Top 10 Actors/Actresses I’d See in Just about Anything

When I saw Fernando’s posts on his top actors and actresses he’d see in just about anything over at his site Committed to Celluloid, I decided I would write a post of my own, paying homage to my favorite actors/actresses that I’d be willing to view almost anything they’re in. *Side note: Later, I learned that Fernando stole the idea from Abbi over at Where the Wild Things Are. So please check her post on her top actresses as well.

Unlike Fernando, I didn’t think I could find ten actors and ten actresses. So I narrowed my list down to five actors and five actresses. And then I realized I had more actors than actresses on this list. So technically with the extra, there are eleven (and probably more, if I thought long enough about it).

*Updated note – I talked with Fernando, and we decided to change this topic idea into a little blogathon to be passed around. So to show the string, first, we started with . . .

Abbi choosing her favorites over at Where the Wild Things Are

Fernando was inspired by Abbi, writing his posts over at Committed to Celluloid

I was inspired by Fernando to write this post

And now I’m going to pass the baton over to Jaina at Time Well Spent.

The Extra: Chris Evans

Why does he almost make the list? In a word, Cellular (2004). The concept would be considered odd today, considering the ease we have with the inception of smart phones in our culture. But only ten years ago, we lacked the technological advances and had to live with just cell phones that lacked a certain smartness. Evans sells the role, plays the hero, and gives what I would consider a remarkable performance. The behind-the-scenes features for the DVD inform viewers that no one else even tried to be as convincing as Evans was for his role in Cellular. Of course, an easy role to thank Evans for playing is Captain America (2011) too. But I (along with my hubby) think Evans was the only good part of the short-lived Fantastic Four (2007) franchise.

Favorite role: Ryan in Cellular

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: I saw The Losers (2010), but I didn’t enjoy it . . . at all.

Favorite movie quote of his: “Oh, this is much better. Costume’s a bit much . . . so tight. But the confidence, I can feel the righteousness surging. Hey, you wanna have a rousing discussion about truth, honor, patriotism? God bless America . . . ” (As Loki in Thor 2 [2013]).

10) Emily Blunt

Why does she make the list? Until Blunt showed up in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), she was still relatively unknown. But I remember her character in that movie vividly, yet I still didn’t imagine she’d be making the splash she is today. From her little role in Dan in Real Life (2007) to her voice work in Gnomeo and Juliet (2011) to her newfound inner action star in Looper (2012) and Edge of Tomorrow (2014), I think that Blunt has a huge career ahead of her for the taking. Even though Blunt hasn’t necessarily been a part of major Academy-award winning films yet, I think she’s an actress to key an eye on. I’ve enjoyed watching her versatility getting noticed and tapped into for multiple roles, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll be up to next.

Favorite role: Emily in The Devil Wears Prada, and by extension, her small role in 2011’s The Muppets

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: Gulliver’s Travels (2010), because I can’t think of any other movie she’s in that I would have no interest in.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “I’m on this new diet. Well, I don’t eat anything and when I feel like I’m about to faint I eat a cube of cheese. I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight” (Emily in The Devil Wears Prada).

9) Stanley Tucci

Why does he make the list? Oddly enough, one of the roles I think introduced me to the accomplished actor was his role as a fashion editor who worked with Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. Soon after I saw that movie, I noticed that Tucci appeared in a number of films. While I’ve made only a dent in viewing his massive filmography, I wasn’t able to think of a single performance of his that I haven’t enjoyed, even if I didn’t necessarily care for the movie.

Favorite role: Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games (2012), Dill in Easy A (2010), Paul Child in Julie and Julia (2009)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: Muppets Most Wanted (2014), because it appeared to be a lame attempt at a sequel for the awesome Jason Segel-starring The Muppets in 2011.

Favorite movie quote of his: “I’m bald and no one in particular” (Jerry Siegel in Maid in Manhattan [2002]).

8) Shailene Woodley

Why does she make the list? Plain and simple, Woodley made this list because I loved her in The Descendants (2011). In addition, she has only added to her film credit with roles in The Spectacular Now (2013) and The Fault in Our Stars (2014) that have convinced viewers and critics that she’s not the idiot teenager from The Secret Life of the American Teenager (TV role, 2008) anymore.

Favorite role: Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: I have liked all her movies, so the only true title I could add is The Secret Life of the American Teenager, even though it’s a TV show.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful” (Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars)

7) Tom Hanks

Why does he make the list? Where to start with a classy guy like Tom Hanks? I know many millennials who don’t care for the guy, but I have to credit Hanks for last year’s impressive performance in Captain Phillips (2013). He’s still got it. It being that chill-down-your-spine, award-winning smile, likable, every-day-kinda-guy personality who still has that rare ability to win you over even after a string of unimportant roles, reminding you he’s the one and only actor who won two Best Actor Oscars back-to-back.

Favorite role: Josh in Big (1988) and Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail (1998)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011), for the petty reason of hating the title. Truly, I’d actually view it if I had to, and I might even enjoy it.

Favorite movie quote of his: “I couldn’t even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over nothing. And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass . . . and I’ve lost her all over again. I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly. But I’m so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?” (Chuck Noland in Cast Away [2000]).

6) Jennifer Lawrence

Why does she make the list? If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t want Lawrence on this list. She’s big right now, there’s a lot of hype surrounding her as she’s starring in two major franchises. However, I couldn’t not add her to this list, because out of all the actresses that are “big” right now, Lawrence is one of those whom I do look out for. She has the occasional role that I have no interest in seeing, but often, she seems to really stand out, even in just a small role, in whatever movie she finds herself in.

Favorite role: Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (2012)

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: I thought House at the End of the Street (2012) looked positively awful.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “I was a big slut, but I’m not any more. There’s always going to be a part of me that’s sloppy and dirty, but I like that. With all the other parts of myself. Can you say the same about yourself?” (Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook).

5) Mark Ruffalo

Why does he make the list? The year 2004 was when I discovered Mark Ruffalo in both 13 Going on 30 and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s a little hard to believe that was ten years ago, but it was. I’m not sure what it is exactly about Mark Ruffalo that I love, but perhaps it’s that he established himself as a nice, everyday kind of guy in my mind early on. Since his first recognizable movies, he’s gone on to play multiple other roles. But I’ve always thought Ruffalo was highly underrated.

Favorite role: David Toschi in Zodiac (2008) and Chuck Aule in Shutter Island (2010)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: I saw Ruffalo in The Brothers Bloom (2008), but I couldn’t get behind the movie. I would never re-watch it.

Favorite movie quote of his: “I was having a nervous breakdown and then I heard your song. I want to make records with you. Come on. Let’s get out of here . . . ” (Dan Mulligan in Begin Again [2014]).

4) Emma Stone

Why does she make the list? Maybe it’s because Emma Stone is so likable in real life. Or maybe it’s because she appears to make only intelligent choices when it comes to the films she’s a part of. Or, maybe she’s one of the best actresses on the rise. Stone has finally found herself in that enviable position to choose which roles she wants, and which movies to lend her skills to.

Favorite role: Natalie in The House Bunny (2008) and Skeeter Phelan in The Help (2011)

The one she couldn’t convince me to see: I would agree to see only the scene in which Stone appears in Movie 43 (2013), and then be done with it. Gangster Squad (2013) didn’t appeal to me.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “Whatever happened to chivalry? Does it only exist in 80’s movies? I want John Cusack holding a boombox outside my window. I wanna ride off on a lawnmower with Patrick Dempsey. I want Jake from Sixteen Candles waiting outside the church for me. I want Judd Nelson thrusting his fist into the air because he knows he got me. Just once I want my life to be like an 80’s movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason. But no, no, John Hughes did not direct my life” (Olive Penderghast in Easy A).

3) Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Why does he make the list? Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one-of-a-kind. He’s difficult to dislike. He’s funny, and he has played so many different type of characters. He’s shown up in thrillers, romantic comedies, big-budget action movies, indie projects, and even starred in his directorial debut. Gordon-Levitt prides himself on his company Hit Record, and he values his contacts both inside and outside of Hollywood, noting that he desires to work with name and no-name professionals. He’s cool, he’s geeky, he’s talented. He’s one of my favorites, and he happens to star in my favorite movie.

Favorite role: Tom in (500) Days of Summer (2009)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: Don Jon (2013), because I have no interest in seeing a movie about a guy struggling with a porn addiction.

Favorite movie quote of his: “It’s these cards, and the movies and the pop songs, they’re to blame for all the lies and the heartache, everything. We’re responsible. I’m responsible. I think we do a bad thing here. People should be able to say how they feel, how they really feel, not ya know, some words that some stranger put in their mouth. Words like love, that don’t mean anything” (Tom in (500) Days of Summer).

2) Meryl Streep

Why does she make the list? I think the better question is, How could Meryl not make the list? She’s famous for the most Academy Award nominations in history. Even Saturday Night Live did a hilarious segment on how Meryl Streep could do literally anything well. Streep’s reputation precedes her, and her humility in accepting both rewards praise seems to match the insanely talented actress.

Favorite role: Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: I think she might play her character a little too well in August: Osage County (2013), and I don’t have the heart to see it.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “Oh, don’t be ridiculous. Andrea. Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us” (Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada).

1) Benedict Cumberbatch

Why does he make the list? I had never heard of the name “Benedict Cumberbatch” until I got swept away with the brilliant BBC show Sherlock (2010), and ever since then, I’ve tried to watch anything and everything that has his name attached to it.

Favorite role: Sherlock Holmes in SherlockFord in 12 Years a Slave (2013), and likely to soon be added, Alan Turing in The Imitation Game (2014)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: As of now, I would see just about anything Benedict Cumberbatch is a part of. But I wouldn’t re-watch The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) just because of how much that movie destroyed the character Smaug.

Favorite movie quote of his: “You can’t go far in this world by relying on people. People are loyal until it seems opportune not to be” (Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate [2013]).

OK, it’s your turn. If you had a top (or ten) actor or actress that you’d see in just about anything, who would it be? What is your favorite role of theirs? Please join the discussion below, because I’d love to know your thoughts.

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AEOS Review: Lucy (2014)

Lucy. When a movie’s title is named after its titular character, I expect one of two things: either, a) the movie is an in-depth film about that character, and as viewers, we learn all about that character; or b) no one had any better ideas for what to name the movie, so they took the easy route and named it after the main character.

In the case of Lucy, I would go with option b. The movie never let me know what kind of person Lucy was or is. We find out only what becomes of her within the first fifteen minutes. Lucy’s personality and actions were all over the place, which fit in well enough with the plot. I wasn’t expecting a Jerry MaGuire or a Forrest Gump, both films rightly named after its main character; I found Lucy to remind me more of Hanna, but with less explanation or background.

The only information we know about Lucy prior to her predicament is that she dated someone who seemed to be a weird guy who got involved with the wrong guys, and he was lame enough to force his girlfriend of one week into a drug deal that he knew would kill him (and it did, even with Lucy’s involvement). Perhaps this is information enough to let us know that Lucy isn’t the brightest girl.

Why is Lucy important? Well, she’s not. Ultimately, she’s a drug mule that unintentionally had the drug CPH4 leaked into her system when one of her captors kicked her in the stomach. The screenplay was all over the place. We get some great scenes of Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) teaching his class about his theories and research on the human brain; however, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) spirals out of control (or maybe into control) as she gains more control of her brain capacity. Of course this information is relevant, and it touches only the surface of what has actually become of Lucy.

I’m not sure whether Lucy is a revenge movie or a psychological thriller, or maybe just a movie named Lucy for the heck of it. The plot is simple and unravels quickly: twenty-five-year-old Lucy is kidnapped by a Japanese drug lord who uses Lucy and three other unlucky souls as mules to transfer the drug CPH4 into four different countries. Lucy’s situation differs from the other three mules in that the bagged drug has actually leaked into her system when she struggles against one of her captors, leading him to abuse and kick her, loosening the bag and leaking the powerful drug into her system. Suddenly, Lucy not only has her brain capacity freed, but she also quickly discovers that her brain capacity is extending at a fast rate, unlocking abilities no human being has ever been capable of. These abilities include controlling people with her mind, teleporting, and ultimately outsmarting and killing anyone in her way. Her captors and enemies are pawns, dying off one by one as Lucy seeks out Professor Norman to find a solution when she realizes the Professor’s theories on the human brain are true, and her rapidly growing brain capacity will kill her.

I didn’t find Lucy‘s plot to be significant or interesting enough to actually indulge in the full runtime of the film. I actually found myself bored most of the movie, wondering how the plot unraveled into an ending where Lucy’s brain capacity has reached 100%. This obviously means that with the help of Professor Norman and his colleagues, Lucy will die, and must choose to pass on her newfound information. To accomplish this, when she reaches 100%, she will dissolve into a black-ish liquid, seep into a computer, and turn into a flash drive full of information to pass on to the professor.

Scarlett Johansson seems to make more than a capable action star, having added her third Black Widow performance in Captain America 2 to her resume of great roles, but for me, she didn’t really work as an interesting enough character in Lucy, and I would probably blame more of it on the screenplay than Johansson’s efforts. Amr Waked plays a likeable cop who helps Lucy get to where she needs to be, but as for why Lucy selects his character to help her is never explained. Waked filled the role of a character that needed to serve the plot, much like the drug lord Mr. Jang (Min-Sik Choi), who played what I would consider an unmemorable role, bowing to the film’s premise of playing the stereotypical bad guy who dies in the end.

Most people compare Lucy to Limitless, which might be a better title for a movie with an uninteresting lead character but a thought-provoking plot. I thought Limitless was a better, more interesting movie. Neither movie is perfect, and I think like the plot, writer-director Luc Besson was scraping the surface when penning a screenplay about accessing a high percentage of one’s brain. There’s more to tap into. Abandoning the story to end with a pile of drugged-up girl turned black goo turned computer turned EVERYWHERE, with Morgan Freeman standing around, blindly understanding what no one else seems to be getting, is a poor ending for an interesting idea.

I didn’t care for Lucy, and I give it

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What are your thoughts on Lucy? Am I missing what made Lucy a 61% film on Rotten Tomatoes? Please join the discussion below, because I’d love to know your thoughts!

Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2012

Categorizing my favorite moves in 2012 was so much more difficult for me than it was in 2011. I had obvious, definite picks to close out 2011, and I have found myself nitpicking over which movies ought to make my top 1o favorites list this year. If you remember from last year, I picked up a movie for the tenth spot that performed horribly for critics and audiences alike, but I stuck to it, just as easily as it was for me to say that The Artist and 50/50 were the obvious stand-out movies of 2011 for me.

I haven’t finished seeing all the movies I want to see yet, including Flight and Beasts of the Southern Wild, which I can imagine will most likely alter this list. My assurance comes from being a big fan of Robert Zemeckis films, and I keep hearing great things for Beasts. So there’s a good chance a couple of these movies may be bumped off to make room! Other movies I think could possibly make it onto this list are Amour and Life of Pi, but my hopes aren’t as high for these as they are for the former two films I mentioned.

And a disclaimer before the list: I really enjoyed both The Impossible and Zero Dark Thirty, but they’re both the kind of movie that won’t get repeated viewings from me because of the subject matter. While both feats of their own, I really don’t care to watch either again with how rough and gritty it was. Another honorable mention that didn’t make my list was Lincoln. I enjoyed it immensely, but it’s running time had me looking at my watch a few times. The performances were incredible under Steven Spielberg’s direction, and I’m rooting for John Williams’s score to win the Oscar.

As of now, here are my top ten favorite films of 2012!

10) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

As of June last year, Seeking a Friend was my favorite film I had seen so far. It was a very different film and it struck a chord with me that no other end-of-the-world flick ever had. Steve Carell shined in his performance, and Lorene Scafaria’s directorial debut was promising. More than anything, I appreciated the music and tone of this film. Scafaria stuck to her ending and I’m happy to add this movie to my top ten list of 2012.

9) Celeste and Jesse Forever

Another film I haven’t seen on anyone else’s favorites or top lists is Celeste and Jesse Forever, which made its first appearance at Sundance. Rashinda Jones both writes and stars in this film that offers an entirely different take on relationships. It’s complicated, but it’s a well-written, thoughtful screenplay that poses questions that are difficult to answer. Any Samberg shows more range than one would expect. I really enjoyed this movie and hope that it gets more exposed!

8) The Hobbit

After reading The Hobbit in January of last year, I grew more excited for the first film of three to be released in December. While there were disappointments, such as extended scenes and added parts that I believe took away from the film, I still really enjoyed it. Where The Hobbit didn’t lack was in the acting. It was great getting to see Sherlock‘s Martin Freeman star as Bilbo, and one of the strongest and best scenes of the film was the riddle scene with Bilbo and Andy Serkis’s Gollum.

7) Skyfall

For not being a huge James Bond fan, I really enjoyed Skyfall. I was hoping for something great after enjoying Casino Royale, and Skyfall does not disappoint at all. Daniel Craig does some of his best work here, and Javier Bardem makes for a great villain. The pacing and script are great and it gives a very satisfying end to the film.

6) Django Unchained

I wasn’t sure whether I’d love or hate Django going in, but it ended up being the former. For clocking in close to three hours, Django didn’t feel nearly as long as films like Lincoln or Zero Dark Thirty, for me. It’s chocked full of Quentin Tarantino humor, and both Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio offer great supporting performances.

5) The Avengers

Earlier in 2012, I had seen The Avengers four times in theaters. If you had asked me in 2011 what movie I was planning to see the most in 2012, my answer would certainly not be The Avengers. But I’m completely won over, having seen Captain AmericaThor, and both Iron Man films multiple times before seeing The Avengers. It’s a solid film that delivers on multiple fronts, not only entertaining, but also works as an excellent inclusion of multiple characters to make one grand superhero film fit together.

4) Argo

Early in 2012 I had caught wind of a little movie called Argo to be directed by Ben Affleck. It was one of my most anticipated films of the year, and I consider it one of the best films to come out in 2012. It’s unfortunate that the Academy did not nomimate Affleck for Best Director as he brought to film one of the most interesting and thrilling political stories. I’m rooting for Argo to perform well at the awards!

3) The Dark Knight Rises

I wasn’t expecting to place DKR so high on my list, but in conjuction with everything I’ve seen in 2012, I can’t not put it so high. Even with its many critiques by fanboys and critics alike, Christopher Nolan’s epic end to his Batman trilogy is so good that people really have to fight a bit to be critical about it. While Batman Begins is still probably my favorite of the trilogy, it’s a great problem to have to be able to pick the “worst” of the three when all were solid films. Nolan set a foundation for character films to follow by placing the bar high enough for critics to like and modest enough for audiences to really enjoy.

2) The Perks of Being a Wallflower

When I first saw the trailer for Perks, I was convinced that it would be one of my favorite movies of the year. And while I’m usually wrong and set my expectations too high going in, Stephen Chbosky’s book and now film (which he also directed and wrote the screenplay for) won me over. It’s a coming of age story, but it’s written and acted out so beautifully, that I had a difficult time pinpointing what exactly it was about Perks that made it so likeable for me. The actors actually looked more of the ages they were playing rather than mid- to late-twenties adults playing high schoolers, as they do in most teen-based movies.

1) Silver Linings Playbook

And my top favorite film of the year is Silver Linings Playbook. It’s my favorite film of 2012 because it has the two qualities that attract me most to any film: strong writing and interesting characters. Based off the novel by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings tells the story of a man who is blissfully unaware he has issues. Bradley Cooper gives a stunning and turning performance which will hopefully afford him better roles in the future. Again, Jennifer Lawrence gets nominated for an Oscar, and rightfully so. It’s an interesting and different film, directed by David O. Russell, who’s known to like telling stories of dysfunctional families, his latest film being The Fighter. Even De Niro gives an unforgettable and entertaining performance in this movie. Moving, endearing, and performance strong, Silver Linings Playbook was my favorite movie of the year.

The Comic Book Movie Debate: the Serious, and the Not So Serious

I credit Christopher Nolan for sparking the ever-growing debate circling comic book films: colorful, or dark? campy, or serious? true to form, or realistically-based?

It must have been the release of Batman Begins in 2005, when the world was introduced to a comic book character–Bruce Wayne/Batman–and it wasn’t a pretty look. It was dark. It was a crime film. It was a serious take on a fictional character that had previously been rooted in a show that used “Bam!” and “Pow!” as the sound effects for Batman’s left and right swings.

Few, if any, could not at least admire the beauty and purposefulness of Nolan’s Batman films. Nolan is a student of Kubrick, using intent and style to craft his films. But let’s get down to the debate.

When Avengers was released this past May, it was a smash. Creative and geeky writer-director Joss Whedon was finally put forward to make something mainstream. The Avengers was a huge success at the box office. But the debate isn’t about whether Avengers was financially and critically successful or not. The question is, which comic book films are better–the Nolan approach (as I like to think of it) which uses a more realistic take, bringing a critical eye to a story that is written with far more intent than desire to entertain; or the truer-to-form, source-material based comic book films that honor the comics more so in their character traits and settings, such as Thor and Captain America?

I know people on both sides of the debate. But maybe it’s people’s perspectives, rather than opinions, that ought to be altered today. On one end, as a person who appreciates a good film, you lower the importance of “source material” (which happens to be comic books in this case) because you prioritize the art of the film. It ought to be stylized. It should have all the marks of a good film, from following a good storyline, to reaching beyond mere entertainment. It should influence and inspire while bringing more to the table than just explosions and snarky one-liners. This kind of movie should treat the audience like more than just a bunch of superhero-wannabees; it should reach out to an intelligent audience, one that is capable of drawing its own conclusions. More critics respond to this more “realistic” approach.

From the other side, you have the readers, the comic book geeks, the writers, the superhero nerds (have I stereotyped people in this post enough yet?) who expect these films to live up to the comics they love. The actors should reflect the characters they’re playing. The mood shouldn’t be so stiff and serious as to detract from the true tone of the comic. They should include that lightness and fluff, because that’s how the comics were written! Yes, a good villain is necessary, and plot points should closely reflect that of the comics. The film should reach out to a more universal audience, because that’s what the stories of most comic books are all about–everyone either needs a hero or wants to be a hero at some point, right? It should entertain, because after all, you’re attending a comic book film, not a war film or something “based off a true story.” Comic books serve as a form of escape; shouldn’t you be allowed to turn your mind off for a couple hours, sit back, and relax?

In every attempt to not sound politically correct, I personally try to go by a single rule: the film ought to fit the format. Unfortunately, that rule can be applied multiple ways to comic book films, as we have seen various takes, from the more family-friendly popcorn flick, The Avengers, to Nolan’s darker shades, The Dark Knight Trilogy.

When it comes down to it, I can’t call one style or one method, better or worse than another. They’re all different visions for these fictional characters. While some comic book films exceed and others fall flat, while some are entertaining as hell and others force me to sit and think, I have enjoyed and appreciated films that fly on both sides of the fence.

Perhaps it has been the explosion of superhero films taking over summer theater seasons these past 2-3 years (X-MenGreen LanternGreen HornetThorCaptain America, Iron ManBatman to name a few) that have caused people to question whether comic book movies ought to take a more serious approach, or be what the comic books always intended the characters and stories to be.

Or, one has to ask, did the comic books ever propose a specific tone to be applied? I mean, after all, serious events do take place in comics. Serious crimes committed, serious truths implied, serious moral questions asked. Is it all within the way a person (read: reader or viewer, not director or writer)  approaches said comic book or film? Do we need to go back to the original comic book writers and ask them what their intent was when writing? Most likely there were multiple purposes: both to entertain, and to influence.

Both light-hearted and more serious comic book films do both of those actions, do they not? The Avengers offered food for thought–what about working together as a team? how much do people need to be stripped down before they can rally together? should your special abilities allow you to have a big ego? what about self-sacrifice, giving of yourself?

And doesn’t The Dark Knight Rises offer up a bit of entertainment as well? “Oh, so that‘s how that feels.” Catwoman screaming. “And yes, Mr. Wayne, it comes in black.”

At the end of the day, a good film is a good film. But isn’t determining what a “good film” is mostly subjective? Maybe I should just stop asking questions, grab a bowl of popcorn, and watch a movie that isn’t about a superhero. 🙂

It’s your turn now. What say you? Should comic book films be serious, or not so serious? Does it even matter? What makes a comic book film good, and what makes it not so good?

AEOS Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Not Avengers. Not The Hobbit. Not the first of The Hunger Games or the last of Twilight produced the most anticipated hype for movies in 2012. I still believe that The Dark Knight Rises was the most anticipated film of the year. You can even add in a Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino flick near Oscar movie season, and I still hold firm in casting Nolan’s ending Batman in that top spot.

And with so much hoopla surrounding a film, only the inevitable seems probable, right? In other words, it’s not really possible for a movie to fulfill the impossible expectations that we, as film viewers, critics, audience, or even your average, everyday film-goers, have placed upon the film and shoulders of one Christopher Nolan, right?

Code language aside, The Dark Knight Rises was faced with an uphill battle the moment The Dark Knight hit theaters back in 2008. With a Batman movie receiving that kind of critical acclaim and love from critics and audiences together, how could the now much-recognized director deliver on an even higher and better level? He still has all the same people in his pockets–his brother, Jonathan, as co-writer; his cast with Christian Bale and Michael Caine leading; his composer, Hans Zimmer; his executive producer, Michael Uslan–the list goes on of course. But can the same team of people create an even better film?

With the unexpected death of Heath Ledger, perhaps there were minor (or major) script changes following The Dark Knight. Regardless, following TDK‘s massive success came the decision to finish the series with a final film, thus creating another trilogy film set–and according to some (and me in that group)–the best film trilogy made yet. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This Is Not a Summary

I met up with my film buddy, Fredo, from FilmYarn yesterday to record a podcast on the film. When he posts it, I’ll be sure to include a link here. Before recording, one idea we talked about was how oftentimes many film reviews are just pretty summaries of the film. Am I guilty of doing that? Oh yes. Multiple times, in fact. But in order to offer something I hope will be a little fresher, I’m working extra hard with this “review” in order to make it not just a film review reiterating plot points, but something a little different, and hopefully something that will boost some outside-of-the-box thoughts and discussion from you guys.

My Initial Reaction(s)

I forced myself to not write this review until I had seen the film at least twice. Often when I see a film a second time, I have a very different reaction. I’m happy to say that this was the case, even though I didn’t even allow 24 hours between my two viewings.

After I saw TDKR for the first time, I loved it. Thought it was great. But I couldn’t dispose of the nagging feeling in my head that TDK was better, superior, and overall the better film of the two. And that was frustrating, because this was the END! Never again will I get to see a new Nolan Batman film and compare. Regardless, I went back the following day and caught an afternoon viewing with a friend who had yet to see it. The result this time?

Still, I loved it. But my complaints had narrowed considerably. I liked it probably ten times better than the first viewing. Partly, because I caught quite a few more things the second time around, and was able to better relax while watching. Any movie that has a decent amount of depth and plot usually requires me to view it twice minimum in order to get out as much as possible about a film.

Comparison to Its Older Cousin, Spiderman 2

Although this may seem like an odd comparison, I felt like I kept seeing parts of Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 2 while watching. Spiderman 2, was, in fact my favorite of Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy, as well as the best-reviewed of the three. That point aside, consider the plot of Spiderman 2. In the opening scene, Peter Parker loses his job. Mary-Jane is with another guy. Peter gives up being Spiderman for a short time. The guy is picked apart and stripped down. It isn’t until he hits his lowest point that he regains speed, reclaims his title as Spiderman, fights the bad guys, and reunites with the girl.

In TDKR, in an effort to not spoil or give anything away (in this section), I’ll hold off on revealing too much. Essentially, however, the same idea takes place; any person who has viewed the trailer can piece that together. The idea is in the title–the action on Batman’s part, “rises”–implies that he must be low in order to rise. This idea moves me into the next thought I had . . . .

Metaphorical vs. Heavy-Handed

Fredo and I argued about whether TDKR treated its theme as a metaphor in a literal sense, or was it really just Christopher Nolan being heavy-handed in over-exaggerating the theme? I, for one, vote on the side of metaphorical. Picking up where I left off, Batman is in a low place, and therefore must rise. Several parts of the film adopted the idea of being low in order to rise. Various scenes were filmed underground. Bruce Wayne/Batman started off the film in a low place–weak mentally, physically, and emotionally. Even the time of day/weather played a role in literally rising.

Fredo saw this use of emphasizing the theme of rising as more like banging the audience over the head with a hammer constantly. It wasn’t just enough to have Batman rise to the occasion, to rise to the problems of Gotham and put his best foot forward; Nolan had to emphasize the idea of rising in multiple outlets and formats throughout the film. While I very much appreciated the purposefulness of it all, others, like Fredo, did not.

For those of you who saw the film, would you consider the film more metaphorical, or handled far too heavy? For those of you who have not seen it, please take this idea in mind and let me know what you think when you do see it!

It’s Such a Nolan Film

Anyone who has seen multiple Nolan films will agree that TDKR follows the same formula of his other films. Every scene, every piece of dialogue, every action, every tangible and intangible element has a purpose and point for being in its place at its time in the film. Everything is planned out. His films are literally puzzles, and each scene acts as a piece that must be placed at a specific time and place in the correct space.

The element of time, while is important for the film, doesn’t bear the necessity it does in his other films. In Memento, the time functioned in a more nonlinear structure. In Inception, time could be extended in various levels of dream stages, thus elongating itself in order for certain actions to take place. Nolan’s Batman films don’t quite restructure time like his others; however, time plays an essential role in certain actions needing to take place.

The film contained quite a few flashbacks in order to successfully tell the story. Nolan loves him some flashbacks. He makes great use of the device in The PrestigeInception, and Memento. The flashbacks tell a great story that reveals pertinent information in the film. 

Ensemble Cast from Heaven

In his review of the film, Richard Roeper called watching this cast work as “movie heaven.” Even with TDKR‘s flaws, the cast really pulled out all the stops. There wasn’t a weak force on screen. Anne Hathaway was a stand-out just for not screwing up the role. Viewers went into the film with the lowest expectations for her, and she turned around and surprised many of us, including me.

Complaints have been made regarding Tom Hardy’s Bane. I talk more about his motivations in the Closing Thoughts/Queries section, but speaking just on his performance, I’d have to say he was nothing short of excellent. Talking with that device over his face had to be pretty difficult to deal with. He was menacing and expressed himself through his eyes, and while he might not have “stolen” scenes, he certainly took center stage when he was on screen.

The scenes shared between Christian Bale and Michael Caine were some of the strongest. My one big frustration (SPOILER) was Alfred going MIA the entire second half of the film.

Full Circle . . . for the Fans

SPOILERS AHEAD! 

And now I can’t hold back from spoiling parts, because in order to appreciate the idea that TDKR fulfilled Nolan’s Batman in such a satisfying way, one has to point out those lovely gifts Nolan wrote into the film. Getting to see Liam Neeson in a few short scenes as Ra’s al Ghul was such a treat. To learn of his connection in TDKR with Miranda Tate as his daughter, his heir who desires to finish his legacy, really makes it feel like we’re watching a finished, fulfilled version of Batman Begins.

Cillian Murphy returning for a couple short scenes as a crazy version of himself (was he really being Scarecrow?) felt like Nolan just saying to the fans, “Here ya go, fans. Enjoy.” Even when the prisoners were released to run about and eventually engage in battle, I was again reminded of Batman Begins. I felt like TDKR had quite a few parts that mirrored Batman Begins.

Closing Thoughts/Queries

SPOILERS AHEAD!

  • What did you think of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robin? Do you think the idea of leaving the Batman legacy to Robin was a smart choice? I, for one, enjoyed the reveal at the end, even though there were little hints dropped throughout the film if you hadn’t already caught on that JGL fit the Robin profile exactly.
  • Did the ending feel like Inception to anyone else aside from me? Two different people afterwards asked me if that end scene was a dream. I’m not sure whether to laugh or consider the possibility! But really, I don’t believe it was a dream.
  • Can someone please fill me in on what exactly Bane’s intention was? He kills, kills, kills. He constructs these nearly flawless plans to destroy Gotham and its inhabitants. You can’t tell me he did this all for the love of a woman. While the fake-out at the end revealing Miranda Tate as the villain was a little surprising, it really makes Bane’s motivations fall apart at the seams.
  • Did anyone else wish that the Joker story would have been closed? Every villain in all three films–except the Joker–was brought up in some way. Ra’s al Ghul, Scarecrow, Two-Face/Harvey Dent, and of course the two in the film, Catwoman and Bane, all had a place.
  • So many films end with the hero sacrificing himself by destroying something bad in order to save a place. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo sacrificed himself to destroy the Ring to save Middle-Earth. In The Avengers, Iron Man sacrificed himself to destroy a missile to save New York City. In Captain America, the captain sacrificed himself. Even Jack Bauer in 24 was about to fly a plane down in order to save the world, or something like that. The Dark Knight Rises follows suite: Batman sacrifices himself to destroy a time bomb to save Gotham. Yet all the heroes live in the end. Would it have been a better ending for Batman to die?
  • We have to compare (of course), so did you dig The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises more? Was either one a better film than the other? While in some aspects I consider The Dark Knight the better film, I couldn’t imagine Rises being any better than it was. It completed a trilogy. It brought the series full circle. It even had hints of humor that the previous two films lacked. It pulled out all the stops, was epic in almost every proportion possible.

I’ll really miss this series. I believe it’s the best film trilogy made yet. Although the goodbye is bittersweet, I can’t help but wonder, what is Christopher Nolan going to do next?

2012: A Peak for Film Series?

The year 2012 holds possibly some of the greatest film conclusions and beginnings of series (and then a few more . . . ) that have not only your typical fanboy jumping with excitement, but your average theater attender as well. Now, I will not be including Scary Movie 5 or Men in Black 3 (sorry Anna Faris and Will Smith) in this post, but that doesn’t mean I’m heartless. If anything, I shouldn’t be including the Twilight movie, but I think it’s too anticipated for me to leave it out.

Let’s start with the epic conclusions:

1) The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

Perhaps the most anticipated film of 2012, Christopher Nolan plans to wrap up his Batman trilogy in July of next summer. Already photos, videos, a teaser trailer, and various rumors have leaked from all the proper channels, just fueling the fire of what Nolan fans expect to be better than The Dark Knight, a film considered one of the most remarkable and best of this generation. He has the same crew and a few new faces. The big question is . . . will The Dark Knight Rises live up to the impossible expectations of viewers, or will it *just* miss the mark and be considered the film that couldn’t? Being a Nolan fan myself, I have high hopes, but I’m afraid all this pre-excitement feels dazzling for now, but will continue to build until there is no momentum left. Let’s hope the pressure doesn’t get to him and he delivers an even more epic film than the previous Dark Knight.

2) The Hobbit

If I were to get technical, The Hobbit would actually be a pre-sequel, opening a slot for it in the “beginning series,” but since Peter Jackson has already given everyone three fantastic Lord of the Rings films, The Hobbit actually places fourth in that line, making it the last. Tearing out a page from the X-Men series playbook, and following suite via J.R.R. Tolkein’s intended order for the series (he first wrote Lord of the Rings, and then later penned The Hobbit), Jackson expectedly unexpectedly is directing this epic beginning end film. He’s been posting production videos to his Facebook page, only egging on the film geeks that will watch anything LOTR they can click their mouses on.

3) The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II (can this title be any longer?)

Stop with the Twilight!

Unfortunately for any Twilight fans reading this (are there any . . . ?), I don’t have much to say about this film because the only one in the series I ever saw was the first one, which was a big disappointment for me with all the uproar of how fantastic the series supposedly was. I agree – it’s just my opinion, but even a fan would have to admit that the overexposure of Bella, Edward, and Jacob marketing is driving even proud fans into dark corners to hide their embarrassment over liking the series. Perhaps Stephanie Meyers really had something special, but what could have been something worthwhile got destroyed when it went viral. The nation’s critics never gave any one of the films in the series an overall positive rating. And don’t even get me started with the Harry Potter comparisons (you should know where my allegiances lie, anyway!). Anyways, I know I should include some kind of information about this film, but the only knowledge I really have to offer is that this is the final film in the series. After mimicking Harry Potter‘s successful technique of dividing the final book of the series into two films, the second installment of Breaking Dawn will be hitting theaters mid-November next year. Personally, I look forward to the end of it so I can finally stop hearing about it (I can imagine Taylor Lautner has similar sentiments). I digress.

OK, let’s hit up the beginnings now:

1) The Avengers

If you saw Captain America and then waited through the end credits, you were probably one of the first to see the teaser for the upcoming Avengers flick, due to be released in May of next year. Since then, posters and a fuller trailer mainly focusing on Robert Downy Jr.’s humor, have been released online. This year we got to see Thor and Captain America, and last year we got to see the second installment of Iron Man. Now we get to see all three grace the screen with an additional Mark Ruffalo taking a swing at playing The Hulk (not that we’re going to miss Edward Norton . . . ), along with Jeremy Renner playing Hawkeye, Scarlett Johansson playing Black Widow (remember her from Iron Man?), and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. This should be a pretty epic cast lead by none other than Mr. Joss Whedon, who has a big enough fanbase of his own to bring in viewers.

2) The Revamped (“Amazing”)  Spiderman

The Amazing Spiderman

This decision to already redesign Spiderman has divided fans . . . loyalists cling to Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire while the newer, younger generation who worship Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield and were blown away by The Social Network are opening their minds to this new possibility. Especially since fanboys claimed the previous unfinished trilogy messed up the “true” story of Peter Parker’s love life (Spiderman wasn’t always in love with the slutty version of Mary-Jane Watson from the previous series?!), they believe Marc Webb, the ironically named director, will be able to make things right this time around.

3) The Hunger Games

I personally have a lot wearing on this first movie. I read the trilogy this summer and fell in love with Katniss, Peeta, and the world of Panem. But after the out-of-control marketing that spawned from the dreaded Twilight series, I feel a sense of nervousness that The Hunger Games might try to follow in Bella and Edward’s shoes. Between Winter’s Bone, the X-Men prequel, and a few other small roles, I believe in Jennifer Lawrence’s acting ability, but this new taste for over-marketing, tween obsession with fictional book trilogies turned film series has even me concerned for the overall appearance and direction that Ross might take the series. He’s made some gems in the past (Dave, Big), but I hope that in the end that the green isn’t the only reason this film series may become successful. Plus, Lawrence seems capable of taking a photo that doesn’t make her appear angry at the world or high or both simultaneously (Kristen Stewart, anyone?). So that’s a good start, right?

4) Superman: Man of Steel

Not much information has been floating around regarding this film, more than likely because of all the epic film conclusions/beginnings preceding it (just re-read this post if you’re confused). But the information we do have access to is that Jonathan Nolan, Christopher’s brother, will be directing, and that Henry Cavill and Amy Adams will be starring. I’m trying as hard as possible to not have some kind of vendetta against JNolan for casting Adams, a redhead, as Lois Lane (PLEASE DYE HER HAIR!?), but I’m finding it difficult. Since her role in The Fighter, Adams has proven that she can effectively play an edgy character. But that doesn’t mean she’s a great fit for Lois Lane. Personally, I find it difficult to imagine the Enchanted princess to properly fill the sassy character’s shoes without looking completely out of place, but any hope lies in that a Nolan is directing the film.

Taking Chances

More times than not, I find out that when I go see a movie that I’m semi-sorta interested in viewing, I end up being pleasantly surprised. Of course, this isn’t the case every time; theoretically, it can’t be. There just aren’t enough good movies coming out in current time that one can be pleasantly surprised about. That’s probably not theoretical, but it sounded right at the time. Perhaps it’s technical.

Regardless.

Originally, my highest hopes for 2011 summer films went to Captain America, Crazy Stupid Love, and the final Harry Potter. You can read my Harry Potter review here. While each film had good things going for it, such as Crazy Stupid Love‘s cast (Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling – come on?!), or the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 being the final film of the series, each of those films ultimately disappointed me in some way or another.

X-Men: First Class

Three other movies, however, unsuspectingly sneaked up on me this summer and surprised me in that pleasant kind of way. Originally, I had not intended to see the biggest surprise for me, which was X-Men: First Class. I had never seen any of the X-Men films. They didn’t appear attractive in any sense to me, from story line, to cast, to special effects. I mean, come on, it’s Halle Berry with blonde hair. Do you really expect me to approach that movie with any seriousness?

But the previews were looking good for this prequel, and already being a fan of James McAvoy (anyone see Wanted? YES!), I figured paying matinee price at a lower-end theater two towns away on a plan-free Friday evening would be harmless. I was immediately drawn in, like most people would admit to a first viewing of the film. I was also really impressed with Michael Fassbender. The colors were bright, the characters were interesting, and the effects were great. Possibly one of the best moments was Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine cameo. I didn’t have to be a fan of X-Men to know Hugh Jackman was Wolverine and that was one of the best cameos . . . ever. Kevin Bacon proved once again to be a slimy, rather humorous villain, and Henry Jackman’s score won me over before the film ended. Despite the mediocre reviews, I would place X-Men: First Class at the top of my summer 2011 movies list.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The second surprise for me was Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Although I have never watched a previous Planet of the Apes film in its entirety, I did attempt to make it through a few short scenes in the Mark Wahlberg version. It was just too much. With that in mind, I was assured this movie would be deemed OK, if anything positive. I am a major James Franco and John Lithgow fan, but I didn’t expect great things from the zillioneth remake of watching humans in ape costumes bat eyes and imprison non-speaking humans in cages. Alas, this movie was nothing like it’s predecessors, as confirmed by Apes fans and viewers of the older films. This film served more as a back story for what was to come–what all of us know as the Planet of the Apes movies. Lithgow was a believable Alheizmer’s victim, and it was nice to see Slumdog Millionaire‘s Frieda Pinto on screen again. Possibly the best performance goes to Andy Serkis, who played the main ape, Caesar. Overall, it was a fun and even occasionally, touching movie. Tom Felton’s Dodge Landon served his purpose, battering the apes into forming an alliance among one another. It was an enjoyable film that outdid many of its fellow summer flicks in my opinion.

The Help

The Help was probably the one to shock me the least, primarily because my expectations were fairly high for the movie. After a look at Rotten Tomatoes average rating for it, however, my expectations lowered. I didn’t expect to be moved the way I was. The story was powerful and it was impossible to not be moved during it. I, personally, was a huge fan of the costumes. The story took place in the ’60s in southern Mississippi. Bryce Dallas Howard has apparently moved up in the world of character actors–her performance was flawless. Emma Stone proved me right once again that she has yet to give a poor performance. Jessica Chastain made a nice film debut playing the sweet and hilarious Celia Foote. The stand-out role easily goes to Viola Davis. This is a gorgeous story that demands to not be taken lightly. I’m inspired to read the book now.