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An uneven, ambitious epic tale
David Fincher's well made film, adapted from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald of the same name, deals with a fascinating premise what would life be like if lived in reverse? The film begins in 2005 in New Orleans, a dying old women named Daisy (Cate Blanchett) is on her deathbed with her daughter by her side. Hurricane Katrina is approaching. While by her side her daughter decides to read her a diary about Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt). He tells his story about how he was born an old man in New Orleans. His father thinking that the child was ill leaves him on the doorstep of a retirement home where he is taken in by a black woman in a breakout performance for Taraji P. Henson. While at this retirement home he meets Daisy and falls in love with her. However because of his condition there is no way they can have a normal relationship until the middle of their lives. When he gets younger he decides to travel the world and ends up in a steamboat during World War II and has an affair with an Englishwoman (Tilda Swinton).
Once he gets back from World War II is the point where this movie starts to go downhill. We never really get inside Benjamin's head. We just watch as he gets with Daisy dumps her after they have a kid and watch him get younger and younger. The movie jumps into all sorts of random episodes and there is no real thematic unity. It feels like Fincher was trying to say something really deep about life but screenwriter Eric Roth's script doesn't have that. Instead the script is basically a rewrite of Forrest Gump except instead of living an extraordinary life Benjamin lives a rather ordinary life. It's a shame because this cast and crew do a pretty great job with the parts they were given they just can't find anyway to lift this story out of its clichés. It just comes off as an entertaining gimmick, it never overstays its nearly 3 hour running time, with nice cinematography, art direction, and special effects which are among the best I have seen I might add. Overall this is an entertaining movie but it lacks the sort of punch someone expects from a movie dealing with life. Whereas a film like Synecdoche, New York leaves us thinking about our lives and the people in them in different ways a film like Benjamin Button throws us in all sorts of directions that we don't really know what to think.
Broken Flowers (2005)
Don Juan Suffers Mid-Life Crisis
Broken Flowers one of Jim Jarmusch's best films stars Bill Murray as Don Johnston a man who is pretty much a over the hill Don Juan. His most recent girlfriend has decided to leave him. After she leaves he finds a pink letter saying that he may have a son. After taking the advice of his neighbor he decides to go visit his previous girlfriends to see if he can find out if he really has a son. Some of them are happy to see him while others get a bit annoyed by his presence. Bill Murray is great here as Don Johnston playing a more subdued role like his great work in Lost In Translation as opposed to his older comedies like Ghostbusters and Caddyshack. I am really impressed by how much he can do with nothing. Just the slightest facial expression lets you know how is character is feeling. The outsider nature of his character is very similar to characters in other Jarmusch films like Dead Man and Ghost Dog. The film's conclusion provides no definitive answers and just leaves you to figure out all of the clues scattered throughout.
"Without hope, life's not worth living."
Milk, the story of gay rights activist Harvey Milk is a great movie that is pretty relevant of what is going on in our world today. Sean Penn delivers what might be the best performance of his career as Harvey Milk. He doesn't portray him as a saint, a trap that some Hollywood bio pics fall into, rather he is portrayed as ordinary man who just so happened to make a difference. Gus Van Sant's great direction and Dustin Lance Black's script also help. Another highlight performance is from Josh Brolin, who plays Dan White a fellow city official and eventual assassin of Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscane. Brolin's performance is astonishing in that he actually makes you feel a bit of sympathy for White. One other thing that makes this film unique from most bio pics is its use of archive footage that shows the events affecting the world as they happen throughout the narrative. Overall this is an inspiring film of a man who made a difference that can be enjoyed even by people who don't really care too much about politics.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
A disappointing possible end to what started out as a good series
Spider-Man is probably my favorite superhero. The first two movies did a good job bringing elements of the comic books and the cartoon I watched as a kid in the 90s to the big screen. This installment though lacked a lot of the things that made the first two really good movies.
At first I thought the whole idea of Sandman and Harry Osborne(aka the new Green Goblin) with Venom thrown in as a surprise out to ruin our hero's life was a good idea for ending this series. However this idea suffers from the lack of character development and goes over the top. The change that Peter's goes through having the symbiote blend with him worked well in the comics but in this movie it feels forced. The change that Peter goes through in the second one deciding not to be Spider-Man and then deciding to go back when he was needed most worked much better. The whole emo Spider-Man thing didn't work well at all and came off as incredibly campy.
I felt like director Sam Raimi tried way too hard to do what he wanted to do and what the fans wanted to see with this one. He should have just left Sandman out because everyone and their mom wanted to see Venom in this one and could care less for Sandman. Peter's personality change could have still worked without the whole Sandman is the alleged killer of his uncle subplot.
Overall Spider-Man 3 despite all of these problems still has a few good qualities to it. The fight scenes are probably among the best in the series and Tobey Maguire still does a decent job playing Spider-Man. Even though this was a disappointing end to the series I hope they don't make anymore of these because it doesn't look like everyone involved in the first three want to do it anymore and I felt like the ending tied up all of the loose ends of the series.
A mediocre Summer Blockbuster
I used to love Transformers when I was a kid. I owned some Beast Wars toys and some of the Generation 1 era toys(Autobots and Decepticons). I was also a big fan of both TV series. When I heard that they were going to make a Transformers live action movie I got pretty excited. When I was younger I never thought it could ever happen. Aside from the story which stayed pretty true to the old TV series and the CGI Transformers looking amazing, this movie wasn't good at all and failed to live up to my expectations.
Director Michael Bay emphasized way too much on the cheesy human story. Sure the humans should be important characters in a Transformers storyline but there was so much stupid dialog like "I don't like girls who work on my engine" or scenes like the one involving Glen and the donuts. Now I am not expecting this to be an Academy Award. Another huge problem is all of the long action sequences which are entertaining at first but just drag on and on after awhile. These sequences could have been cut down some without harming the film as a whole.
Oh well at least this film made tons of money and were probably going to be getting a Transformers 2 sometime in the next few years...
Batman Begins (2005)
The Best Superhero Movie Ever
Superhero movies are a dime a dozen these days and only a handful of them have managed to do a great job following their source material. Batman Begins is one of those few films. Christian Bale is the best Batman the franchise has ever had and director Christopher Nolan has really helped bring back the dark and serious edge that the Batman franchise lacked in the previous two installments (Batman & Robin, Batman Forever). Another thing I really like about this film is how it went deep into Batman's origin story which is something that Tim Burton's original Batman failed to accomplish. If you have been a fan of the Batman comics or a fan of Tim Burton's Batman films you won't be disappointed in this.