Current Mini Reviews

So I have been very behind in reviews for the blog lately. Make sure you are following my letterboxd account where I will at least post my star rating for a film I’ve seen. Also I do a weekly show on my youtube channel where I rank the new films I’ve seen that week and share some thoughts.

But let me catch you all up with some 2017 films I’ve seen in some Current Mini Reviews!

Beatriz at Dinner-

I thought it was awful. It’s basically a chance for liberals to have a pissing session over Donald Trump. The Lithgow character is a rich, white, racist capitalist who owns hotels and Beatriz throws his phone at him and envisions murdering him. If that is your jam than this movie is for you.
Basically this movie is the liberal equivalent of Christian movies that just tell the viewers what they want to hear and how much better they are than those evil atheists.

Frown Worthy

The Guardian Brothers-

This is a Chinese animated film that is now available to watch on Netflix. I’m not as hard on these Chinese animated films as most. In fact, I enjoyed this year’s Rock Dog when many didn’t like it. However, I did not enjoy The Guardian Brothers. I found it very boring. There is some nice animation but I honestly kept falling asleep because nothing engaged me about the story.

Frown Worthy

Megan Leavey-

I haven’t been a big fan of most of the post-Iraq war movies portraying the life of soldiers. I can’t explain why but most of them don’t really work; however, Megan Leavey is an exception. It’s very heart-felt without being preachy or overbearing. Kate Marra is great in the lead role and I really felt for her and her dog. Some may call it sentimental but I think it was moving and beautiful.

Smile Worthy

Louise By the Shore-

This is a french animated film about an old woman who gets left behind on an resort island and must figure out how to survive on her own. As she lives she is reborn in a way and gets a new energy for life.

I loved this film! The animation is beautiful with a whimsical quality and I loved Louise as a character. It might have too little plot for some people but I really thought it was charming. It’s worth hunting down if you can find it. The music and sound design were perfect also.

Smile Worthy

Wind River

It’s only major flaw is perhaps that it is not as good as Hell or High Water– writer Taylor Sheridan’s previous film. This is his first time directing and he does a great job creating atmosphere and tone. I had a few issues with the way the female characters were portrayed but it was still an engaging mystery.

Smile Worthy

Napping Princess-

2017 has been such a great year for anime that I wanted to love this but I couldn’t get on board. The visuals and world building are impressive and it will entertain small kids but I found it repetitive, exposition heavy and boring.

I reviewed it for Rotoscopers.com here.

Frown Worthy

 Home Again-

I was actually excited for Home Again as I love a good romantic comedy and we get way too few of them these days. Unfortunately Home Again wasn’t a romantic comedy. It wasn’t a romance. It was a sitcom about 3 guys trying to get a screenplay made in LA and an older woman helping them out. I hope we get better romances in the future but until then I will enjoy Hallmark movies and my Hallmark podcast I’ve started which you can find here.

Frown Worthy

Window Horses-

I absolutely loved this indie animated film about a Chinese/Iranian girl who gets invited to a poetry festival in Iran. While there she learns much about her father, family, identity, life and poetry. It was funny, emotional, sweet and very well written. I loved the unique artistic style and music. If you can find it see it!

I reviewed it on rotoscopers.com here

Smile Worthy

Viceroy’s House-

This seems to be the year for lots of films that satisfy the Anglophile in me and all of the British films have been worth a watch. So is the case with Viceroy’s House. It tells the story of the last Viceroy in India and the events that happened to split India and Pakistan. Director Gurinder Chadha has a personal connection to this story and it comes through. The cast is good and it is handsomely produced. There are definitely sentimental and predictable moments but it is enjoyable

Smile Worthy

Person to Person-

I recently became aware of the term ‘mumblecore’. This is an indie film that follows characters around and shows their everyday life and Person to Person is such a film. I don’t require a strong plot for my movies. I love Richard Linklater movies and enjoyed a film like Maggie’s Plan from last year. However, this one didn’t really do it for me. The people didn’t feel real enough and so it felt like following around a bunch of New York caricatures instead of people. There are some nice moments but over all it didn’t work

Frown Worthy

Lego Ninjago-

I have been a big fan of both the previous Lego movies but must own to feeling underwhelmed by Lego Ninjago. My main problem was it felt very derivative. It’s not just derivative of the previous Lego movies but of Kung fu Panda, Star Wars and a myriad of other films. This made it feel very repetitive and boring. The animation isn’t as good as the original Lego Movie (neither was Lego Batman tbh) and the live action elements didn’t have the emotion of the original film. There is some fun action and the scenes with the cat were hilarious but I can’t recommend Lego Ninjago.

Frown Worthy

Leap

Known in other countries as Ballerina, Leap is a European animated film that will satisfy its target demographic of little girls dreaming of being a ballerina. It’s got decent animation and is a perfectly harmless animated film. However, I did have a major issue with it. The message of the movie is to be a dreamer, which is great. The problem is these dreams come pretty easily to our young heroine. She gets parts in ballets that others have worked for years to get when she is just learning the basic positions because she has the heart! I don’t think this is a great message for girls. Dreaming is wonderful but it must also be accompanied by the requisite hard work.

Frown Worthy (but it is very close. Smile worthy if you are an 8 year old girl who loves to dance)

So there you have it! Let me know if you have seen any of these films and what you thought of them. Thanks tons and happy movie watching!

Tim Timmerman, Hope of America Review

One of the concerns I often have with seeing as many movies as I do is becoming overly critical. I never want to be someone that nitpicks and insists everything be perfect to enjoy a film. I say this because today’s review- Tim Timmerman, Hope of America is a flawed film but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This is a locally made  film by Cameron Sawyer about a Ferris Bueller knock off, know it all, high schooler named Tim Timmerman played by Eddie Perino. Tim has life figured out or so he thinks. He’s going to rule the school as student body president and then head off to Yale. But of course, events happen that start to mess up his plans!

Tim meets a deaf girl named Sydney played by the lovely Chelsea Maidhof. He starts off wanting to use her to improve his chances with her senator father in getting the Hope for America award. Of course, they end up falling for each other like you would expect. He also has a jealous student body co-chair who reminded me of the Jennifer Grey character in Ferris Beuller. There is a principal who is tired of putting up with Tim and an array of geeks, weirdos and stoners who Tim befriends and helps with their problems. They also play a game called Assassins which reminded me of the $2 gag in Better Off Dead. A movie like Tim Timmerman, Hope for America is very easy to criticize. It is derivative, predictable and none of the cast look like they are in high school but it won me over with its charm and positive energy. I was impressed with all the music they got rights too. It’s not a bad 90s soundtrack. It also never becomes mean spirited or judgemental as some high school comedies can be. Being a teen of the 90s it was also very nostalgic for me as it captured the feel and energy of that era.

Cameron Sawyer made this film on a micro-budget with help from kickstarter and it shows, but I didn’t mind that. It’s kind of like Napoleon Dynamite in many ways. Sure it’s a small film but it’s done with such likable characters that it leaves a smile on your face. It won’t be the mammoth hit that Napoleon Dynamite was but that only happens once in a blue moon. Still, hopefully some people will seek it out and support it. It’s a cheerful throwback to the 90s with a very engaging cast. Can’t go wrong with that! It’s also probably the cleanest PG-13 movie I’ve seen in a long time. Definitely family friendly.

Overall Grade- B

Here is the trailer:

They have a form on the website you can request this film in your city. If not look for it on streaming and other services in the next few months and let me know what you think.

 

My Sundance 2017 Preview

It might seem crazy but this year is my first time attending in mass the Sundance Film Festival! Last year I went as a guest of rotoscopers.com to review the film Snowtime and interview the creators but I didn’t really attend the festival. This will be my first time really attending every day and I’m very excited!

The reason I have been reticent to attend in the past is the lack of ratings for the films. Sundance films are more artistic in nature and so I worried I would be wasting my money on films I wouldn’t want to see content-wise. Well, this year I figured I’d give it a shot and if a film is super bad I can always leave. Nothing ventured, nothing gained right? 🙂

Make sure you follow me on snapcat @smilingldsgirl and on other social media because I will update throughout the days on how my experience is going and what I think about the films I see. But I thought it would be fun to give you a preview of what I am seeing.

My Life as a Zucchini-

The first and probably most highly anticipated is the animated film My Life as a Zucchini. This is a stop motion animated Swiss film about a little boy who deals with his grief while becoming a part of a new group home.

Lady Macbeth-

I’m a little nervous about this one because it looks pretty steamy but I love Macbeth so much and I thought it looked like a good film. The tagline is “Alfred Hitchcock meets Wuthering Heights” caught my interest. I would share the trailer but it is very spoilery and so I’d rather you not see it. The movie is about a shut in in 1865 who is basically kept inside by her husband. She meets and falls in love with a servant and the story goes from there.

lady-macbethSTEP-

This is a documentary about a group of high school seniors from Baltimore who are part of a step dance team and their struggles to get into college and compete.

stepRISE-

Billed as a docuseries, RISE is 3 episodes about the struggle of Native Americans and indigenous citizens.  There is a Q and A after so I hope it is good! I see both RISE and Step on my birthday so another reason to hope they are good.

riseAnimation Spotlight-

Of course I had to see this. It is 10 shorts in a variety of styles and subject matter. I think they will be pretty great!

animation-spotlight

The Good Postman-

A documentary about a Bulgarian man who helps the Syrian refugees who are coming into his town.

Band Aid-

This has an engaging cast and it looks like it could be a fun dramedy. It is described as about “a couple who can’t stop fighting embark on a last-ditch effort to save their marriage: turning their fights into songs and starting a band”. I hope it will be good! Could it be 2017’s Sing Street?

Band Aid - Still 1The Hero-

This film is about an aging western movie star played by Sam Eliot who gets a cancer diagnosis and has to face his life. It looks like it could be very sweet.

heroThe Yellow Birds-

This Iraq war story was mostly sold to me on the people behind it. It is written by David Lowery who did Pete’s Dragon, which I loved and stars Alden Ehrenreich and Tye Sheridan who I also love. Jennifer Aniston plays Sheridan’s Mom which I can’t really imagine but I’m looking forward to it.

yellow-birdsRebel in the Rye-

I don’t know much about this one but it stars Nicholas Holt and is about JD Salinger before he wrote Catcher in the Rye.

rebel-in-the-rye-movieI had a ticket for Wilson staring Woody Harrelson but after seeing the trailer it really doesn’t look like my thing, so I think I will try and exchange it.

So there you have it! Do any of my selections intrigue you? I wanted to see A Ghost Story which is directed by David Lowery but it is at the same time as Yellow Birds so I picked the latter.

I’m definitely the most excited for My Life as a Zucchini and the animation spotlight! I hope they are great!

Cheers to Indy filmmakers!

Suicide Squad Review

suicide squad cerealI’ve never been the biggest superhero movie person, but over the years movies like The Avengers and X-Men Days of Future Past have won me over. These movies have clever stories, great scripts and charismatic performances by Oscar level talent. 2014 was a particularly memorable year with only 2 bad superhero movies and 4 outstanding films- Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Big Hero 6 and X-Men Days of Future Past. These movies had everything I could want in a superhero movie.

WE WERE SPOILED!!!

Aside from Captain America: Civil War the superhero movies of 2016 have been kind of sucky and unfortunately the latest entry, Suicide Squad does not change that trajectory. Suicide Squad is the latest offering from DC Comics and Warner Brothers and despite promising trailers it fails to deliver on its potential.

After Batman v Superman frustrated many moviegoers in March, Warner Brothers clearly took all the wrong lessons out of the feedback. ‘Make the movies more fun’ is what they heard. So, they rushed David Ayer to write Suicide Squad in 6 weeks and then hacked it to pieces creating a mess of a movie.

suicide squad2That’s not to say there aren’t any redeeming values to Suicide Squad. There are mainly with the casting. All the roles, with 2 exceptions, are well cast. The problem is the script doesn’t give them time to grow as characters or to gel as a unit. Will Smith and Margot Robbie are the standouts as Deadshot and Harley Quinn and I’m curious to see more of them in future films. Viola Davis is also great as Amanda Waller who is an agent forming the Suicide Squad. She is ruthless and you kind of see why she would be interested in super villains.

The story of Suicide Squad is you have this group of villains that are called upon to fight evil metahumans. This is all supposed to be after the events of Batman v Superman but there is never any talk of using the good metahumans like Flash and Wonder Woman (despite briefly seeing Flash in a cameo). And the fact that only 2 of the Suicide Squad are actually metahumans which makes you scratch your head?

The first act of the film starts out clunky with Davis sitting at a table looking through a binder of each of the squad members.  Then we see flashback introductions to the characters. It’s kind of like the gossip montages in Ant-Man but repeated over and over again.

But even with that certain characters aren’t introduced at all like Katana. She just walks onto a helicopter and they say ‘oh look it’s Katana. She’s a crazy ninja” (I’m paraphrasing but you get the drift).

Suicide-Squad-Enchantress-OriginSo what are they called upon to do? Well, they are supposed to stop an evil being named Enchantress who kind of needs to be worse than the squad in order for the story to work but she’s just not. I normally don’t care about lame villains but she did nothing for me and I felt the special effects were very poor. She creates this ‘brother’ that looked right out of Gods of Egypt. Again, I wouldn’t have cared about a bad villain if I had cared about the rest of the film.

SUICIDE SQUADFor a movie like this to work it relies on the charisma of the stars and a witty script (this is not a gritty crime drama like The Dark Knight). And the problem with Suicide Squad is the editing is so poorly done that just when characters are starting to interact it cuts away to something that doesn’t matter.

You are supposed to believe that the characters are becoming a family but I didn’t buy it for a second. There’s a moment where Deadshot has to decide whether to hurt Harley Quinn and their relationship wasn’t near built up enough for me to buy his decision. They had one very brief conversation and they are supposed to be big baddies. It didn’t work.

There’s another scene where they are fighting these glob creatures of Enchantress and the creatures stop coming for some reason and they stop fighting evil and have a drink. If the movie had effectively established them as not caring about the mission or stopping the badder guy than I could have bought it but the way it sits it feels random and jarring.

suicide-squad1The other confusing part about the movie is why have Enchantress when you have DC’s greatest villain in the film for like 6 minutes? You could have made the Joker the villain and instead you have a lame villain. That would be like Marvel having Loki as a villain for a 5 minute cameo. It makes no sense.

But speaking of the Joker…Jared Leto goes for it as this new take on the character and I personally was not a fan. The Joker is an agent of chaos. He thrives on creating disorder. He is the last person in the world that would want to be an organized crime boss like in this movie. It felt too outright bad-guy where the Joker is supposed to be a believer in the philosophy of chaos. He should be more complex than having damaged tattooed on your forehead!

suicide squad3All that said, if you can go into Suicide Squad and ignore the script and just enjoy the charismatic performances and the fun soundtrack I think you may have an enjoyable time. It’s a lot like Batman Forever. There’s some engaging performances in Batman Forever, some decent music and production design but the story and script are terrible. So if you can enjoy Batman Forever than you will enjoy Suicide Squad.

At the very least I didn’t feel as manipulated as Batman v Superman and it isn’t as gloomy (although the forced fun added by the studio is so obvious). To me the two movies are about equal in quality but it is a case of picking your poison and what types of problems bother you more than others.

It’s probably very generous but I did like it better than X-Men Apocalypse which underserved all of the characters I love and became destruction porn. I gave X-Men Apocalypse a D+.

So for Suicide Squad Overall Grade- C- for Will Smith and Margot Robbie but I’d say it’s a definite skip.

ps. Those people who started the rotten tomatoes takedown petition are morons.

Hit Me with Best Shot: Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind

close encounters posterOpinions are an interesting thing. We can have a response to art at one time in our life that is a certain way and then at another it strikes us completely differently. So was my experience with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Directed by Steven Spielberg when I saw it in my 20s I was bored. I don’t know if I was expecting a movie like Independence Day with alien action (which ironically bored me on the rewatch) but at the time it seemed boring.

Now as a grown up adult I look at it and scratch my head at my earlier thoughts. How could I possibly think this movie was boring? It has so many characters and so much going on that it almost feels a little disjointed at times (especially in the beginning). Isn’t that funny?  A completely 360 degree turn around for me on this film. Who knew!

I think what really struck me this time around was its commentary on media and communication. Perhaps it is just seeing the Republican Convention and the Democratic  Convention starting, but I’ve seen so many people passionately trying to explain what is crystal clear to them (including myself I might add) and being told they are insane in response. There are so many scenes like that in Close Encounters. People know what they saw. They sometimes have the scars to prove it and yet they are told they are delusional.

Richard Dreyfuss is so good as an electrician who has a UFO encounter and his wife and others won’t believe him. He gets more and more manic as the signs grow and that makes people push away from him even more. The same thing happens with Melinda Dillion’s Jillian who’s son is taken by the spacecraft and people still don’t believe her.

We as the audience have seen the spaceship in bright technicolor so we know they are right but the other characters either ignorant (lots of scenes of people playing unaware of situation), or chose to not believe and some lie. Is that not also how communication is today more than ever? We either don’t know, chose to not believe or we are lied to and that goes for both sides of the political spectrum.

John Williams score is so great in this; although I did think the ending with the music was a little silly. In fact, I don’t know if I needed to see the aliens at the end because they weren’t really what the movie was about. Still, it’s not a huge problem.

My best shot is probably a strange one as there are dramatic shots of spaceships I could pick but my pick goes back to this commentary on media that impressed me. It’s a news conference where the leaders are trying to explain away what the people know they have seen. I think the way this guy is holding up the plate mocking their concerns shows how we often do the same today with people who hold passionate views different than our own.

close encounters of 3rd kindNathaniel at The Film Experience is doing a week-long series of best shots for the 1977 Cinematography nominees, so Close Encounters best shots will be posted today, and the rest on proceeding days. None of the others sounded very interesting to me so I’ll probably just stick with this but you should check out the blog for the posts.

Man Who Knew Infinity Review

Man-Who-Knew-Infinity-posterToday I had the chance to see the new biopic called The Man Who Knew Infinity. While nothing too spectacular it is a solid inspirational true story about someone I knew nothing about before seeing the film.

Infinity stars Dev Patel as real-life mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan who grew up in a poor neighborhood in Madras, India but had a knack for numbers and mathematical formulas. He even believed the formulas came as visions from God to him, and he knew he needed to share them with the world.

infinity2He also gets married to a gorgeous Devika Bhise who starts off doubting his endeavors but ends up supporting him going to England and meeting with professors at Cambridge. I thought her and Patel had a nice chemistry together and kind of wish the movie had just been about their relationship (of course that wouldn’t be true to life but I would love to see something else with the two of them in it).

infinityRamanujan meets a professor named GH Hardy played by Jeremy Irons (I guess this is his year for biopics with already appearing in Race). The two men become friends despite their cultural and religious differences. Ramanujan is all about the new idea while Hardy encourages him to find the proofs behind the inspiration.

inifnity3To be honest, this is where the movie lost me a bit. They weren’t successful in explaining the math to a math moron like myself and I got a little bit bored watching them at chalkboards working out equations. I’m sure what they were doing was groundbreaking but since I don’t understand the math or concepts it was hard to get excited. Theory of Everything had its problems but it at least made tough concepts easier to understand than this did. Same with Imitation Game.

infinity4The Man Who Knew Infinity ends up being a tragedy but that part of the film is highly predictable. Still I didn’t mind it following basic, by-the-numbers biopic formulas. I don’t need every movie I see to be new and different.

On the whole it is dry during all the math talk and the conversations between professors about whether to ‘grant the Indian fellowship’. That was boring but the relationships were good and the performances sincere. I liked supporting work from Toby Jones, Jeremy Northam, Stephen Fry and Arundhati Nag as Ramanujan’s mother.

Bi0pics on big names like rock stars, generals and inventors are great but I also enjoy these more obscure films as well. The Man Who Knew Infinity tells a good, if standard story and I’m glad I saw it.  I would recommend it a rental when it comes out at the Redbox or a stream on netflix.

Are any of you seeing The Man Who Knew Infitity? What did you think? What’s your favorite biopic? Walk the Line and My Left Foot are two of my favorites.

Overall Grade- B-

Liebster Award

liebster awardI was recently tagged in the Liebster Award by my friend over at Jason’s Movie Blog. This is kind of like a movie tag where a blogger friend will have 11 questions and you create your own questions.  I just recently tagged pretty much everyone I know in the Walt Disney Tag but I will at least answer his questions.

THE RULES


Here are the ground rules for the Liebster Awards….

Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you
 Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you
 Nominate 11 bloggers that you think are deserving of the award
 Let the bloggers know you nominated them
 Give them 11 questions of your own
 And post it on your blog!

Question #1

Favorite Movie of All Time?

Pixar’s Up. It’s a movie I could watch every day of my life and never tire of. I love how the relationship between Ellie and Karl continues throughout the whole movie. It reminds me that love continues on as long as we remember them. It’s a beautiful study of regret and grief and how to forgive yourself for the things that don’t work out in life. In my views a perfect film.

up14Question #2

Favorite Movie Scene?

Breakfast at Tiffany’s the cab scene. To me the best writing in a movie I’ve ever seen:

“You know what’s wrong with you, Miss Whoever-you-are? You’re chicken, you’ve got no guts. You’re afraid to stick out your chin and say, “Okay, life’s a fact, people do fall in love, people do belong to each other, because that’s the only chance anybody’s got for real happiness.” You call yourself a free spirit, a “wild thing,” and you’re terrified somebody’s gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it’s not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas, or in the east by Somali-land. It’s wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself”

It’s a film that takes two characters who are walking contradictions. They are both lonely and extremely manic at the same time. They are both needy and aloof. This is what makes them interesting. The film is a reminder that even the screwiest of us can find salvation through love. This final scene is perfection. “No matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself”. Plus, the music, perfection.

Question #3

Last Movie you saw in theaters?

Angry Birds. It wasn’t very good. Can read my review here.

angrybirdsmovieQuestion #4

If you had the chance to meet one actor or actress in real life….who would it be?

Might seem like an odd choice but I would pick Patricia Heaton because I admire how she has kept her Christian beliefs and stayed a working actress. That’s tough to do.

patricia heatonQuestion #5

What was your favorite movie of 2015?

Inside Out and I like it more each time I see it. It has become my go-to movie and I find myself watching it every couple of weeks.

inside out5Question #6

Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars. I’ve actually only seen 2 Star Trek things in my life. However, I am starting a new set of podcasts next Wednesday with my friend Tom Gunn looking at all the Star Trek films.  Would love for you to join us https://plus.google.com/events/cgdut3p6ukimh52kk5s4n87ktfg?authkey=CJOWwqrA8sTpXA

That said Star Wars is awesome. I love the space opera and adventure and all the characters. I guess the prequels are kind of lame but still doesn’t tarnish the brand in my eyes.

star warsQuestion #7

When did you start blogging?

I started blogging 8 years ago over on my other blog http://smilingldsgirl.com

8 yearsQuestion #8

Why do you blog?

I don’t know. My life would be a lot lonelier if I didn’t blog and it feels cool to find other weirdos that like the same stuff I like. Also I enjoy writing and crafting persuasive essays that get my opinion across. I’ve seen the quality of my writing improve over the years which is cool.

Question #9

If you could visit any movie world in real life, what would it be?

I think I would go to the world of Jane Austen because any magical place has evil and is actually quite fraught with peril. In Jane Austen’s books/movies everyone is polite and says nice things even if they don’t mean it. Worst thing that could really happen to you is you don’t get married and someone says something mean about your mother. Otherwise a lot of tea and talk. I could live with that. pride and prejduce3ps. Anyone else super excited about Love and Friendship coming out?

Question #10

What do you collect? Physical copy of movies or digital downloads?

Physical Copy although I have over 500 digital movies in my vudu.com collection. Still I love special features and the HD quality of bluray. Here’s a video where I go over my Disney blurays.

Question #11

What movie are you looking forward to seeing?

Highest up on my list is probably Moana, Rogue 1, Dr Strange and Kubo and the 2 Strings.

moana4As far as my tags I really just feel like I tagged everyone this weekend so I will leave these great questions open to any of you that wants to answer them.  Thanks for tagging me Jason. It was a lot of fun!

Blindspot 3: Dark Knight Rises

dark knight risesThis month I am taking care of my Blindspot entry early.  This is the series where we watch a classic we have never seen before and give our thoughts on it.  I have already done Blade Runner, Tron and now we look at The Dark Knight Rises.  Yes my friends, today I saw Dark Knight Rises for the first time.  I’m probably one of the few Americans who can say that!

The reason why I was hesitant to see it was because I didn’t really care for Dark Knight (I know shock. Ah, horrors, I have no taste!).  It was too cynical, violent and frankly creepy for me.  It was dominated by a mesmerizing villain and I don’t like stories about villains.  I like stories about heroes.  So I was reticent to see the final installment and then the Colorado Shooting happened and it put me over the edge.  You can read my thoughts on that day here.

I quoted my cousin who said:

“How about the very movie that was showing in the theater where the shooting took place?! I know The Dark Knight Rises is the movie of the Summer, but I walked out because of how intensely violent I felt it was and the ruthless killer Bane was dark and evil. After 20 minutes I went back in because I didn’t want to feel left out… (wish i would have chosen differently now.) i know its bold to say, but we cannot keep watching this violence on screen and expect to be exempt from it in real life!”

I admit I have become a bit more immune to these things than back then but the violence in Dark Knight still bothered me when watching it a few weeks ago.

dark knight rises5

So that’s all kind of background to my viewing experience today.  And…

I have to be honest- I liked The Dark Knight Rises a lot more than I thought I would.  Why?  Well, at its core is a message of hope that a city can rise up and confront evil.  In the Dark Knight, on the other hand, the most noble soul turns into the villain.  It’s the opposite message.  Everyone, even Batman has an angle and isn’t that different from the Joker after all.

That’s not to say it is perfect but I did enjoy the viewing experience a lot more.  I know I’m unique in that but I’m not writing these reviews to tell you what you want to hear but what I truly believe.

So basically the plot in Dark Knight Rises is Bruce Wayne is blamed for the death of Harvey Dent, who is looked at as a hero.  He goes into hiding for 8 years.  Bane, a masked beast of a man, played by Tom Hardy is on a mission to remove corruption from Gotham by removing what he see’s as injustice. Injustice with the government, wealth, commerce and everything else.

dark knight rises2

Bane is trained by Ra’s al Ghul from Batman Begins (who trained Batman) and he is also on a mission to kill Batman who killed Ra.  Bane tricks Catwoman Selina Kyle to get Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints and he stages a takedown of the stock exchange destroying Bruce and Wayne Enterprises.

The plot does get pretty convoluted at that point but Alfred resigns (and is missing most of the movie), Lucius becomes involved, Commissioner Gordon is hunting down Bane as best he can and we get to meet John Blake who is essentially a Robin-type story.  There is also Wayne Board Member Miranda Tate played by Marion Cotillard who wants to see a fusion reactor produced for energy but Bruce fears it could get into the hands of people like Bane.

Bane tries to stage a type of Marxist revolution killing off the powerful and rich while manipulating the common people with fear.  This is in the end is not effective when many people fight back (literally in a type of battle) and Batman pays the ultimate price.  The film leaves us with the message “a hero can be anyone”

dark knight rises4

One of the things that bothers me about most Batman movies is Batman is always the most boring person in the film.  Dark Knight Rises is an interesting situation because he is not really the lead character.  The City of Gotham is the lead, and its transformation is what is compelling.So basically Batman Begins is about Bruce becoming Batman.  Dark Knight is about the Joker and the power of evil and corruption.  Dark Knight Rises is about the City of Gotham and it finding its hope again.

That’s not to say there aren’t problems in the film.  Batman is in the film too little and there are probably too many scenes of Bruce watching the action in prison.  Also it can be difficult to understand what Tom Hardy is saying with that mask on.  There are also other plotholes like his speedy recovery with a leg brace from a debilitating injury but it’s a comic book movie.  I guess I expect that kind of heroics in a comic book movie.  I don’t watch this genre for gritty realism. And in reality there are plotholes in Dark Knight whether people chose to acknowledge them or not.

I’m not saying Dark Knight Rises is a masterpiece. I don’t know if I feel that way about any superhero movie outside of The Incredibles; although there are many I enjoy.  I’m just saying I appreciated the change in tone from the previous installment.

dark knight rises3I also loved Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle.  She was confident, sexy, and smart.  Her performance certainly wipes the bad taste out of my mouth from Halle Berry’s Catwoman.  That’s for sure!  I thought she was really entertaining.

dark knight rises6Miranda Tate while fine was more of an average character, and I don’t know that I completely buy her big reveal at the end.  It feels a little cheap to me.  Nolan didn’t need to make everything in all 3 movies tie up in a perfect bow.  We even see Scarecrow in a cameo during the sentencing scene.  That wasn’t really needed.

Also  many of the other characters are relegated to bit roles.  Alfred has very powerful moments but then is missing for most of the movie.  Gordon we don’t see enough of , as well as a number of other characters.

dark knight rises8As far as Bane goes I found his political motivations to ‘share the wealth’ kind of interesting but like I said he is tough to understand at times and is a little one-note.  The fight scenes are intense but perhaps because I wasn’t as creeped out by Bane as Joker they didn’t bother me as much as the violence in Dark Knight.

If I’m honest you do kind of tell this was the B storyline that they had to use with Heath Ledger’s passing but I still think it turned out very well.

Dark Knight Rises feels like a comic book movie and not a crime drama.  That said, having seen how the story ends I do appreciate the Dark Knight much more than I did before (it might not sound like it but it is true).  I can now see the story as a true trilogy and the hopeful ending does make the middle violence a little more palatable. It is almost better to think of the 3 films as one long movie and not 3 separate stories.  dark knight trilogyOf course the direction is well done by Nolan with beautiful cinematography from Wally Pfister and terrific score from Hans Zimmer.  I don’t think Nolan has made a technically bad movie yet.

You could definitely make an argument that Dark Knight Rises is self-indulgent at its 165 minute time and there are definitely lags but over all I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.  Chop this one up to low expectations if you want.

There’s hope for Gotham and that makes me happy!

Overall Grade- B

Eddie the Eagle Review

So this week has been a bit of a rough one for me. I got a horrible stomach flu, pulled a muscle in my back and had a 3 day brutal migraine.

Needless to say I needed a pick-me up, and thankfully Eddie the Eagle was just such a film! It fits all the standard tropes of an underdog sports movie but as someone who loves those kind of movies I loved it!!

Eddie the Eagle tells the true story of Eddie Edwards who in 1988 charmed the Olympics by finishing last at the ski jump.  How’s that possible, you ask?  Well, it’s because the Olympics is not always about who gets those medals but who ‘takes part’ and does their best.

The real Eddie the Eagle
The real Eddie the Eagle

As a child Eddie had to be in the hospital for a year because of his bad legs, and he used the dream of becoming an Olympian to motivate him to recover. Unfortunately he didn’t have the physical prowess or natural abilities of most Olympians but he eventually found skiing and almost made the British downhill team.

When that didn’t work out he decided to learn how to ski jump.  There was no British team and he could qualify with a modest jump.  He basically teaches himself until he meets Bronson Perry (Hugh Jackman) who is an American jumper who never reached his full potential.  Through sheer determination Eddie convinces Bronson to be his coach and he makes his way to the Olympics.

eddie the eagle3Amazingly enough he completes his jump in the 70 meters and then in the 90 meters- a jump he had never attempted until that day in the Olympics!  Isn’t that nuts!  He did a major ski jump for the first time in the Olympics!

Jackman and Taron Egerton, who plays Eddie, have great chemistry and they sell the admittedly schmaltzy dialogue.  Director Dexter Fletcher keeps things pretty tightly paced and the film has a lot of sweetness and humor.

Is it new or original? Of course it’s not.  It’s basically the same movie we’ve seen in Rudy, Cool Runnings, and even Miracle.  As I love all 3 of those movies that is no problem for me!  It doesn’t transcend the genre like the boxing film Warrior or even Creed did but I didn’t need it to.  I just wanted something that would make me smile and feel good, and that’s what Eddie the Eagle did.

It doesn’t hurt that I am a huge Olympics junkie and have watched every year since I was a little girl as well!  The Olympics are just awesome.  It’s so random we’ve had 2 Olympics movies in 2 weeks.  That’s actually really rare.  For all their drama there aren’t that many films set in the Olympics- Miracle, Chariots of Fire, Cool Runnings, Cutting Edge.  Not that many.  I do think Eddie the Eagle is tighter and better done than Race; although I enjoyed both films.

I would say I don’t think it is quite as good as last year’s McFarland USA, which to me took this formula and told a compelling story about lower income America.  That movie was more emotional for me; whereas, this was just a good time at the movies.

eddie the eagle4If it’s not your cup of tea I totally get it but sometimes I like going to the movies and being inspired by a sports movie.  The performances are winning.  The ski jumping is well portrayed and I found myself cheering for Eddie and his dogged optimism.

And after the week I had I needed that…

Overall Grade- A-