Wednesday, July 23, 2008
One of the things I loved most about the first film was the dialogue between all of the characters, but most importantly between Alfred and Bruce. The Dark Knight has the same banter that I love so much.
Seriously, go see this movie. I think you will all love it.
Alfred Pennyworth: I suppose they'll take me in as well, as your accomplice.
Bruce Wayne: Accomplice? I'm going to say the whole thing was your idea.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
I lay out the above so that you will know where I come from when I critique a Superman movie. Since they begin committing Superman to film there have been good films about Superman, but no film has ever truly grasped the idealism, and pureness of the character. Superman the Movie and Superman II were pretty darn good, but not really the Superman from the comic books, and don’t even get me started on Lois Lane. However, compared to the way that Superman Returns bastardizes the man of steel the previous films are shining examples of Superman lore.
When I first heard that Bryan Singer was talking the helm of the Superman franchise I was excited. Singer is one of my favorite directors and made my favorite film of all time - The Usual Suspects. His visual style is phenomenal, he seems to be an actor’s director and he completely invented the visual style of the X-Men films so I thought he’d do no wrong…I’d do better, but he couldn’t do wrong. I was mistaken.
What I can say is that there are some things that Singer gets very, very right. There are visuals in the film that are perfect Superman visuals. When Superman rescues the plane at the beginning of the film and the entire stadium applauds him – perfect. When he flies over the streets and everyone stops and stares – perfect. When we flashback to Clark Kent as a kid playing with his powers – perfect. But the list ends about there. A few perfect visuals does not make up for the things that went wrong with the film.
What is most notable bothersome about Superman Returns is the casting. What Singer got so right in X-Men he got so wrong in this film; Brandon Routh is perfect as Supes, there is no denying that. However, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane is not so perfect, she is fragile, annoying, and looks like she could snap in two under the slightest pressure. Where Margo Kidder was overbearing and slightly grating, Bosworth is too transparent and frail to be the stubborn, tough as nails reporter that doesn’t listen to anyone and makes her own rules. Let’s also note that in this film we assume the characters should be in their mid-thirties, and yet Bosworth and Routh don’t look a day over 24.
We then move on to James Marsden who plays Lois Lane’s fiancée Richard; I have no problems with Marsden, I adore him in every part and that is the problem. Marsden is far too likable for the character he was cast to paly. As an audience member we should want Lois to dump Richard and gun it for Supes/Clark. Instead, we want Richard to dump Lois because he is wonderful and she is horrible to him. Not exactly the kind of reaction you want to the character that should be the third wheel in the scenario.
Now we can discuss Lex Luthor, played by Kevin Spacey. I actually have no problems with this casting. I genuinely think it could have been perfect – if Singer had actually made him the Luthor from the comic books and not the Luthor from the first two Superman films. Instead of being the menacing villain the two time Oscar winner is capable of playing, we have a cheesy, poorly written performance of a villain who smacks of clichés.
Normally I try not to post too big of spoiler in my reviews, but I will break that rule here. Superman Returns does the one heinous thing that it cannot recover from, ever. They give Superman and Lois Lane a love child.
There is no way in Superman lore that he would EVER have an illegitimate child. EVER. I understand that children are the byproduct of sex, but this is still fiction and there is no way that with the pureness that Superman represents that he would ever have an illegitimate child. I’m sorry; it took about 40 years for Clark Kent and Lois Lane to tie the knot in the comic book, you cannot make the decision to give him a six year old son in the course of a two hour movie.
I still adore Bryan Singer. However, I remember him saying once that he doesn’t read comic books or know much about them. With X-Men that didn’t seem to make a difference, he understood what the characters where about and how to make them work in that world. He shared no such empathy for the man of steel; and I don’t know if Superman can recover.
Here and now is the first time that I say this publically for all to see. Warner Brothers, DC – someday if you give me the reins to the Superman franchise I can do to it what Christopher Nolan did to Batman. I can make the movie that satisfies the geeks because it is the Superman, Clark Kent and Lois Lane they know and love; I can make the movie that satisfies the audiences worldwide because it is a damn good story; I can make the Superman movie that makes Superman relevant again; I can make the Superman movie that breaks box office records.
All you have to do is give it to me in a few years.
Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris
Clark Kent/Superman: Brandon Routh
Lois Lane: Kate Bosworth
Lex Luthor: Kevin Spacey
Richard White: James Marsden
Kitty: Parker Posey
Perry White: Frank Langella
Martha Kent: Eva Marie Saint
Jor-El: Marlin Brando
Jason: Tristan Lake Leabu
Superman: You wrote that the world doesn't need a savior, but every day I hear people crying for one.
Monday, July 21, 2008
American Psycho is a critique of 80’s materialism and the hidden savage nature in the 80’s; in the tale our main character walks the line between his normal life where he wants to be “normal” and his night life where he runs rampant as a savage serial killer. There is a twist to this tale, which I will do my best not to give away too much information on; however, unlike High Tension the twist in this film actually works.
This is a film where Christian Bale once again proves that he can throw himself into any part and conquer it. Patrick Bateman lives by his routine, establishes some very strict rules for himself and when he loses it and goes on his murderous rampages it is delightful and horrifying at the same time. Christian Bale is able to play the upscale boy next door who just happens to be an insane serial killer and makes it believable. It is a superior and riveting performance that proves he knows how to walk the line between an overdone performance and an exaggerated character. I am not swayed to like Bale’s performance merely because Christian is in his skivvies for a large portion of the film, but that is a nice bonus. The sheer amount of disgust he is able to manage over a competitors “superior” business card is shocking to watch.
I also adore that this film is directed by a woman – Mary Harron. It actually surprised me a few years ago when I figured that out. The reason is that American Psycho created the reaction in me that I want my films to create in others; too often people watch films directed by women and judge them on a different scale. Usually, they try to figure out how these films speak about “women’s issues”, something I hate. Do you look at a Spielberg film and try to figure out what it is saying about “men’s issues” before you do anything else? No. So why do people do that for women directors? My goal in making my films is to make good, interesting, quality films first and have people notice that I am a woman second. Basically, I want people to walk out and say “Dang, I loved that movie” and then “That was directed by a woman?” only if necessary.
Mary Harron did this for me. I paid attention to the film and not the person that made it.
What is crazy to me is that there is a sequel to American Psycho. If you have seen the film you know that this is not possible and I challenge anyone to disagree with me.
Director: Mary Harron
Writers: Marry Harron & Guinevere Turner
Patrick Bateman: Christian Bale
Timothy Bryce: Justin Theroux
Craig Mcdermott: Josh Lucas
David VanPatten: Bill Sage
Jean: Chloe Sevigny
Evelyn: Reese Witherspoon
Courtney: Samantha Mathis
Luis Carruthers: Matt Ross
Paul Allen: Jared Leto
det. Kimball: Willem Dafoe
Patrick Bateman: There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman; some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me: only an entity, something illusory. And though I can hide my cold gaze, and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable... I simply am not there.
One of the things I didn’t have time to spend enough time noticing on the first viewing was the use of daylight in the film. Unlike Batman Begins, this film has a large chunk of activity taking place in the daylight. This underscores the fact that Batman and his activities are infecting more than the dark side of society; he’s begun to infect all of Gotham’s people not just the criminals. The citizens of Gotham are gaining strength, and the criminals are being forced into the daylight and out of the shadows they hid in. Sure everyone knew they were there, but they ignored them until Batman showed that they could be fought against. However, it is this change that makes the most dangerous of them all come out – the Joker.
What I also noticed was something that had the film school academic geek in me absolutely floored. What I assume some of you know, is that symbolically the left side represents evil, and the right represents good; when Tow Face is created it is the left side of Harvey Dent’s face that is permanently scarred and in the process of getting that scar (the actions that led up to it) begin the act that brings to darkness out of Harvey Dent and start the chain reaction that turns him into Two Face. Once the scars are caused it’s quite obvious; more subtle however, is how Dent is lit in all the scenes prior to his turn as Two Face. During every shot I noticed, no matter how subtle Dent is always lit with the major light source illuminating the left side of his face so that the right “good” side of his face is always in somewhat of a shadow, no matter how slight. Thus creating the foreshadowing that Dent will lose his good side and be taken over by the dark natures he has strove to suppress.
This is a summer movie that subtly defies all the rules of summer movies; it is dark, brooding and in essence the good guy doesn’t win. As Christopher Nolan is the masterful filmmaker behind Memento, The Prestige and Insomnia I know that the more I watch The Dark Knight the more layers I will be able to strip away and grasp the deeper meaning behind this film, just like Batman Begins.
The Joker: Where do we begin? A year ago, these cops and lawyers wouldn't dare cross any of you. I mean, what happened?
Gamble: So what are you proposing?
The Joker: It's simple: Kill the Batman.
In essence Swingers is a period piece even though it was filmed during the era that it takes place in. Swingers is set in a very specific portion of the 1990’s, the few years where the club culture went retro and swing music and dancing exploded into the mainstream; this was the 1990’s, but it is a very specific set of people and culture. When this film came out it was one of the original indy bombs that exploded onto the market and made people take notice of a different kind of filmmaking from the main stream. This film gave us Jon Favreau, Ron Livingston, Vince Vaughn, Heather Graham and Doug Liman.
At its core Swingers is the simple story of Mike, who has moved from Hollywood to take his comedy career to the next level and can’t get over the girl he left behind. This girl infects his whole life and for six months his friends have been trying to pull him out of it. His best friends are trying to make it in the business to; Trent is the ladies man who does not appreciate the moderate success he is having, Sue is another struggling actor who backs up Trent and his rules on women, and Rob is new to Hollywood from the east coast, and is pissed that he went from playing Shakespeare off Broadway to getting auditions for children’s entertainment. Mike is being pushed by his friends to forget the girl he left behind, and find a new “baby” or two to change his outlook.
This film is a delightful romp into the single male psyche. It sizzles with wit, humor and heart. These characters a people that are utterly real, and if you didn’t know they were fictional you would expect to run into them on the city streets of Hollywood.
Swingers is a testament to what a passion for filmmaking, and a specific project can do to all those involved.
Director: Doug Liman
Writer: Jon Favreau
Mike: Jon Favreau
Trent: Vince Vaughn
Rob: Ron Livingston
Sue: Patrick Van Horn
Lorraine: Heather Graham
Trent: I don't want you to be the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone's really hoping makes it happen. I want you to be like the guy in the rated R movie, you know, the guy you're not sure whether or not you like yet. You're not sure where he's coming from. Okay? You're a bad man. You're a bad man, Mikey. You're a bad man, bad man.
Friday, July 18, 2008
I was wrong.
The Dark Knight deserves every bit of praise it has received and more. This is not a comic book movie, this is a crime epic that tells a tale of a hero who has to make impossible choices in the name of doing what is right and defeating villains that are so evil they cannot completely be defeated no matter what he does. It is the most real crime film in that sense since Godfather and it pits a clown and a bat against each other.
We pick up with Batman approximately a year after he has begun to reform Gotham. The right things are starting to fall in place: the police are slightly less corrupt, Gordon has been promoted and is working with the Batman, Harvey Dent has been voted the new DA and is cleaning up the city, the mob is running scared, etc. Batman is creating inroads to change that are now taking root on the social level – the people of Gotham are trying to change their city.
The problem is that as Gordon predicted at the end of the first film escalation has occurred. Batman has begun to clean the streets, but created a criminal so devious that no one can predict his actions – the Joker. He has hits the scene hard and is at first regarded as a crazy know-nothing by the entire criminal world and Batman but soon has the entire city running even more petrified than before; he’s trying to create chaos and sees no one he should side with even amongst the criminals. He just wants to see the anarchy he creates play out. Singlehandedly he has made Batman question his position as Gotham’s protector, and made the underworld terrified of not just Batman, but him as well.
This is an artfully layered story crafted by people that obviously know that the Joker is the embodiment of everything that Batman strives to quell. The Joker wants to create chaos for the sake of chaos and Batman wants to create order for the sake of peace. They are polar opposites and will forever remain in struggle as Batman will not kill the Joker as that would change what he stands for, and the Joker will not kill Batman because he’d lose the best thrill of his life.
The Dark Knight is the best film about that struggle between being the needed hero and the wanted ideal that has ever been made. Bruce Wayne struck out to be an incorruptible ideal, only to find that striving to be incorruptible, to have rules, has made him vulnerable to the people he is trying to fight against.
I am the first to admit that when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker I doubted Christopher Nolan’s skills at casting. I could see so many other actors working better as the Joker than Heath – and I was wrong. When you watch The Dark Knight Heath disappears and the only person present is Joker and he is everything that ever terrified you about the Joker. He has no rules, he is brilliant and scheming, he would do anything, and his greatest joy is watching the anarchy he creates. The Joker is such a perfect character that I want to see him in another Batman film, but I don’t know how you can recast a perfect performance. While watching Heath, no one even thinks of comparing him to Jack Nicholson – there is simply no comparison.
Just as phenomenal is Aaron Eckhart as Gotham’s new, tough DA Harvey Dent. Eckhart steps perfectly into the shoes of the man who dances around the line he upholds until he tragically takes the path of Icarus and flies too close to the sun…and plummets into the darkness he was fighting against by becoming Two Face. No one can blame him for his turn –he has lost everything, but by letting his pain take over he further destroys everything he stood for as Harvey Dent. It’s not an easy role, to go from being lauded as the white knight of Gotham to the criminal that decides the fate of his victims on the flip of a coin, but Eckhart makes it natural and just dark enough that we know that Dent is not coming back.
However, Christian Bale cannot be ignored in this film. His performance as Batman/Bruce Wayne is still why the movie remains so believable. He is able to take the character from brash playboy to lurking superhero in only a few minutes of screen time. The audience can see Bruce Wayne’s conscious lay heavier on him with every act that the Joker perpetrates.
The only detractor to this film for me is that it was shot in Chicago and you can tell. Gone is my beautiful yet-unlike-the-real-world Gotham and inserted is Chicago. I don’t know why they made this artistic choice and it is forgivable as most of Gotham is destroyed in Batman Begins but I miss it.
To wrap up my review I have only one thing to say. If I were on the Oscar committee Christian Bale, Robert Downey Jr., Aaron Eckhart and Heath Ledger would all be nominated for various Oscars – yes, for “comic book” films.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Christopher Nolan & Jonathan Nolan
Bruce Wayne/Batman: Christian Bale
Rachel: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Joker: Heath Ledger
Harvey Dent/Two Face: Aaron Eckhart
Jim Gordon: Gary Oldman
Alfred: Michael Caine
Lucious Fox: Morgan Freeman
Bruce Wayne: People are dying. What would you have me do?
Alfred Pennyworth: Endure. You can be the outcast. You can make the choice that no one else will face - the right choice. Gotham needs you.
I don’t need to tell you all that I adore this film. One of my favorite things about it is that Gotham is so obviously a city on its own; it is styled after Chicago, but is touched and rebuilt in a soundstage in a way that is completely different than any city I have ever seen. Gotham is a character on its own.
The feat of doing this must have been astronomical.
I could go on more about this movie, but I think that my other reviews have sufficiently covered this in detail...and you really want to hear about The Dark Knight.
Alfred Pennyworth: Why bats, Master Wayne?
Bruce Wayne: Bats frighten me. It's time my enemies shared my dread.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Yes, I enjoyed it just as much.
Yes, I need to buy the special edition of the DVD the day it comes out.
I swear I saw it for acedemic reasons this time. Really. I wanted to see a Spielberg movie to see how they did somthing but was not going to sit through Indy 4 again so I saw a Spielberg-esque movie.
Just wait till Dark Knight.
The story of Reservoir Dogs is simple; a crime boss has a fence for some uncut diamonds that he wants to steal from a local diamond wholesaler so he hires 6 goons to pull the job, it should be simple – in and out. However, the actual heist goes sour fast and the goons that do manage to escape begin to think that there is a rat in their midst and they begin to tear each other apart.
This story is simple, but the way it is told is not. Tarantino blazed on the scene by making a film that was beautifully complex and layered and just off-beat enough to really sink in. It’s told through two time lines: the present and flashbacks for each important character so you can see how they got there. We are lulled into complacency with a witty speech about Madonna’s Like A Virgin and why tipping waitresses should not be a societal norm, then we are plunged directly into the after effects of the heist without ever seeing the actual heist.
This film would not be as entertaining as it is without a cast of phenomenal actors to fully realize the quirky characters within. Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) is the hardened con who has done time for his boss and lost a bit of his sanctity for human life along the way. Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) os the old and wisened criminal who wants out of the heist clean but feels ultimately responsible for the bullet Mr. Orange took to the gut. Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) is the nervous, by the book con who wants to split. Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) is the undercover cop, shot in the gut. Mr. Brown (Tarantino) is the cheeky criminal who doesn’t make it out of the heist. All the performances are great, and the flashbacks are phenomenal. With each one we learn something else about the character and how they have gotten into this situation.
Tarantino is known for making super-violent films. However, while violence does occasionally bother me, I am the first to say that of all the films I’ve seen Tarantino does violence and gore in some of the most artistic ways I’ve ever seen. Reservoir Dogs is no exception. The Tarantino scene that shocked the world is in this film – and it is surprisingly less gory than you’ve been led to believe. Mr. Blonde chops off a bound and gagged police officer’s ear…and it is nail biting and stomach turning, but you actually don’t see a dang thing.
With this film Tarantino took the film world by storm, and I hope to emulate that someday as well.
Writer & Director: Quentin Tarantino
Mr. White: Harvey Keitel
Mr. Orange: Tim Roth
MR. Blonde: Michael Madsen
Mr. Pink: Steve Buscemi
Mr. Blue: Eddie Bunker
Mr. Brown: Quentin Tarantino
Eddie: Chris Penn
Joe: Lawrence Tierney
Officer Nash: Kirk Baltz
Joe: With the exception of Eddie and myself, whom you already know, we're going to be using aliases on this job. Under no circumstances do I want any one of you to relate to each other by your Christian names, and I don't want any talk about yourself personally. That includes where you been, your wife's name, where you might've done time, or maybe a bank you robbed in St. Petersburg. All I want you guys to talk about, if you have to, is what you're going to do. That should do it. Here are your names...Mr. Brown, Mr. White, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Blue, Mr. Orange, and Mr. Pink.
Mr. Pink: Why am I Mr. Pink?
Joe: Because you're a faggot, alright?
Monday, July 14, 2008
I saw the first Hellboy when it came out and loved it. I thought the director was someone to watch and the movie was phenomenal; it was by someone nobody had ever heard of – Guillermo del Toro. I remember getting into verbal sparring matches with people in film school because I thought it was well directed and well made. I was a del Toro fan.
Then a little movie called Pan’s Labyrinth came out. It was phenomenal to be sure, and I knew it would be because of del Toro. Suddenly, everyone was on the del Toro bandwagon. As much as I loved that film, I was not sad The Lives of Others won the best foreign film Oscar – it was better. I waited for the next film del Toro would make.
What steps back into pop culture but Hellboy II: The Golden Army. I was excited. Until the ad campaign started.
Suddenly, the ads were all about “from the creator of Pan’s Labyrinth” and everyone was so excited that Guillermo del Toro was directing a Hellboy!
I sat back, dumbfounded. Did no one realize that del Toro directed the first one? Aparently not. I became less interested in the film the more people toted Pan’s Labyrinth and how excited this made them for what he would do with Hellboy. I sat through many people bashing how they were not interested at all in the first Hellboy, but “my god! This one is by the man that made Pan’s Labyrinth!”
Fortunately, I got over my distaste of the audience as I realized this was not del Toro’s fault, and I am glad I did. Hellboy II is a great movie. It’s not a story arch straight out of the graphic novels, but rather a new arch written for the big screen by the man that created the original material. It’s a film that deals with outsiders, and how they deal with the realization that they will never be accepted.
The monsters are beautiful. The imagery is creative. The actors are phenomenal. It’s everything that the audience wanted out of a comic book movie and the director of Pan’s Labyrinth.
I’m sorry to disappoint you all but this film is directed by the same man that directed the first film.
Director & Writer: Guillermo del Toro
Story: Mike Mignola & Guillermo del Toro
Hellboy: Ron Perlman
Liz: Selma Blair
Abe Sapien: Doug Jones
Johann Krauss: Seth MacFarkane
Prince Nuada: Luke Gross
Princess Nuala: Anna Walton
Manning: Jeffrey Tambor
Hellboy: I know; I'm ugly!
Monday, July 7, 2008
After watching Commando two things become crystal clear: 1) Arnold has not been in that many genuinely good movies in his career. 2) Almost all of the Arnold stereotypes began in this film.
The film is about Arnold’s character, John Matrix, that is a former Army commando who helped oust a dictator. Said dictator is now hunting down everyone who was on John’s team and killing them. Said dictator’s men kidnap John’s daughter, thus giving him an excuse to hunt down everyone of them and create an astronomical body count.
Seriously, that is the entire story. Oh – and since it’s 1985 there has to be a female in there as well so there is a random stewardess he meets that for some reason helps him but that basically means that she drives the car/holds the gear. I honestly have no idea why/where in the movie she showed up.
This film has the best character introduction ever for Arnold; foget the menacing explosion of blue light that eats away pavement and reveals a naked Arnold in Terminator, here we have sweaty, muscled Arnold in a wife beater with a chainsaw in one hand and an entire felled tree across his shoulder.
To further the Arnold stereotypes that follow him the rest of his career this is the film where Arnold is able to flip over cars, pick people up & throw them, take on 6 gooney’s at once, etc. - sometimes all in the same scene.
Please do not see this movie thinking it is a great, plot driven movie. In reality, it pretty much makes NO sense, but it’s so much fun because of this. How does Arnold manage to set two small explosives, and blow up an entire complex of 4+ buildings? I don’t know, but the film does it.
Director: Mark L. Lester
Writer: Steven E. DeSouza
John Matrix: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Jenny Matrix: Alyssa Milano
Cindy: Rae Dawn Chong
Arius: Dan Hedaya
Cooke: You scared, motherfucker? Well, you should be, because this Green Beret is going to kick your big ass!
Matrix: I eat Green Berets for breakfast. And right now, I'm very hungry!
As I know that her character has been recast, I inadvertently paid the most attention to the performance of Katie Holmes as Rachel. While I do like Katie Holmes, and don’t mind her performance in the film, I am genuinely excited that Maggie Gyllenhaal has stepped in to take on Rachel Dawes. Perhaps it is only that Katie Holmes “private” life has overshadowed the character, but in the whole film the only thing that seems to pull me out is Katie Holmes. I look at her and I see Tom Cruise jumping on a couch, or the happy couple toting baby Suri around, or Katie on Jay Leno saying she hopes War of the Worlds beats Batman Begins opening weekend. Katie Holmes just seems a little too light in such a dark world.
What also stood out to me was Gary Oldman. For years in the film franchise starting with the Tim Burton Batman, Jim Gordon was never right. They portrayed him as fat, sloppy and the cheesiest/stereotypical police officer ever who managed to become chief of police. The Commissioner Gordon that I knew in the comic books was lean, mean and would kick the ass of anyone who put a toe out of line; he was constantly thankful for what Batman could do and afraid of what Batman might be capable of. Gary Oldman embodies this in every way. He is how Gordon should be.
I could go on boring you all with my thoughts on the geek perfect storm that is Batman Begins for quite awhile; however, as The Dark Knight is just around the corner, I’ll wait for that one.
Bruce Wayne: Well, a guy who dresses up like a bat clearly has issues.