Tag Archives: Chris Nolan

The Top Ten Best Car Chases

There’s nothing better than a frantic, fast-paced, pulse-pounding car chase.

The kind that sticks you directly in the middle of the action at a hundred miles an hour, keeping you at the edge of your seat as the mayhem unfolds.

The kind that keeps you coming back to re-view (and in my case, “review”) time and again,  just to relive it.

The kind that brings something new to a very crowded genre.

The kind that I’m crazy for not including in my top ten list.  Well, did I miss any?

10. Bank Heist (Fast Five)

This would rank even higher if two Mustangs had been involved instead of two Dodge Chargers, but it’s still fantastic to see Vin Diesel and Paul Walker double-team the streets of Rio de Janeiro with a gazillion ton bank safe in tow.

Bonus points for the fact that when the safe opens, it’s to Danza Kuduro so I’m reminded of every Caribbean vacation I’ve taken since 2010.

9. Mall Escape (Terminator 2)

Normally, if you’re choosing between a dirt bike and a big rig tow truck for chase purposes, you’d take the terminator2truck, right?  But what if the dirt bike also comes with an assist from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800?

What makes this chase all the more awesome is that if you go in to this movie cold, you cannot be sure which killer robot is on little John Conner’s side – a masterstroke by James Cameron which the movie’s trailers spoiled for anyone who’d seen them.

8. Mall Break-In (The Blues Brothers)

You expect a crash or two as part of a chase.  Maybe a car even flips over once in a while.   The Blues Brothers took crashes to an entirely different level.

A total of 103 cars were wrecked during the film, many of them during Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi’s wild ride through a shopping mall.  That triple-digit destruction was a record until Blues Brothers 2000 deliberately smashed one more car during its production.  But it’s the original receiving the crown that matters, namely a spot on this prestigious list.

7. San Francisco Tour (Bullitt)

Steve McQueen takes a spin in maybe the most iconic Mustang ever and tames the bullittstreets of San Francisco and a rival driver in a Dodge Charger.

But it’s not only the car, it’s also that McQueen made sure to keep his head in view of the camers so you knew it was him doing the heavy lifting the whole time.

6. World’s Worst Valet (The Rock)

This is mostly about the car, as Nicolas Cage borrows a beautiful yellow Ferrari F355 Spider to chase down Sean Connery in a Hummer H1.  And fucks it up badly.

Michael Bay puts his own spin on a San Francisco chase, complete with a runaway trolley car, and reminds us that at Bay’s peak his set pieces were as good as anyone’s.

5. Catching the Train (The French Connection)

french connectionThe French Connection’s chase is iconic for good reason.  This claustrophobic subway/car chase was filmed without a permit in real Brooklyn traffic, causing real car crashes that were left in the film (the producers paid for the repairs, but still).

While the choice to film on uncleared streets is one that would never be allowed by a Hollywood studio today, the camera angles used by director William Friedkin and his crew are still being used today.

4. Bellbottoms (Baby Driver)

It’s rare to have a car chase open a movie, but when it’s done right,  why not?

Here, Edgar Wright gets the opening chase scene SO right, in part because he’d been dreaming of making this very car chase (complete with accompanying song) since the 90s.  It was worth the wait!

3. Chasing a Black…Tank (Batman Begins)

Christopher Nolan can do it all, can’t he?  You’d think the streets of Gotham City would be perfect car chase fodder but only Nolan got it right.batman

Nolan also got a Gotham chase right in The Dark Knight, but for my money the chase from Batman Begins is the best one since it shows us how bewildering it would be for the cops trying to keep track of a superhero’s black…tank as it defies the laws of physics.

2. Fourth Quarter Magic (Drive)

As good as Baby Driver’s opening is, the opening sequence in Drive wins out for Nicolas Winding Refn’s patience and subtlety.

This chase feels like it actually could have happened, and more importantly sets the tone for the rest of the film with its gritty realism, a hint of the pulsing synth soundtrack, and amazing attention to detail (only after seeing the chase play out do we understand why Ryan Gosling’s character is such a big basketball fan).

1. The Whole Enchilada (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Mad Max: Fury Road is FURY ROADessentially a two-hour long chase scene, so on that measure it has to be number one.

But what is most impressive is that I couldn’t pick just one short sequence of that chase to focus on because it’s all fantastic.  The madness and desperation in Max’s world lend an unmatched urgency to the chase, and George Miller never takes his foot off the accelerator even for a minute – fitting for the best car chase scene of all-time.

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Dunkirk

We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

-Winston Churchill, June 1940

Has anyone ever been better than Winston Churchill at giving motivational speeches?  He had a way of rising to the occasion and here, the stakes had never been higher.   This speech was given immediately after the British and their Allies had been run out of France by the invading Germans.  Victory over the Nazis was not on the horizokinopoisk.run and must have seemed impossible at the time.  That’s more or less what Churchill said, after all: he is not describing a plan to win.  He is describing a last-ditch effort to survive when the Nazis try to conquer Britain after they finish in France, and a cry for help to the New World to save the day in that bleak scenario (Canada was, of course, already part of the Allied forces at the time, but the U.S. would not be until Pearl Harbor).

The devastating outcome of the Battle of Dunkirk gave good reason for Churchill’s pessimism.  It is a fascinating historical event because it was a loss that could well have broken the Allies, but instead, it galvanized them, particularly in the way that the British survived: hundreds of civilian vessels sailed from Britain to France to help rescue over 300,000 Allied soldiers from the Nazis.

Time and time again, Christopher Nolan has proven himself to be as adept a director as Churchill was a speaker.  Tonally, Nolan’s Dunkirk captures what must have been the prevailing mood on the ground, at sea, and in the air as the Battle of Dunkirk was fought.  Nolan makes an inspired structural choice by intertwining three different stories over three different time periods, and as only Nolan can do, effectively explains a complex structure using only three small titlecards at the very beginning.  Dunkirk is reminiscent of The Prestige in that way – in both, Nolan always provides enough cues so the viewer knows exactly where a particular scene fits into the overall timeline and story, even as he tells the story in a complex, non-linear fashion.

With Dunkirk, Nolan has outdone himself.   Given how consistently great he has been throughout his career, it is incredible to think that he has gotten better, but that is clearly the case.  Dunkirk is absolutely masterful filmmaking from start to finish.  Above all else, Nolan’s film captures the essence of Dunkirk and gives us a true sense of the anguish of war, the desire to survive, and the fear of the unknown that soldiers must deal with constantly.  In particular, I am reminded of the scenes featuring Tom Hardy’s RAF pilot, all of which inserted me into the battle and truly made me feel how claustrophobic a Spitfire’s cramped cockpit would be, and how difficult it would be to spot, identify, and track an enemy fighter, let alone shoot it down.

For the viewer, this is a vital, visceral, and draining experience.  Dunkirk is a 106 minute movie that feels like it’s four hours long (which Nolan would take as a high praise, I think, if he ever read this review).  From start to finish, it is tense, it is devastating, it is awful and it is brilliant.  Dunkirk is filmmaking at its finest and a fitting tribute to one of the defining events of the 20th century.

 

 

The Prestige

prestigeChristopher Nolan’s bad movies are better than most people’s good ones.  I count three of them (Memento, Inception and The Dark Knight) among my all-time favourites, and I have enjoyed everything else of his that I’ve seen (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight Rises, and Interstellar).  Noticeably absent from that list, until this week, was The Prestige, which usually appears near the top of critics’ “best of Nolan” lists.  So when The Prestige popped up on Netflix’s “recently added” row, I dove in immediately.

The Prestige is a tale of the ever-escalating war between two rival magicians, played by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman.  Bale is the purer magician while Jackman is the larger commercial success.  As the stakes get ratcheted up, Bale is arrested for Jackman’s murder.  But in a battle of illusionists, can we really believe what we see?

Structurally, The Prestige is as complex as anything that Nolan has thrown at us.  This movie shouldn’t work as well as it does.  There are flashbacks within flashbacks but I knew at all times where/when a scene fit in with the rest of the film.  We’ve got enough examples by now of Nolan’s capabilities, but The Prestige is yet another display of his narrative mastery.  Basing the film on the three parts of a magic trick works very well, keeping the viewer on edge until the big reveal.

The reveal itself, though, left me disappointed.  It was a huge stretch that went completely against the movie’s prior suggestions that the secret of magic is setting up the trick and selling it to the audience.   I found the reveal of both Bale and Jackman’s methods problematic, in different ways, but Jackman’s big surprise was what really took the air out of the film for me.

Because of that, on my list The Prestige gets relegated to the lower tier of Nolan films, somewhere in Interstellar territory.   Make no mistake, though, that’s due to Nolan having made so many great films as opposed to The Prestige being a bad movie.  It’s still pretty damn good!

Memento

Like most people our age, we have a copy of Memento in our DVD collection, and the cover of that copy declares itself a “masterpiece.” While I’m not entirely sure I agree, it IS an achievement and for many of us, a turning point in movies. It may have been the first Christopher Nolan you saw, but I doubt it was your last.

guypearceIt’s the story of a man looking for his family, like Finding Dory only more murdery. Okay, it’s nothing like Finding Dory, but Leonard (Guy Pearce) genuinely can’t form new memories, and he’s not so much looking for his wife as looking for her murderer. The story is ingeniously (and frustratingly) told frontwards AND backwards, colour sequences alternating with black and white, creating a disorienting narrative that mimics the character’s confusion. The two story lines eventually meet, but this technique manages to build both momentum and tension in ways we hadn’t experienced in a good long while.

Leonard uses tattoos and polaroids in place of memories but it’s not a perfect system as pictures can lie, and both are corruptible. The movie winds up being as much a trip for us as it is for him, and Memento spawned a lot of copycat movies and a new “mindfuck” genre.

It absolutely demands to be rewatched and nearly every time you do you find some new detail that requires much discussion over pie. You’re no film snobuntitled.png and certainly no Asshole if you don’t obsess over this movie at least semi-regularly.

Lucky for you, Toronto, there’s an exclusive screening in 35mmfor TIFF and ROM members at the TIFF Bell Lightbox this Sunday July 10 2016 at 1pm as part of the Royal Ontario Museum’s current exhibition, Tattoos: Ritual. Identity. Obsession. Art. All proceeds from this event will support TIFF’s film preservation and projection efforts, including the ongoing presentation of 35mm films.

The Screening Room

You may have heard that Sean Parker is hoping to get his latest venture, Screening Room, into your living room sometime soon. What is it? It’s a little black box that you’d have to purchase for, say, $150, and that box would enable you to spend yet more money! Sound good?

For about $50, you’d get to watch a new movie in your home on the day it’s released in theatres. No more waiting for months for it to be out “on video”. Throw a few bucks at the problem, and there you are, eating snacks you bought for a reasonable price at the grocery store, pressing pause to pee, with all the elbow room you can finscreeningroomagle from your spouse and your dogs, and even a faux-fur throw to keep you cozy on the couch. You don’t even have to wear pants!* (presumably – no guarantee)

But don’t worry: if you love the experience of sitting in a theatre with a few hundred gassy strangers, that option is still open to you, because cinemas aren’t going anywhere. So either way, you’re covered.

Unless James Cameron has a say, and since he believes he does, he’s already said it. Cameron, along with his producing partner Jon Landau, have said screeningroom3they’re “committed to the sanctity of the in-theatre experience” which sounds a little creepy seeing how we’re talking about a dark room with sticky floors and seating that I’m afraid might have lice. “We don’t understand why the industry would want to provide audiences an incentive to skip the best form to experience the art that we work so hard to create.”

You seriously don’t understand it? You don’t understand that $50, while pricey, is still a bargain compared to an average night out at the movies? That inflated prices are keeping people away from your precious “art” and that with vangoghthe rise in quality of home theatres, your sacred blue people will view just as well at home, and more comfortably. I’m sure Van Gogh isn’t thrilled that his most famous paintings are reproduced on coffee mugs, but do you hear him complaining? No. Because not everyone can afford a trip to New York City to the Museum of Modern Art, where The Starry Night is currently displayed (price of admission: $25). So now the masses can enjoy works of Van Gogh just about everywhere – on shower curtains, on umbrellas, on postcards, and Google. If Van Gogh can be a big boy about it, James Cameron, so can you.

Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, J.J. Abrams, and Peter Jackson all support the technology, becoming stakeholders in the company. So this is causing quite a rift in the film community, a real Hollywood civil war, if you will. And what gives – don’t Spielberg and Abrams direct the same kind of blockbuster movies that demand big screens?

Sure they do. And tent pole movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens will continue to see lots of people swarming to cinemas to have their bones rattled and their eyeballs go dry. But smaller movies struggle to get any theatre release at all. Often I’ll mention a movie I think is great and people write “sounds good, but that will never come to my small town!” and that’s true – if your small town has a 6-theatre Cineplex, chances are, 4 of those screens are playing the super hero movie, one is playing an animated film for families, and then you have just 1 screen left to divide up between all the worthy films.

M. Night Shyamalan, who nobody asked but still likes to pretend he’s relevant in the world of movies, came down decidedly against the startup. “I am completely against the Screening Room. Film is one of our last communal art forms. There are other ways to experience art on your phone and laptop. But screeningroom2cinema is a group of strangers sharing stories and it belongs in a theater. Once filmmakers and theater owners open the door to this idea, there is no going back. The movie going experience is something to fight for! Watching a movie by yourself & watching a movie in a theater are two very different experiences. Film is meant to bring people together.”

The worst thing is, I don’t even really disagree with him. That’s why I still go to movies, like all the frickin time. But “bring people together?” C’mon, man, let’s be real, unless by “bring people together” you mean communally shushing someone, because how dare some random movie goer talk over an important plot point of Transformers? I’ve been to movies that are made funnier because the whole audience is laughing together. I’ve been to movies screeningroom1where the audience spontaneously burst into applause at the end because we were so moved. But I’ve been to too many movies where I’m disturbed by someone’s candy wrappers, hacking coughs, crying kids, deep abiding need to state obvious, observable facts, and an increasing inability to sit for 90 minutes without checking their goddamned phones. Is that part of your “art”, M. Night?

Movie attendance is down, way down, and all theatre owners can think to do is keep jacking up prices without offering a more pleasant experience. The people are already downloading the movies illegally just to avoid overpaying for a subpar experience – why not offer a legal service that will fill the need? Peter Jackson feels that while he opposed other similar ventures, he’s behind screeningroom4Screening Room because it doesn’t “cannibalize” theatres – “Screening Room is very carefully designed to capture an audience that does not currently go to the cinema.” And that’s a pretty big audience. Because movie watchers aren’t just people who prefer theatres or not, they’re also made up of people who don’t have a choice. I missed a bunch of movies when I had back surgery and was attached to too many machines to travel. I still miss them intermittently (and always have, and always will) when my back is acting up and I don’t want to risk those shitty chairs. Parents with young kids who can’t get a babysitter will rejoice. Canadians who get snowed in or iced out will benefit. And people who are immobile, and families that deal with all kinds of physical and mental health problems who just aren’t able to tolerate a public theatre. Shouldn’t they have a venue for great “art” too?

To recap:

Pro Screening Room:                                            Anti Screening Room:

Steven Spielberg                                                      Chris Nolan

JJ Abrams                                                                    M. Night Shyamalan

Martin Scoresese                                                      James Cameron

Brian Grazer                                                              Brett Ratner

Peter Jackson                                                             Jon Landau

Ron Howard

Frank Marshall

Whose side are you on?

 

 

I second that emotion!

Conman had such a cool idea for a blogathon that I couldn’t resist – here’s my last-minute entry into the Emotion Blogathon from the most emotional mess on the planet, and for balance, Sean-the-Robot’s picks as well.emotions Joy: The movie that makes me smile the most? Can I say my wedding video? No? A real movie? Billy-Elliot-billy-elliot-13639478-760-499Okay then. The movies that make me giggle the most are Hamlet 2 (the always-hilarious Steve Coogan is a failed actor-turned drama teacher who writes a brilliant sequel to Hamlet) and Eagle Vs Shark (Jemaine Clement plays an irredeemable weirdo; the wit is dry and unapologetic). The movies that make me happy are Singing in the Rain (I’ve never remained seated while watching it. It’s infectious.) and Billy Elliot (oh, no theme there at all). The movie that puts a song in my heart is Up. Gets me every damn time. The movie that gives me that Fuck yeah! feeling is Big Fish.

Sean’s pick:  Amelie – there’s something about this movie that makes me feel hopeful, not just one thing, repeatedly, over and over, it captures something raw about us.We are at our best when we do good and help each other, just for the sake of it, and sometimes we forget that.

Sadness: Which movies has made me cry the most? All Dogs Go to Heaven was probably the first to turn me into a giant puddle of weepery. In grade 7 I turned purple and had to lock myself All-Dogs-go-to-Heaven-all-dogs-go-to-heaven-4984580-780-588in a bathroom stall in school when we watched The Outsiders. And we’d just finished the book so I knew what was coming. The Last Kiss (Zach Braff cheats on his wife with Rachel Bilson and then regrets it and tries to win her back) had me totally choked up when I unknowingly watched it during the throes of my horrible divorce. Furious 7 reduced me to tears on numerous occasions just thinking of the movie or hearing that damn song on the radio for weeks after I saw it – I’m not proud of that, but in my defense, I did lose 2 very close friends to car accidents and that movie seems to have triggered a lot of grief for me.

Sean’s pick: Big Fish – this is a movie that exemplifies “good sad” which I didn’t even know existed for the first 25 years of my life. Billy Crudup’s story of how his dad dies is hands down the finest cinematic expression of the love between a father and son.

(I think it’s sweet how we overlap on happy\sad)

Anger: A movie that fills me with rage and inspires Jay-Hulk to rip off my shirt and rant for ages? Well, that’s probably like every second movie I’ve ever seen, come to think of it. 40 Days and 40 bayNights (that Josh Hartnett one where he tries to be celibate for 40 days) really makes me seethe because the dude gets straight-up raped in the movie, only nobody calls it that because he’s a guy, and the rapist is a woman. I literally think steam comes out of my ears. 50 Shades of Grey makes me livid and I haven’t even seen it. But I can’t believe we’re allowing this to exist, this dumbing down of society, and this glamourization of an abusive relationship. Thanks, 50 Shades, for setting us back about 65 years! And you know who really steams my broccoli? That Michael Bay. Does anyone so consistently annoy the shit out of me by making steaming piles of crap? Michael Fucking Bay!

 

Sean’s pick: The Amazing Spiderman – if you reboot a superhero franchise, don’t rehash the origin story in the reboot. It’s lazy and terrible and makes me angry. The only way Chris Nolan got away with it was by capturing the essence of the classic “Batman: Year One” storyline, but I can’t think of any other situation where that would work. So please, none of these origin stories are complicated, just do it in the opening credits and get to the good stuff, i.e., the conflict between our hero and one of his/her (though let’s be honest, it’s always his) classic villains.

 

childrenFear: The movie that scared the bejesus out of movie? Precious. That got under my skin. No horror movie will ever bother me half as much as the degradation of a human being. Children of Men made me fear for the future. Man Bites Dog made me fear for our souls. The Act of Killing made me fear for the human race. Complete lack of empathy. I mean, wtf. Boys Don’t Cry can probably go into that same category. Hotel Rwanda. Like, I’m just sad for humanity for days.

Sean’s pick:  Friday the 13th – As a kid before I even saw the movie (but knew the basic concept) I was terrified of killers in the woods at camp because of this movie and its (first few) sequels. Especially at night, when I was walking through a wooded area at camp, I would be freaking out.

Disgust: This is my favouritest emotion ever and I’m full of cringes and upturning of my cute-as-a-button nose. How can I ever pick just one? I’m disgusted by just about any movie that’s a waste of space. I famously reenacted nearly every scene of 2012 when I was flummoxed as to how such a terrible movie ever got made. And I feel that way of about a third of the movies ever made. So that’s a lot. I’m also disgusted by anything poopy or farty (I’m looking at you, street-poopBridesmaids). Even toilet humour. Oh god. And that scene in Big Daddy where the kid spits this big long string and then slurps it back up? I have to go take a shower just from writing that. And that blonde chick in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist who just will not throw out that revolting piece of gum to save her life (or more realistically, MINE). And obviously anything eye-related. I have to actually turn away, and when Sean tells me it’s safe, I’m like, are you SURE? Because no. Not even. And Minority Report seems to have been made solely to make me squirm. Tom Cruise gets his eyeballs swapped out in a crude and unsanitary procedure, and then goes on to blindly eat THE MOST DISGUSTING THINGS IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE. I’m making retching noises right now and I bet if you listen carefully, you can hear them wherever you are.

Sean’s pick: Pixels – The feeling when you hope for a return to form and then receive the laziest possible effort from a guy who used to have his finger on the pulse of a generation, and more egregiously, the exact generation who remembers the greatness of pac-man and donkey kong and centipede.

All right. We’ve fessed up, so now it’s your turn. What movies would you pick? And if you’ve participated, be sure to leave us your link!

Our Favourite Super Hero Movies

TMPIt’s superhero week, the most super of all the weeks! For some, like Sean, the answers were obvious, and for others, namely Jay, the least Marvelicious of all the Assholes, there was a struggle. Thank you, as always, to Wandering Through The Shelves, for putting forth this challenge.

 

Sean

The Dark Knight –  I went to the midnight showing for this one and loved every minute of it. Joker-Yelling-Hit-Me-The-Dark-KnightHeath Ledger is phenomenal. Hands down, his Joker is the best villain in any superhero movie. It’s not even close; he is perfect and he carries this movie. Full marks to the writers as well for capturing so much of what I love about the Batman-Joker rivalry. The choice the Joker gives to Batman is genius, and this is what a superhero movie should strive for: to be true to these characters and give us a fresh story (not just another rehash of the hero’s origin)!

Guardians of the Galaxy – Marvel has these movies down to a science by now. I have lost track of how many movies their cinematic universe contains but it’s a lot. Guardians of the Galaxy is Guardians-of-the-galaxy-GIFthe standout for me. It feels different and it is full of memorable moments. Groot, Starlord, baby Groot, Rocket, and the rest do dysfunctional the right way. With the Avengers the internal turmoil felt forced and unnecessary, but these five feel like true misfits who end up being more than the sum of their parts, and who somehow pull it together when it matters. And isn’t coming through in the clutch the definition of heroism?

SpiderMan 2 – Tobey Maguire made a good Spider-Man because he was a good Peter Parker. spidermanThis movie is very Peter Parker from start to finish. Peter doesn’t always get it right and he rarely gets ahead. But he’s a good guy because he wants to be a better guy than he is. He really wants to be a hero and he’s the last guy you would expect to find under Spider-Man’s mask, but when you see he’s the one who saved your subway car from Doc Ock, you make sure you have his back.  Spider-Man tries so hard to be a good guy that it is contagious. This movie captures the character perfectly and that’s why it made it on my list (it was very hard narrowing this list down to three). It’s such a shame they couldn’t get Venom right in #3, but the main reason #3 was such a letdown is because #2 sets the bar so high.

Jay

Sean is the superhero guy, the one who was thrown out of school for drawing an underground comic book back when he was young and had a sharp pencil. Me? I have super hero fatigue. Too many reboots and reiterations of stories I’ve already heard and teams we’ve already assembled and battles we’ve already fought.

Unbreakable – This movie’s not just about superheroes, it worships them. It prays at the altar of comic books. There was a day, not so very long ago, when “directed by M. Night Shyamalan” were not dirty words. This movie, for me, surpassed The Sixth Sense. It felt quietly important. unbreakableRevelatory. I loved how a seemingly ordinary man might one day awaken to the fact that he is a superhero. Has been all along and never really noticed. Bruce Willis is “unbreakable”, never injured, never sick, but never paid any attention until Sam Jackson finds him. Very breakable “Mr. Glass” he has some sort of brittle bone disease, always breaking bones and living in pain. He figures if he can exist, on his end of the spectrum, so must someone else on the other end. Having found him, he ingeniously starts training him up to put to put the hero in superhero. Quentin Tarantino is also a big fan of the movie, calling it a “brilliant retelling of the Superman mythology”, and lamenting that it had not been properly hyped with the simple tagline “what if Superman was here on earth, and didn’t know he was Superman?”

The Incredibles – If the last movie asked what if the hero didn’t know he was a hero, this one asks, what if we asked the heroes to stop being heroic? Superheroes, including Mr. Incredible and his dishy girlfriend Elastigirl were doing a pretty bang up job of clearing the streets of scum incredibleswhen suddenly the litigious society in which they lived caught up with them. Leave it to Americans to ruin a good thing. Overwhelmed with lawsuits for collateral damage, the supers are sent into retirement, their secret identities now their only identities. Mr. and Mrs. Incredible are now a family of five in the suburbs. Mr. Incredible hates his desk job but knows his family’s happiness depends on his remaining inconspicuous: hard to do when even his young children are displaying super powers. No one is surprised when he gets back in the saddle, or that it’s Mrs. Incredible who has to save him, but what I love about this film is the satire – the masks that totally obscure identity by merely concealing the eyebrows, dear costumer Edna’s strictest rule: DAHHHHLINGS, NO CAPES!

Big Hero 6 – I know this one has a special place in Sean’s heart as well, so I’d better do it justice! bigheroWhy do I like it? Probably because these heroes have my favourite super power of all time – just being smart. Nerds have their day in Big Hero 6 – a group of young scientists and the robot they built use their own clever inventions to turn a close-knit group of grieving friends into crime-fighting prodigies.

Special Mention: Confessions of a Superhero – A super cool documentary that follows 4 people who patrol the Hollywood Walk of Fame dressed as superheroes in order to make money from confessionstourists. They make for easy targets but the film is pretty sympathetic. They’ve each come a long way to “become stars” and are at varying points between following their dreams, and watching them crumble. The movie does an interesting job of showing the disparity between the larger-than-life personas they inhabit (Super Man, Batman, The Hulk, and Wonder Woman) and the ordinariness of their actual lives. They may strive to live up to their heroic identities but anger, addiction, and homelessness are the realities that threaten. Their costumes remind us of the best that Hollywood has to offer – the elusive superhero franchise – while at the same time highlighting their humbled situations. Very watchable and worthwhile.

Matt

The Crow (1994)-  As Jonah Hill correctly pointed out in Superbad, Home Ec is a joke. I watched The Crow in Home Ec when I was in the eighth grade and it both fascinated and terrified me. I crowthought super heroes were supposed to be nice. The Crow is less about Truth, Justice, and the American Way than he is about good old-fashioned payback so his restless soul can finally rest in peace. When I rewatched it this weekend, the tone wasn’t quite as sinister as I remember but this rare R-rated comic book movie is still a refreshing change from the PG-13 watered-down adaptations I’m  used to. The Crow may be bulletproof but even he isn’t safe from a 2016 reboot. Boardwalk Empire’s Jack Huston is playing him next year. I can’t argue with the casting but I wish they would leave this one alone.

Batman Begins (2005)- Batman has been my favourite since I was six. He’s a little nuts which Batman-Begins-GIF-10makes him much more interesting to watch than other heroes. Plus, his rogues gallery kicks fucking ass. There are many schools of thought on how the Caped Crusader should be portrayed and many interesting directors have brought their unique vision to it but none more effective than Christopher Nolan. He combined all the best elements of so many classic Batman stories and made an origin story that was uniquely his own. Christian Bale is a dick but I got chills when we first see him in cape and cowl. For the first time, when an actor growled “I’m Batman”, I actually believed him.

The Dark Knight (2008)- If this genre had a Citizen Kane it would be The Dark Knight and if it had a Martin Scorsese it would be Christopher Nolan. I anxiously awaited this sequel to Batman darkknightBegins for three whole years but never dreamed it would be like this. Nolan took everything that worked about Begins and took it to the next level. He explores even darker themes while embracing the Dark Knight’s comic book roots even more. Even without the presence of the late great Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight still would have raised the bar to the point that I can’t believe they can still get away with making movies like The Avengers.