Sunday, July 20, 2008

Review: The Dark Knight

Where to begin, where to begin. Well, I'm sure we've all been excited for this movie since Batman Begins ended. Obviously the hype for this film was kicked into overdrive with the untimely death of actor Heath Ledger back in January. Early reviews for the film seemed to praise it as the Citizen Kane of superhero movies. Finally, on Saturday a group of friends and I drove to an IMAX theater to experience it and judge for ourselves. If I had to put words to this movie there would only be one. "WOW." I know this may seem like more fuel for the overhype machine, but this is one movie that goes above and beyond expectations and creates a film that provides one of the most exciting theatrical experiences of one's life. So much is to be said about this film. First off, Christopher Nolan proves once again that he is one of the most brilliant people working in Hollywood today. With his incredible script and eye for what looks amazing on camera, Nolan solidifies his position as a living filmmaking legend. Secondly, the plot is intricate, complex, and twists and turns in virtually every scene. The audience is expected to be intelligent enough to "get it" and nothing is ever dumbed down. The acting in the film is absolutely superb by everyone except Maggie Gyllenhall who looks a little worse for the wear in this film. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman all step up their performances from the first film. Of course, I can't review The Dark Knight without mentioning Heath Ledger's incredible portrayal of The Joker. I was in the "give him an Oscar if he deserves it, not because he's dead" camp for a while. Now, having seen his last full performance, I must agree that a posthumous Oscar is well earned and every bit deserved. The amount of character development that takes place over the course of the 2.5 hour film is epic and so layered and complex that multiple viewings are a must. This is one film that will be an instant classic and will forever go down in history as the "superhero movie is art" movie. Christopher Nolan stated that Michael Mann's brilliant Heat inspired a lot of what The Dark Knight touches on. The film's scope is certainly as epic and there are some scenes reminiscent of Heat but this is a film that stands alone in its own category. This is why people go to the movies. This is why people start making, acting in, and writing films. The Dark Knight is going to be the best film of the year by far and will make one stop and think "that was a comic book movie?"

my rating: 10/10

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Review: There Will Be Blood

Okay, before I start my review of "There Will Be Blood" you have to understand that I'm a sucker for those "journeys into the heart of darkness" type flicks. Apocalypse Now, No Country For Old Men, Fargo, and now Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood. I went to a late showing of this film last night with a couple of friends and found it hard to stay awake, not because I wasn't impressed, I was just tired. I've only seen one of Paul Thomas Anderson's other films, the incredible "Punch-Drunk Love" starring Adam Sandler, and I couldn't think of another film that is more of a departure from that world. "Blood" begins with a very drawn out opening sequence where not a word is spoken, but the phenomenal cinematography speaks for itself. We follow up and coming oil tycoon Daniel Plainview as he goes from working as a small silver miner to turning oil into big business. He then adopts the infant son of his co-worker who dies on the job and turns young H.W. into more of a business partner than a son. He is a cutthroat misanthrope that descends into his own paranoia and loathing for people as the film progresses. There Will Be Blood may not be for everybody because it has a very negative tone to it, however it is visually stunning and the soundtrack is most definitely original. By the end of the film (which really reminded me of the Coen brother's epic No Country For Old Men) we have seen Mr. Plainview's obsession come full circle, culminating in a final showdown with the preacher Eli Sunday. Sunday's character is also a fascinating figure. He runs "The Church Of The Third Revelation" which strikes me as a remnant of the Great Awakening given it's very hellfire and brimstone approach to everything. The major conflict between Sunday and Plainview lies in the fact that they are so similar to each other that the other one must cease to be for them to continue on with their "life's work." All in all, There Will Be Blood was an incredible character study that delves deep into what makes these men tick, and how dark one's world can become when obsession takes the place of ambition. Also, watching a great director work with a phenomenal actor really adds something to the film-going experience and we are most definitely treated to that here with the Paul Thomas Anderson/(going to get the Oscar this year) Daniel-Day Lewis.

my rating: 9/10

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Review: Rambo

Okay, I'm a guy, which automatically means I like Rambo. Rambo is one of those classic action characters outranked only by one Mr. John McClane from the Die Hard series. Most people think that Stallone is too old to be taking on his iconic ex-green beret action hero one last time. I disagree, Stallone is in his sixties, but he's in better shape than I will EVER be, so give the guy a break. This time we find John J. Rambo living as a bitter snake wrangler in Thailand. Occasionally he rents out his boat to travel up river to certain areas of the jungle, save for Burma that is. Well, some Christian missionaries come to ask Rambo for a ride into the war riddled Burma. Reluctantly Rambo takes the group into the Burmese jungle. I don't think I need to type the expression for you to figure out what happens from there, but I'll give you a hint: it involves something hitting a fan. Soon the pastor of the church that the missionaries are from comes to tell Rambo that the group is 10 days late from returning and haven't contacted the church at all so something bad had to have happened. This church does the right thing, they hire mercenaries. Let me repeat that. The CHURCH hires MERCENARIES to go rescue their missing missionaries, however, they need a boatman. Cue Rambo. From there on it's pretty much a standard Rambo flick, running through the jungle, setting up traps, shooting fools, shanking fools, bow and arrowing fools, etc. Stallone directs the fourth installment in the popular series, and I'm not sure how I feel about it to be honest. I like Rambo, don't get me wrong, but it's a violent violent film. Stallone has said that he made the film so gory to call people's attention to the genocide that is happening in Burma as we speak. I understand that to a certain extent. What's happening in Burma isn't right, but is Stallone sending the right message to his audience? Do the ends really justify the means in this situation? Sure we would like it to stop, but is that how we would like it to stop? All in all, Rambo is a great action flick, but in the end is too bloody for me to really recommend to anyone.

my rating: 6/10

Review: Cloverfield

Okay, before I start this review there's something you need to know about me. I think JJ Abrams is going to take over the world. If you don't believe me, go see Cloverfield. Abrams is in the producer's chair on this one (but will be behind the camera for the new Star Trek film) however, all he needed to do was make sure that as an audience we were left wondering what was going on well after the film ended. And that's EXACTLY what happens. Cloverfield isn't so much a movie you see as it is a collective experience between the audience and the characters on screen. I've now seen Cloverfield 3 times, and I have to say the first two were more enjoyable than the third. This was due mostly to the fact that the audio was several notches lower than it was the first time which ruined the experience and the audience in our theater today was not engaged with the characters or the story at all. Basically the whole night goes down like this. We find ourselves witnessing Robbie Hawkins and his friend with benefits Beth McIntyre the day after they've slept together. From there we jump to the last minute preparations for Rob's going away party. Twenty minutes of set up and then BOOM explosion, running, mayhem, statue of liberty head, fight for survival, END. Cloverfield is a simple movie, but it gets the job done. It's an American masterwork for the creature feature considering Peter Jackson's mediocre King Kong and Roland Emmerich's "we don't talk about this one" version of Godzilla. Cloverfield is a movie about the people running and screaming in the streets. If they don't know it, you don't know it. There's an heir of mystery to everything which I really liked, but hey, LOST is my favorite tv show so it's to be expected. Just because Cloverfield is simple, doesn't mean it's lame. The sound design on the film is incredible, it's best watched loud. As a matter of fact, it's half the experience. The acting is very well done, and the filming style totally works for the movie and is used to it's full potential (the subway scene comes to mind for that one). All in all, if Cloverfield set the bar for how good movies are going to be this year, I am EXCITED.

my rating: 10/10