Batman Begins

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It’s been nearly two years since I created the Watchlist, a list designed to inspire me to watch huge movies that I’ve never seen, then write about them. And nearly two years on, I’m nowhere near done. Not even close. But today I am one step closer, because I finally saw the predecessor to one of the greatest movies of all time, a fantastic movie in its own right: Batman Begins. And of course I thoroughly enjoyed it, so here is my review of Batman Begins.

Batman has had a tough life. Apart from his parents dying, he’s had to suffer through many incarnations, some good, some bad, some God-awful – but the Caped Crusader has never been in better hands than Christopher Nolan, whose late-2000s trilogy is widely regarded as one of the best movie trilogies in history. And even though the second instalment is easily the best, that takes nothing away from the movie that started it all, Batman Begins.

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After the tragic death of his parents as a child, billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) feels to Asia in his twenties after the murder of their killer, spending years training with his mentor Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson). When he returns to his crime-ridden home of Gotham City, he devotes himself to fighting crime, and becomes the Batman.

Easily one of the best origin stories ever made, Batman Begins takes all the elements of an origin story and makes them worth watching. From the thrilling action as Bruce learns martial arts (THAT League of Shadows scene, my God) to the trial and error fun he has building his suit and making new gadgets, the origin stuff barely gets boring, even though Batman doesn’t show up until halfway through the movie.

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That’s because Nolan couples a great origin with an even greater story: Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) is the king of corruption in Gotham, with men in every office across the city, and the help of twisted psychologist Dr Jonathan Crane to ensure none of his men go to prison. But there’s a mysterious figure even higher up in the chain of command who’s responsible for it all, and Batman must work with Sergeant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and the police to break the crime ring. Nolan’s efforts to ground the story in dark reality as much as possible lend enormous credibility to a man dressed up as a giant bat, and the movie walks the line brilliantly between fantastical superhero movie and crime film. Even the final act, which is much more superhero-esque in its scale and stakes as Crane’s plot to destroy the city takes full effect, but by then the audience is totally on board, caught up in the great script, twisting story and the excitement of seeing Batman battle the Scarecrow.

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But even though Batman Begins is much more gritty and realistic, it’s still a ton of fun to watch: there’s something inherently exciting about a well-told origin story, a superhero finding their feet for the first time, and seeing Batman’s gadgets properly get their due (remember, before this I had only seen BvS – the gadgets didn’t grab me in that) makes you feel like a little kid again. I’ve also never seen a group of actors more excited to be there than this prestigious cast; everyone is giving 100%, whether it’s Liam Neeson as the mysterious Ducard, (perfect) Gary Oldman’s compassionate Jim Gordon, the terrifying Cillian Murphy as Crane, or the little glint in Morgan Freeman’s eye as he plays tech wiz Lucius Fox. And despite all the criticism that Christian Bale gets for being overshadowed in these films, I thought he was fantastic as both Bruce Wayne and Batman – he ties the film together nicely, and plays well with others, knowing when to let them take the spotlight. But he is Batman, after all, and steps up to the challenge of playing one of cinema’s most iconic characters.

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Batman has never grabbed my attention like other superheroes have. Tony Stark has always been my favourite billionaire playboy, and Spider-Man will always be my favourite superhero. But this Batman movie is brilliant on both a film level and a superhero movie level: in attempting to make a great film, not just a great superhero movie, Nolan has allowed Batman to become more than just a great superhero. He’s a great character, surrounded by other interesting characters in this fascinating world, and he’s the kind of character you always want to learn more about. I’m officially become a Batman fan. And all I can say is, if the Dark Knight is even better than Batman Begins, it must be pretty spectacular.

9/10.

This is probably the most impressive cast I’ve ever had to do one of these lists for, so here’s my top five favourite films starring the Batman Begins cast:

  1. Taken – Liam Neeson
  2. The Fighter – Christian Bale
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Gary Oldman
  4. Bruce Almighty – Morgan Freeman
  5. Kingsman: the Secret Service – Michael Caine

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDb.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0372784/mediaviewer/rm107917312
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Good Will Hunting

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When I created my Watchlist, a list of ten films I haven’t seen but should have in an attempt to watch more brilliant movies and review them, I honestly thought I’d be better than this. But here we are, a full year later, and I’ve only watched three. In fairness, they are a good three. But my most recent check off that list is probably one of the best, a milestone film for many of my favourite actors: Good Will Hunting. All I can say is, thank God I caught up on this one.

The film follows Will Hunting (Matt Damon), a young man with an incredible mind, who, rather than attending MIT, is a cleaner there. When he is discovered to have solved an unsolvable maths problem by top professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard), he goes on an incredible journey of self-discovery and becoming man with the help of best friend Chuckie (Ben Affleck), new girlfriend Skylar (Minnie Driver) and his psychiatrist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams).

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Winning two Oscars at the 1998 Academy Awards, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor, the highlights of the film are its script and its cast. Good Will Hunting’s script finds its heart in the reality of imperfection, poignantly and beautifully painting the reality of life growing up in South Boston, with oh-so realistic dialogue that is witty, funny, full of truth and incredibly touching at times. Nothing is perfect, from the sketchy neighbourhood to the flawed characters, but it is these characters’ abilities to live and fight and love that is gripping as we watch them change and grow.

Will is far from perfect: he’s a bit of an asshole, a selfish child who doesn’t know what he wants, so he does nothing, his life suspended in motion. As we watch him accept his past and his potential future with the help of friends, new mentors, and the love of his life, we watch Will develop and transform into someone who takes responsibility of his own life, instead of just passing the blame. But despite all this, in the end he hasn’t really changed; he’s still selfish, but he’s using it to chase the things he really wants in life, instead of just defying everyone around him for the sake of it. But that’s real life; we might change a little bit, but we’re still ourselves, love us or leave us, and this is the truth of the film: you can’t please everyone, and you don’t have to – you only have to please yourself.

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Armed with a script from Hollywood’s greatest romance (Damon and Affleck, of course), the cast elevates this film to near perfect, each scene as iconic as the next. Matt Damon is brilliant as Will, perfectly understanding and combining the caring, loving boy genius with the hardened Boston orphan; he feels like both a scared little boy and wise beyond his years, really showing his depth (how did he not win an Oscar??). The perfect foil, Ben Affleck plays his best friend Chuckie, and is wonderfully enjoyable as the comic relief in a movie that isn’t afraid to hit the deep notes. Minnie Driver is sublime as Skylar, Will’s love interest and so much more, and some of the best scenes in the film (like the heartbreaking bedroom scene in her Harvard dorm room) come from her ability to deliver so much raw emotion.

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However, in his Oscar winning turn, Robin Williams’ psychiatrist Sean Maguire is compelling as he turns Will’s life around, his hardened edge so stark from what we’re used to. In a performance that needs seeing to be believed, his subtle lessons and advice on life, love and everything in between never overpower the movie or turn cliché, but are beautiful, and can often be interpreted any way. Like in Dead Poet’s Society, he’s the mentor we all wish we had, and I’m just grateful that a film like Good Will Hunting gives us this.

Gus Van Sant’s beautiful picture of real life in Boston makes us nostalgic for a life of such love; of such good friends, and first loves, and counsellors to help us through the hard times in life. But it’s also full of the tough stuff, of heartache and heartbreak, and moving on. Good Will Hunting is brilliant coming of age film that doesn’t indulge in teenage cliches and fantasies of growing up and realising your potential; rather, creates its poetry from the truth, never minding whether it’s harsh or sweet, and through this Van Sant, Damon and Affleck have made a film for generations to enjoy.

9/10.

I love this cast. So much. So here’s my top five favourite films starring the cast of Good Will Hunting:

  1. The Bourne Identity – Matt Damon
  2. Dead Poet’s Society – Robin Williams
  3. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Ben Affleck
  4. Thor – Stellan Skarsgard
  5. Aladdin – Robin Williams

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Pictures taken from IMDb.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119217/mediaviewer/rm897240064
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Capote

So the third Watchlist film that I’ve decided to review is Capote, a film about famous author Truman Capote. And wow. If I don’t review for a while, it’s because I’ve been too busy reading his book In Cold Blood. Here’s my review:

The 2005 film Capote follows author Truman Capote (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) as he writes one of his most famous novels. Based heavily on a true story, the film shows Capote as he chronicles the murder of a Kansas family and its aftermath, whilst alienating his friends, creating a deep bond with one of the murderers, and eventually writing his novel In Cold Blood.

The most striking thing about this movie is Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of Truman – he’s captivating, both affable and cruel, and very camp. Hoffman so accurately captures the spirit of a man who was willing to do anything for his books, and whom you are never sure whether you like him or hate him. He feels so very real, and human, that it is no wonder Hoffman won an Oscar for this role.

Capote’s relationship with one of the murderers, Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) is also very well written; it’s undefined nature adds much to both characters, and you never quite know whether to fear Perry or feel sorry for him. The ambiguity of their relationship, rather than making it feel underdeveloped, makes their bond seem more real, and unlikely, like it was in real life. Truman’s friendship with To Kill A Mockingbird author Nelle Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) is also nicely explored, and his alienation of her in favour of his story is heartbreaking to watch.

Bennett Miller’s direction adds yet another element of reality to the film and its characters. It’s not grand, just understated and personal, giving us an up-close look on the authors life very effectively.

This film has become one of my favourite films based on a true story; I know I keep using the word real, but Miller and Hoffman have taken a rather dramatic yet true plot and made it feel very realistic, and like the true story it is. They have captured the essence of a larger than life man, who wrote a larger than life novel, and I have never read In Cold Blood, but I will be buying it later this week. Because, as William Shawn said in the film, “this book will change how people write”.

8/10.

Here is a list of five of my favourite films based on true stories:

  1. Invictus
  2. Good Morning Vietnam
  3. The Sound of Music
  4. The Intouchables
  5. Mississippi Burning

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Guardians of the Galaxy

This is my second Watchlist review of Guardians of the Galaxy, a film I really should have seen before now and regret not watching earlier. My beautiful sister let me borrow the DVD, and even though we have a copy in this house, I’m still considering buying myself a copy, just because. Here is my review:

In 2014, Marvel released a film about a little known comic, with an odd concept, an unlikely cast, and a talking tree. This film turned out to be one of their biggest hits, a joy ride from start to finish. Emphasis on joy.

Guardians of the Galaxy is about a group of intergalactic criminals who must work together to defeat a space warrior and stop him from destroying the universe with a mystic crystal. It’s a quirky plot for a superhero movie, but this one feels different, too. Gone are the days where heroes had to be serious and brooding – Guardians is an upbeat, hilarious romp through space, as our mismatched heroes battle Ronan for possession of one of the 6 Infinity Stones. It feels much less cliché than a regular superhero movie, with a refreshing plotline and a different formula, and feels a lot like a crazy space movie at times than anything. But all these different genres that it draws on work well together, and the resulting film is new and inspired.

Making up our Guardians we have the human Peter Quill, aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt), the green assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the genetically engineered racoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper), the human-like tree Groot (Vin Diesel), and the powerful Drax (Dave Bautista). Unlikely a group if ever you saw them. Their first few scenes together are fantastic, particularly their fight scene on Xandar and when they are in prison, and they all have such chemistry that they could possibly rival the Avengers for Marvel’s most entertaining team. A lot of this is down to Chris Pratt, who leads the team; he’s witty, compelling and utterly likeable as Quill, and this is arguably his best role. His character really embodies the general feeling of this film. Gamora’s family background spices up the team’s relationship, too, and Groot’s charm makes us fall hopelessly in love with him.

And let’s not forget the soundtrack. It’s inspired – Peter’s “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” of funky 80s music reminds us of the fact that he’s human, whilst also being probably the coolest, most fun movie soundtrack of the last few years.

Marvel has got an enormous couple of years planned, with the Avengers series coming to a head in Infinity War: Parts 1 and 2. And it looks like Guardians of the Galaxy will be a part of this – the main franchise arc of the Infinity Stones has appeared in a number of recent Marvel films, including Guardians, which means that we will be seeing a lot more of Guardians of the Galaxy. All I can say is: yes, please.

I may have only seen this film for the first time a few days ago, but I will definitely be making up for lost time by watching it a lot more in the future.

9/10.

And here is my list of my 5 favourite films, and some films I’d love to see, featuring members of the Guardians of the Galaxy cast:

  1. Jurassic World: Chris Pratt
  2. Silver Linings Playbook: Bradley Cooper
  3. Doctor Who: Karen Gillan
  4. Parks and Recreation: Chris Pratt
  5. Valentines’ Day: Bradley Cooper

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Inception

In the last couple of weeks, I started on my Watchlist, and the first movie I watched from it was Inception. And what a way to start; I saw it with a friend, and went out and bought it the next day. It was my first Nolan film, and most certainly won’t be my last. Here is my review of the masterpiece that is Inception:

Inception. Where to begin?

Inception is one of Christopher Nolan’s finest; a thief who steals corporate information by entering people’s dreams is hired to shut down a company by planting an idea in the CEO’s head, in order to buy his way back into America. Think that’s complicated? It’s got nothing on the actual film.

In his film, Nolan plays with the reality of dreams: entering others’ dreams, and the rules of creation in ones’ own dream. But creating ideas in others’ dreams is also possible (known as Inception), as is the theft of ideas (Extraction).

Still not confused? In order to perform inception, one must go further than simply into a person’s dream; rather, they must go into a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream, in order to ensure the idea is planted, as well as plan a wake up call strong enough to make sure they won’t be stuck in their dreams for the rest of their lives.

And then there’s this place called Limbo, where one can be stuck for almost their whole life before waking up.

You can say what you want about Christopher Nolan, but he sure is one hell of a writer. The script is thorough; every detail is considered, as well as ones that would never even be considered. There are twists every few minutes, and you could watch the film 20 times and pick up on something new every time. Having only seen it once myself, I can’t wait to pick up on them all myself.

Cinematically, the movie is stunning; Nolan’s direction is amazing, and Hans Zimmer’s score is perfection. Edith Piaf’s ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’ will never be heard the same way again.

Nolan’s knack for brilliant casting shines once more here; Leonardo DiCaprio is an obvious outstanding choice to play Cobbs, but Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe and Tom Hardy are also standouts in the film. In particular, Marion Cotillard is a fantastic femme fatale as Mal, perfectly complementing DiCaprio’s Cobbs, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Arthur provides information, action and even comic relief in all the right places. How none of these actors were even nominated for an Oscar is beyond me.

Even though it requires a lot of concentration, what results is possibly one of the greatest films of all time, both technically brilliant and crowd pleasing. Its depth encourages people to watch it again and again and though it was my first time watching it this time, it will definitely not be my last.

5/5.

Below is a list of my five favourite films starring the cast of Inception:

  1. Romeo + Juliet (Leonardo DiCaprio)
  2. 10 Things I Hate About You (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)
  3. X-Men: Days of Future Past (Ellen Page)
  4. Kingsman: the Secret Service (Michael Caine)
  5. Now You See Me (Michael Caine)

Also, a public service announcement: Inception refers to planting an idea in someone’s head through dreams, not the sequence of dreams within dreams. This confused me at the beginning, but I quickly learnt. Do not be confused, movie lovers. Know your terminology.

Talk soon,

Jessica x