THE DARK KNIGHT (NOLAN’S 2ND BATMAN EFFORT)

And might I add, a very good second effort!

A great absense of posting (end of semester, an editing gig, a family va-cay) has made me lacklusture about goldstars but after a viewing of The Dark Knight (somewhat later than I would have liked) I feel all inspired to return to the world of blog.

 

THE SET UP?

Following the beginning of Batman just a few years ago Bruce Wayne is continuing to live his playboy lifestyle by day (and dusk) and donning the black cape and horns at night. But it seems that the streets of Gotham are being cleaned up – mainly through the efforts of the new District Attorney Harvey Dent, who is “with” Bruce’s sweetheart Rachel. BUT there’s a new villain in town, guess who. You’ve all probably seen it by now but still I won’t give anymore away.

 

THE CAST?

Heath Ledger – The Joker. I can’t help but putting him first. He is amazing. Really. It may not be the most endearing character to be ultimately remembered for, but in terms of his acting legacy – this film leaves it solid.

Christian Bale – Bruce Wayne/Batman. Bale takes a back seat in this one to Ledger, Eckhart and even Freeman. So in a way its tricky to evaluate his performance. As much as I love Bale as an actor he didn’t really stand out in this at all.

Aaron Eckhart – Harvey Dent/Two Face. The scariest Two Face ever – but that’s more down to the make up department. Eckhart is good in this. He’s not a standout, he’s solid. I didn’t find the transition from Harvey Dent to Two Face in terms of the personality of the character all that convincing. 

Michael Caine – Alfred. Gotta love Alfred. Caine delivers a brilliant performance as ever. He is given some of the better lines in the film, but he does an excellent job as ever in his role. 

Morgan Freeman – Lucius Fox. Its so nice to have Freeman in a film role where he doesn’t double as the narrator these days – its getting rarer and rarer. He is good in this, not excellent but still good.

Maggie Gyllenhaal – Rachel Dawes. I have great respect for Maggie Gyllenhaal as an actor, however, I’m not really happy with her replacement as Rachel Dawes after Katie Holmes decided she didn’t want to reprise her role (bet she’s regretting that now!). There are very few similarities with the two actors’ portrayal of the character and it makes Gyllenhaal as Dawes harder to believe – it seems more like a totally new character.

Gary Oldman – Lt. James Gordon. Another fine older actor. Oldman plays Gordon real and believable.

 

WHY SHOULD YOU SEE THIS FILM?

I feel this is the first film that I blog about that I don’t really have to try to convince you to see. By the stats already released about The Dark Knight it would seem most of you have already seen it (in its first three days it outsold the entire cinema run of Batman Begins). EVEN SO – here are the reasons: Ledger – you’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t make it to the cinema to catch this phenomenal actors last complete film performance- , the imagination of the astonishingly brilliant director- Christopher Nolan – having directed and (co) wrote for The Dark Knight Nolan serves up a treat for the audience. Even if Batman, action, violence and psychopaths isn’t your cup of tea I believe you will be entertained by this film – every aspect of it nears perfection. That being said it seems a bit of a waste to use two old school Batman villains in the one film. It meant that the film stretched out to 2.5 hours (not necessarily a bad thing) and each actor had a lot less screen time than in the first film. In that way, I hate to do this, but it reminded me a bit of Spiderman 3. 

 

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? 

Even though I practically said go see this film even if you don’t like film action, violence etc I doubt any of you would go take a five year old (or young kids in general) to this one – and you shouldn’t. Also, maybe mum and the grandparents aren’t a good idea either. 

 

ANY BITS?

Action. Violence. Psychopaths. But on the upside – limited to no swearing and no raunchy scenes.Yet again on the flip side – this is the scariest Two Face EVER – and even I kind of squinted when he was on screen. It is quite full on. 

 

THIS FILM GETS 4.25 GOLD STARS.

Advertisements

SPEED RACER

I know what you’re all thinking…

This will be… stupid.

And depending on your particular tastes in film you could be right…

But I must say I thought Speed Racer a masterpiece of digital film making. 

 

THE SET UP? Speed Racer, yes that’s his actual name, has been obsessed with car racing and nothing else since childhood. Race car driving for his family is like a religion. But when Speed’s older brother (Rex Racer), the greatest driver, like, ever, dies in a dangerous race the family grows cynical and steps back a bit from their zealous ways. But not entirely, as a few years later Speed emerges as the hottest new driver on the circuit. 

After corporate flirting Speed discovers what the industry is really about and decides the powers who control and fix the races need to be brought to justice. He goes with the help of his family, girlfriend (oooh!) and the mysterious Racer X. 


THE CAST? 

Emile Hirsch – this guy is good. He is excellent as Speed Racer. Similarly to Robert Downey Jr. inIronman (and yes I did just compare an actor you’ve probably never heard of to the great Downey Jr.). Hirsch brings credibility and authenticity to a character in an especially artificial (READ: “blue screen”) world.

Christina Ricci – where did she come from, again? Ricci plays the loyal and supportive, one-of-the-family girl beside Speed’s side. Her performance is quality. She has an adorable chemistry with Hirsch (note: but entirely ok for the younger kids). 

Susan Sarandon – Mom Racer. Sarandon is splendid in whatever she does. She can more or less do no wrong. Her beautiful character in Speed Racer is no exception. Though this is a “kids” movie, she almost made me cry in one scene.

John Goodman – Pops Racer. Nice to see the big guy back on the big screen. He’s great and entirely appropriate as Speed’s dad. He adds pathos to his character, especially when it comes to his relationship with his two racing sons and the speedy spor without it seeming out of place for this genre. (-which I’m still trying to define).

Kick Gurry – gets no billing but I’d like to give the Aussie come kudos here. He sits within the boxy character of Sparky, the Racer’s mechanic well. Sparky’s character swings between goof and pensive reflector and Gurry keeps up with ease. Looking forward to seeing more from this guy!

Matthew Fox – Racer X. Do-do-Do-do-Do-do (meant to sound mysterious…). Hmm… Fox isn’t great. He sits below his fellow actors in Speed Racer, he almost feels like a miscast.

 

WHY SHOULD YOU SEE THIS FILM? 

I could spend a while writing this, coz there are a lot of reasons to make it to the cinema for this one. But I think you should know why, or else you could be disappointed. So I’ll keep it to dot points, shall I? Okay…

– The racing sequences. They really call for the big screen. The effects are great, and if you’re at all keen on looking at different camera angles you’ll love it!

– The acting.

– The wacky editing. Its a bit different, but just enjoy its DIFFERENCE, rather than wishing it was … normal. 

– The narrative of seeing something wrong in the world (an injustice) and using your gifts to fight that wrong. Its a great metaphor. I found it encouraging on that level.

– So you can join my special club of people who get teased for seeing, and liking, Speed Racer. Current membership is 1.

 

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? 

As long as you don’t drag grandma and pa, anyone. Probably especially kids or people who enjoy slightly alternative cinema. The kids will love the colours, the wacky costumes and settings, and the fast cars, even the youngens will get something out of it!

 

ANY BITS? 

No. Unless fast driving freaks you out. Even the kiss is, well, I won’t spoil the surprise. (He he, I like being annoying.) 

 

THIS FILM GETS 4 GOLD STARS – As I said, watch it and enjoy its difference, its what it is, and it does what it does well. If you don’t try and wish this film was something else, you’d give it 4 Gold Stars too. 

IRONMAN

I went into Ironman with average expectations, and the expectations I did have were mainly pinned on the casting of the brilliant Robert Downey Jr. as the “super hero”. Unexpectedly I thoroughly enjoyed this “super hero movie”.

SET UP? Ironman isn’t your average super hero. Similarly to Batman, he has no special powers and his heroic behaviour comes out of a personal experience.

At the start of the film we meet the cocky, arrogant Tony Stark, a weapons developer running the family business (Stark Industries) selling unmatched military “goods” exclusively to the US government. However when Stark is kidnapped on a routine Stark Industries demonstration in Afghanistan he gets up close and personal with the good and mostly bad of those he usually bombs from afar. In order to escape the clutches of his terrorist captors he develops a big “iron” suit. After his escape he seeks to change the face of his company and continues to develop the iron get-up with the administrational support of the peppy Pepper Potts.

CAST?

Robert Downey Jr is Tony Stark/Ironman – director Jon Favreau noted that in most super hero films the character of the protagonist defines the actor but with the casting of Downey, the actor would define the character. A keen observation by Favreau! – Downey Jr is great in this role. I love him as the puffed up, arrogant, rich geek who gets the puff taken out of him and becomes who he was meant to be – without losing too much cynicism. Although I couldn’t help feeling it was more or less Harry Lockhart.

Gwyneth Paltrow as P.P. (as I like to call her). Agh. Hmmmm…. Well lets just say she did an okay job considering the scope of the underwritten, yet deserving character.

Terrance Howard as Stark’s BFF Col. James Rhodes – I kinda love Howard so nothing bad to say here. His performance is good. Good! Unlike Paltrow he does wonders with the character written for him, and through his performance the audience develops a real attachment with the character – which I suppose was strategic as super hero movie is code for mega-movie franchise.

Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane. Bridges is nice in this role. I just like listening to this old guy’s wise and deep sounding voice. Not really a stand out performance.

WHY YOU SHOULD SEE THIS FILM? I’m tipping most of you have already but if you haven’t, can I suggest you do? Its far from a movie for everyone (still haven’t found one of those). But as far as a super hero movie goes, Ironman is pretty much as good as your gonna get (although I love Nolan’s Batman Begins).

I loved Downey Jr’s portrayal and the terrorist stuff wasn’t entirely black and white which is nice in such a mainstream film (especially one of this genre) and the dynamic between Downey Jr and Paltrow is somewhat endearing, or at least, different and interesting.

Bottom line, for Downey Jr’s performance alone, this film is worth an entrance fee of up to $14 (or more if you don’t have to pay).

 

WATCH IT WITH… Anyone really. ‘Cept little kids, but you know that already.

ANY BITS? The trailer will spell it out for you, but beyond the expected violence, nothing much.

THIS FILM GETS 3.75 GOLD STARS.

TOMBSTONE

At our weekly movie night this week one of our party suggested we watch a western called Tombstone, I was like: never heard of it. Its kind of in that era from 1970-1995 where I was either not born, or not old enough to watch mature movies and then they kind of just disappear off into the abyss. Well we revived one of ’em last night! – To the great enjoyment of us all.

 

THE SET UP?  The Earp brothers – Law men and peace makers retire and head to the silver-mining town of Tombstone to seek fortune and a more relaxed period of life. Along with TB-suffering friend Doc Holliday, the brothers (along with their wives) prosper in the new town but gradually feel compelled to protect the town’s citizens from the cowboys who are the unofficial and violent powers of Tombstone. The results made the Earp brothers, especially Wyatt a legend. The main plot is buoyed by great one liners from Doc and a r(ather annoyingly realised) romance between Wyatt and Josephine Marcus.

 

THE CAST?  

A powerhouse ensemble with too many biggies to mention, but notably:

Kurt Russell as Wyatt – average performance (kinda the same character as Executive Decision)

Val Kilmer as Doc – brilliant! If I was ever in doubt as to Kilmer’s acting abilities this totally trashes that.

Sam Elliott and Bill Paxton as the other Earp brothers – both pretty good players in this piece (both receive considerably less screen time than Russell and Kilmer).

Dana Delany as Marcus – average, not helped by Russell. 

Check out IMDB for full cast. 

 

WHY YOU SHOULD SEE THIS FILM? Kilmer’s first-rate performance. The one liners. To have another western in your viewing resume – never a bad thing. The only real negative aspect is the woeful state of the soundtrack (not the music but the SOUNDS – voice, sound effects, etc etc.) but that shouldn’t stop you from seeking out this early 90’s western gem.

 

ANY BITS? Apart from subtle debauchery, reasonably excessive violence (but not gruesome – the state of the sound effects is likely to grosse you out more), and some addictive substance related behaviour, there’s nothing to worry about. Oh, come on! Its a western! -We all expect a bit of rough-and-tumble-type stuff – its all in context and true to the time.

 

THIS FILM GETS 3.5 GOLD STARS

recapping on all the movies I saw and forgot* to review

*Forgot more refers to a lack of time for such activities as writing on goldstars, or a lack of motivation, or a …. wanting to do other things (I’ve kind of hit that wall I usually hit after doing something for a while – the new and exciting thing [goldstars] is losing its shininess and I’m getting a bit bored with it). 

ANYWAY – Here for you are some goldstar mini reviews, I’ll give you the title and one or two noteworthy points, and the gold star rating:

RUN FATBOY RUN (Comedy)Plots along like a typical mid-90’s romantic comedy with the charming and very british humour of Simon Pegg and Dylan Moran. 

THIS FILM GETS 3.25 GOLD STARS.

 Feel free to ask for more… on this or any of the following “mini reviews”

 

 LEONARD COHEN: I’M YOUR MAN  (doco)

A well crafted documentary on one of the greatest song writers of the 20th century.  Though the vision switching in the concert scenes was very amateurish.

THIS FILM GETS 3 GOLD STARS.

 

DEFINITELY, MAYBE (rom-com) 

Adam Brooks tries to do a new take on a well-worn story we all know by heart – he kinda succeeds – at a pinch. A great movie to see to learn how NOT to focus pull (in one scene the focus is pulled correctly to the CHEST area of the female actor framed in a mid shot while her face is left somewhat fuzzy – Marita and I couldn’t stop laughing).

THIS FILM GETS 2.5 GOLD STARS. 

 

DEATH DEFYING ACTS (romance/drama)

I was fortunate enough to see this film with an introduction by its Australian director, Gillian Armstrong.  And I hope I am not tainted by that when I suggest that this film was well acted – Pearce is exceptional – and the narrative is warmly engaging and is nicely reminiscent of Armstrong’s other work.

THIS FILM GETS 3.75 GOLD STARS

 

Science des reves, La (or less fancily) SCIENCE OF SLEEP  (niche comedy)

My favourite director pulls another one out of his hat (of weirdness). Needs a few viewings, but if you’re a fan of Gondry’s other work, especially Eternal Sunshine (…) you’ll fall in love with this vision of obscurity and absurdity in the vein of a classic dream-like trance, as realised as only Gondry could.   

THIS FILM GETS 4.25 GOLD STARS

 

THE BUCKET LIST (comedy)

Hmm… Nicholson shows he’s still got the stuff. But using Freeman as narrator, surely this format is getting a bit weary. Oddly a feel good film despite (spoiler alert!) the death of both characters by the time the credits roll. Though I haven’t done any research to substantiate this claim I would assume that this film will be praised by Christian groups for its moral/family message. 

THIS FILMS GETS 2.25 GOLD STARS

 

VANTAGE POINT (comedy/action)

 I feel director, Pete Travis would be horrified at my classification of his first feature film as comedy but laughter was the predominant reaction in the audience I saw this film with. Certainly a very different cinema experience – and therefore I am reluctant to bag it out – Vantage Point should help you appreciate coverage and the choices of directors, editors and DOPs (director of photography/cinematographer) more. 

THIS FILM GETS 2.75 GOLD STARS.

 

THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL (period drama)A departure from history for the historically illiterate. Too harsh? Fine acting and a compelling script are this film’s strong points. Bana was slightly disappointing and the framing choices of director Justin Chadwick left me wondering (however they were imaginative). 

THIS FILM GETS 3.75 GOLD STARS. 

 

BE KIND REWIND (comedy)

Gondry’s latest offering was anticipated by yours truly for a good 8 or so months so its final revelation (on my birthday I might add!) was a bit disappointing, however it was rather brilliant. You always expect more from the best. Possibly too much Jack Black but the creativity of Gondry continues to blow me away.  

THIS FILM GETS 4.25 GOLD STARS

 

HORTON HEARS A WHO!(children’s/comedy) 

A highly enjoyable cartoon with great voice talents. The comedy is drawn out of the original story by the Dr. creatively and smartly. The coupling of Carrey and Carell was swell casting. The homage to Japanese anime was a treat!

THIS FILM GETS 3.5 GOLD STARS.  

 

SEMI-PRO (comedy – Ferrell comedy) The highly anticipated (and publicised) next comedy from Will Ferrell & co was a disappointment, with the trailer showing its better parts. Not that I’m a swearing-nazi but there was a dramatic increase in the number of “curse words” used in this Ferrell film, and it therefore seemed to lack the creative writing and “wordsmithery” (if you will) of the likes of Anchorman or Talledega Nights 

THIS FILM GETS 2.75 GOLD STARS. 

 

Phew!!! Now I think I’m all up to date. From now on I’ll try and post a more substantial review (without going overboard). If you want additional info on any of the films listed PLEASE ask me.  

RENDITION

posterNow I, once again, feel at pains (mainly a pain to me) to say that I missed the first little bit of this film and unlike 3:10 this film is directed by a non-american and therefore is arguably more intelligent (oh!) and refused to adequately recap for us tardy folk.So I’ll do my best to review this film, however it won’t be a wholly whole and accurate review…

The Set up? Egyptian born chemical engineer (Anwar) living in the US with a green card and am American wife and son is taken by officials at an airport as he’s returning home. Anwar El-Ibrahimi is suspected of being involved in a bombing that occurred in an Islamic country (that killed many including an American CIA operative). Under US legislation passed under the Clinton administration the American government give themselves the right to hold suspects indefinitely outside the US in order to extract terrorist related information. Anwar is stolen away to the country of the crime and his wife Isabella searches for answers. There’s also an intriguing subplot that I think you’ll get a lot more out of if I say – .

 

CAST? 

Omar Metwally is Anwar – though he doesn’t feature in the film’s propaganda and doesn’t get billing I rate him as the stand out in this film. He also plays the character the film is based around.walking and talking

Resse Witherspoon plays his wife Isabella. I used to love Reese but ever since the Oscar she seems to be dawdling. She’s good in this but not great. She doesn’t hit the my-husband’s-been-taken-away-by-my-government-on-the-basis-of-exactly-no-hard-evidence-and-I’m-“cheesed”-off nail on the head. She was probably distracted by her new love interest…(not that I buy into all that crap)

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Douglas Freeman, the CIA agent who takes over from his colleague who was killed in the bomb blast. He oversees the ‘interrogation’ of Anwar resulting in self-loathing but ultimately compassion. Gyllenhaal pulls this off well. He’s proving himself to be quite a fine actor, but similarly to his sister – he often plays abnormal characters – they’re always the same shade of abnormal.

Peter Sarsgaard plays Alan Smith, assistant to Senator Hawkins and formal college mate of Isabella and Anwar. He’s the first person Isabella comes to when she seeks to find out what happened to her husband. It is plain to the audience that Alan still holds a torch for Isabella. As usual, Sarsgaard pulls out the good stuff – hitting the perfect pitch in his performance.

Alan Arkin plays Hawkins,  the left-wing sympathising Senator who seems keen for social change but only if and when it will actually work.And of course we can’t forget the ever-bloody-brilliant

Meryl Streep who is Corrine Whitman, head of the CIA and defender of the greater good. Streep is icy cold and straight down the line as Whitman – did I mention brilliant?! (But when isn’t she?).

German posterWHY SHOULD YOU SEE THIS FILM? Well if I’ve got my timing wrong – which I think I do on this occasion – you’ll either already have seen it or will have to wait until DVD by now. But you should see this film if you enjoy/get something out of looking at the politiking and state of current events in our world. Although you might not get that much out of it. Without wanting to give it away – I agree with David Stratton (of At The Movies – oh, totally podcastable!) that the movie would be far better if it was less ambiguous as to the guilt (or lack thereof) of Anwar. It makes it too neat, too perfect in the end and therefore true blue lefties won’t like it. Its a bit too one sided in the end – doesn’t give the other side of the argument a proper hearing – narratively speaking.

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Doesn’t really matter so much for this one. But save it for the over 16’s would be my suggestion.

ANY BITS?  Ummm….did I mention “interrogation”? Put on Uncle Sam’s hat and use your imagination.

 

THIS FILM GETS 3.5 GOLD STARS.

THE KINGDOM

posterI finally saw this film on DVD the other day. When I first saw the trailer I was intrigued. I love movies that explore topical issues, especially if they are coming from the Hollywood machine.

Then there was the thing that Michael Mann was one of the producers. As a director I have really appreciated his work so I started to get excited about The Kingdom.

Then I heard it was basically a action film so I lost interest and, yeah, only saw it the other day on DVD.

I wished I had seen it on the big screen.

THE SET UP? After an attack in an American compound by radical Islamic suicide bombers in Saudi Arabia, four FBI agents head to the Kingdom to find the masterminds behind the bombing(s) and bring them to justice (read: killing them). Things get complicated when they end up in harms way.

THE CAST?
Jamie Foxx is doing his thing as Ronald Fleury, the FBI division leader who takes the team to Saudi Arabia.
farisAshraf Barhom – I wanna give guy the billing he deserves, in the film (and consequently on IMDB) he got billing after the four actors playing FBI agents. This actor you’ve never heard of is exceptional in this film. I had never seen him in anything before The Kingdom but look out for more from this talented actor in the future. Barhom plays Colonel Faris Al Ghazi, the Saudi police officer charged with ‘babysitting’ the FBI agents. Barhom is able to invoke such empathy in the audience for his character and his character’s situation – more than any other actor in the film.
the crew> Chris Cooper is near his Adaptation-best as bomb expert Grant Sykes.
Jennifer Garner does her best to be un-Sydney Bristow -like as CSI type Janey Mayes. Garner is quite good in this, she shows that she is capable of acting outside of her type-cast, though that may sound hard to believe (considering the genre of this film) and not be the central character.
Jason Bateman plays computer/analyst geek Adam Leavitt. I like Bateman, he can practically do no wrong – he does seem slightly out of place in this film because of his comedic and irreverent recent past, but he still does the job well.
Jeremy Piven does HIS thing as fast talking US diplomat on the ground in the Kingdom, there to get the FBI agents out and back on home asap.
Piven has the best line in the film: [to Janet Mayes while preparing her to meet the Saudi Prince] Can we dial down the boobies? [Mayes is wearing a cream tank top (presumably with t-shirt bra) and cargo pants].

WHY YOU SHOULD SEE THIS FILM? While this film could be described as primarily an action film, it was never intended that way – it was intended to be an exploration into Middle Eastern politics and the extent of US involvement in the oil riddled lands. This film shows both sides to the issue, looking at what it all means for the Americans and the muslims (this is the Middle Eastern perspective shown in the film). The final lines of the film are exquisite in their irony and respective selfish perspectives. Merely as an exercise in learning more about the world we live in I’d recommend The Kingdom. All technical aspects of the film are also well done.

poster 2 WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Anyone who likes controversial films or action films. However it would be better to see it with people who enjoy controversial films so you can have a debrief about it afterwards.

ANY BITS TO KNOW ABOUT? Lots of action – bombs, gunfire. There is a reasonable amount of swearing thrown around – but it is highly amusing to see how the Saudi police officers react to the ‘profanities’.

THIS FILM GETS 3.5 GOLD STARS