Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Dark Knight (2008)

Ying n Yang The Batman franchise has it’s own Bat Brand, which for some is a creative turn-off. Explosions get bigger, car chases and fight scenes get longer and the sitting time extends beyond two hours. As a kid, I loved the series starring Adam West. As an adult, I’m far from a Batman movie junkie. I don’t remember the early movies beyond knowing that Batman was played by Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney. I liked Batman Begins. It gave the Hollywood Batman a new edge and deeper history.

Gotham has a new hero, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), a good guy district attorney dubbed The White Knight. He’s kicking ass and taking names with clean hands. He could be the man who helps Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) end his days as crime fighter. If that happens, he can enter into a romance with childhood friend Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal), but the Joker (an unrecognizable Heath Ledger), a madman with an uncanny psychological sniffer, figures out the caped crusader’s weak spot. The Joker is unrelenting in his manipulative demand that Batman reveal his identity or he the Joker will produce a body count. Can good prevail over evil?

The weak, convoluted plot has the Joker scamming the mob. Soon, he’s got the mob working with him to bring down Batman. A lot happens and the story is bloated. After 150 minutes, your bladder is strained and your derrière is sore. You want those extra minutes to leave you shocked and wanting more, not wondering WHY?

You cannot discuss this movie without mentioning Heath Ledger. His performance was among the last before his death and he’s brilliant! His voice is unrecognizable, his makeup is mental and that compulsive licking is gross. If Hollywood didn’t tell you it was him, you may not have identified Ledger. His scenes vis-à-vis Batman are among the movie’s best. He’s nauseously intoxicating.

Co-writer/Director: Christopher Nolan

Country: US

Genre: Drama

Run time: 152 minutes

Scale: 3.5

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jerichow (2008)

After Christian Petzold’s impressive last offering Yella (2007) and Brian’s staggering recommendation, I checked out Jerichow.

Three compellingly peculiar characters round out the story. Thomas (Benno Fürmann) is an ex-soldier who assists Ali (Hilmi Sözer) after an auto accident. Ali hires Thomas as his driver. Ali has several drunk-driving incidents and his license is suspended. To The playahs keep his snack bars operating, he must visit them daily and collect his cut.

Thomas meets Ali’s wife Laura (Nina Hoss). Sparks fly and an affair begins. The affair is conducted so riskily close to Ali that it begs the question, does Ali know? Has he set them up? Are Laura and Ali in collusion? Thomas’s and Ali’s friendship deepens as seemingly does Ali’s trust in Thomas.

(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)

I couldn’t trust Laura’s motives. It was difficult to believe that she wasn’t going to turn. She was so guarded for so long that I was suspicious. In the end, the movie saddens. Turns out Ali has an ulterior motive but entirely different than what I’d expected. This movie carefully builds suspense as it takes its time telling its tale of loss of innocence.

Writer/Director: Christian Petzold

Country: Germany

Genre: Drama

Run time: 92 minutes

Scale: 4

Bad Santa (2003)

Before seeing Bad Santa, the reaction of those “in the know” was usually something like this: “That’s a great movie…it’s so wrong.” With these consistent reactions, how could I not be curious?

The playahs... Bad Santa is twisted, raunchy and hilarious. Conman Willie (Billy Bob Thornton), a mall Santa partners with con elf Marcus (Tony Cox) to gain entry to stores and rob them. Problem is that Santa is a foul-mouthed alcoholic kid-hater who often wets himself in costume. Marcus is tiring of Willie’s misbehaving and jeopardizing their scheme.

Mall manager Bob (John Ritter) gets wind of Santa’s debauchery and consults with security manager Gin (Bernie Mac), who takes on Santa and Willy himself for a cut of the action. That, or he’ll turn in the cons, who have a history of mall thieving.

Then, there’s The Kid (Brett Kelly) who seems oblivious to this Bizarro-world Santa’s dark ways and helps him out of several jams. There’s also the waitress, Sue (Lauren Graham), who gets off on Santa. The soundtrack of classical music works surprising well in the background during the acts of tomfoolery.

Did I love this movie? No. Is it enjoyable? YES. I especially relished the social commentary on the holiday season and how it brings out the worst in people. Disturbed minds will love it. You’ll never forget the 3Bs.

Director: Terry Zwigoff

Country: US

Genre: Comedy

Run time: 90 minutes

Scale: 3