TCM Ten Commandments Fathom Event

It was just two years ago that I went to a screening of “The Ten Commandments” at this same theater. That showing was not a Fathom event but rather part of a series AMC Theaters did that year running a whole variety of older movies. It was not particularly well attended in part I’m sure because of a lack of promotion. Today, I returned to the Red Sea with Charlton Heston and because the screening was a Fathom Event in conjunction with TCM, the theater was quite full. It was not a sell out but it was impressive for a Sunday afternoon screening of a sixty year old film.

Once again the film was spectacular, and although the special effects are six decades behind today’s digital technology, it still feels more than impressive. TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz pointed out that much of the exterior work was shot in Egypt and that there were enormous sets to complement the camera trickery that makes the city of Goshen appear so impressive and of course the parting of the Red Sea so notable. The photographic effect of the final plague on Egypt looked like God’s green fingers were coming from the sky and that the fog which clung to the ground was his breath, turning Ramses edict on itself and slaying the first born of Egypt while passing over the Israelites who marked their thresholds with lambs blood.

The style of the dialogue sometimes provoked a bit of laughter from the audience. Let’s face it, half of the time anyone says the name of Moses, they repeat it a second time in the script. The things that are most believable in the filming are the impressive use of the extras, especially in the Exodus scene itself. The geese, and goats and camels and cattle all interact in a very realistic way with the impressive cast of thousands.  Still none of it would matter if Mr. Heston and Mr. Bryner were not convincing in their parts. While much more theatrical in nature than most of us are used to in acting today, both the leads are effective with their faces, body movements and voices. Both of them make large public pronouncements that would sound silly coming from today’s leaders but are sincere in the context of this film.

So many character actors are in the film that it is a wonder that they could keep them for as long as it took to shoot the film. I’ve heard it said that Edward G. Robinson was miscast in the movie but his slight NY accent did not seem to be a distraction to me. Vincent Price was suitably slimy and  hearing John Carradine’s sonorous voice backing up Heston was a delight. The only performer who seemed slightly awkward at times was Anne Baxter, but her scenes near the end of the movie were far more effective than the love scenes in the first hour.

It’s Easter season so this film is a perennial and it made sense for TCM to schedule it during the Holy Week. If you are looking for some easy way to commemorate the Holiday, the nearly four hour investment in this movie is probably worth your time. It is also playing again this Wednesday, so play hooky and go, you will be glad you did.

The Bronze

Here is a movie that tries too hard to be quirky and hip and only succeeds in being mildly annoying most of the time. The idea of lampooning Olympic athletes is not really new, neither is the vulgar language in the mouth of an otherwise seemingly innocent young woman. So the film turns up the shock value of the language and tries like hell to overwhelm you with how awful a person the lead character has become. The fact that some of the things being said could have been quotes from Billy Bob Thornton in “Bad Santa” doesn’t qualify it as comic genius.

The movie plays for the first half like a bad sketch on Saturday Night Live. You know, the one that had a funny premise for about a minute but actually ran seven to ten minutes. That’s this movie for the first hour. There finally appears to be a more traditional plot line in the last half that concerns love and redemption but it does not feel earned since we got so abused in the first part of the movie. Mean spirited insults and dry delivery might work in small doses if timed correctly, here they just swallow the movie up and puke it all over us.

Melissa Rauch from “The Big Bang Theory” plays the part as it was written and directed, so the outcome is not entirely her fault, except that she wrote the picture with her husband. There is a gem of an idea here but it takes more skilled hands to make it work than were brought to bear. There is not a project that I can think of that Gary Cole has not made better by his presence and this film is now included in that assessment. As the father of the lead character, he is both funny, ineffectual and too sadly real.

There are several laughs in the film but they are not as frequent as they should be and most of them depend on the vile things that are being done and said. If you are looking for a way to spend a really uncomfortable couple of hours, take your parents with you to see this. If you can get through the opening scene without them walking out, maybe the movie is for you. I sound like I hated it but that is far from the truth, I was just disappointed that it could not live up to it’s potential. There is however one scene that stands out and might make a trek to a theater to see this worthwhile. Two gymnasts get it on in a over the top sex scene and it involves all of the moves, bending, head and ass placement you may have been fantasizing about since you first had a crush on that guy or gal on your high school gymnastics team.  It is really dirty and really funny. Supposedly, Sebastian Stan did his own stunts for the movie, if that includes this scene, he will be a big heartthrob for the rest of his career.

This is a little movie with big aspirations of being a surprise comedy, but the surprise is how boring so much of the film is. I’m not a big rap fan myself, but I think the end credit rap performance by the star, had everything the movie offered, but in five minutes or less.