Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises - My Love Letter to Batman

I can't believe it's finally here!  Having just watched The Dark Knight Rises early this morning (8:45 am), I'm just as pumped to go see it again!  But before I tell you how much I enjoyed it, I want to share why Batman has become an integral part of my life:

He is claimed to be the favorite superhero of many, but Batman is MY FAVORITE.  Whether the medium is comic books, cartoons, or movies, I truly love his character.  I believe I have such a huge connection with Batman because of my father.  My dad, one of the most important figures in my life has shown me the entertainment of comic books.  Although somewhat vague, I can remember my dad bringing me to Tim Burton's Batman at the age of 3.  A few years later, I even remember seeing Batman Returns - My First Midnight Showing.  But it was Bruce Timm's Batman: The Animated Series that got me hooked to the character.  This cartoon defines so much of my childhood nostalgia. At that moment, I didn't really read comics, but I loved Batman - I had Batman action figures, Batman coloring books, and even Batman underwear.  

When I got to middle school, Star Wars became more my vice (yes this was a darker time).  But my disloyalty to Batman didn't last long as I got reinvigorated with comic book characters with a silly dice game called HeroClix.  The only place you could find these game pieces was at the comic book shop.  On one of my visits to the store, I strayed away from the game shelves and walked by the comic book racks.  There were lots of neat looking books, but there was one cover in particular that caught my eyes (and believe it or not, it was because of the tread on his shoes) - Batman #608 - Jim Lee's premiere issue to DC Comics.


To me, this was the dawning of a new era.  I fell in love with comic books, reading every story arc I could afford with the little money I had.  I loved all the characters, but there was only one I associated myself with the most - Batman.  Even senior year of high school, we had unofficial superlatives and I was the one named "Most Likely to be the Next Batman."  When I went to college, I decorated my dorm room with Batman statues, Batman posters, and even Batman bed sheets .  Thank God I had an understanding girlfriend at the time, because I repeated my whole childhood over again. 

Luckily, times have changed and pop culture has allowed nerdy comic books to be integrated with mainstream entertainment.  At the beginning, Marvel Comics dominated the box office with their summer blockbuster hits.  Always being more of a DC Comics fan, I waited many hours in line to see a movie in IMAX by rising director Christopher Nolan... and boy was I not disappointed.  Just as Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns transformed comics into a new direction, Batman Begins proved superhero movies could be transformed into works of art.  A few years later, without any hesitation, I showed up for the midnight IMAX premiere of The Dark Knight... and boy was I not disappointed.  This time, Nolan proved the critical success of comic book stories, resulting in some Oscar nominations, and even a win by the late Heath Ledger.  And finally, after four long years of waiting (and yes I'm kicking myself for waiting too long to purchase tickets for the midnight premiere), I was back in the theatre to see the final chapter of the character I most love - The Dark Knight Rises.

Christopher Nolan has made the most extraordinary trilogy ever - And can you believe it's based on my favorite character of all times?  Since this movie is so integrated with the first two films, Nolan ensures that every scene shot throughout his trilogy is meaningful.  Never fear, if you haven't re-watched the first two in quite some time, Nolan helps you out by carefully interweaving all key points you need to know in this last chapter. This movie is a step above the rest, almost having the feel of Revolutionary War film rather than your standard action flick.

Since this movie just came out, I don't want to spoil anything, but I have to mention some things I highly enjoyed:

  1. Christopher Nolan as Director - Christopher Nolan is one of the most innovative director's I know.  He doesn't waste of his previous techniques and only expands upon them.  If you enjoyed some of the visuals of Inception, you will love the opening sequence. 
  2. Tom Hardy as Bane - Tom Hardy's performance is terrific and terrifying at the same time.  Let's just say Hardy's performance has familiarities with his previous one in Bronson.
  3. The Batwing - Just as I was wary of the Bat Tumbler in Batman Begins, I was pleasantly surprised by the "BatWing."  The visuals are fantastic and its usage made sense to the story.
  4. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake - In my opinion, Gordon-Levitt is one of the most talented actors in Hollywood. He can do no wrong in my book (I even love his duets with Zooey Deschanel).  I'm not going to say anything about his character in the movie, but you will enjoy the hell out of his performance.
  5. Anne Hathaway as Catwoman - Forget Halle Berry ever existed, this is how Catwoman should be depicted.  Mr. Nolan, I would love to see more adventures of Selina Kyle.
Much credit must also be given to Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary OldmanTheir performances have defined a new Batman mythos I find highly respectable.  To me, this is of utmost importance because this is the Batman the public will remember.  Their performances, combined with Hans Zimmer's powerful score and Nolan's storytelling has created an Epic Trilogy that has made me shiver with goosebumps and fight off tears of emotion - someting very few movies make me do.

Christopher Nolan, thank you for protecting the Batman I love.

So on Death List Five, The Dark Knight Rises ranks #5.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pulp Fiction at the Garden Theatre

As much as I love Tarantino films, I've only seen two on the big screen: Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds.  I am truly ashamed of myself because I should've snuck into the theater back in high school to see Kill Bill.  But last night, I redeemed myself of this atrocity by rewatching his seminal classic on the silver screen: Pulp Fiction (music cue Miserlou).

I was fortunate enough to see Pulp Fiction on the big screen in downtown Winter Garden, Florida.  I've never visited the area, but it's definitely a cool place to hangout.  Plotted with cobble stone bricks, the area is surrounded with mom and pop shops including a book store, a bicycle shop, and even a railroad museum.  And there's plenty of restaurants to eat from whether it's Thai food or ice cream.  But as much as I enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere, the main reason I came to Winter Garden was to visit the Garden Theatre

Usually a stage for concerts , dances, and plays, the Garden Theatre puts up a large screen to play cult films over the summer.  With only one screen, an awesome sound system, and comfortable seats, the Garden Theatre is much nicer than your dingy grindhouse. 

Other than the obvious, I saw Pulp Fiction in theatre to experience the audience reaction.  With tons of laughter between Vincent and Jule's conservations (and even at Mia's Fox Force Five Joke) and a rolling applause at the final credits, this viewing  reaffirmed the power of Tarantino's dialogue. In addition to the laughter, most notable reactions were:
  • OD'ing Mia:  Based on the reaction of the crowd, I believe Mia OD'ing was the most tense moment of the movie.  As Vincent is about to plunge a needle into Mia's heart with an adrenaline shot, almost everyone covered their eyes in suspense and fear.
  • The Pawn Shop:  When Butch and Marcellus were bound and gagged, there was a Seven moment as someone in the theatre kept on saying "What's in the box" as the cage holding the gimp was shown.  Once the box was opened and the gimp was revealed, there were multiple gasps of "WTF."  After Butch freed himself while Marcellus was being raped, there was a sigh of disappointment when he reaches the pawnshop door and decides not to exit.  However, the disappointment was overshadowed with cheer as Butch selects the samurai sword over the hammer, baseball bat, and chainsaw.
Last night, I was also able to conduct a study in which I would like to call the "Pulp Fiction Experiment."  I propose, as long as you're not a psycho ultra-conservative Christian, you will enjoy Pulp Fiction.  So I brought a friend who has never seen the film as my test subject.  I'm sad to admit, but I was a little afraid she would disprove my theory because she absolutely hates horror films .  Nonetheless, my hypothesis was proven to be correct as she highly enjoyed the film.  So thanks for coming chica!!!

Although they won't be playing anymore Tarantino films this summer, be sure to check out the Garden Theatre if you're in the Winter Garden area.  For only a five dollar admission, you can't beat the deal if you're a fan of film.  You can look up their summer programming here:

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bullet Points - Exploitation with Some Wes Anderson

I'm constantly finding new things to watch but just don't have the time to write fully involved reviews due to school. So as a compromise, I'm going to bullet and give some quick thoughts of what I watch each week (and I promise Tarantino Comics is the staple of this blog and will not disappear).  So for this July 4th week, here's what I watched:  

Shogun Assassin - I've finally started the journey of my 5 movie blu-ray set.  I originally picked this up because  BB falls asleep to this revenge flick in Kill Bill.  The assassin's son's narration is very chilling, but is balanced with some fun creativity.  For example, the baby's wooden stroller is like a James Bond car, but instead of machine guns, it's loaded with blades of steel.  I enjoyed this film overall and excited to watch the rest of the series.   

Wilfred - I missed the season premiere two weeks ago, but I quickly caught back up.  Elijah Wood is an extremely likable character and it pains me to see him be tortured by a mischievous dog (who he sees as a man in a giant dog suit).  The situations are uncomfortable, almost unbearable, but that's why I continue to watch.  Also it's nice to see Chloe from Smallville... and I must say, I like her as a brunette.  

Desperado - I mainly put it in for some background noise while studying, but I forgot how beautiful Salma Hayek is.  Also, the Mariachi inspired me to learn some Spanish guitar - so I ended up buying a Manuel Rodriguez flamenco guitar.  Guitar Center had some Independence Day sales, so I decided to splurge.  It's a much different style from the Green Day style I'm use to playing, but it will be fun to learn.  Maybe there will be some Chingon covers posted by me in the future...  

The Faculty - I've never seen this Robert Rodriguez film before, but I had to watch it since it was recently added to Netflix.  With an awesome cast - Elijah Wood and Josh Hartnett as the heroes, Jordana Brewster as the pre-Rachel Berry hottie, and Salma Hayek as the school nurse - this is a fun teen horror movie.  

Moonrise Kingdom -  Although I may be biased since Scouting was such a strong influence in my youth, hands down, this is the best movie I've seen this year.  The only Wes Anderson film I've ever seen was The Royal Tenenbaums (which I remember enjoying in high school), but I have to go back and watch some of his other work.  Almost all of his films have are part of the Criterion Collection so that has to be saying something.  Anyways, between rotary and parallel panning (there's probably more technical terms than what I just used), Moonrise Kingdom has some of the most creative film techniques I've ever seen (on par with DePalma in my opinion).  With a star studded cast (Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, and Frances McDormand just to name a few), this comedy has many heartfelt moments that made me fall in love with film all over again.
That's it for this week.  Next week, plan on some Breaking Bad, hopefully some Savages, and yes... Katy Perry.