Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Also known as: Arkham, Gotham, Batman 3 (working titles), Magnus Rex (fake working title), TDKR (informal short title)
Release Date: July 16th, 2012 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Matthew Modine, Ben Mendelsohn, Burn Gorman, Juno Temple, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Nestor Carbonell, Desmond Harrington, Thomas Lennon, William Devane

DC Entertainment, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros., 164 Minutes

Review:

“There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” – Selina Kyle

Where I’ve seen the first two films in this trilogy at least a dozen times each, I’ve only seen this one once: in the theater. If I’m being honest, I didn’t have much urge to see it again after my initial experience. But I’ll explain why as I roll on and review it.

I was pretty excited for this film but I also knew that it would be damn hard to top The Dark Knight or to try and replicate its greatness. Well, I wasn’t wrong. And while this isn’t a bad movie, it’s certainly the weakest of the trilogy and just falls flat when compared to the other two pictures.

To start, I was a bit perplexed when I first heard that Bane was going to be the big bad of the movie. I don’t necessarily have a problem with Bane but after following The Joker and Two-Face, I felt like the third film should’ve featured more of the old school villains, as opposed to bringing in a more modern one that is kind of boring by comparison. I mean, a Christopher Nolan movie featuring The Riddler, The Penguin or hell, even The Mad Hatter, could’ve been really intriguing.

What we got instead was pretty much a rehash of the threat and the plot of the first movie: Batman Begins. In fact, in this film, Bane is even tied to the same villainous organization of that film. We also get a curveball where we find out he really isn’t the big bad but that just kind of makes the overall story even more redundant.

I guess I understand why Nolan chose Bane, as he wanted to try and keep his Batman films grounded in reality as much as one can with a comic book property but seeing a secret Illuminati-type group descend upon Gotham City with the hopes of using a superweapon to destroy it is derivative of the director’s own work.

Now we do get Catwoman in the film but she is written to be the most sterile and boring version of the character I’ve ever seen. Sure, Anne Hathaway is stunning but for whatever reason, Catwoman just doesn’t feel sexy or believable as someone that can ensnare Bruce Wayne/Batman. She just isn’t interesting and it’s hard to imagine her as someone that could pull Bruce’s heart out of the pain it still feels, eight years after the death of Rachel.

Hell, Bruce’s little romantic moments with Miranda/Talia seem more genuine and their relationship isn’t supposed to be the one the audience is pulling for even before the big plot twist reveals itself.

The film’s overall story is trying to be as good of a thriller as the previous two. It just isn’t and that’s the real issue with it. While I do want to see the heroes beat the baddies and win out in the end, the film just comes off as repetitive and dull. It feels like a weak copy of the first two pictures with a much slower pace and a broken back side quest that slows the movie to a halt. I just can’t get as into it as I did the other movies.

Now I get that “breaking the Bat” and dropping him into a hole was about building him back up to make him stronger and that we needed to get him out of Gotham so that Bane could grow his power but it’s a half-assed recreation of the Knightfall plot. This story also only seems to borrow from it because it was Bane’s most iconic moment and biggest temporary victory in the comics. And with Batman overcoming his incredible injury and then climbing out of a hole deemed “impossible” to escape, it all kind of wrecks Nolan’s strive for realism. You can’t simply punch a popped disc back into someone’s spine.

I also hated the film’s ending but I think I’m done harping on the negatives, as I probably sound like I dislike this quite a bit, when I actually don’t.

The film is well-acted and that’s what really makes this work where it does.

I really dug Tom Hardy as Bane, even if his voice has become a social meme. I also just loved seeing the regular cast get back together for one more adventure. Bale, Caine, Freeman and Oldman are all so great in these roles and I loved the final act of the film where we get to see Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon get very involved. My only complaint about Caine’s Alfred is I didn’t like how Bruce pushed him away and left him without much to do in the second half of the film.

Additionally, I really enjoyed Marion Cotillard as the character who would reveal herself as Talia al Ghul. I only wish that we would have gotten to see her be more of a badass but her big reveal comes at the end of the movie and she’s not around much longer after that. Not having a Talia versus Selina fight was a missed opportunity.

The film also boasts great cinematography but why would anyone expect any less from Nolan at this point? I liked the brighter look of the town, especially in the third act, and how a lot of the film happens in daylight.

The final act, which sees Batman and the GCPD bring the fight to the League of Shadows in the streets was superb and chilling. Watching Batman and the cops take it to the villainous terrorists head-on was incredible and the best moment in the film. Watching Batman and Bane fight in a sea of people was also damn spectacular.

All in all, this is still one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. It just happens to be the worst of its trilogy and if I’m being honest, it felt like Christopher Nolan and the writers were just tired and wanted to move on to the next phase of their lives.

However, even if someone else would have to step in and do it, I’d rather see this film series continue, as opposed to seeing Warner Bros. keep trying to reboot Batman. Just let Nolan produce and pick the best creative team to help build off of his vision. I mean, a Joseph Gordon-Levitt Nightwing movie in this cinematic universe would certainly get my money.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Film Review: Serenity (2019)

Also known as: Obsesión (Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay)
Release Date: January 24th, 2019 (Greece, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia)
Directed by: Steven Knight
Written by: Steven Knight
Music by: Benjamin Wallfisch
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou

Blue Budgie Films Limited, Global Road Entertainment, IM Global, Starlings Entertainment, Nebulastar, Shoebox Films, Aviron Pictures, 106 Minutes

Review:

“Okay, Dill. Say fate gave you the choice: you can get the lady, or you could catch that tuna that’s in your head. Which one would you choose?” – Constance

What in the Pat Sajak fuck did I just watch?!

Okay, I can’t talk about this movie and its weirdness without spoiling the plot, sorry. So, turn away now if you want to watch this shipwreck of biblical proportions.

You still here? Well, that’s on you.

Anyway, I seriously don’t know what I just watched. I wanted to check this out because the cast seemed decent and this was marketed as a modern noir thriller that takes place in a beautiful tropical setting. It kind of gave me Key Largo, To Have and Have Not and His Kind of Woman vibes.

But then, from the opening scene, I knew something was weird and off about this movie.

It starts with Matthew McConaughey trying to catch an unrealistically large CGI tuna. This whole sequence was bizarrely shot and presented. But as the film goes on and the big twist happens, this all makes sense. But that doesn’t mean that it had to be utterly fucking strange and the type of moldy cheese that makes one cringe just from the thought of the diarrhea it most assuredly will bring.

The next big red flag happened when Anne Hathaway shows up. Her entrance was done in an overly dramatic and goofy way that wrecked whatever solid acting might have been happening. To be clear, I don’t blame any of the actors for the failure of this film, I blame the script, the direction, the editing and the bad stylistic choices made to try and plant seeds for the eventual twist.

To top it off, the dialogue sounded like the screenwriter listened to a book about writing for noir fiction that he downloaded for free on Audible.

The plot is pretty simple, or at least it is until the awful twist.

Hathaway shows up, asks her ex-hubby McConaughey to kill her current hubby, Jason Clarke playing an absolute scumfuck, by taking him out on a fishing charter and then feeding him to the sharks. Cool, sounds like a solid film-noir setup.

Of course, ex-hubby is apprehensive about committing murder for the femme fatale bitch that left him but then she throws in the part about how Scumfuck abuses their son. One awkward sex scene later reveals the Femme Fatale’s scars and McConaughey decides to maybe kill Scumfuck.

So they go out on the boat where Scumfuck lives up to his namesake but nothing really happens.

But then a weird dude that has been oddly following McConaughey around, conveniently just missing him, gives him a special fish finder to catch the giant CGI tuna and he guarantees he will catch the fish with the aid of this MacGuffin device. And this is where shit gets really, really goddamned weird.

DrunkConaughey demands to know what this weasely weirdo knows, as shit seems off. We then discover that DrunkConaughey is a character in a video game created by his son to escape into. As long as he catches the fish as his digital dad, he won’t kill his stepdad Scumfuck in the real world.

Yes, this is the big twist and where the real plot comes in, more than halfway into what I thought was a typical neo-noir thriller.

Everything goes completely off the rails; the movie becomes batshit insane. DrunkConaughey kills Scumfuck by letting giant CGI tuna drag him to the bottom of the ocean and then in the real world, the abused kid gets up from his video game, grabs a butcher knife and goes to stab Scumfuck to death.

The end is then a news report about a super genius kid killing his abusive stepdad while we see DrunkConaughey’s video game world evaporate into CGI shards, presumably killing him too because he wasn’t real in the first place. The real DrunkConaughey died in a war over a decade ago according to the voice-over of the newscaster.

Despite its f’n oddness, I was at least pulled into the story up until the shocking and baffling twist. It wasn’t great noir but it was an interesting setup. The acting was competent, as was the cinematography and overall look of the film despite the CGI weirdness with the fish.

But this is a shipwreck, totally and utterly.

Now I get that the filmmakers wanted to do something different and thought that they had an interesting idea but this felt like an idea for a Black Mirror episode that was left on the cutting room floor while planning out the next season.

The idea didn’t feel like it was fully realized and that this kernel of a cool thought wasn’t developed and refined, it was just rushed into production and actually found funding, is insane.

I kind of feel like they were in such a rush they gave McConaughey half the script, omitting the twist, and told him they didn’t have the kinks worked out. He was intrigued by the setup and then later came to realize that he was trapped in a total dud that his agent couldn’t get him out of.

The filmmakers lied to their audience in how this movie was marketed. Had I paid to see this in the theater, I would’ve been pretty pissed. Now, in their defense, I realize that alluding to anything regarding the twist would’ve wrecked the surprise but let’s be honest here and point out that the surprise wrecked the whole movie.

Sometimes a mindfuck is just a clusterfuck. This usually happens when filmmakers sniff too many of their own farts.

Serenity thought of itself as a smart film. In reality, it’s one of the dumbest new pictures I’ve seen in quite awhile.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: cheap rum, really bad cocaine and Sega Bass Fishing.

Film Review: Interstellar (2014)

Release Date: October 26th, 2014 (TCL Chinese Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, Mackenzie Foy, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, Matt Damon, Timothée Chalamet, Wes Bentley, William Devane

Legendary Pictures, Syncopy, Lynda Obst Productions, Paramount Pictures, 169 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

“We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down, and worry about our place in the dirt.” – Cooper

Man, where to begin?

Let me kick this off by saying that overall I did like this film. It wasn’t this generation’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, as I had hoped and granted, those are massive shoes to fill, but this was a fairly okay effort by Christopher Nolan at trying to emulate Stanley Kubrick. And I say that because this film felt like Nolan trying to create his 2001 and his brother, who co-wrote the film, admitted to channeling 2001 while penning this story. Unfortunately, it fell short of coming close to the level of grandeur and wonder that is Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also, it falls short of what Nolan has proven his skill level is capable of.

As far as visuals and sound, this film knocks it out of the park. I deliberately didn’t see this in IMAX, as I wanted to be wowed on a regular screen because that is how the majority of eyes will see this picture and to compare it to the amazing visual effects of other films throughout history, I wanted to see it on a level playing field and not on steroids. And truthfully, I’ve come to look at the IMAX thing as a fad like 3D. Until it is the norm in every theater, it isn’t what I consider the industry standard. It’s certainly a cool experience but films that rely on it, as greatly as Nolan has been over his last few films, just tell me that they are pushing their visual style and effects over their film as a whole: sparkle over substance. And that is what this film was. I got to the point where I was like, “Fuck these bells and whistles, just show me the damn film!”

There were amazingly shot sequences that used practical effects, which gave a lot of the important visual elements a sense of realism that can’t be manufactured digitally. This didn’t feel like a cartoon like the recent Star Trek films, it felt cold, dreary and authentic. In that regard, it had the real organic and realistic soul that 2001 had in 1968.

The score to the film and the sound in general were perfect. It definitely has an Oscar-caliber vibe to it and if the film isn’t nominated for the score by Hans Zimmer and for a best sound category, that would be a pretty shitty snub by the Academy. Additionally, it definitely deserves a nomination for visual effects.

The pace and editing of the film was pretty disjointed as things would pop in and out of the film that just didn’t seem to fit or be necessary. I feel like a two hour version of this film would play much better. The time spent with Matt Damon’s character on a dangerous planet is way too drawn out.

When delving into the story of this film, it is a convoluted mess. Yes, things are pretty straightforward but there are a few minor plot twists and developments that come out of nowhere and don’t fit the overall narrative of the film. For instance, Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper has a son who, for whatever reason, is obsessed with staying on his M.I.A. father’s farm even though it is killing his wife and child. This is a bizarre side story that just doesn’t fit within the film. And after his sister burns his crops and tries to kidnap his family, after he punched her husband in the face, he just stands there like a mute retard when confronted by her babbling about her dad’s magic watch sending Morse code through space and time through the power of love. It was reminiscent of the plot to a bad 80s music video.

Another bizarre plot twist that we are introduced to is when Anne Hathaway’s character Amelia Brand uncharacteristically pushes for the explorers to use the last of their fuel to visit the planet with her former lover on it. After being a hardcore scientist and being bred for this mission, probably all of her adult life, she is willing to throw all of humanity away on her own selfish heart. This just doesn’t fit her character leading up to that point and this also leads to the film pushing the concept that love is a dimension that can transcend space, time and every other barrier. Love is a force similar to gravity. The film lost me with this mystic woo. It suddenly felt like a Manga written by a 12 year-old girl.

And speaking of mystic woo, we come to discover that getting sucked into a black hole brings a person to some weird alien-crafted maze of windows that look into Cooper’s daughter’s bedroom at different points in time. This led to Cooper reaching out through love to send messages to his daughter years prior, which earlier in the film, were dismissed as a ghost. Cooper discovers that the ghost was real and he was the ghost. Cue panic-ridden crying and yelling by McConaughey for fifteen minutes as he is stuck behind his daughter’s mystic bookshelf in the center of a black hole.

The film confusingly represents love as a force like gravity and somehow love can make a wristwatch’s second hand talk to someone in the past with Morse code.

What is somewhat irritating is that Christopher Nolan consulted with a very knowledgeable physicist on this film but the scientific accuracy was pretty shitty. What I had hoped would be a scientific film where we might encounter another intelligence beyond our scope of comprehension, was instead a fantasy film wrapped in fairy tale where the superior intelligence was just fifth dimensional human beings trying to help their own race evolve and get off of a dying planet. I’d have to write a series of blogs or a book even on the amount of paradoxes here.

In regards to the black hole sequence, Nolan used his physics expert to help him create a realistic scenario and to make the sequence visually authentic. What we got was neither. Now while the black hole looked absolutely fucking amazing and grandiose, when McConaughey flew into it, we never experienced spaghettification. Also, black holes are so powerful that even light cannot escape them, hence the name “black hole”.

As McConaughey pilots his craft into the core of the cosmic maelstrom, we can still see things and the lights inside the ship give a nice cool glow in the cockpit. Maybe it is hard to tell a visual story in darkness but I feel like a black screen with the sounds of a ship being torn apart would have been more haunting, more realistic and added more credence and authenticity. What we got was Nolan’s version of the lone astronaut entering the monolith, except this one finds himself behind his daughter’s bookshelf. It wasn’t anywhere near as cool and epic as where David Bowman went in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Hell, it wasn’t even as cool as where the crew went in Disney’s 1979 film The Black Hole. At least they flew through Hell filled with evil robots.

It is worth noting that this film also borrowed from 2001 in the character of the computer/robot named TARS, who was this film’s version of HAL 9000. Except TARS didn’t kill astronauts, he just joked about it and served more of an R2-D2 role.

In the end, Matthew McConaughey’s mission is a failure, in a sense, but I guess it inspired his aging daughter to work hard on equations and save humankind from their dying world. Her work leads to humans ending up on some Saturn-orbiting space station that is a complete rip-off of the cylindrical spaceship Rama from Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama. Being that Clarke penned the original 2001 novel and all its sequels, this brings Nolan’s “borrowing” of Clarke’s ideas and concepts full circle.

What you have, in my estimation, is a good looking, often times visually amazing film, that unfortunately sells itself short by tapping into the Stanley Kubrick/Arthur C. Clarke well too often. The major difference, is that Kubrick took risks and did things that challenged filmmaking and changed it forever. Nolan played it safe and didn’t leave us with anything daring, as he seemed to be more interested in making a commercial success and an homage, as opposed to something more authentic and true to his heart. However, this is the difference between Kubrick and Nolan. One is the professor, the other is a really good student that idolizes the professor a bit too much.

Is the film worth a watch? Definitely. Is it destined to be a beloved classic? Probably to some but it lacks the depth and originality to truly make it stand on its own legs.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Nolan films that don’t feature Batman.

Film Review: Colossal (2016)

Release Date: September 9th, 2016 (TIFF)
Directed by: Nacho Vigalondo
Written by: Nacho Vigalondo
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson

Voltage Pictures, Brightlight Pictures, Sayaka Producciones, Neon, 110 Minutes

Review:

I have been waiting for this film to come out for quite some time after hearing the buzz after the Toronto International Film Festival and seeing the first trailer. It’s no secret I am a big kaiju fan, as well as a fan of movies that crossover genres that aren’t usually put together.

Colossal is incredibly unique and that could go one of two ways. It could really work and be fantastic or it could crash and burn and be a mess of a movie. Thankfully, Colossal, in my opinion, is an instant classic.

Now it isn’t a perfect or a flawless movie but when has something featuring a kaiju been a flawless picture? Well maybe the original 1954 Gojira (the Japanese language version, not the Raymond Burr Godzilla: King of Monsters version).

Colossal is so much more than a kaiju flick however, as the bulk of its story is about Gloria (Anne Hathaway) coming to grips with her mess of a life and the awful men she seems to attract. And to be honest, almost every man in this film is awful in some way. One is overly judgmental, one is pure evil and one is a total pussy – all awful qualities. The cokehead, of all people, is the only seemingly decent man in the story.

When Gloria returns home, after a big breakup, she soon discovers that she has some sort of psychic connection to a massive kaiju that is destroying Seoul, South Korea. Her friend and confidant Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) finds out that he is then linked to a massive robot that also appears in Seoul. As their friendship falls apart, due to Oscar having serious mental health issues (he’s the pure evil one), Gloria is emotionally held hostage by Oscar, who threatens to destroy Seoul every morning – killing thousands at a time. It is hard to watch, as Oscar starts out as sweet and nice and evolves into being completely psychotic by the end. However, the finale of the film is absolute perfection.

Anne Hathaway gets a really bad rap. I’m not really sure why, but this film and her performance in it are top notch. Sudeikis is absolutely stellar and this is my first experience seeing him playing a really dramatic character. Dude has chops. The supporting cast is good too but the weight of the picture rests solely on the shoulders of Hathaway and Sudeikis. They carry this kaiju drama well.

The film has good effects, good cinematography and a nice score. The tone throughout the picture is great.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect going into this as I tried to avoid spoilers. I wanted to be surprised and taken on an interesting ride and I was.

Colossal, so far, is my favorite picture of 2017, even though it debuted on the festival circuit late last year.

Rating: 7.75/10