they fulfil their oath to Isildur.Faramir is gravely wounded after a futile effort to retake Osgiliath, and believing his son to be dead, Denethor falls into madness. Gandalf is left to command the city defences against the Orc army led by Gothmog. But as Gothmog’s forces eventually force their way into the city, Denethor tries to kill himself and Faramir on a pyre. Pippin alerts Gandalf and they save Faramir, but Denethor leaps to his death from the top of Minas Tirith just before Théoden and the Rohirrim arrive. Initially the Rohirrim have the advantage at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, but are eventually overwhelmed by the Oliphaunt-riding Haradrim while the Witch-king mortally wounds Théoden. Though Théoden’s niece Éowyn, having posed as a male soldier, battles and slays the Witch-King with Merry’s help, Théoden dies of his wounds. Aragorn arrives with the Army of the Dead, they overcome the Orcs and win the battle. The Dead are released from their curse, and the wounded are tended to. Aragorn and the other captains of Men decide to lead all who can march upon the Black Gate as a distraction, so Frodo and Sam can get to Mount Doom.Meanwhile, Gollum manipulates Frodo into leaving Sam behind before they arrive at the tunnel leading to Mordor, and then tricks him into lair of the giant spider Shelob, who paralyses and binds Frodo. Sam arrives and drives Shelob away, but believing his friend to be dead takes Frodo’s sword Sting and The One Ring for safekeeping. When he sees Frodo’s body being taken by Orcs to Cirith Ungol he realises that Frodo is still alive, and gives chase. Sam rescues Frodo from the Orcs, and returns the Ring to him.Aragorn’s army draw out Sauron’s forces and empty Mordor, allowing the exhausted Hobbits to stagger to the volcano, but they’re attacked by Gollum when they reach Mount Doom. Frodo finally succumbs to the Ring’s power and claims it as his own, and refuses to destroy it. Gollum attacks Frodo and bites his finger off to reclaim the Ring, but Frodo fights back and knocks Gollum, who is holding the Ring, into the volcano. While Frodo holds onto the ledge for dear life, Sam manages to save him and both escape the volcano at the last second. The Ring and Sauron are both destroyed, causing a chain-reaction that consumes the mountain, topples Barad-dûr, and kills most of the fleeing Orcs as the ground crumbles beneath them. Gandalf flies in with eagles to rescue the Hobbits, who awaken later in Minas Tirith and are reunited with the surviving Fellowship members.Aragorn is crowned King of Gondor and takes Arwen as his queen. They, and all others present at his coronation, bow before Frodo and the Hobbits. The Hobbits then return to the Shire where Sam marries Rosie Cotton. Frodo, while happy for his friends, is unable to cope with the traumas of his journey, and departs Middle Earth for the Grey Havens with his uncle Bilbo, Gandalf, and the Elves. He leaves Sam the Red Book of Westmarch which details their adventures. Though saddened by Frodo’s departure, Sam is gladdened by the warm welcome he receives upon returning home.

This is one of the best series of all time, Fellowship Of The Ring still nicks it as my fave of the three movies if I was pushed to choose. You can’t really detract from what Peter Jackson has achieved with this film, Tolkien himself gave the film rights away for practically nothing, deeming the book impossible to translate to film. Peter Jackson proved him wrong and we now have a great trilogy of films that will stand the test of time.

REVIEW: THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS

CAST

Elijah Wood (Sin City)
Ian McKellen (X-Men)
Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises)
Sean Astin (The Goonies)
Liv Tyler (Super)
Cate Blanchett (Babel)
John Rhys-Davies (Beyond The Mask)
Billy Boyd (Seed of Chucky)
Dominic Monaghan (Lost)
Bernard Hill (True Crime)
Orlando Bloom (Kingdom of Heaven)
Christopher Lee (Star Wars Episode II & III)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Miranda Otto (I, Frankenstein)
David Wenham (Van Helsing)
Brad Dourif (Curse of Chucky)
Karl Urban (Dredd)
Andy Serkis (Rise of The Planet of The Apes)
Craig Parker (Reign)
John Leigh (Power Rangers Samurai)
Bruce Hopkins (Xena: Warrior Princess)
John Bach (Spartacus)
John Noble (Sleepy Hollow)
Sean Bean (Game of Thrones)
Stephen Ure (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Paul Norell (Young Hercules)

Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee continue their journey to Mordor to destroy the One Ring by throwing it into Mount Doom. They are attacked in the night by Gollum, former owner of the Ring, but they capture him. Sympathising with Gollum for their shared burden, Frodo asks Gollum to lead them safely to Mordor, despite Sam’s objections. Meanwhile, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli pursue the Uruk-hai who kidnapped their friends Merry and Pippin. The Uruk-hai are slaughtered by the Rohirrim army of Rohan, but the two Hobbits escape into Fangorn Forest where they meet the Ent Treebeard. Aragorn’s group later meet the Rohirrim who have been banished by their king Théoden, who is manipulated by Saruman’s servant Grima Wormtongue. Tracking the Hobbits in Fangorn, Aragorn’s group encounter a resurrected Gandalf who perished in Moria, but was revived to help save Middle-earth.Gollum leads Frodo and Sam through the Dead Marshes whilst evading the Nazgûl. They reach the Black Gate to Mordor but Gollum stops them, saying it’s too risky and that there is another entrance, finding himself becoming loyal to Frodo for his kindness. The trio later are captured by the Rangers of Ithilien, led by Faramir, brother of the late Boromir. When Faramir discovers Frodo has the Ring, he intends on taking him to Gondor, capturing Gollum when Frodo exposes him. Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas, and Gimli travel to Rohan’s capital Edoras where Gandalf releases Théoden from Saruman’s power and Wormtongue is banished. Learning Saruman plans on wiping out Rohan with an army of Uruk-hai, Théoden decides to move his citizens to the protection of Helm’s Deep, but Gandalf departs to find the Rohirrim led by Théoden’s nephew Éomer. Aragorn strikes up a friendship with Théoden’s niece Éowyn who quickly falls in love with him. During a Warg attack, Aragorn falls off a cliff into a river, but is found by his horse and taken to Helm’s Deep.In Fangorn, Merry and Pippin attend an Ent council but learn Treebeard and the others will not participate in the war. They convince them otherwise when they show the destruction Saruman has unleashed on the forests around Isengard. The Ents storm Isengard and imprison Saruman in his tower. The Uruk-hai army arrive at Helm’s Deep, finding a makeshift army of peasants and Elves from Rivendell waiting for them. A great battle follows with Théoden losing hope until Aragorn convinces him to ride out and meet them. Gandalf and the Rohirrim arrive, turning the tide of the battle and destroying the Uruk-hai.Frodo, Sam, and Gollum are taken to the fallen Gondor city Osgiliath but they are attacked by the Nazgûl and Mordor army. Sam informs Faramir of how the Ring nearly drove Boromir mad, stunning Faramir. Frodo is nearly captured by the Nazgûl but Sam tackles him down a flight of stairs, saving him. After the attack ends, Faramir frees the trio and sends them on their way. Gollum, hurt by Frodo’s seeming betrayal, decides to reclaim the Ring by leading Frodo and Sam to a creature he refers to as “her”, leading them away towards Mordor.The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Extended Version might rasie a few eyebrows when one sees how long the extented version is, however the extra 40 minutes added to the theatrical cut actually make the ‘The Two Towers’ a better film to enjoy as a lord of the rings and/or film fan. The extra footage, adds depth and suspense to the story, which makes it more gripping, particularly during some of the extended scenes during the battle of Helm’s Deep. There is more character evolution, which gives one a more indepth view of the more mystical sides of the main characters (their backgrounds and their power), particularly Aragon and Gandalf.Furthermore, the extended material gives a larger role to Merry and Pippin, to which many hardcore lord of the rings fans is a great boost to the story. They are a greater aspect of the story and unlike in the theatrical cut, don’t just sit in a tree all the film.What I enjoyed most however, was the realism of the film that the extented edition gave to Tolkein’s writings, though true some aspects were not entirly accurate to the The Two Towers book, the extended editon gave one the feeling more that they were in Middle-Earth, than the theatrical cut.The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Extended Version is an ideal viewing for any lord of the rings fan, but furthermore, it is a great epic to watch of any person, even those who saw the theatrical cut, before reading the book.

REVIEW: THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RINGS

CAST

Elijah Wood (Sin City)
Ian McKellen (X-Men)
Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises)
Sean Astin (The Goonies)
Liv Tyler (Super)
Cate Blanchett (Babel)
John Rhys-Davies (Beyond The Mask)
Billy Boyd (Seed of Chucky)
Dominic Monaghan (Lost)
Orlando Bloom (Kingdom of Heaven)
Christopher Lee (Star Wars Episode II & III)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Andy Serkis (Rise of The Planet of The Apes)
Sean Bean (Game of Thrones)
Ian Holm (Alien)
Marton Csokas (Alice In Wonderland)
David Weatherley (Power Rangers Operation Overdrive)
Craig Parker (Reign)
Mark Ferguson (Hercules In The Underworld)

In the Second Age of Middle-earth, the Dark Lord Sauron forges the One Ring in Mount Doom to conquer all, abandoning a great part of his power to it in order to dominate, through it, at a distance, the other Rings of Power, which had been granted to lords of Elves, Dwarves and Men. An army of men and elves battle Sauron’s forces in Mordor, where Prince Isildur of Gondor cuts the One Ring off of Sauron’s finger, thereby temporarily destroying his physical shape, and decides to take care of the Ring himself, but the evil influence of the Ring corrupts Isildur, preventing him from destroying it in Mount Doom. Isildur is later killed by Orcs, and the Ring is lost for 2,500 years, found and owned by Gollum for five centuries. The Ring is then found by a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins.Sixty years on, Bilbo celebrates his 111th birthday in the Shire, reuniting with his old friend Gandalf the Grey. Bilbo reveals he intends on leaving the Shire for one last adventure and leaves his inheritance to his nephew Frodo, including the Ring. Gandalf investigates the Ring, discovering its true identity and warns Frodo. Learning Gollum was tortured by Orcs and told them that Bilbo took the Ring, Gandalf instructs Frodo to leave the Shire, accompanied by his gardener Samwise Gamgee. Gandalf rides to Isengard, meeting fellow wizard Saruman the White, but learns he is in league with Sauron, who has unleashed the Ringwraiths to find Frodo. After a brief battle, Saruman imprisons Gandalf. Frodo and Sam are joined by fellow Hobbits, Merry and Pippin, and they evade the Ringwraiths, arriving in Bree where they are meant to meet Gandalf, but are instead aided by a ranger named Strider, a friend of Gandalf’s who escorts them to Rivendell.The Hobbits are ambushed by the Ringwraiths, one stabbing Frodo with a morgul blade. Arwen, an elf and Strider’s lover, comes to Frodo’s aid and successfully takes him to Rivendell where he is healed, meeting Gandalf who escaped Saruman on the back of a giant eagle. Arwen’s father, Lord Elrond, holds a council, deciding that the Ring must be destroyed in Mount Doom. While the members argue, Frodo volunteers to take the Ring, accompanied by Gandalf, Sam, Merry, Pippin, elf Legolas, dwarf Gimli, Boromir of Gondor, and Strider, who is revealed to be Aragorn, Isildur’s heir and rightful King of Gondor. Bilbo gives Frodo his sword, Sting. The Fellowship of the Ring sets off but Saruman’s magic forces them to travel through the Mines of Moria.The Fellowship find the dwarves within Moria have been slain, and they are attacked by Orcs and a cave troll. They defeat them, but are confronted by an ancient demon called the Balrog. Gandalf casts the Balrog into a vast chasm, but its fiery whip drags Gandalf down into the darkness with it. The rest of the Fellowship, now led by Aragorn, reach Lothlórien, home to elves Galadriel and Celeborn. Galadriel privately informs Frodo that only he can complete the quest and one of his friends will try to take the Ring. Meanwhile, Saruman creates an army of Uruk-hai to track and kill the Fellowship save Frodo.The Fellowship leave Lothlórien by river to Parth Galen. Frodo wanders off, confronted by Boromir who tries to take the Ring in desperation. Afraid of the Ring corrupting his friends, Frodo decides to travel to Mordor alone. The other members fight off the Uruk-hai, but Merry and Pippin are taken captive, and Boromir is mortally wounded by the Uruk chieftain. After killing the chieftain, Aragorn helps Boromir die peacefully. Sam follows Frodo, accompanying him to keep his promise to Gandalf to protect Frodo, while Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli go to rescue Merry and Pippin.The extended versions are easily recommended over the theatrical versions. Across the three films you’re getting at least two hours of additional scenes which cover more of the story and fill in the gaps. Some of them are not plot critical, hence their original omission, but it’s nice to have them all the same.

REVIEW: THE MISSING

CAST

Tommy Lee Jones (Batman Forever)
Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit)
Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld)
Jenna Boyd (The Hunted)
Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight)
Val Kilmer (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Max Perlich (Blow)
Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)

In late 19th-century New Mexico, Samuel Jones reappears hoping to reconcile with his adult daughter Maggie Gilkeson. She is unable to forgive him for abandoning the family and leaving her mother to a hard life and early death. This situation changes when Pesh-Chidin and a dozen of his followers (who have left the reservation) pass through the area, ritualistically killing settlers and taking their daughters to be sold into slavery in Mexico. Among those captured is Maggie’s eldest daughter, Lilly. Maggie’s rancher boyfriend Brake Baldwin was among the settlers killed.

The U.S. Cavalry refuses to help retrieve the captive women as its resources are tied up conducting forced relocation of captive Native Americans. This leaves Maggie, her father, and her younger daughter Dot alone in tracking the attackers. The group unexpectedly meets up with Kayitah, a Chiricahua, and an old friend of Jones, who also happens to be tracking the attackers with his son Honesco, because among the captives is a young Chiricahua woman who is engaged to Honesco. After the two agree to join the group, and Maggie treats Honesco’s injuries, Kayitah informs Maggie that Jones had been a member of their Chiricahua band where he gained the name Chaa-duu-ba-its-iidan (“shit for luck”) during his wanderings.

It is finally with the combined efforts of the two families that they are able to free the women, at the cost of Kayitah’s life, and immediately flee to the mountains with the kidnappers behind them. Knowing they have no other choice but to stand their ground, the group fights off the remaining kidnappers. During the battle, Jones fights El Brujo, the one responsible for kidnapping his granddaughter. When Brujo attempts to kill Maggie with a shotgun, Jones sacrifices his life to save his daughter as both he and Brujo fall off a cliff to their deaths. Maggie shoots at the last remaining kidnappers to scare them off. She realizes her father’s love for her and finally forgives him. Then she goes home with her father´s body, her daughters and the other kidnapped girls.

This is a film that uses the western genre to explore the nature of the father/daughter relationship. Both Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett give superb performances as the estranged pair. The writing and the acting in this film complement each other beautifully, and this film could well make it into the category of “The Great Western”.

 

REVIEW: BABEL

CAST

Brad Pitt (Fight Club)
Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit)
Mohamed Akhzam (Prisoners of The Sun)
Peter Wright (Hot Fuzz)
Harriet Walter (Atonement)
Elle Fanning (Super 8)
Gael García Bernal  (The King)
Nathan Gamble (Marley & Me)
Clifton Collins, Jr. (Traffic)
Michael Pena (American Hustle)
Kōji Yakusho (13 Assassins)
Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim)

Babel

Babel focuses on four interrelated sets of situations and characters, and many events are revealed out of sequence. The following plot summary has been simplified and thus does not reflect the exact sequence of the events on screen.

Morocco

In a desert in Morocco, Abdullah, a goatherder, buys a .270 Winchester M70 rifle and a box of ammunition from his neighbor Hassan Ibrahim to shoot the jackals that have been preying on his goats. Abdullah gives the rifle to his two young sons, Yussef and Ahmed, and sends them out to tend the herd. Ahmed, the older of the two, criticises Yussef for spying on his sister while she changes her clothes. Doubtful of the rifle’s purported three-kilometer range, they decide to test it out, aiming first at rocks, a moving car on a highway below, and then at a bus carrying Western tourists. Yussef’s bullet hits the bus, critically wounding Susan Jones (Cate Blanchett), an American woman from San Diego who is traveling with her husband Richard (Brad Pitt) on vacation. The two boys realize what has happened and flee the scene, hiding the rifle in the hills.
Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt
Glimpses of television news programs reveal that the US government considers the shooting a terrorist act and is pressuring the Moroccan government to apprehend the culprits. Having traced the rifle back to Hassan, the Moroccan police descend on his house and roughly question him and his wife until they reveal that the rifle was given to him by a Japanese man, and then sold to Abdullah. The two boys see the police on the road and confess to their father what they have done, believing at the time that the American woman has died of her wounds. The three flee from their house, retrieving the rifle as they go. The police corner them on the rocky slope of a hill and open fire. After Ahmed is hit in the leg, Yussef returns fire, striking one police officer in the shoulder. The police continue shooting, hitting Ahmed in the back, possibly fatally injuring him. As his father rages with grief, Yussef surrenders and confesses to the crimes, begging clemency for his family and medical assistance for his brother. The police take him into custody.
babel
This first plotline is interspersed with scenes of Richard and Susan, who came on vacation to Morocco to get away from and mend their own woes. The death of their infant third child, to SIDS, has strained their marriage significantly and they struggle to communicate their frustration, guilt, and blame. When Susan is shot on the tour bus, Richard orders the bus driver to the nearest village, Tazarine. There, a local veterinarian sews up Susan’s wound to stem the loss of blood. Richard contacts the US embassy to request an ambulance. The other tourists wait for some time, but they eventually demand to leave, fearing the heat and that they may be the target of further attacks. Richard tells the tour group to wait for the ambulance, which never arrives, and eventually the bus leaves without them. The couple stays behind with the bus’s tour guide, Anwar, still waiting for transport to a hospital. Political issues between the US and Morocco prevent quick help, but eventually a helicopter arrives and carries Richard and Susan to a hospital in Casablanca, where she is expected to recover. Richard calls his children’s nanny, Amelia, from the hospital, and they agree not to tell the children that Susan has been shot yet. Richard cries as his son tells him about his day at school.
Babel-screen2
Japan

Chieko Wataya (綿谷 千恵子 Wataya Chieko, Rinko Kikuchi) is a rebellious, deaf Japanese teenage girl, traumatized by the recent suicide of her mother. She is bitter towards her father, Yasujiro Wataya (綿谷 安二郎 Wataya Yasujirō, Kōji Yakusho) and boys her age, and is sexually frustrated. She starts exhibiting sexually provocative behavior, partly in response to dismissive comments from a member of her volleyball team. While out with friends, Chieko finds a teenage boy attractive, and following an unsuccessful attempt at socialising, exposes herself to him under a table. Chieko encounters two police detectives who question her about her father. She and her friends take ecstacy pills in public and attend a rave. Chieko sees one of her friends kissing another boy she finds attractive and leaves the party alone.

She invites one of the detectives, Kenji Mamiya (真宮 賢治 Mamiya Kenji, Satoshi Nikaido), back to the high-rise apartment she shares with her father. Wrongly supposing that the detectives are investigating her father’s involvement in her mother’s suicide, she explains to Mamiya that her father was asleep when her mother jumped off the balcony and that she witnessed this herself. It turns out the detectives are investigating a hunting trip Yasujiro took in Morocco. Soon after learning this, Chieko approaches Mamiya nude and attempts to seduce him. He resists her approaches but comforts her as she bursts into tears. Before he leaves, Chieko writes him a note, indicating that she does not want him to read it until he is gone.

Leaving the apartment, Mamiya crosses paths with Yasujiro and questions him about the rifle. Yasujiro explains that there was no black market involvement; he gave his rifle as a gift to Hassan Ibrahim, his hunting guide on a trip in Morocco. About to depart, Mamiya offers condolences for the wife’s suicide. Yasujiro, however, is confused by the mention of a balcony and angrily replies: “My wife shot herself in the head. Chieko was the first to find the body. I’ve explained this to the police many times.” After leaving, Mamiya stops at a bar to read Chieko’s note. The note’s contents are not revealed. Chieko is leaning on the balcony when her father enters the apartment, and the two embrace as she breaks down in tears.

United States/Mexico

Richard and Susan’s Mexican nanny, Amelia (Adriana Barraza), tends to their children, Debbie (Elle Fanning) and Mike (Nathan Gamble), in their San Diego, California home while they are in Morocco. When Amelia learns of Susan’s injury, she is forced to take care of the children longer than planned and becomes worried that she will miss her son’s wedding. Unable to secure any other help to care for them, she calls Richard for advice, who tells her that she has to stay with the children. Without his permission, Amelia decides to take the children with her to the wedding in a rural community near Tijuana, Mexico. Her nephew Santiago (Gael García Bernal) offers to take her and the kids to the wedding. They cross the border uneventfully and the children are soon confronted by the Mexican culture and street scene. The revelry of the wedding extends well into the evening, and the kids enjoy themselves in the festivities. Rather than staying the night in Mexico with the children, Amelia decides to drive back to the States with Santiago. He has been drinking heavily and the border guards become suspicious of him and the American children in the car. Amelia has passports for all four travelers, but no letter of consent from the children’s parents allowing her to take them out of the United States. Intoxicated and worried, Santiago trespasses the border. He soon abandons Amelia and the children in the desert, attempting to lead off the police.

Stranded without food and water, Amelia and the children are forced to spend the night in the desert. Realizing that they will all die if she cannot get help, Amelia leaves the children behind to find someone, ordering them not to move. She eventually finds a U.S. Border Patrol officer. After he places Amelia under arrest, she and the officer travel back to where she had left the children, but they are not there. Amelia is taken back to a Border Patrol station, where she is eventually informed that the children have been found and that Richard, while outraged, has agreed not to press charges. However, she is told she will be deported from the US where she has been working illegally. Her plea that she has been in the US for 16 years and has looked after the children (whom she considers “her children”) for their entire lives does not secure lenient treatment. Amelia meets her son on the Mexican side of the Tijuana crossing, still in the red dress she wore for the wedding, now torn and dirty from her time in the desert.

Blanchett and Pitt are at the center of the movie (in that order), and both are excellent. Blanchett gives a stunning performance as the critically wounded wife, and Pitt acquits himself well as her anguished husband, as they rediscover their love under duress. But the supporting cast is also excellent, particularly Kikuchi as the rebellious teenager, who feels isolated from the world around her, and is still grieving from her mother’s tragic death. So she acts out sexually. And Barraza gives a solid performance as the nanny, in a nightmarish situation that is particularly haunting because it really happens. It may comment on the lack of communication between cultures and people, but “Babel” is so compelling in its acting and visuals that it could easily have been a silent film. A brilliant, thought-provoking movie, and one that deserves to be seen

REVIEW: ROBIN HOOD (2010)

CAST

Russell Crowe (Gladiator)
Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit)
Max Von Sydow (Minority Report)
William Hurt (The Host)
Mark Strong (John Carter)
Oscar Isaac (Star Wars – Episode VII)
Danny Huston (30 Days of Night)
Eileen Atkins (Cold Mountain)
Mark Addy (Game of Thrones)
Matthew Macfadyen (Frost/Nixon)
Kevin Durand (Dark Angel)
Scott Grimes (American Dad)
Luke Evans (Dracula Untold)
Arthur Darvill (Legends of Tomorrow)

In 1199 A.D., Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is a common archer in the army of King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston). A veteran of Richard’s crusade, he now takes part in the siege of Chalus Castle. Disillusioned and war-weary, he gives a frank but unflattering appraisal of the King’s conduct after the King asks him to answer him honestly. Though the Kings commends him for his honesty Robin and his comrades – archers Allan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle) and Will Scarlett (Scott Grimes) and soldier Little John (Kevin Durand) – find themselves in the stocks.
When the King is slain during an attack on the castle, Robin and his men decide to free themselves and desert. They come across an ambush of the English royal guard by Godfrey (Mark Strong), an English knight who has conspired with King Philip of France to assassinate the King. As Godfrey flees Robin attempts to shoot him but only succeeds in wounding Godfrey’s face with an arrow. Robin decides to take advantage of the situation by having his men impersonate the dead English knights to return to England. As they depart, Robin promises one of the dying knights, Sir Robert Loxley (Douglas Hodge), to return a sword to his father in Nottingham.
As Robin and his men become drunk on the voyage, they awake too late to flee unnoticed and Robin is forced to assume the identity of the slain Loxley and publicly inform the royal family of the King’s death. He witnesses the coronation of King John (Oscar Isaac), who orders harsh new taxes to be collected, dispatching Sir Godfrey to the North to do so – unaware that Godfrey will instead use French troops to stir up unrest and create an opening for Philip to invade England.
Robin and his companions head to Nottingham, where Loxley’s elderly and blind father, Sir Walter (Max von Sydow), asks him to continue impersonating his son, to prevent the family lands being taken by the Crown. However, Loxley’s widow, Lady Marion (Cate Blanchett), is initially cold toward Robin, but warms to him, when he and his men merrily recover tithed grain for the townsfolk to plant. Godfrey’s actions incite the northern barons, who march to meet King John. Speaking now for Sir Walter, Robin proposes the King agree to a charter of rights to ensure the rights of every Englishman and unite his country. Having realized Godfrey’s deception, and knowing he must meet the French invasion with an army, the King agrees. Meanwhile, the French marauders plunder Nottingham and Godfrey murders Sir Walter. Robin and the northern barons arrive and stop Godfrey’s men.

As the French begin their invasion on the beach below the Cliffs of Dover, Robin leads the now united English army against them. In the midst of the battle, Robin duels with Godfrey, who attempted to kill Marion and flees until Robin finally succeeds in shooting him with an arrow from afar. Philip realizes that his plan to divide England has failed and calls off his invasion. When King John sees the French surrendering to Robin instead of himself, he senses a threat to his power. In London, John reneges on his promise to sign the charter, instead declaring Robin an outlaw to be hunted throughout the kingdom. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen) announces the decree as Robin and his men flee to Sherwood Forest with the orphans of Nottingham. Marion narrates their new life in the greenwood, noting that they live in equality as they right the many wrongs in the Kingdom of King John.

Helgeland wrote a clever script, showing Medieval ideology and a complex political situation. His previous Medieval film was A Knight’s Tale, which he wrote and directed. But with Robin Hood he seems to have grown up as a writer and gives this film a little more of a complex plot and shows a bigger picture. He also cleverly mixes different aspects about how the legend has changed, like how Robin starting as a commoner and pretends to be a higher ranked man. The film also covers its bases by showing the two sites places that claim to be Robin’s home, Nottingham and Barnsdale. However this film felt like an origins story, a start to a new film series. This is Robin Hood that has not been seen on screen like this before.  Robin Hood is also historically suspect, with events and dates being changed and made up, some ideas and culture also seems to be the victim of artistic license. But Scott knows that storytelling requires character development and show a more balanced picture, particularly with historically set films. At least this film does accept that it is a piece of historical fiction.