on December 8, 2002
I would give the story line a four star rating, but I have a difference of opinion with the director's choice of color production in certain scenes in this movie. He claims he wants to set a mood with the off color and tint in some scenes. I've always felt that the dialogue and the accompanying music should set the scene, and not the color tint, particularly when the tint casts unsightly hues on a character's face. It's one thing to shoot a scene where there is, let's say, a sole blue bulb in the room, but it's totally another thing to change the natural lighting of a scene in order to create a certain mood - it doesn't happen that way in real life. I'm not saying you can never use it, but it is akin to using "and" & "but" to start a sentence - it can be done, but should be done very sparingly. In fact, this director can take a page from the movies that feature predominantly black stars. They consistantly shoot in full spectrum light which gives the scenes a very natural look, and make it a pleasure to watch. These movies are great to revisit for the sheer beauty on how they were shot. Whether the scene is shot indoors or outdoors, whether the scene is shot in the daytime or at night, the end results are good. They rarely cut off peoples heads due to photographical choices. Come on guys, that intimate close up shot can only go but so far - a close up on someone's smile, or of someone's eyes is very undesirable when viewed on a 90' x 40' movie theater screen, and still looks just as bad on home theater systems in the 50" to 200" range. The makers of Three Kings should get some pointers on how to make a film look good and natural by contacting Miramax. In their film Shakespeare In Love, they turn out a film that had so many of the aspects of photography correct. Whether the scene was brightly or dimly lighted, the colors were well saturated, had good shadow detail, had great texture detail, great contrast and framed well. I have revisited this movie many times just for the sheer joy of watching good photography on film. On the other hand, I'm not going to revisit the Three Kings until I make a personal dub of it, and record all questionable scenes in black and white with my DVD burner, or maybe I'll just watch it in black and white.
on December 4, 2002
While still resembling the disposable summer entertainment it pretends to be, "Three Kings" is actually a savage indictment of American foreign policy and the sorry implications of Western ignorance when it comes to the Middle East. Most young men don't want to think about all that challenging stuff, so perhaps pitching this as an action-comedy about American boys kicking sandy butt was the only way to get the audience which most needs to see it into the theatres. The result is a film with just enough action to be enjoyed as a purely visceral war story, but which more politically aware viewers can admire for its bracing and balanced take on modern imperialism and the politics of oil - although everyone may feel let down by an anachronistic Hollywood ending which reeks of studio interference or post-preview jitters. But the real tragedy is that in the current political environment which Bush has strategically dumbed down into the dishonest polarity of "Good vs. Evil", this is precisely the kind of forthright, sophisticated film we should be seeing more of - and precisely the kind of film which now has little chance of ever being made again. Treasure it.
on October 28, 2002
Ok, I have to admit, I have resisted seeing this film because of one name, Mark Wahlberg. Its this thing I have, the psychologists haven't been able to put a name to it, but I have a fear of viewing films with certain "actors", Wahlberg being one of said "actors". It's probably why I haven't seen The Matrix yet, the same symptoms seem to appear anytime I see Keanu Reeves. But my friend Jack tempted me and I did partake.
Writer-Director David O. Russell, deliverers a film that takes a unique perspective at modern warfare, examining the beauty and pain of the human character. I'll have to tell you, it made me reexamine my view of war. Four soldiers go AWOL in search of gold bullion (not the small cubes used to make soup) that Saddam Hussein's army has stolen from Kuwait. Finding and retrieving the gold was easy, but getting out of the country with the gold and their lives becomes the crux of the story as the soldiers struggle with the worth of the gold versus the worth of protecting the Iraqi civilians they have befriended. This for me made the film; I have seemed to have lost hope with humanity as of late. I think it is the drive I make to work everyday. I see these cars with images of the American Flag or Calvin pissing on Bin Laden clinging to the rear windows, it's suppose to say I'm a good citizen or something like that, but they drive like terrorists, putting lives at risk, they obviously don't care about their fellow man. Anyway, Three Kings forces those involved to make a choice between doing the right thing for humanity and doing the right thing for themselves.
If you saw Traffic, this movie has a similar feel, kind of grainy, makes you feel as if you really are in the heat of the desert. Oh, we can't leave out the bullet cam; this could very easily have been a scene from Fight Club. We have seen this before, helmet cam, ball cam, goal cam, but this is bullet cam, we actually see the bullet tearing through flesh and organs from the bullets point of view, odd really.
I also really enjoyed the small role played by Jamie Kennedy; this guy is really funny and extremely talented. If you haven't seen his show, The Jamie Kennedy Experiment, I highly recommend it, check it out on the WB, I know the WB, but this show really has substance.
So go out and get Three Kings and if your friends ask, just say that Chet beguiled me and I did partake.
on October 11, 2002
I'm not a war fan. My dad is, but I could care less about the genre. However, 3 Kings opened up my eyes.
Unfortunately, I walked into the theater 20 minutes late so missed most of the "comdeic" part of the film. However, I did get a chance to see the gag with the blood and guts falling from the sky. However, after that, I saw a good movie with a good plot, stylish directing, and good performances all around.
This movie takes place right after the Gulf War. Our Heroes are in charge of getting stolen gold from Iraq back to Kuwait. They complete their mission, but they find themselves in the middl of a heap of trouble. After they shoot a couple of Iraq soldiers, they must escape with refugees to the Kuwait border to get them from a certain death. Of course, the US has ordered a cease of fire and now both Iraq and US troops are after them as they trek to the border.
The script is somewhat cut and dry, but the action is pretty angaging. The ending is a little predictable, but it leaves a good impression. I recommend this movie, and I'm considering taking this genre for real.
on October 11, 2002
David O Russell's "Three Kings" is the film that I would name clever. It's original, hyper, brilliant, stylish, effective, intelligent, well-acted, and a masterpiece. It vibrates with style and energy. Like the best films of Oliver Stone and Martin Scorsese, this is a movie that's always alive through writing and performances. Not to mention the visual look. Finally George Clooney makes a film that really does deserve four stars. "Three Kings" is never boring and always action-packed, but it's not some stupid action flick, this is a movie that raises issues, explores the mechanics of war and the people involved. It doesn't use the Arabs as stereotyps, in fact, it paints them almost as equals to the American soldiers. Russells makes a great point, showing that the other side suffers just as much as us. "Three Kings" shows how the world is getting smaller and the word "minority" can't be used as much, which is just as good. Then there's the brilliant cinematography that has an energy of it's own. The performances are superb and as in "Out Of Sight" Clooney proves he isn't just an actor used as a package to sell an action movie like "From Dusk Till Dawn"(which was a cool movie). I recommend this movie to anyone.
on September 22, 2002
Writer-Director David O. Russell places Clooney, Wahlberg, Jonze and Ice Cube in the desert to fight in the squirmish in the gulf. The trick in getting anybody to pay attention to the gulf war including the characters was to get them away from their camp where most of soldiers never actually saw the enemy. Upon finding a treasure map in an Iraqi soldiers most sensitive hiding place our heros set out to find millions of dollars of Kuwaiti gold. The neccessity for a plot like this highlights what a different kind of war the Gulf War was, the only way to show some action and interaction with the locals is a fictional treasure hunt.
This is not an action flick as it was sold in it's theatrical release but, it does move along nicely and Russell takes much care in not glorifying the guns and violence.
The great part about this release is the excellent use of the DVD technology. It's packed with extras beyond the usual cast listings and commentary (although these are also there). Of particular interest are Russell's video journal and for tech heads the interview with the DP.
on September 15, 2002
Three Kings is a romp, but a romp with a heart, mixing light-hearted comedy and heart-breaking encounters. The scenes of what the Iraqi people go through are stirring, and the conversation between the Iraqi torturer and the captured American is unforgettable. The musical accompaniment to the "Saddam is coming!" scene is perfect.
People sometimes say they don't agree with the politics of this film. What is to disagree with? Putting a human face on an enemy we'd prefer to demonize? Even while making fun of the Iraqi dictatorship, the film recognizes that we don't keep going over there out of the goodness of the American heart. There are thousands of human rights brushfires around the world, and only the politically naive overlook the little three-letter word that explains why we just happen to choose the Middle East out of all the possible places to intervene: O-I-L.
Clooney's character was a delightful trickster....I was hoping he'd develop somewhat as a character, but the decision he makes toward the end of the movie was within him from the start, so I'm not certain he changed much. Perhaps part of his "job" was to be present for the changes taking place in his colleagues.
on August 14, 2002
First, I don't necessarily agree with the politics of this movie (it was, after all, given a screening at the Clinton Whitehouse). I'm not certain that the movie presents as "fair and balanced" a view of the U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf War with Iraq as the producer claims he was trying to present (the notion that the U.S. was there to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi annexation is only cursorily glanced over), but aside from its view that the administration of George Bush (the Elder) did not sufficiently support the Iraqi people in their bid to overthrow Saddam Hussein (a belief that has merit even among conservatives), this movie also succeeds brilliantly in becoming much more than a 1990's update of "Kelly's Heroes", which is the only impression I ever had of it from the theatre trailers.
This movie takes a different angle than typical war films in that it doesn't try to show U.S. soldiers as the elite special forces troops as depicted in "Black Hawk Down"; indeed, this may very well be the first war movie shot from the Reservists' point-of-view...our heroes aren't men who are dedicated to a life defending their country; they are family men with (menial) jobs who spend a weekend a month in the military for extra cash to help them get by (except for George Clooney, a career Special Forces/Delta Force officer who has lost his motivation for the life he's chosen after his involvement in a war that to this day leaves more questions unanswered than resolved).
The photography is inventive and interesting, the acting is first-rate (especially Spike Jonze and Mark Wahlberg...Ice Cube doesn't disappoint, and George Clooney is just plain cool...I personally enjoy the Arabic actors the best)...and there are enough special features to the DVD to have an interested viewer watching for hours.
I recommend this movie, despite its political leanings...it's one of the DVD's I own that I watch regularly.
on July 30, 2002
I must say, don't listen to any negative reviews, because this film really puts it all on the table. You've got well-developed characters who actually go through changes, an unpredictable and continuously interesting plot, and a film style that is entertaining and unusual. Everyone in this movie is allowed three dimensions, not just the Americans, not just the refugees, but even Sadam's soldiers. This is not a war movie as much as it is an unpredictable adventure tale. I found myself smiling frequently and then becoming serious a minute later. Somehow the tone can shift and fluctuate like the wind and yet possess the same, consistent demeanor throughout. I don't know how they did that. Mark Wahlberg's character was pretty damn enjoyable, Clooney can really do that thing where he smiles with only his eyes, and who better to throw a C-4 laced football then Ice Cube? Great cast, witty dialogue, and surprising emotions. I really like this movie. Just don't expect a simplistic action plot with over used special effects. It's a much more intelligent, thoughtful, adventure story with a variety of plot twists. Grab this movie quick and have fun.
on June 30, 2002
After seeing all of the positive reviews for this movie, I was really looking forward to checking it out. Boy, am I glad I only rented it! Admittedly this movie is not entirely terrible, but after seeing all of the critical praise which it doesn't really deserve, I have a hard time saying anything good about it.
First of all, any favorable comparisons to "Kelly's Heroes" are totally unwarranted. ("improving on the premise" ??!?!? wake up!) "Kelly's Heroes" is a comic masterpiece on the triumph of personal greed over political conflict. While it gets serious and even tragic in places, it never loses sight of its satirical premise. In "Three Kings", the greed aspect nearly vanishes, as does the comedy for the most part. Some scenes are indeed very funny, but for the most part the humor gives way to shmaltz, political correctness, and downright preaching.
In the end, this is not a satire but a mere adventure film with some sociopolitical pretensions. As a serious statement about the Gulf War, this movie is a failure because of its utter dependence on sentimentality and commercialism (can you say "product placement"?). And its sporatic attempts at being artistically relevant only make it more painful to watch (when a movie begins with a warning about the cinematography, that's not a good sign).