We all know the story of how Heath Ledger’s death almost derailed Terry Gilliam’s latest film – and how three of Ledger’s friends [Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell] stepped in to finish the film after Gilliam tweaked the script to allow for their presences. The result, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, is one of Gilliam’s most accessible and intriguing films in years.
The story involves a series of bets between former monk Parnassus [Christopher Plummer] and Mr Nick, aka The Devil [Tom Waits] that have led to Mr. Nick’s claim on Parnassus’ daughter, Valentina [Lily Cole] in a few days from the film’s opening moments. Parnassus and his daughter have a travelling show that allows anyone who’s willing to take the chance to have their imagination unfettered in a world on the other side of a peculiar mirror. Also part of the presentation is Anton [Andrew Garfield] and the sarcastic – and almost always right Percy [Verne Troyer].
With “Awards Season” in full swing, we come to my favorite awards show to watch – The Golden Globes [the Globes’ new look featured, above]. Where else can you see an award winner rush from the little girls’ room to the stage, trailing a piece of toilet paper from her shoe [Christine Lahti, you are immortal because of this], or another award winner insist upon giving his award to the actor who inspired him to become an actor [the only award Jack Lemmon ever got that was voted for by a panel of one – and who knows how many other actors he inspired…?]. Thank you speeches that come from the heart or, on occasion, from a few too many drinks… The Golden Globes are fun because you get more moments from real people than all the other awards shows combined [excepting, possibly, The Spirit Awards]. Plus, the Globes honor movies and television – so there are twice as many opportunities for entertainment. So, here, after the jump, here are the nominees and my choices.
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.
That’s right, it’s time for another fabu EM Madhouse Screening! We have Tickets for the Exclusive DC Blackout Screening of The Dark Knight! The Screening will be held at Washington, DC’s Historic Uptown Theater, Wednesday, July 16 at 8:30. This is a special Blackout Screening, you have to wear Black or you will be turned away. If you want to attend, send an email with your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your request MUST contain your UserID, Full Name, the number of Admit 2 tickets you would like. The SUBJECT MUST say The Dark Knight Screening Contest. I will not accept any requests that do not follow instructions. All requests must be submitted no later than Sunday 13. I will notify all winners Sunday evening. Check out the official website here and read my interview with Christian Bale.
Generally, I don’t report news like this on the site because I don’t have anything to say when someone dies. Especially someone that I don’t know. But I feel that I must comment on the death of Heath Ledger. He was probably one of my top 5 favorite actors. I loved everything that he’s done, he was always interesting, charismatic and made really good choices. Even when he wasn’t the star of a film and just part of an ensemble cast. Where most young stars play it safe, he took chances and his body of work was really diverse. Heath was found dead in a New York City apartment today. I’m not going to speculate on the cause of death. His talent will be missed.
Heath Ledger always enjoyed acting in school plays, and was usually cast in the lead. At the age of 10 he volunteered with a local theater company, and at 16 he landed his first professional role in Blackrock, a dead-serious Australian movie about rape and its aftermath. At 17 he played a gay cyclist on Sweat, a down-under TV series about elite athletes. He said he wanted that role because there were so few gays on television, he figured he could get some attention if he did the role justice. And he did. On the strength of Sweat, he was offered Roar, an action-adventure series for America’s Fox TV in 1997, with a pre-FelicityKeri Russell as the princess who loved him. True to the show’s title, Ledger, playing a fifth-century Celtic prince seeking vengeance for his brother’s murder, would roar before going into battle, but the show went out with a whimper in less than two months.
He was still virtually unknown in America when he played a young lad with a shady past wooing Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You, based on Shakespeare‘s Taming of the Shrew. In The Patriot he played Mel Gibson‘s son, kidnapped by the British. In A Knight’s Tale, very loosely based on Geoffrey Chaucer‘s The Knight’s Tale, Ledger swashbuckled and jousted with Rufus Sewell and established himself as a rising star. In Monster’s Ball he played Billy Bob Thornton‘s vomiting, suicidal son, in Lords of Dogtown he played the surf shop owner who took skateboarding to the extreme, and in Brokeback Mountain he played the manly ranch hand who herds sheep with Jake Gyllenhaal. He met his fiancé, Michelle Williams, on the set of Brokeback Mountain, and Gyllenhaal is their daughter’s godfather.