Life as I know it… plus commentary

The Dark Knight, Wall E & Hancock all get in a fight

with 11 comments

Actually, they don’t fight.  But they battle it out on arnoldcam for top movie honors… here’s how the movie reviews breakdown.

I’ve already been warned off using the word epic to describe The Dark Knight.  Hard to do when the word means impressive, imposing or surpassing the ordinary… for surpass is indeed what the movie does.

We’ll start out right off with what you’re wondering.  Yes Heath Ledger is phenomenal (not phenomnol, J).  Yes Heath Ledger will win a posthumous (posst’-hyoo-muss, not post-hyoo’-muss, T) Oscar.  I tried watching the movie without all the Entertainment Tonite style baggage of knowing what becomes of Heath.  For me it didn’t matter anyway.  Ledger creates a moral compass-less sociopath whose looks, demeanor, diction, body language, presence and aura make your skin crawl.  His take on the Joker encompasses every serial killer, child molester, terrorist, hostage taker and imprisoner/torturer we’ve ever seen on television and embodied them in a face painted weirdo who could be the accountant in the next cubicle.  This is Ledger’s genius and the Joker’s.  In the the Dark Knight, he doesn’t care about money or illicit gains.  His pay is the excruciating agony of good people put to horrible moral and ethical choices.  You know something is differnt when the Joker makes his entrance to a secret mob meeting.  He performs a grisly magic trick and half the audience laughed at my screening.  Later, the Joker sends a video to the police of an interview with someone he’s snatched off the street.  His minute long dialog encompasses so many voices and wobbles on the line of coherency and lunacy that the audience (that was laughing earlier) was rapt in a still and shocked silence.

Several times, the good guys are forced to decide whom to save.  In one speech, the Batman says the law must not break the law to uphold good and that’s why he’s there… to do good while being able to step outside the lines.  Secret CIA interrogation locations, anyone?  Even the petty bad guys tell Batman he cannot win against the Joker because Batman has rules he plays by, while the Joker has no such fettering constrictions.  Suicide bombers, anyone?

At once, we have good versus evil, commentary on the politics and ethics and the means to the end in fighting the war on terrorism, self loathing and slef discovery, love unrequited, and tragic death.  To call the Dark Knight a comic book movie is to call Hamlet a sad family tale.

Pushed against the wall, my only complaints about the movie are few and small.  Christian Bale’s voicing of the Batman gets gruffer and gruffer as the movie goes, to the point where I lost the ability to understand what he was growling.  And I have yet to see a movie that really needed more than one villain.

All in all, this is one of the top five movies I’ve seen and may actually be the best. A+(+!)

And now for something much lighter.  I wasn’t going to see this movie but Entertainment Weekly called it the best animated picture ever.  How can you not see a movie after that?  I saw it and decided that EW was correct n the assertion.

Wall E is the last clean up robot on a long deserted trashed Earth.  He tirelessly compacts trash and stacks them into skyscraper high piles.  Life is predictable and made bearable by his little friend, a cockroach.  Later a probe droid arrives, and like the people in the old movie Wall E watches on an iPod, longs to hold hands in the park.  He attempts to woo the EVE probe and love, hilarity and redemption on many levels occur.

There’s remarkably little dialog in this film.  Most of the movie is communicated to the watcher through the whistles, chirps and whirs of Wall E… who could rival R2D2 in his expressiveness.  The movie is mostly about the universality of the need for love and companionship and touches on themes of ecology, courage and staying fit!

Half the people in the theater I saw this movie at were children.  I don’t know what was funnier… the movie or the chuckles and belly laughs of the under ten crowd.  Shopping carts crash into Wall E and you laugh, and then the children laugh, and then you can’t help but laugh some more.

It’s hard not to leave this movie happy and hopeful and for this reason, we give this movie an A-.

I have to tell you… I had extremely high hopes for this movie with Mr 4th of July himself.  Hancock, like the main character, is full of power but is somewhat clumsy in the execution.

Hancock is a superhero of the worst kind.  He gets the villain, but wrecks miles of freeway and damages buildings and endangers police to do it.  With the help of a down on his luck but heart of gold PR guy (Justin Bateman), Hancock’s able to become a better person and thereby a better hero.

I liked this movie quite a bit and it wasn’t until the walk home that I began t really understand the bits I didn’t like.  The love story in this movie was extraneous.  It made the people you were supposed to like seem a little greasy.  And the plot twist took us from suspension of disbelief to a tossing out of belief altogether.  Imagine Good Will Hunting, but instead of the growing understanding and healing between the Matt Damon and Robin Williams characters, there was some of that but also explosions, car chases and mud wrestling.  And while I like all three, I don’t want them in everything I do.  The transformation of Hancock into a real person should have been the main story here.  Everything else distracted from the real story.  This left us with an unsatisfying ending and a forced openness for Hancock II.

Like I said, I did like the movie, it just needed more hero and less super.  B.


Written by arnold

July 22, 2008 at 11:58 pm

11 Responses

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  1. Hmmm….Wall-E gets an A-? What’s “minus” about it? I didn’t find anything missing. Is it because it’s a different class of movie, so you didn’t think it could get an A+ alongside Batman? Because a person can get an A+ in English and Math without one detracting from the other.

    Peggy C

    July 23, 2008 at 4:53 am

  2. Good review of Batman (I didn’t see the others, but now I kind of want to see Wall E — I won’t be seeing Hancock). And one clarification: Are you saying The Dark Knight might be the best movie you’ve ever seen? Is this the first A+ in Arnoldcam history?

    the kyle

    July 23, 2008 at 7:37 am

  3. Peggy-

    Now that’s an interesting, interesting point. In figure skating (uh.. ahem… from what I hear), you get more points if the tricks you try are more difficult. A CGI movie, in my scale, is never going to get higher than an A-. The entire production is made up of voice actors and animators. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a huge amount of talent involved in what they do and the new animators are breaking ground in ways people had not even thought of a few years ago. A movie like Batman requires costumers, and make up artists, and stun coordinators, and mechanical & electrical engineers, Batmobile designers, film editors, and actors. I think the degree of difficulty in pulling off a move like Batman is much more difficult than a wholly animated movie like WALL E.

    The Kyle –
    I think it might be. I’ve been saying for days now to people that The Dark Knight is the best movie I’ve ever seen. Lately though I’ve tried to consider some of my other “best movies I’ve seen” and wondering how does TDK compare to The Empire Strikes Back, The Fellowship of the Rings, Shawshank Redemption or Pulp Fiction or even The Departed. If TDK was about a regular guy vigilante and a wack job clown killer (maybe something along the lines of Se7en), then hands down it’s the best film ever. The fact that it’s a comic book movie detracts a little since the genre is not as well respected as straight drama. I’m still going to say best movie ever, but by less of a margin than I thought before.


    July 23, 2008 at 10:44 am

  4. I wouldn’t agree with “best movie ever,” but I did love it. You might be right about the prejudice against the genre.

    And I wonder if you really mean that a CGI movie can never be higher than an A- simply because it is CGI. Typically, animated films are silly, family films. That seems a better reason for a lower grade. In other words, Wall E could be the best silly, family film ever made, but that doesn’t mean it should get an A+ as a film. Presumably films don’t start at A+ and then decrease with every “mistake.” There’s something more to it. But is that something really the level of difficulty?

    Why couldn’t an animated film be moving, artistic, historically significant, or have a cultural impact that would merit an A+? If “difficult to pull off” is the big criteria, then the best movie in the world would be written in Basque, featuring a cast of Yeti, and shot entirely underwater. That would be difficult.

    the kyle

    July 23, 2008 at 2:28 pm

  5. What if it was filmed entirely in Aramaic and Latin, covered a period 2000 years ago, and was so excruciatingly violent that teenagers couldn’t see it? That would be difficult… or one of the best attended Easter season films in history.


    July 23, 2008 at 10:09 pm

  6. I think you should talk to some animators sometime and get some sort of idea just how difficult it is. I also think there are plenty of non-animated films that probably weren’t hard to make at all, yet they’re quite beautiful and poignant (I’m thinking of “Once” here), and I wouldn’t grade them down because of their simplicity.

    Peggy C

    July 24, 2008 at 4:40 am

  7. And another thing…. (yeah, I can’t help it, it’s sticking in my craw….)

    How long did it take to film TDK, from start to release? Then how long did it take to animate Wall-E, from start to finish? Animation always takes longer–is THAT a criteria for difficulty???

    I’m not saying TDK isn’t the better movie, mostly because I haven’t seen it. But your “degree of difficulty” concept based on the diversity of the crew? I’m not buying it.

    Peggy C

    July 24, 2008 at 4:53 am

  8. What if the film takes place entirely at sea and cost a record-breaking $175 million to make all the boats and costumes and elaborate sets and to pay Kevin Costner? Or what if the film takes place even farther back than The Passion, say, 10,000 B.C.? Or what if it includes amazing physical feats like, say, Rush Hour? A great film can be simple and a bad film can be difficult.

    Also, what are some of the other well-attended “Easter season movies” in history that are giving Gibson’s Passion competition (as though “well-attended” means “good”)? Didn’t he have the easiest job in the world of selling an Evangelical Jesus movie to Evangelical Christians?

    the kyle

    July 24, 2008 at 9:04 am

  9. Well…see… I’m not disagreeing with you Peggy, on the art of animation. The fact I gave an A- to WALL E is a testament to the animators of that film. It’s rare to see an animated film give such expression to a pair of goggle eyes, or slumping shoulders or such communicative clicks and whirs. And the backgrounds were so well done you sometimes forgot you were watching animation. The art and technical prowess of animators is not lost on me. I do however think it’s more difficult to create and build actual sets, wait for the sun to be in the right place in the sky and have every mechanical piece run correctly for the perfectly acted shot. My point is not based on the diversity of the crew, but rather that their varied efforts have to come together perfectly to achieve their art.

    The point here is not to make the film as difficult as possible but rather to recognize there is some added degree of difficulty when coordinating efforts from disparate agencies and specialties.


    July 24, 2008 at 10:39 am

  10. I have not seen TDK, so I may even agree with you in the end about it being a better movie, but I disagree with your criterion.

    Perhaps it’s because I have no artistic talent whatsoever, whereas I could walk on a movie set and pretend to be someone else or sew a costume or build sets, etc. That seems to me to be the less difficult medium of expression than animation. Coupled with the fact that there are definitely separate animation teams creating sets, backgrounds, costumes, recording sound…..geez, just like a real movie!
    Anyhow, I’ll quit beating this dead horse….

    Peggy C

    July 24, 2008 at 9:23 pm

  11. I had left a comment yesterday morning, but apparently it didn’t take.

    Basically, you may be right about TDK being the better movie (I still haven’t seen it), but I just take a different point of view on the “difficulty” factor.

    To me, making something “real” is a lot simpler–a set that you can walk on, touch, interact with and in, cast people to converse with and see–that’s within the realm of possibility for me.

    But art? I have NO gift there whatsoever, whether hand-drawn or computer-drawn. So my perception of the two weights Wall-E as the harder medium to work in based on my skill set (or more accurately, my lack-of-skill-set.)

    Peggy C

    July 26, 2008 at 3:34 am

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