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The Dark Knight Rises

Lazy, incoherent, and unsatisfying on nearly every level.
What makes things worse, is that its predecessors were basically intricate works of genius, but TDKR lacks essentially everything that made The Dark Knight (particularly) one of the greatest superhero movies ever produced. On top of all this, everyone's bandwagoning on thinking it's great because it's "supposed" to be great, right?!?! How could Nolan's finale not be a masterpiece?! Well, I'll tell you...

Bruce Wayne acts out-of-character from not just the first two movies, but from the comic as well. Catwoman's motivation and place in the story is weak, flat, and forced. For a movie that's almost three hours long, you only get about 20 minutes of Batman in costume (if you're lucky). The movie jumps in weird time increments that are mildly confusing, but mostly forced to facilitate its wanna-be epic nature.

As for more heavily SPOILERY observations...

Commissioner Gordon is barely in the movie, spending most his time injured in a hospital, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character comes out of the blue and does what you'd expect the Commissioner to be doing... solution- COMBINE THE TWO CHARACTERS!!!

The two Batman vs. Bane fights are flat and boring as hell. Bane is a cardboard, unexplored (until a late-third act flashback... of all ridiculous cliché plot devices) character that reaches for sympathy in one of the most embarrassing, wanna-be-tender, totally out-of-place, extremely laughable scenes I've ever seen in my life- HE FRIGGIN' CRIES?!!?!?

Every single, yes EVERY SINGLE cop in Gotham marches down into the sewers on a tip that Bane's raising a secret army, only to have all the entrances blown up so they can be trapped down there... for like three months. Reread that last sentence and tell me what part of it makes sense.

Bane holds Gotham hostage with a 4 megaton nuclear device, after blowing up all but one bridge leading into and out of the city, for three months and the U.S. government does nothing. Seriously, nothing. It's said they negotiated a truce and had FEMA send in supplies for survival. Read that last paragraph and tell me what part of it makes sense.

The "real" villain reveals him/her self in an absurd Act 3 "twist" that's followed by a narrated flashback (the same one that leads to Bane CRYING), and throughout the entire monologue Batman sits there doing nothing after a knife has been thrust/held into his side.

After the 2nd lame Bats/Bane fight, the bulk of the late Act 3rd "action sequence" consists of little more than Batman flying around in that weird-looking clunky flying thing that supposed to be the Bat Plane- half of which is of him outmaneuvering missiles that the bulky "plane" couldn't have possibly eluded.

I really, really, really, really, really, really wanted to not just like this, but LOVE it, but as it progressed the enthusiasm cloud gradually cleared to the point of my being utterly flabberghasted in disappointment- mostly because I can't believe the director of The Dark Knight and the masterpiece that is Inception was responsible for this movie. It's lazy and uninspired to the point of being offensive to everyone who's ever been not just a Batman fan, but a fan of non- intelligence-insulting movies.


Very unique masterwork of indie filmmaking
Jumping persistently between so many couples throughout the entire movie is a technique I've never really seen before, especially in how it so effectively sucks you in AND breaks most Hollywood conventions while still being relatable. Conception earns its R rating through edgy adult dialogue and sparse nudity without jumping onto the "shock value" bandwagon of tastelessness and pointless crudity.

This is a sweet movie at heart, and Stolberg's ability to navigate through a wide variety of characters that you quickly grow to love and understand without the slightest bit of confusion makes it quite a rare gem.

And, for any of us who know filmmaking- shooting it in ten days (at least that's what I read somewhere) with roughly ten locations (I think), one for each couple, is flat out remarkable- and it certainly doesn't hurt to have such an experienced, likable, recognizable cast filling out every single scene: it's not often (or ever) that every single face in a low-budget movie with so many characters can actually be recognized, let alone have been pulled from some of the most groundbreaking television (and some movies) of the last few years- though half of those cast are actually working on hot shows right now.

This isn't a cliché-ridden, formulaic romantic comedy where characters are forced to figure out how much they really love each other, then lose each other, then get back together in the end- it's hanging out with real people who subtly (if not sneakily) grow on you, straight through to a culmination that ties everything together in a very charming way.

The Dark Knight

Excellent on every level
Dark Knight is probably the least "cartoony" of any superhero movie to date. It's like watching The Departed only it's got Batman, Joker, and more explosions. Monster's Ball was probably the first time I began to realize what a good actor Ledger was, and his death is all the more of a tragedy in that his Joker performance lives up to every bit of the hype and would have thrust him onto the A-List, much like Iron Man is doing for Downey Jr. (not to mention that Christian Bale has been one of my favorite actors in the world since American Psycho). The first hour or so might play a bit slow in parts, but by the half way mark it kicks into action-thriller mode straight through to the end. Also at the half way mark we get an action sequence that rivals the Batmobile chase from Batman Begins, which literally culminates in a theater full of cheers. Cheers and even emotional beats are reached in a triumph of the human spirit dilemma near the end of Act 2, while the very last shot of the film also summons the applause it deserves as it cuts to dark . Intense psychology, humor, action, tension, heavy plot, and plenty of eye-popping spectacle makes this one of the best and most satisfying movies of the decade.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

One of the worst films I've ever seen in my life...
I've spent the last four days trading (sometimes heated) e-mails with all my movie-nerd friends over not just how bad Indy 4 is, but whether it's worse than any of the Star Wars prequels, which any true fan of the original trilogy finds practically unwatchable. My conclusion is yes, Indy 4 is a hell of a lot worse, making me thankful that the Prequels were even remotely watchable, considering (after the rampant laziness and lack of passion behind Indy 4) just how horrible they COULD have been!!! At least the Prequels provided a coherent storyline, a character arc, and absolutely amazing technical effects achievements over the course of the trilogy, despite clunky dialogue, implausible action sequences nearly beyond the capacity of its own universe (factory conveyor-belt sequence, I'm looking at you!), and an almost complete lack of direction (for the actors, anyhow). As far as Indy 4 goes, Ford doesn't sound or act like Indy from the old days, there's no "arc of belief" for him as was always present, the storyline is an incoherent mess, almost every single action sequence is so implausible that it transcends the possibility of even working as mindless entertainment, several topics and ideas are brought up, but never explored nor have any consequence, and the humor is a joke (no pun intended), especially compared with how wonderful the humor in the first trilogy worked in terms of comic timing, writing, and editing. The only similarity is Indy's costume and the music. I can't remember the last time I was so passionately disappointed in a sequel (some of our conversations have gone back to Beverly Hills Cop 3, Lethal Weapon 3, and Robocop 3 (man, what's with the 3's?!?!), and may as well throw in Blade 3 while we're at it. While Spidey 3 and X-Men 3 are the weakest of those series, at least decent junks of 'em are watchable (barring Peter Parker's "dance" sequence-ugh!!!) compared to the horrible, lazy, pathetic let-down that is The King"dumb" of the Crystal Skull. Iron Man was for the most part a great film (outside of maybe some forced, unmotivated bad-guy issues near the end), but if The Dark Knight somehow sucks, too, I think I'm giving up movie watching forever and sticking with television- if you want some amazing writing, check out Dexter, The Office, Rome, Deadwood, and Battlestar Galactica which are leaps and bounds beyond what we're seeing in movie theaters these days.

Shoot 'Em Up

This movie isn't supposed to be funny, but it is a joke.
Everyone seems to be passing this terrible film-making off as an over the top comedy homage, which is ridiculous. Give me a 90 minute McBain (yes, from The Simpsons) movie and I'll laugh, but I can tell by articles about the writer/director that this movie tried to be serious and fell short. Admitting that he's not a very smart writer in the first place preempts the notion that he's trying to write characters you can "identify" with. Give me Sin City or give me The Naked Gun, but few people outside of Raimi or Peter Jackson can do both. It's not funny enough to make me laugh, and the action scenes are too over the top to take serious. Also, the wannabe one liners are moronic (see the first two-thirds of Last Action Hero for examples of funny/clever over the top action scenes with great "silly" one-liners... if only the whole movie had stayed that way). Shoot Em Up is terrible on virtually every level.


What every documentary should strive for
I really don't understand why this has such a low rating. It's intriguing, informative, inspiring, and nails emotional beats left and right. I must assume that the same people who are condemning this woman in her everyday life have managed to infiltrate IMDb so as to keep people from seeing this documentary. Initially, even I was slightly deterred after seeing such a low user rating, but the description on Showtime sounded intriguing enough- and after seeing it I was blown away! Also, going into it I didn't know if I wanted to suffer through the horrendous story of a woman who'd been gang-raped in Pakistan, which I'm sure is a major turn-off for any potential viewer, but it's not until about 30 minutes into it that you see what the documentary is really about and how powerful it is: SPOILER- after deciding to speak up against the controlling oppressors in her extremely poor village does she gain enough unexpected sympathy and support (from the government AND the world) to turn her entire village around.

Spider-Man 3

Seriously, I feel sorry for you if you can't enjoy this movie...
I had a blast with S3 partially because it felt so much like reading a great comic book! Really, the notion of 15-20 years of comic collecting as such a foundation of my person finally being made into such successful high-end Hollywood tent-pole product can't help but have a euphoric affect- but, I'm one of those who goes in wanting to have fun- not one who's thinking "okay, how are they going to f-up my heroes this time?".

THC was perfect as Sandman, and the effects were fantastic. It's hard not to get anyone's hopes up, and I never expected to say this... but Venom was actually cooler than I anticipated!! His bodily surface texture and the way it looked when he "spoke" was just kick ass cool.

I want to see it again in order to fully compare it to the other Spidey films, but I guess that's a good thing- 'cause I AM looking forward to seeing it again. Some might argue that there's too much going on with 3 villains, some powerful friendship issues, and more than a couple romantic tuggings, but I absolutely had fun with it. It may have played a hair long at 2hr 20min, but I also could tell there were some things cut out- so I'm expecting a director's cut DVD with like 30 minutes added in.

Bruce Campbell's stuff was even better(and more hilarious) than his Spidey 2 cameo, which I also loved.

Emotional Beats- I want to mention something here because it could make or break the film for some people. Much like Spidey 2, right at the end there's an attempt to hammer the audience with a quadrifold of emotional downpours (be it good, bad, whatever). Some of it almost felt forced, some of it almost felt contrived... but, just as I wanted to roll my eyes in frustration it worked itself out nicely. As I thought "okay, I guess they're going to try and wrap THAT up now" my chin nearly buckled and I started fighting the urge to shed a tear (and I could hear people around me sniffling)- so by that standard I have to say it worked. MOST people could potentially be choked up several times over by the end, and for me it worked all the way down to the very last shot, which I felt was great (I actually thought "okay, a shitty movie would have done it this other way, but Raimi did it right by keeping it wonderfully subtle and unspoken".)

WARNING: SUPER SPOILERY PARAGRAPH- In regards to the emotional beat breakdown, here's the ending layout (if I remember it correctly). Even though you saw it coming a mile away, you feel tingly when Harry shows up at the last minute to help Spidey defeat Sandman and Venom. Don't know if you feel much when Harry sacrifices himself to save Spidey because you really see it coming, but no big deal. After Venom's defeated, Sandman tells Peter how the gun accidentally went off when his partner-in-crime bumped him before getting in Uncle Ben's car. It was borderline silly with Sandman's flashback insert, then the holding up of the locket with his dying daughter's picture in it, however, Peter says he forgives him, which as a character moment makes it work great (in my opinion). Then we get to Harry's cliché "dying in Peter's arms" scene, but somehow you feel something in what's said between them. Just as you're bordering on emotion (if you made it though Harry's death scene without buckling- that's where I heard some sniffles), you're shamelessly thrown head first into the funeral scene- which if done properly can sucker anyone into emotion- and Raimi pulled it off with simply a voice over narration from Peter (which I felt was perfect- not too much). THEN we cut to a scene maybe not too far in the future, with Mary Jane singing in a jazz lounge, which we knows she's not happy doing (she'd been kicked off a Broadway show earlier in the movie because of bad reviews). At this point a divide of several layers had been created between them despite Peter's having told her that he meant to propose during one of their dinners (but it got flubbed- that's the humorous Bruce Campbell scene). As the scene began I thought "it's going to be really cheesy if he walks in and shows her the ring", and gladly I was surprised: no dialogue at all... the final shot is of him walking in without saying a word. Mary Jane stops singing as soon as she sees him, and Peter simply extends his hand. She takes it, comes down from the stage, hugs him, and they slow dance to the music she'd been singing to. The camera moves around them to close in on a shot of Peter as a tiny bit of happiness shows, and the film ends. The only thing that kept me from breaking a tear, was my anger in having been manipulated so masterfully with stuff that should have been cheesy. Nice job! --END SUPER SPOILERY.

Yeah, there's some musical silliness that made me want to cringe, but a good chunk of your everyday crowd will no doubt love it (kind of how I loved the "me say day" sequence from Beetlejuice when I was younger, but now it plays pretty stupid?).

And yes, the cgi camera work is amazing, whipping and whirling in and around mid-air battles and what not is also reminiscent of reading a comic- which I'm all for.

Lastly, I wish we could have seen Spidey's black costume like it was in the comic, as opposed to it just being a black version of the red and blue costume. No big deal, but when you see the "real" black Spidey costume as Venom's costume it's awesome as hell.

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