Hollywood


The Dark Knight Rises

Wallpaper for The Dark Knight Rises

“Deshi Basara”

It’s been quite a while since my last blog post as life has gotten very busy for me over the past year.  Every once in a while though something comes along that reignites a spark deep within and for me that something was “The Dark Knight Rises.”  Anyone who knows me knows that Batman Begins is one of my favorite movies of all time.  There is something so intriguing to me about a Super Hero that is not actually Super.  Bruce Wayne may have the resources, technology, and ultimately money to fund and finance the creation of the weapons, vehicles, armor, and toys that he uses to combat crime but beneath it all he is still just a man with a mission to be a symbol.  He’s tangible.  The Batman could be me.  The Batman could be you.  That is the beauty of it when fed through my own personal aesthetic.

I have not been more excited to see a movie than I was to see “The Dark Knight Rises.”  Even my excitement for “The Matrix Reloaded” did not compare to this.  And I must say that this film did not disappoint me.  There were no trailers at my midnight showing, which I’m gathering was an error on the projectionists part but you’ll hear no complaints from me.  “The Dark Knight Rises” takes place eight years after “The Dark Knight” so it may be prudent to re-watch the second movie, if not both predecessors before seeing this one but it’s not a must.

The movie opens with a pretty intense escape/rescue scene in which Bane is introduced.  Tom Hardy’s take on Bane to me was rather incredible.  A la Hugo Weaving in “V For Vendetta” it is a difficult task to act through a mask of sorts that covers 70% of your face.  All of the emotion has to be played through the eyes with eyebrow gestures as punctuation and with the voice.  Throughout the whole of this two-hour and forty-five minute movie whenever Bane is on screen I believed him blindly.  Hardy’s acting technique was quite different; more honed and focused, here than I’ve seen him in anything else and it was amazing to watch.  As a terrorist Bane truly does not care about steamrolling barricades to his endgame and the fight training Hardy had to undergo is showcased well in the few physical fight scenes he has.  In his matter-of-fact bass-heavy and somewhat mechanical tone you believe him when he says, “when Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die.”

Christian Bale’s aging Bruce Wayne, now a recluse after Batman takes the blame for Harvey Dent’s crimes, is robbed by a hired “hostess” Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a determined and agile woman who warns him that a storm is coming for the privileged who “have lived so large and left so little for the rest of us.”  She has robbed more than just his mother’s pearls though, which brings Bruce out of the confines of the west wing of his mansion and back to the sub-level of his house, an underground lair that has seen little action as of late.  When Commissioner Gordon is hospitalized and urges The Batman to return to Gotham, Bruce is faced with the task of getting his body back in shape to return to Gotham as the symbol of hope that was lost with the death of Harvey Dent; the truth of which the city of Gotham is still ignorant about; a truth that Commissioner Gordon struggles with.  During this time Bruce is faced with re-involving himself with Wayne Enterprises, specifically a clean renewable energy source WI has been building for Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a mysterious woman who seems to be working her way into Bruce’s bruised and battered heart, something Alfred would like to see happen before it is too late.

The catalyst to The Batman’s return to Gotham is the arrival of Bane (with a bit of prodding by John Blake, a police officer played with nuance and resolve by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an excommunicated member of the League of Shadows, the organization that Bruce himself was trained in by Ra’s Al Guhl in “Batman Begins” and left to help save Gotham and not destroy it.  It seems that Bane is here to complete the plan that Ra’s had set in place many years ago but why? The answer to this question does come and with a cost.  This is as basic as I can make the plot structure without giving away important details as to the connections between characters and story elements.

Anne Hathaway is quite good as Selina Kyle, a character never referred to as Catwoman, a good script point.  She has trained physically for the role and it shows.  She transitions from a sly and undermining professional thief to a scared and anxious girl who wishes to wipe her slate clean with a computer program she was told existed.  When she is told no such program exists by her hired man, a man tied to Bane, she gives up hope of changing her life for the better and agrees to help this new enemy.  There is more to her than meets the eye according to Bruce but Selina disagrees.  Kyle is playing both sides to her own end but a villain she is not, something Hathaway’s performance remains informed of.

Gordon-Levitt’s character of “hot-headed” police officer John Blake shares a past with Bruce and urges Bruce to return to Gotham, knowing who he truly is.  Blake represents a persisting hope within many citizens of Gotham for the return of The Batman and never relinquishes his belief that good can prevail even in the midst of such a terrorizing enemy who lacks moral fortitude for almost everything and possesses an army that will die for their cause.  In the end Blake sees what his beliefs can do and finds solace in knowing that his city is not only safe but will continue to be protected.

The score for this film, composed again by Hans Zimmer, has all of the familiar themes from “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” but also has a new theme featuring the chant heard in the film’s trailer for many of Bane’s scenes.  This new theme is very smartly written as it not only quickly builds suspense but the music beneath the increasing chants reminds me oddly of a virus, composed of billions of nano-molecules, spreading throughout its host; much like Bane and his army spreading throughout Gotham, taking it over.  Hopefully that makes sense.  Mixed with Christopher Nolan’s directorial and cinematic choices, the film truly is epic.

There was a point halfway through the movie where I feel like the tone or action did plateau.  For me the movie never quite reached its crescendo or peak point but did come very close.  I would have liked to know more about Selina’s history as well as the exact circumstances behind the mask that Bane must wear to keep from feeling the searing and crippling pain he would without, however the movie would then have been well over three hours and I do understand that sacrifices had to be made somewhere.  As a conclusion to a trilogy “The Dark Knight Rises” does stand as the epic conclusion that Nolan promised.  The last five minutes of the film garnered cheers and applause from the midnight audience and when you see it you will understand perfectly why.

Unfortunately this day, something so many millions of people have been waiting years for, was marred by the horrific tragedy in Aurora, Colorado where a 24 year old dressed in a bullet-proof vest and a gas mask opened fire on a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” leaving 12 patrons dead and 59 wounded according to the Associated Press (http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_COLORADO_SHOOTING?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-07-20-14-47-26).  The victim’s ages started from just a few years old.  The gunmen apparently had no motive and did not resist arrest, claiming he was The Joker.  My thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to the friends, families and loved ones of those that were directly or indirectly involved in this.

It has been a long time since I’ve written a blog post and therefore I’m sure my thoughts are a bit scattered but I do want to end by saying that “The Dark Knight Rises” is a film definitely worth seeing.  It’s now intrinsic connection to the shooting will and has undoubtedly put many people off from seeing the film.  It is a quite unfortunate circumstance that a place where so many people venture to in the hopes of temporarily escaping was forced painfully and fatally back to reality by one armed man against a theatre full of innocent patrons and to seemingly no end; as if a motive would make the situation any more understandable.  This film and its predecessor are both mired in bad news unrelated to the films content itself so when viewing “The Dark Knight Rises” seeing it as part of cinematic history and not any harbinger of death or bad karma as some have suggested.  Rising up is a central theme to the film and now is the time for patrons to rise above the negativity that someone sought to cast over so many others.

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Bionic

“This is a rollercoaster that’s about to be long gone”

Fervent Cheer/Enthusiastic Applause

Now, I know this is a bit of a departure from the main focus of this blog, but perhaps if I kept up with it a bit more consistently, I could argue that this isn’t worth posting. But on the other hand, music is entertainment too… ANYWHO!  After obtaining a copy of Bionic (I didn’t say illegally downloaded, you did!) I put it on play and let it just run through.  Upon the final note of the 5th bonus track or whatever, I was left feeling kind of confused.  Don’t get me wrong; I love me a hot dance track and she’s got some pretty nice club songs that can be easily remixed but the content…. As a mother and wife, I just assumed the content wouldn’t be so sexual and profane. I don’t mind but I guess I assumed that she’d write music from a different perspective now.  Frankly, Bionic sounds like the high-priced call girl to the trashy street-walker that Stripped (specifically “Dirrty”… And her image) looked like.  I loved Stripped so perhaps that’s a bit harsh, but it just felt Dirrty (see what I did there?!)

Musically, a lot of Bionic sounds like a clusterfu*k of other artists, Beyoncé, Katy Perry and Adam Lambert.  Believe it or not though, not as Lady Gaga as one might think.  Maybe because the CD cover and her new “C” over the eye she’s doing now is Gaga enough.  The Song “Bionic” is a pretty cool intro to the CD but only prepares you for the funky half of it.  It’s an interesting mix of genres and I kinda got lost in its rhythms.  “Not Myself Tonight” however I’m not the biggest fan of.  I didn’t find it to be that first single song and not because it’s so reminiscent of Heidi Montag’s “Body Language” (I know!!! ugh) Go listen to them and see if you can hear the similarities.  Whether intentional or not, they’re there.  Track 3 – “Woohoo” featuring mainstream newcomer Nicki Minaj is one of those club songs and though it’s all about how Xtina wants you to touch her (whuuuut?) its beat is fun.  Same goes for “Desnudate” (a song about being nude) which is sung mostly in English with some parts in Spanish.  We get it!  You have Spanish heritage.  Why isn’t this more present?  “Desnudate” sounds like Pitbull should’ve been featured in it but alas he is not.  But this is a total dance track.  The first 1/3 of the album is about the same.  Funky tracks that are either about her being a “Primma Donna” and an in-control strong, independent and perhaps even bisexual woman or about how she wants you to touch her and rip her clothes off (gurl isn’t you married?).

“Glam” is about what she’ll do to you if you touch her man (you know she was influenced by black folk) and sounds, song title aside, like a song straight from Adam Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment” album. After “Glam” she gets into her ballads like “Sex For Breakfast” (yeaa, about that), the great vocal showcase “Lift Me Up,” “I Am” and “You Lost Me.”  Her ballads need know explanation even though I liked the “Back to Basics” ballads more.  Just when you start to feel like you’re getting a taste of the Christina we all knew and loved “I Hate Boys” comes on.  This song you don’t skip on the CD but you hope it never becomes a single. Why? I just don’t think “boys suck/make me sick/inflated egos/little d*icks” would sound so great on the radio.  But that’s just me!  Same goes for “Vanity” which is about how she is one “bad ass b*tch!” It starts out “I’m not cocky/I just love myself/B*tch!”  I have to say though, any song now whose first line ends with “b*tch” automatically makes me think of Britney Spears.  At least it ends with a long held out note but holy vocal damage Batman!  I can sort of see why this album exists sans a lot of Xtina’s upper register even though I do love it because when she goes there, it sounds a little raspy.  As a bonus though, she asks “who owns the throne?” and her son replies “you do mommy.”  So cute.  If only she hadn’t spent the past four minutes calling herself a badass b*tch and telling haters to kiss her ass.

“Bobblehead” is kind of a guilty pleasure of mine.  Its funny in a bad way and sounds like a song Katy Perry would do, or perhaps has done.  It’s quite a comical song that makes fun of essentially airheaded girls using Valley Girl vernacular to punctuate it (but wait, like… Whuuuut?)  Next is “Birds of Prey” which sounds a lot like Britney’s “Breathe On Me” from her “In the Zone” album but is a nice and mellow song.  “I Am Stronger” is an emotional ballad that Christina does well but even this sounds reminiscent of Pink’s “Family Portrait.”  “Little Dreamer” is the final song and is a message to her child a la Madonna’s “Ray of Light” album’s final song “Little Star.”

All in all I expected this collection of songs to be quite different. “Bionic” isn’t bad its just not where I feel her career is right now but then again I’m not a multi-platinum recording artist.  If “Bionic” came out instead of “Stripped” several years ago I would’ve completely understood it.  “Genie in a Bottle” is long gone in both sound and image.  But then again Christina Aguilera is unconventional and likes to push the envelope so perhaps this album is totally indicative of her career at present.  I suppose that’s for the fans to decide.

Alice in Wonderland Banner

Alice in Wonderland

 “You’re all late for tea!”

Fervent Cheer

I may be a week late but I finally decided to see “Alice in Wonderland.”  Being a fan of Johnny Depp and normally being all for the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton/Danny Elfman collaborations I wanted to see this movie but “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” actually disturbed me.  I thought visually it was stunning but the underlying emotionality of several of the scenes, the ones with Oompa Loompa songs in particular, made my cerebellum cry.  I remember sitting in the theater with my best friend hearing children all around us laughing hysterically and thinking to myself that I would never bring my kid to watch this now knowing what it was; but how could one know, no?

ANYWHO…  I had reserved myself to KNOWING “Alice” would be even more bizarre than “Charlie” in every way imaginable simply because it took place in an imaginary world, unlike “Charlie”.  I can honestly say that I was wrong.  Perhaps it was the partnering with Disney or a more severe editing eye on Burton’s part but it wasn’t bizarre.  I have not read the books or seen the original movie so I was not hoping it would be like anything I’d seen before.  It was not bizarre but was just macabre enough to be satisfying, an element that “Charlie” greatly needed.  While this movie had classic Burton visual elements that we’ve seen in “Charlie” and in the “Sweeney Todd” “By the Sea” number, what did puzzle me was that I felt there was a missing element; one that I am still searching for but I want to attribute to the screenplay. 

The film began with its rising action but once Alice, played with great character awareness by Mia Wasikowska, reached Wonderland, to me, it plateaued for a good 45 minutes, or until Alice reached the White Queen played by Anne Hathaway (in this, seemingly a mix of Snow White and Ariel with a schizophrenic edge).  Not that nothing of interest happens in those 45 minutes but the new elements were not introduced in a way that I found intriguing.  Many of these scenes, beginning with Alice’s shrink/growth scene seemed to have a Quentin Tarantino quality to them and last a few moments longer than they should have.  Fine for Pulp Fiction, not so much here. 

Depp’s Mad Hatter, an interesting coupling of Jack Sparrow British with fits of angry Scottish, is first seen at the famous Tea Party that has a bit more build-up than delivery and I found my focus to be more on the March Hare than the Hatter.  As we follow Tarrant Hightopp as the Hatter is named, we see more levels of his character.  Depp’s Hatter is indeed multi-layered, his persona changing with different emotions, the change being manifested in his eyes and skin, a great creative element.  Perhaps it was the ultra-visual makeup but Depp’s Hatter was not as mad as one might expect after his Willy Wonka, however it does not fail to deliver the performance the film required.  Perhaps less was indeed more in his portrayal for such a character could quite easily become a joke. 

The Red Queen, played with a child-like sense of “mine!” by Helena Bonham Carter, was an intriguing character within the larger character of her castle.  A castle which slightly resembled the Disney logo castle covered in heart shaped accents.  The details within the castle were all intriguing from the winged creatures carrying chandeliers to monkeys holding seat cushions.  Her henchmen, red mechanical playing cards with spears, were also a nice touch as was the Knave of Hearts, played effectively sinister by Crispin Glover

The Jabberwocky scene was also a bit of a disappointment.  I expected and wanted it to be larger in size and the battle that ensues I wanted more from, not just in length but in imagination as well.  Neither the Red nor White Queen fight in the battle, something I really wanted to see.  Another pleasing moment in this scene and throughout the film really was the airy appearance (apparition to borrow a Potter term) of Chessur, or the Cheshire Cat, played with a sleek seductive brilliance by Stephen Fry

Overall the film entertained in spurts but not completely from beginning to end.  Furthermore, Danny Elfman’s score wasn’t as “wild,” for lack of a better word, as some of his previous film scores.  And though I was beginning to feel his film scores tend to stay on one track, the lack of familiarity was something I missed.  Don’t fix what ain’t broke I suppose.  The opening title sequence did maintain that classic Burton/Elfman feel (a bit reminiscent of the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban title sequence) but after that the score seemed a bit more mainstreamed than normal.  I would see this film again so I could better appreciate the smaller details that this film is chock full of, costumes and scenic design especially.  I would however preface suggestions to see it with a message not to expect the classic story.  I would also definitely buy the two-disc DVD to see what went into the creative design in pre and post-production because though I wanted more, I’m sure a lot of thought went into creating such a visual retelling of a classic story.

Watchmen Movie Signature Smiley

Watchmen Movie Signature Smiley

“The world will look up and shout ‘save us’ and I’ll whisper ‘no'”

Enthusiastic Applause/Fervent Cheer

Ahh Watchmen…  Yes it is only March but out of every film to be slated for release between January and May, I was looking forward most to this film.  I am very excited about the Wolverine movie and VERY psyched about Transformers 2 but to be completely honest since 2003 there has not really been a year chock full of exciting action flicks, maybe with the exception of 2007 which had Spiderman 3 (booo), Pirates 3 (liked, but could have been better), and one or two others.

ANYWHOOOO!!  One thing you must know about me is that I love film and LOVE seeing movies opening day.  The feeling of being in a sold-out theater for a movie I’ve been waiting eagerly to see is GREAT!!!  Watchmen, however, has taught me to be more thorough in deciding which theater to go to.  I work in Times Square and liked the AMC 25 until last Friday when I discovered that this theater is often frequented by a less than desirable crowd.  Enough said… ON TO THE SHOW!!!

I am not familiar with the graphic novel which is the source material for the movie Watchmen.  I’m sure a lot of people like me who went to the movie did so because the trailer featured some pretty awesome visual effects.  I also am very particular about the music used in a film’s promotional material as well as in the film itself and the music in the Watchmen trailer was very intriguing to me.  Now, the first ten to fifteen minutes of the movie I thought were awesome.  Pretty flawless, especially the brutal opening murder scene scene.  Very Zack Snyder in terms of direction – reminiscent of 300.  The opening scene (a fight between a then unknown attacker and the coarse gruff washed up vigilante hero “The Comedian”) was amazingly choreographed and though intense, was topped by Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” which was pure perfection.  This scene transitioned into the multi-purpose five-minute opening credit scene which provides the viewer with very necessary information.  First scene + opening credits = best I’ve seen in years, if not ever.

After the first fifteen minutes however the story seemed to branch out in way too many different directions.  In Sin City there were several different story lines that intersected in the end but were each told as one clearly defined chapter, per se.  In Watchmen, each story was told in a somewhat confusing overlapping manner.  The love triangle between Night Owl II, Silk Spectre II and Dr. Manhattan started off as a strong story line but soon began to fizzle with the introduction of the other story lines.  I wanted to know more about the histories of both Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach (the fedora wearing baddie with the ink-blot gauze over his face) but what information they provided was somewhat lost among everything else going on, and there was a lot!  By the nearing of the film’s end I (and many others it seemed) found myself not really caring who wound up with who and just wanted the credits to come.  2 hours and 43 minutes of any film of this nature is a bit too long, especially at 1AM.

I didn’t dislike this movie though.  I may have been confused through large portions of it and was continuously reminding myself to suspend disbelief, the visuals were truly stunning.  Though I expected a bit more action the magnificently crafted and directed action and fight sequences that were present were great.  Finally, a movie with fight scenes that are not edited within an inch of their lives.  You could see the technique that oozed from each action scene due simply to the fact that they were comprised of longer shots (both camera angle and time wise) instead of closer quick cuts.  The opening Comedian fight and Rorschach’s arrest scenes stand out in my mind as being particularly memorable.

The CGI of Dr. Manhattan never got old and while I must admit, seeing him fully nude in all but three or four of his scenes was a bit distracting, Billy Crudup’s portrayal of the jolly, erm, blue giant, though monotone, was still personable and filled with emotion.  I also really liked the effect of Rorshach’s “face” of the continuously movie ink-blot but I would have liked to have been told how it occured in the universe of the film and why it was to begin with.  C’est la vie.  Jackie Earle Haley played the hell out of Rorschach and was the highlight character wise for me.  Having seen him in the intense but great Little Children seeing him in this was a very pleasant surprise and very different for him, to me.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian I thougth was great.  You despised his character for most of the film and then felt sorry for him by the end.  I truly felt for him and while I wasn’t meant to condone his early behaviors by ANY means, his expressed remorse was touching and asked for forgiveness, which I was willing to give.

I thought Patrick Wilson as Night Owl II was great alongside Malin Åkerman as Silk Spectre II whom I did not like.  I didn’t recognize her as the wicked crazy wife of Ben Stiller in The Hearbreak Kid, which is the point, but her performance wasn’t memorable and bit too comic-bookey for me.  She was great and committed to the action sequences but seemed not to fully understand the character nor the world in which the character existed.  As the only female lead I was a little disappointed though she did play off Patrick Wilson pretty well.  The character of Ozymandias, played by Matthew Goode, was initially interesting but became more of a caricature as the film progressed.

Speaking of the two of them, there was an obligatory Zack Snyder stylized sex scene.  In 300 it was a bit awkward but worked.  Here it seemed to be filmed specifically for comic relief.  It was EXTREMELY long and verged on porn.  The audience burst into laughter because not only were both characters fully nude, they were shown climaxing while Leonard Cohen’s cover of “Halleluah” played in the background.  AWKWARD!!!!!

All in all I wanted to LOVE this movie but in the end only really liked it.  The audience was very vocal (which I HATE) about their distaste and confusion with the film and yes I was confused throughout several parts of the film but the visual aspects of the film coupled with it’s great soundtrack and very fitting score by Tyler Bates were enough to make me happy.  If you’re not familiar with the source material you will probably find the intersection of stories hard to follow and by the end will probably be somewhat excited to see the credits roll.  With the exception of the final “twist” the film follows the graphic novel pretty closely, a fact which fans will GREATLY appreciate.  The music (both the score and soundtrack) were great and like I mentioned before the visuals were astounding.

I would see this film again with a different audience so I could focus more on the story and understand better what was happening.  This definitely is a film I’d buy on DVD because the bonus disk would be worth it alone.  Some people have no desire to see the film but for those that have even an inkling, I say go see it because it is entertaining, but go in with an open mind thinking that anything is possible in the universe of the film.  Zack Snyder delivered another visually stunning film that is worthy of your $12.50 and three hours of your time.