Entertaining Platt: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

July 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Do you smell that, Alfred? I haven’t bathed in years.

It’s Prometheus all over again.

Beautiful movie, one exemplary performance, and a lot of plot that makes no sense.

Christopher Nolan paints an epic picture, and if you take care to stare at it from a distance, you may not notice that it’s really just a bunch of silly squiggly lines going all over the place.

Anne Hathaway surprised me with her portrayal of Catwoman, although I think the movie should have spent more time exploring her origins than Bane’s.

And since we’re on the topic of Bane, while I enjoyed Tom Hardy’s work in Inception, I just thought his portrayal of the supervillain terrorist in Dark Knight Rises was maddeningly awful. It was like someone had thrown Patrick Stewart, Michael Chiklis, and William Shatner into a blender and spewed out this monstrosity.

Now let’s talk about the plot, with so many silly convolutions that I think even M. Night Shamalayan was sitting in the audience, mockingly shouting, “WHAT A TWEEST!”

I’m not going to ruin any big reveals, but I am going to point out some problems:

* How in the world did a bald man in a fetish suit and a cheap Vader mask manage to convince Gotham City to free all the prisoners, round up the wealthy, and bow to him just by reading words off a piece of paper that he alleged came from Jim Gordon?

* When he had millions of people to terrorize and a whole terrorist chain of command to manage, where did Bane find the time to take a day trip to Somewheristan with Bruce Wayne?

* Who provides the satellite cable hookup in the pit in Somewheristan?

* If Bane really wanted to torture Bruce with television, why not make him watch the Kardashians and Jersey Shore? That would’ve been much more cruel.

* A bunch of cops are stuck in a hole for at least three weeks – and none of them later seems to be filthy, hungry, weakened, or unshaven?

* Pop quiz, hotshot: Your only goal is to blow up a nuclear bomb in the middle of Gotham City. The bomb is in the back of a moving truck. Just a few minutes left on the countdown timer. The explosion is INEVITABLE. Batman is trying to herd you toward a place where the explosion can be neutralized. You’re a criminal mastermind. What do you do? Certainly, you stop the truck, get out, shoot the tires, and walk away to get your last latte at Starbucks. Or, in Dark Knight Rises, you keep driving.

* After eight years in seclusion, hanging up cape and cowl, Bruce Wayne’s only requirement for getting back in shape to fight crime is a quick physical and a fancy leg brace?

* Batman sure seems to get over that stab wound between the ribs pretty quickly when there’s a bomb that needs hauling.

* Sometimes it’s snowing in the finale of Gotham City. Usually, this is where Batman and Bane are. But the snow goes away whenever John Blake is around. Mr. Antifreeze?

Sadly, this is another situation where I went into the movie wanting and expecting to love it, and there are undeniably some visually arresting moments, but it does little more than tie up loose ends from Batman Begins. It pales in comparison to The Dark Knight.

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Entertaining Platt: Ted (2012)

July 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Forget the blackjack…”

There’s a simple litmus test to determine whether you’re going to like Ted or run screaming from the theater in disgust:

Do you like Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy? Would you get a kick out of Peter Griffin in CGI teddy bear form? Do you have a high tolerance for fart jokes?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, then Ted is for you.

It’s an unrelenting series of pop culture jokes and references, most of them offensive to one group or another, touching on everything from 9/11 to Aaron Sorkin’s airport mushroom bust.

I haven’t laughed out loud in the movies this much since The Hangover.

Highlights of the movie for me included:

  • “LOOK WHAT JESUS DID! LOOK WHAT JESUS DID!” as a TV preacher reacts to word spreading across the world about the famous teddy bear that came to life because of a little kid’s wish.
  • Patrick Stewart’s narration.
  • Ted vs. John in a motel room battle royale.
  • Ted’s perverse showboating for a cashier in the grocery store. “Oh. So that’s where we draw the line.”
  • An entire sequence in which Ted and John get wasted with Sam Jones (star of the schlocky ‘80s sci-fi flick, Flash Gordon). Unfortunately, Sam looks a lot like a leather satchel these days and he sounds like Bea Arthur, but he’s a good sport for sending himself up.
  • A cameo by Ryan Reynolds in which he proves more useful and amusing than in any of his recent starring roles.

It’s not a work of absolute genius, but it doesn’t have any pretentions of that sort. It’s not an art film, although the artistry behind Ted’s character design and emotional expressions is actually impressive.

Go into this movie looking for off-color laughs and lots of “They did NOT just do that” gags and you won’t be disappointed.

Entertaining Platt: Brave (2012)

July 3, 2012 § 2 Comments

Are ye sure we’re all related? Och!

Brave is a huge step forward in animation for Pixar, with its use of dynamic water, moody mist and hair that has its own personality.

But while it might revolutionize the company’s tools for digital storytelling, it falls short of shaking things up much for female protagonists in animated movies.

The movie does a decent job of setting Merida apart from your usual run-of-the-mill Disney princess by making her willful and independent. But the consequences that come about because she chooses to be who she wants to be (and runs afoul of her mother for it) are undeniably catastrophic.

She manages to almost spark a civil war between all the major clans because she wants to ditch that ancient tradition of arranged marriages. She strikes a deal with a witch (“Woodworker!”) that gets her mom and three little brothers turned into bears.

For the rest of the movie, Merida’s cleaning up the mess she made by trying to be her own person. It seems like a bit of a mixed feminist message. I don’t think anyone’s denying that, male or female, we should all deal with the consequences of our actions. But the movie can appear on a certain level to be a cautionary tale that warns against taking a stand for independence like Merida did.

In the end, though, the story seems to find a compromise as Merida’s mother forgives the whole nearly-getting-killed-as-a-bear thing, agrees to let Merida marry for love rather than politics, and then starts participating in mother-daughter cross country horse outings.

It’s a beautifully rendered movie, but the pacing of the story sometimes felt sluggish and protracted, which isn’t something I’m accustomed to experiencing in a Pixar film.

Entertaining Phillips: Prometheus (2012), the rebuttal review

July 1, 2012 § 5 Comments

Stand Back: Film Scholars at Work.

Today’s guest post comes from Rob Phillips, adding to the P-surnames. Mr. Philips is an educator by trade and film scholar by Master’s degree and former class mates w/ Peery)

I wanted to post a positive review since Mr. Platt, myself, and most others I know panned the film. Without further ado:

Ok, I finally got around to watching “Prometheus” today, read (Peery’s) review, and we had very different film experiences.   (Peery) had major problems with the structure of the narrative. Me, not so much. Scott knows the rules of storytelling, so I will make the case that he is aiming at something else entirely because he knows most in the audience would look up the backstory before the film or on their phones waiting for the curtain. He takes the air out of the narrative and suspense, not because he doesn’t know better.

This is a film in the hands of a director that is an expert at shaping an audience’s emotional experience. For this reason, I will argue the film’s aim is much larger in that Scott may be thumbing his nose at being pigeonholed by fan/audience expectations and has bigger ideological fish to fry. Only time will tell if this should’ve been a fall rather than a summer release.   Like “District 9,” this iteration of the series lights out for territories, as Huck did at the end Twain’s novel. She doesn’t want to go back, but rather “forward,” guided by some idealistic or Platonic notion about truth.

This film, like a lot of sci-fi stuff these days, strikes me as social/political allegory. Corporate, consevative, and typical pragmatic ideology crashes and burns or is thoroughly squashed (Theron and her stab at her Lear-like father). The ideology of hope, idealism, and faith in mankind prevails when they hurl a trillion-dollar spacecraft at an alien ship. The betting crewmembers and the “I-just-drive-the-ship” Captain sacrafice themselves for the betterment of humanity and become emblematic in so doing. From each according to his ability? The film strikes me as making a profoundly Marxist commenatary (dare I say in the form of a thinly-veiled “morality” play) that drives a stake in the heart of the “ethics” of greed and corporate ideology governed by said ethos.

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