Are you an aging Hollywood star-turned-director with a burning desire to switch gears? Are you sick and tired of the English language? Foreign-language filmmaking could be for you! Hey, editing's a lot easier when you can just make the subtitles say whatever you want! Clint and Mel impress the hell out of us this week with Letters from Iwo Jima and Apocalypto. But look out for a young buck named Peter O'Toole. This guy can act.
Letters from Iwo Jima
Whereas Flags of our Fathers hopped back and forth between wartime and its aftermath so much that it disrupted the film's flow, Clint Eastwood's WWII companion piece is one smooth terrifying thrill ride toward certain death. Ready to hop aboard? You should be: Iwo Jima is the best war film since Saving Private Ryan. (Or should we say anti-war film?) It also makes Flags better in hindsight, too, filling in small narrative gaps and begging to be watched in sequence. Even more impressive is that the Libertarian-leaning Eastwood dared not to just humanize the Japanese soldiers firing away at Americans, but make them enormously sympathetic. The way Eastwood tells it, how can you not feel awful for these dudes? Not only were many forced into the military, but here they are surrounded and outnumbered five to one, with the T-1000 himself after them. And when the going gets extremely tough, the tough get blowing themselves up with hand grenades: It's all about dying "with honor" for these fellas, and the film's mass suicide scene is harrowing in ways reminiscent of Deer Hunter's nightmarish Russian Roullette rounds. Skip the popcorn for this one. Hot butter tastes just as good on Paxil.
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Mel Gibson may be crazy (there, I said what I will about Mel Gibson), but his madcap Mayan adventure spun a nice chunk of cinematic gold. Honestly, I didn't want to like Apocalypto (crap, that doesn't make ME a bigot, does it?), but the spell of this film is just impossible to resist. As wildly publicized, it's excessively violent and graphic. Our Mayan heroes snack on boar 'nads in the opening minutes, and really it only gets more explicit from there. As Jaguar Paw (the imposing Rudy Youngblood) watches his village ransacked and burned, he hides his baby mama in a well before falling captive to the pillagers. Miraculously eluding decapitation in one truly fubar situation at sacrificial ceremony – Jaguar Paw sets off on an incredibly intense 45-minute chase that will leave you panting. Even if you can't stand the thought of Mad Mel, boars 'nads or beheadings, get a hold of the DVD and fast-forward it to this chase. It'll be well worth it.
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