Monthly Archives: June 2012

Batman

I usually don’t do well with committing to watching movie series I come up with to add to my never ending Netflix movie queue. I have seen a good number of the Coen Brothers movies, but when I decided to do a full retrospective from past to present I only made it to Miller’s Crossing. Fail. I also once had the hair-brained idea to see everything Jack Nicholson has ever made. Some of those titles are sitting comfortably in the mid-100s on my queue.
Although I did inadvertently watch one of Nicholson’s movies in my preparation for next month’s release of The Dark Knight Rises. My plan, although I’m only one movie into it, is to revisit Tim Burton’s Batman franchise as well as Christopher Nolan’s soon-to-be trilogy that concludes with the aforementioned film.
Nicholson plays the Joker in Burton’s 1989 flick, complete with green hair, a creepy surgically created smile and a boom box with Prince songs on repeat. I don’t remember if I ever saw this film before, but I certainly appreciate it much more now. Who knew that the guy who portrayed a writer turned murderous father in The Shining and perfected the role of Col. Nathan R. Jessup (“You can’t handle the truth!”) in A Few Good Men could also be seen dancing around to music by “The Purple One” wearing a suit of the same color?
Of course Nicholson is a villain in Batman too, but he took it to a new level.
(Before I continue, interesting factoid: Nicholson’s characters in both The Shining and Batman are named Jack.)
I think Nicholson’s quirky role as the Joker against the backdrop of Tim Burton’s imagination show that some people in Hollywood can do any project they want to and still be respected for it. In this case both pulled it off, but even if they didn’t their reputation in films wouldn’t change.
In Burton’s take on Batman, I enjoyed how he kept the characters relatively simple outside of their crime-fighting (or causing) superhero costumes. Michael Keaton as Batman could be any man on the street when he’s not wearing a mask or driving the Batmobile. Throw in Kim Basinger as Bruce Wayne’s love interest and journalist trying to uncover his identity and I have no complaints whatsoever.
I also have no complaints about Christopher Nolan and his cast of characters, but Christian Bale just cannot pull off the anti-hero and the hero at the same time. And, even though it somehow fits in the movie, is the fake husky voice while in bat costume necessary, Christian? Michael Keaton did not do that. (And he was in Mr. Mom).
As far as comparing the Joker characters Nicholson certainly pulled off a maniacal laugh quite well, but Heath Ledger’s role really stands on its own in the world of villains. I’ll have to issue a final verdict on the bad guys vs. good guys after watching Burton’s Batman Returns sequel and the first two films by Nolan.
I might squeeze in Batman Forever if I have time, even though it strays from Burton and Nolan’s work, it would be fun to revisit and compare.
Then July 20 will be the beginning of the end. I actually hope maybe it is REALLY the end, as in no one would ever make a Batman movie again, but who knows? Maybe if my dream boyfriend Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character survives The Dark Knight Rises (I’m thinking that is unlikely) and continues to be involved in any sort of spin off I’d watch it. But there is always the possibility of too much of a (very) good thing and, sadly, this may be it.

(P.S.tickets are, or in some cases were, already on sale for opening weekend of The Dark Knight Rises. In Minneapolis, there are 12:01 a.m. showings listed for Friday, July 20. It is tempting, especially after hearing about this movie since at least Christmas, but I think I’ll wait until after the opening weekend hoopla).

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Documentaries: First Position, The Interrupters, Sicko

I’ve been on a bit of a documentary kick lately, and as per usual I am behind on my blogging duties.
So here is the rundown of my recent film escapades:
First Position
I used to take dance classes back in the day, so this documentary about young ballet company prospects competing for scholarships and basically a career that matches their passion was of interest to me. I heard about it through my weekly emails about the coming attractions and luckily found I could order it on cable. I do love going to the movie theater, but I couldn’t resist the film being right at my fingertips.
I don’t regret the one time purchase, but by the time the credits started playing I wanted a little bit more about the lives of the dancers profiled in the film and just a little bit less of them on screen in performance after performance and audition after audition.
Those were beautiful scenes and certainly telling of how hard it is to be a 9-year-old whose future career plans are contingent upon constant perfection, but there were just too many of them. The documentary focuses on six dancers from around the world with life stories that prove what they’re doing isn’t just handed to them. They are lucky to have supportive families, but many are really doing it on their own.
So overall I appreciated the subject of the film and the effort put into it, I just think it needed a little bit more focus.
The Interrupters 
This next one is a little heavy, but I still found it to be a must-see because of the subject matter. I’ve been covering a lot more crime than I have in my past news reporting jobs and I thought this documentary would shed some light on what I’ve seen and heard. In the end I don’t think it’s possible to fully understand crime and violence, but there is a group out there trying to do just that.
The Interrupters, working for the CeaseFire organization on the south side of Chicago, include ex-convicts and gang members who have turned their lives around to prevent the crimes they themselves once committed.
It was hard to watch at times because the film looks at the issue through conversations with people who are criminals, their families and the families and friends of the victims of their crimes.
CeaseFire’s interrupters have no fear and somehow are able to instill some rational thinking in the people who resort to violence to solve problems, even when they aren’t really problems. That problem, unfortunately, may never fully go away, but at least there is a face now to what is being done. I picked up this movie at the library and it’s also available online at the link above.
Sicko
Last but not least, why not top off the series with a very comprehensive profile of health care in the United States and behind-the-scenes of a universal system in other countries? Fun stuff. I was surprised throughout Michael Moore’s documentary that he covered so many issues and interviewed so many people to exemplify the state of health care around the world. I don’t do politics, so whether you agree or disagree with Moore or any one of the people in the film’s views about how health care should be offered, I think the film effectively shows what the problem is and why.
Moore also sets an example of how documentary films should be made, no matter what the subject matter is.
I think I’ve had enough truth on film for the weekend, but my next documentary to watch is Food, Inc. I’m taking recommendations as well. Happy Sunday!

Moonrise Kingdom

Where do I even begin with Moonrise Kingdom? Maybe with this quote by writer and director Wes Anderson I read on his IMDB page: “I want to try not to repeat myself. But then I seem to do it continuously in my films. It’s not something I make any effort to do. I just want to make films that are personal, but interesting to an audience. I feel I get criticized for style over substance, and for details that get in the way of the characters. But every decision I make is how to bring those characters forward.”
Well said, my friend, well said.
This film did remind me of Anderson’s other work, The Royal Tenenbaums for example, but that is by no means a bad thing. Moonrise Kingdom stands on its own, but I did think of Tenenbaums while watching it mostly because of the large family of characters and introductory narrative with the camera panning throughout the house.
The family is the Bishops, with Bill Murray as the father Walt and Frances McDormand as the mother, Laura.
Their daughter, Suzy, meets a young “Khaki Scout” named Sam and the story centers on their plan to run away together and the chaos it brings to light for the people surrounding them. Sam and Suzy also fall in love, bringing in the true heart all of Anderson’s films have alongside the challenges he presents for his characters. It all takes place set on an island in 1965 New England where the Bishops live and Khaki Scouts attend Camp Ivanhoe to learn survival skills and work up to attending the regional “hullabaloo” event. (I LOVE that word!)
Back to Anderson’s quote, “I feel I get criticized for style over substance, and for details that get in the way of the characters.” I completely disagree with anyone who would say Anderson’s attention to detail in the style of his films is a distraction from the depth of his characters and their experiences.
I find being able to study each of the set pieces and costumes in one scene while watching the story play out only draws me in more to what’s happening. In Moonrise Kingdom, the music, the pins and badges on each Khaki Scout’s uniform (my favorite being the “Sudo Expert”) and the meaning of each and every line the characters say were all part of the escape into Wes Anderson’s creative mind for me and understanding of what he wants viewers to take away.
I feel I could watch this movie, and any of Anderson’s work for that matter, over and over and pick up some new detail or meaning every time.
Moonrise Kingdom mixes what may seem like fantasy through Anderson’s film-making style with what actually is a very true to heart story.
I think Anderson made all the right decisions in this film, from his cast of regulars and new faces to the facets of the story I know will mean something to each and every person in the audience.
If you choose not to be in that audience, fine, but I think by now Anderson has made it known his mission in film-making and those who complain about it should be forced to watch the sure to be hot mess of That’s My Boy instead.

Our Idiot Brother

I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but I really enjoyed my screening of Our Idiot Brother last night. I had the DVD from Netflix for over a week so I figured it was time to drop everything else I was doing, open a Spotted Cow, and watch the Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer and Elizabeth Banks ensemble film.
I am a fan of all those stars, in that order, and I am warming up to Elizabeth Banks after seeing her as Miranda in this movie. The three ladies are sisters and, you guessed it, Rudd plays the idiot brother. But is he really an idiot? On the surface maybe, but his happy-go-lucky attitude seemed to be just what his sisters needed to uncover reality in their own lives.
It’s not a serious movie, by any means, and the performances by the four main stars come off natural and at times improvised. Some of the scenes were a bit disconnected, but it didn’t harm the overall plot or the film’s entertainment value.
I don’t know how many people actually paid attention to the movie’s release last year, but I recommend seeing it now.
It’s overall heartwarming, has an actually talented kid actor in it and a golden retriever named Willie Nelson is even one of the main characters. There should be more movies like this that can actually pull off humor without throwing it in your face or using over-the-top effects.
As Paul Rudd’s character, Ned, would probably do I am going to stop now and not over analyze this subject anymore.
“Enjoy your burrito.” (Chris Hardwick)