REVIEWS OF RENTED DVDs I GET IN THE MAIL

Posts Tagged ‘2008’

THE WRESTLER (2008)

In Drama, Independent, Motion Pictures, Sports, W on January 31, 2010 at 1:23 am

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STUDIO — Fox Searchlight

CAST — Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

DIRECTOR —  Darren Aronofsky

MPAA Rating: R

I entered this movie not as a wrestling fan (which I am not), but as a fan of movies about men struggling to find themselves. Also, I have been a longtime fan of Mickey Rourke (I first caught him in The Pope of Greenwich Village, back in the 1980s). During the 1990s, he more or less fell off the radar, only to return in 2005’s Sin City. From there, he reached a well-deserved, long-overdue critical (and popular) acclaim in The Wrestler. In this movie, Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, professional wrestler and self-described “broken down piece of meat.”

Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) prepares to make his signature move.

In the credits, we view The Ram’s past glory, through ticket stubs, flyers, magazine covers and newspaper clippings, all from the 1980s. Then we lurch forward 20 years later to see him still stepping into the ring every week to do what he loves to do. Make no mistake, this is not the WWE we’re talking about; this is a small-time circuit, where the fights are uglier (even though still choreographed), the blood is real, and the pay is lousy. So, to make ends meet, he works for a local grocery store. Along the way, he befriends a local stripper (Marisa Tomei) and tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood).

It is not often when I say this, but Mickey Rourke was born to make this movie. He plays Randy The Ram as an inwardly tortured soul who knows he has screwed up in his life, and the scars he wears from his years in the ring are symbolic of the pain within him. He loves what he does every weekend, but in the real world things just don’t go over well. The most noteworthy example is when he manages to reach out to his daughter, only to drop the ball later on.

The Wrestler was wonderfully-acted, the script was well-written, and director Darren Aronofsky made what I consider a must-see movie. I recommend it as a must-add to your Queue.

4 out of 5

THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

In Action, D, Motion Pictures, Movies, Sci-Fi/Fantasy on January 23, 2010 at 1:31 am

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The Dark Knight (2008)

STUDIO — Warner Bros./DC Comics

CAST — Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman

DIRECTOR —  Christopher Nolan

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Where do I begin? As most people would say, “From the beginning, of course!” So, that is where I will start.

Our movie opens with a bank heist like no other: A carefully laid-out plan by a team of crooks in clown masks quickly turns ugly as, one by one, they systematically kill each other until one remains. And we all know who he is, don’t we?

At the end of Batman Begins, we are literally handed a hint of what is to come. There’s a new criminal on the streets of Gotham, and no one knows anything about him, except that he leaves a calling card: a joker from a deck of cards. So, we all knew The Joker would be in this movie. What we got was the creepiest, most psychotic, most manic Joker who ever put on a purple suit.

In the 1960s “Batman” movie and TV show, Cesar Romero played the Clown Prince of Crime with absolute glee; each time he appeared on the show, it was easy to see just how much fun he had in the part. In 1989, Jack Nicholson’s performance in Tim Burton’s Batman was so gloriously over-the-top, that it became a new standard in superhero movie villian performances.

Until now.

The Joker (Heath Ledger) crashes a fund-raiser

Enter Heath Ledger. His take on The Joker was so eerie, so chaotic, so fun to watch, that finding the actor behind the character was difficult, at best. When he (posthumously) won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor of 2008, I thought it was a sympathy vote more than anything else. After seeing this movie, I can say that my initial judgment was… premature.

(Is this a good time to say that I had made a promise to myself not to spend the entire review talking about Heath Ledger? Okay, then! On with the show!)

This movie needed to be at least as good as its predecessor in order to sustain the franchise, and The Dark Knight delivers. Oh, and I should note Aaron Eckart’s take on District Attorney Harvey Dent (aka Two-Face) was nearly equally as strong as that of Heath Ledger’s Joker. And, like Batman Begins, The Dark Knight was well-paced, beautifally shot, and held me from start to finish.

It is sad that Mr. Ledger passed away; he left big shoes to fill should the Powers That Be revisit The Joker in a future movie. But this “Batman” franchise still has teeth in it, and The Dark Knight has a large bite.

4 out of 5