Thursday, March 31, 2016

When A Man Ranks The Batman Films

       Let me start by saying that I've always been a longtime fan of Batman. From my early years of  childhood to present day, no other comic book hero has left an impact on me the way this character has done so. What makes Batman such a great hero is that unlike all the other comic book and superheroes, he DOESN'T need superpowers to win and his stories are constantly one endless battle of good vs evil. Batman always wins because no matter what happens, he stands by his morals and codes. Growing up, the first two Michael Keaton Batman movies left a huge impact on my childhood making me become engulfed in the character. Christopher Nolan's Dark knight Trilogy in my humble opinion, takes the comic book genre and turns it upside down on it's head showing that comic book movies can be more than just flash but serious, thought-provoking, and even great films worthy of Academy Award recognition. I thought since Batman vs Superman has just barely made it into theaters and everyone is reevaluating their rankings of the best Batman films and performances with the addition of Ben Affleck into the mix, I felt that the timing was perfect for me to do my own ranking of all the major Batman films I've seen from best to worst. With every ranking, I give brief reasoning's behind why I chose one film over the other as well as the highs and the lows of each Batman film. With that much being said, I give you my own personal rankings of the Batman films I've seen.

1. The Dark Knight

I don't think this is a really a surprise to anyone at this point. Truth be told if you ask a bunch of your friends what their favorite Batman film is, most are going to flat out say The Dark Knight with their main reasoning behind Heath Ledger's incredible performance as The Joker. Of the three Batman films in the Christopher Nolan trilogy, The Dark Knight, feels like the crown jewel of the bunch as well as being the crown jewel of Batman films in general. The opening bank robbery scene is amazing with major inspiration being lifted from Michael Mann's Heat. The film balances it's action with grand storytelling perfectly and keeps the Joker on the sidelines, making him appear and disappear like the shark from Jaws. When Ledgers Joker appears on screen, the audience is engulfed in his brilliant performance, and when he disappears the audience waits anxiously for his return. The second best performance out of the entire film is Aaron Eckhart's performance as Harvey Dent aka Two Face. He makes for a perfect combination of a man with two different sides to him, and often steals scenes that Ledgers not in such as the climatic sequence involving Batman, Commissioner Cordon, and Gordon's child. Not to mention the film is also one of the fastest 2.5 hour movies I've ever sat through in the cinema, and the script brings up some thought provoking and ethical questions such as what would a person do if they were on a boat set to explode and their only means of surviving is to blow up the other boat. Would you do it? The writing, directing, and genius acting speaks high volumes about the greatness of this movie with his weakest points being Christian Bales over the top Batman voice. He makes for a terrific Bruce Wayne but one wishes Nolan had Bale tone down the raspy voice. The finale with Batman taking the blame for Dents murder and running from the cops is one of the most powerful movie endings in cinema, as well as giving the story it's proper closure. You almost don't need to watch The Dark Knight Rises to see if Batman regains his innocence or not. More on that one later. The Dark Knight until further notice remains the definitive Batman film of all time as well as the greatest comic book movie ever made garnering 8 Academy Award nominations, a record feat that no comic book film since then has came close to matching with a well deserved win for Ledgers unforgettable take on The Joker.
2. Batman 1989.

Before The Dark Knight, there was Tim Burtons 1989 blockbuster classic Batman starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Before there was Christian Bale and Heath Ledger donning the title roles, there was only these two who blew the socks off audiences at the cinema during this films initial release. This movie was hyped very much like The Dark Knight and turned out to be an enormous success for Warner Brothers, becoming the second major comic book franchise in existence after Christopher Reeves Superman movies burned out. What makes Batman 1989 a great movie and a classic 27 years later is how spontaneous and utterly badass it is. No one thought Michael Keaton could pull off being The Dark Knight upon the announcement of his casting but here he proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he is Batman. The film doesn't bother with giving his character a proper origin story much like Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins did, and just begins with Batman terrorizing the criminals of Gotham one month into his reign. Keaton's Batman is dark, mysterious, terrorizing, and undeniably cool all rolled into one. His suit is completely old school and Batmobile is unforgettable. Jack Nicholson's Joker, is the second greatest behind Heath Ledgers and here he's portrayed more as complete psychopath. Burton directs this film with a great deal of energy and imagination, giving it a pace that moves fairly quick and never stops for a beat. Batman 1989 is the second greatest Batman movie behind The Dark Knight because much like that film, it gets right to the point and never waste its time on useless subplots. The romance in this movie doesn't feel tacked on but appropriate with Kim Basinger playing a desireable Vicky Vale who questions the kind of person Bruce Wayne presents himself to be. Danny Elfman's electrifying score also outdoes Hans Zimmer's theme to this day, and gives the film an incredible adrenaline rush. Batman 1989 is the ideal comic book film of it's time as it delivers on dark spectacle, thrills, great fan service, and two iconic performances even if the villain at times overshadows the main character but that's also the case with Heath Ledgers Joker in The Dark Knight. A near flawless movie which remains to this day as being one of the greatest blockbuster films ever made.

3. Batman Begins
Before The Dark Knight, there was this little film that many audiences overlooked in 2005 titled Batman Begins also starring Christian Bale in the title role along with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Wilkinson. Unlike that film, this movie had a smaller budget and no major villains as it gave complete attention in regards to telling the origin story of how Bruce Wayne became The Dark Knight. Batman Begins, is the film that was very much needed after the disastrous results of Joel Schumacher's 1997 critical dud Batman and Robin, a film so bad it killed the careers of Alicia Silverstone and Chris O Donnell, and left Batman in development hell for 8 years before finally getting off the ground again,. Batman Begins is unquestionably the greatest reboot film ever made as well as being the definitive origin story for the character. What makes the film special is it gives audiences answers to questions they had while watching Michael Keaton's Batman films such as where did Batman get those wonderful toys and where did he learn how to fight? Nolan being a longtime James Bond fan, brought some of that to the table with the invention of Morgan Freeman's character serving as a D.C comics version of Q for Bruce Wayne. What makes Batman Begins such a great movie, is it understands the essence of the character it's glorifying, and makes his journey towards becoming Batman a personal one for the audience. This is essentially The Fellowship Of The Ring for Nolan's Batman saga as it proves to be smart, intelligent, well-filmed, dark, brutal, but most importantly it got the character down absolutely right. As Roger Ebert put it eloquently in his review for Batman Begins, it was the first Batman film for him to get it right, to get it ABSOLUTELY right. As great of a film Begins is, Tim Burton's 1989 Batman still stands slightly above it for being more legendary and iconic. Begins has a few issues in regards to how it's fighting scenes are filmed with poor choreography and Katie Holmes performance as Rachael Dawes brings it down a notch. Still, fans should realize that without Batman Begins, there'd be no Dark Knight and sometimes you need to go backwards in order to move forward.

4. Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm

Ah yes, who could forget about Batman: The Mask Of The Phantasm. Before there was Batman Begins, Batman: The Mask Of The Phantasm, was the definitive origin story of the Batman and Bruce Wayne tale. One almost wishes that this was a live action movie that was the undisclosed Batman 3 to Michael Keaton and Tim Burtons films. It would've been the perfect way to close out their batch of movies as this one shows Bruce Wayne reflecting on a past lover named Andrea Beaumont who got away from him and helped push him to become The Dark Knight we know him as of today. While reiminiscing, Bruce investigates a series of murders involving mobsters committed by a vigilante named The Phantasm with the police assuming Batman committed the acts. Meanwhile The Joker hovers in the background with connections to the mob members that are being hunted down by the Phantasm. This movie is an essential Batman film because what it does so great at the time of it's release is it showcases Bruce's humanity with key moments such as him at his parents grave in the rain begging them to let him live a normal life with Andrea and let the police handle the crime, or Bruce completing his first mission as a crime fighting vigilante, and the police chase he endures later on in the movie. What makes The Mask Of The Phantasm succeed where many of the live action adaptations of Batman were lacking at the time is it gave the character the origin story that was needed as well as showcasing his human side. The film is deeply and admirably respectful of the source material and can be taken seriously as an emotional drama despite the animated part of it.

5. Batman Returns

One of the pinnacle movies of my childhood growing up. As a kid, I preferred Batman Returns over Batman 1989 but as time goes on, I see the greatness as well as the flaws between the two films and find Batman Returns to be slightly below Tim Burtons movie. Batman Returns, is a great sequel to the first Tim Burton movie with Danny Devito and Michelle Pfeiffer playing unforgettable roles as both The Penquin and Catwoman. The film is much darker than the first film Burton directed making the movie look like a twisted circus nightmare that just happens to have Batman in it. While the script may not be as well written as the first movie and the central villains may indeed overshadow Batman at times, Returns has some terrific Batman moments that ring true to the comics and the character. Examples are Bruce Wayne sitting alone in his mansion waiting for a reason to go out and fight crime and the shining of the Bat Signal into his living room with him stepping into the light is profound. Other great sequences are Selina Kyle's transformation into Catwoman, Catwoman and Batman's first fight, their first kiss under the missletoe, the ballroom dance scene where they both discover each others identities, Bruce unmasking for Selina, and the final scene which is a darker and more depressed version of the ending of Breakfast At Tiffanys with Bruce being alone in the alley with Selinas cat. Danny Elfmans music is also much better this time around, and the romance between Catwoman and Batman is steamier than what is shown between Bruce and Vicky Vale in the first Batman movie. Burton's dark and brooding atmosphere along with Keaton's performance as a tragic hero, the insane yet perfect casting of Devito, Pfeiffer and even Christopher Walken as Selina Kyles boss max Schrek make Batman Returns one of the most iconic Batman films to date. I go back and forth some nights on whether this film was better than Batman 1989 but in the end, I feel Batman 1989 wins over this as well as Batman Begins and Mask Of The Phantasm. The story drifts away too much from Batman at times.

6. The Dark Knight Rises.

Perhaps the most divisive film of Christopher Nolan's otherwise stellar Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises takes place 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight with a retired Bruce Wayne being summoned once more to fight a terrorist named Bane, who has connections to the League Of Shadows, a group that trained Bruce in the first movie led by Ra's Al Ghoul and later turned out to be bent on destroying Gotham. The Dark Knight Rises, is made more so as a sequel to Batman Begins than The Dark Knight as this film mentions Harvey Dent but never of The Joker. Rises greatest strengths are showing a more eccentric side of Bruce Wayne even if his retirement seems a bit far fetched given how The Dark Knight ended. Anne Hathaway gives a terrific performance as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman with Joseph Gordon Levitt stealing the show as a Robin type figure named John Blake. Michael Caine is the true star of the film giving a heartfelt performance as Bruce's longtime Butler and father figure named Alfred. The few scenes that Caine has pierces into the hearts of comic book fans everywhere as you truly do feel that this man looks upon Bruce as his own son and wants what's best for him. A lot has been said about The Dark Knight Rises from it's endless amount of questionable plot holes to it's no mention of The Joker policy. Many fans think the film is a satisfying finish to the Nolan trilogy while many others wish that Nolan went a different route with how he chose to end the story. I personally would've preferred Riddler as the main villain as he feels more consistent with Joker, but Bane is great nevertheless. Talia Al Ghoul, one wishes she was fleshed out more but her big reveal scene is one of the films best acted scenes. Rises is a good finish to Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy although one will wish that Nolan did things a little differently.

6. Batman vs Superman

 Much like The Dark Knight Rises, this film is very divisive among comic book fans. While this movie isn't entirely focused on Batman as it pairs him up with Superman and WonderWoman, the Batman side of the story with Ben Affleck and Jeremy Irons is one of the best we've seen on film thus far. Affleck gives a great performance as The Dark Knight with a quick flashback origin scene that feels similar to the one shown in Nolan's Batman Begins as well as a great introduction for the character of Bruce Wayne. Affleck gives us a merciless man whose more terrifying and creepier than Christian Bales bringing back the spirit of Michael Keaton's. One factor that may put off some fans of the comic book is that Batman actually KILLS in this movie compared to Bales Batman who stated that what separates him from the other criminals is that he won't kill them. Ben Affleck and Jeremy Irons Bruce and Alfred feel so much like the characters we've grown up seeing from the Animated cartoon series that aired on FOX back in the 1990s. This Alfred isn't afraid to throw witty remarks back at Bruce but also demonstrates that he does care about him. He also delivers his Michael Caine wise Alfred moment where he tells Bruce that Superman is not his enemy and shouldn't be concerned about him. The scenes between Batman and Superman in the movie are terrific even if the fight itself is a bit shortchanged given the anticipation and build up to it. Regardless of what one person feels about Batman Vs Superman as a whole movie, they'll be hard pressed to not think that Affleck is one of the best interpretations of the character we've ever had. I look forward to his solo film with great interest.
 7. Batman Forever                                                             

I feel like Batman Forever gets an unnecessary bad rap with people. There was actually a time  where this movie was looked upon in high regard, certainly not as high as the Tim Burtons first Batman movie but def more so than Batman Returns upon it's release. Batman Returns proved to be too dark for children and many parents complained about the merchandise being sold for it at McDonalds for kids meals given how dark the movie is. The filmmakers instead decided to make Batman in a much lighter tone and hired Joel Schumacher to take the reigns as director once Tim Burton stepped down. Schumacher hired Elliot Goldenthal as the composer of this film in the place of Danny Elfman and created a more heroic theme for Batman that goes in line with the superhero aspect of the story. Batman Forever's reputation has steadily declined over the years due to being associated with Batman And Robin with George Clooney that came out two years after Forever and essentially killed the old Batman franchise. Because of Batman Forevers association with Batman And Robin, audiences look down upon it and outcast it from the list of good and decent Batman movies. Batman Forever, still remains a fun and lighter toned Batman film than what was seen before it. Sure Tommy Lee Jones Two Face is awful in comparison to Aaron Eckhart's more serious approach but Jim Carrey is terrific as Riddler and Chris O Donnell steals the show as Robin. The Batmobile looks sicker than ever and Val Kilmer is certainly no Michael Keaton but gives a solid performance as Bruce Wayne, even if some of his lines are borderline ridiculous. Examples are the rooftop scene with Nicole Kidman where he asks her "You trying to get under my cape doctor." Batman Forever garnered three Academy Award nominations including Best Cinematography, and popularized Seals hit song Kiss From A Rose. Batman Forever is a decent Batman film which deserves some slack as it's a far better film than the one that came after it.
8. Batman The Movie 1966

There's only one line that sums this movie up perfectly. It's delivered by the Caped Crusader himself. "An exploding shark...WAS pulling my leg." That's all that really can be said to describe the campy tone of this movie. This is by no means a dark and serious Batman film like the others but totally bathes in the campy and fun nature of the 1960s. If you were a child growing up watching this movie, then it was heaven. I used to rent this film from Blockbuster video all the time as a kid. I loved it, I loved Lee Meriwether as Catwoman along with the combination of all four villains teaming up to destroy Batman such as Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, and Penguin,. This movie is a blast and makes no effort to hide it's true nature which is tongue-in check humor while turning it's camp into an art form, as well as cult classic status. Batman: The Movie 1966 is nowhere as strong of a Batman movie as the others listed but its damn good fun if you watch it with the right mind state.

9. Batman Beyond: The Return Of The Joker


 If you are or ever were a fan of the animated cartoon show called Batman Beyond that aired on WB network, then this movie is one to cherish as a piece of Batmsn cinema. While not as good as The Mask of the Phantasm, the film takes the Batman Beyond concept of an older Batman training a younger person to be his successor Mask of Zorro style and throws an old enemy into the mix such as The Joker. One could watch Return Of The Joker after Batman 1989 and the stories would connect nicely since its Joker looking for revenge against Batman. Kevin Conroy who did the voice of Batman in Mask Of The Phantasm and Mark Hamill as The Joker are the souls of this movie. If you're a fan of Batman Beyond the TV show then this movie is not to be missed. I've seen this film fewer times than the others which explains its low ranking even though I endorse it to fans. 
10. Batman And Robin

Generally considered the worst of all Batman films as well as the worst of all Superhero movies as well as the WORST of all movies period, Batman And Robin proudly reigns as being the worst movie of this entire list even though I tend to put it in the category of "It's so bad it's good" type of movie. This is not great filmmaking even in the slightest but the film is so damn awful it's great to watch especially if you had a few drinks. This movie completely ditches the dark tone of past Batman movies for a much lighter one with the soul intention of selling toys to kids. This movie lacks a soul and feels like a commercial film, that has one objective which is to sell action figures. That's such a shame because the first Batman film began with huge promise and ended on an epic note. For Burton to start the way he did so amazingly well and the series end here is heartbreaking but sometimes it takes the most awful things to happen to force out the best things which in this case are The Dark Knight trilogy and Ben Affleck's version of Batman. This may be one of the most important comic book movies ever made because it showed what NOT to do when doing a comic book adaptation but to forever insist that if you're going to do one, you do it right. This movie is not a good film cinematically, but if you look at it from the standpoint of it's so awful it's great then you'll have a great time with it.
                                                                                               9 out of 10 for being so awful its great.
                                                                                                Real Film 3 out of 10

Risen movie review

So I finally got to see Risen:
      I first heard about this movie when I saw a poster for it on the wall of my local movie theater back in November of 2015. I instantly took interest in this film because of the angle it's approaching the Resurrection of Christ from, which is the perspective of the Roman soldiers. What really caught my eye with this film is hearing that the filmmakers intended for this movie to be a direct sequel to Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ since that movie ended with the audience seeing Christ resurrect and walk out of the tomb. That made me very anxious to see this film as I greatly enjoyed Mel Gibson's Biblical epic, and still consider it to be one of the greatest and most moving cinema experiences the Cinema ever had. The hype behind that films release was insane, and I knew going into this one that it was not going to be duplicated. Still, the idea that the filmmakers intended for this movie to be a sequel to The Passion Of The Christ, shows that they were thinking about more things than just the money but also knew where the bar was set and made some kind of attempt to meet it. Gibson's film regardless of how people feel about the filmmaker in reality was made with a labor of passion and love for the subject matter. Going into Risen, I was hoping for the exact same thing from these filmmakers. Did these filmmakers deliver on their promise of this being an effective sequel to Passion, and does it have the same kind of impact of that film? The most appropriate answer is not exactly but it wasn't a total letdown either.
      Risen can best be described as a movie with good intentions and an intent to become something that can be viewed upon as being meaningful to the audience watching the film, The film does feel like it tries to match up with passion as some of the key actors in this movie look like the one's playing the same kind of characters from Mel Gibson's film such as the actors playing Jesus, Pontius Pilate, and Mary Magdeleine. The story takes place in 33 AD where a Roman Tribune named Clavius is tasked by Pontius Pilate to find the missing body of Christ when rumors began to surface that he rose from the dead. The whole central focus of this film is on Clavius played by Joseph Fiennes and his right hand man Lucius played by Tom Felton, as they do their investigating and trying to make sense of the situation presented to them. Clavius from the start clearly doesn't believe in any of the stories about Christ's miracles and feels that his followers are touched in the head, but as the film develops, he begins to question for himself the loyalty of Christ's followers who would give their life for believing in him. The true power of the movie kicks in when Clavius discovers for himself the truth behind the crucifixion and resurrection, and becomes a believer himself. Joseph Fiennes gives a fairly restraint performance but brings a likeability to the role that makes the audience connect with his character. The idea that the story unfolds in the eyes of a nonbeliever but ends with him becoming a follower of Christ is a story that's both unique and worth telling, especially if it's from the side of the Roman soldiers. Risen may very well be one of the best Biblical films since The Passion Of The Christ as this movie is much lighter in tone and straight-forward than many faith-based films since 2004. It's greatest strength is it's story which takes The Greatest Story Ever Told and puts an interesting spin on it as the aftermath of the Resurrection has never been quite told before on the big screen like this. It also helps that this movie has strong production values such as the Art-Set Decoration, and Costume Design, something that really made Mel Gibson's movie standout as being visually striking. The score is strong as well and the film moves at a steady pace pulling you into it's story while ending it at a point where you're left reflecting on the concept at hand. The best analogy for Risen, is that it often feels like a police drama that doesn't feel heavy handed with it's Christian message, and is accompanied by terrific production values.
      With all the pros of this film, there is also some negative side effects to the film such as some of the acting coming off as being poor by some of the supporting characters in this movie such as the disciple Peter played by Steward Scudamore and Mary Magdeleine played by Maria Botto.. The acting by a lot of the minor character's isn't as effective as it could be While one certainly feels that there was a good amount of effort that went into this film and great care taken with the story, it's not on the kind of level that Mel Gibson brought towards The Passion Of The Christ. Passion was acted to perfection, looked gorgeous, had great technical traits, and left an impression on moviegoers long after exiting the theater. The film also garnered three Academy Award nominations for Best Music, Cinematography, and Makeup. It still remains the most successful R rated film in box office history domestically, giving further proof that Gibson more than exceeded what he set out to do with that story. That should be the barrier for any religious film going forward since it's release to have that kind of impact on pop culture. Risen is not going to be the film that does that but it's no failure either. One just wishes that more passion and flare went into this project than what we see on the screen to leave a bigger impact with audiences.
      Overall, Risen is worth watching if you are familiar with the story of Christ and want to see the story of his Resurrection told from a different angle than what's typically shown in past films. If you are a non believer going into this film, you may appreciate it as a piece of filmmaking but be left cold by it's intended message as this film works better for those who know about the story going in. Risen's message is that Christ's death and Resurrection changed the lives of so many under Roman rule during that 40 day period after the Resurrection. One wishes that the filmmakers went more in depth with the life changing experience that many of Christ's followers experienced after the crucifixion. Much like the 1953 Richard Burton film titled The Robe, this movie takes similar inspiration in showing a Roman Tribune going from a nonbeliever into a believer through the power of remorse, regret, and ultimately having faith. Telling the story from the side of the romans was a great idea and the film does feel like it could be watched after The Passion Of The Christ, but one also feels after watching it that it could've been so much closer to that film in terms of overall impact.
                                                                                                                                                     7 /10 


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Race Movie Review

Just got back from seeing Race
      I first heard about the story of Jesse Owens when I was taking film classes during my sessions at San Francisco State University. Through my Film And The Holocaust and Documentary And Film classes, I learned about Owens, the 1936 Olympics that he ran in under Hitler's regime, and Leni Riefenstahl's film she made based around the Olympics titled Olympia. When I heard that this movie was getting released, I was excited because I learned about this story while in College and hoped that the filmmakers would do it justice. Watching the trailer for this movie, it struck me as being very similar to another inspirational sports movie titled 42, the Jackie Robinson story starring Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman. Race and 42 share the same parallel of two up and coming African American athletes, one a runner, and the other a Baseball player being handpicked by their managers that happen to be compassionate and successful businessmen with big visionary dreams. Both athletes excel in their professions but have to go toe to toe with racism, and people trying to sabotage their winning streaks at every turn. This story centers around Jesse Owen's quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history but in doing so, he becomes pushed into the world stage of the 1936 Olympics which is being used as a political tool by Berlins chancellor Adolf Hitler with the objective of promoting Aryan supremacy. Right off the bat, this film is aiming for that 42 inspirational and dramatic feel of good triumphing over evil with the backdrop being a major sports event. So the question on everyone's mind reading this review is did Race live up to it's promise and name? The answer is a very enthusiastic YES.
      Race is a strong and effective drama, that works because of the power of it's source material and the strong performances from it's stellar cast among the likes of Stephan James as Jesse Owens, Jason Sudeikis as Owens manager, Jeremy Irons as Owens ally Avery Brundage, and Carice Van Houten as Leni Riefenstahl, the infamous female filmmaker at the time who made the 1936 film Olympia. These key players all work beautifully off each other in showing the struggle Owens character had to endure during his time in Berlin as well as the politics behind the Olympics involving the Nazi regime. While it can be argued that the movie can never fully capture the glory and thrills of the real life event, this film does a beautiful job of showing the historic event while informing the audience about the history of the event. This was a significant race because Hitler's hope of the Aryans being looked upon as the definitive and ideal athletes was thwarted by Owens success. In terms of rich detail, the film flourishes with beautiful cinematography, art-set decoration as well as Costume Design. In regards to it's storyline, it's central focus is the race itself more so than the rest of Owens life which may come across as disappointing for some. The film does play off the traditional themes of a sports story/overcoming racism film such as determination, perseverance, and the will to succeed. One cannot deny that there was passion involved with telling this story as it's felt throughout the film, but perhaps there wasn't enough screen time to get this massively uplifting story told in just two hours. That's not mean't to be a huge criticism against the movie but just acknowledgement that the filmmakers did the best with the time that was given to them, although one wishes they tried to give more insight into the life of Owens.

      Regardless of the movies flaws, one things remains forever certain. This is an emotionally powerful and very inspiring true story about a man fighting not one war but two. He's fighting the war in which he must tango with a regime that refuses to acknowledge his talent simply because he's African American, while also representing his country that also views him as a social outcast or inferior during that time period. As one of Owens family members puts it eloquently in the film, if Owen wins the gold medal for completing the race then he will be just as hated if he chose not to go to Berlin in protest of the discrimination he received in America at the time. Jesse Owens was essentially a man, who society was going to be hard on regardless of which choice he made, but he made his decision and prevailed against all odds with humility, incredible strength, and determination. One of the films defining moments is when he receives assistance from one of the Aryan athletes on where he should make his leap during the race, followed by a scene of the two men on opposite sides having drinks together and talking about the differences between each others society and the Aryan athletes frustration with his government. This scene is poignant because it taps into the real issue the race is surrounded by, and shows two men on opposite sides putting aside their differences and playing against each other not just in the spirit of sports but also as friends. It is not just that scene but other suttle moments throughout the movie such as Owens and his manager becoming not just powerful allies but friends and Owens facing discrimination once he returned back to America as a reminder of the second battle he faces which makes this film memorable. Race is a great story told in a powerful film which deserves more attention and praise than what its received. Anyone who appreciates African American History, the Holocaust, or history in general will take a great liking to this movie as it's beautifully told and richly empowering with it's final message which says that racism is a horrible thing and that good will always triumph over evil. If you have a chance to see this movie then please do so. It's worth it.

10 Cloverfield Lane Review

Just got back from watching 10 Cloverfield Lane

      Let me start by saying even though this film doesn't have much ties to the first Cloverfield movie besides it's title, I found that film to be enjoyable and well made. From my understanding, it's within the same franchise but has a different plot to it. Whereas that movies story is based around found footage, this movie plays out like any other Science Fiction movie mixed with suspense and psychological thrills. What made the first Cloverfield such an awesome movie is that it combined Godzilla with The Blair Witch Project essentially, providing a pace that felt like a breeze with the combination of intense thrills, great suspense and some truly scary moments. The characters weren't fully developed but the audience was given just enough information about them to care about their ordeal. It was a clever concept that worked nicely upon it's release as well as being an inspiration for this movie on some level. 10 Cloverfield Lane has virtually nothing to do with that film but follows a similar pattern with monsters emerging in an unusual form. The story for this film centers around a young woman being held in a bunker with two questionable men after being involved in a car accident and rescued by one of the two men. The men inform her that the world outside is being massively infected by a chemical attack that's widespread with their only option being to remain in the basement and wait it out. As time goes on, the young girl begins to learn the real truth about the outside world as well as the men staying with her. Whereas Cloverfield gave us likeable and sympathetic characters that we cared for in the end just out of experience, this time we are given characters that we either come to care about or hate, and a climax which is not only an emotional payoff but provides a nice twist to an already well constructed and suspenseful film.
       10 Cloverfield Lane is a surprisingly exciting, well-crafted, intelligent, and genuinely engaging film that spells pure craftsmanship. The movie moves at a brisk pace just like Cloverfield except this time it's grounded to the confines of a house and basement. With this setting, we are given three main characters played exceptionally well by John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher Jr. These actors bring their A game to this picture and make the most out of what's mostly a one set location in the film. Of the three performances, Goodman and Winstead completely steal the show here as people who are forced to work together in order to survive or do they? Goodman is usually reduced to playing strong supporting characters but here he gives his all and gives us a character that the audience will keep going back and forth on. Winstead creates a likeable sympathetic character whose brought into this situation with no knowledge of what's going on as well as the men who are holding her in the basement, making the audience sympathize with her dilemma. This movie looks and feels like an episode of the Twilight zone with a Alfred Hitchcock like feel to its directing. What makes the script work so good, is that it creates an unbalanced alliance between these three characters with the audience knowing that there is a conflict brewing as well as mistrust between them, that can lead to a conflict brewing inside the household along with what's going on outside with the monster in question. The mood inside the bunker becomes more chilling as the film goes, deteriorating into something as thrilling as what the outside world brings in the films thrilling climax. For many people going into this movie, the story as well as the execution of it is going to be a genuine surprise as the film offers some great suspense that builds masterfully. Once the suspense starts to really kick in, it'll be extremely hard to take your eyes off the screen as everything unfolds and does so beautifully.
      Prior to seeing this film, I chose not to watch any of the films trailers nor read it's synopsis going into it and having seen the final finished product, I'm glad that I made that decision because it all worked out for the best. This is a fun movie that's a work of art and glorifies pure craftsmanship. The filmmakers give the audience very little information about the characters prior to the opening sequences as well as the situation brewing outside the bunker which is an excellent choice because it gives the film a great mystery feel to it. While the film itself is not a direct sequel to Cloverfield, I guess one can say that it takes place in the same universe. This is the kind of entertainment that will make audiences appreciate as well as love the creativity behind it. Sometimes a story as small and grounded in reality as this film does with the majority of it can prove to be just as exciting as going to watch  a big budget Hollywood movie. 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the year's best movies as well as being a welcoming film to audiences, as it provides hope that creativity and grounded filmmaking in Hollywood is still a thing and can be even more thought provoking than the typical summer blockbuster. If you like mystery, suspense, and a basic story told exceptionally well then don't miss this movie. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Deadpool Review

So I'm finally getting the chance to review Deadpool at last.
      Let me start by saying that prior to this film being released, I was not really excited to see this film, as I didn't have much background knowledge of this character nor cared much about the film coming out. I wasn't anticipating it's Valentines Day weekend release like everyone else was, and questioned the hype on some level. I mainly wanted to support it because it's the first R rated superhero movie from Marvel and I wanted the film to do well so it resurrects the R rated comic book movie trend. My interest in seeing this movie peaked when I heard so many people talking about how funny and awesome the movie was then saw it's box office numbers skyrocket the weekend it came out. What drew me to this film was curiosity about it, and the controversy over the hard R rating which the studio as well as the lead actor Ryan Reynolds, kept insisting that parents don't take their children to see this movie. The fact that it's an R rated movie, and one that's done by Marvel, is what caught my eye as people said it wasn't so much the violence that earned it it's R rating but the commentary by Deadpool himself. I was attracted to this film because of the word of mouth behind it, not the source material prior to the movie nor the marketing. I hardly knew anything about the characters past history going in so this was all new for me. I didn't try to research the character prior to seeing this movie as I wanted the experience to be spontaneous and surprise me in a good way. I actually thought the comedy in the trailers was rather forced until I saw the finished product for myself and realized how much fun and entertaining this movie is.
       Deadpool is one of those movies that surprises you with how well put together it is as well as how it takes censorship and throws it out the window essentially. This movie reminds me of Wesley Snipes 1998 film Blade in the sense that both films moved at a quick pace and injected large amounts of action, grittiness, profanity, and humor to the story. While this movie isn't the most graphic R rated comic book movie ever, it earns it's stripes as being an adult-themed Marvel movie because of the unapologetic humor this movie delivers along with being nostalgic to both movie buffs and comic book fans with it's references. This is by no means a family-friendly film as the lead character doesn't necessarily start out as a good guy, and older comic book fans are going to take delight in the fact that this character says whatever he wants, and is allowed to be as brutal as he wants to be without anything holding him back. He's also the first superhero to break the 4th wall and uses a lot of profane humor in gleeful fashion. The film is structured much like Blade in the sense where it gives you the basic origin story of how Ryan Reynolds character becomes Deadpool then just jumps into the action. It leaves the character at a point where you get to know what kind of person he is and see how people react to him with the promise of bigger and better things to come with the character in the future. Ryan Reynolds gives a funny and charismatic performance as the lead character, who often feels like perfect casting as the antihero. Reynolds is so good in this movie that he almost wipes the foul stench of Green Lantern from one's memory, ALMOST. What makes Deadpool a likeable character to many is that he is a normal guy who became a superhero for a short period of time if the situation called for it. The romance in this movie is nicely played out and never feels forced, giving audiences a glimpse into Reynolds character Wades humanity, as well as the hope that his love Vanessa, will find out his secret and understand what happened to him. Colossus makes for a strong supporting character who looks, acts, and is developed much better in this movie than in any X-MEN film his character was in. For a film that costed only $58 million to produce, a great deal was shown in the action and visual department. One almost feels confident that the studio was uneasy about how the film was going to perform at first being R rated and gave it a safe budget. Now that the film has made over $350 million domestically and counting, the budget for the next Deadpool movie will be larger. Still, for what the filmmakers had to go with, the action sequences that occur in this film are handled tastefully adding to the humor that comes from he main character in between the explosions.

      Deadpool is a film that's been released with absolute perfect timing if one were to ask for this reviewers opinion on it's success. The film comes at a time where many people in society are tired of traditional ways a comic book movie is done, and actually prefer a rebellious film that is vulgar, crude, unapologetic, disrespectful, downright hilarious, and gratuitously bloody. Make no mistake folks, Deadpool is one twisted character as he comes off as being a rude, self-confident outlier that some audiences may take offense to but many others will enjoy him for his no barred attitude. This is the movie that officially makes Ryan Reynolds into a Hollywood movie star as he does a fine job here making the audience fall in love with this character and root for him showing both his good and bad traits along with his humanity that is revealed during the films romantic subplot. The films greatest achievement is how much it's able to entertain it's audience within it's 100 minute running time. The film is never boring, and keeps the audience engaged as well as anxious in regards to what happens next. If you are someone who doesn't get turned off by over the top, raunchy, and profane humor then Deadpool is going to be a great deal of fun for you whether you see it at the cinema or in the comforts of your own home. If you are someone who doesn't prefer that type of humor than this movie is not exactly your cup of tea. The film is R rated for a reason and makes no attempt to sugarcoat it's source material which can be pretty graphic in terms of commentary. Deadpool is one of the best blockbusters of the year so far and a film that will surprise many with how entertaining and funny it is. It's certainly not a film for everyone but if you want a comic book movie that gets right to the point but does so with great fun, then this is the movie for you. Much like Blade, Deadpool serves a purpose of giving you a general outline of the story and it's character before upping the stakes with future inevitable sequels. Perhaps this is the film that comic book fans needed and secretly asked for because this movies box office and critical success proves that audiences are tired of being spoon fed the same exact thing over and over again and want to try something different. They want a hero who doesn't have to be totally good but someone who can get the job done in his own silly and often hilarious brand of justice while working to improve on his status as being an antihero as well as reconnecting with the woman he loves. By the end of the film, this character if closer to becoming a good guy than even he thought he wouldn't be possible. That's what I get out of watching Deadpool. It's essentially the comic book film that fans always wanted it to be and the fact that it's Rated R, gives the film no limits as to what buttons it can push with audiences.

Our characters for this evening:


Monday, March 28, 2016

London Has Fallen Review

Just got back from watching London Has Fallen with Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart:
      Let me start by saying that I enjoyed Olympus Has Fallen back upon seeing it in theaters in Spring 2013. While the film was no action movie classic, I found the plot to be entertaining and the fact that it had strong actors playing the main characters helped cover up the cartoonish aspects of it, such as the Koreans successfully overtaking the White House and defeating the Secret Service. I also enjoyed Roland Emmerich's White House Down with Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum, and found the villains to be more believable than the ones in Olympus Has Fallen. Of the two lead action heroes, Gerard Butler is the more appealing action hero with better acting skills. I dug Aaron Eckhart's character and found him to be a great President that I would vote for personally. I think Aaron Eckhart is one of the most underappreciated actors in Hollywood, especially after giving an outstanding performance as Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight. The first Fallen movie was far from original, but it delivered in the entertainment department thanks to Antoine Fuqua's intense directing and a strong performance from Gerard Butler. Truth be told, Olympus could've been Die Hard 5 technically with the whole claustrophobic feel of being trapped in the White House. Even White House Down's script could've also been used as the two are virtually the same movie. Upon hearing the news of a sequel being filmed to Olympus, one has to wonder about where they could possibly take the story from where the first movie ended without it coming across as being the exact same film with just a different location. Coming out of the theater to no one's surprise, the filmmakers behind London Has Fallen have chosen to essentially remake the first movie except place the setting in London this time. While that is not necessarily a bad thing to completely redo the first movie essentially, it's not a good thing either. Let me explain.
      London Has Fallen changes it's setting to London in hopes of the scope being bigger and more exciting than what was seen in Olympus Has Fallen but instead feels like a smaller film than the first movie. Maybe it's because the sequels synopsis is far from original and feels like a cheap repeat of the previous film, but this one just doesn't feel as exciting and fresh as the first movie. Gerard Butlers performance in this one is passable but he's not as engaging as he was in the first film. The first movie had his character trying to overcome loss and grief over not being able to save the Presidents wife when a situation turned tragic but here there's no real edge to his character rather than him protecting the President once again. Sure there's the subplot where he's considering retiring just because his wife is pregnant with his child but you never really see the struggle his character goes through prior to that point where he conflicts over his job and the need to be there for his family. This time him and the President  have become great friends and Butlers character can be viewed as being the Presidents right hand man. The only difference between the two films scenario wise is this time Gerard is a full on bodyguard to the President instead of fighting through bad guys in the White House to get to him. Aaron Eckhart's character is still a mesmerizing one to watch, giving us a leader that we can believe in and see ourselves rooting for. All the other supporting characters from the first movie such as Morgan Freeman, Robert Forster, and Angela Basset all return but their characters get shorter amounts of screen time and quite frankly don't come off as being nearly interesting. One of the main problems with this sequel is that it trades character development and expansion of plot for lots of action. There was something about Antoine Fuqua's directing that gave the first movie a sense of excitement while keeping you glued to the screen in terms of figuring out what is happening. London Has Fallen, relies on many recycled and tired clichés from 1990's action flicks to glue together a script that feel's incomplete and uninspired. There is nothing in this film besides the location that feels new to the story other than basically remaking the first one and doing it in a way where it comes off as being less entertaining. As cartoonish as the Korean terrorists from the first movie came off as being, at least they were developed throughout that film as the villains in these are never truly compelling with their sole mission is only to execute the President in front of the world with no answer as to why?
      Some action movies that turn out to be decent should just be left alone as one movie before the charm and storyline of that film is ruined by further attempts with making sequels. That is very much the case here with London Has Fallen. This movie is exactly the same as the first movie in terms of ripping off it's plot and it's location being in London backfires because the film feels much smaller in scope than the first movie. Even the patriotic music theme in this movie doesn't feel as inspired and patriotic as the first film. The plots are exactly the same but the execution of both films vary as this one feels more watered down and made with less effort than what went into Olympus. If you didn't care for the first Olympus Has Fallen movie then you're not going to be won over by this one. If you did find the first film to be enjoyable and plan to go into this movie with great anticipation, then the chances are you're going to either accept it for what it is or be disappointed on some level. The message behind Olympus Has Fallen was that America can be attacked from terrorists abroad but also has the ability to survive. London Has Fallen's message is a more patriotic punch with it saying that America and it's allies will combat and defeat terrorism worldwide due to the fighting spirit and skills of it's politicians and Secret Service agents. I wish Fuqua returned to direct this film as I felt the quality and script would've been more fleshed out like the first film was but reportedly, Antoine chose not to return to the direct the sequel as he found the script to be dissatisfying. Watching the end product, one certainly cannot blame him and there is the wish that they worked harder in that regard to get him back. London Has Fallen is mildly entertaining for being a duplicate of the first movie but certainly isn't on the same level as that film. The story relies a bit on xenophobia and every tired old clichés from the previous film such as traitors on the allies side helping the bad guys, and other action movies to make it's storyline appear as being thrilling when in actuality it's rather silly by this time around.  The film works best as being a Redbox rental if there's nothing else good on cable but if you feel that it's not even worth spending that much for, then just slip Olympus Has Fallen into the DVD player as you won't be missing anything new with this one. Believe me, you really won't.
Our characters for this evening: