Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Movie Review: The Dark Knight


Let me begin by saying that I'm a huge fan of Christopher Nolan and what he did with Batman Begins years ago, which redefined the Batman series. I've been excited for "The Dark Knight" since it was announced. A lot of times it can be a crap shoot as to whether the story content of a sequel will stand up to the reputation set forth by the previous film. The Dark Knight does not disappoint, Christopher Nolan's reputation remains intact, and the series is built very well on what was started, illustrating how Batman Begins was indeed just as its title states... "the beginning."

The story in The Dark Knight clearly articulates many morality issues, and how we as citizens of a society respond to them. Issues that make us all look in the mirror and re-question what we really stand for, and whether we have what it takes to stand for them even in the midst of total chaos and great despair. Some of the issues reminded me about how Americans deal with the Iraq war, that we should back out or regret getting involved. It is this struggle of how the characters deal with the issues and the choices they make that create the "dark" tone of the film which kind of left a feeling of depression in me when it was over, hence the film title "Dark Knight".

Comparing to Batman Begins... the only complaint that I had with the directing of Batman Begins was that the "camera work" was a little too close to see what was going on during fighting/action scenes. I was glad to see that Christopher Nolan pulled back a bit. He fixed this issue in The Dark Knight, giving him a perfect score from the director's chair.

It is said all over the Internet what great performances everyone gave... particularly Heath Ledger. I agree and don't want to sound redundant here. Every cast member played their role as expected and then some. Give credit to the cast, but I would also like to give credit to the director. A good director plays a key role in bringing out the best in the members of his team... like a good coach on any team.

If you liked Batman Begins, then go see The Dark Knight. It is one of those few sequel movies that bring the story to the next level. And if you've like both films, check out other movies that Christopher Nolan has directed, you won't be disappointed.

4 cars

*This film is not for children. Really adhere to the PG-13 rating. I let my kids watch Spiderman, but have not let them watch Batman Begins and for sure would not let them watch The Dark Knight. Also, if you have teens that do watch it, discuss it with them to make sure they understand the important things that are presented.


The Dark Knight

Once in a while, a film comes along that is the perfect combination of action, drama, special effects, and great acting and directing. The Dark Knight is one of those films. Director Christopher Nolan reaches a new high with this masterpiece. Jeez, I sound like James Lipton saying those things...

The Dark Knight is a film that is truly inappropriate for anyone under 13, given the films dark themes and violence. I disagree with those, however, that felt the violence was excessive or unneeded. Every piece of dialog and action seemed to be carefully planned and add to the message of the movie. To me, that message was that humans are essentially good. If Heath Ledger's Joker had a purpose, it seemed to be to try to prove that humans are inherently evil, perhaps in a bid to justify his own horrible nature.

The Joker, however, seemed to have no real intention other than to cause chaos and terror in Gotham. He took terrorism to another level, showing the same disregard for his own life and others' shown by today's homicide bombers. Unlike the homicide bombers, though, the Joker doesn't believe that he has any higher purpose--he just wants to "watch the world burn." I was a little concerned when I heard the reports of the stellar performance given by Ledger, thinking that maybe they could be attributed to the post-mortem fondness of Hollywood. That turned out not to be the case, and Ledger's interpretation of the Joker was the crowning Jewel of the film. His redition of the character makes Jack Nicholson's Joker look very much like the cartoon character it was probably meant to be.

The other actors' performances were also excellent, with the exception of some of the mannerisms used by Christian Bale while in his Batman costume (I don't want to spoil it, so if you're curious what I mean contact me). The directing and production were equally brilliant, and the fight scenes much easier to follow than in Batman Begins. This is one of the few movies that you'll ever see that comes close to flawless, and well worth paying to see in the theater. I give it 3 1/2 cars.

*Bonus: picture of my daughter as Batman:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Movie Review: Wall-E

I worked late several nights this week and I think I got used to it because it's after midnight and I can't sleep. So, it's time for a movie review (the original purpose of FrontRunner Review).

Wall-E is the latest offering from Disney and Pixar, a futuristic sci-fi adventure with a clear environmental message. The movie is set at a time when humans have been forced to leave Earth because excessive pollution caused by unbridled consumerism has made the planet uninhabitable. Wall-E has been left behind to clean up the mess, along with an army of identical robots that have long since broken down. Wall-E and his pet cockroach are finally interrupted in their monotonous lives by a visitor (Eve) who comes to Earth with a special mission. Now it's up to Wall-E and Eve to see her mission through to completion for the good of mankind.

The creators of Wall-E did a great job creating loveable characters for this movie. It's no simple task to make inatomate objects like robots expressive and even cuddly, but they pulled it off with flying colors. In my mind, Wall-E bears a resemblance to E.T., while Eve looks like an iPod crossed with an egg:

Also, the producers were able to create a very involved dialog and convey a great deal of emotion and meaning between the robots using only about five words repeated over and over, by only varying the inflection and tone (think about the way that R2D2 spoke in Star Wars).

For those of you that are movie buffs, you'll notice plot similarities with 1972 sci-fi film Silent Running (I haven't seen this movie, and this fact was pointed out to me by someone else--thanks Chris). Also, several explicit references are made to 2001: A Space Odyssey, including the use of Also Sprach Zarathustra (the theme song from that movie). Interestingly, Wall-E treats the subject of the Also Sprach Zarathustra, that of the human race overcoming itself to become superior. However, in this case humans are taking a step forward after several steps backward.

A solid story line is matched by great animation in this film and topped off with a very capable cast, including Jeff Garlin, John Ratzenberger, Sigourney Weaver (yes, she's back in space , this time as the ship's computer), and the hilarious Fred Willard. This movie is definitely intended for younger audiences, so you're tweens and teens may not be very excited about it, and it's not Pixar's best effort. However, it's enjoyable and worth watching if you have small children, at least on DVD. As a bonus, the movie was squeaky clean and not too intense for my 3 1/2 year old daughter.

In all, I give this move a solid two and a half cars:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ode to Public Pee

Okay, not actually an ode, because I'm no poet.

A couple days ago I was on Trax and noticed a puddle of some liquid hovering toward the front of the car. As we lurched forward, though, inertia kicked in and started the liquid flowing toward the back of the car.

The floor is grooved, so it ran down each groove at a different pace. It sort of reminded me of the way that the blob traveled, flowing along cracks and crevices, only faster. At each stop, the liquid took a rest, only to resume its march forward the next time we were in motion.

I should say at this point that it probably wasn't pee, but I like to think it was (especially since it didn't touch me). I watched in delight as it enveloped the shoes of the other passengers (everyone on the train seemed oblivious to it except for me).

Lucky for you, I was able to snap this picture of the liquid in question as it overtook a dude's shoe. You'll have to click on the picture and then look veeeeeeery closely:

The moral of the story is: when on public transportation, keep an eye on the floor. And on your seat. And on the people next to you. Basically, try not to touch anything.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Long Way Home

Traveling on FrontRunner / TRAX is a lot of work. Half the trip (the easy part) is spent riding on FrontRunner, while the second half involves riding on TRAX, with about 1-2 miles of walking to fill in the gaps from TRAX to work, etc.

A couple of weeks ago, a Friday, Eli and I began another journey home from work. I felt bad from the start because Eli had his long board (he gets around pretty good for a guy his size on the long board), while I had to walk. I told Eli not to wait for me, but he insisted... so I slowed him way down for the first part of the trip.

We finally make it to the TRAX station, and have to wait about 10 minutes for the next train. Gettting on the front car... it was way crowded. So crowded that many people were standing (including us). As the train started moving, I said to Eli "I didn't see very many people getting on the back car, I wonder if it is less crowded back there"... Eli turns to me and says "Should we do it? Should we run back to one of the rear cars at the next stop?", to which I replied... "Yep, Doooo it!".

At the next stop, we both jump out of the front car and race to the back. I was in front, but to my credit, I did stop a few seconds to let a little old lady get on, but she was interferring with the plan. While running to the rear car, the doors were open on the second to last car, and Eli yelled "I think we should just get on here"... I ignored that suggestion and said "I'm going all the way". Big mistake. When I hit the button on the last car, the doors would not open. I looked at Eli who said "oh crap", while at the same time, the doors that Eli suggested had just closed. We got left behind. It was completely my fault so I really felt bad... so we had to wait another 15 minutes for the next train.

During the wait, Eli calls his wife to explain to her what happened. When he got off the phone I asked "Is she mad?" to which he replied, "Yep, she's mad dude.". I said "I take full responsibility... sorry". Eli told me that his wife doesn't stay mad long and that she would be over it soon. I told Eli, that I wasn't even going to call my wife, I was just going to see if we could make up time somehow.

I guess we got a little too comfortable during that 15 minute wait. Eli took off his backpack and kept babbling on about work stuff. He is explaining stuff to me that he is working on while all I hear is "moua mua mua muaaaa", you know the sound you hear when any adult talks in a Charlie Brown cartoon... Anyway, the train finally arrives and we jump on the back car. We both get a seat... this one isn't that crowded. About halfway to the next stop, Eli realizes that he left his backpack, the bag that has a very expensive work laptop, etc.

Well, we had to go back for it, so we again got off at the next stop, to get on the next train heading in the opposite direction to our previous stop. I didn't feel so bad about my mistakes earlier, because this one evened it up. Eli was crapping his pants about whether his bag would be there when we got to it. If you ask him, he'll say he knew it was going to be there, but beleive me, he was crapping his pants.

When we got to the previous stop, we did find the backpack as seen below. Thank God it was still there. Just had to wait for the next train "once again" to get home.

When we got to the FrontRunner platform we only had a few minutes to get on the train before it left. Of course Eli still had to buy a pass (that is a different story). I had a monthly pass, but I wasn't going to take any more chances. As Eli was bumbling around on the machine to get his pass, I stood in the doorway of the train taking hit after hit as the doors opened and closed on me while a "station host" told me to get on. I said that my buddy was trying to get a pass so I'm not moving til he gets on ... I did not want to get locked out again.

We finally got on the train and headed home. I explained it to my wife, she laughed. I'm not sure how things went with Eli's wife though, I never asked.