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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
It's a difficult thing to craft a protagonist for a movie, and nearly every genre seems to have a trope it falls back to whenever the creators are lazy. In romances, it's the indecisive white girl. In action films, it's the boring protagonist who's often upstaged by his more eccentric partner. Whatever the case may be, it's almost universally agreed upon that the main character is the glue that holds the film together. So when a movie creates one so twisted that it almost dares you to continue watching, you sit up and take notice. Few films are capable of pulling this off, as some antiheroes rub the audience the wrong way (and no, Ocean's Eleven doesn't count-- a bunch of dapper casino robbers are not hard to root for). But some, like this year's Nightcrawler, can make you watch in sick fascination as you watch-- and root for-- a sociopath.
Nightcrawler opens with Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) stealing metal from various Los Angeles construction sites to sell to scrap yards. When he is confronted by a security guard, he immediately sizes him up, figures him out, and beats him over the head, knocking him out. Lou steals the man's watch and wears it for the rest of the film. The watch becomes an eerie reminder of the truth behind this character. He is nothing like what he seems. He puts on a persona of a well-adjusted, mild-mannered businessman, but there is something far darker to him that moves its way to the surface every once in a while. He is soulless and truly quite evil. People like him are a force of nature-- they can't be stopped, and that's made clear from the beginning of the film. There is no conceivable outcome in which Lou doesn't come out on top.
Almost all of the credit is owed to Gyllenhaal, who delivers the performance of a career and quite possibly the best of 2014. He lends an animalistic edge to Lou, and with his high cheekbones and bugged-out eyes, he gives him the looks to match as well. I'm convinced that Gyllenhaal didn't blink once throughout the entire filming of this movie. The supporting cast is good, and would be perfectly serviceable in any film, but with him driving the whole package, the movie is elevated far and above a typical thriller. The flip side, of course, is that Gyllenhaal completely overshadows his fellow cast members, but it's not as if they need to be great. He's in every scene of this movie, and the other characters exist only to be toyed with and manipulated by him.
There's a serious level of subversive social commentary here as well, on two major levels. After Gyllenhaal sees an amateur news crew filming a car crash on a freeway, he buys a camcorder and gets the plot rolling, using a police bandwidth radio to prey on other people's misfortunes (at the end of the film, he says "If you're seeing me, you're having the worst day of your life"). But as he becomes increasingly ambitious, he begins to alter crime scenes, even moving a body at a car crash to get a better shot, and later starts staging his own incidents. Director Dan Gilroy has a pretty sick sense of humor, I would assume, as this aspect of the film is almost a commentary on filmmaking itself. Lou learns the tricks and nuances of cinematography quickly (he's a fast learner), and clearly has an eye for the craft. There's a reason the movie was filmed in Los Angeles, after all.
And throughout Nightcrawler, Lou spouts mindless little platitudes about succeeding in business (which he picked up from an online course), a recurring theme that he uses not only to manipulate his lone employee, but to justify the deranged things he does. And Lou really is running his own little business-- granted, it's the business world equivalent of the Manson family, but it's still a tight little operation. The film pulls no punches in its brutal assessment of the competitiveness of business. A few years down the line, it?s not hard to imagine Lou giving a corporate seminar on how to succeed in the world of shock TV, or write a piece of pulp detailing how to run your own start-up company. It may be true that people are promoted to their level of incompetence, but they're also promoted to the level of their cunning. By this measurement, Lou would make a very good president.
Final Score for Nightcrawler: 9/10 stars. Far and away one of the best films of the year, this movie has a shockingly good central performance as well as provocative underlying themes. Its tagline reads "The closer you look, the darker it gets," which could not be more accurate. Watching this film is like drowning in an ocean of immorality, but somehow, it's impossible to not take some pleasure in watching this character navigate these waters like a shark. Nightcrawler is both innovative and beautifully twisted. Quite the viewing experience.
WARNING: Spoilers for Fury abound in this review. If you have not yet seen the film, I advise that you wait to read this until after having watched it.
There's been an obnoxious trend in movies recently in which filmmakers put all their effort into building up to a powerful climax and then forget to construct a third act for their films. Examples of this include The Dark Knight, The Maze Runner, Prisoners, and Fury. Up until the end, this World War II film chronicling the exploits of a tank crew is gritty, well-acted, and features heaping helpings of dark comedy. Sadly, the film's finale (which I will do my best not to spoil) ends up neutering the rest of the movie's message, and inundates any power it might have had with generic war movie cliches.
Fury is the story of a tank crew's push deep into the heart of Nazi Germany in the final months of the war in Europe. During battle, one of their members is killed, and they are forced to take on an inexperienced recruit who's fresh into the war and knows nothing of battle. The most frustrating part of this movie is its unoriginality-- we've got the tough guy leader, the newbie, the token minority, the religious guy, and the nutjob. It's the five staples of action movie characters. Hell, I've more characterization in a Call of Duty game. But the performances behind these stock characters are strong enough to keep the film afloat. Brad Pitt gives it his all as the group's unflappable commander, and Logan Lerman makes a convincing spineless wimp (no offense to Mr. Lerman, but hey, I call it how I see it). Even That Guy Who Used To Be Famous is able to contribute an uncharacteristically reserved and nuanced performance, despite his limited screen time. All in all, the cast is great, but the story they're serving is terrible.
Fury has been called "bold" and "original," but there's not much that happens in this movie that can't easily be predicted. Lerman comes across a young woman in a German town, and after a few minutes of passionate lovemaking, is forced to watch her die during an air raid. Scenes like this are precisely why war movies get so much flak. If you weren't sitting in the theater predicting the next plot development in your head, you must never have seen a war film before. At the end, the characters are killed off one by one, and in the most insufferably simplistic ways possible. A character will get shot, and then during the next thirty seconds, all sounds of gunfire and bullets are drowned out as we are given close-up shots of the remaining characters reacting to it. If this were a true story, and had to adhere to real events, this would be passable. But when the story can be taken in any direction the writers want, there's not much to excuse this laziness.
But Fury is definitely to be commended on one front. It showcases the brutality of World War II in a way that not many other movies have. When one thinks of wartime atrocities and horrors, one usually thinks of the Viet Cong's guerrilla warfare or the burning oil fields in Iraq and Kuwait. This is because World War II has been romanticized over the years, and we've forgotten that simply because it was for a good cause, it wasn't at all a good war. There are no good wars. In one scene, Lerman spies a young Hitler youth in the bushes off the road, and in that split second, he freezes up, giving the boy time to blow up the lead tank in their convoy. Pitt's character reprimands him, but it's clear from the get-go that there was no good choice he could have made. Fury isn't exceptionally bloody or graphic, but the psychological elements of it get into your head and stick with you. If nothing else, you'll walk out with images of it still in your mind-- not ones of mindless gore or violence, but perhaps ones of young women splayed out dead beneath a pile of rubble and a sobbing German soldier pleading for his life on his knees while a bullet is driven through his head.
Final Score for Fury: 6/10 stars. This film isn't particularly new or inventive, but it's the kind of movie that gets into your head and stays there whether you like it or not. I initially balked at its shoddy characterization and mediocre script as examples of its overall poor quality, but I'm not one to put down a film with a passable story when the main event is its story and the way that story makes the audience feel. There's a science and an art to brutality on the silver screen, and director David Ayer seems to have perfected it here. The film is not great, and doesn't quite reach the heights it aims for, but it's certainly worth a viewing for those who can stomach it.
WARNING: Major spoilers for Interstellar abound in this review. Cinema purists, look away.
In terms of most-anticipated films of the year, few movies have it over Interstellar, Christopher Nolan's first post-Batman directorial effort and a new showcase for last year's Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey. Bearing early comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey and other visual masterpieces in pre-screenings, this film looked as if it would be Nolan's magnum opus-- a cultural phenomenon that even his detractors could get behind. So when it began to receive mixed reviews, many were surprised. The truth, however, is that Interstellar is a very divisive film, and compelling arguments can be made for or against it. Yet despite some interesting themes, walking out of the theater I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that I'd been duped. The film might be smarter than your average blockbuster, as most Nolan efforts can purport themselves to be, but that doesn't make it as intelligent as it thinks it is.
Interstellar takes place in the distant future, when food resources on Earth are running out and dust storms sweep the planet. To save our race, an engineer-turned-farmer (McConaughey) leaves his son and daughter behind to embark on an interstellar voyage to find humanity a new home. This premise is one of the most topical and resonant of the year, and addresses very real problems with the world. It doesn't even push a political agenda (like last year's Elysium did), and instead of featuring global warming as its natural disaster (which I must say I fully expected), it uses blight and famine. In fact, the only agenda it pushes is one that we can all get behind: A sense of wonderment with science and space.
The creators of this film must have had this feeling of awe when they dreamed up the visual splendor of the alien worlds that the characters visit, or the black hole they travel through to get there. Yet for a film that so clearly pays respect to the science of its story, it glosses over key elements on a regular basis. There are scenes where characters receive life-altering information (such as, "We think aliens put a black hole near Saturn for us to travel through") and brush it off as if it's nothing. This is mostly because it's hard to imagine what real people would do in these situations. But it's more than a little obnoxious that the movie doesn't even try to shoot for realistic human reactions. I for one have no idea what I'd do if I found a gravity distortion in my room and discovered that it was using morse code to send me a message. But I doubt I'd pack up and drive out to wherever it was telling me to go without batting an eye.
Matthew McConaughey, however, almost makes the whole affair worth it. In one scene, he loses decades of his life to time when a black hole causes him to age differently than his children back home. Upon returning to the ship, he watches his kids grow up before his eyes in one of the most emotionally gut-wrenching scenes of any film this year. And it doesn't hurt that McConaughey is a truly great actor-- He conveys entire characters simply with his tone of voice and his body posture. The rest of the cast doesn't quite drag him down, but they don't do much to bolster him up (aside from a minor Matt Damon role, there's not much else to see here acting-wise). Anne Hathaway does an excellent job playing Sandra Bullock in Gravity, and Michael Caine plays... well... Michael Caine.
Overall, the film is agreeably entertaining for the first two hours (if brutally slow), and manages to hold the audience's attention, at least for the most part. But with a nearly three-hour runtime, one expects the climax of the film to be particularly spectacular, and after the end of the second act, it becomes abundantly clear that the movie just doesn't know where to go next. It has the kinds of ideas that one would expect of a daydreaming third-grader, such as a planet with waves as big as mountains, or a robot that looks like the box a plasma screen TV would come in. Yet there is no coherent narrative or linear plot to it. Every ten minutes, there seems to be a new crisis or plot device of some kind, which makes it feel more like a serialized space adventure than a serious sci-fi movie. And what really drags it down is that, at its core, there is very little heart to this movie. Characters die and miss each other and cry about it, but the direction is strangely detached from them, and it doesn't help that their dialogue is exceptionally poor ("Love is the only thing that transcends time and space!"). Good lord, try saying that with a straight face.
The movie's aimless meandering comes to a head at its climax, which is somehow both confusing and predictable. Interstellar attempts to pull off a 2001: A Space Odyssey-style ending, in which McConaughey is sucked into a vortex and spat back out to another dimension. But Nolan missed a key part of 2001's greatness in this, and that was the ambiguousness of it. The ending of 2001, and its overarching themes in general, can be interpreted any number of ways, but Interstellar makes the mistake of continuing its exposition long after the wheels have come off. When a movie has its character quite literally strumming the strings of time, yet still tries to pretend as if it has some semblance of realism to it, it has crossed from the imaginative into the idiotic. And even then, why choose 2001 as the film to so obviously mimic? It's like making a film about an amusement park featuring cloned dinosaurs-- it needs something miraculous to be better than Jurassic Park, the film it will obviously be compared to. And sadly, Interstellar just didn't have that extra something to set it apart.
Final Score for Interstellar: 5/10 stars. This is a very divisive film, and in a way, I'm divided on it myself. It's got incredibly good elements to it, and is certainly one of the more imaginative science fiction ventures I've seen in recent years. But it's distinctly lacking in a human touch (not to mention a third act), and the emptiness of it comes to a head at its conclusion. Its visuals, its plot twists, and its characters are all curiously barren and lifeless in equal measure, much like the planets they explore. There is, simply put, very little joy to this movie. Its main goal is not to connect with its audience emotionally, or even to engage them intellectually-- it's simply to confuse them with a series of plot twists and acid trip visuals. Nolan fans will be amazed. I advise all others to stay away.
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.