Quite appropriately for a movie about the apocalypse, it gets most interesting at the end. But to explain why would spoil it, and most of the time it’s already too close to spoiling itself. For starters: Yes, here is another goddamned movie about the apocalypse, and with a god-saved hero to boot.
The Denz of days: Denzel Washington outlasts the apocalypse with a Bible and badass weapon skills in The Book of Eli.
It’s hard to know what the average American moviegoer—Christian or otherwise—will make of an autodidactic Bible scholar who happens also to be handy with shotgun and machete. But it must matter that he’s played by Denzel Washington, reminding us again of his great gift for dignifying almost anything. Like many loner movie heroes before him, Washington’s saintly badass is laconic, deadly and blessed—sort of a post-rapture update of Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider. Or, he’s an archly comic-booky version of Cormac McCarthy’s archly literary paladin in The Road, just one man traversing a ruined America on foot with the Lord’s mysterious ways on his mind.
Guided by the voice of the Almighty in his head, or at least by the voice of Al Green in his headphones (not a bad runner-up), Washington’s so-called “Walker,” also known as “Eli,” carries with him the last known copy of the King James Bible, which he reads every day. All he knows for sure is that he’s headed west, and that he must keep the book safe until he gets there. Eventually he meets an aspiring dictator who wants to take the Bible away from him. And in another nice touch of apocalyptic appropriateness, that person is played by Gary Oldman.
“It’s not just a f#$%in’ book!” Oldman says. “It’s a weapon!”
Cue the prophet-versus-false-prophet throwdown. Good thing screenwriter Gary Whitta and directors Allen and Albert Hughes aren’t at all daunted by the many extant precedents for their samurai-western schtick. Behold Mad Max as imagined by Sergio Leone with a goth-industrial update of the music from Blade Runner. A supporting role for Mila Kunis, way out of her element, seems only marginally more considered than the afterthought cameos by humanity’s other sacred texts. (Oh look, they do have the Koran. Hope the guy who walked that one across the hinterland had an easier trip.) When last the Hughes brothers brought out a movie, it was From Hell, but before branding them simonists and banishing them back there, we should consider the deficiency implied by that movie having been released almost a whole decade ago.
As for the end of this one, “most interesting” should not imply satisfying or commendable. How about enjoyably preposterous? It involves Malcolm McDowell, after all—and a transformation, of sorts, which, when all is said and done, just goes to show the difference between the big reveal and the Revelation.
Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan comes stateside after claiming the 2015 Palme d’Or, a prize well-earned for this masterful, seemingly effortless balancing act of ripped-from-the-headlines narrative with slow-burn psychodrama. Though stylistically similar to politically minded social realists, Audiard
Ships in the Night is the project of Alethea Leventhal, an experimental musician who pilots her music into uncharted dark waters. Her gauzy, earnest sonic constructions transcend the dismissive label of goth and place her at the intersection of decades-old new wave and the future of music. A
Sally Rose has all the charisma of a rock ‘n’ roll star paired with the grit and charm of an old-fashioned Southern girl. A woman of various musical incarnations, she brings attitude and solid chops to the bass in her rambunctious swamp-rock outfit, Swagwüf. The group returns after a summer
Jeyon Falsini wades through a crowd in front of his club, the Ante Room (at the time, the Main Street Annex), on the night of a big hip-hop show—Project Pat. He starts pointing out the players on the scene. Seems like just about everyone is a party promoter. There’s Streetz Blonko, rapper
Based on the novel My Love, My Love by Rosa Guy, Once on This Island follows a group of village storytellers as they recount the love story of Ti Moune, a peasant girl, and Daniel, a wealthy man whom she saves from death. The family-friendly summer musical navigates through many obstacles on
Bassist Chris Dammann’s outfit Restroy plays contemporary tunes from the new release Saturn Returns, and duo Rick Parker and Li Daiguo perform a blend of folk-acoustics and electronica influenced by their respective homes, Brooklyn and China. The collaborative event SEE/HEAR invites guests to
On a warm Monday morning earlier this month, a dozen twentysomethings gather in a bright, high- ceilinged room on the fifth floor of the Masonic Building on West Beverley Street in Staunton. Barefoot, they sit close together on the red carpet, pairs of shoes scattered among water bottles,
Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool (XL) Gotta admit I haven’t adored Radiohead so much as I’ve admired them. The group has always written harmonically sophisticated rock music without ever sacrificing the rock aspect. Plus, the band’s albums have always sounded amazing—the relationship Radiohead has
Looking for an affordable spectacle? Try the Italian circus that tours city to city, sets up under a giant tent and presents aerial acts, hand balancing, contortionists and mermaids over a 35,000-gallon water tank. Cirque Italia creates a “vivid, dramatic and moving experience” without animals,
As American citizens of all races and colors march in protest of police brutality and racial profiling this summer, the publication of local poet Patsy Asuncion’s collection, Cut on the Bias, offers a message of peace, inclusion and an account of the deep pain of growing up with two separate
Family Sweet Dreams Festival This family-friendly event features activities including a craft tent, rock climbing wall, laser tag, inflatables and more. Saturday 7/23. Free, 9am-4pm. Stuarts Draft Park, 96 Edgewood Ln., Stuarts Draft. sweetdreamsday.com. Nonprofit Restaurant Week Enjoy
Ash Lawn Opera heats up summer with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, the popular musical about love in the time of war. A story of how relationships between servicemen and civilians intermingle with issues of race, romance and enemy sides, the show was intentionally progressive and an
At age 9, musician EmiSunshine shocked viewers around the country with her video of a 2014 flea market performance. After going viral, she landed performances with Marty Stuart’s Late Night Jam and a gig at the Grand Ole Opry. Now 12 years old, EmiSunshine has developed an authentic folk voice
It’s 7pm on a Tuesday, and the Municipal Arts Center is filled with the sound of the Charlottesville Municipal Band filing into the large practice hall to prepare for another installment of its bi-weekly summer concert series. The evening resembles a family reunion: Musicians greet one other
Acclaimed Peruvian guitarist and composer Santiago “Coco” Linares is known for his dexterity as a player and his musicianship in orchestral arrangement and direction. In the course of his 30-year career, Linares served as the musical director for the national Peruvian TV program “Mediodía
The evolution of Ray LaMontagne has been fun to hear. From the sparse, husky folk of his early records to a recent 40-minute recording steeped in mythology, the spotlight-wary musician brings fans along as he pushes into new sonic territory. Produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James and
Many artists in Charlottesville who don’t have the privilege of pursuing their art full-time have found that employment in the food service industry allows them the flexibility to pursue their creative muse. We scouted around town, found four artists who work in the restaurant business and
Fly-on-the-wall political documentary Weiner begins with a loaded, world-weary sigh from its subject, former congressman Anthony Weiner. “Shit. This is the worst, doing a documentary on my scandal.” Directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg then launch into a montage of extremes: the many
Ezra John got his musical start in Charlottesville in 2001, after deciding teaching music wasn’t going to fulfill the dreams he had for himself. Since then, he’s been entertaining in Atlanta and Pittsburgh, and sharing the stage with Gavin DeGraw, Kendrick Lamar and Daughtry, to name a few. He
The Maupintown Film Festival showcases works of historical, educational and social value that address the achievements and plight of the African-American community. Included in the 12-film lineup is local filmmaker (and founder of Maupintown Media) Lorenzo Dickerson’s documentary Anywhere But