Archive for the 'Thought Process' Category

13
Oct
15

Review: San Andreas – The Fault is Not in Our Stars

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After seeing him flex his broken arm to break off his cast in Furious 7, I’m really no longer sure what to make of Dwayne Johnson whenever I see him in a movie. It’s a bit like seeing a cartoon character like the Tasmanian Devil take the lead in The Day After Tomorrow.

Case in point, Johnson’s latest summer tentpole, San Andreas. Even the trailers were hard to take seriously. (And adding worse to wear, how the hell did Roland Emmerich NOT direct this movie?!) With special effects that look straight out of Adobe Photoshop, it’s difficult not to surmise that we were in some sort of strange holding pattern earlier this summer, just waiting for Jurassic World and Terminator Genisys. And Ant-Man. And in a car crash-kinda way, Fantastic Four.

The Big One hits California and everything falls apart. (Isn’t it odd how this summer movie season was pre-occupied with humanity’s extinction? Avengers? Mad Max? Tomorrowland? Not to mention that Terminator flick. The kids are gonna have nightmares about their mortality. Perhaps that’s the point? Make the world a better place while there’s still time? Man in the mirror?)

SAN ANDREAS

Dwayne Johnson plays a fire and rescue worker with one mission: to save his wife (Carla Gugino) and then his daughter (Alexandra Daddario). They all act properly panicked and anxiety ridden. Paul Giamatti is a scientist who predicts the giant earthquake and when he realizes how bad the devastation will be, someone asks him who they should call. The camera zooms in and with a straight face he says, “EVERYBODY!”

Yeah, it’s that kind of disaster flick. But the fault really isn’t in our stars for once. (Get it? San Andreas? Fault? Oh never mind.) Speaking of the fault itself, armchair scientists are going to have a field day spotting all the logistical inconsistencies and have the most fun doing it since Gravity. “Oh that couldn’t happen. Oh that couldn’t happen either!” Colton Haynes from Arrow, who was only in the first five minutes of this movie, showed up to the premiere in a completely pink suit. That happened. So really, who is to question what madness lies deep in the crevices of this production?

Surprisingly, for the mainland, there’s very little looting going on. Just one scene in a hick-ish town outside the urban proper. What’s really troubling is when an elderly couple on the side of the road with a broken axle yells at Johnson and Gugino to stop and pull over. They keep going and almost drive over a chasm. Only then do they turn back and offer their gratitude. But it works out for them because that elderly couple happens to own an aviation yard with one working plane.

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Later the couple motor boat through the tsunami-ed waters of San Francisco. (I gave up counting when Johnson stole his third undamaged vehicle.) They see people drifting around in random boats and debris, but they keep going. In fact, the only time Johnson the professional rescue workers actually offers help is to yell a whole bunch of people to the safety of AT&T Park. But he probably only did that because wifey was gonna get smooshed by a falling building as well.

But one isn’t here to debate the morals of San Andreas. At least I hope not. That would result in a web article longer than what Chris Hemsworth is packing in the red band Vacation trailer.

Oddly, for once the 3-D here is surprisingly effective and present. Most often in simple scenes where actors are in both the foreground and the background, and especially during a canyon helicopter rescue that opens the movie. Oddly not so much when skyscrapers crumble, cable bridges twist and come undone, and helpless people get splatted by huge chunks of rubble. After Avengers (both of them), if you’ve seen one building crumble, you’ve seen them all crumble.

San Andreas made over $150 million dollars at the domestic box office. I feel like Paul Giamatti. Perhaps you will listen to my warnings and make the proper preparations to see Mad Max: Fury Road again. And who should you take with you? EVERYBODY!

San Andreas is now available to own on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital download.

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13
Feb
15

Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

"On the other side of this mirror is Mr Gray's red room."

“On the other side of this mirror is Mr Gray’s red room.”

For 40 years James Bond ruled the spy genre until the franchise was rebooted. Part of the reason–Austin Powers. Mike Myers satirized nearly every spy film convention in the book with his ‘International Man of Mystery.’ Enter Daniel Craig and a more “grittier” and “realistic” Bond. If Austin Powers was the satirical commentary to the first 40 years of Bond, then Kingsman: The Secret Service is the Austin Powers to the next generation of Bond films.

Kingsman stars Colin Firth as Galahad, one of the top agents in Kingsman, a private intelligence organization not beholden to any government. Early in the film the Kingsman, looking to fill an opening in their ranks, put a set of recruits through a series to test to see if any of them have what it takes to be the next Kingsman. One of the recruits is Eggsy, British newcomer Taron Egerton, whose character shows a lot of promise, but is undisciplined and rough around the edges. Overshadowing the initiation of these would be future Kingsman is the maniacal world dominating plans of tech mogul Valentine, played ever so colorfully by Samuel L. Jackson.

Where does he get those wonderful suits?

Where does he get those wonderful suits?

As a film Kingsman hits the sweet spot between realistic spy movie and satirical comedy. Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) melds his comedic and action oriented sensibilities into a spy film that is fun, action packed, damn funny, but also not so silly where it’s completely bonkers and unbelievable. Yes, it mocks the old Bond with those tropes that caused the aforementioned reboot (lighters that are grenades and umbrellas that shoot a myriad of projectiles). At the end of the day, Kingsman is smarter than that. It knows what kind of movie it’s trying to be and revels in it.

One of the things I love is the meta-ness of the film. At several points both Galahad and Valentine make reference to spy movies as if they’re not in one. The exchange is fun because they’re talking around typical spy movie tropes and how they won’t fall into them. You know them: the villain telling the captured spy his plans, the civil banter between adversaries who both know the real identity of the other. Call me a movie geek, but I ate all of that up.

"English . . . do you speak it?"

“English . . . do you speak it?”

Speaking of Valentine, he is definitely one of the highlights of the film. Samuel L Jackson has played many roles throughout his career; many of them good, many bad. Valentine has to be in the top 10. It’s not that he’s the most evil character Jackson has played that makes him such a good villain. It is more of his unique sense of embodying madness that makes him such a great bad guy. Granted, his character is portrayed as a genius and the richest man in the world so that attitude is warranted; but his simplistic reasoning plays right into his megalomania. The icing on the cake has to be the lisp that Valentine has. Usually something like this would be really gimmicky. Thankfully Jackson has some good direction supported by great dialogue that makes speaking with the lisp not so overdone. Save for not being too strong of a guy (and a fear of blood), Valentine is a pretty unique villain.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about Valentine’s left hand woman and bodyguard, Gazelle. In classic Bond henchmen fashion, Gazelle lives up to her name because she has prosthetic blades for legs. But, the twist here is that they’re actual blades…Like sharp blades that can slice things. In one of the early scenes in the film Gazelle kills a man by literally slicing him in two. While totally implausible (and in some instances even a little corny), within the context of the film combined with the way her character is presented, you buy in to the fact that she is one badass chick. 

Just keep swimin'.

Just keep swimin’.

An aspect of the film that keeps things fresh is the initiation process that Kingsman puts their potential recruits through. Rather than train them, they test them by giving them real challenges that show what kind of people they really are. In one of their first tests, the recruits’ sleeping quarters quickly fills up with water. While this challenge not only tests how they react under pressure as well as their survival skills, the ultimate lesson they need to learn is that in order to be a Kingsman, they need to learn how to work as a team. After each test, someone is dropped from the program and as the film progresses, so does the degree of difficulty of their challenges. While their teamwork is tested time and again, other aspects of being a spy are tested as well: how they act under duress, can they pull the trigger when they need to, can they overcome their most basic fears. While in some instances the results of the trials are a little predictable, they’re still fun and intense nonetheless.

Should you find yourself watching Kingsman this weekend, just know this, you’re going to see a very fun, action-oriented, smart, and hilarious spy movie. Just the cheekiness of the characters had me laughing and fully invested. I guess that’s what I appreciated most about the film, the characters are all very well written and very well spoken. Never at any point did I think the film went over the top. While a lot of the situations in the film are unbelievable that isn’t the point. It’s not realistic, it’s fun. We have Daniel Craig and the new James Bond if we want a “real” and “gritty” spy movie. For a fun movie that pokes fun at the spy genre, we have Kingsman.

Cinematic Scene: Are we going to fight?

“Cinematic Scene” is an effort to bring to light some of the more technically creative and/or emotionally charged scenes in the film. This more technical analysis of the film lives at the end of each review as a way to discuss these noteworthy scenes. Whether it’s fancy camera work, brilliant use of special effects, or heart wrenching acting; I will pick one notable scene from the film that you should pay attention to.

What really sets the tone for the film is this scene where Galahad dispatches a group of thugs in a pub who have been tormenting Eggsy. If you’ve seen the trailer then you know which scene I’m referring to. It’s the one where Colin Firth flips a switch and takes down this group of thugs. The scene is very well choreographed to be sure, but the editing and the way the camera moves around the room to follow the action really keeps you in the moment and gives the impression that Galahad’s actions are as equally calculated as the camera movements. Yes, we know from the onset Galahad is going to take care of them–it’s the fight sequence itself and the way Galahad weaves through the fight that make the scene mesmerizing to watch.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is now playing in theaters everywhere.

4.5/5 stars // rated R // 2hr 9min

15
Aug
14

Review: Life Itself

Renowned film critic Roger Ebert is front and center in the documentary Life Itself.

Renowned film critic Roger Ebert is front and center in the documentary Life Itself.

When film critic Roger Ebert passed away last year I’ll be honest . . . I didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until I started reading some of the many remembrances and tributes that I really got the sense of how big of a deal this guy was. Yeah sure he had that movie review show back in the day and the man did help coin the most recognizable rating system in the world, but outside of that I never really knew who he was or what made him so great.

Did I ever read him? No. Do I have aspirations to be like him? No. Then why the interest in watching a documentary about him? Since his passing I’ve read up on some of his work and I’ve come to better understand who he was and why he meant a lot to the film community. He helped turned film criticism into something that was legitimate, something that people read and respected, and had the forum to reach a lot of people and talk to them about film. He was knowledgeable, eloquent, and wrote with a voice that was quite unique. In the end, watching Life Itself is something that I felt I just needed to do in order to continue calling myself a movie lover.

Going into my viewing of Life Itself there were only a handful of things that I knew about Roger Ebert. There are the basics of course: he had the first tv film criticism show Siskel & Ebert with Gene Siskel, he was from Chicago and worked for the Chicago Sun-Times, he was husband to Chaz, and that he had lost the use of his voice due to cancer. While this knowledge base is probably more than most people know of him, Life Itself examines many other facets of his life and really dives into the things people knew most about him.

Roger with wife Chaz on the night of their wedding.

Roger with wife Chaz on the night of their wedding.

The film is broken up into three parts: his early life and his rise to being a film critic, the years of working with Siskel and Ebert colleague Gene Siskel, and his final years after the loss of his voice. Clocking in at two hours, the film gives you more of a look at Ebert’s life than you would expect. Documentarian Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters) leads us through the usual steps in Ebert’s life, interviewing friends, family, colleagues, and other film related acquaintances along the way. Probably most heartfelt are the scenes of Ebert shot while in the hospital or in rehab as we get to see him at moments where he appears worn down and is a far cry from the critic that we knew him as on his tv show.

While a lot of the info from his early life that sets up his rise to being the consummate film critic as well as his more recent medical troubles was all very interesting; it was probably the portion that focused on his relationship with Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune that was the most fascinating to watch. I had heard somewhere that they bucked heads a lot, but I didn’t realize to what extent until this documentary. Here you have two men, very knowledgeable, both very self assured, and both with strong viewpoints; opposing each other on many different occasions. How could the most recognizable film criticism show in the world happen with two men that were almost always at odds with one another? The answer . . . film.

Gene Siskel and Roger debate the merits of film on At the Movies.

Gene Siskel and Roger debate the merits of film on At the Movies.

From practical jokes on one another, to trying to out scoop each other covering the world of cinema, to taking pot shots at each other while filming the show; the sense that you get from the film is that these two men tolerated each other because they always wanted to be the best and the other guy was alway there to challenge them. Probably the most disheartening thing in the film is that both of these men didn’t realize the unlikely friendship (yes, friendship) they had until it was too late for both of them.

To kind of put a bow on the whole thing, Life Itself isn’t for everyone. It’s a documentary first so if you’re looking for fiction then this definitely isn’t for you. As for the subject matter itself–I found much of it engrossing. But then again, I love movies and I like talking about them so Life Itself is definitely in my wheelhouse. And that’s the kind of the demographic this film is for, for those that really love film culture. With just about a two hour runtime, it will probably wear on the average movie watcher. If you’re in the target demographic with me, then get your popcorn and be prepared for a film that I give two thumbs up.

Cinematic Scene: Tube Cleaning

With documentaries being rather straightforward (visually) and filmmakers using employing file footage and one-on-one interview shots, I was fearful that I would have to omit this portion of my review. However, one scene in particular stand out as soon as I saw it. By this point in the film Ebert is in the hospital and director Steve James does not shy away from some of the more unpleasant activities that he has to go through.

In the scene, a nurse is seen at Ebert’s bedside. She asks him if he’s ready for his tube cleaning or suction. At first you’re not sure what is about to happen, but then you see her make a motion near Ebert’s throat and next thing you know you see him wincing in pain. Up until this point we’ve never seen Ebert weak or sickly–even with his operation and the loss of his voice. He’s always remained upbeat and full of energy. However, this is the first time we see a chink in his armor; and it’s a startling one. It’s mainly because you can almost feel the pain he’s going through just from watching the reaction on his face. I’m not sure how painful that cleaning procedure actually is, but watching Ebert go through it sure looked like hell.

Life Itself will be playing selected days and times at the Doris Duke Theater at the Honolulu Museum of Art from August 15-21. It is also currently available on VOD services.

3.5/5 stars // rated R // 2hrs

02
Mar
14

Favorite Films of 2013

"You can't repeat the past." "Can't repeat the past? Why of course you can old sport."

“You can’t repeat the past.” “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can old sport.”

Whatever films the Academy chooses to award honor tonight, at the end of the day their decision is simply that–their decision. Like any art form, how people interpret and perceive a film is a personal experience unique to them. We all have our likes and dislikes so no matter what one group of people decide, know that the only person who’s opinion truly matters is your own.

We often throw the word ‘Best’ around like we’re some kind of authority on something, “this place has the BEST loco moco.” Or “that was the BEST movie.” And granted, I’ve been guilty of it myself (see the titling for yesterday’s post). With that in mind and in an effort to be better representative of talking about decisions, lists, and preferences that are personal to one particular person (myself) . . .

I give you my favorite films from 2013:

10. This Is The End

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I knew that when I first saw This Is The End, one of the very first opinions I formed about it was that it wasn’t just a funny movie–it was a smart one as well. It could have been the fact that at the very end of the movie there’s a cameo that I thought was just totally off the wall hilarious. After a second viewing though, the film only grew on me. Part of the fun of it definitely is the self referential humor that the guys bring–while I don’t think that’s actually how they are in real life, they are definitely playing off their personas somewhat. Another aspect of the film I love is just how smart the comedy and story actually are. From the practicalness of their reasoning, to how they react to certain situations, to how they intermingle with one another; there are some very smart decisions going on that make the film really fun, and elevates it above a lot of comedies that we get these days.

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9. Her

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What I like about Her is that aside from the whole technology aspect of it, I think it’s a great vision of how our society is and where it’s heading. What I like even better than that are the questions about technology and relationships that the film asks us to look at. Can a human have a personal and intimate (a “real”) relationship with a piece of technology? While watching the film the answer isn’t as easy as you might think and I love that director and writer Spike Jonze is asking us the question. Joaquin Phoenix is just wonderful as the quiet and introverted human while Scarlett Johannson’s voice work is pretty soulful.

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8. Pacific Rim

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I wasn’t having all that much fun last summer until I saw Pacific Rim. I was just gobsmacked by the creativity, action, and spectacle that was in the film. The movie is pure fun to watch and classic summer blockbuster fare. Seeing these huge metal robots go up against even larger sea monsters made me feel like a little kid again. Guillermo del Toro has a great sense of imagination and you can feel that seeing the Jaeger’s and Kaiju battle it out on screen.

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7. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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Part of it is the sci-fi aspect of the dystopian society, part of it is the story itself, yet still another part of it is that Jennifer Lawrence anchors a pretty solid cast in a film that further develops a potentially great series. While I liked The Hunger Games well enough, Catching Fire takes things to another level. This second outing isn’t encumbered by setting up the story and world building that the first film had to go through and you definitely get a sense that the cast is more comfortable this time around with the story a little more epic in scope. Throw in the fact that Lionsgate kicked in extra budget for the sequel (you know I love my production value), and Catching Fire is not only an exciting sequel, but one of those occasions where the second one is better than the first.

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6. The Croods

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From the first time I saw it, I utterly fell in love with The Croods. For starters I think the animation is on par if not better than Dreamworks Animation’s beloved film from a few years ago, How to Train Your Dragon. But more so than that, I was really into the story of family and change that The Croods presented, and I’m not going to lie, my heartstrings got pulled a litte towards the end. While the film features a wonderful voice work from the likes of Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, and Nicholas Cage; it’s the characters they embody that really made me laugh and enjoy the film.

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5. American Hustle

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Hypothetically speaking, even if American Hustle didn’t have a plot to speak of, I would still watch this film just to see this group of actors perform. It’s no wonder that the film won the Best Ensemble acting award from the Screen Actor’s Guild as it truly is an acting showcase and great to see actors at this high of a caliber working with one another in the same film. Everyone in the film really gets into their roles and gives rich and nuanced performances. While the story was a little muddled at times, having this cast kept me in it the entire time, making me want to see what would happen next.

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4. Gravity

0302_07-Gravity

While the film is a technological achievement in cinema, I prefer to focus on what was presented to me in the theater when I saw Gravity–an intense roller coaster ride of a film that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Through the magic of a dark theater, 3D, and surround sound (yes, despite the fact that there is no actual sound in space because there’s no air); Gravity is an awe-inspiring theatrical experience. If you didn’t tell me that this was done in a studio with lots of green screens, it’s exactly what I imagine space to be. The entire time Sandra Bullock’s character is struggling to make it home, I was hoping she would make it to the next station, grab on to some handhold, or magically understand Chinese because the film had me so immersed in her experience of fighting for her life in vastness of space.

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3. The Wolf of Wall Street

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Though I’m always down for Scorsese, nothing could have prepared me for the joyride that is The Wolf of Wall Street. Played charismatically and ferociously by Leonardo DiCaprio, film gives us a look into Wall Street that we all suspected to be true during our economic downfall six/seven years ago, but couldn’t be sure about until this film. Yes, while I’m sure the film does take artistic license into Jordan Belfort’s life, it’s still nonetheless intriguing and entertaining. It’s like watching a spectacular train wreck with all the debauchery and criminality going on–I couldn’t look away yet I was enthralled and entertained by the disaster of it all.

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2. Captain Phillips

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“I’m the captain now.” With those words Barkhad Abdi’s haunting portrayal as the Somali pirate Muse sets up much of the tension in Captain Phillips that doesn’t let up until the climatic rescue at the end of the film. While Gravity was a roller coaster of a ride itself, I think Captain Phillips ups the degree of difficulty (and suspense) since we know what the outcome of the film is before we see it. Paul Greengrass puts together a taut film that places you in the same claustrophobic and nerve-racking confines that Captain Phillips and his crew are in and doesn’t let you go.

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1. Short Term 12

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What can I say other than that I was utterly enchanted with Short Term 12. The film felt so authentically real and personal that I just couldn’t help falling for it. Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr. are just superb as two counselors at a halfway house who day in and day out are trying to all they can to make sure the kids they look over get a second chance. Broken themselves and coming from the same world of which they also work in, Short Term 12’s sublimeness comes from the relationship between the two leads, and the heartfelt emotion they get from working at Short Term 12. No other film touched me more last year than this one did.

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So that’ll about do it for 2013. Here’s to hoping we get as many good films in 2014 that we got in 2013.

Did you enjoy any of these films from 2013? Let us know or tell us what your favorite films of 2013 were in the comments.

27
Feb
13

Harry Potter The Exhibition

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We were recently in New York and we had the opportunity to take in Harry Potter The Exhibition at the Discovery Times Square. Similar to Indiana Jones The Exhibition (original names I know), the display is a traveling exhibit that is put on at different venues around the world. Starting off in Chicago in 2009, Harry Potter The Exhibition has also toured in Boston, Toronto, Seattle, New York (previously), Sydney, and Singapore. After its worldwide tour, I guess the exhibition in back in New York for an encore.

To start off the exhibit your group is herded into a dark room where eight or so flat screen TVs are setup vertically with a movie poster from each film displayed on them. After a minute or two the TVs change and launch into a coordinated introduction to the exhibit playing clips and custom graphics to get everyone pumped for the exhibit and to set the tone.

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After the intro video we were then ushered into another small dark room (chamber if you will) where up in front on a stool was the Sorting Hat itself! Ok so it wasn’t THE Sorting Hat, but rather a nice prop that looked like it. Along with the stool and hat was an attendant dressed up in Hogwarts garb fake accent and all.

Since there were quite a few number of kids in our group we were courteous and let them go through the sorting process. Now, this wasn’t as big of a spectacle as it was in the film. My main gripe with the whole process though was that the hat wasn’t actually put on people’s heads. The attendant that was “sorting” people held the hat about six inches of off each individual’s head–not at all like the movie.

This is exactly how people were sorted . . . hat not on the head.

This is exactly how people were sorted . . . hat not on the head.

The second thing that wasn’t kosher to me was that the attendant asked each person what house they wanted to be in, and you know what . . . they were all sorted into those houses! Now I know that Harry Potter told the Sorting Hat that he didn’t want to be in Slytherin–so there is precedent for someone telling the Sorting Hat which house to put them in. However, I found it little too convenient that everyone that asked to placed in a certain house was placed in that house. I feel like the real Sorting Hat would put people in a particular house despite what they ask for. I know these were kids but come on, the real Sorting Hat wouldn’t pull any punches.

After the sorting was done it was finally time to enter the main section of the exhibition where we could finally move on our own and check out all the cool props and costumes from the films . . .

Quiddich uniforms from the Quiddich World Cup.

Quiddich uniforms from the Quiddich World Cup.

Props and costumes from the Death Eaters revival of Voldemort.

Props and costumes from the Death Eaters revival of Voldemort.

The infamous Marauder's Map and other miscellaneous items associated with Harry Potter.

The infamous Marauder’s Map and other miscellaneous items associated with Harry Potter.

One of the few items you could touch and handle in the exhibition . . . the pulling of Mandrakes.

One of the few items you could touch and handle in the exhibition . . . the pulling of Mandrakes.

The Boggart Jack-in-the-Box and wardrobe from the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The Boggart Jack-in-the-Box and wardrobe from the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Items from the Goblet of Fire: the Triwizard Cup, Rita Skeeter's quill and notebooks, name slips from the goblet.

Items from the Goblet of Fire: the Triwizard Cup, Rita Skeeter’s quill and notebooks, name slips from the goblet.

Harry and Ron's room at Hogwarts, along with the golden egg from Goblet of Fire.

Harry and Ron’s room at Hogwarts, along with the golden egg from Goblet of Fire.

And before you know it, you’re done. There’s actually more to the exhibit than the glimpses I’ve given you in these photos; but alas, you’re not allowed to take photos while you’re in the exhibition. And there lies one of the biggest points of contention that I have with the exhibition–no photography. Oh sure we could have snapped off a few photos with our phones; but with the exhibition dark in many places getting a good photo with just a quick snapshot was impossible.

My other point of contention is that there aren’t that many items you can touch either. For an exhibition that prides itself with letting “guests will get an up close and personal” at the items on display; there was way more getting ‘up close’ than getting ‘personal’ with things in the exhibition.

The items on display were worn and handled by the actors and who knows how many countless numbers of production staff on the film. Who knows if they were even handled by the cast or if they were one of many duplicates that were made for the film. Point being, these items were meant to be handled by people and yet here we were walking through the exhibit unable to do so. No touching of horcruxes (not that you’d probably want to), no taking photos with a Hungarian Horntail (again, that not you might want to), just plain old walking through and observing things that were made for people to wear or handle. To me that was the most disappointing aspect of the exhibit (hence the use of publicity stills throughout much of this post).

So what’s the deal then? If this thing were to come to Hawaii could I recommend people see it? At $27 ($19.50 for kids, $23.50 for seniors) a pop it ain’t exactly cheap to walk around for an hour or so admiring props from Harry Potter. However, if you’re any kind of a fan I’m sure it will be well worth the time and money spent. If you were to go I would say make the most of your time and look at every single item and read every single placard description. Probably the biggest takeaway for me was that it made me want to rewatch the series again or maybe even read it.

Going to the exhibit wasn’t something we specifically sought out to do, it was more something we stumbled into, so at the end of the day I was ok with our experience with Harry Potter The Exhibition. We’re always down for checking out movie stuff here at Red Band so we had a good time. The no taking photography and no touching of objects though, I just had to shake my head at that one. To me, that was just riddikulus.

19
Jul
12

TDKR Prep – Part III: Final Thoughts & Questions

This is the third part in our three part series leading up to the release of The Dark Knight Rises. In our final post, we ruminate on the previous two Bat films and pose questions about the upcoming film and the end of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. (Potential spoilers ahead for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight)

With our rewatches officially concluded and the release of The Dark Knight Rises only hours away, this post will serve as a direct launching pad into the final installment of Nolan’s Batman trilogy. While it’s been a fun ride rewatching the first two Batman films, it’s a little bittersweet as we know the end is in sight. In many ways the release of The Dark Knight Rises parallels the release of last year’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II–you’re excited to find out and reach the conclusion of the story, but may end up being sad afterward as you know the journey has come to an end.

This discussion will/may touch upon basic information from the upcoming film that has been shown in the first two trailers as well as general information found in the official plot synopsis of the film. NO spoilers will be presented. Having said all that, here are a few things to think about as you head to the theaters this weekend to check out The Dark Knight Rises.

How will the events of The Dark Knight affect The Dark Knight Rises?

The Joker, Batman, and Harvey Dent . . . what will the fallout from their actions be?

While we touched upon a lot this in our previous post, it needs to be brought up again here as seemingly The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises are more closely connected in the series than Batman Begins is to The Dark Knight. One dead giveaway is the fact that the title of this third film adds a single word to the title of the second–the word “Rises”. It’s not Batman III, The Return of Batman, or anything like that. Sticking with Batman’s nickname instead of his actual name, the title seems to suggest a direct connection to the previous film.

Secondly, we know that in The Dark Knight a lot of stuff went down that deeply affected many of the characters that survived. Bruce lost Rachel, Gotham City lost their white knight Harvey Dent, and the Joker tested not only the limits of Batman, but rewrote the playbook on villainy in Gotham as well. Not to mention that as a way thwart the Joker’s “ace in the hole”, Batman takes the wrap for the things that Harvey did as Two-Face.

With all this in mind some of the more specific questions to find answers for in The Dark Knight Rises deal with these threads from the previous film. We know that Bruce loved Rachel so it’s not a matter of if her death affected him, but rather HOW it affected him and how this plays out in Rises. Another thing to think about is Harvey’s death. Both Commissioner Gordon (Gordon becomes commish in the second half of The Dark Knight) and Batman agree that Harvey’s death can’t be in vain so they agree to place blame on Batman. What, if any, are the consequences of this? In the closing scenes of The Dark Knight we see the police hunting Batman; how far does this go? Are there any lasting consequences for Gotham City?

These are the main story beats from The Dark Knight that I think will be carried over into The Dark Knight Rises.

What happened in the eight years since the events of The Dark Knight?

Some of the changes to expect in Gotham are the additions of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as hot shot cop John Blake and Marion Cotillard as Wayne Enterprises board member Miranda Tate.

This question relates closely to the previous question. From press releases and from the official synopsis, we know that eight years has passed between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Why set the story of this film so far after the previous one? Why not set it only a year later like the break between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight? It isn’t so much a question about the specific amount of time as it is about the duration. What I mean is, I think we have to look at what are the possibilities of what can happen between a few short years (1-2) as opposed to what can (or maybe can’t) happen in eight. Two political cycles can happen in the course of eight years (two 4-year terms of politicians). Eight years is farther away from the tragedy of events that took place in The Dark Knight and so maybe old wounds have finally started to heal. In a small correlation, the United States has definitely progressed in the eleven years since the 9/11 attacks, so something similar could be going on here as well.

Definitely more to think about in terms of time and progression and how it relates to the current story in The Dark Knight Rises.

Who is Bane?

Tom Hardy as the masked villain Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.

Now this is where we start to shift our focus from the previous films to the upcoming one. From the trailers we know that Bane is main bad guy of The Dark Knight Rises. Who is he? What are his motives? Why is he “Gotham’s reckoning” (trailer 2)? Obviously a lot of these questions will have to be answered in the film. From the scant knowledge that I have of the character himself from the comics, animated series, and previous movie franchise; Bane is a mercenary/assassin who sells his services to whoever can pay him.

His backstory is cloudy as well, but again, from what little I know, he came from a prison in South America or Africa where he was experimented on and as a result of that, nows wears a mask/rig which has enhanced his body and gives him an unbelievable amount of strength. How much of this back story will actually make up the background of the Bane in the film? Nolan and his screenwriters have pulled from a lot of different sources to craft their characters and stories in the first few films, so it’s really hard to say how much of this will be accurate.

One of the things I do think will be accurate though, as evidenced by the trailers, is that Bane will be a cold, calculating, and menacing character–which is the impression I have of him as a whole from other incarnations I’ve seen of him. I’ve also heard that in a few story arcs in the comics, Bane is pretty formidable, relentless, and at times has pushed Batman to his limit in terms of hand-to-hand combat.

Who is Selina Kyle?

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle out of, and in, her cat burglar attire.

Anne Hathaway plays Selina Kyle; (again from my standing knowledge of the character) a highly skilled cat burglar who is nicknamed Catwoman. Though her regular occupation and origin seem to shift with each incarnation; one of the constants of her character is that Batman and her seem to have a romantic chemistry together. However, due to the nature of their costume personas, they can’t fully act on this chemistry as sometimes they are allies when their goals align, or are adversaries when their motivations differ.

In the trailers for The Dark Knight Rises we see Selina whisper to Bruce, “There’s a storm coming Mr. Wayne . . .” The quote goes on, but from this glimpse of her character we can already see she seems to stand in opposition to Bruce Wayne, and consequently Batman. However, in one of the first promotional images released for the film we see Kyle on the Batpod (seen above); and in the second full trailer for the film we she her in the Bat flier with Batman. All this seems to suggest that this incarnation of Selina Kyle will mirror others where her and Batman’s relationship changes as the film progresses.

Finally, I’ve been sticking to “Selina Kyle” and not Catwoman because even though Catwoman is Kyle’s alter ego, the use of that name hasn’t appeared anywhere when discussing the film. Yeah I know Catwoman is listed on IMDB.com, but Nolan has not once said that Catwoman is in the film . . . only the name Selina Kyle has been referenced.

How will Christopher Nolan conclude the trilogy?

Driving force and director Christopher Nolan behind the cinematic IMAX camera.

So . . . it all leads to this, the end of filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. A lot of thoughts go through your mind when you think about the ending of the series. Will he end it on a positive note? Will he end it on a downer? Will it be satisfying? Could he do the unthinkable and *gulp* . . . kill off Batman? These are all valid questions and all valid possibilities given Nolan’s track record. Though from the ominous tag-lines of the movie posters (“The Legend Ends”) and one-liner in the second trailer (“The Epic Conclusion To The Dark Knight Legend”) it does give you an uneasy sense of finality to the whole thing.

One thing that does puzzle me though is the title itself, The Dark Knight Rises. When you think about it, it’s kind of a funny name to have for the final installment in a series. By ‘rising’ it gives you a sense that “the dark knight” is coming back and isn’t finished yet . . . not something you associate when you end something.

Will the The Dark Knight Rises live up to expectations of being the most highly anticipated film of the year? Will it truly be a worthwhile conclusion to “the Dark Knight legend”? Will it be better than The Avengers? Higher grossing? Whatever the case may be, good or bad, positive or negative, what I am certain of is that Christopher Nolan will deliver a well made, well shot, and highly exciting film.

All that’s left now is to go out and see it.

Have you enjoyed our TDKR Prep series? Going out to see The Dark Knight Rises this weekend? We’d like to know your thoughts on the film and anything else in the comments below.

18
Jul
12

TDKR Prep – Part II: Rewatching The Dark Knight

This is the second part in a three part series gearing up for The Dark Knight Rises. In this post we take a look at The Dark Knight, the second film in director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, in order to rediscover the the film, see how it fits into the new Batman mythos, and think about how it might influence The Dark Knight Rises. (Spoilers ahead for The Dark Knight)

The Dark Knight has to be one of the most memorable films of the last decade due to the sheer epic nature of the film, Heath Ledger’s impressive performance, and sadly his untimely death before the film opened. A lot can be said about the awesomeness of The Dark Knight. What we’re here to find out though, is what the film portents for The Dark Knight Rises . . .

Gotham Has Changed

From the political campaign of district attorney Harvey Dent.

For better or worse, since Batman has appeared on the scene in Gotham, he’s inspired people to change. It’s change in the form of hot shot district attorney Harvey Dent wanting to take a hardline stance on crime and corruption; change in the form of the mob and criminals changing their tactics to adjust to Batman’s presence; and change in the form of Batman copycats trying to “help” Batman. Simply put, the presence of Batman has changed how Gotham city works. Though at the beginning of The Dark Knight it looks to be a positive change, as we see as The Dark Knight unfolds; all that change leads to something else . . .

The Joker – ”A Better Class of Criminal”

“All right, so listen. Why don’t you give me a call when you want to start taking things a little more seriously? Here’s my card.”

Needless to say one of the things that stands out the most from The Dark Knight is Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. Enough can not be said about how the man fit so well in the role. Having said that, we’re going to focus on what the Joker did within the context of the story and not really focus on Ledger’s performance since so much has been said about it.

As far as I know, the Joker is Batman’s craziest villain. He really does do things that can’t logically be explained and I thought the film got this point across really well. Up until now Bruce/Batman has been dealing logically with the criminal element in Gotham. That’s because he’s only had regular criminals to deal with. However, with the introduction of the Joker, the rules of the game change. At first Bruce doesn’t understand this, but as Alfred tries to explain to him:

Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

As the Joker states himself, he is an “agent of chaos.” Something that can’t be controlled or defined in the strictest terms. And this is why that it is in The Dark Knight where Bruce and Batman are truly tested. Will Batman have to break his rules to stop the Joker? This is something that Bruce really struggles with in the film. How can Batman be good, fight for good, when what defines you as good can’t get the job done? This is, I think, one of the touchstones of the film . . . what does Batman have to do in order to defeat the Joker? It’s this struggle and resolution that Bruce and Batman go through with the Joker that really defines the film and the character of Batman going forward.

Batman’s Reach Knows No Bounds

Lau thought he was safe back in Hong Kong . . . no where is safe from Batman.

Something that’s prevalent in the comics and the animated forms of Batman has always been that Batman’s scope or jurisdiction isn’t limited to Gotham City. It’s a known fact that if crime in Gotham can be traced to somewhere outside of the city, Batman can and will hunt you down; be it in another country or to the ends of the Earth. This worldwide reach of Batman is presented perfectly for us in The Dark Knight when Bruce creates a fake cover story to go to Hong Kong so that Batman can bring Lau back to Gotham. This is important to note because it means that Batman has no jurisdiction. He’s not hindered by extradition laws. If Batman wants you, there isn’t any place in the world where you can go to hide that he won’t find you.

Despair & Loss of Hope

With the modern comic book movie having been around for more than ten years now, a lot of us are familiar with some of the conventions of these types of films; most notably that the hero always wins. With The Dark Knight it was the one and only comic book movie where I felt that the hero might not win at the end of the movie. It happens around the 2/3 mark in the movie when the Joker has just busted out of GCPD–with Lau, Rachel has just died in one of the explosions, and Harvey is hospitalized.

For a good 15 minutes or so after this sequence, I really thought the movie might be like Empire Strikes Back and finish with the bad guys prevailing. At that point there just didn’t seem to be that much time left in the film for Batman to recover and ultimately save the day. Seeing the Joker smile with glee as he rode away in that police car (pictured above) was the moment where I thought Nolan was really going to emulate the comic books and not give us a happy ending–after all this was only the second film in the Bat series. He could always use the third one to resolve everything.

Though Batman eventually does prevail, I think this sequence of events in the film definitely opened the door to the possibility that no one can escape danger in Gotham City.

Batman’s Sacrifice

“You either die a hero. Or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” –Harvey Dent

Though in the end Batman ultimately defeats and captures the Joker; it’s not without a high price. Bruce’s love interest and childhood friend Rachel is dead while Gotham’s white knight and crusader for justice, district attorney Harvey Dent, was turned by the Joker and is now dead as well. In order for things to not turn out so bad and to mitigate a lot of what the Joker set into motion; Batman makes the decision to sacrifice his reputation and take the blame for the actions that Harvey (aka Two-Face) did in order to keep hope, Harvey’s hope in and for Gotham, alive.

Though it’s explained in Gordon’s monologue to close out the movie and to explain the title; Batman’s decision is actually foreshadowed earlier in the film in a conversation Bruce has with Alfred. It’s the scene where they are closing down the Batcave and right before Bruce is about to turn himself in:

Bruce: People are dying, Alfred. What would you have me do?

Alfred: Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They’ll hate you for it, but that’s the point of Batman, he can be the outcast. He can make the choice that no one else can make, the right choice.

And that’s what Batman does . . . he endures. He endures for the greater good of Gotham. Even if it means that the public will hate him. Batman is the one that can make the hard decisions like this. He is always serving Gotham whether or not his perception is distorted by the public–and always for the greater good.

—————

So after rewatching The Dark Knight, what does this do as far as framing the mythos or setting up for watching The Dark Knight Rises?

First and foremost, it tells us that things change in this world. Gotham City has changed with the inclusion of Batman. With the announcement that The Dark Knight Rises will take place eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, I think it’s safe to say that we’ll see more change in Gotham again. How much will things have changed? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Finally, what I think the Joker proved is that fear and desperation are powerful motivators. You don’t quite know how people will react when fear and desperation are added into the equation. It makes them do unpredictable things. It spawns outcomes that sometimes you can’t plan for or even explain. The Joker proved all of this and pushed Batman hard in the process. What has Batman learned from this experience and how will it guide him in the future?

Only The Dark Knight Rises can tell us . . .

Have you watched The Dark Knight in preparation for The Dark Knight Rises? If you have let us know how you think it will affect Batman in The Dark Knight Rises in the comments below.




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