There’s a Christmas tree somewhere in London with a bunch of presents underneath it that’ll never be opened. And I thought, if I survive all of this, I’d go to that house, apologize to the mother there, and accept whatever punishment she chose for me. Prison… death… didn’t matter. Because at least in prison and at least in death, you know, I wouldn’t be in fuckin’ Bruges. But then, like a flash, it came to me. And I realized, fuck man, maybe that’s what hell is: the entire rest of eternity spent in fuckin’ Bruges. And I really, really hoped I wouldn’t die. I really, really hoped I wouldn’t die.
There is Fire Present in All of Nicolas Cage’s Movie Posters
Movie posters generally carry a similar aesthetic—especially within particular franchises or the films of whole corporations, like Marvel—many having the focus largely on protagonists or lead characters. Sometimes they’re in line-up formation at the head of the poster, or, if the marketing team is really clever, they’re squared off in boxes—all of them laughing histerically at nothing. Of course, there are those featuring our hero’s heroic backside as well, cape sometimes but not always flowing in some contingent gust of wind. If their torso, however, is facing forward, they are most definitely preoccupied with (or determined to do) something, whether it be killing or having non-platonic relationships with the opposite sex.
…But then there are those with Nicolas Cage, who, for whatever reason, is regularly engulfed in flames.
(Unfortunately, there was no room to fit any additional posters. Lord of War, Drive Angry, Gone in 60 Seconds, and The Wicker Man include combustion as well.)
Movie Review - After Earth
After Earth hits about all the same notes, evenly and with solid conviction. Which is both good and bad, in some ways, since an excellent film is never the one that walks the straight-and-narrow, but the one that sees an opportunity to explore and employs it. After Earth lacks the ability to do this, its ineptitude stemming from a conventional-type story arc of a boy who must become a man—his father, of course, along as motivation—and a smaller focus on what should have gained the most attention: Earth a millennium into the future.
M. Night Shyamalan has directed and co-written, along with Gary Whitta, what is surely his most competent film in years, although there’s little comparison to be had between this and some of his earlier work. Instead, he’s ditched the ‘last-minute twist’ and swapped it for an absurdly direct approach—perhaps too direct, at times. In other words, I wasn’t shocked when the film began with a monologue.
This quick summary of events is told through the lens of a boy living on Nova Prime, the distant refuge humans sought out as a replacement for a dying Earth. Jaden Smith is Kitai Raige, the son of his father’s character Cypher and a cadet in The United Ranger Corps—a peacekeeping military headed by Raige Sr. to combat the alien threat already present on Nova Prime. These life forms, strangely obscure and never really dealt with head-on, have taken to developing beasts known as ursas. Rigged with pincers and razor-like fangs, the ursas hunt in a way that allows them to literally smell their victim’s fear, a result of having no actual ability to see. In effect, a tactic called ‘ghosting’ was spawned by Cypher, wherein fear is to be let go, blinding the ursa entirely.
Most of the movie’s exhausting terminology and briefing wraps up rather quickly; things become much simpler. Eventually, Raige and his son are caught in an asteroid storm, their ship damaged and forced into a crash-landing on Earth—a relic, unfit for human life. The essence of the film is survival, now, as Cypher and Kitai are stranded and miles separate them from a backup beacon which can be used to fire a distress signal into space. Conveniently, Cypher’s legs were broken in the collision, which leaves the underage Smith to retrieve it.
This remaining hour or so of the movie is set comfortably on Earth—though it’s more underwhelming than anything else. I’m pretty confident that most everything Kitai sees on his trek can be seen now on, say, a morning hike. It doesn’t seem all that harrowing at first glance—in fact, it’s far more reminiscent of an Earth before human life than after it. There are no skyscrapers lodged into the sides of cliffs, there are no crumbling monuments or bridges languishing in the oceans. It’s a tranquil environment, really. So much so that it pretty much begs the question: what makes Earth so uninhabitable anyway? It seems all it takes is a small juice packet to set your breathing right, and sure, predators are a factor—but that line Will Smith said about how everything on the planet had evolved to kill humans is totally bogus. How could something evolve to kill us if we’re not even present?
I mean, for a “class-1 quarantined” place, Earth is actually somewhat composed.
As for father and son, Jaden’s visibly lacking and struggles with delivering an already poorly conceptualized accent; big Willie’s character is stoic as all hell, but steals a pass from me since he’s confined to the ship’s cockpit for a portion of the movie. Somehow, hampered by a languid, badly written character, he still manages the muted expressions, the minor vocal patterns. It’s not the Smith from any number of his better films—a more toned down one, rather—but he works with what he’s given. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of his son, who we’re reaffirmed has almost no business leading in movies.
After Earth should have been a visceral experience, something fresh and, visually speaking, held to much higher standards as well as pushed to far greater lengths in terms of narrative. There was a strong and also predictable undercurrent of character motivation—Kitai searching for a kind of acknowledgement his father’s clearly unable to provide—though, like After Earth as a whole, it’s been done before and is nearly bordering plagiarism at this point. It’s competent enough for what it is, and I suppose enjoyable for whatever demographic the filmmakers had in mind, but it’s ultimately sunk by a certain level of mediocrity and drowned in repetition that it’s forgotten long before Shyamalan’s name can fill the screen.
5/10 - Mediocre
Movie Review - 50/50
Brick served as a lead-in, for me, to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s work, Rian Johnson’s 2005 teenage mystery as well as his directorial debut. Brick was an okay film, I thought — it hadn’t resonated with me nearly as much as it had with others. Though, Gordon-Levitt has since emerged as one of the more recognizable young actors working in Hollywood right now. His growth from just eight years ago to now is staggering, and he’s to the point where I’m drawn to his movies because of him. I’ll be seeing Don Jon because he’s in it — the fact that he’s written and directed the movie is only a plus. (Oh, and… Scarlett Johansson). But, as with (500) Days of Summer and last year’s Premium Rush — two movies I couldn’t imagine myself enjoying with a lesser actor involved — 50/50 caught me with Gordon-Levitt.
Based in part by the true story of the film’s own screenwriter, Will Reiser, and his personal experiences with cancer, 50/50 follows 27-year-old public radio journalist Adam Lerner (Gordon-Levitt) as he discovers he has a kind of malignant tumor along his spine. The rare cancer, horrifyingly labeled schwannoma neurofibrosarcoma, presents Adam with disappointing odds (that is depending on whether or not you’re a “glass-half-full” kind of person). His chances of survival are fifty-fifty, as ensured by the Internet. Thus, the film builds a story centered on Adam and his progression through cancer treatment, and his relationship with lifelong friend Kyle (Seth Rogen).
50/50 is sold largely as a comedy, one that deals with serious issues in a way that makes light of it all. But my admiration for the film comes with how undeniably real it turns out within the third act, and how, unlike other dramas that tend to run desperately towards amusing one-liners and a comedic approach, 50/50 handles its characters with a sense of authenticity and care. There are seldom any jokes in the last half hour, but I hadn’t expected them either. Rather, with all that its characters have been through, the movie creates a sensible atmosphere in which everyone is reacting as they genuinely would. And, not surprisingly, this veristic representation of the phases of cancer is attained predominantly through good acting.
Both Rogen and Gordon-Levitt use incredible range in their scenes; Rogen’s attributable characteristics as a comedian are present, but so are his less typical, much more sincere behaviors. His interactions with Gordon-Levitt are well-balanced, their banter feeling mostly improvised — he shows actual concern for his friend but masks it with an oddly comforting sense of humor. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt does phenomenally conveying everything from his character’s frustration, his outpouring of realization — you’ll know the scene — to his acknowledgement of possible death and his contentment with it.
Also along to make things feel so much more awkward, Adam’s younger therapist, Katherine (Anna Kendrick), offers a place for him to safely collect his thoughts — only later, when he splits with his attractive but ultimately selfish girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), does he see the potential in their relationship. A perfect match, given both of their insecurities.
Director Jonathan Levine, now known for this year’s Warm Bodies, has something wonderful and unique in 50/50 — cancer is a sore subject, but the movie does well straying from tradition, avoids the trivializing of a serious illness while giving audiences something sincere, heartfelt and especially comical. The film is so representative of love and friendship, demonstrates that both are naturally healing and always delivers on its promise to make you laugh. And sometimes, that’s all you need.
7.5/10 - Good
There is part of me that’s very unsure about this, but I am also starting to get kind of excited. With the casting of Ben Affleck, Warner Bros is essentially, permanently, closing the door on Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. This is, in actuality, an amazing thing. It may go down as the definitive Batman film series, and while the character will be rebooted and revived countless times in our lifetime, that trilogy will be special and permanent. If Batfleck is connected in anyway to that series, I think it would be a bad move.
Batfleck should be a timeless Batman. I could picture a scene in the Batcave where Batfleck walks into his garage and all the film versions of the Batmobile, from Adam West to Michael Keaton to Christian Bale, so I mean ALL of them. It would be a great wink and nod, as if to say “this is a different Batman, but still the Batman you know and love”.
I know the reaction yesterday was swift and negative, and I’m partly to blame. The comparisons to Heath Ledger some have been making are a bit off. Heath was coming off Brokeback Mountain and Christopher Nolan is a profoundly unique filmmaker. Affleck carries a lot of baggage and Zach Snyder is far from being Nolan. This is more like Michael Keaton being cast as Batman, and the venom journalist spewed at the choice back in the 80’s. That worked out great, and I hope that happens here.
I do, however, feel bad for Henry Cavill. This sequel should have defined his Superman, and it may be over shadowed by Batfleck. I’m hoping that Superman gets his proper time in the spotlight.
As I said upfront I’m excited, but I’m still unsure. If the news read “Ben Affleck is directing and starring in the next Batman film” I would be elated. Affleck is a rising director, and a very impressive one at that. The films he’s made so far scream for him to direct a Batman movie. Unfortunatly, he will not be directing.
I was cautiously optimistic about Man of Steel, and while I enjoyed it, the film was not a home run. The announcement of Batman vs Superman (or whatever they plan to call it), got me excited again. But now I find myself back to being cautiously optimistic for the next film, instead of blindly excited. With that, I want to say a sincere congratulations to Ben Affleck. I know you will bring 110% to the role and I hope you kick major ass. I’m rooting for you sir.
So, that’s how I feel….. now where is the Wonder Woman movie?
But see, the best part of Affleck’s inclusion is how dramatically the chances of us seeing a solo Batman film helmed by him have increased.
Stare into his eyes as he whispers “I’m better than you.”
Well, Ben Affleck is the new Batman. You’ve likely heard the news already — I’d be rather impressed if you hadn’t. But, as this story seems to have blown up over night and throughout the day — not surprisingly given Twitter’s existence — I thought I’d weigh in on it while the “wound” is still fresh.
So I’ll go on record with this: Affleck will prove you wrong, and he’ll do it just as Ledger did it in The Dark Knight, just as Craig did it in Casino Royale. And while I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to claim his superiority to Bale, I will say, effortlessly, that he will trump the four who came ahead of him. Why? Because Affleck’s a phenomenal actor. Because he has a (dynamic) duo of Academy Awards and because he can pull it off — even if you’re still hung up on Daredevil, a film released 10 years ago. I know it’s difficult to grasp, but people change, people mature. Of course, my opinion on the movie is yet to be shared with all of you, but that’s another opinion for another day. (Although the Internet may never be ready for what I have to say.)
Anyway, watch out for the “I told you so.”
I think that movies can, and should be, a group activity. Making the movie itself is an extremely collaborative process, and I think that how and when someone watches a movie, be it all alone on a laptop at 4 AM or in a theater surrounded by strangers, directly affects the memory of the film.
Above is a picture frame showcasing the ticket stubs I’ve collected over ten years, approximately May 2003 - May 2013. One decade, one hundred and fifty-eight movies.
I can trace the past ten years of my life through these ticket stubs - the theaters move from New Jersey to Philadelphia to New York to Los Angeles just as I did. I remember who I saw each of these movies with, from high school (Superbad) to college (Iron Man 2). First dates (Grindhouse) and girlfriend fights (Rango). Movies I saw by myself (Amour) and with friends (my buddy Matt ripped a huge, loud fart during a pivotal scene in Milk).
And these aren’t even all of them, these are just the tickets that I’ve managed to save, the ones I didn’t accidentally throw out or lose. I’ve seen many more movies in theaters, and I really wish I had all of the stubs (my collection isn’t truly complete without cinematic treasures like Norbit or Indiana Jones 4).
I don’t want to oversell it. This is just a big piece of paper with smaller scraps of paper taped on top. But I don’t have any physical photo albums, I realized. Maybe one day when I really have time to kill I’ll go through Facebook and print out the pictures that I want to keep and put them in a nice little book to flip through when I’m feeling lonely or nostalgic. But until that happens, all I’ve got is this neatly arranged bundle of trash. And I’m okay with that.
(Here’s the full image if you wanted to see what movies I’ve seen, if we saw any together, or if you just want to judge my taste)