The Dark Knight Rises: IMAX | A-

director: Christopher “Don’t Ever Question Me Again” Nolan
starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Matthew Modine

tdkr imaxI’m a sucker and Christopher Nolan is smarter than me. First impressions of anything can be important and can often be right on the money, but they’re also dangerous, susceptible to myriad external factors like one’s state of mind, their environment and their preconceptions going into a given situation. Such is the case for me with Rises, a movie I was angrily disappointed with after an initial viewing in a small theater with merely adequate sound fidelity on a Thursday evening after a long workday. This revisionist review is not meant to excuse the flaws that still exist, but a second viewing did much to minimize them, to the point I’m now pleased enough to give it an A-.

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The Dark Knight Rises | TBD (but leaning toward a C+)

director: Christopher Nolan
starring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

tdkrI’ve never been more disappointed about being disappointed about a movie. The Dark Knight Rises is a disappointment on nearly all levels of filmmaking. A lazy, self-indulgent, sloppy mess of a plot punctuated by action sequences that are more spectacular in intent than execution. I’m reserving final judgment until I see the flick again on IMAX, but I’m sad to say Rises is likely not the crowning achievement and fulfillment of the promise the first two Nolan Bat-movies set the table for.

Where to begin? Let’s start with the titular character. Batman Begins was remarkable in its ability to drive the plot forward despite the fact Batman doesn’t even show up until halfway through the movie. Bruce Wayne’s sojourn abroad was just as interesting as the moments he finally dons the cowl and lays waste to Gotham’s enemies. Nolan found the right balance between character-driven plot and comic book action beats, and carried this through to what might be his finest hour in The Dark Knight, counterbalancing and exceeding any lack of Batman with Heath Ledger’s incredible portrayal of the Joker. That balance is nowhere to be found in Rises, as the film grounds to a halt anytime the caped crusader is absent.

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Prometheus | A-

director: Ridley Scott
starring: Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron

prometheusMy lack of movie review authoring over the last year is due partly to the “reality” commitments of a career, significant other and various other familial obligations, but mainly due to the lack of real thought-provoking cinema that stirs something in me to write about it. Enter the much-anticipated, much-hyped “Prometheus,” marking Ridley Scott’s return to the universe he helped create in 1979’s seminal “Alien.” I hold the latter and its James Cameron-helmed sequel in high regard, and so the moment I heard whisperings of a potential Scott-helmed prequel, the fanboy geek in me began to get giddy. They hype has been building over the last six months, rising to a fever pitch with an onslaught of trailers, viral videos and interviews. So, does “Prometheus” live up to the hype? I’ll attempt to answer but will delve into spoiler territory to do so. If you haven’t seen the flick, I’ll only suggest that it’s a must-see film, albeit not one without flaws. Check it out, then come back here for the rest. Oh, and do yourself a favor and see this on IMAX while you can — consider it mandatory.

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Oscar 2012

It’s the annual tradition that’s not so annual: The Wayward Cynic’s Running Diary of the Academy Awards! I’ll get right to the action as we join our telecast on the red carpet.

8:22pm: Sacha Baron Cohen shows up as the dictator from his new, similarly-named movie and spreads Kim Jong Il’s ashes on the carpet before promptly being detained and escorted off the premises by security.

8:30pm: We’re underway as Billy Crystal and his synthetic face run through a musical number recounting the year’s most notable film hits.

8:31pm: I’m bored and just turned the channel to “Worst Cooks in America.” Some guy just dropped his pizza on the ground! Oh no!

Thanks to all for joining me for another fun-filled year of recapping the Oscars; see you next year and hooray for Hollywood!

Things I No Longer Want to See…

…at the movies.

Using the phrase, “My God…” to inject gravitas into your flaccid plot. Often uttered by actors who were likely staring at a tennis ball on a stick and backdropped by a giant green screen to instill the belief they’re staring at the world exploding or a horde of giant alien dogs invading Earth or a mammoth tidal wave coming to wash away a metropolis, the phrase has become so ubiquitous that it no longer merits any serious consideration as a meaningful exclamation of awe. Let’s go the other direction, please. I’d love to see Will Ferrell utter, “My God…” into the camera, which then pans around to reveal two raccoons eating Cheetos out of a garbage can. My God, that would be awesome.

Movies where someone utters the line, “a storm is coming.” I’ll get my weather reports from the 11 o’clock news, thank you. I don’t need some old, bearded guy with a lantern spouting that line while backed with dense fog and eerie, foreboding music again. It’s been done a thousand times. The metaphor’s been over-used in describing everything from the prospect of imminent war to political shifts in national policies. ENOUGH, I say! If you want to tell us there’s conflict on the horizon, then just say it! “O my! There be conflict on the ‘morrow!”

Trailers where the narrator begins by saying, “In a world…” Yeah, a world “where everything changes;” “where the future is set in stone” or “where terror reigns” or “where cats and dogs live together.” Everyone lives in the same world, pal. Don’t tell me different. And lay off the cigarettes. Your gravelly intonation scares children and makes you sound more like a creepy old guy one might see on Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” instead of an omniscient, wizened narrator guiding the audience ever-inexorably toward its’ fate.

Parents who can’t control their kids–and bring them to R-rated movies. They inevitably freak out and start shrieking for their mommy to get them away from the bogeyman while the parents just sit there pretending nothing’s wrong. It takes twenty people giving them dirty looks and perhaps throwing various food items their way before they catch our drift and remove the kid creating the cacophony. (Hooray for “cacophonies.”) I realize you want to be able to go out with the hubby whilst simultaneously entertaining your children–but don’t do it while at thrill-fests like Alien vs. Predator and I’m an Axe Murderer Who Likes to Hide in the Bedroom Closets of Little Kids. (Did I just call Alien vs. Predator a “thrillfest?”)

Crappy sound systems. It’s 2007* and you charge 15 bucks for your tickets. The least you could do is learn how to use your digital sound equipment so the theater experience at least approaches what most Americans now have in their homes. Straining to hear what’s going on from the left front speaker that happens to be functioning doesn’t do wonders for my movie-going pleasure. Let’s try to get someone other than the 15-year old working for $4.50 an hour set up and maintain your speakers and soundboards.

Movie titles that contain the words, “Rise of.” Think of something original, you bums! Rise of the Silver Surfer, Rise of the Lycans, Rise of the Machines, Rise of the Yeast–NO MORE, I say! I’d like to see The Rise of Sanford & Son come to the screen, realized as an action techno-thriller from “acclaimed” director Michael Bay.

*Author’s note: the majority of this post was written on December 19th, 2007. I’m slowly cleaning out the closet of drafts in the bedroom that is my blog. My God, that was a great analogy.

Oscar 2009

Another entry in my Official Running Diary Blog Post Blatantly Stolen From Bill Simmons™: Oscar Night 2009! Huzzah! Let’s get right to it.

8:00pm: The pre-show starts, covering the red carpet. Hosted by Robin Roberts and Tim Gunn, who starts off by yammering about fashion or something, and then makes a joke about topless strippers to actress Amy Adams. Jeff turns TV off.

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Quantum of Solace | B+

director: Marc Forster
starring: Daniel Craig, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Olga Kurylenko, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini

Quantum of SolaceFrom what I’ve heard, reviews of the latest James Bond outing seem to be fairly split between “fantastic action that carries on the outstanding precedent of 2006’s Casino Royale,” to “a boring, poorly-edited, plotless waste of time.” I guess some people are just too hard to please, because I freakin’ loved it, albeit with a few caveats. If you haven’t seen Casino Royale recently, you might be a little lost early on, and forget about knowing what the frick’s going on if you haven’t seen Royale at all. So, if you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading and go check it out. It’s well worth your time, so much so that I even upped it a grade after having watched it again this past weekend. And my one piece of advice before seeing Quantum of Solace is to do just that: watch it again, even if you’ve seen it before. The plot here carries a bit more resonance if you’re familiar with the character arc Bond starts upon in Royale.

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