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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“.

July 20, 2012

Justified

CHARACTER

Elmore Leonard has made a career out of creating great characters.  So much so, they tend to pop back up again in other stories and films from time to time.  This cross film character appearance thing Marvel is doing with their superheroes…it was done before with Ray Nicolette in Out Of Sight & Jackie Brown.  That said, two of Leonard’s characters get more airplay than the rest.  Karen Sisco of the previously mentioned Out Of Sight and Raylan Givens.  Givens made his first appearance in a tv movie based on the Elmore Leonard book called Pronto.  He then made his reappearance on his own show Justified.

So, what makes Raylan special?  The same thing that makes the show special.  He has CHARACTER.  From his trademark cowboy hat and southern charm, to his always simmering rage and quick trigger finger.  Played brilliantly by Timothy Olyphant, The Deputy US Marshall of Harlan County is layered with CHARACTER.  But he’s just the anchor of the show.  Justified, in it’s brief stint on tv has become the show to watch if you want to see uber interesting characters and interesting performances to boot.  It might be the only show I can remember seeing where the hero’s arch nemesis is probably just as beloved as the hero himself.  That arch nemesis being Boyd Crowder.  Brought to life by Walton Goggins, Boyd Crowder is the Joker to Raylan’s Batman.  However, you respect and love his wit, his brains, and his rapport with Raylan.  The character was supposed to die in the pilot but was so good they made him a staple on the show.  Raylan and Boyd’s relationship is the life blood of Justified.   
Justified at its core is just a modern day Western set in a country town.  But the plot of the show isn’t what makes it great.  Its the placement of the amazing CHARACTERS in different situations and seeing how they react to one another.  One moment Raylan or Boyd or Dickie Bennett or Wynn Duffy or Robert Quarles or Limehouse could be smiling and laughing with you.  Then, at the drop of a hat, shoot a dozen holes right through your chest.  Its a CHARACTER driven show that is easily my favorite show on tv right now. You won’t be able to watch just one episode.  Go ahead.  Watch one…then tell me I’m wrong. 
July 19, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

DESPERATE 

DESPERATE to keep the property at Sony to thusly prevent a possible Spidey sighting in Avengers 2, which would thusly lead to Marvel Studios earning an estimated BAGILLION dollars. (I Rounded Up)

DESPERATE to win over the hipster/Twilight audience with its emo, big haired, recluse, douche hero and his “Ready To Turn My Back On Everything, Including My Own Self Worth” love interest.

DESPERATE to make the film grim and dark like The Dark Knight, but sadly only accomplishing to make it poorly lit and soulless.

DESPERATE to be special and different with a highly promoted yet LAME half-baked Spidey secret origin, which they abandon before the film’s midway point.

DESPERATE to not be like the first trilogy while poorly attempting to steal things from it.

DESPERATE to cast great actors but then relegating them to being only exposition spewing wallpaper.

DESPERATE to redefine the hero’s core mantra but only managing to debase it into a vague, poorly delivered shrug of a purpose.

Some say the greatest inspiration is often born through desperation…good words.  I, however, don’t see inspiration here.  I see a middle aged hoodlum, who managed to get a gun, trying to hold up a liquor store.  Unfortunately the cops showed up too fast and he is now using an old Korean woman as a human shield, desperately holding on to what little semblance of hope he has of escaping.  A slew of dumb ass decisions piling up to result in a chalk outline on a splotchy linoleum floor.  THAT is The Amazing Spider-Man.  If you waste your time and watch it, you’ll be hard pressed to…tell me I’m wrong.

July 19, 2012

Get the Gringo

Get the Gringo: Entertaining


Mel Gibson kinda lost it the last few years, in film and well…real life.


But this film clearly shows he truly hasn’t lost it, well mostly in film anyways. Gibson’s acting is a gift to viewers, because when you watch him perform it’s pure fun! He brings back that Lethal Weapon fun that so many of us miss. Mel Gibson is a damn good actor, enough said… Just don’t piss him off or he’ll slap you!


July 19, 2012

The Good The Bad And The Ugly

MYTHICAL

There are some people that don’t see the appeal of Westerns…(cough! cough!)…mostly women…(cough!) There are some that think them to be boring art pieces where nothing ever happens….(cough! cough!)…women mostly…(cough!)…studies show it…(cough! cough!) And that is…(ahem)…okay. On paper its just movies about cowpunchers or farmers during post Civil War America living their lives. But Westerns, to me, are American fairy tales. You know the girly ones with the knight rescuing the damsel in the tower from the two headed dragon. Those stories are European based and don’t hold the same relatable appeal. (Not that many castles in the states) Cowboys are our knights in shining armor. But their armor is a little less shining. They rescue damsels. But there had better be a payday involved. They deal with the occasional monster. But its usually either a corrupt sheriff or a gang of bandits.

Grandfather of the Western, Sergio Leone, understood this concept and thrived in bringing those tales to the big screen. From Fist Full Of Dollars to Once Upon A Time In The West. He saw the American frontier as a place to take regular cowboys and make them into MYTHICAL heroes or antiheroes as the case may be. The Good The Bad And The Ugly was perhaps the best one of his films that personified that concept. And to be in on it gag. You have a hero with no name that all but winks at the camera before a gun fight. A villain that, for as evil as he is, still has a code. And a lovable scoundrel you shouldn’t be rooting for but do anyway.(There wouldn’t be a Jack Sparrow without a Tuco to pave the way)

You ever wonder which character began the worship of Clint Eastwood? You want to see where the term ‘Mexican Standoff’ comes from? You want to watch….SPOILER ALERT…probably the best prequel ever made? You remember that awesome opening scene in Inglourious Basterds? You want to see where Tarantino got the idea from?  You want to hear one of the greatest movie scores of all time?  It is all in The Good The Bad And The Ugly. If you want to show someone who doesn’t like Westerns a film that might sway their opinion…THIS is the movie. Watch it….then tell me I’m wrong.

July 19, 2012

Die Hard

 QUINTESSENTIAL

That budget wasting/cgi wasting/oxygen wasting Michael Bay has proven to us that anyone can do an action film. However, not just anyone can do it well. There is one action film that ALL other action films are judged to when it comes to greatest ever. And that is the QUINTESSENTIAL action film Die Hard. No, there wasn’t some racial stereotype of a robot blowing up random things under the shadow of the American flag while some Victoria’s Secret runway model struggles to put words together in an attempt to get the director’s d*ck hard. (I hate Transformers if that wasn’t clear)

No, there isn’t a square jawed, Zzzzzzzz…boring, goody-goody, untouchable, unflappable, hero that relates to the audience as equally well as a f*cking block of wood. No, the villain wasn’t some dumb faceless one note straw man for the hero to do battle with. Die Hard was about a regular guy who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time against a sophisticated and scarily realistic criminal. Yes, it has explosions. Yes, it has one liners.(Possibly The Greatest Of All Time) Yes, it has unbelievable stunts. But at its core is a normal guy doing amazing things NOT to just save the day, but to survive. In doing that, Die Hard put us in the shoes…or bare feet…of John McClane….And that’s why it works so well. That’s why its the best. 
As far as legacy is concerned, it was the benchmark example on how to pitch and/or promote an action movie for years. “Its Die Hard in a grocery store!” “Its Die Hard in a school!” “Its Die Hard in space!” Terminator 2 comes close but Die Hard was the first action film to have the perfect balance of action, story, performances, comedy, and pure spectacle. If you’re one of the alarming number of people living under rocks and haven’t seen it, watch it. If you have seen it, watch it again….then tell me I’m wrong.
July 19, 2012

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon: Perfection

Only a handful of films can hold a title under, “Greatest Action Films of All-Time”. Lethal Weapon is one of them, mixing the perfect blend of Action with Comedy into a fantastic 80’s standout film.

If you don’t understand the title of the film, then I’ll come kick your ass.

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