The Dark Knight – A Movie Review

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Jul 282008

Batman PosterWith the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. The triumvirate proves to be effective, but they soon find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as the Joker, who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and forces the Dark Knight ever closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Crime/Gangster, Adaptation and Sequel

Release Date: July 18th, 2008 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace

Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman

Director: Christopher Nolan

We mistakenly went to see this last weekend, but it was, of course, sold out. We went this week on Thursday in the early evening, so we were able to see. The theater was full but not packed.

This is certainly one of the better films of the year. Nolan has done an outstanding job of creating an atmosphere with his Gotham City. It’s a dark place in dire need of batman. Nolan lets the film’s spectacular action scenes seem like the natural consequences of the conflicts between characters, conflicts that build until Gotham becomes less a setting than a stage for an operatic conflict between good and chaos. Bale does a fine job as Batman, but I have to tell you that Ledger is as good as everyone says he is. He makes a comic character absolutely frightening. What the Joker lacks in transparent motives he makes up for with enthusiasm. Playing a self-described “engine of chaos,” the late Heath Ledger treats the iconic comic-book villain as a man who sees life as a dark joke, but takes care to tailor his punchlines for maximum impact. It’s an unnervingly thorough performance, from the character’s serpentine habit of licking his lips to the hitch Ledger throws into his stride.

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Monster's Ball – A Movie Review

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Jul 252008

Monsters Ball PosterHank, an embittered prison guard, lives with his aging racist father, Buck, and his own twenty something son, Sonny. Hank and Sonny work for the local prison where they are preparing the electric chair for a black inmate. After the man is executed, Hank falls in love with Leticia, the inmate’s widow. This emotionally-charged affair forces Hank to re-evaluate how deeply prison work and his father’s infectious hatred have affected his soul.

Genres: Drama, Romance and Thriller; Running Time: 1 hr. 51 min.; Release Date: December 26, 2001 LA/NY; MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, language and violence.

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Peter Boyle, Heath Ledger, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs

Directed by: Marc Forster

I can’t believe it took me this long to get around to watching this movie. This was another movie watched last weekend. Given that I’ve always liked Billy Bob Thornton, I should have watched this movie a long time ago. All the parts were very well played, and the story was extremely well told. Berry won Best Actress, and I can say she certainly earned the award. I felt I could easily see this as a true story.

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 Culture, Humor, Movies  Comments Off on Casanova
Jul 032006

Casanova.jpgHeath Ledger plays the fabled romantic as a man who, after failing to win the affection of a particular Venetian woman, strives to discover the real meaning of love.

Directed by
Lasse Hallstr?m

Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Romance

Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, Oliver Platt, Lena Olin, Omid Djalili, Stephen Greif, Ken Stott, Helen McCrory, Leigh Lawson, Tim McInnerny, Charlie Cox, Natalie Dormer, Philip Davis, Paddy Ward

We watched this on video last night.?This new take on the rake from Venice is best to enjoy when no comparisons with the real Casanova are made because this is clearly a comedy that has nothing to do with that man who was considered the best lover of all times.

Lasse Hallstrom has directed a film with great sense of visual style. What seems to work best is the screen play by Jeffrey Hatcher and Kimberly Simi. We are taken to Venice at the time of the Inquisition, but this movie, being a comedy, has nothing to do with the terror it caused on heretics and sinners.

Casanova, who has had his share of women is intrigued by the lovely, and intelligent, Francesca Bruni, a young lady of not great wealth who wants to be a writer to be reckoned with. Francesca loves to disguise herself as man who is a scholar in order to participate in all things where she is not welcomed. Casanova discovers her secret and he casts his net in order to snare the beautiful Francesca.

Things get complicated because Casanova has asked the hand of the blonde beauty, Victoria, the daughter of Donato, a wealthy Venetian. To complicate things, Giovanni, Francesca’s brother lusts after the beautiful Victoria from his window, across the street. To make matters worst, Francesca has a fianc? who is coming into town for the winter carnival. Paprizzio, the king of lard making in Italy, is a rotund figure to boot. Since Casanova gets to him as he arrives, he starts his own plan in disguising himself as Paprizzio, in order to get to Francesca, who detests Casanova.

When the man in charge of the Inquisition, Pucci, arrives in Venice, he makes it his priority to get Casanova, who is too clever to get himself caught by the cardinal. Later, though, when everything is revealed, Casanova redeems himself for taking the blame for having written the books that Pucci has deemed to be a heresy. At all ends well in a turn of events that save Casanova and Francesca from a sure death.

The surprise of “Casanova” is Oliver Platt. His take on the vain fat man, Paprizzio, is one of the funniest roles he has played on the screen in quite some time. Jeremy Irons is also excellent as Pucci, the evil man that sees heresy and sin everywhere. Natalie Dormer and Charlie Cox do also good work as Victoria and Giovanni. Omid Djalili is fun to watch as Lupo, Casanova’s loyal servant.

“Casanova” has a great musical score by Alexander Desplat who interlaced some of the beautiful music of the period with his own and it’s a joy to hear it in the background. Oliver Stapleton’s cinematography does wonders in creating the illusion of the Venice of the period. Jenny Beavan’s costumes reflect the era in which the action takes place.

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Brokeback Mountain

 Culture, Gay Issues, Movies, Society  Comments Off on Brokeback Mountain
Jan 092006

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Based on the E. Annie Proulx story about a forbidden and secretive relationship between two cowboys and their lives over the years. A raw, powerful story of two young men, a Wyoming ranch hand and a rodeo cowboy, who meet in the summer of 1963 sheep herding in the harsh, high grasslands of contemporary Wyoming and form an unorthodox yet life-long bond–by turns ecstatic, bitter and conflicted.

Directed by
Ang Lee

Drama, Romance

Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Randy Quaid, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams, Valerie Planche, Graham Beckel, David Harbour, Kate Mara, Roberta Maxwell, Peter McRobbie, Anna Faris, Linda Cardellini, Scott Michael Campbell, David Trimble

Lay and I went with our friends Jeff and Mike to see this movie Sunday night. I guess there’s lots to write about here. First, I’d like to get some comments out of the way about where we saw the movie. The only theater showing the movie in Tampa was the Tampa Theatre. The Tampa Theatre opened in downtown Tampa in October of 1925. It’s a gorgeous old theatre with one of those great old “Mighty Wurlitzer” organs, and we were treated to a short concert on the Wurlitzer prior to the movie. The Theatre is the primary venue for the Tampa Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and a number of Gay Men’s Chorus concerts have been held there over the years. There is much I love about the grandeur of this place, but watching a movie there really sucks. These are original seats (for some reason, those involved in its restoration must have thought them to be charming). For a big guy like me, they are WAY too small, and even Lay says they make his back hurt. But the worst part of the experience is that the sound in the theatre is exceptionally bad. Given that most of the dialog in the movie was spoken quietly (and a lot mumbled by Heath Ledger), we missed a lot of it. It was simply not understandable. It is also showing at Baywalk in St. Petersburg, and we should have gone to see it there, and perhaps we will. With that, I’ll conclude the rant about the Tampa Theatre.

As others have touched on, Brokeback Mountain is so much more than merely a “gay cowboy movie”. It perfectly captures what true, unbridled love is all about and this love transcends any issues of sexuality or gender. “Love is a force of nature”. Unfortunately for many people and indeed the protagonists of our story, society doesn’t always view it that way. Kudos to Ang Lee who has not shied away from the material at all. This adaptation stays true to the original short story and the two lead actors fit the roles perfectly.

Ledger and Gyllenhaal give incredibly strong performances but the supporting cast shouldn’t be overlooked either, particularly a somewhat unrecognizable Michelle Williams. Solid work all around and with Mr Ang Lee’s vision they have created an amazing piece of cinema that should not be missed by anybody.

Without giving anything away, you are going to be moved by this one. Heath Ledger gives the better performance of the two, but not by much, I’d say. Probably important because he’s the main character. Absolutely impressive and deserving of an Oscar nod. Jake is also incredible, sweet, nuanced, loving. He had the difficult part of being essentially the “love interest” rather than the main character. And the subject matter is treated fairly and with compassion. The script was wonderfully structured.

The portrayal of the wives is also fair and compassionate. Michelle Williams was the portrait of vulnerability. And Anne Hathaway was great in a limited role – loved the hair. But I warn you – the ending will likely make most people cry. Very heart-breaking. But ultimately a very satisfying and moving movie experience. It will be unsettling to some I suppose, but really does tell a grand story. And it is a well told story regardless of the story line.

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