Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

The scene has been set for the past 7 years. When Christopher Nolan was announced as the director for the Batman Reboot I was shocked, confused, and very much looking forward to it.

I’ve been a Batman fan since the first time I picked up one of my Dad’s comics. This spurred on my love for the campy TV show starring Adam West as well as the movie. Then I was introduced to the Dark Knight with Tim Burton’s Batman movies where I started liking the grittier story lines and deeper lying agony that came more apparent through Keaton’s depiction of Bruce Wayne.

Unfortunately we were then subjected to Joel Schumacher’s atrocities known as Batman Forever and Batman & Robin in all their Bat Nipple glory which effectively killed the franchise and destroyed any hope for a good superhero movie for a few years.

Which brought us to chapter one of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, starting with Batman Begins which drew heavily from Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One and Jeph Loeb’s Batman: The Long Halloween.

Nolan knew what he wanted to do, to start fresh, we know the story of how Wayne donned the mantle of the Bat and have known for years, but we never felt the depth of his torment till now.

Nolan then followed up with The Dark Knight, brought back the iconic Joker like we’d never seen him before. The only time I’d been more frightened by the Joker than Heath Ledger’s depiction had been from Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke. Ledger’s Joker carried the second film and concreted in my mind the dedication that Nolan was showing us.

So when I heard the Dark Knight Rises was going to be bringing back one of the worst villians ever portrayed in a Batman film, I was a little nervous at first. Then I re-read the Knightfall story line written predominantly by Chuck Dixon. Knightfall is the storyline in which Bane shows he belongs at the top of the Rogue’s Gallery.

Almost every major detail from Knightfall is portrayed in The Dark Knight Rises in one form or another. (Here’s where I would normally break this down into it’s multiple parts of Book vs Movie but since the movie is still in theaters I’m gonna wait on that for now. I’m trying to keep the spoilers to a minimum.)

From the opening scene of the film I knew I’d made the right choice to put my faith in Nolan’s writing abilities and directorial prowess. We get introduced to a new Gotham, 8 years have passed since The Dark Knight. Crime is at an all time low due to the Dent Act that was passed posthumously after Batman takes the blame for killing Harvey Dent (Two-Face) which enabled the Gotham PD the power to incarcerate major players in the underworld without bail indefinitely.

Then the action begins.

The Dark Knight Rises is a smashing two hours and fourty four minutes long. And it feels like an hour at the most. I could have stayed seated after the movie ended and watched it right away again.

The Dark Knight Rises shows us the dangers and benefits of being a peaceful society, what makes us weak and what makes us strong and how we react to problems and emergencies.

Bane is a super genius and even though he’s traded in his luchador mask from the comics for his Darth Vader-esque breathing apparatus and has never entered into the Venom world (A wise choice seeing how well people liked the last Bane’s appearance in Batman & Robin) he is portrayed with such ferocity by Tom Hardy that you can’t help but love to hate him. He doesn’t even come off as a ‘Bad’ guy, he’s a mercenary fulfilling a quest.

There’s never a time when I despised what he was doing, I knew it was wrong but the way in which he presented his story and his plans to everyone in the city, you couldn’t help but begin to wonder “What if?”. Would we so quickly fall to the looting and murder the way the people of Gotham did? And that is from coming out of 8 years of relative peace, not the (for lack of a better word) normal world we do live in.

Nolan was able to bring back the Rogue’s Gallery so many times over with Bane, The Joker, and, my new favorite, Catwoman. Anne Hathaway’s take on Selina Kyle blows all other Catwomen out of the water. The Catwoman in TDKR is the newer hipper Catwoman, she’s tough as nails and not afraid of a firearm. She is Batman’s polar opposite which makes their partnership in and out of their costumes so much more enjoyable. They are able to play in the real world and really get at each other while hooded.

The greatest addition to the series was Officer Blake played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Blake is a up and coming rookie on the GPD who is quite adept at picking up on clues. He’s driven. He’s a protege in essence to Commissioner Gordon, again played by Gary Oldman, again in top form.

If you have not yet seen this movie, you need to add it to your weekend plans. Or go tonight. Just see the greatest ‘Third’ movie I’ve ever seen.

Series movies never work. Until now.

Being one of the few people on the face of the Earth that has yet to see the Hunger Games (Although I have read it) I am catching up on the love of Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss in the Hunger Games) as an actress.

2010’s ‘Winter’s Bone’ has been on my list of movies to watch for the past few months and this past weekend, it made a fast jump to the top of my list with the help of a friend who also wanted to check it out. It was without a doubt, one of the best decisions of the weekend.

The premise of ‘Winter’s Bone’ is this; Ree lives in the Ozarks in southern Missouri with her semi-catatonic mother and two younger siblings. Her father has been in jail for a while when the movie starts and the local sheriff stops by to inform the family that her father has posted bail by putting the house up as collateral. This would be fine and dandy only he hasn’t shown up around home since his release and he is required to make his court date the following week or the house is gone.

Ree sets out to locate her father and we meet the rest of the family as the film progresses. The film touches well on the fact that this is a back woods location where no one is really well off, and most of the families around share more than a bit of blood between them.

The film follows Ree’s journey to find her father and the interactions she makes with family and friends as well as a few people who couldn’t care less to be seeing her come around. It’s the interactions between Ree and her uncle Teardrop that set this movie apart from most other dramas I have seen in the past few years.

Not only does it star Jennifer Lawrence (Who got the Oscar nomination nod for best lead actress (Lawrence being the second youngest in history to be nominated for the category behind Dakota Fanning)), it also starred John Hawkes, one of the most under-rated actors to grace the silver screen.

As I scrolled through imdb.com when looking up names of the people that took part in Winter’s Bone, I was immediately drawn to check the history of Hawkes as he is one of the actors that you will always recognize in his roles and immediately forget about the second the movie finishes rolling.

I can’t even describe why people don’t think of Hawkes as a lead actor because he is, he is amazingly dedicated to the roles he is given, he graces the screen and the audience with his dedication and power that seems to ooze from the viewing to viewing.

The first time I recall seeing Hawkes was in his role as Cowboy in the 1993 Alex Winter (Bill from Bill & Ted) film Freaked, and he always stuck with me. As he developed and got more roles as an actor, from ‘From Dusk Till Dawn, to various TV spots, to ‘Steel’, to ‘Rush Hour’ and ‘The Perfect Storm’, to his part in the critically acclaimed Steven Spielberg sci-fi mini-series ‘Taken’. Hawkes has paid his dues ten fold to get the lead roles in films yet he never gets them.

I can’t go into why he doesn’t get them, because I have no reasons why he should get them. He is the supporting actor every lead would dream of getting. He devotes every bit of his ability to his role and that shines through as his character of Teardrop in ‘Winter’s Bone’. While Lawrence is unstoppable in her role as Ree, the scenes in which she appears with Teardrop it is as though she has disappeared behind his presence. It’s hard for me to say I’ve seen more emotion portrayed in characters on film aside from the characters of Ree and Teardrop, but it’s the honest truth.

The pain they feel, the audience feels. The struggles, the beatings each takes, the internal struggle for survival and the knowledge of what is right and what needs to be fought for outweighs so much when watching ‘Winter’s Bone’.

This is the first time I’ve seen Jennifer Lawrence in a lead role and I am extremely happy that I viewed ‘Winter’s Bone’ before watching ‘The Hunger Games’. I’ve read that trilogy. I have not read Winter’s Bone. I have an image of what Katniss should be and up till now I didn’t think Lawrence could pull it off, but having seen ‘Winter’s Bone’ I am completely behind the decision to get her as the lead.

There are still times during this film that I was bored, but that happens with a lot of films that I watch anymore. My mind goes a mile a minute and doesn’t relax enough to just enjoy where I’m at. That has a lot to do with whom I’m watching a film with as well though. But with ‘Winter’s Bone’ I wanted to know what was going to happen from each second to the next. I’m happy to have seen it and stand full behind it for anyone who wants to enjoy a drama that embraces every aspect the genre should hold. Screw the stereotypes, this movie shows the emotion as it should be shown.

On a final note, ‘Winter’s Bone’ was directed by Debra Granik, a director who only has 3 films under her directorial belt but has a staggering 22 wins in various film award nominations, most coming from ‘Winter’s Bone’. It just goes to show, that even though it may take a film maker years to be shown the recognition they deserve, the wait is worth it. The faith in the person is worth is. According to imdb, there are no future endeavors in the chutes for Debra Granik, but after seeing ‘Winter’s Bone’, I can honestly say I will be at the next one as soon as I can, just to see how well she can show me characters like she did in ‘Winter’s Bone’.

When I first saw the trailer for this film I thought to myself…. “eh.”

now that i’ve seen it, it was slightly better than expected.

It is definitely a funny movie at times. It has a great cast of Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, and comedy veteran Fred Ward.

The major problem I have with 30 minutes or less, is just that fact, it’s funny… at times. It’s not constantly funny or even remotely consistent in the type of humor it tries to pass by the audience. There are moments of dire stress that really make you feel for Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) all while you really know nothing bad is going to happen.

Movies like this thrive on making the audience thing something bad is going to happen to the main character. The only problem is this is a comedy. Not a drama. Were this 2001’s Swordfish (A Review that will happen soon) we would want the hero to escape while reveling in the fact that the bad guy is winning for almost the entire film.

The general plot synopsis of 30 minutes or less is “Two fledgling criminals kidnap a pizza delivery guy, strap a bomb to his chest, and inform him that he has mere hours to rob a bank or else…” (Taken directly from imdb.com)

And that’s it. Jesse Eisenberg is our delivery boy, Aziz Ansari is his best friend, Danny McBride and Nick Swardson are the fledgling criminals. It’s honestly kind of futile to explain the rest of the plot as it really doesn’t matter. Nothing is short of cliche in this film and the film makers don’t do much to convince you otherwise.

This is the second “real” outing by director Ruben Fleischer. His last (and first) major film was 2009’s Zombieland which really made me want to like this one SO much more. I was honestly let down though, if that hasn’t already been made clear. The actors in Zombieland portrayed a chemistry that the boys in 30 minutes or less just could not muster. The interactions were forced at best for almost the entire film. But then again, it’s really hard to get stand alone comedians like Danny McBride and Aziz Ansari to really interact with fellow actors well because they are comedians at heart that are better at one liners and stand up than they are interacting with other people. They don’t like their lights to be dimmed, sadly this is portrayed the most in Ansari’s Chet. Chet is supposed to be the best friend of Nick, but every time they interact with one another you want to punch Chet through your TV screen. He’s just that obnoxious throughout the film, even when he is supposed to be having sincere heart to hearts with Nick, he just comes off like an ass.

I can’t say enough how much better this film could have been had they just changed out a couple of actors. But then again, the calibre of comedians they got for this project can’t be beat either. Stand alone, each actor is heads above the next choices that I could come up with. So while I wasn’t by any means impressed by this film, I can’t turn a blind eye to it.

It’s the best that could be done with the story. It’s the best that could be done with the actors. It’s the best that could be done with the director. The only question is why it was made. This story line belongs in an action drama film, not a comedy. There are story lines that are impossibly hard to translate to comedies and 30 minutes proves that to the greatest extent possible.

 

In 2008 Steven Spielberg directed one of the largest steaming piles of crap I’ve ever seen. That pile was named Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It had the potential to be a great revamp of a classic series, but if you’ve seen it, you already know it was not meant to be.

In 2011, Spielberg has made up for his last role at the helm with The Adventures of Tintin based on three comic stories written by Belgian artist Hergé. Spielberg also co-produced Tintin with Peter Jackson who’s WETA studios was in charge of the digital animation of the film. The two already have plans for Jackson to direct a sequel and the two collaborating on a following third film.

Spielberg has owned the rights to Tintin since acquiring them after Hergé’s death in 1983, so this project has been at least been mulling in his mind for the past two and a half decades. That thought and preparation paid off in the feature film I’m writing about today. This movie should have been made years ago, but the wait was well worth it. Tintin has adventure, excitement, mystery and lovable characters from Thomson and Thompson, Captain Haddock and of course our heros Tintin and his clever pup Snowy.

Not only are the characters amazing, the voice actors they got are top notch. Jamie Bell plays Tintin, Andy Serkis plays Haddock, Thomson and Thompson are played by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, and our villian Sakharine is played wonderfully by the great Daniel Craig.

This story reminded me so much of what it felt like to watch the Indiana Jones Trilogy (For that’s all that exist in my mind for the franchise) for the first time. The mystery that Tintin unravels rivals great heist stories, detective films and even action adventure movies.

The WETA studio has gone above and beyond what I ever could have imagined an animated film to look like. More than a few times, I was so absorbed by the beauty I was seeing on even my modest screen at home was enthralling and entrancing. It was not what I expected and far surpassed anything I could have dreamed. I’ve been a Peter Jackson fan for many years now and have loved watching his ability to work with CGI grow and expound more than even he could have hoped for. From the first time we see the first ghosts in 1996’s the Frighteners, we were shown what would become the Ring Wraiths in 2001’s Fellowship of the Ring. It’s shown me great hope to see how well he’s going to handle 3D in the new Hobbit films and made me even more excited to see the continuing adventures of Tintin.

The story for Tintin is superb, based very closely on the original stories the film is based on but updated to a more modern vernacular by another of my favorite film makers/writers Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim, Shaun of the Dead, etc.) The writing keeps the action rolling, there are few if any dull spots but the action picks back up so quickly, you forget about it within seconds.

I highly recommend The Adventures of Tintin for a family movie night, or just a night to help forget the last Indiana Jones film and replace it with a true adventure story that will take you on a trip few movies can lay claim to.

What will you be doing May 25, 2012? If you’ve been reading my reviews the past few weeks you may be able to guess what I’ll be doing. If you guessed watching the new Wes Anderson film, Moonrise Kingdom, you’d be correct.

The story revolves around two youth Suzy and Sam played by Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman respectively (both of the young actor’s break out roles) running away from home together for what we can only assume is some sort of adventure. Sam is a pigeon scout, and Suzy is an apparent budding actress from a family of six including three younger brothers, and her parents.

The thing I’m looking forward to most in this film, other than the story which looks fantastic from the trailer, is the fresh cast for this film as compared to the past Anderson films. We’ve got fresh blood flowing this time starting with the two young leads and being backed up by; Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel, and of course Edward Norton!

Aside from Murray and Schwartzman, these are all actors that Anderson hasn’t worked with yet. I can’t wait to see how well they mesh together on screen. It seems that Anderson can get any group of actors to become a family when we see them together. There is always that deep connection that jumps from the screen and shows us something fantastic.

I am also looking forward to the return of the whimsy in this film, from the extremely tall tree house, the motorbike smoking in the tree after presumably flying off a cliff, and the fact that you’ve got Bill Murray walking through the house shirtless and holding a bottle of wine in one hand and an axe in the other informing his three boys “I’ll be out back. I’m gonna find a tree to cut down.”

This movie has the potential to come in at a new number two for me on the Anderson list. I hope it meets my own high expectations.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Posted: March 19, 2012 in Review

When I first saw this movie I thought, “Yech”

But that’s not a fair way to start out a review. I’m going to preface this by saying, Fantastic Mr. Fox is definitely on my list of movies to watch again because I fell asleep half way through my first viewing, and struggled to watch the rest the next day. So this may not be the most fair review since I’ve been dreading watching it again at this juncture.

This is a stop motion animation film which was done mostly by the team behind Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, making it visually appealing and very fluid, but leaving me the wanting for something more Burton-esque.

Let’s do the Anderson run down;
Cast: Awesome. George Clooney, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Meryl Streep, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, and of course Owen Wilson.

Writing: Amazing as always, the story is a fantastic rendition of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s tale of the same name. Wonderfully updated by Wes with added bits to the beginning and end to make a more well rounded story.

Acting: As far as you can talk about the acting, it’s great. It’s voice acting so it’s a bit difficult to get the total emotion out of actors a lot of the time, but when the story is written and directed by Anderson with his wry, dry sense of humor, it’s a lot easier for the emotions to flow across the screen. I also read that when Anderson was working with his cast doing the recording, they actually did the recording on location in the woods, underground, in a backyard, etc. which really gave more reality to the film.

Cinematography: . . . It’s good. It’s well lit? I only know the basics on how stop-motion films are produced, so I really can’t give an official statement about how this was shot. All I know is that it does indeed, look quite good.

Characters (Puppets): These things look AMAZING! They have enough of their human counterparts in them that you can see Jason Schwartzman in Ash, just like you can see Clooney in his puppet of Mr. Fox. They must have taken months to create and finish to the details they are.

That all being said, I wouldn’t sign this movie off as bad. The reviews against me are astounding in their love for the film. Once more, I will be watching this movie again. And when that happens, I will write a new review matching my new, or established, thoughts towards it.

The Rum Diary (2011)

Posted: March 16, 2012 in Review

I’m going to be the voice of the people and that voice will be ink and rage.

So I just finished watching the 2011 film The Rum Diary starring Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Giovanni Ribisi, and Amber Heard. This is Depp’s second go around as a the main part in a film based on the works of Hunter S. Thompson, the first being Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

When I picked this one up I was expecting another go around in the twisted drug addled alcohol fueled mind of Thompson and for the most part I wasn’t disappointed.

The story revolves around journalist Paul Kemp as he transfers into work at a newspaper in Puerto Rico in the early ’60s. First arriving in, he tells his new boss Richard Jenkins that he’s a upper end social drinker planning on cutting back. Puerto Rico is really not the best place to try to cut back.

The alcohol flows and little reporting is actually done till Paul is approached by hotel mogul Hal Sanderson, Eckhert, who asks Paul to help him and his business associates to write up some articles for the paper to help gt the locals warmed up to the idea of building a new hotel on one of the nearby islands that has until then been owned and used for training by the US Navy.

Paul’s coworker and staff photographer Sala (Michael Rispoli) along with another coworker, Moberg (Ribisi), do their best to try to get Paul to avoid working with Sanderson due to his being a known crook. It’s hard to pull Paul away however due mostly I. Part to Sanderson’s girlfriend Chenault (Heard) being quite the flirty vixen.

There are slow parts to the film. A lot of slow parts, but the story is really interesting and overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and will probably watch it again sometime soon. The characters are interesting and the writing is quite good.

The book scribed by Thompson is near the top of my list to read soon and after watching this film has moved up a bit higher on the list.

My favorite character in this film was Ribisi’s Moberg. He is to Rum Diary what Depp was to Fear and Loathing. The drug addled alcoholic who writes when he feels like it and survives by the edge of his nails. It’s not a pretty site but it works gloriously. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Ribisi but he was a welcome site in top form. Moberg is the religious corespondent for the paper who happens to have many connections around the island that re helpful to Paul more often than not. He’s jut not that reliable since he’s ruined mot of his mind with rum. Not to mention the fact that he and Sala have a spinning machine they use to spin stolen filters from the rum factories to extract what they claim to be 463 proof rum. Very flammable and very very capable of destroying brain cells and inhibitions.

Depp had a few moments where he jumped back into the Gonzo shoes he wore so well in Fear and Loathing and Eckhert was in rare form as the corrupt bastard Sanderson. Heard has also begun to prove herself as a surprisingly strong actress since I first saw her as Seth Rogen’s girlfriend in Pineapple Express.

Paul eventually comes to realize the bad circles he’s come to be swimming around in and begins to find himself as a writer and decides to stand up for the people becoming their voice. The voice made of ink and rage.

All in all, I believe it’s much better than the mediocre ratings other reviews have given this film. But like many films that deal with corporate bastards and foreign affairs, you’ll either like it or hate it. It’s a fine line and this movie walks that line hard.