September 7, 2020

Movie Review #70 Tenet (Plus I rank the Nolan films!) With my recent Podcast Appearances on Talking Flick and East to West with Nick and Rob!

Tenet (2020) John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki, Robert Pattinson, Directed by Christopher Nolan

 

***SPOILER FREE REVIEW***

“It’s the bomb that didn’t go off. The danger no one knew was real. That’s the bomb with real power to change the world” Robert Pattinson (Neil)

 

Movies are dying, and the threat is not unknown. Tenet is the first film I saw in a movie theater since Covid and the theater was nearly empty. I don’t know what that says about movie theaters, or perhaps the world, but it is scary, so immediately that sad reality put me in a good head space for a heady, kind of bonkers Christopher Nolan film. Nolan who is now starting to seem seriously obsessed with the notion of “time” (MementoIntersteller, and Inception), seems like the right director to get folks back into the multiplexes (albeit distanced, with hand sanitizer, and a mask). The question remains, is the juice worth the squeeze in this case? 

 

Successful Director Christopher Nolan (Inception and The Dark Knight) returns to high concept (mind-fuckery) filmmaking with a bold and ambitious time looping extravaganza that will likely leave you scratching your head and asking wait, what now? Early on after a beautifully shot opera hijacking set piece we meet The Protagonist (A little stiff and kind of hollow John David Washington, but his performance grows on you), after performing admirably while under extreme duress he is recruited into a “save the world” type CIA offshoot agency, which remains mostly nameless and is code-worded Tenet (a palindrome like Hannah was in 2016’s Arrival). As The Protagonist finds out his new mission requires he change the way he see and think about things (“Don’t try to understand it. Feel it.”). Along this strange new time-bending journey The Protagonist is helped by a very knowledgeable agent named Neil (the best I have seen Pattinson so far, charming and confident).  Neil works to assist The Protagonist in trying to get to a man that may cause the end of the world, Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh with full Russian accent from Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit). Sator is an abusive husband who is holding his wife Kat (the lovely Elizabeth Debicki who often provides the film with much needed humanity) and her son essentially hostage. Plenty of Nolan Cameos and side players show up to chew up some elaborate exposition (Michael Caine, Himesh Patel, Clemence Posey, and bearded Aaron Taylor-Johnson), but mostly just in short spurts. This film is in some ways a buddy cop film for Washington and Pattinson, and it plays best when they are working together, moving from one action set piece to another. It is perhaps best not to think too hard about this one, unlike the first Matrix film, there is a spoon, but trying to know why it bends is futile. Nolan in similar fashion to previous works MementoInception, and Interstellar is purposely complexifying his plot in a way that lets him manipulate and bend the audience to his needs. It works, because we are all confused believe me, but once you know the prestige as it were, you sort of shrug and say um..ok, I guess? Don’t get me wrong, Nolan is an expert at sound and cinematography and this movie will leave you thrilled with some truly beautiful shots, and amaze you with thrilling action, but outside of one, maybe two moments, it really whiffs on several potential emotional opportunities. Nolan is a good filmmaker and a good writer, but he cares much more about the how, then the who. The said, Tenet will blow your hair back, yes it’s convoluted, yes, at times it is a little soulless, but it is still a fun ride nonetheless. SEE IT!!!

 

 

(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) Tenet is a truly dazzling spectacle worth seeing in a theater so as long as you take precautions. It is also remarkably befuddling and confusing, so best not to try and process the plot, rather allow yourself to lean back and let it wash over you. I like Nolan, it is admirable that he is trying so hard to make the concept the main character in his films, rather than the people, but as a human, I still hope that he one day chooses to scale it back again, so that he may remember who and what we are doing all this fighting for anyway. It is solid 6.5 on the The Shawshank Scale.  

 

Ranking the Christopher Nolan Films:

 

1. Inception-Peak Nolan bends fun relatable characters with high concept.  

2. Memento-Another mind bender, so innovative in its time. 

3. The Dark Knight Rises-Endings are hard, so extra points for doing a good job.

4. The Dark Knight-A little convoluted, but still a great Batman film.  

5. Batman Begins-A worthy reboot that sparked a very solid trilogy. 

6. The Prestige-A fun ride with 2 great performances by the lead actors. 

7. Dunkirk-Interesting war film, still processing why I didn’t like it more. 

8. Insomnia-A dark creepy slow burn, setting is so key here.

9. Interstellar-Messy and long, but a beautiful messy and long.

 

 

BE SURE TO CHEK OUT MY RECENT APPEARANCES ON TALKING FLICK!


Talking Flick on Anchor  (The Jerry Maguire Episode) 


Talking Flick on iTunes  (The Jerry Maguire Episode) 


Talking Flick on Anchor  (The Spotlight Episode) 


Talking Flick on iTunes  (The Spotlight Episode) 

 

AND CHECK OUT MY NEW PODCAST EAST TO WEST WITH NICK AND ROB!


East to West with Nick and Rob on Anchor  (The Defense Rests)


East to West with Nick and Rob on iTunes  (The Defense Rests)


East to West with Nick and Rob on Anchor  (Bloody Mary's Afternoon Delight)


East to West with Nick and Rob on iTunes  (Bloody Mary's Afternoon Delight)

June 28, 2020

Blue Ray Review # 53 Batman v Superman (Ultimate Cut) Plus I rank the DCEU films. With Talking Flick Podcast Appearances!!

Batman v Superman (2016) Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Directed by Zack Synder

“I’ve killed things from other worlds before” Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman/Diana Prince)

When you get old in life, you have the benefit of experience. As a movie fan nearing mid-life (maybe I’m there already) I have the experience of seeing several movies about Batman. Some good (Batman 1989: See Review), some bad (Batman and Robin: Listen to Podcast), and some just odd (BvS). Bruce Wayne/Batman is a great a character, I love him, perhaps he is my favorite comic book character of all time. Bob Kane and Bill Finger knew they had something with this guy. See Batman is just a man in a suit, unlike Superman he is no God, unlike Wonder Woman he has no epic backstory, he is a tortured man, fueled by revenge and sadness. Because he is just a man, people relate to him, people want to be him, certainly people want to root for him. I don’t think I ever considered rooting against my favorite comic hero, then came Batman v Superman

*****Review Contains Spoilers for Batman v Superman*****

Zack Synder (Watchmen and 300) follows up 2013’s DC/WB success Man of Steel, with an incredibly ambitious story that I think was aiming to be The Godfather of superhero films. Bruce Wayne (A brooding and jacked Ben Affleck) witnesses the fight between Gen. Zod (Michael Shannon) and Kal-El/Superman (a serious Henry Cavill) and all the collateral damage around it. That sets off a series of events that will lead to the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world, sort of. Along the way a sniveling and creepy new Lex Luther joins the dark themed party (Mark Zuckerberg, I mean Jessie Eisenberg), a new Meta-human gets introduced (a shockingly great Gal Gadot), and Batman gets some help from a new Alfred (classing up the joint Mr. Jeremy Irons). This film has a million characters, and million plot layers. Although the story gets incredibly muddled (especially in the theatrical cut, see the ultimate cut, it’s worth the 31 extra minutes), it still has some of the most beautiful set pieces you will ever see in a comic film. Batman has incredible fight scenes, Superman really takes a beating from multiple foes, and Wonder Woman kicks freaking butt. Synder, Goyer, and Terrio are all digging really deep here, drawing from masterpieces like The Death Superman and The Dark Knight Returns comics to weave a cogent narrative together. Unfortunately they largely fail to keep the story flowing and linear.  

Batman v Superman should’ve probably been (2) films. 1: The Batman 2: Man of Steel 2, instead Synder and Warner Brothers clearly in a reaction to Marvel’s hugely successful Cinematic Universe, can’t hold themselves back from fast-tracking it’s DC hero’s into some kind of quick team up Justice League squad. BvS is massively over bloated, so many great characters and great actors are underused (I’m so sorry Lawrence Fishbourne-Perry White, Jena Malone-Jenet Klyburn, and Diane Lane-Martha Kent), and perhaps worst of all neither Superman or Batman is very likable (it's kind of fatal flaw). Here is the funny thing though, despite all that, I really enjoyed this film. I was sort of surprised that they got me to root for (boy scout Superman) over (badass) Batman, I kind of loved the injection of reactionary retconning (backlash from all the people complaining about the destruction in Man of Steel), and I even sort of admired the current political environment Synder was trying to demonstrate (though again not executed super well). Even more so, I FUCKING loved Wonder Woman, a character I never thought could work on the Big Screen this well, and finally, though a little cheap, (after spoiling it in the 2ndtrailer) I was impressed WB and Synder had the balls to kill Superman, even if just for this film. You see, after several years of Marvel films that feature almost no consequence, it’s hard not to give credit to Synder and the team for just going for it. Haven't you ever yearned to see Batman in the Mech Suit, how about Superman getting hit with a nuke in the upper atmosphere, ok how about Clark Kent's funeral then (and Batman's there!?), I mean haven't we all dreamed at one time or another of seeing that stuff on the big screen? Did it all work? Nope. Was it still cool though to see it? Yup. We all know the devil doesn't come from the ground, and it doesn't come from the sky either, it comes from the internet, ignore the trolls, SEE THE MOVIE and decide for yourself. 

(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) To say BvS has flaws is a huge understatement, to say it is a good movie is also pushing it, but to say it is not only watchable, but Re-Watchable is something I can live with. After years of Marvel films that failed to take big swings, it was refreshing for me to see someone just go for it. I wish it had turned out a little better, I wish I liked Afflecks Batman more, or was given a little less darkness and a little more levity, but nonetheless I admire the ambition and was entertained by some truly stunning cinematic achievements I didn’t think I would ever see in my lifetime on the big screen with these characters. BvS is not the best superhero film of all time, it isn't a particularly fun watch (neither was the Godfather btw), but it is better than a lot of Marvel films, and it is better than anything Joel Schumacher made in this comic world. It is worthy of a 6.5 on the The Shawshank Scale internet trolls be damned!  

Ranking the DCEU Films:

Wonder Woman-She is truly a hero for our time. 
Batman v Superman-Messy, but in kind of a beautiful way.
Man of Steel-I had a hard time with the ending, but man he looked cool flying.
Aquaman-Crazy colorful and kinda fun, I dig it. 
Shazam-Lighter and breezier than any other DC film.
Justice League-An utter mess, but I still have seen it a few times.
Suicide Squad-Like a music video mash up rather than a cogent narrative. 
Birds of Prey-I honestly don’t know what they were going for here.


BE SURE TO CHEK OUT MY GUEST APPEARANCES ON TALKING FLICK!

Talking Flick on iTunes  (Batman v Superman Episode)

Talking Flick on Anchor  (Batman v Superman Episode)

Talking Flick on iTunes  (Batman and Robin Episode)

Talking Flick on Anchor. (Batman and Robin Episode) 

May 3, 2020

DVD REVIEW # 52 Ghostbusters (Plus my Top Five Ivan Reitman Directed films) With Talking Flick Podcast Appearences (Ghostbusters and Zodiac)!

Ghostbusters (1984) Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Ackroyd Directed by Ivan Reitman 

"We’ve been going about this all wrong. This Mr. Stay Puft’s okay! He’s a sailor, he’s in New York… if we get this guy laid, we won’t have any trouble." Bill Murray  (Peter Venkman)

Famous critic Gene Siskel once wrote “Murray blows away the film’s boring special effects with his one-liners” and though I don’t agree that 1984’s groundbreaking special effects were boring; I agree with his sentiment that they are not the driving force of the film. I’ve seen Ghostbusters a hundred times, maybe more. It is without a doubt one of my favorite comedies of all time and has flirted with my All Time Top Ten. The chemistry in casting, the value of concise comedy, and the overall fun ride makes it one of the most influential blockbusters ever made. I’ve waxed poetic about Ghostbusters so many times that it feels silly, but I’ve never reviewed it, so the podcast Talkingflick.com has finally given me an opportunity (Call it faith, Call it luck, Call it karma), so here we go. 

All time comedy Director Ivan Reitman (Dave and Stripes) helms one of the best comedies ever and changes the blockbuster game in the process. Ghostbusters (the Biggest film of 1984, beating out Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) is a clever blend of witty dialogue and fun character chemistry (think Swingers) with a super high concept special effects blockbuster. Truly the first of its kind and at a price tag of 30 million dollars in 1984, a huge gamble. Dan Ackroyd (who also plays the innocent Ghostbuster Ray Stanz) originally wrote a much stranger concept for him and SNL buddy John Belushi, but was able to scale it back with the help of Reitman and National Lampoon alum, Harold Ramis (who ended up playing Ghostbuster Egon brilliantly in the film). The end result was a wonderful mix that has been often imitated and rarely, if ever duplicated. Ghostbusters is the story of 3 recently defrocked scientists (Most notably the magnetic Bill Murray who feasts while Ackroyd and Ramis serve up softballs that Murrays’s character Peter Venkman can knock out of the park) who, with some luck, fall into a business opportunity doing what else: busting ghosts! As business booms, they recruit a fourth member Winston Zedmore (played memorably by Ernie Hudson), he serves as the kind of ordinary man POV character that grounds the film before it gets too far off the reservation. Zipping around in Ecto 1 (a remodeled hearse), equipped with nuclear accelerators strapped to their backs, the Ghostbusters are living large, that is until the EPA (Amazing William Atherton performance) and a god like demon named Zuul (Voiced by Reitman) threaten the city and Venkman’s to be girlfriend Dana Barrett (an electric Sigourney Weaver). The climax of this film is so charming (Stay Puft-its still genius), that questioning any of the science or hard edits seems futile. Ghostbusters entertains, charms, and inspires. Truly a one of kind film that has spawned over a billion dollars in off shoots (Great cartoons, solid video games, etc…). Ghostbusters  is one of, if not the best comedy of all-time film, of course you should SEE IT

Note: I very much look forward to Ivan’s son Jason’s (Up in the Air and Juno) attempt to recharge the franchise with 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife. FINGERS CROSSED PLEASE BE GOOD!  


(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) A true lightening in a bottle High- Concept comedy that has stood the test of time. Ghostbusters helped shaped the blockbuster era of Hollywood and allowed comedies to have a seat at the table (even expensive ones). Incessantly rewatchable, insanely funny, and immensely quotable! Few movies this short, this simple, can be so remarkably memorable. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Ghostbusters and give it a 9.0 on THE SHAWSHANK SCALE. (Don’t sleep on Part II, give it a chance!)

Ranking the Top Five Ivan Reitman Directed Films of All Time:

1. Ghostbusters (1984)-If you don’t smile ear to ear watching this film, you are a robot.
2. Stripes (1981)-There she was, just a walking down the street…
3. Ghostbusters II (1989)-Not as good, but expanded the world and I loved it! 
4. Kindergarten Cop (1990)-Ivan and Arnold work really well together, K-Cop is joyride.
5. Twins (1988)-Ivan loves one sentence pitch movies, this one with Arnold, super fun.

Honorable Mentions: Meatballs, Evolution, Draft Day, and No Strings Attached


BE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY GUEST APPEARANCE'S ON TALKING FLICK!

As always, special thanks to Tyler and Producer Rian for allowing me a guest spot on Talking Flick to gush over one of my favorite films. We Came, We Saw, We Kicked its Ass!! 

Talking Flick on Anchor   (Ghostbusters Episode)

Talking Flick on iTunes   (Ghostbusters Episode)

Talking Flick on Anchor  (Bonus Zodiac Episode)

Talking Flick on iTunes. (Bonus Zodiac Episode)

March 15, 2020

SPECIAL REVIST OF: The Big Lebowski 1998 Review with Talking Flick Podcast Appearance!



The Big Lebowski (1998) Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore Written and Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

“Say what you will about the tenets of national socialism but at least it’s an ethos.” John Goodman (Walter Sobchak)

Legendary Writer/Directors Joel and Ethan Coen have a resume that is nearly second to none. Their films maybe aren’t always great, but you can be sure they are always interesting. These two auteurs have plenty of signatures in their films (same actors, anti-heroes, strong soundtracks, and weird endings to name a few), but despite those signatures, try describing their films, it isn’t an easy task. In today’s IP world Hollywood is trapped in, the Coen’s are a needed juxtaposition to the modern blockbuster. I can’t help but wonder what Joel and Ethan’s Batman would look like. How does a Coen brothers Dr. Strange film end? They likely will never get the keys to some comic/IP franchise like that (and probably don’t want them), but if we have to have these blockbusters 10-20 times year, why not let the Coen’s figure out how to Rise a Skywalker

Trying to describe the Coen brothers 1998 masterpiece The Big Lebowski is only going to get you in trouble (perhaps with the religion the film inspired-Dudeism). Maybe it’s a Western, maybe it’s a Noir film, in all actuality it doesn’t matter man, (mind if I smoke a J?). Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart, White Squall) in a life-altering role, stars as Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, a man who is mistakenly taken for Jeffrey “The Big” Lebowski (played perfectly by David Huddleston), and because of this The Dude gets caught up in a potential kidnapping/ransom plot, all while trying to roll his way past the semi’s in a local bowling tournament. He is not alone on this journey (though he is rather brilliantly in every scene of the film, in true noir fashion), John Goodman (Argo, 10 Cloverfield Lane) plays brilliantly Walter Sobchak (perhaps the greatest sidekick of all time, for all the wrong reasons), and Steve Buscemi plays the hapless and soft spoken Donnie, the opposite of his chatty Fargo character (Carl Showalter). The misguided adventure takes us all over L.A. (you know near the In n Out) and gives great actors wonderful dialogue to chew on. Julianne Moore shows up mid-film to steal a few scenes and the great Sam Elliot (playing a character dubbed The Stranger, but we think it may just be Sam playing Sam) adds a nice narration. The Coen’s themselves don’t think their movie’s plot matters much and neither do I, that said the more I watch this film (and I’ve seen it now nearly 30 times) the more I appreciate the rather linear story and the cool little easter eggs to previous Coen films. Frequent Coen collaborator Roger Deakins frames a beautiful looking film that changes style several times over and Carter Burwell and T Bone Burnett add an awesome soundtrack and vibe to the film.  One scene in particular has always stood out to me, John Turturro’s character Jesus Quintana (who is getting his own film The Jesus Rolls) dance sequence to the Gypsy Kings cover of the Eagles Hotel California, it may be some of the most memorable cinema I have ever seen. The Big Lebowski is so layered in nonsense and hijinks that it was born to be a rewatchable film. For that reason, it has earned MUST SEE status and comfortably sits in my Top 25 films of all time. SEE IT, BUY IT, it will really tie your movie collection together. 


(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) An amazing ensemble, a near flawless screenplay that is amazingly quotable, an awesome soundtrack, and perfect cinematography all add up to not only the best Coen film of all time (though I know they would disagree), but one of the best films of all time. It has a well-deserved spot in the Library of Congress and is certainly worthy of an 8.5 on The Shawshank Scale. Do yourself a favor, put on the jellies, order a White Russian, and enjoy.

Ranking the Top 10 Coen Brother movies of all time (cause why not!):

1. The Big Lebowski
2. Inside Llewyn Davis
3. No Country for Old Men
4. Miller’s Crossing
5. Burn After Reading
6. Fargo
7. True Grit
8. Raising Arizona
9. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
10. Barton Fink

Shouts: Blood Simple, A Serious Man, and The Man Who Wasn’t There. 

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY RECENT APPEARANCES ON TALKING FLICK:

Talking Flick on Anchor  (The Big Lebowski Episode)

Talking Flick on iTunes. (The Big Lebowski Episode)

March 6, 2020

Movie Review #69 The Way Back (Plus I rank My Top Ten Sports Films of All Time!) With my recent Talking Flick Podcast appearances!



The Way Back (2020) Ben Affleck, Janina Gavankar, Al Madrigal and Directed by Gavin O’Conner

“I spent a lot of time hurting myself. I made a lot of bad decisions. I have my regrets.” Ben Affleck (Jack Cunningham) 

Director Gavin O’Conner (Warrior, The Accountant) Co-writes and Directs this emotionally charged sports film with a steady hand. He allows Ben Affleck to use his own personal demons to drive a raw performance that turns out to be quite inspiring. O’Conner mostly known for his gritty and action-packed fair, has treaded some of this water before, in 2004 he directed one of my Top Ten favorite sports films of all time Miracle. O’Conner lets the thrill of victory and agony of defeat drive the narrative in Miracle, he at times does the same in The Way Back, only there are added layers of personal growth and redemption. I really like his choice to resist oversimplifying addiction and not running a straight parallel through recovery and success on the court. Both things happen in their own way, and in their own time. I found myself moved by both the choices made in the narrative and with the simple direction. The basketball scenes aren’t awful (though not great either) and the supporting players deliver when given opportunities. If you find yourself moved by this film, do yourself a favor and watch ESPN’s amazing 2011 Chris Herren documentary Unguarded, by Jonathon Hock (you won’t regret it). 

Ben Affleck (BvS, Good Will Hunting) plays Jack Cunningham, a broken man dealing with a family tragedy that drives him into isolation and alcoholism. Obviously, this role cuts close to home for Affleck who himself has dealt with several relapses in his own personally journey to sobriety. While down and out, he is approached by his alma mater (where he was a world class basketball star) to coach the basketball team which has fallen on hard times. Think Hoosiers meets Clean and Sober. The team is young, undermanned, and lacks discipline, but Jack is able to restructure and galvanize the squad through his passion and un-catholic like coaching style. As the team gets on a roll and actually starts winning, Jack is forced to face his past and his demons. Jack’s wife is played beautifully by The League star Janina Gavankar and Brandon Wilson stands out as Point guard and Team Captain Brandon. There are shades of Manchester by the Sea here, but not in a bad way, I had to let the tragedy set in for awhile once it was introduced, but once I accepted it, it was very moving. The Way Back seemingly has a common premise, but it does not play by all the usual beats you may expect. I was impressed that the emotional moments are not all packed into the third act of the film, but rather scattered about the first and second acts. I was also impressed how Gavin decides to end his film, not simply on a game winning or losing shot, not on a clean and sober Jack, but just on progress. Life is not that simple, and I think this film uniquely captures that (perhaps in doing so costing itself a tinge of emotional impact). The road to recovery is long, bumpy, and often doesn’t have anything to with a game winner or state title. The Way Back is not Hoosiers, it’s not Miracle, and that’s a good thing. SEE IT! 

(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) I am always a sucker for a good sports movie and ever since I was personally touched by addiction and forced to educate myself on the topic, it definitely hits me right in the chest when I watch that suffering. I was pleasantly surprised by The Way Back, Affleck is as good as he has been in years and the film inverts the trope and does something unexpected. It is the best film of the young 2020 year so far and worthy of a 6.5 on the Shawshank Scale

Ranking the Top 10 sports films of all time (cause why not!) subject to change:

1. Field of Dreams
2. Jerry Maguire
3. Major League
4. Moneyball
5. The Hustler
6. Bull Durham
7. Miracle
8. Caddyshack
9. Rocky IV
10. Tin Cup

Shouts: Kingpin, The Fighter, Hoosiers, Seabiscuit, The Color of Money, Slap Shot, Remember the Titans, Rudy, Raging Bull, Rocky 1, 2, 3, 6, and Creed 1 & 2.

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY RECENT APPEARANCES ON TALKING FLICK:

Talking Flick on Anchor  (The Invisible Man Episode)

Talking Flick on iTunes  (The Invisible Man Episode)

Talking Flick on Anchor   (Rush Hour Episode)

Talking Flick on iTunes  (Rush Hour Episode) 

February 23, 2020

SPECIAL REVIST OF: BATMAN 1989 Review With Talking Flick Podcast Appearance!

Batman (1989) Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Directed by Tim Burton

“Winged Freak, terrorizes…wait till they get a load of me” Jack Nicholson (Joker/Jack Napier)

In 2021 we are going to get yet another version of Batman (this time pairing director Matt Reeves with former Twilight vampire Robert Pattinson) and before that happens, I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on the first real effort to bring The Dark Knight to movie theaters. Tim Burton’s Batman film walked a crazy fine line, balancing a reasonable budget (35 million?, Zak Synder would have a heart attack!), a crazy producer (legendary nut-job Jon Peters SEE: Superman Lives documentary),  and bloodthirsty comic book fans and their expectations. I don’t know if Burton knew he was going to pull this film off, but its seemingly shot with this brooding quiet confidence that is unusual for such a revered property (Note: the new Star Wars feels like its shot with no confidence at times). Watching it all these years later (maybe the 20thtime I’ve seen it now, maybe more) is a reminder of what can be when the studio steps aside, when writers don’t check Reddit daily, and when you compromise just a little source material so you can write a fun and thrilling film. 

Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice) brings his unique vision to one of the most beloved characters in the history of humankind (move over Jesus! Batman may have got you beat). Burton delivers a satisfying and unique take on The Dark Knight that mostly holds up. Bruce Wayne (a stoic and slightly offbeat Michael Keaton: Spotlight and Spider Man: Homecoming) is a vigilante fighting crime in Gotham, while doing so he unwittingly creates a supervillain when Jack Napier (an absolute classic performance by Jack Nicholson: Chinatown and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest) takes on the persona of Joker after he falls into a chemical vat. Writer Sam Hamm (and others) makes an innovative choice, by exploring the origin of Joker, rather than giving a straight origin of Batman. The gamble pays off as Nicholson’s electric and fun performance (he reportedly earned something between 50 and 90 million for the performance) keeps the film thrilling and on track. Subplots with Vicki Vale and reporter Alex Knox maybe don’t age quite as well but both Kim Basinger and Robert Wuhl shine with what they have to work with. The Academy Award winning Art/Set Direction still looks great and this Gotham (a sort of postmodern pop art Gotham) feels very much comic, while also having a sense of real. Burton and his team give the nerds glimpses of the stuff they are dying to see (batarangs and batwings), but what you don't see sparks the imagination effectively and leaves us wanting more. Danny Elfman’s powerhouse score and Prince’s crazy soundtrack layer the film with a real energy. Sure, Keaton can’t really move around in the Batsuit, but come on, look at that Batmobile! The third act may have small problems, but stay with it, the ending is glorious and fit for the clown prince of crime. I believe even hardcore fans of Nolan's Dark Knight will find this film both memorable and worthy. 

The Nolan trilogy is very good, the Synderverse also has flashes, (No you suck Joel Schumacher!), but for my money Burton’s first go at the flying mouse really hits the bullseye. It is not only my favorite Batman film thus far, but it is also my #1 comic film ever. Comic films have come a long way, both with technology and where they are willing to go, but if you want a masterclass in how to make an intelligent and entertaining comic film, this is where you should begin. Where does he get those wonderful toys indeed…SEE IT! 

(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) It truly is the film that certainly all Batman, maybe all comic films should be measured against. Hamm’s Script and Nicholosn’s choice to really have fun and go for it make for a lot funny dialogue and “Haven’t you ever heard of the healing power of laughter”? What keeps this film fresh is that even though it helped give birth to the many comic franchises we currently have going today, none of them have ever captured the highly stylized cynical genius that this film puts on the big screen. It is a beautiful rewatch and still worthy of 8.5 on The Shawshank Scale.  

BE SURE TO CHEK OUT MY UPCOMING GUEST APPEARANCE ON TALKING FLICK!

Talking Flick on Anchor  (Batman 1989 Episode)

Talking Flick on iTunes (Batman 1989 Episode)

January 29, 2020

Academy Awards 2019 Plus my 1917 and Up in the Air Talking Flick Podcast Appearances!

THE ACADEMY AWARDS 2019

OSCAR! OSCAR! 

After a year off, and let’s face it, a mediocre 2018 movie year, I’m BACK and you can’t keep me down (Shouts Producer Rian). Movies are in a weird place, I thought we would rebound from a lackluster 2017, but as streaming services and TV started to change, movies had to follow. Now I look back at 2017 (Great films like Get Out, 3 Billboards, and I, Tonya) I wonder; will that be the last really strong film year ever? Netflix is well represented at this year’s Oscars (Some deserved, some not much), and even as early as 2 years ago, that seemed unthinkable. People are watching films differently and frankly if the choice has come down to "existing IP blockbusters" or "stream it", movie theaters are in big, big trouble.

2019 had some great films like Ford v Ferrari and JoJo Rabbit, some gut wrenching films like Marriage Story and 1917, and some messy and derivative stuff like Joker or Terminator: Dark Fate (Yup you too Rise of Skywalker), so though I would argue 2019 was a better year in film than 2018, I still feel a little empty about the year in film as a whole (Note: I still have a few films to watch). But the Oscars are a celebration of what was good, not disappointing so without further or do here are my official Oscar predictions of 2019

(Note: I have not yet seen Little WomenThe Lighthouse, Richard Jewell, and Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

THE BIG ONES:

BEST PICTURE: What will win-1917 (I think). Seasoned Director Sam Mendes (smartly setting aside Bond films) makes maybe the Best WWI film ever, a truly impactful film that takes you on a journey. He gets a HUGE assist from possibly the greatest cinematographer of all time, but no shame there, still a worthy a Best Pic. 

What should win-Ford V Ferrari (Shouts JoJo Rabbit), James Mangold following Mende’s lead (setting aside Wolverine pics) as he takes on corporate culture and Italians in a classic Hollywood film that in today’s cinema climate is incredibly refreshing. The sound mixing and editing should get wins, but honestly I think it deserves the big prize.

BEST DIRECTOR: Who will win- Bong Joon Ho or Quentin Tarantino, maybe it’s just me but if it’s Tarantino as a lifetime achievement thing I’m against it, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is not his best film, nor it is in his top 3. Joon Ho's Parasite is a truly unique vision that will stay with you, I would not be angry if he wins.

Who should win-Taiki Waititi, I mean Mendes is worthy but honestly Waititi made a WWII film about a kid whose imaginary friend is Hitler…fucking Hitler! BTW it is good, and even though it doesn’t totally work, it has emotional moments that will stay with you, and comedic moments that truly shine.

BEST ACTOR: Who will win-Joaquin Phoenix, is he good in the Joker? Yes. Is it a good film? Not really. He carries the film, but I don’t think it's worth more than a nomination...at best. 

Who should win- Jonathan Pryce or Adam Driver (Shouts Matt Damon), Both Pryce and Driver give career performances and embody the characters they play in ways I wasn’t sure either actor was capable of. Pryce outshines a tremendous Anthony Hopkins performance (which is saying a lot) and Driver in the same year he finally ended this Kylo Ren nonsense, gives us perhaps the year’s most human performance. 

BEST ACTRESS: Who will win-Renee Zellweger (Shouts Charlize Theron), she absolutely kills it as Judy Garland in an otherwise mediocre film, she gives that film life and makes it memorable through her sheer tour de force performance. 

Who should win-Renee Zellweger, I mean just watch it, then let’s argue. 

BEST SUPPORTING’S: Who will win-Laura Dern and Brad Pitt, Laura Dern’s turn as a divorce lawyer was downright scary, sent chills down my spine. Tarantino owns this category (just ask Christoph Waltz), I think his film was a tad long and again needed to be edited, but every second Pitt is on screen he owns it. I want a Cliff Booth miniseries! 

Who should win-They both deserve it here but I will not be upset if Scarlett Johansson, Joe Pesci, or Anthony Hopkins win, all three are worthy performances.

BEST OF THE REST:

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Will win-Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood clever and interesting, but also tired and long, I enjoyed it, but don’t believe it should be here.

Who should win-I think Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is worthy, what a touching and earnest story, maybe the actors elevated the material, but I still think it was beautifully written. 

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: 
Will win-Joker which if I am right is utterly outrageous, it is a derivative hodgepodge of much better films! 

Who should win-JoJo Rabbit or The Two Popes, look this may be the best category of the night and I think even The Irishman deserves to be here, but few film characters made me happier this year than imaginary Hitler and two old grumpy Popes bickering. 

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Will win-1917 and I am not going to argue the genius that is Roger Deakins! (How was Parasite not nominated here?) 


Quick Picks:

Original Score-1917 (Shouts to The Rise of Skywalker)
Original Song-Stand Up (Shouts to Into the Unknown)
Costume Design-Little Women (Shouts to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)
Animated Feature-I Lost My Body (Shouts to Toy Story 4)
Sound Editing-Ford v Ferrari (Shouts to 1917)
Production Design-1917 (Shouts to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)
Visual Effects-Avengers: Endgame (Shouts to 1917)

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY GUEST APPEARANCES ON TALKING FLICK!

Talking Flick on Anchor  (The 1917 Episode)
Talking Flick on iTunes  (The 1917 Episode)

Talking Flick on Anchor (The Up in the Air Episode)
Talking Flick on iTunes  (The Up in the Air Episode)

December 22, 2019

Movie Review #68 Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Plus I rank all 9 Skywalker Saga Films) With my Talking Flick Podcast appearance!

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac Directed by J.J. Abrams 

Watching The Last Jedi helped me prepare for what was to come in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (See below review and Talkingflick.com podcast discussion on TLJ and TFA). Although TLJ was polarizing and not nearly my favorite Star Wars film, the fact that it attempted (maybe didn’t succeed) to move the story forward convinced me to let go of my old favorite characters and pass the saga on to the next generation (This is not “my” Star Wars anymore). Because I was able to let go the stakes were much lower for me in Rise of Skywalker. I went in open-minded and was able to have fun, but the downside of letting go was that the emotional moments also lost some of their power. I rejected TLJ in part for running away from fan theories and trying too hard to subvert our collective expectations, but the retcon job done here by Abrams also has problems, probably magnified by the fact that it is trying to course correct and doesn’t bother to explain the how and why, just when your mind wanders to those questions, he quickly jet sets you off to another planet before you can process it all. The franchise is taking a hiatus (at least in film) we are told by Disney, and I for one think it may need one. 

J.J. Abrams (Lost, Star Trek) reluctantly returns to a galaxy far far away one last time to finish a saga 42 years in the making along with screenwriter Chris Terrio (Argo, BVS). Rey (A wonderful Daisy Ridley) trains while the war wages on, this time faced with a new/old threat (Ian McDiarmid’s Emperor) threatening to crush the rebellion once and for all…again. Meanwhile Kylo (A subdued Adam Driver) considers the Emperor a threat and as per the usual, wants all the power for himself, or maybe himself and a partner? I think at times it is hard to understand what the characters really want, because the script is constantly changing? Old friends and now seasoned rebel leaders, Finn (a lively John Boyega) and Poe (a little too intense Oscar Isaac), along with newcomers Jannah (Naomi Ackie), Zorii Bliss (helmet wearing Keri Russell), and new useless baddie General Pryde (Richard E. Grant) all attempt to add to a story that is overstuffed and hard to follow. It is nice that we see Lando (Billy Dee Williams) again, but what exactly is he doing on that planet? J.J. is trying wrap everything up as best he can, but when faced with answering looming questions, he either just gives us hard exposition or decides to not even bring it up. Now that we can look at the complete trilogy, I do think it served Rey and her story well enough, but pretty much no other character old or new. I think Luke and Leia get a decent arc and Han Solo adds to the trilogy immensely, but it’s hard not to criticize the lack of a cohesive story. From the 1st new film on it felt like we were making things up as we go, shooting many versions of the film and then editing something together. Rise of Skywalker feels no different, it is a messy ride, fun, at times exhilarating, but very messy. 

As an action film it is often spectacular, mostly because the emotion of our main characters, gives their battles weight. There are several wonderful set pieces and at least one epic lightsaber duel that I think is up there with any lightsaber duel before it. Similar to its predecessor TLJ, Rise of Skywalker does make some aggressive story decisions, but unlike TLJ which seemingly ran away from what the fans wanted, Rise of Skywalker leans into what the fans want. Whereas Rian Johnson read Reddit to see what not to do, J.J. reads Reddit to see what to do, it’s an odd juxtaposition that makes the 3 films feel less like a trilogy than both the originals or the prequels. All in all the sheer amount of crowd-pleasing moments are worth the price of admission, it is rare that a film can reach such heights (then forget it has the high ground), and fall flat on its face in the same 3 hour span. I went into Rise of Skywalker wanting to enjoy it mostly as a visually experience rather than an emotional one, and because I did, I left feeling fine, but it was hard not to sense the air coming out of the balloon  a bit, and one wonders how Disney can keep this gravy train rolling without someone to really steer its storytelling and find out what people really care about in this universe. SEE IT (but lower expectations). 

The Shawshank Scale (1-10) The Rise of Skywalker is a nifty conclusion to the Star Wars Saga, though it doesn’t fully satisfy due to being overstuffed, a little messy, and often lacking in compelling storytelling. It serves old fans, perhaps at the cost of inspiring imagination in new fans. It doesn’t feel enough like an event and through small pockets of screen time, doesn’t feel like Star Wars. That said the visuals are stunning and there is enough emotion that you will leave the theater not completely dissatisfied. A solid 6.0 on the Shawshank Scale, it falls short of greatness, but will entertain you.  

Ranking all 9 Skywalker Saga Films:

1. Return of the Jedi-How a trilogy should end, fun and complete.
2. Empire Strikes Back-That’s how you do unexplained family drama!
3. A New Hope-Great ride, exhilarating introduction to a galaxy far far away!
4. Revenge of the Sith-Emotional weight and amazing visuals excite and entertain.
5. The Force Awakens-Expertly casted and fun, J.J. reboots another franchise!
6. The Phantom Menace-Too long and often political, still Darth Maul and Qui-Gon are super cool.
7. Rise of Skywalker-Allows us to say goodbye to our favorites and gives Rey a shining moment.
8. The Last Jedi-Feels like a different franchise, but does have bright spots and a great soundtrack.
9. Attack of the Clones-Although Yoda fights, it is the least rewatchable of the 9. 

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY GUEST APPEARANCE ON TALKING FLICK! 

Talking Flick on iTunes (The Rise of Skywalker Episode)

Talking Flick on Anchor (The Rise of Skywalker Episode)



December 18, 2019

SPECIAL REVISIT OF: The Last Jedi 2017 Review With Talking Flick The Last Jedi Podcast!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Mark Hamill Directed by Rian Johnson


So J.J. Abrams did a great job getting us excited about Star Wars again (See 2015 review of Force Awakens below), but he also left the galaxy far far away a little messy. Questions and storylines that were purposely left open ended, has left the fan base (and we are a crazy fan base) theorizing endlessly about everything. Rian Johnson had a tall task with The Last Jedi, take these new characters advance their stories, pay homage to the old characters, and steer clear from the speculation machine as best as possible. To me The Last Jedi makes a noble effort, in its attempt to be a good Star Wars Sequel. I didn’t love all the writing; I didn’t love all the editing, and certainly didn’t love all the choices Rian Johnson made (maybe he could’ve used some help from frequent Star Wars scribe Lawrence Kasden), but I did at least appreciate the risk Johnson was willing to take telling a story that he must’ve known was going to be very polarizing, and it is. There is great risk in how Johnson chose to answer all the pertinent questions and he did not shy away from taking them. I was one of those crazy fans that watched youtube videos talking about who Snoke could be and what will Luke say to Rey, and so on, so I know that what Johnson did was original and not really what people were expecting, but that said I kinda wanted something more expected I guess (I didn’t realize that until I saw this film). I think seeing Last Jedi was just another example of me discovering I’m old (that is a big theme in this film, aging, time, and how we change). The truth is as much I love Rey and Finn and sort of like Kylo, I really like the old characters, so for me there is no forgiving Kylo for killing Han Solo, and there is no being ok with characters like Luke and Leia eventually departing the series. I understand that now, so given that I wanna be fair to The Last Jedi and even being fair, I didn’t love it. There are some very odd storylines that really don’t go anywhere. Benicio Del Toro and Lupita Nyong’o gotta be scratching their heads at this final cut and wondering wha-what? Laura Dern has a nice little arc and Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher do get moments to shine, but overall this story is a mess. I can’t help but feel that they are storyboarding this thing as they go and the movies are suffering from lack of a clear vision. There is this mission that leads Finn and newcomer Rose (a delightful Kelly Marie Tran) to some place called Canto Bight that makes almost no sense, and even though there are cool aliens and nice shots there, I kept asking wait why are we here again and what are they trying to achieve? The actions taken by Kylo are almost just as nonsensical, clearly this is a bad guy that doesn’t really think things through. The movie is filled with in your face dialogue like “let the past die” and “you’re not part of this story”. It isn’t all bad though the actors really deliver. Daisy Ridley’s Rey is still captivating and John Boyega is a special actor that does the best he can with what he has to work with. Carie Fisher has some great moments and Mark Hamill is just awesome, it takes a while but he becomes Luke again. There are also some great cameos which I will not spoil. When the credits come and the John Williams music rolled I was left with an uneasy feeling, this is not my Star Wars anymore, this is someone else’s Star Wars and I am going to have to get used to that…It may take awhile. SEE IT, because you have to. Lower your expectations and keep your mind open though. 


The Shawshank Scale (1-10) I give it solid 6.0 currently, but maybe in more viewings it will grow on me, for now instead of seeing it again right away I'm gonna head down to Canto Bight and roll some dice, even though I have a bad feeling about it.  

 BE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY RECENT GUEST APPEARANCE ON TALKING FLICK!

Talking Flick on Anchor (The Last Jedi Episode)

Talking Flick on iTunes (The Last Jedi Episode)

December 4, 2019

SPECIAL REVISIT OF: The Force Awakens 2015 Review With Talking Flick The Force Awakens Podcast and BONUS Empire Strikes Back Podcast!


Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Harrison Ford Directed by J.J. Abrams 

** This is a portion of my article 2015 Year in Film, with some new material added after a recent rewatch of The Force Awakens for the Podcast Talkingflick.com.

I had to start with one of the biggest films of all time, after all I stood outside in the cold on opening night to get in like so many others. Here is the thing with a movie like this is more than just a movie (don’t snicker), it really is a cultural phenomenon. I know this is true because during my 2nd viewing of this film (some 9 days after its release in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday) people were still giving standing ovations. Even more so than that, almost every time I’ve been to a theater since its release, someone in line behind me is talking about it (and get this: they are usually young folks!). This film didn’t need to be great (and it’s probably not great), it just needed to be good (and it’s better than good). J.J. Abrams does a nice job bringing back what made Stars Wars fun to begin with (and not just talking about the original cast). Like an Onion the film peels back layer after layer of nostalgia, however none of that would have really mattered if he didn’t get the new characters right…and he did, big time. I think it is wonderful to see a female lead, I can’t tell you how fresh the character Finn is (Reluctant hero, traitor, and cool leading man), Poe Dameron (who was supposed to die in the first script) is also great, I’m happy they are keeping him around. The returning cast does a nice job as well, Han Solo leads the film very well, Leia is sharp in her limited but effective role, and Luke delivers in his brief but smart ending sequence. The locations they used, and practical sets really make the difference and improve upon the prequels (which get a bad rap, but are pretty good). 

Now it isn’t all great in a galaxy far far away, there were moments this year that I flirted with the idea of having this film as #1 on the Top Ten List (See Sidebar Top Ten Lists in web browser mode if you are on a mobile device*), certainly all said and done I will rewatch this film more than any other film this year and that holds a lot of water on the Shawshank Scale, but despite that this film has problems. For starters it is fair criticism that the beats of this film feel awfully familiar (another Death Star, was that really necessary?). In addition to that the film feels incomplete, I know some of that is done on purpose, but not all of it. The film really feels like they were writing, shooting, and guessing as they went along…there is probably like 4 hours of additional footage that takes the film in all sorts of other directions. To me they could’ve waited to get the story right instead of trying different things and piecing it together. Several times in the film it feels cut and pasted, now we don’t care because it is so much fun, but still. I was surprised it received an Oscar Nomination for editing given that some of the edits are abrupt and out of place. I didn’t love, understand, or care about the Bad Guys. Who is the first order, Snoke, or what the hell are the knights of ren…who cares. That said it is a great ride, it bridges the old with the new in a fun way. I’m not sure anyone (including Lucas) could’ve done a perfect job with a film like this and J.J. deserves credit for taking on such a daunting task and not failing. Kids are excited about Star Wars again, and adults love that…because they’ve always been excited about it!

The Shawshank Scale (1-10) The Force Awakens is an incredible ride, yes, yes it has mystery boxes, hard edits, "emo" bad guys, and sadly the useless Republic and Starkiller Base (wtf??), but again what a fun time. It also has remarkable casting, great sincere nostalgia, and wait for it...Han f**king Solo, Luke mother****ing Skywalker, and the incomparable General Organa, so deal with it, I liked this film. It is well worthy of a very respectable 7.0 on The Shawshank Scale and has already proven to be extremely rewatchable. 

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY RECENT GUEST APPEARANCE ON TALKING FLICK! 

Talking Flick on Anchor   (The Force Awakens Episode)

Talking Flick on iTunes  (The Force Awakens Episode)

Talking Flick on Anchor (The Empire Strikes Back Episode)

Talking Flick on iTunes (The Empire Strikes Back Episode)