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The Greatest God Damn City on the Planet (San Francisco)
Movie Character You Most Identify With
Donnie Darko (lol, "overrated" my ass, Driver. You're the one who likes Requiem for a Dream)
Favorite Line From A Movie
"I just think you're the fucking Antichrist." -Donnie Darko
Favorite Scene From A Movie
1) Truck chase: Raiders of the Lost Ark. 2) Donnie torches the pedo's house: Donnie Darko. 3) Any scene from The Big Lebowski. 4) "Shiiit, negro! That's all you had to say!": Pulp Fiction. 5) Final sequence of Fight Club. 6) Industrialization and men's fashion: Die Hard. 7) The shootout: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. 8) Any scene from Lawrence of Arabia. 9) River kicks the shit out of the Reavers: Serenity. 10) "YOU'RE AN INANIMATE FUCKING OBJECT!": In Bruges. 11) "I was cured, all right!": A Clockwork Orange. 12) Deckard is a Replicant?: Blade Runner. 13) The Bride VS The Crazy 88s: Kill Bill. 14) Flight of the Valkyries: Apocalypse Now. 15) "I'm sorry Dave, but I'm afraid I can't do that.": 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Raiders of the Lost Ark, Donnie Darko, The Big Lebowski, Fight Club, Pulp Fiction
Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Jake Gyllenhaal
That one guy who hated Hugo and Up
Best Movie Seat
Favorite Movie Watching Snack
Nacho Cheese Popcorn
Favorite Movie Watching Drink
Chocolate milk with butterscotch and whipped cream
Let's be honest here: I dislike a good number of movies. I don't set out to hate them, though, which is a common misconception. Often times, I'll even rewatch the movie more times than I would ever have cared to, simply because I desperately want to know what it is that others found so captivating. Examples of these movies include The Matrix, Batman Begins, the Lord of the Rings films, Return of the Jedi, and this film: The Dark Knight. I have seen this movie about five times now, and despite the pleas of others to reanalyze my stance on the film, it only gets worse and worse with each viewing. I have no particular stigma against Christopher Nolan or the superhero genre-I can't just chalk this up to not being my kind of movie-the thing is, I simply haven't seen anything impressive from them. Perhaps the hype killed it for me. But my assessment is that the movie just isn't that good.
The Dark Knight is the second installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, and the one responsible for most of the franchise's critical and commercial success. Nearly every aspect of this movie receives praise, but there is one front on which it is truly deserving of its hype: Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker. This villain of classic Batman lore is brought to sick, twisted life with Ledger's starmaking turn in this movie, and his performance is so captivating I was at times convinced that I was actually watching a truly great film. So what really annoys me about this movie is how much the rest of the cast lets him down. If there's anything worse than a film with no redeeming qualities, it's a film with one great quality that is forced to exist among a sea of utter shit. And sadly, Ledger's Joker fits this description perfectly.
Firstly, let's talk about Christian Bale. Bale is a very hit-or-miss actor most of the time-He's given great performances in American Psycho and The Fighter, but was utterly terrible in Batman Begins and The Prestige. In short, he's not any good as an actor, but when given the proper director and material to work with, he can be truly great. Unfortunately, this film gave him neither. Christopher Nolan may be a strong visual director, but he is utterly incapable of directing actors (you know all that stuff you love about The Joker? Most of that was Ledger's ideas). In Inception, he was given three strong actors (Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tom Hardy) and failed to get strong performances or even interesting characters out of any of them. He focuses far more on symbolism and far-fetched ideas than actually crafting characters that the audience cares about, and his films suffer greatly because of it. As such, Bale is just plain boring as Bruce Wayne, making the character hard to connect with and very unapproachable. This movie could have been titled "The Joker" for all I care, because Ledger's scenes are the only ones anyone paid attention to (nobody cares about Batman beating up an Asian mob boss).
Meanwhile, Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gyllenhaal are put in the awkward position of having to pretend to be in love, which they both fail at miserably. A lot of the blame here falls on the dialogue, giving Gyllenhaal flat dialogue taken straight from the Nicholas Sparks playbook, while Eckhart is given nothing to work with as a character whose defining feature is his wooden, straight-faced delivery of mindless platitudes. "The night is darkest just before the dawn." Man, I can't believe someone got paid to write this shit. It also doesn't help that his character, Harvey Dent, goes from goody-two-shoes pretty-boy to disfigured psychopath in just a few minutes of screen time. I'd have accepted this total character reversal at first, but he is then presented with a chance to kill the person who murdered his one true love, and doesn't kill him. I don't care if he's gone insane. I don't care if he's a "fallen white knight." This is a totally bullshit plot device that only serves to keep the Joker around for the movie's final act. The film was already in dangerous territory when it allowed its main villain to be more interesting than its hero, but with a pair of actors as uncharismatic as Eckhart and Gyllenhaal in a romantic pairing, it really begins to fall flat on its face.
This movie has a lot of missteps, sure. That's been established by now. And believe me, I'd love to pick apart every little failure that peppers this grotesquely misguided cinematic heap of garbage, including the part where Freeman accidentally reveals Batman's identity, the school bus-ex-machina, the device that allows you to see video from every cell phone in the world, and the general shittiness of the movie's overly complicated mob boss subplot. However, I want to emphasize something above all else: Christopher Nolan is a total hack. He has a strong sense of visual style, and his movies are usually filled with rich cinematography and dark themes, but he has not proven once that he has the slightest idea of how to direct actors, craft airtight stories, or approve scripts that are not riddled with clichés. To make matters worse, he has come to us in the era of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich, and by comparison, it's easy to say that he's "the next Stanley Kubrick" (an expression usually used by people who don't know who Stanley Kubrick is). However, until he proves himself capable of making a movie with relatable characters and inspired plotting and scripting, he's no better than the pyrotechnic-obsessed directors he so badly wants to distance himself from.
Final Score for The Dark Knight: 4/10 stars. I'd love to give this movie a higher score. Heath Ledger is godlike throughout its entire runtime. But he is let down by bloodless direction, a bored-looking Christian Bale, and a script that I can only assume was written by ingesting Scrabble tiles, shitting them out onto paper, and then arranging them into an ineptly plotted snorefest that serves only to please the most undemanding moviegoers. I can't deny this film its good parts, but dear lord, if it wasn't for Ledger we'd be looking at a 2/10 film here. Some call this movie "intelligent." What they really mean is that they feel smart because they saw a Christopher Nolan movie and understood it perfectly. Well, that's no big feat. There's nothing to understand here-Everything can be taken at face value, from the obvious foreshadowing to the heavy-handed messages about human nature, all narrated by pontificating main characters who exist only to further the plot through expository dialogue. "You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain." Wow. So deep. After seeing this movie for what I can only hope will be the last time, my decision is clear: Save for one shining performance, this film is truly awful. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Those who know me will know that I am not one to jump on the bandwagon when it comes to a film or a director. Therefore, I hope this will carry some considerable weight: I predict that, much in the way that critics today refer to works as "Orwellian" or "Hitchcockian," the critics of the future will refer to movies and books as "Fincheresque." That's right-- our lord David Fincher has yet to disappoint (come on, it's not like Alien 3 was his fault) after Gone Girl, one of the best films of both Fincher's career and of 2014. This is not a movie that is shaken off easily. Even if you forget parts of the plot after leaving the theater, the aura it casts will stay with you for some time. Individual shots will stick in your mind for weeks to come. It's quite an experience; one that truly gets in your head.
Gone Girl is based off of the novel by Gillian Flynn (who also penned the screenplay), and is directed by God David Fincher. Fincher is known for past ventures into serial killer stories with films such as Zodiac, Se7en, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and certainly has a presence in his films. He is a director who truly knows how to get the most out of his actors, all while cramming his stories with suspense. Therefore, he's more than well-matched to this material. Gone Girl is the story of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) who comes home one morning to find that his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) has gone missing. However, as circumstantial evidence mounts against him, both the characters in the film and the audience watching it are forced to wonder whether or not Dunne murdered his wife.
The difficult thing about writing a review for a film like this is that it's impossible to break down what makes the film good without spoiling it. And this is a movie that, if spoiled, loses a lot of its edge. So really, all I can say about the plot is that it does exactly what a suspense thriller should do, and does it very well. The movie is not scary, not even particularly intense-- but it has an undeniable sinister quality to it that keeps the audience's adrenaline pumping consistently, even in the most innocuous scenes. However, at the end of the day, the film's big twist takes place about an hour into it, and if you didn't see it coming, well, you're not a particularly observant person. Don't get me wrong, though. The film has far more to offer than just random plot twists.
This movie is a tour de force from all perspectives. Fincher is at his best, as always. The way he frames his shots, coupled with his usage of music to add to the tenseness of a scene, is utterly intoxicating. He has very little flourish in his direction (if you're looking for style over substance, I recommend Zack Snyder), but what he does have is an abundance of talent that he uses in very precise ways. Namely, getting a good performance out of Ben Affleck. No, not a good one-- a great one. Affleck has a serious shot at Best Actor this year, and even more shocking is the fact that he might actually deserve it. His disingenuous and smarmy style of acting works here, because the character he's playing isn't supposed to be particularly likable or believable. He completely owns this role. In past performances, Affleck has just been a mediocre actor who happened to be cast in a great movie (which is why he's so often lauded), but here... man oh man, he deserves every bit of acclaim he gets. Meanwhile, Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris deliver powerhouse performances, another surprising development, as their latest efforts include Alex Cross and the How I Met Your Mother series finale, respectively. They're just two more fine examples of how well an actor can do when correctly matched with a character.
The film is a mystery/thriller first and foremost, but its best moments stem from its social commentary. Much like 2012's The Hunt, this movie isn't remotely afraid of getting into the ickiness of media politics. As soon as Dunne's story is picked up by the media, everyone in the country, from platinum-blonde FOX News anchors to his own sister, thinks that he's guilty. And after all, why shouldn't they? As the film progresses, it becomes less of a mystery and more of a cautionary tale about the dangers of coming to a group consensus without having all the information. The social commentary in this movie is shrewd and unwavering, but Fincher knows not to cram his film too full of rhetoric (you don't want to bludgeon your audience over their heads with your message... *cough cough* Requiem for a Dream).
Final Score for Gone Girl: 9/10 stars. Dethroning The Grand Budapest Hotel for my second-favorite film of the year is no easy task, but this movie managed to do it with its engrossing story and darkly comic themes. Audiences will undoubtedly love taking sick pleasure in watching this well-crafted film unfold before them. Everything here works like a Swiss watch-- there's not a boring moment in the whole movie. I've been waiting for Fincher to top himself after his latest efforts, but he's succeeded again and again. After this movie, I don't know what he'll do for an encore, but if the past is any indication, it'll be spectacular.
Trilogies are difficult things to make. Normally, story arcs can't easily be stretched out over three installments-- just look at the Hobbit films-- but every once in a while, it works well. For every Two Towers suffering from middle chapter sluggishness, there's an Empire Strikes Back that breathes new life into the franchise. A good trilogy needs to have chapters that have their own sets of subplots, so that instead of just being a vessel to bridge the gap between the introduction and the ending, they are their own stories, with a beginning, middle, climax, and finale. Sometimes though, a movie is able to squeeze through these qualifications by the skin of its teeth and still be a good movie, despite the fact that it doesn't truly live up to the standard set by its predecessor and successor.
Before Sunset is one such movie. This film doesn't stand alone nearly as well as the other two installments in the Before Trilogy, but as a way to connect the two films, it works moderately well. However, there's nothing new or different here. Linklater knew this when he made Before Midnight, as he somewhat altered the film's premise and tone in order to keep audiences on their toes. This movie, however, is basically the same thing as Before Sunrise. Despite the fact that this isn't really a complaint (as Before Sunrise was a great film), I went into this movie expecting a little bit more out of it. The dialogue's pop and freshness has gone out of the film, leaving it a far duller affair than one would have hoped. However, it's difficult to truly dislike a movie with these characters in it.
Taking place eight years after the events of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset continues the story of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in their long, complicated story of how they ended up together. In this film, Jesse has written a novel about their night together, and after hearing about his book signing in Paris, Celine decides to track him down. After meeting up, they once again wander the streets of another ancient city, talking about philosophy, life, and the energy crisis. But it's all less emotionally resonant than in the first film. The fire went out of these movies right when the fire was just starting in these character's relationship, and what ended up happening was the the film that could have been the best ended up being the worst of the three. Linklater pulled it out of the dive with Before Midnight, but this movie still is one big blob of meh.
However, you can't deny the movie's charm. Even if it is the same thing over again, it's a great thing over again-- Hawke and Delpy are just as spectacular as ever (seriously, I refuse to believe that these two aren't actually in a relationship in real life), and the writing is still strong. There are a few points where the dialogue falls flat, but the acting talent on display here is such that it doesn't really matter. Ethan Hawke couldn't keep my attention reading a phone book, I suppose, but when presented with less-than-inspired dialogue, he almost always finds a way to make it work (exception: Getaway, but only because there was no real dialogue in that movie).
But the most interesting part about this film is the confused morals. In Before Sunrise, Hawke and Delpy just happen across one another and spend the night together, but here, they each have a significant other that they're trying not to betray, while still remaining true to themselves. By the end, the emotional stakes are raised enough that the minor trip-ups through the rest of the film can be excused. These two characters experienced love at first sight, but didn't know it at the time, and now they have to go about remedying that without hurting anyone in the process. When something as important as this is at stake, is it worth throwing everything away to start fresh, but this time the right way?
Final Score for Before Sunset: 7/10 stars. This movie is a bit of a disappointment, mainly because of the aforementioned "middle chapter" problems that trilogies often come across. However, it manages to fully make up for a weaker beginning with a truly great ending that marks the only finale that I would call a romantic cliffhanger. The film isn't satisfying, but now that the trilogy has been completed with Before Midnight, it's easier to fulfill the desire to know what happens without becoming bored with the story while waiting for its conclusion. This movie was never made to stand alone, that's true. But as a simple, well-crafted bridging chapter between two superior films, it succeeds.
Roger Ebert once coined a term called "Star Magic Syndrome," describing those unfortunate actors who fall prey to the idea that a film will be successful simply because the lead actor is successful. Well, it seems as if the latest victim of SMS is Denzel Washington, a reasonably talented actor in his own right (as he proved in 2012's tour de force Flight), but not a good enough one to carry another generic action movie like this one. I swear, if I have to see another movie about an ex-CIA agent called back into action because of a young girl who then gets him in trouble with a bunch of Russian bad guys, I'm gonna drive down to Hollywood and start cracking skulls. These people are professional screenwriters. They can do better than this, right? Right?
So yes, The Equalizer is the tale of ex-CIA agent Denzel Washington who is called back into action because a young girl (Chloe Grace-Moretz) who also happens to be a prostitute is in need of his help. After killing her pimp and a few of his cronies, the upper tiers of the Russian mob in Boston come after him... because I suppose there's a Russian mob in Boston (?). Side stories include corrupt cops, a fat guy trying to become a security guard, and Grace-Moretz's storyline, because after the first twenty minutes, she becomes a subplot (even though she's the one who sets everything in motion). It's as if the writers forgot she was even in the film until the last five minutes, at which point they said "Eh, fuck it, let's just write her in at the end. Nobody'll notice she was even gone."
This film isn't perfect (that goes without saying), but when it does things right, it really nails it. Literally... there's a scene where Washington kills a guy with a nail gun. But gore and silliness aside, this is a very well-made movie. Up until seeing this film, I had very little appreciation for Antoine Fuqua's direction (the man made Olympus Has Fallen, for Christ's sake), but he really does have a strong presence in his movies. As long as they're devoid of rushed, shoddy CGI, he brings a certain style to his movies, with excellent scene framing and color schemes. The action sequences in this movie are also noticeably strong-- I had an idea a few years back for an action sequence inside a Home Depot using only improvised weaponry, and although I'm a little disappointed that I can never use it now, I'm still impressed with how well it was pulled off in this film. Altogether, the movie has a very unique look and feel to it, which makes it a little more than just another revenge movie.
But still, when you strip away all of its flash, that's all The Equalizer is: Another revenge movie. This film is extremely predictable, and its villain is taken straight from the action movie playbook of every film like this ever made. Russian? Check. Prone to senseless violence? Check. Shady backstory that reveals his motives in a faux-subtle way that allows us to understand him, yet still makes us root for the good guy to kill him? Big check. Denzel Washington is strong, of course, but at the end of the day he's just playing Denzel Washington. It's another "Don't mess with the old guy" movie (in the vein of Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood) that allows the star to play to his strengths-- it works, but only because Washington isn't challenged by this role whatsoever.
Final Score for The Equalizer: 5/10 stars. I enjoyed watching this movie, but I couldn't really recommend seeing it in theaters, based simply off of the fact that you could watch any number of movies of its ilk and get a similar experience. The only thing that really exceeds expectations in the film is the direction, which is a truly pleasant surprise. Other than that, there's not much that's original or particularly interesting in this generic, by-the-numbers revenge drama. Fans of the genre (or of Denzel Washington) should check it out, because they'll know what to expect, and this movie delivers exactly that. But unless you're extremely interested in seeing The Equalizer, it's a definite Netflix movie.
Despite the fact that I saw the latest installment in the X-Men franchise several months ago, it's taken me a while to actually sit down to write this review. The reasoning behind this being that I'm still a little blown away by what I witnessed in this film. I love superheroes-- you wouldn't know this from the ratings I give their movies, but I do. That's why, when I see films like The Dark Knight or Guardians of the Galaxy, I get very annoyed, because I am forced to decide what part of my critical personality to listen to. On the one hand, my geeky self tells me to love these movies unequivocally, which I try my best to do. Invariably though, my other side (the movie buff side) reminds me that pure coolness cannot compensate for bad dialogue, plotting, and acting. However, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a rare beast. It didn't make me choose.
X-Men: Days of Future Past unites the actors from the original X-Men films and the prequel film First Class in a time travel plot taken from the Uncanny X-Men comics of the 1980s. In the "not-too distant future," machines called Sentinels have taken over the world and are on a mutant killing spree, attempting to eradicate not only mutants, but humans who carry dormant mutant genes that could be passed down into future generations. To stop the Sentinels, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to alter the past and prevent the Sentinels from being created in the first place. But before he is able to do so, he has to win the trust of the two men's younger selves (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, respectively).
The premise is not only intriguing, but it's original. Marvel's movies lately have been an indistinguishable parade of galaxy-saving heroism, in which some evil device (usually one that glows with an eerie blue light) is in the clutches of a villain who plans on using it to destroy literally everything. Why? Well, we don't know. But Days of Future Past is able to bring the futuristic and sci-fi aspects of the plot into a more grounded, realistic series of situations for the characters that gives the movie real depth and weight. Of course, the fate of the world still hangs in the balance, but at times the audience is allowed to forget that, and they're caught up only in the fate of these few well-crafted characters.
The acting and dialogue is also far better than in previous X-Men installments. Hugh Jackman is clearly still relishing in his role as Wolverine, inarguably the best character in the franchise and one of the series's better casting choices. He was sorely missed in First Class (part of the reason why that film was such a dud), and so his return to the silver screen here is more than welcome. Meanwhile, the plethora of uninteresting, underdeveloped characters from previous films have all vanished, allowing us to focus in on four very good characters: Wolverine, Magneto, Xavier, and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), whose ill-fated assassination attempt is the centerpiece of the plot. With Peter Dinklage giving it his all as Bolivar Trask, the diminutive creator of the Sentinel program, we have a total powerhouse of acting behind characters several films in the making.
I've been asked just why I found Days of Future Past to be so much better than other Marvel outings, and I suppose I could go through their other films one by one, detailing where they failed in places that this movie succeeded. However, the short version is simply this: Days of Future Past is the first X-Men movie in which I've enjoyed the storyline as much as the characters. Even at its best points, this franchise has been very weak when it comes to substance and story. The first X-Men film was about a mutant-making ray and a fight to the death at the top of the Statue of Liberty. X-Men: First Class incorporated mutants into the Cuban Missile Crisis. And after all this crazy, haphazard stories and loosely thought-through subplots, this fun little yarn about time travel is comparatively tame.
Final Score for X-Men: Days of Future Past: 7/10 stars. Sure, there are a good number of quibbles about dialogue and character development in this movie, but it's undeniably well-made, even looking better visually than its predecessors. This is a superhero movie done right-- No cartoony aliens, no space battles for the fate of the universe, no witless, tongue-in-cheek banter-- Just stripped-down, quality entertainment. Hopefully, the X-Men franchise will continue in the direction it's going right now, and not stumble into the pitfalls that the other, less polished films of the series did (ahem, X-Men Origins). And with Bryan Singer returning to direct the next film, it looks as if Marvel is picking things up a bit. It's not perfect in any way, but I'll give it this: This is the best superhero movie made since Iron Man. And although that's not saying much, I think it counts for something.