Name: The_Movie_Mind

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Batman: Gotham Knight

Reviewed by The_Movie_Mind

Movie Mind Says: Buy It

If You Like This You Should Watch: Batman Begins, Iron Man
Better Than: Spiderman, Superman, X-Men, Blade, Indiana Jones…
Worse Than: No movie from 2008

Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine

It’s been a very long time since The Movie Mind has left a movie theater giddy like a little kid and grinning ear to ear. It has been even longer since I left a theater and wanted to go right back in and watch the movie again. That is exactly how I felt after happily playing a part in making The Dark Knight the fastest movie ever to gross over $300 million (10 days, to be exact). This was one of the best films I have seen in a long, long time, and should be a shoe-in for Best Picture at the Oscars. I simply can’t imagine what a better film would look like, and how it could possibly surpass what The Dark Knight was able to accomplish.

Allow me to temper my reaction with my expectations going into this film. I intentionally boycotted the opening weekend due to my 2-hour rule for films; The Dark Knight surpassed that by an easy 30 minutes. I was initially dreading having to sit in a theater for yet another director’s overindulgent, drawn-out feature. While I can say that this movie was definitely 20 minutes too long, it clearly did not spoil my taste for it. The other component to my being skeptical of the raves and high praise for this film billed as the second-coming had to do with the Heath Ledger tragedy. I was uncomfortable from the beginning about how the film was marketed and promoted, no matter how many times the studio talked about “class” and “good taste”. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t even sure that Batman was actually in this film until I sat in the theater and saw him for myself. It was just creepy to me how people ogled over Ledger’s last living testament and propped him up on a pedestal, since that’s how they rationalized their sheer morbid curiousity. No matter how much people claim they went to see this in Ledger’s honor, I am saddened to believe the vast majority had a more selfish motivation. Nonetheless, I feel completely comfortable saying that he deserves all the praise he gets…and then some. I can only hope to say he would have still received the same amount of applause if he was still with us. He would have from The Movie Mind.

We return to the streets of Gotham, in better shape than ever thanks to a fear in the eyes of the underworld, provided courtesy of Batman. Christian Bale is stellar once again as the crass socialite Bruce Wayne, and more convincing than ever as the city’s hero of the night. Batman’s lone soldier in the war against Gotham’s underbelly is Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman), who has already earned the trust of the hero. They have made real progress cleaning out the crooked cops, politicians, and bad guys but they feel like they can rid Gotham of these criminals for good thanks in large part to hard-hitting District Attorney Harvey Dent (Eckhart). Batman is not sure just yet about Dent’s intentions and trustworthiness, but he will soon find him to be another ally in his small army. Dent’s no nonsense approach to taking down organized crime has made the criminals resort to hiring some “outside help” they didn’t think they wanted, nor were they aware they needed it. Their only hope, as they are so told, is to hire someone who does not believe in honor or rules. A person who only believes in mayhem for the sake of inflicting pain. Aptly put by The Joker himself, he is the “better class of criminal this city deserves”. While these crime syndicates resort to “outsourcing” their money laundering scheme overseas, they forget Batman has no jurisdiction. He has put their operation in shambles, which leaves a big opening for the wise-cracking madman in makeup to make a forceful statement.

The reason The Joker comes out so successful can be attributed to a brilliant performance by Ledger, clever writing, and the creation of a new breed of bad guy. Ledger takes the fictional character and turns him into a real-life psychopath that relies less on typical comic-book villain tactics, and more on the methods of your modern day serial killers. And somehow he manages to do it with a memorable grin and sadistic wit. I for one do not believe that Ledger’s performance will erase the thought of a smiling Jack Nicholson in the original Batman. While both managed to be thoroughly entertaining and quite witty and funny for bad guys, I just don’t think it’s fair to compare the two. Nicholson played a cartoon character who was as loud a personality as the man himself, while Ledger took the comic-book villain and created a living nightmare. He turned The Joker into the worst combination of criminal and killer and convinced us that he could actually exist in today’s society. In fact, this is what made The Dark Night a great movie. Batman no longer lives in a superhero fantasyland that thrives on an audience of Trekkies. He is a living, breathing, flesh and blood man doing battle with the worst kind of man there is. We believe the story as if it was real, and that is difficult to do in a film based in this genre. It is an even more challenging feat when characters such as Batman and The Joker have been so deeply imbedded in our minds as cartoon characters.

As always, there are a few things that could have been slightly better. I already mentioned the length of the film, and while I wasn’t bored at the least, the story could have ended at the 2-hour mark with the added bonus of a nice leave behind for the next film. I thought the last 30 minutes of the film could have been expanded into a brand new feature down the road, but kudos to the writers for at least attempting to wrap it all up. The biggest mishap was the casting of Maggie Gyllenhaal as duel-love interest Rachel Dawes. I hate to say Katie Holmes outshined anybody, but in this case it was true. Other than that, there was a small error that even IMDB’s goofs section didn’t catch (that noise is The Movie Mind patting himself on the back) where we get a clear shot of Bruce Wayne’s Lamborghini donning an Illinois license plate. Apparently Gotham City moved out to the Midwest. I hear land is much cheaper there. Still, I’m picking at straws here. This was an amazing film that should stand the test of time. Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, The Prestige) may have maintained a fairly ambiguous profile as a director prior to The Dark Night, but something tells me come Oscar time we might see a lot more of him. You would be crazy for missing this one on the first pass. If it is fortunate enough to break the $600 million record set by Titanic, it will mark a milestone for a film’s financial success matching its cinematic value.
Submitted 7-28-08

Interesting Cameo Appearance: Tommy “Tiny” Lister aka “Zeus” (better known as Debo, the massive bald-headed bully from Ice Cube’s Friday and sequel Next Friday) as a prisoner realizing his fate and making a noble, if unpopular, choice.

Memorable Quotes:
Bruce Wayne: I knew the mob wouldn’t go down without a fight. But this is different. They crossed the line.
Alfred Pennyworth: You crossed the line first, sir. You squeezed them, you hammered them. And in their desperation they turned to a man they didn’t fully understand.

Harvey Dent: You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Harvey Dent: The famous Bruce Wayne. Rachel’s told me everything about you.
Bruce Wayne: I certainly hope not.

The Joker: If you’re good at something, never do it for free.

Gotham National Bank Manager: The criminals in this town used to believe in things. Honor. Respect. Look at you! What do you believe in? What do you believe in!
The Joker: I believe whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you… stranger.

The Joker: This town deserves a better class of criminal… and I’m gonna give it to them.

Harvey Dent: You’re Alfred, right?
Alfred Pennyworth: That’s right, sir.
Harvey Dent: You’ve known Rachel her entire life.
Alfred Pennyworth: Not yet, sir.
Harvey Dent: Any psychotic ex-boyfriends I should be aware of?
Alfred Pennyworth: Oh, you have no idea!

Bruce Wayne: You know that day you once told me about, when Gotham would no longer need Batman? It’s coming.

The Joker: And I thought my jokes were bad…

Batman: What did you do?
The Joker: I took Gotham’s white knight, and lowered him to our level. It wasn’t hard. Y’see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little…push.

The Joker: Do I look like a guy with a plan?

Lt. James Gordon: Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now…and so we’ll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he’s not a hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector…a dark knight.

The Joker: We really should stop fighting, we’ll miss the fireworks!

The Joker: The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules!

The Joker: Wanna know how I got these scars?

The Joker: You’ll see, I’ll show you, that when the chips are down, these uh… civilized people, they’ll eat each other.

The Joker: You see, nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying. If I told people that a gangbanger was going to get shot, or a busload of soldiers was going to get blown up, nobody would panic. Because it’s all part of the plan. But tell people that one tiny little mayor is going to die and everyone loses their minds!

Alfred Pennyworth: I suppose they’ll lock me up as well. As your accomplice…
Bruce Wayne: Accomplice? I’m going to tell them the whole thing was your idea.

James Gordon Jr.: Did Batman save you?
Lt. James Gordon: Actually this time I saved him.

Batman: Sometimes, truth isn’t good enough, sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.

Lt. James Gordon: We’ll have to hunt you.
Batman: You’ll hunt me. You’ll condemn me, you’ll set the dogs on me. But that’s what has to happen.

Bruce Wayne: What about getting back into the plane?
Lucius Fox: I would recommend you find a good travel agent.
Bruce Wayne: Without it landing.
Lucius Fox: Now that’s more like it, Mr. Wayne.

Alfred Pennyworth: Know your limits, Master Wayne.
Bruce Wayne: Batman has no limits.
Alfred Pennyworth: But you do, sir.
Bruce Wayne: Well, can’t afford to know them.

The Joker: You just couldn’t let me go could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible aren’t you? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness, and I won’t kill you, because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.
Batman: You’ll be in a padded cell forever.
The Joker: Maybe we can share one. Then we’ll be doubling up the rate this city’s inhabitants are losing their minds.

Bruce Wayne: I need a new suit.
Lucius Fox: Yes, three buttons is a little ’90’s, Mr. Wayne.
Lucius Fox: I’m not talking fashion, so much as function.

Bruce Wayne: Why don’t we put some tables together?
Harvey Dent: I don’t think they’ll let us.
Bruce Wayne: They should…I own the place.

Salvatore Maroni: If you’re trying to intimidate someone, you should pick a better spot. From here, the fall wouldn’t kill me.
Batman: I’m counting on it.

Harvey Dent: The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.

Lucius Fox: Let me get this straight. You think that your employer, one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the world, is spending his nights running around the city beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands. And your plan is to blackmail this person? Good luck.

Batman: Why do you want to kill me?
The Joker: Kill you? I don’t want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, you… you complete me.

Bruce Wayne: People are dying, Alfred. What would you have me do?
Alfred Pennyworth: Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They’ll hate you for it. But that’s the point of Batman, he can be the outcast. He can make the choice that no one else can make, the right choice.

The Joker: Let’s turn the clocks back. A year ago, these cops and lawyers wouldn’t dare cross any of you. I mean, what happened? Did your - did your balls drop off? Hmm?

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Reviewed by The_Movie_Mind

Movie Mind Says: Rent It

If You Like This You Should Watch: Garden State, The Ex (aka Fast Track)
Better Than: Smart People
Worse Than: American Beauty

Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner

After a long string of testosterone-laden films I finally gave my wife the pick of rentals for a day. Much to my dismay, she came up with Juno. I had avoided it for a long time, but its viewing was inevitable, especially after all the awards and buzz. I knew there would be a day where it and I would cross paths. Obviously I lived to tell about it, but I am still trying to wrap my head around how I feel overall. An easy summation would be to call this film Knocked Up for girls. Unfortunately, I think that may only be half the truth.

Ellen Page certainly earned all the praise she received playing Juno MacGuff, a high school junior who gets knocked-u…excuse me, impregnated, by her slacker band-friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). The film takes us through what it’s like being a high school girl who thought she had everything figured out about life, but realizes there is far more to learn.

Even if you didn’t watch the Academy Awards or read anything about the stripper-to-award-winning writer-tale that accompanied it, my male readers would probably need all of 4 minutes to determine that this was a film written by a woman, for women. Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course. It takes gall and a lot of faith in the viewing public to broach this subject in a mainstream manner and especially to do it in a comedic fashion. Teen pregnancy is something that most of us don’t want to consider let alone watch on the big screen. This film may have irked some to the extent that it borders on glorification of an unfortunate situation, but otherwise I thought it was clever, witty, and emotional enough to carry me through. I am not going to brood over it like the critics did, but it was a very good film. It most certainly is even better for the female audience.

I don’t think it was done in an evil way, but the writer’s perspective of this situation was unabashedly looked at from a woman’s la-la land. First there is Juno’s father Mac, played by J.K. Simmons. While most of his prior notable roles include the hard-case newspaper boss from Spiderman, Jonah Jameson, he takes an incredibly softer role here and is wonderful in it. Wonderful, if the goal was to build a hip, modern-day dad with no flaws, that is. See, while he is happily remarried and lives by extremely modest amenities, they do nothing to downplay his openness and understanding of his daughter’s situation. When informed by Juno about the bun in the oven, he barely expresses disappointment in his daughter and immediately takes the supportive role. He even questions the “abilities” of the baby’s father before commenting on his daughter’s actions…certainly a noble portrayal but not one that is realistic for many dads out there. Correct me if I’m wrong, but how many dads would not have even experienced an elevated heart rate upon hearing that news?

The next example of an overly feminine touch is the bumbling baby-daddy, Bleeker. He is innocent, vulnerable, and basically drawn out to be a mere patsy in the whole situation. Juno on the other hand, is a sharp, witty, and quirky girl who somehow manages to have it almost all together under the most trying of circumstances. She is the young modern-day woman, albeit a teen outcast, at only 16 years old. It was her decision to take advantage of poor Bleeker who everyone in the film can’t believe “had it in him”.

The most obvious example of the overly feminine touch is Cody’s portrayal of Jason Bateman’s character, Mark Loring. Mark is the husband of Vanessa (Garner) who will become the adoptive parents of Juno’s baby. He is painted as a heartless creep who is stuck in a sell-out-hell of a music career. His wife is so needy for a child that it just makes him seem that much more evil for not wanting one. I think Diablo Cody drew him up as a combination of the worst patrons who used to stick dollar bills in her g-string at the Diamond Gold Club or wherever her past calling was. He is a manipulative, disgrace of a man who nearly commits statutory rape and has no qualms about leaving his wife high and dry in the most important time of her life. Boy, those guys must have been bad tippers, Diablo.

Sorry for getting too cynical here, but I did have an open mind with this film. I also thought it was done really well. It is better than 90% of the studio garbage that comes out nowadays. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have issues with the portrayal of the male characters. Listen to me…I sound like a heated feminist who get all riled up about women being used only as sex objects! Maybe this is merely payback to all the male-centric films and accompanying characters. I thought Knocked Up provided a little fairer perspective of both gender sides, even though the humor was clearly written by men and for men. I feel that while the humor in Juno was obviously for the women in the audience, the roles were just as one-sided. I guess no other male critics had the nards to call this a “chick flick”, but I will.
Submitted 7-9-08

Interesting Cameo Appearance: Rainn Wilson (Mr. Dwight Schrute, Jim Halpert’s antithesis on NBC’s The Office, and proprietor of Shrute’s Beet Farm in rural Scranton, PA) as Rollo, a quirky convenience store clerk who is a little too nosy for his own good.

Memorable Quotes:
Vanessa Loring: Your parents are probably wondering where you are.
Juno MacGuff: Nah… I mean, I’m already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans could I get into?

Mac MacGuff: Hey there, big puffy version of Junebug!

Juno MacGuff: You should’ve gone to China, you know, ’cause I hear they give away babies like free iPods. You know, they pretty much just put them in those t-shirt guns and shoot them out at sporting events.

Mac MacGuff: Did you see that coming?
Bren: Yeah… but I was hoping she was expelled, or into hard drugs.
Mac MacGuff: That was my first instinct too. Or a DWI… anything but this!

Rollo: That ain’t no etch-a-sketch. This is one doodle that can’t be un-did, homeskillet.

Juno MacGuff: I could like, have this baby and give it to someone who like totally needs it.
Leah: You should look in the PennySaver.
Juno MacGuff: They have ads for parents?
Leah: Yeah! ‘Desperately Seeking Spawn.’

Rollo: You better pay for that pee-stick when you’re done with it. Don’t think it’s yours just because you marked it with your urine!

Juno MacGuff: Yeah, I’m a legend. You know, they call me the cautionary whale.

Mac MacGuff: Next time I see that Bleeker kid I’m going to punch him in the wiener.

Mac MacGuff: Thanks for having me and my irresponsible child over your house.

Bren: Doctors are sadists who like to play God and watch lesser people scream.

Juno MacGuff: Oh, and she inexplicably mails me a cactus every Valentine’s Day. And I’m like, “Thanks a heap coyote ugly. This cactus-gram stings even worse than your abandonment.”

Juno MacGuff: I could so go for like a huge cookie right now, with like, a lamb kabob simultaneously.

Juno MacGuff: Wow your shorts are like especially gold today.
Paulie Bleeker: My mom uses color safe bleach.
Juno MacGuff: Go Carol.

Juno MacGuff: I named my guitar “Roosevelt”-not Ted, Franklin. You know, the cute one, with polio.

Paulie Bleeker: You seem to be getting pregnanter these days.

Mark Loring: Vanessa gave me my own room for all my stuff.
Juno MacGuff: She gave you… your own room in… in your whole house? For your… for your stuff? Wow, she’s got you on a long leash, Mark.

Mac MacGuff: You don’t even remember to give Liberty Bell her breathing meds
Juno MacGuff: God that was one time! And she did not die if you recall.

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Reviewed by The_Movie_Mind

Movie Mind Says: Add to Online Rental List

If You Like This You Should Watch: Jumper
Better Than: My Super Ex-Girlfriend
Worse Than: Iron Man

Starring: Will Smith, Jason Bateman, Charlize Theron

Hancock is a tale of two-halves, starting out as light-hearted, funny, and entertaining, only to cross over into more of a sci-fi thriller focusing on more than just a flawed superhero. I personally preferred the latter, where for the first time since The Man of Steel turned evil in Superman III, we saw inside a much conflicted hero and what life in our world is like. I feel that the story took a turn into the realm of what is typically produced from the genre instead of keeping to this in-depth character portrait it began as. Will Smith is somewhat handcuffed in the role but still manages to be someone I can’t stop watching. He kept the film from completely derailing, since this film could have been the “only one of its kind” instead of your run of the mill superhero flick.

Will Smith is a crass, drunken, obnoxious superhero who may have the “super” part down pat (he can fly and lift cars & buildings and all that schwag) but he has a long way to go in order to learn how to play the part of a “hero”. He is so detached from society that even when he saves lives, people still wish he would go away. Whether it is his poor attitude or the tremendous wake of destruction he leaves behind, he can’t catch a break in the eyes of his fellow Los Angelinos. So when he happens to save the life of Ray Embrey (Bateman), a PR expert with a heart of gold, things may finally start to turn around for Hancock. Although when Ray’s wife, Mary (Charlize Theron), fails to warm up to Hancock, we learn that it may take a lot more to fix him than Ray is prepared for.

Hancock’s first memory is waking up in a hospital some 80 years ago with no idea of who he was or how he got there. The hospital needed his “John Hancock”, and the legend had a name. He was told his head was shattered yet he baffled the doctors with his skull’s otherworldly healing. Since he doesn’t age, and can pretty much save the world while nursing a bad hangover, he hasn’t really had to work at making people like him. But by following Ray’s PR advice, Hancock’s new image and polish is starting to win over some former detractors. Although before you get excited about seeing a feature on this unique character, be prepared to get thrust back into something you’ve seen a hundred times. We all know Will Smith wasn’t going to play a part where he is an a-hole for the whole film, but the manner in which he converts is a letdown. Let’s just say there is a twist in the script whose unwrapping is much more of a spectacle than a present itself.

Halfway through the film, we stop seeing Hancock as a flawed superhero struggling to adjust, and instead see him as the sympathetic figure. Like I mentioned, there had to be a reason Will Smith was willing to “slum” in this role for a little while. The problem is, he could have made this memorable if the script stopped focusing on creating a half-baked history to the character. You see, Hollywood always feels there has to be more to a story than just a good story. This is even more true when they dump a zillion dollars into a holiday blockbuster and feel an overwhelming need to add dumb special effects and idiotic back-stories. The Movie Mind hates to see a wasted opportunity like this in whatcould have been a unique take on the classic genre.

This film just ended up all over the place. It struggled to find a true identity and came off very studio-heavy. We all know Will Smith is the king of the July 4th blockbuster, but I rank this one below all of his others (Men in Black, MIB II, Independence Day, Wild Wild West). If you treat it as a superhero flick, then there are no real bad-guys to make for interesting confrontations. On the flip side, if you treat it as a deep look into a unique character, there are too many cartoonish effects and cheesy plotlines to take it seriously. Hancock attempted to give us both sides of the coin, but ended up failing in both. While the formula may be Will Smith + July 4th = Blockbuster…it does not necessarily equate to a good film.
Submitted 7-22-08

Interesting Cameo Appearance: Michael Mann (Writer/Director/Producer of many high-strung action hits such as Ali, Heat, and Miami Vice) as a random business executive listening to Jason Bateman’s interesting sales pitch.

Memorable Quotes:
Rail Crossing Crowd #2: Your breath smells like alcohol!
Hancock: That’s cause I’ve been drinking bitch!

Hancock: Call me an asshole one more time.

Pissed Fat Guy: You know? Somebody should sue you!
Hancock: You know what? You should sue McDonalds, cuz they f*cked you up!

Hancock: Good job.

Hancock: Life here can be difficult for me. I am the only one of my kind.

Hancock: Aah the whole turn the other cheek thing huh? Just never turn this cheek. Don’t let them punk you.

Hancock: Well what you gotta do is take your foot and jam it real hard into his piss pump. And do it real good, so for the next week he can’t use it for anything other than a flap to keep the dust out of his ass crack.

Hancock: Do I have permission to touch your body?
Female Cop: Yes!
Hancock: Alright…this is not sexual. Not that you’re not an attractive woman. You’re actually a very attractive woman-
Female Cop: Get me the hell out of here!

Hancock: I gotta wonder what a bastard I have been. That nobody was there to claim me. I mean I am not the most charming guy on the world so I’ve been told… but… nobody?

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