Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) Review

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Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Screenplay by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn

Based on The Secret Service by Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons

Starring:
Colin Firth
Samuel L Jackson
Mark Strong
Taron Egerton
Michael Caine
Sofia Boutella
Sophie Cookson
Mark Hamill

Running time: 129 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.

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My Opinion:

I’ve gone to a bunch of Oscar nominated movies so far this year (Birdman, Foxcatcher, Whiplash…). I could have gone to The Theory Of Everything yesterday but decided I needed a break from all that worthiness and went to Kingsman: The Secret Service instead. It certainly doesn’t take itself seriously and was a lot more fun than all those Oscar nominated ones. I’d rank Whiplash above Kingsman but I certainly enjoyed it more than than Foxcatcher or Birdman. Yes! I rank everything I watch HERE. Doesn’t everyone do that?! 😉

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Kingsman is from director/writer team Matthew Vaughn & Jane Goldman. They also gave us the delightful Stardust (did I just use the word “delightful”?), Layer Cake & X-Men: First Class. Oh yeah, and Kick-Ass. I freaking hate Kick-Ass! So they’ve once again adapted a comic book by Mark Millar. I won’t even begin to pretend I know anything about The Secret Service comic book so this review is based only on the movie. Anyway – Vaughn & Goldman’s movies are quite varied. Which one is Kingsman the most similar to? You all probably know by now that it’s Kick-Ass crossed with James Bond (I also hate James Bond!). Yet… It works. I thoroughly enjoyed it despite the excessive violence. And, yes, this thing is violent! Wow. I’m a wuss but the gore was more “comedic” than gross and some of the deaths were fantastic (especially a finale toward the end – brilliant). Oh, Vaughn is also married to Claudia Schiffer. Schwing! She’s a babe. How did he manage that??

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They’ve done a fantastic job casting this movie. I’ve never been a huge fan of Colin Firth but he’s PERFECT in this – I loved him. Michael Caine is a pretty obvious choice for his role but it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing his character. Samuel L Jackson is his usual over-the-top self but, hey, that’s what we all love about him! I also really liked newcomer Taron Egerton as the young council estate troublemaker Colin Firth takes under his wing – I can see him being in many more films after this one. It’s also good having two decent female characters – Sophie Cookson as one of the “kingsman” recruits and Sofia Boutella as the kick ass super villain sidekick with deadly blades for lower legs. Oh! And a great cameo from Mark Hamill, who was apparently named in the comic book so I’m sure fans of the comic book liked seeing him in this.

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This movie is obviously a spoof on the James Bond/spy thriller movie but it’s a great, violently action-packed spy thriller itself with a wonderful sense of humor that doesn’t stoop to an Austin Powers level of stupid comedy (hmm – that’s the second Mike Myers reference in this review). The main villain and evil plot are ridiculously fun and I loved the training of the young new recruits in order to hire the next “kingsman”. They even almost managed to make this movie non-sexist, unlike the Bond films. That is, until the “end”. Literally. (You’ll get what I mean, Mike). 😉

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Summary:

I thought Kingsman: The Secret Service was bloody good fun. Fans of Kick-Ass and/or James Bond will love it as will, apparently, people like me who hate both of those! Just be warned that it may be more violent than you’re expecting so maybe don’t take your grandparents to it. It’s a good “buddy” flick or date movie with a girl who’s happy to watch a fun & violent action movie (I think there are more of us girls like this than you realize). Seriously – give me THIS Colin Firth over the one in those obnoxious Bridget Jones movies any day. And, yes – a guy in a tailored suit is sexy.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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**Scene After Credits?: Why do people rush out the SECOND the credits roll?? Anyway, if you do that you’ll miss the extra scene that’s only about ten seconds or so into the credits so it’s worth staying for that. You don’t have to stay until the very end, though, if you really have to pee. 🙂

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Interstellar (2014) Review

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****SPOILER-FREE REVIEW (but slightly bitchy…)****

Interstellar (2014)

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Starring:
Matthew McConaughey
Anne Hathaway
Jessica Chastain
Michael Caine
Bill Irwin
Ellen Burstyn

Running time: 169 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.

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My Opinion:

I’ve avoided reading the many reviews of Interstellar here on WordPress because I really didn’t want to know a single thing beforehand. As there are so many (much better) reviews out there, I’ll keep this super short and instead go & read all your reviews when I get a chance. Besides – the more I talk about Interstellar, the more annoyed you’ll probably all get with me. So I’ll just say this: I was underwhelmed. I was bored at times. And, by the end, it kind of just left me feeling empty (well, except for my bladder).

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Okay – I’ll say a little more because I’m sure you all want to hear me once again complain about a movie. Right?! 😉 Most who actually read my reviews know by now that I’m of the 70’s & 80’s generation and the majority of my favorite movies are from those two decades. I like plenty of current movies (you can see a ranked list of everything I’ve watched in 2014 HERE and see that I’ve given several movies a rating of 8 or higher). So this isn’t just age talking. No, wait… It IS age talking. I’ve been around a long time now and I’ve seen a lot of truly excellent films. Christopher Nolan is a very good director. I realize that he’s sort of like the “Steven Spielberg” for a generation below mine. For me, though, he’s only made one film so far that I’ve truly loved and it’s not The Dark Knight and certainly not Inception (it’s The Prestige). Other than that one, I wouldn’t watch his films over and over again like the way I have with plenty of Spielberg’s films. I think he’s done a great job with the movies he’s directed but, unfortunately, I think maybe Interstellar was a little too ambitious and comes up very short when compared to sci-fi classics.

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Science fiction! It’s something my little brain never fully understands (WTF is a wormhole anyway?) but I absolutely LOVE the genre above all others when it comes to entertainment so I was of course not going to miss this epic space movie. However, I’m also going to be far more picky than some. We have some TRULY classic sci-fi films and I wanted this to be another one. Maybe my expectations were just too high? However, I really had no issues with Gravity. I even ended up thinking Edge Of Tomorrow was far better than I’d ever expected it to be. I think, more than anything, the “human drama” element to Interstellar didn’t fully work. There were definitely some good performances but, overall, it all felt a little shallow and I never really connected with anyone. The “space stuff” (sorry – I hope I don’t lose anyone with my big technical terms!) was fine although, again, I had even less of a connection with the humans in space than I did with those on Earth. It all looked pretty but I wouldn’t say it’s the most visually stunning film I’ve ever seen. The first half of the film dragged and I just wanted them to get the hell up into space. But then even that didn’t live up to my expectations.

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You know what? I’m going nowhere with this review & these days I get maybe 20 minutes to write them. Plus I said I’d keep it short but as always I just blabbed & blabbed! I’m sorry I’ve not been able to put it into better words but, hey – I was just a little disappointed. That’s all. I like what I like and I’m always completely honest here. Hopefully some of my regulars will know I’ve written enough extremely positive reviews of movies I’ve loved to know that I’m not just trying to be difficult as I know some get a little over sensitive about opinions. The Prestige?? I love it. That’s a 9/10 for me. Interstellar is okay. I know Nolan-worshippers won’t have a bad thing to say about it and I do still recommend it to his fans and, well – to everyone, really. It IS worth a watch on a big screen. It just didn’t quite work for me personally and I’d now rather re-watch a sci-fi classic or something like The Right Stuff, which is one I’ve been meaning to watch for years. Ultimately, Interstellar tries too hard to be Spielberg with the human drama and Kubrick with the rest but never comes close to achieving the greatness those two directors have when they’ve been at their best. I think more focus on either one or the other would have actually made this a better film overall but instead both elements kind of fail.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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***Not that anyone is still reading this now that I’ve given a Christopher Nolan film less than an 8 but these are some great sci-fi films & I’d highly recommend them to fans of the genre (the extremely obvious as well as some that are less so). I’d be happy if at least one person gave one of these movies a shot after watching Interstellar (or, better yet, before!). 🙂 And I’d happily take some recommendations as well as there are still plenty I haven’t seen, such as The Right Stuff & the original Solaris or most things from before the 70’s:

In no particular order:

2001: A Space Odyssey
Silent Running
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Star Wars (original trilogy)
Alien & Aliens
They Live
The Thing
Enemy Mine
Moon
Sunshine
WALL-E
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Predator
Planet Of The Apes
Back To The Future
The Last Starfighter
Dark Star
Blade Runner (I’ve just lost Brian!)
The Terminator 1 & 2
Death Race 2000
TRON
Nineteen Eighty-Four
Fahrenheit 451
D.A.R.Y.L. (I’ve just lost the rest of you!)
HARDWARE (I had to include it) 😉
The Man Who Fell To Earth (Because… David Bowie!)

That took ages. I’ll stop there although I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch. A few of these movies are definitely not as good as Interstellar. However, I enjoyed them all more…

Top Ten Actors I’d Watch In Pretty Much Anything

Here we are! My final list of the four started by the fabulous Abbi of Where The Wild Things Are. You can see her list of “The Top Ten Actors I Would Watch In Almost Anything HERE. This is a great thing you started, Abbi! I believe others have made similar lists so let me know if you want me to add your link. I know Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger also did her list of actors HERE. 🙂

I did my most annoying actors & actresses last week but, surprisingly, it took THIS LIST of my favorite actresses to piss people off the most (yes – I grew up with Drew Barrymore & I love her. So sue me!). 😉 Thanks for all the wonderful comments on these – I’ll be replying to each & every one of you soon.

Now here are my Top Ten Actors I’d Watch In Pretty Much Anything (in no particular order plus I’ve narrowed it down by only including living actors):

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Leonardo DiCaprio
Best Movie: The Wolf Of Wall Street

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Jack Nicholson
Best Movie: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

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Morgan Freeman
Best Movie: The Shawshank Redemption

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Chris Hemsworth
Best Movie: Rush

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Tom Hardy
Best Movie: The Dark Knight Rises

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Michael Caine
Best Movie: The Prestige

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David Bowie
Best Movie: The Prestige but I also love Labyrinth & The Man Who Fell To Earth

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Christoph Waltz
Best Movie: Django Unchained

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Michael Fassbender
Best Movie: Shame (is he wearing an Iron Maiden shirt?? We’re meant to be!) 😉

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Ian McKellen
Best Movie: The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy

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Patrick Stewart
Best Movie: X2 or Star Trek: First Contact

**That’s 11 but Ian McKellen & Patrick Stewart count as one! 😉

Inception (2010) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Drew of Drew’s Movie Reviews. Thanks for joining in, Drew! Now let’s see what he has to say about Inception, IMDB rank 14 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.

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Inception Review
Watched: 2/28/2014

Synopsis
Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are “extractors,” a type of thief who enters a target’s dream to steal information. Japanese businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) hires them and their team to plant an idea inside someones head, or “inception,” a task many consider to be impossible. The target is Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), son of Saito’s dying competitor. Arthur tries to refuse the job but Saito offers Cobb an offer he can’t refuse: the opportunity to return home to his family.

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Review
It can be hard to find a truly original movie nowadays among the sea of remakes and reboots. Inception breaks away from the crowd and offers one of the most original stories told today. Top it off with a great cast of actors and an amazing director and the result was bound to be something spectacular.

Sometimes movies try to explain their world before getting into the story. But Inception doesn’t do that. Rather than use the beginning to set up the technology used to enter one’s subconscious, it is used to introduce the concept of dreams within dreams and simply give an idea of what it the technology can do. Later we get the explanation through Ariadne (Ellen Page), the bridge between the movie and the audience. So rather than bore us with the details early on, the movie accepts that entering dream space is already an established technology.

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Although there is a large ensemble, each character gets their fair share of screen time. Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are the main focus, but they handle the attention well and give amazing performances. I haven’t seen Cillian Murphy much except for this and the Dark Knight trilogy, but between the two he definitely shows what he is capable of. I’d have to say my favorite performances is Tom Hardy as Eames. He brings a charisma that fits his character perfectly.

Cobb has become one favorite movie characters. He is very complex and it’s easy to forget that he is a thief. He is an antihero but is one because of the circumstances and only wants to get back to his family. Most antiheroes say they have good intentions and only become so out of necessity but secretly enjoy being a thief/killer/whatever kind of antihero they are. But Cobb is truly doing was is necessary simply to return to his family.

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I have mentioned in several of my other reviews how important the score can be to a movie. Like most other aspects of Inception, the sound work and music complement what is happening on screen perfectly. The movie can get loud to accentuate the action going on, but it also gets very quite, making these moments more intimate. Hans Zimmer is my second favorite composer (behind the wonderful John Williams) and for a good example of why he is amazing just look at this movie. His score is memorable and gives a certain gravitas to the events unfolding on screen.

There were some pretty cool visuals, too. Working inside a dream allowed the action to be limited only by the imagination. One of the coolest was an early scene when Ariadne was learning about molding dreams. She is walking around Paris and made the city fold on itself, among creating other things. There is also a fight scene in zero gravity in a hotel hallway. And these are just a few! The visual department outdid themselves.

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Inception is one of the most original movies that has come out in a long time. Rather than waste the first scene setting up the technology, it uses it to set up the concept of multi-leveled dreams that is an integral part of the plot. The dream scape setting allows for some pretty awesome action sequences, such as a folding city and a zero gravity fight… inside a hallway. Cobb is an fascinating character that is surprising complex for a thief. Despite the large ensemble cast, each character gets some good moments to shine. I think part of the appeal of Inception is the heist itself and the originality of the whole thing. Really, if you haven’t seen Inception, what are you waiting for?

Rating
5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Christopher Nolan – Director/Writer
Hans Zimmer – Composer

Leonardo DiCaprio – Cobb
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Arthur
Ellen Page – Ariadne
Tom Hardy – Eames
Ken Watanabe – Saito
Dileep Rao – Yusuf
Cillian Murphy – Robert Fischer
Marion Cotillard – Mal
Tom Berenger – Browning
Pete Postlethwaite – Maurice Fischer
Michael Caine – Miles
Lukas Haas – Nash

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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The Dark Knight (2008) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Batman Begins (2005) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Now You See Me (2013) Review

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Now You See Me

Directed by Louis Leterrier

Starring:
Jesse Eisenberg
Mark Ruffalo
Woody Harrelson
Mélanie Laurent
Isla Fisher
Dave Franco
Michael Caine
Morgan Freeman
Michael Kelly
Common

Running time: 115 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

Four magicians, brought together by mysterious circumstances, are investigated by the FBI after performing a magic show together in which they seemingly pull off a bank heist.

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My Quick Opinion:

I’ll keep this short as, unfortunately, there’s not a lot to say about it. I went in with low expectations and knowing it was going to be a simple movie with a bit of magic that would at least keep me entertained for a couple of hours. I wasn’t exactly expecting The Prestige – one of my all-time favorite films. But Now You See Me is a much further cry from the brilliance of that film than I was hoping.

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Everyone does a decent enough job in their roles but the characters are very one-dimensional. I love Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman and always enjoy watching them but they’re wasted in this film. Woody Harrelson is probably the most entertaining of the four magicians but he’s really just doing the sort of role he often does. The actual highlight of the film is probably Mélanie Laurent as an Interpol detective. But that could just be because I have a bit of a girl crush on her… I felt they could have done a lot more with her character, though, as it didn’t feel very well developed. Same goes for Mark Ruffalo’s character. All of the characters in this felt very underdeveloped, actually. Disappointing.

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Summary:

A lightweight “magic movie” that will keep you entertained for a couple of hours but won’t have you leaving the cinema asking any questions. Unlike The Prestige, which I thought about for days afterward. Hell, I still do. I left Now You See Me feeling quite empty, though, like the box after the rabbit has disappeared. (Ha! Was trying to get a “magic” reference in here somewhere. That was pathetic, though. Lol!).

I just expected a BIT more from such an impressive line-up of actors. At the very least, since the story and characters are a bit weak, I expected more really fun and cool MAGIC than we actually get. Mindless fun but a little TOO mindless. And once you’ve seen it, I have a feeling that it’s one where things really don’t add up if you were to watch it a second time. But it’s really not worth the time thinking about too much – this movie isn’t asking you to think about it beyond the final credits. Oh man – I’m being more harsh than I’m meaning to be! It was a fun watch. Nothing less but certainly nothing more. Rent it.

My Rating: 6/10

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Here’s a sexy photo of Mélanie Laurent:

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IMDB Top 250 Challenge – Movie #9 – Sleuth

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Sleuth (1972) – IMDB Rank #206

Watched 5/2/13

This movie was on TV recently so I was able to watch it as part of my IMDB challenge. Cool. Hoping to manage to watch a lot this way!

I knew nothing whatsoever about this movie. To be completely honest, I haven’t seen many Michael Caine movies, especially older ones. I think the only one I’d even seen before moving to the UK was Dirty Rotten Scoundrels! Anyway – I’m starting to like him more & more. I should really try to watch some of his older stuff. (Yes, I did watch The Italian Job soon after coming to the UK, at least).

There’s one thing that I got a little obsessed with soon after coming to the UK and that was a show I’d not heard of called Tales Of The Unexpected.

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So… I’m very sorry to compare the two but I’m afraid that Sleuth REALLY felt like a long episode of Tales Of The Unexpected to me (albeit with way better acting). Sorry! But it really does have that sort of look & feel & story. I’m not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing, however – I loved finding out that England had a show that was a lot like my beloved Twilight Zone & Alfred Hitchcock TV shows that I’d grown up on.

I do think this movie is overrated & is 100% that way because of the actors who are in it (Michael Caine & Laurence Olivier). No, I’m not saying it’s “bad” but I really doubt it’s the 206th best movie of all time. It was quite a fun movie and the two of them were great together and who doesn’t like a bit of witty banter and mind games? All that was great. And of course it kept you guessing as to who was lying, who was telling the truth, and what was going to ultimately happen. It was all very good but I just feel like this sort of thing has been done so many times. (Don’t make me think of some examples – I’m too tired…) 😉 Anything done by Alfred Hitchcock for one, I suppose…

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Aw, I feel like I’m trashing this movie! I’m not, really. Just think it’s not quite up there with some of the absolute classics in the IMDB Top 250 and of course I’m going to be comparing it in my mind to others on the list as it’s IN the list. I did really enjoy it and especially loved its 70s-ishness (I love the 70s!). And Olivier’s toys and automatons were freaking COOL and creepy. I want some! (but not in my house while I’m trying to sleep because I’d have nightmares)

My Rating: 7/10

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Forgot to add that I got all excited when the line “jumped up pantry boy” was said in this movie and I was like “That’s in a Smiths song!” 😉

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“A jumped-up pantry boy
who never knew his place
he said “return the ring”
he knows so much about these things
he knows so much about these things”

This Charming Man – one of their good songs. Because you have to admit that some are annoying!