Month: July 2012

July 25, 2012

The Scout

The Scout: Curveball

It’s a Baseball film. If your’re a Baseball fan or comedy fan, I’m sure you will enjoy this film. There is a nice turn around where you find out a “dark” past which switches nicely from baseball to real life. Also a handful of cameos including George Steinbrenner, Bob Costas, Tony Bennett, Keith Hernandez and a few more. The story is that of King Kong which gives a nice spin on a Baseball film that we have never really seen before…Hey if you have sometime to kill, it’s not a bad film to kill with. Plus it’s always a win win Albert Brooks.

July 24, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (Matt’s Take)

The Dark Knight Rises – Scope

Growing up, I could give a damn about DC Comics.  I couldn’t relate to Superman, Wonder Woman was a chick, and I didn’t have any jewelery, so screw the Green Lantern.  Hell, I’ll say it, I didn’t even care about Batman.  It took me a long time to really develop a relationship with The Dark Knight being that I was way more of a Marvel Man anyway.  I don’t remember going to the theaters in 1989 to see the second “Batman” movie (yes, I’m still counting the Adam West “Batman” movie as the first one) but I distinctly remember going to the movies in 1992 with my parents to see “Batman Returns.”  It wasn’t like anything that I had seen before: Dark, moody, Gothic, and the music (don’t get me started, I’ve been a Danny Elfman mark since “Beetlejuice“)  But even while being impressed by “Batman Returns,” I never got into the comics, I still cared way too much about X-Men and even Image Comics’ “Spawn.”

This brings me to Chris Nolan, the man who took over the Batman franchise after it had been thoroughly fisted by Joel Schumacher and his bat-nipples.  Nolan, who had already made a name for himself with “Memento,” was the last person you would have thought could helm a Batman re-boot, but people thought the same thing about Tim Burton after he did “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” and the aforementioned, “Beetlejuice.”

Within Nolan’s Gotham City, the Scope increased movie by movie, moving away from one man’s fight against crime to a city finally banning together to fight against a force so big that it even overwhelmed Batman.  “The Dark Knight Rises” takes many of its cues from three books in my opinion:  “The Dark Knight Returns” “Knightfall” and “Vengeance of Bane II.”  Moving away from the fantastic elements of these books, Batman, and Bruce Wayne, face real world problems such as lost friendship, hopelessness, and bankruptcy, and it is just enough to wear him down to the point of Bane being able to “break him.”  With Batman out of the picture, the movie points the focus directly on Gotham, its police force, and average citizens, and this is my biggest problem with the movie.  The point of the Batman is to inspire average citizens to step up and take on an enemy greater then them and fight.  The movie really only comes down to a few characters, mostly cops, who fight, while the citizens are huddled in their home, hiding.  I have a problem with this, and while Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tries to inspire the citizens drawing Batman insignias on walls, it seems like a forced act from Nolan.

But this is a small gripe, and takes nothing away from what Nolan has created;  a living, breathing city that you actually care about and don’t want to see destroyed.  There are points in the movie where you completely forget that this is a Batman movie, which is amazing, and tells you something about the filmmaker, who has crafted a story that could, unfortunately, happen.

As far as acting and characters go, I enjoyed Tom Hardy as Bane, even if he did sound a lot like an out of breath Sean Connery.  I thought his eyes told his story, and despite the fact that he was a ruthless terrorist, you still saw a human being looking for his place in the world, very much like Batman in the counterpoint.  Anne Hathaway was fine as Selina Kyle, and you did see some sassy Michelle Pfeiffer in her acting and mannerisms, and the more I think about it the addition of an extra “hero” in Gotham did lighten the load for Batman.  But the standout for me was Michael Caine.  He has brought more to the Alfred character then any other actor and his portrayal in “Rises” was heartbreaking and got me choked up a few times.  You finally see how much he cares about the Wayne family and their legacy to the city of Gotham.  Overall, the acting was as strong as you’re going to get from a comic book movie.

As far as Easter eggs go, there were quite a few that I thought worked very well.  The inclusion of Lazarus Pits were told in an interesting way with Bruce Wayne giving Selina Kyle the “Clean Slate” program, a practical way of explaining exactly what the Pits do.  Also, the little mention of “Killer Croc” by Blake was awesome and shows that the writers love to throw little bones to the comic fans.

Overall, the first true Batman trilogy was a complete success.  All three movies exuded different emotions, “Begins” with hope, “The Dark Knight” with apprehension, and “Rises” with dread, but the Scope of the movies grew and grew until Nolan had created a series of movies that will be held up as a litmus test for not just comic book films, but film in general.

Fun Fact:  “The Dark Knight Rises” has the biggest ensemble of Batman’s rogues gallery (not counting the Adam West “Batman”)  Bane, Catwoman, Killer Croc, Ra’s al Ghul, Scarecrow, Talia al Ghul are all seen or mentioned in the movie.  And I’d like to believe that Bane’s right-hand man who was an expert sniper is a nod to “Deadshot.”  Just saying.

July 24, 2012

Split Second

Split Second: Throwaway

It’s the kind of film that you see when you’re a child and it sticks into you’re mind till you reach age 24. You sit down one day and pop it in. It’s not bad, but not good. You watched it once, so you throw it away never to be watched again…because it’s a Throwaway.

July 24, 2012

The Three Stooges

The Three Stooges: Ouch

I only cut myself 8 times watching this… 


July 24, 2012

Simplistic TV: The Newsroom

HEAVY-HANDED

Now let me make something clear. I love Aaron Sorkin. I love A Few Good Men. I love The American President. I love Charlie Wilson’s War. I love The Social Network. I love Moneyball. I love Sports Night. I ABSOLUTELY love The West Wing. I even sorta loved Studio 60. But its in my nature to love them. I’m a writer. I love to see movies or tv shows where the emphasis is on the writing and not some ‘epic’ explosion sequence involving Shia LaBeouf.(I haven’t ragged on Transformers in a while) And Aaron Sorkin’s stuff is always all about the writing. Newsroom is no different. However, Newsroom’s greatest strength is also its main weakness.

A show about a borderline Republican tv news anchor seems like a walk in the park subject for Sorkin. And it is. A news show gives him the opportunity to talk about a multitude of things going on in the world and have it not feel forced as it sometimes was with West Wing and Studio 60. But its too easy. And because its too easy Sorkin seems to fall into his own trappings and reaffirm his critics as to his knack of overwriting a scene or an episode. Subtly abandoned for clear cut messages he is trying to force feed. He flexes his writing chops and his agenda to the point where predictability begins to leak in. In essence, Sorkin is the pretty girl at the party who KNOWS she’s pretty. People like me eat it up while others might not want the hassle of a cerebral workout while watching a ten o’clock show on HBO.

All that said, Newsroom is worthy of your attention. It has great actors. It has great ideas. It has Jane Fonda and Sam Waterston swearing. All good things. However, it is a hard pill to swallow for the Sorkin uninitiated. And even with a supposed middle of the road politically affiliated main character, it leans very liberal. Case in point, last weeks episode had a character LITERALLY punch a television with Rush Limbaugh babbling on it. This is something I’ve come close to doing on a number of occasions but it is still a little HEAVY-HANDED.

The media have bashed Newsroom for some of the reasons I’ve brought up. However, I think they really bash it because the show shines a light on some of the shady and unscrupulous things the media actually does to get a story or avoid telling one. And BOY it is about time someone did that. Watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

July 23, 2012

Something Wild

Something Wild: Sunday

By Sunday I mean if you’re free on a Sunday and it rains and you’re stuck inside, then this film isn’t too bad to sit and watch. Jeff Daniels gets kidnapped by Melanie Griffith and they go on a adventure. Melanie robs a liquor store, steals cars and has sex with Jeff, all in all it’s not bad. It contains a ton of cameos and Ray Liotta pops up as the ex-boyfriend of Melanie’s character. He gives a frighting performance which make me wonder way he Scorsese never worked again after Goodfellas (one of my all time fav). It’s not a bad film, check it out on a rainy day.

July 23, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (JP’s Take)

The Dark Knight Rises: Marvelous

—Caution Spoilers ahead—
2012 has been such a damn good year for films…and we have more to go…I’m looking at you Skyfall!
But-

The Dark Knight Rises is a fantastic film.

and my favorite this year…(Here is a small write up of what I liked and didn’t like. When TDKR comes out on Blu-ray, I will do a detail review on all three, the likes and non-likes).

Listen I have read many reviews saying how many people thought it was just fine and not that great, well I believe they’re wrong. The biggest problem really is the structure of the story. It seems they tried to jam in what could of been two films, especially the first half. On my second viewing I notice it works a little better then the first showing. I’m gonna guess and say the story structure was a bit jarring probably for some people at first but it didn’t get to me too much after a few showings. There are a few other issues including Blake knowing Bruce was Batman and a few plot holes but thats fine, shit happens.

Okay thats really it. Now on to the good stuff! This film is made for a Batman Fan! If you don’t know much about Batman I’m gonna guess its a bit tougher (Talia, Bruce and Selina’s romance, the alluded to Killer Croc and so on). All the great call backs to Begins and Dark Knight work. The story is great. The acting is fantastic. The Cinematography is perfection. That IMAX was mind blowing awesome! Action was top notch and the best of the three films. Music is and like always, kickass. This is the best acting of Bale’s Batman. Catwoman is wonderful and sexy. Bane in my mind works excellent. He looks and sounds great too. We finally see Batman meet his match physically, which I love. In my mind its on the same level as The Dark Knight, if not a bit better. Because The Dark Knight is a great movie for all to love. The Dark Knight Rises really is more of a great Batman film for Batman fans to love (and also non-fans too). With all that you also have the parallels of whats going on in our real world and the film strike me emotionally and work beautifully by doing that. Sadly I have a feeling this film will be a time capsule of the darkness this world we live in has become. But more importantly this film completely finishes a modern classic trilogy.

Sure it may not be a perfect film but how many perfect films are there? Honestly I can count them all on one hand. But its a great film and a fantastic Batman film. We finally got to see Bane done great and it was in a realistic way on the big screen. Talia finally pops up in a film (I wish she was in it longer thou) which I’m happy to see and like her father says in BB, stabs Bruce in the heart (emotional) and Batman (psychically) and a ending that I feel was the perfect ending to complete a perfect trilogy…and NO I don’t think this new “Robin” will go on and do films in the future but it just all seems to work for me.

I really love this film, I find it simply amazing and if you don’t like it thats fine I don’t care, because I loved it. To me it brings back that classic feeling of going to the movies, which many films don’t have anymore. But you can’t say this film isn’t emotional. Especially Alfred’s scene at Bruce’s grave, I’ve never been moved that much in all my years with anything Batman. It’s tough not to be bias when it comes to Batman. It’s really the only thing I ever loved, It’s really the only reason I live. I grew up on Batman (especially The Animated Series which is the only reason my parents bought a VHS recorder) it means so much to me, so this film puts a smile on my face, a very big one. Us Batman fans have been to hell once, lets hope Warner Brothers take a few year off and focus on something else other then rebooting Batman because we now have our perfect trilogy and I want to enjoy it for years to come because these films are and will always be legendary.


July 22, 2012

Quantum Of Solace

MISUNDERSTOOD

Now I think Dark Knight Rises is a good film.  But the real highlight for me when I saw it was the IMAX Special Skyfall trailer that played right before it.  Now I love James Bond films.  I especially love ‘Daniel Craig as James Bond’ films.  His stint as Bond, Skyfall seemingly included, shares a particular theme as Nolan’s Batman trilogy.  They are both exercises in the tearing down and rebuilding of iconic characters in a different form than the preconceived notions of the mass fan base.  Much like Dark Knight Rises will be panned in the coming days by critics who didn’t see it as a satisfying display of their expectations, Quantum was panned for that very reason.

Casino Royale is amazing.  Stupendous.  Terrific.  Adjective after adjective synonymous with good.  I loved how Craig portrayed Bond.  His attitude.  His wit.  His determination.  He really got to the meat of the character.  A good man.  A man who wants to do whats right.  A man who will not accept defeat.  And a man who’s feelings about resorting to extreme violence to accomplish his goals rival that of even Dexter himself.  The film gave you everything.  Great action.  Great acting.  Great villains.  Great set pieces.  Bond girls.  Mystery.  I could go on.  The film, however, ends on a cliffhanger.  An acceptable one, but a cliffhanger none the less.  That fact is where Quantum of Solace comes in.  That fact is why I think Quantum of Solace is MISUNDERSTOOD.

Dark Knight Rises is not a stand alone film.  It is the culmination of an arc.  Its a cog in a giant machine.  Accept it for that and any negative opinion you have may sway a bit.  That said, Rises takes place YEARS after The Dark Knight.  It at least has that bit of a buffer between stories to start fresh as a film.  Quantum gets similar criticism because people say it doesn’t feel like a complete story.  And I don’t blame people for thinking that.  They are right.  Quantum of Solace is not a stand alone film either.  It is just the very long final act of Casino Royale.  Quantum is a direct sequel.  Its the ONLY direct sequel in the Bond franchise.  And the damn thing takes place mere MINUTES….MINUTES after Casino Royale.  If you view it in that light, it makes more sense as to why it is the way it is.

I wish they would do a version where they stick Quantum at the end of Casino and play it out, much like what Quentin did with Kill Bill.  The movie would be Lord Of The Rings long but it would be one grand arc of Bond’s origin story.  Quantum is about Bond’s rage.  Its the result of what happened to Vesper at the end of Casino.  That is not a stand alone theme for a movie.  It is a great theme for a final act.  I watch it with that in mind and always enjoy the hell out of it.  I mean, its not like it has horrible acting…its still Craig as Bond…and he’s perfect.  Its still Dame Judy Dench as M.  Still Jeffrey Wright as Felix.  The cinematography is beautiful.  The action is still crazy good.  And I love the lurking idea of some evil organization controlling everything.

For as good as Skyfall looks, it owes whatever ease of making it and success it has to Quantum Of Solace.  Quantum did the dirty work of finishing off a storyline that Skyfall can choose or not choose to hint back to.  By the end of Quantum, Bond is finally a complete character.  He is finally the Bond we remember.  Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace just showed us how that transformation happened.  Watch it again…then tell me I’m wrong.  

July 22, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (DJ’s Take)

GRAND

You’re either a Beatles man or an Elvis man.  You’re either a Marvel man or a DC man.  Full disclosure, I am a Marvel man.  That doesn’t mean I hate DC.  It means I was raised on Spider-Man and The Punisher and The Fantastic Four.  So, my sensibilities make me root more for Marvel to succeed than DC.  However, there are certain heroes in each company that supersede bias.  For Marvel it would be Spider-Man.  For DC it is The Dark Knight.

I have loved this trilogy.  Even though Chris Nolan does tear away and dismiss nearly all the things that make Batman a comic book character in exchange for realism.  A gamble that worked.  A gamble that could ONLY…ONLY work for Batman.  (DO YOU HEAR ME YOU TWO?) Nothing flashy…nothing fun….bleak….realism….and we ate it up.  But it wasn’t the realism that sold Nolan’s Batman to me.  It was his world building.  His scope.  Making everything seem so GRAND yet keeping it contained mostly in one city.  Gotham City.  The name I would have called this movie over The Dark Knight Rises.  This film isn’t really about Batman to me.  Its about Gotham.  Batman is barely in it.  And we see how a city tries to survive and hold out without him.  When the sh*t started hitting the fan in this movie, I kept muttering to myself…”This looks like a job for Superman.” or “Where is the Justice League?”  But Nolan isolated this trilogy into the loneliness of realism to not have to worry about those things.  He wanted it to be about Gotham City.  That, to me, is the point of The Dark Knight Rises.  The point of the entire trilogy.  A symbol giving a city’s citizens strength to protect themselves.  To rise up and be their own heroes.  And in that regard, Nolan knocks it out of the park.

No.  Its not perfect.  No.  Its not better than The Dark Knight.  No.  I didn’t like it better than Avengers.  But Yes.  It is a must watch.  For GRANDNESS alone it is a must watch.  You will feel the hopelessness and uncertainty of who is going to save the day right along with Gotham’s citizens.  You will love everything Joseph Gordan Levitt does.  Though there is a final bit with him that is a little hit or miss with avid comic book fans.  You will wonder what the hell Bane is saying sometimes but will never wonder how dangerous and scary he is.  You will realize that in a film of terrifically portrayed bleakness, Anne Hathaway’s scenes as Selina Kyle are probably the only ones that feel fun.  You will be saddened as a DC fan at the end when it dawns on you that Warner Brothers will now attempt to tear this entire trilogy down to reboot the franchise. 

The Dark Knight Rises is probably the only way you could end this series.  By itself, if we knew more were coming in this universe, it would be worth nitpicking.  But as a denouement to probably one of the GRANDEST trilogies since The Lord Of The Rings, it rises to the occasion.  Christopher Nolan made Batman into Lawrence Of Arabia.  And for that, we should thank him.  Watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

July 20, 2012

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Zack and Miri Make a PornoLong

I consider Kevin Smith somewhat of a personal hero of mine.  Not only is he not afraid to take chances (Red State) but this guy dropped everything he had into his first movie and he was successful and got the chance to keep making movies.  Yes, he’s hit a few roadblocks along the way (being too fat to fly, “imploding” at Sundance 2011, “Cop Out“) but the guy makes movies for his fans, and not to mention himself which I respect.

When “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” came out there was some fan fare, and it did decent in the theaters, but for me the standout was one scene with one character and one actor with the surname “Long.”  In genius cameos, Brandon Routh aka the Superman that everyone hates aka Dylan Dog aka Todd Ingram, plays Bobby Long, the high school heart throb that Miri (Elizabeth Banks) has always been secretly in love with.  Meanwhile Zack (Seth Rogan) has recently made the acquaintance of one Brandon St. Randy (Justin Long) a film star most famous for the coming-of-age tale “You Better Shut Your Mouth Or I’m Gonna Fuck It.

In five short minutes Justin Long and Brandon Routh received pardons from me for both “Live Free or Die Hard” and “Superman Returns,” respectively.

Fun fact: Kevin Smith wrote one of the original scripts for a Superman re-boot that involved a giant spider (later taken by Wild, Wild West). “Zack and Miri” stars an actor who played Superman, while Kevin Smith co-starred with Justin Long in “Live Free or Die Hard“.

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