Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Handicapped defication

Am I a bad person for always using the handicapped stall when pooing in a public bathroom?

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I realize that my last few posts have not been the most well-written reviews in the world. I'm simply writing as I go, rather than taking the effort to think things out ahead of time. Eventually, I hope to sit down and really think about what I have to say. We'll see how that works out...

The Dark Knight Review: Part 3 - Heath Ledger as the Joker

What's worse than a pile of a thousand dead babies...?
The live one in the middle eating its way out.

I know, it's a horrible joke, and there are plenty of others (appropriately called, Dead Baby Jokes.) You hear them, laugh and then hate yourself for doing so. This is the best way I can describe Heath Ledger's performance of The Joker in The Dark Knight. He is as scary and menacing as Hannibal Lecter, but you can't help but hate yourself for chuckling at him every now and then.

Ledger's performance is one of the the great examples of an actor becoming completely lost in a character. From the first moment he is on screen, the audience forgets everything they were thinking about Ledger and his unfortunate death. Only The Joker is on screen, and he is as original and frightening of a character as has ever been seen.

His origins are not explored in the film, something Nolan explains by saying that he wanted to depict the character as an "absolute." This works perfectly in the film, as the Joker is a pure agent of chaos that jumps in and out of the story. Yet, much to the credit of Ledger, he is completely believable. The way he walks, licks his lips and tells stories (stressing the plural) about how he got his "smiling" scars is completely within the realm of human possibility, which makes him that much more frightening. Without any explanation for his existence, the audience is scared to death that, in a world as grounded in reality as Nolan's Gotham City, this man could exist. As for his humorous aspect, he's as funny as Steve Buschemi being fed into a wood chipper. Each time I've seen the film, the entire audience can't help but laugh as an entire hospital is razed to the ground. We hate that we're choosing to laugh, and The Joker will play the same joke on our heroes.

As I have said earlier, The Joker is the catalyst for the emotional changes within the film's main characters.
It isn't unusual for heroes to see themselves in their villains. Nolan, in fact, employed this technique wonderfully in his previous film, The Prestige. It is, however, unusual for an entire cast to be so affected in so many ways by one person. Just as his basic plans seem to be foiled, he forces them to make impossible moral choices, mocking, all the while laughing at, their personal struggle. Sick as it may be, he finds it funny that people can so easily be manipulated.

Earlier, I suggested that Ledger's Joker was much like Hannibal Lecter. He is not the film's main focus, but he is easily what will last in the mind of the audience. His evil is horrifying, but completely believable (which makes him that much more horrifying.) The Joker, though "absolute," is a complex character explores the nature of good and evil in a completely original manner.

All this being said, his case for an Oscar is a complicated one. While the academy is normally prone to liberal guilt, see: the bullshit that is a Best Picture award for Crash, they seem hesitant to be so for the deceased. At this point in the year Ledger's Joker is the best supporting role I've seen. Whether or not this is true when the final votes are cast, I hope the academy will evaluate his performance in the same manner that they do the rest.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Dark Knight Review: Part 2 - The Characters

Characters define their films. Plot can be thrown away if the audience does not feel some kind of bond with lives that inhabit a story. Be it love, hate or something in between, an emotional connection with character is the key to great film making. The Dark Knight combines stellar writing with an equally able cast to create a rich film filled with deeply layered characters.

Batman - Christian Bale: Bale's portrayal of The Batman in Batman Begins was spot on. He was brooding, intelligent and introspective. He made it believable that a real man could find reason to begin a personal crusade against crime, striking fear into the hearts of his enemies by dressing as a giant bat. In The Dark Knight, Bale builds on his performance.

Through his admiration of Aaron Eckhart's character, Harvey Dent, and his relationship with love interest Rachael Dawes, played my Maggie Gyllenhaal, we see how deeply he yearns to become a normal man and give up his role as the caped crusader. We also see, however, how the Batman begins to dominate his psyche. Right or wrong, he truly believes that Gotham city needs his "alter" ego regardless of the consequences he must face. The idea that he is the Batman more than he is Bruce Wayne has been explored thoroughly throughout the comic book world. Bale, once again, makes us believe that a real man could become such a person.

Alfred Pennyworth - Sir Michael Caine: Always a class act, Caine reprises his role as Bruce Wayne's butler and confidant. Though only working with very few lines, Caine stands out in the film as the voice of reason - the voice that Bruce Wayne and the Batman turn to at their lowest.

Lucius Fox - Morgan Freeman: Just like Caine, Freeman is a fantastic actor in a lighter role. Fox serves mainly as a plot device by developing the Batman's crime fighting technology. He does, however, become a pivotal part of tone of the film's major themes, though this does not occur until the final act.

Even with limited screen time, Caine and Freeman provide us with yet another example of their stellar talents.

Rachael Dawes - Maggie Gyllenhaal: Katie Holmes' Dawes from Batman Begins was little more than the damsel in distress as playing the part of a hard-nosed DA didn't suit her. Gyllenhaal provides a more convincing portrayal of a woman that has managed to ascend to the upper ranks of her field. Though her main purpose in the film is simple, she is a catalyst for the emotional changes within the Batman and Harvey Dent, she plays it well. She is given just as much as Holmes was and does a far better job with it.

Aaron Eckhart - Harvey Dent: With all the buzz surrounding Heath Ledger's performance, which will get its own post, Eckhart's fantastic portrayal of both a hero and a villain should not be overlooked. As the film takes great lengths to point out, Harvey Dent is the white knight to the Batman's dark knight. Dent suffers through the onslaught of media criticism, attempts on his life and personal loss, and it is his reaction to these events that becomes the main theme of the film: how good men can rise and fall when confronted by true evil.

We have seen Eckhart play the silver tongue before, which does with as much moxie as anyone; this time he plays other side as well. He is a tragic figure, and his portrayal of a fall from grace should not be overlooked.

Lt./Commissioner Jim Gordon - Gary Oldman: Along with Alfred and and Lucius Fox Gordon is another supporting player brought to life by a fantastic thespian. With a larger role than in the first film, Gordon collaborates with the Batman to rid Gotham of crime and corruption. His voice is not always that of the law, as Dent's is. It is the voice of what is right. Gordon is a decent man in an indecent world. Oldman provides us with the film's swan song, and his tragic soliloquy approached that of cinematic greatness.

While by no means an ensemble cast, the incredibly talented actors of The Dark Knight are interwoven by a story that allows each to support the others. They have created a stunning emotional drama.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight Review: Part 1 - Overall Impression

I build things up in my head. When I was a kid I had to take a downer on Christmas Eve so that I'd go to sleep before four in the morning. While this makes the anticipation epic, it often leads to being let down when the actual event comes to pass, and my anticipation for The Dark Knight couldn't have been higher. I had built it up to unattainable heights and entered the theater expecting to be let down.

The Dark Knight did not meet my expectations...it blew them away. As enthralling as it is intelligent, Christopher Nolan's latest offering is nothing short of a masterpiece. It is an epic crime thriller that transcends genres and leaves its audience breathless.

This is not an action movie, nor is it a comic book movie. With characters as deeply tied to plot as those of The Departed and a villain as interesting, and horrifying, as Hannibal Lecter, The Dark Knight is a film that crosses the traditional lines of film genre. It is simultaneously a thriller, a crime drama and an intimate character study. It is not unusual to see films succeed at being great at one genre, but seldom do the elements of film making combine to create something that attempts, much less succeeds, at combing more than one. The Dark Knight does just that and does it better than any film I've seen in years.

Nolan's gripping tale focuses on characters that do not merely do battle as good versus evil (though their battles are depicted with stunning visuals.) Rather, each develops in their own manner as a reaction to the events around them, with the catalyst being Heath Ledger's stunning performance as the Joker. While one part of my series of reviews will discuss his role more thoroughly, let it suffice to say that Ledger's performance, stemming from an amazing script, creates a character that asks the audience to question their definitions of true evil and fear. Oscar worthy? Certainly.

The rest of the cast performs just as well, each adding key points to the plot while developing into deep, well-rounded characters.

Grounded in reality, the story is tense but paced.
About an hour into the film, I realized I was clenching my fists, completely captivated by the film's tension. While the basic idea of some of the characters may be outlandish, Nolan has dropped them into a believable world. This draws the audience into caring about these people and the events that unfold around them. And how do they unfold. Not until the film's final moments does the plot, just as the Joker's plan to ruin Gotham, turn itself on end to reveal its true purpose. Though this may be a good-and-evil tale it is not the main purpose of the film. This is tragic a story of a world's varied reactions to heroism, evil and deceit. Nolan has previously used techniques such as telling his stories out of sequence to hide a film's true motive. Here, however, he has found a way to hide his message beneath an intelligent system of mystery and intrigue that does not require such gimmicks to remain suspenseful and unexpected.

Will The Dark Knight revolutionize its genre? As much as I wish it could, I doubt it will. It takes too much talent, talent that most of Hollywood doesn't have, to make a movie of this caliber. Fantastic characters, a gripping plot and visuals that will be envied for years have been combined to create something truly special. The Dark Knight is a piece of art that will not be forgotten.

5/5 Stars

Coming tomorrow: Character review

Friday, July 18, 2008

TDK review: give me a couple of days

After seeing The Dark Knight for the second time, this time in IMAX, I've decided to write my review a little differently from the traditional format. This was a sensational film, and I'm going to break it down and review each element individually over the next week. Topics will cover genre, its relationship with Batman Begins, characters/performances, homages, etc.

In the meantime, go see it (again, hopefully.)

Go see The Dark Knight

I'm pretty tired. I went to see The Dark Knight at midnight and am now up for work on three-and-a-half hours of sleep.


I'll have a review up tonight. Until then, let it suffice to say that I've never anticipated a film more, and I was astonished. This is the best film I've seen in a while, and everyone should see it as soon as they can.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Michael Bay's rejected screenplay for The Dark Knight

I have been a loud opponent of last summer's Transformers (so much so that I might put a review up here, a year later, just to throw in my two cents.) Consequently, I hate Michael Bay. This is hilarious.

Friday, July 11, 2008

One Week From Today

I haven't looked forward this much to anything in a long time. If you don't know what I'm talking about, "Watch for my sign" on July 18

Here is an quote from TIME Magazine, just to prove how extraordinary some things can be:
It traces a descent into moral anarchy, and each of its major characters will hit bottom. Some will never recover, broken by the touch of evil or by finding it, like a fatal infection, in themselves."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Movie rating background

Here are some examples of where my movie loyalties lie. These are in no way the top five from each category, just five examples of each

5 stars:
  • The Godfather (I and II)
  • Star Wars (IV, V, VI)
  • The Princess Bride
  • The Motorcycle Diaries
  • Casablanca
4 to 4.5 stars:
  • Batman Begins
  • Shrek
  • Rocky
  • Young Frankenstein
  • Alien
3 to 3.5 stars:
  • Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (a very strong 3.5)
  • Snatch
  • The Great Escape
  • Donnie Darko
  • Austin Powers in Goldmember
2 to 2.5 stars:
  • Gladiator
  • Transformers (2007)
  • Spider-Man
  • Titanic
  • Star Wars (I and II)
0 to 1.5 stars:
  • The Ring
  • Training Day
  • Crash
  • The Fast and the Furious
  • The Notebook

Monday, July 7, 2008

WALL-E: A great movie that, like its main character, looks beyond

Pixar knows how to make movies. Great plots, fun characters and astonishing visuals have been the norm since Toy Story debuted in 1995. Wall-E is no exception...and there's a little something more this time around.

Though it goes without saying, this film is beautiful. Pixar never fails on this front, and this is their greatest visual achievement to date. I was almost moved to tears watching two robots dancing through...well...space. The neons of a future world are stunning, and, though there was a double take at first, live action is interwoven beautifully. If nothing else, see this movie just to see it.

But there is much more. Wall-E is thoroughly enjoyable. It is simply amazing how much life, energy and emotion come from a character with less than half a dozen different lines. Wall-E's character is just as developed and full of life as any seen in an animated film. The movie's strongest attribute is its ability to create empathy for the little trash compactor that could. As we watch him dance to a recording of Hello Dolly in the film's opening act, we immediately connect with every lonely moment we've ever had - every time we've yearned for companionship.

When Wall-E finally does find a companion in the form of Eve, his first visitor in hundreds of years, he wants nothing more than to hold her hand, and everyone watching immediately empathizes with him.

The supporting cast plays second fiddle to Wall-E, which is just fine. Unlike the sometimes fractured story of Finding Nemo, Andrew Stanton's previous effort with Pixar, the plot focuses almost solely on our hero (a portion of the film is devoted to its human characters, but I will discuss that later.) More than any other animated film I've seen, a character is developed with the wit and grace that is normally reserved for more dramatic story lines. At a time when so many movies are mash-ups of rehashed plots and montages
(though Wall-E's plot is a little thin), it is refreshing to see a film, much less a family film, that takes the time to really look at the emotions of its characters.

As for the humans, they represent the aspect that makes Wall-E more than unique. I will not ruin the story for those who have not yet seen the movie, but the humans, the Earth they have left and the "world" they now inhabit are used as an obvious yet strong tool for social commentary. The message may be straightforward, but this is a children's cartoon. I have racked my brain, which is much too full with useless movie knowledge, and I cannot think of an animated film that is meant to be viewed by children with this level of social conscience. Never mind the message, this is a step forward in the art of film.

My one complaint with the film is the sometimes awkward camera work. At times, it feels more like a documentary as camera placements, movements and focuses are intentionally sloppy. A good example is a shot, which can be viewed in the trailers, of a herd of grocery carts slamming Wall-E against a glass door. There is a delayed rack focus, which looks as if someone was filming with a hand held camera. But, wait a minute, I'm discussing the camera work of an animated film - yet another example of how Wall-E reaches far beyond the norm.

The robot Wall-E wishes to feel the gentle touch of a friend. Wall-E, as a film, goes beyond reaching for the hand of its audience. It goes for a full bear hug in a move that, at this risk of making some uncomfortable, must be commended.

Final Grade: A / 4.5 of 5 stars

As this is my first film review on this blog, my next post will include my grades for other films and movies so that readers may gain an accurate idea of my grading scale.