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The Dark Knight (2008)
One of the greatest movies of the decade!
"The Dark Knight" isn't a movie, it's a masterpiece. And I don't mean that in the confines of the comic book genre, oh no! I'm thinking as in "one of the greatest movies of the decade" sense of the word. Dark Knight is all about the price Bruce Wayne pays for fighting injustice as Batman. He has only one rule, which is to never take a life, but gets driven to his limit by homicidal madman, The Joker, leaving him at his most flawed. Though he was wonderful in "Batman Begins", I wasn't quite eager to call Christian Bale the best Batman; with Dark Knight, he rightfully deserves it. Dark Knight not only successes it's predecessor, but it blows the previous efforts before them, pretty much out of existence (though I still love the first Tim Burton movie). Of the supporting cast, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman make a remarkable return in their respective characters, while as Rachel Dawes, Maggie Gyllenhaal thankfully outshines the only weak link in Batman Begins, Katie Holmes. Amazingly notable is Aaron Eckhart as Gotham City DA Harvey Dent, who becomes as much a central character as Batman or Joker. Dent embodies everything that Bruce Wayne stands for as Batman, only without wearing a mask. But unlike Wayne, Dent is far more vulnerable to his enemies and through tragedy, he would inevitably become the villainous Two-Face. Last, but certainly not least, the late Heath Ledger is the true star of Dark Knight. Of course, to rate him as Joker, you'd have to compare him with the legendary Jack Nicholson's portrayal in the Burton movie. Though there are some similarities, in the end, Nicholson gave it a good effort: Ledger IS The Joker. What makes his performance a work of art, is Ledger losing his soul into the character. He shows exactly why in the comics, The Joker is Batman's greatest and deadliest adversary, than Nicholson ever could. More nightmarish than funny, Ledger paints Joker as a psychopath, whose facial scars widen his 'smile', and wears his clown make-up as war paint. He's emotionless and devoid of all humanity, which makes him both sadistic and tragic. Lord only knows how much further Ledger would have gone, had he not been taken away so prematurely. Other familiar faces also make the rounds, including a brief appearance from Cillian Murphy, reprising Scarecrow. Running at 2 1/2 hours, The Dark Knight is never a dull moment. A flawless masterpiece, highlighted by brilliance.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
A slight improvement
First thing's first: I don't care what anyone says, I liked the Ang Lee movie from 5 years ago. I liked that it was more of a story about human tragedy, and less of what you'd expect from your average comic-book flick. Jump forward to now, and you have this version of Hulk, which is everything the first version maybe should have been. But there's a trade-off: the strength of the Lee version was that it was character-driven, whereas this version is entirely action-oriented. Edward Norton (another genius casting decision by Marvel) is more effective and believable as Dr. Bruce Banner, than the rugged and pretty-boyish Eric Bana from the Lee version. William Hurt's "Thunderbolt" Ross is a draw with Sam Eilliot's, but for Betty Ross, Liv Tyler was the only mistake. She was your typical damsel in distress, whereas Jennifer Connelly's was such a stronger-willed character. With the exception of Tyler, I liked this Hulk better than the Lee version, but only a by hair. Though it lacks character development, the action is incredibly fun and should please those that were looking for it in the Lee version.
To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)
My favorite movie!
I've seen my DVD about 9 or 10 times already, and I've never gotten tried of it--it's THAT great! At first, I thought "To Live and Die in L.A." was just the name of a Tupac Shakur song--I had no idea it was the name of an actual movie. But besides having a sick car chase (I LOVE car chases!) and Willem Dafoe (who I'd see in anything), my main motivation for buying the movie on Amazon back in April, was my all-time favorite TV show, "Miami Vice". In fact, the show's executive producer, Michael Mann, sued William Friedkin for plagiarism (Mann lost, but they're good friends now). The similarities are there, but the movie is far grittier and darker than the series could have ever been. As far as morals go, there are literally no good characters in this movie. Everyone's either an antagonist or an anti-hero. The ending was genius--in fact, it probably could have set the stage for a sequel, but looking back, it was a wise decision not to (I should also note that on the DVD, there's an alternate ending which was also wisely jettisoned, because it was horrible). The score by Wang Chung (yeah, THAT Wang Chung) is amazing, and so is the always fun Willem Dafoe, setting the stage for the villainous typecasting he'd have for much of his career. But the biggest surprise I got out of TLADILA, was the new-found respect I have for William Peterson. It never dawned on me on how cool he was. In fact, it's kind of painful to see him go from a character like Richard Chance--a reckless a-hole with nothing really to live for, but is so ultra-cool, you gotta love him--to doing....C.S.I. He really should have been a box-office star! "To Live and Die in L.A." is a remarkably intense and stylish thriller, from a decade I wish I was a part of (technically, I was, because I was born in 82', but I was a kid--too young to even remember how cool the 80's were). That's why it's my favorite movie!