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Good - but not has good as I had hoped
SOME SPOILERS(?) Not really... (But DO stay for after the credits!)
It is quite possible to love Captain America the comic book too much. It is also quite possible to love those trailers with Stanley Tucci as Dr Erskine telling skinny Chris Evans / Steve Rogers that "It's about being a good man."
And it is quite possible to get entranced by the humility and guts of this young man who would do good. Because at the heart of this comic book hero is a story about a good, pure- hearted man who would do whatever he could to do the right thing... and keep getting back up when bigger and more capable men would have long given up.
And that is touching.
And for the first half of the movie the story touches this admirably. My only beef is with the second half which seems to ditch the brooding character development of what is essentially a gentle and loving soul learning to finally enjoy his life... and gets too much into the action.
Now, GRANTED, this IS a comic book movie. And GRANTED, this is also an action adventure story.
But the spine of the story as portrayed in the first half of the story should have played a more central role in the second half. I think that would have made this into a "perfect" super hero movie... but moreso a solid, and touching drama.
Because at the heart of this story SHOULD have been about a good man, learning his self- worth, and the love of a good woman who would inspire him to move forward even when he far outlived her.
THAT, would have made the story thematically and emotionally unified. So maybe if the story was 30 minutes longer with that aspect of the drama placed within the heart of the story I would not have felt so numb and let down in the second half.
Maybe. Maybe not.
Just one other point: This movie is MEANT to be a setup for next year's AVENGERS movie. It would be a serious waste if they stopped making Captain America movies just to focus on Avengers stories. At the heart is still a man who is discovering his own self-worth. And that is plenty important in this day and age.
Sucker Punch (2011)
Why Sucker Punch Works and why it will rock DVD sales
I originally wrote a review the day after I saw Sucker Punch. I panned it. To me my initial feelings were rather lukewarm at best.
But then I gave it some time.
And as I went through my days afterward my mind would wander back to the story and think about the visual food for thought.
Yeah, the girls are hot. Yeah, the action is over the top, but if you look at the emotional landscape that is being explored in a more literal fashion via the action then yeah, this is a pretty cool idea.
Sometimes films come along that are a "sucker punch" in terms of originality. The general public usually reacts negatively to it which leads to poor box office results. But later on the audience has had a chance to digest what was given and revisits the film and breaths new life into it.
My prediction is that such a situation will happen with Sucker Punch. It'll probably not recoup its initial budget at the box office. People will flood the IMDb forum with reasons why it did not work. We will probably see about a few dozen threads at least where people will vent their reasons why they hate the film and why you too should not see it.
But given some time it will recoup via video sales and other distribution deals.
Because it's still a solid story. The style of the movie is an Otaku's wet dream, but overall result is still the same: it does surprise and give ample food for thought.
Think of it as stylized parable about repression, personal will and sacrifice. Because sooner or later after all the negative backlash and reviews blow by those emotional messages will be all that will be left.
And people will remember it for that reason.
I think it was the best they could have done
Well, if anyone has ever seen the original Tron, you would know that there is quite a lot of inventiveness for that time period. That was back in 1980-1982 when they were making the first film. To put some perspective of how inventive TRON was for the time think back and remember that the first Macintosh computer was still just a project back at Apple, video games were mostly those sold on Atari cartridges.
So the visuals at that time were mind-blowing to say the least. And if you watch it now and can understand what it meant at the time, yeah, it's still pretty impressive.
But that was 1982.
Almost 30 years later we have this legacy film. And guess what? It has a lot of the same stuff we saw in the first film. And that is almost a given because people loved the original because of the lightcycles, the grid, etc. So it is almost a given that you have to have them in the film.
Well, if you take this film as a paint by numbers a la Hollywood style, then we have the following: 1.) The obligatory homage of lightcycles, light tanks, light whatever-those-red-flying- things-are-called-with-the-long-arms. 2.) You have the obligatory introduction of the new world. 3.) You have the obligatory sexy chicks. Come on. If you're shaking your head on this, think about it: you still have to appeal to the teenage boys and above. 4.) You have the obligatory guy-girl relationship. 5.) You have the conflict between antagonist and protagonist. Build it within a three act structure where the resolution of the story comes with a struggle between the two main forces leading to a resolution. Check.
Okay, so what's really left then? We top out at a little over two hours I believe. That's just about all you can really do in that much time.
So bearing that, people might ask: why isn't it more innovative? Why is it staying too close to the source material?
Well, there's a good reason: Because TRON was a cult film for certain reasons. You can innovate but you have to be true to the source material which is the core reason for any sort of fan base.
So, overall I thought it was decent. Some of the gladiator stuff I had to say was pretty cool. I liked the hot siren, and (of course) Olivia Wilde. But otherwise it was what I expected. Nothing terribly innovative. But heck, I still got my money's worth.
The Karate Kid (2010)
It is definitely a remake - and it stands on its own two feet
Minor spoiler about the story: the story structure of this film is pretty closely modeled after the original.
That said, it still is a pretty fun film with some touching moments and laughs along the way. The story is well told, the tone is very consistent and the performances were believable. And the martial arts action in itself was pretty outstanding. Of course, what did you expect? Jackie Chan is in it.
To tell you the truth I am a die-hard fan of the original movies (okay, the first two movies. Never saw the third one... but I think I'm okay with saying that) and when I heard about the original being remade two thoughts occurred to me:
1.) WHY? (as in "Why on G-d's green earth would anyone want to remake such a fantastic film that still stands up even today?") I was to say the least, a bit "annoyed." I probably even stamped my feet but I was definitely pretty upset with this idea.
2.) IF IT IS TAKING PLACE IN CHINA WHY "THE KARATE KID" AND NOT "THE KUNG-FU KID" Okay, this question was and still is a mystery to me, but after seeing how closely this film takes after the original one I figured, "Okay, I can live with the same title. It's not Karate, it's Kung-Fu and Jaden Smith is NOT Ralph Macchio. But it sort of makes sense to not call it "THE KUNG-FU KID" because it's rather unapologetic (it honestly does not need to apologize IMHO) about the fact that it is a remake.
If you love the original movie you will probably actually appreciate how well this remake flows. Most of the same plot points are there and it does not take any weird turns in the story to make itself distinct from the original. It simply is a "Karate Kid" remake. Period.
As far as Kung-Fu goes in this film, did I say it was outstanding? (I think I did, but let's say it again.) The kids (both Jaden Smith, the Chinese kid is his nemesis are pretty tough.) I would not want to mess with those kids in a dark alley... ha ha ha. Yes, I'm safe here on my computer so my chicken-like nature can be expressed. ;)
But anyway the martial arts do make the original sort of pale by comparison. And that is a good thing. The movie benefits from it. It's not the same ol' Jackie Chan routine which we have seen him so many times before in other movies... waitaminute. Maybe it is... but it's still pretty outstanding.
And Chan's portrayal as Mr. Han is rather awesome. You feel for the guy and as I have probably seen a ridiculous number of Jackie Chan movies over the years I think I can say I think this is one of his best performances.
When the original movie came out kids across the US were inspired to take up martial arts -- probably Karate. I am suspecting that this movie will do (surprise surprise) the same thing for kung-fu.
Over all I give this an 8 out of 10. I reserve 9's and 10's for films that are pretty epic in scope and which I have probably watched a few dozen times. So an 8's a good indication that this is a solid, fun movie. I hope you go see it with an open mind.
If you are a fan of the original movies you will probably enjoy it as much as I did. Sort of a walk down memory lane with some nice thoughtful surprises. If you are new to The Karate Kid, just be prepared to put aside some allowance (if you are young) because you will probably want to start saving up for some kung-fu lessons after the movie.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Not as great as I had hoped but still fun
I love the comic book, Iron Man. I perhaps always have. I also loved the first Iron Man movie. I'm not a purist, I just think it's a fun story. And it probably helps that I also enjoy TheOnion's video they did making fun of Iron Man's trailer back in 2008. Classic!
However I digress...
The good parts of this story are simply what you can surmise from watching the trailer: 1.) Bad Ass robots and suits all over the place. If you are someone who like the nerdgasm that sits at the heart of the Iron Man story then you are going to like some of the battles.
2.) There's a pretty good badguy in Sam Rockwell. Could have been a bit stronger but he's becomes a better baddie by the end of this sequel. The Mickey Rourke character was okay. Could have made it still a bit stronger.
3.) MINOR SPOILER: Personal angst and drama of Tony Stark. Ehhhhh. It was not so enjoyable this time. Mainly because we have to deal with an issue that plagues him throughout the story until (of course) he solves it at which point you may be shrugging and thinking, "Okay, check that problem off the list. Next problem Tony will have to innovate around?" I think at this point whatever angst he might have had in the first movie about his father-son issues and his doubts about his own purpose gets pushed to the side which is a real shame, because, heck, that was a vulnerable part of Tony where he found himself actually contemplating his own mortality and and purpose in the world.
So, my opinion? Pushing that very cool dramatic father-son issue to the side was probably not the best choice. But heck, at least it wasn't completely forgotten. And it did play a certain role in him figuring out his own next invention. But seriously, too many dramatic issues in one two hour movie made the overall treatment of the dramatic issues rather shallow -- too much ground to cover, too little time.
Over all, I still give it an 8 out of 10. Not saying it was exactly what I had hoped for but it was still rather satisfying. May not see it again for a while, but that's okay. I'll still go see the next one... and probably the ones after that if they make them...
Speed Racer (2008)
Despite the bad reviews, I enjoyed it
Perhaps I came into the movie with a whole heap of nostalgia blinding me to the quality of the film. Could happen. Probably did. But I did enjoy this film.
Despite the negative reviews from what seems like every critic and his/her mother, I found that this film was still fun and entertaining. Of course it also has so many vibrant (and arguably unnecessary) colors thrown at you every step of the way that one will feel tempted to go into a seizure. However, (that said) the utter lack of reality of the story is so purposeful in this film that it makes its own statement: this is a cartoon. It is meant to be taken as a cartoon. Anyone who takes it too seriously will most probably be highly disappointed.
In short: this ain't no "realistic" story like Iron Man. It is however a movie that promises only to give you a loose translation of the Speed Racer experience. And for that reason it works.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
A Refreshing Comedy -- I'll probably see this one again.
This movie makes a good case for adapting spicy books like The Devil Wears Prada. Rather than overtly conforming to Hollywood formulas which pace romantic comedies at 90 minutes, this film is a hilariously fun film which takes a breezy look at the fashion industry and its various players.
All three principal characters played by Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Stanley Tucci, are immensely pleasurable to watch. We enjoy them because they relish what they do, and what they do is not very nice.
The joy in this film is seeing the constant degradation of the main character played by Hathaway. But the flip side to the constant dumping which also makes the film equally pleasurable is seeing some cunning moves by her character that earn her a measure of respect.
You do not have to be a woman to see this film. In fact if you have a basic IQ which allows you to speak in complete sentences, to understand sarcasm and have had experiences with Ultra Type-A personalities you will probably relate to and enjoy this film.
This is a good date movie. It is also a good way to unwind if you have had a long week.
Superman Returns (2006)
Sadly I did not enjoy it.
I have always been a big Superman fan. I suppose the idea of flying and having super human strength has always been appealing. And I always enjoyed Richard Donner's 1978 Superman movie -- I still find myself gladly dropping whatever I am doing if I see it on television. I guess you could say that it's a really heart-warming classic. So when I heard that they were (finally) making a new Superman film I was a bit divided. On one hand I would have loved to see a new Superman film. On the other hand I worried that the filmmakers are going to somehow muck it up a bit.
Sadly in this case I have to say I thought the film was a bit of the latter and not enough of the former. At two hours and thirty-odd minutes it felt a bit too long. The filmmaker could have probably cut it down by 45 minutes and it would have been a better adventure. The story paces rather slowly at times and the tone often too serious for its own good and the sentimental moments are not as compelling -- mainly due to the rather poor choices (IMHO) in casting.
Do not get me wrong. Kate Bosworth will always be lovely to look at. But with the brown hair she just looked like, well... Kate Bosworth with kinky brown hair and not someone I could easily accept as Lois Lane.
Perhaps it was Margot Kidder's feisty Lois, or even Teri Hatcher's sassy version in Lois & Clark. Whatever the situation to me Lois will always be a bit of a statuesque siren with a journalist streak. Kate's wonderful. But not exactly the right fit.
And Brandon Routh... Well, I think he did a pretty good job with the voice, but he still stuck me more as a kid and not as the kind of man needed to fill Christopher Reeve's shoes. Perhaps I am being too harsh here. After all, after Reeves whom could possibly compare? For most people who grew up in the seventies Reeves will always be Superman. Routh does a good job playing the part, but I think they could have still done a better job in casting.
As far as the pacing is concerned, like I said, it runs a bit slow at times. Not all the scenes seem necessary for pushing the drama forward. And at times it also feels a bit gratuitous as the story seemed a bit too convoluted with too many strings to tie up by the end of the film.
The symbolism in the film also seems to be a real problem in this case. Give me a nickel every time someone talks about "savior" and I think I would probably have enough to go buy a few lottery tickets. The savior theme is really something that is set to overkill as if Singer wanted to simply reach out into the audience and browbeat the viewer into submission. There is such a thing as overkill, and this would be a good example in my opinion.
The tone of the film is also rather dark. Spacey's Lex Luther is much more serious than the Hackman version, and so the character is a lot less interesting. Yes, there are a few times when Spacey is more comical and during those moments the Lex Luther character works.
But there are also some grotesque moments which are supposed to be humorous which I personally found less tasteful and unnecessary for pushing the story forward. Consequently the humor needed to punch up the film's darker elements is sorely lacking and so the fun factor of the film seems rather curtailed.
In my opinion Donner did the right thing by making Lex Luther the source of humor -- on one hand we need a source of release from the tension in the film, on the other hand we need the humor to remind ourselves not to take anything so seriously. To me Superman films at their best were never to be taken too seriously and once the film did it stopped becoming a superman story and more of a Singer drama.
As far as the inherent themes of the Superman films to me they were about dreams, ideals, and about the inherent goodness of mankind. Clark Kent (and for that matter Superman) is a good person because of this inherent goodness bred into him by his human parents and how that goodness survives despite the weakness of others (i.e. Lex Luther) is the real focus of the story -- not, in my opinion whether or not Superman is supposedly mankind's re-envisioned Christ-like savior. Yes, Singer does touch upon these themes somewhat, but overall the themes are not clearly explored within the story. It is rather convoluted due to the numerous issues being addressed in the film -- and perhaps it would have been a lot better if Singer had decided to take half of the movie's themes and saved them for a later sequel rather than to drop them all into the audience's lap.
Other than that? Well, it was alright. I still expect it to make approximately $130 million by Tuesday, however what sort of staying power it has afterward remains to be seen.
Hauru no ugoku shiro (2004)
A Fantastic Film Worth Every Moment
I have to admit to being swayed by the jacket covers for DVD's and the marketing material used to promote movies. So when I saw Howl's Moving Castle and one of the characters (Howl) as a half-human, half-blue beast, I immediately thought, "Eww, that's weird. What in the world were they thinking?" Even though it is by Miyazaki, I have to admit that bias/immaturity on my own part.
So I stayed away from the film for quite some time. (I've also noticed a pattern: I tend to stay away from the best films out there for the most stupid, shallow reasons only to be later blown away by how good they were.)
So eventually I managed to rent this film. I do not even know why it got on my Netflix list. But I saw it. And I was hooked. I watched it once, twice, three times, okay, I stopped at five times because I had to return it or incur the wrath of my girlfriend. But there were several moments throughout the film that really touched me and I was so moved by Emily Mortimer's rendition of Sophie's emotions that it left me perfectly spellbound by the end of the film.
"Okay, I'll just watch one more scene..." (I also realized you probably can not do this, because pretty soon if you start at any part of the movie chances are you will continue watching until the credits...)
Okay, the review: It's a spellbinding film. A bit unconventional by Western standards, but definitely a movie that takes the audience on an adventure (which is rather refreshing if you consider how many movies promise adventure and give you recycled material today). This film is very endearing as all the characters feel real. Miyazaki excels in creating humorous characters and situations, developing a very warm view of life and everyone in it. The story is sometimes slow, but overall it feels honest and original which is saying a lot in today's cinema.
Definitely worth renting at the DVD store, or, if you can, watching it on the big screen.
The Lake House (2006)
Okay, I liked it a lot. Worth the price of admission
I knew I was going to end up going to this film long before it hit the theaters. Mainly the reason has to do with the casting: my girlfriend would pay $20.00 just to see Keanu fold a piece of paper so I knew I was going to see the film one way or the other.
Before I go further I must explain that I give the movie an '8'. I reserve '10's for classics like Kurosawa and David Lean films so an '8' is actually a pretty strong compliment. Aside from the fact that the movie is sometimes a little confusing (there are a few time-based paradoxes that do not quite add up and makes you think of a couple dozen Star Trek episodes dealing with time travel) it was a rather thoughtfully paced, fresh experience.
I would hazard to guess that this film is rather warm-hearted, funny, and for that matter, fresh because it is actually a remake of a popular Korean film -- a good place to start if you are going to create a rather warm-hearted movie nowadays.
Keanu's character is relateable as is Sandra Bullock's -- both of their portrayals feel honest. And therefore how the characters react to each other is rather refreshing.
If you have two hours to kill go see this film. Chances are you will probably enjoy it.
A bit disappointed, but then I've been spoiled by Pixar's Success
Not the best Pixar film (but then again any film following in the wake of The Incredibles would have a hard time) I found Cars to be pleasant but rather uninspired at times, a bit long in the middle, and overall recycled as far as ideas are concerned.
It seems that Hollywood has an obsession with following in the footsteps of the Golden Age directors such as Frank Capra whose works have become formulas for generations of stories that seem to fixate on the goodness of the common man, pitting the virtues of one group against the corruptive influences of fame and the prospects of fortune. Anyone who has seen Mister Deed Goes to Town, Mister Smith Goes to Washington, etc. (even The Majestic if you want to throw that in for good measure), has probably seen these age old themes used over and over again. These are good themes, and have very simply messages about the importance of having one's priorities straight, but seeing it one more time in an animated film seems rather wasted.
Perhaps it is nostalgia that drove this piece -- an easy temptation for any writer to succumb to (look at Akira Kurosawa's last few films for future reference) but somehow seeing this film it made me feel a bit cheated.
Granted, like I said before anything that came after The Incredibles would have to be stupendous to match the amount of anticipation that probably developed in the last year and a half so it is fair to say that this is a very entertaining film.
But let's face it: if you are spoiled with the amazing quality of the previous Pixar films it will be easy to see this film as a bit of a letdown. But if you keep an open mind and simply go to have a good time, you will not be disappointed.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Regrettably I did not enjoy it.
I have been a very big X-Men fan for the last twenty-five years and enjoyed the first two films because they remained somewhat true to the spirit of the characters and the story dynamics. So it was with great anticipation that I awaited the third film. Even with the change of the director I figured it would not be so different in tone and theme.
However I was wrong on both counts.
When I go see a film such as an anticipated sequel I ultimately satisfied to some degree by simply being able to immerse myself in the world of some of my favorite characters. In some cases the sequels I have seen are good at keeping true to the characters' nature and relationships and thus continuing the fun. In this case however I was conflicted because: 1.) on one hand I loved seeing the characters played by some of my favorite actors (a BIG kudos for whoever thought of about casting Olivia Williams as Moira McTaggart -- what a hottie!) and 2.) I did not like the plot choices that the screenwriters and director made in this film.
RE: Character Deaths If you see this film and are a die-hard X-Men fan you may agree that certain characters getting killed off made the overall dynamics of the story rather un-X-men-like. Having certain characters romantically involved with one another which was different from the comic book also make it feel a bit weird. I will not elaborate further but if you see the film and know the comic books you may agree with me on this.
By the way one could argue that these unanticipated deaths actually enhances the overall storyline because it raises the stakes for the audience since none of the characters are immune from death. And a few deaths are okay, but it seemed like a little overkill (pun intended) in this film.
RE: Plot Yes, there is a story contrary to popular opinion. And it's not too bad really, however there are a LOT of story lines going on simultaneously which makes you think if the film were any longer or convoluted that wthe audience would simply lose track of the progression in the story altogether.
RE: In the End By the way if you do go see this film stay for the scene after the credits. I am beginning to do this more and more and they do throw in a final scene after the credits that you will not want to miss.
RE: Directing Choices Ultimately I believe a director is hired for how he presents his stories. While Ratner is more than competent in his abilities to direct this film, how the story ultimately plays out in terms of tone is also his responsibility. This is a darker X-Men, true. But I believe the amount of deaths that exists in this film -- i.e. soldiers getting disintegrated -- was unnecessary for telling the story and overall rather disturbing. We know it's CG when you see it, but to see people being atomized over and over again is just sickening and unnecessary.
In X2 we know a bunch of the baddies are going to die due to their own grenades however Singer at least has the good taste to not indulge in the violence. In X1 and X2, the spectacle is not the story but a tool at the hands of the director. In X3 it seems that fact is somewhat forgotten.
Even though I walked out of X3 rather happy to see some of my favorite characters, after a few hours the overall impact of all tha violence left a bad taste in my mouth and I came to the conclusion that I really did not like this film.
RE: The Future Is X-Men: The Last Stand the end for the X-Men? I doubt it. There's still plenty of material that could be used for sequels. However I wish the Donners reteam with Singer for the next project. He seems to have been pretty good at keeping spirit of the project on track.
She's the Man (2006)
A fun movie. Not Shakespeare but worth the $10.00.
If you want to see a film that is pretty darn funny then go see this film. Although the overall film may sometimes feel a bit disjointed the main actress, Amanda Bynes, makes it a worthwhile view because of her very endearing carefree goofiness. In fact when you see how she plays awkward as a boy it makes the entire film rather impossible to resist.
I would recommend it to anyone who does not take the entire film-making process too seriously and remembers that entertainment means, well, having a good time. Even though it gets a PG-13, it is very apparent that this film is suitable for just about anyone save for very young children and those people with an aversion to goofy humor.
What a classic above classics...
First of all let me say that this film is a real tear jerker. If you want to see a film that talks about compassion then you are going to want to see this film. In a world where pettiness abounds to see the big-hearted nature of the main characters and how such compassion literally changes people for the better -- you're going to want to see this film.
For years I avoided this film (like IKIRU) because it was not a samurai film. But after getting over those ridiculous reasons, I finally figured I needed to complete my Kurosawa education by seeing it.
And boy was I glad I did.
It is one of those films that does change you. Like every classic it stands the test of time not because of its entertainment value but because it is a great experience. Even months after seeing the film the first time I found myself always examining my own life against the noble attitudes of the main characters.
Yes, it's three hours long. And yes, you're going to want to spend time to digest it. But the three hours you devote to this film is worth it. If you loved TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, you're going to love this film.
King Kong (2005)
It was good, but not great. Maybe cut an hour off.
I liked the original ape movie way back when -- what a classic. Never saw the more recent redux a few decades ago. This one I dragged my girlfriend to go see today despite her protests that The Family Stone would be a better choice.
Before I go further I think it's fair to say that I really enjoyed LOTR -- Jackson did a fantastic job. However...(yes, there is a 'however' in this comment...) this King Kong version plays way too long. I liked the jungles but after a while it just got to be overkill. And the entire thing -- from start to finish -- could have been trimmed a bit I think in order to pick up the pace.
Don't get me wrong: as far as the tone of the story it was great. Jackson makes you care about the great big ape. At the end you'll probably think, "Darn it, poor Kong, so misunderstood. I would have understood him. He could have lived in my backyard (or maybe my neighbors'...).
However, it was long. Way too long. I always look at it as a bad sign for a film when I start gripping my knee caps out of sheer impatience -- I want to speed it up.
So I think the pace could have been picked up a bit and preserved the quality of the tone. When it comes out on television in the very far future I'll probably zip it into my editor just to play around with it a bit, cut it up a little, see if I was right.
I'm still sold on Jackson though. I think he did a great job in making you care about a CG character. And that's a real important skill.
Batman Begins (2005)
Finally, a Batman Movie.
If you go to this movie and you are a die-hard comic book Batman fan you will not be disappointed.
If you liked the previous Batman movies, you will probably be surprised how much better this take on Batman truly is.
But if you even thought that Batman should stayed the way it was previously portrayed through the Tim Burton versions, you should probably spend some time visiting a nearby bookstore that sells graphic novels and real some of the better graphic novels before continuing with this review.
Because this movie is perhaps what most die-hard Batman comic book fans wanted the first time around. A big reason may be that for at least the last 15 years the writing for the Batman comic books have been very edgy and in many ways far more cerebral than what Tim Burton gave us way back when. Batman is considered the "Dark Knight" and also the "detective" -- the everyman forged by circumstances and haunted by a past of regret and misfortune to become something more than the mere law enforcement crime fighter.
Does this make it as carefree and enjoyable as, say, MR. AND MRS. SMITH? Maybe not. But satisfying?
The campiness that was evident in the comedic Batman series of old was not something that most of these diehards probably care for nor desire to see in their superhero.
And why would they? After seeing what graphic novels could truly become through the works of Frank Miller's THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, BATMAN YEAR ONE, and Alan Moore's THE WATCHMEN (not a Batman storyline but something quite exceptional and worth mentioning), it seems that the expectations of Batman was to create something edgy, that was in many ways based in reality and above all, brooding and logical.
That is what we get when we see BATMAN BEGINS -- a somewhat realistic storyline that explains via the many cause-and-effect events why a young man suffering the haunting death of his family would find no other recourse than to don a batsuit and prowl the night.
This is not a film that is so fantastical nor focused on the weirdness of the badguys (the previous movies should have really been titled, JOKER, PENGUIN, and THE RIDDLER, not BATMAN since Batman was really more of an afterthought of the series not the real focus of the stories). Rather BATMAN BEGINS is really the first cinematic story about BRUCE WAYNE, who is also BATMAN.
And that makes this story far more overdue and interesting than what came before.
What haunts the entire premise of Batman is in fact the question of WHY:
Why would someone even consider donning a cape and all to fight evil?
Why would a billionaire who supposedly has so much money and therefore influence, still resort to such means?
Why wouldn't he simply try to inspire community development via civic activities?
Why wouldn't he take the Capra-esquire view and become a philanthropist -- giving away his money to the needy like MR. DEEDS GOES TO WASHINGTON?
Why not simply use his money to become influential within the court system to try to fight justice that way?
And how does one exorcise one's demons if one lives with the guilt that one may have contributed to one's own parents' death?
How would he face his fears?
Would he allow his personal hatred to warp his mind, to make him weak, and transform himself into the very thing he despises? Does he become the cowardly lot that he despises due to his intense hatred? Yes. We see this in the story and how it took the dignity and outrage of those he loves to snap him out of his cowardly ways.
All of these questions are addressed in a very logical manner. And as a result it becomes a very analytical view of the nature of man.
WHY is the question being asked in the movie -- something the filmmaker does an incredible job answering.
Why does one man become a criminal and another a crime fighter? What kind of roll models such as RA'S AL GHUL and the LEAGUE OF SHADOWS provide young Wayne, and why do the ninja suits that Ghul's forces use, make it almost inevitable that young Wayne would create the Batsuit? Why does the rhetoric of Ghul's henchman, DUCARD, make it logical for Wayne to choose a Bat as his persona?
In the comic book world, Batman is considered the "modern" detective -- a thinking man (but also fallible) who, by his own force of will and intellect -- wages a war against the darker aspects of humanity.
BATMAN BEGIN succeeds because it never forgets this fact.
The Majestic (2001)
A really unappreciated gem.
Like "It's A Wonderful Life", The Majestic did not do well in the box office, but I wouldn't be surprised if it became a regular classic over the years just like Capra's.
To call it "Capra-Corn" to me is a real complement seeing how such films always comes with a lot of heart and address real, honest-to-goodness values. No, we don't have to go racing off to some small faraway town to find it, because it can be found anywhere where you can find a good heart.
However, it's still a sweet story.
RE: Jim Carrey. When I originally saw the film when it came out I was not so impressed. I couldn't buy Jim Carrey in the role and the issues about what is a contract, etc. seemed a bit obscure (perhaps a bit too cerebral for most movie-goers). Perhaps most movie-goers are a bit too cynical about life at this point to really latch onto a sentimental piece like this.
However, time and experience has a way of convincing us of talent and I believe that seeing it again after a year or two has lent more leeway to the performance, making it more acceptable.
RE: Laurie Holden. Is she wonderful or what? I was really stunned by her beauty and grace. She plays the sweet, vulnerable home town girl so well. I really look forward to seeing more of her on the big screen. It is so easy to fall for characters with such principles and heart, and she pulls it off so well. A real talent. One word: Wow! :D
RE: Martin Landau. Is he great or what? What a sweet, sweet performance. So genuine. I'm glad he's still acting. I remember first watching him in Space 1999, and always hoped they'd make a remake of the show, however, I'm just happy to see him performing on the screen. What a great, great actor. So much heart.
RE: Raiders of the Lost Ark Idol. I laughed when I saw this. I guess Darabont and Spielberg must have had a good chuckle when they used it.
RE: Bruce Campbell. Is this guy under-utilized or what? I think it was a wonderful choice to have Campbell, king of modern B-movies such as "Army of Darkness" in an old fashioned B-movie like the one Tom Appleton has written.
RE: Amanda Detmer. Is she adorable or what? And why aren't we seeing more of her on screen as well? She should have more roles that show her spunk.
RE: The SHAWSHANK GANG Seeing Jeffrey DeMunn and James Whitmore in the film was great. I love seeing these guys performing. It seemed like a Shawshank reunion and it's always nice to see great actors work.
I was also glad to see David Ogden Stiers and Ron Rifkin, both of whom can do no wrong in my book.
In closing, I'm glad that HBO has been running "The Majestic" over and over again. In a lot of ways post-9/11 this is the kind of movie that we always need when things get bad. It's a story about having faith in oneself and one's community. And those kind of stories never go out of style.