[Batman Day] Batman Begins (2005)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ket Watanabe

Screenplay: David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan

140 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense action violence, disturbing images and some thematic elements.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Cinematography

IMDb Top 250: #116 (as of 9/14/18)

 

Happy Batman Day, everyone! Celebrate with some comic books, cartoons, and Batman movies, like Batman Begins.

The Batman franchise was in a bad place in the early 2000s. After the trainwreck that was Batman & Robin, the franchise was limping and needed to be fixed. Even myself, a hardcore non-retconner, can say that there was no other way. In stepped Christopher Nolan (Interstellar, Dunkirk).

Batman Begins takes the story of Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale, American Hustle, Hostiles) all the way back to its not-so-humble start. By now, we all know the big piece, the death of Bruce’s parents, but Batman Begins delves into his complex relationship with butler Alfred (Michael Caine, The Quiet American, Sherlock Gnomes), his combat training with The League of Shadows, led by Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai, Isle of Dogs), and the mistakes he makes along the way to the hero we all know and love. As Bruce is honing his skills, crime boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton, Denial) and corrupt psychologist Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy, 28 Days Later, TV’s Peaky Blinders), working for an unseen nefarious foe, are setting Gotham City down the path to destruction from within, and Batman, with the help of Sergeant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour, The Hitman’s Bodyguard) may be the only one who can stop them.

This was the kick in the ass that the Batman franchise needed to stay fresh. Something I’ve learned in the years since Batman Begins is that there will always be a new Batman. He’s like Robin Hood and Peter Pan. They just keep coming back. This comeback, however, is just that damn good.

Christian Bale kicks ass as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. He chose to portray each half of his persona as a completely separate character, as it he had multiple personality syndrome and Batman is just another person living within him. Then there’s The Voice. I’m a firm defender of The Voice within Nolan’s realistic take on the Caped Crusader. Otherwise someone would eventually be able to figure it out. It is notable that he packed on the muscle for the role, the insane method actor that he is, having just come off The Machinist.

Speaking of the realism, Nolan took special care to craft a Gotham as realistic as possible. The gothic tone of the World’s Greatest Detective is still there, but Batman’s tech is as grounded in reality as possible. Even its villains stick to somewhat tangible backgrounds, with Crane’s Scarecrow become a truly horrific legend. Murphy’s portrayal is near and dear to my heart with the Scarecrow being my favorite Batman villain, and while originally I took issue with the way Nolan elected to recreate this character, I soon found myself heavily engaged in his frightening take. Ra’s Al Ghul is another character that usually takes on an otherworldly visage in that, if I am correct, he is often shown as having survived for over 600 years, dying and reviving due to The Lazarus Pits. Now, it could be true of the character we see in the finished film, but Nolan never once brings it up. In fact, the way he portrays Ra’s Al Ghul is haunting in its simplicity.

What’s great about Bruce Wayne is how compelling he is without the Batsuit, and how driven he is, just like his counterpart. Being the World’s Greatest Detective is something that applies to both Wayne and Batman, and Nolan, alongside co-screenwriter David S. Goyer, gave us time to connect with Bruce before introducing his superheroic other half.

I think if there was one thing I didn’t like about the film, it falls to some marketing mistakes and the fact that the film doesn’t firmly enough plant itself as being a reboot. Much like the ill-fated Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, Batman Begins almost plays itself up as a prequel to the 1989 Tim Burton Batman. There are clues as the film goes on, most notably in the death of Bruce’s parents, but as the convoluted mythology of the previous Batman series never really had itself nailed down, one wondered if the film was connected, and it wasn’t until its follow-up, The Dark Knight, released in 2008 that we finally got our answers. I just think fans struggled throughout the film’s runtime trying to figure out what it was.

Nitpicks aside, Batman Begins is nearly perfect. There are some slight issues with things like placing the film within a franchise timeline and a few acting slips (looking at Katie Holmes on this one), but all in all, Batman Begins isn’t just one of the best Batman films, it’s one of the best films of any kind.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, click here.

For my review of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Dunkirk (2017)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy

Screenplay: Christopher Nolan

106 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense war experience and some language.

IMDb Top 250: #209 (as of 1/16/2018)

 

Dunkirk is a departure for Christopher Nolan (Inception, Interstellar). The director is known for his high-concept sci-fi epics and comic book adaptations like The Dark Knight. Now, he turns his keen eye for storytelling to history in a film based on the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II.

Dunkirk’s story is laid out in three different perspectives. First, on the beach, where Tommy (Fionn Whitehead, Him, The Children Act) and other soldiers await rescue from the sea. At sea, Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies, The BFG) and his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney, TV’s The Last Post) are joined by Peter’s friend George (Barry Keoghan, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, ’71) in their small civilian boat headed from Weymouth to the beach to rescue the stranded soldiers. In the air above the beach, the pilot Farrier (Tom Hardy, The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road) flies his Spitfire plane and tries to take out as many enemies as possible with his limited fuel depleting. As the three plots intermingle, director Nolan shows a multi-layered view of the intense rescue mission that could save or doom the lives of 400,000 men.

As per usual, Nolan picked an interesting layout for the film by introducing the triptych nature of three interwoven stories that each runs on a different timeline. For example, the story of the pilots occurs over the course of an hour or so but in the film, Nolan runs this concurrently with the story of Mr. Dawson, which takes place over the course of a day. The time on the beach runs about a week in length. The nature of the timeline can get rather confusing for some viewers, but in running all three pieces together, it gives equal weight to everyone’s contributions and creates an interesting puzzle to put together, one I rather enjoyed.

The characters in the film have virtually no dialogue and no character development, something that I grew to appreciate on my second viewing of the film after understanding Nolan’s intention, but I feel like having something, anything, to make us care about these characters outside of their present debacle would have been better.

Dunkirk is a technical masterpiece, and if you missed the chance to see it in IMAX 70 mm, then I am sorry. The film is run time makes it a tight and exhilarating marvel to behold, and, combined with Darkest Hour, would be a splendid double feature. My heart jumped several times during the viewing, and even with the loss of character-building, I was entertained wholly by the film’s presentation. This is a powerful story that I knew very little about until seeing Nolan’s film. Dunkirk comes highly recommended.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Cast: Armie Hammer, Timothee Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois

Screenplay: James Ivory

132 mins. Rated R for sexual content, nudity and some language.

 

Call Me By Your Name has been one of the most-talked about films of the year as far as festival favorites go. I only very recently was lucky enough to catch a screening of the film. So does this awards-season heavy-hitter stack up?

Elio (Timothee Chalamet, Interstellar, Lady Bird) is a 17-year-old living in Italy. He is introduced to his father’s new assistant from America, Oliver (Armie Hammer, The Social Network, Cars 3). At first, Elio finds Oliver to be rather strange and a little off-putting, but as the two form a closer bond, Elio and Oliver’s friendship grows into a passionate love affair, one that both men are not expecting and one they must keep secret.

I found myself liking a lot of aspects of Call Me by Your Name, the most impressive being the cinematography from Sayombhu Mukdeeprom. This is a gorgeously shot film, and relies very heavily on the excellent visual aesthetic of the Italian locations where the film was shot.

The performances were strong, particularly the two leads, but I feel as though not enough love has been given to Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man, The Shape of Water) for his subtle and nuanced performance as Elio’s father. There is a scene, and you will know which one I mean when you see it, where Stuhlbarg bares his soul on the camera and it is one of the most beautiful monologues I’ve ever seen.

The issues that ended up taking me out of the film happened around Elio’s journey in the film. I found myself not connecting and following along with his decisions as he progressed through the story. I would have liked to have seen the internal conflict he is faced with, but I didn’t connect with him as a character until the latter half of the film. I’ve been called crazy for this, but it’s just how I felt as a viewer.

Call Me by Your Name is a beautiful love story filled with terrific performances all around. The faults with the film, to me, lie with the characterization of Elio and a narrative that needs tightening. Overall, I still rather enjoyed the film, but I don’t personally see it as a Best Picture kind of experience.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[Early Review] Insidious: The Last Key (2018)

Director: Adam Robitel

Cast: Lin Shaye, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Josh Stewart, Caitlin Gerard

Screenplay: Leigh Whannell

103 mins. Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content, violence and terror, and brief strong language.

 

The Insidious franchise is now four films in, and the newest installment, The Last Key, had me a little concerned when it was bumped back to January, oftentimes the graveyard of shitty horror films. I happen to be a big fan of this franchise, and I want to see it continue with more well-received reception. So I entered the theater with some trepidation tonight.

Shortly after the events of Chapter 3, Elise (Lin Shaye, There’s Something About Mary, Abattoir) and her newly-formed team of Specs (Leigh Whannell, Saw, The Bye Bye Man) and Tucker (Angus Sampson, Mad Max: Fury Road, TV’s Shut Eye) are drawn into a new case set in Five Keys, New Mexico. Elise initially turns down the case when she discovers that the house being haunted is her childhood home, a place with horrific memories from Elise’s past, but she quickly realizes that she has a responsibility to help others, and her team sets off on a trip through Elise’s past, where she will encounter familiar entities and new horrors.

The great thing about the newest installment in this franchise is the focus on the character of Elise. It’s become quite clear after four films that the star of the series is Lin Shaye, and choosing to further develop her is a terrific idea, as much as I’m turned away by the prequel aspect of the recent two films. Shaye’s performance is a powerhouse of the genre, and we spend a lot of the film focused on her inner demons, particularly surrounding the relationship with her father, Gerald (Josh Stewart, Interstellar, War Machine).

The big feeling I felt leaving the theater was one of calmness, though, and the lack of true terror in the film is noticeable. The previous installments all kept me close to my seat, but The Last Key is missing a lot of that. While there are indeed some incredible moments in the film, there just isn’t enough to spur up any actual dread. Diehard horror fanatics may find themselves unfulfilled in this respect.

Thankfully, director Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan) keeps the pace moving and the plot thread twisting and turning enough to make the movie interesting, but it just isn’t all that scary.

Insidious: The Last Key is a classic fourth installment, searching for a place of purpose and struggling to find a tone. The film is entertaining and I think it will please fans of the series looking to unravel the mystery, but the general public and hardcore horror hounds may not find this scary enough to please.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wan’s Insidious, click here.

For my review of Leigh Whannell’s Insidious: Chapter 3, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Early Review] Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

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Director: Travis Knight

Cast: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Matthew McConaughey

Screenplay: Marc Haimes, Chris Butler

Runtime: NA. Rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril.

 

Well, I just got out of an advance screening for the upcoming Laika film Kubo and the Two Strings. Now Kubo has been hotly anticipated as a unique and original film for the stop-motion crew at Laika and the trailers have only furthered the excitement. So how does it stack up and should you see it on August 19th?

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Kubo (Art Parkinson, TV’s Game of Thrones, Dracula Untold) is a young boy who lives on an island with his mother. Their lives are secluded and peaceful, until the vengeful Moon King (Ralph Fiennes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Hail Caesar!), who stole Kubo’s eye as a baby, finds him once again. Kubo’s mother sends him away to find three pieces of mystical armor to defeat the Moon King and his daughters, The Sisters (both played by Rooney Mara, The Social Network, Pan). Along Kubo’s journey, he comes across companions like Monkey (Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Huntsman: Winter’s War) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey, Interstellar, Free State of Jones) who aid him in the perilous and difficult path that lies before him. But can he defeat the Moon King, the evil force who killed his father?

Kubo and the Two Strings is the fourth film from Laika, and it may just be the best work yet. This is a gorgeously animated and stunningly told story steeped in classic Japanese folklore. Each of the environments actually breathe on their own, and function as a beautifully laid out tapestry of incredible visuals.

Kubo’s story directly takes from the Hero’s Journey, and he is given an interesting and action-packed set of tests to stop him from gaining the armor in time. Thankfully, it is the chemistry between Kubo, Monkey, and Beetle that make this movie a must-see. There is heart and soul, enough to compete with the lovely imagery.

The voice work is solid from Parkinson, and he is aided nicely by Theron and McConaughey. In fact, there isn’t a whole lot to turn one away from the film.

Now, Kubo can be seen as an animated film more so than a family or kid’s movie. There are some frightening images and sequences, but I’m not trying to tell you that younger children should avoid it.

My faults with the film? Really only one. There are a few story beats near the end of the film that I didn’t see the point in. But that didn’t take the enjoyment out of the experience.

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You need to see Kubo and the Two Strings. It is breathtaking in its sights, but also wonderful in its sounds. Make sure to stay through the entire end credits. These animators put in hard work, and you get a chance to see how much. There’s also an amazing rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Regina Spektor. When Kubo hits your theater, take the whole family on an adventure that is original and spectacular, aided by a striking attack on the senses. Seriously, you should be standing in line for it right now.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2016oscardeathrace] The Martian (2015)

 

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Screenplay: Drew Goddard

144 mins. Rated PG-13 for some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role [Matt Damon]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Production Design

IMDb Top 250: #208 (as of 2/23/2016)

 

The Oscars have been pretty good to science fiction in the last few years. We had 2013’s Gravity, 2014’s Interstellar, and this year with The Martian, Ex Machina, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (yes, I know the last one is more fantasy). Today, though, we will focus on the one nominated for Best Picture this year (that’s The Martian).

Mark Watney (Matt Damon, The Bourne Identity, Interstellar) is dead. There was a storm on the surface of Mars and his crew, led by Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty, Crimson Peak), barely managed to escape. With one casualty, the crew is on the long journey back home, their collective hearts and minds in grief over the loss of Mark. There’s really only one major problem: Mark Watney is actually alive. Having survived the storm, he is now stranded on the desolate planet by himself and no way of getting home. But then he starts to think he may not be so doomed, and Mark probably says it best: “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”

I found The Martian to be a rather thrilling and enjoyable ride. I know many have come to doubt director Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Exodus: Gods and Kings) and his abilities as a filmmaker in recent years, and I have to admit he has had some real flubs in his previous projects, but he still interests me with his unique films, all carrying a very-Ridley-Scott flavor to them. The screenplay for The Martian, by Drew Goddard (TV’s Daredevil, World War Z) is fabulous and, other than genre, very much a diversion for Scott, especially considering its comedic tones, which I did not expect, but the director handles it very well, proving his versatility behind the lens.

Matt Damon kills it as Watney, making it look easy to essentially carry a film. Now, that isn’t to say he doesn’t have a terrific supporting cast. Chastain does great work, but it is Jeff Daniels (Dumb & Dumber, Steve Jobs) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, Triple 9) who really shine here. There are others involved here who really bring it to the table, but I would be deeply disappointed in myself if I didn’t mention Donald Glover who has a pretty small role but creates a very memorable performance from it.

The cinematography is beautiful and blends very nicely with the visual effects to create a stunningly real representation of Mars. The production design is another win here, though its nomination is a little laughable for a film with so few actual sets.

There are plenty of moments in The Martian that harken back to Scott’s original sci-fi masterpiece Alien without absolutely saying “I MADE ALIEN TOO!” and they help to remind us of how this masterful filmmaker has created so many worlds. The Martian is another incredible piece to add to Ridley’s impressive resume. Now, the film runs on a little too long and occasionally bogs itself down in explain Mark’s plight, but these are small problems that fail to dramatically affect my enjoyment.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Preliminary Visual Effects Shortlist Revealed!

 

On location in Jordan, Ridley Scott directs Matt Damon, in THE MARTIAN.

Hey everyone, the 88th Academy Awards list of films to be nominated for Best Visual Effects has been narrowed down to twenty for the Academy to officially nominate. Here they are:

 

Ant-Man

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Bridge of Spies

Chappie

Everest

Ex Machina

Furious Seven

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

In the Heart of the Sea

Jupiter Ascending

Jurassic World

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

The Revenant

Spectre

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Terminator Genisys

Tomorrowland

The Walk

 

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What do you think? Me personally, I believe that the frontrunners here are obviously the soon-to-be-seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road, which I saw earlier this year and should almost guarantee a win for the perfect blending of practical effects and minor digital retouching.

What films do I expect to not see on the final ballot? Chappie, Everest, Terminator Genisys, and Tomorrowland as well as Furious Seven. They just won’t be able to convince the academy that they are worthy of the final five.

It also remains to be seen if the upcoming releases for In the Heart of the Sea and The Revenant will gain any recognition once the films bow later this month.

The process of selecting nominees is a larger one than most would know, as the list will be further thinned to 10 and then each finalist will be able to vie for the role one last time.

Many have pointed out the biggest films missing including Cinderella, Crimson Peak, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and San Andreas.

The most recent winners of the award are Interstellar, Gravity, and Life of Pi.

I don’t know about you, but I am marking my calendar for January 14th when we will get the final list of nominations and begin death-racing toward the February 28th-dated awards ceremony.

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So kids, what do you think? Which films do you expect to see on the final ballot and what are some other films you saw from this year with impressive visual effects? Let me know!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 28 – The Collection (2012)

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Director: Marcus Dunstan

Cast: Josh Stewart, Emma Fitzpatrick, Christopher McDonald, Randall Archer, Lee Tergesen

Screenplay: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan

82 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, language and brief nudity.

 

The 2009 film The Collector was written as a prequel to Saw, but when the producers vetoed that option, it became The Collector. While The Collector had its moments, it had just as many faults. Director Marcus Dunstan seems to have learned from his mistakes for the 2012 sequel The Collection, a highly stylized game of cat and mouse which sees Arkin (Josh Stewart, Interstellar, Transcendence) escaping from the clutches of The Collector (Randall Archer). Immediately after, Arkin is enlisted by Lucello (Lee Tergesen, Monster, Red Tails) and his boss Mr. Peters (Christopher McDonald, Requiem for a Dream, About Last Night) to find Peters’ daughter Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick, The Social Network, Before We Go), the Collector’s newest claim. When they get to the slasher’s lair, they discover that the Collector has a few more tricks in store for them.

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I’m not going to tell you that The Collection is a perfect horror film. It has faults, but it takes a major step up from its predecessor. Arkin has become a much more likable lead, having evolved from his criminal ways. The addition of equally likable Elena and Lucello, we have several characters that we care about. We want to see them live. When they fall into danger, I genuinely wanted them to survive.

I enjoyed the Collector’s background and the extensive look at how he operates as a serial killer, and though I agree that his lair and the traps he sets seem almost like he has second sight, but if you can suspend your disbelief enough, you can find fun here.

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The Collection won’t be for everyone. The film has a lot of detractors, but fans of the original will find a lot to like. Its creative team has evolved in the three years between the films, and it looks good for future endeavors.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Marcus Dunstan’s The Collector, click here.

“The Martian” Trailer Has Landed!

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Well, boys & girls, here it is: the trailer for Ridley Scott’s The Martian has been released, and I am excited. It stars Matt Damon as an astronaut who was killed when his Mars expedition went awry. The only thing is…he survived, and now he is trying to survive by himself and get a message back to Earth to tell them he is still alive and still out there.

My thoughts on the trailer…I loved it! I am so excited to see this film in all its glory soon!

First of all, let me just say…the cast. Have you seen this cast? Matt Damon, Kate Mara, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Pena, Sebastian Stan…good lord! These people from all walks of acting here to give a sci-fi experience. When you see the trailer, too, they mesh so well together when I wasn’t sure they could have.

Another thought from this trailer…I’m not so sure you should see it. I think you need to accept that this film should be seen and just go see it. The reason for it is that I feel like this trailer has given away a bulk of the plot points for the film. I could be wrong, but I think I saw the film’s ending revealed.

In all fairness, The Martian is going to be a film to see, even if it might be Interstellar 2 (Matt Damon should just avoid going to space). See the trailer before (if you dare) and let me know your thoughts.

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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