tom hardy

[Movie Review] ‘Dunkirk’ is 2017’s Most Pummeling Onslaught of Cinematic Skill

The sights and sounds of war. That’s what Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is all about. Forget character and forget telling individual stories–this movie wants to put the audience on the front lines of land, air and sea to deliver an experience. Make no mistake, Dunkirk is one of the most incredible and unique cinematic experiences you’re likely to experience–and while there are a number of prolific filmmakers, few operate with such technical skill quite like Nolan. 

The film tells the story of British forces trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk simultaneously awaiting rescue and intermittent air attacks at the hands of Nazi forces. Nolan’s focus is that of human resolve and wordless heroism. It is true, there are few characters you can attach yourself too, but that’s not the point. Dunkirk is a film you simply live as an audience member. In the grips of war, the British forces are constantly being bombed from the air as they await military boats to take them home–said boats are themselves under attack, so the soldiers are in a harrowing fight for survival. Dunkirk’s entirety pulls the audience from those breathless sequences to show intercutting sequences of a civilian boat headed to the beach to help save soldiers and the air forces en route to pick off the enemy planes attacking the boats. 

No time is wasted in what might be Nolan’s shortest film to date. We are quite literally dropped into the thick of the fight as bullets whizz by with shocking sonic effect through the speakers. Simply sitting in your chair Dunkirk will drag you through the hell of a period during WWII of great significance–one I was previously ignorant of–but conveys war in an immediate and frighteningly human way. The sheer number of people that are in harms way and how vulnerable they are should not be lost amongst the cinematic weight of the picturesque works of art that art composed to perfection through Nolan’s vision. 

Hans Zimmer’s score ticks away from the opening moments conveying the immediacy of the action happening on screen while the sound design pummels the audience in there seats as though they are themselves on the sands of Dunkirk or alongside Tom Hardy and the breathtaking dogfights. 

The lack of character development will play out subjectively viewer to viewer–some will find it a refreshing take on the war genre, others might feel disconnected to the characters and the life and death circumstances. Nolan’s presentation of war and heroism through relentless action is unconventional to say the least and it’s exciting to be witness to a filmmaker constantly pushing himself and the medium in unexpected ways. 

A few editing woes aside, Dunkirk may be one of the best if not the best Nolan film to date. Arguably just shy of perfection the images on display are unbelievably beautiful and the scope of Nolan’s undertaking has to be considered as close to masterpiece as any working filmmaker can accomplish on a blockbuster scale. 

Rating: A

Beer Recommendation: Prize Old Ale from George Gale & Company Ltd. — I wasn’t quite sure how to pair a war movie with beer, until I was struck with curiosity during one of the final scenes. The scene in question features bottles of beer being handed to characters on a train and at the time I didn’t think to pay much attention to the label nor did I have the forethought or means to zoom in on one. With the help of google and a friend with much better eyes than mine the beer was found!

George Gale’s Prize Old Ale is unfortunately not a beer I’ve had the pleasure of trying, but the brewery has a long history and if Beer Advocate ratings are any indication iterations of the beer are still in circulation (seemingly owned by Fuller’s Brewery now), but with a different look than in Nolan’s Dunkirk. The pictured bottle simulates the label you might see in the movie–or in set photos posted online (like the one below). Since I’ve not consumed the beer, I won’t try to muddle my way through flavor notes (Beer Advocate users can help you there) that vaguely relate to the movie or the experience. Instead, this recommendation comes as a minuscule Easter Egg in history, although should you be holding a bottle or have access you can certainly sit down and toast to the soldiers at the end as you both have endured some version of the Dunkirk experience. 



TGoF Hangover: ’71, Child 44, The Nightmare, and The Gallows

On this edition of TGoF Hangover I take a trip into “The Troubles” in Belfast during 1971, go on the hunt for a child killer with Tom Hardy, experience sleep paralysis, and watch some Nebraskans completely botch found footage horror.

’71: I’m simultaneously the best and worst audience for movies with historical heft. The best because I tend to be more engaged as I feel like I’m catching up on a topic I previously was ignorant on, and the worst because I usually can’t even begin to view it with truly honest eyes. By that I mean since sometimes I watch movies about something I had no or little knowledge on I can’t have a discussion on its realism. All that said ’71 is a tense and gritty telling of true events that sometimes feels a little overlong. The film opens incredibly with an über tense riot sequence before slowing down into a stealth sneak around thriller. In the end, it’s a film that deserves a watch even if just for the extended chase sequence (even though shaky cam almost unravels it’s tension). (more…)

Movie Review: Mad Max Fury Road

madmaxfuryroad_posterCinefiles need to bow down at the feet of George Miller. The filmmaker conceived a crazy post-apocalyptic action movie back in the day and now in 2015 he has re-conceived that crazy post-apocalyptic action movie and injected it with steroids. Not only is Mad Max: Fury Road the best action flick we are likely to see this year, but its a beautifully shot, technical masterpiece with a sneaky story at its heart that requires very little dialogue to make effective.

Miller’s two hour epic begins with a man, Max (Tom Hardy), standing in a vast desert wasteland. Right away the film gives the sense of a world drained of hope and a man that has endured a number of unspeakable horrors. Max is then chased and captured by a pack of men and taken back to, The Citadel. In The Citadel Max is kept in a cage and used as a ‘blood bag’- a universal blood donor for a brood of scavengers. The Citadel is ruled by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) who hordes water from the people he rules over. Immortan Joe is readying his followers for a run to Gas Town to collect resources. Shortly after the caravan leaves for Gas Town the driver of the War Machine, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), turns the rig off course with intentions to escape which provokes Immortan Joe to gather his troops and pursue- taking Max along for the ride. (more…)

Movie Review: Locke

locke_posterMinimalist cinema can be a tough sell. Not everyone has the patience to stick with a limited cast in just a few locations- let alone one location. The worries range from rather or not there will be enough material to sustain at least and hour and a half to if the characters are interesting enough to watch for the entire run time. It’s not a tough sell for me though. In fact, if you tell me the entire film is one location and only one or so actors on screen at any given time then I’ve probably bought my ticket by the time you finish the sentence. As was the case with LOCKE- the fact that Tom Hardy dominates the entire film simply served to entice me to buy two tickets and stay for a second go around.

Not much to tell here. The film stars Hardy as Ivan Locke, a family man who really really loves his job as the foreman of a construction company. In fact, he doesn’t so much love his job as he takes immense pride in his work and admires the finished product. However, an unexpected phone call pulls him away from his carefully constructed existence on the eve of a huge cement pour at his job sight and a night of soccer with his wife and kids. The very same phone call threatens to bring his life crumbling down on him. For the duration of the film Hardy has a series of phone conversations while driving in his car to his desired destination. (more…)

Best/Worst Movies of 2012

It’s that time of year once again- the time to make new friends and enemies. Top 10 lists have the tendency to makes eyes roll and bring people’s blood to a boil either for leaving their favorite movie off the list or including a movie they hated. It never stops there though because omitting a pick is one thing, but placement is a whole separate issue because God forbid you love something a smidgen more or exponentially more than someone else. That being said, to each their own and below you can see my favorite movies of 2012 along with some honorable mentions.

As always, if you want to disagree with me even more then feel free to check out my Top 10 Horror movies of 2012 and new for this year just because I’m a glutton for punishment you can now check out my first ever 10 Best So-So Movies of 2012. Enjoy!

(10) Killing Them Softly – Kicking things off with one I don’t expect to cross over with the majority of lists you might see online is KILLING THEM SOFTLY. I believe I was clear in my indifference with the unflinching material in this film revolving around the state of the American economy which still sort of surprises me when I think about how I can still love it so much. The fact of the matter is that I still think the script is strong, just excessive in the economy talk, Brad Pitt is great and the sound design is pretty awesome as well. For me this one an extremely entertaining hitman flick that missed being just one slot higher only to the upcoming hitman flick with an even better performance from a well known actor.

(9) Killer Joe – Easing up the list we have a film not all that different from KILLING THEM SOFTLY, except that William Friedkin’s film doesn’t want to beat you over the head with economy issues and instead wants to make things real weird at the dinner table. KILLER JOE like the previous film features a killer that comes on scene and does his thing except I found Matthew McConaughey’s performance to be much more haunting, disturbing and uncomfortably hilarious. The brutality and weirdness of the final 30 minutes here isn’t as graphically disturbing as it is mentally troubling given the events that are going down. I am a movie fan that feeds on the art of performance and in terms of performers that carry their film’s KILLER JOE’s ensemble may just be the best among the list, it just falls lower on the list due to how often I think I would ever want to put myself through it again.

(8) Wreck-It Ralph  Changing pace from dark hitman thrillers to extremely light family film. I wrestled with two different animated movies to include on the list, but ultimately one I chose to include on a different list and settled on WRECK-IT RALPH to represent the animated features of 2012. Sure this isn’t quite up to par with that of the best Pixar releases, but I still found this to be a whole lot of fun. The voice actors are all cast perfectly, the animation is fantastic and there is a great balance of sweet and funny moments in the script. As a guy who falls for nostalgia on a regular basis there’s a lot in WRECK-IT RALPH that had me giggling and feeling like a kid again.

(7) Looper  If you aren’t on the Rian Johnson bandwagon, then there’s never been a better time to hop on. LOOPER is Johnson’s third effort and shows all the signs of a filmmaker with limitless creativity and a voice that I look forward to hearing from for many more years to come. This time travel drama/thriller wasn’t even what I was expecting going in and what it ended up being I loved maybe more than what I was expecting. The dual performances of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis are great and the awesome diner scene showcases that point. It may not be the balls to the wall actioner the trailer makes it out to be, but the action that’s there is a lot of fun and the script is one of the smartest of the year. If not for a few moments in the middle that it drifts off then LOOPER could have been battling for the top spot.

(6) Skyfall – It’s come to my attention just this year that I should really make time for a lot of the older Bond films. I’ve been meaning to, I just never really seem to have the time to fit them in between my regular TV and movie consumption. Thy being said I loved CASINO ROYALE and I chose not to mention the second film and loved SKYFALL even more of the more recent Daniel Craig lead films. Javier Bardem is genius as the villain here and the action scenes are fantastic. To some it may become tedious, but I had nothing but fun with this one.

 (5) The Avengers – If I’m being perfectly honest, I really love THE AVENGERS, but I feel a little weird including it on a best of list this high. The truth of the matter is that not at any moment do I recognize this as hard hitting meaningful cinema, but instead this is nothing but a no holds barred fun blockbuster with few things for me to complain about. The special effects are great, the actors are great, it’s funny and there is no end to the excitement it gives me watching it. So while I feel a little guilty including it so high with all the emotionally resonant films out there this year, I also don’t due to how much fun I had with it.

(4) The Cabin in the Woods – If you read my Top 10 Horror list before this one, you may have been asking yourself why THE CABIN IN THE WOODS was missing from it. I generally do not like to repeat movies on separate lists so that is the short answer. I also like to include AT LEAST one horror to represent the best of the year and while there was another candidate, I felt that THE CABIN IN THE WOODS was the more obvious choice. This is a great send up to the slew of horror films we’ve seen over and over and over again that embodies then turns upside-down the conventions we are all too used to. If you can’t at the very least crack a smile in the last half hour of this film than I have no hope for your ability to enjoy much of anything.

(3) The Dark Knight Rises – Say what you will about THR DARK KNIGHT RISES, but each time I watch this movie I feel like I love it more. I too am not without my nitpicks and certain dumb elements of the film which is why I decided to not put it higher on the list let alone the top spot. I thought Tom Hardy was phenomenal as Bane, the score still gives me chills and in what might be the least agreed upon view of the film I thought every scene was filmed incredibly- that includes the fight scenes. The cinematography is just another gorgeous aspect of this film and I have no plans to file this away on the Blu-Ray shelf anytime soon.

(2) Argo – I went in a few weeks late on dishing out my love for ARGO, but I’m a firm believer in the “better late than never” statement. Ben Affleck, while not at his strongest on camera is brilliant behind it as this film is full of tense memorable scenes. I agree with those that feel the screenplay and most of the finale can feel incredibly manipulative for the sake of the plunging the audience into deeper terror more than it may have been in real life, but then again I have no issues being manipulated when it comes to my movie excursions.

(1) Django Unchained – I specifically wanted to get out to see DJANGO UNCHAINED before wrapping up my year end lists- not because I knew I would love it and would make the list, but because it was one film that I was extremely excited for that I wanted to see to at least consider for my list. Lucky for me, I love this film and as I stated in my review I have my reservations about the racial elements in the film, but rather than focus on them as a reason to not like I want to just focus on the things I loved. The script (minus excessive racist remarks) is hilarious and sharp, the performances are phenomenal, all the music choices worked for me and I thought the cinematography was great. It may not be as tightly edited as it could have been and falls short of being my outright favorite Tarantino film, but even a lesser Tarantino is enough to top my list.

Honorable Mentions:
Magic Mike, The Hunger Games, Silver Linings Playbook, Friends with Kids, 21 Jump Street, Goon

Worst Films of 2012 Roundup (In no particular order)
Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie
The Watch
Dark Shadows
One for the Money
ATM
The Hole
Total Recall
Chernobyl Diaries

What’s Missing?
At this point you are probably asking yourself “How come this one particular movie isn’t on the list?” This would then be the time I eventually say maybe I didn’t feel the same way in the comments or you can browse the following list of movies from 2012 I haven’t had a chance to see yet. To give a little extra layer to these movies the titles in bold are films I really want to see and those not highlighted in bold are ones I may check out at some point, but I’m not tripping over myself to do so.

Life of Pi
Lincoln
Seven Psychopaths
Moonrise Kingdom
The Sessions
The Imposter
Holy Motors
The Master 
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Les Miserables
Zero Dark Thirty 
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Impossible

Movie Review: Lawless (2012)

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Say what you will about John Hillcoat’s THE ROAD, but for my dollar that film is a haunting and emotional film that as much as I hate voiceovers in movies at least has Viggo Mortenson delivering the monologues in a way that struck me emotionally. With LAWLESS Hillcoat neither has Mortenson or that great emotional connection and instead we have Shia LeBouf delivering flat boring monologues with a great period piece drama breaking through the surface just long enough to tease and the rest of the time it hovers just out of reach. There are a lot of good things going on in LAWLESS, but a lot of extremely flawed aspects as well that suggest maybe Hillcoat drinking out of those mason jars in the middle of filming.

Set in the Depression Era with prohibition in effect and based on the book The Wettest County in the World and billed as a true story LAWLESS follows three brothers in the business of selling moonshine until an aggressive city cop comes to town looking to shut them down. For the most part the story is pretty one note as the three brothers played by Tom Hardy, Shia LeBouf and Jason Clarke square off against the law while trying to run their business- along the way other things also happen, but nothing that really progresses the story any further. Also, I have a hard time accepting LeBouf in a lead role and also have an aversion to excess voiceover and this film did nothing to make me rethink my position on either of those aspects.

Based on performances alone the film is well worth seeing- in spite of my issues with LaBeouf, who is decent yet I still just can’t force myself to like him. Hardy continues to cement himself as an incredible physical force and a man of many voices although at times I found his voice here slightly more comical than in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Based purely on his physical presence, Hardy helps the film carry a tense tone that breaks only when some extremely farfetched and unintentionally funny moments come along. I hate the fact that Gary Oldman has such a small role in this movie, because when he shows up he is so memorable and engaging that it made me dislike moments that he showed up and didn’t talk and eventually disappointed after he disappeared from the film entirely. Jessica Chastain is great, although one scene in particular when she ‘bares all’ will be the biggest takeaway for a wide margin of the male audience. There isn’t a bad performance to be found really, I just wish that anyone else had been cast in LaBouf’s role- I would have even liked to see Dane DeHaan in that role instead of the one he’s in and is also great.

There are a generous handful of strange things going on in this film that kept me from knowing what to take seriously and what was supposed to be intentionally off-beat and funny. The first has to do with the two best performances in the film from Tom Hardy and Guy Pearce- opposite in their overall tone and effect, but similar in the cartoonishness. Hardy’s a man of few words, but his voice is very gruff sounding and he says “Umm” a lot- he also mumbles a lot and what he says when he mumbles also provides a great deal of humor. Pearce on the other hand as the snidely city cop is a top hat, handlebar mustache and a short cape away from being a stereotypical cartoon villain. Don’t get me wrong it makes the film entertaining and the performance is great, but man is his character strange to listen to and look at. Some other odd things have to do with some of the editing and one thing in particular that happens to a specific character that should kill him, but doesn’t and a lot of the scenes that immediately follow that I was laughing at because it just seemed incredibly silly.

Hillcoat does really know how to shoot a beautiful movie though and LAWLESS is no exception. There are a lot of great shots throughout the film and some are as small as the framing of trees, or a man that’s been tarred and feathered. No matter how grimy and dirty the film gets the cinematography just look gorgeous and was enough to carry me through my least favorite scenes. The scenery works in cahoots with the performances to lift a script that if given to lesser actors would have been an even bigger problem. There are lines that are on the verge if something great and then when the character stops talking I kept thinking something cut them off when in reality the line or monologue just seemed to stop in mid thought.

With a movie called LAWLESS that stars such names synonymous with big loud blockbusters as of late one might expect something with more bang for their buck when in fact what we have is a drama with moments of action. There are moments of extreme violence that add to the underlying sense of dread in the film that hit me like a freight train and kept me involved from beginning to end. The fact of the matter is that as great as a lot of things in the film are they could have been so much better. Anchoring performances by Hardy and Pearce, beautiful cinematography and hard hitting moments of action make LAWLESS a late summer release worth seeing, but one that makes it evident the fireworks are starting to fizzle out.

Rating: B

Last Call Spoilers: The Dark Knight Rises

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Last Call Spoilers is a post on which I talk about a movie- usually a current release- where I go in-depth to describe every book and cranny of the film and attempting to leave no stone unturned. This edition of Spoiler Corner might be a bit different as I discuss the spoilers of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES- different only because I’m not going to start at the beginning and go through every plot beat of the film and instead I’m going to spend a moment summarizing the biggest spoilers in reference to my initial predictions about the film and then talk in a more detailed way about what I liked or God forbid didn’t like about the film.

Before we get too far into the discussion, I want to express my deepest condolences to the families and friends affected by the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado during the midnight screening of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. I’ve read more than I care to about the monster responsible and hope for nothing more than swift justice and feel the guy deserves anything bad thing coming to him. I’ve had a chance to read about all the last acts of heroism on the part of several victims that moved me to no end and the reports coming out are heartbreaking and incredible. It is a sad day where something that is there to bring us all hours of joy and escapism can also be the setting for something so tragic and even sadder when our enthusiasm for the art form can be exploited by the seriously disturbed for seemingly no logical reason. I would hate to see this tragedy dim the light and passion of those involved and if any that has been affected happens to see this, know that as someone who attended a midnight screening you have nothing but my deepest sympathies and I hope that you all find peace as quickly as possible from this senseless tragedy. It could have happened to any number of us that ventured out that night and know that even though those of us in other locations were not there, we all suffer collectively with you (though most can’t possibly fathom the depth of your personal losses).

On with the spoilers…

So if you want to remain unspoiled about THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, first off why did you click on a link that features the word spoiler and second how have you gotten this far in a post that clearly states the word spoiler several times to this point. You now have no excuse to still be reading so from this point on, let the spoilers fly.

I wrote a few weeks before release about what to expect from THE DARK KNIGHT RISES- or what I was expecting and anticipated seeing just how right I was going to be. At this point I am both excited and only slightly discouraged to say, I told you so. Excited because few moments in my life as a married man can I literally say I was right about something, but discouraged because if I can call some of the plot beats that means a lot of other people probably could too- plus I’m not even well versed in everything involving Batman from the comics- it also means that a few things didn’t come as big of a surprise that me and many others would probably like.

So what was I right about, well here’s the main things- Bane being a member of the League of Shadows, Marion Cotillard’s character actually being Talia Al Ghul and Bane being her tool for destruction, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character possibly taking over as Batman or maybe being revealed as Robin and the possibility that Batman would be killed off. All of these things happen in some form or another. Some of them hit harder than others and I have my issues with some of it, but for me, I refuse to let minor nitpicks drag down an otherwise phenomenal experience.

I would like to start the more detailed discussion off with Bane as played by Tom Hardy. The thing about Bane approaching this movie is just how he would stack up to Heath Ledger’s Joker from THE DARK KNIGHT. I will preface everything I’m about to say by first pointing out that I believe that even Nolan knew he could not replace Ledger or have lightning strike twice- so what I feel he did essentially with Bane was take the Joker character and reverse almost everything about him. I feel that Bane as a character anchors the first two thirds of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES just like the Joker, but their differences are also what make their respective movies work. I loved Hardy’s performance, though I don’t think it’s quite the Oscar caliber performance Ledger gave- this comes mostly due to the fact that he spends the whole movie with more than half of his face covered in a mask and that you can’t always tell how much of the performance comes in the moment during the scene and what has been enhanced or added ADR since it is blatantly obvious adjustments were made to make Bane easier to understand.

Bane much like the Joker is psychotic and both have levels of intelligence, but what where Joker lacks the physical aspect as a foe to Batman, Bane more than compensates for. However, what Bane lacks is the sheer unpredictable nature of Joker’s psychosis and Bane is unflinching in his efforts to destroy Gotham based on a meticulous plan that has been over a decade in the making by Talia. The biggest thing that took Bane from being an extremely intimidating force was by making him the lesser of two evils in the overall plan and making Talia the mastermind- rendering him mostly as a goon that simply is pointed in a direction and he executes. It doesn’t necessarily negate his physical presence in the first half of the film especially in that first fight with Batman where he just owns Batman and breaks his back, but sort of feels like he is then second wheel in the last act and then removed completely when Selina Kyle/Catwoman straight up murders him- or so it seems

The last thing I want to say as Bane is that say what you will about the voice, but I personally loved it. The muffled sound combined with the accent and the way that is sticks out so distinctly from everyone else I found incredibly effective. It works to single out his character the same way that the Joker’s strange and deranged manner of speaking did in THE DARK KNIGHT- because without it, he could have easily been written off as generic British sounding buff bad guy, where his backstory and headgear give him the intimidating look and presence. Aside from the voice, Hardy does a lot with just his eyes and body language ranging from just a relaxed “I’m not scared of anything” look, anger and then something of a crazed disgust when he’s giving the speech about corruption in Gotham. I again won’t say it’s Oscar worthy and doesn’t hit the absolute brilliance of Ledger, but it’s close and I find it nearly as memorable.

Some of the only other complaints I have about the film have to do with the editing and how time is conveyed, but doesn’t harm the film overall to me as I was eventually able to catch myself up and find ways to connect the plot without it being layer out for me. I also have some issues with the way Talia is set up and revealed- I called it before the release, but I feel like it was telegraphed pretty easily during the film so the reveal itself wasn’t near as shocking. Showing the scar on her back when “Miranda” and Bruce were in the nude after conducting hanky panky by fireside was a pretty stark hint at showing this character might be more than she appears. It may very well be a calculated move and that the reveal is supposed to be known by the audience so that we are then screaming at the screen for Batman to not turn his back on her before she stabs him- I don’t know for sure, but that’s my take on it and also why it just doesn’t bother me like it does everyone else. I also feel like the telegraph of her possibly being Talia is there to serve the fact that with all the new characters it was hard to get a lot of her character in the film to flesh her out so the rushed romance and scar reveal is the compromise Nolan basically had to make in order to get the finale to where it has to go.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES also hints several times how it isn’t hard for some people to connect Bruce Wayne to Batman as is evident in the John Blake character. So for me the whole film has tension that hinges on his identity falling apart altogether especially since Bane knows Bruce’s identity, Selina Kyle finds it out and of course Batman giving Gordon the hint and Gordan finally putting it together. In many ways Batman/Bruce Wayne seemingly giving his life by flying the bomb over the water is just a pitch perfect way to end the legend of Batman. Of course it is revealed quickly that Bruce survived because he fixed the autopilot feature in the Bat and fulfills Alfred’s wish of seeing him happy with a girl, Selina Kyle. I couldn’t have been more satisfied by that ending.

Now on to the John Blake character, which it is revealed that his first name is actually Robin in the end, was a nice nudge to fans- though I’m so happy he didn’t ever suit up and fight side by side with Batman. Instead, the ambiguous nature of all the set ups leading to seeing Bruce still alive leave hope for the future. There appears to be confusion that Gordon replaced the Bat signal in the end, but the way I read it was that Bruce replaced it with the intention that Blake was going to take his place- which to pat myself on the back once more I also speculated before the release. There is a line that Batman says to Blake saying that he needs to wear a mask in order to protect his family and loved ones- then there’s a moment of realization when Blake watches Batman fly away with the bomb and sees it explode and he then takes off his badge and throws it away. He then retrieves a bag and finds the entrance to Bruce’s Batcave- if none of that adds up to Batman/Bruce basically handing the reins to Blake I don’t know how else to clear it up for you. I don’t think Nolan is setting you up to think Blake will now be Robin, but instead just a set up for Night Wing- his name being Robin I feel is just a way to get the name recognition into the series.

I can agree that the film wants the audience to take some massive leaps of faith in terms of storytelling, time jumps and suspension of disbelief, but they are all leaps I was more than willing to take. The storytelling because in the 8 year gap we miss the development of Miranda into Bruce’s life when she helps to finance the tech that is then turned into a nuclear weapon, Bruce’s ability to fall so in love with Miranda in such a short period of time and trust her with control over his company and the fusion device and the extent in which Bane and company are able to seemingly make and place all these explosive devices all over the city. Suspension of disbelief comes from the creation and placement of the bombs and how some people seem to connect the Bruce Wayne/Batman dots easily and others just can’t or don’t care to, plus why Bruce continues to talk in Batman raspy voice to Blake even though Blake already knows who he is. The time gaps in addition to the initial 8 years since THE DARK KNIGHT are the amount of time from the initial plane heist, emergence of Bane in Gotham to when he finally blows up the stadium, activates the bomb to when Batman heals, returns and flies it out of harm’s way. There is never a time it tells you on screen how much time has passed, but if you pay attention time frames are expressed and it’s up to the audience to put them together.

Now getting into some of my favorite moments in the film- I really loved the first fight between Bane and Batman where absolutely no score is used. That scene is nothing but sound effects of two dudes throwing and landing fists leading up to the moment where Bane gloriously utters the line about wondering what of Batman/Bruce he would break first- his spirit or his body- before promptly breaking shit out of Batman’s back and pounding his face until the cowl breaks off. That whole fight I was in glee and even a little disturbed by the brutality Bane displayed when he was pounding Batman’s face as he was basically unconscious.

The biggest set piece of the film minus the final battle is the explosion on the football field. The lead up is fantastic even though if anyone saw the trailer, most knew it was coming, but what I wasn’t expecting was that all the explosions you see in the trailer happen simultaneously- including the bridges. The CGI there wasn’t as seamless as in Nolan’s previous films, but looked pretty damn good. It was also really cool to take that all in context since we got a snippet of Bane’s dialogue to the crowd in a spy video well before the release so seeing it all come together was pretty spectacular.

The final battle improved on what I didn’t love about THE DARK KNIGHT. I loved how escalated the stakes were for the film and overall how it was shot. I didn’t care for the entirety of the final battle against the Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT and the only aspects I enjoyed were the two boats deciding if they were going to blow each other up and the hostages dressed up like bad guys. The Bat sonar and darkness of the fighting kind of ruined that part of the finale and the actual abbreviated fight between Batman and Joker felt weak. Here there is just an all out war with Batman fighting with the cops against the thugs Bane has converted to his side and it was all just awesome to see in spite of some shaky editing.

I want to end on two other sequences that I enjoyed- one on a spectacle level and the other on an emotional level. The emotional scene is when Bruce is working toward healing his back and making the climb in the “Hell on Earth” prison Bane leaves him in when Bruce says he’s not afraid but angry and he’s continually failing at the climb. The moments leading up to his successful trek to the top I found to be absolutely triumphant and emotionally satisfying even if you knew he was going to make it and then his heroic return to Gotham when Gordon lights the flair that then ignores the Bat logo in flames to signal to Bane and his army that he was back perfectly capped those sequences. The spectacle scene I am referring to, though there are many is the scene where the Bat is dodging the missiles shot at it- though I didn’t see my screening at an IMAX I can imagine how awe inspiring that sequence is because I just loved it on a regular screen. Side note though, I do intend to see this again on an IMAX screen before too long.

I think for now that’s a about all I have to say as far as spoilers and discussion go. There’s been a lot of flack given for negative reviews on the film and all I have to say to anyone bummed about negative reviews is that the only opinion that matters is your own. Do not let someone else tell you what you like and definitely to not let someone else’s opinion drive you to the point of sending death threats- nobody wins in those situations. From what I can tell, expectations have been every viewer’s common enemy- the only advice I can give is to keep them in check because if you come out not liking it saying your expected more then what I will say to you is that its you’re expectations that let you down, not the film. It may not be the popular opinion, but always expecting something to be better than it actually is, ends with disappointment more than it doesn’t.

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

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It’s been four long years waiting for Christopher Nolan’s return to Gotham City. A wait that has held in the balance where exactly he would take the series in the wake of Heath Ledger’s death and rather or not the expectations could possibly be met without the vice grip of a villain like the Joker to anchor the film. THE DARK KNIGHT set an incredibly high bar for comic book movies and in my opinion if anyone was up to the task it would be Nolan. So then, was Nolan able to follow up the masterful THE DARK KNIGHT with the concluding chapter in his series, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES? Read on to find out.

The film takes place 8 years after the events in THE DARK KNIGHT, where Batman shoulders the blame for the actions of Harvey Dent/Two-Face and has exiled himself. While Batman’s absence is obvious due to the allegations, the man behind the mask, Bruce Wayne, has also secluded himself from the world. Wayne still sulks about the loss of Rachel and has also let his company slide into financial trouble. Meanwhile, a new madman, Bane (Tom Hardy) has his sights on breaking Gotham into rubble and has forces Wayne’s hand to once again dawn the cape and cowl to attempt to take control of the city from Bane’s grip.

Wow, that was my first reaction, not necessarily to how incredible the film is, but first and foremost about the amount of story and set up this film has to sift through in order to come up with a finale and ending that does indeed invoke the wow factor. A handful of new characters that all have quite a bit to contribute to the plot, so much so that I can easily see how overwhelming and seemingly clunky it all can seem. During the extremely deliberate buildup I too had my worries about everything tying itself up, but in my opinion it all comes to an incredibly satisfying end, one that justifies its slow plodding first hour or so and rewards those who have patience. For some, I have no doubt it will test their limits of patience as well as how well hearing is due to some of the audio for Bane’s character.

If you’ve seen the film and are reading this and are livid about how much of the story I’ve left out of the premise, it is for good reason. For all the marketing material it felt like maybe we had seen far too much of the film. I am here to say that most of everything in those trailers is only the tip of the iceberg. I wrote about and speculated what may be going on in the film and while I did call out a few things that I’m sure a lot of other people probably also deducted, I also couldn’t have possibly predicted all of the different plot points and turns it takes throughout as well as the final hour. This is an extremely ambitious film and any suspected flaws in its storytelling might hinder certain folk’s enjoyment, it did not deter me at all- this film had me riveted from beginning to end.

Not to be outdone in creating a formidable foe for Batman, Tom Hardy as Bane really does command the screen. His presence is undeniable and in a moment where he asks a to-be victim if he really believes he is in control it is almost like Nolan asserting his own control over the audience. Bane is most certainly am overwhelming force that really makes you fear for the well being of Batman, let alone anyone else in his path. Hardy owns the role in a way that couldn’t be more different from Ledger’s role as Joker. Theatricality is what separates them, which is something Bane audibly voices his displeasure of and because of that and his physical presence and sheer brute force is almost just as memorable as the Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT. Bane’s voice will no doubt be a point of contention and I will admit to having trouble understanding every single word- but man oh man when he speaks does it resonate and demand attention. The dread and intimidation I felt at his presence was really what started to endear me to the whole experience.

So what of all those other huge names that returned or were added to the cast? Well in fear of giving away too much for how involved they are in the plot, I will keep it vague. Bale is just as good as in the previous films, although now people will have all sorts of new jokes to spout off in the gravely Batman voice. Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine all do their part well enough, but it’s the newbies that had the bigger question marks. Anne Hathaway is surprisingly great, given I wasn’t excited one bit about the idea of Catwoman in Nolan’s Batman universe- plus she’s never once referred to as Catwoman, but she is Selina Kyle after all. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a great actor and with all the mystery surrounding his role does a great job of bridging some of the emotional arcs surrounding Bruce Wayne and Batman. Finally, Marion Cotillard- used little in the marketing, is perfectly adequate, though I don’t feel like she’s fleshed out well enough- then again that may very well have been the point.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES once again makes incredible use of a thumping score that make all the action scenes pop and create a tense and exciting tone that really takes hold for the last half of the film. Nolan again makes scarce use of CGI, but when he does they look phenomenal and nearly seamless. The film is overall just shot magnificently, with shot after shot of beautiful cinematography, wonderful set pieces and action that has improved quite a bit since BATMAN BEGINS.

I’m not here to sell anyone on the idea of the perfect movie- or to defend any type of bias I have to the franchise. I am here to do one thing and that’s express my opinion on how well this film worked for me and how it made me feel. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is a near perfect end to a legend that is more emotionally satisfying and groundbreaking than any other comic book franchise I’ve seen to date. Christopher Nolan has put together a film that’s so ambitious and epic in scope that some may not be able to stomach the immense buildup and storytelling. In the end, when everything comes crashing down and the dust settles THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is dark, emotional and incredibly heroic.

Rating: A

Movie Review: This Means War (2012)

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So, an action packed romantic comedy with two great male leads, one female lead that specializes in fairly standard to mediocre romantic comedies and directed by a man who’s name sounds like a one hit wonder hip hop artist from the late 80’s or early 90’s. When I say action packed I am merely trying to look at it from the sales team point of view behind THIS MEANS WAR, because while there is action, it is nowhere near thrilling or as fun as it could be. The good thing here is that Chris Pine and Tom Hardy to a well enough job of making fairly weak material something I was able to squeeze a decent amount of enjoyment out of.

There’s nothing very new or exciting in the story where two best friends who also happen to be spies end up dating the same girl and compete for her affection. Of course because these two gentlemen are spies it’s only natural for them to utilize government equipment to keep tabs on each other. Tom Hardy and Chris Pine star as the friends Tuck and Franklin and their friendship is the more redeeming aspect of the entire film. Reese Witherspoon stands in as Lauren, the girl the two friends are competing for and provides for a few chuckles, but otherwise doesn’t provide anything spectacular. The love triangle being the focus of the film has moments of interesting conflict, but it also really wears thin at times before wrapping itself up in a weak fashion and just when the film should quit while its somewhat ahead it tacks on an additional scene that I just found annoying and detrimental to whatever good will it had going for one of the characters.

I really enjoyed Tom Hardy’s role as the more sensitive of the two friends the much more likable than Pine’s- at first at least. Pine starts out as a player with zero ambition to develop any form of committed relationship and has zero guilt for attempting to steal a girl away from his best friend who he knows is really looking for a connection with someone. Eventually, Pine’s shallow exterior gets some depth as we learn more about his past and he becomes more likable. I have to say though that the over confident performance Pine is getting used to relying on is far more obnoxious here and works much better in the STAR TREK reboot. Witherspoon on the other hand offers little when it comes to comedy outside of just a few cute lines she says to herself when she’s panicking in the bathroom at one point. She is there more as just a tool stirring the conflict between Pine and Hardy as well as to have a few somewhat humorous exchanges with Chelsea Handler’s character- who I otherwise found incredibly annoying.

It seems like a waste of time to pick apart logic when it comes to this film so I’m going to skip that for now and talk about the film’s mostly incompetent action. There’s very little to begin with and it’s a little sad that the most exciting aspect of it and funniest is a bunch of kids versus Tom Hardy at paintball. The whole deal with the two of them using their resources to spy on Lauren and telling them it has to do with another top priority target yet their colleagues see them both going on dates with her and sabotaging their dates and we’re to believe our governments spies are this gullible to keep believing this harmless blond girl is a national threat. Then of course there’s the scene where the two best friends and coworkers flip a switch and instantly try to murder each other- if one succeeded, how would they explain that one at work the next day? Certainly though the final decision of who Lauren picks at the end could be fun and a bit of a surprise right? Nope, the way that’s finally revealed is awfully weak as well and caps off the final action scene that actually did have a couple of cool shots in it.

I knock the film down just to bring it back up again though- because the fact of the matter is that while there are plenty of flaws and logic gaps to go around I actually had a pretty good time watching it. No thanks to the action or the editing within the action scenes. The script is hardly anything special, but the actors make it work as much as they can and the friendship between Hardy and Pine give the film that little extra push when things are looking really dour.

THIS MEANS WAR is action challenged, sloppily edited and light on truly effective comedy- which leaves me scratching my own head wondering how I ended up enjoying it as much as I did. The film couldn’t be farther away from perfect and it’s certainly not going to enter the ranks of the classics in action comedy or romantic comedy or whatever genre you want to put it in. A pair of mostly likable leads and a less than generous handful of chuckles make THIS MEANS WAR enjoyable in spite of its many flaws.

Rating 6/10

8 Movies That Should Be Getting Oscars In 2012

People all over the world will be sitting down to watch the Oscars on February 26, 2012 for one reason or another. Some will be watching to see if their favorite movie, actor, actress, musician or writer gets some well deserved attention and others to see just what kind of train wreck we are in for. It’s gotten to the point that the Oscars are more of a joke than the example of what is truly great about cinema. I can recognize many of the great films that are getting their time to shine but far too often great movies, actors and writers are left out of the experience for one reason or another and I feel this year there have been several criminal omissions and inclusions.

I also wait for the day that the horror genre gets taken seriously during the awards ceremony because far too often are great horror movies discriminated against during the Oscars and when they do get their time to shine it’s in a terrible montage that includes clips from the TWILIGHT series which is as much horror as A SERBIAN FILM is a feel good slice of life for the whole family.

Below you will find a list of movies that I feel were overlooked for certain Oscar considerations and what or who deserved the Oscar. In no way shape or form do I anticipate anyone to agree 100%, but the following are movies and people I feel should have at least been considered and at the very least nominated and stand to be just as valid as some of the awful choices that were made this year. I’m looking at you EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE and as much as I loved MONEYBALL, even I can say that while I did like and still like Jonah Hill I know for a fact there could be some much better choices for Best Supporting Actor.

Drive – Where do I start? Probably the one film with the largest amount of snubs in this year’s ceremony is DRIVE. Easily a film that could be nominated in place of EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE for Best Picture. Drive should have also at the very least had Albert Brooks in the Best Supporting category and maybe a little less so for the lead actor with Ryan Gosling. Lastly, Nicolas Winding Refn snubbed for directing- the opening scene alone I feel would justify why he should be nominated.

Super 8 – I personally loved SUPER 8 but I’m not going to sit here blow smoke up its ass by saying it is Best Picture material- I will however say that Elle Fanning was fantastic and deserved consideration as Best Supporting Actress. Would she have won over some of the other names in the category, probably not, but she has several emotionally driven scenes and even the moment before the train crash where they were supposed to be rehearsing was better than it had any right to be.

Attack The Block – I think ATTACK THE BLOCK is a film I will be pumping until the day I die no matter how many people call me crazy for loving it as much as I do. Again, I won’t try to fool myself into sneaking into Best Picture or many other categories, but the score was phenomenal and I even think the special effects were pretty awesome. Probably not up to the standards of the Oscars, but I refuse to let my favorite movie of 2011 not get a nauseating amount of praise by the time I kick the bucket.

The Muppets – Okay- I realize THE MUPPETS is indeed nominated for Best Song- which I’m excited about- but I would have rather had “Life’s A Happy Song” in its place or in addition to the nominees. There’s only two after all which is ridiculous enough that only two songs were good enough to be considered in an entire year’s worth of movies. I have to admit, that “Life’s A Happy Song” is in regular rotation on my iPod and I get a very concerning amount of perplexed looks from my wife when it comes on and I start tapping and singing along with it. It’s song that really does just make me happy when I listen to it and I wish it had been recognized.

Red State – Here we go- RED STATE is a film I have cooled out on since my initial viewing and subsequent viewings since. The film has a pretty great first half and the second half is full of issues that I was able to pick up on after rewatching it- I do still enjoy it quite a bit though. I’m not lobbying for Kevin Smith haters to take a chill pill here, but I have to say that Michael Parks is the selling point of that film. His performance in RED STATE is spellbinding- I have said that I would go to church on a daily basis if it were as captivating as that sermon in the middle- even though I don’t condone the hatespeak contained in it. I fully endorsed a Michael Parks for Best Actor immediately after and I still do.

Take Shelter – I am pretty fresh off the experience of TAKE SHELTER. I had plenty of build up before watching it after hearing or seeing it on several Top Ten lists and for the most part it did not disappoint. The film is very subtle in its ability to break you down emotionally before just bringing the hammer down towards the end. Michael Shannon not being nominated as Best Actor is very dumbfounding to me as it’s specifically the type of performance that you would see nominated each year. There’s even a perfect clip to use when they spout out the nominees when Shannon finally loses his cool that he’s inexplicably kept throughout the entire film. Besides that it’s also a much better fit in the Best Picture category than EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE.

Warrior – Granted Nick Nolte is up for Best Supporting Actor so it’s not a total loss but I personally like Tom Hardy’s performance a little more overall. Nolte has a couple hard hitting scenes but Hardy gets a little more time to stretch his dramatic muscle in a much quieter way. He never has that typical Oscar bait scene such as Nolte’s drunken breakdown unless you count the scene he raises his voice at the slot machines. I Hardy’s calm rage to be overlooked by the Oscar’s and while I’m ok with Nolte’s nomination I’m quietly going to attribute the nom to Hardy as well.

50/50 – This choice may be the one I feel the least passionate about but I would have still like to see a little recognition of some kind by the Academy for 50/50. I wouldn’t have cared if it was Levitt in a leading role, Rogen or Huston in the supporting roles or even a spot in Best Picture. I hold no illusions it would win any of the categories but then again how many people are expecting EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE to win over THE ARTIST or even THE DESCENDANTS in Best Picture.