Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Well, it's the end of an era. The Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale Batman trilogy has come to an end.  The Dark Knight Rises was a fitting and satisfying end. Before the first film, I doubted that the Batman series needed a reboot but Christopher Nolan did a fabulous job. Of the three, I would say this is the third best in the series. However, that is less a testament to the quality movie and more a testament to the quality of the trilogy of films that Nolan, Bale and company have produced. It's a damn good film.

The movie picks up eight years after the last movie. Harvey Dent/Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart) has been turned into a hero and Batman shunned. In fact, Batman has disappeared and Bruce Wayne (Bale) has become a recluse. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is still in place but is facing the end of his career with a younger Captain Foley (Matthew Modine) eager to take his place.

In regards to Wayne Enterprises, one of Bruce's final decisions before his self-imposed exile was not to move forward with a nuclear-based fusion reactor that holds the key to a clean energy future. He knew it could be easily turned into a devastating weapon. The decision has been a dire one for the once very profitable company. To save his company, he gives Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a wealthy investor with a passion for clean energy, the reins at Wayne Enterprises to oversee the project with Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman). It doesn't hurt that she's stunningly beautiful, a fact that doesn't bypass Wayne.

Of course, she's not the only beautiful woman in Wayne's life. There is the cat burglar he catches in the act. She's the beautiful Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway).

Then, there is the villian. The most imposing villian in the series (at least to me), Bane (the delicious Tom Hardy who is regrettably masked for all but two seconds). He's got the brains and the brawn to be a seriously formidable foe. The masked man has a plan to overthrow the powers-that-be in Gotham and hand the city back to the people ... oh and steal the reactor and turn it into a powerful nuclear weapon. Young policeman Blake knows that only Batman can save the day and, having figured out his true identity, he knows exactly who to go to to make that happen, Bruce Wayne.

There is a lot of exposition because there is a lot going on in the movie. In fact, there are long stretches with no Christian Bale at all! I did feel his absence during these extended sequences but there is a lot going on in this movie.

The performances were first-rate beginning with Bale but extending to Michael Caine (always a very protective and loving Alfred), and newcomer to Batman Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I initially had serious reservations when Anne Hathaway was casted as Catwoman but with Nolan's decision to play her sans camp, it was a good choice.

There are several stunning action sequences,  starting with the daring hijacking taking place between two planes in mid air. The football scene is a staple of the trailer but it's even more intense than what's shown there. Then, there is the new and improved - flying -Batmobile and Bat cycle.

I loved the ending. In fact, I loved the movie so much that I'll probably see it again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Here Comes the Judge ... or Judges!

If Mimi brings the 'girls' to the Idol
judging table, she might need two
Well, it looks as if, right now, Randy Jackson is sitting by himself at the American Idol judges table. Both Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez have announced that they won’t be back leaving two empty chairs and their corresponding Coca-Cola cups.

Rumors are rampant about possible replacements.

Mariah Carey: She’s a good friend of Randy’s and the Idol producers are said to be in hot pursuit.
DivaSoulSista: This would be a huge coup for the show. She has the success and the musical ability to make a phenomenal judge. Plus, the regular hours will allow her more time to spend with the kiddies.

Charlie Sheen: Rumors abound but there is no proof that Idol is courting him.
DivaSoulSista: Hell no and HELL NO! Charlie Sheen??? Seriously???? What musical background does he have. He’s a train wreck. I would boycott Idol for the first time if he were a judge.

Will.i.am: His name is being bandied about and he has worked with Idol contestants several times to assist Jimmie Iovine.
DivaSoulSista: I’d like to see him in this role. When he’s been on with Jimmie he’s given great advice, been very engaged and focus. Plus, he’s a proven hitmaker.

Fergie: She’s will.i.am’s bandmate in the Black Eyed Peas and a formidable solo artist.
DivaSoulSista: She could be good as long as she isn’t too nice.

Miley Cyrus: I’ve heard that she’s been approached.
DivaSoulSista: Ummm, no. Sure,she’d be a great catch for the younger demographic, but that’s not me.

Adam Lambert: He (and Clay Aiken) prove that #2 ain’t so bad. He was one of the first ones mentioned for a spot at the judges table.
DivaSoulSista: I was a Lambert fan and loved his musicality and theatricality.

Aretha Franklin: Idol hasn’t approached her but she has said she was interested … but only if she could bring pal Patti LaBelle.
DivaSoulSista: She is the Queen of Soul but, I’ve heard, she’s also a hellacious diva. Maybe a good choice if they can rein her in.

Monday, July 9, 2012

From Contestant to Judge???

American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert's name is being bandied about as a potential replacement for Jennifer Lopez. If he lands the deal, I believe he'll be the first contestant to make the leap across the stage to become a judge.

I think he'd probably make a good judge too. From what I've seen in interviews, he doesn't pull any punches. Plus, I think he'd push the contestants to take some chances and bring some much needed pizzazz to their performances. Let's face it. It's about the singing but it's about more than that. Consider that Adam, the theatrical one has had more success than the past two or three Idol winners combined. Name the past three winners. I dare you.

Looking forward to seeing how this plays out. We could be looking at an entirely new judges table come January. Steven Tyler's return is up in the air. I've also heard that stalwart Randy Jackson may be sacrificed in an attempt to raise last year's poor ratings!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Movie Review: Savages

Given the title, Savages, I was expecting Oliver Stone circa Natural Born Killers - super-violent, well-acted and over-the-top. I was disappointed. Savages had its savage moments but they were a number of mediocre moments between them.

O (Blake Lively) whose full name is Ophelia narrates the story. She is in love with two men Chon (Taylor Kitsch), a Iraq and Afghanistan vet who has brought more than a little of the war home with him and Ben (Aaron Johnson) a peace-loving, do-gooder Buddist. Together the men share more than a love for O, they also share one of the most lucrative pot growing business in the country. It's so lucrative and their weed so potent (Ben has dual degrees in business and botany) that it catches the attention of the Mexican drug cartel. Led by Elena (Salma Hayek) and her henchman Lado (Benicio Del Toro), they want to make a deal with the mellow herb-growing duo (or is it trio). Ben wants to work with them. Chon wants to kill them. Of course, Ben's way fails and they kidnap O. So you just know that things are going to end up going down Chon's way.

You know it doesn't bode will for a film when the bad guys are more interesting than the good ones. Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro are riveting whenever they are on screen. I can't say the same for our trio of protagonist. It started with the awful voice-over by O. Blake Lively, bless her heart, had the misfortune of having to read (and it sounded read) some truly terrible voice-over dialogue. Kitsch tried but just didn't deliver on the charisma. He did fare better than Johnson though. I didn't connect with his character or persona at all.

I did several watch checks and so did the people around me. By the time the end came (the real end and not the false one), I was really ready to leave. Really. I had purse in hand and was rummaging for my keys.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

I have to admit when I heard they were rebooting the Spider Man series, I was not excited. When I heard that Andrew Garfield (the lanky kid from The Social Network) would play Peter Parker, I was even less enthused. Then, I started to see the trailers and thought maybe I should give it a chance. After seeing it, I can actually say that The Amazing Spider Man amazed me by being a lot better than I expected.

Even though we were promised, "the untold story," most of us are familiar with the story of high school loser and fledgling photographer Peter Parker (Garfield). He lives with his Aunt Mae (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) after his parents mysterious death in a plane accident. I guess this is the untold part. We learn that Peter's parents fled because of the work his father was doing on cross-breeding species. Apparently, he was close to a breakthrough ... a bit too close. When it became obvious that he was in danger, his father and mother dropped young Peter off at his aunt and uncle's house, promising to return. Of course, they didn't.

After finding his father's briefcase, Peter finds his father's former partner still working on cross-breeding species for Oscorp. Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans) hopes to find a means of regenerating a limb to replace an arm he's lost. When he finds Conners, Peter also finds Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), a high school classmate, Oscorp intern and daughter of the police chief (Denis Leary).

 While visiting Oscorp, Peter sneaks into a lab and gets bitten by a genetically-altered spider. I think you know the rest. As for Conners, he makes himself a human Guinea pig. Only his attempts at regeneration are short-lived and contain dastardly consequences, turning him into a human lizard. Of course, only Spider Man can stop him from unleashing his fate upon the city of New York.

 I had my doubts about Garfield but I actually enjoyed his interpretation of Parker more than I did Tobey Macguire's. He came across as more of a high school student than Macguire ever did. I also liked the untold element, even though it doesn't pay off here (although they laid down the groundwork for a payoff in the sequel). Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy is also a bonus here. I felt she and Garfield had a chemistry and a connection that worked.

 As far as drawbacks, you knew Uncle Ben's demise was on the way, only the execution of it could have been better. The evolution of the Lizard could have been delved into a little deeper. Conners goes from a man with noble intentions to a megalomaniac with ambitiously evil intentions with the snap of a finger. It was a little too quick for me. 

All in all, I was impressed with this movie. Two things to keep in mind. I saw it in 3-D. I don't know if 3-D was really necessary because there weren't that many 3-D effects (save your money). Secondly, stay when the credits roll because midway through, you'll get a taste of what awaits in the sequel.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What I've Really Been Watching

I started the summer with the best of intentions, really I did. I laid out for you, faithful blog reader, what my summer television watching would entail ... but it hasn't quite worked out that way. So what have I been watching? In two words: Breaking Bad.

It's a show I've always wanted to watch and to prepare for the fifth season (which starts on July 15), every night AMC has been playing between one and four episodes, from the pilot through the Season Four finale. I'm done and I'm finally coming up for air!

He was the sweet, lovable, roller-skating
dad on Malcolm in the Middle.
Now he's the meth-cooking, bad-ass,
killing machine on Breaking Bad.

Breaking Bad is so intense it's ridiculous. I think it's a testament to the show that I could literally watch show after show and not get bored. Not only did I never get bored, I always looked forward to my next Break Bad mini-marathon. It's hard to believe that Bryan Cranston, once the goofy, adorable, disco-skating dad on Malcolm in the Middle is now a meth-making, bomb-carrying killer on Breaking Bad. Absolutely fascinating!

Other than BB, the love affair with Gordon Ramsey continues and I have watched Hell's Kitchen and MasterChef. I'm also looking forward to Hotel Hell. What can I say, I just love his shows!

I am not loving The Glee Project. I watched the first two episodes and it's safe to say, I'm over it. I didn't connect with any of the kids and I quickly tired of it. So far, I haven't been able to get into So You Think You Can Dance. Now that the final 20 have been selected, I'll give it another shot.

What probably won't get another shot is Dallas. I watched the two hour opining and it was okay, I just didn't see myself watching it again. Ever.

Frankly, in my Breaking Bad Haze, I've completely forgotten about Rizzoli & Isles and Franklin and Bash. Oops! My bad! I might try to catch up with those two.

In the meantime, I'll be counting down the days to the Season Five premiere of Breaking Bad on Sunday, July 15th!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Movie Review: Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection

Finally! Tyler Perry gives us a straight Madea comedy without the awkward dramatic subplots.Now, if we could only get him to stop putting his name in front of every movie title.

When the movie begins George Needleman (Eugene Levy) leans from the CEO of his company (Tom Arnold) that the division he's been the Chief Financial Officer of for the past five years is the center of a huge Ponzi scheme and he was hired basically because he wouldn't be able to figure it out and to take the fall when the crap hits the fan.

Madea's nephew Brian (Tyler Perry) is on the case and needs to put Needleman in his family into witness protection. Since the mob has infiltrated several of their wtiness protection programs, they need to send the family somewhere else until Needleman can testify at the trial. Brian has the perfect place, his aunt Madea's.

Unforuately, neighborhood kid Jake who's been on the straight and narrow is involved in the scheme too. It seems that his pastor dad (John Amos) put him in charge of the church's mortgage fund and he invested the money in Needleman's company, which means the money is now gone.

When the Needleman's arrive with wife Kate (Denise Richards), bratty teen daughter Cindy (Danielle Campbell), neglected son Howie (Devan Leos) and grandma Barbara (Doris Roberts), you know that it's only a matter of time before Madea sets those kids straight and teaches a lesson or two and she helps them get back the money.

This is one of the funniest Madea movies I've seen. I appreciated the lighter touch without the heavy-handed preachiness that bogs down most of Perry's Madea movies. Eugene Levy is hilarious on his own and to add him to a Madea movie was an excellent idea. The crowd laughed loudly throughout the film and everyone had a good time.

Most critics will pan it as they do most of Perry's movies. However, I really enjoyed it. Unlike most critics, I can take a silly comedy for what it is and not be disappointed when a silly comedy isn't an Oscar-worthy endeavor. If you were considering seeing this movie, see it. I do not think you'll be disappointed.

Movie Review: Magic Mike

If there ever was a Girls Night Out movie, Magic Mike is it. When I saw it with a group of friends and co-workers Friday night, it was obvious that everyone else in that movie theater had the same idea. A movie about male strippers promised lots of candy without all the sweaty oiliness that comes with the real thing.

The story is simple, Mike (Channing Tatum) works several jobs in hopes of saving up enough to start his custom furniture business. One day on his construction job, he meets The Kid (Alex Pettyfer) and introduces him to the world of male exotic dancing. On Mike's crew are club owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) and the guys: Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) and Tarzan (Kevin Nash). Yet, Mike is 30-years old and wonders how much longer he can live this life - something The Kid's overprotective (and annoying) older sister Brooke (Cody Horn) constantly reminds him.

When the focus is on the dancing, Magic Mike is magic. Frankly, I was never much of a Channing Tatum fan ... until now. Not only does he have some movies but he actually got to do some acting here and he was actually okay. However, between dance numbers, the movie got a little heavy at times. There was a point where The Kid takes a very unexpected turn that came out of nowhere. I see why they needed something like it to further the plot but the way it was executed left a lot of questions since it seemed to come out of left field.

Of the two women in Mike's life, The Kid's sister Brooke and Mike's hook-up friend Joanna (Olivia Munn), Munn had the better role. Her character, her character arc and her acting were far superior to Cody Horn who seemed to just pout and be annoyed through the entire film. She, for me, was the weakest link in the movie.

As I watched the credits, I noticed this was directed by Steven Soderbergh. I wish he had gone more of the Ocean's 11 route and made it more fun without the serious side. The women in the audience wanted a fun and frivilous Girls Night Out, when Soderbergh gave that to us, the movie succeeded wildly. When he tried to go all dramatic, the results were uneven and disappoiniting.