Summer, please feel free to get your hatred of Alexander off your chest. I must say from what I've read I am very dubious about the whole thing now. I think the general reaction shows how far up the asses of all the major studios Empire magazine is now, the gave it four stars. I wonder if Baz Luhrman will attempt to make his Alexander now that Stone has obviously failed the capture the publics imagination.
Ok, Ken. I'll divide the rant into two parts: my personal opinion of it, and some of the reviews from newspapers.
Mine (sorry, it's a LONG rant):
This is a rant about the half-baked Oliver Stone production, Alexander. I sat through it for three bloody hours, almost fell asleep by the end of it, and came away utterly unimpressed by what Stone considers his biggest production to date.
For his casting choices, Stone deserves no less than these punishments:
- For casting a half-crazed Angelina Jolie as Olympias, Stone deserves to be whipped
- For a brutish Val Kilmer as Philip of Macedon, Stone then deserves to be shot
- For wasting Anthony Hopkins as the doddering Ptolemy (instead of Aristotle), Stone then deserves to be scorched
- For making men look wimpy and the ultimate mama's boys (re Jared Leto as Hephaistion and a bunch of men who didn't know what haircut meant), Stone now deserves to be pecked by vultures
- For committing the error of Macedonia instead of Macedon where titles are concerned, Stone deserves to be slapped
- For sliming the beauty of Roxane by casting Rosario Dawson as her, Stone needs to be hung to dry for 2 months
- For casting a wimpy mama's boy, Colin Farrell, as the great man Alexander, Stone deserves to be quartered and his flesh thrown to the swines
It's very ironic. Stone had a historical consultant for the film, and I think the battle of Gaugamela was quite okay, but the characterisation was shot to bits. Alexander wasn't meant to be seen as some tragic hero who went on an expedition to avoid his crazy mother (a very crazy Angelina Jolie, who clearly thought hissing and playing around with snakes was enough to show that Olympias had the devil in her) and his drunk father (Val Kilmer doing his best impersonation of a lout).
I understand that not everything in history can be successfully brought onscreen, but there's only so much to be said for artistic licence. There was no sense of Alexander being a conqueror, no feel of his bravery, his zeal, his tireless ambition to conquer the world he knew. There was no sense of his ruthlessness, no sense that he was a GREAT man. Come on, the guy killed zillions in his quest for greatness, and Stone can portray him weeping and moaning and all angsty? Save that for a romance flick!
I am tired of all this Oedipal complex that they keep heaping on Alexander. Far as I can recall in my studies of him, there was very little mention of any sort of Oedipal complex with Olympias, very little of his family situation with Roxane and Statira, and a lot to do with how he started out at a young age with Philip, his battle strategies and his victories. Roxane merited so little mention in history that Stone clearly felt obliged to flesh out her "non-Greek" nationality in full force. He had her hissing, spitting and jousting with Alexander on their wedding night, like two dumb beasts fighting for territory. Roxane, from what little I knew, was a beauty of her time. Rosario Dawson turned Roxane into some bitch.
Same for Statira, except the actress playing her was so plain you couldn't tell her from a wall.
The homoeroticism makes me puke. I have nothing against gay men or bisexual men or whatever. I knew Alexander was bisexual. Jared Leto was okay as Hephaistion, but not the costume people's intention to flash him out as the most gay man in the film. I don't understand, what's with gay men having LONG hair the length of the river Nile?!
Instead of spending eons of film on the made-up relationship with his parents (oh, so I was born in a lousy family with a mad mother and a drunk father, boo-hoo), Stone could have done better capturing Alexander's brilliance at a young age and his desire to better Philip. But we don't get to see any of this. If Farrell's Alexander is not listening to mama spouting conspiracy theories, he's shooting "I wanna make love to you" looks at Hephaistion (in which case, make a bloody gay film, Stone).
Farrell doesn't come across as imposing and inspiring confidence. Instead, he's nothing more than someone lost in the meandering maze of Oliver Stone's ego. Farrell looks about to weep every five minutes, I don't see how that's inspiring confidence, especially not when we have long blond hair smacking him in the face every five seconds or so. There's no sense of history in the making. There is only the feeling that Stone's arrogance has tarnished Alexander's legacy. There is endless recitation of historical events by Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins in a wasted role), but it is as flat and soulless as the entire film.
This is from a paper in San Francisco:
"Alexander," Oliver Stone's three-hour screen biography of Alexander the Great, is epic in scale but not epic in spirit, a wallow in carnage that fails to demonstrate what was so great about this conqueror, after all. It intersperses scenes of slaughter with scenes of Alexander, either exhorting his troops to kill yet more people or sulking because he's misunderstood. It becomes monotonous.
When it's 2,300 years ago, one battle looks pretty much the same as the next. Only one thing could have held "Alexander" together, and that's a strong personality at its center. Certainly, the historical Alexander offered the possibility of a protagonist as ruthless, charming and megalomaniacal as George S. Patton, but the movie apparently chose another direction, a fairly ho-hum one: As played by Colin Farrell, Alexander is just a brave and particularly gifted young man with a noble vision. In other words, Stone tries to make us like Alexander because he's good, when he should have made us want to watch Alexander because he's amazing.
The script is full of lukewarm choices. For example, Alexander has a difficult relationship with his drunken father, King Philip of Macedonia (Val Kilmer). So how does Alexander feel about him? Is he fanatically loyal to him and blind to his failings? Or does he absolutely hate the old man's guts? Neither. He's just sort of ambivalent. Dad has a drinking problem. It's hard.
The irony is that by making Alexander the equivalent of a sensitive modern man, the movie has the effect of making him less sympathetic because it invites us to judge him according to a modern standard. It might have been fascinating to watch some dynamo from ancient times laying waste to the known world, if we got to see the frenzied zeal and the blood in his eyes. But to have to accept such a person as a basically nice guy makes us pull back. By modern standards, Alexander is just a mass murderer, the first of a long line of tyrants, including Napoleon, who killed people allegedly for their own good.
The opening is strong enough to make audiences optimistic. Anthony Hopkins leads things off as Ptolemy, remembering Alexander for a history he's writing many years after Alexander's death. He describes his former general as a colossus, thus setting a high standard for the film. Scenes from Alexander's childhood present a background that could either make or break him. His sexy, slithery mother, Olympias -- played by Angelina Jolie with a Russian accent -- is a master of court intrigue, pinning all her hopes on her son, while his father is a capricious lout who could easily disown him. There's a strong scene in which the young Alexander (Connor Paolo) finally gains his father's respect by riding a horse everyone believed couldn't be tamed.
But once Colin Farrell assumes the role, wearing a fluffy blond wig, things take a wrong turn. He looks confused, fuzzy around the eyes. This is not the incisive Alexander who untied the Gordian knot by cutting it with his sword. This is a fellow who'd look more at home on the cover of Tiger Beat magazine. Most of what follows are battle scenes or preludes to battle scenes. Stone is skillful. He shows the hand-to-hand combat, but he also pulls back to give us the overall picture and make us understand the strategy at work. But with no compelling Alexander either to pull for or be amazed by, the audience really has no horse -- or llama or elephant -- in this race.
Much has already been made of the fact that, in Alexander, modern cinema gets its first gay action hero. In fact, Alexander's relationship with his friend and lover, Hephaistion, is treated with some ambiguity -- lots of hugs, no kisses. It's also interesting that, while the historical Hephaistion was actually bigger and older than Alexander, here he's played by Jared Leto, who's younger and smaller, with long auburn hair parted in the middle. Presumably, the idea is, if Alexander must have a boyfriend, at least give him one as pretty as Diane Lane. In between hugging Hephaistion, Alexander finds time to marry an Indian woman, Roxane, played by Rosario Dawson. This leads to a hilarious wedding-night sequence, which begins with Roxane walking in on Hephaistion and Alexander and asking her new husband, "You luff heem?!"
The more people Alexander kills, the longer and fluffier Farrell's wigs get. At times, Farrell is so unconvincing as a hero that one wonders if "Alexander" is some veiled hatchet job by Stone, who, after all, has made some notable anti-war movies. But no. Every time Alexander talks about "freeing the people of the world" -- freeing them from being alive? -- the soundtrack pitches in with inspiring music. "Alexander" is not hatchet job. It just doesn't make its case.
'Alexander' the Great: Barely even mediocre
By Mike Clark, USA TODAY
Short life, long movie. After Alexander (* 1/2 out of four), don't look for Oliver Stone to be on anybody's A-list to direct and co-write a screen treatise on the life and times of Methuselah.
Behind every world conqueror: Angelina Jolie is Queen Olympias, the ambitious mother of the young Alexander (Colin Farrell).
Stone's emotionally arid three-hour epic arrives on the heels of Troy, which fell short of becoming the event picture its budget necessitated, despite intermittent entertainment value. So what are audiences going to make of a movie that has neither dramatic focus nor a single memorable performance, aside from one or two that are memorable for the wrong reasons? (Related video: See a preview of Alexander)
The drudgery begins with an instantly fatiguing framing device: Anthony Hopkins as Ptolemy, blathering on 40 years after Alex's death about how this uncommonly generous visionary largely eschewed plundering after capturing most of the world by the time he died at age 32 in 323 B.C.
With this out of the way, we flash back to the most dysfunctional family in Macedonia: one-eyed King Philip (Val Kilmer), young son Alexander (who'll become Colin Farrell's conquering Clairol blonde) and serpent-fancying Queen Olympias (Angelina Jolie).
Jolie would seem to be a natural for a role requiring the use of poisonous pet snakes as necklaces in her bedroom. But her character puts into play a problem Alexander never quite licks. Its most entertaining scenes — in fact, about the only ones that come to life — border on camp, which can hardly have been Stone's intention. Camp rules in every scene with snarling Jolie, who looks to be about 25 when her offspring is 30, give or take.
We see camp take hold again during Alex's wedding night to a Persian, a scene in which bride Rosario Dawson is all claws, catlike sounds and unencumbered breasts.
The heavy homoeroticism between Alex and longtime friend Hephaistion (Jared Leto) is far less specific than the wedding night, yet comes off as a side issue, given that both the story line and lead actor fail to take hold. Intentional clutter and confusion in battle scenes don't help, though the stuntmen who worked with the elephants earned their money.
The movie does achieve a level of scope and majesty missing from new-on-DVD Alexander the Great (1956), but that version has actors with built-in emotional clout: Richard Burton, Fredric March, Claire Bloom. It's tempting to wonder whether the subject is too elusive for screen treatment.
One thing is certain: This is Stone's weakest movie of the past 20 years, and it's unlikely to make any kind of blip.
New York Times
FILM REVIEW; With No More Parents to Conquer, He Wept
By MANOHLA DARGIS
Published: November 24, 2004, Wednesday
There comes the moment in the career of many directors when they are compelled to tell the story of a great man in whose life they seem to see a glimmer of their own image. Francis Ford Coppola had Preston Tucker, the automotive innovator who tried and failed to challenge Detroit in much the same way as the filmmaker took on Hollywood, while Martin Scorsese and Mel Gibson each had Jesus. Now Oliver Stone has Alexander the Great, the Macedonian tyrant who cut a bloody swath through the ancient world to no obvious end other than, if Mr. Stone's big, blowsy movie is to believed, get away from his kvetch of a mother.
And, what a kvetch she was! Mad of eye and teased of hair, Olympias, played with nose-flaring gusto by Angelina Jolie, was the mother of all monstrous mothers, a literal snake charmer whose love for her only son had the stench of incestuous passion and the tedium of the perpetual nag. For Alexander -- Colin Farrell, upstaged by an epically bad dye job -- the Oedipal plot would only thicken because he also loved Olympias's most loathed enemy, her husband and his father, Philip, the King of Macedon (Val Kilmer). The struggle between Olympias and Philip, these primordial warring female and male forces, would be reproduced in both Alexander's bisexual desires and his rapacious conquest of the feminized East. In other words, Alexander became his dad to waylay his mom.
The Greek historian Strabo wrote that "all the followers of Alexander preferred to accept the marvelous rather than the true." So it is with Mr. Stone, whose Alexander is a psychologically addled but fundamentally decent despot. In this take, his conquest Jones isn't meant to be an end in itself, a grab for power or untrammeled bloodlust, but a civilizing form of colonization.
Whether or not Alexander's desire to bring Hellenic culture to the so-called barbarians sprang from the heart or head is, of course, beside the point considering the trans-continental carnage; the Europeans who ravaged Mesoamerica were equally sincere. Whatever drove Alexander, it's disappointing that Mr. Stone, who in his previous films brilliantly captures the frenzied high of violence, is so intent on wiping the blood off his hero's face to show us the tears.
The inanity of Mr. Stone's script, written with Christopher Kyle and Laeta Kalogridis, works a similarly palliative effect, since it lays the gory bill for Alexander's plundering at Olympias's feet. From age 20, after he succeeds his father, Alexander spends his life running away from his mother.
As the young marauder kills and enslaves peoples from Egypt to India, Mr. Stone repeatedly returns us to Olympias, snakes coiling around her body and chastising her absent son in a bewildering accent, part Yiddishe Mama, part Natasha of "Rocky and Bullwinkle" fame: "You don't write, you don't call, why don't you settle down with a nice Macedonian girl?" or words to that effect. Rarely since Joan Crawford rampaged through the B-movie sunset of her career has a female performer achieved such camp distinction.
Mr. Stone has always made stories about men for whom ordinary life is impossible by accident or by choice. As a storyteller he has long made a habit out of extreme personalities, a preoccupation that during the 1990's was matched by one of the most playfully expressive visual styles in American mainstream movies.
The director's detractors have tended to concentrate on the controversial content of his films (American presidents and serial killers, among other subjects), dissecting and occasionally discounting his work because of the ways in which it deviated from its historical inspiration. But the truth of Mr. Stone's films has never been located in the White House or the Warren Commission's Report; it's in the richness of his imagery, the energy of his direction, the soulful intensity of his actors.
There are moments in "Alexander" that show Mr. Stone in fine form, including a battle scene shot from the view of a soaring bird and the aching tenderness between the ruler and his longtime lover, Hephaistion (Jared Leto, delivering the only credible performance in the film), but these grace notes are few and far between. This is the costliest, most logistically complex feature of the filmmaker's career, and it appears that the effort to wrangle so many beasts, from elephants to movie stars and money men, along with the headaches that come with sweeping period films, got the better of him. Certainly it's brought out the worst in terms of the puerile writing, confused plotting, shockingly off-note performances and storytelling that lacks either of the two necessary ingredients for films of this type, pop or gravitas.
Given that our historical moment is equally weighted between prurience and Puritanism it's no surprise that media interest in "Alexander" has focused more on the character's sexual exploits than his military campaigns. The ancient Greeks didn't share our 19th-century-derived conception of the homosexual, but they certainly engaged in homosexual sex, especially between men and boys. What made Alexander somewhat unusual wasn't his same-sex desire, but that he slept with men his own age.
To Mr. Stone's credit he doesn't shy away from the character's omnisexual appetites even if he doesn't allow Mr. Leto to cut loose like Rosario Dawson, who plays Alexander's wildcat wife, Roxane. Then again, in light of Alexander and Roxane's comical boudoir brawling and growling there's something to be said for directorial restraint.
Like Mary Renault's purple-prosy biographical portrait "The Nature of Alexander," Mr. Stone begins this story with the tyrant's death at 32. But because this is no ordinary death and no ordinary director, Mr. Stone opens his version with a self-conscious nod to "Citizen Kane." To compare Orson Welles's masterpiece seriously with "Alexander" would be unkind to Mr. Stone, who has made great films before and will, I hope, make them again. Yet it's worth noting that while "Citizen Kane" is an unflinching portrait of a monstrous man's will to power, "Alexander" soft-pedals a far more terrible monster. Welles took a merciless view toward his tyrant and was subjected to systematic retaliation by William Randolph Hearst, the real-life model for Kane. Creditors aside, the only one that Mr. Stone finally must answer to is himself.
"Alexander" is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). The film features a lot of graphic warfare with impaled flesh, severed limbs and disturbing images of animal cruelty. Ms. Dawson also takes her top off, which may disturb some viewers in a rather different fashion.
So, uh, Summer... did you like the film?
So, uh, Summer... did you like the film?
"No" wouldn't quite describe it.
WOW, someones been a busy ickle bee!!
I'm probably way out of date with my movie watching, as I buy DVD's from street stalls in China. There's not many available in English !
Nevertheless, if psychological thrillers are your cup of tea, then "THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT" could appeal. A young man struggling with the psychological effects of sublimated memories devises a technique of travelling back in time to inhabit his childhood body, but he finds that every trip back has unintended results on his present self. This leads him to travel back again and again, trying to repair the damage that he's only making worse and worse.
Ju-on and Ju-on 2. Damn scary and still resonating with me!!!
"The Cat In The Hat" is a good laugh, especially for non-native English speakers