The Dark Knight Rises

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, David S. Goyer, Bob Kane
Staring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: July 20, 2012

So I have completed the Nolan Batman rewatch, and I can firmly say that The Dark Knight (2009) is the best movie of the bunch.

It feels like there has been a swell of momentum to put The Dark Knight Rises (2012) atop the trilogy. In fact, I know of people who preferred this movie to its predecessor when it first came out.

While The Dark Knight Rises is a solid movie, it is no The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight Rises has some incredibly high moments, in fact two of my top three within this Dark Knight story. But in terms of a story and the use of suspension of disbelief, this finale is a step below the precedent sent. Christopher Nolan asks the audience to forgive a lot of shortcuts, which is fine, but the realism in The Dark Knight makes is superior.

  • My personal favorite part of this movie is when Bane breaks Batman’s back. Everything about that scene is scripted well, and I love and appreciate how there is little to no music. It adds to the beastly nature of the fight.
  • Second favorite scene has to be Bruce Wayne escaping the prison. There is A LOT of heavy symbolism in that scene. Frankly its heavy handed. But still the chanting, the music, the story within the story; it all works and it gets you amped for the final climax.
  • Anne Hathaway is so hot as Selina. It is insane.
  • A lot like The Dark Knight, this movie’s weakest part is its epic final fight. In case of The Dark Knight Rises, it seems rushed.
  • When Batman lights up his signa on the bridge, I can’t help but think of The Mask Of Zorro (1998). What an underrated movie in its own right. I need to rewatch that soon.

Stanko Rating: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)


Hellboy: The Dark Below

Image result for hellboy the dark below

Director: Jan Carlee
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: 2010

A super short film. Literally only five minutes long.

Rated this a “C” mainly because I loved the animation style.

Stanko Rating: C (2.0/5 Stars)


Hillbilly Elegy

Director: Ron Howard
Writers: J.D. Vance, Vanessa Taylor
Staring: Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso, Freida Pinto
Streaming: Netflix
Release Date: November 24, 2020

Man, I am way off from the people on this one. For me (myself and I), Hillbilly Elegy is a perfectly fine mellow drama that has more highs than lows. It is uneven for sure, but the ending is stuck (for the most part), making this story at least satisfying.

Well. It appears I missed the memo before watching it. Apparently this movie was released as an award-seeking piece of Oscar bait. Held up to those standards, Hillbilly Elegy does not meet that mark. Amy Adams is trying really hard as the troubled Bev, and Glenn Close tries to transform into Mamaw…but neither reach the mark of award worthy.

Hillbilly Elegy is not a fun watch. It is a hard watch. Parental abuse, drugs, alcohol and self afflicted destruction. Maybe part of what makes this movie so hard to watch is that it is really hard to root for its two most highlighted characters. In particular Bev.

The biggest difference in my entertainment compared to other reviews I’ve read and heard is that I really loved the performance of Gabriel Basso as the main character, J.D. Vance. This is his first major motion picture role since Super 8 (2011) but I think he emotes well shifting between his two different lives.

The most positive takeaway from Hillbilly Elegy is the chemistry between J.D. Vance and Usha (Freida Pinto). They are just a delightfully positive and reassuring couple. It is almost for sure “too perfect”, but I just don’t care. When Vance screamed at Usha on the phone and she was just silent and took it; I mean whoof. Ouch. But when he arrives at the door at the end. I cheesed out hard.

  • Both Glenn Close and Amy Adams changed their physical appearance for their roles, which is a classic effort to get awards attention. Close got nominated for best supporting actress by SAG and the Golden Globes. I wouldn’t vote for her.
  • Adams best acted scene came in her final one when Vance walks in on her wanting to shoot up heroin after a day of trying to save her.
  • You know what, I think Hillbilly Elegy is trying a lot to be like The Florida Project (2017). Centered a lot around a kid whose guardian is flawed. The Florida Project floated above the bar of “fine” while Hillbilly Elegy failed to meet its gold.
  • I had ZERO idea this movie was directed by Ron Howard until after it ended.

Stanko Rating: B (3.0/5 Stars)


One Night In Miami

Director: Regina King
Writers: Kemp Powers
Staring: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr.
Streaming: Amazon Prime
Release Date: January 8, 2021

One Night Is Miami is based off a stage play, and you can tell right from the get-go. Kemp Powers pens a story about a fictional account of one night were Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Same Cookie (Leslie Odom Jr.) meet up and discuss how they and the social impact revolve around one-another.

The story is heavy on dialogue and relies almost entirely on the performances of the main leads. Each of the four performances is above average and good in their own right, but none shines brighter than Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke. Maybe it is because he has the flashier part across the stoic Malcolm X, but Odom Jr. is magnetic in One Night In Miami.

Regina King is a first time director and I think adapting a stage play is a really smart move. As the director, with the minimal amount of settings and truly visceral shot making, King could focus on communicating with the actors, which obviously she knows best. A heady career move by her, and a successful one with the success of this film.

Overall I don’t love One Night In Miami as much as many others do, but I do think it is a must watch. It’s not a Best Picture contender in my eyes in an awards race to this point, but all the actors should be considered and I see an nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay it its future.

  • Leslie Odom Jr. was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role as Sam Cooke in the Best Supporting Actor category. Regina King was nominated for Best Director (I don’t love that) and the song “Speak Now” (not the Taylor Swift version) got nominated for Best Original Song.
  • More importantly, Screen Actors Guild Awards has One Night In Miami among the Best Performance By A Cast category, which is TOTALLY deserved. Love That.
  • Really have to credit Kingsley Ben-Adir for his portrayal of Malcolm X. He is just behind Leslie Odom Jr. in terms of performances. Ben-Adir is very subdued and this movie catches Malcolm X at a very unique time in his life.
  • Knowing Regina King was involved with this movie, it made me want to rewatch Watchmen on HBO

Stanko Rating: B (3.5/5 Stars)


Superman: Unbound

Director: James Tucker
Writers: Bob Goodman, Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Jerry Ordway, Tom Grummett, Otto Binder, Al Plastino
Staring: Matt Bomer, Stana Katic, John Noble, Molly C. Quinn
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: May 23,2013

Yawn.

Background movie to a T. Enjoyed the parts with Supergirl the most. Always okay seeing Superman be humbled a bit, but the menace of Brainiac was not all to enticing.

Another skippable DC animated adventure that’ll entertains for what it it is but won’t have you excited to watch more.

  • Henry Cavill is jealous of how chiseled Superman is in this movie.
  • I am wondering why I keep watching these movies if I don’t give them great grades? Probably just comfort watch.

Stanko Rating: D (1.5/5 Stars)


Train To Busan Presents: Peninsula

Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Writers: Sang-ho Yeon, Ryu Yong-jae
Staring: Dong-won Gang, Lee Jung-hyun, Min-Jae Kim
Streaming: Rental
Release Date: August 7, 2020

Oh, classic sequel problem. More action, less fun. Peninsula is an excuse to get back into the world of infected South Korea, but not an excuse to make a movie.

The simple premise of this movie is that a criminal lord in Hong Kong convinces some South Korean refugees to go back into the zombie infested land to find a truck that contains 20 million dollars. Naturally things go haywire and its a fight for survival to escape the chaos.

It has to be asked. Did they think they were making a Fast In The Furious-esq movie? The amount of CGI (rather poor at times) drifting, zombie mashing, speeding sequences is on par with what Dominic Toretto and his gang have been doing for the past decade. Peninsula is also about robbing money. I mean its almost from the same universe.

If you want to watch a foreign action movie, Peninsula is that. But if you want to see a movie that really innovated itself and created a wave, watch the original Train To Busan (2016).

  • Min-Jae Kim is the best character in Peninsula. Playing just a manic mad man, his energy was the most intoxicating.
  • Fast zombies are so much scarier than slow zombies. I want to rewatch 28 Days Later (2002) and 28 Weeks Later (2007) now.
  • I gave Train To Busan a B+ rating and 4.0/5 stars. Watch that before this.

Stanko Rating: C+ (2.5/5 Stars)


Up In The Air

Director: Jason Reitman
Writers: Walter Kirn, Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner
Staring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick
Streaming: HBO MAX
Release Date: December 23, 2009

I am upset with how long it took me to see Up In The Air. Centered around three phenomenal performances from George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, Up In The Air is a character drama that is both funny and disheartening. The premise of a man trying to find humanity while being employed to fire people is genius. Author of the novel Walter Kirn pins vulnerability on both tangibly and and intangibly as the main character Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) comes to grips with balancing the love of himself, his family, his relationships and his career.

All three performers where nominated for Academy Awards, and all deservingly so. The one that stood out among the trio the most was Vera Farmiga. She is just effortlessly sexy. Her confidence, her smirk, her posture. Everything about her in Up In The Air made me forget about “The Conjuring” universe.

The most painful thing said in this movie wasn’t any of the firings. It was when Alex was speaking to Ryan on the phone. Alex called Ryan, he picked up, and they had an honest conversation; the first one of their relationship.

Ryan Bingham: [over the phone] I thought I was a part of your life.

Alex Goran: I thought we signed up for the same thing… I thought our relationship was perfectly clear. You are an escape. You’re a break from our normal lives. You’re a parenthesis.

Ryan Bingham: I’m a parenthesis?

IMAGINE BEING CALLED A PARENTHESIS?!

This is going to be a weird parallel, but I am going to draw it anyway. When Bingham gets his 10 million miles card, the ultimate goal of his life…it comes right after his biggest risk and most vulnerable venture crashed. The immense sadness he was feeling; the isolation he wanted to feel…he didn’t want to feel that joy then. But he had no choice.

This is like when I had a year-plus relationship end less than 12 hours before the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2018. I was there, wallowing in self made pity, sitting on the living room floor cry tears of sadness and joy.

Just a very, very weird feeling.

  • I do have to admit that I knew the twist about Alex being a family mom, but that did not take away from the heart-wrenching pain that Bingham showed on his face. This moment was Clooney’s best acting of the film; a minimalist approach to dealing with that devastation.
  • The technology aspect of Up In The Air with the low resolution camera screens and video chatting is dated, but it doesn’t take away from the inhumanity of firing one over webchat. Reminded of times now, when there were innumerous times of when people got let go over Zoom.
  • Super young Anna Kendrick, but she showed her acting chops well. The quick cut to her standing on the flat escalator thing (that is in all airports) with her back to the camera when Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman) is telling Ryan that Natalie quit…whoof that hit in the feels. Juxtaposing Natalie’s visceral reaction to the suicide of someone she fired to Bingham saying he doesn’t remember talking to anyone with suicidal thoughts illuminates just how dull Bingham’s feelings have become.

Stanko Rating: A (4.5/5 Stars)

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