Gladiator (2000)


Today I Saw a Slave Become More Powerful Than the Emperor of Rome.

Today’s contest was admittedly difficult to manage.  I decided that I would pick a movie from the drama genre, but as I’ve mentioned many times, I hate dramas.  How would I be able to pick a movie that depressed me and call it my favorite?  I would have to be deceptive and find a movie that was inarguably a drama, but perhaps with enough elements of a type of movie I do like it will overcome the melancholy.  And that’s when it struck me.  I could think of a movie that was definitely a drama but with plenty enough action in it that I wouldn’t hate watching it.  It’s also one of my favorite movies, so the decision was clear.  I would call Gladiator my favorite drama, written by David H. Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson, directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Richard Harris, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Djimon Hounsou, Derek Jacobi, David Schofield, John Shrapnel, Tomas Arana, and Ralph Moeller.

The great warrior and general Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) leads a victory for the Romans over the Germanic tribes.  The dying emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) makes the decision to make Maximus the leader of Rome so that he can return the power to the people.  When he informs his son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), of his decision, Commodus murders him.  Maximus realizes what happened, but is betrayed by General Quintus (Tomas Arana) and sentenced to be executed, as well as his wife (Giannina Facio) and his son (Giorgio Cantarini).  Maximus escapes his execution and rushes back to find his family already dead.  He buries them and is later found unconscious by slavers and sold to Proximo (Oliver Reed), and forced to become a gladiator.  With Commodus reinstating the games in honor of his dead father (even though his father disbanded them), Maximus figures that, if he performs well, he will be able to stand before the new emperor and finally have his vengeance.

This is how I take my drama movies: barely being able to be considered a drama.  It’s great action and a great story, but with a fair share of drama mixed in.  Revenge is an easy but great motivator in movies.  The movie starts itself off pretty strong with the war in the beginning, but then I start getting emotionally invested when Commodus not only kills the likeable emperor, but also tries to kill Maximus and succeeds in killing his family.  I’m instantly on board.  I love Maximus and I hate Commodus.  That keeps me interested past the satisfying, albeit a little depressing, conclusion, and I enjoy the entire ride.  The dialogue in the movie is extremely well-written as well.  Most of it’s very crisp and stinging, including a lot of smarter versions of “fuck you”.  Any time that Commodus is talking with Maximus, every line ends with a version of “fuck your face”.  I was confused by the relationship between Commodus and Lucilla though.  I don’t know if it was more common back then, but Commodus was really aching to jump Lucilla’s bones, regardless of the fact that they were brother and sister.  They never said half-siblings or step-siblings, so I just found it weird.  That part of the movie felt like watching Clueless all over again.  The movie was beautifully filmed though.  It starts off really cold and blue and gritty when they’re in Germania, bright and hot and orange in the middle when he’s first becoming a gladiator, and colorful and bright and beautiful when they’re in the majesty of Rome.  The recreation of Rome was fantastic as well.  The fights are what really interest me about this movie, and they’re all great.  Not a lot of flourish to the fights, but every one of them was exciting and awesome.  Maximus never seemed to be the strongest or the fastest, and was never super human in any way, but he won all of his fights with skill and cunning.  They’re gory and exciting and you’re always rooting for the home team.

The performances are what set this movie apart for me.  Them and the action.  But the performances were really good.  Russell Crowe was great all the way through the movie.  I’d say there was one part that was iffy with me, but it was only partially his fault.  When he was crying over his dead wife and kid he had snot running out of his nose and drool coming out of his mouth.  Then he kissed the feet of his wife and had it sticking to her feet.  They probably should have taken that out with CG or something.  I found it not only distracting, but icky.  Also, in the part where he was kissing the wooden figures that represented his wife and son, he got a little too freaky deaky with the figure representing his wife.  He’d been alone for a while though.  I hated Joaquin Phoenix from the very first time I saw him, but that’s a credit to him because we weren’t supposed to like him at all.  He played the role so utterly despicable in every way, but it wasn’t in a cartoony way.  You could kind of get a handle on his motivations, though it doesn’t justify his actions.  And the entire movie we watch his slow descent into madness and paranoia, and he pulls that off very well.  Connie Nielsen was a good character as well.  I started off not trusting her because she always acted as if something was going on behind the scenes.  As they say in the movie, she would make a great leader if she was a man.  But, by the end of the movie, you side with her as her brother’s craziness starts getting to her as well.  And mother fuckin’ Dumbledore was up in this bitch!  Richard Harris is always great though.

It doesn’t come as any kind of a surprise that Gladiator is an awesome movie.  Yes, it’s a drama, and it’s also a bit mopey at times, but the action and the excitement override that, and the story is something that gets me involved almost immediately.  The action is great, the look is fantastic, and the performances are all top notch.  You don’t always like all of the characters, but they’re very well performed.  If you have managed to not see Gladiator by this point, I hate you.  Fix it or we’ll have troubles.  Gladiator gets “Smile for me now, brother” out of “At my signal, unleash hell!”

Congratulations to Fabio, who guessed my favorite drama correctly, despite his learning disability.

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

The Scorpion King (2002)


Live Free.  Rule Well.

This review request serves two purposes.  The first is that it’s a trilogy and one that, by the end of these reviews, will probably make the Jurassic Park trilogy look so much better.  The second purpose it serves is to knock out another review request from coworker Eric.  Today’s movie is not the movie that was requested, but the first part in the trilogy.  Eric suggested that I review the third movie, which will most likely be awful.  I decided to watch all three, so that I don’t get left out of the highly cerebral storyline.  Well, let’s jump into it.  The first movie in this trilogy is a spinoff of another movie franchise called The Mummy, making this movie The Scorpion King, written by Stephen Sommers, William Osborne, and David Hayter, directed by Chuck Russell, and starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Steven Brand, Kelly Hu, Michael Clarke Duncan, Bernard Hill, Grant Heslov, Peter Facinelli, Branscombe Richmond, Roger Rees, Ralph Moeller, and Tyler Mane.

The Akkadians are the baddest group of assassin’s in the land.  The last three remaining Akkadians – Mathayus (The Rock), his half-brother Jesup (Branscombe Richmond), and some other random dude – are hired by King Pheron (Roger Rees) to kill the sorcerer that is bringing victory to the Egyptian Emperor Memnon (Steven Brand) with her prophetic powers.  The three Akkadians get into Memnon’s camp and are instantly ambushed, having been betrayed by King Pheron’s son, Takmet (Peter Facinelli).  Mathayus escapes the ambush, but the other two Akkadians fall.  Mathayus gets into the tent of the sorcerer but finds that it is not some old dude as you’d expect.  Instead, it’s super hot Cassandra (Kelly Hu).  Memnon and his troops enter the tent and capture Mathayus, but Cassandra predicts that horrible things will happen to Memnon if he orders Mathayus executed.  Instead, Mathayus is sentenced to be buried in the sand and have ants eat his head, along with horse thief Arpid (Grant Heslov).  Together, they escape, and Mathayus sets his sights on getting revenge on Memnon.

Much like the majority of the movies that this movie spun off from, I found this movie to be a lot of fun.  It’s not particularly smart or well-written, but it’s fun and has some great fight scenes in it.  And, since that should be what you expect when going into a movie like this, you should leave fairly satisfied.  The opening of the movie serves little purpose to the story and is only there to show that The Rock is a badass.  He’s just going in and saving his brother from some small group of people that are going to kill him, and he does with extreme prejudice.  Immediately afterwards, this scene is completely forgotten about because, as I said, it had nothing to do with the story.  But it was a pretty badass fight.  It sets up how badass the Rock is by having him inexplicably climbing up a cliff with a giant boulder attached to his back (the point of which I still don’t know), then he drops in through the chimney, emerges from a cloud of smoke, and whoops ass on everyone in the tent single-handedly.  He even knocks someone out by wrapping his bow around their head, pulling it taught, and letting it snap on their face.  That’s the international sign of a badass.  The movie’s actual story picks up right after this scene.  It’s a decent story without any surprises, but it’s mainly just set up for more fights.  It’s a basic tale of revenge that is then superseded by taking out an evil ruler for the greater good, then you throw a little love story in the middle.  But the action and the fights are fun, some of the dialogue borders on clever, while other parts of the dialogue are just cheesy.  Like at the end of the clash of the titans (The Rock and Michael Clarke Duncan) where the Rock says “We are brothers in the same cause”, and should probably be given an award for delivering that line while keeping a straight face.  It’s the kind of movie that you just need to shut your brain off and look at all the pretty colors.  If you don’t, you may get bothered by the fact that they totally ripped off Indiana Jones by having him cut the giant gong thing off and rolling it out the window to escape a hail of arrows.

The performances accomplished what they came to do.  Personally, I like watching the Rock.  I don’t know if everyone feels the same as I do, but that guy’s charismatic.  And, above that, he’s so much better at fake ass-kicking than most action movie stars.  One person I like watching way more than the Rock is Kelly Hu.  Gundamn that’s a good lookin’ bird!  And this movie features her in one of two phases: nearly naked, and completely naked.  Yeah, you don’t see anything because of strategically placed hair, but I’m okay with it.  I know that Michael Clarke Duncan can really bring it in the acting department, but he left it at home for this movie.  He didn’t need his acting chops for this movie.  It seems like he likes to just do a couple of dumb movies that he’ll have fun with, and that’s what he did here.  I never really believed Steven Brand as a badass.  I just can’t see this unimpressive white boy being a threat to the Rock.  It’s kind of the same thing they did in Shanghai Knights, where they decided the bad guy would be this unimpressive white guy so they just said that he was the greatest sword fighter ever so you have to just give it a pass.

An unimpressive story and some corny dialogue does very little to remove this movie from the soft spot in my heart … that I still need to get a doctor to look at.  Good action, fun times, and an appealing cast – including the Rock in his first starring role and super hot Kelly Hu – makes this movie enjoyable.  I actually purchased this twice, but I’m not saying that as cause for you to purchase it at least once.  I just upgraded to BluRay.  I cannot promise that you will have the same kind of fun with this movie as I did, but it’s at least worth watching.  The Scorpion King gets “I’ll kill half, you kill half” out of “No need for concern, Miss.”

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