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So, I saw the much lauded, 12 years in the making Richard Linklater film Boyhood.
And, well, it was certainly an interesting film.

I'm going to break down the technical, 'physical' aspects of the film first, and then move onto the more metaphysical stuff.

The direction by Linklater is calm and understated, yet very effective. It fits the wandering, placid tone of the film perfectly, and the fact that it was filmed over the course of 12 years, while maintaining a consistent tone and style throughout is a marvel.

The acting is, across the board, very strong. Both Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke turn in stellar, award worthy performances, especially Hawke, who impressed me the most in seeing how his character, the protagonist's biological father, starts as your typical laid back divorcee, before maturing into a true family man before our eyes.

Ellar Coltrane is very good as our protagonist, considering he's been filming this for the past 12 years. He gives an honest performance, and I do hope he gets more work in the future. If he decides to not pursue acting though, at least he turned in this as his legacy.

Now to the metaphysical stuff.

Asides from the good acting and directing however, I have extreme trouble trying to figure out what the film is trying to say. What's the moral? What's the point of the near three hour runtime? Or, rather, what is the point of this boy's life? What has he learned, and what will he take away from these formative years of his life? How have the events of his life affected him, shaped him as a man?

The film doesn't answer this, instead ending with him in collage, saying how 'the moment seizes us'. It has no real ending, no defining statement that tells us, the audience, what to take away from the film. We never see Mason truly become his own man, mature into a real, full adult man. Instead, we just leave him sitting, looking at the sunset, at a crossroads, his life still full of unanswered questions.

And that frustrates me. With a film like this, talking about and depicting something as important as a person's early life, especially in such an intimate way, I've always felt the film should say something. We see things happen to Mason, yes, and we see him react to them, but we don't see him really change over the film. He just sorta keeps going, philosophizing every so often about where he is going in life, but we never see him sit down, think things over, and say 'this is what i'm going to be in life'. The story just stops, cutting us off from the equally, if not more interesting and important stages of his life, that of adulthood and maturity.

In comparison, an equally (if not more) esoteric film, The Tree of Life, has a similar meditation/observation of a character's formative years. However, in Malick's film, we are shown the consequences of the events of the protagonist's childhood. We see him slowly pouring over those events, and eventually, coming to some sort of closure with those events, and achieving some sort of inner peace. He searches, and he finds.

In Boyhood on the other hand, we only see the searching, and we're left not knowing if Mason ever found what he was looking for in life. It's almost as if the film didn't want to answer that question, or dedicate itself to actually giving the film a real closer, since it can be argued that life has no closure.

But life DOES have closure, and the events of our childhood are what make us who we are.
In the end, Boyhood feels more like the prologue to another story.

I'm not sure how I can rate it really, since there were aspects that I liked, but the lack of a definitive ending for Mason's story makes me frustrated.

I'm giving it a 3 out of 5 I suppose. Good acting and direction, and a marvel of an achievement, but ultimately, it doesn't seem to really say anything. At least The Tree of Life had something to say about human nature.
Okay, first thing: Jay Baruchel's voice is one of the annoying sounds in the entire galaxy (right up there with power saws cutting metal and cats yowling). It has a constant, nasially sqawk to it, and he never properly emotes. Instead, he just ends up sounding self absorbed, snobbish and arrogant, not awkward and endearing.

Let's break down the rest of the film.

The film is completely lacking in any emotional depth at all. The voice acting does not fit at all, with Baruchel's voice putting a drill to my ear drums, and the rest of it just feeling like hamfisted celebrity camoes for the sake of saying that Celebrity X was in the movie.

The story simply grazes over the vast emotional potential, instead giving us a standard, paint by numbers affair of the 'Geek whose picked on becomes the guy everybody wants to be' virarity. Hiccup isn't a compelling or sympathetic character at all. He's always shrugging off the well meaning (if somewhat misdelivered) advice of his father and the village elders, and instead remaining his arrogant, complaining self through out. He doesn't truly grow as a character, having the same exact 'Bitch about my podunk town' speech at the beginning and end of the film, with the only positive being that he owns a pet dragon at the end.

Hiccup's father, Stoic the Vast (voiced by Gerard Butler), is pushed far into the background, his obviously fractured relationship with his son glossed over and seemingly repaired by magic. Unlike Pixar's Brave, which touched on similar themes of parents having trouble understanding their children, there's never a proper scene showing Stoic and Hiccup reparing their relationship. Instead, at the end of the film, after his son is nearly killed attacking a dragon that Stoic provoked, the film jumps ahead a few weeks (or months), and everything between him and Hiccup is hunky dory. Everybody's laughing and giving each other slaps on the back, seemingly having never once believed the now amputee kid was considered totally worthless.

Astrid is a borderline sociopath it seems, having a distrubing obsession with seceeding at everything, regardless of how many people she has to mistreat along the way. The reasoning for her incredibly nasty personality is never given, as we don't know anything about her beyond 'the chick that Hiccup has the hots for'. Why, might I ask, is Astrid so obsessed with killing dragons? Is it because she's an only child, whose parents are pressuring their daughter to fulfill the role of the son they never had? No? Okay then, perhaps her family was killed in a dragon attack, and therefore, she's become cold and distant so she doesn't worry about loosing anyone close to her, and killing dragons is her way of somehow seeking vengence for her parents. What's that? We never get to see her home life or family at all or even have them mentioned? I see. So apparently, Astrid is just bitchy to be bitchy, until Hiccup somehow defrosts her by taking her on a ride with Toothless. No real explination given, no real backstory, just a bitch who magically stops being a bitch because she flew on the back of a giant lizard.

Speaking of the giant lizard, Toothless is, pretty much the only character I have a semblence of investment in. He's far more emotive and expressive then any other character in the film, and he has the best animation. Even then, I still don't feel the relationship between him and Hiccup in anyway, because the film doesn't explore it. He just sorta starts liking Hiccup because reasons (was it because he fixed Toothless' tale? Was it because he gave him food? Did he read him a bed time story? Flesh this out movie!)
Speaking of animation, the humans in this movie are....well....

Fugly.

Yeah, that's the best way to sum it up. They're faces have a strange flatness to them, as if someone attacked everybody with rolling pins when they were in the womb, and the eyes lack any real life. Sure they have expressions, but its attached to such an ugly, unbecoming series of cartoonish faces that. I can't enjoy it at all.

The cinematography and music are pretty much the only things here that got me going in a positive way, but even then that's flawed. The music, while certainly worthy of its academy award nomination, isn't used properly within the films. Loud cues play at quiet moments, and whenever the music tries to be more delicate, the movie decides to quickly jam in an action sequence to force the music to go back to the rising strings and horns. The cinematography, which was supervised by Roger Deakins', is nice, but again, the design of the film counter acts it. Instead of showing us the rich, wondrous colors that Iceland and Norway have to offer, the film instead stays firmly in the dreary cold looking grey of winter, with only a few isolated sequences really bursting with life.

Also, DreamWorks continues to hamfist modern day speech patterns into a film that in no way would have such speech patterns. These folks are medieval vikings, not californians. They shouldn't talk about wetting their undies, nor should they call girls 'hot' or 'babe'. They should talk like vikings.

Speaking of that, why are all the adults Scottish but the children american? At least in Brave (yes, i know, but that's honestly the better movie), they made sure to cast Scottish actors to Scottish characters, or at least have the actor ATTEMPT a Scottish accent. Will Hiccup just magically start talking like a red blooded scotsman when he's an adult, or will I have to suffer Baruchel's voice for all eternity? Another thing: vikings were from NORWAY, not Scotland. Therefore, they should all be speaking in NORWEGIAN accents. They should be speaking like Peter Stormare or Stellan Skarsgard, not Gerard Butler or Craig Ferguson.

So, yes, in the end, I didn't like the film at all. It was an emotionally lacking film centered around a protagonist who sounds like a cat with throat cancer, and grossly overhyped.

One out of five stars.
So I finally got to see Tim Burton's ultra influential Batman.
And what did I think?

I really liked it.

Now, I'll come off the bat (hehe) and admit that the film isn't exactly emotionally engaging or anything. It's rather stand-offish, and isn't an emotionally visceral experience.

Of course, on the other hand, it's very obvious from the get go that the film doesn't want to be a particularly emotional or visceral experience. It wants to be a stylized, intensely comic book like movie. And it's honest about it. Burton's affinity for Gothic architecture and imagery is felt throughout, be it with the massive buildings that climb skywards like stalagmites, the near omnipresent mist and smoke that lurks on every street, to the cloudy, generally oppressive atmosphere. It's extraordinarily evocative, and the Oscar for Art Direction was richly deserved. The cinematography and direction do an excellent job at complimenting the art direction perfectly, with Burton's use of slow motion and dutch angels doing an excellent job at creating an otherworldly, comic bookish atmosphere.

I liked Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne, although I feel he could have been given a stronger screenplay to work with, since we don't quite get an explination for why Bruce dresses up as Batman. Yes, we get the (lovingly creepy) flashback to his parent's death, but asides from that, the connection between that and Batman isn't really explored. However, Keaton still does a great job, and his Wayne is a socially awkward fella who's still likable. His Batman is nice and stoic, without seeming stiff, and overall, it really works.

Kim Bassenger is pretty good as Viki Vale, but her character isn't given much to do besides being the damsel, which is a shame, since it would have been fun to see her do stuff. Another shame is that, in all honesty, Bassenger and Keaton don't have much chemistry. I'm not sure if it's the screenplay or the way Burton directed, but I don't quite see why they fall for each other asides from 'the script says so'.

Asides from that Michael Gough is an excellent, low key Alfred. He isn't as warm as Michael Caine's, but he's still suave and cool in that old school upper class brit kinda way.

Jack Nicholson steals the show entirely as The Joker, playing him as a maniac, attention hog who's ALWAYS hamming it up every chance he gets. He isn't anywhere near as menacing as, say, Heath Ledger's or even Mark Hamill's, but he's just having so much fun in the part that it's infectious.

The rest of the cast rounds out the film well, all giving nice solid performances. Jack Palance is awesome for his brief stint, what with all of his funny way of talking and enunciating.

The musical score by Danny Elfman is, hands down, the best Batman film score ever written. It practically codified the Batman sound, and is deservedly ranked at the top of Superhero film scores. Don't quite get what Prince's songs are doing here, since they don't fit all that well, being very much a product of the 80s.

In the end, I really enjoyed the film. It was a fun ride, full of style and a generally enjoyable aura of fun. Not as emotionally investing as I wish it could have been, and very much a product of the late 80s, but an extremely enjoyable one, well deserving of the love and praise.

A nice solid 4 stars.
So yeah I FINALLY got to see The Dark Knight!

And I LOVED IT

Anywho, let’s break it down, and obvious spoiler warning for those who somehow haven’t had the movie spoiled yet.

For one thing, this has the best direction of a Nolan film I’ve seen so far, equally balancing the style and the drama is a very solid way. The camera movements are graceful and calculating without feeling dry, and the editing compliments it wonderfully.

The screenplay is damn solid, with great dialogue to all the characters. Yes, it has the now trademark monologuing and speeches that are a Nolan trademark, but here, more often than not, they flow from the narrative, and don’t feel forced or hackneyed. It’s organic, and helps illuminate the themes of the film in a good way. Not to mention that there’s even a good bit of humor in the film, be it from Bruce Wayne (who Bale gives considerably more pizazz to in this then in Begins or Rises), whose humor operates on his ‘carefree playboy persona’, or from The Joker, whose humor is darkly comic to the extreme.
The acting is stellar throughout, and I’ll talk about each actor (and their character), below in order, so that way I can be clear.

Christian Bale is at his best Bruce Wayne/Batman here. The character hadn’t been fully formed in Begins, and in Rises, Bruce seemed tired and drained. Here, Bruce is in the middle of the story, and therefore fully established as a character, and is therefore more lively and engaging. His Batman is, of course, awesome, and I didn’t really notice the notoriously over-the-top gravelly voice he’s often mocked for. In fact, it’s not that much different from the other two films, with the exception of a scene here or there.

Heath Ledger’s Joker however, is possibly one of the greatest transformations an actor has ever undergone. He moves and acts like an almost supernaturally evil being, his walk being an unsettling shimble-shamble, his tongue always darting out to lick along his horribly scarred lips and mouth, and his head perpetually shifting and swiveling on his neck. His body is always moving, always shifting and fidgeting, hands always doing something and his demonic eyes peer out from the makeup to almost glow in the dark with their evil. His voice, an unearthly wheeze, only enhances the menace and evil that flows from every aspect of his being. Possibly one of the most deserved Oscars in quite some time, and THE benchmark for Live Action versions of The Joker. Unlike Nicholson’s Joker, which, while enjoyable, was always somewhat like a prankster, Ledger’s Joker is an inhuman agent of chaos, exploding all over the screen and destroying all in his path.

Aaron Eckhart turns in a considerably more low-key, but no less solid performance as Harvey Dent. We see a charming, welcoming person, who, when pushed too far, shatters into a volcanic rageful implacable man. I do kind of wish they explored WHY he snapped so easily a little better, since at least in the Animated Series, we were shown why Harvey was a power keg ready to blow with his ‘Big Bad Harv’ personna. Here apparently, Harvey and Two-Face are one and the same, and there isn’t any apparent mental disorder. As Two-Face however, Eckhart makes the minimal screen time count, and does a great job at overcoming the aforementioned obstacle. It’s still a flaw, but luckily, Eckhart makes us immersed enough with his Harvey that we don’t notice it until the inevitable post-movie conversation with a friend.

Gary Oldman as Gordon is considerably more sympathetic than in Rises, as we actually see his family in this film and his interactions with them. Also, Gordon is active in this film, actively investigating and pursuing the enemy with Batman and Harvey, and his reasons for cutting corners are much better explained than in Rises. On top of that, we know full well that Gotham’s police are corrupt, and we see those people in his unit, but we can also see those who aren’t corrupt helping Gordon and standing by his side, even in spite of The Joker’s actions.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is considerably more likeable as Rachel Dawes then Katie Holmes was, and her performance as a whole is stronger throughout. Yes, Nolan still has trouble writing women, and we them creep into this version of Rachel, but luckily, Gyllenhaal is able to, for the most part, surpass them, or use them in her favor. Rachel isn’t as demanding or abrasive here, and she genuinely is a competent lawyer and assistant DA. In Begins, that was more implied then shown, but here we see it. On top of that, she isn’t a Damsel in Distress like the first film, as her scene with the Joker happens explicitly because she stood up to him. Another gracepoint is that she doesn’t play a ‘I hate but then I love you’ game with Bruce, instead having an entirely valid reason for not wanting to engage in a romantic relationship with him. Also, when her death does come, I really felt it, and actually started to tear up watching it, especially since we finally see what her decision was in regards to Bruce vs. Harvey.

Thankfully, the film doesn’t deviate itself with that subplot, instead using it as a way to propel the larger narrative, and romantic scenes, which Nolan doesn’t have strength in directing, are fewer and farther between.

Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman both turn in solid performances, but stay in the background most of the time, dutifully fulfilling their rolls as Bruce’s loyal assistants, but in a nice way. Caine does have his fair share of speeches here, but like I said before, they flow better and more organically then in Rises, where they felt rather preachy. Freeman is suave and sophisticated as Fox, and it’s cool to see him do some actual business stuff, and trade good natured barbs with Bruce.

There aren’t really that many negatives that I can think of here. Unlike in Begins, which suffered from being the first installment and therefore being a lot of set-up for future things, this film is able to flow along confidently and smoothly, not having to worry about re establishing characters, since the first film did an excellent job of that. And even the new guy, Dent, gets a lot of good, efficient establishing in his first few scenes. And unlike Rises, which suffered from Protagonist Centered Morality, this film shows that everybody is equally competent at their jobs. The GCPD cops are really trying their best, and the chief of police isn’t an asshole like he was in Rises (even with his belated Heel to Face Turn). There’s no constant sniping or making others look stupid to make our protagonists look better. Instead, it’s even handed, and our heroes manage to screw up, which is sometimes a relief to see, since it reminds us that they aren’t infallible gods.

I will admit that I wish the film developed Harvey a bit more, or at least did a better job at foreshadowing his inevitable fall from grace. But as for the biggest potential issue, that being the upholding of the lie of White Knight!Dent while blaming Batman for the crimes, at least I can say that Nolan was wise enough to address it in Rises, and, for the most part, show what the consequences of the lie were. The film still asks you to feel sympathy for them, but I don’t believe it wants you to agree with it exactly. It simply shows it as what it was: The Best Idea at the Time.

In the end, I was so glad that this film lived up to the praise it’s been given. The morality about chaos and not giving into our darker natures is told well, and without hitting us over the head with a sledgehammer. On top of that, the acting is solid across the board, the writing is stronger with far fewer plot holes then the other two films, and in the end, it’s certainly the best Batman film ever made, and certainly deserving as being listed as one of the best superhero films period.

It’s a good film even without the superhero stuff, being expertly directed and acted.

A five out of five.

Review Date: 22/09/14

So...

I saw Transformers: Age of Extinction.

It wasn't as utterly horrible as everybody made it out to be.

I mean, by no means is it a good film, but it's just not the brain rape that was the previous films. Michael Bay's direction has improved somewhat, since the colors are now somewhat resembling real world colors, and not the ultra-washed out and over-contrasted world of eye rape that the other films inhabited.

Of course, there's still quite a bit of his 'Over-Exposed-Sunset Fetish', and the camera is still shaky and random objects explode without any real logic to them. So yeah.

Moving onto the acting, for the most part, it's okay. Mark Wahlberg is fine in his role, at least being digestible, compared to the utterly detestable and annoying Shia LeBouf. But then again, Wahlberg's character is a deadbeat inventor who threatens the IRS with baseball bats....

Katara from The Last Airbender movie is just as bad as she was in Airbender, so no reason to keep talking about that.

Long story short, the protagonist humans are boring.

However...the villain humans, played by Kelsey Grammar and Stanley Tucci (the latter of whom has a Heel to Face Turn), are both really great, especially since both Grammar and Tucci seem to know what kind of stupid movie their in, and decide to just have fun and enjoy their roles. Grammar is suitably menacing, and Tucci is somewhat like a more preppy, sarcastic Steve Jobs. All in all their the best part of the film.

The robots however, are bland, and uninteresting. It's just a clutch of walking scraps of metal who spout cliches, or are just physical, living, breathing cliches. I just end up wanting the film to go back to Tucci or Grammar, and see what they're doing.

In the end, the film is just that....bland. It isn't as horrible as Dark of the Moon or Revenge of the Fallen, but it isn't enjoyable either.

Also, it's long as fuck.

I give it a 1 out of 5.

But hey, at least we don't get pointless fanservice....

  • Mood: Cheerful
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Bronyman1995
Ben Miranda
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Born-again Christian, a new being in Christ. And Brony and film-fanatic

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