Olympus Has Fallen (2013)


There’s a Reason I Never Voted for You.

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)I took myself a little break, but when it came time to come back, I wasn’t entirely sure if my break was self-imposed or not.  I could not find anything in the theaters that interested me!  Whatever was I to do?!  But then I remembered an old friend that I don’t think I’ve spent any time with recently.  An old friend by the name of RedBox.  And there were a couple of movies to be found there that I wanted to see.  Not movies I wanted to see expecting quality, but movies I wanted to see expecting quality reviews to come out of them.  And by that I mean I expect them to suck.  But we’ll just have to wait a paragraph to find out after I tell you a little bit about Olympus Has Fallen, written by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, directed by Antoine Fuqua, and starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Finley Jacobsen, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, and Ashley Judd.

Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is the head of the Presidential Detail.  While transporting President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), First Lady Margaret Asher (Ashley Judd), and their son Connor Asher (Finley Jacobsen) to Camp David, a tree branch lands on the windshield, sending the President’s limo off the road.  Banning is only able to save the President and his son.  The most ungrateful POTUS in history then demotes Banning to the Department of the Treasury.  This turns out to be a great idea when a group of North Korean terrorists – led by Kang Yeonsak (Rick Yune) – take control of the White House in order to use something called the Cerberus system to leave the United States defenseless from nuclear attacks.  But little do these Korean terrorists know that we’re still covered by America’s first line of defense: Gerard Butler.

I would give this movie credit for being better than I expected it to be.  My expectations were admittedly low, but it was better than them.  It’s just your fairly standard action movie.  I feel like I’d probably prefer White House Down since it seems almost identical without taking itself too seriously as this movie does.  This movie tries to do the same thing in a more heavy and emotional way that never really worked for me.  It started with the death of the First Lady.  I didn’t really care.  We hadn’t really spent enough time to get emotionally attached to her.  Plus I felt the whole situation was a little stupid, especially when the helicopters arrived right afterwards and I could just imagine everyone saying, “Oh man, that’s right!  We have helicopters!  We could’ve completely avoided this bad driving conditions and come through this situation with at least one more living First Lady!  Boy is my face red.”  And then you demote Banning because he only managed to keep you and your son alive but wasn’t quite able to go above and beyond the call of duty to save your wife too?  That’s some bullshit!  He’s clearly the best guy you have, as evidenced by how easily the Koreans waltzed into the White House.  It seemed like the movie was sending a message to Korea that, if they send enough men and garbage trucks, and if Gerard Butler is busy at the time, then they can take the White House down without too much effort.  Well, if he wasn’t available, then maybe we could settle for Maverick and Goose, ‘cause they never would’ve been taken down by that giant plane with the side-mounted Gatling guns.  They would’ve been flying upside down above that airplane taunting the enemy pilots and completely safe from side-mounted Gatling guns.  And who was aiming those things anyway?  Ah, never mind…

I also didn’t get the whole situation with Kang.  I guess I get his motivation and all, but how the government people not know who he is when they see his face when he’s the most wanted terrorist in the world?  They say that he’s never been photographed, but his picture pops up with his name pretty quickly for that to be true.  Well his plan seemed pretty solid though, at least up until the end.  ::SPOILER ALERT:: I thought his ruse with putting black hoods on everyone was fairly effective for not getting his people killed since they wouldn’t know which one was the President.  It would be effective for everyone but the girl in the crew, I suppose.  The sniper could probably feel pretty safe shooting the one person in the group with tits.  The problem I had with it was that I didn’t see the point of the ruse in the first place, beyond clearing out the rest of the unnecessary people before the climax.  Why bother killing off all your men to make everyone think the President was dead when you’d be activating the Cerberus system 2 minutes later, thus proving that both you and the President were still alive.  ::END SPOILERS::

One thing that I could say with confidence about this movie is that the cast did a great job.  Gerard Butler has made some shitty choices for movies in the past, but he can still bring it with the performances.  He’s a very believable badass, and that was the bulk of what was required of him here.  I did find it amusing that America was almost destroyed because Banning doesn’t use Twitter and doesn’t know what a hash tag is, or perhaps because the other douchebag decided to use “hash tag” instead of the more commonly understood “pound sign.”  I also took issue with the President of this movie, and not just because he demoted the man who saved his life.  …asshole…  I also took issue with the fact that he kept telling his cabinet members to give up their codes to save their lives.  I understand it would make the President look like an asshole if he let them die, but that’s about 5 people who might die as opposed to the millions that will die if they give up those codes.  Let them die bravely to protect the country and do the same yourself.  ‘MERICA!!  Also, Morgan Freeman is the man.  He should not only be the President in every movie, but he should be the President in real life too.

Olympus Has Fallen was roughly what I expected it to be: decent.  It didn’t impress, but it entertained.  And I guess that impressed me because it was more than I expected.  The story was a little over-simple, but the action was pretty good and the performances were better than I would’ve expected.  This movie doesn’t qualify with me as a purchase, but it’s decent enough for a rental.  Olympus Has Fallen gets “Newsflash asshole – I don’t work for you” out of “Why don’t you and I play a game of fuck off.  You go first.”

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Now You See Me (2013)


Who Doesn’t Love a Good Magic Trick?

Now You See Me (2013)As the day of my birth approaches, I decided that I should not be at work as I turned 30.  Well, not at one of my jobs at least.  I would spend my vacation from one job working on the one I actually enjoy: stuff-reviewing.  The first step would be to make my way to the theaters, with my friend Greg in tow.  There were a few movies that I wanted to see in theaters, but Greg had either already seen them or had no desire.  We agreed only on today’s movie.  This movie had piqued my interest when I saw trailers for it, but I had apprehensions about it.  It seemed like an interesting enough premise, but I worried at the movie’s ability to realize that interest.  We find out how well it did as I review Now You See Me, written by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, and Edward Ricourt, directed by Louis Leterrier, and starring Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mélanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Common, Michael J. Kelly, and Elias Koteas.

A few stray tarot cards bring together four magicians – Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) – with a plan to accomplish three amazing feats for a mysterious benefactor.  They become “The Four Horsemen,” sponsored by insurance magnate Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine).  For their first trick, they rob a bank in Paris and give all the money to the audience.  This attracts the attention of FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol Agent Alma Vargas (Mélanie Laurent), who need to figure out how they did it and what they intend on doing next.  For that, they enlist the help of an ex-magician who makes a living debunking other magicians, Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman).

I enjoyed this movie.  It was not without its share of problems, but I still found the experience enjoyable.  I found the premise of the movie to be the most compelling part.  The idea of magicians using their abilities for “evil” instead of their usual motivation of “pussy” was very interesting to me, and I thought it was clever how they did it.  I especially liked when Jack Wilder fought the two FBI Agents using magic as a fighting style.  I wasn’t able to figure out their Las Vegas stunt until they revealed it to us.  Their New Orleans stunt was much more predictable and much less mystifying, especially with what they did with the word “Freeze” and how easy it would be to make someone’s money move from one account to another with a simple computer, but there were still some clever ideas in there.  I feel like the problem I had with the movie was that it practically dared the audience to figure it out and to be wary of misdirection, but overall wasn’t clever enough to make it happen.  When one of the characters tells Rhodes that someone might be a spy for the magicians, you can pretty much rest assured that it won’t be either the character that told him that or the character he was talking about.  That would be too easy.  But it doesn’t leave many options, so it wasn’t that hard to figure out.  And though you might not have known how they accomplished something, you can have an idea that something was accomplished, like the part in the story with a car crash.  I didn’t know how it was faked, but it’s a movie about magic.  Of course it was faked.  I would also say that the movie started off by getting me, because I totally picked the card that Jesse Eisenberg put on the side of the building, but there’s also a chance that this could’ve been manufactured with camera tricks.  I also felt like Woody Harrelson’s mentalism stuff was mainly included for exposition, because he delivered most of the character’s backstories using that stuff.

The cast of the movie was great, with no real complaints.  They got great people so I would expect nothing less.  Jesse Eisenberg plays nervous and self-conscious better than he plays a cocky douche, but he did very well.  Isla Fisher is hot, and I heard she almost drowned at one point in this movie, so props for the commitment as well.  Woody Harrelson was pretty entertaining all the way through, and he got to be the funny one in the group most of the time.  I’ve loved me some Mark Ruffalo ever since he was the Hulk, and I found myself worried for the magicians that they might get him too angry.  They might not enjoy that.  I was also very excited to see Mélanie Laurent since I haven’t seen her since I fell in love with her in Inglourious Basterds.  Long distance relationships are always so hard…  I also got to thinking that, with both Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman in this movie, how could they not have been able to get Christian Bale (and maybe even Hugh Jackman) to come in for a pivotal scene at the end of the movie where they just yell, “THE PRESTIGE!” and dance around in circles?  It would’ve made the movie for me.  But sometimes, I just want to watch the flash paper burn…

I thought the premise of Now You See Me was great, but there just wasn’t enough magic in the storytelling.  Their clever ideas also activated the parts of the brain that cause us to try to figure out how magic is accomplished, but the story wasn’t quite polished enough to hide their secrets from me.  But their ideas were clever enough to keep me interested, and it was presented well enough and included many great performances.  I’d say this movie is definitely worth a watch.  I don’t know that I’d say it was important enough that it need be seen immediately in theaters, but it also wouldn’t hurt.  Renting it would do fine as well.  Now You See Me gets “The more you think you see, the easier it’ll be to fool you” out of “You have what we like to call in the business, ‘nothing up your sleeve.’”

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Oblivion (2013)


They Lied to You.  It’s Time to Learn the Truth.

Oblivion (2013)When I went to the theaters to catch Star Trek, I had no reservations.  Today’s movie was less so.  I had seen the commercials for this movie and had an inkling of interest in the movie, but never enough that it would be the reason for me to make the trip to the theater.  Attaching it to a movie I wanted to see more made it much more palatable.  And I think it’s odd that I had no interest in this movie because I loved the game I assume it was based on.  In fact, I’ve loved the whole Elder Scrolls series.  I don’t know why they skipped past Daggerfall and Morrowind, but I’m still suspicious of how this game could be turned into a movie.  Do they just ignore all the side quests?  Otherwise, it would be way too long.  Well, we’ll find out as I review Oblivion, based on a graphic novel by Joseph Kosinski, written for the screen by William Monahan, Karl Gajdusek, and Michael Arndt, directed by Joseph Kosinski, and starring Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo, and Zoë Bell.

It’s the future so Earth is having a bad couple of days.  In 2017 the Earth was destroyed in a battle with some invading aliens when we decided to drop some nukes all over this bitch.  The surviving humans moved to a colony on Saturn’s moon Titan, with a few sticking around to repair survey drones to keep the remaining aliens (called “Scavs”) from destroying the fusion power stations that power the colony.  Two such humans are Tech 49 Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his partner Victoria “Vic” Olsen (Andrea Riseborough), Jack’s navigator who sits on her butt while he does all the work and chats with their weirdo mission Commander Sally (Melissa Leo).  Things are going smoothly and Jack and Vic are preparing to end their stay on Earth when Jack stumbles across a radio tower that summons a pre-invasion American spacecraft back to Earth, containing a sexy astronaut named Julia (Olga Kurylenko) that Jack has been having dreams about (but who hasn’t been?), as well as some secrets that will rock the foundation of Jack’s world.

My low expectations for this movie allowed it to exceed my expectations.  It didn’t blow any minds, but the story was solid, the look was great, and the performances all worked for me.  The biggest problem I had with the movie is that it had nothing to do with the game it took its name from.  No Daedra or anything!  What the movie is similar to is the Matrix, various post-apocalyptic movies, and Independence Day.  We fuck up the planet like a child breaking a toy so no one else can play with it.  Never really makes sense.  Man apparently has the resources to build a space station to escape on, but we’re so stubborn about not giving up our planet that we’ll destroy it first.  Either we win or everyone loses.  On the other hand, I could kind of see us doing that.  The story can kind of be slow going throughout, having not a whole lot going on other than watching Jack fix robots and having little hints at the larger story be revealed slowly.  I started getting bored around the halfway point, especially when it was going pretty heavy on the relationship stuff.  Julia showing up creates a love triangle between her, Jack, and Victoria that they really drained for all it was worth, and it wasn’t worth a whole lot to me.  The only thing it got out of me was a laugh at how much ‘splaining Jack was going to have to do to the two ladies.  ::SPOILER ALERT::  Then the movie turns into Independence Day because the big plan is to fly yourself into the mothership and blow up.  Not the greatest plan to be sure, but I’m sure Jack took solace in the fact that he had plenty of spares if his plan didn’t work out.  But I don’t know how that even got close to working in the first place.  Sally is a super smart computer intelligence, but she can’t figure out that something is amiss when Tech 49 rides up in Tech 52’s ship, even though they shouldn’t know each other exist?  The numbers are written on his shirt and the ship.  Infants and monkeys can tell if two things don’t match.  ::END SPOILERS::

The movie does very well with its look.  Everything is visually well-realized.  It looks dystopian while still being pretty beautiful and spectacular.  It shows a lot of imagination in the designs of everything, from the fusion plants to the ship that Jack flies to the tower he lives in.  A dystopian movie is always able to solicit a bit of a reaction by showing familiar landmarks like the Empire State Building buried up to the top floor in sand.  The action is fairly rare in the movie, but most of it is good.  I liked the fight between Jack and the Scavs in the library because the look of it reminded me of Gears of War, with 80% less raspiness.

I was not surprised by the quality of the performances in the movie so much as I was surprised by the quality of the actors they got.  I only knew one of them going into the movie, but I knew he was good.  The ones I didn’t know were in the movie were also as good as they usually are, but I didn’t know they were in it.  Tom Cruise is the only person I knew would be here, and he typically brings some quality.  I didn’t know who Andrea Riseborough was, but she was also pretty good.  I had no idea that Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, and the Kingslayer himself, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, were in this movie, but they tend to be good as well.  Kurylenko helped make it easy for me to relate to Tom Cruise in this movie because I dream of Kurylenko too.  Who wouldn’t?  Morgan Freeman’s appearance was a bit bothersome to me at first, but only because he came off as a bad guy in the movie.  I don’t like Morgan Freeman as a bad guy.  He’s a great actor with a lot of range, but he’s just so likeable.  That was one of the main problems I had with the movie Wanted.  That and it being entirely mediocre.  Melissa Leo also did a good job.  Her role didn’t seem to require much out of her as she was just vaguely robotic, but also somehow bitchy.  And she got much more bitchy by the end.  They should’ve called her HAL-E from the way she looked at the end.  That’s not a WALL-E reference, but a HAL reference, just so we’re clear.  The only performances I really took issue with were those damned surveyor drones.  Those things were ungrateful pricks.

Oblivion was a fine enough movie, but perhaps not fine enough to inspire me to recommend that you see it in theaters.  The story was okay, but nothing spectacular and a little slow moving.  But the visual style and the performances were all impressive.  I could get behind recommending this movie as a rental eventually, but for the time being you can do without.  Oblivion gets “We won the war, but they destroyed half the planet” out of “Classic game.”

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The Dark Knight Rises (2012)


There’s a Storm Coming, Mr. Wayne.

I went into each of the new Batman movies with some degree of trepidation.  The first movie suffered from the reputation left by the previous movie, and the second movie suffered from the high standard set by one of the actors in the Tim Burton version.  Going into the third Batman by Christopher Nolan, I did my very best to keep my expectations low, but I could feel myself losing that fight the second a plan was made to see it.  That’s when it was becoming real.  But I still had the nagging voice in the back of my head reminding me that there was no possible way this movie could be better than the Dark Knight.  The Dark Knight may be my favorite comic book movie ever, tied with Avengers and Watchmen.  If this movie trounced its predecessor, then I would need to write a review naming a new movie as my undisputed favorite comic book movie of all time.  Am I about to do that?  Let’s find out in my review of The Dark Knight Rises, written by Jonathan Nolan, co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan, and starring Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Josh Pence, Juno Temple, Nestor Carbonell, Matthew Modine, Alon Abutbul, and Cillian Murphy.

Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Gotham City has reached a relative state of peace due to the Dent Act and the efforts of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman).  So peaceful has Gotham become that the savior of Gotham, the vigilante known as Batman (Christian Bale) has disappeared into seclusion that he breaks only to have conversations with his butler Alfred (Michael Caine), and to get robbed by a cat burglar named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway).  But Selina stole more than Bruce Wayne’s mother’s necklace; she also stole his fingerprints … and a congressional representative.  She sells the prints to a criminal named Bane (Tom Hardy) who uses them to bankrupt Bruce Wayne.  While investigating the sewers, Commissioner Gordon also gets shot by Bane’s men, but is rescued by a cop named Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), but a speech Gordon had in his jacket falls into Bane’s hands, revealing to him the truth about the cover-up of Harvey Dent’s crimes.  Gotham City needs Batman again, but does he have it in him to defeat this new foe and stop his terrorist plot?

This time I was right.  The Dark Knight Rises was not able to come close to the legacy left by The Dark Knight.  I’m in no way trying to say that this movie was bad, but it had a whole lot to live up to and it wasn’t able to.  That being said, Dark Knight Rises was a really good movie, and really strong in a lot of ways, but my three favorite comic book movies are resting comfortably on their thrones.  I think the story was what got on my nerves a little bit.  Though it was good, there were just too many things that just didn’t make sense to me.  Take, for instance, when Selina Kyle steals Bruce Wayne’s car early on in the movie.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but Bruce Wayne is the most famous person in Gotham, yet the valet doesn’t realize that he’s not married and that he left his really expensive vehicle by himself, so he just gives the keys to any lady holding a ticket claiming to be his wife?  So that dude’s fired.  There were plenty of things that I loved though.  One such occasion was when Selina Kyle disappeared when Batman turned around and he said, “So that’s what that feels like.”  Without spoiling it, I was also very happy to see that they used the most famous thing from the comic book storyline of Bane in this movie.  I don’t know the Batman universe that well, but the one thing I knew that Bane did happened, and I loved it.  There’s also a great deal of emotion in this movie, and I don’t think they’ve really done that successfully in the previous movies.  But I really liked the last thing Batman says to Commissioner Gordon in the movie, and a few of the things Alfred said to Bruce during the last half of the movie almost brought me to tears.  I will say that I did not like the ending of the movie, but I’ll go into more detail in the next paragraph.

I know that doesn’t sound like I had that many complaints about the story of the movie, but the reason I left some out was that they contain spoilers.  The first non-spoiler I would give you is about spoilers, but I would recommend you not check IMDb before watching this movie.  Just looking at the credits for this movie spoiled something that could have potentially been a huge surprise near the end of the movie.  Maybe two things, depending on how asinine and descriptive the posters get with the character names.  But here’s the rest of them ::SPOILER ALERT::  The huge thing it spoiled for me was that Talia al Ghul, the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, was in the movie.  That’s not revealed until the last 15 minutes of the movie!  But, when I went in knowing she was in the movie, it was pretty easy to figure out who she was and who the trigger person was going to be.  One of the big problems I had was with Batman in the prison.  He tried to escape the prison around three times before he realized that he needed to make the jump without the rope holding him back.  Friendboss Josh realized that when the first person tried to make that jump.  How is he smarter than the World’s Greatest Detective?  I regarded the ending of the movie as a total “fuck you” as well.  Batman dies … or does he?!  No.  The problem with this is that it really didn’t make any sense.  If Batman wanted a vacation, he doesn’t need to fake his death, and certainly not to the people he’s closest to.  He let Alfred, Lucius, Gordon, Blake, and Selina Kyle all think that he was dead for a good long time before they either figured it out on their own or ran into him on vacation with Kyle in Italy.  It did have a bit of an emotional impact on me as a viewer though, but it was mostly anger.  Knowing this was Nolan’s last Batman movie, I had entertained the possibility that he might kill off Batman, but you can’t just do that.  Batman’s almost a century old; you can’t just come in and kill him.  Then, when I saw him in the café at the end, I just wondered why the fuck that little misdirection was necessary.  There were some good spoilers as well.  I thought it was total genius how Bane’s mercenaries used the army against the people of Gotham by making them keep the people of Gotham in town because they would set off the bomb if even one person made it across the bridge.  I also thought it would’ve been an awesome reveal if I didn’t already know it was coming (Fuck you, IMDb!) to find out that Talia was the kid in the prison and Ra’s was the mercenary being talked about in the story.  I got goosebumps when they showed the scene from the first movie that tied into it.  ::END SPOILERS::

I enjoyed all of the performances in this movie, but there certainly wasn’t anything on the level of Heath Ledger.  I know it’s an unfair comparison, but it’s also necessary.  Christian Bale did a great job in the movie.  He wasn’t really the same Bruce Wayne we’d seen before as he was dealing with a lot of emotions in this movie.  In the beginning of the movie, he’s in seclusion and his guilt at the death of Rachel is still wearing on him, and it’s only getting worse with him turning it inward as he doesn’t have the distraction of being Batman anymore.  But that was part of the problems I had with the movie: there was not enough Batman!  He’s not Batman for a large part of the movie, and the first time he becomes Batman he just doesn’t seem that into it anymore.  He’s back in form near the end of the movie, but I was getting bummed out about it by then.  Tom Hardy did a great job in this movie as well, and I’ll avoid the Joker comparison to give him the credit he deserves.  This is the Bane they needed to make in the movie.  One of the biggest problems I had with Bane’s appearance in Batman and Robin was that they seemed only interested in recreating the character’s look.  Yeah, he’s a big brutish looking guy wearing a mask, but he’s not some mindless goon.  Bane had a genius-level intellect in comic books, but that movie makes him unable to string two words together.  This movie does Bane justice.  Tom Hardy makes him completely intelligent and intimidating.  They also had a good reason for him to wear the mask, which I was wondering how they’d pull off when they didn’t want to take the Venom angle from the comic books.  Anne Hathaway also did a pretty good job as Selina Kyle, but I can’t say that I think her role required all that much out of her than being fuckin’ hot.  She did that part of it with gusto, but also gave a pretty good performance.  I probably would’ve preferred that they had a few hundred more scenes of her riding Batman’s motorcycle wearing skintight leather from behind though.  Her character created some questions for me, though.  The main one was how Bruce could still be moping over Maggie Gyllenhaal 8 years after her death when he just met Anne Hathaway.  I’d be over it pretty gundamned quickly.  I also really liked the look of her “Catwoman” costume (though she’s never referred to that way as far as I know).  And not just because it was skintight on Anne Hathaway’s body either.  I liked that it felt really reminiscent of the Catwoman costume from the Adam West days, but they made it better by making it so she wasn’t intentionally wearing cat ears, it just looked like she was when her goggles were pushed back onto her head.  On another note, I understand that Catwoman is very agile and flexible and everything, but was it actually necessary for her to kick the lever on the window washing scaffold at one point in the movie?  It was above her head and you could’ve just pulled it with your hands.  Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

I’m sure it’s hard to tell from the review I just wrote, but I did really like The Dark Knight Rises.  It was a great movie and did not lessen the average quality of the trilogy in the least, but not much can live up to the legacy left by The Dark Knight.  The story was fantastic, but had some problems that hindered its overall quality, but all of the performances were fantastic and made me so happy that someone finally did Bane justice so we can stop using Batman and Robin as a character reference for him.  I had some problems with the movie, but I had absolutely no problem seeing it in theater.  It was totally worth it.  I’m happy I saw it, I’m in love with the trilogy in total, and I can’t wait to buy it on BluRay.  The Dark Knight Rises gets “You made some mistakes, Miss Kyle” out of “The Batman has to come back.”

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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?”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Batman Begins (2005)


You Must Become More than Just a Man in the Mind of Your Opponent.

Let’s go back in time to roughly 2004.  At this point, Batman had fallen on hard times, somewhat devastated by the shit sandwich known as Batman and Robin.  So devastating was this movie that it was almost a decade before they put out another one.  But this guy, he wanted to reboot the whole series.  What kind of bullshit is that?  We’ve all seen Batman’s origin story!  And you want to throw down your movie against the Tim Burton Batman’s origin story?  This has bad written all over it.  But, they wanted to take the movie in a darker direction, and it seemed as if they got mostly good people to be in it, so maybe I was judging too harshly.  I would still give it a chance.  Also, the word “Batman” was in the title, so there was a very good chance I would be seeing it anyway.  How could this movie possibly do?  We’ll find out as I review Batman Begins, written by David S. Goyer, co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan, and starring Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Mark Boone Jr., Ken Watanabe, Linus Roache, Sara Stewart, Richard Brake, and Gus Lewis.

A young Bruce Wayne (Gus Lewis) must leave a play because of his fear of bats.  His father Thomas (Linus Roache) and mother Martha (Sara Stewart) escort him into the alley behind the theater where they are murdered in a mugging gone wrong by a desperate criminal, Joe Chill (Richard Brake).  Later, when Chill is granted parole if he testifies against crime boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), Bruce (now Christian Bale) sets his mind on killing him, but is beaten to the punch by one of Falcone’s men.  Seeing how corrupt Gotham City has become, Bruce disappears into the world to study the criminal element and train physically and mentally in martial arts.  He gets himself arrested and, while imprisoned, he meets a man named Ducard (Liam Neeson), who offers Bruce the opportunity to train with and join the League of Shadows, a group of ninjas led by Ra’s al Ghul with a mind to bring justice to the world but, after training with them, he realizes that their plot is to dispel the evil from Gotham by destroying it and allowing it to rebuild.  Bruce says, “Good day,” picks up his hat and spikey gloves, and burns the place to the ground, killing Ra’s and saving the life of Ducard.  Bruce is picked up by his butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) and returns to Gotham to use his new skills and a pointy cowl to bring justice to Gotham in his own way.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but is Ra’s al Ghul immortal?  Are his methods supernatural?  Eh, it’ll probably never come up…

I tried, probably in vain, to act like I wouldn’t like this movie.  I can’t imagine anyone didn’t see right through that.  Of course this movie is awesome.  With each new reboot of the Batman it gets darker and better.  The old Adam West Batman was goofy and fun, then Tim Burton put out a much darker and more serious Batman with Michael Keaton that got goofier and more terrible over time as George Clooney took over the role.  What Christopher Nolan gives us is the darkest and most realistic look at the Caped Crusader we’ve ever seen, and probably the best Batman movie that had ever been released up to that point, renewing the faith of the fans that had been trampled down over the years.  I can’t recall if I went into this movie thinking that it couldn’t possibly be better than the Tim Burton Batman, but I would say it succeeded.  And, just as great, they went with some fantastic villains that we hadn’t seen in the movies prior: Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul.  I loved the realism in the movie as well.  Everything they changed they changed for the better, and all of it seemed like it could really happen.  The armor, the memory cloth cape, all of the setup stuff.  I don’t know that any of that stuff really exists, but it feels like it does.  The Tumbler seemed much more realistic, but I must admit that I miss the Batmobile from the first movie.  It’s an acceptable substitute.  Even the villains were more realistic.  Ra’s al Ghul stayed immortal with the use of the Lazarus Pit in the comic books; here he uses deception to spread the legend of Ra’s al Ghul as immortal.  Scarecrow was never all that unrealistic.  It’s probably not that hard to find an inhalant that will make you trip balls.  The only real issue I took with the story of the movie is that the fat cop was made out to be a dick for telling the guy he took food from that he should feed his kids falafel.  That’s just good logic right there.

No one should’ve been surprised that the greater majority of the people were able to bring it.  They got some fantastic actors to participate in this thing.  Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman; so many great actors that deliver in every way.  And Katie Holmes is in the movie too.  That’s perhaps harsh.  She actually did a fine enough job.  Not spectacular, but certainly not bad.  Christian Bale is probably the best performance in this movie as far as I’m concerned.  He really gives three performances.  The Bruce Wayne he puts on is mostly for show; what he’s been told a billionaire playboy would act like.  Then there’s the real guy, who is much more serious, but still finds the time to toss quips back and forth with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman – both of which bring a great deal of snarky comedy with their lines.  Then, of course, the Batman, who is always serious and speaks in a super gravelly voice that does grate on the nerves, but I didn’t take that much issue with it.  I think I more took issue with how breathless it always made him seem.  It was as if … he couldn’t do … more than three … words at a … time … like that …

Batman Begins is awesome.  One could argue that it starts out a little slowly as we have to sit through the origin story that the bulk of us were already familiar with, but once it gets moving, it gets moving.  This is the exact type of Batman movie the world wanted.  Or, in the very least, it’s the one I wanted.  The action is fantastic, the darkness and the realism are amazing, and the performances are top of the line.  I love you, Batman.  And you, Christopher Nolan.  Something tells me I might be saying that once or twice more in the next couple of days.  Come back to find out.  For now, Batman Begins gets “You’re not the devil.  You’re practice” out of “Death does not wait for you to be ready!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

RED (2010)


I Am Getting the Pig!

I vaguely remember someone I work with suggesting that I watch today’s movie, but I don’t really remember who.  I think it may have been Eric.  Who suggested it was fairly irrelevant to me because I’m always down to check this movie out.  I don’t remember the circumstances that first lead to me watching this movie.  There’s a possibility that I randomly purchased the movie without having seen it; something that is a rarity for me to do.  I may also have RedBox’d the movie and liked it so much that I immediately purchased it.  Either way, to fulfill this mystery request today, I needed only to walk to my DVD shelves and grab the BluRay.  Doing so brings us up to speed, so let’s review RED, loosely based on a comic book series created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer, written by Erich Hoeber, directed by Robert Schwentke, and starring Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Julian McMahon, Richard Dreyfuss, Karl Urban, Brian Cox, James Remar, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ernest Borgnine, and Audrey Wasilewski.

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) leads a pretty boring life in his retirement.  So boring, it seems, that he entertains himself by tearing up his pension checks so that he can call Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a customer service agent at the pension office, and talk with her for a bit.  The hum-drum life he leads is interrupted when one day he goes downstairs and a hit squad appear to attack him.  He kills the bejesus out of them with extreme prejudice and sets off for Kansas City.  CIA agent William Cooper (Karl Urban) is tapped to hunt down Moses and kill him.  It turns out Frank is no ordinary bald dude, but he’s a former black-ops CIA agent who has been tagged “R.E.D.”, or Retired, Extremely Dangerous.  Frank is forced to kidnap Sarah for her own safety and the two set out to get the band back together and find out what’s happening.  With the help of other RED agents – Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox), and Victoria (Helen Mirren) – they find out that their deaths are part of a cover up for the CIA involving people high up on the ladder.  They will most likely kill the shit out of them too.

I really dig this movie.  It suffers a bit from a pretty predictable and familiar story, but saves itself from being too much of the same by telling it in a different and superior way.  The action is over the top and awesome, the movie is a lot of fun for something that’s basically about killing, the performances are delivered by people way over-qualified for such a movie, and the dialogue is very charming.  The action in this movie is a lot of fun.  It’s pretty much all over the top and exciting, and usually framed with some funny dialogue.  I really like the scene you probably saw in the trailer for this movie when Bruce Willis steps out of a spinning cop car and starts firing at Karl Urban, Willis’ legs narrowly being missed by the back of the spinning car.  John Malkovich also shoots a rocket out of mid-air, causing it to explode backwards and kill the person firing it.  I’m sure the Mythbusters would wipe their ass with this notion, but I thought it was awesome, so who cares if it makes sense?  The movie ends on a 20 minute or more action scene of the RED people doing a heist of sorts, but I never got sick of the action because it went on too long.  The movie also had a very satisfying ending.  The throwdown between Willis and Urban in Urban’s office served no purpose to the plot and also seemed a bit out of character for Moses to jeopardize the mission to show Urban that he was better than him, but it was a pretty awesome UFC style throwdown that was amped up by Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle”.  Pointless, but awesome.  Part of what made this movie work for me was the way it was filmed.  They used lots of creative camera angles and cool transitions to make it a very stylized movie, setting itself apart from other action movies.  These were small things that you might not necessarily pay attention to, but subconsciously stick in your mind.  Things like Bruce Willis’ eye transitioning into a bullet in the opening of the movie and John Malkovich flipping off a satellite, transitioning into Karl Urban watching the monitors.  I also liked the postcard things they used to show that we were switching locations.

The cast of this movie is probably the whole reason I went to see it in the first place.  There are so many big names and diverse actors in this thing that I just had to see how it worked out.  Well it worked out amazingly well and impressed me more when I saw who else was in this that was not top-billed.  Bruce Willis is one of the biggest action stars in the world, but he is aging a little by now, making him perfect for this movie.  He didn’t play it like a super-badass action hero, even while he was doing super-badass action things.  He played it more like a quiet, shy dude that was crushing on a girl he met on the phone … oh yeah, and also I’m a total badass.  I didn’t really know who Mary-Louise Parker was before going into this movie because most of her film credits are movies I would not be interested in, and also I never saw Weeds, but she could not have been cuter in this movie, both in looks and in personality.  She was totally fish out of water amongst the crowd Willis gets her involved with, but she had a lot of sass to her and I really dug her in this movie.  As much as I liked her, she had the misfortune of going up against John Malkovich as Marvin Boggs, and she could not compete with that character.  I don’t know that I had ever seen Malkovich do comedy before I saw this, but that dude was great.  He was so awesome and hilarious as the uber-paranoid Marvin.  He was crazy and paranoid so people rarely took what he said seriously, even though he turned out to be right more often than not.  He was the one throwing in the most jokes in the action situations, and if he wasn’t actually saying them, he was making me laugh by being downtrodden in the background holding a pink, stuffed pig.  Morgan Freeman was fairly underused in the movie, but was great in the parts he was in.  He was the one that had the part that bummed me out in the middle of the movie, but I got through it.  I don’t care how old Helen Mirren is, I think I would still throw down with her if she wanted.  Something about that lady is just sexy, especially if you have her shooting a 50-calibur machine gun wearing a white gown.  Karl Urban has played a badass before, but didn’t really go above that character to impress too much.  But I guess he was the bad guy for the most part, so you don’t want him to be too charming.

I dig RED a lot.  It’s not the smartest movie you can watch, and you won’t learn anything from it, but you will watch a stylishly-filmed movie with great performances, charming characters, funny dialogue, and over the top, fantastic action.  However I came to see this movie the first time is irrelevant.  I liked it enough to immediately purchase it on BluRay, and I feel comfortable saying you’ll have fun renting it.  SO DO IT!  RED gets “You guys want to get pancakes?” out of “I trained Kordeski.”

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