Archive for the ‘Christian Bale’ Category

Movie Review: Public Enemies

July 2, 2009


I have quite a strange feeling about me right now, and that is the farther I am from seeing Public Enemies last night, the more I think I enjoy it. Because at the time, I didn’t really. This could be because I was sitting directly in front of a man who would clear his throat quite literally every seven seconds and would emit strange burps periodically. I’d never thought of adding “Throat-clearers” to the list of annoying movie-goers, but I grew incredibly impatient to this new type of irritation, and I fear I let my aggravation towards him get reflected on the movie I was viewing. That’s not to say I thought this was a spectacular movie, on the contrary. I think this was an admirable attempt that slightly missed the mark, a respectable, but cold and unentertaining film.

Now before I go, I never try to spoil things that I think shouldn’t be spoiled. And though I find it difficult to spoil a historical film such as this, I will warn you before I give anything away about the ending of the movie. Though I suspect most of you know the ending anyway.

The plot is as straight as an arrow and simple as pie. It’s the 1930s, and the depression has set in for the long haul. Gangs of criminals have ransacked banks throughout the Midwest, led by the likes of Ma Barker, George “Baby Face” Nelson, “Machine Gun” Kelly, and many others with silly quotation-mark worthy nicknames. One of the most famous was John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), who soon became labeled Public Enemy number one, and was one of the most frequently named persons in the papers for a brief time resulting in his arrival as somewhat of a celebrity. He was a smooth talker, and he’d either get you with his sharp tongue or his tommy gun.

J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) will stop at nothing to catch Dillinger, and under the forming FBI creates an entire team, to be headed by Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). What comes out is a rather lackluster game of cat and mouse, as we switch from both points of view, watching the glorified criminal escape the violently brutal authorities again and again.

That’s it, and that’s really all we get. The plot really doesn’t rise or fall, the characters really don’t develop or get any depth or dimension past their required caricatures. Even at the film’s climax, there’s no rising action, no real drama at all. It just sort of happens. Part of the problem lies in the fact that we know what Dillinger did; he robbed banks. There ends the extent of our knowledge. We don’t really know who the man was all that well. He was charming and funny to the press, was obviously headstrong and confident, but we don’t know much beyond that. And the movie, perhaps wisely, doesn’t try to fill in too many blanks. Dillinger drops a line that his mother died young and his father beat him, but this certainly doesn’t qualify as a biopic about John Dillinger. Since the movie tries to stay accurate to history, when the history is relatively unknown, it isn’t approached.

Depp is, I’ll say it, superbly cast as Dillinger. The picture on the left shows they definitely share some physical similarities. I am used to seeing him covered in excessive make-up, wearing fantastic wigs, and acting the eccentricities of a lunatic with each new strange character he takes (read: The Mad Hatter). Those things are, dare I say, easy. But Depp reminds us here that he is a fantastic actor, and pulls of the realistic just as well as the cartoonish. While Dillinger on screen never gets quite deep enough, Depp plays him impeccably. He’s funny, especially when arrested, and he’s a gentleman of a crook. He never stole from customers, but he was certainly no re-distributing Robin Hood. “I’m here for the bank’s money, not yours,” he tells a customer who has forked out what cash he has. Sure, but you want the man to plea, “but it’s my money in the bank!” Which, apparently, Dillinger never thought of. He has limits of criminal decency (“The press don’t like kidnapping”) and cares about his friends and particularly, his girlfriend Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard).

Their romance is somewhat Hollywood-ized. They fall for each other instantly, he buys her nice things and gives a quick-witted monologue and she’s all his to protect, though it’s him that puts her in danger to begin with. It is true that the two shared something meaningful. (I suppose Spoilers follow) Frechette actually went on tour, talking about her time with Dillinger to audiences and the press nationwide. And I read an account that said, when she was arrested (which she was), Dillinger “cried like a baby for hours.” (source). (End spoilers).

The rest of the cast is largely forgettable. Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis is adequate, at best, never giving more nor less than the essentials to require his presence. Channing Tatum as “Pretty Boy” Flloyd is annoying and flamboyant, more in the style of the gangster movies actually made in the 3os.

I do have some problems with this movie completely glorifying John Dillinger, while vilifying the police chasing him. I’m not saying the man was pure evil, but bottom line is he stole a lot of money and killed quite a few cops. The movie glances over that little aspect of his life. Meanwhile the policemen and FBI agents commit some ruthless acts, including refusing to give somebody with a bullet behind his right eye any medicine and beating around a woman in custody (though that actually happened), all for the sake of information. If they’re going to make sure to show the good in Dillinger, they should do the same for the other side of the coin, particularly if they’re going for the realism this movie tried to achieve.

There is one type of action scene in this movie that is repeated again and again; bullets start ringing out, parties take cover behind walls or cars, and fire out windows or in a general direction of their enemy, but primarily hiding while the barrage of bullets flies around them. This is, I’d imagine, a relatively realistic rendition of what a gunfight would look like, which means it is also redundantly boring. God, didn’t anything blow up in the thirties? Just kidding… The scenes were put in, I’m sure, to add excitement and action to the film, but they’re too long and not thrilling enough to earn the term ‘action’ scenes. They are required for plot, since gangsters certainly had shoot-outs, but they probably could have cut these off a little sooner and got on with it.

That’s not to say there weren’t some entertaining scenes. There’s a rather thrilling jail-break sequence, for starters, but the real highlight of this movie required no bullets and few lines. Dillinger’s friend needs to go the Chicago police station, and Dillinger offers to take her. Once there, he walks inside, and then straight into the door with his name on it. That’s right, he walks right into his own “Dillinger Bureau.” It’s mostly empty, there are a few people watching a sports game in the corner. But Depp plays this scene brilliantly, walking around with a look of arrogance and curiosity on his face as he observes his own manhunt. Then, just for good measure, before he leaves he asks the men in there what the score is. This, mind you, is widely accepted to be fact.

So overall, the movie sacrifices a little to extended monotonous gun fights, and has an unthrilling and unchanging plot. But it has some good moments, and though it glorifies somone who has perhaps already received too much glory, gives a good look at a man who has become an American myth.

6.9/10

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Holy Shit, McG’s Orginal Ending for Terminator Salvation Even Worse Than We Knew

May 28, 2009

You know that little original ending you’ve seen floating around the internet? The one that was leaked for Terminator Salvation? The one that infuriated everybody so much that they changed it? The one I mentioned here? Well if not, here it is: John Conner dies. They decide his image is too important for the resistance, so his skin was put over the cyborg Marcus’s body.

That’s horrible, right? As a pretty strong outsider of the Terminator fan universe, I can say all in all it’s a bad idea. But that wasn’t the end of it. It went farther, and by ‘farther’ I mean deeper into the pile of shitty ideas, as if finding shittiest idea of all was their goal, and they thought that if they found and used this shitty idea, it would open the secrets of the universe so they could become omniscient beings who were smart enough to know how to produce shitty ideas like a shitty idea sweat shop would.

McG tells Entertainment Weekly:

“Connor dies, okay? He’s dead,” McG continues. “And Marcus offers his physical body, so Connor’s exterior is put on top of his machine body. It looks like Connor, but it’s really Marcus underneath. And all of the characters we care about (Kyle Reese, Connor’s wife Kate, etc.) are brought into the room to see him and they think it’s Connor. And Connor gets up and then there’s a small flicker of red in his eyes and he shoots Kate, he shoots Kyle, he shoots everybody in the room. Fade to black. End of movie. Skynet wins. F— you!”

F— you? F— YOU?!!!! That’s you’re brilliant idea? Holy hell, how were you paid to make this movie? I’m actually furious that this was ever a possibility. Who wrote this, some brainless emo kid who hates his father, cuts his self, and has never seen a Terminator movie?

McG (what a ridiculously stupid name, I’d like to reiterate) calls the ending ‘nihilistic’ and ‘ballsy.’ Sure. It’s also nonsensical and retarded. It would have been fine if they’d ended on a low note, where Skynet had the upper hand, much like The Empire Strikes Back. But you don’t kill you’re main character, and you don’t do anything that defies all credible logic. You don’t do nihilism for the sake of nihilism, throwing everything else out the window for cheap f–king shock value, you inbred f–king foolish moron. The movies are already full of light paradoxes, but killing off the main character’s father before he diddles the main character’s mother is pretty damn hard to pull off with any sense of legitimacy. Mc-I’m-a-shit-head-G recognizes that it would piss, well, everybody off, but in a few years we’d think it was ballsy. Wrong. In a few years we’d be saying, “I could be seeing a Terminator movie right now, if McG wasn’t such a witless bucket of phlegm.”

I cannot imagine if they had done this, nor can I think how mad I would be if this were a franchise I actually cared about.

Terminator Salvation: Predictable, Occasionally Illogical, Pretty Damn Fun

May 24, 2009


I didn’t grow up in love with the Terminator series. I don’t have a vehement adoration for the characters. In fact, of the three I first sat through the third, which is regarded as significantly worse than the first two. It might not be as good, but the hate it gets from many people is a little unfounded. It wasn’t great, but it was an entertaining movie. Such is the case for Terminator Salvation, though perhaps it is a better film than its first predecessor.

The film opens in 2003, where a death-row inmate named Marcus (Sam Worthington) is approached by a doctor who works for Cyberdyne (Helena Bonham Carter), the company Terminator watchers will recognize as the creators of Skynet, the AI system that eventually takes over the world. Marcus signs for his body to be used for science experiments after his death, though it’s somewhat unclear what they will be, the doctor tells him it’s “a chance to live again.”

There’s a little typed up summary of the franchise history, and we come toe the year 2018 to see John Conner infiltrating a Skynet base, where he finds a horde of human prisoners. There’s an ambush on the base, a seen that looks like Saving Private Ryan meets Robocop, and eventually we see Marcus wake up, very confused after his 13 year coma.

Marcus is chased by a robot with a big-ass machine gun and saved by two young boys who humorously call them selves the “L.A. branch” of the resistance. One them is (dum dum dum) Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin, who is having a huge summer, since he had a part in Star Trek as well) the known future father of John Conner and key to the entire resistance. It would be incredibly difficult to comprehend why this is the case if you haven’t seen the other movies, and the film does little to explain it. It hardly even mentions time travel, a key element in the first three, so newcomers might not understand the entire going-ons of the film.

Reese is taken prisoner and Marcus escapes, only to help a beautiful pilot Blaire Williams (played by Moon Bloodgood, whose topless scene in this movie was removed because director McG hates everybody). Marcus and Blaire trek back to resistance headquarters, and through certain circumstances involving magnetic minefields, it is revealed that Marcus is himself a cyborg. A machine with human organs, including a powerful heartbeat.

Which brings me to my first gripe. I really wish I would have had to warn you of a spoiler in that previous paragraph, but I don’t, because that little tidbit was part of every Salvation preview released. I watched the entire time knowing Marcus shared DNA of both humans and household appliances. But if I hadn’t known, it would have been a really kick-ass twist. Even though they told you before the movie was released, throughout the first half they act like they haven’t and put in really subtle clues that in a second viewing could have looked brilliant. For instance, when everybody else is eating, he doesn’t even touch the food. He falls from a speeding jet and skims across the water and appears unharmed. We would know something was going on with this guy, but with a different edit and with different previews it could have been a nice surprise. If I hadn’t known, I would have wondered why he was such a skilled fighter and why he could survive such ridiculous events, but the revelation would have been an “Ahhhh” moment.

However, this could all be because the early script for this movie was leaked to the public at large. Therefore, they might have thought the surprise was ruined since everybody knew Marcus was a cyborg, so why not put it in the previews? And believe me, I wouldn’t trade the loss of this surprise for the terrible, original ending they had planned. It involved John Conner dying, but his skin being put on Marcus’s skeletal body because his image was so important to the resistance. Oh my God that’s an awful idea. Thank goodness the leak occurred, because that is not the ending we have, thank goodness. Though I was told the ending would be controversial and divisive, and kind of a downer. I guess it wasn’t ecstatic per se, but it wasn’t near what I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it and it works, it just wasn’t as ballsy as I assumed. But if there version of ballsy is killing the main character, perhaps that’s not such a bad thing…

As for the main character, Christian Bale is, well, just okay. Conner is remarkably one-dimensional in this film, and doesn’t do much besides run, shoot, yell, and rasp. It’s all perhaps in the spirit of conveying intensity, but we don’t need to main character to rasp all of his lines to show that: the omnipresence of robots does it just fine. In original drafts, Conner was going to be a secondary character, an influence on the protagonist much like Christ influenced Ben Hur. I’m glad this idea was dropped, because Conner is a neat character, but he was in this movie less than I thought it would be. Marcus gets a pretty hefty share of the screen time.

Which is a good thing, because Marcus is the infinitely more interesting character. He’s first shown on essentially a crucifix on his death bed, right before they kill him and bring him back as a Metallo clone. He has a lot to do in this movie, and was really a high point for me. His ethical questioning, self-reflection/redemption/sacrifice all made for a resonating character. Also, he kicks a lot of ass, which is always fun to watch.

The cinematography in the movie is actually pretty awesome, I have to give direct McG credit (though I really hate that name). There’s a particularly fascinating shot of a helicopter crash, all seemingly one take, as it spirals out of the sky and crashes upside down. It was brilliantly crafted, and really brought you into the peril.

Despite the praise I’m giving, the movie is riddled with logical inconsistencies that somewhat drag it down. I’m not even referring to those involving time travel, because they make my head hurt. I’m looking for for these:

1. Why do the robots attack Marcus at first, but then later let him walk right into their base because he’s one of them?
2. How can John Conner jump from a plane into a stormy ocean and swim onto a submarine underwater? (Alright, so that isn’t a logical mistake, it’s just dumb writing).
3. How do gargantuan robots who can’t walk without causing earthquakes sneak up on people without making a sound?
4. Why is Skynet taking human hostages? It’s brought up but never explained, unless I missed it.
5. Why do these robots tend to attack so few at a time? This one is actually kind of strange to me. The greatness of the first film was the fact that it was one cyborg, stalking and trying to kill one person. It allowed an air of suspense to be breathed into the action film. It seems in order to replicate this, they wrote many instances into Salvation that pit one man against one robot, where that man would have to struggle immensely just to defeat it. Good for suspense, but it leaves you wondering why this A.I. system doesn’t just send 10,000 of these babies out at once. If one is that hard to defeat, more must be better. So why don’t they? Because there’d be no story. Alright, fair enough.

There are others, but I’m trying to keep spoilers to a minimum and make sure you enjoy the movie without having too much on your mind. It’s exactly what it looks like, so don’t expect much else, but it’s a good popcorn-flick and an interesting addition to the Terminator series that’s not like any of those that have come out before.

Also don’t go to the bathroom while Marcus is talking to the computer generated face, or you’ll miss a neat little cameo. Like I did.

Score: 7.9/10

This Week in Blockbusters: Terminator Salvation

May 20, 2009


We’ve seen it all now. Leaked scripts, intense previews, Christian Bale flipping out and being f***ing done, professionally. This week Terminator Salvation comes out, the fourth film in the twenty-year old franchise. Though this one will be completely different than all the others, since this will be the actual war after the robot-apocalypse and we’ll actually get to see John Conner kick some metal ass rather than hear it prophesied by naked time-travelers.

I don’t think you’ll be tricked by the preview here. What you see is what you’ll get: high, intense action in a futuristic sci-fi setting. There’s a war with advanced robots. If the first Terminator hadn’t created this story (or at least brought it mainstream) I’d dock points for un-originality. What might trick you, however, is the ending. I looked for the quotation (for about three seconds, sorry I’m working on a clock), but it promises to be incredibly divisive. Some will hate it, some will love it, but it will likely be unexpected. This comes after the first ending was completely leaked, which featured (this is a spoiler for a changed ending, so do I really have to indicate it?) John Conner dying and, since his image is so important to the resistance, having a cyborg take his appearance. I’m no Terminator geek, but I recognize a terrible idea when I see one. Thank goodness this script was leaked and the ending changed. This completely butchers the whole point of John Conner, a regular human facing insurmountable odds. I could rant on that for a while, but it’s not happening anymore, so I’ll let it go.

Whatever the new ending is, it seems like a giant risk. I hope I’m on the ‘love it’ side of things. I know it won’t end on a high note: think The Empire Strikes Back meets Requiem for a Dream. Bummer right? Instead of Han in carbonite we have Han dead from a cocaine overdose.

What looks particularly intriguing to me is the cyborg that thinks it’s human. I don’t know how they’re using that, though I know it will be important, and it seems like an eerie and awesome idea.

There’s really not much more to this, I suppose. Like I said, what you’ll see is likely what you’ll get. And what you’ll get should be pretty good. We’ll see.

Excitement buzz: 7.8/10

The Top Ten Box Office Stars (Allegedly)

January 6, 2009

Each year, the Quigley Publishing Company conducts a poll to answer the question: Who are the top ten box office draws? Via Quigley’s website:

“The Quigley Poll, conducted each year since 1932, is an annual survey of motion picture theatre owners and film buyers, which asks them to vote for the ten stars that they believe generated the most box-office revenue for their theatres during the year. Long regarded as one of the most reliable indicators of a Star’s real box-office draw because the selections are done by people whose livelihood depends on choosing the films that will bring audiences to their theatres.”

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of these generic “End of the Year Top Ten” lists, but the above explanation shows that this is not just a list founded on emotion and trendiness- it’s founded on economic viability, as concluded by the collective group of theater owners. Plus, the poll does hold a certain degree of authority, since it’s been published in the International Motion Picture Almanac for the past 77 years. So without further ado, here’s the list of stars, along with the 2008 films in which they starred:

1. Will Smith (Hancock, Seven Pounds)
2. Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man, Tropic Thunder)
3. Christian Bale (The Dark Knight)
4. Shia LaBeouf (Indiana Jones; New York, I Love You; Eagle Eye)
5. Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones)
6. Adam Sandler (Don’t Mess With The Zohan, Bedtime Stories)
7. Reese Witherspoon (Four Christmases)
8. George Clooney (Leatherheads, Burn After Reading)
9. Angelina Jolie (Kung Fu Panda – voice, Changeling, Wanted)
10. Daniel Craig (Quantum Of Solace, Defiance)

I think that the list is pretty accurate overall, though I would question how much drawing power Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig actually have. I’m more inclined to give the edge in drawing power to Indiana Jones and James Bond over the actors who play them. Yes, they each had a blockbuster that came out this year that made a ton of money, but their stars definitely didn’t make big hits out of 2006’s Firewall ($48 million), or 2007’s The Golden Compass ($70 million vs. its $205 million budget) and The Invasion ($15 million). Sometimes you can be in many successful films, but not be a huge draw in your own right- just ask Elizabeth Banks. In fact, if you look only at raw box office numbers, you know who the biggest star of this entire decade is? Stan Lee.

What about you? Who is your personal box office draw? Mine is definitely Ryan Gosling- I’ve been a total convert ever since I saw him in Lars And The Real Girl.