Well, that it’s for another year. The Oscars® are done – and the show was only ten minutes long! [That’s not a record – I’m certain it came in on time once, a few decades back…]
For the record, James Franco and Anne Hathaway should probably not be asked back to co-host. Franco was surprisingly dead for most of the evening and it’s only because of Hathaway that I didn’t hit mute whenever they were onscreen after the first half-hour.
My thoughts on the show as a whole – and the major awards – follow the jump.
It’s been a long tough year at the box office, lots of mediocre movies, nothing that stands out until this weekend when we get two completely different films Tron and The Fighter. Both stand out for different reasons, I’ll tackle Tron: Legacy in a different review. When I walked into the screening of The Fighter, I walked in cold, didn’t know anything about the movie beyond what I learned talking with Anthony Thomas – one of the boxers in the movie. I was there to see True Grit, but the movie was switched to The Fighter at the last minute.
This movie had all the elements that I generally like:
Christian Bale – check
Amy Adams – check
Mark Wahlberg – check
A story about an underdog – check (As Eddie Murphy said Elvis said – “We gotta win this race!”)
Yes, there was almost no way this movie should have failed, I’m a sucker for any one of these things and this movie has all four. It is time I come out of the closet and admit I, generally, love sports movies. Yes, I know they are usually “cliche’d” but things become cliché because they work. The Fighter is based on a true story but it includes all of the generic story points – a down on his luck local Boston boxer, Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) has a career that is hampered by his crack addicted brother Dicky (Christian Bale). Dicky was an up and coming Boxer who can’t get past his one moment in the limelight – knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard. Micky is caught between doing what’s right for his career and sticking by his family (family brings you down man!). Amy Adams sluts it up for her role as a bar girl who Micky falls for.
How is it possible McG continues to get these huge directorial movie projects? I’ll tell you – he is capable of making the trains run on time, but not much else. He has no vision, discernible style, wit or knows how to get much out of his actors. Whenever I watch one of his films, I think of this scene in Jay and Silent Bob Strikes back where Matt Damon is doing a sequel to Good Will Hunting and he asks the director how he should do a scene and the camera cuts to the Director saying “Just do it however you want to,” while he counts his piles of cash. Terminator Salvation is one soulless endeavor.
A lot of this is the fault of a bad script combined with lazy direction, but I also am officially sort of fed up with the entire franchise and how it treats time-travel. It’s the saga’s magic bullet that solves – or muddles everything. They have used it so much that I just no longer care about anything that happens in this Universe and there seems to be no consequences to them using it other than nothing major ever seems to change. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles television show made me care again, but they canceled that and this movie has nothing to do with the events of that, so again nothing matters. Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: Michelle Weighs in on Terminator Salvation!→
The most impressive thing about Terminator Salvation is that it features only one character who actually earns our emotional engagement – and it’s not John Connor [Christian Bale using his Bat-voice]. Neither is it sweet, mute, cute, black girl Star [Jadagrace], a kindergarten-aged child who is so obviously planted to manipulate our emotions that the strategy fails, miserably; nor is it Connor’s pregnant wife Kate [Bryce Dallas Howard] whose worries about her husband are so underwritten that the character feels more like an add-on than someone from the original story. It’s not even Moon Bloodgood’s Blair, who follows her heart when it comes to dealing with the character who does earn our involvement, Marcus [Sam Worthington].
Y’see, we meet Marcus in 2003, just before he’s about to be executed for murder – and Dr. Serena Kogan [Helena Bonham Carter], who is dying of cancer, persuades him to donate his body to science by allowing him a kiss [“That’s what death tastes like,” he notes]. When he awakens, it’s in a desolate 2018 and he makes the mistake of attracting the attention of a T-600 – fooled by its bipedal appearance. He is saved by the teenaged Kyle Reese [Anton Yelchin] who exists, plot-wise, only to provide Marcus with directions and Skynet with bait to lure Connor to his death.
Other than Marcus, the human characters are of the “insert tab A into slot B” variety. Connor is one-note and utterly lacking in any real charm, or charisma; Star is but a blatant manipulation by the writers [who also wrote the disastrous T3]; Blair exists, primarily to convince us that Marcus is human; Kate is there to make think that John Connor can actually care about anything other than beating Skynet. Even the submarine-based Command exists only to make Connor look real – despite some vintage mugging by the extremely ill-used Michael Ironside.
The real star of the film the half-human cyborg, Marcus [which you probably figured out from the trailer]. Outside of Worthington, the movie’s real stars are, as in T3, the machines – and even then, all the quality FX in the world can‘t give them any sense of real intelligence. In The Terminator, and T2, the back and forth between humans and machines seemed like a game of Risk – each move was made within the structure of a plan. Move and countermove. In T3 and Salvation, there’s none of that. As good as look onscreen, the machines of Skynet are random and chaotic.
Even worse, for all its technical skill and well-executed action sequences, Salvation is a machine on virtually every level – excepting Marcus, who is not only engaging, but actually provides the film with its only genuine moment poignancy [if you see Salvation, you know it when you see it].
Sadly, for all its budget and high-powered cast, Salvation is little better than an empty, soulless, but well-made B-movie – which places it in the company of other beautifully made misfires like Max Payne and Punisher: War Zone. This series should died with T2 – and more people should have watched the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, which honored those movies and built upon them.
Marcus Wright, a death row inmate, is about to die when he is visited by a physician dying of cancer. She offers him a second chance of life if he donates his body to science. He was skeptical at first but decides to taste death and signs his life away.
Fast forward to Los Angeles in the year of 2018. The human race is very sparse and we are fighting a war against the machines. Enter John Connor who was part of the resistance when his team was killed while finding information on a new type of Terminator. He is suddenly a leader trying to stop the war from going any further. Marcus finally awoke from his coma to discover that everything he knew was gone. He runs into a young Kyle Reese & a young girl who were hiding from a Terminator. Then they intersect a radio broadcast from John Connor who is asking all in the resistance to continue the fight against the machines and to survive.
By the year 2018, the war between man and machines will be full throttle (no McG pun intended). As the humans band together and form the resistance, one of their foremost leaders is John Connor, a man who has been fighting in this war since before he was born. This is where Terminator Salvation, the fourth installment of the franchise, launches from.
Before I start this, let me just say Movie Studios attitudes towards the Internet is just dumb. I’m getting all of these clips from YouTube but the morons ban embedding the clips, even though right below the official trailer there’s always 20 other copies of it. How dumb is that? Here are 5 hot movie trailers for this week.
Public Enemies Trailer 2.
You have Johnny Depp and Christian Bale in a Michael Mann gangster movie, how can it go wrong?
My Sister’s Keeper
Man this is a great trailer that almost makes me cry every time I see it. And I’m a heartless you know what. Normally I scoff at movies like this but wow, what nice trailer.
In a conversation with Sheldon a few days ago he said he was having trouble writing a review of The Dark Knight because he thought he was going to descend into the depths of hyperbole to the 10th degree. I told him if he thought the movie was that good then go for it. Show no shame, be proud that you fell into the hype machine and sold your soul to the greatness that is The Dark Knight. I wanted to be the one critic who loathed this movie, I really did. In the "blogosphere," you gotta be different. I went into this film with such high expectations that I thought it would be impossible for it to meet them, then I could come home and completely trash this. But you know what? Christopher Nolan has crafted a masterpiece. It certainly has some flaw, but they are fanboish (in my case fangirlish) quibbles. My complaint about Iron-Man earlier this summer was that while it was an amazing adaptation, it missed one important ingredient. Heart. The Dark Knight has it all, it’s big, complex, dark, brutal, but it leaves you with both a sense of hope and hopelessness at the same time. It plays on all your conflicting emotions throughout the film.
Heath Ledger’s Joker is what everyone says it is, it’s a brilliant performance. But then he had amazing material to work with. What’s so great about this Joker is, he’s crazy, vile, and evil with a capital E. Jack’s Joker, from Tim Burton’s Batman, while dark, still had a lot of "humanity" in him so you could understand his motivations better. This Joker, there’s no understanding him. There’s no cutesy background information on him, we know nothing about what makes him tick or his even whether the makeup on his face follows canon or if it’s just "war paint." There is a shot of the Joker without his make-up on when Gordon gets shot, but it’s really quick so if blink you’ll miss it. The Joker is just out for Chaos, which the Crime Families who hire him to take out Batman find out too late. They unleashed an uncontrollable monster onto the city. Alfred (Michael Caine) tells Bruce a story where the point is some men just can’t be reasoned with, all they want to do is watch stuff burn.
The heart of the movie is crusading D.A. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). A man who, on the surface, has it all. Looks, a beautiful girlfriend, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and on the fast track to bigger and better things in politics. Dent is what everyone in the City strives to be, we all want to be better, not be scared of the night. Batman is the Yin to Dent’s yang. Batman. Dent puts a public face to everything that Batman does at night. Only he can’t bring true hope to a desperate city. Everyone in this film gives a great performance and all have at least one great scene. With the exception of M.G., usually I like her but here she felt weightless and had absolutely no presence on camera. She seemed lost most of the time. And Rachel’s role in this one has been beefed up. I think Katie Holmes got a bad rap in Batman Begins. I would much prefer her to MG. She would have brought the film to a screeching halt if the writing by Jonathan Nolan (screenplay) and Christopher Nolan (screenplay) wasn’t so good. The script for this film is brilliant. Any future writer should study this script.
Certain key scenes towards the end were so perfectly setup by everything that came before it. In any other movie you never would believe that you would get anything other than a happy, ra ra finish to The Joker’s twisted game. Like in Spiderman when the goofy New Yorkers start cheering and throwing rocks at the Green Goblin. No way would that happen here. The Joker gets away with just about everything so why not one of his final attempts to push people over the edge? The other thing about the Joker is, he’s insane, but he’s scary smart. 8 out of 10 times his plans do work and that’s Frightening as hell. But of course it’s the Joker so it’s almost a given that the people would end up destroying themselves. I’m trying my best here not to give spoilers. When you see the movie you’ll understand this paragraph.
While I loved Iron Man, I thought it lacked one key ingredient and that’s heart, a soul. Technically it was brilliant but ultimately felt hollow. The Dark Knight has soul to spare there are several heartbreaking moments in the film. Especially the end sequence between Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Batman (Christian Bale). One of the best closing monologues – or would this be called a "duelogue?" In years. If that moment doesn’t punch you in the gut nothing will. But then the entire 3rd act is absolutely brilliant. I didn’t like where they ultimately took the Dent character. Felt it was too soon, kind of tacked on, rushed and didn’t make any logical sense, but they set it up earlier in the film that Dent was already being ruled by the toss of a coin, so in that respect, yeah you can buy the turn he eventually takes – I’m not talking just about his becoming two-face but his deal with the Joker as well.
Another key point in this film is how the City of Chicago was transformed into Gotham City. Or maybe Gotham became a real, live breathing place in the form of Chicago. Never has Chicago looked more beautiful, vibrant, and dangerous all at the same time. Shooting in real locations added a since of hyper realism to the entire thing. It’s amazing that I’ve done this entire review without mentioning Bale who of course has truly immersed himself in this role. Many people will say this film is about the villains, but I maintain this movie is about Batman’s Journey (where Begins was about Bruce Wayne) to the Dark side and how far the Joker can push him and everyone in Gotham City. While I said the screenplay for this is brilliant, it is an almost Watered down (not much) variation on the legendary Alan Moore story "The Killing Joke."
This truly is the year of the Super Hero movie and Hollywood finally has the formula down where 8 out of 10 times they get the genre right. And hey how about that Watchman Trailer? My other complaint is Director Christopher Nolan does not know how to direct a decent action sequence. The end of Batman Begins has one of the crappiest action endings – ever, but you forgive it because everything else was so amazing. And some of the bigger action pieces in The Dark Knight are poorly shot, but because everything else is so over the top great, you forgive it. And each action scene actually means more than the slam bang, thank you ma’am.
Nolan and company did such an incredible job with this and tied up all the loose ends so well, that it’s hard to fathom what they could do and where they could go with a 3rd film. I sincerely hope there isn’t another Batman film. This is as close to perfection as you can get. This is really shaping up to be the best crop of summer movies in years.
You’ve been reading about it all day, now comes the official press release from Warner on The Dark Knight’s amazing box office performance to the tune of 158 million smackers. There’s some chest beating going on in Burbank this week and I’m sure quite a few bonus checks and cars going around in the next few weeks. Usually I don’t care if a film does boffo box office numbers, but in this case since we did the promo for it I like to take a little credit. Not to mention it’s a kick ass movie. Not like when Pirates 2 was smashing records and screaming at anyone who would listen that "It’s not a good movie! What’s wrong with you people." This time you guys are all right. Here’s the official fist pounding. Or as Faux News calls it Terrorist Fist Bumping. But with Hollywood’s creative accounting, I’m sure somehow WB lost their shirt on this and Christopher Nolan owes them.
By now you will have read reviews that say The Dark Knight is The Godfather of summer movies; The Untouchables with Batman as Elliot Ness and The Joker as Al Capone; The Silence of the Lambs with The Joker out-scaring Hannibal Lecter. You will have also read that Heath Ledger’s final performance equals – or betters – performances like Sir Anthony Hopkins as Lecter and that Mr. Nicholson has left the building, ‘cause, baby, there’s a new Joker in town!
These claims are not hyperbole. The Dark Knight – and Ledger’s performance as The Clown Prince of Crime [or in this case, Chaos] – are really that good.
The main reason that The Dark Knight works is that director/co-writer Christopher Nolan has treated the film not like a superhero movie [which, technically it isn’t, since Bruce Wayne/Batman has no superpowers – only superb training and determination, along with those fabulous toys] but as a crime thriller that poses questions that we all face to some small degree in life: is there such a thing as evil; why are there rules; how far are we – any of us – from turning into savages?
There are a good many other questions posed in what should be merely a summer extravaganza, but that is precisely why The Dark Knight is special. Just because a movie blockbuster comes out in the summer months, is there really any good reason why it shouldn’t be intelligent and thought-provoking? Of course not. We’ve already had one intelligent, thoughtful summer blockbuster on PIXAR’s WALL*E, so it’s not like the summer has been totally bereft of quality. By the same token, while WALL*E was simply the best film of the year when it was released [can it only be three weeks ago?], The Dark Knight raises the bar to the next –stratospheric – level.
For the rest of the year, every major release – whether it be the next comic book movie or the next “serious drama” – will have to contend with what is the best film Christopher Nolan has made, thus far.
While we could talk about the crisply choreographed action sequences and stunts [the flipped semi? A practical effect], or the fight sequences where we actually see Batman beat down hordes of the ungodly with surprising ease – and savagery; while we could talk about superb performances [Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman and the rest cast are all in top form] or debate the questions raised by the film for hours, and/or the film’s achievement purely on an entertainment level, what makes it a masterpiece is that it is all of these things and more.
The Dark Knight is worth your ten bucks [twelve-fifty in much of Canada] a dozen times over. It is a film to be experienced rather than merely viewed; a film to be savoured. You can’t say that about many films at any time of the year.