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Killing Them Softly (2012) Review

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Killing Them Softly plays out like a rough draft; watching it makes you feel like a professor grading one of his student’s submissions.  You find worth and potential along with one or two things it really wants to get across.  But too much gets in the way.  There are scenes which drag on into filler territory, parts that fail to engage the audience and, sadly, it all leaves us watching something, as opposed to experiencing it.

The mob/hitman story here is very localized, which does lend some grounded reality.  It’s actually refreshing to see mob card games being run in a sub-par household, as opposed to (just) an underground location with space to walk and stand.  A very heavy-handed theme is meant to drive home this low-life persona the film just bathes in, even when the scenes take place in a luxury car.  The problem, however, is that the message isn’t driven so much as barreled through you like the elders speeding into (and around) the houses from South Park.

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A few good stands are assumed by the talented cast who, though usually underutilized, work with what’s available.  While Brad Pitt is convincing he isn’t stealing scenes from anyone.  If anything, Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn, portraying embodiments of the aforementioned low-life persona, are the real stars.  Much of this is thanks to the fact that, for the first 20-45 minutes, it feels like the movie belongs to them.  Pitt isn’t even on-screen for much of the first act and by the time he’s introduced, it’s tough to imagine him having a larger role.  He ultimately feels like a smaller piece, meant to carry something that’s just too heavy for his shoulders.

Without a sense of cohesiveness or decisive direction, Killing Them Softly winds up sifting when it should be exploring.  Sadly, the extent of its exploration is too forced for what could’ve stood so much better without any of the overdone finger-pointing.  If there’s anything the film has to say that it doesn’t repeat more times than a pop song chorus, it’s that projects don’t work without being consistently handled or truly overlooked prior before submission.

 
 

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The Dark Knight Rises: Full, Spoiler-Free Review

Christopher Nolan’s Batman films are among the few you can get away with coming to a verdict on before even seeing.  The big reason is that, regardless of what we’re given, it’s going to be quality work.  At this point it’s, well, pointless to talk about Batman Begins and The Dark Knight since they both live up to said pedigree.  And just like the initial skepticisms for those two films, concerns are beyond cast aside in The Dark Knight Rises.

Not many films get the idea of effective marketing, but The Dark Knight Rises really has it down.  The trailers often showed similar footage and, beyond the limited release of the prologue, all we had to work with were fragments.  As such, this is less a movie to spoil and more one to discuss in limited detail.

The film is set eight years after The Dark Knight, with Gotham’s criminal activity apparently at an all-time low.  During that time, the city has thrived off of a lie which has taken its toll on those who know the truth.  Much of the film’s first half reacquaints us with just what consequences have followed, which is played off as the more immediate threat ensues.

Enter Bane, who we all know from the trailers as the man who’ll become “Gotham’s reckoning.”  In a recent behind-the-scenes video, actor Tom Hardy said “The Joker wanted to watch the world burn.  Bane’s here to pull the pin on the grenade.”  There’s really no other way to say it, as Bane is pretty much the embodiment of a Batman villain in the form of a terrorist.  It gets to the point that you almost forget this is based on a graphic novel.  That is, until one or two tiny parts creep up and remind you that nothing is quite off limits, even under Nolan’s direction.  The presence and role Bane has is infrequent but significant.  It’s just a shame that his lines are still tough to make out, despite addressing the concerns of many fans (including myself).  Eventually it comes down to actions speaking louder than words, but it’s still tough to get a first impression when much of what you hear sounds like sheer distortion, bass and accent.

The villains from the Dark Knight films have been perhaps the most memorable.  And while Bane does more than enough to leave an impression (or two), we thankfully get a bit more of our heroes a la Batman Begins.  Superb as The Dark Knight was, the film was really about the Joker; his show-stealing scenes almost took away from our actual hero.  Not so much the case here.  Christian Bale puts on his best performance as Bruce Wayne and Batman, with the rest of the main cast matching his commitment.  In fact, while we’re on that subject, Michael Caine deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance.  He has hardly three or four scenes, but those moments really count and stick with you.

It’s a good thing we have these characters to enjoy and invest ourselves in, because without them, the story would definitely cripple.  Plot points almost come off like small details at first, but quickly play bigger and even pivotal roles.  To the more indifferent viewer, these are bound to be potential problems, but to the film’s credit, it’s at least trying to take itself and its audience seriously.  If you can’t get the entire picture, you’ll at least get the gist of things.

What The Dark Knight Rises manages to be, more than anything, is an effective concoction.  For a while it brews and swells with set ups and potential before utilizing the last hour to build the intensity with more than a few gripping, boiling points.  It leaves you panting, losing breath but still wanting to be subjected.  The universe is deeply grounded with characters pulling you in while the action and tension leave you immobilized.  It’s a fine, worthy conclusion that shows it’s less about matching or outdoing its predecessors, but more about ending the series on a proper note.

 
 

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Quote Review: J. Edgar (2011)

“I don’t need to tell you that, what determines a man’s legacy is often what isn’t seen.”

J. Edgar is a slowly building disappoint, especially given the talent at-hand.  DiCaprio does put up an admirable performance, but even that falls to the long, incoherent and painfully monotone nature of the entire film.  Less concerned with structure and more with being a theoretical outlook, it’s unlikely anyone will even find much of interest here.

 
 

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The Dark Knight Rises: Trailer 3 & Impressions

Many fans have been skeptical but holding high hopes for what’s already one of the summer’s biggest movies.  The first two trailers for The Dark Knight Rises were somewhat scarce on details, arguably less so than those for its predecessor.  But now we have our final trailer before the third and final (?) of Nolan’s Batman films comes out.

Rather than literally say what’s in the trailer (since I’d be doing a disservice in the process), here are some details that I’ve found, as well as my actual impressions.

The slow, opening play of piano is wonderful; chilling and immediately grabbing.

Bane’s voice has been much improved over the second trailer and the prologue.  His two lines in this trailer seem to emote differently, so that’s definitely a plus.

Compared to the final trailer for The Dark Knight, there’s a good chance Bane isn’t going to have as many lines as The Joker.  But it’s clear he’s still going to have a key part in the film.

The shot of the bridges blowing up followed by people looking out windows to see falling snow seems to indicate being alone or cut off.

We’ve seen snow (or something to replicate it) between the trailers and set photos, which can be associated with a colder nature.  The snow can also be paralleled to the fact Tim Burton’s Batman Returns took place during Christmas.

It’s essentially confirmed in the trailer that Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) knows Bane, which solidifies my early suspicion that she’s been directly involved with Bane.

The very end of the trailer also shows Batman and Catwoman in the new Batpod; sounds like a team-up to me.  What I’m guessing is that Selina/Catwoman is conflicted from her possible relationship with Bane, her life and maybe something Bruce offers her.  There’s also a brief shot that shows her in a fight and Batman fighting in the background.

Of course there’s also the concern about whether Bruce/Batman dies.  At one point in the trailer, Selina’s asked by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character “did he kill him?”  The finger seems to point at him referring to Bane killing Batman.  There’s also Batman responding to Catwoman ( “you’ve given them everything”) with “not everything.  Not yet.”  It might be a long shot, but perhaps Levitt’s questioning of Selina is right at or around the end.

And we finally see Lucius is going to be in the film.  Since none of the previous trailers showed him and the fact Lucius no longer works for Bruce, it makes me wonder how he’ll still fit in.

Given the shots we’re given throughout of chaos in the streets (not to mention the blowing up of bridges and a football field), it appears that the people of Gotham and Bane’s forces are going to at their very ends here.

The building music in the second half of the trailer transitioning to the Bane Chant is just pure bliss.  A popular move to use when teasing a finale such as this, but they often work and it’s no different in this trailer.

Those are just some of my quick thoughts.  I’m definitely looking forward to this film, the trailer has left me ecstatic beyond belief, and I’m looking forward to The Avengers even more just to see this trailer on the big screen.

What do you think?  Is The Dark Knight Rises going to be the number one film this summer?  Will it be nominated for any Academy Awards?  What observations or theories do you have?  Spill your thoughts below!

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Film, Movies

 

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Quote Review: Capote (2005)

“Ever since I was a child, folks have thought they had me pegged, because of the way I am, the way I talk. And they’re always wrong.”

Highly evocative and curiously inspirational, this film goes through gripping motions that only strengthen as the film goes on. And while it’s a slow ride, the pacing feels just right with a perfectly forgiving runtime. Not to mention excellent and, most importantly, convincing performances by the entire cast. And of course, we have Philip Seymour Hoffman turn in a true performance, one that shows him accomplish the greatest challenge and accolade of an actor: convincing us that he IS, in fact, Truman Capote.

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2012 in Film Review, Movie Review

 

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Quote Review: Angel Heart (1987)

“Alas, how terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise, Johnny?”

Even the incredibly misplaced (though not miscast) Robert De Niro can’t save this drab, prolonged and completely predictable film. Instead of making for a curious amalgamation of genres, Angel Heart only proves to be tiresome and empty in its unimposing strives.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2012 in Film Review, Movie Review

 

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Quote Review: Collateral (2004)

“Millions of galaxies of hundreds of millions of stars, in a speck on one in a blink. That’s us, lost in space.”

Usually tense and consistently engaging, Michael Mann develops a great overall noir suspense thriller in Collateral. While the co-existing plot lines don’t always run together so well, the exposure and development comes across well yet with just enough subtlety. A few incredibly shot scenes (one of which involves breaking the fourth wall) are very welcome inclusions as well. What truly makes this film worthwhile, however, is the excellent script by Stuart Beattie. Just from the dialogue and camera shots, it’s easy to imagine this being a novel. Of course, had this been an adaptation, it likely wouldn’t have been nearly this good.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Film Review, Movie Review

 

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Quote Review: Harry Brown (2009)

“You failed to maintain your weapon, Son.”

The film offers a lot of strong, graphic and gritty images that seem intended to provide an accurate depiction of Britain today. And though it’s true the film’s harsh reality and occurrences are gripping (at first), everything loses steam after the first act. Michael Caine provides a serviceable performance, but the progression and development don’t seem to do his character’s potential justice. And while things do unfold in a slow manner, it could have definitely benefitted from an extra 30 minutes to let everything play out in a far more fluent manner.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2012 in Film Review, Movie Review

 

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Quote Review: Fracture (2007)

“What’re you gonna do, keep asking the same question different ways so you get the answer you want?”

Fracture dips and sways itself into a small guessing game which, as it turns out, offers more potential intrigue than actual payoff. Hopkins and Gosling fit into their roles well enough and get about as much as one might expect, but the promising premise fails to yield much of a plot or significant enough development to carry things out up to the abrupt ending.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2012 in Film Review, Movie Review

 

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Quote Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

“Rape, torture, fire, animals, religion. Am I missing anything?”

As engaging as it is cold and short of color, Fincher and company’s adaptation of the popular novel essentially sees him return to form a la Se7en. The film has no qualms about showing whatever it can and wants to, further playing to its strengths as an enthralling mystery/suspense story.  Between the masterful directing, sometimes mesmerizing cinematography, Trent Reznor’s simple yet intoxicating score and Rooney Mara’s spectacular performance and character portrayal, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo finds itself sitting comfortably among the best works this year, adding yet another solid work to Fincher’s already-impressive filmography.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2012 in Film Review, Movie Review

 

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