It’s been an interesting couple of days between journeying to Atlanta to see The Fall and Mongol, and then watching Addio Zio Tom (Goodbye Uncle Tom) & Hearts of Darkness all in two days. I’ll give a little rundown of my thoughts of the first two today (the others to come later):

The Fall - This is a movie from the guy who brought you The Cell (which I have not seen). It takes place in a hospital in 1920s LA and revolves around an injured stuntman telling a little-girl an elaborate tale about bandits. It’s a “Forty Thieves” sort of situation, in which he withholds the climax of the story in exchange for her running and fetching him things (more to it than that, but wouldn’t want to spoil). He tells of a group of characters that all have it out for Governor Odious, who has wronged them all in some way. The story reflects what’s going on in the hospital and will often change or react to things in the real world (we hear the little girl ask for a character to have a new voice and it instantly changes, for example).

The trailer gave a distinct Hero vibe, with elaborate visuals and highly stylized epic imagery. The actual product is something closer the feel of The Devil’s Backbone with the structure of Pan’s Labyrinth by way of The Wizard of Oz. It does indeed look a bit like Hero and the like, but the slow-mo mega-colorful ultra-elaborate images (all reportedly done without the use of CGI) are a bit more sparingly used.

I really enjoyed The Fall, but it didn’t kick my ass. I walked away feeling very mixed, to contrast a good friend who definitely loved it. He mentioned that he enjoyed it more than Pan’s Labyrinth (a comparison easily made), because he liked the Fantasy : Real World ratio more. There is certainly more fantasy in The Fall than you’ll find in Pan’s Labyrinth, and it intertwines with the real-world story in more distinct and clear ways. This actually ends up being the problem for me as it is the subtlety and depth of the real-world/fantasy-world relationship in Pan’s that makes that such a fucking triumph. The connections are less obvious, less directly dependent, but they coexist and affect each other in more beautiful ways. The Fall on the other hand, is very pretty and touching, but masterpiece it is not.

Don’t get me wrong, this movie is very very entertaining and displays a great deal of craft and heart. I would confidently recommend giving this a watch, adding a bit more encouragement for those with High Def.

Mongol – This is the Russian flick about Genghis Kahn coming into power. It was made by Russian director Sergei Bodrov, who is looking to bring some humanity to a figure muchly demonized in the good ‘ole US of SR. He does so by taking massive liberties with Temudjin’s (Kahn’s name name) biography, which is only vaguely known. Not too many folks seem to have seen it but it has been mostly well received; receiving an Oscar nod for best foreign-language film, and notably screening at Ain’t It Cool’s Butt-Numb-A-Thon.

Though I did end up liking it and was impressed with the execution, watching Mongol makes every minute seem like two. This is a film that takes it’s sweet fucking time and you’re going to feel every moment in that seat.

Naturally there is a lot story to tell about Genghis Kahn, and this would be a decent first entry to a trilogy about him*. As it stands, we are presented with a relatively thorough telling of his childhood and early warlording, but little beyond that. The movie has Temudjin captured three times (apparently, it was actually only once) and uses these imprisonments to skip large chunks of what would normally be important history and context. What is left is a sectional telling of his rise to being the Kahn of all Mongols, though the first hour and half kind of dicks around and then eventually rushes to that whole “Biggest fucking empire ever” thing.

Late in the game, Temudjin escapes from a very long prison sentence and decides to unite the Mongols and instate what he sees as the basic laws they need. Problem is, he has this unity-epiphany about ten minutes before we see him become the great Genghis Kahn, and we are left without a point. There is no consistent morality or philosophy that the movie examines through his journeys, and no great idea that links the whole thing together. Temudjin always appears determined- to escape, to reclaim his wife, to win a battle, but this determination and cunning have no idealogical backbone. The easy answer would be “honor” but thats a bit (or a lot) thin. The love story is strong and it often drives the plot, thematically though, it’s just peripheral.

Turn this into a well funded mini-series and you just might be onto something. Confidently recommended to anyone with a working pause button.

Thanks for reading! I’ve got Hearts of Darkness and Addio Zio Tom (Goodbye Uncle Tom) to pontificate on next.

*I’ve read mentions that it is, but they sounded more than a little like bullshit.

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BONUS: Fake-Ass Movie Poster #1

I didn’t want the bonus of the column to always be the one-word movie reviews, so here is a poster I recently made for the “My Fan Made Movie Posters” thread. If you haven’t sat down with those 29 pages of pure magic, then I would suggest you get on it!