Not the best Jim Carrey, but it’s serviceable. He’s always been great at playing down on his luck characters so this is a nice fit for him. The premise itself never goes too wild, but most of the scenarios presented allow Jim Carrey to ham it up for the audience’s amusement. Carrey’s always been a great physical performer and it’s fun to watch him contort his face and body to deliver some excellent slapstick. It was a pleasant surprise to see Bradley Cooper and Danny Masterson in this movie and while all three play off each other very well, it’s ultimately Carrey’s relationship with Zooey Deschanel that’s the most enjoyable.
It takes a few minutes to settle in to their relationship given the age gap, but it manages to work because of the chemistry between Carrey and Deschanel. There’s a cute contrast between both characters where Carrey starts the film as unadventurous and Deschanel is a thrill seeker; she’s just as much a catalyst to Carrey’s arc as the “Yes!” seminar he attends at the start of the film. The sequences between both characters play off like every other romcom, but it doesn’t matter how generic something is if the execution is at least serviceable and all of their moments together are sweet and quirky.
Even with a unique premise, Yes Man is essentially just another paint by numbers romcom. This is not to say that the film is bad, because it most certainly isn’t, but you can see everything that’s going to happen from a mile away. As soon as the quirky girl shows up, you can tell they’re going to fall in love, break up, and then get back together by the end of the movie. There’s so much you can do with the material but Yes Man is rather tame and has no real consequences to Jim Carrey’s choices until it directly affects his relationship with Zooey Deschanel. On top of that, it seems like a waste to have Terrence Stamp show up for two sequences.
Terrence Stamp is the guru of the “Yes!” seminar and he’s the one who forces Jim Carrey to say “yes” to every situation that presents itself. Carrey accepts this covenant under the assumption that he’ll have bad luck if he ever says “no” to a situation but by the end, it turns out that everything Terrence Stamp said was essentially a scam. It would have been interesting if Yes Man touched on themes of cult followings and why people follow them, but it’s more interested in playing it safe as opposed to even slightly challenging the audience.
It’s nothing you haven’t seen before and it’s not Jim Carrey’s best performance, but it’s mindless entertainment that makes great use of Jim Carrey’s zany personality. Bradley Cooper isn’t featured much in the film, but he’s great as the best friend who gives Carrey the tough love he needs. It’s cute, it’s funny, and it’ll also make you feel good by the end. As someone who likes watching movies on the weekends, Yes Man inspired me to say “yes” to life and to experience it as it comes at you.
It was always going to be an uphill battle to deliver a performance that was on par with Ledger’s Joker, but Hardy manages to do quite well for himself. I first took notice of Hardy during Inception and even though he was a supporting member, there was something about him that leaped off the screen. Hardy has an “Old Hollywood” look that’s feels both classy and edgy and he manages to bring those sensibilities to his performance as Bane who’s equally classy as he is ferocious. Hardy’s abilities as a physical actor are fully utilized in The Dark Knight Rises as he’s forced to use everything but his face to convey emotion. Even with most of his face covered, Hardy’s able to show so much through a simple look in his eyes as well as his posture. What makes Bane such a compelling villain isn’t just his musclebound figure; he’s intelligent, calculated, and charismatic, which makes him a great foil for Batman.
The sewer set piece between Batman and Bane is effective because of how well it establishes Bane’s menace and strength over Batman. After eight years away from the cape and cowl, Batman is in no shape to be squaring off against Bane. While Batman is physically deteriorating, Bane seems to be impervious to pain or weakness thus giving him an advantage over Batman. Every resource that Batman uses against Bane is ineffective against the towering behemoth who anticipates Batman’s every move and finds a way to counteract them. The lack of score was also a nice touch as it adds a bit of intimacy and dread to an already hopeless situation. The hand-to-hand combat in The Dark Knight Trilogy might be Nolan’s weak point , but the sewer set piece manages to be one of the most primal Batman fight sequences ever put onscreen.
Plot, plot, plot! Plot holes don’t bother me all that much, but if a film favors plot over mood or character, then the script better be tighter than a spandex suit in the middle of summer.What was the point of the fusion reactor other than to serve as a MacGuffin for the third act? Since there was never any mention of it during the prior films, Rises has to dedicate so much screen time to the fusion reactor that it takes time away from the themes and characters. Rises isn’t interested in character so much as it is in wrapping everything up and it’s evident when you consider the fact that most of the major characters are out of commission for most of the film.
John Blake and Selina Kyle fit quite nicely in Nolan’s Batverse and manage to hold the fort down, but major players like Jim Gordon and to an extent, Batman himself, are pushed to the sidelines for a good chunk of the film. Gordon and Batman spend a good portion of the film lying in bed unable to do much of anything that they’re inconsequential to the the film’s plot until the third act. If Rises was meant to be a conclusion for these characters, why are they pushed to the sidelines. There’s too much going on here and it all comes in precedence over our main heroes. Even with bigger set pieces, a longer runtime, and a massive ensemble, everything still feels clunky.
The Dark Knight Rises is half ambitious and half lazy, but both halves somehow manage to work together to deliver an ending that’s both gratifying and triumphant. Rises was never going to live up to The Dark Knight, but there is no reason for a film like this to feel so lazy especially when it’s being directed by Nolan. Rises was given a longer runtime, bigger ensemble, but surface level thrills mean nothing without compelling characters and a central theme to hold it together. Despite how clumsily it gets to the finish line, Rises does manage to effectively conclude the story of Bruce Wayne.
This is the first Batman film that focuses on Bruce Wayne as opposed to his alter ego. In Batman Begins, Bruce creates the Batman as a symbol to unite the people of Gotham to take back their city; Batman was never about enacting a never-ending vendetta against crime so much as it was to inspire Gotham to take action. However, somewhere along the way, Bruce lost that idea and instead of moving on, he lay in wait for Gotham’s cries for a savior. The Dark Knight Rises isn’t about the rise of Batman, but the rise and return of Bruce Wayne from the pit of fear and pain that he’d been living in since Batman Begins. Bruce Wayne’s rise allows him to finally leave behind Batman and Gotham with the knowledge that even if the city no longer needs a hero, there will always be a Batman there to start the fire should they ever need it.
In a screwed up way, Deadpool’s kind of a cute movie.
What was the hype all about? I kid you not, the first time I saw it, I shrugged it off. I’d seen and read so many reviews praising Deadpool as the next Iron Man and when I finally saw it, I couldn’t understand where that praise was coming from. Deadpool’s humor is very childish and meta and while it works for some scenes, there are many other moments where the humor comes off as annoying. Thankfully, we have Ryan Reynolds to make it tolerable.
For all its faults, Ryan Reynolds was not an issue; in fact, he holds this all together like Gorilla Glue. Every once in a blue moon, you get that match made in heaven like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, and Heath Ledger as the Joker. Deadpool is the role that Ryan Reynolds was born to play. Ryan Reynolds seems to be best utilized when he’s allowed to be a little obnoxious rather than a straight-faced action star which is why Deadpool was such a logical fit for him. Reynolds still gets to play the superhero, but Deadpool is much more sinister than the traditional clean-cut protagonist and it works seeing a conventionally handsome actor like Ryan Reynolds embracing his edgier side even if it’s edgy in a juvenile way.
Even so, no matter how hard Reynolds tries to sell the humor, I never burst at the seams laughing. It’s a unique take on the genre, but there’s only so much meta you can dish out before it starts to get annoying. Calling out a villain for a “superhero landing” doesn’t mean much if you still end up doing the superhero landing anyway and Deadpool is full of tropes that it openly mocks. There’s a lot of shiny exterior to conceal an interior that doesn’t always work well.
Once I got over the dated jokes made for eighth graders, I thought it was pretty fun! Deadpool is a live-action Looney Tunes character written for adults and once I understood that, everything fell into place. The humor still isn’t as funny as it thinks it is, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I got a few chuckles here and there. Ryan Reynolds is still a joy to watch onscreen and I don’t know if he performed any of the stunts, but the action is pretty tight.
That opening sequence on the highway is bonkers and even though it looks artificial, the energy I felt was anything but! It’s a funny sequence that effectively sets the tone for the rest of the film and it’s easily the best moment in the whole movie. The violence lives up to its R-rating and every punch and kick landed had me wincing. While the meta humor didn’t work for me, the slapstick humor did. Everytime Deadpool loses a limb or breaks a bone, I laughed and groaned from how funny it was to see our antihero being put through so much punishment. It’s nice seeing how far they could push the envelope with the violence and gore. Amidst all the blood and gore, it also somehow manages to be kinda sweet.
Deadpool and Vanessa’s relationship is so cute despite how fast those two seem to move. A one-night stand suddenly becomes true love and if it weren’t for Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin’s chemistry, I probably wouldn’t have bought it. Of course, the third act turns Vanessa into the damsel in distress but the first act injects her with enough personality to make her memorable. There’s also some great chemistry with Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead and they play off great with Deadpool’s obnoxious sensibilities. Gotta give a shout-out to Dopinder whose few minutes of screen time are memorable and actually aids in the theme of the film, which leads us to…
Deadpool’s a superhero film about how good looks aren’t everything; all you need is love and it’ll triumph over everything else. When Deadpool’s hanging in The cab with Dopinder, Deadpool explains that his motivation is to get his good looks back to win back Vanessa’s heart. Dopinder’s also fighting for the affections of a woman but his competition is his much more attractive cousin. As these two converse, both come to an understanding that looks don’t matter. Well, at least Deadpool gets it. It’s such a simple message but in a genre that’s always casting supermodels as superheroes, it’s a welcome shock to the system.
Deadpool’s humor hasn’t aged well and it goes for the cheap gag when it could go for the intimate character moments, but it still manages to deliver a crowd pleasing superhero movie that does have some unique qualities.
Another memorable Pfister/Nolan collab! The cinematography in Inception has Nolan going fully unhinged and the things he manages to capture onscreen are absolutely mental. Compared to most modern blockbusters, there hasn’t been anything quite like Inception in terms of visual style. It’s a terrific display of grandiose spectacle without being overbearing on the senses. With all the insanity going on in Inception, it doesn’t throw us right into the action; instead, the first act takes its time to show us how the dream world works.
One of the best sequences is when Cobb is demonstrating the world of Inception to Ariadne in a sequence that feels very similar to the Matrix when Morpheus explains the world of the Matrix to Neo. While there’s a lot of information being given to the audience, the exposition is never boring and that’s because as Ariadne is navigating through the dreamworld, we’re discovering it with her. Who’s ever going to forget the buildings folding on top of each other because I most certainly won’t! It’s a fun sequence that captures the imagination of Ariadne and the viewer’s.
Nolan’s always been able to capture scale in his action sequences, but when it comes to close quarters combat, he’s been slacking. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I say, “no more” because the hallway fight sequence has got to be one of the most original and exciting set pieces that Nolan’s shot at this point in his career. It wasn’t enough to shoot this sequence in wide camera angles with very few cuts or edits, so Nolan decides to have that sequence set in a rotating hallway! I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt needs to be in more action movies because he’s really good at handling the stunts. The camera captures space and geography so effectively that you never feel lost even when the hallway is always moving. Nolan went the extra mile here and I’m stoked to see his action improve in future films.
To quote a favorite pirate of mine: “I feel…cold.” The criticisms directed at Nolan’s emotionally distant characters have been a complaint for years now and it was never a problem for me until now. I don’t know what was up with me on this rewatch but it was pretty hard for me to get fully invested in what was going on. This isn’t to say that any of the performances are bad because every actor does their part well, but there’s not much to latch onto with these characters. Inception seems to be the start of a new phase in Nolan’s career where the concept takes precedence over story and character.
The one character who actually has any arc is DiCaprio’s Cobb but he’s probably the wrong person to lead this movie. This is probably blasphemous but it needs to be said: Ariadne should have been the main character. As an audience surrogate, it makes more sense to focus on Ariadne and how she navigates through the dreamworld. It’s more exciting to follow a newbie as opposed to following a professional like Cobb who’s had years of offscreen experience to understand this world. Would this have fixed the character issue? Who’s to say, but it feels like a more organic way of introducing the audience to the world of Inception as well as a nice change of pace from Nolan’s usual dead wife story arc.
If The Dark Knight was Nolan’s breakout hit, then Inception officially solidifies Nolan’s status as a mainstream filmmaker. Inception came at the right time just as superhero movies were beginning to make their stamp in pop culture and while original IP is hard to come across these days, Inception managed to go beyond the boundaries of what audiences were expecting with their blockbusters. It’s bold, it’s challenging, and it’s downright confusing at times but to have Inception become so successful speaks to Nolan’s skills as a director and his ability to draw an audience to his films.
Inception takes everything from past Nolan films and refines it into his magnum opus. You have the guilty man trying to reconcile with his past sins, you have suited professionals, and you have the theme of time. With Inception, Nolan says everything he’s been wanting to say and delivers it with a heartfelt conclusion that feels cathartic for himself as well as for Cobb. It may not deliver in terms of character and emotion but in terms of pure visual spectacle, there’s so much energy and innovation in every set piece that you’ll never stop thinking about it even once the credits roll.
Nothing says summer quite like surfing waves and robbing banks with the boys!
Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break is about a quarterback punk called Johnny Utah. He goes undercover as a surf bro under the suspicion that a gang of surfers are responsible for a string of bank heists across Southern Cali.
Point Break is one of my all-time favorite action films. I watch it at the start of every summer to welcome the warm weather, the good vibes, and the senoritas and margaritas. I know, I know, some of you might think it’s far fetched to label Point Break as an all-time favorite. The plot is ridiculous, there’s too much cheese on the pizza, and watching Keanu Reeves act is about as exciting as walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes. These are all valid criticisms, but there has to be something more to this cult classic than simply being a “cheesy fun” action flick. So sit back, grab a meatball sub and make it two because we’re about to tear into the wave that is Point Break!
The cinematography is good. Really good! Just like that ugly girl who you didn’t realize was hot until after high school, Point Break’s cinematography had me giving it a double take. I’d never heard of Donald Peterman but apparently he was the cinematographer for classics like How the Grinch Stole Christmas so I gotta give him a fist bump for that one. Point Break’s cinematography is never showy but if you look hard enough, you’re guaranteed to find more than a few inspired moments. For anyone who’s due for a rewatch of Point Break, definitely take a closer look at the cinematography because there are quite a few tricks sprinkled throughout and one of those tricks happens to be a long-take tracking shot.
Before you had Birdman or True Detective playing around with long-take tracking shots, Point Break was that hipster kid who was doing before it was cool. It doesn’t happen during any action sequence, but instead, it happens right at the start of the film when Utah’s getting a tour of the FBI precinct. On Utah’s first day on the job, he’s getting a tour by his commanding officer, Agent Harp and as the camera’s following them around, it’s also capturing the energy, geography, and the overall atmosphere of the precinct. It’s just a typical day at the office for most of these nameless characters but because we’re following Johnny Boy’s first day on the job, it feels like a fish out of water scenario where everything feels claustrophobic and overwhelming. It might seem superfluous to have a long-take during a sequence like this with no action in it, but it’s effective in addressing where Utah is at the start of the film and it informs us that just like the audience, Utah is in a whole new world.
The cinematography is only as good as its editing and the sequences in Point Break flow so well because of how strong its editing is. One of my favorite moments is the sequence between Johnny and Tyler at the shrimp and fries restaurant. At the start of the film, Johnny don’t surf! If he’s going undercover as a surfer, the least he could do is look believable on a surfboard and this is when he sets his sights on Tyler, a native of the California area. Thinking that he’s nothing more than a yuppie poser, Tyler initially refuses. At the start of the sequence, the camera’s constantly cutting back and forth between Johnny and Tyler which indicates that these characters aren’t meeting each other on equal terms.
However, once Johnny starts giving his monologue about his parents, the camera adjusts a little bit as Johnny leans over the register counter to meet Tyler at eye level. At this point, the camera lingers on Johnny long enough before it cuts back to Tyler. The cuts aren’t as constant as they were at the start of the sequence which now indicates that Johnny’s slowly winning Tyler over. Each time the camera cuts back to Tyler’s gorgeous green eyes it further lowers her guard until she finally agrees to being his surfing teacher. These two sequences work not only because of the cinematography and editing but also because of the performances and that takes us to our next point.
Keanu Reeves made a name for himself throughout the 90’s as an action hero. On the surface, he fits the bill: he’s tall, he’s handsome, and he oozes cool. Reeves was unlike any other action star in the past decade because while he wasn’t built like Stallone or Schwarzenegger, Reeves had a vulnerability that drew you in. That being said, he’s pretty bland in Point Break, but that’s alright, because the cast surrounding him do a great job in complementing his performance. Let’s talk about the three major characters and what they represent to both Johnny and the overall themes of Point Break.
First to bat is Johnny’s partner Agent Pappas played by Gary Busey. No one but Gary Busey could make such a bizarre character like Pappas so likable. Despite being the laughing stock of the FBI and constantly belittled by his superiors, Pappas is the one who ends up being correct about the Ex-Presidents being surfers. He’s also the one who delivers some of the best quotes in the entire movie. Find a more quotable line than, “UTAH, get me two!” As a buddy duo, Pappas and Utah are great together, but Pappas also represents what Johnny could end up becoming further down the line. Utah starts the film as the fresh-faced hotshot while Pappas is the has-been who’s been chewed up and spit out by the system he works for. Pappas is old enough to see the reward for all his years of service at the FBI but Utah thinks being an agent is the thrill of a lifetime. That is, until he meets Bodhi.
Next up, we have big daddy Bodhi, the real star of Point Break! Our introduction to Bodhi is through Johnny’s eyes and it’s love at first sight. It’s a cool slow-motion shot that would make Zack Snyder cream his pants and it’s also an effective way to establish the mythos that is Bodhisattva. Bodhi is everything that Johnny wants to be: he’s a leader, he’s charismatic, and he’s free from the confines of society. Essentially, Bodhi’s got a case of “stick-it-to-da-man-niosis.” Compare that to Johnny who’s stoic, works for The Man, and is constantly berated and belittled by the very system he works for. Johnny’s interest in Bodhi stems from the fact that he knows he could end up like Pappas unless he breaks free and Bodhi is the guy who shows Johnny what really freedom can be like. On first viewing, Bodhi’s lifestyle is exciting and liberating, but in the end, it’s his recklessness that leads to his undoing as well as the undoing of his crew. Bodhi might not be a slave to society, but he’s a slave to the adrenaline rush and it’s obvious that Kathryn Bigelow isn’t interested in endorsing it, but in deconstructing it. Case in point: Tyler.
I initially thought this was a thankless role, but thematically speaking, Lori Petty’s Tyler is the one who holds this whole film together. She’s the only character who sees past Bodhi’s monologues of enlightenment as merely the ravings of an extremist and she openly calls him out on it. For a majority of the film, Johnny’s too dumb to see how insane Bodhi actually is but Tyler warns him that Bodhi will take Johnny to the edge and she ends up being right the whole time. Kathryn Bigelow uses Tyler as a surrogate to critique the male ego and its desire for danger to prove how masculine it is. In the end, it’s ultimately Tyler who shows Johnny the illusion of Bodhi’s life and the danger it brings.
No action film is complete without, you know, good action and Point Break has a lot of sweet action. We’ve got not one, but TWO skydiving sequences, we’ve got surfing, and we’ve got bank robberies. The scale of the action is breathtaking and the range of the action is vast, but the reason it’s so effective is because it involves characters you actually like. Too many modern action films seem to place scale first and character second, but all the reps for Kathryn Bigelow who gives us the foreplay before thrusting us into the action. There are so many moments in Point Break that are just characters hanging out and vibing with each other and then once the action kicks in, you’re hooked because the character dynamics have already been set up.
One of the most iconic moments in the whole movie is the foot chase between Johnny and Bodhi. It’s iconic for a lot of reasons: it’s well-paced, it’s involved, and the resolution is effective even if it’s a bit silly. The camera does a great job of following both characters as they try to outpace the other and as the camera’s trying to keep up with both characters, there’s a tangible adrenaline rush that leaps off the screen. The chase is effective not only as an action set piece but also in furthering the plot. Since the start of the film, we see how diligent Johnny is to catching the bad guy, but now that it comes down to it, is he really willing to follow through with it? Up until this point, Johnny and Bodhi have been developing a bit of a bromance and now that Johnny has Bodhi at gunpoint, he must ultimately decide between his new friendship or his obligations as an FBI agent. For an action film that people enjoy to mock, there’s quite a bit of layers here.
Speaking of adrenaline rushes, the mounting tension during the house raid sequence is an underrated banger! Confident that they’ve found their suspects, Utah and Pappas organize a raid on the Red Hot Chili Peppers residence. In total, it’s a ten minute sequence, but half of that time is used to set up locations, key players, and Mcguffins. No one but Utah sees that the suspects are armed but before he can convey that information on the walkie talkie, a lawnmower drowns out the message which leaves Pappas in danger. Those first five minutes tell us that we’re in for some trouble and once it starts, it doesn’t let up! It’s a well done action sequence that leads to the ultimate punchline: the Red Hot Chili Peppers were the wrong guys. These are two action set pieces differ wildly from each other but they all deliver the same amount of thrills and dramatic tension.
Point Break is a masterclass in action filmmaking and is a wonderful time capsule for a decade of action films that seem to be all but extinct. The characters are defined, the cinematography has purpose, and the action moves the story forward while always managing to stay exciting and unique. Under lesser hands, this could have been an action film too silly to be taken seriously, but the amount of craft and talent that was put into this film deserves to be rewarded. It’s not without its flaws, but it’s easy to look past them when every other aspect of the film falls into place. Point Break makes its moves in silence and despite never drawing attention to itself, it leaves just enough there for those who truly look for its greatness.
People will be clamoring for strong female characters, but will dismiss films like The Assassin
AT FIRST, I WAS LIKE: To be quite honest, I don’t remember anything that happened when I first saw it. I saw the Blu-Ray at Best Buy and I thought the cover looked cool. I was under the impression that this was going to be a Wuxia film like Crouching Tiger or Hero so I bought the Blu-Ray under that pretense. I start watching it, and the long shots and lack of action had me blacking out. You ever get blackout drunk and wake up the next day on the side of the street with nothing but your underwear wondering how you got there? Well, that’s how I felt watching The Assassin; I got to the ending but I couldn’t tell how we got there. Don’t hold that against me though, I was a young and naive cinephile and a movie like this was just too much for me to appreciate at the time.
BUT NOW, I’M LIKE: It’s been six years since I’ve seen The Assassin and y’know what they say: second time’s a charm! The things I didn’t like the first time became the best parts about The Assassin. Wuxia films are some of the prettiest looking films ever made and The Assassin is no different. There are a lot of striking colors all shot with some terrific cinematography. Speaking of the cinematography, we need to call Berlin because the cinematography took my breath away! It’s full of these long and lingering shots that might turn off some viewers but if you pay attention to what the camera’s actually doing, you’ll get a lot of insight into the characters. While the cinematography was a banger, I was still having a hard time getting into the actual plot of the film. Too many different characters with difficult names made it hard for me to invest. Also, I couldn’t tell who was who because of how similar most of them looked. Maybe it’s just my lack of brain cells but I was confused. At least the visuals helped hold my attention.
IN THE END, I’M JUST LIKE: The Assassin is definitely not for everyone and if you want something with a bit more energy with a dash of well-choreographed action, then you’re gonna have to look somewhere else. If, however, you don’t mind a slower pace, then The Assassin might be the film for you. I really can’t praise the cinematography and editing enough. The opening sequence is shot entirely in black and white and sets up the world, the story, and the characters with little dialogue. All the information you need on Shu Qi’s assassin is given in those opening sequences. This second viewing was a very rewarding experience for me and I’m looking forward to giving this another watch a few years down the line.
A Quiet Place: Part II further supports my stance that children ruin everything.
REPPED: John Krasinski makes for a promising genre director because of his ability to create and hold tension for the right amount of time until it reaches its breaking point; for this reason, Krasinski seems like the obvious successor to Steven Spielberg. For further proof, look no further than the opening prologue for Part II which makes great use of tension by showing the events of the first day of the invasion while also serving as a reintroduction to the world set up in the first film. What’s so effective about that prologue is that we already know how it’s going to play out, but Krasinski and friends assume it’s going to be a normal day at the ballpark. It feels reminiscent to Spielberg’s War of the Worlds where an ordinary day slowly starts to become anything but normal. I like that Krasinski still manages to capture what made the first film so enjoyable while also allowing the world and characters to expand in a way that feels honest and organic to what was set up during the first. We still have Emily Blunt dazzling up the screen, but she’s now more of a side character while Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe are put front and center. Both characters go their separate ways for the sequel and while both have their own separate stories, their narratives ultimately culminate in a final act that drives home the main theme of the film. That final shot is such a powerful ending and makes for a solid crowd pleaser.
NEGGED: It’s not as emotionally gripping as the first film. The characters are still well-written and the performances are still as strong as my right arm, but the first film still feels like it had the stronger premise. Movies like Andy Muschietti’s It do this trope particularly well; if you want good drama, just kill a child during the opening sequence. Part I is about a family dealing with the loss of a child and for all the fun that Part II has, I think it lacks a bit of that drama that was present in the first film. Cillian Murphy’s character had potential to be the one with the most effective story arcs in the film but his backstory happens offscreen. It’s a small grievance but it deserved to be addressed.
FINAL VERDICT: It’s a coming-of-age tale about moving on and carrying on the legacy of your predecessors. A Quiet Place: Part II effectively expands the world that was created in Part I, but the main characters still manage to stay grounded and relatable despite the expansion. Krasinski still has a strong grasp on tension and while the novelty of the first film has worn off, John Krasinski still manages to craft a sequel that’s just as enjoyable as the first even if it wasn’t as dramatically resonant as the first film.
Nolan gives us another character super good at his job, this time, it just happens to be the villain.
REPPED: Calm down, literates, now’s not the time for Ledger praise. That comes later! Instead, I wanted to highlight Wally Pfister’s brilliant cinematography. Wally Pfister and Christopher Nolan are the power couple of the film world; the Brangelina for cinephiles, if you will. With Pfister’s work in The Dark Knight, he effectively conveys the characters’ feelings to the audience while also establishing the mood of each sequence. My favorite sequence is between The Joker and Rachel where he tells the story about his scars. The way the camera circles around both characters perfectly captures Rachel’s feelings of dread and unease. I don’t know about you, but this is probably how I’d feel if a clown came up to me at knifepoint. As I’ve been trekking my way through Nolan’s filmography I’ve learned that he loves push-in shots. I’ve noticed it since Batman Begins but it’s used quite a bit for The Dark Knight. The best push-in shot is definitely during the dinner sequence with Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent. As Dent’s giving his “die a hero” monologue, the camera pushes into Bruce and it drives home the idea that Bruce believes that Harvey could be the man to make Gotham great again (MGGA). I also see it as Bruce hoping that Harvey could be Bruce’s way out of his responsibilities as Batman. The creative and purposeful use of camera movement in The Dark Knight makes it one of the most uniquely shot films in the superhero genre.
NEGGED: The only problem with setting Batman in our world is that you risk making Gotham look like a generic Metropolitan city. If there’s one thing Batman Begins does better it’s that it creates a Gotham City that feels tonally consistent with the Gotham City of the comics while walking the line just enough to where it feels like it could exist in our world. I’m not a comic book purist and I never have been so I can understand the choice to depict Gotham City the way it is in The Dark Knight. On this rewatch, it’s obvious that The Dark Knight is a story about Gotham City so why not play up that theme and give Gotham a bit more of a personality? Anyway, it’s a small grievance.
FINAL VERDICT: It’s not fair to call this a good Batman movie or even a good superhero movie. Nolan’s aspirations are larger than simply delivering another solid superhero film. Through his use of score, cinematography, and performance, Nolan ended up making a near-perfect film that just happens to have Batman in it. I think it’s time to talk about the Ledger performance because this is a performance that will transcend the ages. What do you say when everything’s already been said? It’s terrifying, it’s engrossing, and it’s funny. This feels like the performance Ledger was born to play and it will forever be a moment immortalized through time. The Dark Knight is a crime epic set in a world where superheroes exist and taking these larger-than-life icons and placing them in real world situations with real world consequences is what continues to make The Dark Knight ahead of the curve.
REPPED: Morfydd Clark’s performance as Maud is equal parts chilling as it is tragic. The character is a powerful allegory for religious zealotry and the dark paths it can lead you to. It’s uncomfortable watching Maud interact with other people because of how awkward and unaware she is but it also makes for some darkly comedic moments and Clark does a great job of delivering a grounded and sincere performance while also acknowledging how loony and unwell Maud really is. Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle seems like the biggest influence for Maud with her occasional voiceovers and apparent savior complex. The events of Saint Maud are told from the perspective of Maud herself, so the film romanticizes her actions and presents them as an act of God’s will. However, director Rose Glass smartly manages to pull us back to the reality of Maud’s delusions which in turn delivers one of the most chilling endings to a horror movie I’ve ever seen.
NEGGED: The relationship between Maud and Amanda seems like an afterthought during the middle portion of the film. Maud is assigned as Amanda’s caretaker who is diagnosed with a terminal illness and their interactions together are very good because of how different their personalities are. Maud is repressed and devout in her religion whereas Amanda is promiscuous and uninterested in religion or salvation. In a mocking fashion, Amanda calls Maud her “little savior,” unknowingly sparking Maud’s self-imposed crusade to save Amanda’s soul. This is what the film’s first act is about but once we reach the second act, Amanda is never present until the climax which is a strong conclusion for both characters, but it works because of how strong the setup during the first act was.
FINAL VERDICT: The terror of Saint Maud doesn’t come from its jump scares or demonic imagery, but from what it says about guilt and the things we turn to in order to cope with our shame. Of course, Saint Maud isn’t opposed to these horror tropes of jump scares and frightening imagery but they’re strategically used during moments when the characters are at their lowest and when the tension is at its highest. Saint Maud’s use of atmosphere and score is effective in building dread and putting us into the mental state of Maud which is the most important ingredient to making this film work. Ultimately, Saint Maud is a tragic character study of a woman seeking penitence and enlightenment but her journey ultimately leads her down a burning path of destruction.
My girlfriend thought that Drunk Jackman was a different actor.
REPPED: A bit of hyperbole here, but Borden is undoubtedly Bale’s best performance. Bale’s reputation as a method actor is well-documented and while he’s never been a bad actor, the method acting usually seems to overshadow the actual performances he gives. With The Prestige, however, there’s no prosthetics or weight change; this is simply Bale delivering a straightforward performance. In The Prestige, Bale’s Borden is subtle and reserved which is a great contrast to Jackman’s Angier who has a natural charisma and showmanship. On first viewing, you might label this as “Boring Bale,” but upon future viewings, there’s so much going on with this performance that you’d only notice upon a second viewing. Borden can be unlikable in one scene but can be charming and sympathetic in another and Bale never takes it to either extreme. A character as nuanced and complicated as Borden deserves to be in the Nolan Hall of Fame!
NEGGED: What negative can I give to one of my all-time favorite films? I have no idea, but if we want to reach here, I’d say Scarlett Johansson’s performance is lacking. In fact, the two females in the movie (Johansson and Rebecca Hall) are simply props for Bale and Jackman. Of the two, Rebecca Hall is the one who gives the stronger performance. She’s the emotional center for Christian Bale’s character, but she’s nothing more than the longsuffering housewife. It’s consistent with other Nolan films to have weak female leads but Johansson might be the most out of place. Her accent is distracting and she’s propped up to be the object of affection for both protagonists but she walks out of the film without leaving much of an impression.
FINAL VERDICT: The Prestige is a tragedy about the dark side of ambition and obsession. There’s a clear protagonist and antagonist in The Prestige but Bale and Jackman are so obsessed with beating the other that they destroy the lives of those around them and it ultimately leaves you conflicted on whether either one is truly the hero or villain. This is the middle ground where Nolan is starting to play around with higher concepts but unlike his proceeding films, the characters are the draw and not the concept itself. Nolan’s greatest magic trick is revealing his trick from the start, but like Angier, we refuse to accept it because of how simple and obvious it is and once the revelation comes, you’re left just as surprised as Angier with how the trick was in front of you all along. Nolan’s pedigree continues to grow from here on out, but The Prestige still manages to be his ultimate masterpiece.