Bootler"s Yearly Random (But Interesting) Fact

7-Up was origanally named Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Golden Bortons 2008 -- Interview #4: Dennis Zöllner

An interview with Dennis Zöllner, a.k.a. mr. limes, co-creator of No. 2.

Click here to see the film!

KS: What made you interested in filmmaking?

DZ: I think it has to do with the idea of enhancing the way to tell a story in a way no prose work or stage play can. I mean, it's there where the cultural heritages lie, but I feel somehow with moving pictures you can go far beyond - it's rather like a kind of amalgamating all other forms of art if done in the right way.
I always had a strong need to find ways of telling stories- so sooner or later I had to end up shooting film I guess.

KS: What were some of your earliest experiments in filmmaking?

DZ: Oh, terrible stuff. Very clumsy animations and a pretty trashy Sci-Fi parody. But it was incredible fun shooting it- just playing along with the medium and having fun. I've learned a lot during that project.

KS: Where did the idea for No. 2 come from?

DZ: Actually it was an improv exercise we had to do at film school. The task was to produce a short from scratch to post in 1 day. As to explore the effects of sound and picture only, we were limited to use only five words in it.
The idea itself came as my fellow student Jane and me sat thinking hard at the cemetery across the street of our institute building. The first thing that was clear pretty quickly was, that we wanted to do the whole thing completely silent and in the style of the old Expressionist movies we like. Then, there is that labyrinthine cavernous cellar underneath our institute building and I wanted to use that setup, it seemed appropriate. The only way to show its full vista was if we had someone walking through it, so we had a loose direction. I don't know anymore who threw in the idea of that jack-in-the-box, but from then we knew what we were heading to.
By the way, the submitted version is not the original, it was much shorter and we never felt it worked in the right way. A few weeks ago we decided to upheave the whole project and when I came across the call for contributions we decided to submit it if we made it to finish in time. Well, we did.

KS: Certainly, there is a lot of influence from German Expressionism, as you stated. What films in particular did you seek to emulate, if any?

DZ: Well, the beginning is a reference to Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, you know there is that close up when Cesare wakes up at Caligari's tent on the fair- that's what we had in mind when shooting the opening scene. The design of the boxes is another thing that is a slight reference to the whole production design of "Caligari", with all its irregular angles and distorted edges. Coming tho think of it, the whole somnambulist thing of "Caligari" is a kind of sub- level of it , as one doesn't know if the man is dreaming or not - so it's pretty much Caligari in it.
On the other hand we have a very angular and clear cadrage - given through the location's architecture - you might find some references to "Metropolis" in its geometric look. Although that great hall with its pillars and wooden pilasters miight remind one a bit on the wood in Lang's first "Nibelungen" part. But that's things the location gave us and if they are references at all, they are more subconscious. The main influence certainly is "Caligari".

KS: One of my favorite aspects of the piece is the location. It has a very rich textural quality to it, but did you have any difficulty shooting there?

DZ: Heehee, yes. As I said it's a huge cellar areal underneath our institute building and is partly in danger to collapse. So we had to ask a special permisson of our rector for getting down there. Plus we had to promis not to go to these parts of it. But they were the most interesting by far. In fact, the room in the final scene and that passage that looks like an old mine are in that area ...
Although it was damn wet down there. Actually there are even some kind of stalagmites- and -tites. And it's just a cellar! But that obviously was good for the atmosphere of the film.

KS: Aside from German Expressionism, what else, film and otherwise, are you typically influenced by?

DZ: Oh, on the visual side certainly a lot by Gilliam and of course Burton, but I also am stunned by the perfection of Kubrick's mise-en-cadre
compositions and as for story telling I am a great fan of Takeshi Kitano's editing method. But that had no impact on "No.2" I guess.
As speaking for my fellow student Jane- who has an equal share on this project - I think I can say that her influence very clearly lies at Burton and Gilliam too. That's why we can work together that good I guess.

KS: How important is it to you to emulate previous works?

DZ: Well, doing "No.2" was fun, but usually it's not that I am thinking so much about emulating some other works. At least not directly, it's more about influences I think. I mean the whole prodcuction process of"No.2" is more like a stream of consciousness -thing insofar that we just remembered the moody vault and wanted to do something in there and as the task was also to use merely any word, or thoughts went down that path to silent movies. But it's not always that way, in general it's more the story choosing itself the right style during the forging process . But certainly our influences always have some impact in one way or another. I guess that's pretty normal. You just have to look out to maintain your own style - too much references can make you stumble a bit I guess...

KS: Do you have any future projects in mind?

DZ: Oh yes. There's a handful of treatments we came up with in the last, I guess, three years that still wait to be shot. Then there's also the script for a feature length project we're writing and hope to get our stuff ready for next years' submission deadlines of several film funding commissions to (hopefully) get it up.
And right now we're also in production with another short that will you change your look on umbrellas for ever. At least we hope ....

KS: What sort of advice would you give to fellow aspiring filmmakers?

DZ: Hm, I guess it's about decisions. Do you wanna make easy money or do you just love the medium. If it is the first, well then- just always stick to Aristotle and never forget to put in the lawyer that rapes that pregnant single mother, that will boost the box office for certain. But if it is the love of the medium- there is a poem the great Leonard Cohen once wrote about writing poetry, it goes something like that: "I am sitting here, writing poems, in the midst of night- for the ones like me, to be read in nights like this." I think it's the same with film. Just do the kind of movies you yourself want to see.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Golden Bortons 2008 -- Interview #3: John Erik Taylor

John Erik Taylor, a.k.a. nobody, talks about his animated short, Jungle Swing.

You can watch the musical animated film in this link!

KS: What made you interested in filmmaking?

JET: An active imagination I guess, I'm always coming up with plots. It's the form they take, how i imagine them. I've thought of writing books before and still plan to. But really i'm more into movies then reading.

KS: What were some of your earliest experiments in filmmaking?

JET: GCSE art class, which i guess is around when i was 16. I believe we had to each do a short animation. I think everyone did a stop motion piece except me, i did a 10 second hand drawn piece called 'The Tower', its incomplete i forget how it was meant to end. (it should be on my website). after that i remember lots of brief stop action animations using a digital camcorder i got one Christmas. And when i got the camcorder i remember just filming anything, non of it came of any use. I still have the tapes somewhere...

KS: What's the origin of "Jungle Swing"?

JET: Anton proposed we that make films for 'Ape Week' and so i decided to do a tribute to the great apes of cinema. at one point i even thought of doing a montage of ape b-movies. I went on to look for music and went to my Cab Calloway tracks first, when i heard Jungle Swing the idea just hit me to animate the story being told (even in just the literal sense) and I manage to keep my original idea in there as well.

KS: How did you film and edit "Jungle Swing"?

JET: Everything is drawn on standard printer paper, in pencil and ink. Then I scanned everything a drew and edited on Final Cut Pro. And I think I done some basic editing on Photoshop as well.

KS: Other than the Cab Calloway music, what were some influences on the "Jungle Swing" (both film and otherwise)?

JET: I guess the way it was laid out, it was constructed not too unlike a childrens book, although this was more due to time constraints. As for my general drawn style, and this goes all my animations, it would be early animations of the 20s and 30s. Simply because it was so basic and crude and thats the sort level I'm on.

KS: You mentioned how pretty much everyone else in that class did stop-motion, whereas you did hand-drawn animation. Why do you think you gravitated toward that style of animation instead? Do you generally prefer 2D and hand-drawn?

JET: I'm a drawer by heart and most of the animation i grew up with and loved has been cel animation. It's like choosing between painting and sculpting. With the art class i think we were all expected to do stop-motion as this was to be done by camera, i decided my preference and did it my way. The same happened in University. We were meant to do an animation on 16mm, most people went for stop motion, but a small few of us decided to do 2d, which required the use of a rostrum, a device for actually doing proper cel animation, with the camera practically on the ceiling pointing down. I did cut outs rather then drawing that time, It was interesting using the rostrum.

KS: You mentioned how time constraints made it so that the animation was more simple. But if you had more time, would you have made the animation more full and fluid, or do you think the limited, simple illustrations were enough for this piece?

JET: There was a lot plain still i used, with more time i may done more to that. However the entire itself was all down to a time constraint so it could of been something entirely different. As for being more fluid, i don't know. That's a bit more difficult. There's still some charm in there.

KS: Do you have any more plans to work with 2D animation? What other projects do you have in mind for the future in general?

JET: I certainly do plan to continue animating, maybe i'll do another some perhaps? Other than that I'm still trying to write a feature. Live action. It's been a while since i was actually writing. In the meantime i'm just trying absorb as much as i can, watch as much new, interesting films as i can and get reading.

KS: Do you have any advice or suggestions for a fellow aspiring filmmaker?

JET: Plenty, get a camera, please record and you're a filmmaker. simple as that. Just keep trying new things and always stay original, to yourself and otherwise.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Golden Bortons 2008 -- Interview #2: Autumn McPherson

Our second Golden Bortons interview: Autumn McPherson, better known as Stumbleine, on Zombie Girls Don't Cry.

Click here to watch the movie!

KS: What was the origin of the idea of this project?

AM: My fellow classmates and I were all set to film a cheesey 1960's style black and white sci-fi thriller called "Zombie Lawyers from Outer space", for the BAR association contest when they all bailed out on me because they didn't want to put in the time and effort it would take. I had my heart set on doing a zombie flick, but now since our project would literally take one day, I decided to do my own film and thats when I started brain storming with Anton Phibes, sending him ideas for quirky scenes which he would quickly deliver back to me eliquently put in script format.

KS: What were some of your earliest efforts in filmmaking?

AM: My earliest memories behind a camera was when I was five or so. My dad who I barely know now let me use his camera at a play place restaraunt and I filmed my feet going down slides over and over. Then in highschool I stole my parents camera and pretty much filmed my entire highschool experience, until I got sick of school and dropped out to become homeschooled. I messed around with stop motion a little, made silly films with friends about drugging drag queens and avant garde music videos for french pop songs.

KS: What made you want to make movies?

AM: The Labyrinth, I wanted to make a world where I too could put David Bowie in reveling tights and big hair. Although originally I was planning on just being strictly a music video director, I wanted to make the smashing pumpkin videos, I think thats when I made my mind up that I wanted to direct was when I watched the making of their music videos. The video "Tonight Tonight" was beautiful and I wanted to create something that beautiful that was my own. That was the key thing that motivated me to go to film school.

KS: What were some of your influences (film and otherwise) for Zombie Girls Don't Cry? What about your filmography in general?

AM: A big influence for Zombie Girls Don't Cry is the movie Harold and Maude, I borrow that almost 70's style of dark comedy for this piece. Also the works of Wes Anderson inspired me. I believe his and Woody Allen's works have inspired my general filmography, that and old time comedies, like those the Marx brothers and Charlie Chaplin created.

KS: Zombie Girls Don't Cry is a very subtle, brief piece, a very delicate little story. When did you feel that you had given just enough of your message in its brief duration, and with generally subtle nuances? And what is that message/idea behind it, if any?

AM: Zombie
girls was actually intended to be about a half an hour long. The project was abandoned after big complications. The story had continued to the two falling in love through a quirky trick or treat scene (which was actually filmed but has not been view by anyone but myself), a run in with a barber shop, and other cute dark comedy moments added in. But when she brings the zombie boy home to meet the parents things don't go as planned. She's forbidden from seeing him (a bit of zombie prejudice happening) and ends up crying alone in her room (You see, she crys a lot in the movie!) and then runs away to the cemetery to be with the zombie boy, her dad comes after her, afraid that he's lost her, and in fact he has, shes allowed zombie boy to turn her into a zombie as well, and therefore she has no reason to cry anymore.

This story actually came true in my very own life shortly after. Not with a zombie boy of course, and my parents didn't get in the picture, but I was left for another woman and ended up alone and just as misrebel as Sophia, and soon there after was saved and fell in love with a wonderful quircky character myself. It's funny how a story I created was projected so ironically into my real life. I really wouldn't change it for the world.

KS: Make-up effects are often pivotal in your work. Do you find some reason on why you gravitate to that sort of visual expression in film?

AM: It was a big necisity for me to have effects in the film, you cant have a zombie without some make up. Unless you happen to know a real zombie, sadly, i've yet to meet one myself. I did the make up myself, fully stocked up after halloween for the sales, I actually, a year afterwards, am still pleantiful in zombie makeup.

KS: At first glance, the use of such soft folk music with the zombie theme would seem like a striking juxtaposition. How did you feel these two elements would fit well together?

AM: I loved the idea of putting the folk music with the film, probably again a big influence from the use of Cat Steven's music in "Harold and Maude". I had first envisioned the film while listening to Simon and Garfunkle. I knew I couldn't use their music if I wanted to do anything with the film. So I remembered a local folk musician called spitzerspace telepscope. I wrote him and asked if I could use his music (which seemed to fit perfectly with ever scene I had in mind, if you really listen to the lyrics, you'll get it.) and he said yes and sent me a free cd.

KS: Do you have any future projects in mind?

AM: A film called "Lustre" I've been saying i'm going to do for about a half a year now. Maybe in november i'll have time to do it, but I still would have a lot of work to do to get to the point of filming it. It's a short about a knife thrower and his assistant's first show.

KS: What sort of advice would you give fellow aspiring filmmakers?

AM: Make friends that you can rely on in the film world, always be there to hold their boom mic or be script supervisor on their films and they will be for you. I would have never been able to make what I did of Zombie Girls if I didn't have amazing friends who stood out in the cold all day without any complaints.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Golden Bortons 2008 -- Interview #1: Matthew McGinnis

To kick off this year's Golden Bortons -- The Tim Burton Collective's annual Halloween film festival -- Fuzzy Duck (Kevin Schreck) presents an interview with Matt McGinnis, a.k.a. mongoose_mania. Matt discusses his entry into this year's festivities, Zombie High, which he produced and co-wrote.

Click Zombie High to watch the movie!

Kevin Schreck: What was the origin of the idea of this project?

Matt McGinnis: The love of zombies, really. My church has this annual movie festival where we get to make short films and enter them, and my friend Jon and I wanted to make a zombie movie for it that would be appropriate and was able to be shown. We decided we can't show any gore or blood obviously, which was fine because we wanted to make something fun. But what could we do with zombies that would be fun? Well, those old instructional videos from the 1950s came into question and that's when we finally started fleshing everything out.

KS: What were some of your earliest efforts in filmmaking?

MM: My earliest efforts, actually, were only three years ago, I remember perfectly. For the same film contest, a group of my friends and I got together and made some really poorly made cereal commercials for the most horrible cereals imaginable. We didn't even have an editing program at the time so everything had to be done in one take on an old video-cassette camera. We thought they were the funniest things back when we first made them, but we look at them now and kinda shake our heads. It's funny, when you're younger you think whatever it is you're doing is the coolest thing ever but then as time goes on you notice things that you wished you could do better at or wished you wouldn't have said or something. It's weird.

KS: What made you want to make movies?

MM: I'm one of those kids that was raised on movies. Every day I'd watch a movie and was always so fascinated with them. But what really got me into the art of film was Tim Burton. Like so many people on the Collective, his films were almost therapeutic to me and he made films with characters I could relate to. As I started growing up I wanted to be a writer, but I've always had a hard time putting things into words and have always been a pretty visual person. So I thought to myself, "Well, Tim Burton can tell stories visually, I could try that!" It was almost like a Nightmare Before Christmas sort of thing, where Jack realizes he could try his hand at Christmas. But from that point on, I've really been devoted to working in film and hope to have a career in it.

KS: What are some of your influences (film and otherwise) for "Zombie High"? And for your work in general?

MM: The main influence for "Zombie High" was, as stated before, those old instructional videos from the '50s. They'd usually be about personal hygiene or something, and I love the idea of twisting that to fit around zombies.
Influences for film in general, well, it's mostly just old films from the '30s onward. Those are the some of the best movies, right there. My biggest influences (other than Burton) would have to be Alfred Hitchcock and Christopher Nolan. Two guys who really knew what they're doing when they make a movie, and make everything real and believable, which is something I like to do sometimes.

KS: Was the Glammy award part of the church movie festival?

MM: Yeah, my church has the Glammies every Christmas season. They've been doing it for a couple years now and I've been involved with three so far. This year will be my last year, so I'm hoping to make it a memorable one.

KS: How did you make the effect when the water shot of out his neck?

MM: Ha, this took forever. We had a long tube attached to a plastic pouch full of water, so whenever you'd squeeze the pouch, the water would squirt up. What we did was put the tube in the actors shirt and have someone under him squeeze the tube, and Jon (the director) would fix the angle so that you couldn't see the straw. Old fashioned, I guess, but it looks pretty good to me!

KS: Had you worked with any of the actors in "Zombie High" before?

MM: Yeah, I've worked with the majority of them before. Two of the zombies and I used to be in the same drama class and we'd also do the after school productions as well. I've also worked with Jon before, and he's great to work with, because he always has ideas. All of the people involved with this movie were our friends (except for that army man, I don't have any idea who he is), and it's great working with them because you know what they can do and you can feel comfortable with them.

KS: Do you have any future projects in mind?

MM: I have a few things in mind. They include typewriters, science, ghosts, ginger root, stairs, isolation, children, pens, lab coats, and the 1800s.

KS: What sort of advice would you give to fellow aspiring filmmakers?

MM: I'm horrible with advice, but the only I can give is the obvious: Be yourself. Everyone has influences, everyone has some sort of inspiration, but you don't want to steal from that source or rip it off. The best thing to do is to develop your own style; go outside with a camera and make something short with your friends, just so you can get the hang of it. Never forget that what you're working on came from your mind, and you want to show that on camera. That's the best advice I can give.

KS: I think that's excellent advice. Thank you very much, Matt!

MM: You're quite welcome!


More interviews to come throughout this week celebrating the Golden Bortons 2008! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Post-Burtonfest '08: Lolburton Contest Interview

It's not everyday that a critically acclaimed director is born, but just this past August the Burtonites of the Tim Burton Collective decided to let the world know that one had indeed been born, 50 years ago. August 25th was not just our dear beloved Tim Burton's birthday, but the beginning of a celebration based off of Burton's creations.
Burtonites gathered together to collectively watch Burton's films in the order they were released for one week. Members chatted amongst each other, connecting Burtonites from the peaks of Europe and the corners of America. Contests of all sorts were held to entertain Burtonites outside of the avaliable circle of film watchers or just to pique the interest of all of the Collective's varied sorts of artists.
One contest in general, not only lacked drawing or grammar skills, it encouraged users to spell their worst and think their funniest: the Lolburtons. Macros, known to Wikipedia as, "
a term coined for a picture with digitally superimposed text, often for humorous effect." Burtonites were asked to choose a picture somehow related to Tim Burton, whether being a picture of him, a scene from one of his movies or even a major collaborator, and to macro it to their liking. The end result was anything but disappointing, and left tough decisions all around! However, the Lolburton winner has been announce, may I present to you, Corky Buttermilk!

A Burtonite is born

Vonni Vice Vivace:
Thank you for doing this interview for winning the Lolburton Contest, Melanie.
Corky Buttermilk: Thank you for interviewing me!

VVV: Would you say that you've always been a naturally funny person?
CB: I wouldn't call myself naturally funny, per se, more naturally goofy. I enjoy ridiculous things. I am a ridiculous person. That doesn't always equal funny, but I like to think that most of the time in my case, it does. Other people have told me I'm funny, I guess I can believe them. I know I can amuse myself and that's half the battle!

The winning submission

VVV: Is it common for you to recognize an unintentionally possibly hilarious scene while you watch movies and look at pictures? What sorts of films bring this urge to macro on?
CB: Oh yes, all the time. Especially when I'm watching movies that I've already seen and have to pause them for whatever reason. It's at those times you really notice a completely new way of looking at a scene that you've watched a few times before. Pausing can cause a completely non-funny scene to take on hilarious properties. I also enjoy watching completely serious, dramatic movies and seeing the absurd in them. This helps a lot with finding things to macro. A lot of times, the more serious movies or scenes make the funniest macros because you're looking at something that wasn't supposed to be funny at all and seeing really just how funny it actually is. Take my Pee-wee macro for example. It's a very serious scene where Pee-wee is rescuing animals from a pet store that's on fire. And as we all know, fire can be serious business! There's a point where he gets the dogs to safety out on the sidewalk and he's telling them to stay and raises his hands up. One day I was re-watching it yet again and I knew then that it was my destiny to make him fondle invisible boobs when he does that. And boom! There's a macro! And it's from a very dramatic, suspenseful scene that wouldn't ordinarily make people think of boobs, invisible or otherwise! I love that sort of juxtaposition between the drama and the humor.

The second submission from Corky Buttermilk

VVV: You won for your Pee-Wee's Big Adventure macro entry, what sort of role does Burton's film hold in your life?
CB: I certainly wouldn't be the person I am today without Burton's films, that's for sure. Especially the films of his that came out when I was growing up and in those formative years. I love the off-beat sense of humor his films have. They've shaped my own sense of humor. In a way, I guess I kind of owe a huge part of my sense of humor to Pee-wee's Big Adventure. I adored all things Pee-wee when I was growing up and Pee-wee's Big Adventure is still my all-time favorite movie.

VVV: If you (or anyone for that matter) can possible do so, could you list your favorite Tim Burton films from starting from your personal favorites?
CB: Ok, from favorite to least favorite:
Pee-wee's Big Adventure
Edward Scissorhands
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Mars Attacks!
Ed Wood
Sweeney Todd
Big Fish
Sleepy Hollow
Batman Returns
Corpse Bride
Planet of the Apes
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Corky as she appears today, still a great follower of Burton

VVV: What were your favorite festivities that took place during Burtonfest '08 and why were they your favorite?
CB: I love the art contest. I love seeing what everyone comes up with. I'm a very visual person. And I loved the LOLBurton contest but I wish there had been even more entries! I love those things! I also enjoyed the group movie watching/chats. Those were really fun.

VVV: Is there anything you hope that Burtonfest '09 will include that this year's festival didn't?
CB: A meetup would be nice. Or something like a BurtonCon! I really hope someday we can have a physical realization of Burtonfest somewhere.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Dark Knight: A Film Review

Three years ago, if you had asked me what I thought of the Batman film franchise, I would have told you it was over. That Joel Schumacher was an evil, soulless fiend and had effectively raped millions of childhoods with Batman & Robin, a travesty not even Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg would bother referencing. Then Christopher Nolan had an idea, instead of trying to pick up the pieces and carry on, he’d just wipe the slate clean and start again. 2005 was an important year for me; it was the year my faith in the Batman movies was rejuvenated. It was very earnest, dark and closer to the feel of the comic books than any other in the franchise, and it answered the question “Why is he Batman?” in more ways than one. When I heard a sequel was in the works, I was both overjoyed and apprehensive. The fact that Christopher Nolan wanted to continue the series was wonderful, but the bar had been set so high that it was all too possible that he’d try too hard and ultimately slip and fall. Oh, how wrong I was...

The story begins not far from where the last left off. Batman and Commissioner Gordon are beginning to succeed in taking down the crime kingpins of Gotham City, thanks in part to the new DA, Harvey Dent, and Batman is beginning to think that perhaps his job is coming to a close. That’s when a psychopath in clown make-up, who only goes by the name Joker, appears, to challenge everything Batman has ever believed in and to test the limits of Gotham.

I’m at a loss as to where to put my praise first. Everything, from the acting, to the script, to the score, to the directing, to the cinematography is done at such a professional level that not only does it set a new benchmark for comic-book films, but it sets one for films in general. It makes the impossible possible. Well, that may be taking it a bit far. It makes the highly unlikely credible, and believable. Batman’s existence is given meaning to the point where you believe a situation like this could present itself beyond the movies. To an extent. It explains why we need heroes, and why they need to be more than we believe we can be.

Christian Bale returns with an evolved personality, as is only fitting. When Batman Begins finished, he’d firmly established himself as both the Caped Crusader and the head of Wayne Enterprises, so it’s only fitting that he should have more confidence this time around. But unfortunately, the terribly cheesy raspy Bat-Voice returns with a vengeance. At least it’s not the Bat-Nipples, I guess. The rest of the original cast does a great job continuing their character’s respective histories, especially Michael Caine as Alfred the butler. As for the newcomers, Katie Holmes thankfully sat this one out, and has been replaced with Maggie Gyllenhaal, a much more fitting choice. Holmes was terribly forgettable in her role, whereas Gyllenhaal gives Rachel Dawes life, and makes her a character you want to care about. Instead of having the film tell you she’s Bruce’s lifelong friend, Gyllenhaal just makes it seem right. Defense Attorney Harvey Dent is played brilliantly by Aaron Eckhart. Without revealing anything (but if you’re a fan of the comics, come on, you know what’s coming), he smoothly and meticulously sets up a character that knows what needs to be done, but doesn’t know exactly how to get it done. That’s about as ambiguous as I can get.

And of course, you all know who’s left to discuss. I’m going to be very honest here; I forgot that Heath Ledger was no longer with us while watching this film. The simple fact of the matter is his performance is that captivating, that terrifying, that...well, that good that he becomes lost in the role. You don’t see Heath Ledger playing the Joker while watching this film. You see the Joker. He plays the role with such a level of unpredictability and madness, that you are terrified by his very presence, even when he’s off-screen. But he’s not without his trademark sense of humour. There will be quite a few moments when you can’t help but chuckle, even though your conscience is telling you not to.

The way that the script has developed the Joker deserves a tremendous amount of applause as well. In almost every comic-book movie, even the excellent ones, the villain really only exists because of the hero. It’s always a case of “You’re the good guy, I’m the bad guy, so we’ve got to tussle.” Not the case in The Dark Knight. Yes, the Batman is in the way of Joker, and becomes his target more than once, but the Joker’s ultimate motive is far greater, far more ideological than just killing Batman. He knows Batman is a symbol, a small glimmer of hope in a city torn apart by crime, and that destroying the symbol is a great step towards introducing full-blown chaos to Gotham City. Hence, the Joker’s encounters with Batman are usually more examinations of his limits and his ideals as opposed to all-out brawls.

Taking into account the above, this is without a doubt one of the most complex, violent and disturbing comic-book films I’ve ever seen. It has some of the most graphic violence for a film of its rating, and Batman’s face on the poster is probably the only thing that saved it from an MA rating (R if you’re in the US, 15 if you’re in the UK, something else if you live somewhere else). From the moment it begins, each scene is treated with an unnerving sense of tension, leaving the viewer clenched-fist waiting for the inevitable, yet not knowing what the inevitable will be. This is assisted by the score Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard composed, enhancing the feeling that everything is leading up to something else, and that expecting the unexpected is pointless, because it won’t compare to what’s actually going to happen. Apologies for the ambiguity, but I don’t want to spoil a thing.

To say that The Dark Knight is an excellent comic-book movie is a gross understatement. The truth is this film is more than that. It observes almost every aspect of both Bruce Wayne and Batman, constantly examining his motives and reasoning. It questions the line he treads between being a vigilante crime fighter and a criminal. It defines his role as a hero and then poses the question “Should he be the hero that Gotham needs, or the hero it wants?” It’s both an epic crime saga and an intricate, dark and disturbing character study that met all of my expectations and then exceeded them by leaps and bounds. Simply put, it’s a masterpiece.

5 out of 5.

-- Kaboose.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hancock : The Review (May Contain Spoilers)

Looked at my kingdom, I was finally there! Sit on my throne, as the Prince of Bel Air...

I love Will Smith, for the most part, I've enjoyed pretty much all of his post Fresh Prince exploits, except maybe Wild Wild West, and I love comic books and superheroes a great deal, so, in theory, this should be a match made in heaven?

As You can probably guess from that, Hancock tells the story of a washed up, alcoholic and all round bum of a Superhero (Will Smith). His attempts at rescues and crime fighting usually cause more in damages than the criminals he's apprehended. The worst part of it all? He just doesn't care. He either enjoys the random destruction he causes, or he has some kind of major beef with humanity. Eventually, Hancock sides with PR executive Ray Embrey, in an attempt to clean up his act, become more of a respected figure in general and be a loved hero of the people. His first act is to go to prison for his crimes to the world thus far. Despite being able to break out at any time, owing to his powers of flight and super strength, Hancock adheres to the regime, and a MONTAGE appears to show his passage of time within prison. On the outside, crime figures are on the increase, and eventually Hancock is pulled off his prison sentence to help combat the crime on the streets, with a new attitude, appearance and tight rubber outfit. Eventually, Hancock is beloved by the public again, but things start to turn sour as the reformed super powered Smith begins to fall for his saviour Ray's wife, Mary Embrey, and one of his previously defeated petty criminals begins massing a plot to take out the new American darling...

So, Hancock is presented as a comedy film, but it really lacks that much serious humour. Any one who's seen the trailer (such as myself, which was my major qualm with the film), will have seen about 80% of the jokes and gags that the film has to offer. This kinda makes them a loss for me, but they were still amusing. Without the humour, it has to pull out a great Superhero movie to justify itself, and it still falls short of the mark. It's an average superhero movie, made better by Will Smith, but still not great or unique. Hancock does however, manage to escape, for quite some time, the dreaded "Origin Story Syndrome" that plagues most comic book films: Either we make one film to explain the character, then the sequel to be the action blockbuster, OR we make the film longer to include both; The former of course, being the preferable option, painfully. Hancock emerges into the film with amnesia and an attitude, and the action roles from there, which is refreshing. When the origin finally has to be addressed, it's actually done halfway through the film, and in a pretty unexpected twist, which I personally enjoyed, and didn't see coming. The action sequences in the film are also fairly exemplary, with brilliantly believable use of CGI and live action blending. The film falls down in the second half, bringing in the idea of Hancock loosing his powers, which is a bit of a staple in Superherodom, and the dramatic tension kind of weighing so hard as to almost snap the film in half from it's opening comedic tone. The "Bad Guy" is also a tad pathetic. Given little to no back story, and barely more screen time, with some badly written "epic" sounding insightful bad guy lines which would be more convincing spouted from Gary Oldman or at least from a Character with the development to be cool enough to pull it off, rather than sounding like a pretentious prick. Ok, I've lost my train of thought now, so I think I'll stop it there.


Oz Rembrandt