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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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