You could make the observation that the two movies I’ve done a detailed review of this week have a common thematic element of the chief protagonist in each one being a man in mid-career transition (based on the events of these narratives you could also make an argument for mid-life crisis, but that would likely upset some readers/viewers where Moses is concerned—from what we know of him from the primary written source in the Torah/Old Testament, not from what you’d find in Ridley Scott’s new big-production-budget [$140 million + advertising and distribution costs], not-so-great-box-office-returns-so-far [about $39 million domestically and falling fast], longer-than-usual-but-still-not-long-enough-to-fully-tell-the-story, not-religious-enough-for-some/not-secular-enough-for-others movie), although other than that I doubt you’d find much parallelism between this new epic about the liberation of enslaved Hebrews from the ancient Egyptian empire and the contemporary story of a comedian trying to be taken seriously even as his audience resists his desire to change (of course, maybe Moses had an a side-act as a stand-up-comic back in his palace days as well, but if so that’s a further connection that even Scott’s revisionist tale doesn’t explore). What we do get of Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings is a proud warrior in service to his somewhat-uncle (as best I understand who raised him), Pharaoh Seti I, while his somewhat-cousin-but-treated-more-like-a-brother, Ramses, is getting increasingly jealous of how much more satisfied the old ruler would be if Moses were to somehow take the throne, so when his hidden Hebrew heritage is suddenly revealed there’s a golden opportunity to get this seeming-usurper out of the way. After that, you likely know the story already, although the special effects of the plagues heaped upon the Egyptians by God and the spectacular parting of the Red Sea scene are marvelous to see, even if the other aspects of this retelling of the age-old-tale may seem somewhat at odds (or not, your choice; I’ve seen arguments both ways) to the intentions of the original text.
Chris Rock’s intentions in Top Five are to further his own career as a screenwriter-director beyond just being known as a cutting-edge-comedian or as a ticket-draw for someone else’s silly ideas of a broad comedy or a voice in an animated-animal-feature. Reflecting that reality, his principal character here, Andre Allen, has been very successful at stand-up as well as starring in some absurd (but highly profitable) Hammy the Bear movies (where’s he’s somehow an undercover cop in a bear suit, but fortunately we don’t have to see much evidence of that trilogy); however, he now wants to be taken seriously as an artist (I know there’s no intentional rip-off in either direction here, but I also can’t avoid noting the similarity between this movie’s concept and the more haunting, intricately-explored-similar-version in Birdman where Michael Keaton’s character is suffering through the same sort of drastic career adjustment). Considering all that happens in Top Five, it’s an amazingly busy one day in Andre’s life in NYC before he jets west for his wedding to a reality-TV-star, even as he’s finding himself more-attracted-the-longer-they-argue to a New York Times reporter, Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), like Andre a recovering alcoholic as well as someone who also owns some less-than-wonderful past issues that have yet to be fully resolved. Add in a wealth of guest-star cameos, some marvelously-biting humor from Rock, along with allusions to the Cinderella fairy tale and you have a very intriguing, generally-unpredictable story of two compelling people played by two very effective, relatable actors. If you want to really be prepared to see Top Five, though, you might want to draw up your own list of top five rappers (with my limited connections to this musical genre I couldn’t even name two—maybe not even one) so you can compare your faves to the many names tossed out in the course of this event-packed-picture.
Comments on any of this are always welcome here, at the review blog site, at LinkedIn’s Movie Addicts and World Cinema Critics conversations, or sent directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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