353 – Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)

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Sometimes you review a movie and can’t quite figure out where to begin. That is not the case with Exodus: Gods and Kings; one of the film’s biggest issues is right there on the porcelain-white surface. I’ll let director Ridley Scott take it from here: “I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such. I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t come up.” He’s got a point – why even consider ethnically appropriate actors when you can make a movie about ancient Hebrews and Egyptians starring superstars like Joel Edgerton, Ben Mendelsohn, and Aaron Paul? The closed-mindedness that Scott exhibits here is incredibly frustrating, and that very notion ought to invalidate the movie entirely. But it was made and released regardless, so reviews must be written.

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352 – Live Read: The Empire Strikes Back

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With the end of December (and the year) approaching, we come upon another of Jason Reitman’s Live Reads, hosted by Film Independent at LACMA. Only this time, the Live Read was not at LACMA; for December, Jason, Elvis Mitchell and the whole team moved to The Theatre at Ace Hotel, formerly known as the United Artists Theatre. Such an expanded venue could only be necessary for one film: The Empire Strikes Back.

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075 – Need for Speed (2014)

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The Fast and Furious franchise is a triumph in disposable summer entertainment; the most recent entry was my eighth favorite movie of 2013. The series began a little too self-serious, the way that most action movies tend to. But eventually the filmmakers realized that they weren’t making high art, which ironically lifted the quality of their output. Those films stopped being about racing a long time ago, rightly choosing instead to focus on the superhero Vin Diesel has become both on- and off-screen. Need for Speed attempts to fill that racing-based void, while trying to capitalize on the established films’ popularity. Early box office reports don’t look good for a potential franchise, but that is not necessarily indicative of the film itself.

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