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Theatrical Review: “The Dark Knight Rises”

July 25, 2012 8 comments
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Produced by: Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas
Written by: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan (screenplay), David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan (story)
Cinematography by: Wally Pfister
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman
Year: 2012

 

Foreword

In the wake of the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, I felt a bit odd about writing my previous review and preparing for my next, as I was writing it in the late night hours as the events were unfolding, unknown to me until the next morning. Much of what I wrote about The Dark Knight reflected a lot of what was happening there, none of it necessarily original or new information, but it was stirring, all the same.

I had no common connection to any of the victims there beyond our similar interest in seeing this new Batman film, all of us anxious in seeing how this trilogy would end, and, unfortunately, many of them never got to see this film, and many more will forever see this film and be reminded of the horrible things they saw that night. What was supposed to be night of fun and entertainment turned into a nightmare, and it affected me, and still does a great deal the more I hear about the events, much more than I thought it would — not because I thought of myself as some tough, emotionless, apathetic person but because it made me realize how even the most mundane things we take for granted can connect strangers based on a mundane commonality.

This just happened to revolve around a movie theatre, a highly anticipated film, and audiences across the world who waited, maybe not in the same proximity, but with the same spirit that united us all in excitement and, unfortunately, also in an unexpected tragedy. In that spirit, if there is anyone out there who is reading this and was affected in some way to those events, I hope you know that, even if I don’t know you, I send my prayers and condolences to you and your families.

Review

Let me just say this now: Christopher Nolan is destined to go down in history as, if not one of the most influential or important filmmakers in blockbuster history, at the very least one of the most revered and respected. The man hasn’t made a bad movie in… well pretty much ever! Some have varied in quality and appeal, of course, but none have been able to cross the general consensus threshold of being considered anything less than a quality film: FollowingMementoBatman BeginsThe PrestigeThe Dark KnightInception. All masterful works of not only high art, but high entertainment. No other filmmaker since maybe Spielberg has managed to pull this synthesis of style, spectacle, and skill as well as Nolan has. And now, with The Dark Knight Rises, we have been given this amazing film that not only provides plenty of thrilling action, but is also an intelligent and thought-provoking conclusion to what will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the greatest film series of all time, The Dark Knight Trilogy. Read more…

Special Review: “The Dark Knight” – An Essay on Ethics and Excellence

July 20, 2012 9 comments
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Produced by: Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas, Charles Roven
Written by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan (screenplay), Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer (story)
Cinematography by: Wally Pfister
Music by: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, Eric Roberts, Ng Chin Han, Nestor Carbonell
Year: 2008

 

Can a film based on a comic book superhero really be considered a “masterpiece”? Even up until and including the amazing Batman Begins, this was a hard question to answer. While certainly a great feat of audience-pleasing entertainment and thoughtful craftwork merging together, Batman Begins was certainly more like a skilled adaptation of a popular character’s story than it was a profound examination of humanity. While this doesn’t inherently disqualify it, the film’s appeal and impact is limited somewhat as a result. The film was largely a study on how one man is driven to the point of becoming a masked vigilante, striving to become a symbol of hope and justice in a city infested with criminals and the morally bankrupt. Yes, Begins had scatterings of a universal message regarding the redemptive ability of humanity, but overall, it really was mostly Bruce Wayne’s story — and that’s really all it had to be. Read more…

Review: “Batman Begins”

July 18, 2012 5 comments
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Produced by: Emma Thomas, Larry J. Franco, Charles Roven
Written by: Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer (screenplay), David S. Goyer (story)
Cinematography by: Wally Pfister
Music by: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Mark Boone Junior, Ken Watanabe, Colin McFarlane, Linus Roache, Sara Stewart
Year: 2005

 

I was planning on going through the whole story about how much the Batman franchise was in dire need of a reboot, but I quickly found that I was going on about so many things that didn’t need repeating. The basic and short version of the story is that, after two rather strong films (Batman and Batman Returns), Warner Bros. and DC Comics shot themselves in the foot by allowing, nay demanding, for the rather awful Batman Forever and Batman & Robin to be unleashed upon the tortured fans in the name of making more money off of merchandising, only for critical reaction to slam the films and tickets sales to drop. Instead of going forward with what was in hindsight the rather ironically named fifth film, Batman Triumphant, both companies decided to take a break from the superhero films business and think about where they’d gone wrong.

Of course, in that time, their rivals over at Marvel were apparently seeing this as a window of opportunity, and they began production on and even released several rather strong films over the following years, namely the two first films in each of the BladeX-Men, and Spider-Man trilogies, each with increasingly better reception from audiences and critics. At that point, it was clear that after years of being in the shadows, it was time for Batman to emerge once again. Read more…

Special Review: “You’ve Got Mail”, My Favorite Nora Ephron Film

July 16, 2012 5 comments
Directed by: Nora Ephron
Produced by: Nora Ephron, Lauren Shuler Donner
Written by: Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron
Cinematography by: John Lindley
Music by: George Fenton
Starring: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton, Greg Kinnear, Steve Zahn, Heather Burns, Dave Chappelle
Based on the play Illatszertár (trans. “Parfumerie”) by Miklós László
Year: 1998

 

When I had heard that Nora Ephron passed away not too long ago on June 26, I knew that I had to do a tribute review for her. It’s not that I was a huge fan of her, her films, her plays, or even her widely acclaimed various writings. From my earliest memories of becoming a fan of films, Nora Ephron was among one of the earliest names in film credits that I recognized consistently outside the much more widely recognizable names like Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis. This was largely thanks in part to my mom, who was a fan of many of the films she did make, especially Sleepless in Seattle.

I originally planned on reviewing Sleepless in Seattle, in fact, which was Ephron’s second film as director and first widely acclaimed film. It also happened to be the only film of hers that I had in my library, and only then due to the fact that my mom had somehow managed to have two copies and so, you know, why not? But, though it is not at all a bad film, I must confess that my already limited affection for it has waned over the years, primarily thanks to the Meg Ryan character going completely unrecognized as an insane woman who seriously needs help. Needless to say, after re-watching it for the purposes of a review after not seeing it for several years, I felt as though I wasn’t doing the director justice in writing up a review of a film that I began to see as, well, enjoyable but quite mediocre.

Luckily, I found justification in buying up one of her other films — one that I genuinely love. At $9.99 on Amazon and featuring a DVD copy of the older film, The Shop Around the Corner, which also borrows its story from the same Miklós László’s stage play, You’ve Got Mail was a steal, and its purchase a cathartic experience for me. You see, as a guy, it was hard to admit it for a while but, yes, I genuinely have the whole guilty pleasure thing going on with this movie. Read more…

Theatrical Review: “The Amazing Spider-Man”

July 9, 2012 4 comments
Directed by: Marc Webb
Produced by: Avi Arad, Laura Ziskin, Matt Tolmach
Written by: JamesVanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves (screenplay); James Vanderbilt (story)
Cinematography by: John Schwartzman
Music by: James Horner
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Chris Zylka
Year: 2012

 

A Foreword on the Reboot

Is it just me, or is cynicism the attitude of late with movie going audiences these days? I get that we’re starting to realize, more and more, that Hollywood, as a business, just really doesn’t care about the art, of their industry, or originality, or creativity as much as it does money, but, really, all the cynics should’ve realized this a lot sooner ’cause that’s how it’s always been. The attitude I’ve seen on internet discussions can hardly be called “jaded,” because there’s just too much hostility, less like a cry for higher quality entertainment and more like animosity towards any film that we really will know little about until they actually come out — primarily with films that involve the phrase “reboot.” It’s really all Christopher Nolan’s fault, to be honest. He had the audacity to reboot the Batman film franchise and turn it into gold, which in Hollywoodese means that everything must be given the gritty reboot treatment!

The reaction to his two Batman films has been largely positive, ecstatic, even, but with The Dark Knight Rises coming out soon, it seems like people are already hailing it as an inevitable letdown for some reason. Casino Royale was pretty much the first major franchise to be given the reboot treatment, and that worked out pretty well, too, though even that film had its critics — people who hated the film based on the blonde-and-blue-eyed Daniel Craig or its turn towards the gritty and serious, people who apparently longed for the days of gadgetry, Denise Richards, and James Bond in space, I suspect. Like with Batman, I’m already seeing people ready to see them crash and burn. People are apparently tired of revisiting old franchises and their stories all over again, despite the fact that they keep turning up for these films and convincing the studios otherwise. Perhaps the greatest affront to reboot-haters out there these days is the latest Spider-Man film.

Though they had their flaws, the Sam Raimi films created a largely appealing world for the Webslinger and had a largely fantastic cast in place. Scenes from the series — from the upside down kiss in the first film, the terrifying awakening of Doc Ock and the moving train sequence in the second, or even the overacted silliness of pretty much everything in the third (Peter strutting, emo Peter, James Franco’s hilarious delivery of the line “So good”) — all became iconic moments in superhero cinema. With this reboot, all that has seemingly been painted over, replaced with something new and unfamiliar masquerading as the old. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t among them for a while, but after the disastrous Spider-Man 3, I was willing to give it a chance, which is more than some were willing to give — there were actually those out there who were hoping that this would actually fail and teach Sony a lesson, largely due to the even more worrisome fact that Sony was more concerned about losing their hold on the Spider-Man license and allowing them to revert back to the now-Disney-owned Marvel.

Review

Despite being a reboot and, therefore, another origin story, The Amazing Spider-Man manages to cover enough new ground and present a familiar character and his world in new ways that it never feels like the film is aping the Raimi films while capturing that Spider-Man spirit. The continuity between the two franchises is non-existent — the stories of Peter’s spider bite and the death of Uncle Ben both get retold, as expected, but other than that, the new film is completely different in tone, style, and personality. The previous films took on a largely soap opera-like sensibility and a cartoon style for their action scenes and characterizations which emphasized their comic book origins, but director Marc Webb took this new series (and it will be a series, I assure you) in a more down-to-earth direction that manages to still be lively, retaining the heart and fun nature of the character and his world intact, though, as with the Raimi films, there are a few elements sacrificed along the way. Read more…

Independence Day Review: … “Independence Day” of course!

July 3, 2012 2 comments
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Produced by: Dean Devlin
Written by: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich
Cinematography by: Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Music by: David Arnold
Starring: Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Margaret Colin, Vivica A. Fox, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Robert Loggia, Randy Quaid, James Rebhorn, James Duval, Adam Baldwin, Harry Connick, Jr., Mae Whitman, Harvey Fierstein, Brent Spiner, Frank Welker (voice)
Year: 1996

 

There’s an exchange between two characters in this film that I think perfectly sums up the whole attitude one should have when preparing to watch this film: “You really think you can fly this thing?” “You really think you can do all that bullshit you just said?”

The concept of a self-aware film has already become a familiar trope, but Independence Day acknowledges its nature as a big budget B-movie while never truly drawing attention to the fact. It’s all played straight, and yet it’s still hilariously playful, just the same. Here’s a film where you really have to turn off your brain and not really think too much about the action, lest you be driven into madness trying to nitpick all the little details of the plot and pinpoint all the ridiculous things that the characters within are saying and doing. Once you do that, you’ll likely find yourself enjoying it far more than the film probably deserves. Read more…

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