Archive for July, 2008

Anchorman 2….

Posted in Movie Buzz with tags , , on July 30, 2008 by Brandon

So apparently Adam McKay and Will Ferrell are talking about bringing sexy back in the form of Ron Burgundy with Anchorman 2! I gotta admit, I’m pretty excited about the news. Films since Anchorman have tried to duplicate its formula but none have harnessed its simple charm.  I have a hunch Anchorman 2 might.

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The Dark Knight (10/10)

Posted in Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2008 by Brandon

Burned into your brain after you’ve seen “The Dark Knight” will be a deranged face painted a jagged white with grotesquely exaggerated lipstick, two uncomfortably visible scars protruding from the corners of the mouth, oily green longish hair, and a cackling maniacal laugh that truly is the stuff of nightmares.

But not only will you be left with Heath Ledger’s compulsorily watchable performance (more on that later), you’ll also walk away with some rather dark themes and gripping psychological questions that will probably stay longer with you than any comic book movie ever has. The Dark Knight is the best superhero movie ever made, and not only that, it’s the best movie of the year and features many of the best performances of the decade.

It’s been several months since the events of Batman Begins took place, and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is finding out that roaming around the city as a caped crusader isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Though he has succeeded in squelching the criminal underworld’s activity, copycats roam the streets, wearing fake bat costumes and claiming that they’re doing just as much good as the Dark Knight.

Then there’s Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Gotham’s new DA who has done more than Batman ever could in bringing the city’s scum to justice. He’s the white knight to Batman’s dark one, a man of unquestionable moral character and a solid belief that Batman is a necessary evil in the dark and brooding times in which Gotham finds itself.

Enter the Joker (Heath Ledger), a psychopathic killer with little on his mind except causing chaos and bringing the city of Gotham to its knees, and he has his eyes particularly on Dent and the Batman, determined to corrupt these two incorruptibles.

This triad forms the backbone of the entire movie, and the interaction between them is darkly fascinating, touching on a myriad of themes, including terrorism, justice, evil, and crime. Superhero films have explored these kinds of things before, but never with such finesse and talent – the Dark Knight is not out of place being compared with “The Departed” and “The Godfather”; it’s an epic unpredictable crime saga composed of larger-than-life characters and a willingness to go some pretty dark places for the sake of the story, and it’s absorbing in every way.

Much moreso than Batman Begins, “The Dark Knight” is an ensemble epic, where Batman is not the main focus at all – the film may be named after him, but he’s just a small piece of the puzzle and part of the five major roles that make up the central story of the movie. Every character has their story and they all fit together perfectly, and the corresponding performances are just as strong.

Maggie Gyllenhall is Rachel Dawes, Harvey Dent’s love interest and Bruce’s ex-flame, who broke up with him because she couldn’t be with him as long as Gotham needed Batman. Now that Dent is looking like he’s set to make Batman obsolete, Bruce is interested in starting up their relationship again. She replaces Katie Holmes from the last one, and does an infinitely better job, playing her as a more mature, savvy, and active role in the affairs of the police and the DA instead of just a pretty face.

Gary Oldman is back as Chief of Police Gordon, and it’s absolutely astounding what he can do with such a small role. It’s slightly bigger than Gyllenhall’s and slightly smaller than Eckhart’s, but with the intensity with which he displays Gordon’s unabashed dedication to good, it’s always fun to watch him. Usually characters who are nothing but good in a film are boring, but Oldman razes that notion to the ground.

Christian Bale continues to show how great of an actor he truly is – Batman and Bruce Wayne have few lines in this movie but he makes every one of them true – he’s a man who has been broken by a dark past, whose actions to try to do good are being thwarted left and right, and he’s deeply tortured by the results.

Aaron Eckhart is a joyous surprise as Harvey Dent – at first he seems like he’s just going to be playing him like a straight arrow, but as the film unfolds he adds layers to his character with expertise and when a dramatic and horrific change occurs about an hour and a half into the film, Eckhart makes the transformation believable and engrossing despite not having much time in which to do it. It’s nearly an Oscar-worthy performance, but unfortunately for him he had to give this performance in a film with the best villain of the decade played one of the best actors of his generation – Heath Ledger as the Joker.

Ledger’s death rocked the entertainment world earlier this year, and profoundly affected hundreds of thousands of people, and though the pessimist may want to claim that the only reason his performance appears so good is because we want to remember him fondly, this view is simply naïve. Remember Jack Nicholson? Not after watching “The Dark Knight”, you won’t. For years Nicholson’s performance in Burton’s original “Batman” was widely considered to be one of the best villains of all time, but Ledger’s Joker is an entirely different beast that takes Nicholson’s performance and beats it to death while obliterating it from our memory.

Nicholson played the Joker as a showman, a demented three-ring circus clown who sprayed deadly acid from a flower on his lapel and cackled his way to world-renowned insanity. Ledger takes the Joker down a much darker road, and makes Nicholson’s performance look like, well, a joke. This Joker could kick Nicholson’s ass, cutting him open with dozens of knives because it meant he could “savor the pain more.”

But to reduce Ledger to merely comparisons to Nicholson would be an insult to the instantly classic and, I’ll say it, I’ll use the “P” word, perfect performance. We never find out who his daddy is (except in a scene that skewers and stabs the traditional idea of super-villains having some kind of emotionally powerful back-story), and we never truly understand why he’s doing all this, except to cause chaos, which is perhaps more terrifying than anything. As Wayne’s trusty butler Alfred puts it, “Some people just want to watch the world burn.”

And indeed that’s all the Joker does seem to want – appearing out of nowhere, with no traceable past, he wreaks havoc across the city like some kind of perverse ghost, a circus in town that nobody wants, and because of this freedom, Ledger is allowed full reign of his character. Ledger’s Joker is an instant classic not only because he plays him a lot more darker than Nicholson did (and in fact Ledger’s Joker is much closer to the original comics), but because of how much you never really think of him as Ledger. It’s to the actor’s credit that you don’t really think about his death until after the movie is over – for the most part you’ll be picking that stray jaw up from the floor with how perfectly (yes, I used the “p” word again) he he hobbles, wobbles, struts, and dances from scene to scene, inserting a devilish cackle here, some smacking lips there, and a “why so serious?” over there. It’s a terrifying, brutal, fascinating, riveting performance – every time he’s onscreen you won’t be able to take your eyes off him.

And now that I’m done ranting about Heath Ledger’s performance for four paragraphs, a couple of minor players should be mentioned – Michael Caine as Alfred is his usual dapper self; in a role that could have been overlooked for how few lines it has, he owns it and puts his stamp on the film like only he can. And then of course there’s Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Bruce’s weapons, supplies, and suit specialist. You don’t get any more charismatic than Freeman, and he can make the most tired script seem fresh and new merely through his soothing voice.

Fortunately for him he’s working with a fantastic script, developed by Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan, and the siblings have really penned one for the books – there’s quiet moments between two characters, grand speeches about heroes and villains and which one Gotham needs, why the Joker does what he does. “I’m like a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught one!” he exclaims gleefully.

Nolan has also made a clear change from “Begins” – whereas Gotham still seemed to be eternally stuck in the middle of the night in his original, and obviously existed in some kind of strange post-Burton futuristic Gotham world, there are plenty of day time scenes here, and most of the sets are perfectly realistic, the kind of pseudo-New York that exists in most every superhero movie. The change actually works, as the realistic setting only amplifies the fear we see upon seeing the Joker perform his acts of terror.

The music is so good it deserves mentioning too – subtle but suited to every situation – when Batman stands atop a building and drops down into the night, swooping his wings out in a bold yet graceful manner, the score will soar along with your nerves and your heart-rate. When the Joker is taunting one of his victims or simply staring at the camera, the score is simply chilling.

Are there flaws with this movie? Probably. There are some cases where’s it’s questionable as to whether or not they needed to include such a large cast (and 2 ½ hours “The Dark Knight” may try some viewers’ patience but it didn’t once test mine), but if you ask me the huge cast and the myriad of story threads only aided how much of a grand epic crime drama this movie was. It’s certain to please some viewers who normally don’t like comic book films, but it’s also got enough for us nerds to happily feast away. The way it juggles its themes and characters is masterful, it’s acted superbly by every single member of its cast, and it’s certainly the best movie of the summer. Probably the best movie of the year. Is it, however one of the best movies of all time, a masterpiece that transcends genres and demographics? It wouldn’t surprise me at all.

Is the Dark Knight the best movie ever made?

Posted in Movie Buzz with tags , , , , , , , on July 19, 2008 by Brandon

According to IMDB it is.

This is a historic day, and even if (as will probably happen) it drops back down after more and more people see it and may not hold up over time, it’s still incredible that it happened. So many people are united in their love for this movie, it’s insane. Whenever a movie I really love that gets really good reviews comes out, I check out its reviews on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. On IMDB they’ve never ascended past number five or so, even with such great films as Ratatouille, No Country for Old Men, Wall-E, or There Will Be Blood. Most of them don’t even make it into the top ten.

And the Dark Knight made it to number one. This is a truly unique movie, and I’ll post more in-depth thoughts on it once I’ve written my review. I’ve seen it twice already and am taking longer than usual because I want my review to really do justice to the wonderful piece of work this is.

I’m convinced it’s even going to overturn last year’s $151 million Spider-Man 3 opening weekend. And it will certainly hold up better over time, because Spidey dropped a significant percentage in the second weekend due to a lot of people being disappointed with it. Who knows? I could even go all the way and topple the overrated Titanic that has never once deserved all the money it made at the box office. Titanic is not a bad movie necessarily, but certainly not one of the greatest of all time. The Dark Knight is.

I’m crossing my fingers, and dear reader, come and cross them with me.

*EDIT*

According to opening day estimates on Box Office Mojo it’s already beat the opening day record by $7 million and reigns supreme at $66 million. This movie could very well make in its first week what most blockbusters dream of making their entire run. I cannot wait to see the Sunday estimates.

I’m THIS many!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 17, 2008 by Brandon

Yesterday night I saw The Dark Knight, and it’s truly an amazing movie, but I won’t post my review quite yet. I want to give it time to percolate in my head and potentially watch it again (or maybe watch the first one again) before I write the review, but I did want to make a post today and self-indulgently chat with the internet about how I’ve been blogging for a year now.

I guess I’ve been blogging for a few years now – I put up reviews in myspace long before I even thought about starting this blog, and a couple failed blogs include one where I reviewed all the movies in my 200+ collection and one where I wrote several different types of stories. I even had an autobiographical xanga at one point, but eventually I became less and less interested in sharing my overly-dramatic life with the world at large and instead moved my sights to film blogging. I had loved film and writing for a long time, and every time a trailer or some bit of tidbit news had come up, I would have to post it in my xanga. Eventually, as my love for film increased, so did what film references were posted in xanga. I never did too much, because I felt that blog was more about my personal life than it was about my pop culture interests. And then I thought, “Hey, why not create a blog about my pop culture interests?”

And bam – Entertainment and Pop Culturalia was born (that’s why my blog’s url is like it is), a blog that took about a month or so to find its sure footing, and soon after that I expanded and created a youtube account. Thinking that Entertainment and Pop Culturalia was too obscure and gimmicky to appeal to youtubers, I came up with the name Movie Buzz Review Dude, and quickly after that changed this blog’s name.

Now it’s been a full year to the day since I created my first post, traffic has gone down on my site, I don’t post as many tidbits and news (though I may start that up again soon), and my blog has become much more review-centered. I’m sure it will go through a lot of changes in the coming months and years, and I’m hoping an increase in readership will be part of that as well. I’m planning on keeping this blog for a long long time, and I hope you regular readers out there stick with me for just as long.

Thanks for reading!

The Pulse Pen (And some Flobots…)

Posted in Music Buzz, Technology News with tags , , , , on July 16, 2008 by Brandon

So I’m not usually that much of a techno-geek (at least not enough to ever really post anything about technology in this blog, haha), but I saw this little gem and just had to. Apparently these things are already available. How far will technology take us? As a student one thing I know I’ve said several times to my friends, “Man, I wish I could do a word search through my notes.” Now I CAN.

And here’s the music video of a band I recently discovered, called the Flobots. This song is called, “Handlebars.” Really listen to the lyrics, because otherwise it might not make entirely too much sense.

High School Musical 3 trailer! Plus Spike Jonze’s “Where the Wild Things Are” Update…

Posted in Movie Buzz, Trailers with tags , , , , , , , on July 14, 2008 by Brandon

After being pushed back two or three times and the release date finally confirmed for October 24, the trailer for High School Musical 3: Senior Year, has finally hit the internets. I gotta say, looks pretty good, or as good as any High School Musical 3 movie could be. The production values are obviously way up, Zac Efron has obviously spent some time at the gym, and you can even tell from some more complicated and experience camera-work that the director, who was the same for the second one, is becoming better. Who knows? Maybe this one will actually be good. Probably hoping for too much, but you never know. I’ll go see it regardless, cannot wait. Also there are apparently ten new songs, so that’ll be nice, upping the ante from the previous one.

And for those of you who have been following my chronicling of the debacle between Spike Jonze’s version of “Where the Wild Things Are” and the evil studio, here’s a little updataroonie. Apparently the screening version caused several kids to cry in terror and flee the theatre because it was so intense. And reports are also circulating that the protagonist is an unlikeable selfish bastard with whom nobody can identify. This is both a relief and a disappointment to me – I’m disappointed because it looks like now that Spike Jonze is working on re-doing the movie with the studio (and if you read the article the studio assures the public that they are in no way considering dropping Jonze from the project after the disastrous screenings), we will never get to see the possible incredibly brilliant original. I’m relived, though, because the rumors that another director was being signed on to do massive re-shoots seem to be untrue, at least for now. But companies’ publicity campaigns will say absolutely anything to push their movie. They claimed Hitman was always meant to be rated R, but then we saw the final product and what little bloodletting there actually was.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (9/10)

Posted in Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2008 by Brandon

One of the most astonishing things about Guillermo del Toro’s first major film since Pan’s Labyrinth a few years ago, Hellboy II, is that amidst all the supernatural demons walking about the plot, in the middle of all this fantasy and very weird, very unlikely things happening, the main characters shine through like the sun on a particularly bright day. Much moreso than Hellboy I, and even a lot more so than some superhero flicks, Hellboy II manages to be, more than anything, a character drama, where the main story and impetus comes from the characters and not as much the action happening around them.

This is not to say the main plot thread is uninteresting – Hellboy II revolves around the attempts of an ancient prince, Prince Nuada, to bring a long-dead mechanical golden army to life so that he can rule humanity. When the government gets a whiff of this, they contact the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, for which Hellboy and his aquatic best friend Abe and pyromaniac girlfriend Liz work as supernatural agents. Hellboy himself was found during World War II during an experiment wherein beings from the divine realm crossed over into our world.

So off Hellboy, Abe, and Liz go on an adventure to try to stop Prince Nuada from bringing back the golden army from its slumber, and it’s an adventure that will dazzle your eyes with how intensely beautiful it is. Hellboy II is, from all the trailers, a special effects action movie, but CGI monstrosities are not the only beast creepy-crawling over this bad boy.

Beautifully constructed, hand-crafted demons, angels, trolls, and beasts lurk about everywhere, and in one particular “Troll Market” sequence, we are reminded of the time when Luke and Obi-Wan met Han Solo and Chewbacca in the Mos Eisley cantina, only instead of aliens partying it up, these are fantastic and beautiful creatures – some of the puppet work in this film is gorgeous and revolutionary, absolutely Oscar-worthy. The sets are staged and filmed to perfection, and the action set pieces are grand and del Toro handles them with a smooth and confident hand – a clear improvement over the film’s predecessor, as some of the action in the original, especially the catastrophically bad ending, was poorly set and even more poorly executed.

The script is better this time around too – we don’t waste time with characters who are too difficult to care about, like the slightly neurotic FBI agent assigned to work with Hellboy in the original (which to me sounded like del Toro was worried about people identifying with this big giant red demon). Every actor slips back into their roles as easily as if they had filmed the first one yesterday, and you almost don’t really need to see the first to appreciate how effortlessly these actors combined with these characters woo the camera and audience.

Ron Perlman plays Hellboy, and he’s the best of this odd bunch. Hellboy is slightly more vulnerable than in the last picture, and it works. Selma Blair as Liz is a thousand times more improved, as her relationship with Hellboy deepens and you can tell Blair has a more sure footing on who her character is. Abe Sapien, played once more by Doug Jones (though David Hyde Pierce as the voice of Abe is sadly gone), is given A LOT more by the script to shoulder, and he succeeds brilliantly. Seth MacFarlane as the voice of ectoplasmic smoke that walks around inside a suit and goes by the name of Dr. Krauss is actually a lot more entertaining that it sounds, and MacFarlane’s fake accent and hard sarcastic voice do wonders.

“Hellboy II: The Golden Army” is a wonder – more than anything a visual feast. Del Toro clearly has a lot of love for what he’s pulled off here (he turned down very lucrative directing opportunities while working on this film, including the Harry Potter movies, all just so he could devote the proper amount of love and care to Hellboy II). And the result is a film quite unlike any supehero movie you’ve ever seen before, including the original – it’s grand, silly, terrifying, and quite often hilarious – a cacophonic beast composed of many different parts that compose a beautiful overall picture. He’s even made some daring directing choices here and there, and churned out a superhero flick that tops both the gritty Hulk and the sleek Iron Man. Now we just gotta wait for the inevitable Hellboy III, which, if the leap in quality between Hellboy I and II is any indication, will be a very fine film indeed.