Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Spoilers Below!!!

I just came back from The Dark Knight Rises.  Hearing about the recent news of the shooting at a TDKR premiere was rather chilling given some of the things that happened in the movie.  

The plot is kind of all over the place and the movie didn't really have any of those signature scenes Nolan is known for- those scenes that you jump to again and again when you see the movie again.  For The Dark Knight, it was the first spree of Joker killings and Batman and Joker's face-off in the police interrogation room.  For Inception, it's when Ariadne first meets Mal, the final series of kicks, and the ending.   For Batman Begins, it's that practice fight scene on the ice between Bruce and Henry Ducard.

There are plot holes that pulled you out of the Batman world like how did so few people not connect Bruce Wayne becoming a hermit and the disappearance of Batman.  The ultimate plan is also rather convoluted.  I wish they made us care about Miranda Tate more.  And why did they put Bruce in a pit (how did Bane and company have time to transport Bruce out of town?).
It's a mess of action scenes at some point (that serve some purpose to plot) and I wish they'd addressed the consequences of the Harvey Dent act.  Choas just breaks out and while cops are hunted...what about the cops makes it okay for them to round people up?  I wish they'd addressed that more and I miss how in TDK there were more ambiguous gray areas- even the super blatant prisoner's dilemma with two ships (one with prisoners, one with normal citizens).  

But that being said, I did enjoy the movie and left feeling very very pleased with it.  It's not going to reach the status of Batman Begins or Dark Knight Rises but it's a fine movie regardless.    

Hathaway as Selina Kyle was fabulous.  Alfred and Lucius Fox were all a pleasure to watch as well.  One of the things I missed in The Dark Knight was how it was more about Batman than Bruce Wayne and I'm glad we get to see plenty of Bruce in this one.  And in the end it's more about Bruce Wayne than Batman.  We are reminded again why Bruce Wayne is our hero - beneath the costume.  I also liked that we got to see Bruce and Alfred interact more (Alfred, oh Alfred).  As brief as it was, I also loved the Steven Crane aka Scarecrow cameo.    

I wanted to like John Blake more- I really did.  And I wish they'd made him the boy from the narrows Batman gives one of his gadgets to in the first movie (but the aging wouldn't have quite worked out).  He's a hot headed idealistic cop and while JGL does a good job (and is nice to look at :)) it's a character that we've seen many many times and there's not anything terribly new that Blake adds to the equation.  I wish there was also a more subtle reference to Robin- Tim Drake maybe would have been great.  

I wish there was more time spent on Gordon and the results from him telling the truth.  I think a lot of the movie is about telling the truth and also about Bruce's love life to an extent- Selina who's perfect for Batman and Miranda who's more suitable for Bruce Wayne but it didn't really come across well.  That being said, I did enjoy Kyle's chemistry with Wayne.        

I like where we end up.  I really like where we end up.  

Quirky Romantic Comedies

I'm not a fan of romantic comedies, so the ones that I end up watching have to promise a little something extra than the usual rom-com.  I was hoping Crazy, Stupid Love and I Love You Phillip Morris would fit that but both movies have their issues.      

Crazy, Stupid Love

I was really hoping to like this one because it received such positive buzz and it seemed like it could be one of those comedies that were genuinely funny and touching at the same time like Bridesmaids, my favorite movie last summer, and Forty-Year Old Virgin.  Crazy, Stupid, Love has some funny moments in it, but in the end, it really tried too hard to be touching and meaningful and that unfortunately, really weakened the movie and made it more generic and romantic comendy-esque than a fun comedy.  It really was at its best when the movie put the characters in really ridiculous but believable (in the realm of their world) situations.    

Crazy, Stupid, Love centers around Cal (Steve Carrell) and Emily (Julianne Moore), a couple who've been together forever, who suddenly break up when Emily decides she wants a divorce.  Cal mopes around and starts hanging out at a hip bar where he meets the ultimate ladies' man, Jacob (Ryan Gosling).  Meanwhile, there's a very awkward love triangle between Cal's thirteen year old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo), the baby sitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), and Cal (who does not realize that Jessica has a crush on him).  There's also Hannah (Emma Stone), on the side, the one girl who wasn't charmed by Jacob's charm.

The first half of the movie is great.  The best laughs come from the most unexpected scenes.  E.g. Cal sneaks back to his old house periodically to maintain the yard.  Gosling is especially really great in this- he's featured in possibly the hottest pizza eating scene ever, and I really wish they'd just gone with the comedic aspect of the movie more.  I'd read reviews that the kids' stories would be somewhat featured too and wasn't really looking forward to it, but they handled it well.  Robbie (Bobo) comes off as creepy yet sympathetic.  And Tipton as Jessica does a fantastic job.  

Somewhere in the middle though, when too many coincidences arise and when it tries to fit everything into a neat little package, the movie really starts trudging along until it, alas, falls into generic rom-com land, where everyone's happy(ish) but it feels synthetic and overly sweet.  I'd save this one for Netflix or Amazon instant streaming.      

I Love You Phillip Morris

I was intrigued by this movie when I saw the trailer.  It looked like a fun movie and had an interesting premise.  I've also wanted to see Jim Carrey do more than be the over the top funny guy in a generic summer comedy.  I was really impressed by his performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  I Love You Phillip Morris has a good performance from Carrey- he's over the top but his character is supposed to be this flamboyant liar who is great at breaking out of prison.  I was hoping for something more from this movie but the pacing was odd and it seemed like it couldn't decide if it wanted to be a drama or a comedy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer Update

I've seen quite a few movies this summer, some older, some newer.  I've wanted to write more about them, but they've either remained as drafts that I never ended up posting or ended up as very short blurbs. Anyhow, I've decided to consolidate them into this one entry.

The Fall

I haven't seen a movie like Tarem Singh's The Fall in a long time.  The Fall reminds me of one of those stories you'd read in English class that would pleasantly surprise you- it's one of those stories that you wouldn't ordinarily seek out, but having read it, you really end up enjoying it immensely.

The Fall isn't exactly the type of movie I'd seek out but having watched it, I really liked it.  The Fall is about a young girl Alexandria and her friendship with a very depressed paraplegic Roy Walker (Lee Pace).  It jumps between real life and Roy's fantastical epic adventure story.  The movie is told from Alexandria's perspective so it takes a while to learn what's really going on.  I liked that Alexandria was a fully believable kid and not some sort of overly precocious child who makes all the right decisions.  

I also liked that The Fall was unabashedly epic in many regards.  It reminds me of the 90s (The English Patient, Titanic) when it was okay to have movies that were sweeping epic romances.  The Fall is also one of the most beautiful movies I've seen in a very long time.  Alexandria lets her imagination run wild and there are just so many scenes that are breathtakingly gorgeous.  

Battle Royale 

Battle Royale really is the original Hunger Games.  It's grittier, rougher, unapologetically violent, and fantastic.   Battle Royale follows a class of Japanese high schoolers who have been selected to participate in the Battle Royale initiative- they're trapped on an island and forced to kill each other.  It's grim but there's also this great undercurrent of dark humor.  e.g. Everyone is given a weapon or tool at random to use- our protagonists are unlucky and given a pot lid and binoculars.

I'm sure the original manga goes into more detail on each of the students but I wanted to learn more about each of the participants.  We get to catch glimpses of some of their pasts- Mitsuko, one of the main antagonists, as well as the protagonists' Noriko and Shuya's, all had particularly haunting pasts.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Fantastic Mr. Fox is an absolute delight.  It's quirky, funny, and heartfelt.  After Mr. Fox (George Clooney) starts a family with Mrs. Fox (Meryl Strep), he promises not to go back to his past stealing ways.  Mr. Fox learns that it's hard to do so especially when you have three human neighbors with lots of food.  The animation is strange and it takes a little bit to get used to but give the movie a few minutes- it'll grow on you and in a lot of ways, the zany animation really contributes to the fast paced storytelling.  It's a fantastic, entertaining story with memorable humorous characters and really more of an animated film for more mature audiences.   


Rango's another quirky animated film that I really enjoyed.  Rango is a chameleon who finds himself in the desert town Dirt, which is short on water.  It's a Western and full of homages to many other movies including Chinatown.  Rango also comes with a very amusing (Greek style) chorus of singing owls.  Rango reminded me of one of my all time favorite Simpson episodes El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer or the one with Johnny Cash where Homer eats the hallucenegenic pepper.  It starts off funny but at the end of it, you find yourself in more serious territory and genuinely moved.

Movies Worth Watching 
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is about British espionage during the Cold War.  I think that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy definitely merits a second view.  I appreciate that the director and writers assume the best out of their audience- that we are intelligent and watching the movie with our full attention.  However, I did find myself confused especially about which character was which, what was everyone's motivation, and whether the timeline is all in the current time (it is for the most part) for a good portion of the film.  It wasn't until the end that everything fell into place and started to make more sense.  I was extremely impressed by Tom Hardy's performance as Ricki Tarr in this movie.  It wasn't until Ricki Tarr's story that I felt myself engaged or even caring about what was actually going on.  He was so charismatic and really brought the movie to life- I can't wait to see what he does with Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.  My movie buddy describes this as the ultimate movie about introverts, and I think he's right for the most part.      


I wanted to like this movie a lot more than I did but it's still a great movie, definitely worth checking out.  It's a very quiet movie (it has more silences than dialogue) and has a really neat retro feel to it.  Drive is about the mysterious unnamed Driver (Ryan Gosling) who works as a stunt driver during the day and as a getaway driver at night.  It starts off with a wonderfully tense car chase- one of the best chase scenes I've seen in a long time.  I was hoping the whole movie would have the mood of that first chase scene, but it doesn't ever reach those heights again.  I know many people raved about how great Albert Brooks as a mobster was but I really enjoyed Bryan Cranston as the Driver's limp boss- you really felt for his character.


50/50 is another movie that I'd heard really great things about and I was really hoping to like this one more than I did.  The performances are great and it does a good job of balancing humor and drama.  50/50 is about Adam (JGL) who gets diagnosed with cancer in his 20s and how he and his family and friends (Seth Rogen) cope with it.  I like that it never really becomes melodramatic and maudlin.

I think that one of the problems I had with the movie was how polished it felt and how it tried to tie everything in a neat package at the end.  Mainly, I had issues with the movie making Adam's therapist (Anna Kendrick) a love interest.  I enjoyed their rapport and budding friendship but steering their relationship towards a romantic one felt odd (she's his therapist!) and awkward.

Movies to Eventually Check Out on a Slow Day 

Brave is Pixar's latest venture.  It is about Scottish princess Merida and her relationship with her mother.  Merida and her mother butt heads when it's time for her to get married.  Merida really doesn't want to get married (at least not yet) and would rather go on adventures in the forests.  

Brave is cute but as a whole it really felt like a story that was churned out of a formula (Come on Pixar we know you can do better!).  Not all of the pieces fit well or flowed together and there's too much exposition in some parts of the story, especially when Merida flat out makes a long speech about the main points of the movie somewhere near the end.  At some points of the movie, it seemed very much like "oh it's time for humor- let's insert Merida's brothers doing something amusing or her father for comic relief."  I did enjoy the animation- it's top notch and the scenery in this, all the forests are lush, green, and gorgeous.  

IP Man 1 and 2
I did enjoy the Ip Man movies and if you are in the mood for a martial arts film, these are great movies to watch.  They're well made, have really awesome fight scenes, and they still retain more meaning than the average  mindless blockbuster.  They, however, feel highly simplistic and are filled with one-dimensional characters with the exception of Ip Man himself (Raymond Wu) who plays Ip as an old school humble, honorable martial arts grandmaster who really believes in Spiderman's mantra "With great power comes great responsibility".  The Japanese are the evil villains in the first one, while the British are the evil villains in the next one.  The first Ip Man works a bit better than the second one (where there are a number of fight scenes that just feel a bit tacked on and excessive).