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‘Spring Breakers’ Review: Disney Starlets, James Franco and Studio Gangsterism

‘Spring Breakers’ Review: Disney Starlets, James Franco and Studio Gangsterism

‘Spring Breakers’ Review: Disney Starlets, James Franco and Gangsterism

“I dreamt that I was hard.” – Dres on “U Mean I’m Not?”

Those are the last words on the first track of the debut album, “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,” by Black Sheep, a rap duo making up a part of the Native Tongues Collective alongside A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, De La Soul and many others. “U Mean I’m Not?” is your introduction to the group and their music. Dres starts off in a gruff voice waking up in a bad mood. His first task is putting together his AK-47 and grabbing his “Rambo knife off the floor.” He bursts into his sister’s room for using his toothbrush, beats her up and shoots her. He goes downstairs for breakfast to find his mom has screwed it up, breaking his egg yolk. The penance? A bullet to the temple. His dad protests. He shoots him in the groin. He runs into the postman on the way out and slices his throat. All before waiting for the school bus to arrive. As you can see from the last line, this all happened in a dream. Being hard is not at all what Dres is about. And if you stick around for the track immediately following it, “Butt in the Meantime,” the bouncy rhythm is accompanied by the first words, “It’s times like this, that I’ve gotta crack a smile.” Hardly the words of anyone who purports to be hard.

Dres, Black Sheep and the opening song of “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” is a joke for what listeners would come to know of them and what they’re about. It’s a comment on the rampant gangsta rap running through hip-hop culture at the time. They were pretending to fall in line as a goof, only to turn an about-face and present themselves for who they really were. Meanwhile, in the actual gangsta rap arena established in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, flaunting your thuggish, gangster-ish qualities like drug dealing and gun clapping was the way to establish your authority. Though I don’t know the etymology of the term “studio gangster” and its first utterance, the earliest moment I’m aware of its use is by Eazy-E, directed toward his one-time N.W.A. groupmate, Dr. Dre, on his “Real Muthaphukkin’ G’s.” The implication was that Dre only purports to have been a gangster when inside a recording studio, but didn’t really live the life. Eazy-E was the genuine and authentic thing. This “more gangster than thou” (as “The Wire” creator, David Simon, once put it) attitude has continued through rap music and permeated pop culture up to now, through how many times 50 Cent had been shot, to Gilbert Arenas bringing guns into an NBA locker room and now to a group of girls on spring break in Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers.”

As you might infer from the above paragraphs, I love rap music. I’m also a white suburban kid in his thirties. I’ve never seen a gun in real life, much less had one pointed at me or fired one in the direction of someone. I may have worn a Houston Colt .45s hat while walking my dog this morning, but it was accompanied by a Taylor Swift t-shirt (and in truth, the hat is partly because of the colors, but mainly because I love “Django Unchained,” its soundtrack, and this final song from it: http://youtu.be/AlZeceNfm5U). I’ve also never seen any drugs harder than marijuana or ones that came in a prescription bottle (in some cases, those things were combined). And if given the option to live my life without being witness to any of it, I’d be more than happy. Being hard is not in my nature, but I’d also never purport it to be. The girls in “Spring Breakers” didn’t necessarily purport to being hard-natured either, at least not initially.

Brit (Ashley Benson) and Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) are in college, attending another in the long line of droning lectures being conveyed to them via powerpoint. Their focus isn’t remotely on the task at hand, but on the upcoming week off they’ll be getting in the form of Spring Break. Brit and Candy aren’t what most people would categorize as “good girls.” Brit takes hits from a vodka-loaded squirt gun. Candy takes bong rips of weed. They certainly appear to be tailor-made for the hard-partying debasement into debauchery a Spring Break vacation taken in Florida will afford to them. Unfortunately, “afford” is a key term.

Brit and Candy form together with friends Cotty (Rachel Korine, the director’s wife) and Faith (Selena Gomez) in attempt to pool their money together and just get away from their current lives for bit. For the aptly named, Faith, a church-going Christian warned of hanging out with Brit and Candy by friends at a faith group, getting away is really her only desire. She appears to mostly be a “good girl.” She smokes cigarettes, but so do the aforementioned church group friends. Getting involved with Brit and Candy, girls she’s known since kindergarten, is what can push her into other areas she may not be suited for. However, when adding up all the money between the four friends, they fall far short of a week-long Floridian trip and have to come about enough money by other means.

ashley benson spring breakers pic

Money, Drugs, Hoes: Benson, Hudgens, Korine & Franco.

Brit, Candy and Cotty decide to rob a chicken shack. After a night of snorting cocaine, sucking back liquor and repeating mantras to themselves of pretending it’s like a video game and thinking of it like it’s a movie, they make their strike. Korine, the director, shoots the robbery from Cotty, the getaway driver’s, POV as she circles the building awaiting Brit and Candy’s return to the vehicle with squirt gun, hammer and mounds of cash, in tow. Because we as an audience don’t even hear the robbery and only catch glimpses through windows, when they flee the scene in celebration, it doesn’t seem so bad. Girls out for some relatively harmless fun. For us, it is still a movie.

Finally experiencing everything they dreamed in Florida, after a particularly illegal substance/booze-filled/furniture-destroying hotel room party, all attendees are arrested, including our felonious four females. Given the option at their sentencing of staying in jail for an additional 48 hours or paying their way out, their lack of money gives the collective only the former option. Their spring break is set to end behind bars until thye’re rescued by a guardian Alien (James Franco).

Until Franco gets involved in story, “Spring Breakers” is largely pointless. It’s a lot of montages of debauchery, drugging, drinking and driving around in scooters. The film is completely devoid of substance (aside from the literal) and very little characterization. This isn’t something that completely changes with the girls throughout the rest of the film, but Alien and Franco provide a badly needed jolt of narrative drive.

A tatted-up “white-boy” with dreads and a grill, perhaps manufactured by Paul Wall, are how Alien externally displays who he is. He has a rap song on YouTube. Like every good gangster rapper, he proclaims to have “Scarface” looping repeatedly. His bed is littered with bundles of drug money and assorted automatic weapons. It’s clear that he’s achieved his current life through means of his own, but how much remains somewhat unsaid. While Alien is able to scare off Faith, the others don’t go away. At one point, he has two guns stuck in his face and his gangster façade falls away until he resorts to disarming his captors in a way no gangster would dare dream up. Arcing throughout, Alien provides the girls with a sense of danger, idolization, whipping boy, sole mate and martyr. Alien needs the girls as much as they need him.

Franco is borderline brilliant in the role. Without him, the movie doesn’t (or at least, shouldn’t) exist. He gives Alien a vulnerability befitting a character who’s more about creating an exterior persona for fitting into what’s expected of him. He tells Candy and Brit they’re his solemates like a puppy in search of an owner. Though he probably feels he can drop the act with them, instead they force him to go even further with what for him may or may not be part of an act. They even ridicule him at one point, asking if he’s scared. And indeed he probably is.
Alien isn’t necessarily a studio gangster in every sense of the word. He does deal drugs. He does own guns. He does rob people and hurt them. However, there’s a sense that it isn’t completely innate. This is juxtaposed with his former best friend, now rival drug dealer, Archie (Gucci Mane), who certainly has the perma-high eyes and mumbled threatening speech you’d associate with a true thug. Alien, whose real name is Allen, can’t break from his past and now the girls certainly won’t let him do so, especially when Archie threatens Alien’s and their lives unless he backs off from his territory.

While Alien provides the hard exterior, but potentially candy-filled interior inside the film, I believe Selena Gomez is conjuring up the same act in real life. It’s understood why she and former “High School Musical” star, Hudgens, would flock to harder-edged material. It appears to be the sure-fire way of any former Disney star to be viewed by the public in a different light. Anne Hathaway decided to remove her clothes while starring in “Havoc” and “Brokeback Mountain” immediately after wrapping up “Princess Diaries 2” in order to distance herself from Disney wholesomeness. Nobody wants to be typecast. I understand that. For Hudgens, I believe starring in the film to be a less “important” step for her branching out. Now, I’d never seen her in anything (save for the infamous leaked photos a few years ago), so I don’t associate her with much of anything Disney. I believe even the public at large knows she’s not what most people would deem “a good girl,” purely based on the existence of those pictures. It’s not much of a shock to see her in something like “Spring Breakers.”

I believe Gomez had the much bigger hill to climb after just wrapping up “Wizards of Waverly Place” for the Disney channel last year. I agree that it would be shocking to any fans of her TV show to see this movie. But there’s a difference in being shocked by the content of a movie and being shocked by the content of a character. Gomez’ character, Faith, is the good girl. She’s the moral conscience of the film. She’s the one who goes to church. She’s not the one who robs the chicken shack. She’s the one who’s frightened by Alien. And she’s the one who exits the film halfway through its runtime. If she completely wanted to reinvent herself, she’d have played the Brit role or the more-extreme-in-a-way role of hard-partying Cotty. Instead, this feels like a half-measure.

I’m not saying Gomez should have chosen one of the other roles. Sure, it’s acting, but you still are who you are to a certain degree. Nobody hated Tom Hanks in “The Road to Perdition.” He killed people, but he was still the guy you were rooting for. He was absolutely the protagonist, if not the hero. What I’m saying is that I don’t believe being in this film, and having the role she did, will change much for Ms. Gomez. Until otherwise, I still believe her to be a “good girl.” After seeing “Spring Breakers” and it visualizing some of the actions you certainly were aware of taking place during that week-long absence from school, we need good, wholesome people in this world, too.

Some people really are hard. And for some, it’s just a dream.

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Sponsored Video: Compare The Market Helps Consumers Compare Credit Cards & More

Sponsored Video: Compare The Market Helps Consumers Compare Credit Cards & More

Sponsored Video: Compare The Market Helps Consumers Compare Credit Cards & More

Everyone needs to be smarter about their finances these days it seems, with a challenging and changing economy, dipping wages and hard to obtain careers. The rising cost of receiving a quality education doesn’t help either. Then you have credit cards, with their variable rates, high interest charges and little or no rewards in many cases. Alas, but at least on that front, help is on the way. To the rescue to do their part is Compare The Market. The company’s website helps every day people find out what credit cards make the most sense for them.

At Compare The Market, users can search from several different credit cards and compare and contrast them. You can look up cards by their rewards, best annual percentage rates, balance transfer costs and more. Cards are also conveniently separated into categories such as cards that give you cash back for spending or which cards help you build credit the best.

The site doesn’t stop there, however. Users can also discover “the easier way to save” on different services and costs associated with obtaining insurance, broadband services, energy fees and more! Compare The Market helps you choose what the best options are for you to help you get the most out of your dollar and even reward you for stretching your finances in the best way for you.

To assist you in this process, the CEO and founder of Compare The Market has put together a video with the character Maurice Wigglethorpe-Throom to help explain the site’s value in a simple but humorous way. Have a look at the video below and check out the site to let it help you with the challenge of keeping your finances in order in this difficult time. This post has been sponsored by Compare The Market but all thoughts are The Film Nest’s. Enjoy!

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New One Sheets: A Plethora of ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ Movie Posters

New One Sheets: A Plethora of ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ Movie Posters

Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ Poster Gallery

Director Peter Jackson was once a reluctant participant in the upcoming film series starting with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The old adage of “if you want somebody to do it right, you have to do it yourself” applied, as ultimately Jackson took over the reins on the project, the first film of which is set to arrive in 6 weeks on December 14th, stateside. The gear up for the film’s release, a continuation/prequel of sorts in the saga of the character Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit, who was introduced to us in Jackson’s epic award-winning films for The Lord of The Rings, will be palpable. We have seen three trailers , poster film art, and now we give you multiple movie posters that have been used to promote the film. These include character posters, teaser posters, banners and general one sheets for the film. Thanks to IMPAwards for the drops. Enjoy your movie weekend!

Hobbit one sheet

Hobbit Journey poster

Hobbit Unexpected Journey character

Hobbit Gollum poster

Gandalf poster

Hobbit Banner

Hobbit 12-14-12

Hobbit Midgets Poster

Hobbit Bilbo One Sheet

Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Movie Poster

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‘Sinister’ Review: ‘Sinister’ Is The Best Horror Movie Since ‘The Shining’

‘Sinister’ Review: ‘Sinister’ Is The Best Horror Movie Since ‘The Shining’

‘Sinister’ Infringes on ‘The Shining’ Territory

I believe there comes a time in every little girl’s life when they start craving to be scared. Perhaps this is only for girls with a strong father-figure, knowing they’ll always be projected. I’d never felt this inclination. Of course, I’ve never been a girl, either. I remember this phase hitting my younger sister and her begging our dad to rent a copy of The Shining on VHS. I was only vaguely around when she and her friend stayed up late to watch it. My only memory of that viewing was my father fast-forwarding the scene of a decomposing naked woman, lest I grow up to have a leper fetish. It must’ve helped. I’ve never been turned on by that scene.

In the many years since that half-aware viewing, I’ve come to respect The Shining as the ultimate horror film. It’s very easily the greatest haunted house movie ever made. I know I’m not alone in this opinion. It’s an easy one to share when one of the masters of the medium tackles a genre overrun by musical stabs and bloodletting. Stanley Kubrick took Stephen King’s story and didn’t make a movie designed to scare its audience. He made a horrifying film.

I’ve been thinking about that masterpiece a lot lately. What with having recently visited Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights and the upcoming documentary Room 237 receiving more and more exposure. I’ve seen The Shining a number of times now and its blu-ray sits proudly on my shelf. I have numerous Kubrick books and poured over analyses of the film and still struggle with interpreting much of it on my own. It’s obviously a film that invites a number of viewpoints, allowing a film like Room 237 to exist. Lord knows what my pre-teen sister and her friend could possibly have thought of it a couple of decades ago.

Ethan Hawke Sinister photo

Ethan Hawke’s “Oswalt” contemplates suicidal tendencies in the scary ‘Sinister.’

Though I don’t feel I have a complete grasp on that film and probably never will, I’m firm in the belief that it’s the best “horror” film I’ve ever seen. It’s a genre that’s eluded me for most of my life. I’d been far too afraid to scare myself purposely with movies. I slept with the light on until I was at least close to high school age. In my defense, I read Deion Sanders slept with the light on, so this move was completely justifiable to me at the time. Once I allowed myself to gaze upon movies designed to frighten me, I found them to be severely lacking. There were boobs, blood and musical stabs a-plenty. Hokey-ness was the order of the day, even if unintended. These were films designed to bring high-schoolers together on a Friday night. I’m glad texting didn’t exist back then. Little screens lighting up the theater have a tendency draw one out of the experience. I’ve been searching to find a horror film I enjoy as much as the best of another genre. I enjoy the Paranormal Activity series’ effectiveness. I love the tension and all out surprise waiting in store in The Descent. I admire the moral justice doled out in blood and body parts in the Saw franchise. However, it’s easy to see how The Shining rises above them all. I’d never been able to find a companion in quality until I saw Sinister.

‘Sinister’ Compares Favorably To Kubrick’s Horror Masterpiece

I’m more than aware of the boldness of such a statement. Expectations instantly rise into the unattainable. I didn’t really want to put it that way, but it had to be done. Especially when the content of the films can be compared so readily.

Just last week, I read a tweet stating the job of a critic is to expose the films that need exposure. At the time of this writing, Sinister has made close to $40 million. Its production budget as reported by BoxOfficeMojo was a mere $3 million. It’s hardly a movie you may think requires exposure, but it does. I almost didn’t see it. A barely-fresh 62% score on Rotten Tomatoes was steering me in the opposite direction. Don’t listen it. This film is masterful.

Ethan Hawke is Ellison Oswalt, a true crime author holding onto his last bastion of hope in attempt to recreate the success of his bestselling “Kentucky Blood,” a number of years (and books) ago. He moves his family to a town where his reputation for digging up dirt and throwing it on the potential incompetence of the local police department earns him a move-in day visit from the sheriff. Ellison’s family is a reluctant pawn in his game of chasing the latest shattered community, but even they don’t know the harm’s way he’s he placed them in. He’s moved into the house where the family he’s writing about was murdered.

That sounds like any generic set up to a haunted house tale, but you can also draw parallels to Kubrick’s film. A writer moves his family to a new home in order to complete a book. That home happens to have been host to bouts of murder. And you can bet the man of the house is driven slightly mad as a result.

Where Sinister diverts from your typical horror fare is in its presentation. Ellison Oswalt appears to be living in a thriller revolving around the true crimes he’s happened upon. A fateful and convenient box of 8mm home videos and their projector await him in his new attic and he’s given some starting points from which to work in uncovering his localized crime scene. When a link appears between them, it’s obvious he could be getting the kind of material that would lead to him back to the mountaintop of success.

Ethan Hawke Sinister pic

DJ Mixmaster E.Hawke searches for that rare vinyl to jump start the party.

Director (and co-writer), Scott Derrickson, makes the most visually appealing and technically brilliant horror film this side of Kubrick you could ever hope to expect. And again, it’s due to the tone of the film. I believe he treats the story as a thriller with some horrifying aspects. A movie that values story over scary. There’s a standout sequence in which Ellison searches around the dark house for the source of his terror wielding a baseball bat (I was about to point this out as another The Shining parallel until I realized Jack Torrance was armed with an ax. The bat was in “The Shinning,” a “Simpsons” parody). He falls asleep on the couch, framed by the barren instrument of the previous occupants’ deaths (a tree) and only awakens under the burning light of a new day. It’s a bravura set piece in a film littered with them.

The directorial flair Derrickson provides is matched by the performances he gets from Hawke and Juliet Rylance, Ellison’s wife, Tracy. The acting chops normally demanded by “a scary movie” are significantly south of Brando, which is why this film almost elevates itself above its own genre. If it weren’t for the things that go bump in the night, you’d think you were watching a film befitting a different mood altogether. Hawke and Rylance have a necessary tete-a-tete that could have been lifted from suburban dramas American Beauty or Ordinary People.

These are a few of the things that make you understand you’re watching something other than a conventional horror film. I had hoped this fact would not be lost on the viewing public accompanying me at the showing I attended. I was not ashamed of humankind. Wave after wave of groups of either gender emerged from the theater relaying the same opinion: Sinister was the scariest movie they’d ever seen.

If I’ve failed to convey how frightening the movie is, I apologize. Make no mistake that just because I feel the film transcends its own genre doesn’t mean it’s not very much a horror film. It isn’t immune to a few jump scares and those friendly musical stabs alerting you to something terrifying taking place, but plenty of them were rooted firmly in story and are thus excusable. The haunting image of the prevailing villainous façade driving Ellison’s nightmares ensured I would feel the same when trying to fall asleep just hours later.

I should say that Sinister is not The Shining. That should be obvious just from the title differences. Sinister is far more straight-forward and comprehensible than Kubrick’s epic of terror. The scope is also far more intimate in the Oswalt’s new family home, as opposed to the open expansion of the Overlook Hotel. It is not like The Shining. They are two very different movies. However, Sinister is the best horror film I’ve seen since The Shining, making it the best fright film in a generation and reason to put them in the same sentence.

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George Lucas Video on Possibilities for Disney’s ‘Star Wars 7, 8 & 9′ Movies

George Lucas Video on Possibilities for Disney’s ‘Star Wars 7, 8 & 9′ Movies

George Lucas Discusses New Star Wars Movies and Sale Information In This Video

With yesterday’s news that Lucasfilm has been purchased by Disney, the more interesting and exciting news for film fans is that there will be another Star Wars film, story #7, which is currently slated to arrive in 2015. However, with that information comes additional news that George Lucas has treatments for Star Wars movies 7, 8 and 9, written and that he has handed that information over to Kathy Kennedy at Disney, along with tons of other Star Wars branch off possibilities, from theme parks, to figures, to branding, to what?

The most interesting thing that might come out of Disney’s purchase is the possibility that there will be feature films branched off for individual characters from the Star Wars universe. This theory could incorporate something similar to what Disney is doing with their Marvel owned brand and The Avengers. There are currently Iron Man, Thor, Captain America movies in addition to The Avengers movies that have come out and will continue to churn out. The same possibilities now exist for all of the Star Wars characters.

There could be Luke or Leia specific films, Han Solo origin stories, even Yoda character arcs that have not fully been realized on their own. This brings a wealth of possibility to the Star Wars universe. Lucas himself has stated that the Luke and Leia storylines essentially ended in Star Wars 6: Return of the Jedi, where they saved the universe. So, if Disney keeps extending the story through the treatments that Lucas has passed along, there will be a new direction for the actual Star Wars 7-9 films to head to.

Still, that doesn’t discount the now potentially lucrative and strong likelihood that there will be individual movies based on characters from the Star Wars universe. The only question is how it will all play out. Who would you like to see? Where do you want the Star Wars stories to do from here? Chime in with your thoughts as the possibilities are endless. You can watch Lucas’ breakdown of the sale and some Star Wars intrigue in the video below. May the force be with you. Thanks to THR for the video.

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Plot Details Emerge for Marvel’s ‘Thor 2: The Dark World’ Starring Chris Hemsworth

Plot Details Emerge for Marvel’s ‘Thor 2: The Dark World’ Starring Chris Hemsworth

Marvel’s Thor 2 The Dark World Plot Details Emerge

Marvel’s Thor, which I didn’t see in the theater despite relatively strong reviews, ended up being a pretty decent movie. The story, which was a coming of age sort of beginning piece, had enough going for it that I would recommend genre fans consider it, something that I didn’t anticipate I would think. So, naturally, even though the film didn’t clean up at the box office, with The Avengers massive success, a Thor 2, titled Thor: The Dark World, is set to be released. There are details for the plot fo the film which have just surfaced. The details are not particularly engaging, but fall in line with typical Marvel film motifs, which are about the end of the world as we know it. Check the info out below. Thanks to THR for the heads up.

Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself.  In the aftermath of Marvel’s Thor and Marvel’s The Avengers, Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos…but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

Thor The Dark World Set Pic

Thor The Dark World Set Pic

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Director Rian Johnson’s ‘Looper’ Interactive Trailer is Sweet

Director Rian Johnson’s ‘Looper’ Interactive Trailer is Sweet

Looper Interactive Movie Trailer

Here’s something new and interesting. While, we no doubt have been clamoring to see Looper ever since we heard about its cool premise, its director and stars, this interactive trailer helps to further the matter. We have seen the regular trailer but the new trailer with added behind the scenes videos, cast and crew commentaries and questions and answers that allow viewers to earn silver bars takes the whole thing up another notch.

Interactive trailers have been increasingly used of late, but I can’t recall seeing one quite so thorough and breathtaking on my computer as this one. The film is set to drop in late September (the 28th), but check out the trailer to learn more about the production and gain even more insight into the film. It’s sweet. BTW, isn’t it cool how much Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks like Bruce Wilis in the film (?)…they did a good job with that make up and effect. Cool.

 

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Capping Off Christopher Nolan’s Batman/The Dark Knight Trilogy of Films: An Awards List

Capping Off Christopher Nolan’s Batman/The Dark Knight Trilogy of Films: An Awards List

Capping Off Christopher Nolan’s Batman/The Dark Knight Trilogy of Films: A List of Awards

Here is a list up with some thoughts from myself, The Rake and “Countdown to The Dark Knight Rises” author and Batman historian of sorts, Prodigal Son. For brevity’s sake, I’ll refer to the movies as Batman Begins (BB), The Dark Knight (DK), and The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR). TDK and TDKR look too similar so as not to confuse anyone. If no movie is mentioned specifically, just assume I am referencing ‘The Christopher Nolan Batman/Dark Knight Trilogy’ as a whole. Needless to say, there are SPOILERS GALORE here. So, don’t read if you haven’t seen the films. Enjoy!

BIGGEST BANG OPENING

PS: Since BB starts with a flashback of Bruce chasing Rachel and falling into a well, the only opening bangs in the series are in that film’s sequels. I’m going with the airplane hijack/kidnapping from TDKR. I loved it. The vertical plane. The wings snapping off. And the shot of Bane and his man strapped together while the hollow plane falls around them toward earth. Beautiful.

Rake: Yeah, that left a nice impression.

BEST PERFORMANCE

Rake: Christian Bale. He had to carry all three films and did so well. Ledger’s Joker would be a close second, but really he didn’t have that much screen time to work with comparatively. Bruce’s cockiness off-set by his tortured soul really reverberated.

SURPRISE PERFORMANCE

Rake: Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. I didn’t think she was right to play a sexy villain that was once played by Halle Berry, and to me, she’s nowhere near that class from a sex appeal standpoint, but she held up acting-wise and didn’t look too bad in the end. Also provided a few quips that maybe TDKR needed being such a “dark” film.

WORST CASTING

Rake: Katie Holmes as a DA in BB. It’s not so much that she was a bad actress, just that she was way too young to be a tough as nails DA, IMO. In her defense, she was better looking than her replacement in TDK. Which leads us to…

WORST CASTING PART 2

Rake: Replacing Holmes with Maggie Gyllenhaal. Looks-wise she’s not up to Bruce Wayne material. Sorry.

HOTTEST DAME

PS: This is essentially a four-horse race, between Rachel I (Katie Holmes), Rachel II (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). Despite looking massive while coming in from the rain in TDKR Tate/Cotillard is taking an L to Kyle/Hathaway. As the longest tenured member of my Top 3 (since 2008’s “Get Smart”), Hathaway brought diabolical sexiness to the unmentioned Catwoman in a suit that left a little to be desired, but a ballroom dance scene that comes in second only to former Bat-girl, Nicole Kidman, in “Eyes Wide Shut.”

Rake: Cotillard and her rack, no contest. Honorable mention to a pre-TomKat Holmes in BB, when Batman picks her body up and she’s almost passed out.

BEST PIECE OF BAT-GEAR

PS: The Bat-pod. I like it just fine in DK. I love it in TDKR. The flipping tires, allowing it to make insanely sharp turns or to come to a standstill did it for me. That and it made Anne Hathaway bend over a lot.

MOST JAW-DROPPING MOMENT

PS: In DK, when Batman runs a cable through the frame of the semi-truck Joker’s manning, causing it to snap and flip forward end-over-front was awe-inspiring.

Rake: I like when Batman jumps off the building at night in Japan in DK. That was dope.

MOST DISSAPOINTING THING FROM EACH FILM & TRILOGY

Rake: BB-Liam Neeson being a bad guy

DK-Two Face’s turn of strength (He’s a symbol of hope who once he gets an acid face starts one-punching people without issue.)

TDKR- The end shot when Alfred looks at Catwoman with Wayne and says nothing. Cheesy as fuck. I thought it was a little easy for Wayne to be with Kyle and I would have preferred that Alfred looks up and it cuts to black without seeing the two together. I like to be left wondering, even though we knew Batman was around due to Robin adventure.

BEST SHOT

Rake: I like the silent few seconds of Ledger’s Joker hanging out of the cop car in DK.

BEST BRAWL

PS: The Joker loved the pain of taking a punch, but those “brawls” were so one-sided. It really comes down to Bane breaking Batman or Batman breaking Bane’s facemask. I’m going with the latter, for the fear in witnessing Bane throw some column-bashing destructive flurries toward Batman’s body with cheetah-like speed (if cheetah’s could punch).

BEST NON-BATMAN/NON-VILLIAN CHARACTER

PS: No cliché’s here, I’m gonna go with Alfred. He didn’t supply Bruce with all the tools and he wasn’t fighting crime alongside him, but the old man who answers Bruce’s door was game from the get go and never put himself before Bruce. As close to a father as the adult Bruce would ever know.

BEST VILLIAN

Rake & PS: The Joker (thought it would be someone else?)

WORST VILLIAN

Rake: Scarecrow, who by comparison to the others was a little tame (and not tough).

BEST VILLAIN-CONCOCTED SCHEME

PS: I loved that Scarecrow attempted to enact a very time-honored Batman-villain idea of poisoning Gotham’s water supply, but with the added technological twist of setting off the fear toxin by using a microwave-emitter to vaporize the water inside the bodies of Gotham’s inhabitants. Smart idea. He just couldn’t execute.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

PS: Do I go with Bane as he clutches the strap of his vest like two backpack straps? Do I go classic with the Batman costume? I’m going Joker’s custom-made green and purple suit. Combine that with the tinged green hair, the craggy white makeup and of course the smile-like scars and you have an icon.

Rake: Joker’s make up job was unequivocally extraordinary.

BEST THING ABOUT EACH FILM

Rake: BB, The League of Shadows training sequence and an original origin story.

DK, The acting of all involved. Top-notch main character casting, truly.

TDKR, The supposed conclusion to the story juxtaposed with Robin getting his start.

WORST THING IN TRILOGY

Rake: Steelers Nation appearance with Hines Ward and Roethlisberger showing up.

PS: Yeah, I’d like to think this glorifying celebration allows one nitpick. I hated the fact that Pittsburgh Steelers were in TDKR. It’s not even because I abhor the team (though it doesn’t help), it’s still a quick distraction during a monumental scene. The River City football players didn’t have recognizable faces and it didn’t lessen the impact when the field cratered beneath their feet.

Rake: A little bit of that, but for me, mainly ‘cause I hate the team.

BEST MOVIE

Rake & PS: The Dark Knight

Christian Bale as The Dark Knight

Give it up for originally controversial pick of Christian Bale to play Batman. He owned role.

“LEAST GOOD” MOVIE

PS: BB is the stepchild of the series to me.

Rake: I’m not sure that it’s fair to use that title, but TDKR. I think that the runtime was a little bloated and story could have been tightened up some. A lot of little twists. Still a strong film though. Read my review if you doubt me. I have mixed feelings about the very end. Almost would have preferred no denouement, but I suppose some of it was necessary.

UNFORGETTABLE MOMENT

PS: What’s the one resounding moment from the series that will reverberate for years to come once the series is long gone and it’s been rebooted time and again? I think that’ll be Joker showing up unannounced at a meeting of the mobsters in DK and performing his “pencil trick.” It’s not every day you see the ol’ banging-of-a-thug’s-face-onto-a-free-standing-pencil-embedded-in-a-table-so- it-penetrates-the-brain-through-the-eye-socket routine performed to perfection.

THING THAT COULD HAVE BEEN INCLUDED

PS: I guess I wish Arkham Asylum had more of a role to play in the trilogy. It exists in BB as Dr. Crane runs the facility, but perhaps if it somehow played the role of courtroom in TDKR or some of the escaped convicts came from that direction, it could have allowed some potentially brief glimpses of the most beloved super-villians in existence. It’s a very fanboy-esque desire of me, for which I feel shame, but it could have been subtly cool.

MOST EMOTIONAL SCENE

PS: TDKR really screwed me up, emotionally. Alfred gives the tearful speech to Bruce, pleading for him to stop playing Batman. Batman gets his back broken by Bane. Bruce triumphantly makes the leap to the ledge, being cheered on by the masses. Batman returns to save Gordon from his icy exile and lights a flaming Bat-symbol. Alfred pleads for the forgiveness of Martha and Thomas Wayne’s gravestones for letting Bruce die. And that final scene, when Alfred’s surprise leads to his nod of acknowledgement knowing Bruce is safe and happy and that Batman is no more. I sat in my theater seat and wanted to cry, knowing it was all over. That’s the one that got to me.

Rake: When Bruce escapes from The Pit in TDKR. I was welling up a touch. But you know how I feel about the very last shot…unnecessary.

BEST THING THAT HAPPENED IN ANY FILM

Rake: The death of Rachel in DK. To me, that is when this set of films separated itself from others. Like when Damon’s chick dies at beginning of Bourne 2 – same thing.

PS: I mentioned it in my countdown piece for DK, and had thought of it as the “Most Diabolical Twist.” Concur.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

Rake: In the end, I thought the trilogy was about Bale and Batman (as it should be). Scarecrow was a scientist/doctor with gas and a mask. Joker didn’t want to kill Batman, he was entertained by him too much. Bane was just a leader of an army. I thought Bane would be more menacing than he was to be honest. He talked tough and could fight, but what else? The villains, despite their performances, were no match for the man in black. As for Robin…

Special thanks to Director Christopher Nolan for tackling these films. In lesser hands, we all know what could have become of the Dark Knight character. Joel Schumacher anyone!?

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