Friday, July 27, 2012

Oscar Watch 2012


Matthew Mcconaughey has never been nominated for an Oscar. It might be because not many people take the 42 year old actor so seriously, what with all the shirtless paparazzi shots taken of him over the years and the flamboyant partying he is so well know of doing. Well guess what? In Steven Sodebergh’s Magic Mike Mcconaughey is –yes- shirtless and does in fact still have that party animal instinct in him yet he resonates deeply in the viewer’s mind as Dallas, the owner of a male strip club that dreams of one day hitting it big with his business. It’s an incomparable, scene stealing performance that shows us the great depth the actor can have if given the right role. Dallas is a man that knows how to make money and understands the business he is in. It is also not a coincidence that Dallas is the first person we see in the movie’s opening scene – a memorable one that sets the pace for what is to come and has Mcconaughey teasing us with a finger waggingly hilarious intro. In fact, the movie – a slight cautionary fable at best- suffers when Mcconaughey is not on screen, which is a testament to the actor’s appeal throughout the movie. Ask anyone who has seen Magic Mike, they would most likely put Mcconaughey on top of their Best Supporting Actor shortlist. He’s that good.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Dark Knight Trilogy


It's not easy being Christopher Nolan. You have the art-snob critics -or so I call them that- who practically hate the guy for his puzzle-like action films that really are, well, too puzzling and complicated for them and then of course you have Nolan's fanboy fanbase, an online community of wannabe film critics that think the guy is God, yet dissect his every frame with enough criticism to make any normal moviegoer just roll his eyes in laughter. Listen, there are just as many haters of Inception as there are admirers. Don't remember? That movie starring Leonardo Dicaprio as a dream invader in a screenplay that had more than its fair share of flaws -a Nolan trademark- yet had enough ambition and ideas to fill an entire thesis paper.

In 2008, Nolan put a landmark stamp on the superhero movie with The Dark Knight. It was the followup to 2005's Batman Begins and had an incredible, Oscar winning performance from Heath Ledger as The Joker. The Dark Knight not only ended up making close to 600 million dollars in the domestic box office but it also made critics go gaga all over its substance-filled frames. You see The Dark Knight was a kind of metaphor to 9/11 evil and condemned both sides in the war on terror. To defeat Ledger's Joker, Batman had to use in-heroic acts of violence, how much evil must one commit to defeat evil? Talk about deep stuff for an superhero action movie.

This all leads to The Dark Knight Rises. A film that comes with the highest expectations I've ever seen for a Hollywood movie. Expectations that were so high they were bound not to be met. I can safely tell you they are not met, which is not to say The Dark Knight Rises is a bad movie -it's actually a pretty damn good one. The problem is that there is no flashy performance here such as what the late Ledger did in 2008 nor is there the same relevance to our contemporary world, although Nolan does attempt to bring in an Occupy Wall Street themed rebellion to the forefront (it works at times). Bane is the villain and he is played with brutal elegance by Tom Hardy, an actor that has always taken pride in investing everything in his roles. For this movie Hardy packed on 30 pounds to play the bulking monster that is known in comic book lore as the one who broke Batman's back - I found Bane to be just as scary, if not scarier than the Joker.

Even though its flaws might be highly apparent -a useless twist at movie's end, a climax with ticking time bomb cliches, the complete uselessness of Marion Cotillard's character, uneven pacing-  The Dark Knight Rises more than makes up for these mishaps in ambition. Clocking in at 165 minutes, Nolan's movie goes well beyond anything you will see in The Avengers or Spiderman. For the sake of its sheer scope and ideas, Nolan's movie is the blockbuster to beat this summer in terms of artful ambition. That is why we are ever so attentively paying attention to it and have been highly anticipating its release ever since we laid eyes on its pre-production notes. Nolan's comic book world is served black with a touch of realism that is not easily found anywhere else in the Marvel world.

No need to spoil any of its dark, twisted surprises in this review but watch out for Joseph Gordon Levitt's superb performance as a cop turned detective who investigates Gotham's criminal undergrounds, he is sensational and IS the movie's true heart. The unlikely bond he shares with Wayne is more than meets the eye. Also beware of the dark, sexy vibe Anne Hataway brings as Catwoman, a burglar of the rich that turns into the unlikeliest anti-hero of the franchise. Even though the film is anticlimactic, the final 10 minutes more than make up for it in terms of sheer, hypnotic suspense. As Hanz Zimmer's great score is playing, we are treated to a conclusion that more than justifies the impeccable trilogy Nolan has created for us in these quickly passed 7 years. He's raised the stakes for the superhero movie and I highly doubt it will get topped.

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