The Dark Knight (2008)


And … Here … We … Go!

Having already seen Batman Begins, I figured the sequel would at least be good.  Christopher Nolan’s new vision for the Batman universe struck me as mostly realistic, but totally awesome.  When the sequel was on its way, you could assume that the quality might diminish as with the greater majority of sequels.  But my hopes were fairly high regardless.  What my hopes were low about was the villain.  I was definitely amongst the group of people that thought it would be completely impossible for anyone to surpass Jack Nicholson in the role.  I was sure the actor they picked would do a fine job and, from what I had seen, he looked fantastic in the role, but come on!  It’s Jack Nicholson!  Well, what happened?  Let’s all be not surprised by the results of me reviewing The Dark Knight, story by David S. Goyer, written by Jonathan Nolan, co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan, and starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Chin Han, Eric Roberts, Ritchie Coster, Michael Jai White, Ron Dean, Monique Curnen, Nestor Carbonell, Colin McFarlane, Nydia Rodriguez Terracina, and William Fichtner.

A make up wearing criminal known only as The Joker (Heath Ledger) is robbing mob-owned banks in Gotham City and, though he loves to show his face on camera, continuously evades Batman (Christian Bale) and Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman).  In reaction, a Chinese accountant named Lau (Chin Han) hides the money for the mob bosses – Sal Maroni (Eric Roberts), The Chechen (Ritchie Coster), and Gambol (Michael Jai White) – until the Joker shows up and tells them they are avoiding the problem.  What they really need to do is kill the Batman, which the Joker claims he can do, but he demands half of their money to do it.  If you’re good at something, never do it for free.  Out of the desperation of the mob bosses, the Joker is unleashed on Gotham.

I always remember that I like the Dark Knight before I decide to rewatch it, but it still blows my mind with how good it is.  I’ve said it before with two other movies, but this movie stands a very good chance of being my favorite comic book movie.  Avengers was easily the most fun, Watchmen is a fantastic movie as well, but the Dark Knight is an amazing movie.  So exciting, so dark, so smart, and so so good.  It’s an extremely well-written story with action, chaos, and loss.  And the darkness and realism that I liked so much about the previous movie returns for this movie.  That would, of course, mean that the Joker wouldn’t be using the toys you’d typically find him using – things like guns that pop flags with “Bang” written on them or Jack in the Box’s that explode – that Joker purists may miss, but it wouldn’t fit the atmosphere.  What you get instead is a super dark and demented insane genius that actually has his shit together while still being completely off his rocker.  We all knew the Joker was coming, though.  They hinted at it at the end of the last movie.  But when I was going into this movie, I started wondering why they didn’t hint at the villains from the next movie.  But I think I found one.  It seems like there was a very good chance that, when Bruce asks Lucius how his new suit will do against dogs and Lucius said, “It should be fine against cats,” it may have been a hint that I never caught before.  As much as I loved the movie, I took issue with a few smaller things in the story.  The first was that I never understood what happened with the rescues of Rachael and Harvey.  Batman tells the cops that he’s going after Rachael as he’s leaving the police station, but then he shows up to rescue Harvey.  Did the Joker lie to Batman and he actually intended to rescue Rachael, or did he change his mind off camera and tell the cops to go after Rachael?  It’s always kind of bugged me.  The second was the cell phone echolocation machine that Bruce had built.  He spends all this money and all this time researching and perfecting this technology to find one man one time, and then he blows it all up.  I grant that it worked, but it just seems so wasteful.  The third part I had a problem with was towards the end of the movie, when someone was going to punish someone else by having him choose between his wife, daughter, and son which one he loved most.  How shitty do the wife and daughter feel?

The action in this movie was spectacular, made even better by the fact that the greater majority of it was done practically and involved minimal computer graphics.  As good as computer graphics have gotten over the years, you can usually tell when it’s fake.  Most of the Dark Knight is not fake, as best as I could tell.  There were plenty of highlights amongst the visuals, but I’ll focus on three.  Two of them were in the same fantastic action scene: when the Joker was trying to destroy the SWAT vehicle with Harvey in it.  It was freakin’ amazing when the Tumbler drove into the garbage truck that was following the SWAT vehicle, smashing the top of the garbage truck into the ceiling of the underground road.  Thinking that couldn’t be topped, slightly later they make a semi do a front flip.  Later on, they even actually blow up a building to simulate Gotham Hospital.  Suck it, Avatar!  You can take your blue people with hair dicks back to Pandora and sit on Home Tree.

Credits be damned.  Even amongst the stellar performances in this movie, I think we all know who the real star of this movie is: Maggie Gyllenhaal.  I don’t know how they didn’t incorporate it into the story that, much like Harvey Dent, Rachael must’ve endured some serious trauma and third-degree burns in between the first and second movie, and all in the face region.  In fact, the moment I realized that the Joker was truly insane was when he referred to this new Rachel as “beautiful”.  Okay, in truth I don’t think Maggie Gyllenhaal is as ugly as all of the things I say about her indicate, but she’s certainly not great looking.  And the real star of the movie is actually Heath Ledger.  This mother fucker disappears into the role of the Joker, and easily (and surprisingly) blows Jack Nicholson’s take on the character right out of the water.  I believe that, had I gone into this movie unaware of the Joker’s true identity, I may not even have recognized Ledger in this movie.  He’s that fucking good.  I said it after I first saw the movie and it’s as true today as it was then, but everything else in this movie could’ve been complete horse shit and his performance alone would’ve made it worth seeing.  It truly was the performance of a lifetime, and a gundamned shame that it was the last performance in his lifetime.  The only non-Gyllenhaal performance I took issue with in this movie was Melinda McGraw as Commissioner Gordon’s wife.  All of her reactions to bad news in this movie were a little over the top and never convincing.

The Dark Knight is an amazing movie.  The story is great, the action is fantastic, and the performances are all terrific.  There’s not a lot of bad things to be found in this movie, but even if there were, the movie would be worth the watch for Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker alone.  The fact that the rest of the movie is also amazing is just icing on the cake.  I don’t know that I’d be comfortable calling the Dark Knight my favorite comic book movie of all time, but it would certainly be considered.  This movie should not only be owned; it should be watched at least once per month.  Put it on your calendars.  The Dark Knight gets “A little fight in you.  I like that” out of “Harvey Dent.  Can he be trusted?”

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The Expendables (2010)


Welcome to the third installment in my “Prove I’m Not Gay” movies, following the back to back reviews of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sex and the City.  This particular movie could be argued as being the anti-chick flick.  Make a movie that includes almost every action star you could think of, add lots of explosions, forget to write a story, and even throw in a little love story for no reason and you have this movie.  This movie is The Expendables, starring … well … think of an action movie star and input their name here.  And, just to be helpful, it stars Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Terry Crews, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, David Zayas, Steve Austin, Charisma Carpenter, Eric Roberts, Giselle Itie, and have Arnold Schwarzenegger (yeah, I copied it off of a website.  Who wouldn’t?), Bruce Willis, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.  Any action stars you thought of that weren’t here will probably be in the sequel.

This story should be easy enough.  Stallone, Statham, Crews, Li, Lundgren, and Couture are the Expendables, an elite group of mercenaries.  In the beginning, they get onto a boat and kill a bunch of pirates holding hostages.  Lundgren goes a little nuts and tries to “break” someone, and if he dies, he dies.  Rambo has to kick him out of the group.  Then the Transporter’s girlfriend dumps him for a douche.  Black Mask wants more money.  Couture is sad about his ear.  Crews makes his tittie muscles dance.  So McClane gives Rocky a mission to kill a general somewhere and John Matrix turns down the mission.  So Judge Dredd and Chev Chelios go there and find out Eric Roberts, with his bodyguard Stone Cold Steve Austin, are really bad, and Cobretti falls in love with the general’s daughter.  Then they go back and kill everybody.

This movie is exactly what everyone expects it to be.  Dumb but exciting.  There is kind of a story to this movie, but it’s very typical and entirely predictable.  Surprising as it may be, Stallone actually has the ability to write some good dialogue from time to time.  He didn’t do that here.  It’s either really cliched or very confusing.  There were times that I was wondering “Why are they talking about this right now?”  And there’s a black guy that’s one of the pirates in the very beginning that both cannot act and cannot be understood.  I think that was a wise choice.

The cast is probably the biggest draw of this movie.  As I said, practically every living action star is in this movie at one point, and the ones that weren’t probably just couldn’t find the time to get in there.  They should’ve just had Van Damme walk by in the background at one point.  Sly looks really weird to me in this movie.  I know the man’s getting old, but he’s still ripped to shreds in this movie.  There are so many veins in this man’s arm that I would argue he had to have some surgically implanted.  But his face looks like he’s had Cher-esque work done.  The rest of the cast is exactly what you expect from them.  Except, maybe, for Jet Li.  For some reason, Jet Li gets his ass kicked in this movie by most people.  If you ask me, I bet Li could beat down everyone on this cast save for maybe Randy Couture.  The other person here is Mickey Rourke, who actually puts on a pretty good, emotion charged performance at one point, regardless to how shitty the dialogue he’s delivering is.  You should give the man an Oscar just for that.

The action is the other draw to this movie.  The fight scenes are pretty good, though I’d actually expect better from such a cast.  But they go more for gun play than for fights.  The other nice thing about this movie is that Sly wanted as many of the explosions and action scenes to be practical as they could manage.  So the shit that blows up into gigantic fireballs actually happened, and looks like it.  Also, I don’t know how he managed, and I believe it started with the newest Rambo, but Sly’s movies pull off some really brutal deaths.  I’ve seen it in things since but I don’t remember it before Rambo where it started to look uncomfortably realistic at times.  I’m cool with it though.  Good work.

So that’s that.  As I said, this movie is exactly what you expect of it.  It’s kind of worth seeing, but you probably won’t be impacted that much by it.  It’s explosions and deaths are cool, but everything else kind of sucks.  I give this movie “Rent it once, and then again in a few months when you’ve forgotten everything about it” out of 786.

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others.  It may help me get better.