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

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: The Dark Knight (2008)

Also known as: Batman Begins 2 (working title), Rory’s First Kiss, Winter Green (fake working titles)
Release Date: July 14th, 2008 (Buenos Aires & New York City premieres)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cillian Murphy, Nestor Carbonell, Eric Roberts, Anthony Michael Hall, Ritchie Coster, Michael Jai White, Colin McFarlane, Tom “Tiny” Lister, William Fichtner, David Dastmalchian

DC Comics, Syncopy, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros., 152 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t talk like one of them. You’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these… these civilized people, they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.” – The Joker

I was a bit apprehensive about revisiting this for the first time in a long time. The reason being, is that I remembered it as being perfect and it was the movie I saw in the theater more times than any other. But with so much time passing, I had worried that my take on it now could have soured a bit.

I’m glad to say that it didn’t, as this is still a masterpiece of crime fiction and social commentary.

As far as superhero films go, I still think that this is the greatest one ever made. I think a lot of that has to do with the realistic approach of the film and just how real and plausible it comes across even though it features a man in a bat costume and a criminal in clown makeup. Not to mention a guy with half his face burnt off and some wonky sci-fi gadgets like the incredibly high-tech sonar surveillance computer.

This is a film where just about everything went right. It was a perfect storm of great writing, great direction, great acting, stellar cinematography and an incredible musical score.

It was well balanced between action and drama and even with its somewhat lengthy running time, there isn’t a wasted moment in the film. Every scene has meaning and every scene does exactly what it needs to without dilly dallying and slowing the pacing down. At the same time, the timing is impeccable and this film perfectly creates tension when it needs to. The whole film is about escalation and the final product is a perfectly curated example of that.

It’s sad and tragic that Heath Ledger died before this was released. It would’ve been cool for him to have seen the final product and to have enjoyed the fanfare and praise his performance as The Joker got. It’s hands down one of the best performances of that decade and even though his death gave the role an added level of mystique and importance, it stands on its own as one of the greatest villain portrayals in motion picture history.

Additionally, I also really liked Ledger’s version of The Joker, as he kind of did his own thing with the character and it forced Nolan to kind of portray the character differently than what was originally intended. And while it might not be a perfect adaptation of the comic book Joker, which no film has done thus far, it kind of exists as its own, great thing and it added so much to this already stellar trilogy.

My only real complaint about the film was how growl-y Bale’s Batman voice was. I much preferred his voice in Batman Begins and I think most people did, as well. I’m not the only person to point this out and in fact, it sort of became a social meme after the movie’s release.

That being said, the Batman voice doesn’t wreck the film and I still think it’s a damn near perfect movie that transcended the superhero genre, forever changed it and hasn’t yet been eclipsed regardless of some of the superb comic book movies that have been released since.

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

Film Review: Batman Begins (2005)

Also known as: Batman 5 (working title), Batman: Intimidation (script title), The Intimidation Game (fake working title)
Release Date: May 31st, 2005 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, Mark Boone Junior, Jack Gleeson

DC Comics, Syncopy, Warner Bros., 140 Minutes

Review:

“But I know the rage that drives you. That impossible anger strangling the grief, until the memory of your loved one is just… poison in your veins. And one day, you catch yourself wishing the person you loved had never existed, so you would be spared your pain.” – Henri Ducard

When this first came out on DVD, I watched it almost weekly for a few years. I loved this film and to me, at least at the time, it was the greatest Batman film ever made. Hell, before the DVD release, I think I saw this at least three times in the theater.

I would end up liking The Dark Knight even more but the Nolan trilogy started with this film and it was a great introduction to his more serious and realistic Batman film series.

In retrospect now, I like the 1989 Batman slightly better but it’s magic was undone by the later films that followed and even though it took eight years, Batman Begins was the cinematic reboot that we needed after the Schumacher Batman pictures.

This film is so good, as are the ones that follow, that I’ve kind of accepted that no one will ever make a Batman film series as great. Frankly, these are the best films that Christopher Nolan has made and while the first film in a trilogy can often times feel like a practice run, this one is fairly close to perfect.

My only real gripe about it is that the pacing feels a bit disjointed at times. But there is also a lot of story and a lot of characters to balance here. I think that Nolan got much better with that in the next film. These aren’t things that break the film in any way but if I can’t give this a perfect score, I feel that I should explain why.

This is still energetic and every scene feels necessary. But it also feels like so much was wedged into it that it could’ve actually benefited from an extra 20-30 minutes. And that’s not something I’m usually a fan of, as I love 90 minute running times and this picture is already well over two hours. But when a film is this good, I never seem to mind that it requires more of my time.

Nolan got the best possible performances out of all of the actors involved and everyone in this is absolutely perfect. This was well cast and even Katie Holmes, who was replaced in the sequel, pulled off the best performance of her career. Normally, I wouldn’t put her at the same level as everyone else in this movie but she held her own and I was disappointed that she was recast in The Dark Knight.

In closing, this is a stellar motion picture where everything just works in the right way from the direction, cinematography, acting, the musical score by Hans Zimmer and the great character development.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Film Review: Dressed to Kill (1980)

Release Date: July 25th, 1980
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Brian De Palma
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, Dennis Franz, William Finley (voice, uncredited)

Filmways Pictures, Cinema 77 Films, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Doctor, I am not paranoid. Bobbi was making threats over the phone. She said she’s going to hurt me. My patient was slashed to death. And now my razor is gone. Now you don’t have to be a detective to figure it out, do you?” – Doctor Robert Elliot

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this picture but if Brian De Palma’s early films are any indicator, I knew that this would be bizarre, artistic and intelligent.

And it was those three things but it was also damn compelling and honestly, damn impressive.

I loved this film and it’s a shame that I hadn’t seen it before this. It was intense, melodic, sweet, scary and most importantly, intriguing.

While this picture is very De Palma-esque, maybe the most De Palma-esque of the man’s work, it is also very Hitchcockian, as the narrative and the shot framing displays a young De Palma’s callback to Hitchcock’s style and tropes.

Still, this is very much De Palma’s composition and not a cheap attempt at trying to emulate one of the masters before him. Honestly, it comes off as a respectful homage that creates a familiar framework that De Palma could then artistically build off of.

This is also very much a noir story. It has twists, turns, mystery, secrets that evolve and a shocking reveal when all is said and done. It’s pretty damn impressive that they were able to do some of the stuff they did in the time that this was made.

What really solidifies this as a great movie, aside from the solid direction and story by De Palma, is the cast.

Nancy Allen really carries this movie once she becomes the focus. And honestly, I’ll always love Allen simply for being a huge part of RoboCop but I never really thought much of her as an actress. Not to say she’s bad, she’s perfectly fine. But in this film, she really got to do some daring things. Honestly, it has motivated me to check out De Palma’s Blow Out in the near future as it also features her under De Palma’s direction.

I was really impressed with Keith Gordon and Angie Dickinson as well.

Michael Caine also plays an very important role but it’s Michael Caine, so one should expect a damn fine performance because I don’t think I’ve ever seen the guy not deliver.

I’d love to go deeper into the story and analyze some of it but I don’t want to spoil this for anyone. It’s a film that needs to be seen without knowing much about the plot and a Google search will probably spoil some major details.

If you like De Palma, Hitchcock influenced cinema or neo-noir, than you’ll probably like this picture.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other early Brian De Palma films, especially Blow Out and Body Double.

Film Review: Inception (2010)

Also known as: Oliver’s Arrow (fake working title), El Origen (Spanish title)
Release Date: July 8th, 2010 (London premiere)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine, Pete Postlethwaite, Lukas Haas, Talulah Riley, Dileep Rao

Legendary Pictures, Syncopy, Warner Bros., 148 Minutes

Review:

“What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed – fully understood – that sticks; right in there somewhere.” – Cobb

Like Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, I guess I’m the only person on Earth that doesn’t like this movie.

I can’t take away from the visuals though. This film is stunning to look at and all the strange physics of the dream world come off almost flawlessly and create a visual smorgasbord of cool shit. And because of that, this film had one of the most amazing trailers for its time.

Frankly, I think a lot of people were so blown away by the trailer and the visuals that they completely dismiss everything else.

Inception is one of those “science-y” word salad movies that no one wants to look uncool by admitting that they have no idea what the fuck any of this is about.

The film relies solely on you buying into Christopher Nolan’s bad science, which is constantly explained with more and more layers dropped on top of it all. I don’t think that Nolan really knows what the hell he was saying. It’s complicated, it’s boring, it’s really fucking lame and it’s only cool for those people that read I Fucking Love Science‘s Facebook feed for the headlines without clicking on the articles. It’s bullshit brain casserole for the normie that yells “Yay, science!” but hasn’t actually picked up and read a book by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, whose books are actually really easy for the layman to digest.

This movie wants so hard to be smart but it’s dumber than my cousin Sam after we found her under a bridge in Ft. Lauderdale following a twenty-six day opium bender.

On the flip side, the acting is top notch. I can’t fault the cast for anything. Well, except for Ellen Page who is dryer than a box of saltine crackers, opened and lost in the Sahara during a drought. However, good acting aside, every character in this movie is flat. Also, it lacks any sort of emotion because of the flatness of these characters and because the audience is hit in the face with “Yay, science!” every 8 seconds that you don’t have time to make a connection with anything.

Plus, this film isn’t as innovative as it thinks it is. It certainly isn’t as clever as it thinks it is, either. I wonder if Nolan stores his farts in jars to enjoy at a later date?

Also, Nolan’s directing is damn good. It’s just his writing that is terrible with this $160 million bullshit bonanza.

Fuck this movie. I hate it. I can’t give it a very low score because of the strong positives. But I can’t sit through this turkey in one sitting. I’ve tried. Watching it again, just to finally review it was like sitting through a four day root canal without drugs.

As for that ending, was DiCaprio dreaming? Who the fuck cares.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other Nolan films that don’t feature Batman.

Film Review: Get Carter (1971)

Release Date: February 3rd, 1971 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Mike Hodges
Written by: Mike Hodges
Based on: Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis
Music by: Roy Budd
Cast: Michael Caine, Ian Hendry, John Osborne, Britt Ekland

MGM-EMI, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 112 Minutes

Review:

“You know, I’d almost forgotten what your eyes looked like. Still the same. Pissholes in the snow.” – Jack Carter

I can’t believe I never watched this film until now. It’s a cool ass motion picture. Now I did see the remake with Stallone from 2000 but that one left a bad taste in my mouth. This however, was a balls out revenge fest.

Michael Caine plays Jack Carter. He discovers that his deceased brother was murdered by some mobsters. He then spends the rest of the movie on a revenge quest, knocking off the scum that were behind his brother’s death.

There are also a lot of babes and Caine gets to toy around with several, most notably the incredibly sexy Britt Ekland, who gets naked. She would go on to be a Bond girl in The Man With the Golden Gun and would get even more naked in The Wicker Man.

I loved Caine in this and it is so cool seeing him kick serious ass in his younger days. Sure, he kicks ass as an older man too but he just had a presence here that made him debonair, dangerous and pretty fucking sexy, if I do say so myself. I’m not gay but I can appreciate a masculine dime piece through straight eyes.

This film also had film-noir elements to it, which pulled me in right away. This is more of a neo-noir, as it has that sort of style to it. The tone reminds me of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï.

The plot has noir styled twists and turns and it throws femme fatales into the mix but you never really feel like Caine’s Carter could be outwitted by them.

There really isn’t anything negative I can say about the picture. It was well acted, well directed and had some stupendous camera work and cinematography.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Other old school Michael Caine movies: The Italian Job, PulpThe Ipcress FileFuneral In Berlin.

Film Review: Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

Release Date: July 17th, 1987
Directed by: Joseph Sargent
Written by: Michael de Guzman
Based on: characters by Peter Benchley
Music by: Michael Small
Cast: Lorraine Gary, Lance Guest, Mario Van Peebles, Karen Young, Michael Caine, Melvin Van Peebles

Universal Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Roar!” – Shark

Jaws: The Revenge isn’t just considered the worst Jaws film by fans, it is also considered one of the worst films ever made. Well, I guess I stray from the pack because I think that Jaws 3-D is much worse. Not to say that this isn’t also a hefty pillowcase full of donkey dung.

The premise for this film is absolutely ridiculous. In fact, I don’t know how the script was written with a straight face.

In this chapter, the final one for the series, the killer shark apparently has psychic powers and the ability to teleport. Apparently, Ellen Brody also shares a psychic link with the shark. I’m being totally serious.

Even though it isn’t explicitly stated, the shark is on a revenge quest where it can travel literally anywhere in an effort to specifically hunt down and kill members of the Brody family. How does it know who they are and where they are? Why does it want revenge? Is it just assumed that it is the offspring of one of the three sharks killed in the previous movies? How does it travel from New England to the Bahamas in a day? How does Ellen Brody have memories of events she never personally witnessed and how does she sense when the shark is around? Why is she so sure it is picking off the family on a personal revenge quest? Apparently, before this movie, Sheriff Brody died of a heart attack due to fear of the shark. Yet he stood up to two sharks like a total bad ass in previous movies. Was he psychically killed by the shark?

Jaws: The Revenge is a weird friggin’ movie when you start to analyze the crap out of it. That alone makes it infinitely more interesting than Jaws 3-D. Also, this is a Christmas movie, at least the first act, so it gets an edge there.

You also have the Last Starfighter himself, Lance Guest. Unfortunately, Mario Van Peebles gives a horrible performance as a Jamaican with a bad Jamaican accent. But props to him, as he did this two decades before Kofi Kingston showed up in the WWE. Anyway, the badness that is Van Peebles is at least offset by the awesomeness that is Michael Caine’s Hoagie, a pilot named after a fantastic sandwich.

One big positive, is that this film became the premise of the Jaws video game on Nintendo. In retrospect, it isn’t a fantastic game but when I was about ten years-old, I played the shit out of it. Who didn’t want to jump in a tiny yellow submarine and try to kill the giant shark while collecting crabs dropped from Hoagie’s plane? Frankly, I don’t know why Hoagie just didn’t give me the crabs before I went out to sea. I also don’t remember why collecting crabs was important. Anyway, back to this awful movie and not the awesome game.

Jaws: The Revenge is just about as bad as everyone says it is but at least it isn’t littered with horribly dated 3D effects like Jaws 3-D. Also, some of the action bits are better than those from the previous movies. I thought that the scene in the sunken ship was well done and certainly better than anything in the third movie.

The finale is also much better than the third film, even if thirty years later, I don’t understand the whole point about the strobe light causing the shark pain. Maybe it was a psychic strobe light or imbued with the power of a Bahamian warlock. I’m not really sure.

And even though everyone bitches about it, I don’t mind the shark having a roar. That’s way more plausible than psychic powers and teleportation.

Rating: 4.25/10

Film Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

Release Date: December 13th, 2014 (Butt-Numb-A-Thon)
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Based on: The Secret Service by Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons
Music by: Henry Jackman, Matthew Margeson
Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Sofia Boutella, Sophie Cookson, Mark Hamill

Marv Films, Cloudy Productions, Shangri-La Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 129 Minutes

Review:

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Harry Hart

I missed this when it initially came out in the theater a few years back and then it sort of got lost in the shuffle of time. However, I’ve really heard nothing but great things about it since it came out and I wanted to give it a watch now that its sequel is coming out.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed and in fact, I was really impressed with the film but I guess I can expect great things from Matthew Vaughn after he gave us Layer CakeKick-Ass and X-Men: First Class. Plus, this thing had a solid cast with Colin Firth, Sam Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Mark Hamill, Sofia Boutella and impressive newcomers Taron Egerton and Sophie Cookson.

It is impossible to not compare this film to the James Bond series, as it is a gadget-filled British action spy thriller. The main difference, is this is more of a comedy and features a young spy coming into the fold. Kingsman, though, is a much hipper take on the genre.

You see, as James Bond was forced to evolve into a more serious series at the beginning of the Daniel Craig era, the jovial spirit of the franchise has been missing. It is understandable that it had to change, as films like Austin Powers were parodying it to the point of no return and the Pierce Brosnan era (no fault of Brosnan’s) had gotten too hokey and playful for its own good.

Kingsman brings us back to that classic Bond energy without being overly cheesy. It somehow found the perfect balance between serious and playful for the modern era. It is also cooler than the modern Bond movies and a lot more interesting. It fills the giant void that has been gone for a long time and it has kind of cemented itself in there. In fact, the James Bond franchise could learn a lot from this film.

Parts of the movie, however, are a bit insane and very stylized. The thing is, it works to this film’s benefit. Kingsman knows what it is and it really embraces itself, for better or for worse. That being said, its self-confidence permeates with something truly genuine and fantastically bad ass. It has gravitas that the uber serious modern Bond pictures don’t have. And don’t get me wrong, I generally like the Craig Bond films but Kingsman is the true throwback to the classic era of spy thrillers, even if it brings its own refreshing take to the table.

The entire cast is extraordinary and there really isn’t a weak link. Taron Egerton was perfect casting as the main character, Eggsy. Samuel Jackson, Michael Caine and Mark Strong each had a great presence. It was cool seeing Mark Hamill and Sofia Boutella, now most famous as the newest version of the title character in The Mummy.

It is Colin Firth that really takes the cake in the picture, though. This is a great role for him, a man who has played just about everything and won an Oscar in the process. Honestly, as much as I loved him in The King’s Speech, this is now my favorite Firth role.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a wonderful experience, especially for old school James Bond fans that have been yearning for something in that classic style. While this is a very modernized take on the genre, it truly knows its roots and it balances the new with the old pretty seamlessly. Most importantly, the film is exciting and fun.

Rating: 8/10

 

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

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.