The Batman Review

The Batman movie posterSynopsis
When the Riddler (Paul Dano), a sadistic serial killer, begins murdering key political figures in Gotham, Batman (Robert Pattinson) is forced to investigate the city’s hidden corruption. (via IMDB)

Review
After Warner Bros. failed attempt at creating a cinematic universe (DCEU) to rival Marvel’s, I’m excited for the approach they’ve taken with their recent movies where some still exist in that universe while others exist on their own. It proves that not every movie needs to be connected to another. Matt Reeves’ The Batman is a perfect example of how this approach gives filmmakers greater freedoms to display their takes on the characters. While I’m sure this movie could have been shoehorned into the DCEU, because it wasn’t, Reeves was able to tell his own tale about the dark knight, or rather, a tale about Gotham itself.

Batman is often referred to as β€œthe world’s greatest detective.” Outside of The Dark Knight, the majority of Batman movies have failed to properly show this side of the character. The Batman focuses primarily on this facet of the character. The bulk of the film follows Bruce as he solves The Riddler’s puzzles and simultaneous tries to unravel the mysteries of Gotham’s criminal underworld. It’s refreshing to see this side of the character so predominately showcased.

Also unlike previous cinematic incarnations of Bruce Wayne, Reeves’ Bruce is much the opposite of previous versions. Whereas most Batman films portray Bruce as a charismatic playboy, Reeves’ Bruce is more of a recluse, rarely making public appearances. Instead, Bruce Wayne is the mask. To go with that, Batman is in the movie more than Bruce. Again, this is an invigorating approach to the character that I am intrigued to see explored in future films.

The cinematography in The Batman is some of the best in the genre. Every shot was breathtaking, whether it was in close quarters or out in the open. One prime example of this is a chase scene that happens about halfway through the film. The camera switches between an overall view of the chase and close ups of either the Penguin or the Batman. It’s hard for me to put into words how exciting this toggling back-and-forth and the camera angles made the scene. It has quickly become one of my favorite chase scenes in cinema.

For all of the praise I have given the film so far, there is one glaring drawback to it and that’s the length. I have a hard time justifying when a movie’s run time is nearly three hours long and that holds true for The Batman. There are two factors I see that have led to such a long run time: 1) every scene, and I mean every scene, could lose several seconds, and 2) everything deliberately moves slow. For the first observation, at almost three hours long, there are many scenes in the film and each and every one of them feels like they last just a moment or two too long. If every scene was edited down just a few second each, the film could easily lose several minutes of run time. As for the second remark, I’m not referring to the script but more the characters and camera; each character doesn’t move with any urgency. This is particularly true in the first two acts. To go along with this, the camera also moves slowly as it moves towards or way characters, or lingers on them to align with my first point. All in all, the film could shave off several minutes if the characters moved quicker and if scenes didn’t idle longer than necessary.

I thought The Batman was GOOD πŸ™‚ This film embraces Batman’s β€œworld’s greatest detective” moniker unlike any version before. The great cast and beautiful cinematography also help it to stand out from previous Batman movies. However, its biggest flaw is that it is longer than necessary and moves slow (physically moves slow, not the script is slow). I enjoy director Matt Reeves’ take on the character and I cannot wait to see where he takes Bruce Wayne and Gotham City in the future.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Matt Reeves – Director / Writer
Peter Craig – Writer
Michael Giacchino – Composer

Robert Pattinson – Bruce Wayne / The Batman
Zoe Kravitz – Selina Kyle / Catwoman
Jeffrey Wright – Lt. James Gordon
Colin Farrell – Oz / The Penguin
Paul Dano – The Riddler
John Turturro – Carmine Falcone
Andy Serkis – Alfred
Peter Sarsgaard – District Attorney Gil Colson
Jayme Lawson – Bella Real
Alex Ferns – Commissioner Pete Savage
Rupert Penry-Jones – Mayor Don Mitchell, Jr.
Hana Hrzic – Annika
Oscar Novak – Young Bruce Wayne
Luke Roberts – Thomas Wayne
Stella Stocker – Martha Wayne

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Review

This review was originally posted for the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022, hosted by Tranquil Dreams and me.


E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial movie posterSynopsis
When E.T., an alien visiting Earth, gets left behind when his ship quickly leaves, Elliott (Henry Thomas) helps him contact his home world.

Review
When E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial released 40 years ago in 1982, no one, not even Steven Spielberg, predicted that it would be the phenomenon that it has become. After finally viewing it myself, I can see why this film has become a beloved classic. The movie tells a story about a boy befriending an alien while also examining the affect of divorce on children. It’s a very unique story combination that few filmmakers without Spielberg’s expertise could pull off. All of the relationships, Elliot’s relationship with E.T., Elliott’s relationship with his siblings, and Elliott’s and his siblings’ relationship with their mother, are all thoroughly developed and fleshed out. The score, created by Spielberg’s regular composer John Williams, excels at elevating the emotional undertones of every scene. One particular moment that stands out is the iconic moment when Elliott, with assistance from E.T., flies his bike in the air with the moon behind them. It’s already a fantastic scene but Williams’ score makes it even better. Even without the score, the script does a wonderful job of building emotion. By the end, you’ll no doubt have become attached to the characters, particularly the lovable E.T. himself, culminating in an emotional ending.

I thought E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was GOOD πŸ™‚ Filled with heart and relatable characters, Steven Spielberg crafts an epic tale that everyone can enjoy and hold dear.

Trivia
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial holds the record for the longest ever theatrical run, staying in theaters for over one year after it’s release on June 11, 1982. (via IMDb)

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Steven Spielberg – Director
Melissa Mathison – Writer
John Williams – Composer

Henry Thomas – Elliott
Robert MacNaughton – Michael
Drew Barrymore – Gertie
Dee Wallace – Mary
Peter Coyote – Keys
KC Martel – Greg
Sean Frye – Steve
Tom Howell – Tyler
Pat Welsh – E.T. (voice)

Good On Paper Review

Good On Paper movie posterSynopsis
While on the flight back home from an audition, stand-up comedian Andrea (Iliza Shlesinger) meets Dennis (Ryan Hansen), a man who seemed perfect for her. As their relationship grows, Dennis doesn’t appear to be as good as Andrea first thought.

Review
I’ve been on a bit of an Iliza Shlesinger binge lately, so when I found out she wrote and starred in a movie based on one of her real life experiences, I knew I had to watch it right away. Good On Paper follows similar story beats as typical romantic comedy and may at first seem like typical fare for the genre, but as the movie progresses, you realize it finds its own voice, which feels refreshing and allows it to stand out among other romantic comedies. On top of that, Shlesinger brings a warm and authentic atmosphere to the story. Her timing from her stand-up routines translates well to film, generating tons of laughs throughout the entire run time. Supporting actors Ryan Hansen and Margaret Cho also deserve heaps of praise. Cho’s delivery and timing is on par with Shlesinger’s and together they are a powerful comedic duo.

I thought Good On Paper was GOOD πŸ™‚ The story was enjoyable and the cast was even better. I don’t know how I missed this last year but I’m glad I finally got around to watching it.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Kimmy Gatewood – Director
Iliza Shlesinger – Writer
Johnathan Sanford – Composer

Iliza Shlesinger – Andrea
Ryan Hansen – Dennis
Margaret Cho – Margot
Rebecca Rittenhouse – Serrena
Kimia Behpoornia – Maggie
Beth Dover – Leslia
Matt McGorry – Brett
Rebecca Delgado Smith – Alli


This years Ultimate Decades Blogathon was announced yesterday! If you’re interested in participating, check out this announcement post.

Duel Review

Duel movie posterSynopsis
Businessman David Mann (Dennis Weaver) is on his way to meet a client. On the way he is pursued and terrorized by a truck driver.

Review
After my successful Alfred Hitchcock project in 2021, I decided to undertake a similar project in 2022. Unlike my Hitchcock project, this time I’m focusing a director I am already familiar with: Steven Spielberg, one of my all-time favorite directors. I debated on starting with Duel, his first feature-length film, or Sugarland Express, his first theatrical film. In the end, I chose to start at the very beginning with Duel. I am delighted that I started with Duel because it was well worth my time.

The premise of the film is extremely straight forward: a businessman is harassed by a truck driver on the way to a client. Despite this simplicity, Steven Spielberg manages to create a suspenseful ride from start to finish. The camera angles, the pacing, the editing, Dennis Weaver’s fantastic acting, all of it created an experience reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock himself. Taking a page from Hitchcock’s playbook, the antagonist is never actually seen throughout the movie. Going off the idea that the unknown is scarier than the known, the truck driver’s arm or the driver’s boots may be seen but that’s as much of the character as we see. This adds to the tension and the suspense because neither the audience nor David Mann (Weaver) knows the madman trying to kill a fellow driver. To make up for the lack of visibility of the truck’s driver, the truck itself is just as much of a character as David. There is a lot of character in the truck’s appearance; it’s all grimy and dirty, and covered in plates from other cars where the driver had successfully performed similar menacing acts in the past, and has a distinct and memorable silhouette. My only knock against Duel is it might be a little long for such a simple plot. However, seeing as how this was originally a made-for-television movie and had extra scenes added to extend the run time to receive an international theatrical release, this is a minor gripe.

I thought Duel was GOOD πŸ™‚ It’s very high quality for a television movie, which usually pale in comparison to their theatrical counterparts. Spielberg weaves a story that is suspenseful and exciting, creating a monster movie reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. If you want to see where Spielberg’s film career began, be sure to check this one out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Trivia
Duel marked Steven Spielberg’s feature-length directorial debut. It originally aired as a television film as part of the ABC Movie of the Week series on November 13, 1971, later receiving an international theatrical release with an extended version featuring scenes shot after the films original broadcast. (via Wikipedia).

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Steven Spielberg – Director
Richard Matheson – Writer
Billy Goldenberg – Composer

Dennis Weaver – David Mann
Jacqueline Scott – Mrs. Mann
Eddie Firestone – Cafe Owner
Lou Frizzell – Bus Driver
Gene Dynarski – Man in Cafe
Lucille Benson – Lady at Snakerama
Tim Herbert – Gas Station Attendant
Charles Seel – Old Man
Shirley O’Hara – Waitress
Alexander Lockwood – Old Man in Car
Amy Douglass – Old Woman in Car
Dick Whittington – Radio Interviewer (voice)
Carey Loftin – The Truck Driver
Dale Van Sickel – Car Driver

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings movie posterSynopsis
Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is heir to the villainous Ten Rings organization, an inheritance he does not want. After escaping and hiding for several years, Shang-Chi faces the Ten Rings again to stop his father (Tony Leung), the leader of the ancient organization, from unleashing an evil that could destroy the world.

Review
After the epic scale of Avengers: Endgame, it is a nice change of pace to come back to stories that are smaller and more personal. Black Widow might have been the first film released in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but chronologically, it was before Avengers: Infinity War. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the first film in the future proper of the MCU. And in the same vein of Phase One’s Iron Man, it takes place on a small scale and very personal level but opens the door for a much larger future.

Not too long ago, I went through the entire series of Kim’s Convenience, where Simu Liu plays the character of Jung Kim. It’s jarring to see him transition from a comedy role to an action role; I imagine it is the same feeling fans of The Office felt when they saw John Krasinski first play Jack Ryan. Anyway, Liu performed the action parts just as well as he did the comedy parts. His star power is quickly on the rise and I can’t wait to see more of him in the MCU.

As much as I like comedy, one thing that MCU films have had difficulty with is finding a good balance between humor and seriousness. Thor: Ragnarok is one example of an offender of this. However, Shang-Chi was able to balance these aspects much better than many of its predecessors. It helped that rather than have every character be the comedy relief, that role mostly fell on the shoulders of Awkwafina. Awkwafina as Shang-Chi’s friend (not love interest) Katy helped balance the film well. She had her comedic moments but they weren’t overbearing and never took away from the more sincere or somber moments. I hope future MCU films take note of this character and how to handle comedy in superhero films going forward.

Many comic fans did not like the Mandarin’s portrayl in Iron Man 3. I’m not a die-hard fan of the character of Iron Man so I enjoyed the character twist in that film. I especially like the follow up one-shot, Long Live the King, which follows Trevor Slattery after the events of Iron Man 3, which teased the appearance of the real Mandarin. Slattery, played by Ben Kingsley, is an entertaining character that Kingsley completely morphs into and always gets a laugh out of me. I was ecstatic to see him incorporated into the story in this film, especially after the previously mentioned tease at the end of Long Live the King. Kingsley once again plays the character to perfection and created some of the best laughs of the movie.

Way back in my State of the MCU Address, I stated that I wanted Shang-Chi to embrace its character’s roots and fully embrace the martial arts action side of things. And in that regard, this film did not disappoint. Every set piece was exciting and packed with exhilarating action sequences. It really channeled the Kung Fu roots of the character and let loose.

Like I said before, I’m not overly attached to the Mandarin character, and that also applies to his iconic ten rings. However, one thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the way the titular objects were portrayed in this movie. In the comics, I like to equate the rings to the infinity stones, albeit much less powerful, where each ring grants the wearer a unique ability. When combined and used together, the user is granted enormous power. But in this film, they became more physical in nature, not granting any special powers, other than not aging and physical power. I can understand the change, it might have taken up too much extra time explaining the rings’ powers or trying to find ways to incorporate the rings’ powers into the story, so the change might be benefial to the story, but it is disappointing to see the potential of the rings overlooked.

I thought Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was GOOD πŸ™‚ Phase 4 of the MCU has provided a fresh start while building inside what came before and this film has taken full advantage of that. It’s self-contained but offers a path into something greater going forward. The action is top-notch and the comedy is one of the best in the franchise in a long time. While it doesn’t quite make it to the top echelons of the MCU, it is an adventure that is well worth the time.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Destin Daniel Cretton – Director / Screenplay / Story
Dave Callaham – Screenplay / Story
Andrew Lanham – Screenplay

Simu Liu – Shaun / Shang-Chi
Awkwafina – Katy
Tony Leung – Xu Wenwu
Meng’er Zhang – Xialing
Ben Kingsley – Trevor Slattery
Fala Chen – Li
Michelle Yeoh – Ying Nan
Yuen Wah – Master Guang Bo
Florian Munteanu – Razor Fist
Jayden Zhang – Young Shang-Chi
Elodie Fong – Young Xialing
Arnold Sun – Teen Shang-Chi

Last Night in Soho Review

Last Night in Soho movie posterSynopsis
Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), a fashion design student in London, begins experiencing visions of a 1960s aspiring singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). Eloise soon learns that these visions are a dark truth from the past.

Review
Edgar Wright has slowly risen on my list of notable directors. While I haven’t seen a lot of his filmography, everything that I have seen has been enjoyable and full of substance and emotion. Last Night in Soho has several great and unexpected twists towards the end. On top of that, the lead up to those twists and reveals is full of excitement and had me on the edge of my seat (even getting a few jumps out of me). The two lead actresses, Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy, absolutely carry this film and they have both marked themselves as rising stars.

I thought Last Night in Soho was GOOD πŸ™‚ While not explicitly a Halloween film, Last Night in Soho is a perfect movie to watch when you need something to give you thrills during the spooky season.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Edgar Wright – Director / Story / Screenplay
Kyrsty Wilson-Cairns – Screenplay
Steven Price – Composer

Thomasin McKenzie – Eloise
Anya Taylor-Joy – Sandie
Matt Smith – Jack
Michael Ajao – John
Synnove Karlsen – Jocasta
Jessie Mei Li – Lara
Kassius Nelson – Cami
Rebecca Harrod – Ashley
Terence Stamp – Silver Haired Gentleman
Diana Rigg – Ms. Collins