Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Thy Mother Mated With a Scorpion

I feel resentful towards Fabio for the pain that today’s movie put me through. Does that mean it was bad? Not necessarily. But the movie is ridiculously long, and Netflix found a way to make that worse for me. I’ve had bad luck with my Netflix disc service recently. I got this movie from them a long time ago and probably made it about 2 hours into the movie before the disc stopped being playable, and no amount of cleaning seemed to rectify the problem. I had to send it back, and when I received the replacement copy I put it off because of the hefty time investment that it would be. But I finally decided to watch the movie again so that I could present you with my 6 hour investment review into the movie Lawrence of Arabia, based on the life of T.E. Lawrence, written by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson, directed by David Lean, and starring Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quayle, and José Ferrer.

T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) is killed in a motorcycle accident. SPOILER ALERT! Actually that happens right in the opening. Also, it happened in real life. After his death, reporters try to find out more about him at his memorial. Lawrence was a misfit in the British army during World War 1. He gets sent to speak with Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness) of the Arab nation about his revolt against the Turks. During his trek across the desert, his Bedouin guide gets killed by Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) for drinking from his well without permission, leaving Lawrence to finish his trip alone. After meeting with Faisal, Lawrence suggests that they take their army through a treacherous desert to attack Aqaba by surprise. With the help of Howeitat leader Auda abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn), they overthrow the Turkish garrison. Following this, Lawrence leads a guerrilla war against the Turks trying to unify the Arab people.

I’m not typically a fan of really long movies, especially ones that I have to watch multiple times because people feed their Netflix discs to their dogs before sending them back. This movie ultimately becomes worth the investment, but it took me a while to realize why I didn’t mind it. It starts off very slow, being mostly talking and riding around a desert on camels. It was slow, but strangely never boring. I was always interested even though nothing significant was happening. I think what kept it so watchable was the scale of the movie. When this movie is referred to as an “epic”, it’s not hyperbole. The desert landscapes are huge, the armies are vast, and the music is awesome. The music did take part in something I found annoying though. I don’t understand the idea of the overtures in the movies. It’s mostly in older movies, but why are they still in the DVD? Do they think I liked the music so much that I want to hear it with no pictures on the screen for 5 minutes in the middle of the movie and right at the beginning? That’s boring. It seems like the orchestra taking a little time to jack themselves off in appreciation for their own talent. I guess I can’t blame them for that; it’s the same reason my reviews take so long to write. I have to stop every time I say something funny. …Hold on a sec… After the intermission, the movie picks up and becomes even more watchable. That’s when the fighting really starts, and it doesn’t really take many breaks from that for the rest of the movie.

The performances in the movie were all fantastic, but not in a way that gave me much to say about them. Peter O’Toole was the main focus of the movie of course, and he carried it on his shoulders with ease. For a while in the movie, I felt like I’d have a lot to say about the effeminate way that he portrayed Lawrence, and I thought I’d have compiled lots of gay jokes, but then I saw on Wikipedia that Lawrence did have to deal with the stigma of being gay, so I had to throw all of that out of the window. The only thing I had left after that was a question of motivation. I didn’t understand why Lawrence would get mad at Sherif for killing his guide. Obviously he probably doesn’t like the idea of not having a guide anymore, and he was probably getting attached (or attracted) to his guide by this point, but that dude had pulled a gun and started aiming it at Sherif. That’s not so much murder as it is self-defense, and it’s a little bold to be throwing around the term “murderer” for someone that’s going to become so coo-coo for killing later in the movie. For another significant thing about this movie that’s not Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness is in this movie! I didn’t recognize him at first because I’ve only ever seen him as an old man being cut down by a lightsaber, but once I saw his name I had to touch myself again.

Though Fabio and Netflix caused me to almost double the length of an already long movie, I felt like Lawrence of Arabia was worth the time investment. Though it was really long and the first half of the movie is fairly uneventful, it remains entirely watchable with fantastic performances and epic scale. Then the second half of the movie is pretty action-packed as a reward for making it that far. The music was also fantastic, though perhaps not fantastic enough for me to enjoy while staring at a blank screen in an intermission. Either way, this is a great movie and I recommend you watch it. Lawrence of Arabia gets “The trick is not minding that it hurts” out of “Do you think I’m just anybody, Ali?”

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Phantoms (1998)

Phantoms Like A Mother Fucker

For the longest time, the only knowledge I had about today’s movie was that Ben Affleck was the bomb in it. That information came to me from Kevin Smith in his movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. I saw the movie was available in Netflix streaming and found out that I had given this movie 5 out of 5 stars, but I didn’t even remember watching it. I decided I needed to make it today’s review because I needed to see if I actually loved this movie (and somehow forgot about it completely), or if I had given it 5 stars because it amused me to do so based on Jay’s reaction to it. We’ll both find out today in my review of Phantoms, written by Dean Koontz, directed by Joe Chappelle, and starring Joanna Going, Rose McGowan, Ben Affleck, Peter O’Toole, Liev Schreiber, Nicky Katt, and Clifton Powell.

Two sisters, Dr. Jenny (Joanna Going) and Lisa (Rose McGowan), go back to their hometown on vacation. The town looks completely empty as they pass through on their way to their house. In the house, they find their cleaning lady dead under mysterious circumstances. They try to call the police, but the phones won’t work. They then try to hop in their car, but that also won’t work. Mondays, am I right? They hoof it down to the police station, but the cops are dead too. They take a shotgun (and give it to the girl that doesn’t know how to load it) and head to a restaurant. More dead folk. But then some cops – Sheriff Bryce Hammond (Ben Affleck), Deputy Stu Wargle (Liev Schreiber), and Deputy Steve Shanning (Nicky Katt) – enter, having been on the phone with one of the dead cops when they became dead and deciding to investigate. While investigating, they find evidence of strange happenings and a message on a mirror mentioning a Timothy Flyte and an Ancient Enemy, written in blood … red lipstick. Hammond contacts the FBI, who then find Dr. Timothy Flyte (Peter O’Toole), who tells them about an Ancient Enemy that has apparently wiped out entire civilizations, leaving very little evidence. They get him down to the town and shit goes down.

I have decided that I gave this movie 5 out of 5 strictly for comedy’s sake. It’s not a great movie, but it is a pretty fun movie in parts. In fact, the first half of the movie is pretty fun times, but the pace slows down to a crawl once they get into the mobile laboratory and start planning their attack. It never really picks up from here either. Even the climax of the movie isn’t really climactic, and it was kind of confusing. I remember them saying they only had one vial of this thing that could kill the enemy, but they suddenly had like 20 when they were each off on their own. I probably could’ve been paying better attention though. Also, the big surprise punch at the very end of the movie is entirely predictable. ::SPOILER IF YOU’RE DUMB:: When Peter O’Toole says “This will kill this thing, unless there’s a nucleus away from the main mass of it” or something like that, you should INSTANTLY think to yourself “DUH! That’s exactly what’s going to happen.” Problematically, how DOES Liev Scheiber show up at the end? They shot him with those vial things just like they did every other part of the big black blob, but he survived somehow? ::END SPOILER:: There are a few other things that don’t add up to me, most notably the fact that they have a machine that they put a piece of the big bad thing in to analyze, then a “vocal mode” turns on and it starts talking to them. Why would such a computer have a “vocal mode”? Chit chat with many amoeba? But, in this movie’s defense, the first half of the movie IS a good deal of fun. It’s fast-paced, they go for some easy startle/scares, but it’s pretty entertaining.

The performances were pretty okay in this movie. I don’t know if I’m willing to go so far as to say that Ben Affleck was “the bomb” in this movie, but he was pretty good. I think I would only refer to someone’s performance in a movie as “the bomb” if he was totally badass (think Val Kilmer in Tombstone or Jeff Bridges in True Grit) or if it was extremely well acted (Liam Neeson in Schindler’s List is my easy answer for this). Affleck was neither in this movie, but he was pretty cool and fairly charming. Joanna Going made no impression on me whatsoever, which is strange since she’s the de facto lead of the movie. She didn’t seem to do much of anything but give medical advice. Rose McGowan did even less. It may be fairly masochistic of this movie that, though the female characters are the first you see, they make little to no impact. Once Affleck shows up, it’s his movie. Then once Peter O’Toole shows up, it’s his movie, though this movie may be one of O’Toole’s weakest performances that I’ve seen. Liev Schreiber was super annoying to me. He was kind of inexplicably creepy BEFORE he was a minion of black goo, and afterwards he was just really hammy. Why would this black mess be all sinister and badass until it jumps into the body of one dude and then he starts making dumb jokes?

Here’s my recommendation: if you want to enjoy this movie, watch the first half and turn it off. Then I’ll tell you how it ends in person. I may even tell you what actually happens and not just make something up that might be better than what actually happened. But, if your movie is only half good, half bad, and your performances are about half good, half bad, I’m pretty sure you don’t get 5 out of 5 from me. Instead, Phantoms gets “You always had an urge to shoot little boys?” out of “5”. That’s how I do.

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