Tag Archives: The Dark Knight Rises

A short review of “The Collection” (2012)

I have to give “The Collection” an 8 out of 10.

No, it’s not a classic horror movie — it’s derivative of the “Saw” movies, and it seems to result from too little thought by the screenwriters.  The antagonist is a serial killer (and here a mass murderer) who employs extraordinary Rube Goldberg-esque machines to brutally trap his victims.

We know nothing about how he arrived at his expertise.  (He appears to be a demon-possessed Thomas Edison.)  His choice of victims is random.  His modus operandi is puzzling.  (Why bring a prior victim to a new crime scene?)  And we’re not even shown how these machines work — only CG’ed tracking shots of cables and pulleys.  Neither do we know why he has unarmed combat training that seems to approach the level of Batman’s.  And the question I was left with by the previous film (“The Collector,” 2009) is still the most egregious omission — how on earth does our bad guy have time to invade a house or building and set all these things up?!  There is SOME nice exposition about the killer’s motivations in some closing dialogue, and it’s wickedly interesting, but it’s cut short.

But, hey — this still got under my skin enough to be an effective horror movie.  The opening action set-piece (YEESH!) was not only frightening, it was also something completely surprising.  I knew bad things were afoot when we spot our horrible machinist lurking above, but … I didn’t expect THAT.

Even with almost no speaking lines, Randall Archer deserves credit for terrific physical acting throughout — not to mention some the best (worst?) crazy-evil eyes in horror film history.  (Just LOOK at this mamajama in the second picture below.)  Archer is a professional stuntman, and his movement and posture sell the role perfectly.

Even better is the presence of Josh Stewart, who returns as the first movie’s nuanced antihero.  I’ll say it again — I love this guy.  He’s a damned talented actor, and he deserves more leading roles in major films.  He was even frikkin’ awesome in his small role as Bane’s craven little henchman in “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012).

And Lee Tergeson, who I remember best as Beecher in HBO’s “Oz” (1997-2003), is also great to watch.

There are other nice touches too.  Like its predecessor, this movie could be smart and creative when it tried.  The use of a gun here is pretty clever, even if it seems obvious in retrospect.  (I wouldn’t have thought of that.)  And the fate of some of our bad guy’s past victims is both fresh and very disturbing.  If those ideas had been expanded on much further, this film would have risen above its status as a “Saw” imitator.

Finally, I love endings like the one we see here.  I won’t say more for fear of spoilers.

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My review of “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Dear Lord, Charlize Theron is a fantastic actress.  It’s amazing what she can communicate with just her facial expressions and line delivery, even when her dialogue is sparing and simplistic.  She’s also a superb physical actress, has great scene presence and is stunningly beautiful.  Why not simply call this movie “Furiosa?”  It’s really that character’s story; the titular “Mad Max” says and does little that is plot-relevant.  He is a superfluous character who is here only to attract the fanbase for the original “Mad Max” movies.

Theron is one of two things that “Mad Max: Fury Road” has going for it.  The other is pure spectacle.  I don’t love this movie the way that everyone else seems to (I’d give it a 7 out of 10), but I really did enjoy the action, special effects, costume, prop and set design.  This is like a modern “Ben Hur” (1959) on acid — the characters, weapons, sets and vehicles look great.  This movie is like a really good heavy metal album cover made into a feature-length film.

My attention wandered, though.  The action is often difficult to follow, thanks to too much Michael Bay-type directing.  Tom Hardy is really just a one-note character as Max, despite efforts to render him in depth with cliche flashbacks of a lost family.  And I liked this guy a hell of a lot in “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012); I thought he made the masked Bane a great villain with physical acting that compensated well for an obscured face.

I submit that this is a somewhat brainless movie that barely qualifies as science fiction.  We have a sparse opening montage that tells us about world-ending wars for resources, and then the rest of the movie is really just an extended gladiator battle in the desert with baroquely costumed bad guys.  It’s like a monster truck rally.

It’s sometimes fun, but it doesn’t make a great film.  The good guys are too thinly drawn to engender viewer sympathy; the bad guys are too cartoonish to be scary.  You also need to turn your brain off, lest certain questions occur to you:

1)  Doesn’t gasoline degrade over time?  I don’t think it would be worth warring or bartering for after a year or so, unless there are oil rigs and complex refineries to seek and develop it.  We see evidence of neither.

2)  What do people eat, out here in the never-ending desert?  The disappearance of “green places” is a plot point; there is no arable land.

3)  How often does this dictator (“Big Joe” or something?) give his subjects water?  Once per day?  I thought dehydration killed or immobilized people fairly quickly.

4)  Where the heck are we?  I hear a lot of United Kingdom accents.

5)  I’m pretty sure that blood transfusions don’t work like that.  And even if they did, you’d see a hell of a lot of opportunistic infections in such unsterile conditions.

6)  Why does one young woman immediately fall in love with a sleeping barbarian whose teeth are spray-painted silver?

Whatever.  I’m not saying that this is a bad movie; I’m just suggesting that it’s a little overrated given its current accolades by fans.  It’s fun enough, if you’re in the mood for a “Mad Max” movie.

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My review of “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012)

Blogging some of my past movie reviews — this is my take on “The Dark Knight Rises.”  Warning — fanboy bubbling ahead.

*****

Dear Lord, “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012) was fantastic.  This third and final installment to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, at several times, wanted to make me stand up and cheer.

This film deserves a perfect 10.  All of the magic of “Batman Begins” (2005) and “The Dark Knight” (2008) return – especially with respect to an excellent script with a layered, detailed plot and great, three-dimensional characters.  I found myself seeing parallels between this movie and another current popular comic book adaptation, AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”  Both seem to have expertly taken the best elements from the comics, but then also changed or updated the source material to enhance it and surprise longtime fans.  And there’s a great continuity with the preceding films in terms of characters, themes, motif and story.

The dialogue was wonderful; this is a quotable movie.  And the basic story is perfect, especially in the way this film was challenged to follow up the amazing “Dark Knight.”  They made some wise choices.  Instead of trying to match Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker, Nolan simply presents us with a new kind of “Bat-villain” — Bane, a supremely logical and ordered personality whose background seems very similar to Bruce Wayne’s.  I was a Batman comic book fan in the early 1990’s, when Bane was created.  He remains one of my all-time favorite villains, along with Randall Flagg, Two-Face, (Matt Wagner’s) Grendel, and Hannibal Lecter.  Nolan seized the compelling original character (created, I believe, by writer Chuck Dixon), and truly capitalized on it.

So too, did Nolan capitalize on the great character of Selina Kyle as Catwoman (again best characterized in the original comic by Dixon).  She was wonderfully played by a runaway performance by Anne Hathaway, and she really does deserve her own movie.

The acting was wonderful all around (even though Tom Hardy doubtlessly was challenged as an actor by a mask that obscured his face).  Hathaway, was a terrific surprise, and Gary Oldman and Michael Caine were awesome as always.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard did just great in their supporting roles, especially with some character aspects and choices that viewers might not have expected.  I’ve criticized Christian Bale’s acting in the past … but here I thought he was at his best in the trilogy.

By the end of the movie, the two quibbles I had were extremely minor.  One, we see various supporting characters use high-tech military vehicles that would seem to require at least some training.  (You and I cannot simply hop into a tank and know how to use it.)

Two, by the end of the movie, Bane is not quite the iconic character I remember from the comics.  He seemed upstaged by certain other characters.  But I’m a nerd, and Bane is a favorite, so … really?  There’s probably no pleasing me, anyway.

Seriously, though, THANK YOU CHRISTOPHER NOLAN.

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