The Ten Commandments

Released: October 1956

Director: Cecil B. DeMille

Rated G

Run Time: 220 Minutes

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Charlton Heston: Moses
Yul Brynner: Rameses
Anne Baxter: Nefretiri
Edward G. Robinson: Dathan
Yvonne De Carlo: Sephora
Debra Paget: Lilia
Cedrick Hardwick: Sethi
Judith Anderson: Memnet
Vincent Price: Baka
John Carradine: Aaron

There are movies, and there are MOVIES.  The difference between the two is that movies are there mostly just to entertain.  Nothing wrong that.  MOVIES, by contrast, push the boundaries of what is possible within conventional cinema.  Every once in a while, you come across a piece of film that is so profound and so memorable that there is no possible way you can forget about it.  How many times can a movie like that come around?  We saw it with The Birth of a Nation in 1915, King Kong in 1933, and Casablanca in 1941.  These movies were very unique in how they were made and what they gave us.  During the 50’s, we saw a lot of great science fiction pictures and westerns.  But the one genre that really blew the lid off of conventional cinema was the Biblical epic.  Let me define what an epic film is.  An epic film is a movie that is made on such a scale that it draws not only stars and audiences, but it also portrays a story that is grand and powerful.  Usually it involves grand warfare involving thousands of people.  A Biblical Epic is a story that is set during Biblical times.  This is about up to 3,000 years ago.  Some of it takes place before Christ was born.  These movies are usually influenced by the Old Testament.  Stories such as Noah’s Ark and Samson and Delilah are just some of the many stories that the Bible holds.  But the most famous and arguably one of the most important stories in the Old Testament was that of Exodus, or the story of Moses.  You know, the guy that parted the Red Sea?  There have been many movies about Moses over the decades: The animated Prince of Egypt in 2000, Exodus: Gods and Kings earlier this year, but the most important and most well-known film about the legendary hero is Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments.

For all three of you living under a rock, the story of Moses is this:  After being floated down a river as an infant, Moses is discovered by the sister of the Pharoah Sethi, and adopted.  Along with his adopted brother, Rameses, Moses became a legendary warrior and strategist.  Discovering that he is of Hebrew birth, Moses is driven out of Egypt into exile.  After falling in with a group of nomads, Moses climbs the mountain of Sinai where he is spoken to by God in the form of a burning bush.  He is then charged with saving his people from slavery and leading them out of Egypt to their Promised Land.  At this point, everybody should know how the story goes.  It’s been told to us time and time again.  It is quite possibly one of the most important stories in not just Christian, but Jewish mythology as well.  This is a story about freedom and a man’s struggle to free his people from slavery.  I’m not going to get into a debate about religion or the influence of the Bible.  That’s not why I’m here.  I’m here to tell you that the story of Moses is one of the greatest and most powerful stories ever told.  You don’t have to be a believer to understand that.  It’s hard to say if The Ten Commandments is historically accurate or not as records from the period of history may have been lost, so we will never know.  But is it accurate as to how it is told in the Bible?  I’m no Bible scholar, but I would argue that it is not only a very commendable adaptation, it is quite possibly the finest.

Epic films over the past decade have been reliant on computer technology to enhance the amount of people that are seen on screen.  I’ll be honest:  It’s impressive how they get the details right in CGI.  But remember; in 1956 they didn’t have any of that.  For special effects, they had to rely on stop-motion and hand-drawn animation as well as miniatures.  For movies like The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur, there was no CG to show the amount of people involved in those stories.  No, they actually hired thousands of extras.  That is what makes movies like The Ten Commandments epic.  What you get is what you see.  If you see over a thousand people fleeing a city, that’s actual people that are moving around.  They don’t make movies like this anymore.  That is why these older epics are so important.  It’s a lost art of film-making.  With all that in mind, the movie is incredible.  It is incredibly well-acted.  Charlton Heston is absolutely phenomenal as Moses.  Not just as the prince as he was raised as, but the humble Hebrew that he becomes.  Not only is Heston physically built for the role, he has a very commanding voice and we get to see him really delve into the role the likes of which no one else has ever achieved.  Heston was at the top of his game when he starred in this movie and Ben-Hur.  This is an ensemble cast with Judith Anderson as the lowly servant, the legendary Vincent Price as the harsh taskmaster and Yul Brynner as Rameses.  If there is one downside to The Ten Commandments, it’s that the relationship between Rameses and Moses was always antagonistic, even before Moses discovering his heritage.  In later adaptions, such as The Prince of Egypt, the two came across as real brothers.  That’s the only real nitpick I have with the film.

Everything else is simply amazing.  Now, I recently watched this film on Blu-Ray, so I can tell you, the picture is gorgeous.  The colors really pop out, with the reds and the greens catching the eye.  The sound design is phenomenal.  The sets and the costumes are second-to-none.  The Ten Commandments is one of the most detailed movies I have ever seen.  The blue-screen effects really stand-out, and not in a good way.  But that is the product of the time, and I forgive the film-makers for that.  The tech simply wasn’t there.  They put every penny they had into the film and it really, really pays off in the end.  The plague sequences are well-done, even though we don’t see all of them, due to technology and time constraints, but the ones they do show are spectacular.  The green mist that represents the Angel of Death is extremely ominous.  That particular scene where all the non-Hebrew first-born children die is very unsettling, as it was intended to be.  But the real centerpiece of the film is when Moses parts the Red Sea.  This was absolutely mind-blowing.  The Ten Commandments won an Oscar for best effects, and it’s not hard to see why.  The film is incredibly well-paced.  The nearly 4-hour run-time feels like half of that.  It’s efficient film-making.

As I said earlier, you don’t have to be a believer in order to appreciate a film like The Ten Commandments.  It’s simply great film-making in nearly every way.  As far as I’m concerned, The Ten Commandments is one of those rare movies that is beyond reproach.  I don’t say that about movies often, but films like Enter The Dragon and the original Star Wars are so good that they transcend any complaints that I could throw at them.  Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments is one of the greatest movies ever made.  Period, end of story.  I had never actually seen the film in its entirety before a couple of days ago, but I can tell you this:  I will be watching it again.  And again.  This is a classic film in every way.  Honestly, it’s so good, that I can’t give it a score.  But this one definitely comes highly recommended.  If you do see it, see it on Blu-Ray.

Preview: Gods of Egypt

I’m a HUGE fan of mythology.  I know some stuff about Greek, Norse and some Christian mythology.  I have to confess that I don’t know much about Egyptian mythology, but from what I have read, it’s pretty epic.  But I’m pretty sure it didn’t look anything like Alex Proyas’ Gods of Egypt.  Gerard Butler plays Set, the Egyptian god of Chaos: A very, very evil and naughty god.  Set is well….set in his ways to conquer the world and drown it in chaos, as gods of chaos like to do.  Standing in his way is Horus, played by Jamie Lannister…I mean, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and a mortal named Bek, played by Brenton Thwaites.  The problem is, is that Set has armies of gods, demons and other nefarious villains at his beck and call.  What does Horus have?  Bek.  I’ll be truthful, this movie looks wildly awful.  It looks like the Egyptian version of Clash of the Titans.  Visually, it looks wild and fun.  I have no illusions that this movie is not going to be good.  I will give it the benefit of the doubt, however, as it is being directed by Alex Proyas.  Alex Proyas gave us The Crow, which was one of the best comic book movies ever made, as well as the sci-fi noir film, Dark City.  He also gave us I, Robot and Knowing.  He might pull a rabbit out of his hat with this one.  As someone who thoroughly enjoyed the 300 and Clash of the Titans films, this is one I will be looking at.  You can tell right from the get-go that this is clearly a visual effects film.  The amount of CGI on display is extraordinary.  Some of it looks pretty good, but some of it looks really, really bad.  This isn’t the first time that Gerard Butler has played a legendary character.  He played Leonidas in 300, so this really isn’t that much of a stretch for him.  I just never figured on Set having a Scottish accent.  Bizarre, no?  Brenton Thwaites is starting to make a name for himself with Maleficent, The Giver, and Oculus under his belt.  He will also be starring in the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.  Geoffrey Rush will be playing the sun god, Ra.  Two actresses from the amazing Mad Max: Fury Road are also making an appearance: Courtney Eaton and Abby Lee.  Bryan Brown, Rufus Sewell and Bruce Spence are also showing up.  The movie has quite the cast, I just hope that Alex Proyas knows what he’s doing.

The Unkindness Of Ravens

A couple years back, I got a disc from an independent film maker named Lawrie Brewster.  The film was called Lord of Tears, and it was one of the most unique horror movies I had ever seen.  It had incredible cinematography, as the film was set in the highlands of Scotland.  As a result, it had a very gothic and creepy atmosphere about the whole thing.  It was a slow-burner of a movie, meaning that it took its time to really get moving, but it was definitely worth it.  I just got word from the director that his new movie, The Unkindness of Ravens is close to completion, but he needs a little extra help in getting it done, so he’s using Kickstarter to help fund his movie.  You can check out the campaign here.  He also sent me a lot of promotional material that he’s given me permission to help inform people of his film and campaign.  He sent me a lot of behind the scenes pictures as well as photos of some of the actors including Jamie Scott Gordon.

The film is about a homeless Army veteran who has retreated to the highlands of Scotland to face his fears of ravens.  During this time, he’s not only facing his internal demons but actual demons as well.  Being a fan of Lord of Tears, I really like the look of this film so far.  There’s a trailer on the Kickstarter page that you should check out.  The Unkindness of Ravens is clearly a very different kind of horror movie than Lord of Tears.  I’m going to be posting some pictures as to give you some extent of what the film looks like.

A Raven Warrior

A Raven Warrior

Desolate Plain 2

Bloody Aftermath

Bloody Aftermath

BTS Crew 5

Army action

Army action

Actor Jamie Scott Gordon

Actor Jamie Scott Gordon

These are just some of the photos that I was sent.  As you can see, some of it looks really, really interesting.  Personally, I’m really stoke for this film.  I also have their official press release.  It’s a small download, but it gives more information about the film, as press releases of this sort are supposed to do.


Lawrie Brewster’s Kickstarter campaign is currently nearly 18,000 USD of his 60,000 USD goal.  He has about 28 days to get the film fully funded, so I’ll pitch in what I can, and I hope that everybody who reads this will do the same.  This is a movie that really needs to see the light of day.  I can’t wait to see it.

007: Quantum of Solace

Released: November 2008

Director: Marc Forster

Rated PG-13

Run Time: 106 Minutes

Distributor: Colombia Pictures

Daniel Craig: James Bond
Judi Dench: M
Olga Kurylenko: Camille
Matthieu Amalric: Dominic Greene
Giancarlo Giannini: Mathis
Gemma Arterton: Strawberry Fields
Jeffrey Wright: Felix Leiter

I’m a huge fan of the James Bond movies.  Whether it’s Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton, or Daniel Craig playing the character, each movie has something very interesting going on.  There is always a villain that’s up to no good, and it’s Bond’s duty to take them down, while getting the girl in the process.  Sure, it’s formulaic, but it works.  After Pierce Brosnan’s disastrous final turn as James Bond, Die Another Day, the franchise was at a crossroads of sorts.  Die Another Day got slammed critically for a lousy story line and some pretty atrocious CGI.  So, the filmmakers took a step back and decided that the next Bond film would be a re-boot of sorts.  Instead of having an established and experienced Bond, they opted to show the character at the very beginning of his career as 007.  Casino Royale was released in 2006 to world-wide critical acclaim with Daniel Craig as James Bond.  While people fussed over the fact that he had blond hair, his performance was extraordinary.  The film was less hokey and more gritty than the previous films.  It ended up being one of the best Bond movies ever made.  Obviously, the film made a boatload of money, so there was no doubt a follow-up was going to happen.  2008, we have that follow-up in Quantum of Solace.

Quantum of Solace picks up right where the previous film left off with James Bond on the run from Mr. White’s thugs.  After a speedy chase through the mountains, James Bond ends up at a MI6 safe-house so they can interrogate Mr. White about the people he works for.  In a first for the franchise, we have a movie that is an actual sequel to the previous film.  As a result, the story takes some very predictable turns as Mr. Bond is basically killing his way up the food chain.  He’s on a mission for revenge and he’ll be damned if anybody is going to stand in his way.  In Casino Royale, we have an interesting look at James Bond before he becomes….well, James Bond.  He’s being reckless, making mistakes and ends up nearly getting himself killed in the process.  In Quantum, he’s basically on a rampage, not thinking about the consequences, and while he was pretty green in the first movie, it doesn’t work as well here.  If we had time to allow this whole situation to develop, it may have worked a little bit better.  We are dumped right into the situation and it just moves us along at a very frenetic pace.  In most action movies, I wouldn’t mind that, but this is 007.  It takes more than an hour and a half to really flesh out the story and the characters.  They’re just not developed enough for us to give a damn about.  The movie also throws so much at you, it’s hard to process everything.

There’s a subplot with a mysterious organization called Quantum that’s not fully explored.  This character, Mr. White, claims he’s a part of this world-wide terrorist organization that nobody knows about.  That’s a fact that one of the characters mentions later on in the movie.  I think the film-makers were going to try for a S.P.E.C.T.R.E-style organization, and it just didn’t pan out.  We also have a subplot involving a girl, Camille, who is also out for revenge, as it were.  She’s gorgeous and she can hold her own in a fight, so having a strong female presence is awesome.  The same can’t be said for Gemma Arterton, who shows up only to be killed in a Goldfinger-fashioned way.  If you’re trying to reinvent James Bond, you really don’t want to be throwing in a whole lot of throwbacks to previous, and better entries in the franchise.  Just saying.

I mentioned in my review of Skyfall that each Bond film needs a memorable villain.  I meant it.  Most of the movies do, but Brosnan’s last three efforts as Bond had some pretty lousy villains.  In Quantum of Solace, we’re given a corrupt Bolivian general and a wimpy pasty-faced baddy who looks more like an accountant.  Is this the best that Marc Forster could come up with?  These guys are bottom of the barrel and generic villains.  I’m more interested in the organization of Quantum, but like I said, that plot-point hits a dead end.  I don’t know if that will be addressed in Spectre, but I really hope so.  Acting-wise, it’s fine.  Daniel Craig is still amazing as James Bond, Olga Kurylenko can hold her own, and Judi Dench is fun to watch as always.  The movie isn’t boring, I’ll give it that, and as an action movie, it works just fine.  It just sucks as a 007 movie.

That brings me to another issue:  The action.  While it is crazy and it is non-stop.  It’s really hard to see what’s going on, because the editors clearly went to the Michael Bay School of Editing.  That means the editing is hyper-fast and it makes things really hard to follow.  I don’t know what Marc Forster was trying to accomplish by employing that kind of editing, but it doesn’t work.  Not in a James Bond movie.  Even at their worst, the James Bond movies are still very entertaining, even Die Another Day.  Quantum of Solace is easily the worst entry in Daniel Craig’s movies.  Yeah, it can be fun at times, but there are so many problems here, that its hard to recommend as a James Bond picture.  Thankfully, Skyfall ended up being absolutely fantastic, and I will recommend that and almost any other James Bond movie over this one, except for Die Another Day.  Worst.  James.  Bond.  Movie.  Ever.  I came down hard on Quantum of Solace, and so did a lot of people.  That being said, it’s still not a bad way to spend two hours, but there are better Bond movies out there.  Quantum of Solace gets a 7/10, just because Daniel Craig still kicks ass.