Poll Results: Best Christopher Nolan Film + Weekend Roundup

Had a busy weekend so this post is a bit late. It turns out we had a close race for Christopher Nolan’s best film, but there could be only one winner:

The Dark Knight poster

THE RESULTS:
– The Dark Knight: 11 votes
– Inception: 9 votes
– Memento: 5 votes
– The Dark Knight Rises: 5 votes
– Batman Begins: 1 vote
– The Prestige: 1 vote

The Dark Knight and Inception were neck-and-neck all week, but the much-loved Batman film prevailed. Interesting to see five votes already for TDKR, but only one vote for The Prestige?

This Week’s Poll: I thought it would be fun to reflect on the year so far, now that we are a full seven months deep. My question for you is: what is the best film from this year so far? Even though 2012’s best will almost certainly be released during the fall/winter, there are still many excellent candidates right now. Will a huge blockbuster like The Dark Knight Rises or The Avengers win out, or will a beloved indie flick like Moonrise Kingdom or Beasts of the Southern Wild be victorious?

WEEKEND ROUNDUP:
Saturday: Work, work and more work. After a long day, I did have a fun evening of gaming with a good buddy of mine. We played some Borderlands, which I hadn’t fired up in nearly two years. For some reason, the game immediately sent us to the Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, a DLC pack that I bought a long time ago but never played. We busted through a handful of quests and I knocked out a couple achievements. Seems like a pretty cool expansion, though I was definitely a little rusty at first. I had no idea the sequel is coming out next month, so I will probably play some more to prepare myself for the new one.

Sunday: For the first time in AGES, both my girlfriend and I spent an entire day free from work, and we didn’t even turn on a computer at any point. You have no idea how rare that is for either of us. We had a much-needed getaway out of the city and took an epic bike ride up north. We spent the day riding along bike trails through various suburbs, played some mini-golf, hit up some batting cages, ate some great food and even took in a movie at a really nice theater. We saw The Intouchables, which was quite good. I was a little skeptical at first because we have seen enough of the “rich white guy” helps “poor black man” type movies, but this was actually really well-executed. Great performances from both leads, especially the very charismatic Omar Sy. I’ll be writing a full review of this one soon.

So yeah, a really fun Sunday, though I am certainly feeling the aftereffects of the long bike ride today. It was worth it.

How about you guys? What did you do over the weekend?

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises [2012]

The Dark Knight Rises [2012]

The Dark Knight Rises [2012]
Directors: Christopher Nolan
Genre: Action/Crime/Drama
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and Morgan Freeman
Runtime: 164 minutes

Note: I tried to make this review as spoiler-free as possible, but you may want to tread lightly in the comments/feedback.

Eight years is a long time. After the wanton chaos and destruction in 2008’s The Dark Knight, it’s hard to imagine Gotham City remaining in a peaceful state for eight long years, especially without their legendary protector, Batman.

The man behind their hero, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), has also gone missing during this time. Now a recluse with a bum leg, Wayne spends his days locked inside Wayne Manor. It’s not until a run-in with master jewel thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) that Bruce musters up the will to do anything meaningful. Quickly he learns about the recent appearance of a monstrous villain, Bane (Tom Hardy), who is on a mission to destroy Gotham. Despite warnings from his loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine), Wayne once again suits up as Batman to save his beloved city.

The Dark Knight Rises [2012]

That is a summary of the plot in its most basic form, but at a sprawling 165 minutes, there is a lot to digest. Bane’s planned destruction of Gotham is at the forefront, but a number of minor characters are introduced into the chaos, all of whom are tied into this in a variety of ways. Newcomer Joseph Gordon-Levitt has an especially crucial role as rookie police officer John Blake, a clever lad who acts as a bit of an understudy to Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) while also discovering Batman’s identity on his own. Two other newcomers play important parts in this ever-encompassing saga: Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, who has a very complex relationship with Batman/Wayne, and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a philanthropist investor with an interest in Wayne Industries.

All of these characters, and many old favorites, are seamlessly interweaved together to create a grand feature that can holds its own against the rest of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. A strong case could be made for any of the three to be the “best” of the bunch, and right now I would put this a close second to The Dark Knight.

The Dark Knight Rises [2012] -- BANE

A big reason why this film succeeds is because of its main villain. Every good superhero movie needs a badass adversary, and Bane is one of the best yet. Menacing and physically dominating, Bane is frightening nearly every time he is on screen. As I witnessed the destruction of Gotham City first hand, I was wondering just how the hell Batman and/or the city would make it out in one piece. Bane is as intimidating as I have seen any villain in recent years, and his bizarre face mask only adds to his daunting persona. There were a few moments where his mask would make it hard to understand his dialogue, and his audio did seem unnecessarily louder than others, but these are mere nitpicks. The dude is impressive, and he is a more than worthy rival to our legendary hero.

For a film pushing three hours in length, there really isn’t a lot of “fat” here. Everything happens for a reason, and most plot devices are explained in depth for newcomers (or those who need a quick refresher). There are definitely moments in which a certain amount of suspension of disbelief will be required, including the much-discussed ending, but that is to be expected in a fictional universe like this. Taken on its merits, The Dark Knight Rises works exactly as it should.

The Dark Knight Rises [2012]

Is this a perfect film? No, not exactly. The weird audio problems with Bane are a little too noticeable, and I found occasional bits of dialogue from others that irked me the wrong way. There is one cop early in the movie, a very minor character, who has maybe three lines of dialogue total. Even though he was incredibly minute in the big picture, I winced every time he was on screen. Each line was forced and unnecessary, and it felt strangely out of place while in the middle of an epic car chase. Again, I am really nitpicking here, but that stuck with me for some reason.

Regardless, tiny complaints aside, I couldn’t ask for a better conclusion than The Dark Knight Rises. The story, the cast, the characters, Han Zimmer’s score. All top quality. This is a film that demands to be seen on the big screen, and I would be hard pressed to find a better summer blockbuster this year.

9/10

Poll Results: Favorite Breaking Bad Character + Weekend Roundup

A runaway winner this week:

Mike Ehrmantraut

THE RESULTS:
– Mike Ehrmantraut: 5 votes
– Jesse Pinkman: 2 votes
– Walter White: 2 votes
– Saul Goodman: 2 votes
– Hank Schrader: 1 vote

No doubt about it, Mike is the man, and I can’t think of a better actor to play him than Jonathan Banks. My early prediction was that this would come down to Walter and Jesse, but I underestimated the power of everyone’s favorite cleaner, Mike. He didn’t even enter the show until the second season, and he dominated this poll.

On the downside, this poll had a pretty low turnout, and this means that more of you need to start watching Breaking Bad! Seriously, it’s quite possibly the best show currently on television. The first four seasons are available on Netflix Instant, and it wouldn’t take long at all to marathon them back-to-back. I guarantee you’ll be hooked after a few episodes.

This Week’s Poll: Everyone by now has probably seen The Dark Knight Rises, and I imagine that most of you are also quite familiar with director Christopher Nolan’s filmography. The man has an impressive resume, to say the least, and I’m opening up this poll to include ALL of his directorial work. What do YOU think is his best film? Something from the Batman trilogy? Memento? Inception? The Prestige? Or perhaps even the underrated Insomnia or Following? This one should have some interesting results to be sure.

WEEKEND ROUNDUP:
No movie marathons this weekend. I was pretty busy for the most part but did manage to finally see The Dark Knight Rises on Friday night. It was worth the wait — a full review will be posted soon, likely tomorrow.

The only other film I saw over the weekend was Earrings, the new short film from Alex Withrow, the creative genius over at And So It Begins… Alex has been documenting the filmmaking process over the past year, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the man in action. The suspense had been building until the final release on Saturday, and the finished product is stunning. Check it out for yourself on his Vimeo page.

I also played quite a bit of Dyad, the new psychedelic puzzler/racer for the PS3. I’m working on some of the trophy levels right now, and I should have a full review in the next few days. Keep an eye out for that!

How about you guys? Did you make it to the theater this weekend? Catch any good movies or play any games at home?

Movie Project #45 and #46: It’s a Wonderful Life [1946] and The Prestige [2006]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

It's a Wonderful Life [1946, Frank Capra]
It’s a Wonderful Life [1946, Frank Capra]
Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore.

It blows my mind that somehow this slipped past me despite being played repeatedly during every Christmas season. It’s easy to see why this is a holiday favorite — it really is the quintessential Christmas film. Equal parts heartwarming and inspirational, It’s a Wonderful Life takes us into the life of George Bailey (Stewart), a man on the brink of suicide. Lucky for him, his guardian angel (Henry Travers) is sent from the heavens to intervene and show him all of the lives he has changed for the better over the years. It turns out that his life isn’t so bad at all.

Admittedly, I was a little worried when the guardian angel appeared. I was concerned that the movie would become overly preachy and attempt to shove religious beliefs down our throats. Thankfully, that never happened. This is just an all-around good-hearted film that is anchored by timeless performances by James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and the rest of the cast. I will give this a slight edge over the other Capra film from this project, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and I could easily see it becoming a yearly Christmas tradition in my household. I still don’t know what took me so long to see it. 10/10

The Prestige [2006, Christopher Nolan]
The Prestige [2006, Christopher Nolan]
Starring Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine.

When it comes to Christopher Nolan, I am generally a fan of his work, though I do not hold him in as high of regard as most. The Prestige, however, damn near succeeded in making me a fanboy. This intricately detailed portrayal of two magicians (Bale and Jackman) who continually try to upstage each other really impressed me. The movie starts off fairly tame, with both men sabotaging each other’s magic shows, but it quickly grows lethal to the point of multiple fatalities. This culminates in a twist ending that I did not see coming at all, and it is one that warrants extra viewings of the film in order catch on to hints and tricks.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the film’s sudden dip into science fiction (aided by a terrific performance by David freakin’ Bowie as Nikola Tesla), but I quickly grew into the idea and embraced it all the same. The fantasy aspects may turn off some viewers, but I really enjoyed the ride. Bale, Jackman and Caine are all wonderful, and the smaller roles from the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall and Andy Serkis are all great additions as well. The Prestige is a thoroughly fascinating movie, and may be my new favorite from Nolan. 9/10