This world is hard on dreamers. Just ask Martin Luther King Jr., or John Lennon, or Harvey Milk, or Gandhi.
From an early age, our parents and teachers warn us to get our "heads out of the clouds." The 40-hour work week is deliberately designed to provide just enough time to dream of greatness, but never enough to achieve it.
Those who buck the trend and forge out alone face a grim path and even those dreamers who somehow succeed are too often ridiculed, murdered or sucked back into the machine of consumerism.
Monday, Dec. 8, marked 34 years since John Lennon's assassination, so the download of the week is Nowhere Boy, a 2009 dramatized account of Lennon's early days in working-class Liverpool, circa. 1955. A teenaged Lennon, played excellently by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass, Godzilla), navigates family dysfunction and discovers rock 'n roll from his estranged mother, who reappears in his life at the perfect/worst time.
Beatles fans looking for a musical will be disappointed, but instead Nowhere Boy gives a more flesh-and-blood look at a man now considered a saint and one of the greatest artists of our lifetimes. This flick isn't perfect, it dips a toe into Oedipal melodrama at times, but as a look at the backstory to one of his generation's most celebrated dreamers, it's not bad at all.
Are dreams the same as Divine guidance? Opening at the Village 8, Exodus: Gods and Kings is a swords-and-sandals Biblical war epic about that time Moses (Christian Bale) took on the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton) to help a few hundred thousand slaves hoof it out of Egypt amongst a backdrop of plague and disaster.
It's a full-on Old Testament hootenanny, awash with tidal waves and destruction but director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Alien) smartly focuses on the mayhem and mysteries of faith rather than giving us a straight-up Judeo-Christian preach-fest.
But be warned, Exodus is two-and-a-half hours long and both the end and beginning lag a bit. Shit gets right Biblical in the middle however — this one has soaring combat footage, whip-cracking slavery scenes, genocide, all 10 plagues and, of course, God himself (appearing in human form!).
Much of the pre-hype over Exodus has been about Scott and the studio's use of almost exclusively white actors to tell a tale set in Egypt. While it is certainly true that minorities continuously get shafted by the Hollywood system, the quality acting (and some heavy "guy-shadow" makeup) makes it easy enough to forget the controversy enough to enjoy the film. Ten plagues in one flick! You gotta love that.
However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't still fight the powers that be and support the few minority-focused flicks that do get made. If you happen to get sucked into a trip to Vancouver over the next few weeks to shop/consume for Christmas, dip into one of those giant multiplexes and check Chris Rock's latest, Top Five.
Rock (who also wrote and directed) plays Andre Allen, a comedian who hit it big with a series of action films about a bear that fights crime (is it a nod to Rock's own voice work in Madagascar?). Publically considered to have lost his comedic chops, Allen also dates a high-profile reality TV star and with the anxiety of a big wedding on the horizon finds himself falling for the smart-and-sassy New York Times reporter (Rosario Dawson) sent to do an insider story.
We all know where this one is going but the story doesn't matter because the life of Top Five hangs on its characters. This one is getting a lot of comparisons to Woody Allen's best work, except funnier. Rock, in his third go in the director's chair, seems to have found the perfect vehicle to blend his fast-talking comedy with the kind of dramatic flow today's audiences need. This one touches on everything from celebrity, race, love, rap music, addiction and why hookers and hotel rooms are never a good idea. Chock full of well-placed cameos and shot beautifully wide so New York itself becomes a character.
All the dreamers end up in New York apparently. Just look at Taylor Swift.
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