Ridley Scott

Honayn

Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings is out this weekend. Yet the buzz remains about the casting controversy rather than the (apparently low) quality of the film itself. Rupert Murdoch tweeted that as far as he’s concerned, Egyptians have always been white. I wouldn’t begin to try to exhaustively explain the Australian media mogul’s unfortunate perspective. There is, however, something fascinating and troubling about the whitewashing of Egypt because of 1) its role in the Bible and 2) its place in ancient history. Not only does it belie a misconception of Ancient Egypt, it also tends to eclipse any acknowledgment of Egypt as an existing nation of 87 million people who possess a rich culture and who write in Arabic, not hieroglyphics. So, here’s a proposal. Don’t go see Exodus: Gods and Kings. Instead, take a few minutes and dive into the tradition of modern Egyptian animation. There isn’t much of it, to be sure, but what little there is can be quite fascinating and charming.

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20th Century Fox

Two powerful men — brothers from other mothers and great friends since childhood — find their relationship tested when the father of one (but guardian to both) makes it known which of the two he prefers. Division, betrayal and mass casualties soon follow as the two former best of friends become the worst of enemies. Marvel’s Thor films tackle this setup with a sense of fun, Shakespearean drama and a believably strained bond between Thor and Loki. Ridley Scott‘s equally mythical take on a similar subject is adapted from a slightly older source material than the comics, but the result is something far more ridiculous and far less engaging. Exodus: Gods and Kings aims for an epic feel built on the back of a personal, emotionally-fueled feud, but neither the big nor the small conflicts ever achieve the intended effect and instead leave viewers with a bloated, scattershot and unnecessary take on a familiar tale.

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Exodus Gods and Kings

In case you hadn’t realized it from Exodus: Gods and Kings, Noah, The History Channel’s The Bible, that Ben-Hur remake due out in 2016 and the second Bible pic Ridley Scott plans on making sometime in the future, the Bible epic is back in a big, big way. Which hasn’t been the case since the late ’50s/early ’60s, when Bible heroes were as prevalent onscreen as superheroes are today (although they’re basically the same when you think about it: cool capes, mystical powers, characters who totally seem to die yet are retconned back to life for the sequel). Ben-Hur. The Ten Commandments. The Greatest Story Ever Told. King of Kings. Huge films that bore equally huge amounts of profit. But is there some kind of connection between this new Bible craze and our last frenzy to put butts in seats with talk of Christ, God and “In the beginning”? According to Exodus – the new swords ‘n’ sandals project from Scott, Christian Bale and a cast of millions — there totally is. And also, there isn’t. It’s kind of confusing. Here’s why.

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20th Century Fox

Ridley Scott is no stranger to period epics, but Gladiator aside, he hasn’t had the best of luck with them at the box office. 1492: Conquest of Paradise disappeared from theaters faster than the Native Americans did from Columbus’ conscience, and Robin Hood resulted in people wishing they were watching the Kevin Costner version. (Okay, maybe that was just me.) His 2005 religious-themed epic meanwhile, Kingdom of Heaven, failed to appeal to audiences and only banked less than $50 million domestic (on a $130m budget). But Scott’s nothing if not persistent — hence his penchant for director’s cuts — and he’s ready to try his hand at another biblical epic combining faith in a god with slow-motion death from horseback. And he found two perfect Middle Eastern actors to head up his cast. Exodus: Gods and Kings is the story of the tiff between Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton) that resulted in the former orchestrating a mass exit of god-fearing slaves out of Egypt and the latter being inundated with messy plagues. Check out the first trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings below.

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Image Entertainment

Bible epics are so in right now as evident Noah and the upcoming Exodus: Gods and Kings, and thanks to the combined efforts of Godzilla and Guillermo del Toro, monster movies are also back in vogue. So, like pious peanut butter and unimaginable chocolate carnage these two great genre tastes have come together for a David and Goliath movie. Well, sort of. It’ll actually by a post-Goliath David and Goliath movie, but if we’re lucky, we’ll still get an awesome Goliath corpse “elephant graveyard” scene. First reported by Variety, the working title for the film is David, and it’ll be coming from the same team currently hard at work making the story of Moses into something more interesting than your average Sunday school class. Ridley Scott will be producing the film along with Chernin Entertainment (20th Century Fox will reign over all), while Jonathan Stokes will handle the screenplay.

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Christian Bale in Exodus

There are few things that are certain in this world: death, taxes, the fact that there’s always an episode of Law and Order: SVU playing on at least one channel at any given time of day or night, and that the biblical epic will always find its way back into the mainstream of cinema. It may have been since the 1950s when the big budget, large scale production was en vogue, but with films like this year’s Noah getting audiences nostalgic for animals marching two-by-two and the big guy upstairs, now Ridley Scott‘s Exodus: Gods and Kings has its path paved to go full blown Charlton Heston with no regrets. The first images from the film, courtesy of Entertainment Weekly, show that happening right away.

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Blade Runner sequel

This was sort of inevitable. Once Harrison Ford signed on to star in the next entry into the Star Wars franchise, we should have expected that it would open the floodgates for other productions to beg for their star to return for more ill-advised sequels (though we’re still not opposed to another Indiana Jones feature, so long as it ditches the aliens and bars the gates against Bradley Cooper). First up — Blade Runner.  We’ve known that Alcon Entertainment was hellbent on launching a sequel to the seminal 1982 feature since way back in 2011, when the production company announced its plans to make both prequels and sequels to the Ridley Scott-directed sci-fi classic, but this first film has been through so many fits and starts, we’d sort of hoped it would never happen. Despite having some elements to recommend it — like the return of original screenwriter Hampton Fancher – not much else of sounds that good. Even Scott, who is back to direct the new installment, isn’t exactly a selling point, as his output in the past few years (cough, Prometheus, cough) has been on the decline. But you know what could really make this thing sing? If we could get Ford to come back! But, you guys, what if Harrison Ford is tired?

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Ridley-Scott-on-Prometheus-Set

Andrew Weir’s “The Martian” was marketed as being like Cast Away meets Apollo 13. But the movie version is certainly going to be compared to Gravity. The premise of the novel sees an astronaut stranded alone on Mars as he struggles to survive until a NASA rescue mission arrives. Since he’s at least on ground, we can say it has a bit of Moon or even better Robinson Crusoe on Mars. But The Martian won’t have a monkey, and also Gravity is such a big deal after raking in so much money and Oscars that 20th Century Fox will be hoping for something more along the lines of Alfonso Cuaron’s outer space disaster thriller, especially if it’s even half as successful. Fortunately, two new valuable assets have joined the mission. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ridley Scott is set to return to space for the adaptation, which was scripted by Drew Goddard (Cloverfield). Goddard was also supposed to direct, but he’s too tied up with helming Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man spin-off The Sinister Six. So Scott will take over, and not even those disappointed with Prometheus can deny this is a terrific fit. On board with Scott is confirmed star Matt Damon. And this time he’s all rock-marooned without his Gerry pal Casey Affleck. Scott will also produce the movie along with Simon Kinberg (Elysium) and Aditya Sood (Let’s Be Cops). 

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Prometheus 2

Prometheus, are you reading this? No really, are you reading this? According to The Wrap, the “Untitled Ridley Scott Project” slated for 2016 that has been such a mystery for so long now is Prometheus 2. After 20th Century Fox announced a whole slate of movies through 2018, with a blip in the schedule for 2016 for Scott’s mysterious film of the unknown, speculations were ablaze at what the director could be cooking up as his next move. Another Blade Runner movie to follow up the reboot he’s currently working on? That would’ve been cool, wouldn’t it? A completely new film unconnected to a franchise without any expectations? Real rad. Instead, we’re getting the sequel to the unofficial prequel to the Alien franchise. It’s not as if this news wasn’t coming sooner or later; In 2012, Prometheus was a box office hit, raking in $400m worldwide. But what it wasn’t was a critical darling. The film was a bit of an all-around mess — let’s not kid ourselves. Spoilers ahead.

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review the counselor

The Counselor is one of the most cinematic and uncinematic movies of the year. It’s the former because director Ridley Scott used  the production to craft a beautifully uncomfortable atmosphere, truly evoking the themes, ideas, and visuals of scribe Cormac McCarthy‘s writing. Yet, it’s uncinematic because, to no one’s surprise, McCarthy loves to do things his own way. The movie doesn’t give you conventional exposition, backstory, or whatever else audiences might expect from easily digestible and normative filmmaking. The lead, The Counselor (Michael Fassbender), isn’t given a name. Why? Because he doesn’t need one. But the film isn’t vague – it tells you everything you need to know. The script itself is a slightly different matter. The people who loathed The Counselor, of which there are many, based on its D Cinema Score and a current rating of 37% on Rotten Tomatoes, would have torn the screen apart if  Scott used everything that McCarthy provided for him on the page. The script is just that good. Scott’s final product contains both minor and major deviations in McCarthy’s script (which reads more as a novel than a traditional screenplay), and following are ten of the most notable changes.

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boy-and-bicycle

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. It’s not often we see a short film debut by someone of Ridley Scott‘s generation. And even if one does exist and is made available on the Internet, the copy tends to be poor quality. Check out the film school works of Spielberg and Scorsese on YouTube and see what I mean. And those guys seem most likely to have preserved that early amateur stuff, or else embarrassingly kept it hidden away. Scott’s first film, though, still looks amazing after more than 50 years and even transferred to non-HD video. It’s not a total surprise. The 27-minute black and white short, Boy and Bicycle, was ultimately paid for by the British Film Institute, which probably retained a good print. So when it was time to include it on the DVDs for Scott’s first feature, The Duellists, it looked as well-cared for as any classic piece of cinema. Whether we can consider it a classic piece of cinema is something else entirely. Boy and Bicycle is about a boy and, yes, his bike. Played by Ridley’s younger brother, fellow future filmmaker Tony Scott, he’s almost the only character on screen. The parents we hear fighting off camera are Ridley and Tony’s parents and I think the old man at the end is their father. The plot sees the boy playing hooky and navigating the city of Billingham, UK, on […]

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review the counselor

The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) is a man in love, but he is also a man who may have gotten himself in over his head when it comes to some of his more “off the books” business dealings. A lawyer by trade, The Counselor (who is only ever referred to as that) has also teamed up with some interesting partners and gotten himself involved in the business of drug smuggling, and nothing goes as it should. From its very first moment, The Counselor brings its audience into a world where nothing is shied away from. Director Ridley Scott creates a highly-stylized environment where every detail is accounted for, and this is also a world where the characters are as compelling as their surroundings. The Counselor is a man who can make even the most mundane conversation, whether talking about the clarity of diamonds or the fabric of lingerie, feel vital and important. Unfortunately, Cormac McCarthy’s script fails do the same. Fassbender’s Counselor has an almost rhythmic cadence when he speaks that makes you want to hear more, but McCarthy’s script keeps him from saying anything of real substance or helping to paint a clearer view of who this man truly is.

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prometheus-truth1

When Prometheus came out in the summer of 2012, it wasn’t just the die-hard Alien fans that took issue with it. People with an interest in real science also had some problems with the film. Granted, there were plenty of silly actions in the movie by brilliant so-called scientists, like taking off their helmets on potentially hostile alien worlds, trying to make friends with an evil cobra-headed acid worm, and being unable to run in any direction but a straight line. However, the question of a DNA match between humans and Engineers is maybe the most interesting element. For a film that should have been grounded at least partially in hard science, there seemed to be some problems with its basic presentation of high school genetics. After Dr. Shaw (Noomi Rapace) brings the head of an Engineer back to her lab, only to have it spontaneous wake up and explode, she runs a DNA test on the head’s genetic material. A few seconds later, the computer screen comes alive with a graphic comparison, declaring a “DNA Match” to human beings. So that got us thinking. If we ever find ourselves with an exploded kind-of-human head in our lab, what are the chances it will be a genetic match to our own DNA?

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news ridley scott exodus

Just as Moses was mentor to Joshua, so was Walter mentor to Jesse. Both Joshua and Jesse served as assistant and apprentice to their older counterparts. Both stood by loyally during their mentors’ greatest battles. And both, at long last, were given blessings of invincibility and made leader of the Israelites. Ok, fine. Maybe Breaking Bad won’t end with Jesse leading the Jews into the Promised Land, but Ridley Scott‘s Exodus just might. Variety is reporting that Aaron Paul is in talks to play Joshua in the Biblical epic, with John Turturro and Sigourney Weaver having just landed the parts of Ramses’ parents. Deadline also has Ben Kingsley up for the part of a Hebrew scholar.

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The Counselor

After a puzzling teaser trailer left us scratching our heads and a first full-length trailer that gave us few details as to the film’s actual plot, the new trailer for Ridley Scott‘s The Counselor is offering the most cohesive look at the film so far. From previous material, we know that Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt have ridiculous costumes, Cameron Diaz writhes around on top of a car, and Michael Fassbender is in way, way over his head after making a massive drug deal. This time, we have a lot more to work with, plot-wise. Fassbender, as the eponymous counselor (or Counsellor, as the international trailer calls it), has grown accustomed to a lavish lifestyle with his fiancée, played by Penelope Cruz. But when legal work can’t keep it up, he turns to Bardem on the other side of the border to help him get into the drug business for some quick, hard cash. Easy, right? Of course, as you’ll see in the trailer below, his totally well-thought-out plan devolves into a violent catastrophe of explosions, bloodshed, and Fassbender tears when the drugs get stolen en route to the trade.

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edgerton

The first time we heard that Ridley Scott was thinking about putting together a Moses tale, word was that the project he was eyeballing was called Exodus, Fox was pressuring him to put it on the fast track, and he and the studio were trying their damnedest to get Christian Bale to attach himself as the film’s lead. Well, some exciting developments have gone down since then. Not only has Bale definitely agreed to come on board and grow a hipster beard to play Moses, but the film is also definitely set to go in front of cameras soon—likely as soon as September even. And now, in yet another bit of promising news, THR is reporting that rising star Joel Edgerton is negotiating to star opposite Bale.

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Cameron-Diaz-and-Penelope-Cruz-toppless-in-the-trailer-for-The-Counselor

The first teaser trailer we got for Ridley Scott’s The Counselor didn’t have much meat to it at all. We were introduced to a brief scenario where a wire stretched across a road caused a motorcycle accident, we caught a glimpse of Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt sporting silly hairdos, and then a shapely woman crawled across the hood of a car. It wasn’t exactly the sort of thing that let you know what the movie was all about. The new full-length trailer for the film though, well—it doesn’t really tell you all that much either. Actually, the new trailer contains about as much plot info as one of those obtuse “next week on Mad Men” teasers. But it does give us glimpses of a handsome and reluctant Michael Fassbender getting in over his head with some shady business, Bardem playing the devil character who convinces him to get involved, Pitt playing a bringer of doom, and Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz sharing a moment of danger-laced flirtation. So, even if we still don’t really know what this movie is going to be about exactly, who cares? It’s clearly got everything.

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The Counselor header

There’s a definite formula going for Javier Bardem. The wackier his haircut and outfit, the better the man’s performance. Think of that Dorothy Hamill ‘do in No Country for Old Men. Or his oh-so chic cream ensembles and bleached brows in Skyfall. Now gaze at these stills and tell me why I’m so excited to see The Counselor. The Ridley Scott film is an all-star ensemble that pairs Bardem with heavy-hitters like Cameron Diaz, real-life wife Penelope Cruz, Michael Fassbender, and Brad Pitt, as seen through these newly released stills. While the beautiful people are clearly beautiful, Bardem and Diaz are the most interesting to look at; the couple knows how to dress. Flowing caftans, rose-tinted glasses, printed silk shirts – it’s like Hunter S. Thompson was a billionaire drug lord and not just a normal drug user. The film, from a Cormac McCarthy script (No Country for Old Men) centers on a lawyer (Fassbender) who is under the impression that he can make some quick cash by getting involved in the Mexican drug game, and then getting out just as easily. Check out the rest of the new stills after the break.

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teaser counselor

Of the many high profile films opening later this fall Ridley Scott‘s newest has seemed to exist in a rather quiet little bubble. It’s strange considering the director’s pedigree as well as that of his very recognizable and accomplished cast. Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem are marquee names, and more than that they’re also considered to be some of Hollywood’s sexiest stars. The most impressive selling point for me though is that they’re all over 35 years old, meaning this just may be that rarest of Hollywood films… a big, dramatic thriller for adults. The Counselor comes from the pen of Cormac McCarthy, but unlike The Road or No Country for Old Men, this represents a departure for the writer in that it’s an original screenplay. The story follows a lawyer who finds himself involved in the dirty world of drug dealing millionaires who own cheetahs. Check out the first teaser below.

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Prometheus

Rejoice or groan, the sequel to Prometheus is moving forward. According to Variety, both Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender should return, and Jack Paglen – the writer of Wally Pfister’s directorial debut Transcendence — will be writing the script. Hopefully  all the cohesive elements of the screenplay that help make sense of everything will end up being in the movie this time around. But what else is there? Prometheus was so divisive that you’re either currently pumping your fist or pumping your fist with a sad look on your face. About the only general consequence is that it keeps Ridley Scott in this universe a little longer — theoretically preventing him from doing other projects. Although, presumably it’ll be holding him back temporarily from going back into other wells he’s drained before. So there’s that. The only confusing thing about this news is that Variety is claiming that this entry will “feel more like its own film” as opposed to Prometheus, which served to tie things into the Alien universe. That doesn’t make sense. How can a movie, a sequel, sandwiched between a universe-building story and a franchise with 6 entries, feel more like its own film? These and more questions to be answered if Fox decides they like the script enough to flash the green light.

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published: 12.17.2014
B+
published: 12.15.2014
B
published: 12.12.2014
D+
published: 12.05.2014
C+


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