Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Driving home from the movies yesterday, my dad and I had brief conversation about Batman. He told me that when he was a kid, Batman and Superman were his two favorite heroes/comics. He especially loved Batman because of the fact that he had no super powers. Of course, if we look at the history of the Batman, we see that the character's first appearance was in Detective Comics #27. I don't say this to patronize anyone, especially since I know very little about the Batman comics (I'm sure Jason could teach me a thing or two)...but I do say this as a reminder that Batman is really just a detective in a mask.

And it's that fact that makes Batman so compelling. Alan Moore's Dr. Manhattan is a brilliant character because he's a super man who turns his back on the people, ultimately deciding that they're not worth saving. Compare that to Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, who is in no way a super man, who gives everything he has to save the people of Gothham.

There are a couple of great conversations between Bruce Wayne/Batman and Selina Kyle in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises. At one point, she tries to convince him that he doesn't owe the people of Gotham anymore and that he's given them everything. Later in the third act, she tries to get him to skip town with her. It'd be all too easy for a guy with a Batcopter to flee a city that's being held hostage by a terrorist with a nuclear bomb. And yet, fleeing never crosses his mind...not even for a second. It's nice to have someone who's looking out for you, even if that someone isn't invincible. Bruce Wayne/Batman gives everything he has to stop Bane & Talia and it all plays out beautifully in Nolan's film.

I'm definitely with Jeff and Brandon on this one. Heath Ledger's Joker is still the better villain, but The Dark Knight Rises is definitely the better film. It's cleaner, and so much more complete (imdb lists 39 continuity errors for TDK and 8 for the TDKR, so there's that as well). It seems that the criticisms I've heard about TDKR are only stemming from: a) those who never liked Nolan to begin with, or b) those who were hoping to see The Dark Knight: Part II. I'm not sure why those people were hoping to see the same exact film. Yes, we all loved Ledger's performance, but I never saw it as the only laudable aspect of TDK.

And don't get me wrong about Tom Hardy's Bane. It was perfect casting and he gives one hell of a performance. I mean, I guess I don't really have to explain myself, considering how brilliant Heath Ledger was. But Hardy is absolutely worthy of praise. I do love the voice (though there are moments when the audio is too loud - but probably better to be safe than sorry). And Brandon's right, rather than giving us something obvious to fit the brutish nature of Bane's appearance, Hardy gives us one of the most sinister high-voices we've ever heard. And know that the Joker has some great lines in The Dark Knight, but for me, Bane is just as quotable. Part of me feels that the masks hurts the performance a bit, though. Without the mask, Hardy's face could've added to what was already a pretty damn good job. I don't know, I'm torn. Also, quickly, praise for Marion Cortillard as well. I love the reveal/the scenes with Bane and Talia.

I would say, "say what you want about Chris Nolan..." but most people do that anyway. A lot of attention is paid to him, and it seems to me that the guy is criticized more than most directors. But I guess he brings that upon himself; he's one of two/three directors working right now who consistently gives us compelling blockbusters. He's a guy in the limelight. 

In no way am I saying that he isn't without his flaws. A lot of fanboys love his movies unconditionally. When a few national film critics gave The Dark Knight Rises bad reviews, those mindless fanboys resorted to bullshit hate speech. It's disgusting really, especially since those people hadn't even seen the film yet. So I get it, these movies are popular and morons love them. But I also happen to enjoy them, and I don't care what the critics/fans have to say. Nolan always seems to entertain me, which is something that I can't say of most directors, and it's something I'll always appreciate about him.

And I love the way Nolan defines his characters in the The Dark Knight trilogy. I'm not a big Anne Hathaway fan, but she's brilliant here as Selina Kyle. It's a real credit to Hathaway and Nolan. We have a smart, tough, badass cat burglar with a bit of resentment toward the rich. And I do identify her as being the only representation in the film of the Occupy Movement. She's aware of the wealth disparity that exists today, and predicts a "storm" is on the way. But the storm that ends up coming is not exactly what she had in mind. 

Jeff brought up A Tale of Two Cities (Brandon has some nice counter-points). While Nolan makes a habit of capturing the zeitgeist in his films, I do see more French Revolution than Occupy Wall Street in TDKR. While I commend the Occupy Movement for bringing more attention to an important issue, I can't give them any props beyond that. The movement is entirely too lazy. You're right, Brandon, time to do more. That isn't to say that it's time to break out the guillotine. But what we should do, what Occupy should do is nominate and vote for candidates who represent their values and who will actually stand up to Wall Street and the big banks. If we convince ourselves that that can't be done, then there's no point in staying in this country.

Anyway, that's a completely different discussion. The point is, Bane's plan says more about the French Revolution to me than Occupy. Yes, there is a danger with Occupy that someone could emerge from that group and call for bloodshed and/or trials. Based on what Occupy has been so far, I don't think we'll have to worry about that. But then again, if Occupy doesn't move out of the parks and into the polls, something ugly could happen. The problem is real and it will be addressed one way or another.

Bane is also using an atomic bomb to manipulate the people; their actions are only a result of fear. And Batman only seems concerned with that bomb. Sure, he doesn't have the time to think about anything else, but even when the people are at their worst, Batman is only concerned with their safety. I'm also positive he recognizes the full extent of the situation. Talia and Bane claim they're finishing Ra's al Ghuls' plan, but they're also getting into Joker territory here, too; they're hoping for fear and chaos. 

I don't see it as a case of "Stop Bane and preserve the status quo," rather more of a "Stop Bane because he's got an atomic bomb...and if I have to comment, yeah this whole exile or die thing might be too extreme. I'm not at all opposed to addressing income inequality, though." Haha. I understand that a film needs a succinct message and this one might appear to present the former, but I honestly don't see it that way.

As far as the final five minutes of the film are concerned, Nolan wraps up the trilogy perfectly; I couldn't ask for a better ending. Many speculated that Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character might be Robin in the film. I do admit that I almost let out a groan when that name was uttered, mainly because I think it's unnecessary. I mean, it's really just a little nod/wink for the fans, so I can't really complain too much (and I was sort of prepared due to all of that speculation). But yeah, more important than what his legal name is, I love the fact that someone of John Blake's ilk stepped up to keep this symbol of hope and justice alive.

And with Bruce Wayne's new life in Europe with Selina Kyle, initially I was thinking that it would've been cool if Alfred had looked up, smiled....and that was it. But as I think more on that, it would've been too similar to the ending of Inception. Also it's just so refreshing to see Christian Bale sitting at that table. Like Alfred, we know what he's been through and what he's given to us, and it does pull on the heartstrings to see that he's finally starting a real life for himself. The Alfred/Bruce relationship brings a emotional weight to the story (nice work as always, Bale and Caine) and it's done well.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Breaking Bad: Magic Mike

Last Sunday's episode of Breaking Bad, "Madrigal" just may have completely one-upped the premier. Sure, there were no magnets (yo), but we did get plenty of Mike Ehrmantraut. Apparently Vince Gilligan is an avid reader of this blog; my request last week for Mike to remain an essential part show was granted; Walt and Jesse have a new business partner and I couldn't be happier. I'm not sure how long it will last, though, but at least we have it for now.

And I know I'm not alone in loving Mike/Johnathan Banks. I think most fans would admit that he's one of the best characters on the show - if not, the best. And a lot of that is a credit to Banks, who is absolutely perfect for the role. Vince Gilligan says as much in this interview. Listening to Aaron Paul's interview with Terri Gross on NPR's Fresh Air, it was revealed that in the early stages of the show, Jesse was supposed to be killed off. Of course that didn't end up being the case because Vince Gilligan was so impressed with Paul's performance - as well as the dynamic between Jesse and Walt. Anyway, I bring that up because I'm not sure how long Vince planned to keep Mike around initially. Based on Johnathan Banks' performances over the past couple of years, it's easy to understand why they ended up writing more and more for his character.

Jeff's new BFF Matt Zoller Seitz is dead on about last week's episode. So many great shots. So many great scenes. It's also just fascinating the way that Gilligan comes up with new deaths - referring to opening sequence with our short-lived German friend, Mr. Schuler.

I've always admired Vince Gilligan's ability to combine both severely intense moments and ridiculously humorous moments into the same 47-minute episode. It's a real gift and completely aids the show in making it feel as realistic as possible. 

I also love what Jeff wrote about Walt in his BB post. I love that Walt is still trying to justify his behavior, and is doing so in the name of family. Re-watching seasons 2-4 over the past few weeks, I've thought more and more about Walt's motives and what seems to drive him. His selfishness and his ego are unrivaled. But yes, what an uncomfortably great scene that was to end the episode. Agreed, Skyler might just be another time bomb like her husband. They've attempted a separation/divorce and that failed. Time for Skyler to attempt a full measure. 

Is it Sunday yet?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I'm not even the Buzz Aldrin of the Moonrise discussion...

I've started my Moonrise Kingdom "review" so many times. For whatever reason, I was never able to write anything beyond two paragraphs, and none of it seemed interesting to me anyway. Besides, Brandon, Jeff, and John all did a great job writing about the film. Three very tough acts to follow. Thanks, guys ;). I also pretty much agree with everything you all wrote.

But let's see how far I can get right now... 

Moonrise Kingdom isn't my favorite Wes Anderson film...not yet, anyway. It is a beautiful film, however, and just might be Wes' best work to date. From the moment I saw the first trailer, I was completely hooked. I really enjoy the "us against world" love stories. I think the reason behind that is because I've always felt that if all I had in the world was one person whom I loved unconditionally (and whom loved me equally), I would have everything I need.

But luckily for Sam and Suzy, they have more than just each other. That something more might not always be enough (as Bill Murray's character succinctly states), but it certainly isn't worthless. I'm referring to the sense of community that's promoted in Moonrise that Jeff praised in his posts. Sam and Suzy, despite being a pair of young, misfit rebels, receive plenty of helping hands along the way by Captain Sharp, Scout Master Ward, Cousin Ben, and the Khaki Scout Troop. This charming sense of community demonstrates that even though it feels like an "us against the world" romance, the world will be there to support you if your love is true.

Centering this story around kids on a remote island was a brilliant move on the part of Anderson and Roman Coppola. Often the romantic feelings of young people are dismissed by their elders. In truth, many of us grow older without learning anything about love; life experiences and relationship histories do not automatically make us experts on anything. In the end, there is no formula in finding love. Moonrise Kingdom does a fantastic job of reminding us all of that and more.

Anderson carefully balances the innocence and the maturity in Sam and Suzy's relationship. The more sexual scenes between the two characters do not scandalize or hurt the film in any way as a result. I do admit, I felt slightly uncomfortable when I saw those scenes play out in the theater. It was as if Wes was now asking too much of his young actors. But obviously as I type this, I've come to accept the idea that because the innocence between these two characters is so beautifully established early on in the film, it eases the audience into those slightly stronger, sexual scenes. Not to mention the fact that whether we like it or not, the reality is that many young people are sexual.

Anyway, moving to less of a hot-button issue, I thought the cast was excellent. Every actor was perfect for his and her role. I would've liked to have seen more Bill Murray, but what can you do? It's nice to see Edward Norton in a good film again. He's like a old friend from your childhood who you get to see only every now and then. I love that he's playing a soft-spoken scout master here; another (increasingly less frequent) reminder of what a talented actor he is. Also, Jason Schwartzman and Wes Anderson do it again. From the moment we meet Cousin Ben, I felt the film really picked up. I definitely enjoyed myself the most during his scenes. Great stuff.

I don't really have much to end this post on. I'm just happy that I've finally expressed some love and admiration for it; it's an excellent film. I don't expect anyone to respond to this post (due to my tardiness...all right, "tardiness" is an understatement). I do want to move on to Brave and The Artist. Adrienne's post on Brave really got me excited about the movie again and I'd like to discuss it, even briefly.

I really agree with Jeff on The Artist, so I'm not sure that I'll have much to add there. Then, of course, I can't wait for the Dark Knight Rises discussion. Again, I really need to watch the entire film before I post on it. I've seen everything except for about twenty minutes of the beginning of the third act (so I do know how the film ends). I think I've now spent enough time in the Regal bathroom to last a lifetime.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Breaking Bad: Season 5


I wish I had found the time to marathon seasons 1-4 of Breaking Bad before the season 5 premier last Sunday. But I was able to re-watch most of 2 and the first half of 3. While I'll probably finish the second half of season 3 and all of season 4 in next few weeks, I reminded myself this morning that I'll have plenty of time to marathon the entire series when season 5 is on a 9-month break. That's gonna be a painful...

Season 5 is off to a great start, and when I think about where we'll be a year from now, I can't foresee being disappointed at all. Vince Gilligan has set this show up for success. For five years now it's been building and building and I imagine we'll be treated to one hell of a showdown at the end. But just who is that machine gun for? You would think that it's meant for a group of people - my first thought was the DEA. Maybe Hank finally discovers who Walt really is. Maybe Jesse discovers more of who Walt really is and tips off Hank. Or maybe the gun is meant for other Cartel members.

As you wrote, John, the magnet heist was f'ing awesome (there's no chance of not sounding like Chris Farley here). One of the great things about the show is that it contains many elements from different shows/movies/genres - a show with many hats. But back to the magnet sequence - the problem was interesting/original and the solution was cool and brilliant. Well done, Gilligan.

I do hope Mike sticks around, but now that the laptop is destroyed, I'm not sure that he would want to. He's become my favorite character on the show, though, so I'd be sad to see him go.

I actually didn't mind Skyler in that last episode. No doubt Anna Gunn is a good actress, but I've never liked the way her character is written. I guess all it took was for Walt to go off the deep end for me to garner some sympathy for her.

I had briefly forgotten what happened Ted at the end of season 4. The previously on Breaking Bad helped some, but yeah, there's a moment in which I really needed to re-watch the show. Not sure if I feel bad for Ted at all. He's kind of a douche.

Walt needs to die. Not now, of course, but at the end of the series. It's been one hell of a transformation and it's interesting to see how quickly things snowballed and got out of hand, but yeah, the person Walt has become cannot go on living. I wonder who will be the one to take him out or will his cancer finally get him?

Friday, July 6, 2012



La Dolce Vita ****
Indiscreet ***1/2
Le Samourai ***
Prometheus ***
Angel Face *****
Freaks ****
My Man Godfrey****
Masculin Feminin ****
John Carter ***1/2
Moonrise Kingdom ****1/2
A Star Is Born (the first hour, will watch the rest later) N/A
You Can't Take It With You *****


Bringing Up Baby ***** 


Game of Thrones season 2
Mad Men season 5
The Daily Show
The Colbert Report
Real Time with Bill Maher
The Ricky Gervais Show season 3
Seinfeld season 3
Downton Abbey season 2

Notes: Sorry for the lack of posts lately. The fact that I sit in front of a computer all day at work doesn't always grant me the ability to post consistently. That might sound like a shit excuse to some, but it's the only one I've got. Anyway, I hope to have something up on Moonrise Kingdom tomorrow or Sunday (and hopefully Jeff and I will see Brave soon). So far I've really enjoyed reading the Moonrise thoughts of Brandon, Jeff, and John; hopefully I'm not too late in joining in.

On my shortlist of favorite directors, Fellini would not crack it. I just prefer different directors. Even though I'm not a huge fan, I still respect him and acknowledge that he was a brilliant director/storyteller. I also admit that his films can be, at times, a lot smarter than I am. So this is me not calling something pretentious, but saying that La Dolce Vita is something bigger and better than I will ever be. I will say that the more I read about La Dolce Vita and Fellini, the more I like.

Indiscreet is a decent Stanley Donen romantic comedy. There are some nice twists and turns as the script unfolds. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman are loveable, as usual. It's interesting to see them paired up during the latter stages of their careers - Notorious and Indiscreet would be a nice double feature.

I was actually disappointed by Le Samourai. I really enjoyed Le Cercle Rouge, but for whatever reason Le Samourai didn't do as much for me. I love Alain Delon and his badass persona, but there just wasn't much else for me to take enjoyment from. Oh well...we'll meet again, Melville.

Angel Face is a hell of a lot of fun; I'm glad Jeff told me to move it to the top of my Netflix queue a few weeks ago. Jean Simmons is sort of like a nefarious version of Audrey Hepburn - great performance. Hopefully John was able to watch this one in full. It'd be nice to have a conversation about. I wish we all could watch and discuss it.

Freaks surprised a good way. I was actually surprised at how respectful the film was - not that I expected it to be brutally offensive or anything. But I knew of how the film ended and there was a part of me that was concerned that the stars of the film would be exploited for the purposes of frightening the audience. But the only thing truly frightening about this film is Olga Baclanova's character, Venus.

My Man Godfrey was enjoyable and worthy of all of those stars I gave it above, but I have to admit...I don't like it as much as Jeff does. Carol Lombard kinda annoyed me in this one :( In no way am I writing her off as an actress...I'm just saying I wasn't a big fan of her character. Maybe I'd change my mind if I saw it again (and I will see it again). I do like the message of the film.

There's quite a bit to love about Masculin Feminin. I'm not too big on Godard either, but this might be my favorite of the films I've seen so far by him. I just love those moments when Jean-Pierre Leaud is interviewing the girls. It leads to some very interesting conversations and ideas on love and life. And I don't know what it is, but there's something about Leaud that kinda makes me want to punch him in the nose. haha. 

John Carter probably deserves its own post but I might be too late to resurrect any sort of discussion. Maybe I'll have something more on it in the near future. I think it'll probably be on Brandon and John's top ten lists for the year (or both of you guys) so maybe we can talk more about it then. I liked it (3 and a half stars) but I'm not sure that it did enough for me. It was one of those mostly enjoyable experiences that ended with a "meh" reaction.

Moonrise Kingdom thoughts coming soon.

Again, I've only seen the first hour of A Star Is Born. It's on a DVR so I'll finish it at some point. More drunk James Mason please.

I really love You Can't Take It With You and the moment I fell in love is when Jimmy Stewart brings his snooty parents over to Jean Arthur's house for dinner 24 hours early. From that moment on, I don't think I ever stopped smiling. Again, I'm drawn to the theme/message. I must really hate rich people. Yeah, I kinda do.

The first time I watched Bringing Up Baby, I wasn't as impressed as I thought I would be...mainly because I thought it would be funnier/have better one-liners. Second time around I really enjoyed it. But throughout the film I kept thinking, "Oh, this must be why John doesn't really care for Katherine Hepburn." Not does she get under Cary Grant's skin, she got a little under mine at times. But because Grant plays such a square, we know he deserves he. Great performances from both actors.

Breaking Bad is almost here. I watched a couple of episodes from season 2 today. I really wish I had the time to marathon seasons 1-4.