Posts Tagged ‘nolan’

Classic Movie Review: Memento (2000)

Posted: July 3, 2013 in Drama
Tags: ,

memento

 

Leonard (Guy Pierce) is an insurance investigator whose wife have been raped and murdered.  The problem is, he has short-term memory loss, Leonard sustained a brain injury when he shot one of the rapists.  He is convinced there is another rapist, and is on the trail of that rapist. Since he can’t remember anything for more than 10 minutes, Leonard writes everything down, or tattoos clues on his body.  A waitress named Natalie (Carrie Ann Moss) says a guy named Teddy (Joey Pantoliano) is the rapist, and a drug dealer, who knows where her missing boyfriend, Jimmy (Larry Holden)  is.  Jimmy is also a drug dealer, so is he believable?  Is Natalie believable?  Who is Teddy?  He seems to be helping Leonard, but is he just covering up his guilt?  Leonard keeps reminding himself of the case of Sammy Jankis,(Stephen Tobolowski)  a man with short-term memory loss, who Leonard was investigating for insurance fraud, before his own short-term memory loss.  Who killed and raped Leonard’s wife?  Can Leonard remember enough to put the clues together and solve the mystery?

This is a fantastic movie. There are so many elements that are groundbreaking, the story is told backwards chronologically, and there is Leonard’s memory loss is hindering his ability to solve this crime.  The wonderful thing about the story is that the viewer really has to pay attention to what is going on, and the backwards chronology makes that extra challenging, but the challenge is what makes this fun.  The tattoos are just an added flourish to make the movie even more different from the usual murder mystery.  If viewers think there are plot holes in this movie wait until the very end, everything is explained satisfactorily.

The acting is outstanding. Guy Pearce is gripping from the beginning; he should be a big star, The viewer feels empathy for him instantly, but he is also wearing a wardrobe that makes him look like a low-rent Don Johnson, in Miami Vice, so the viewer naturally thinks, what’s going on here?  Carrie Ann Moss plays an extremely complex character, she seems sympathetic to Leonard, but her boyfriend is a shady character, so where do her loyalties lie?  Joey Pantoliano plays a grinning dirtbag, another enigmatic character, is he a good guy is he a bad guy, the truth is not told,, until the very end.

The story is written by Jonathan Nolan and his brother Christopher.  Chris Nolan is now wildly famous for his sperhero movies, but this was one of his earlier movies, and it is absolutely worth seeing, because each of the three major characters is under some kind of ethical or moral cloud, and the mystery remains until the last possible second. In addition to the backward sequencing, and memory loss, director Nolan films most of this movie in black and white, giving this movie a classic noir feel.  I cannot think of one wasted shot or word.  Watch this movie.

Memento:  A keeper.

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Man-of-Steel

Jor-El (Russell Crowe) a leading citizen on the planet of Krypton, and he is warning the political council in Krypton that they have depleted all the planet’s natural resources, and that their continued mining of Kryton’s core will lead to continued instability on the planet and probable implosion of the planet.  Jor-El has had a son Kal-El (Henry Cavill) through natural childbirth, a long discredited means of birth on Krypton, and he wants to get his son off the doomed planet before it implodes.

As the planet deteriorates, a power struggle ensues between himself and General Zod (Michael Shannon) Zod was bred to be a warrior, and he wants to dissolve the council and run Krypton as a quasi-emperor.  Zod is also convinced that Jor-El is hiding a codex, that is, the genetic material of the babies of Krypton, Zod is convinced that Jor-El has the codex and is hiding the codex somewhere on the planet.  Zod loses his power struggle and is sentenced to live his life in another dimension.  Kal-El is sent safely to Earth as Krypton implodes.

Kal-El’s spaceship crashes into a farm in Kansas where the baby is raised by Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) and his wife Martha. (Diane Lane) Kal-El, renamed Clark Kent by his adoptive parents, has a rough time adjusting to life on earth.  His powers are so acute, that he sees people as skeletons and hears people’s thoughts.  Only his mother’s soothing voice calms him.  Clark is bullied as a boy and as much as he wants to retaliate, his father urges restraint, telling his son that his powers are meant for far greater things.

The young Clark drifts from job to job, one day working on an oil rig, the next day working as a waiter, but his first instinct is always to do good for the people of Earth.  But still, he does not know who he is and where he came from.  A young reporter from the Daily Planet named Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is tracking the elusive and mysterious Clark Kent around the country, and even writes a story about Clark that hints at his extraterrestrial origins.  This story does not go over too well with Lois’ editor, Perry White,(Lawrence Fishburne)  who suspends her for 3 weeks.  But Clark has bigger problems to worry about, a threat so large that it threatens not only him, but the entire planet.  Can Kal El, fight his demons and save a planet whose people are at best dubious of his motives and at worst antagonistic towards him?

Simply stated, Man of Steel is an outstanding movie.  It is an outstanding movie, because it enhances the mythology around Superman.  There is an entire backstory abut Krypton, its political makeup, its social strata, the fact that they abolished natural childbirth intrigues me to no end. The power struggle between Zod and Jor-El and the long running rivalry is also interesting. Then there’s the sense of inner turmoil going on within Clark Kent, he struggles with his superpowers as a child, he is bullied but can’t fight back, that is amazing storytelling.  Finally, there is the confused public reaction to Superman. Who is he?  Where did he come from?  Is he really here to help us?  All of these storylines layered together, sometimes told with superb use of flashback, are worth the price of a ticket alone.

But on top of the fantastic story, there is wonderful acting.  Newcomer Henry Cavill gets off to a rocky start, and lets his British accent show early in the film, but then he literally finds his voice, and really finds the character, and does as superb job from that point forward.  Cavil understands the angst of the character being an outcast, having one foot in one planet and one foot in another, and plays up the loner aspect of Clark with excellent results.  Diane Lane is also excellent as Martha Kent, so gives a heartwarming and heart wrenching performance as Martha Kent. She is his emotional lifeline and she knows it.  Michael Shannon gives a really complex performance as Zod.  He’s a bad guy, but his motives are not evil, in fact they might even be credible. And that’s what makes his performance so well-rounded.  Shannon plays Zod with a Caesar like zeal, which makes him charismatic and easy to follow. Russell Crowe gives his best performance since Gladiator or A Beautiful Mind.  Jor-El is another complex character, his motives with the codex might not be completely selfless.   Amy Adams gives another strong performance, an independent woman, who is also part damsel in distress, I would have preferred more of an independent woman, than damsel in distress, but that is a minor quibble     Even Lawrence Fishburne in a relatively minor role is very good.  Only Kevin Costner can’t be saved by this movie, he is just a bad actor, wooden as the day is long.

The direction is good, Zack Snyder has a tendency to over-indulge in special effects and that hurts some scenes, but he keeps the movie going at a good pace, and gets the most out of his actors.  Kudus to Christopher Nolan, he is credited as a co-writer in this movie, but I can recognize his style throughout the movie, the attention to detail, the dark almost sinister backdrops, the overarching theme of the role of a superhero in society at large, and society’s reaction to the superhero in their midst.  These are all themes he expounded on in the Batman trilogy, and revisits here.

One last thing, I am old enough to remember the original Superman series of movies.  Only the first 2 movies of that series were any good, and by the time Richard Pryor was co-starring, the series was doomed.  It was only Christopher Reeve that made those movies worth watching.  Zod was two dimensional and boring, and much of Superman’s growing up which is a focal point of angst in Man of Steel is treated as comedy relief in the original superman movies.  Russell Crowe eats Marlon Brando’s lunch as Jor-El, and Clark’s human parents were barely mentioned in the Chris Reeve version of Superman.  So while it’s natural to be sentimental about the original Superman movies, Man of Steel is clearly a better film.

Man of Steel.  Super. Man.

It’s eight years after D.A. Harvey Dent has died.  Dent is lauded as a hero, and many criminals have been locked away as a result of the Dent Law, which gives police more expansive powers when arresting criminals.  Everything seems tranquil, Batman (Christian Bale) has retired and is viewed as a villain to most of Gotham.  Bruce Wayne has become somewhat of a recluse, dealing with physical pain and mental exhaustion.  Newer, younger cops like Detective Blake (Joseph Gordon Leavitt) and Foley (Matthew Modine) are ready to stop crime in the name of Harvey Dent, and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is being put out to pasture.  Despite the seeming tranquility, several situations are lurking just below the surface.  A maid in Wayne Manor is really a cat burgler, named Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and is trying to steal Bruce Wayne’s mother’s favorite pearls out from under his nose.  If that isn’t bad enough, Selina kidnaps a Senator. While on the trail of the missing Senator, Commissioner Gordon follows two street criminals into the sewer, and finds a city beneath the city, being run by criminal mastermind named Bane. (Tom Hardy)
 Bane is planning nothing short of a revolution in Gotham City, he says he wants to give power back to the people.  As he emerges from the sewer, Bane’s first act is to short Wayne Enterprises stock, making it essentially worthless, and shoot several stockbrokers in the process.  Bruce hears from Alfred (Michael Caine) that Bane was trained by Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson) but then excommunicated from the League of Shadows.  All of this is enough for Bruce Wayne to want to don the Batsuit again, but first he has to prevent an energy source, that Wayne Enterprises helped develop for peaceful purposes, from falling into Bane’s hands.
 First Bruce turns over power of Wayne Enterprises to Miranda (Marion Cotillard) the scientist working on the peaceful energy source, and then Batman seeks to find Bane, but he needs Catwoman’s help to find Bane.  Batman’s first encounter with Bane does not go well, and he ends up in Gotham City jail, with a wall that has only been scaled by one person, according to rumor, and that is Bane.  Does Bruce get out of prison?  Does he take on Bane again? Does Bane learn to convert the peaceful energy source into a nuclear weapon?
 Despite all the hype, this movie is truly a worthy sequel to the Dark Knight. For the first hour and a half I did not think so and was ready to pan it, and ready to come up with snappy one liners about Bane, calling him Mr. Clean in a gas mask. I was also wondering tongue firmly in cheek, whether it was a sequel to Inception with all the stars from Inception in this movie.  Cotillard, Leavitt, Hardy, I was expecting Leo Dicaprio to hop out of the woodwork any time.  But then, a strange thing happened in the last hour of the movie. The story came together, Bane became more than a fat arch villain, he began to exploit the verbiage of the 99 percent for his own craven goals, and that turned this movie for me.  Then there was a huge plot twist toward the end of the movie which turned the movie into an absolute treat to watch. There is also and Inception type twist near the end, that I will not divulge that is also fun to speculate about.  That’s what makes Nolan’s films so much fun, there’s always more to them then meets the eye.  It was also fun to see Neeson again as Ra’s Al Ghul as well as Cillian Murphy as Sandman in this sequel. As good as this movie was, it requires the viewer to have a working knowledge of the first two movies, as such this is a sequel that doesn’t work as a movie on its own, usually that matters, not this time.
The acting as expected was top notch.  Bale owns Batman, he plays it better than anyone I’ve seen, no one should play this role for a long time unless it’s Bale, he’s perfected the duality of Batman/Bruce Wayne. Tom Hardy won me over as Bane, at first, I thought he was just a bellowing blowhard, but the details of his character and the way Hardy played it was superb.  Anne Hathaway also won me over, I really didn’t that she could pull off a complex, sophisticated performance, but she did, although I still think that she’s too young for the role.  My favorite performance belongs to Cotillard who has to give a complex and multilayered performance, and boy does she deliver.  Cotillard is a fantastic actress, and it’s getting to the point where I’d pay to hear her read the phone book.  Joseph Gordon Leavitt is one of the best young actors in the moies today, and he does not disappoint here. This is by far the best movie of the year.  See it.
 My first viewing of this movie came on July 21st, in  the wake of the senseless killing of 12 people in Colorado, who wanted nothing more than to escape the problems of society by watching a movie.  Little did they know they’d soon confront a grave problem facing our society, a madman with a gun.  I send my deepest condolences to the families who lost members of their family in the shooting spree.  While it was surreal seeing a movie with police standing guard outside the theater, movies are a way of life for me, and I will never give that up, no matter the circumstance.  I subsequently saw the movie two weeks later, and enjoyed it just as much, still saddened by the tragedy that happened two weeks before in my favorite venue, a movie theater.
The Dark Knight Rises.  Rise out of your chair, go to a theater and see it for yourself.