The Big Short (2015) Review

The Big Short (2015)

Directed by Adam McKay

Based on The Big Short by Michael Lewis

Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Big Short is a 2015 American biographical comedy-drama film based on the non-fiction 2010 book of the same name by Michael Lewis about the financial crisis of 2007–2008, which was triggered by the build-up of the housing market and the credit bubble.

My Opinion:

Seriously? The Big Snore is up for the Best Picture Oscar?? No. Just… No. It’s not a bad film but it is pretty damn… Hmm. I don’t know! Pretentious? Up its own arse? Kind of like the Academy, I suppose.

This was the movie I was talking about in my review of Spotlight when I said that the Academy is out of touch with the general public. This feels like the kind of movie that they nominate because they feel like they should. I’m not saying that stuff like Trainwreck or Jurassic World should be up for Oscars or anything like that. The general public likes a load of shit! But can a film not be “worthy” AND also be entertaining? Too many Oscar nominees in the last ten years are, quite frankly, just plain boring to watch. And what happened to movies that are just beautiful pieces of art? I’d say The Revenant fits that description – it’s absolutely beautiful. Where the HELL am I going with this argument?! I have no idea!!! 😉 I mean, Mad Max: Fury Road is up for Best Picture and that movie kicks m*%#erf*%#ing ass so it invalidates my argument. Back to The Big Short

It probably doesn’t help that I was really disappointed at having to go to this movie since The Hateful Eight was sold out. However, it’s an Oscar nominee so I figured I’d at least appreciate it after making myself sit through it. Dammit – I can’t say that’s what happened.

The Big Short is not all bad and the story itself, although too complicated for us everyday idiots (as the movie constantly points out to us morons) is pretty damn fascinating. But, yes, you’re SO right BigShort-makers – I clearly am an idiot because all the talk of loans and numbers and banking did indeed make my eyes glaze over. Yes, I fully admit that I couldn’t follow any of that but I found the celebrity-cameo-fourth-wall-breaking childish explanations to be completely obnoxious. And they still made no damn sense of it all.

All the condescending breaking of the fourth wall aside, I did really like following some of the individual stories. This movie feels a bit messy as it focuses on so many different characters but I suppose it also gave me something to look forward to during the parts I didn’t care about so much.

My favorite parts by far involved Brad Pitt and the two young men his character worked with during this housing market loan bubble thingymabob gobbledegook. I thought Pitt was really good. Remember his very very early days when his acting was pretty dodgy? No, you’re all too young. Trust me – he’s now a very good actor compared to how he started out and he’s one of a handful of actors that may make me actually watch a movie I otherwise might have avoided.

I can’t stand Christian Bale (no reason – just can’t) and his character was in danger of being an annoying caricature but, by the end, his story was the one I enjoyed the most after the Pitt trio. But anytime Steve Carell or especially Ryan Gosling were on screen, I lost interest. They just didn’t work for me, especially Gosling’s arrogant whatever-the-hell kind of rich, straight, white, male scam artist he was.

The Big Short takes what could potentially be a rather boring story involving financial matters that it knows most of us won’t understand and manages to make a movie that is not only rather boring but also obnoxious by infusing humor that doesn’t quite work and by constantly reminding us that it’s smarter than its audience. But, if I’m not being so cynical, I suppose that’s the point the whole film is trying to make so it’s actually quite brilliant.

Basically, loads of Americans were lied to and sold the “American Dream” thing by big banks who ultimately f*%ed them over the way big money always does and the little guys all lost their homes while rich bankers got even richer. The rich bankers are smarter than us and the rich filmmakers are smarter than us. Okay, The Big Short, I guess I get the point you’re trying to make. Too bad I was too bored to care.

I’d watch a movie about this topic again as I do think it’s one hell of a crazy & scandalous story but I think I’d prefer to see it from the viewpoint of us everyday schmucks who always get screwed over. Or maybe in a slightly different style, at least. Financial shit is boring as hell but, hey, The Wolf Of Wall Street was FAR from boring. Maybe this would’ve been a better film if it had been made by Scorsese. Bonus points for Brad Pitt’s & Christian Bale’s characters, though – those bits help liven up what is otherwise a movie not really worthy of a Best Picture nomination.

My Rating: 5.5/10

** I went to Spotlight & The Big Short two Sundays ago on my own and, in between the two movies, I texted my husband. I just thought I’d share this as the predictive text really cracked me up. I’m easily amused… 😉 My texts are in blue:

Advertisements

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) Review

2015/01/img_8330.jpg

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
Hauru no Ugoku Shiro
Japanese: ハウルの動く城

IMDB Top 250 Rank: 189 as of 01/01/2013

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Based on Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Starring Voice Actors:
Chieko Baisho
Takuya Kimura
Akihiro Miwa

(English Dub Voice Cast: Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Billy Crystal, Josh Hutcherson, Blythe Danner, Jena Malone)

Running time: 119 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
When an unconfident young woman is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self-indulgent yet insecure young wizard and his companions in his legged, walking home.

2015/01/img_8345.jpg

My Opinion:

Version Watched: In Japanese with English subtitles then the English dubbed version

This is yet another of several Studio Ghibli films in the IMDB Top 250. It’s jumped a massive 40 places from 189 to 149 since I started my IMDB Challenge on 01/01/2013.

For anyone who has never watched a Studio Ghibli movie, there are certain ones I wouldn’t necessarily recommend as an “introduction” to the Ghibli universe. Some may seem very “odd” to the Western world and, although I’m a big fan of the films now, they do take some getting used to. I started on one of the strangest ones (and most loved, it seems): Spirited Away. I found Howl’s Moving Castle the most similar to Spirited Away of the movies I’ve seen so far and, if you’re a fan of one, I think you’ll like the other one as well. I believe I ranked Howl’s Moving Castle above Spirited Away when I did my Top Ten Studio Ghibli Movies (HERE) but that may change when I re-do the list after seeing the rest of the films.

2015/01/img_8333.jpg

Subtitled vs Dubbed:

First of all, I’d like to say that I will ALWAYS recommend watching the subtitled version for every Studio Ghibli film. These movies are so different from the animated films of our culture & hearing the original language really preserves the magic feeling of the Ghiblis. There are a few where I’ve only seen the dubbed version as I saw them on TV and, of course, for the ones aimed at kids where you actually do watch them with a young kid, you obviously have to go for the dubbed version. Howl’s is one of the “not for young kids” ones so I highly recommend the subtitles on this one as I hated the English dub. It wasn’t quite as bad as with Kiki’s Delivery Service (I hated the Americanized cat!) but the annoyingly whispery Christian Bale “Batman” voice was SO wrong for the mysterious Howl (plus I hate Bale!) and Billy Crystal was extremely distracting as possibly my favorite character from the film, Calcifer the feisty fire demon. Now, I absolutely ADORE Billy Crystal & think he can do no wrong but, seeing as I’m a huge fan of Monsters Inc, it was very very odd seeing this strange little character in a Ghibli film sounding exactly like Mike Wazowski. That’s not the fault of Crystal, though – I know they hire big names in order to try to sell the film outside of Japan.

2015/01/img_8338.jpg

Anyway! Howl’s Moving Castle is a weird one. The story reminded me in a way of The Wizard Of Oz where a young girl (Sophie, who in this case happens to have been turned into an old woman by a witch) goes on a strange journey with an odd assortment of characters (it probably helps that there’s a scarecrow called Turnip Head). No, wait – it’s far more messed up than The Wizard Of Oz… It’s more like Return To Oz.

2015/01/img_8342.jpg

With a lot of the Ghibli stuff, it’s the characters that make them interesting as the storylines can be hard to wrap your head around and that was certainly the case for me with Howl’s Moving Castle. I’ve already mentioned Calcifer & Turnip Head but there’s also a cute dog named Heen, a sweet young boy named Markl and the Witch of the Waste, a creepy old woman with a huge face who reminded me of the witch Yubaba in Spirited Away.

2015/01/img_8344.jpg

2015/01/img_8335.jpg

Then we of course have Sophie, another strong young female character like we so often get in Ghibli films (although not the best one – I’d go probably go with Nausicaä), and the intriguing manchild wizard Howl. Howl was a bit David Bowie-like (which I’d certainly not complain about), especially as Jareth in Labyrinth. Howl is kind of a hard character to actually like, unfortunately, until you get to know a bit more about him. Overall, though, I think the true star of the film is probably the “moving castle” itself.

2015/01/img_8331.jpg

Summary:

I struggled with this review. I watched this back in September and have already forgotten a lot of the plot. I do think the story in this one is a little too complicated. I know Laputa: Castle In The Sky had a pretty complex story as well but, for me, I liked that one much more & had a lot more fun watching it. Spirited Away is complicated as well but really has one main theme (growing up) that doesn’t get lost in a convoluted plot like I feel the themes in Howl’s Moving Castle do. This is why I like writing reviews – I’m able to think more about a movie as I write about it and sometimes my opinion changes by the end of a review. Although I certainly enjoyed all the colorful characters and once again being a part of that strange Studio Ghibli “world”, Howl’s Moving Castle hasn’t stayed with me the way other Ghibli movies have and I think I ranked it a little too highly in my Top Ten – I’d put it below Spirited Away now & possibly even Ponyo. Definitely worth a watch for Ghibli fans, especially those who like Spirited Away, but it’s not my personal favorite.

My Rating: 7/10

2015/01/img_8341.jpg

My Top Ten Carpets & Rugs In Movies

IMG_6844.JPG

Has anyone done a list of their top ten carpets & rugs in movies yet?? I can’t find one! Anyway – this came about as the hubby & I were discussing my number one on this list (a movie I’m pretty obsessed with). He doesn’t love it the way I do & part of my argument as to why it’s so awesome is because of THE CARPET! So….

Here are My Top Ten Carpets & Rugs In Movies:

10. The Pink Panther

The lovely Claudia Cardinale on a weird tiger-rug. Guess it’s a little more sexy than that picture of Burt Reynolds on the bearskin rug…

IMG_6838.JPG

9. The Machinist

Super skinny Christian Bale has a super hard time with a dead body in a rug (Don’t worry – that’s not really a spoiler as it’s the opening scene).

IMG_6840.JPG

8. American Hustle

Hey look – it’s Christian Bale again! Except this time he’s fat & and he has an even more problematic rug…

IMG_6837.JPG

7. The Money Pit

Who doesn’t love Tom Hanks?! (Other than Abbi…). Here’s poor Tom stuck in a rug after falling through a hole in the floor of his “money pit” house.

IMG_6836.JPG

6. Trainspotting

Ewan McGregor sinks into this rug in a drug-fuelled haze while the excellent Lou Reed song Perfect Day plays. Great scene!

IMG_6834.JPG

5. Aladdin

Come on! You know the magic carpet from Aladdin needs to be on this list… 🙂

IMG_6835.JPG

4. The Big Lebowski

Again – you knew this one would be on the list!

The Dude: “That rug really tied the room together.”

IMG_6833.JPG

3. A Nightmare On Elm Street

Don’t you hate it when you’re trying to get away from Freddy Krueger and your carpeted stairs suddenly turn into some sort of gooey quicksand? Poor Nancy! Still, it was probably better than getting licked by the Freddy-phone.

IMG_6831.JPG

2. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

Chewbacca – the greatest walking-carpet-sidekick ever!

Princess Leia: “Will somebody get this big walking carpet out of my way?”

IMG_6829.JPG

wcgif

1. The Shining

There is no other possible number one for this list. The Shining is responsible for bringing us the creepiest carpet in the history of film.

IMG_6828.JPG

Next Week: CURTAINS!

IMG_6842.JPG

Not really… 😉

Honorable Mention: I couldn’t find a picture of it to use but I like Gru’s pandaskin rug in one of my favorite movies of recent years –Despicable Me

Now, I think the only proper way to end this post is with a song from Nick Rivers:

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

20140505-120053 pm.jpg

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Luke of Oracle Of Film. He’s already reviewed Batman Begins (review HERE) & The Dark Knight (review HERE). Thanks again for doing all these, Luke! 🙂 Now let’s hear his thoughts on the final film in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, IMDB rank 38 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

20140507-073923 pm.jpg

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES: THE REVIEW

Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard and Morgan Freeman
Plot: Batman is long gone, the Harvey Dent Act putting rest to all organised crime. However, when a dangerous mercenary hell-bent on vengeance arrives in Gotham, it seems like the perfect time for the Batman to rise once again.

The Dark Knight Rises has taken a bit of a beating recently. I admit that there are so glaring plot holes in the story that not even rasping ‘Because Batman’ can truly fix. Fans, after being euphorically lifted by the magnificence of the Dark Knight, were left underwhelmed at the finale in the Dark Knight trilogy. These reactions all surprised me, because, in my books, The Dark Knight Rises is the best Batman movie to date.

20140507-092337 pm.jpg

Look past the plot and you realise that Nolan’s aim is creating a more thematic conclusion to the trilogy. This is about every Batman fan’s number one question: when does it end? Does Batman simply hang up the cape one day or does he die in the line of battle? Nolan opens his story with a Gotham no longer in need of a Batman. Dent’s death inspired the Mayor to create a tougher police force, wiping organised crime from the city. The Batman faded away, believed to be a murderer. However, just when the city had gotten lazy, anarchist Bane arrives in the town and uses the luxury of the rich to turn Gotham in on itself. Batman, fuelled by past glories, returns and is quickly subdued. Gotham surrenders to the rule of Bane and Batman is a thing of the past. Christopher Nolan keeps the tone measured perfectly, always hitting the correct notes, whenever he needs an emotion card to be played. When he wants us to feel despair, we have our hearts in our mouths. When he wants us to feel sadness, we feel our throat choking up. And when he wants us to soak in happiness and the awesomeness of seeing the Dark Knight back in action, we are in the palm of his hand, letting the guy who remastered the mythology of the Batman, show us how good cinema can actually be.

20140507-090153 pm.jpg

The biggest complaint that I heard of the Dark Knight Rises is a very slow middle act. Batman disappears from the plot totally and we get the story of freedom fighters, struggling to take the city away from the all-knowing Bane. Sure, it does feel a little jarring, when we are given break-neck action, only for Nolan to hit the brakes and leave us out in the cold. But, it is all for a good reason. For one, it makes us feel the absence of the Batman. The tone is kept grim and despairing as we realise that, in ending the trilogy, anything could happen. It also means that when the Batman returns, it is one of the most uplifting movie moments of 2012. The second reason for letting Nolan slow the action right down is that the supporting cast are given precious moments to look cool. Gary Oldman, always threatening to steal the show from everyone else, gets a much larger slice of the action. Newcomer Joseph-Gordon Levitt shows himself as one of the newer action heroes on the block. Looking at the trilogy on a whole, this is a refreshing change of pace and lets every card get played, rather than letting certain sides of the story get lost for a more mainstream style of blockbuster.

20140507-090301 pm.jpg

Another great addition is the villains. Bane has always had a rough deal in the Batman universe, going from the most cold-hearted mercenary in comic history and being resorted to a slapstick thug in ‘Batman and Robin’. Even the games, which have a habit of showing most villains in a positive light, turn Bane into a junkie. Here, on-the-nose casting lets Tom Hardy bring Bane back to one of the most intimidating figures in the trilogy. We have had some great nemesis figures for Batman to face off against, but none have come as close to victory as Bane. The Joker may have broken Batman’s spirit, but it was Bane that actually broke his body. Also, Nolan takes my least favourite villain, the Catwoman, and makes her relevant to the story. She actually makes sense and, while she still sticks out like a sore thumb at certain beats, her addition eventually becomes a key part of the conclusion. There is one more bad guy here, but the less said about that the better. The thrill is in the mystery.

20140507-090344 pm.jpg

I could rave about how the massive moments really send the Dark Knight Rises into the history books. The final fight on the streets of Gotham, the first fight between Batman and Bane, the heart-breaking explosion over the waters of Gotham… But it is the smaller beats that really make the film. My favourite moment is when Alfred confesses his secrets to Bruce Wayne. It is the quiet disappointment of Christian Bale that gets to me. He is too far gone to break down, but we can see the exhaustion in his eyes, the losses he has faced destroying his soul. This is a man on the way to his deathbed. Easily forgotten, but another testament to how impressive Christopher Nolan’s depiction of the Batman really is.

Final Verdict: Yes, I’m giving every Dark Knight movie five stars. Why? It is the greatest movie trilogy of all time and that’s not an easy competition to win.

Five Stars

20140507-090422 pm.jpg

The Dark Knight (2008) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

20140501-090724 am.jpg

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Luke of Oracle Of Film. He’s chosen to review Christopher Nolan’s entire Batman trilogy. He already reviewed Batman Begins last week (review HERE) & I’ll be posting his review for The Dark Knight Rises this same time next Thursday. Thank you for doing these, Luke! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about The Dark Knight, IMDB rank 7 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list HERE. See the full list & links to all the films that have been reviewed HERE.

20140430-100048 pm.jpg

THE DARK KNIGHT: THE REVIEW

Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Eric Roberts and Morgan Freeman
Plot: The Batman (Bale) works with the District Attorney and the cops to put away Gotham’s most dangerous mobsters, accidentally provoking the wraith of the maniacal Joker (Ledger)…

When I first watched the Dark Knight, I was disappointed. In my opinion, Nolan had delved too far into his realistic vision and had lost the essence of Batman. The battles between Batman and the mob felt less like a superhero action and more like a political thriller with a kick (The Dark Knight has been compared to Michael Mann’s ‘Heat’). I felt that Batman had lost that Gothic appeal and the charm that made originally fall in love with the character was missing. It didn’t helped that this movie was over-hyped to be one of the greatest superhe… no, movies of all time.

20140430-100736 pm.jpg

Then I saw the bigger picture. The Dark Knight is one of those movies that somehow gets better with every watch. You notice certain details and elements that you missed before. There are so many secrets tucked away inside the Dark Knight and I am sure I will learn of quite a few more as of yet. While I still think it is the weakest of the three movies (it suffers from not being the origin or the finale of the trilogy), it is still a terrific piece of cinematic art, with political messages and comic book references sprinkled all over this masterpiece. Nolan tells an interesting story, where it is suggested that Batman is slowly becoming the villain, as Bruce Wayne gets lost in his war on crime. The actual story is one full of twists and turns, throwing unexpected shocks at us. Characters are killed off in a heartbeat, arcs are completed with agonising horror and we are given one of the most complex superhero movie villains of all time, and probably quite a while to come yet. The one beat that falls short is the twist of Harvey Dent. As a comic book fan, I knew where that line of story was going, and I felt it would have been much more powerful, if they gave the District Attorney a new name. Sure, it would have annoyed the fans, but imagine if that final reveal was totally out of the blue. It would have been amazing.

20140430-101004 pm.jpg

And what a script! I didn’t realise this until recently, but this movie is full of quotable lines. Sure, we all remember the popular ones, like ‘Why so Serious?’ and ‘I am not the hero Gotham needs, but the hero it deserves!’, but there are so many more that slip under the radar. Almost every line given to the Joker could easily be the quote of the year “Do you know how I got these scars?” “Oooh, you’ve got a bit of fight in you, I like that!” But the dialogue is so sharp that Christian Bale’s Batman also has a just-as-perfect line to follow it up with. While people remember the Dark Knight trilogy for its visual impression, the awe-inspiring soundtrack and the outstanding performances from every actor involved, I shall always praise the Dark Knight trilogy for one of the finest group of scripts I have ever witnessed. It is truly incredible work from David S. Goyer.

The Dark Knight also feels like it is engaging the audience at several times. The best thing about the Joker is that his social tests give Nolan the opportunity to throw several moral dilemmas at us. The Joker puts a group of convicts and a group of civilians in two separate boats and gives themselves the option of blowing each over up. We get the time old superhero dilemma of which hostage should be saved. The Joker is the life of this movie and Heath Ledger’s amazingly outside-the-box performance really makes this a key part of the trilogy. While I am still a more comic book based Joker fan, it was a refreshing change and suited Nolan’s realistic vision far better. Heath Ledger remains unpredictable right until the end (which ironically is quite difficult with the Joker, as if anything’s possible, it is harder to shock with him), meaning that we are totally invested in the character throughout the entire film. Despite public outcry at Ledger’s casting, Nolan knows he is onto something good and gives the actor as much space as he needs to have us in the palm of his hands. Some of the most memorable scenes are ones where Heath Ledger is allowed a sinister monologue, the hairs on the back of our necks standing up on edge, attention caught by the clown.

20140430-100554 pm.jpg

However, to say Ledger steals the show would be suggesting that everyone else dropped the ball. In truth, almost everyone else meets the late Heath Ledger, blow for blow. Christian Bale is far more comfortable as the Bat this time around, channelling the aggression and frustration that Batman works so hard to bury. Gary Oldman feels much more useful to the plot, this time around, and it is easy to overlook the fact that he is probably one of the best actors Nolan has at his disposal. Christopher Nolan also has a habit of casting actors I think little of and making me change my mind. Aaron Eckhart is at his best here, as Harvey Dent, the District Attorney determined to make a change, even with the odds stacked against him. Meanwhile, Maggie Gyllenhaal doesn’t quite sway me, but an interesting character arc means that we are still totally behind her character and interested to see what Nolan has up his sleeve. A perfect ensemble of actors.

Final Verdict: Nolan goes from strength to strength, making this Batman more thoughtful than before. It also boasts some of the finest acting ensembles in quite a while.

Five Stars

20140430-100706 pm.jpg

Batman Begins (2005) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

20140501-090908 am.jpg

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Luke of Oracle Of Film. Luke has a “Question Of The Month” series which is always a fun read and I was one of many to answer this month’s question HERE. He’s also taken on the huge responsibility of reviewing Christopher Nolan’s entire Batman trilogy (Zoe was NOT happy that Luke beat her to these so she’s grabbed another huge trilogy as well). I’ll be posting Luke’s review for The Dark Knight this same time next Thursday. First let’s hear his thoughts on Batman Begins, IMDB rank 103 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list HERE. See the full list & links to all the films that have been reviewed HERE.

20140423-095940 pm.jpg

BATMAN BEGINS: THE REVIEW

Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Tom Wilkinson, Linus Roache and Morgan Freeman
Plot: When his parents are brutally shot dead, Bruce Wayne (Bale) gets lost in his grief, emerging at the other side as the infamous Batman.

Batman had finally escaped the comics.

I know that Batman has had movies made about him before, but they had always kept both feet firmly planted in their comic book origins. Tim Burton twisted the graphic novel to create a gloomy, gothic atmosphere, ripped straight from the pages of a Frank Miller fantasy. Joel Schumacher had taken the slapstick nature of the comics, also harkening back to the Adam West days. However, Christopher Nolan realised that, in order to survive, Batman needed to fly further from his comfort zone. Therefore, he took this beloved comic book figure and throw him in the real world. This is Gotham City, as we have never seen it before. Filming the city using actual London boroughs, the dark, gloomy streets of this deadly, fictional city could very easily be a place not far from you, albeit the worst-case scenario. It makes the dread that all Gothamites fear, so very real. Certain parts of town are so dangerous, people give themselves a curfew that they need to follow or wind up dead. Not only the location, but the characters feel real. Bruce Wayne’s evolution, while never too big a problem originally, is far more relatable, helped by a powerhouse performance as Christian Bale, the orphan boy always moments away from exploding with the rage dangerously bubbling inside of him. Alfred and Commissioner Gordon have always felt like add-ons in the movies; they need to be there, because they are an important part of the mythology, but who actually wants to spend time with them. Nolan reinvents them, so they actually matter here, affecting the story more than they ever used to. Taking this idea further, Nolan also throws in Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox, a Batman ally long forgotten, because he is the easiest to cut out of the origin story.

20140423-102309 pm.jpg

And Batman Begins is all about the origin story. If I wanted to find a flaw with the movie, I would go with the fact that Nolan does drown us in exposition for almost half the movie, as we get the beginnings of Batman slowed right down and explored extensively. However, despite my dislike for lengthy origin stories, especially ones almost every movie-fan knows like the back of their hand, I cannot bring myself to count this as a flaw. Here, we get Bruce Wayne explored so well, I feel closer to the character than I ever have before. Usually, Bruce Wayne gets brushed to the side, so the director can spend more time with the masked alter-ego, but Nolan never does this. Not only do we get the usual strands of story, like the death of his parents in Crime Alley, but Nolan actually goes to great lengths to explain how he got so good at martial arts. There is also a break-away segment, where we discover how Bruce Wayne grew up so against killing, yet it never feels pointless, because we are also introduced to one of three main antagonists, Carmine Falcone. Yes, there is so much information to take in, and those fans wanting a more slap-and-dash action-packed superhero movie might be better off drifting back to the Tim Burton era, but personally, I feel that Nolan makes Batman Begins more than a superhero movie; he makes a gripping character piece.

20140423-102211 pm.jpg

Ironically, seeing as I just contradicting this following point above, Batman Begins is probably the most generic action movie of the entire trilogy. While The Dark Knight sees Nolan tackle deeper themes and begin to create a lasting trilogy arc, Batman Begins just enjoys being a Batman movie. Sure, the gritty realism slows the action down, but there is a clever action movie narrative going on. We get the origin story, the city run by multiple villains, which all accumulates into a terrific finale battle, where half of Gotham gets overrun by inmates from Arkham Asylum, all led by the murderous villain (if you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t spoil the reveal for you). But yes, Batman Begins seems like a time, before Nolan saw the bigger picture, before he decided upon turning this story into a trilogy. Here, he just visualises the Batman universe he wanted and paints it beautifully for audiences everywhere to enjoy.

Final Verdict: Batman has never been so perfectly depicted on the big screen. Deep, realistic, yet still a worthy action: Christopher Nolan ticks every box.

Five Stars

20140423-102354 pm.jpg

American Hustle (2013) Review

20140115-120140 am.jpg
American Hustle (2013)

Directed by David O Russell

Starring:
Christian Bale
Bradley Cooper
Amy Adams
Jeremy Renner
Jennifer Lawrence
Louis C.K.

Running time: 138 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
American Hustle is loosely based on the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s and early ’80s. It stars Christian Bale and Amy Adams as two con artists who are forced by an FBI agent (played by Bradley Cooper) to set up an elaborate sting operation on corrupt politicians, including the mayor of Camden, New Jersey (played by Jeremy Renner). Jennifer Lawrence supports the cast as the unpredictable wife of Bale’s character.

20140115-120918 am.jpg
My Opinion:

Be brief… Be brief… (Trying to make myself keep this short – I ramble on too much!)

This movie was good. Not great. A little overrated. (Sorry). I came away from it with the same sort of feeling I had after finally watching Silver Linings Playbook recently. Some very good performances in both films but, overall, something is missing. They both feel a little hollow. And come to think of it, I felt sort of the same way about The Fighter (I reviewed that in my early days HERE. Ugh – I should re-read that before linking to it. My old reviews were even worse than my current ones).

20140115-121216 am.jpg
Like with the other David O Russell films I’ve seen, it’s more about the performances in this one than the story itself. Don’t get me wrong – the story is okay but didn’t exactly blow me away. I was more excited to see the female actresses in this than the actors as I don’t really like Bradley Cooper or, especially, Christian Bale. However, Bale ended up being the best thing about the film – I really warmed to his character by the end of the movie. I love Amy Adams and think she also did a good job in this (and I loved all her 70’s outfits even though seeing so much of her boobs got a little disturbing after a while when I just watched her as a Disney Princess in Enchanted the other day). Lawrence & Cooper were good but I felt a bit like I’d just watched them doing somewhat similar characters in Silver Linings Playbook.

20140115-121249 am.jpg
Summary:

American Hustle has a lot of the elements I like: Great actors & performances, decent script, good music (ELO!), and the 70s (I love that ugly-ass decade). But something about it didn’t QUITE work (for me) overall. It was good. I enjoyed it. Bale & Adams were great. It’s the first film I’ve gone to in 2014 but I already know where it’ll rank in my end of year list: somewhere in the middle. I’m looking forward to The Wolf Of Wall Street more, which comes out here on Friday. Will be interesting to see which one I prefer.

My Rating: 7/10

20140115-121315 am.jpg

The Machinist (2004) Review

20130922-025304 PM.jpg
The Machinist (2004)

Directed by Brad Anderson

Starring:
Christian Bale
Jennifer Jason Leigh
John Sharian
Aitana Sánchez-Gijón
Michael Ironside

Running time: 102 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) is a machinist who hasn’t slept for a year. He seems to be losing his grip on reality as strange things start happening and he starts seeing things no one else can see. Is it due to his insomnia or is something more going on?

20130922-025413 PM.jpg
My Opinion:

A few people voted for The Machinist when I asked everyone which film I should review next. It was a good few months ago that I saw it but I’ll do my best to recall my thoughts on the film.

20130922-025520 PM.jpg
I think it’s common knowledge how far Christian Bale was willing to go for this role when he lost weight to the point of looking dangerously emaciated. That was certainly impressive – it’s amazing what some actors will do to themselves for a role. I suppose it made his character even more believable as he certainly looked like someone who hasn’t slept in a year and is slowly losing his mind. So it’s a great performance from him but, physical appearance aside, doesn’t seem much different from other performances we’ve had from him. Am I in trouble for that? I’m sorry – he’s an actor I’ve never really liked but I’m not going to try to explain myself because I have no idea why I feel that way. So let’s move on. 😉

20130922-025552 PM.jpg
I enjoyed the story itself. I like a good psychological thriller. I’ve always liked films where someone is (or appears to be) “losing their mind”. That’s definitely the case here. Trevor starts seeing things no one else seems to see. He talks to a new co-worker named Ivan but when he mentions Ivan to his other co-workers, no one has heard of him. He starts finding post-it notes on his refrigerator showing a threatening game of hangman which progresses throughout the movie. Plus there’s what appears to be blood seeping out of his freezer door…

20130922-025621 PM.jpg
His only friends are a prostitute named Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and a waitress named Maria (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón) & her young son Nicholas. His co-workers, including Miller (played by Michael Ironside), turn on him when his apparent paranoia becomes a dangerous interference at work. Michael Ironside! I love that dude – Jack Nicholson on a budget. These co-stars were all good and seemed just right for their roles, especially Jason Leigh.

20130922-025644 PM.jpg
Summary:

Christian Bale was very impressive in The Machinist, I thought everyone was well cast, and I had a fun time trying to figure out the mystery of whether or not Bale was actually going insane. Overall, though, the movie didn’t quite work for me. It was dark, dreary, had someone slowly losing his mind, and kept the audience guessing all the way as to what was actually going on. I like all those things so I’m not quite sure why I didn’t like it more than I did. It’s certainly worth a watch but is more of a “weekend afternoon” movie than I was expecting. In the end, I felt like I had watched a REALLY good Lifetime movie (minus Nancy McKeon). Oh, that’s harsh. Luckily, only those in the US of a certain age will know what I’m on about. And, hey – I loved those Lifetime movies. What I’m saying is that The Machinist ends up being more simple than it first appears. I was expecting something a little deeper but it was still a fun ride.

My Rating: 7/10

20130922-025716 PM.jpg
Yes, everyone is just as happy throughout the movie as they look in the above pictures.

The Fighter

20121222-041734 AM.jpg

Felt like watching a “quality” movie tonight so went with The Fighter.

Great performances. I’m not a Christian Bale fan AT ALL but he was very good in this. I like Amy Adams a lot – it was good to see her in a different sort of role as I’m more used to her as a cheesy Disney princess in Enchanted. Mark Wahlberg gave a solid performance as well – I just always see him as Mark Wahlberg in everything… I probably liked him most in Ted. (Great movie!) 😉

I’m a girl so a movie about something I’m not at all interested in (boxing? ugh!) was probably never going to be a favorite. I can understand why this movie did so well as the actors all did a very good job but I can’t help but compare it in my mind to The Wrestler. That was also a movie about a sport I’m not at all interested in (wrestling? ugh! actually- all sports- ugh!) but I loved that movie. Mickey Rourke was SO good in that. I felt more for his character than for those in The Fighter even though The Fighter was based on a true story.

So, The Fighter was an interesting true story with some very good performances but I don’t think it’s one that will stick with me for long.

7/10