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REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises

July 20, 2012 1 comment
Tom Hardy and Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Returns

They both talk.
You can’t understand either of them.

I have crafted the perfect sentence to describe The Dark Knight Returns. Here, read this: The Dark Knight Returns is a worthy and satisfying end to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight saga, a reimagining of the beloved hero Batman as a dark, tortured avenger in a bleak, cynical world. That sentence is absolutely perfect. I’ve been saying it for 22 hours now, and everyone I’ve said it to has immediately said, “Oh. That makes sense. I guess I’ll go see it!” What I’m not mentioning when I say that The Dark Knight Returns is the worthy and satisfying end to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight saga is that I hated every second of it from the opening gambit to closing “twist”. I was bored out of my skull from beginning to end as I watched characters new and old alike run through the motions of closing this series out.

Every single scene in this movie feels like it’s specially crafted from beginning to end. Not in a good way. It feels like all the individuality, personality and anything that might be cool or fun or different has been sanded down like an edge on a sphere. It opens with Bane robbing a plane. He’s robbing the plane of the scientist that’s on it. That would be pretty cool if you didn’t see it coming from having watched The Dark Knight that one of the masked men in the criminal’s crew is Bane himself. This was the first time of many that I found myself muttering to myself, “I get it.” Read more…

REVIEW: Silent House

March 23, 2012 Leave a comment
Elizabeth Olsen in Silent House

Spoiler alert: the only good actors all have only x-chromosomes.

I’m gonna be honest straight off the top here: I’ve never seen Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope. Being even more honest, I expect the kind of people who obsessively cruise film blogs to understand what I mean there and why I’m saying it now, but I don’t expect that of people I actually want to write for–so I’ll explain myself. Rope is a film that takes place in real time over 80 minutes as actions unfold and suspense builds and everything gets worse. At least, I assume all that last stuff after the word “minutes”. The point is, it’s shot, cut and projected in such a way as to give the illusion of being a single 80 minute reel of film unfolding before your eyes. Silent House, from the couple who brought you Open Water, is also shot and cut to present the illusion of being one uninterrupted take. It’s also being marketed with the gimmick of being the 88-minute, one take horror movie. Don’t tell anyone else, okay? It’ll be our little secret.

Elizabeth “sister-to-the-twins” “Martha-May-Marcy-Marlene” Olsen is a young woman by the name of Sara, who is living with her father at her family’s old lake house, finishing up emptying the place out and packing everything into boxes before they sell it. She, her father and her uncle are all carrying around lanterns because the house has no power. After a visit from a girlhood friend, freaky things start happening in the house. Polaroids are left out, with both father and uncle quickly hiding them; she finds a red tin box she can’t open; there are lots of lingering shots on Things That Will Be Important Later. For a one-take movie, it sure has a lot of shots. And the house has a lot of doors that can’t or shouldn’t be opened (that will be). And while the film is getting warmed up, it’s nice to pretend it’s just a thriller, instead of a profoundly dark movie that still has me looking over my shoulders. Read more…

REVIEW: Beastly

January 13, 2012 Leave a comment
Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens in Beastly

There was also this part where he nearly became a masked vigilante who hunted in the night, yet alas...

That title should really say REVIEW, SORTA: Beastly, but we’ll leave that be for the moment. It’s apparently Friday the 13th, and I don’t know if it’s the first Frirf the Thirith I’ve written on, but a new year is a great excuse for new traditions. New tradition: every Friday the 13th, I see a movie I wouldn’t watch otherwise. For instance, 2010’s live action Disneyfied update of the Beauty and the Beast tale, Beastly, starring Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer as the title roles, respectively. But reversed. She’s the beauty. He’s the–you get what I’m saying. So we all know the gist–superficial golden boy is cursed by a hag of a witch until he convinces someone else that there is value in him beside his looks. But how is Beastly, the determinedly inoffensive reimagining, any different? How is it unique? What does it do that’s special?

Well, very little. There is pretty much … very, very little to recommend this movie. It’s sappy, it’s overwrought and underperformed, the makeup effects are treated in dialogue like they’re from John Carpenter’s The Thing but look more like something from one of the tamer Die Antwoord videos. So not “Evil Boy”, is what I’m saying. Like, from–from “Wat Pomp”. It looks like the mask from “Wat Pomp”. It’s about as scary as a wood mask on a normal person, but everybody keeps treating it as a reason to be banished. In the final scene where Kyle (Pettyfer) has triumphantly re-entered the school to declare his love for Lindy (Hudgens), girls are shocked and near puking. And all I could think was “please–half of those girls are so turned on by the well-defined bone structure of a dude with neck tattoos and face-metal all over the place”. Read more…

Mission: Impossible, Jack Parow, Foo Fighters, Scream 4.

January 5, 2012 Leave a comment

So, today, I watched Mission: Impossible for the first time in a long time. Since I was about nine years old, actually, and I was surprised by how not-complex the plot was. I wasn’t watching it to review it; I mostly had it on in the background while I trolled the net for a torrent of Eksie Ou, the new Jack Parow album. Which is fantastic, by the way. Gotta get a credit card so I can have copies of his albums shipped to me. Really, this is another one of those days in the life of an amateur critic (read: person with opinions on the internet) where nothing really major happens in their artistic diet. I’ve seen Mission: Impossible before, and I’m pretty sure having memorized the plot through repeated viewings at the age of nine really made it hard to evaluate as though it was the first time seeing it.

Though, I will say this: Brian de Palma loves diopter lenses, but he especially loves his diopter lenses for dutch angles. Starting about ten minutes into this movie, nearly every shot of some intense stuff going down is at a degree sharper than 45 off kilter with something in sharp focus in the background and sharp focus in the foreground. I swear to god, it’s like the arrow in the FedEx logo–once I saw it, I couldn’t unsee it for the rest of the movie. All I could think was “jeez, Brian–maybe you don’t need that one guy in the background in focus while these two pairs of lips are hogging the frame to the right. Maybe they could all get a turn on screen in their own shots.”

Other than that, it was a tight, surprisingly grim/gritty/dark/edgy spy thriller. With the direction the franchise took in the latest two installments toward spy-movie fluff, it’s easy to forget these movies started out by killing everyone on screen after revealing the only original cast member left from the TV series to have sold out the entire nation. It’s a weird case of anti-Batman syndrome, where these movies have only gained artistic credence the lighter and fluffier they got. Read more…

Chairs vs chairs.

January 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Think back, in your mind, to the last chair you sat on. I’m going somewhere with this analogy, I promise you, but for now, just think of the last chair you sat on. Perhaps you’re sitting in one right now. (Little computer joke.) I believe in the Zuckerberg Character philosophy that “a guy who builds a nice chair doesn’t owe money to everyone who has ever built a chair”. Chairs are sort of basic, mechanical objects, aren’t they. Enough legs to make balance a certainty; a back if you want your sitter to rest their back on the back of your chair. A seat, preferably, or you have legs jammed up your goolies. And it’s never good to have chairlegs jammed up your goolies no matter how restful your back is on your chair back. But the last chair you sat on is sort of a basic, mechanical thing, right? You can break it down to legs, seat and back. That’s all you need in a chair for it to be called a chair. And you evaluate its quality as a chair by how long it lasts as a chair and how comfortable you are in that chair.

So why do we let manufacturers tell us that other basic mechanical things are so much more complex and difficult just because they’re newer? With a number of things, there’s only really one metric of quality: it works or it doesn’t. Binary. Does it do the job it’s supposed to? I’m not talking about things like guitars with varying sounds or monitors with varying contrast ratios or engines with varying strengths and stuff. I’m talking about things like chairs. Tables. Music stands. Canvas bags. Knives of varying purposes. Do these things do the things they’re supposed to do? And thus, you can judge them. And you’ll notice these are all old things–things we’ve had around for years. But what if I was to tell you there was another thing, a new thing, that’s come along in the last twenty years that has a pretty much binary quality but you’ve been convinced is a matter of highly differing qualities and standards?

It’s cables. Read more…

REVIEW: Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol

December 21, 2011 1 comment
Tom Cruise actually scaling that building in Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol

He actually scaled that mother.

Y’like colons, Johnny? The number of colons in that title should tell you that this is the other big December sequel opening this week–well, officially opening after spending five days in IMAX exclusive. This is the fourth entry into the growing  Mission: Impossible franchise from auteur/producer Tom Cruise and the first since the 1996 original to do away with numbers. Numbers really only serve to date us, don’t they, Tom? Isn’t it much better to just have subtitles? That way no one will ever realize that somehow, these movies should have stopped being good in 2002 and died off quietly thereafter. Happily, that isn’t the case. Instead of being entirely scrapped after director John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II was neutered of its violence and most of its plot, Tom Cruise picked up the series again and–in a pinch–courted director JJ Abrams to make Mission: Impossible III his first feature film. Lo and behold, that was a movie far better than it should’ve been.

And now we’re back for the fourth installment in Tom Cruise’s “Ethan Hunt tours the world via ESPIONAGE!!!” series, from the director of The Iron Giant, Ratatouille and The Incredibles. I wish I could make that up, but no–real life is too pricelessly unpredictable to be fabricated. And in another example of that priceless unpredictability, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol might be the most relentlessly fun spy movie released since Jason Bourne’s reign of gritty, realistic terror. It’s like somebody said the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies just needed a little less stupidity and a couple more fistfights and turned out an incredibly inventive and necessary kick in the pants to a dying genre. With Bond 23 in limbo and faltering under heavy-handed seriousness, it’s nice to be reminded that espionage is actually quite thrilling. Read more…

REVIEW: Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows

December 21, 2011 1 comment
Jude Law and Robert Downey, Jr. in Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows

And Rob? Get a haircut.

Robert Downey, Jr. coined one of the internet’s favourite phrases in Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder. In giving acting advice to another character, he uttered the immortal words: never go full retard. When an actor takes on the role of a mentally challenged person, they need to have some smartness to them for the audience to relate to their performance. To that rule, I’d like to add another, this one directed at Mr. Downey himself: never star in a sequel set to release two years after the previous feature. If your first movie comes out in 2008, don’t star in the sequel if it’s set to release in 2010. If the movie comes out in 2009, don’t star in the 2011 sequel. “But what evidence do you have that this is really a problem?” I say to myself because someone needs to ask the question.

Six words: Iron Man 2. Sherlock Holmes 2. In these two feature films, Mr. Downey, you have shown us that there is just not enough time in two years to properly develop a sequel to a movie when all you have to go on on day one of production is a protagonist. If you want to know how to build a franchise as massive and successful as the retroactively titled Dark Knight saga (just don’t wanna say Batman, do ya, Nolan), you need to tell Guy Ritchie to follow their example in more than just the obvious ways. You need to take a minimum of three years between releases. Take a year off to let the screenwriters work the magic a second time and deliver a script as good as the first one. At least as good. Because frankly, well… Read more…